Divine Threads, Chapter 76, The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books

I clench my books, and recall the vows inscribed on the pages of this Conference.  I struggle to stay the course, believing in beauty as the straight-line path of our faith.  But sometimes, in such strange and odd days, the straight way narrows until it hides, and I lose my way.  When the scales of life are filled with ignorance on one side and with pain on the other, what can come from our lives but hate? 


I open my mouth, but flooded by pain, I am thrown around by surges of agony, and then the words drown.  Although my heart bleeds, I think, if only I can scream then perhaps this can end, and I can awake.  Don’t screams break the grip of sleep, and don’t they become the catalyst for transporting the dreamer from the reality of nightmares to a more profound reality? 


If I could silence the memories of beauty, perhaps I could accept the ugliness of today.  Perhaps, if history could be silenced, then I would no longer agonize over our fate.  Perhaps, if I could convince myself that Muslims are real, I could wake up from this hellish nightmare. 


I wish I could find the beauty that is the unwavering truth – the perennial beauty shrouded by the mist that embraces divinity.  I know I can find it guarded and concealed by a million clouds that seem like vapor, but when touched, they turn into me.  What could possibly be more truthful than timeless souls standing rejoicing in the intoxications of this beauty?  The souls of beauty are nothing but light threaded from light.  Hasn’t God proclaimed the fulfillment of the divine beauty in His Being? And hasn’t the beauty of our Lord been entrusted to human beings?  Entrusted with the covenant of beauty, can we but weave this creation with the light of divinity?  But, my God, when we scuttle in darkness, and tear at shadows, what in our hearts remains of the threads of light or Your divinity?   


My God, You are beautiful – the beauty of the unadulterated insight when it travels unhampered by the obscurities of shadows, and freed from its own conceit.  At a time where the scales are weighed by ugliness, the only measure to which I steadfastly adhere is to clench the threads of divinity.  As I confront myself with my own existence, I ask, am I a part of the weave of beauty, or am I among those who undo the threads uniting all existence in a single divinity?  In life, there seems to be those who are content to be like the encrustations of dirt on the seams of beauty; there are those who add their thread, but marred in ignorance, they only deform the tapestry; and there are those who are like the obnoxious moth, they exist to feed on, and ultimately, decay the tapestry.  There are also those who live in the self-denials of awe, and supplicate Your beauty.  But then who are we?


I am a Muslim because there is nothing in this heart and mind but a single, unified, and unadulterated glory.  I feel no “I”, and there is no “me.”  There is no law, but there is the overwhelming innate compulsion of divinity.  It – it is in the beat of the heart, the pulse of being, and the secret that enshrines the word in the mind of infinity.  God, I am a Muslim not by faith, but by the simple fact of being.  In every instant, I am reborn and transformed into a Muslim to the extent that I uncover Your beauty.    I am a Muslim to the extent that I am beautiful, for if Islam and ugliness combine, life becomes a slothful slumber, and nightmares become the reality.


God, in my mind is majesty.  It is this certitude that drives me into puzzlements, and so I sequester my senses in the sanctity of the Conference.  But today’s Conference is as if sitting in a wasteland seeded by immorality.  If I can open my mouth at the bottom of dew, and quench this painful thirst, perhaps I can rise again and anchor this soul in this majesty.  But our life is barren, and we – well, we are a blasphemy.


God, look at your people!  Look at those who have wrapped themselves in your religion like a cloak of hypocrisy.  Look -- are they your people?  On their splattered banners, bombastic slogans, and rolling banter, do you see or hear beauty?  Does their labor carry the fragrance of Your breath -- do their acts resonate with mercy and bliss?  Is the bliss of Your touch found in the misery of their follies?  Can the agonies that they spread, and the suffering they inflict possibly represent divinity?  If the nature of a people is measured by their tragedies and glories, what if for them tragedy is glory?  No, they are not Your people for with certitude and conviction, I know that Your people are known by the love they earn, not by the hearts and minds they mutilate and burn, as they convince themselves that they are the bearers of Your majesty. 


I sit in the Conference in long and solemn nights, remembering the past and picturing the future.  Here is a chorus of intellects sublimating the majesty of the word and Your unbounded beauty.  Through the centuries, intellects, transforming to words, reigning in books, they sit on thrones of shelves built for Your glory.  What a kingdom this is – a kingdom illuminated by words, adorned by books, paved by intellects, and spirited by humility.  Here, every intellect is sovereign, and every brain is noble.  Here, in the Conference, is the record of those who consumed themselves for the love of knowledge, longed for You, and understood that the intellect is a miracle that is both a trust and mercy.


So many times, the intellects of the past and present met to confer with a visitor to the Conference, and console him in misery, but tonight, I am my own visitor, I am my own seeker, and I am the porter of misery.  This Conference has witnessed betrayals of scholars throughout the centuries, but I have been betrayed by ways that are shamelessly vile, and by people who are of unimaginable cruelty. 

People that I once imagined as brothers have cloaked themselves in Your name, and caused me to suffer by targeting my work and name.  The worse treachery comes from those I once called friends, from those I prayed and laughed with, and with whom I experienced genuine moments of love and beauty.   


