A Shallow Grave

ShallowGrave

A Shallow Grave by Professor A.L.I.

He digs a shallow grave.

With a blade blunted by battle.

A child, so young;

That should’ve been playing with rattles

But now a corpse, a dehydrated husk, a shell,

His spirit lingers and divine musk’s the smell.

His mother places her recent newborn into the hole,

This six month old, was born of Yemeni Cloak.

His little lips cracked, dryer than Karbala’s sand.

And his throat lacerated by Hurmila’s hand.

Parents take turns, with palmfuls of earth

To bury the son, who they’d just given birth.

The tears rain on the grave, there is no marker.

As the mother grieves, the father is martyred.

Then the demons descend, upon women in tents.

Fight or flight, torches alight, fire intense.

Wretches reach for spoils, ears bleed as if sliced

And in these fleeting moments for life,

She rushes towards the corpse of another.

The martyred shell of her son’s elder step-brother.

She calls to him, “Ya Akbar! The protector, the brave!”

Now guard the sanctity of your young brother’s grave.

Dragging his frame; weighted so heavy with armor.

All she had left in the world, was this grave’s marker.

She places his cold hand over small earthly mound.

Yet next morning; the wicked army would count:

Seventy-one bodies, and sever seventy-one heads.

As a sign of victory; impale them on spearheads.

Then the malevolent general, recalls the recent tragedy,

And asks where the fruit that fell off this family’s tree?

Where’s the child, the three-pronged arrow extinguished?

Where is its body?  Where is the grave? Who bears its witness?

And they torture the survivors bound, to reveal its location.

Then this dreadful devil, had a satanic revelation.

That if there was a grave, its corpse would bloody a sword and–

This was the same general, who was once an orphan.

Raised by this holy family, so the infant was like his brother.

Now on his order, they stab ground, brutalizing the mother.

Amidst the ashes of tents, lays a headless corpse over mound.

The swords cut into earth, dripping blood, Ali Asghar was found.

They dug this child out of his shallow grave, his family cries.

A smiling cadaver, they cut off his head; as their humanity dies.

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A Lamb Slaughtered

 

Prologue

In the 660’s CE, the wicked caliph, Muawiyya, a usurper and despot, would gift lambs to the children in Damascus, the capitol he controlled, and once these innocent youth had developed attachment to their pets, he had their lambs slaughtered by his soldiers at night, so that these children awoke to the horrific sight, and in despair.  He had town criers announce the lie that these lambs had been slaughtered by Ali, who was the legitimate leader of these lands. The sorrow, turned to rage and these children would grow brainwashed to hate Ali and his family, and they would eventually make up the army that would systematically slaughter the family of Ali… including children and infants. This poem is dedicated to this true story:

ALambSlaughteredA Lamb Slaughtered by Professor A.L.I.

The child whose pet lamb was slaughtered in Damascus,

Grows to be a man steeling himself towards thirsty infants,

Loyalty based on lies, allegiance to despots; his soul burns.

When the veil is torn and death approaches; he mourns.

These are crocodile tears, since the veil was pierced before,

The moment he saw an old man place his child on desert floor.

When his own canteen was sloshing, full of life giving liquid.

He could have undid strap, and his own damaged spirit, lifted–

The flask to the lips of this innocent being; instead he’d see.

The horror brought upon, be an arrow-pronged-three.

In that moment, a mirage caused by his teary, blurred vision:

Of his own lamb, gifted to him; the false caliph’s wicked wisdom.

To have him name his pet, become attached, and then awaken,

To find his beloved friend, murdered by the caliph’s agents.

And town criers announce it as a plot by a man known as Ali.

A shrewd lie, constructed by a usurper, to acquire loyalty.

Political brainwashing so thorough, that this man would believe,

That his lamb was slaughtered, by the Prophet’s family.

Brainwashed thoroughly, he severs limbs of this family’s tree.

A soldier for Yazeed, Muawiyya’s seed, the most sinister breed.

So when the baby was placed before him, he took not a step,

No water for the 6-month old infant gasping its last breath,

He watches this tragedy, and unfolds towards his own death.

He sees the truth; and now bears the burden of great debt.

And yet, when the old man asked him, “If no one was left to help him–

If no one was there to give him aid?” He still grasped his weapons.

And instead of helping, destroys, and lays claims a destination.

An eternal conflagration, burning amidst a hellish congregation.

And he sees himself in this place, wielding the same blade.

That was used by a lie, to cultivate this boy’s rage.

