Friday, January 16, 2015

The Qur'an does not forbid images of the Prophet - PBUH

A Persian miniature of the Prophet Muhammad - PBUH and the Angel Jibril (Gabriel)

Feel free to delight in the wonderful newsweek article by Christiane Gruber - a scholar specializing in Islamic paintings of the Prophet - with a link below. I am very happy reading these reaffirming historical facts, even though I already knew them before due to the lucky circumstances of having received a liberal education and a multicultural Sufi training. Plus being a critical soul at heart and an artist who at times indulges with great pleasure in figurative painting, as well as not having been influenced by negative indoctrination and conditioning of certain doubtful sources of reasoning or rather the lack of common sense.

As much as articles of this type make me happy, I also feel saddened by the very unfortunate trend trying to deny certain historical facts and pretending that Islamic art has always been entirely abstract and non-figurative - this is wrong. Just check the article below and you get more than just a hint of the beautiful figurative facts!

Ishq bashad, saludos Rahal

Saturday, January 10, 2015



I know, I'm ahead of time. But better too early than too late! Next Sunday in a week, Jan. 18, 2015 is officially declared to be "World Religion Day". I'm supposed to write some lines about this very theme and at this very point in time I have to admit that I have some serious problems doing so easily and effortlessly because a) I'm not feeling very well at all for various very personal reasons at this moment - I seriously even toyed with the idea to permanently close my workshop and call it a day, but I guess I have to at least try and hang on in here doing my little bit, whatever it adds up to - and b) I am very shaken by the recent events taking place on our beloved planet Earth. Some of that has to do with religion or rather what some fanatical people think it is. I can't help it but hear in my mind the famous John Lennon song "IMAGINE" and I do imagine it! Frequently! And vividly! Especially these days!

Currently I have also seriously toyed with the idea to officially declare that I no longer consider myself a Muslim or religious in any way, but that wouldn't be the entire whole-hearted truth, even though I actually do consider myself more spiritual than religious and would thus call the Sufi Tradition as an alive form of spirituality my true home. On the other hand I should not give up my right to claim progressive and universal all-inclusive contemporary Islam as my own rightful faith, even if I am a queer man, and that beyond Sunni/Shia division and beyond any adherence to this, that or the other madhab, or legal school of interpretation - after all Ibn 'Arabi didn't belong to any of those schools, nor did the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH. 

But I do have a problem with certain aspects of orthodox religions and some contemporary manifestations in East and West, not just with Islam. I am per se utterly allergic to any form of extremism, violence and fanaticism, and when homopbobia and xenopbobia or racism are expressed under the banner of faith, no matter which. I am also allergic to all those types of people who claim to be the only true believers and who disregard the equal rights of women, LGBT people, minorities and human rights per se. Those who are incapable of accepting and tolerating other people's religious or spiritual beliefs or the lack of them and who have a problem with freedom, pluralism, humor, and satire. 

I got news for you: God (no matter how you call him) does have sense of humor! You can bank on that! Regardless if you like it or not. Too bad if laughter is not on your list of religious duties towards yourself and the world we all share. 

Hermann Hesse once expressed a very spot on fact, that one can become wise in any religion. But that any religion can also be practiced as the most stupid idolatry. We can see that in humanity's history and still in our contemporary times, wherever we turn there are words of wisdom and light - and there are words of hatred and darkness. This has basically nothing to do with religion per se, but rather with the nature of human beings. In short, it boils down to lack of education, ignorance, the lack of personal perspective, and a problem with the commanding self, the ego or nafs. 

I can also find words of wisdom, true knowledge and refined beauty in numerous religions and their cultures, apart from Islam and the Sufi Tradition, and I utterly appreciate the rich diversity when it comes to faith and its global manifestations. Perhaps some forms are easier to relate to than others, however, I do delight in the variety and richness of its different ways and forms. And I'm convinced that each of them has its right to exist and its useful function - excluded are only those who preach hatred, violence and intolerance! Those who are not in harmony with the evolutionary Zeitgeist and our destiny. That must be said clearly and firmly! 

From the Sufi Tradition there is tale that the truth was a mirror and it fell down and broke into many pieces. People picked up the pieces and then the devil came and whispered into their ears, convincing them to make a religion out of each piece of the mirror. If we could only see them as parts of a higher unity / totality instead of drawing excluding borders and claiming our tribe to be the only true possessor of the reflected truth of reality, Al-Haqq. 

Also from the Sufi Tradition is the following symbolism: When doing sama, the whirling or turning dance, the dervish doing so is firmly anchored in Oneness or God's Unity with his left leg as the axis around which to turn, like an inner Alif - and with the right leg traveling through all the existing religions and spiritual traditions. 

I also remember some periods in human history where in certain parts multicultural and multi-religious societies coexisted and co-created very thriving and refined and beautiful cultures - just to give two keywords here as examples: Al-Andalus and Moghul India. 

Rumi has a beautiful line for our World Religion Day theme: "The lamps are different, but the light is the same!"

And he also said: "Although you make a hundred knots, the string continues to be one!"

