Sufi Poetry Recognizing the Sacred Female

Edip Harabi, a Turkish Sufi-Poet of the 19th c., writes to reclaim the women’s voice in ‘man’s world’ (A Male Sufi writing from the prespective of a woman)

O’ Muhammad, they say we are inferior. Where is it men got this mistaken idea?
They disgrace the Prophet’s family with their false claims and blasphemy.

Our Mother Eve, is she not a woman? Beloved Khadija is she not a woman?
The Prophet’s daughter Fatima, is ehe not a woman? Is the Quran not full of praise of them?

These pure consorts of the pure heart can they be any less?
Whoever calls women inferior cannot reach the Truth.
You wouldn’t expect these ideas from one who knows.
Who is it that gave birth to all these Prophets of Truth?

God didn’t do anything absurd in creating us.
We don’t accept being seen as somehow less.
Women raised every saint that has walked the earth.
I dare you to accept this.

Don’t think this world can’t exist without men.
Think of Mother Mary just once: She gave birth to the glorious Christ, fatherless.
O’ mankind, we are more courageous than yourself because we show respect to you out of love.

We travel together with you on the Path, leave all these claims behind!
We may look different to you in your dresses.
In reality we are not trailing behind you.
And we warn you, we don’t consider it courageous to claim we are inferior.

Did Muhammad, the Chosen, come from a lesser being?
Did Ali, the Valiant, come from a lesser being?
Beware! Do not call your mother inferior.
What she prays at night might change your life forever.
Listen carefully to the speech of Zehra.
O’ men and knowers of Truth tell us:
Did we not give birth to all the masters who led you on God’s Way?

From Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi’s Blog which all of you should check out at http://plastictearz.wordpress.com/

Edip Harabi

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Love and the Law: An exerpt from Bulleh Shah (Required reading if you have studied the law)

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, a humanist and philosopher from what is now considered Pakistan. As one of the leading figures in social thought and spiritualism, Bulleh Shah continually challenged the norms of society, be it materialism or hate for one’s fellow man.

While his work is expansive, the following passage was picked for a personal reason.  Throughout my career as a law school student I have felt an internal stuggle between what I would call my “Universal Self” (or innate sensibility of “fairness”) and the technical nature of the law as embraced by practioners and academics. Several justices over the years, the worst of which is Justice Scalia, have treated the cases that come before the US Supreme Court as a time to showcase thier talent of rationally explaing a inhuman or heartless decision by the court.

Most law school students in the first year, before they have been indoctrinated to accept the notion that injustice can/must be done in order to maintain the court’s precedent, always raise questions of a court not deciding the “right way” even though the Justices were maintained a high level of technical legal analysis. That is because we come into law school believing in our own internal moral compass, again what I would call a relationship to the Universal Self, and the process of learning the law forces one to take actions that may violate one’s own moral code becuase it is the “technically” correct thing to do.  

So I present Bulleh Shah’s verse which I will label as Love and Law. Though he presents teh argument as lambasting the laws created around religions by organizations and priests, but it easily translates to the abject focus on technical rationality in the modern legal forum.  This has been a more significant and epiphany inducing peice than anything I have read in law school- so for all the young lawyers, PLEASE READ THIS!

Love and Law are struggling in the human heart.
The doubt of the heart will I settle by relating questions of Law
And the answers of Love I will describe, holy Sir;

Law says go to the Mullah (priest) and learn the rules and regulations.
Love answers, “One letter is enough, shut up and put away other books.”
Law says: Perform the five baths and worship alone in the temple (reffering to the 5x daily prayer of Muslims) 
Love says: Your worship is false if you consider yourself seperate from the Universal Self.

Law says: Have shame and hide the enlightenment
Love says: What is this veil for? Let the vision be open
Law says: Go inside the mosque and perform the duty of prayer
Love says: Go to the wine-house and drinking the wine, read a prayer

Law says: Let us go to heaven; we will eat the fruits of heaven
Love says: There, we are custodians or rulers, and we ourselves will distribute the fruits of heaven
Law says: O faithful one, come perform the hajj (pilgrimage), you have to cross the bridge
Love says: The door of the Beloved (God/Allah) is in ka’baa; from there I will not stir 

Law says:  We placed Shah Mansur (a contraversial Sufi Saint) on the stake
Love says: You did well, you made him enter the door of the Beloved (God/Allah)
THE RANK OF LOVE IS THE HIGHEST HEAVEN, THE CROWN OF CREATION.
OUT OF LOVE, HE (Allah/ God) has created Bulleh, humble, and from dust.   