This portly-burly leader that walks as if bumbling from side to side has fed his rotted stomach from the corpses of murdered minds.  With his oversized skull and vitreous eyes, he wears the face of the dead, as if his putrid and putrescent mind is encrusted in a feculent head.  He is a medical doctor, because it was written in the Ancient Sacred Tablets of Adversarius Islamicus, “Only By Homo Fatuus Medicus Thou Shall be Led.”  This is a man who, in his despotism, has used a mosque as if a depository for his ego, and a consecrated space for a megalomaniac Godhead. 


This vindictive man was enthroned in his ignorance by nothing more than the indolence and apathy of the Muslims, who surrendered to him their stretched and slothful necks.  He grabs these slothful necks, as he declares God’s will to be whatever he pleases.  He then hoists it before the eyes of his constituency of idle sleepers, and if one dares to as much as lift an eyelid or even sigh in protest, he proclaims to all, that as far as they are concerned, they are to consider the troublemaker as good as dead. 


This is a man who prides himself on speech that is an invective bite, and declares his monthly printed sneer “unique.”  This is a man who in his bygone days when arrested by the political police sold out his brethren, and once let an injured women die because he wanted to finish a meal.  This is a man who pompously dismisses generations of thought because he finds in the prattling of his head a full replacement for the need to read.  This is a man whose truth and fiqh is built on nothing more than whim, and his truth and speech is entirely contingent on who, at a particular moment, he wishes to impress or please.  Your Prophet said, “As you are you will be led,” and the truth that is agonizingly painful to admit is that in the US, this is also a man who is genuinely and truly equipped to lead.


This Conference, searching for beauty, and celebrating the intellect, has ascended to so many hearts and minds.  It grabbed the slumbering eyelids, and breathed life into so many languished intellects.  Search your God, it said, that perennial beauty known and nestled in your hearts.  Its voice burrowed deep to the core of the earth, and rose to the azure and firmament with the imperishable call honoring the beauty of the human mind.  There is no God but God, this Conference said, but there is a wealth of diverse intellects, and all carry a piece of the secret of the divine.  This life is as if a banquet, with God the host and we the guests, and no human can decide who may or may not be invited to dine.  But it is moral that all guests leave God’s house, at the end, as beautiful as it was originally found.  We have not been invited to dine on food and drink – we have been invited to know the Word and be nourished by thought.  Such is the generosity of our host because we have been invited to partake in nothing less than the very essence of the divine.  Such was the message of the Conference, and it was heard by nations near and far. 


Our corpulent leader also heard this, except that, in his mind, the banquet exists for him; he is the host and guest, and humans exist to feed on the scraps of his intellect.  Declaring outrage and great offense, he banned my books, my writings, and even my presence from his kingdom, and announced to all: “This heretic from hereon is to be treated as if dead, and any who dare acknowledge him are banished from my kingdom and my mosque as well.”  God, I confess that his megalomania is a cause for laughter and weeping – laughter because the kingdom he rules exists only in his mind, and weeping because if it had not been the apathy of your people, he would not reign supreme in a mosque.


God, you know that the Conference is not scripted on the pages of a book or journal; it is scripted in the hearts and minds.  Has a tyrant ever banned history from speaking, or beauty from being, or from life becoming a word? 


But as many a tyrant before him, and many that will come, when censorship and bans fail, they employ the infliction of agony and pain to break the resolute will.  It is not that the infliction of pain can overcome the power of the word, or, as some have said, that the sword is mightier than pen, but it is like water and fire, they are different powers, yielded by different natures, although they exist in overlapping instants of time.  Like evil and good, they are of two natures, but if combined in an overlapping moment, the results are so murky and contingent to such an extent that the moment experienced obfuscates the truth, and tears the heart.  Each encounter between the different natures yields a situation, but it ought not result in an absolute conviction.  In an overlapping moment, torture and pain might undercut the means to the word, and inflict confusion, but once the moment passes, and tranquility is restored to the mind, the word invariably returns calling the conscience to return to God.   


My God, it is one of those moments of confusion that I now experience.  All the slander and all the threats, and in disbelief I remember that those who today do the tyrants deeds were once brothers and friends.  Truly, “these are people whose hearts have been hardened and the devil has made their deeds seem most pleasing.” (6:43) But of all the evils of this world, none is as deceptive, hallucinatory, and self-forgiving as jealousy. Every slanderous effort they undertook against me has failed, and even their threats only propelled ahead in my journey towards the divine.  I have walked through shadows, screamed at demons, and forced even the devil to run and hide.  The books on my shelves have emitted threads of light that pierced the darkness, and flew with words to unparalleled heights. 


God, I have been made to suffer, and my sin is that I stood up to tyranny.  In my confusion, I remember your verse: “Is that who has been given the certitude of his Lord no better than those to whom the evil of their deeds seems most pleasing?  Is that who has been given certitude like those who follow their whims?” (47:14) I sit in the Conference, clench the books, and remember your verse.  Is that who has taken the vow of beauty, and lived weaving the divine threads, like those who undo the tapestry of existence by persecuting the intellect?  God, my certitude in You is my salvation, but my shock at the ugliness of those who pretend to be your people is the source of my confusion.  I pray to You my Lord, grant me patience, perseverance, and the wisdom to transcend the moment to see the end.  I know, that this Conference, long after its persecutors are forgotten and dead, through the miracle of the intellect, will continue weaving the divine threads that are as if glimpses of You, and of our innate, and sometimes lost, beauty.