This memorial day, I hope you’ll take a moment to remember, to pray for, all those who have fallen in the lines of fire – not just “our” men and boys, wives and daughters, but all of those who have fallen, everywhere around the world.
Written Memorial Day, 2009
My mother grew up with photos of a dapper dresser and memories of comedy acts, shared songs of Scotland, her dream visitations the strongest vestiges of the man she called Daddy. My grandfather, George, died in World War II when my mother was seven.
A Scotsman by birth, and American by the choice of parents looking for a better life , George came to this country at seven ; bright red curls and a brogue that – from what I understand - he never lost.
At a young age, with two children and a wife at home, every inch an American patriot, George became a tank-gunner fighting on the right side of the “good war.”
Many years later on the Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament my mother was mysteriously tracked down after decades of waiting for confirmation and some acknowledgment of her heinous loss . She was given a purple heart in recognition of the red blood her father, the Scotsman, spilled in the name of America, the land he now called home.
My mother’s mother was a woman I called Grandma, but only met a few times . After the death of George, the grandfather I never met, my grandmother never fell in love again .
My grandfather burned to death , the tank he manned becoming it’s own crematorium. There wasn’t even a body to send home.
One Folded Flag
Last year my grandmother died
and my mother received a box
unceremonious cardboard, innocuous
holding her father’s only remains -
an artfully folded flag
a clan tartan and crest
a heart on a purple ribbon
a pile of letters home.
We touched the flag,
hand sewn, perfect
folded just that way since 1944
and prayed silently
a seven year old girl
awaits the return of her daddy from foreign soil
Or, in a land half a world away
bombs blasting in the distance
May he return whole.
Let no more daughters wait a lifetime
for a flag
a medal on a purple ribbon
a pile of letters.
May no more widows mourn
alone and brittle , hopelessly waiting
sitting for 75 years
at a window she knows will never be filled
with the endlessly dreamed of
Did you know that Mother’s Day was created as an opportunity to stand against war?
Here is the first stanza of a piece of writing called The Mothers’ Day Proclamation written by Julia Ward Howe, a feminist and abolitionist, in 1870.
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
As you take some time to reflect on the contributions mothers have made the world over, think on one of the most precious; life. And another element so strongly the bedrock of what we think of as motherhood; love. Let life and love stand as sacred in our personal days and nights, and take a moment in it all to take a stand for both.
May the suffering cease. May the wars end. May the human family live in peace.
When most people think of Mother’s Day, they may think of roses, champagne brunches, “mother’s rings,” and a visit to mom’s place. While the idea of family togetherness is a lovely sentiment, there was a different, and perhaps even deeper, original meaning to the beginning of Mother’s Day: it was created as an opportunity to stand against war.
No solitary woman can be credited with the beginning of a movement toward the Mother’s Day holiday, but every thread that ties itself into the entangled roots of the emergence of Mother’s Day is ultimately the same. It was a celebration of motherhood, by mothers, and about the largest gift a mother ever gives her child: the gift of life.
This year, as you thank your mother for your life, or your wife for the life of your children, take some time to reflect on the contributions mothers have made the world over. Remember that some mother half the world away gave her child the gift of life too.
And still the collective silence is deafening. Too many people think the budget crisis has nothing to do with them. Or maybe the assumption is that it’s too hard to understand. Or perhaps everyone is experiencing “feeling fatigue”; too much global change, too fast, to pay attention anymore.
If you think the cuts proposed by the Republican-controlled house doesn’t matter, think again. Allow me to offer you a thumbnail view of the reasons YOU should give a damn – and perhaps fast against hunger, too:
Have you ever depended on governmental programs for subsidization (WIC, food stamps, free or subsidized health care – medicare, medicaid, state governmental health insurance, free clinics, immunization clinics, free or subsidized STI tests or treatment…) or known anyone who has? Have you ever had an abortion? Gotten free or subsidized childcare?”
In no way do I want to belittle the horror and carnage that followed the “founding of a new land” (new to whom?) as manifest destiny was used as an ideological weapon that allowed the settlers to push westward, killing and being killed, and irrevocably changing the fabric of a nation forever.
This coming together of openhearted and grateful sharing is the spirit I attempt to enter into the holiday with. This, and the belief that it’s worth dedicating at least one day out of the year to the practice of gratitude.
Thanksgiving day does not need to be a political statement. I’ll go even further and say that though the institutionalization of the federal holiday may have originally been a political move, the observation of the holiday has become one of that is patently apolitical. And while the original wording of the proclamations that the Thanksgiving holiday is built upon were Christian in intent, the observation has become more or less secular.
