Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Sound of Tradition, and the Road of Culture

I recently acquired a great CD of Sufi Chants. Interestingly, this is quite different from the confused ware coming out of the qawwali-sindhi-punjabi soup of South Asia or the new-age medley out of California. Nesidul-Huda has some interesting, orthodox (I mean that in a good sense), poems in Arabic, Turkish, Bosnian, and Farsi. The accompanying lyrics in English (and French) are good, and the voices soothing but not freaky.

I have also been thinking of and followed discussions over at my workplace with Indian, Jewish, and Persian immigrants about culture and success. Umar Lee also had some posts about similar stuff. The argument basically is, that some ethnic/racial/cultural groups in modern societies like USA, Europe, or many parts of Asia do better than others because of cultural issues that impart certain values to kids. I have some thoughts on this issue and I think that growing up culturally secure is very important. Marcus Garvey wrote that if you free men from mental slavery, they will free themselves of physical slavery. Growing up with the right values, which tells you that you are good enough to compete with anyone, but only if you work hard enough, is a big help. Imam Benjamin Kareem, the erst-while Assistant Minister Benjamin 2X, writing in his book "Remembering Malcolm", says that brother Shabazz used to lay a lot of emphasis on education. Every Tuesday (I think), he would rent a documentary to be viewed in his centre and hold a discussion. He would discuss anything and everything from geography, to genetics, history, or physics. He would also love to take the kids out on weekends to the Metropolitan Museum, or some such place and enthrall them with his live narrative and lectures. His biggest regret from his earlier life as Detroit Red, was that otherwise intelligent young men and women had fallen to crime, drugs, prostitution, etc., when they could have gone on to become scientists, teachers, and lawyers. Another thing that I have noticed is that many Muslims when we rightly frame our ideas of intellectual purity, and try to rid 'our' culture of hearsay and vanities, we leave out a lot of arts. This is more about the modernist, Islamist everyday Muslim. While I think that this is in a way good, because there's a whole load of junk out there, both modern and ancient should not corrupt pure education. But since, people don't live without entertainment, it means that we then finally break out and imbibe any and all bull out there, Woody Allen, Britney Spears (yuck!), and what not.

Finally, so what is the good stuff out there. There's a whole lot of popular science and math books, that our cousins, mostly the East Europeans, Indian Brahmins, and Ashkenazi Jews have written and used all their life. I used to wonder in college how and why do so many of these kids, who are otherwise only as smart as me or anyone else, have this specific knowledge which they used to build an almost cultic group identity. Then there's a great treasure of more serious, and contemplative stuff, in the writings of Ghazali, Rumi, Hafez, Taymiyya etc. A lot of times we get frustrated with one end or the other. I think Ghazali is just about the best out there, because of how he has tied the different ends together. If you get too confused, take a look at Ghazali.

And here's one more post of confused words, some interesting ideas, releasing some steam. Enjoy the summer if you live in the northern parts of the world. If you are in one of usually hotter parts of the Afro-Asiatic heartland, have some patience.