5 things a Sufi woman takes on a Damascus trip!

Hamza Shakkur, Sufism in SyriaI’m listening to this CD by Hamza Shakkur (the Sufi chanter from Aleppo). I’m supposed to be writing a feature about Nokia for my magazine, but fatigue has crept into my day. So I thought to myself, a little bit of Sufism might lift up my morale (and subsequently, my energy levels).

I actually have the original copy of the CD signed by Shakkur. I met him when I was … in my twenties (this doesn’t mean I’m in my forties now!). I auditioned for him. My mom, a poet, wanted his honest opinion about my voice. He was encouraging, and his presence left me with a permanent image of him in my head and heart; I guess that’s what we call: Love. (I ended up becoming a singer-songwriter and a journalist/writer, so I can’t complain about that audition).

My painting talents, on the other hand, faced a harsher reality. One day, my mom asked me to show a very well-known Egyptian painter and caricaturist some of my sketches. In front of mom, he said: “Allah, eh daaa? EH DAAA?? Da gameel awii. This is fantastic, what great talent you have!”… When my mom turned her back and went upstairs to get the water melons and cheese he whispered to me: “Pssst, come closer, I have somesing to tell you. You suck at visual arts, forget about painting and concentrate on your music… this crap (meaning my cute paintings) will take you no where. Be realistic and drop it now before it’s too late.” When my mom returned, he put on a big smile and said: “MashAllah, I was telling your daughter what a talented girl she is, 7aga gameelaaa khalesss!” He then looked at me and a spark came out of the corner of one of his eyes.

I went upstairs to my room, heart broken and crushed. Obviously, I didn’t venture too much into painting after that point, but continued on the path of music and writing. I don’t know whether to thank or hate the paintings guy. He’s dead now. Allah yir7amo.

The two stories I mentioned are parodies about evil and Light. Shakkur will forever live in my heart as a beautiful rose, the other dude will always be my first encounter with the art of “Machiavellian-ism.” Before that incident I had an image in my head about artists; that they were people with great sensitivity, honor and higher ideals. I was 16 when I discovered otherwise.

But a few years later, I had the chance to redeem that image of purity with Shakkur. I remember listening to him sing was mesmerizing. He didn’t look like he was with us in the room when he called out “Alllaaaaaaah,” or when he repeated “Allahuma Salli 3ala Mo7ammad” (God’s prayers on Mohammad – that’s not the way to translate it, I’m too tired to go google the English equivalent).

Later on in life I became a Sufi myself. By “became” I mean I “became aware of it.” It’s a long story really! This CD belongs to my mom, for years I have been “borrowing it.” I borrow it for a few years, then I decide it’s time to give it back, so I give it back, then I borrow it for another 5 years, then I give it back. Last time I gave it back for 5 months, but when I decided to come live in Damascus, I brought it along with me. It is an “essential,” as a face-value magazine like Cosmopolitan would put it.

I imagine them running a feature about “Five Things a Sufi Woman would take on a trip to Damascus”:

  • Hamza Shakkur CD (available on Amzon.com for ….)
  • Sufi Mascara, water proof and non-runny (sold for Blah$ at Blah & Blah).
  • Sufi clothes that look like every body else’s really!
  • A weird sense of humor on fatigue-y days.
  • A Rosary made of rose-tree wood. (the rose tree part is to add a touch of mysticism, I have no idea what wood my Rosary is made of :)…

I guess I’m done with my daily dose of Sufi ramblings. I wonder if I have enough energy now to lift myself up and go drink some water… Blukh!

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About 50% Syrian

What is identity? I was raised Arab (of varying origins), with a Syrian mother, and Moroccan, Lebanese and Tunisian great grandfathers and grandmothers. I always felt 50% Syrian, and this percentage mattered to me more than anything else. Love of my life, my late Sufi grandmother, is Syrian... all her bedtime stories were about her life in Damascus. Damascus is where the heart dwells.
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2 Responses to 5 things a Sufi woman takes on a Damascus trip!

  1. salah al-din says:

    as-salaam alaykum ukht fi al-din,
    though i am neither a woman nor a sufi, i hope, insha Allah, to find tasawwuf in the near future. i just stumbled on your blog, looking for stuff on ibn Arabi (rahimullah) and you truly have an interesting site here! i’m from holland, and inshaAllah, i’ll be studying arabic in damascus for a few months (perhaps at Abu Nour) and i was wondering whether u have some tips for me on finding sufism in dimashq? I have fallen in love with ibn Arabi’s teachings and i plan to visit his tomb insha Allah!
    May Allah be with u ukht!
    ma’assalaama
    salah al din

  2. 50% Syrian says:

    Salam Salah al-din… thanks for your nice comment…
    Ibn Arabi’s tomb is in a rich Sufism district… once you visit him, you can ask the mosque attendant about Zikr gathetings in the area and what times they take place… Zikr takes places in different mosuques, one of which is Isn Arabi’s mosque, Rateb Al Nabulsi mosque (which is a few yards from there)… once you’re in the “scene” things will bi izen Allah happen naturally for you and you’ll get to be places you are meant to be at and meet people you’re meant to meet.

    once you’re in Damascus, please drop me a line in this blog if you need any help…
    God bless…

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