His hands and face are covered in blood, just like Husayn’s–

The blood of his own lamb, that he slaughtered that same day.

An Open Letter to ISIS

OpenLetterISIS“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” — Emerson

To ISIS/ISIL aka DAESH,

Stop with your bulls—. Just stop. You may pull the wool over the eyes of downtrodden, simple-minded, and ignorant Muslims—as well their counterparts in the reactionary West, but your cheap parlor tricks with the Qur’an, replete with revisionist history acting as your cut-rate magician’s assistant, will not con the vast majority of us who recognize the charlatan behind the façade of piety.  The Saudi oil-dollars that pay for your photo-shopped pamphlets, the Toyota trucks you use to transport your tools of terror, and the monetized motivations of your suicide bombers will not suffice for a grand song and dance routine you use to misdirect the audience from what you’re truly doing.

I/we know Islam through Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X—the snake oil you sell will never be anything more than propaganda, recognized by any who know Islam as the religion it truly is, as something that can have nothing to do with it. The very idea of an ‘Islamic State’ is farcical when you attempt to bring it into vogue with a non-Islamic state of mind. Every explosion you mastermind and/or inspire only punctuates your hypocrisy and further de-legitimizes the political claims you make.  For every innocent non-Muslim who you’ve caused the death of, at least twenty innocent Muslim souls could testify alongside them about your depravity, stupidity and sheer evil.

If Islam is good, you are the opposite of what it stands for as a religion and the violence you breed is diametrically opposed to the definition of peace, inherent in the linguistic root of the faith itself. So I, as an American Muslim hate you, for you have, through the force of your wickedness, dismantled the framework of love established by the Prophet Muhammad and his family that inspired exploration, mysticism, poetry, academia, and humanity. You have made ‘Islam’ a word to be reviled, and have damned every Muslim, living anywhere on the globe, to an apologetic existence.

When you sever heads, you are no different than Yazeed, the illegitimate Caliph and mass-murderer who ordered the beheading of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.  When you plow vehicles into our blameless masses, you do so with the same moral turpitude as the crusading forces that once annihilated countless, Muslim and Jew alike, in their insatiable thirst for power in the Holy Land.  Every knife thrust or explosion that claims innocent life is no different than the viciousness of colonial regimes, or the totalitarian governments that assumed power in their wake throughout the Middle East and curtailed basic human rights with torturous violence.

You and your Saudi sponsors may be too obtuse to comprehend why I began with words from Emerson in his essay entitled “Self-Reliance,” which I was re-introduced to recently by my friend Dick Bradford, so I’ll try to explain it simply, such that even minds tainted with an ignorant, black-and-white world view can grasp it.  If religion becomes a mere sequence of actions or rituals devoid of essence, then while it may have consistency, it will have little else. This is what you prescribe, a formula of faith, with no choice or faith in it. To practice Islam in this way would indeed be as Emerson so eloquently stated, akin to the hobgoblin of a little mind—to translate that into terms that would resonate in the iconography you hold dear; it would be like Shaytan (Satan) consuming one’s mind, leading the faithful to faithlessness.

I’ve written as much when I penned a letter to your benefactors in my “Open Letter to Saudi Arabia” and I’m not the only one calling attention to your false logic, and the hopeless machinations of your directionless cause. Reza Aslan is doing it in scholarship, Leila Sarsour through activism and Mehdi Hasan on television. I speak to you, not only as a Muslim like they do, but also as a father, teacher, and an artist, who was American before becoming Muslim over two decades ago.  I believe that you’ll be nothing more than a disgusting footnote in the arc of human history, and all those who choose to be associated with you or your philosophy will be reviled by the world just as the Nazis rightfully are. In the end, you’ll not only fail at your own short-term goals of making us fearful but you will have provided the means of your own destruction by bringing us together in our collective hatred of you.  Your days are numbered.

Sincerely,

Professor A.L.I.

p.s. Read full letter on Kindle

 

#FreeZakzaky

freezakzaky

He may be alive, but if he ever emerges from his unknown cell, what will Zakzaky emerge to?  His six sons murdered, his wife tortured and most likely dead as well and a broken community hundreds dead, while worshipping–and yet a human being of his conviction, who calmly spoke on the phone as his house was being bombed may emerge like Zaynab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, did from her dungeon in Damascus, after being brutalized and watching her sons and remaining family slain, tortured and beheaded only to eloquently stand before the usurping caliph Yazeed (the ideological father of the Wahhabist thought that birthed ISIS and Boko Haram), and speak truth to power.

