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What I wish you knew: Somewhere in America Response

(Click here for Youtube Video) Somewhere in America RAP VIDEO RESPONSE 

The Mipsterz “Somewhere in America” video controversy set off a fire within my insides as I saw individual criticizing innocent muslim women for expressing themselves. I agree that some themes in the videos may be drawing too much attention, but again these women are free to express themselves through creative outlet and embody the strength of female figures such as Aisha and Khadijah. I chose to express my beliefs through a rap song, since the video is set to Jay Z’s song “Somewhere in America.” I wrote my own original rap song response in support of gender equality in Islam and as a response to the bigoted and close minded critiques of the original video. I also videotaped the performance so viewers could see my energy and passion behind the message, while at the same time enjoying the musical elements of hip hop music. I also chose to incorporate a rap video because we ended the course with a focus on the emergence of Islamic hip hop and hip hop in general as a very influential art form, thus I believe this medium could potentially have a huge impact. My audience is not just the critiques of the video, but also the average american of any faith and cultural background, in order to educate them on the Islamic view toward women and openly show that Muslim men in American support muslim women. By focusing on this broad audience I am trying to incorporate an educational interfaith element; a message for all peoples who have viewed the “Somewhere in America” video. I am also attacking the societal patriarchs who view women as inferior to men and expressing an uplifting idea of a gender equal society across the globe. I believe that my piece highly represents the issue of gender inequality in society and the support of strong empowered women across the globe. I state specific examples of Muhammad’s support of feminine figures and the historical accounts of Aisha and Khadijah, both of whom were wives to the prophet. I also try to place myself within the shoes of a young muslim girl viewing this video and feeling empowered, then being struck down by societal confines or oppressive criticism. I want women around the world to know that men are here to support them in their endeavors and have their back against oppressive figures. I am also able to comment on the ignorance toward others in society as well as the unnecessary drama associated with attacking a video while poverty, rape and corruption go untouched.

Lyrics to song:

Somewhere in America,

There is a hijabi dressed in make up and mascara

Trying to figure out the image in the mirror

A princess in the making

Fighting the temptation

Of this god-forsaken cultural placement

Debating the double standard creation

Praying she can one day express her true self

Raising her hands to the sky asking God for help

As her heart melts at the cards she was dealt

 

Somewhere in America there’s a Muslim girl sitting in her bedroom

Scrolling through videos on YouTube

Not knowing what to do, then they see you

Boom inspiration, but wait here comes the hating

So let me get this straight then

Its ok for men to dictate them

But as soon as a Muslim girl feels empowered

You criticize and critique like a coward

Understand strength is represented through expression

The prophet never judged. He focused on protection

So why you trying to hate on their attempt at self reflection

Stop judging on a first impression, and focus on self perfection

Hijab, no hijab, whats in the heart is all that matters

We choose to judge, now the whole ummah is scattered

Over all the contradictory issues

Because we choose to misuse

The way we interpret and view and others views

When in fact we have no clue what they’ve been through

Men have some respect,

Just because a girl skateboards and is fashionable in dress

Doesn’t mean she lacks intellect

Dwell for a sec and dissect the true meaning

 

Every Muslim woman is a unique human being

 

Now I’m dreaming of an equal society

Where individuals are not judged on gender, but instead piety

I wouldn’t say the girls are trying to stand out

They’re taking initiative, and not looking for a hand out

Anyone can become a doctor, teacher or lawyer

But to challenge culture and image takes a true warrior

What these women did was different

Instead of confining themselves like a prison

They broke free and left a social imprint

Choosing to rivet all these cultural standards

Man it hurts, to see all these negative responses

How can one live with hate on they conscious

Seems like now a days everyone is a misogynist

Problem is Muslims love to argue on and make no sense

Creating false concepts, so they can control the other sex

It’s complex and can perplex any type of cortex

I wouldn’t say its Islamic, its mainly the culture and will falter Like not giving her a choice at the alter

