Siddi Sufi Singer Tahir Mithu.

So I already knew that there is an Afro-Pakistani & Afro-Indian community called Siddi/Siddis because of the Indian ocean trade & enslavement. Many of them are involved in mystical music, as is the singer Tahir Mithu, who is from Sindh. (The same province where Abida Parveen is from)

Here, you can see some clips of him:

Bulleh Shah.

About ten years ago, I started to listen to qawwali. Qawwali is Islamic mystical music from the Indian subcontinent. Through that music, I came into contact with some of the great Sufi sages and poets of the subcontinent.

One of them is Baba Bulleh Shah (Rahmatullahi 3alayh/God bless him), and this article on his life and work is a tribute to him.

“Destroy the mosque, destroy the temple; destroy everything you want to destroy. But never hurt someone’s heart, because if you hurt someone’s heart, you hurt God. Because God resides in all hearts.”

This is a poem written by Baba Bulleh Shah, a queer poet, Muslim mystic and sage.

Baba Bulleh Shah was born in 1680 (common era) as Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri, from a family of sayyids. Sayyids are people who claim to be direct descendents of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. His family gave him the nickname “Bulleh” and he took that name as a nom de plume and became famous under that name.

He received his earliest education from his father, who taught him Arabic, Persian and Qur’an, but later on he moved to another city to receive higher, formal education.

We know few biographical details about his life, but all the more about his poetry, and the following story about him meeting his master is telling.

Even before he met his master, he performed spiritual excercises and had certain spiritual powers, but nonetheless, he wanted achieve more in Islamic mysticism and went looking for a teacher.

One fateful day, he was strolling in an orchard full of mangotrees, who were laden with fruit. Scrupulous as he was, he went looking fort he owner or caretaker of the garden, because he didn’t want to steal. However, he didn’t find him, so he called upon the Name of God, and the mangos dropped from the trees.

Then all of a sudden, he saw the spiritual teacher Shah Inayat Qadri, who was in fact the owner of the orchard and also worked his own land.

Bulleh Shah rcognized him as a spiritual teacher, and eager to impress him and to test his ability as a spiritual teacher, called upon God and the mangos dropped from the trees again.

However, Shah Inayat Qadri was not impressed by the miracle, and called upon God himself, making the mangos drop from the trees and attaching them to the trees again.

Then, Inayat Shah asked him what his name was and why he had come to see him. Bulleh replied, “Sir, my name is Bullah and I wish to know how I can realize God.” Inayat Shah said “O Bulleh, what problem is there in finding God ? It only needs to be uprooted from here and planted there.”

What Inayat Shah meant with his words was that the secret of spiritual progress lay in detaching one’s mind from the world outside and attaching it to God within.

After these words, Bulleh Shah was deeply moved and knew that he had found his teacher. He became Shah Inayats student. (Shah Inayat was, btw, named “Qadri” because he was a member of the Qadiriyya-order. This order is very widespread and old, and was founded by Abdulqadir al Jilani, who came from Baghdad and was an Afro-Iraqi sage)

Meeting Shah Inayat changed Bullehs whole life, and even though he never married and remained celibate all his life, he had a deep and passionate spiritual love for his master, and wrote many poems about his love for his master, and about spirituality in general.

He sometimes expressed this love in an unconventional way.

One day, he saw a young woman who was waiting for her husband to come home, and in preparing for him to come, she was putting braids in her hair. Bulleh Shah dressed himself like that woman and put the same type of braids in his hair and went to meet his master in this garb.
However, the days of joy were not to last. Bulleh Shah was an ashraf syedi and syeds were considered “upper” caste, whereas Shah Inayat was an arain. Arains were gardeners and vegetable-growers, considered to be a “lower” caste.

When Bulleh Shahs family heard that he had chosen someone of a lower social status and caste as a master, they were furious. Even though they were pious Muslims, they had not yet reached the level to practice what the Qur’an and the Prophet preached: No-one is better than anyone else on the basis of colour, ethnic heritage, “race”, gender, sexual orientation, but only on the basis of taqwa, God-consciousness or piety.

His family began to pressure him to leave Shah Inayat and even though he was heart-broken, he obeyed. Shah Inayat only replied with the following remark: “You are not Bulleh, you are lost.”
According to my personal interpretation, this means that Bulleh had done something which clashed against his own character and views, and wasn’t himself anymore.