Today, for most Americans, the spirit of Thanksgiving is one of inclusion. Pagans, and even Atheists celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a chance to take inventory of our lives, an opportunity to consciously reflect upon and share the things we are truly grateful for with friends and family. And a time to indulge in the fruits of our harvests – literal or metaphoric – by way of a large feast, often brought together in a stone-soup or potluck manner.
Like so many of the celebrations of the darkening season, this feast is both a recognition of bounty, and a practice of faith. Faith that through shared abundance, there’s no winter that will be hard enough that we don’t get through it. And at the basic, beautiful, mundanely rooted nature of it, the actual bounty is in no way metaphoric, but is wholly celebratory.
Perhaps somewhere in these days leading up to the holiday you’ll take some time to reflect on the history of the native people of these lands, because this dark side of the history of this nation should never be forgotten – and all too often, it is.
Perhaps you will educate your children about the shadows that dwell behind the images of Pilgrims and turkeys that adorn their classrooms, because their teachers are not going to. Maybe you’ll take a moment of silent prayer, or maybe even shared prayer, in recognition of the hidden history of the Indian Wars and the cultural genocide of the native peoples of this country before (or even at) your Thanksgiving gathering – because until there’s a federally recognized Indigenous People’s Day proclaimed, this is one of the few days out of the year that reminds us of our national shadow history.
And, I hope you’ll begin counting your blessings. Because once you begin counting, you won’t be able to stop.
On Thanksgiving, you have an opportunity to recognize not just the bounty of your table piled high and your cup running over, but also the wealth of community, family, and abundance of all forms. And the more conscious you become of what it is that you’re grateful for, the deeper your experience of the holiday of Thanksgiving will be.
Marcus A. Golczynski, 30, the father of this child, was killed in Iraq on March 27, 2009. "We fight and sometimes die, so our families don't have to."
“…I hope you’ll take a moment to remember, to pray for, all those who have fallen in the lines of fire – not just “our” men and boys, wives and daughters, but all of those who have fallen, everywhere around the world.”
– Written Memorial Day, 2009, and offered again today. My Grandfather’s Flag.
In honor of our LIVING veterans, take some time today to see if there’s anything you can do to pitch in and take care of our walking wounded. For many, the war doesn’t end with the journey home. For some, it never ends.
It’s a dream, and perhaps a futile one, but I’ll say it; let’s end the wars. Let’s end all wars. Together, let’s pray and work for world peace. Let’s live and love peace. Let’s honor our loved ones who have suffered the effects of war by not having to send their children into battle.
Peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace in the world.
Reprinted from elephantjournal.com. Original publication date; 9/7/2010
The Jewish Holy Days move from year to year, the Muslim Holy Days move, and 9/11, of course, stays right where it is.
Rosh Hashanah: September 9, 2010
Eid al Fitr (the three-day feast/celebration at the end of Ramadan): September 10, 2010
And a very frightening one for the Muslim community in the US. Especially with the Park51 situation being what it is.
The following is current – and linked through out the article above, if you click through.
Four news stories from the CURRENT, 2010, wave: UPDATE: Holley teens charged with targeting mosque
CARLTON — A Holley teen-ager was charged with a felony count of criminal possession of a weapon after allegedly firing a shotgun outside a mosque in Waterport on Monday night.
* The PREVIOUS Anti-Muslim backlash — This article is from 2002, during the first post-9/11 wave of Islamophobia: On August 30, 2002, an anti-Muslim hate-rape took place in California. An 18 year-old man raped a 15-year old girl inside a Palo Alto Longs Drugs store while making anti-Muslim comments, according to the Palo Alto Police Department.
Thus whoever attaches attributes to [God] recognizes His like, and who recognizes His like regards Him two; and who regards Him two recognizes parts for Him; and who recognizes parts for Him mistook Him; and who mistook Him pointed at Him; and who pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him; and who admitted limitations for Him numbered Him.
Whoever said in what is He, held that He is contained; and whoever said on what is He held He is not on something else.
~ Ali ibn Abi Talib
Ali ibn Abi Talib was of the house of Muhammad—peace be upon him. Ali was the first Muslim to convert after the Prophet was said to have been visited by the angel that brought God’s words to Muhammad. Those words were the Qur’an (the recitation). Fatima bint Muhammad—peace be upon her—was the daughter of Muhammad.