These girls aren’t trying to fit in

They’re breaking barriers like a space mission

Executing the stereotypes of our religion

Driving to add addition to the way we are living

Whether it be Jewish Muslim or Christian

The world needs more empowered women

Remember this, the hijab is her decisions

That rests in her heart, is between her and the lord

Just like its her decision to rock tom ford

Our women shouldn’t be ignored,

They should be the forefront of our identity

And not be forced into dependency or have to pretend to be some unknown entity

With Aisha like force lets eliminate the discrepancies

Agree or disagree I think we need to break free

Because my mother raised me better than that

And devoted her life to giving back

So to every beautiful Muslim girl I tip my hat

Continue to be strong, because we brothers have your back

By- Aoss

 

Week 13: Islamic version of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”

As we discussed the role of hip-hop in current Islamic culture , I wanted to respond to the screening of “new muslim cool” as well as the article by Swedenburg on “Islamic hip hop versus Islamaphobia.” As Swedenburg points, many Islamic hip hop artists are identified as radical extremist due to the themes of conspiracy, corruption, and Jihad (the inner struggle of a muslim) within their lyrics. Swedenburg chooses to explore the identities and musical elements of 4 famous Islamic “hip-hop” artists in foreign regions and compare this to Islamaphobia and the fight for equality by muslims. I wanted to do a similar exploration, except this time within the United States, so I did in depth research on 3 prominent muslim rappers within the US hip hop culture: Lupe Fiasco, Brother Ali, and Mos Def. These artists have sold millions of records on a global scale, and are heralded as some of  the greatest lyricists of their generation. Except we see a certain pattern in their artistic development, similar to the brothers in “the new muslim cool” where they begin to strengthen their religious beliefs and thus transform the material, meaning, and themes incorporated in their music. These artists started their careers off, rapping about violence, sex, and drug use, all forbidden elements of the Islamic faith, then transitioned in spirituality leading to new music that incorporates Islamic beliefs, Quranic scripture, and muslim morals. I find this shift in paradigm extremely interesting, especially in the very mainstream culture of american hip-hop, where record sales are usually correlated with highly sexual and money oriented music. These artists chose their faith over success and fame reflecting that struggle and spiritual jihad within their music as well as encouraging the muslims around the world to serve their lord and fight against the “haram” temptations of this world. After heavy research, I wanted to take a famous hip hop artists work and transform the song into an Islamic-ally themed rap song. I chose to avoid the radical views which attack Islamaphobia and created a rap song that could educate muslims and non-muslims alike on one of the most important pillars in Islamic fast, Zakat. Zakat, which is the proscribed giving of charity, represents the importance of charitable giving in Islamic culture. I chose to take Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” and recreate it into an Islamic rap about the importance of giving Zakat for muslims. I believe that this adaptation proves that Islamic hip hop can be very peaceful, educational material, and can be used to combat Islamaphobia by educating non-muslims on Islamic beliefs through entertaining music.

Here are the lyrics to my recreated rap song!! (Give Zakat)

Hey, Muslims! Did you pay your zakat yet?

What, what, what, what… [x7]

Bada, badada, badada, bada… [x9]

 

[Hook:]

I’m gonna pay Zakat

Only got 20 dollars in my pocket

I – I – I’m grunting, looking for a masjid

How come Im not married?

 

[Verse 1:]

Nah, Walk up to the mosque like, “What up, I got a Big Beard!”

Bout to pray Jummah, I really hope Aisha’s here

Turban on my head, You’d think I were Iraqi

The hijabis like, “Subhanallah! That’s a super fly Ahkhi.”

Rollin’ in, pockets deep, more paper than a magazine,

Everything white, ‘cept my tabliqh socks, those are green

Draped in a white cloak, Hijabi standin’ next to me

Probably shoulda washed this, smells like Harvard’s Library

(Sweattttt)

Yo bro, that’s only ninety-nine cents! (cheapskate)

Takbirat, takbirat, writing checks for some compliments

Passin’ up on those fundraisers someone else’s been talkin in

Slaughtering some baqara for sadaqa

Only eat pizza if its Zabiha and

Savin’ my money because I’m hella cheap, Livin desi rich

I’ma take my uncles wallet, I’ma take your uncles wallet,

No for real – ask your uncle–can I borrow a few dollas

(Thank you)

Spent all my money on beard clippers

Masbaha and miswaks that I found diggin’

 Muslimsinglesmeet.com, I made a new profile

Found a nice hijabi, then hit up the mobile

Salam, Salam, my Imam, my main man

Yusif Islam ain’t got nothing on my beard game, Man

Rocking leather sandals while cooking kiba on the stove

The Muslimaats be like, “Aw he got the bridge nose”

 

[Hook x2]

I’m gonna pay Zakat

Only got 20 dollars in my pocket

I – I – I’m grunting, looking for a masjid

How come Im not married?