The preceding music video is dedicated to Sheikh Zakzaky, his followers and his family from an American educator and artist who has long admired his attempt to reform Islam in a region where it has been hijacked by the Wahhabist interests of Boko Haram and its ilk.  Feel free to download the song at the link below:

Read more about Zakzaky and the Zaria Massacre here.

Sheikh Zakzaky, though we have never met, you are in my prayers and I dedicated this piece to you and pray that you will be free soon.

–Professor A.L.I.

An Open Letter To Saudi Arabia

OpenLetterSaudi

1/2/2016

Dear Saudi Arabia,

The word “dear” is a common salutation in any letter, but I feel so conflicted using it in this instance, since not only are you not dear to me, I actually despise you, for what you are, what you have done and continue to do and ultimately what you symbolize in the world.

I write this on behalf of your people, many of whom are my friends and whom I consider extended family members, who languish in your state, unable to speak, watching helplessly as you prey upon basic human rights of your own citizenry.

I write this on behalf of the tortured and executed innocence of your archaic injustice system, where upper social class and male privilege hold greater sway than both truth and justice.

I write this on behalf of immigrant workers, who come to help build your nation, who you treat like animals, and who you further victimize in ways too gross and too numerous to mention.

Despise You

I do despise you for how you have treated Tamils, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, East Africans and other racial groups who constitute a modern day slave labor system in your nation, complete with the viciousness of the days of old; and yet this is not the main reason for this letter.

I do despise you for how my friend (name omitted for security reasons) and his family are brutalized by the elites of your nation, despite being Saudi himself, and have no recourse for justice, since you have a system that blames the victim, when that victim represents a minority of any kind; and yet this is not the main reason for this letter.

I do despise you for how my aunt and uncle were treated while they lived in Riyadh, where he was working for AT&T, and the tales they told me of what they experienced and what they saw with their own eyes, and again this is not the main reason for this letter.

Hold You Responsible

As an American I hold you responsible for all the 9/11 hijackers who came from your country. I hold you responsible for Bin Laden and your export of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which has hijacked the lives of many people, including Americans overseas and continues to hold our tax dollars hostage in military expenditures. I hold you responsible for the Janjaweed, for Boko Haram and for ISIS, all of whom you directly or tacitly support.

But these are not the greatest reasons for why I hate you.

Saudiquote

As a Muslim I hold you responsible for hijacking Islam. In your backwards pseudo-intellectual interpretation of the faith, you have birthed every single example of Islamic terror we see in the world and have made the word terror inextricably connected to Islam in ignorant minds as a result. You gave birth to Islamophobia, because your form of Islam is one that we should fear. You hijacked hajj, the holy pilgrimage, which you don’t even hold on the proper day and your mismanagement has cost thousands of lives.

And still these are not the primary reasons for my disdain.

I hold you responsible as a human being, who sees your citizens, impish oil sheikhs, who travel to places like Los Angeles and London, prey upon women with brutal sexual violence and escape their crimes by using the façade of diplomatic immunity and paying off those who compromise their own values for filthy oil dollars. I am in disbelief that women and both religious and ethnic minorities are treated with greater disdain and inequity than that experienced by those groups before Islam.

Disgust

The greatest reason for my disgust of your regime is the simple fact that all of these valid critiques are looked upon you as a sources of pride and that this pride fuels even greater abuses such as your financial and military support for the genocide in Bahrain and the extermination of the Houthi people in Yemen. The news of your execution of Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, whose only crime was to ask for open elections, speaks volumes that you are a regime who is so wrapped up in the cloak of your perceived self-importance that you strike out at any that you can who disagree with you. You destroy shrines and world heritage sites to make space for your own aggrandizement, but also because those places represent legitimacy and you know you’re an illegitimate ruler of Holy Lands.

This is why I cannot go on the Hajj. I have family and friends who have gone, but I do not believe I can. I cannot enable the misperception that the false hajj you lead is legitimate. I cannot allow one cent to directly inure your kingdom of benefit from my coffers (I know that my usage of gasoline does, and I am taking steps, pun intended to remedy that as well). I cannot allow a visa stamp be looked on by my children, the students I teach as tacit approval of your regime and I cannot practice the cognitive dissonance that so many do who feel the same way.

So I have to deny myself a holy pilgrimage that I longed to do even before I became Muslim and prayed for every day since, and instead devote my prayer to your demise—that from your ashes a just regime emerges that is more in tune with the egalitarian and scientific principles of the true Islam. I will devote my time as an artist and educator to speak out against you and I hope that the Islamophobes in my country take a moment to listen, so that they know that where their legitimate fear can be directed. I will use my words to enliven those you’ve killed, thinking they have gone away—so do not think Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr is dead, he is very much alive and his voice will only grow louder as I add my voice to it, and invite those who are like-minded to do the same.