Heartbroken, Bulleh Shah became more and more confused. Why had he forsaken Shah Inayat? Why had he listened to his families’ words and obeyed, even though casts meant nothing to him, and his love for his master meant everything?

He realized he had made a terrible mistake and begged Shah Inayat to forgive him. But his master refused to take him back.

Desperate beyond belief, Bulleh Shah remembered that his master loved music and dances, and hatched the following plan. He joined a group of professional female dancers and lived as one of them.

Because these women were poor working class dancers of low “caste” and social status, Bulleh Shah, a privileged man from a high caste and with a worldview influnced by that status, considered it somewhat of a penance.

For twelve years, he wore women’s clothes and learned to dance, as to prove that he would give up everything – including his social status- to win his master back.

By doing what he did, he also proved that social status, gender and caste meant nothing to him. It was all about love, the love he had for his master and for God, and not about the aforemented things. He willingly gave up his privilege as an upper caste man, to chase his spiritual love, and by doing so, he embodied the Quranic principle that God doesn’t look at our outer forms, but at what is in the heart.

After twelve years he awaited his master in dancing clothes and danced for him, while singing the following poem: “Mullah, don’t make a fuss and beat me; let me rejoice in my beloved.
My honor has not decreased by becoming a dancer!
Your love has made me dance, your love has made me dance, like mad!
O healer, come back soon, or else forsaken my life will end.
Your love has made me dance, your love has made me dance, like mad!
Your love has camped in my heart, your love has camped in my heart.
I drank a cup full of poison. O perfect master, I have already crossed over!
Peacocks sing in the grove of love; my beautifull Beloved lives in the qibla and the Kaaba.
Your love has made me dance, your love has made me dance, like mad!”

After that, his master saw the sincerity of his plea, he forgave him, and they reconciled.

Bulleh Shah wrote beautiful poems, who continually stress that true spiritual growth and faith have little to do with only reading books, outward appearances or ritual, but everything with love, devotion and purity of heart.

He wrote, for instance: “Do not effortedly spin the rosary.
What’s to count in a rosary unto Him Who is Countless unto you? Why keep accounts with God?
You read to become all knowledgeable
But you never read yourself
You run to enter temples and mosques
But you never entered your own heart
Everyday you fight Satan
But you never fight your own Ego
It’s no use to fight the devil if you haven’t fought yourself
Bulleh Shah you try grabbing that which is in the sky
But you never get hold of What sits inside you.”

He also wrote: Going to Makkah is not the ultimate
Despite offering hundreds of prayers
Going to Ganga is not the ultimate
Despite taking hundreds of dips in it
Going to Gaya is not the ultimate
Despite teaching hundreds of worshippers
Bulleh Shah, the ultimate is achieved
When the “I” is eliminated from the heart.”

(The Ganges is a place of pilgrimage for Hindus, Gaya is a place of pilgrimage for buddhists)

“O beloved one:
If God were to be found by bathing and washing,
then God would be found by fish and frogs.
If God were to be found by roaming in jungle,
then God would be found by cows and buffaloes.

O Bulleh
God is found by hearts righteous and pure.”

When Bulleh Shah died, the scholars did not want to bury him, probably because of his occasional cross-dressing and subversive spirituality. Nonetheless, he was loved among the people, and at night, he was secretly buried by a woman.

Even though he was opposed by the scholars in his day, the commemoration of his diying day, his “3urs” or wedding still attracts thousands of devotees today.

His poem “Teri ishq nachaya”, “Your love has made me dance” is still popular and is sung in great parts of India and Pakistan.

Another song he wrote “Dama dam mast qalandar” “Every breath of the wandering derwisj is drunk” that some even call it “the second national anthem of Pakistan”.

Renditions of both songs exist in almost every musical genre in India and Pakistan: From sufiana kalam and qawwali to kafi, Bollywood and even hiphop and rock.

All these songs were and are sung by famous singers, for instance the late, great qawwali-singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the almost equally famous Abida Parveen.

It is also interesting to note that the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a married man and father, once recounted the story of Bulleh Shahs life amongst the dancers and didn’t seem to have any problems with the story itself and with telling it.

The singer Abida Parwin, who often sings poems by Bulleh Shah, once said: “When I sing, I am neither a man, nor a woman. I am only a vessel for passion.”

 

Amber Guyger and Botham Jean: my thoughts.

These white women tears are triggering as hell. That woman is a murderer & no victim, and the judge was way too lenient in her verdict.