 

[Verse 2:]

What you know about having Islam as a password login?

What you knowin’ about putting money in a cardboard bin?

I’m digging, I’m digging, I’m searching right through them pockets

One man’s trash, that’s another man’s Zakat

Thank your sitti for donating that box of hijabs

They be like, “Yo your Zakat – that’s hella wack.”

I’m like, “Yo – that’s 2.5 percent of a paycheck”

Flunked out of division, let’s do some simple addition

I’m no mathematician – but skipping Zakat is straight sinning

That donations hella low

And writing the same check as 100 other people in this mosque is a hella don’t

Feed the needy, or just go slaughter a goat

Trying to pay Zakat late? Man you hella broke

Man you hella broke

(Masjid… raising hands… yeah!)

[Hook]

I’m gonna pay Zakat

Only got 20 dollars in my pocket

I – I – I’m grunting, looking for a masjid

How come I’m not married?

[Bridge: x2]

I wear your Grandads thawb

I look incredible

I’m in donation mode

At that masjid down the road

Week 10: Life through “My Veil” (My own complaint and answer)

Similar to the struggle of self-identification and the tumultuous journey of the muslims in Iqbal’s complaint and answer, this poem expresses my spiritual journey and struggle to maintain faith in dying religious world. The poem also explores my relationship with God and the inner conflict between eternal submission to the creator and indulgence in the worldly pleasures of life. Iqbal writes the complaint from the viewpoint of Muslim’s who have lost the power and wealth once associated with great Islamic empires and leaders of the past. They feel as if God has given up on them, as other religions and cultures are thriving with economic and political success during the poem’s time period. In the complaint, Iqbal goes against the Islamic traditions of prayer and submission to one’s Lord, by complaining to him and questioning his current judgement. I use this aspect within my own poem, by questioning and complaining to God about the current successes of those who oppose his message, while I adhere to worship and still struggle to achieve purpose and success. Why am I not heralded for my religious efforts and positive goals? Throughout Iqbal’s “Complaint” he seems to lose his identity by giving up on the ways of those who came before him. It is as if he shames his fathers because he has not been bestowed the same worldly luxuries as they were bestowed. Again this reinforces the concept of individualism, where one who truly believes does not question the plans of his Lord, whereas the weak struggle to suppress their desire for superficial, worldly goodness. In my case, my true intention sways between worldly fame and submission to my Lord.

In Iqbal’s “The Answer” he combats the earlier complaints from God’s point of view, stating that the muslims have ignored religious practices, compromised their identity, and essentially lost “the way.” Iqbal criticizes the points in the complaint by comparing “the complainers” to the muslims of the past stating that the current muslims avoid brotherhood, refuse to hide their brothers sin, wroth with one another, abandon and caste away the Quran, and doubt the faith. He points out adoption of other cultures and religious views by Muslims, writing “Christian is your mode of living, and your culture is hindoo” stating that Islam is a way of a life and muslims have abandoned this coherent for “easier” paths. Iqbal then states that ” The communion of Islam lives on because the poor are true” returning to this idea of individualism and identity creating an interest paradox as the ones who are truly struggling are the only ones who remain true to the Islam. Thus one can only truly appreciate Islam and identify with the faith by suppressing worldly motives and desires and realizing that hardship and struggle in this life does not mean God has given up on you. My poem shows that one must search within themselves to discover their true identity and replace their love for this world with the love for Islam, God, and his prophet. Furthermore you must eliminate the concept of the “self” in order to truly find “the way.” My worldly struggle and strife to please others and be heard leads to the ultimate demise of my own “self” leading to the realization that life is merely a vessel for the soul, whose imminent release relies on ones ability to spiritually eliminate the concept of the self.