Try to celebrate World Religion Day in the spirit of "unity within diversity" and enjoy it! 

Ya Haqq! Ishq bashad, saludos, Rahal (you are welcome to send me some positive vibes for my recovery and insh'Allah feeling better soon, thank you very much - going back on retreat mode)...

Thursday, January 01, 2015

MAWLID AN-NABI - the Prophet's Birthday

Miniature from Rashid-ud-Din Hamdani's Jami Al-Tawarikh
(ca. 1315) - illustrating the resetting of the Black Stone in
615 by Muhammad the Prophet, PBUH.

On the evening of January 2 starts the corresponding beginning of the the day of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, in Arabic known as Mawlid An-Nabi. May peace and blessings be upon him! 

How could we not celebrate the upcoming birthday of this most remarkable and inspirational man who on one hand was Allah's chosen last Prophet sent as a blessing to humankind. He is also considered by others as the first Sufi Master since the esoteric tradition took on the name Sufi - and he stands for the role model of Al-Insan Al-Kamil, the perfected human being. 

There are multiple aspects to this man - we have the historical Muhammad, who should be seen and perceived as a revolutionary and the person to become the seal of Prophets - and we have the symbol he stands for, the esoteric Muhammad, the universal man. 

Without doubt he is among the most influential people of this planet and apart from the religious and spiritual impact he stands for there is also the important point of being the initiator for what was later called Islamic culture and which during his lifetime went way beyond the borders of Arabia and spread far indeed, fusing on the way with the surrounding cultures and absorbing elements into the wide and diverse multicultural fabric of the emerging Islamic World. 

It has been reported that he was handsome, pure and wise and he has been depicted in many miniatures and paintings from the past and present, an example is the beautiful piece of art above. It just proves that figurative art does exist in the context of Islamic tradition, including the depiction of the very Prophet himself and unveiled as such! And why not? 

But there are those who claim figurative painting is forbidden, as well as all art, music, dance, celebrations of a joyful nature, including harmless birthdays. Those who claim such a position may of course be free to not celebrate anything, not look at art, not read books, not dance, and ignorare all birthdays, including the one of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, PBUB. But we should not allow those people to stop us in our diverse ways of celebration, in our diverse religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, and in our very diverse lifestyles. It is up to us to reclaim religion and practice spirituality and lead free and empowered lives without wasting time to listen to those who preach hatred, fear, and an uncivilized intolerant way of life. No! No to hatred! No to fear! No to cultural terrorism or any form of terrorism, compulsion and dominance. 

Compulsion in religion is not allowed according to the Qur'an! Remember?

The antidote to Boko Haram (books are forbidden) and similar ticking barbaric extremist folks is: "A book a day keeps ignorance away!"

In this spirit I'd like to recommend a biography published by Tractus Books, entitled "MUHAMMAD: THE PROPHET" by the Sirdar Ikbal Ali-Shah. It is written in contemporary modern English and brings us the Prophet very close, as well as understanding the historic and cultural and religious settings of that far away era. It is not spiked with pious expressions and mysterious statements to wonder and ponder - instead, it is a down to earth informative and well written book that made me see and comprehend the role of the Prophet of Islam in a much better and clearer light that made sense from the perspective of our times. 

I know, I'm slightly ahead of time - but that is my motto for this year and hopefully ever after too. Wishing you a very unique and personal upcoming Mawlid An-Nabi celebration (either in private because the surround is not supportive of such an event - or out and about - whatever feels right to you)! 

Just as a final info of interest: The great Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi sent his prayers of peace to the Prophet Muhammed at his birthday, PBUH. Rumi used the name Mustafa, when doing so, which means the Chosen One. 

Rumi wrote: 

Naagaah be-ruyid yaki shaakh-e-nabaat
Naagaah be-jushid chonin aab-e-hayaat
Naagaah rawaan shod ze shahenshah sadaqat
Shaadi rawaan-e-mostafa raa salawaat

A branch of candy grew suddenly.
The water of eternal life flowed suddenly.
Charity was given by the king, suddenly.
For the soul of Mustafa, may there joy and prayers be.

Ishq bashad, saludos Rahal

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy 2015!

Photo by Rahal Eks - the sea



January 1, 2015 happens to be a Thursday – the day to remember the story of Mushkil Gusha, the Problem Dissolver – usually told or read during Thursday Sufi evenings world-wide and in multiple tongues. I thought it is a good omen to start the first day of the New Year with some Sufi activity of remembrance, story-telling, meditation and listening to music.

If we look at numerology 2015 gives us a bunch of esoteric information: the 2 of the current millennium indicates balance and harmony, something the entire planet and all its inhabitants really need in order to evolve peacefully.

The 0 is the ideal empty number in the center of the enneagram, representing the perfected human being, Al-Insan Al-Kamil - Allah's Khalifa or symbolic deputy on earth.

The 1 stands for the Alif, the first letter of the alphabet, and a symbol of the Divine. It also stands for self expression and creativity.

And the 5 represents fast moving Mercury, a symbol of communication per se and also between the higher and the lower levels of existence.

