Unplanned Permanence


Whilst doing the washing up after supper last night it dawned on me that the fish slice I had just used to flip my egg-in-the nest was the actual fish slice my mother was using in the 1950s when I was a teenager. In perfect working order after a lifetime of flipping pancakes and eggs. A Prestige Skyline. And a fine fish slice it is, better than any others I have had the pleasure to use. I must have inherited it in 1990 when my mother passed away but I had totally taken it for granted until I realised what I was using daily was an actual antique. It’s still in use because it is incredibly well made. I have had others which have usually snapped or bent irreversibly. Apart from some of my old books, little else has survived the test of time of possessions that get to be used regularly in our house. I do have a hammer I was given to me by American GIs who lived next door during the 1950s when East Anglia was awash with servicemen from the USA and who gave us everything when they left. But that’s about it. And I do use it.

But it did occur to me that blogs, like this one, will outlive me. I think. Unlike bank accounts and I suspect Facebook accounts, which close with the demise of its owner, I imagine blogs will carry on into perpetuity. At least I hope so. As long as the internet remains. The manipulations of fashion are mostly what drives people to update whatever it is that they want but as the quality of things increases surely owners of cars, computers whatever, will be less inclined to purchase the latest version as the current model works fine thank you very much. But computers is one arena which alas compels one to catch up all the time. Computers are like standing on an escalator. You go where it goes and when it goes. Everyone knows how persistent computer manufacturers are to get you to upgrade your operating system even though, for instance, my last iPhone upgrade slowed my old iPhone 5 down to a crawl. It’s since caught up in speed but I am wary now of hitting the upgrade option when it pops up. I’m trying step off the update treadmill but it requires determination and cool thinking but I still feel I am a like a Luddite for choosing not to.

I have never ever bought a new car and still believe rightly so that the older cars, if you get the right one, are vastly better than newer cars which are overly computerised and are less serviceable by your local garage. I know of cars which have just died because the computer seized up. It just calls into question the notion of endless new car models and planned obsolescence which was an idea that began in the 1920s in the USA when car sales reached saturation point and getting people to change cars even if they didn’t need to, became a priority. So cars could suddenly be had in a range of colours and sizes and then marketed like mad by the Mad Men of Madison Avenue. You’ll find some people still who have kept the same vacuum cleaners and fridges since the war and have no reason to change. Cars too.

Human beings have a limited lifetime and although there is a small wealthy percentage who advocate cryonic preservation most of us will pass away and quite thankfully leave this world behind. But occasionally the dead don’t disintegrate once dead, and here in Spain they are called the Incorruptibles. 



This link is to the story of a Lebanese Christian saint (St. Charbel Makhlouf) who died in 1898. These incorruptible (as opposed to artificially preserved) men or women are often saintly souls and in Catholicism are revered as Saints or Blesseds. There are many accounts of incorruptibles (in all religious faiths) but of course only when a grave is opened does this come to light. Often what attracts people to the tombs of saints is a luminous living presence, something which I’ve often experienced in the Muslim world at tombs of the dead. Although I did find the tomb of St. Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral very affecting when I visited it in the 1960s. 

St. Charbel Makhlouf (above)

Of course in the northern Anglo Saxon Christian tradition visiting tombs of saints or even the graves of relatives is not common and likewise in the more puritan parts of the Muslim world. In the Catholic world All Souls (Halloween) was always the day you visited your dead relatives placing flowers on the graves or nowadays by their bricked up niches. Only recently was the idea of Halloween imported into Spain as a commercial money spinner. Before it had always been the day every Spanish family took flowers to the cemetery. Now it’s like America with pumpkins and ghoulish masks. But All Saints day is different from All Souls’ Day which is set aside for prayers for all souls, whether in heaven or purgatory. All Saints is supposed to celebrate the souls of saints who are in heaven because of their dedication to prayer and devotional living.  

father-brownThe recent BBC series Father Brown, a TV adaptation of the original novels by GK Chesterton throws up some interesting issues around this subject. Apart from being simply a whodunnit, the series is also a lot about Catholicism but I’m sure it’s mostly watched and enjoyed by religious believers of all stripes as well as agnostics and atheists. But what overrides the religious issues is that it is all about God, whether you agree or not that God exists. Father Brown, the eccentric sleuth, is sympathetically played by Mark Williams, who, when he exposes the murderer, first councils him or her to confess and is usually merciful in his judgment of people. He always puts God first and the law last so ends up in some awkward situations. To non-Catholics the idea of confession seems absurd as to believe a priest can absolve you of sins just doesn’t add up but I must admit the more I see Mark Williams in action the more it makes sense for certain troubled people to unburden themselves to another person in the confessional booth. Especially before dying. After all psychiatrists and councillors perform the same function but charge for the service. The only oddity about the programme is that it is hard believe that anywhere in the Cotswolds is there a village with so many Catholics.