 

 

Through My Veil

What makes me different from everyone else/Do I even know myself/Through self reflection and distorted direction/Should I pray for affection rather than protection/Will the next election matter on the day of resurrection/Maybe I should pray for protection/From the surrounding society/Focused on propriety rather than self piety/Why do I sit alone these nights and contemplate/When everyone is out drunk, salivating at Satan’s plate/While I remain…alone trying navigate through this subconscious state in which no one else seems to relate/Is it wrong to dream of setting the world straight/This beautiful creation that in turn creates hate/how am I supposed to dictate when society is in this state/Where Gods words rest under dust and lil Wayne’s are considered great/Maybe its fate that I’m standing on this stage/Maybe one day this will all change/And they’ll stare shocked in disdain/Starting to pray nothing to gain/Face to face with Heavens master, no more satans grace/A lost being amongst a lost race/Summoned to the vilest of places/Embraced by the faceless racist/Who previously preached hate to man/Now he’s covered in flames like a crucifix of the Klan/Burning, cursing, raping/Escape from this place/Then surrounded by grace/And greeted by the angelic face/Am I any less a Human being/Because I prostrate in front of a Lord unseen/During this realistic dream/Surat al mustaqim/I embrace it/Yet some disgrace it/Should I remain complacent/When the wealthy spend thousands on facelifts/While impoverished children starve in basements/I pledge to erase it/To take advantage of my blessed placement/Yet how do I save it?/trying to decipher the code like da vinci/but I’m simply driving myself to insanity/Speaking against vanity, yet inadvertently indulging in its pleasures/Praise me, raise me upon the pedestal/measure me up to Alexander and Moses/paparazzi flashes and red carpets dowsed in roses/Maybe now they will listen/As the light glistens off my face unto a crowd of millions/I speak…and weep upon the stage/my tears one with the Quranic page/my ears deafened to the crowds rage/Handgun to head/No time to run/I stand firm like Malcolm/awaiting the inevitable outcome/as the bullet hits my chest/Laillahu Ilallah Muhammad a rasullah…my last breath/I stare in the face of death/As the crowd goes wild/I smile upon the masses/As my soul is set free/It doesn’t take glasses to see…that now they will finally listen to me

Week 7: The Beggar, the Ruler, and the Lord

I chose to focus on the Senegalese story “The Beggar’s Strike” and create an image depicting the beggar, the ruler, and the lord. In the tale of Aminata Sow Fall the town officials struggle with eliminating the Beggar’s on the streets in order to create a positive experience for tourists. Throughout the tale the town leader is solely focused on eliminating the “Beggars” by any means necessary. At times he follows the guidance of the towns holy man, but for worldly instead spiritual benefit. The tale also presents Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, in a new light showing that Zakat has not only a positive affect on the poor, but also on the one giving. Similar to the monthly fast, the giving of Zakat cleanses one’s soul as they give away hard earned money to those in need. Yet intention is the defining factor in this actions, and as we see in the tale of the “Beggars” your intention to perform this act should be about pleasing your lord and not gaining worldly benefit.

Instead of caring for the poor and needy, the bureaucrats chose to abuse, punish, and physically remove the beggars from the streets. The prospect of worldly desires lead the officials to dehumanize the beggars instead of caring for them and working to give them opportunity to remove themselves from the streets. The tale then shows the adverse effects of this type of treatment as the beggars go on strike, ultimately going against the bureaucrats intentions. My picture takes a different take on the situation depicting the ruler throwing down money in charity to the poor and needy as they strike. But is this really what they are asking for? Perhaps these individuals want respect and opportunity from the ruler similar to the mercy shown by God to his servants. The picture depicts Ar-Rahman, the most merciful, in Arabic reigning supreme over the Beggars and the Ruler stating that despite a rulers power God maintains supreme rule and mercy over all. The beggars have their hands raised towards the ruler, but also towards the heavens in supplication for opportunity and compassion from their Lord. Despite the cruel circumstances the needy still have faith in their lord and continue to pray for his mercy, whereas the ruler feels as if he has already attained success and does not need any type of help from his Lord. This parable is similar to the Quranic story in Surat Al Kahf, where one man has a huge garden and another has a meager plot of land. The man with the huge garden feels as if the garden is a result of all his hard work and he ignores God instead being thankful for his blessings. The man with a meager garden continues to supplicate each day to God and be thankful for what he has. At the end of the tale the greedy man’s garden is destroyed by God and the peasant attains a beautiful garden, showing that one must always be thankful no matter what he is given.

