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The Voice of Jihad | From the Revivalist Movement to the Nation-State

كتابةمعازف - May 31, 2018

Original Arabic article by Mazen Al-Sayyed | 11/04/2017
Translated by Julia Ihnatowicz

 An introduction to the history of modern Jihadi songwriting in the Arab East

Imagine yourself a young Damascene man, no older than twenty, in the late 1960s. Your character has been shaped by the dynamic thinkers at the Al Morabet Mosque, in the Muhajireen district. Your mind is growing under the auspices of lessons that mix Brotherhood teachings with those of the Sufis and Salafis. Here you have Al-Siba’i, there Al-Albani, and there Jawdat Said —converging in an outpouring of revolutionary desire to work toward the advancement of Islamic Civilization. Your taste in music is drawn in three directions: the tunes of Abdel-Wahab and Al-Sunbati, traditional Syrian singing, and nationalistic propagandist music from the USSR and Nasserism, all against the backdrop of an Arab defeat in the Six-Day War.

It is a curse of history that when we hear the name Abu Mazen, all that comes to mind is the face of an old man in Oslo, peddling chains. Mahmoud Abbas However, for a considerable stratum of Arabs and Muslims, the name Abu Mazen recalls that young Damascene man who remained faceless in our memories until the early 21st Century, and who can, without exaggeration, be said to have created the modern Islamic anthem.

The Seminal Idea

By no means did Radwan Annan, known as Abu Mazen (video below), invent the idea of the Islamic anthem. He did, however, create a particular musical form that spawned a set of famous, ideologically concentrated  poems for what was called the Islamic Renaissance. Let’s consider the conceptual and textual features of Abu Mazen’s work, so that we can better understand the nature of his musical creations and what makes them so distinctive. It was military mobilization that first inspired him to produce music; so he said in the few press interviews he gave in the 2000s. He was a youth full of the religious education he had received in and around the Al Morabet Mosque. But in which Islam was he brought up?

The Islam of the Brotherhood, embodied by the likes of Mustafa al-Sibaʿi — the actual founder of the Syrian Brotherhood, who took part in the 1948 war in Palestine – encouraged organised political activity and remained flexible in dealing with the phenomena of modernity. The Islam of Nasiruddin al-Albani, meanwhile, was terse when it came to politics but loquacious on matters of the Hadeeth and Islamic doctrine; it was pure Salafism that forbade anything it perceived as an innovation and disdained all that resembled Western modernity.

On the other side of that was the campaign by the rational, philosophical side of the Islamic Renaissance. Men like Jawdat Said, a preacher of non-violence from the Golan, made cultural building their top priority and focused on the value of work and “preparing the soul”. This group was in fact open to Marxist ideas, as well as to anti-colonialism and global liberalization. They worked to establish a contemporary liberal way of thinking that stemmed from Islamic beliefs. So while Salafists were dismissing any kind of innovation and the Brotherhood was effectively calling for “Innovation in Islam” by introducing elements of modern politics, the Algerian intellectual Malek Bennabi – who wrote the introduction to one of Jawdat Said’s books – was calling for “Innovation by Islam”, that is the extraction of modern liberal values from the core of Islamic beliefs.

Such amalgamation, which, now that the all-inclusive revivalist entity has blown up, would seem contradictory to us, gave rise to the internal tension that makes up Abu Mazen’s special musical aesthetic. He wrote of Islam’s bright glories in songs for the powerful, and eulogised Islam’s dark tragedies in songs for the oppressed. He set to music poems by Pakistan’s spiritual father, Ibrahim Iqbal — whose Hadīth al-Rūh (Discourse of the Spirit) was sung by Umm Kulthum — one example being Al-Sin lana wal-Urab lana (“China is ours, Arabia is ours”), which promotes Islam as a global civilizing project. He also sang Aʿīdu Majdana (Restore our Glory) by Hafez Ibrahim, who was a friend of Ahmed Shawqi and Khalil Mutran. But he also wrote music for the poem Akhi Anta Hurr (My Brother, You are Free), by the Egyptian prisoner Sayyid Qutb, and for Ahzan Qalbi La Tazūl (My Heart’s Sorrow Persists, video below) by Marwan Hadeed, founder of the movement Taliʿa Muqātila (fighting vanguard). These two had branched off from the Brotherhood and chosen to take up arms in the face of the ruling nationalist enemy. They both died in prison.