One question I would love to ask Mark Williams if ever I met him is whether acting the priest hasn’t made him into one or whether he couldn’t just change jobs to be one, if his Harry Potter work ran out. We are all knowingly or unknowingly very concerned with our impermanence and whether one aspect of ourselves is in fact most definitely permanent.  After all eternity is by definition a permanent condition. 

Posted in Catholicism, Comment, Father Brown, Fish Slices, Halloween, miscellaneous, sacred knowledge, Sacrilege, tv, typography / design | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Passing of Martin


Picture Courtesy of Peter Sanders.

Martin Stone passed away at 2am on the 8th November 2016 in Paris where he lived. Before joining the seminal rock group Mighty Baby in 1968 he had ventured into the world of the occult, after having begun more prosaically playing in blues bands in south London.  I have many stories to relate about him although for thirty years I had no contact at all. Others have many more stories I’m sure. Read on.

After Brian Jones was sacked, the Rolling Stones considered Martin as a replacement and somehow the news leaked and the press descended on his parents house in Sandersted, South London, where they all lived. His mother was shocked. Martin had known Brian and had played informally with him previously. In the London music scene if you were vaguely talented you were known about as it was a small world, and certainly much smaller than it is now. He told me he once had to back Rufus Thomas, a black blues legend, back in the 1960s on a UK tour. He thought of inviting his parents who came to see him in a dance hall in South London. Much to his embarrassment Thomas came out with obscene jokes in between his songs. That’s what the music business could be like and probably still is. 

Martin’s occult interests were not unconnected to his love of psychotropic drugs but led him book by book to works by Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, the Upanishads, Buddhism, the I Ching etc. and so on all the way to books on Celtic Christianity, geomancy, and finally Rumi and Sufism. Watkins bookshop in Cecil Court, and Probsteins in Museum Street in London’s west end were some of his favourite haunts at the time as they were for Richard Thompson and later Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. Books for him contained all the secrets he longed for. When I first met him at his audition he had a guitar case in one hand and a large book of oriental wisdom in the other.

He first connected with Ian Dallas (aka Abdal Qadir), a Scottish one time actor and writer, at a time when Dallas was given a guest editorship of the International Times, an anarchic rag, published in the late 1960s in swinging London. He interviewed Martin and Roger, the Mighty Baby drummer, for the paper, and this led to another meeting with just Martin in the old Cranks vegetarian restaurant just behind Oxford street. Soon after that Martin was invited to Dallas’ cottage in Devon. This led to a secret trip with Ian Dallas to Morocco in late 1970 and no one in Mighty Baby knew anything about it!  In Meknes, Martin was introduced to the famous, venerable and saintly teacher Muhammad Ibn Al Habib with whom he accepted Islam and was given the name Abdal Malik. This fits with a vivid memory I have of a tour in Germany where I first encountered Martin praying, although I didn’t know at the time it was prayer. I thought he was looking under his bed in the hotel. On the same journey Martin’s two heavy Yusuf Ali Qur’ans fell on my head in an incident on an autobahn in Germany on the way back to England. 

Incidentally, on our first trip to Morocco in 1971, I found myself in a small room in the old Zawiyya in Meknes with the late poet Abdal Hayy Moore (who I wrote about recently and who died earlier this year) when Muhammad Ibn al Habib, may God be pleased with him, then around 100, came into the room and sat with Abdal Hayy for about 15 minutes with his hand on his forehead to assuage his high fever. Martin and I were both stunned into silence as if a large ship had steamed into a tiny harbour. Now they are all together in the afterworld …. 

Martin also remembered better than me the encounter Mighty Baby had with Mick Jagger in our dressing room at a Drury Lane gig in 1968 with the Rolling Stones. Apparently I had some harsh words for Jagger but I have no memory of it at all. I think we all thought that, rightly or wrongly, we were the counterbalance to their demonic presence. 