However, I do consider it a sign of greatness that the brother forgave her. No, she didn’t deserve it, but it was not about her, but about HIS stature & character as a man.

Some time ago, an Indonesian imam also forgave the murderer of his son, who was African-American btw. Even the judge had a hard time containing her tears. Forgiveness is powerfull, not weak.

Btw, him forgiving her personally does NOT mean that she shouldn’t be punished legally in this world.

His forgiveness will come upon his scale, and her murder will come on hers.

(Another explanation: I am NOT a proponent of the theology that we shouldn’t worry about injustice in this world, because we will be rewarded in the next. This is why the prophet Muhammad, pbuh, prayed: “Our Lord, give us what is good in THIS WORLD AND IN THE NEXT”) May Allah reward the brother of the victim in this world in the next, and punish the murderer in this world and the next. (Her punishment in this world has already started…….thank God.)

Ten years is way too short a punishment for taking someone’s life. She should have gotten 30 years at least, or a life sentence.

I do believe that if it was the other way around, that if an African-American woman or man would have killed a white woman or man, they would NOT have gotten such a light punishment.

An Egyptian-American feminist, Mona Eltahawy once discussed on twitter how white and black suspects and offenders were portrayed.

The black men were only showed in mug shots and looking mad and they only talked about their records, while the white men were shown smiling in family pictures and the captions were about how tragic it was for THEM.

And yes, Guyger was being coddled to no end by the judge and the bailiff, and that was wrong.

A judge & bailiff should have professional distantion.

And yes, Guyger was/is trash trash: murdering a man, sexting with a married man days after doing so.

I believe in forgiveness, but as a Muslim I believe it is optional, and not mandatory as in Christianity. And I fully agree that that same energy/forgiveness should be for EVERYONE, and yes, especially for DS black women who are no murderers and have done relatively innocent things. If forgiveness is selective to race and gender, then it is problematic and then it is caping and muling.

This doesn’t only happen with black people, btw. A while ago, an Indonesian-American imam forgave the African-American murderer of his son and hugged him in public during his trial.

Even if this man wasn’t into black people or didn’t march for black  women, he deserves to be defended. He had the right to live and his life was taken from him. We should empathize with everyone: We shouldn’t empathize with his mother because he was black ( or, the other, self-hating way around, only empathize with someone because they’re white), but because he or she is/was a human being.

Would he have been a colorist criminal, then that would be a different case. I would still believe in his right to live, but would not cape for him.

I agree that the judge & bailiff were way out of line. They had no professional distance, and probably DID suffer from internalized anti-blackness. Like I said, I do believe in forgiveness, but if this forgiveness is selective to race and gender, and only for white women or white men, it is internalized anti-blackness, caping and muling. IMO, the forgiveness is not wrong, but the selectiveness is racist and disgusting.

All in all, if this proves anything, it is just how deep anti-black racism & internalized anti-blackness are ingrained in the criminal justice system, and sadly enough, in African-American people themselves.

Jay-Z NFL deal pt. 2

Jay-Z NFL deal pt. 2: Proof and receipts. Because some of the tings I said in my last post are bound to be considered controversial (what happens alot when one tells the truth) here are some proof and receipts).

Jay-Zs drug dealing (from his own mouth): https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2440081/I-knew-budgets-I-drug-dealer-Jay-Z-says-learned-business-skills-selling-crack-cocaine-1980s.html

Jay Z rapping about selling crack to his mother: https://genius.com/Jay-z-you-must-love-me-lyrics

Jay Z cheating on Beyoncé (again from his own mouth): https://www.elle.com/culture/celebrities/a19700877/jay-z-on-cheating-on-beyonce-david-letterman-interview/

J.Los stealing of songs by African-American artists (and P.Diddies enabling): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOEmCERi21U

J.Los pandering to AA-people and her Motown-tribute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4KpWheBsd4

(Btw, Paris Milan got one thing wrong: When Jlo started as a solo singer, her songs were Latin-pop with a dash of R&B. She crossed over to R&B and urban LATER on.

I also do NOT endorse her view of Puff Daddy as an innocent victim. He knew exactly what he was doing in promoting J.Lo, stealing songs for her & cheating on Kim Porter. He proobably did that because of personal gain: He earned a lot of money on J.Lo, AND had the benefits of an attractive woman on his arm and in his bed, AND also made money of their image as the it-couple. I by no means mean that Kim Porter wasn’t attractive. But at that time he probably felt that hooking up with J.Lo gave him more benefits, period and as a man with little integrity, he went for the best business deal.)