Sovereign of the Week: Zahida Kazmi (Pakistan’s only female cab driver)

Story Published in BBC

Zahida Kazmi has been hailed as Pakistan’s first female taxi driver. She has driven from the crowded markets of Islamabad to the remote tribal country in the north. Here she tells Nosheen Abbas about her two decades in a male-dominated world.

In 1992 at the age of 33, newly widowed Zahida Kazmi decided to take her fate in her own hands and become a taxi driver. Born into a conservative and patriarchal Pakistani family, she flew in the face of her family’s wishes but with six children to support, she felt she had no choice.

She took advantage of a government scheme in which anybody could buy a brand new taxi in affordable instalments. She bought herself a yellow cab and drove to Islamabad airport every morning to pick up passengers. In a perilous and unpredictable world, Zahida at first kept a gun in the car for her own protection and she even started off by driving her passengers around wearing a burqa, a garment that covers the entire body.

Her initial fears soon dissipated. “I realised that I would scare passengers away,” she said. “So then I only wore a hijab [head covering]. Eventually I stopped covering my head because I got older and was well-established by then.”

Exposing herself to the hot, bustling city streets of Islamabad and by driving to the rocky and remote districts adjoining Pakistan’s tribal areas, Zahida says she learned a lot about the country she lived in and its people. The Pathans of the tribal north-west, despite a reputation for fierce male pride and inflexibility, treated her with immense courtesy on her journeys.

Eventually she became the chairperson of Pakistan’s yellow cab association. Once she was established, she offered to teach young women how to drive taxis, but there was little interest. Even her daughters didn’t express enthusiasm. “They don’t need to make a living,” she says wistfully. “They are all married.”  Zahida is not one of Pakistan’s metropolitan liberal middle class – there are plenty of educational and career opportunities for privileged women in Pakistan but not for women from Zahida’s background.

Pakistan has an exceptionally low number of women in work: 33.7% according to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute. Most women who work come under the category of “unpaid family workers”. Pakistan’s legal system does little to protect women, so harassment is commonplace. Campaigners say it is little wonder that women do not choose livelihoods that make them even more vulnerable. “Girls shy away from non-traditional jobs in a setting where there is a particular mindset… of intimidation,” says Anees Haroon, chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women in Pakistan.

‘Curious and amazed’

But had Zahida been starting out now, things would be quite different as she would be entering the workforce in a country torn between the forces of liberalism and Islamic radicalism. Pakistan in 1992 was a more moderate place: it was opening up to the world; the dish antenna had been introduced; Pakistan had won the cricket world cup. Zahida says society felt fairly open to her.

But the Taliban presence in many parts of Pakistan has intensified over the years. Zahida has had to drive long distances on treacherous routes to northern areas such as Balakot, Chitral, Dir and even the Swat valley. “Police at checkposts would be interested in why I was driving a taxi, but they were simply curious and amazed,” she said.

Passengers seek her out as well. Adnan Waseem, a businessman from Haripur, told me that he always books Zahida for his journeys. “I saw her and the first thought that came to my mind was that she’s my mother’s age. I liked her driving and in these days where one feels insecure in Pakistan I felt very relaxed,” he said.

Another traveller, Sohail Mazhar, had to be driven through rocky terrain up to the northern city of Abbottabad. “Even the policemen who stopped us at security checkpoints also knew her… we were so happy to see a woman driving a taxi.” Although Zahida has been feted for being Pakistan’s first female taxi-driver, she still has many bitter memories of her struggles as a single mother working hard on the road.

Her own mother disapproved of her career choice and only resentfully accepted it when the media gave her positive coverage. And she is estranged from her children now. “I am old now and I get tired. It’s hard for me to drive all the time but what can I do? My sons don’t help,” she said. “If I had a chance I would have become a doctor.” Just as she said that to me, a passing taxi driver stopped his car and got out to reverentially greet Zahida. Despite her travails, she is clearly a respected presence on the streets of Islamabad.