سیری ناپذیر-89840-shia muslim

There are those Muslims who may read this and say that I’ve gone too far and that the hajj is a pillar of our faith, and yet if Husayn ibn Ali and Zaynab bint Ali, the grandchildren of the Prophet Muhammad could break their hajj and leave Arabia just as the usurper Yazeed became Caliph—I believe I am justified in doing so.

There are those Americans who read this and wonder why I am focusing all my energy on you, when there are so many other despotic regimes in the Middle East—and it is because you are the reason for many of their existences as well and I’d rather focus my attention on the head of the beast rather than its tentacles for if you kill the head, the rest will fall.

How do you kill the head; a head created by lies and emboldened by ignorance? With truth and knowledge. This open letter is just the beginning. I have been relatively silent till now, but I can no longer sit pat while innocent people are killed–

You have awoken in me and others who are brave enough to stand with me your greatest nightmare—we will be the truth seeking missiles that will dismantle the infrastructure of your lies and the knowledge bearers who will water the thirsty while rooting out the ignorance you depend on for your existence. Your days on this earth are numbered.

Sincerely,

Professor A.L.I.

From Zaria to the Zarih

Zakzaky

The Trials of Zakzaky and Zeenah

By Professor A.L.I.

Yaro was the first Nigerian I ever met—he was from Lagos and for a time, back in the early 1990’s he would be my roommate. Since then I’ve made profound connections with many Nigerian people of various tribes, ethnicities and linguistic backgrounds. Some have adopted me into their families as an extended member, trusting me with their family suya recipes and dodo-making techniques–this type of familiarity and love breeds both interest and a sense of belonging and so as a result I’ve been tuned to Nigerian frequencies for years–listening to news about its people and nation.  This is how I came to know of a unique movement to reform Islam in Nigeria, led a person, who was returning Nigerian Muslims to the practice of Islam as exemplified by the family of the Prophet Muhammad, and he is known as Sheikh Zakzaky.  I write this piece on the heels of troubling news about Zakzaky, his family and his followers–and for all I know at the time of this article and piece being written, they could all be dead.

Ibrahim Yaqoub Al-Zakzaky is an Islamic scholar from Zaria, Nigeria, who studied Islam and continued to study it until he re-connected to its primary sources, which include the narratives belonging to the family of the Prophet.  Most Muslim ulema (scholars) or psuedo-scholars as they should be called, are not life long learners and limit the scope of their study to the memorization of Qur’an and ahadith.  Hence they have a hard time relating to the realities of the modern world, as they have not understood the context of these texts, nor those who embodied its values like the family of the bloodline of Muhammad through his only surviving child, Fatima.  These narratives have been threatening to the Saudi regime (in its illegitimacy) as well its Wahhabi-Salafi octopus, whose tentacles stretch out over the globe as ISIS/DAESH, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram.

The latter group works its wickedness in Nigeria at the behest of its Saudi paymasters and it is this group I suspect is behind or at least in the very least involved in the latest Nigerian military backed atrocities carried out in Zaria against Zakzaky and his family. Last year Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah lost three of their sons at what is referred to as the Qods Day Massacre, a peaceful protest of Nigerians commemorating the significance of Jerusalem to Muslims.  A week ago, it seems that Sheikh Zakzaky, his wife and three more of his sons were killed along with their followers in estimates that range from 1000-6000 people by the Nigerian military in Zaria.   Reports of a mass grave with over 800 bodies have just been verified by independent human rights organizations in the area but no one has yet heard from Zakzaky or his wife Zeenah—however we are being told by the Nigerian military that they are in custody.

I am greatly troubled by this as an educator and a Nigeriaphile because I’ve followed Zakzaky’s career from afar and admire what he has tried to do. Those who follow the news casually may remember the global lament and attention paid to the kidnapping of 300 girls by Boko Haram; it was Zakzaky who was the main critic of this organization before this tragic event, its other numerous atrocities, and throughout the mass kidnapping episode up until the recent massacre, which may have claimed his life.   Even as global news ceased to talk about the happenings in Nigeria, focusing their lens on ISIS and other tentacles of the Wahhabi kraken, Zakzaky kept his focus on Boko Haram.