Ali and Fatima were two of the earliest Muslims. So the mystical fibre of Islam is root-deep.
2. Who is Allah?
Allah has the same roots as the Aramaic “El” and the Hebrew Elah. Allah literally means “The God.” “al” means ‘the,” and “elah” (or some variation of it) means “god.” God does not have a gender in Islam, though is referred to as “He” out of respect.
Yeah, I know, kinda messed up, but at least Muslims don’t actually think God is some guy sitting in the clouds. It is considered a grave violation and failing to give attributes to Allah, because as with anything, defining Him/It limits It/Him.
3. Islam and Peace
The Arabic words “Islam” (for the religion) and “salaam” (peace) are from the same Semitic roots; S-L-M. The word Islam means submission, and is taken to mean submission to God (similar perhaps to the expression “God-fearing”). It could as easily mean peace, purity, safety.
In common understanding, to be Muslim means to have surrendered your will to God; to have submitted one’s will to the grace of Allah.
The word jihad has come to be synonymous with “holy war” in the American vernacular. It has been used by the Palestinian people to mean “uprising.”
Jihad actually means struggle.
“The best jihad is (by) the one who strives against his own self for Allah, The Mighty and Majestic,”
~ the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him).
5. Honoring Your Mother in Islam
There are many Hadiths (loosely; stories that offer the teachings of The Prophet) that beautifully address the role of the mother in Islam.
One such says: I said to the Holy Prophet, “O Messenger of Allah, I desire to go on a (military) expedition and I have come to consult you.” He asked me if I had a mother, and when I replied that I had, he said, “Stay with her because Paradise lies beneath her feet.”
Another says; I asked the Prophet who has the greatest right over a man, and he said, “His mother.”
One of my favorites goes like this: I asked, “Messenger of Allah, to whom should I be dutiful?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then to whom should I be dutiful?” He replied, “Your father, and then the next closest relative and then the next.”
6. Marriage in Islam
While arranged marriage is still common in many Muslim cultures, any woman has the right to refuse a marriage match. And, while polygamy is considered lawful in Islam, a polygamous marriage may only occur where both (or all) women are in accord with the choice to be co-wives.
Divorce is legal in Islam, and a woman is guaranteed a divorce settlement even before marriage. Additionally, in marriage a man’s property becomes communal property by law, but a woman’s property remains in her own claim.
7. Sex in Islam “Permitted to you on the night of the Fasts is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and you are their garments.”
Obviously, Islam has a long way to go in regards to creating a healthy relationship with sex. (Still, don’t we all?)
Yes, it’s a homophobic religion, and one with strict regulation of sexuality beyond even that.
However, when sex happens within the container of the laws of Islam, i.e.; between a lawfully wedded woman and man, Islam (on the whole) has fewer sex-negative or sex phobic views than you would think.
Contraception is allowed, as is first-trimester abortion. In addition, sex has many extra-procreative purposes in Islamic faith, including deepening companionship between husband and wife.
“The Prophet himself, while not divulging all aspects of his own sexual life, was known for his nature as a loving husband who was sensitive and physically demonstrative. In several hadith, he speaks about the importance of foreplay and speaking in loving terms during sexual relations. Again, the concept of mutual satisfaction is elucidated in a hadith which advises husbands to engage in acts that enable a woman to achieve orgasm first. …Sexual dissatisfaction is considered legitimate grounds for divorce on the part of either wife or husband.”
There’s even the suggestion that sexual intimacy between man and wife is a gift of worship, and something a Muslim will be rewarded for by Allah.
Female circumcision is not an Islamic practice, but an African tribal one, that predates the introduction of Islam to the areas that practice female circumcision (aka FGM, or female genital mutilation). The vast majority of Islamic countries and cultures do not practice female circumcision at all.
In honor of Ramadan, the most holy month in Islam, I hope we can all take a moment to honor the diversity of faiths that hold the world together, as much as they might tear it apart.
Clinging to anything causes suffering, and there is no exception to the rule here. But while we share the air, we share breath. Let’s be inspired by each other. And allow the outer jihad to give way to the greater jihad; the jihad of one’s own soul.
Suheir Hammad is the author of “Born Palestinian, Born Black” (Harlem River Press, 1996, $12.00, ISBN 0-863-16244-4) and other books.