After he parted with the nascent Sufi community early in 1972 due to a terminal clash of personalities with its leader Ian Dallas/Abdal Qadir, Martin toyed with other music groups but became best known as a book scout, tracking down rare books for high paying clients. He was featured in various novels….. in one book A Pound Of Paper by John Baxter I was erroneously blamed for having ended Mighty Baby by embarking on the spiritual journey we had all embarked on. Without any shadow of a doubt, Martin was the one, to his credit, who took us all into it. 

Martin, aka Abdal Malik, passed away after a long battle with a rare kind of cancer. I last spoke with him a few months ago and he was as ever, cheerful. We even discussed doing some recording down here in Spain. After being disconnected for so long, we began corresponding with each other up to the time of his death. He was fascinated with what had happened after he departed the Sufis in 1972 and I filled in the history for him. Although he had reversed out of practical Islam, I know he still had respect for those with sincere spiritual intent. He always addressed me as Abdallateef not Ian, not that it mattered to me. But it mattered to him. Whatever happened between him and Abdal Qadir/Ian Dallas was so traumatic that it drove him away. His loss? Most probably. Our loss? Definitely.

Below is a recording I made in memory of him which is revisiting an old Mighty Baby track from the ultimate album. Martin wrote the lyrics though the band always shared writing credits equally. Feel free to distribute it. Somehow it captures the bitter sweet nature of the time it was written.

Posted in Comment, miscellaneous, music, Poetry, religion, sacred knowledge, Sacrilege, tassawuf, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pearls of the Faith


A book that recently left my desk to the printers after sitting in my computer for over ten years is the book illustrated above: Pearls of the Faith by British Victorian journalist and traveller Sir Edwin Arnold. First published in 1884 it was an attempt to present Islam in an appealing and intelligent manner to a world steeped in prejudice and colonial disdain for Islam. When I first saw the text ten years ago it seemed archaic and written in a kind of verse that reminded me of the stories of Rupert Bear, an illustrated childrens’ story book told in verse form which I had grown up with. I didn’t really understand Hamza Yusuf’s motives in wanting to republish it but after ten years and a now very different world that we live in, it actually makes a lot of sense to re-present it to the public. After careful editing involving many spelling changes and the addition of the essay by Gai Eaton, a foreword by Robert P George, a prominent professor of Law from Princeton who gives a Christian perspective, the book has been given a new lease of life. Hamza’s preface unlocks his own motives behind its publication and how he came to find the book in the first place. Part of his preface I have reproduced here.

Pearls of the Faith is a book that harkens back to a slower time, before the nanosecond, before supersonic travel, before the advent of cyberspace, when handwritten letters took weeks to deliver, and people could sit under a canopy and read light verse about other faiths in faraway lands. It was a time when lettered men and women wrote prose and poetry in the hope that it might engender greater understanding of a richly diverse world in dire need of peaceful co-existence, reciprocal respect, and a deeper knowledge of the evergreen truths hidden in the myriad teachings of our various world faiths. The love and appreciation of poetry, far more widespread in Sir Edwin Arnold’s day, is unfortunately lost on many in our impoverished and illiterate post-modern culture. In light of that lamentable reality, we humbly offer this reprint of a 19th century British poet’s effort to help cleanse the doors of perception regarding Islam and hope that it may also help revive a love of such aspirational literature in these troubled times.  (Hamza Yusuf, Zaytuna College)

Mohamed Zakariya, America’s arabic calligrapher emeritus, contributed a great swathe of his work to the project. All the 99 Names of Allah as well as calligraphic set pieces. It illumines almost every page of the book (and the cover) and reproduced here is a typical page spread to give you a taste of it.

pearls pages MASTER 19 October•.indd

I have always thought that poetry more than anything is enhanced and honoured by good typesetting and printed on good paper stock in a hard back volume. In this case every poem had a different metre, stanza length and line length so it was almost impossible to standardise the pages. Almost every page had to be considered individually. The editor and proof readers have carefully adjusted spelling and transliterations to make it more comprehensible to a modern reader. Pearls of the Faith is now in the printers and I can’t give a release date as of yet. Watch this space or follow the Sandala web pages.