The poet closest to Abu Mazen, however, was the Egyptian preacher Ibrahim Ezzat, with poems like Malhamat al-Daʿwa (Epic of the Call), Armalat al-Shahīd (The Martyr’s Widow), and Habibti Bilādi (My Country, My Love). Ezzat’s poetry can be described as modern or free verse, not just in its form and meter, but also in its content and imagery. Take for instance Malhamat al-Daʿwa, which ends with the following lines:

I have known the whole story of this road
It begins with death
But the green of the road never dies
It is coming, coming, coming
A final brightness will arise
March on and on and on
After a moment’s journey
There will be no crowds
There will be no crowds
There’s no alternative for eternity
No alternative for paradise
No alternative
None but disgrace in the dirt
None but the mirage’s deceit
None but the dark abyss
It’s either courage, or be crushed

The Artistic Equation

If it was easy for Abu Mazen to gather these works from different schools into one mobilising mould, there remained a twofold artistic challenge: first, distinguishing himself from existing modes of composing to express a forward-looking disposition, and second, acting in accordance with religious restrictions, the most extreme of which was the prohibition of musical instruments by al-Albani and the Salafis. At that time, Abu Mazen made an artistic choice intended to ward off Islamic objections: no tambourines, no percussion. Of course this had no effect on how avidly he continued to listen to music, to talented composers of contemporary Arabic music, and to national anthems. In this position, caught between expansion and limitation, between acceptance and prohibition, Abu Mazen’s musical achievement took shape: it was primarily an achievement of composition and orchestration, as his vocal and singing abilities remained rudimentary.

The young Damascene’s education created the circumstances he needed to distinguish himself from earlier composers. Before him, anthems had followed the style of Aleppo in that they contained pleasant melodies and expressed Sufi longings. Coming from Damascus, and out of the ideologically organised madrasa at the Al Morabet Mosque, Abu Mazen’s artistic vision arrived as something different. From his limited vocal abilities and the scope of his Islamic scholarship, as well as his restricted opportunities for any recording sessions, and his subversive inclination that drove him to reject melodic, pleasant music – on the grounds that it was synonymous with “the opiate of Muslims” – Abu Mazen constructed his compositional equilibrium. The colloquial recitation of poetry against a background of audio-visual effects became an alternative to the mawwal  (vocal improvisation) or the musical prelude; the echo button on a 70s recorder became a tool for variation and attracting the listener’s attention. As he confirmed in his most prominent written interview, the anthem of the Soviets’ Red Army also inspired him to add the shouts and screams of tormented people.

In terms of tonality, Abu Mazen leaned towards a tangible spectrum that reflected the universality of his Islam. With this universality he hoped to oppose the folkloristic bent within the Islamic artistic and intellectual traditions, and create instead a revolutionary, popular “spirit of the age” that carried the values of work and ritual drama. This was the spirit of “the dawn of the ummah (and of God)”, in a similar vein to Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), which it both denies and resembles. These are not far-fetched assumptions about the aesthetic intentions of a youth who began writing and composing songs when he was not yet sixteen, but rather a necessary attempt to find the traces latent in his compositions.

There can be no doubt, for instance, that the first song Abu Mazen recorded (Qutb’s poem Akhi Anta Hurr) was composed to a marching rhythm, drawing on national anthems and based on the rast maqam. From the opening of Akhi Anta Hurr, we quickly recall Biladi Biladi (the current national anthem of Egypt), which was composed by Sayed Darwish, the anthem master of the Arab East, and Humat al-Diyar (Protectors of Our Homes) by the Lebanese Fleifel Brothers. The subtle tonal difference is what distinguishes the rast and ajam maqams (musical modes) from one another.

The musicologist Victor Sahab sees the phenomenon of writing anthems on the ajam maqam (which is equivalent to the major scale in Western music) as indicative of a direct Western influence that resulted from the recruitment by Muhammad Ali, the then (Albanian) ruler of Egypt, of a French military band in the nineteenth century. With their own wind instruments it was near impossible to play the two half-flat tones of the rast scale. Removing these tones made the scale the same as ajam. According to Sahab, this is what led to the transition from the rast maqam to the ajam in these compositions. Abu Mazen wrote another anthem on the rast maqam for the poem Ashʿaltuha min Dami (“The Flame of my Blood”), which was most likely written by Marwan Hadeed. The young Damascene was able to exploit the rast for the galvanizing setting of the anthem, using simple melodic and rhythmic phrases and modulations that seem to rise instinctively. This makes it easy for the general public to remember and repeat it, thereby performing a mobilizing function.