1. there have been no words.
i have not written one word.
no poetry in the ashes south of canal street.
no prose in the refrigerated trucks driving debris and dna.
not one word.
today is a week, and seven is of heavens, gods, science.
evident out my kitchen window is an abstract reality.
sky where once was steel.
smoke where once was flesh.
fire in the city air and i feared for my sister’s life in a way never
before. and then, and now, i fear for the rest of us.
first, please god, let it be a mistake, the pilot’s heart failed, the
plane’s engine died.
then please god, let it be a nightmare, wake me now.
please god, after the second plane, please, don’t let it be anyone
who looks like my brothers.
i do not know how bad a life has to break in order to kill.
i have never been so hungry that i willed hunger
i have never been so angry as to want to control a gun over a pen.
even as a woman, as a palestinian, as a broken human being.
never this broken.
more than ever, i believe there is no difference.
the most privileged nation, most americans do not know the difference
between indians, afghanis, syrians, muslims, sikhs, hindus.
more than ever, there is no difference.
2. thank you korea for kimchi and bibim bob, and corn tea and the
genteel smiles of the wait staff at wonjo the smiles never revealing
the heat of the food or how tired they must be working long midtown
shifts. thank you korea, for the belly craving that brought me into
the city late the night before and diverted my daily train ride into
the world trade center.
there are plenty of thank yous in ny right now. thank you for my
lazy procrastinating late ass. thank you to the germs that had me
call in sick. thank you, my attitude, you had me fired the week
before. thank you for the train that never came, the rude nyer who
stole my cab going downtown. thank you for the sense my mama gave me
to run. thank you for my legs, my eyes, my life.
3. the dead are called lost and their families hold up shaky
printouts in front of us through screens smoked up.
we are looking for iris, mother of three. please call with any
information. we are searching for priti, last seen on the 103rd
floor. she was talking to her husband on the phone and the line
went. please help us find george, also known as a! ! del. his family is
waiting for him with his favorite meal. i am looking for my son, who
was delivering coffee. i am looking for my sister girl, she started
her job on monday.
i am looking for peace. i am looking for mercy. i am looking for
evidence of compassion. any evidence of life. i am looking for
4. ricardo on the radio said in his accent thick as yuca, “i will
feel so much better when the first bombs drop over there. and my
friends feel the same way.”
on my block, a woman was crying in a car parked and stranded in hurt.
i offered comfort, extended a hand she did not see before she said,
“we”re gonna burn them so bad, i swear, so bad.” my hand went to my
head and my head went to the numbers within it of the dead iraqi
children, the dead in nicaragua. the dead in rwanda who had to vie
with fake sport wrestling for america’s attention.
yet when people sent emails saying, this was bound to happen, lets
! ! not forget u.s. transgressions, for half a second i felt resentful.
hold up with that, cause i live here, these are my friends and fam,
and it could have been me in those buildings, and we”re not bad
people, do not support america’s bullying. can i just have a half
second to feel bad?
if i can find through this exhaust people who were left behind to
mourn and to resist mass murder, i might be alright.
thank you to the woman who saw me brinking my cool and blinking back
tears. she opened her arms before she asked “do you want a hug?” a
big white woman, and her embrace was the kind only people with the
warmth of flesh can offer. i wasn’t about to say no to any comfort.
“my brother’s in the navy,” i said. “and we”re arabs”. “wow, you
got double trouble.” word.
5. one more person ask me if i knew the hijackers.
one more motherfucker ask me what navy my brother is in.
one more person assume no arabs or muslims were killed.one more person
assume they know me, or that i represent a people.
or that a people represent an evil. or that evil is as simple as a
flag and words on a page.
we did not vilify all white men when mcveigh bombed oklahoma.
america did not give out his family’s addresses or where he went to
church. or blame the bible or pat robertson.
and when the networks air footage of palestinians dancing in the
street, there is no apology that hungry children are bribed with
sweets that turn their teeth brown. that correspondents edit images.
that archives are there to facilitate lazy and inaccurate
and when we talk about holy books and hooded men and death, why do we
never mention the kkk?
if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is
feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.