Posted in Comment, language, miscellaneous, Poetry, Publishing, sacred knowledge, Sacrilege, typography / design | 4 Comments

Small is Bountiful

house from above

In the year 2000, Shaykh Zaki Yamani, the erstwhile Saudi oil minister, gave a one-off lecture in London which I had the good fortune to attend. The lecture was about the house of Khadijah, may God be pleased with her, in Mecca, the first wife of the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, which was so mindlessly obliterated by the Saudi government in the 1990s to make way for a building of 1,400 toilets adjacent to it. The site itself is now covered in marble. This was a house which was revered as a place of pilgrimage by muslims for well over 1000 years to which dignitaries would visit and pray in, and where the angel had sat and prayed with the Prophet and where he taught him. A place of revelation in other words. As sacred a space as you could possible imagine. The house was tiny and a sign of the simplicity and economy that those people of that time embodied during their lives. You can watch the lecture here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcx-fJCCy3I

In his lecture, Shaykh Yamani explained that he was able to secure a three week delay to the rebuilding while he brought in 500 workers to excavate, measure and photograph it before it was filled in with sand and covered in concrete. This act was hurtful to the vast majority of muslims. The recent destruction of Palmyra and mausoleums in Libya were merely a continuation of this process of desecration that has been going on for centuries. The favourite pastime, it appears, of the khawarij and its current manifestation.

khadija plan

My fascination with this tiny house in Mecca, was the sheer smallness of it. It must have been a house with five children with two thirds of it for commercial storage, as Khadijah was a working businesswoman who employed her younger husband who happened to also be the Prophet of God. You could stand in one of the rooms and touch opposite walls with arms outstretched. Compare this to the excesses of life in the west and what is now considered the poverty line in the USA and you start to wonder if some of the material values aspired to by the so called developed world aren’t seriously overblown.

Entrance_facade_at_Sutton_Place_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1556942My father when he was alive in the 1950s was editor of a fine arts magazine and as part of his job had to visit Sutton Place, in Surrey, the then British residence of J Paul Getty, the elder, to write an article on the 600 room historic mansion and its antiquities.

Getty, then the richest man in the world at the time, lived there alone and made his guests bring sandwiches and in a wild moment of generosity provided a payphone in the entrance foyer for their use. Sad, to say the least. A king of the large-house movement. Conversely there is a growing small-house movement these days world-wide in the so called developed world.

Sutton Place, Surrey UK

Small-House-Japansmall house usa
Left: a tiny house in the USA. Above: Interior of a small wooden Japanese house.

Type ‘small houses’ into Google and you get 83 million results. However, in the USA the average size of new single family homes grew from 1,780 sq. feet (165 sq.m) in 1978 to  2,662 sq. feet (247.3 sq.m) in 2013, despite a decrease in the size of the average family. Reasons for this include increased material wealth and prestige in a very spoilt country. And of course it has left a lot of people out of the loop, if not actually homeless. Which is why now people are looking for alternative ways of living because of the difficulty of renting property let alone buying it. I personally know of people in Spain who have rented  land and built theoretically temporary structures to live in. Importantly they live within their means, often off-grid, and avoid the need to borrow money. I call it creative adaptability. For them it is fulfilling and honourable.

The human race is very inventive and hugely adaptive which is why I’m interested in people who have consciously and creatively down-sized and how they have done it. I have recently downsized myself and after a year and half my wife and I have fully adapted. Not enough storage? Then get rid of the clothes you never wear. Badly need another room? then build a shed. But only if you really need it. But our mini house does have a lovely very private garden with fourteen kinds of fruit trees, vegetables, a fast running irrigation acequia (irrigation channel), a small pool and rather too many cats. In Spain you live a lot outside all year round so not having palatial living rooms is not a problem which is why most houses have small rooms.

Our ancestors, the best of them that is, mostly lived in small houses and only the rich elites lived in big houses. The current American large house solution is clearly unsustainable even though Hollywood and English period TV productions, try to convince us all that we really need kitchens the size of tennis courts and swimming pools the size of the Caspian sea. That model, with the huge mortgages it necessitates, cannot and will not last.

Posted in architectural, Comment, House design, miscellaneous, religion, sacred knowledge, Sacrilege, small houses, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Pass the Parcel



The graveyard of 6 million at Najaf, south of Baghdad.

Professional journalists usually have to fill column inches to order,
which accounts for their flights of fancy or in many cases outright
lies. Bloggers, unless they are driven lunatics, tend to post stuff as
and when they feel inspired. Which is why reading blogs is often more
informative than most news sources, printed or electronic.