Puff Daddies (possibly colorist) relationship shenanigans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBOmDNwruyk

Shakiras dancing vs. real Oriental dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaxvTmyKZzw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KO3CEMt-Lw (I btw LOVE La tortura and Shakira is a great showwoman, but just to prove my point)

Soheir Zaki: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awHApfSHg6E

Tahiya Karioka: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uII1idV4hQ

Fifi Abdo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7opiTZO47g

African-American entertainment industry males and their sexism and colorism:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJlT-fj-qy4

Dr.Dre/Nwa: https://gawker.com/straight-outta-compton-casting-call-is-racist-as-hell-1606524197
https://gawker.com/heres-whats-missing-from-straight-outta-compton-me-and-1724735910
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/07/11/dr-dre-confronts-his-1991-assault-on-dee-barnes-in-hbos-the-defiant-ones/

Lyrical composition of NWA, by Lenon Honor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyFVsWHn4oo&list=PLYt84S7n2S1ndncVaD243wckPWvbbzG2K

Tory Lanez: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGGw8cLGHMg

African-American people, gangsta rap and the degradation of A&A people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW-Hvh9vTw8

Kanye West: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_VKF30kRRQ
https://hiphopdx.com/news/id.4685/title.kanye-west-calls-mixed-girls-mutts

Tyrese bashing black women after pandering to black women:

Tyrese crying like a baby THE DAY BEFORE GOING TO COURT BECAUSE OF NOT PAYING CHILD SUPPORT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YMEbCO23rw

https://www.vibe.com/2018/11/tyres-avoids-paying-child-support-errands

Eddy Murphies Norbit: A colorist mess.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norbit
https://www.google.com/search?q=eddie+murphy+norbit&rlz=1C1GCEA_enNL817NL817&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiT89aupvjkAhWCLewKHTV6CtMQ_AUIEigB&biw=1280&bih=689

Evidence & truth about Michael Jacksons abusive, paedophilic ways: https://www.mjfacts.com/

R. Kelly: https://www.villagevoice.com/2013/12/16/read-the-stomach-churning-sexual-assault-accusations-against-r-kelly-in-full/
https://www.villagevoice.com/2014/01/15/why-are-people-finally-paying-attention-to-r-kellys-many-crimes/

Bill Cosby: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3FbjtQMKc4

Kevin Hart: https://atlantablackstar.com/2018/04/26/fans-light-kevin-hart-resurfaced-tweet-degrading-dark-skinned-women/

https://www.theroot.com/on-being-a-dark-skinned-black-woman-1790891089

Colorism entertainment industry receips & boycott list: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GC-bwibjAg3b4DzF8hJsdI5j3p3ThP6I1rZLU5Xc0ng/htmlview

Jay-Z NFL deal.

Jay-Z NFL Deal: My thoughts.

Firstly, Jay-Z was a drug dealer who sold crack and thus lived off the illness, misery, degradation and death of other people, and more specifically African American people.

It is true that he quit dealing, but why? Because he was sorry/considered it morally wrong or because he found out that rap would make him rich more swiftly? And also don’t forget that this man made a song about selling crack TO HIS OWN MOTHER!

Furthermore, he is almost surely a serial cheater.

Also, the fact that he is called “Jayhova” and as far as I know NEVER openly rejected that name, speaks volumes – it speaks of megalomania and blasphemy. All the aforemented things do NOT indicate that Jay Z is a man of integrity.

Truth be told, Jay Z and Beyonce bailed out several BLM protestors and that was a good act.
Now, regarding J-Lo. She is a good actress and dancer, and a bad singer. Puff Daddy enabled her stealing songs of African-American fellow singers and after years of making R&B music, i.e. pandering to black people, J.Lo turned around and tweeted “All lives matter” AND she did that Godawfull Motown tribute, even though she is not a good singer, never was a soul singer, and is not African-American, nor Afro-Latina. She is Puerto Rican, btw, and not “Mexican”.

Moving on to Shakira (who is half Colombian and half Lebanese)……I think she is a great dancer and made some very nice, catchy songs, even though I miss the softness & subtlety in her Oriental dancing – her movements were way to hard and biiiig – not gracefull like for instance Suhair Zaky and Tahiya Karioka, two Egyptian grand dames of Oriental dancing.

