Saturday 31 July 2010

'The Treatise on Being', by Shaykh Muhiyudeen ibn al'-Arabi

A commentary on the Prophetic Tradition 'Whoso knoweth himself knoweth his Lord' which has also been rendered 'He who knows the truth about himself surely knows God.' It is a statement of the fact of the essential unity of all existence, addressed to the most intimate consciousness.

The Andalusian author Shaykh Muhiyudeen ibn al'Arabi (1165 - 1240) is one of the greatest of Islamic saints and mystics.  He says: 'This discourse is with God, not with other than God, and not with the blind. For he who attains this station knows that he is not other than God. And our discourse is with him who has resolution and energy in seeking to know himself in order to know God, and keeps fresh in his heart the image of his seeking and longing for union with God; and not with him who has neither aim nor end.'  This short treatise can be read here.  An audio mp3 file of the book can be downloaded here.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Joan Jackson, Steven Bach, Edward Woodward, Dilys Dimbleby

Joan Jackson, better known as ‘Joan Hunter Dunn’ passed away on 12 April 2008. She was the inspiration for John Betjeman’s most famous poem ‘A Subaltern’s Love Song’. She was born on 13 October 1915 – The daughter of a GP, George Hunter Dunn from Farnborough. Her grandfather Andrew Hunter Dunn was the bishop of Quebec from 1892 – 1919, whose brother Edward Dunn was bishop of British Honduras and Archbishop of the West Indies. Her great-great grandfather William Hunter (the grandfather of both her father’s parents) was Lord Mayor of London from 1851 – 1852. Her mother Mable Liddelow died in 1916. She was educated at Queen Anne’s School, Caversham from the age of 16 where she was head girl, captain of the lacrosse team and played tennis. She subsequently joined the catering department of London University. Betjeman recalled the story of their encounter on numerous occasions. When Peter Crookston asked if Betjeman would mind her being photographed from a Sunday Times article he was delighted and wrote back explaining how he came to write the poem:
At the beginning of the war I was employed in the films division in the Ministry of Information. The raid that went on then drew us together in the evenings. She was employed by London University. She was second-in-command of the catering department, under Mrs Bruce, and she wore a white coat and had a clean, clinical, motherly look, which excited hundreds of us. She had bright cheeks, clear sun-burned skin, darting brown eyes, a shock of curls and a happy smile. Her figure was a dream of strength and beauty. When the bombs fell, she bound up our wounds unperturbed. When they didn’t fall, which was most of the time, she raised our morales without ever lowering her morals. When I first saw her I said to my friends Osbert Lancaster and Reginald Ross-Williamson, ‘I bet that girl is a doctor’s daughter and comes from Aldershot’. When I got to know her I found I was right and it is my only experience of poetic prescience. I wrote the verses in the character of a subaltern in Aldershot, but they were really my own imaginings about her. When I showed her the poem, she told me she lived at Farnborough, Hampshire, but I considered that near enough to Aldershot to count. Her father was a very distinguished doctor and she had an uncle who was a bishop. Cyril Connolly kindly printer the poem in Horizon and I had to ask her permission for this to be done, which she agreed. Her name in the last line I had printer in capital letters in Cyril’s magazine, but when I had again to ask her to be allowed to print the verses in a book of my poems, she asked me not to have her name in capital letters. Of course I obeyed. She was one of the most cheerful, sweet and gentle girls I ever knew. I have not seen her from those days to this, though we have corresponded. You had better consult her about what I have written, if you think she might object. Oh Goodness, I wish you had seen her striding about the Ministry. The spirit of Surrey girlhood, and a pine-scented paradise.[1]  
Lord Snowdon who took the photos remembered her as ‘very jolly, handsome and still played tennis – I photographed her on the court in shorts …. She had a very good, strong, friendly and welcoming face’. Betjeman said that she was very different from the other ‘pale green intellectuals at the Ministry': 'I have fallen in love with a girl in the catering department here who is a doctor’s daughter from Aldershot.'[2]

Betjeman once heard that he was in the same building as her 'He had lost track of her. He was wildly excited – Only stayed with me a minute or so longer – raced off to see her.'[3]