He also resorted many times to the nawa athar maqam (see Ahzan Qalbi La Tazūl) and its variants, which often modulate into nahawand maqam. The nawa athar can be transposed to start on different tonics; when starting on the second tonic (D in Western music), as in Armalat al-Shahīd, it is called the hisar. This maqam is distinguished by its intervals, which sometimes cross into the hijaz maqam or the nahawand maqam, joined to a sorrowful node made up of two successive half-notes. ٍThe colors of sorrow in Abu Mazen’s compositions are meager; sorrow is glorified by being positioned in the context of a cause and sacrifice for the cause, a means to an end for a reward in the afterlife.

Abu Mazen recorded nine tapes in the early 1970s. Then the political era reached an apex with clashes between the Syrian authorities and the various Islamic currents opposed to them. This was what they call the miḥna (crisis). Things escalated until the “security solution” was executed in the 1980s with the bloody events in Hama, Palmyra, and Jisr al-Shughur. Afterwards, Abu Mazen left Syria and moved to Egypt where there was no news of him until the early 2000s.

At this time, other Syrian songwriters came to prominence, including Abu Ratib, Abu al-Joud, Abu Dujana, Al-Tirmidhi, and others. All of them were from Aleppo, and their songs were heavily influenced both tonally and rhythmically by Aleppo’s music, drawing on Sufi traditions as well as the qudud early church music dating back to the fourth century and muwashahat, a classical form of poetry, arranged in stanzas and the legacies of Bakri al-Kurdi and Omar al-Batash. Most of them had no problem with using tambourines in their anthems. A notable exception is Ahmad al-Barbour, from the village of Ariha in Idlib, who was renowned for setting to music the poems of the Islamic Iraqi poet Waleed al-A’thami.

In any case, wherever they were, fleeing was the norm. Under the leadership of Hafez al-Assad, the Syrian regime put an end to the tangible presence of anything directly related to the “Islamic movement” and, more specifically, anything that moved within the sphere of the Muslim Brotherhood. Most of the song writers mentioned here left Syria one after the other. The Brotherhood-Hamas setting in Jordan gave a home to Abu Ratib, who had a lucrative professional run in the field of anthem songs, staging festivals and conferences, and heading the International League of Islamic Art. However, in order to do these things, he had to cut out of his lyrics and music anything that might constitute a threat to the powers that be across the Arab region, except in matters related to Palestine (within the confines of what was permissible). Abu al-Joud was able to do the same from inside Syria, despite a period of mobilizing “jihadism” during the early 1970s. Abu Dujana left for the UAE and gave up singing. That was the general state of things, which wasn’t just a dispersion of the anthems’ creators, but of their audience as well.

Where did Abu Mazen’s torch go?

From the 1980s onwards, with all that accompanied the First Intifada, the Brotherhood focused their tactical efforts on Palestine, working out of Jordan and Egypt. Abu Ratib has a large collection of works dedicated to the issue of the occupation of Palestine and the cause of liberation; among these is a recorded tape with the title Al-Majd al-Qādim (The Imminent Glory), which features Abu al-Bishr and Moussa Mustafa (in the first attempt at a duet in an Islamic anthem). On the other hand, other movements that were not separate from the narrative of the Brotherhood, including the ramifications of both the saḥwah (the Revival) and the miḥna, foregrounded more global interests. For various political reasons, most prominently American and Saudi support, there started to emerge signs of a new cultural dynamic centred in Afghanistan and the Caucasus.

Palestinian Abdullah Azzam founded what he called Maktab al-Khadamāt (MAK; also known as the Afghan Services Bureau) in 1984 to recruit Arab mujahidīn, with the support of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the US. He laid the first stone for a new concept of jihad which centered around Arab Westernisation (or Easternisation) in the valleys of Afghanistan and later Chechnya. A year later, according to the most widespread story, the eighteen-year-old Saudi Saad al-Ghamidi was singing his composition of Sayyid Qutb’s Ghuraba’ (Strangers) at university (video below); it was to be released on a tape called Anthems from Dammam in 1987. However, the piece, which alternates between sorrow and heroism (on the kurd maqam), only spread within Islamic circles a decade later, on what came to be known as the Trial of the Strangers, May 15th 1993. On that day, an Egyptian court convicted members of the Jihad Group for assassinating the Prime Minister. When the death sentence was pronounced, one of the accused, Muhammad al-Najjar, stood up in the dock and sang Ghuraba’. It was caught on film in a scene that reproduced the narrative of the suffering and oppression of the prisoner.

