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“It to be a Weeping, and also a Moaning, and also a welcome of Teeth:” studied Irreverence in “Mercy” and also Farazdaq

The Bible and the Qur’ān—they’re quickly the most read publications in the history of humankind, and for that truth they’re the most cribbed from, quoted, and also critiqued. The people of hip-hop is one likewise preoccupied in plenty of ways through the scriptural and spiritual domain, and many prominent stars in the rap video game wear their religiosity on their sleeves—Kendrick speak openly about his wishes for salvation, opportunity the Rapper quips the a “mustard seeds is every you need,” versus a backdrop of swelling gospel music in “How Great,” Lupe Fiasco opens his fiery “Muhammad Walks,” a tune critiquing the battle on Terror, through the bismillah, dedicating his text in the surname of God. Rather openly grapple with belief in your music, or also outright refuse it. There’s the Roots’ questioning, emotional “Dear God” (Dear God, I’m trying hard to with you…/They claimed ‘he’s busy, hold the line, please’/Call me crazy, ns thought maybe he can mind read), when Childish Gambino jokingly calls himself an “Airport atheist,” speak he “may pray once there’s turbulence” in “Won’t Stop.”

Rarer, though, space the folks who make an outright parody or appropriation of religion as part of their personal brand while also clearly having some pretty deep sense of religion about them. I’ve previously discussed Kanye West’s ridiculously outsized ego, which leads him come spout together lyrics together “I am a god,” and also identify himself v the moniker “Yeezus,” however Kanye likewise references the Bible fairly regularly in his lyrics, lend imagery indigenous Christian art and iconography right into his music videos, and also literally wrote a tune that has the refrain “Jesus walks v me” (to be fair, that overrides the message in this song when, in his track “Otis” feat. Jay-Z, he insurance claims that the song is a kind of indulgence that has bought him the end of going come hell…. So, oops?). In one interview, Kanye claims that, “Religion is choose clothing. People want comfort. People don’t want to need to take the off. Human being don’t want to expropriate the principle of there no being a heaven possibly, or the concept of shedding someone and also not see them again.” the is perhaps not coincidental that Kanye is also a clothes designer…


Ḥammām b. Ghālib, aka al-Farazdaq (which literally method “lump the dough/bread”), to be born in the eastern Arabian territory of Yamāma approximately 641, less than a decade after Muḥammad’s death, and spent lot of his life in the Iraqi city the Basra. He would live through most of both the power of the very first four caliphs and also the Umayyad dynasty, dice in the late 720s/early 730s. That made his name as a poetic number of keep in mind in the court of various Umayyad provincial governors, and also in a tempestuous stint at the court of the caliph Marwān (we’ll look at one of his odes to Marwān below). Al-Farazdaq caught the imaginations that even countless of his near-contemporaries, and also he had numerous imitators, haters, and hype-men; basically, think the Cardi B’s lyric “They see photos they speak ‘goals’/Bitch I’m that they tryna be,” and also you’ve gained Farazdaq’s tradition pretty well-pegged. The details of his biographies often read as exaggerated to emphasize his idiosyncrasies (or, in Blachère’s words, his “cowardice, bawdiness, drunkenness, and also venality”), most likely to justify inveighing versus him and also giving background come his ultimate expulsion native Marwān’s court, i beg your pardon supposedly came about because that boasted of breaking into the caliph’s harem for some extracurricular fun. It is daunting to authenticate several of his poems (especially satires versus the caliph Mu’āwiya), since they may have actually been written by poseurs motivated by Farazdaq’s style; since of various other such poems, though, he is often claimed by Shī’ī teams as other of a pioneering dissenter who wrote poetry in support of Muḥammad’s descendants with ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib. One of his poems in this vein earned him a insignificant in prison.

You are watching: It is a weeping and a moaning and a gnashing of teeth

In countless ways, Farazdaq’s job embodies the moment of shift that the Islamic people was in throughout its earliest developmental decades: aside from the obvious arrival of a whole new religious movement, new power structures were solidifying, dynasties and dynastic models to be in contest, and a shift from an emphasis on tribal national politics to a more centralized form of ascendancy organized approximately the principle of a unified faith community, the umma, was in development. As a result, one can find references in Farazdaq’s poems the feel caught between the prompt past and also present—in some of his poems about death, the evinces a respectful fear of dahr, the pre-Islamic, noumenal idea Time or Fate, even as in rather he speak of an afterlife or the a final judgment. More famously, Farazdaq was taken into consideration one that the last of the lack poets, in the though he was ensconced in a court, the poets with whom he sparred many vigorously in diss competitions (naqā’id) were from other tribes or other branches of his own tribe, and also so he upholds old tribal rivalries even in a brand-new context. His most prominent rival, Jarīr, compliment from a different clan within the Tamīm tribe, and this point was not shed on the writer al-Hamadhānī when, number of centuries later, he convened an imagine debate about the 2 poets’ corresponding merits in his own ornate prose (this is Robert Irwin’s translation),

“Jarīr is a much more caustic satirist and he presents self as much more noble in the field of poetry, conversely, al-Farazdaq is much more ambitious and also belongs to a noble clan.”