On his visit to Belfast in 1942 he saw Miss Hunter Dunn at breakfast on his last day in England and wrote to Cyril Connolly that he thought about her a good bit in the warm aeroplane.[4]  When Betjeman left the Ministry, his secretary Hazel Sullivan wrote to him (on 19 July 1944) – ‘Since you have gone Miss J. H. D. no longer smiles at me …’[5] In a letter to Roland Pym, he wrote:
Miss Hunter Dunn (that was her name, she is now Mrs Wycliffe-Jackson and lives in Ashley Gardens and you ought to go and see her, she is a lovely sturdy creole type with curly hair and strong arms and strapping frame and jolly smile and soft laughing voice, a girl to lean against for life and die adoring). Well anyhow Joan Hunter Dunn lived with her sister Betty and younger brother (who went to Stowe) at The Red House, Farnborough (the Aldershot one, not this one), where her father practices as a doctor. I think you want to get a feeling of open-airness about the house – nothing Victorian – rather Letchworth and Welwyn, with toothbrushes airing at open bathroom windows and certainly rhododendrons and evergreens – and the wire netting of a tennis court enclosure. I have never seen the house. I have merely imagined it. I believe its date was 1910.[6]
Volume 2 of the Hillier biography also discusses other versions of the circumstances of their meeting and other aspects of their relationship[7]. At her funeral, John Heald of the Betjeman Society recited Betjerman's famous poem.


Marlene Dietrich’s biographer Steven Bach died from cancer on 25 March. He was born on 29 April 1938 and taught Film Studies at Bennington College and Columbia University. He also wrote the biography of Leni Riefenstahl Leni: The Life & Work of Leni Riefenstahl, (2007).


Edward Woodward passed away on 16 November. His most famous role was as Sergeant Howie in the cult classic The Wicker Man which is also one of my favourite films, made in 1973. He was born on 1 June 1930 and went on to have a distinguished career in theater, film and television, even appearing as Tommy Clifford in Eastenders in March 2007. Woodward’s first marriage was to the actress Venetia Barrett (born Venetia Mary Collett) in 1952, they divorced in 1986. She bore him 3 children: Tim Woodward (born 1953), Peter Woodward (1956) and a daughter Sarah Woodward (1963). Woodward had a relationship with Michele Dotrice who played the character Frank Spencer’s wife in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, they had a daughter (Emily) in 1983 and married in New York in January 1987. Woodward underwent triple bypass surgery in 1996, it was announced in February 2003 that he had prostate cancer; he died at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.


Dilys Dimbleby passed away on 18 November. She was born on 16 January 1913, the daughter of the barrister A. A. Thomas. She married Richard Dimbleby in 1937 and they had 3 sons David, Jonathan and Nicholas. After Richard’s death in 1965, she married Ron Travers. On her ninetieth birthday she danced until 3 o’clock in the morning. She lived in Dittisham village in Devon where her memorial service was held at the parish church on 15 December. She has 14 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

[1] Sir John Betjeman.  To Peter Crookston, 12 May 1965. Letters 2: 1951 – 1984. Edited by Candida Lycett Green. 
      (Methuen, 1995). 290, 291.
[2] Betjeman.  To Sidney Gilliat, 30 December 1940. Bevis Hillier. John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love. (John Murray, 
      2002). 178.
[3] Ibid. 202, 203.
[4] Betjeman.  To Cyril Connolly, 6 June 1942. Letters 1: 1926 - 1951. Edited by Candida Lycett Green. (Methuen, 1994). 
[5] Ibid. 326.
[6] Ibid. 440.
[7] Hillier, 180, 181.

Sunday 18 July 2010

To Hannah Shah, author of 'The Imam's Daughter'

Dear Hannah.

It has come to my attention that you have repeated a number of misconceptions regarding Islam in your book.  You must know that the Quran says very clearly
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ 'There is no compulsion in matters of faith' that is: everybody should be free to believe what they want:
There is no compulsion in religion.  Surely guidance and error have been clearly distinguished; so whoever refuses to be led by those who transgress and believes in Allah has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking.  For Allah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.
The Holy Quran.  al-Baqarah [The Heifer].  257.
Then it states:
Say 'It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will believe and let him who will disbelieve.'  Verily We have prepared for the wrongdoers a fire already covering them like a canopy.  If they cry for relief it will be with water like molten lead which will scald their faces.  How dreadful the drink and how evil the resting place!
The Holy Quran.  al-Kahf [The Cave].  30.
Yet another verse runs thus:
Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, then disbelieve and become increasingly defiant, Allah will never forgive them nor guide them to any way of deliverance.
The Holy Quran.  al-Nisa [The Women].  138.
If according to your understanding an apostate were to be put to death then there arises no question of having the opportunity to join Islam again. This verse mentions apostates who repeatedly accept and recant their Islam as the group of Munafiqin [Hypocrites] did at the time of the Prophet so as to intentionally make a mockery of faith.

Moreover The Holy Quran states: 'Verily, this is a Reminder; so whoever wishes may take the way that leads to his Lord.'  [al-Dahr {The Time}: 30].