6. today it is ten days. last night bush waged war on a man once
openly funded by the
cia. i do not know who is responsible. read too many books, know
too many people to believe what i am told. i don’t give a fuck about
bin laden. his vision of the world does not include me or those i
love. and petittions have been going around for years trying to get
the u.s. sponsored taliban out of power. shit is complicated, and i
don’t know what to think.
but i know for sure who will pay.
in the world, it will be women, mostly colored and poor. women will
have to bury children, and support themselves through grief. “either
you are with us, or with the terrorists” – meaning keep your people
under control and your resistance censored. meaning we got the loot
and the nukes.
in america, it will be those amongst us who refuse blanket attacks on
the shivering. those of us who work toward social justice, in
support of civil liberties, in opposition to hateful foreign
i have never felt less american and more new yorker, particularly
brooklyn, than these past days. the stars and stripes on all these
cars and apartment windows represent the dead as citizens first, not
family members, not lovers.
i feel like my skin is real thin, and that my eyes are only going to
get darker. the future holds little light.
my baby brother is a man now, and on alert, and praying five times a
day that the orders he will take in a few days time are righteous and
will not weigh his soul down from the afterlife he deserves.
both my brothers – my heart stops when i try to pray – not a beat to
disturb my fear. one a rock god, the other a sergeant, and both
palestinian, practicing muslim, gentle men. both born in brooklyn
and their faces are of the archetypal arab man, all eyelashes and
nose and beautiful color and stubborn hair.
what will their lives be like now?
over there is over here.
7. all day, across the river, the smell of burning rubber and limbs
floats through. the sirens have stopped now. the advertisers are
back on the air. the rescue workers are traumatized. the skyline is
brought back to human size. no longer taunting the gods with its
i have not cried at all while writing this. i cried when i saw those
buildings collapse on themselves like a broken heart. i have never
owned pain that needs to spread like that. and i cry daily that my
brothers return to our mother safe and whole.
there is no poetry in this. there are causes and effects. there are
symbols and ideologies. mad conspiracy here, and information we will
never know. there is death here, and there are promises of more.
there is life here. anyone reading this is breathing, maybe hurting,
but breathing for sure. and if there is any light to come, it will
shine from the eyes of those who look for peace and justice after the
rubble and rhetoric are cleared and the phoenix has risen.
we got to carry each other now.
you are either with life, or against it.
Published in In Motion Magazine November 7, 2001.
“The fall of the petal, somewhere a crash…” Pattern Recognition, William Gibson
“Cayce herself had been in SoHo that morning, at the time of the impact of the first plane, and had witnessed a micro-event that seemed in retrospect to have announced, however privately and secretly, that the world itself had taken a duck in the face.
She had watched a single petal fall, from a dead rose, in the tiny display window of an eccentric Spring Street dealer in antiques.
…Staring rather blankly and contentedly…
…She had just heard a plane, incredibly loud and, she’d assumed, low. She thought she’d glimpsed something, over West Broadway, but then it had been gone. They must be making a film.
The dead roses, arranged in an off-white Fiestaware vase, appeared to have been there for several months. They would have been white, when fresh, but now looked like parchment. This was a mysterious window, with a black-painted plywood backdrop revealing nothing of the establishment behind it. She had never been in to see what else was in there, but the objects in the window seemed to change in accordance with some peculiar poetry of their own, and she was in the habit, usually, of pausing to look, when she passed this way.
The fall of the petal, somewhere a crash, taken perhaps as some impact of large trucks, one of those unexplained events of lower Manhattan. Leaving her sole witness to this minute fall.”
Yes, I am observing the fast of Ramadan. I never could have foreseen this, but I don’t know why. It makes perfect sense. Beginning after my first trip to the Holy Land, I started studying Islam. My most recent trip ended just as Ramadan began. My first day home was the first day of Ramadan.
While in Bethlehem, the excitement level was rising. I was invited by many to extend my trip and to spend Ramadan in their homes. (Yeah, the whole month. I have never met with such utter hospitality.) I couldn’t, though if I had been able to I certainly would have. Leaving was difficult as it was, and I would have loved to have spent this holy time in a Muslim community.
Instead, I came home, and have taken Ramadan by myself. I am studying deep into Islam, and have found many elements that speak directly to my heart. The spiritual side of Islam appeals to me more than any other religion I have studied. (Notice I didn’t say spiritual path, I specifically said religion.) The spiritual aspect is Mysticism. Direct relationship with God, no mediation, the awareness that God is both imminent and transcendent.
The law and politics side is more sticky, tricky, trigger-happy for me.
And for both these things I am exceedingly grateful. The part that makes sense with no need for translation. The part that is my home already, is my heart, my love, my life, my surrender, my path. The part where God is, and i am.
And, the part that is so alien that I can’t look directly at it without engaging in separation.
How does all of it “make perfect sense?” I could not have thought of a better way to pull “my self” outside of myself; outside of the known, outside of the assumed, outside of the easy, the comfortable, the illusory. Sometimes it’s too easy to fall into ease, and not even realize that Truth Eternal has been sacrificed in the offing.