What emerged next was a new jihadist culture informed by the Afghan experience: centered in Chechnya, the Caucasus, and Bosnia, with bloody reverberations felt in Algeria and Egypt. This jihadist trend grew closer and closer to Sayyed Qutb and Marwan Hadeed and further from Mohammed Iqbal and Hafez Ibrahim. It thus supported the reproduction of Abu Mazen’s works, albeit cast in a different mold. Also in 1993, an Egyptian songwriter living in Saudi called Tareq Jaber Abu Ziad re-recorded Abu Mazen’s seminal tapes. In higher quality and with a better voice, he preserved the melodies, adding some light harmonies to the arrangements, but presented them in a different order and under a new name: Al-Kata’ib (lit: The Brigades; also the name given to Islamic youth groups). They were released by Rabat’s Dar Adwa’, which has its headquarters in Riyadh. When our generation heard these recordings in the late 1990s, we thought we were hearing Abu Mazen’s own voice, for Abu Ziad, wanting to give the founder his due, had added the subtitle “A collection of anthems by Abu Mazen”. Back then, the original recordings hadn’t reached us yet.

The funny thing (if that can be said of anything stemming from this bloody context) is that the Saudi authorities never gave the necessary permission to release Sayyed Qutb’s poem Akhi Anta Hurr, so it was excluded from Abu Ziad’s tapes. This was six years after the release of Ghuraba’, during which time disputes between the authorities and some of the activists and jihadist movements within the country had deepened (there was the dispute with Bin Laden, the fall of the Soviet Union, the attitude of the jihadists towards the Saudi-American alliance, etc.).

Abu Ziad’s work was not limited to re-recording Abu Mazen’s anthems. He was also known for a piece, based on a poem by Abdullah ibn Mubarak, and written during his time in Tartous, in which he criticizes Al-Fudayl ibn ʿIyad for his preoccupation with religious observance at the expense of fighting. It begins:

O you who worship the two holy mosques,
if you truly saw us, you’d know that your worship is child’s play
If your cheeks are wet with tears, our necks are wet with blood
If your horses grow slightly, ours tire only at the battle’s dawn
For you the perfume of blossoms, but for us
only the flying dust stirred by hooves will do.

The poem is very much the product of its context, that of jihadist circles trying to mobilize an army. Hence it ultimately tries to invoke a strong feeling of guilt among those who “shirk the responsibility of jihad” and to use that guilt to call them to battle.

Iraq and al-Zarqawi’s Jihad

Abu Ziad also wrote an anthem titled Mazzaqīhim ya Katā’ib al-Ahrār (Destroy Them, O Brigades of the Free), which accompanied the first signs of al-Qaeda in Iraq during the American invasion in 2003, which opened Iraq up to the new jihadists. Since the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, tensions in Iraq had only deepened. In jihadist circles, new figures had come to the fore; ones who had discovered Islam while in prison and studied their Shari’a law from within their cells. These figures were a product of the 2000s, with the spread of satellite TV and the rise of online jihadist forums; they were symptomatic of the intersecting political agendas, which both regional and larger international powers were exploiting to ignite a sectarian war in Iraq.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi sums up this “Postmodern Jihadism”. The Americans created his reputation by endlessly repeating his name in their justifications for the invasion, even though he most likely hadn’t even reached Iraq by that time. At the core of the dogma of al-Zarqawi and his allies is an extreme Machiavellianism that sees religious and moral regulations as a hindrance that would have slowed down the “series of victories” from Afghanistan to September 11.

With the globalisation of the image, the vision of massacre came into focus.