Week 4: Transforming the Sunnah/Hadith into Song

The Sunnah plays an essential role in the practice of Islam as well as the Hadith, as stated in the Infidel of Love “As a result of such characterizations of the Prophet, after his death, Muhammad’s customary norms (sunnah) gradually came to form an important basis on which to establish legal, personal, and pietistic norms for the faithful” (Infidel of Love, Pg. 117).

I choose to create a rap song based on the methods of transmission known as the Isnad, as well as recreate the Matn, or actual hadith. I did this in order to take a contemporary component of Islam and express it within a creative and artistic way, essentially transforming the text to aesthetically appeal to our generation. I chose to focus on hadith from the sunni collection of Sahih Muslim and Bukhari as these hadith have legitimate chain of transmission and thus have been defined as “sound” by religious scholars. I chose to research Imam Bukhari and the science behind establishing a specific Sunnah or hadith as strong, good, or weak. I then broke down the approach Imam Bukhari took, discussing the requirements of hadith legitimization within my song. This characterization of Hadith is a very controversial topic in Islamic history as many storytellers chose to fabricate tales of the prophet due to the oratorical focus of arab society. Some sects of Muslims chose to ignore the Hadith and Sunnah all together and focus solely on the message of the Quran, even though verses in the Quran tell believers to follow the example of the prophet muhammad and strive to his example. Regardless of this belief, the Hadith and Sunnah play instrumental roles in the practice of Islam and serve as supplementary guidance to the Quran.

The actual hadith chosen is from the Sahih Bukahri:

Matn

Ibn Umar reported that the Phophet of God, upon him be peace, said, “if someone seeks refuge in the name of God, give him refuge. If someone asks in the name of God, give him something. If someone does you a favor, repay him. If you cannot find anything with which to repay him then pray for him so that he knows that you appreciate what he has done for you.”

Isnad

Related by Muhammad Ibn Ismail Ibn Ibrahim Ibn al-Mughirah Ibn Bardizbah al-Bukhari. Also known as Al-Bukhari or Imam Bukhari, (194 AH / 810 CE -256 AH / 870 CE). A famous Islamic scholar, born in Bukhara, in what is today Uzbekistan. Best known for authoring the hadith collection named Sahih Bukhari.

My Song

 Hadith is comprised of matn and Isnad, compiled over time like the libraries of Baghdad, usually beginning from the word of a companion, then handed through time, here I attempt to make it all rhyme,

The conditions of Isnad in Bukhari rely on trust,

First the narrator must be just,

Plus excellent memory is not enough,

They need be deemed

Worthy of reporting technique in ahadith by the muhadditheen

The chain has to be complete and concrete

And 2 consecutive narratives must meet according to Bukhari

Who also relates the eight requirements?

Of hadith transmit

One can either listen receive permission or acquire a hadith written

The hadith of the transmitter can be found or handed down

It can be mentioned when presented

or collected through bequest

No time to digress, here is an example of what you usually get,

According to Bukhari the scholar yahya ibn bukayr narrated from al layth from uqayl from ibn shuhba from urwa from the beautiful aisha who said “whenever the prophet was given an option, between two concoctions, he used to select the easier of the two, as long is it was true and not haram, but if it was wrong, he would avoid at all costs,

Now I know during the Isnad you got lost, so listen up this is what I got,

Al Hakim the third fatimate caliph,

And 16th imam of the Ismaili,

The last in this extended Isnad family,

Heard from Abu `Amr `Uthman ibn Ahmad As-Sammak Al-Baghdadi, Who gladly

Narrated the actions of the prophet Muhammad Sallahualayhiwaslam, From Al-Hasan ibn Mukarram

Who related from the historian Aban bin`Uthman bin Affan the message relayed, By Yunus ibn Zaid