Ego rebuilds itself moment to moment, assuming new shapes to hold, contain, divide, define itself by. Even the idea of enlightenment can stand in the way of our relationship with It.
Circle of Women, Tomb of the Patriarch, Al-Khalil/Hebron
So, the perfection lies in being stretched beyond my own edges in a way that I ask for again and again. Through the frame of Islam, I can see God unchanged, unchanging. The way I have come to know It. I can also see where my ego is attached to the way I encounter God, approach God, conceive of God.
One of the big jokes of it all (and there are many, many Big Jokes for me in the terrain of my dissembling soul), is that God cannot be approached. God is. Eternal. Everywhere present, but in no one place localized. Beyond our comprehension. So, even on the mental level, God cannot be approached.
As a Mystic, I can say that all paths to the Divine are equal, while knowing that “path” is a misnomer, and “to the” a misleading statement. Even naming It, whether “Divine” or “God” is a veil.
“love is a veil between lover and loved
more than this I am not allowed to say.”
Even the idea of love is separation. In claiming a beloved, earthly or divine, we put ourselves into separation. Through this separation we have the chance to seek reunion.
Just as delineation limits by virtue of fixing “some thing” in place, love and aversion limit by placing things outside of ourselves, which creates something outside of The Other, as well. There is a sense of “the thing I am”, or “the thing I am not.” Both reinforce division.
But where better to see my assumed flaws, faults, assumed strengths? Where better to see my attachments?
In this, the healing of the world.
As my sense of self lies shattered into pieces on the ground around me, I laugh, and I cry. Some shards melt into the earth and become cells of the ageless soil. Some wisps of vapor, becoming the unchanging air. Some become sparks of light and join with the unwavering light of the sun.
And even beyond the joining with the geological and universal, each element in its time fades and joins the eternal, returning to the first home, the last home, the home that is now, and always will be; the heart of The One.
In the midst of the agonies and the ecstasies of mergence, emergence, mergence…I come back to the moments of peace where there is no separation.
What if “that I am,” were true of everything. What if inside and outside were an illusion? What if there were no line between work and life. Relationships with people and with God. Spiritual path and life, just as it is.
Cessation. At the heart of it all is surrender. The moment where lover and beloved are not two, but one. Nay, are none.
-LaSara (Fatima ‘Abd-Rahim)
“The foremost in religion is the acknowledgement of Him, the perfection of acknowledging Him is to testify Him, the perfection of testifying Him is to believe in His Oneness, the perfection of believing in His Oneness is to regard Him Pure, and the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes, because every attribute is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute. Thus whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognises His like, and who recognises His like regards Him two; and who regards Him two recognises parts for Him; and who recognises parts for Him mistook Him; and who mistook Him pointed at Him; and who pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him; and who admitted limitations for Him numbered Him.
Whoever said in what is He, held that He is contained; and whoever said on what is He held He is not on something else. He is a Being but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence.”
-The oneness of god, according to Ali ibn Abi Talib
“I testify that there is no Deity (Lord) except the sole and matchless Allah. And the testification of the singleness of Allah is a word that Allah has declared sincerity (as) its reality, and made the hearts the centre of its contact and union. And has made the specifications and research of the oneness of Allah’s station obvious and evident in the light of meditation. The Allah Who can not be seen by the eyes and tongues are unable and baffled to describe His virtues and attributes. And the intelligence and apprehension of man is helpless and destitute from the imagination of his how ness.”
-Fatima bint Muhammad
(Author note: This is an opinion piece. I am posting it in response to a lack of awareness around the Middle East Peace talks, 2010. I respectfully request that you click through the links included in this article before commenting. The links offer a background story that may allow you to understand the heart of this article more easily.)
Imagine you are sitting in your home. Imagine that when you look out the window, you can see a wall growing closer and closer, day by day, straight toward the walls of your home. You know that the larger wall will not correct its course. You know that soon, very soon, your walls will be gone, leaving only the larger wall standing.
I sit on a terrace that was probably built centuries before Columbus set sail…and am spitting distance from the wall, grey and shocking, monstrous, prison-like, stark and hard-edged. I am so close, in fact, that I can hear the machinery working tirelessly beneath in the large shadow – you have to be able to imagine this wall to understand. It’s built like a prison wall – about twenty feet straight up, and then another 20 at a slant, built to keep the prisoners…uh, I mean terrorists…in.