Please see the following links for further information and clarification:

Punishment of Apostacy in Islam.  By Hazrat Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrullah Khan.
'Freedom of Conscience in Islam.'  By Imam Bashir Ahmad Rafiq.
The Truth about The Alleged Punishment for Apostasy in Islam.  By Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad - Khalifatul Masih IV.  Video.
Several of the chapters in Murder in the Name of Allah by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad - Khalifatul Masih IV also deal with this issue from an historical perspective.  In short The Holy Quran takes up the issue of apostasy 11 times and nowhere does it prescribe that an apostate should be killed (or for that matter, punished by any individual).

The verse that you refer to in the book about beating of wives is mistranslated. This is the verse: 

Men are guardians over women because Allah has made some of them excel others and because the men spend of their wealth. Thus are virtuous women obedient and safeguard the secrets with Allah's help. So admonish those of them on whose part you apprehend negligence. Leaving  them alone in their beds so as to chastise them. Then if they incline towards you seek no pretext against them. Surely Allah is the High the Great.
            The Holy Quran. al-Nisa [The Women]. 35.
Your website states that you have a degree in Theology and Religious Studies so I find it hard to believe however much I want to that you have innocently and unknowingly repeated these false allegations against Islam. I can only pray that Allah may remove the hatred of Islam you have in your heart because having studied religion you carry on attributing false things to the Quran.
Yours Sincerely,
Rehan Qayoom.

Sunday 4 July 2010

'An Eastern power & Korea's delicate situation'

On 29 April 1904, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad received the Word from God 'Korea is in a dangerous situation. Eastern power.' The footnote to the annotated edition of the collection of his revelations records a slightly different word-order:
When the war started between Japan and Russia, and Japan had not yet achieved any significant victory, the Promised Messiah received this revelation: 'An Eastern power and Korea's delicate situation.' Many members of our Jamaat [Community], especially those who live in Qadian, know about this revelation. I regret that I failed to publish this earlier. I am recording it now because I feel that this new Eastern power has a special relevance to the Ahmadiyyah Jama‘at. (Allah knows best.)
          Note by Maulana Abdul Latif Bahawalpuri: Before the war between Russia and Japan, Korea was under the control of the Russia. This war was concluded with a peace treaty on May 27–28, 1905. The first clause in the treaty was that Japan will have complete sovereignty over Korea. Thus with the victory of the Eastern power (Japan) and the defeat of Korea, this prophecy of the Promised Messiah was clearly fulfilled. It should be noted that the prophecies have multiple fulfillments. Now that the East is gaining greater prominence on the international scene, it seems that the future events will unfold a new commentary of this revelation, [As Allah the Almighty so wills]. [1]
The second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community writes about this as one of the prophetic miracles of a political nature shown to Ghulam Ahmad (the founder of the Community) and states that he received this revelation as the The Russo–Japanese War began:
As is evident from the words of this revelation it was vouchsafed therein that Japan would be the victor in this war and that it would receive such a glorious victory that it will be able to fulfill its wish of capturing Korea. But the Koreans will not like this and a dangerous chaos and insurrection will take place which will destroy the country. Although at the time this revelation was published even the greatest of political statesmen and those in government could not have uttered such a thing and some people were not even willing to accept that Japan will emerge victorious let alone entertain such a hope and thought that Russia is still ignorant of the impact this war. They thought that in time it will use its endless resources to crush Japan and nobody would have imagined that if Japan won they will have to fulfill its demands but see how the events of the future unfolded to prove the truth of this Word? Japan won and Russia fell victim to such diabolical rioting that it had to make peace and succumb to Japan's demands and accept its power over Korea but the Korean hated this greatly and seeing Japan's insistence it raised the flag of revolt against it and this country remained in a state of danger for many many years thereafter and the way the peace there has been disturbed cries at the top of its voice in approval of its delicate state that was revealed to His Holiness the Promised Messiah. [2]
Another essay he wrote in December 1951 on the subject of Communism & Democracy is also worth reading in this context.

The fifth Caliph mentioned this prophecy in his Friday Sermon of 9 May 2003 and said that the situation in Korea is unstable to date.

[1]  Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Tadhkirah. Second English Edition. ( Islam International Publications Ltd, 2009). 667, 668.
[2]  Hazrat al-Hajj Mirza Bashirudeen Mahmood Ahmad - Khalifatul Masih II. Tohfa Shehzada Wales [Gift to the Prince of Wales]. 1922.  In Anwarul Uloom: vi.  (Fadl-I-‘Umar Foundation). 520, 521.