From the sunni Ibn Shihab Al-Zuhri

Who heard from the companion`Abdullah ibn Ka`b ibn Malik

Who remained held back, from the battle of tabuk, having no clue, that the prophet maintained a view, of care on his behalf, placing him with good tidings in the eye of the most divine, allowing kab to report each following line, from his father who he chose to guide, when he became blind, the ensuing story will unfold as told: Kab approached Ibn Abi Hadrad who was in debt like a recent college grad, kab asked hadrad to pay him back the owed cost, in the middle of the mosque, tempers flared, as hadrad wasn’t prepared, to fork over the indebted amount like cab fair, eyes interlocked into a stare, Kab became perturbed, lacking feeling like a severed nerve, he began shouting like spoken word, just then the prophet heard, the argument and approached with a verd, ict, lifting the curtain of his apartment, the messenger said “O Kab! Write off a part of your debt” in which he meant to remit half of it, Kab chose to act on respect and honor the prophet’s intellect, so he proceeded to accept half of the debt at the moment

 

Week 3 Post: The Recitation of the Quran

Reading and reciting the Quran (Islamic Book) is an extremely important concept of Islam. From early ages muslim children are taught to recite and memorize the Quran, many memorize the entire Quran and become noted as Hafiz. These Hafiz are reviled by Islamic society and are known to receive multiple blessings and rewards from God, according to the Hadith. The linguistic component of Islam is extremely interesting as the Quran was transmitted orally, placing high value on the pronunciation and recitation of the scripture. In Ghazali’s “External Rules of Quran Recitation” he discusses 10 rules of Quranic recitation, from a ver spiritual viewpoint very different from the teachings of my parents and the understanding of many modern muslims. The experience of reading the Quran should be unparalleled as it is a connection between the human soul and the direct word of it’s creator, yet many muslims overlook this component and choose to simply read as if it were a tedious homework assignment.

I chose to replicate the recitation of Surah Al-Qadr presented to us via the course website. I made sure to follow Ghazali’s 10 steps by performing ablution, facing the Kabah in a standing position, and recitation supplication before performing the reading. To fulfill the component of recitation I broke the Surah into verses and treated each as if it were it’s own Surah. Before reciting, I wrote out the entire Surah in my notebook in order to connect directly with the words and follow over my transcription while reciting. In terms of prostration I felt it necessary to prostrate before and after the recitation while performing the aforementioned supplication. I felt this enhanced my worship and connection with God almighty as I completed submitted.

While reciting the Quran I focused on “reading the Quran beautifully and in a slow matter” (Ghazali, Pg. 53) and “aloud” as prescribed in step 9. As I performed these steps I worked to emphasize the “tartil” or slow reading that Ghazali talks about in step 5. As hard as I tried I could not replicate the “weeping” described in step 6 during my recorded recitation, but as I read later in the night and truly connected with the message I began to break down into a deep uncontrolled weeping. These steps clearly enhanced my recitation and level of connection with the Quranic text, as well as my appreciation for the artistic beauty present during the recitation of the Quran.

Below is my recorded recitation of Surat Al Qadr.

Surat Al Qadr Recitation

Prologue to Blog

Islam is not just a religion, it is a way of life and we have seen throughout this course how artistic expression and Islam can be interwoven within certain cultures. We have analyzed the innate beauty of calligraphy and “Islamic architecture” in early Persian and Arabian societies. We have studied the mystical elements and spiritual connection with God through poetry, art, dance, and music. We have seen how artistic expression served as a means to connect cultures and spread the Islamic message.

An extremely important concept brought up during the course is the importance of oral transmission in Islamic culture, as companions of Muhammad compiled the Quran itself orally during the time of revelation. Poetry played a huge role in early Arab society, as these poets would perform mystical tales for audiences. Many individuals within these societies memorized poetry despite being illiterate. We see the importance of recitation in the Burdah, a poetic praise of the prophet Muhammad, which is performed by congregations of Muslims within contexts of worship. Again this is an example of another form poetry that was memorized and spread through oral transmission.