Her movements were also heavily based on hiphop dance, which is a totally different genre, and some of her movements are/were even dangerous to the body!

But it is a pattern of behaviour of black men, especially dark skinned entertainment industry African-American men, to elevate light skinned female artists, African-American, but more often non-black POC women, and looking down on/being colorist towards the dark skinned black women WHO LOOK LIKE THEM.

I’m not saying Jay-Z is colorist, but it again speaks volumes that he chose to light-skinned Latina-women, even though there are also Afro-Latina women, African American women and Afro-Caribbean women who would have catched the Miami spirit.

But that is why I firmly believe that African-American people, and black diaspora people from Europe and the Americas, should move away from our obsession with the American entertainment industry.

Many of these artists are racist, sexist, colorists, absentee fathers AND/or promote that behaviour in their music.

There is a whole world of good pop, hiphop, folk and classical music from Africa, Latin-America, Southern Europe and Asia that does NOT primarily promote this mess.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love me some 90s R&B – I grew up on it, and many of these artists are talented!

But I refuse to endorse the music/movies/stand up comedy/shows/whatever of colorist, sexist entertainers (Dr. Dre, Ne-Yo, Kevin Hart, Tyrese, NWA, Kanye West, Eddy Murphy) who elevate light skinned women and bash black women, while simultaneaously pandering to us & getting rich off of our money as DS black women.

I also refuse to support AA artists who are/were known rapists or paedophiles, such as Bill Cosby, R. Kelly and Michael Jackson. And let’s not forget the negative influences gangsta rap had on AA communities.

These men, even if they are talented, do not deserve to be celebrated & they are NOT getting my money. Period.

Dutch lawyer from Amsterdam murdered: A sad day.

Yesterday, a Dutch lawyer from Amsterdam and counsellor of a crown witness in a case involving several murders in the Dutch organized crime/mafia, was murdered in front of his home.
It was a sad day for democracy, fair trial and the rule of law.

The poor man became a martyr for his profession, without choosing so.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji3un wa la hawla wa la quwatta illa billah il3Ali il3Athim. Tru tru, wi ben kon fu Masra Gado, wi sa kon baka na En. A no de makti sondru Masra Gado. To God we belong, to God we will return, and there is neither power nor change without God, the Lofty, the Exalted. Van God komen we, naar Hem keren we terug en er is geen kracht noch verandering, behalve door Hem.

May God have mercy on his soul and forgive his sins and may He rest his soul, grant his wife & children the strength and patience to overcome this terrible loss, and punish the perpetrators in his world and the next.

Sekhmet’s Tits by Mona Eltahawy – a mistake in an Oum Kalthoum reference

Recently, the secular Muslim feminist Mona Eltahawy, writer of two books and many articles and essays, has written a poem.

There is a lot I agree with her on, and just as much I disagree with her on, which shouldn’t be a shock because……..Muslim women are not a monolith, and feminist Muslims are not, as well.

However, this post will not be about that. In her poem, she references a lyric by the Egyptian diva of Arabic song, Umm Kulthum: “Om Kalthoum told the sun to come back in a year و نقول للشمس تعالي تعالي بعد سنة” which she claims was a part of Oum Kalthoums Enta Omri. (“*** From “Enta Omri” by Om Kalthoum”)

However, this is a mistake. “و نقول للشمس تعالي تعالي بعد سنة” (“Come, oh (sun) come after a year”) is a part of “Alf Lela wa Lela” (Thousand and one nights”)

ونقول للشمس تعالي بعد سنة
مش قبل سنة” (

“”And let’s say to the sun, come, oh come, after a year, not before a year

As a great lover of Umm Kulthums music (which I have in common with Mona) stuff like this interests me and fascinates me.

Monas poem:https://monaeltahawy.tumblr.com/post/38523535991/sekhmets-tits-by-mona-eltahawy

The lyrics to Umm Kulthums “Alf lela wa lela”/A Thousand and one Nights:http://kalimat-aghania.blogspot.com/2013/06/blog-post_17.html

The lyrics to Umm Kulthums Enta Omri: http://www.kalimataghani.com/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B7%D8%B1%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86/51/%D8%A3%D9%85-%D9%83%D9%84%D8%AB%D9%88%D9%85/%D8%A3%D9%86%D8%AA-%D8%B9%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%8A.html

FOUR MUSLIM WOMEN ON LAURY SILVERS’ THE LOVER: A SUFI MYSTERY

My reflection on Laury Silvers’ The Lover recently got published on AltMuslimah, along with three other worthwile reflections of fellow Muslim women.