Together we get 2 + 0 + 1 + 5 = 8, turned to the side it becomes the symbol of endlessness or eternity. The 8 also represents in musical terms the octave and the path going forever slightly uphill, hinting at evolution and progress in multiple ways.

Of course the world is older than 2015 years and we got many calendars and time calculations, all valuable and useful in diverse cultural, religious and spiritual contexts.

No matter which calendar you use, the question remains how do you deal with time? Are you maximizing time and living according to your fullest potential and your life's purpose?

Are your wasting your precious times with things misleading you from your goal? Are you caught up in the past, still tripping on your terrible or glorious childhood and using it as an excuse for today's shortcomings?

Or are you dreaming about a perfect rosy future, far away, somewhere over the rainbow like a lovely film projection, while in reality you are missing out the wonders of the present, the moment of now?

Are you pretending to be a rational type, not effected by anything but hardcore facts and statistics? Or are you the mystic friend, longing for the Beloved with each breath?

There are also other types, like those who just indulge in the joys of the nafs, the commanding self, or those who wallow in sentimentalities and believe they are experiencing the most noble emotions and feelings.

The perfected human being represents a more refined and holistic, all-inclusive palette, not just a mono-cultural channel with one base program.

The magic keywords are diversity, balance, harmony and a very clear intention. The latter is actually half the rent and rather vital!

Now many people start the New Year with a firm and brave resolution: either to turn vegetarian, stop smoking, to eat less and get more exercise, change job, religion, lover or all of it, practice more loving kindness, function from a loving heart space, increase real knowledge, live and behave more truthful and in sink with the inner being, or whatever it may be.

Sometimes these new passions are short-lived straw fires and soon forgotten while the former enthusiast soon relapses into old nafs habits and the well established patterns of conditioning from the fossilized past. While the person on the Path of the Friend, also called the friends of Baraka, try to keep things moving, growing and alive like a well watered garden. This implies getting rid of the weed, trimming some dead branches, and making sure each flower, tree and plant also gets enough love and light. It's an on-going process and truly a mega-project and in order to do a satisfactory job we need to know who we are and what to do at the right time, at the right place and with the right people, engaged in the right activity. And hopefully blessed by the Friend!

May you enjoy a prosperous, happy, healthy, creative, productive New Year, filled with useful knowledge, light, love and laughter! And please don't feed the fears!

Ya Haqq! Ishq bashad wa Baraka bashad! Saludos, Rahal Eks

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

rabbi shmuley, you're wrong about israel's neighbors...

on facebook, the rabbi posted this yesterday:

“This is our New Big Pro Israel Ad, appearing Today in The New York Times promoting Israel as a place where gay men and women encounter safety, dignity, and human rights, compared to the Barbarity of Israel's neighbors where gays are shot in the head and hung from cranes in public squares.”

and here is my open letter to him:

dear, rabbi shmuley,

you had been one of my favorite rabbis for a long time. i had always found your message to be one of common sense, rooted in spiritual and factual foundations. today, however, i became very disappointed by your accusations of “barbarity” in relation to israel’s neighbors.

when "america's rabbi" posts a message like that it becomes difficult to hold the anti-jewish people in the arab media to a better standard (because they refer to jewish people, not just extreme zionists, as "barbaric" and "apartheid" friendly), and it makes muslims from the arab world like myself who believe in a jewish state in the middle east difficult to be taken seriously.

first of all, no one is doing israel any service by comparing it with hamas, isis, and the government of iran. israel has great partners in the middle east... like jordan, with whom it has peace (and who by the way had decrimalized homosexuality in 1951, nearly 40 years before israel did in 1988)... and turkey (which also had decriminalized homosexuality 125 years before israel in 1858).

how would you feel if a jordanian imam posted an ad in the new york times, saying "israel kills palestinians like me. in jordan, i am free"? it's not necessary to paint israel's neighbors as "barbaric" to gain a better position for jewish people in the world, because only love can change situations... as hate fuels more hate (and tomorrow when the arab media refers to you as "barbaric" it becomes an "eye for eye"... rather than from a place of love).

some years ago, i had to defend israel in the ha’aretz from accusations of pinkwashing/whitewashing.  the accusations came from an arab lesbian who denied the contributions israel has made towards lgbt people in the region through her interview. i compared that hypocrisy with the one about islamists who claim there aren’t any gays in their countries.

your accusation that israel’s neighbors are “barbaric” because they kill gays is as baseless as those who accuse israel of pinkwashing because of statements like yours. it’s not pinkwashing, it’s just plain wrong. the facts are wrong. israel has borders with three people; palestinians (in the palestinian territories), lebanese, and syrian. none of the countries that serve these people have laws that kill gays.

i’m disappointed because this kind of baseless information is not expected from people like you, and because people like you are expected to be representatives of god. i would expect someone like you to be seeking better solutions for a lasting peace between people, not adding more fuel to the fire.

i hope for your own sake, for the sake of the jewish people, and for the sake of all humanity that your future contributions will be of love, adding value to the hard work we all have in front of us in making peace.

thank you, and happy holidays.

afdhere jama