The Wird of the Diwan

The Wird of the Diwan of Muhammad ibn al Habib,
may Allah be pleased with him

Marrakech Wird Sept 17.indd

To anyone who obtained the Diwan of Muhammad ibn al Habib in the last 9 months, published by Editorial Qasida, the pdf freely downloadable here will be very useful and has been much requested. On mobile platforms it is ideal and works particularly well in an iPad installed in iBooks. Importantly, typos in the original edition have been dealt with. Later this year we hope to print a revised edition of the whole Diwan with all the errata corrected. As it is effectively in three languages getting it 100% correct in the first edition would have meant it would have remained unpublished even now. Nonetheless we apologise for any errors.

The Wird 2016

NB The Diwan has just sold out.
We are currently working on a reprint which should appear in the next few months. When available it will be announced on this blog.

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Speakers Andalus

Heterophony and Polyphony (and the loss of it.)

The wholesale and loving embrace by Morocco of the amplified musical event has shattered my illusion that Morocco was a place which understood its traditions. Clearly not. That said, it hasn’t actually lessened the actual content of what they sing. Morocco still has some of the best Andalusi singers you will find anywhere whose knowledge of the subject is oceanic and unassailable. But at the point of delivery, where the singing meets its public, whether private or public, the singing is being severely undermined by big black deafening loudspeakers. And I detest them. But the Moroccans, especially the singers, seem to love them.

Heterophony and polyphony are technical terms relating to multiple sung voices.
1. Heterephony describes a single-note many threaded tune with slight natural pitch variations between individual voices, giving choral singing its unique and rich uplifting and meshed quality. This particularly related to Andalusi singing which is essentially one single note tune with slight individual variations
2. Polyphony places each voice in a 3D space so the listener perceives a multi sourced spatial sound. As with any choir.

The human heart, which is the true sensor of any thing conscious, absorbs all this and drowns in the beauty of sound and singing especially. It elevates and expands the heart. A precious and subtle experience. And what do microphones and amplifiers do to this?  Flatten it, homogenise it, and kill it stone dead. And my dear Moroccans are deaf to this phenomenon it seems and given the high volumes they tolerate they might become actually deaf, if they aren’t careful. Furthermore the microphone becomes a vain plaything to toy with as they sing their solos. Like Tom Jones singing in a Las Vegas casino.

Maybe it’s a sign that the world is just becoming noisier that people have to make yet more noise to be heard over the din. I make no apologies for having loved amplified music, instruments, recorded high fidelity sound and also all the explorations into synthetic music that we loved in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. It did seem that it was all going somewhere artistically. But we did have a subtle appreciation of it. But we wanted HiFi, not distorted sheets of sound. But I’m a little tired of amplification now and prefer these days to indulge myself in the subtle acoustic qualities of the human voice, natural instruments, natural room acoustics, the sound of the natural world and so on – if I can find it.

Amplification can only be seen now as a last resort, but better avoided. If I had my way at such events as the Fes Sacred Music Festival, or come to that any public performance of music or singing, I would outlaw amplification, unless it was done with real artistic sensitivity. Instead it has now become an egregious orgy of amplification. The louder the better. I’ve witnessed it. It’s seems to be going the way of heavy metal rock music where without the huge volume, it is nothing.

The way technology has impinged on humans has been a slow burn. With the industrial revolution the effects of technology were brutal, clumsy and absolute, like heavy industry which reshaped and polluted towns and cities in Northern Europe and the growth of railways in the 1800s, which marched across hitherto untouched landscapes, spreading industry everywhere. Culminating sadly in the first tragic industrial world wars of the 20th century crowned by the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 a few months after I was born.

gramophones.picbig.hmv.102.red

The intrusion of technology into the home has also been a slow burn. In the 1950s we didn’t have refrigerators and in my family’s house the first washing machine didn’t appear till 1956. And there was no hifi audio then. In fact our only record player was a red wind-up 78rpm gramophone, an HMV, exactly like the one illustrated above. Fridges and washing machines were useful appliances but the corrosive effect of communications technology on families and society could not have been foreseen and subtly seeped its way into our consciousness. Television particularly was the harbinger of the dumbed down society, the powers that be opting to use it to sell stuff to the masses rather than to educate or illuminate. The non-commercial BBC in the UK was a kind of rearguard action that preserved some higher aspirations, but even that is now severely under threat. It is as if the commercial transaction of selling and buying stuff is now the arbiter and sacrament of everything and that the idea of a social good has been abandoned. Welcome to capitalism.

This principle has percolated now down to the internet and interpersonal communications and is challenging the way people behave in a fundamental way. Is it normal that people are glued to a smart phone everywhere they go? In bed, in the street, even while they eat. (I’ve done all these things, by the way) Many of us are aware of this, yet we blithely continue on with our lives with a shrug.