Farazdaq himself is said to have been depressed at the decline of what he experienced as authentic Bedouin poetry, and he regularly styled his poems in a comparable fashion to his predecessors. Possibly this lends come the unbelievable that shows up in some of his poems that transaction most explicitly with new, Islamic ideas and language. In a memento mori poem (wa’iẓ), meant to repeat the listener the his mortality and also call him come righteous, honorable behavior in this civilization so as to secure donate in the next, Farazdaq remarks in the final lines top top the futility of together a poetic genre: if you’re the type of human who requirements to be reminded the your inescapable fate, a poem most likely won’t carry you any kind of grand epiphanies.

Yet for many a cousin spend by evil, his quality resides

v some star amid Fate’s celestial sweep

For neither is there anything to store him native evil

nor is over there anything to impel him toward good

A man’s not helped by a memento mori

If his own monitorings don’t warn him of his mortality

And there’s no great in a branch that doesn’t benefit its root

for this reason if that dies, his family members aren’t also sorry over it.

By the last verses, Farazdaq has provided up top top the poem itself as a principle in his very own tongue-in-cheek way. His comment on the uselessness the wa’iẓ might be construed as a remark on the uselessness that homiletic language much more generally. Farazdaq instead asserts that one’s own subjectivity is the best determiner of personal conduct, i m sorry is not exactly in keeping with popular ideals around the transmissibility of reality through proselytization and pious warning. Farazdaq’s an ext bellicose poem below around a fight between Marwān’s troops and an apostate army in Mecca is more invigorated with language typical to expressions of faith, though again in one ambivalent and also ironic way,

When confronting Marwān’s men,

They draw for God’s religion–with swords in a rage!

Our chisels bar islām indigenous them (tamn‘u-l-islāma minhum),

Their blows fall to doubters (yuwakkalu waq‘uhunna bi-man arābā)

met their apostates in Mecca, in ~ the abode,

Where those people were set aright by bladed beatings

They left no single one, praying behind some ruse

All turned ago to the faith or met one ugly fate,

A death, a reckoning!

Were a poor lot, they’d have actually made rather a mess,

But that turned the troops away from grabbing spoils.

The 2nd stich the this city is heavy with semantic irony. As pointed out above, despite we can read the start of this line together stating the the blades of Marwān’s men defend Islam, it additionally appears the adversary is being literally barred or prevent from one of two people Islam the confidence or islām, a surrender, which can be review as winkingly upturning the ethics of pious war in which conversion would an initial typically be available (as that discusses a few lines more down) in donate of a bloodbath. In the second fifty percent of the line, the verb used to express that the blows the the swords space inflicted top top apostates is yuwakkal, i beg your pardon literally way “entrust,” and the root of which creates such terms as wakīl, an individual who has been invested with speakership on instead of of a holy entity. Using such a verb gives the victims an virtually sacred quality, as though they have actually been offered a holy gift in the type of their knife wounds. In law this, Farazdaq elevates the foe into gift the metaphorical custodians the Marwān’s arsenal and also semantically muddles the distinction between the duties of Marwān’s troops and the enemy. In a last undermining that the poem’s ostensible main theme of holy war against an external foe, Farazdaq transforms at the finish from worship of the troops’ initiatives on the faith’s instead of to worship of Marwān’s judicious funding of his army, successfully saying the were Marwān’s guys not well-compensated, they’d run roughshod end everything. Happen the troops in line is that own fight after the fact. Through this closing verse, the soldiers’ technique is revealed no to be the product of their lofty motivations, however rather a handy outcome of their earthly circumstances. When this probably pays homage come Marwān together a strategist, it does detract rather from praising the on the stamin of his authority together caliph.

In a praise poem for an additional patron, Farazdaq when again pits earthly wealth versus the cosmos, and also once again worldly wide range wins out,

I make an oath on her life, as soon as all the rations (al-arzāq) room measured out,

There’s much less bread in there 보다 on ‘Adhāfir’s offer tray

If the Antichrist (al-Dajjāl) showed up as a guest, begging hospitality,

and also his armies descended on the man’s pantries,

All the hungry hordes that Gog and Magog

could surely ingredient themselves because that a month in ‘Adhāfir’s larder

We’re currently far, much removed indigenous the pious objects of a wa’iz poem. Instead, Farazdaq clearly brings in the grotesque, doomsday imagery in organization of praising an earthly patron’s product wealth. This profaning that the serious topic the eschatology is possibly cushioned by the fact that Farazdaq is making usage of reviled, devilish images—the Antichrist and also the corrupt individuals of Gog and also Magog—however, over there is one moment at an early stage in the poem once Farazdaq take away a sideswipe in ~ God’s generosity. Words arzāq, the plural of rizq or succor, have the right to indicate dry goods, but likewise direct bestowals that sustenance from God, that is al-Razzāq, or the can be fried provider. Even with all such provisions piled increase in one go, a single serving tray in ~ ‘Adhāfir’s table amounts to more.