In the summer months I tend to put my feet up and take a blog holiday
as to tell the truth I think I stop thinking in the heat or I’m
otherwise occupied watering plants or just trying to stay cool. But I
can see the need soon for a special obituary page on my blog as
increasing numbers of my friends are entering the ante chamber of life
or should that be death. There has been a rush to old age for some
time with my generation and naturally it’s regularly a topic
of conversation. Where are you going to be buried? And so on…..and
why not? Nothing morbid about it. Just forward planning.

I’ve blogged two obituaries in the last six years of people close to
me which is not exactly a lot. But my late brother Kaye, himself a
journalist, wrote quite a few obituaries over the years for the
Guardian and other newspapers – mostly obituaries of other
journalists, writers or political figures who were connected to
Africa, his area of interest. Until of course he passed away himself
two years ago and some other journalist had to write his obit for the
Guardian. Like a macabre game of pass the parcel except the idea is to
keep the parcel as long as you can.

In fact when Kaye died I was in California so I missed his actual
funeral but was able to go to a memorial for him in Chatham House in
London a few months later. I say event because if you put a lot of
journalists and their coterie of politicians, diplomats and
businessmen together, especially if half are Africans or
Afro-Caribbean, it’s more of a party than a serious memorial for the
one who has passed on.

Mind you it was quite serious in places and at one point a giant
Nigerian who arrived halfway through the proceedings burst into tears
as he mentioned Kaye’s name. But the recollections were generally humorous with a well known Jamaican writer recalling the time when he met up with Kaye, newly
married back in 1963. Asked where she was, Kaye said that Marva, his
new wife, was tied up at home and was unable to come. Our Jamaican
writer pointed out wryly that where he comes from people had a kind of
literal understanding of the language and that tied up meant … tied
up! Much mirth.

In the room full of over 100 people I felt a warmth and mutual respect
amongst them but not in a politically correct fashionable multiracial
kind of way but quite real. I was moved. When I was introduced as
Kaye’s youngest brother to the large Nigerian journalist who had wept
on the podium, he clasped me in a giant bear hug.  But of course
waiting upstairs were the drinks and once the dedications were over
there was a stampede. I’m afraid alcohol is the lubricant of most
journalists’ lives, my brother included.

I recall visiting him once in his office, the HQ, of West Africa ,
somewhere in south London. West Africa was a political weekly he
edited for 20 years, mostly about Nigeria and its three storey
headquarters was inhabited entirely by Nigerians. But at the very top
in the Managing Editor’s office was the very white Mr Whiteman. A
symbolic and defining image of my brother’s life.

My own generation is ten years behind that of my brother so there is
less shuffling going on to get off this mortal coil but the shuffling
has definitely started and passing the obituary parcel has begun. I’ve
written two obits in total in 6 years which seems to indicate that
most of my friends are still alive and kicking. Who will do the next
obituary? Who will do mine? Do we actually need obituaries?

We bury these realities as we bury the dead or incinerate them as is
the fashion even here in Spain these days. It’s the not talked about
taboo subject in modern cultures or else it’s the headline item that
is guaranteed to sell newspapers or pull in tv advertising. More
deaths = more advertising. As the Australian arch lizard of the news
business correctly observed: news is entertainment, and horror and
death sells and always has. The tv channels are filled with whodunnits
always featuring the gruesome ritual pulling back of the green shroud
in the mortuary for us to see how well an actor can act being dead.

This culture is probably the only civilization in history with zero
knowledge of what happens next. It’s all about somehow extending life
at all costs by miraculous medical techniques putting huge profits
into the transplant industry and leaving simple cheap life preserving
measures un-financed. Also the arms manufacturers guarantee that for
some, extending life is not their plan but the serious curtailing of
it – for a lot of people.

As Abe Lincoln said “it’s not the years in your life that matters but
the life in your years.” Quality not quantity. Isn’t that a better
attitude? Or as Al Ghazali said 700 years ago “only the deceived fool
rejoices as his wealth increases as each day his life shortens.”

Best to look death in the face and smile … it will descend.