That kind of pragmatism aggravated the old guard, who did not accept al-Zarqawi increasingly targeting Shi’ite civilians in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi then responded by blowing up the al-Askari Mosque, thereby launching a sectarian Shia-Sunni war. According to his letters, he wanted to force Sunnis into battle in order to sustain the project of an Islamic State in Iraq. However, the old guard returned and managed to outdo al-Zarqawi in his radical choices. If they hadn’t, they would have found themselves obsolete men weighed down by old age with nothing to counter al-Zarqawi’s “achievements” (as has since happened to al-Zawahiri and al-Baghdadi).

One of the central pillars of this new jihadist dogma is emphasised in the book The Management of Savagery, and defines its position in contrast to previous forms of jihadism: the reliance on “the Muslim masses,” whose “instincts are more wholesome” than those raised within the confines of traditional organised Islamic frameworks. This is what really stands in opposition to the academic environment of the Al Morabet Mosque in Damascus, which produced Abu Mazen, and its pedagogical conditions, ruled by the characteristic discipline of the Brotherhood.

This does not mean that there is no possibility of a connection between the Brotherhood and this new dogma. To give but one example, on the day al-Zarqawi died in 2006, Reuters quoted a statement from Hamas (at the time, an ally of Hezbollah). In it they announced al-Zarqawi’s death and described him as “a brother, a freedom fighter, a hero, a holy man, martyred at the hands of the savage Crusaders’ campaign which targets all regions of the Arab homeland.” Hamas denied issuing the statement, but their spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, added: “Hamas reiterates its position of support for all liberation movements, especially the movement to liberate Iraq. Al-Zarqawi was a symbolic figure in the fight against American occupation.”

One of the most prominent anthem singers of this context, during the stage that preceded the occupation of Mosul,  was Abu Hajer al-Hadhrami, who was killed in an American strike. He wrote a song called Ya Ahl al-Sunna, al-Shiʿa Mazzaquni (O Sunnis, the Shiites have Destroyed Me), which came out around 2010, and which fully encapsulates the meaning of sectarian incitement. It is set to a Yemeni huda’ an animated form of chanting traditionally given by the leader of a caravan and signals the growing influence of this form of jihadist anthem.

Daesh (ISIS) and Unadulterated Violence

I have only elaborated on the historical circumstances of this transformation in order to point out what I call the effective degeneration of the jihadist idea and the musical taste associated with it. With the democratization of the image, and the explosion of social media after a decade of satellite TV, the place that the anthem now occupies in jihadist propaganda is secondary and devoid of any pedagogical, cultural, or emotional dimensions. Its function is to accompany the image and create favorable conditions for it. Violence has literally become the entire substance of these songs, and charges of infidelity and apostasy abound. Beyond the violence there is also a carnal incitement to lust focused on the Houris, the virgins of paradise.

What is important here is that jihadist anthems are now being created on the Arabian Peninsula, specifically in Saudi Arabia, later to be consumed in Iraq, the Levant, Egypt, and anywhere else where Muslims are producing images of unadulterated violence, which are then returned for consumption in the Gulf. A prominent example is Daesh’s tenacious anthem Salīl al-Sawārem (“The Clashing of Swords”), which accompanies many of their videos broadcasting the execution of their enemies, the “apostate” Muslims, as they call them. The most famous is a horrifying Hollywood-style video of the Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kasasbeh, being set on fire.

The author of this anthem is a Twitter “poet” active on Gulf forums called Abdul-Malek al-Odah. We can get a sense of him from the objects of praise featured in his poems: the echo of a gun’s silencer, and the incursion that will destroy the despots. Safe in Saudi, he declares that “fighting is a way of life”. Naturally, despite this and his relentless efforts to troll and abuse Shi’ites, he washes his hands of Daesh, reaffirming time and again that he stands behind the Saudi authorities.

Salīl al-Sawārem, Lana al-Murhafāt (Our Swords are Sharp), and others are all based on such simplistic melodic structures as to be almost caricatures, featuring basic modulations on the nahawand maqam. In parallel with jihadist pragmatism reaching its zenith, extreme simplicity in anthems’ melodies has become totally insipid. All ability to instruct, galvanize, or evoke sadness has been lost in favor of an idolization of violence and excess in depicting its details: a primitive tool for polarizing the marginalized people at the edges of a globalized world. This is in addition to a new kind of anthem which serves to eulogise the new authority’s masculine figure – the authority of Al-Baghdadi.