The masses are unaware of what is happening to them as it’s so vast and all-encompassing. OK, we have to accept life as it is and computers are very useful but in the long run we will have to train ourselves to limit their use or else there will be hell to pay, quite literally. Many corporations now severely limit the use of mobile devices, understanding that for certain things they are unproductive and ultimately counterproductive. Proving that people will submit to anything if it affects the bottom line. There has to be a reaction sooner or later. Could this happen in Morocco? Not for a long time.

 

Posted in Comment, miscellaneous, music, religion, sacred knowledge, typography / design, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Some new work

Al-MADINA BOOKS spread.indd

The eight books illustrated above, published by Al-Madina Institute were finally printed this year but only available in the USA from Mecca Books. These were typeset and designed over a four year period but all printed this year. I trust their titles can be deciphered from the image above. They include 6 translations of works by Ibn Ajiba including excerpts from his voluminous tafsir the Bahr Madeed. The other two books are by Sh. Muhammad Er who recently passed away. He was a remarkable Kurdish Sufi shaykh who settled in the USA where he died and whose students put together these two books from his writings. The titles are self explanatory. The Soul of Islam and The Laws of the Heart. It resonates with traditional scholarship and wisdom. All familiar to students of the subject but fresh as a daisy.

Kashifi CD front A3.indd

Also this year saw a new release by MAT and designed and recorded locally here in Andalusia: The Rawdhat al-Shuhuda’, a CD and book of excerpts of a 14th century litany by Husayn Vayiz Kashifi, of Herat in Afghanistan, set to Celtic tunes by Abdal Hakim Murad (Tim Winter). Hard to imagine how this fusion would work but it is quite refreshing to hear Qur’anic recitation and traditional illahis in Irish, Manx and Scottish musical modes. Abdal Hakim has been working for many years attempting to bridge the cultural gap between Arab, Persian and Turkish poetry and British musical traditions and sensibilities and this is quite a step forwards. It’s an area which can be approached in different ways and like most things of an artistic nature is dependent on personal taste. I would like to explore this subject in another blog post as it has also been a pet subject of mine for many years.

T of H cover artwork3.indd

Another book designed from here and just published is A Taste of Honey, a scholastic work on Erotology by a Nigerian Azhari scholar, Habeeb Akande. It will probably raise a few eyebrows with the prudes amongst us, but is a thorough and useful compendium of the science and art of lovemaking from traditional Muslim sources. Taking this knowledge from Prophetic wisdom is probably the only way this most powerful of human activities can shed the smuttiness and guilt that it has become tainted with in western cultures. Highly researched, Habeeb Akande has explored every avenue of the subject with extensive reference to the great Islamic scholastic tradition which is so hard of access to most English speakers.

Please visit my new portfolio at cwdm-portfolio.com

Posted in typography / design | 1 Comment

Back to the Blog

calor-espana_top


I’ve had a long holiday from this blog for various reasons including moving house, re-building it, and printing and publishing our new Diwan translation and all that that involved. Two months of unusually hot weather here in Spain further slowed my desire to visit my blog and only when I finally submitted to installing air-conditioning have I had the energy and inclination to put thumbs and fingers to Ipad. It’s odd when you are used to daily temperatures in the high 90s, often over 100ºF (that’s 38ºC) and you walk into a room in your house that’s like a fridge. Your whole life changes. I don’t think AC is without its down sides but right now it’s a relief.

I don’t envy publishers who produce books on a regular basis and try to make a living in the process. Fortunately making a living as a publisher is not one of my career goals and this Diwan is looking more and more like a one-off charity event. This is because of the hidden overheads, the free copies, the cost of ISBNs and the books that you have to send by law to five British deposit libraries. But nonetheless working on it has been a wonderful experience even though there were shortcomings in the final printed book. The standards of proofing could have been better but typesetting and proof reading a complex text which is in effect three languages, (if you count transliterated arabic as a language), then getting it right first time was being a bit hopeful.

The fact that readers have been discovering errors and telling me was proof that it was being read and closely read, which is gratifying. After all it is a living thing which is not just picked up once and then forgotten about. Until it is memorised and understood then it is likely that it will go on being used in perpetuity and why it will continue to be a work-in-progress and why we are happy to have any reasonable suggestions to improve it. The value of the content of the book to any rational human being cannot be under-estimated.

This first edition was a short run and we hope to go for a new improved edition as soon as it is viable. I want to thank the many people who have bought one, two, three, four copies at a time. This Diwan has been hard to get hold of in the last 30-40 years whether in English or in Arabic and even for myself this new translation has injected new and refreshed understanding of its contents.