Posted in Comment, miscellaneous, Poetry, Publishing, religion, sacred knowledge, tassawuf, typography / design, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Daniel Moore, Poet

AH City Lights

Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore, passed away yesterday April 18 after several years of cheerfully coping with illness. He was a night bird poet who invariably wrote in the early hours. Like a nightingale his song was only heard by a few but fortunately was recorded in all the many books he self-published over a fifteen year period till the time of his death. It is said that when a poem is recited the spirit of its author appears in some way and it’s in his poetry that you can still meet with him. There is a huge volume of his work but it is hoped an anthology can be assembled soon to present the essence of his work to a bigger audience. He was well known as a beat poet in the 1960s in the USA and was brought to a large audience by the City Lights bookshop in San Francisco, and his name was always linked with Alan Ginsberg and Laurence Ferlinghetti. But it was a world of poetry that I had little to do with. I only knew him as a fellow traveler through the wild and rocky roads of a Sufi brotherhood over a period of around 45 years.

Others could relate in more detail better than me his early fame in the Floating Lotus Opera Company in San Francisco during the late sixties and the internet might reveal more details and even movie footage. Remember this was in the height of the flower revolution fuelled by LSD and many other stimulants. Many of the pioneers of this new frontier were cosmic explorers seeking whatever they could of Eastern universal wisdom in all its many manifestations, Sufism included. And Islam finally.

He was an early follower of Suzuki Roshi, the famous Zen master, and he once gave me a tour of his old dojo in the heart of San Francisco where a row of small black zen cushions in a large wood panelled downstairs room was evidence of where the disciples endured hours of meditation.

Abdal Hayy was plucked out of that Zen Buddhist world and the shaymanic theatrical world of the Floating Lotus and hip poetry, by the actor Ian Dallas and it was 1971 when I first met Abdal Hayy in London, shed of his long hair, prayer beads in hand. He was en route to Morocco with some other Californians to meet the famous venerable Sufi shaykh in Meknes, Muhammad Ibn al Habib, where he was appointed a muqqadem (a deputy) by the Shaykh. When he finally fled from the gravitational pull of the various communities he found himself living in for many years, he ended up in Philadelphia where he remained till his death. Having been curiously prohibited from writing early on by Ian Dallas, in his newly won freedom, Abdal Hayy began writing poetry again, and prolifically so.

I worked on quite a few of his books and although I must admit I am no connoisseur of poetry there was always a few of his poems that caught my eye. The poems I liked best were honest, observant, surreal, self deprecating and often humorous. The book I know best is Ramadan Sonnets from 2006 which acts as a kind of vessel which could contain his genius. The opening poem The Inevitable is about fasting, and quite timely which is why I quote it here:

It’s like practicing for death. No food or drink
during daylight hours no matter
what, in the
heat of summer or
cold of winter,
and no way out of it but through
sickness, pregnancy, menstruation, madness or travel.
So that

it’s something that comes
inevitably each year, like it or not, whether or not
you’ve got a knack for it, and
some do, and love to fast, and
thrive on it, but
I do not, yet

each year it makes its visit, and year after
year it builds up to be a
sweet thing,

which make it like death, the way its
always on the
horizon, and an
absolute obligation, which must be
why Muslims often die well, They’ve had a
lifetime of Ramadans tenderizing them
for The Inevitable. And the Inevitable surely comes.


RAMADAN SONNETSBut appreciating poetry is always a very personal thing and many people just don’t get it. It tries to express what cannot be expressed in any other way. I also loved the way Abdal Hayy’s words just tripped out of his pen as if they had minds of their own in his endless efforts to define impossible spiritual heights in verse. Loose, free verse. He didn’t really have time for rhyme though it would pop up every so often. In fact I asked him several times to write in rhyme so I could set it to music. I managed to make Raspberry Juleps, one of his poems from the Ramadan Sonnets into a song as it had a bit of rhyme in it. It was unavoidably and inevitably west coast sounding like a Robert Hunter Grateful Dead track. The words always flavoured the song:

Raspberry Juleps sweet as cucumbers,
delicate froth on the rim of the glass,
even the hasty buffalo lumbers
slowly when entering Paradise Pass.

Tweets in triplets cascade in a mass
from eaves where chickadees sit by the trail,
suddenly filtering down through the grass
I imagined appearing in this vale

of tears in the modern city, chromium wail
of silent citizens taking their walks.

Silver in rays, sparkles like chain mail
flash through the nonsense everyone talks
Why not see canyons filling with light?
Any moment leads to some insight.