Islamic culture also places a heavy emphasis on the recitation and memorization of the Quran. In fact, individuals who memorize the entire Quran, also know as Hafiz, are praised and cherished within Islamic culture. The Quran itself is to be recited in a very beautiful and flowing manner, similar to the recitation of poetry, in order to connect the reader with their lord. Recitation itself serves to be a submissive experience as the reader is expected to incorporate deep emotional elements while reading the Quranic scripture. Gahazali gives a 10-step program to aid Muslims on proper recitation techniques and allow them to experience this spiritual transcendence. The “adhan” or the call to prayer also contains a very rhythmic and musical tone while praising God and bringing together believers for prayer at the same time. The rhythm and recitation of the Adhan differs within certain areas and cultures, but still serves the same purpose and holds the same meaning.

In order to achieve spirituality one must completely submit to the creator requiring them to eliminate the concept of the ego. The Islamic religion provides important components that aid in this elimination of the ego, specifically the five pillars of faith required by each believer. The belief in one creator, the giving of annual charity, the performance of 5 daily prayers, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and the fast of Ramadan all serve to eliminate the ego and focus ones intentions on complete submission to their creator. Many artists describe this journey of eliminating the ego within their works as we have seen in the tales of the birds and the story of Ayaz. In each of these tales the characters realize that in order to completely submit and attain the peace of their lord they must eliminate the ego within themselves. This struggle to eliminate the ego is evident throughout the entire course and also feeds into the struggle for identity.

This struggle for identity can be reflected within poetry, art, and music. Iqbal’s “Complaint and Answer” reflect upon the current state of confusion within Islamic identity as Muslims have incorporated other religious and cultural elements into their religion. The word Islam, specifically in western societies, carries a very negative connotation forcing current Muslims to compromise their identity. In doing so they are straying from the way and allowing ego to control their identity instead of eliminating the self and completely submitting to their creator. We see a similar struggle in the early times of Islamic society where the prophet himself was ridiculed for being a sorcerer. Many Muslims were tortured and killed for identifying with Islamic beliefs. I use a poetic approach to express the current identity crisis and struggle incorporated with maintaining my identity within a world focused on destroying my identity. My poem ends with the literal and metaphorical destruction of my inner ego through death and absolute submission.

I believe consistency and repetition are the cement and glue of the Islamic faith and can be seen within multiple elements of our course. One must consistently and continuously perform their prayers and adhere to the moral values of the Sunnah and Hadith. Constant praising of God through Dhikr, Quranic recitation, and poetic remembrance are evident in the works studied throughout the course. Calligraphy and Islamic architecture each require consistent practice and repetition in order to reach true perfection, similar to the individual spiritual journey of the Muslim. These artistic themes are universally appreciated in the aesthetic realm, reflecting on the diversity and universal unification within Islam. The early Islamic empires treated Muslims and non-Muslims with equality allowing differing religions to coexist and flourish within the same area.

The moral elements of Islam such as charitable giving, caring for the needy, and sacrificing food and water all serve to establish equality within society, yet can be compromised by greed and corruption. We see this negative effect of worldly attachment in the story of the beggars, Iqbal’s answer, and various parables within the Quran. These tales warn the reader of the imminent downfall related to corruption and greed, something we see in the tragic collapse of the roman and ottoman empires. In order to protect us from this type of demise one must purify their intentions by eliminating the ego. Islam heavily promotes charity and the sacrifice of materialism in order to prevent corruption and encourage equality within society. The prophet Muhammad himself lived like the poorest man in the village and truly cared for the well being of others over his own well-being.

The prophet epitomizes perfection and should be cherished through the practicing the Sunnah and praising his example. Believers should love God and his prophet more than they love themselves, thus again sacrificing the self for the divine. Artistic elements such as the burdah and various songs across cultures in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and sub- Saharan Africa are used to praise the prophet and express the love each Muslim has for the prophet. By transforming the hadith into a rap like song, I have combined these 2 elements in order to create an entertaining way of learning about the life of the prophet Muhammad and utilizing his virtues in current society. The theme of “love” is also seen in the poetic Ghazal’s where these poets express the yearning for the love of either God or a female counterpart. Similar to metaphors within the Islamic scripture, the poets use heavy ambiguity within their writing to express their struggle to attain spirituality. I incorporate the love for the prophet and the Muslim Ummah within my “Somewhere in America” rap as I reiterate the importance of following the prophet Muhammad’s example and loving fellow humanity.