“When infidelity swells, fumes, and erupts, we fill the mountain passes with red blood”, “People of the peninsula, when we come, there will be slaughter at our hands”, “Close ranks and pledge allegiance to al-Baghdadi.” This is the Daesh/Zarqawi vocabulary. Yet the anthem has sunk to even lower depths than that now, with the proliferation of a relatively new form that is based on insulting other factions of military or political rivals. This is one of the special phenomena to appear with the birth of Daesh and the bloody conflict raging in the Syrian arena: anthems of mutual derision.

Among these anthems, all of which are in colloquial Arabic, there is a sheela The sheela is a form of song from the Saudi popular tradition called Ya ʿāsib ar-Rās Weinak (“Where Are You, Turban wearer?”) which is performed on the rast maqam. It was written by one of the brightest stars of Daeshi song writing, Abu Thamer al-Matiri al-Muhajer; he is Saudi, as most members of Daesh these days are rumoured to be (which brings us back to the cycle of production-consumption-production of the images of violence). In this sheela, Al-Matiri tries to incite more Saudis against their government in the hope of drawing them into the ranks of Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Al-Muhajer threatens to kill Muhammad bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, criticizes the Saudi regime’s alliance with the US, then swerves off in his critique to attack other jihadist movements, like al-Nusra Front.

Ya ʿāsib ar-Rās started trending on social media, especially after responses came in from Saudi tribal assemblies and from al-Nusra in Syria: Your caliphate is an illusion; The king, the king; You don’t represent Islam, etc. Then another round started, with Al-Matiri responding to the responses and, in doing so, instigating even more replies. The tragi-comedy of it is that each of the three parties judges the others by — guess what (!) — their lack of support for Palestine.

Back to the Beginning

Look again through the eyes of that young man whose anthems inspired Islamist missionary and militaristic groups from Hamas to Emir Khattab to al-Qaeda. Then look at yourself, an old man in 2012, writing “Islam” inside a heart you’ve drawn in the sand in the final frame of a documentary for Al-Jazeera (video below).

Following its reproduction at the hands of a newly oppressed post-Rabaa Brotherhood in Egypt, Akhi Anta Hurr was transposed from the rast to nahawand maqam by a romanticism of fraternity. This is a contemporary romanticism that foregrounds oppression — played on the piano with a vulgar and excessive use of autotune. It is also highly accessible and marketable, which is evident in all the shamelessly “youthful” details of its outward appearance. (In this year’s interview, Abu Ziad called on people to respect the melodies of the old anthems, while his gaudy neck tie demonstrated how little he cares for these new aesthetics).

And so we come full circle, back to Sayyed Qutb and Akhi Anta Hurr. Who is closer to Qutb now? Abu Mazen with his heart in the sand? The new bourgeois tunes? The Mecca McDonalds? Daesh? Al-Nusra? Ahrar al-Sham? Hezbollah?

The military prisons still have cells bursting with Islamists and non-Islamists, but the latter are stacked in prisons run by other Islamists. Plus, it cannot be ignored that the overriding ideology that has prevailed in Iran since the Islamic revolution also belongs in its way to the Islamist movement, to Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Mohammed Abdu, Rashid Rida, and Sayyed Qutb. The Supreme Leader himself, Ali Khamenei, translated two books by Qutb: Islam: The Religion of the Future and A Declaration Against Western Civilization.

To sum up, this brief survey of the history of modern jihadi song writing has brought me to a number of practical questions, for nowhere am I interested in deconstruction for its own sake. Is there not a connection between the limiting of doctrinal art to propaganda and the bankruptcy of the doctrine’s cultural project? Isn’t the seminal binary of apotheosis and oppression not responsible for the resulting binary of violence and afterlife? Isn’t the technological inferiority complex vis-à-vis the West further responsible for the endless reproduction of thoughtless things? And doesn’t Islam’s defeat in the face of “modernity” stem from the confinement of its cultural production — in literature, art, and thought — to mere reactions? How can art protect itself from capitalism commandeering its contexts?

And now a note on natural disasters: I present to you Deen Squad, a band that specialises in Halal Remixes, or adapting popular rap songs for an Islamic context. The result replaces “bitches” with Hoor Al Ayn and a villa in California with a palace in Jannah (heaven). Thus Eden becomes Hollywood:

Wine rivers, chillin’
Virgin women
Halal money, get it
We go to Saudi spend it

The cover photo is taken from a The New York Times’s article.