From what is to be known as the Israeli side of this “fence,” (on illegally seized land), you could perhaps scale the fence, with the right high-tech climbing gear. If you were to stand beneath it on the occupied, aka Palestinian, side of the fence, it would tower over you, insurmountable and oppressive.
I sit on the edge of Beit Jala, just east of Walaja, outside Bethlehem. The wall is heading straight into the heart of Walaja. There is no clear path. Houses have fallen before the blade of the dozer, and will continue to fall.
Right now I can hear the “screeeee” of earth and stone being torn by machines. If I were to stand, I would see, beyond the wall, on the occupied side, carcasses of olive trees, still drying in the late-summer sun. The leaves are not yet brown, death is so fresh.
Being a “landed” person, I tell myself that I would die to protect my family home if it came down to it. And even at that, I know I would not. Life is more precious, freedom more precious. What freedom there is.
Where is the justice? Where the justification? How can anyone look at this wall, these settlements, and think these are okay, much less a good idea?
Fighting a “war” against “terror” is inhumane. Who are the terrorists? Walling a nation is ghettoization. The wall is breeding terror, and those who live in terror may choose to die by it. This wall is terrorism. These settlements are terror impersonated.
Imagine you are a young woman or man who has no citizenship, no country, no right to travel, no right to own land, no work prospects within the land of your birth, no easy way to leave. Imagine you are an old woman or man who has lived for the past sixty years in a camp run by the UN. Imagine the complex emotions that pull you between wanting your children to find a way out, and knowing that if they do get out you may never see them again.
Imagine you are a young person with nothing to lose but life itself. Imagine you are a young person with nothing to gain but paradise. What is terror? What is terrorism?
My third night in Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers came illegally into the center of town. Young boys picked plastic bottles from the trash cans, and began throwing them at the cavalcade of army vehicles. Empty, plastic soda bottles. Not even rocks. The jeeps stopped, and the boys ran.
A simple game of cat and mouse. What else is there to do? How should these boys react? Even in “Area A,” which is supposed to be solidly in Palestinian control, the Israeli soldiers make their presence known at will.
Palestinian people are arrested by the Israeli government everyday for nothing. People are afraid to walk the streets after dark, not because of crime (which seems to be virtually non-existent here), but because they are afraid of being harassed, picked up, arrested, beaten, killed…by Israeli soldiers.
I see the walls, internal and external, and I find myself asking, where is the third intifada? How else will the strangle-hold be overcome?
Yesterday I went to Al Arroub Camp. Remember, you take the bitter with the sweet…
In 1948 the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands began. Palestinians were driven forcibly from the homes their forefathers had built, whole villages were emptied of the Arab population. Villages that had been built of the blood, sweat, tears, life and death of the Arab people were torn forcibly from them in six days that changed the political terrain of the Middle East for ever.
Throughout the land of Palestine, the villagers who were not killed were displaced.
Al Arroub was built by the UN in 1948. It is peopled with Palestinians who were run out of their villages. Many still hold keys to homes that no longer stand, or homes that now hold three generations of Israelis, while the same three generations of Palestinians live in homes of concrete…windows opening into other windows. No space for thought, no space for breath, no space to stretch…
When things are built to be temporary, and in a crisis situation, the process of planning is different. One could say short-sighted perhaps. Starting from here; sixty years ago the standard of living was different. And, the population was lower. Life will not be held back, and even in these dire conditions, people breed.
We breed as if our lives depend upon it…because, of course, they do. In times of crisis, where you never know which of your children will survive the terrors of war, which will survive the threat of arrest or assassination, which will survive the rigors of poverty living, which will decide to stay in the country of his birth and care for you in your old age…perhaps we breed more.
Add in the value that family holds in Middle Eastern culture, and especially Moslim culture, and yes, you have rapid population growth. Arroub camp is less than one square km (roughly 1/2 an acre), and is home to around 9000 refugee families. A third generation. The camp is moving into it’s 4th generation of habitation. The buildings grow up, slowly, as families can afford to add rooms, generation stacked on generation.
Across the road you can see the settlements grow out from centers, expanding like a crab grass, taking over as much land as possible.
Arroub Camp is in Area C, the area controlled by the Israeli government. According to the Oslo agreement, Area C was supposed to be in the control of the Palestinians by now. However, since the second intifada, all roads into, or out of, Arroub have been closed, except for one. And this one is guarded by Israeli soldiers. No one can come or go without the permission of the soldiers.