The theme of oppression by religious authorities, whether it is towards the impoverished, women, non-Muslims, emerges after the death of the prophet. The poor are scrutinized and treated as inferior by the ruling class, women are confined within the home and given limited freedoms, and non-Muslims are attacked based on radical beliefs, which all go against the fabric of Islam. The current struggle of Muslim women is expressed through tales such as “Persepolis” and “Through the Veil.” Muslim men seem to ignore the respect the early Muslims held toward women as well as the powerful female figures of Aisha and Khadijah. The current state of this oppression can be seen in the Mipsterz “Somewhere in America” video, where Muslim women exhibit their strength and independence through an artistic media outlet. This video created hype and controversy in the media, as radical patriarchs criticized the women based on extremist cultural views, and not pure Islamic theological teachings. I chose to respond to the critics by creating a rap song that supports these girls and reiterates the important roles woman play in Islam.

Islam focuses on the development of community, brotherhood, and unification regardless of culture. We have seen an increasing amount of conflict between Muslim groups throughout the course, specifically the Shiite and Sunni sects. These violent occurrences directly conflict with the message of Islam. Upon studying the décor and construction of the Mosque we learned how these centers of worship traditionally serve to foster community within Muslim society as well. These segregated centers of worship evident in Nation of Islam, Shiite, Sufi, and Sunni Mosques contradict the essential purpose of these institutions, which is to promote universal worship of God and bring together the Islamic community, regardless of culture. It seems to me that culture has begun to take precedence over religion in current Islamic society. I have expressed this belief within my poetic and hip-hop blog posts, stating that unity and brotherhood have taken second place to power and monetary success. This current state of affairs is identical to Iqbal’s “Complaint and Answer” where the state of Islamic society is fading due to a lack of faith, ignorance toward prayer, and the precedent of culture over religion.

My favorite theme of the course is the use of musical performance and entertainment to educate others about Islam and eliminate the stereotypes associated with modern Islamaphobia. I’ve used 4 different examples of poetic and musical composition within my blog to educate others on Islamic belief, while at the same time conveying my own spiritual journey. Here we see the marriage of art and religion due to cultural and societal influences. The emergence of Islamaphobia has caused artistic expression to now incorporate educational components as well as revolutionary messages across the globe. Uprisings in the Middle East led to the emergence of art embodying revolt and unification of the oppressed. The development of hip-hop as a major art form has led to the emergence of Islamic hip-hop artists, expressing their struggles and spiritual beliefs through rap music. This music also serves to combat Islamaphobia by using lyrics to fight back against oppression. I use hip-hop in order to educate others on certain Islamic practices, as well as challenge oppressive beliefs of Islamaphobia.

I will end with the theme of love. Love for God. Love of the prophets. Love for humanity. Love for the Quran. Love is inherent in the Islamic faith and is expressed throughout the mediums of artwork we have discussed. Calligraphers use the divine essence in order to tap into a spiritual zone allowing them to create beautiful inscriptions of Quranic literature. The poet uses his deep spiritual connection and love for God in order to produce breathtaking poetry. The architect is inspired by the beautiful creations of his God and uses his love for these creations and his lord to created abstract and revered architecture. The musician engages in spiritual transcendence as their musical performance dictates the level of love and affection they feel toward their creator. All of these artworks are driven by love and incorporate aspects of love for God, his messenger, and the message. The Mathnawi and Ghazal both incorporate this yearning love and longing for acceptance from the poets lord. I incorporate this theme within all my blog works, be it expressing my strong love for God in Quranic recitation, depicting the beauty of God’s creation in artworks, or using poetry to convey the struggle of the self while seeking the love and approval of God.

I’ve used my blog as a tool to educate the entire world on the concepts of Islam through aesthetically pleasing mediums. I hope that the reader will discover the true beauty of the Islamic faith through my blog posts, as well as appreciate the connection between artistic and religious expression.

Masalam,

Zak