Sheikh Zakzaky worked fervently to build ties between Muslims and Christians both in and outside of Zaria. At one point, due to his following he was referred by many outside observers as the most influential Islamic leader in Nigeria and when he transitioned, as he learned to a form of Islam emblemized in the practice of the family of the Prophet; it put him at odds with Saudis who have invested heavily to spread of their Wahhabist interpretation of Islam in the region.  Their ideology, which is based on the re-Arabicization of Islam preached by 14th century ideologue Ibn Taymiyyah, in which figures like Muawiyya and Yazeed, former caliphs who targeted and eventually murdered the family of the Prophet are considered hero figures.

Zakzaky’s work with the Nigerian Muslim community flourished and names like Fatima and Ali, as well as Zaynab and Husayn, became re-introduced to the people–even as their shrines were attacked in the Middle East by Wahhabi-Salafi extremists.  His peaceful marches reminding Muslims to stand up against all forms of oppression, in solidarity with Christians and other groups was a revolutionary concept in a region that was once controlled by the British through divide and conquer strategies.  In Zakzaky people had an individual who represented human beings, and was loved by Christians and Muslims of various denominations–and this love made him a target by those who profit off of war.

Yaro once told me that the people of Nigeria, especially his people who honored and invoked Orishas as conduits to the divine, would truly understand and embrace Islam in its original sense, instead of the Arabized Islam that was being proselytized to his people.  He argued that Islam with respect for the family of the Prophet was more in line with culture of saintly veneration, of conduits to the divine and I find myself unsurprised by Zakzaky’s success in Nigeria as a result.

Sheikh Zakzaky developed a powerful Islamic movement centered around the commemoration of the event of Ashura in Karbala, which retells and reenacts the story of how the caliph Yazeed murdered Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad along with his family and tortured and chained Zaynab, his sister, after murdering her children and cutting off their heads to display in his Damascus palace.  Yazeedian methods are still being used by the ISIS/DAESH’s and Boko Haram’s of the world–and the story of a family who stands up to such violence, unwavering in their faith, remains a powerful testament to true Abrahamic principles and as a result Zakzaky’s efforts spread like wildfire and threatened fringe extremist groups like Boko Haram because their form of Islam requires the ignorance of their adherents to the peaceful & justice oriented way Islam was practiced by the family of the Prophet.

Hearing the news of Zakzaky’s capture/torture/or demise, I felt compelled to write in my personal journals and was urged to share my reflections by my extended Nigerian family members, Yaro and Abdul-Rahim, an American Islamic scholar who, like me felt so broken-hearted over the most recent tragedy to befall Zaria and Zakzaky that he compelled me to write a piece and tell Zeenah and Zakzaky’s story as only a Hip-Hop educator can by telling this story and asking the questions we have all had hearing of this tragedy and so I have and the lyrics to my piece follow the video below:

From Zariah to the Zarih by Professor A.L.I.

I spit like oil slicks that Shell spills in Niger delta

Exposing corrupt politicians, spirit of Saro Wiwa

Invoke brother Ken, before other men,

Understand this battle is commerce of elements

They coerce presidents; replace ministers,

With the sinister, the most wicked on this earth,

The sickness they insert, into wombs so at birth

Young seeds will wield, the weapons that assert

The will of the beast, so righteousness stay alert

See a Sheikh emerge, sparked by Hussain’s thirst

A Shia, but at first, was just another brother

Who understood Islam, but not Yemeni cover

Given sight, blinded by light, of the mother

Of her father, like Fatima there is no other

He shuddered, then evolved, and led his people

Became target, they fear, revolution’s sequel…

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

From Zaria to the Zarih, Islam is what he studied

Till photos emerge, of a body left bloodied

Why was he threat, a cleric guiding heretics

Who’s pockets knew lint more than money Arabic

An advocate for unity between Abrahamic branches

Representin’ PEACE, is kryptonite for the kraken

Whose tentacles damage, strangle whole planet,

The Taliban in Kandahar, brotherhood in Kemet

Isis is global cris, Boko Haram’s a cancer

For West Africa, its head lives in Saudi palace

So Zakzaky’s movement used for target practice

His followers are slaughtered, mass graves stacked six

Of his sons martyred, divide and conquer tactics

The Zariah Massacre, is the epitome of tragic

Zeenah and Zakzaky’s story is that of sacrifice

Like Jesus and Husayn, the resurrection and the life

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

Shout out to my my Nigerian fam… my Yoruba fam, my Ibo fam, my Fulani fam, my Hausa fam… It’s all love… PEACE from Cradle to the Grave.