Ramadan in Istanbul

Human Landscapes:

It’s at night that Ramazan becomes palpable to the nonobservant, and that’s one of the reasons I love it. The whole city becomes as nocturnal as I, by disposition and habit, already am. The streets are lively well past midnight: people stay out late, strolling on the shore, filling sidewalk teahouses in the warm night air. Children are up late too—they don’t fast, but in summer there’s no need to wake for school in the morning, so they’re out and about, walking with their families and playing on the sidewalks. There’s something of a fairground atmosphere: cotton candy and ice-cream and street vendors selling cheap plastic toys. But the gaiety goes hand-in-hand with marks of piety, like the low, continous sounds issuing from the mosques—Qur’an recitation, prayers, ilahi—and the lightbulbs strung between their minarets.

Woodrat Podcast 20: American Quran

The internet is great, especially since the advent of modern search engines, but what if you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it? Then you need either a revelation from God or a shortwave radio. You never know what you might stumble upon late at night on an old radio! This appears to be a reading from Ahmed Ali’s translation of the Quran, Sura 6, “The Cattle.” There are a few words missing toward the end, presumably from problems in the recording or the transmission, but otherwise it seems to be a complete reading, delivered in one take.

Here are some links to help contextualize things:

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Where to look for miracles

If people are determined not to believe something, then no amount of proof will change their mind. You will be called a liar for proclaiming things that call into question the way people are living. But remember, you’re just one in a long line of Cassandras and Jeremiahs — prophets who were scorned for being right. They stuck to their guns, and so should you. What’s the alternative? You can’t change the laws of nature.

If you still think you can overcome people’s aversion to the truth by uncovering better evidence, hey, go for it. Delve into the mysteries of geologic time, subatomic particles, or the outer reaches of the known universe, and bring the clearest evidence you can find — see if that makes any difference. Only those who have learned to listen will actually hear, and that depends in great measure on whatever chance circumstances shaped their upbringing; you have no control over it. Those who can’t hear are as good as dead — and therefore soon to rejoin the cosmic mystery in any case.

Some will say: How come God hasn’t sent some sort of obvious sign about this? And all you can say is, signs and miracles abound! Most people just don’t know how to read them. All creatures that move on the earth or fly through the air belong to communities equal in importance to your own. God doesn’t overlook anything, and we’re all in this together.

The foregoing is my own rough paraphrase of several verses from the Quran, 6:32-38, based primarily on the Ahmed Ali translation but with reference to several others on the Internet, especially for the crucial passage about the equal validity of non-human communities (other translations offer “societies” and even “peoples”). I even found a Sufi blog that interprets 6:38 as a call for animal rights.

Note however that in attempting to make this passage a bit more palatable for modern secular types, I have stripped out most of the poetry. The part about geologic time and subatomic particles, for example, paraphrases: “Seek out a tunnel (going deep) into the earth,/ or a ladder reaching out to the skies, and bring them a sign…” Fascinating stuff one way or the other, though, I thought. I am seriously exploring the idea of writing a modern bestiary now, and looking for inspiration. Who’d have thought the Muslim holy book would contain such a radically inclusive vision?

Call to Prayer

Flame tree, smoke tree, a sky like sandpaper. Mobile phones have been programmed to issue the call to prayer: God is great. A man grazes horses where a lake used to wrinkle in the breeze & stares into the dry cup of his hands five times a day. God is great. The future has been recalled; too many people were dying of natural causes. All weather will now be provided by the private sector, they tell us, as trees belch with flame around the ancient temple of Artemis. I bear witness that there is no God but God. Lines of footprints in wet ash tell a story, but not ultimately a very interesting one. The wonderful thing about movies is that they are always true. I bear witness that Mohammed is the messenger of God. Here you can see where lizards went on pilgrimage to a puddle of water, steering with their tails. Here you can see where the toymaker’s assistants have been poaching charred olive wood. Hurry up please it’s time for prayer. Notice how the shadow grows smaller & blurrier as the bird gains in altitude — hard to say at what point it’s gone completely. What kind of bird? The black-diamond tail makes it a raven, I guess. The point is that weather-related incidents may no longer be ascribed to acts of God, thank God. Hurry up please it’s time for success. And if that’s the case, someone must do something about the suddenness of nightfall in the tropics & those ridiculous short days we have in winter, where applicable. It has been duly noted that the naked Germans on the beach are happy with the extra sun, although the locals are not: God is great. Flame tree, smoke tree, a sky like alabaster now that the last contrails have been delivered to the museum of blueprints. Ah, & the boys from the village are stalking grasshoppers with wooden machine guns. There is no God but God.