prefer any great court poet, Farazdaq knew exactly how to write about wine. We could dismiss the whole genre of khamriyyāt, or drinking odes, together being just a de facto irreverent, unorthodox type of poetry since of the topic matter, but an initial of all, this overlooks a far-ranging amount that wine-as-metaphor poetry the deals fairly deeply and reverently through spiritual subject in the mystical tradition and second, because that those poems that are simply straight-up drinking shanties, some are much more overtly riotous 보다 others. Before, I’ve talked around Abū Nuwas’ erotic, devil-may-care alcohol songs. Here, Farazdaq has his own take:

The courage is bedewed with drink as though

A star’s hurry deep right into the flask (ka-annahā idhā aghtumisat fī-hā al-zujājatu kawkabu)

Sealed up since the period of Persian kings,

We damaged into it at dawn, before the cocks’ caw

When it’s done, let’s expect the work of referee (yawm al-qiyāmah) hastens,

because that what’s the use

When youth’s already passed v Judgment’s gate? (wa-mā li-l-ṣabā ba’du-l-qiyāmati maṭlabu)

Farazdaq’s discussion of the light hitting the humidity on the party looking choose a star is beautiful, to be sure, and it likewise is familiar. The 35th city of Sūrat al-Nūr in the Qur’ān, referred to as the “Light Verse,” looks favor this:

Allah is the light of the heavens and also the earth.

The instance of His light is favor a niche within which is a lamp,

The lamp is in ~ glass, the glass as if it to be a pearly star (al-zujājah ka-annahā kawkab durrī)

Lit native a blessed olive tree,

Neither that the eastern nor the the west,

Whose oil would nearly glow also if untouched by fire.

Light upon light.

Allah guides to His light whom He wills.

And Allah presents instances for the people,

and Allah is understanding of all things.

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See any kind of similarities? God is likened in the verse over to luminous body on luminous body, a glass hold a lamp the shows favor a star. The Farazdaq’s glass bottle is also lit up choose a star might be a coincidence—this might be a stock image—but the closing references to the job of referee make me think that the overlap is intentional. Farazdaq end the city by praying the after the bottle—an old, good vintage—has been totally drunk death will come quickly, since after the moment of youthful bacchanalia has passed there’s little point in living. Both fatality itself and the fatality of youth (i.e. Old age) are referred to as a kind of final, irrevocable judgment, end which God alone is an alleged to preside. Farazdaq seems to desire to wrest some manage of his fate away from magnificent powers; drink wine and also stealing some moments of rowdy fun is a component of this reclamation. That he phrases such a mundane kind of illicit task (there was no shortage that wine drinking in Farazdaq’s time) in Qur’ānic language bring away what could be a ho-hum poem and rebrands it together something inflammatory, anti-establishment, and really Farazdaq.



With Fuzzy Jones’ frame verses in mind, the remainder of the song can likewise be understood as layering irreverence top top irreverence; no only have actually the civilization excluded native the production process been placed in Kanye’s imagined purgatory, but they then have to be tortured accordingly—the opened of the song begins with “your chick,” i.e. The listener’s woman, lusting after ~ the rappers in the song, committing acts of infidelity with them, and also so on. The location “Mercy,” together a double-entendre because that an action of dispensation and the nickname for the vehicle in which these acts are occurring (a Lamborghini Murcielago) could relate come the rappers in the track begging “mercy” from their thirsty fan, or it might evoke the grace the Kanye and his partners may offer their competitors who have actually been planarization by your music. In any type of case, one thing’s because that sure: it’s Kanye and also his friend who space playing God, who shape our world and also its entertainments, and who pass final judgment on the remainder of the industry’s fate. The complicated pastiche with which this impression is achieved—sampling an already kind that irreverent yet densely religiously referential bit from Fuzzy Jones and also using it together a an equipment to bookend standard images the rappers’ success choose sexy cars and also women, bumpin’ run floors, flossy French vacations, etc.—resembles Farazdaq’s own method of fusing standard poetic genres that are, perhaps, doctrinally heterodox in their significance with Qur’ānic references in together a way as to render them confrontational and contrarian. It’s this the leads him come compare polishing off a bottle of alcohol to referee Day or Marwān’s earthly provisions to divine inspiration, and also to re-inject old soothsayers’ concepts of fate and also the irredeemable nature that (some) people into a genre that poetry the had because mostly been reformed to focus on pious Muslim themes; his contradictory streak likewise sometimes leads him into piety, after ~ all, his rebellious poem in defense the Zayn al-‘Abidīn ‘Alī b. Ḥusayn in the court of the caliph Hishām that gained him in for this reason much hot water is essentially a godly praise-poem. When Kanye walk this kind of stuff, he constantly does it come trounce other rappers in ~ their own game, and often the succeeds. Meanwhile in fairness, once Farazdaq walk it, he’s sometimes acting ~ above principle fairly than ego, and also at time he faced far-reaching consequences come doing so. Possibly Kanye’s reckoning with consequence is also on the horizon…