‘There are no Accidents’ (Miles Davis)
Looking back at this blog over the last five years I’ve been writing it, by far the most visits have been to do with typography which surprised me as it is really an arcane pursuit and I was hopeful my rantings on other subjects weren’t falling on deaf ears. One thing I’ve learnt in the many years I’ve been involved with all kinds of design is that you learn the rules in order to creatively break them. For me all so-called mistakes are creative opportunities. That goes for all of life really. In jazz improvisation for example it is the accident that is the very spring of creative ideas. All you have to do is to know what to do with the mistake. The same can be said of graphic design and particularly typesetting and book design which is all rules, based on well-tried methods but in which there is always room for the odd quirky variation if it doesn’t rock the boat too much. I have to deal with editors quite often who aside from writers have their own often pedantic notions of what is right and wrong. And I often fall foul of this although I know I can be wrong and that compromise is often the best solution.  I just have preferences which I push for as much as possible.

The transliteration I spoke of above is one territory where pedantry lives and breathes. Mostly writers, publishers and typographers have a consensus on how to best represent, for example, an Arabic letter or vowel in roman script. My biggest complaint is that no-one really holds to any one system and I get every conceivable kind of transliteration system sent to me. But I should be grateful as it is much simpler now than it ever used to be. One lengthy manuscript I received some ten years ago was constructed in Word on a PC and all transliteration marks were little macros which it took weeks to decode and convert into a usable font. At times I thought I was in Bletchley Park in WW2 working on the Enigma code, it was so incomprehensible. The coming of Unicode and pro-fonts made things much easier in many ways but also opened the door to new levels of pedantry because so much more was possible. I can give you one example.

Ayn Hamza issues

The ayn symbol, commonly used now for over 25 years by myself and many publishers I have worked with ( a superscript c) has always sufficed very well. But recently editors and writers have introduced a reverse superscript c to represent an Arabic hamza. (see example above). The hamza has always sufficed as a reverse apostrophe and could not be confused with the aforesaid ayn symbol. But having two c symbols vying with each other for attention is a mistake in my opinion and I advise my clients to avoid it. It might seem like a small thing but typography is all about very small things all being as perfect as possible and this reverse c symbol seems to be wrong. There’s other issues which I won’t go into here. But you see how we shouldn’t let rules take us over if there is no point in them.

A Film on Andalusi Calligraphy.
At times I have written about my much loved Andalusi Arabic script which was made illegal after the Catholic king and queen took over Granada after 1492. To have abolished a language and its writing must have meant that they were afraid of something so terrible that if you so much as had a book containing Arabic in your possession you could face extreme punishment, torture and death. Arabic books were burnt in their millions.

A crowdfunding campaign has just been launched (see below) to help complete a documentary on this subject. Please visit and contribute even a few dollars as it’s the number of contributions that gives it prominence not the amounts donated. These old scripts are like languages and rare plant and animal species threatened with extinction. They are all things of beauty which you can personally help preserve.

Crowdfunding Site:
www.launchgood.com/project/andalusi_calligraphy

YouTube Trailer:
https://youtu.be/Gc_fn-7M0S4

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The Diwan: a new translation

Editorial Qasida is pleased to announce the publication, of  a new translation of the famous Diwan of the great Moroccan Alim and Sufi master, Sidi Muhammad Ibn
al-Habib, may God be pleased with him, whom a small group of us first met in 1971 shortly before his death on his way to Hajj at the great age of of 103.

COVER√
He appeared at a significant time in Moroccan history at the end of a great époque of western Sufism and he was in some ways the isthmus between the old Muslim world of the East and the new age of Islam taking root in the West. Morocco is of course, significantly, one of the most western Muslim nations, parts of it being in fact further west than the UK. Ibn al-Habib was teaching formal knowledge of the Islamic sciences in the Karoueen mosque in Fes as long ago as the year 1900 but by the time he died in 1971 he was a renowned spiritual master as well, with many disciples in Morocco and Algeria and a small number from Great Britain, France and America. He is buried in his zawiyya in Meknes.
Photo of the zawiyya below right (Courtesy of Peter Sanders.)
  
Morocco; Meknes; Zawiyya Shaykh Muhammad ibn al Habib The first translation of this Diwan into English was by British translator Humphrey Davies in 1971 and a few years later a more complete translation was made by American translator Aisha Bewley. No other translations have been published till now. It seems new translations of any Arabic works of importance are much needed, including of course the Qur’an itself, for those whom Arabic is difficult of access. A new English text helps to give perspective and a fresh mind to translated ideas that can become jaded or taken for granted over time. It is also an opportunity to correct any errors or omissions.
 
Of course the translator becomes a means, a filter, through which the meanings have to percolate and it all rests on firstly the depth of understanding of the Arabic by the translator; secondly his or her grasp of the English language and thirdly a deep and practised understanding of the subject matter. Of course mistakes can be made and translators will disagree with one another but Arabic poetry is not easy and a choice of translations can only help.
  