My reflection:

One of the interesting aspects of The Lover is how blackness is one of the central themes in this book and how it is portrayed. Writing blackness is no small feat for a non-black writer, and the fact that a book about medieval Islam centers black people and dares to take on race without painting a rosy picture, or only portraying black people as pitiful enslaved persons waiting for an Arab, Persian or white saviour, makes it unique in and of itself. The main character has a Nubian mother and a, presumably, non-black Arab father. Her mother is only known as Al-`Ashiqa al-Sawda, the Black Lover, a woman of great beauty and spiritual depth, who is totally taken by her love for God. Zaytuna, her daughter, tries to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but goes through the motions without the ecstatic love her mother experienced. Her mother’s spirituality could not save her from rape, Zaytuna’s scrupulousness could not save her from colorism, and her twin-brother, Tein, from racism. Black people have a long, complex and intense relationship with Islam. The first hijra went to Ethiopia, and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had many black Companions and family members. Black Muslims were, and are, scholars, warriors, saints, kings, Sufis, writers, poets and  musicians. God-willing, The Lover will become one of the starting points in exploring this heritage and legacy, and will help giving black Muslims back our rightful place: At the very heart of our religion.

Four Muslim women on Laury Silvers’ The Lover: A Sufi Mystery

Malik Yoba, Black Youtube and transphobia.

Since Malik Yoba came out as trans attracted there has been, sadly enough, a lot of transphobia going on at Black YouTube. Here is some of my commentary:

The hatefull and transphobic reactions in the comment section clearly prove that a lot of black cis women DO have a problem with black trans women. You are just as hatefull against trans women as colorists and racists are against dark skinned black women (cis or not). Btw, I am a DS cis black Muslim woman. This is so sad and NOT ok.

When it comes to trans rights and trans issues, the reactions in the comment section over here are so toxic. Where is the kindness, the compassion, the justice, the solidarity? Smh. Ofcourse DS black cis women don’t have to run around caping for everyone while getting nothing in return. Solidarity should be reciprocated. But there is a difference between not caping for everyone and being just downright nasty. But not to worry, I will exit myself from the convo on trans issues at this page as a form of self care.

On LGBQTIA-issues and trans men & women: I also see a lot of transphobia in the comment section here. L stands for “lesbian”, G stands for “gay”, B stands for “bisexual”, T stands for “transgender” (transsexual is an obsolete term now) ,Q stands for “queer”, I for “intersex”, A stands for “asexual”. People who are “intersex” are people who are born with male and female sexual organs. They used to be called “hermaphrodites”. People who are asexual are people who do not have sexual needs/a sex drive.

Laury Silvers’ The Lover: A review.

Recently, I read Islamicist academic Laury Silvers’ debute novel called The Lover. It’s a murder mystery set in 10th Century Baghdad.

Unlike many historical novels set in the Middle Ages/Classical Period, it does not focus on the high and mighty, but rather on the working classes.

During the course of the book, the reader meets the enslaved, washerwomen, child domestic workers, corpsewashers and the “fuqara’ “, “the poor” – Muslim mystics who choose a life of ascetism and worldly poverty and spiritual wealth.

One of the most striking things about this book is that it shows both sides of life – beauty and pain.

Something else that is worth noting is that although the book is clearly written with great love for Islam, Sufism, Muslims and their histories, it does not for one moment romaticize the past & that it realistically paints the hardships of the poor, enslaved, working classes and soldiers.

Another interesting aspect is that it shows Islam -and Muslims, for that matter-  in all their diversity: Arabs from Baghdad, tribal Arabs, Nubians, Chinese, Persians, Turkmens, Shiites, Sufis, Hanbalis and others make their appearances – never as tokens or tropes, but as real, flesh-and-blood beings with all their passions and resentments, rights and wrongs.

And last but not least, our heroine Zaytuna. She is a Nubian washer woman, daughter to a famous local mystical woman who is named “The Black Lover’. Scrupulous and pious, she yet struggles to find joy and beauty in life and religion. At the end of the book, she is changed – and so will the reader.

A terrific read for anyone who is interested in Sufism, Islam, Iraq, the Middle Ages, murder mysteries, or just likes a good story.