Even though he tried to express the divine in his poetry, he was still in some ways very much to me the west coast beat poet appraising in his nightly vigils wondrous and infinite celestial and very spiritual inner worlds as well as just the plain ordinary. His words were his rocket fuel, launching him constantly into wonderful journeys into the inner beyond. His own artwork adorned most of his book covers and was a glimpse of the surreal worlds he looked out on and which had surrounded him in his early life in the floating Lotus. He was ever conscious that his imagery would never be endearing to Muslim bookshops. But he stuck to his guns and  carried on regardless creating ever stranger collages and odd juxtapositions.

His poetry was always God conscious poetry and it came from from an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject. He really knew poetry inside out, and poets too whether from the Caucasian or Hispanic universes. Where he is now only God knows, but I’m sure he is writing a poem about it.

Email me at cwdm.typography@gmail.com
Design work: cwdm-portfolio.com

Posted in Comment, language, miscellaneous, music, Poetry, Publishing, religion, sacred knowledge, tassawuf, typography / design, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

New Publications & Reprints


The Mainstay, a hardback translation of the complete commentary by Ibn Ajiba of The Burda of Busiri, was printed at the end of last year having been designed here in Spain. It was translated by Abdal Aziz Suraqah and published by the Abu Zahra Foundation in the UK and is now available from

U.K. and Europe: http://www.abuzahra.org/product/the-mainstay/
North America https://bookstore.zaytuna.edu
Singapore: http://www.wardahbooks.com

LOVE IS TRAVELLER Jan 27.inddDiwan Cover blog

 Poetry specialists Ecstatic Exchange in Philadelphia have just published a first book of poems by Medina Whiteman entitled Love is a Traveller and We are Its Path. Available online from https//cavemum.com. I was only a consultant on this POD production. 

Also available now from Editorial Qasida is a reprint of the Diwan of Muhammad Ibn Al-Habib first printed last year. This has been comprehensively proofread by Shakir Massoud who uncovered many errors which have now been put right. I’ve given him a well deserved credit in this edition as well as Tahira Larmore for her proofing of the English and myself the designer. Though perfectly usable, the first printing was a bit of a rough diamond. This one we hope will be highly polished and finely cut! Because of the complexity of the multi-lingual text, teasing out the errors took a lot of time.  We know from experience that these Diwans get heavy use which is why we went to the extra expense of using stronger properly sewn sections so that the book can be hand bound in cloth or leather if needed. With print-on-demand books (POD) the binding is a cut and glue arrangement which cannot be rebound. 

Buy The Diwan direct – now available:


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


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.


All bookshop enquiries: editorial.qasida@gmail.com

IB cover front

Also just published by Rabaah Publications is Illuminating the Blackness by Nigerian-English Azhari scholar Habeeb Akande. It presents the history of Brazil’s race-relations and African Muslim heritage. The book is divided into two parts. Part I explores the issue of race, anti-black racism, white supremacy, colourism, black beauty and affirmative action in contemporary Brazil. Part II examines the reports of African Muslims’ travels to Brazil before the Portuguese colonisers, the slave revolts in Bahia and the West African Muslim communities in nineteenth century Brazil. Highly illustrated with a picture index of 169 colour images of Brazil.
Designed here and printed in the UK. It should be available soon.


Another reprint from Sandala readied at the end of last year, was the well known Content of Character by Ali Mazrui, (shown left) translated by Hamza Yusuf which was first published over ten years ago. Very much like the Diwan reprint this has been thoroughly overhauled and corrected with a new cover design. Available now from Sandala at sandala.org


Also of interest is the printing of a much needed new Spanish translation of Purification of the Heart previously only available as an ebook. Translated from the original poem of Ibn Mawlud by Hamza Yusuf, with an extensive commentary also by Hamza Yusuf. This was translated by Emilio Abdarrazaq Perez here in Spain and is exactly modelled on the original…but in Spanish. For any enquiries please contact walaya786@gmail.com

A reminder that my old web site ianwhiteman.com is no more. My work is now viewable on cwdm-portfolio.com which is a better experience generally and much easier for me to manage.  There were certain features of the old site which I will make available on this blog in due course. To contact me direct: cwdm.typography@gmail.com

All work displayed above has been designed and typeset here unless specified otherwise.

Posted in Comment, language, miscellaneous, Publishing, religion, sacred knowledge, science, tassawuf, typography / design, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in language, miscellaneous, Publishing, religion, sacred knowledge, tassawuf, typography / design | Leave a comment

Heterophony and Polyphony

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.


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 | 3 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 | 4 Comments