Singing these poems is another aspect of this remarkable book. The very fact that this knowledge is approached by singing is an indication that it is something special and not just poetry. This Diwan is sung in Morocco in traditional ways that have come down over centuries in the Andalusian tradition but simplified for use by ordinary people. However in Algeria for example, they will use many local tunes as well, appropriate to the verse metre.
  
This new translation by Abdurrahman Fitzgerald of Marrakech, and Moroccans Fouad Arasmouk and Moulay Abdelkebir al-Belghiti, has been designed to be accessible by novices or experienced Arabists alike. Abdurrahman is director of the Centre for Language and Culture in Marrakech and although American, has lived in Morocco for thirty five years and has many published translations to his credit. Fouad Arasmouk has worked closely with Abdurrahman on all of his published translations particularly excerpts from the great Qur’anic exegesis, the Bahr al Madeed of Ibn Ajiba. Moulay AbdelKebir is the son of the present head of the Habibiyya tariqa in Morocco and an itinerant teacher of sufism in Morocco. The translators also wish to acknowledge the help from American poet, Abdal Hayy Moore and Hamza Weinman in some of the translation work.
  
Recognising the difficulty westerners have reading Arabic, each verse has been be translated into English and transliterated. The task of translation of this Diwan has continued on and off for over six years and this edition is quite long at 280 pp, being three times its size had it been in one language. A sample page is shown here to illustrate its use of Arabic, its translation and transliteration. It has been designed for practical use with qasidas all numbered and listed in a table of contents. Of particular interest will be a biography of Ibn al Habib by Moulay Abdelkebir al Belghiti, as such never seen before in English.

>>DIWAN Book FEB  7 - 2015.indb

It has been very rewarding working on this book, a feeling shared by the translators who have often spent days unraveling the meanings of its more obscure verses and what was intended by the author. This translation helps breathe new life into this unique book.
  
To purchase

From Mar 27 2015 it will be available world wide directly from CPI Books.
The following link will connect you directly to the book on the CPI web site.

http://www.cpibookdelivery.com/book/9780993225208/The_Diwan

Any bookshop enquiries will need to contact editorial.qasida@gmail.com direct.

Posted in miscellaneous, music, Publishing, religion, sacred knowledge, tassawuf, typography / design | 9 Comments

What Chris Hedges has to say about it all.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/a_message_from_the_dispossessed_20150111

As an experienced American war reporter he gets to the truth of it.

Posted in Comment, language, miscellaneous, religion, tassawuf, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Deadly Typos – the sequel

¥ Final Assembly SEASONS     The Role of the Ulema

I can’t be alone in being somewhat in the dark about the origin of militant extremism in the Middle East. Like many people, I’ve known bits of the puzzle but not how the jigsaw all fits together into a complete historical, political and religious picture. I’ve attached a .pdf here (see above) of an article published in the very first Seasons Journal in 2003 from the then Zaytuna Institute. The article clarified for me the origins of the problem and I hope it does the same for others. Please read it. I believe the vast majority of human souls of every persuasion condemn violent religious and especially Muslim extremism but are at a loss to know why it exists, it being so contrary to natural morality, justice and religious teaching and practice. This article, by Abdulwahab Saleh Babeair was at the time of writing, the Dean of the College of Education, King Saud University, Abha, Saudi Arabia.

Judging by the huge response to my last post, people are generally concerned about all this, and so they should be, but are left with the opinions of a few journalists, paid to fill a TV news broadcast or fill some column inches, to understand what is happening. What is needed is a careful distillation of history and an informed insiders’ view of religious communities from people who know their religion.

MARDIN •MARDIN inset

As a result of my post, I was sent by a colleague a digital copy of the original Mardin fatwa manuscript referred to, showing clearly the original wording. We can only surmise that whoever changed it, did it deliberately. It’s shown above with the critical section enlarged.

The tragedy of extremism, whether terrorism or even just racism in this time is not, I believe, primarily from political or economic causes at root, but rage and hatred in the hearts of men which ignored, has been allowed to fester and metastasise. Moderation, mentioned in the first sentence of the attached article is a foundation stone of real religion, not some compromise position. Even the word ‘compromise’ has been given in recent times a nuance of failure by hardliners, and must be reclaimed as something positive, a Prophetic middle way to be cherished. The simplistic Manichaen black and white view of the world is the real enemy within and is seized upon by judgmental racists and salafists as their own truth, though so far from it.

Maybe it is because we live in a sports oriented world where the only success is to win – a Darwinian idea of the survival of the successful. This was one of the motivating forces of Nazism and the idea of the master race, I do believe. Mankind obviously needs, in this time, to seriously review its moral options and have new clearer ideas of what is right and wrong. Evidently many people have forgotten this. Whatever happened to the ten commandments? It’s a starting point.

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