A Woman Prophet in the Land of Muslim Clerics

I believe if one simply allows life to unfold less the human maneuvering, less the human manipulation, something of a common thread or theme reveals itself. Contemplative writer Martin Laird calls it the art of listening to “life-just-happening”.

It happened to me in the past few days, in my blogging days especially when life’s themes seem to naturally unfold before my eyes like rosebuds opening its beauty. By the way, beauty may not necessarily be entertaining; it can be threatening! Days ago, i wanted to listen to Jellaludin Rumi’s poetry from Youtube, this Persian poet of the 13th century being the most admired and read non-American poet in America to this date. I like poetry of passion. I do admin work. But if i do not allow myself to bask now and then in poetry and simply get caught in the dry plateau of admin work, i’m afraid i will miss a certain farther and deeper dimensions of living to exist superficially, nominally as a Christian. The poet’s flair is often the language of life’s beauty, the awakener of a consciousness dulled by the marketplace of shallow opinions.

I listened in particular to Rumi’s couple of poems Looking For Your Face and Say I Am You.

LOOKING For Your Face

From the beginning of my life
I have been looking for your face
but today I have seen it.

Today I have seen
the charm, the beauty,
the unfathomable grace
of the face
that I was looking for.

Today I have found you
and those that laughed
and scorned me yesterday
are sorry that they were not looking
as I did.

I am bewildered by the magnificence
of your beauty
and wish to see you with a hundred eyes.

My heart has burned with passion
and has searched forever
for this wondrous beauty
that I now behold.

I am ashamed
to call this love human
and afraid of God
to call it divine.

Your fragrant breath
like the morning breeze
has come to the stillness of the garden
You have breathed new life into me
I have become your sunshine
and also your shadow.

My soul is screaming in ecstasy
Every fiber of my being
is in love with you

Your effulgence
has lit a fire in my heart
and you have made radiant
for me
the earth and sky.

My arrow of love
has arrived at the target
I am in the house of mercy
and my heart
is a place of prayer.

From Rumi, i was led into listening to some religious chants in Arabic, mostly from verses from Koran and in a language that do not conjure so many interpretations because of its otherness. It’s a beautiful experience just to listen, especially this Holy Week.

My thoughts on Islam linger until i remember my classmate of 9 years ago in grad school, a Muslim woman now turning into a fine academic scholar and advocate of Muslim women’s health and rights – J.S. Nandu. Googling her gave me the info that the De La Salle University Press actually published her thesis: Experiences and Views of Divorced Muslim Women in Jolo, Sulu. Kudos to you Jen if you are reading this!

The Islam theme seemed capped by this woman of poetic and prophetic power. Her name is Hissa Hilal, a resident of Riyadh, mother of four, and a finalist of the contest The Million’s Poets held in the Arab world. The Million’s Poets is lookalike of American Idol or British Got Talent except that the celebrities are poets because poetry in the Arab world is given high esteem. The winner of the $1.3 million will be declared today.

What made Hissa standout from the rest? Her provocative poetry challenging the Islamic establishment controlled by male clerics. In front of millions of TV audience! In particular, she challenged fatwas or religious edicts issued by the clerics, its extremism and tendencies to supress the voices of women, breed violence, “preying like a wolf” on those seeking peace, hijacking culture and religion. Of those fatwas, her poem points:

“I have seen evil in the eyes of fatwas, at a time when the permitted is being twisted into the forbidden, a monster that emerged from its hiding place whenever “the veil is lifted from the face of truth.”

Against the controlling clerics, Hissa unreservedly describes them as:

vicious in voice, barbaric, angry and blind, wearing death as a robe cinched with a belt”.

I am silenced by such courage. The rest of the world is the same i guess. Here’s a YT clip if you want to listen to Hissa:

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