Many are unemployed, but most of those who have work are employed outside the camp in near-by Hebron (Al-Khalil), Bethlehem, or another municipality. Every day in the camp children, workers, students, were forced to recognize the authority of the very soldiers who’s families live in the homes the refugees families built centuries ago.
In the camp, children play in streets that run with dirty water. There are no parks, no playgrounds, there is no open space that is safe for the children to play in. Until this year, there were no schools in Arroub Camp. The children had to be bussed to the surrounding municipalities daily to attend school.
Inside the “popular office” – the office of the popular representative of the refugees who live in the camp, and serves as interface between the refugees and the UN – I’m sure there is a better English translation for this, but it’s how it was explained to me – there are murals. Each one has a story.
Keys Without Locks - each pad (leaf) of the cactus is a Palestnian city that has been lost.
One is stark black and red, and has the names of the martyrs of the camp. (A word about martyrs, before reactivity sets in…martyrs may have been killed in a confrontation with the Israeli army, may have died in custody in Israeli prison, may have been killed defending one of the villages, may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have yet to hear a story of a martyr who was a suicide bomber…perhaps I could use the word Hero instead, and sidestep the whole discussion…)
Another is a painting of doorways, keys, desert…and the names of all the villages that the refugees come from. Village names that have been erased from every map, from every street sign…but the names live on in memory. Only keys remain…keys that have no lock. Keys that remain a symbol of life stolen, promises broken, and sixty years of temporary.
Onto the sweet; what there is to be savored. An amazing women’s center has sprung up in Arroub that houses a day care and many programs that encourage womens’ independence; financial, cultural, personal, individual. There is a computer lab, and a craft room, as well as a day care and kindergarten on premise. There is a small playground in the back yard…a sand pit, really, with a few toys, but a place for the children to be outside and not directly on the street.
And the popular office is building a park, with a swimming pool, gardens.
The funds are a struggle, and the political situation with Hamas has strained things further. Many international funders are wary of putting finds into projects with things feeling as precarious as they are.
I hope to find funds to help the women’s center. And I have faith that as Abu Mohammed, the head of the popular center, believes, the park will be finished within the year.
I ask you to
send me Arab coffee
but i want to say
the coffee vendor
crooked teeth and gentle smile
who stands with burnished cart
at the far end of the square
I ask you to
but i want you to
the scent of water and wild weeds
at Solomon’s Pools
send me a
strong smelling, rosewood rosary
I long to walk again
in the Arab markets
send me the
sights and sounds of
markets beautiful, bustling
over-abundant with riches crafted
by hands that hold, remember
sweet and tangy tea
and gifts of the heart
tender goodbyes shared with
made friends, in a quiet,
“When you return to America
Tell them we shared coffee at my table
Tell them, we are not monsters.”
I say to you,
send me peace bracelets
sewn in the
crafted of the colors of the
flag with no country
but my heart cries out
for a day full of the smiles
that greeted me on the road
between the arch
and the tree
I ask for artwork from the market
when what I long for
is the call of the muezzin
off ageless hills
send me the
how you and i would pray
your forehead touching the ground
humility washing you clean
five times a day
(your devotion to Allah inflaming
my own devotions
to my nameless, faceless
send me sweet memories
tears graced my cheeks
grateful for one more day
standing on the soil
of that land
One of the sweetest men I have ever met, a man I am grateful to have had the occasion to learn from and work with (for far too short a time), a man of peace and true heart, has passed on. I pray there is someone who can and will gracefully step into the spot his death leaves open.
But it is an opening in the hearts of …many, and in a political and spiritual terrain that is difficult to navigate. A true sage, Sheik Bukhari will move onto to his next place with peace. As he said, his bags were already packed for this journey. May his heart beat chant of “Allah, Allah, Allah…” (“God, God, God…”) live on in the eternity of spirit.
May the teachings of Sheik Bukhari continue to lead us toward peace.
Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
A Meditation for Presence: Be Peace
The words offered up by Saint Francis present a powerful opportunity to create the world – by being in the world the way we want the world to be.
When we plant a seed, we offer the world the plant, and we also get to watch it grow. When we are the germinal point for light and love, we are, without fail, surrounded by it.
Plant seeds of hope, seeds of peace, seeds of joy. Become the beacon of your own offering – offer peace, and find yourself enveloped by it. Offer forgiveness, and find yourself forgiven. Offer love, and find yourself surrounded by it.