September 2022: SLIM THICC #001
a free-range Muslim™; drinking Qur'anic verses, Crawley's "centrifugitivity"; Hartman's "waywardness," rogue planets and black holes; support Puerto Rico and Pakistan
Bismillah. We begin everything with the name of Allah. We say Bismillah to initiate an act to acknowledge the intention and the ethics we carry with all that follows Bismillah.
— Welcome! —
Hopefully, you have already had a chance to read the first THICC issue of I Will (?) Figure This All Out Later.
The SLIM THICCs are shorter missives that include five routine sections:
Good Things to Support
— A[n] [Un]learning —
I attended Buddhist meditation easily because my religious upbringing was quite syncretic. My parents converted from Protestanism in the early ‘80s and raised five Muslim kids within the context of an extended family spanning many traditions. I had the option to apply to any Bay Area high school, and I, at 12, decided I wanted to go to a Catholic high school where I met a good friend who was Mormon and let me tag along to her gender-segregated school dances.
I jokingly say I am a free-range Muslim™ when folks ask which Sheikh I follow (I don’t follow people; I am committed to certain values, not personalities), my madhab (a school of thought within fiqh), or that fun abrupt question of “are you, Sunni or Shia?”
But, what even does free range even mean? Free range means the animals can roam freely outdoors, rather than being confined for 24 hours, even if just for part of the day. Not a perfect analogy, but when I say free-range Muslim™, it is not an abandonment of any particular theological foundation; rather, I am trying to say that after spending years confined to particular traditions (by default and by choice), it has been important (no, necessary) to wander beyond the enclosure of a particular orthodoxy to see how other folks relate to Allah.
I am not sure when it became haram (forbidden) to even study other pathways. Like folks are legit spooked that if I learn about a Shia prayer, I have somehow done something wrong.
Islam and Islamic institutions should be a space of critical inquiry. This past summer, I took a class with a sister up in Syracuse, and it was the first time an Islamic scholar connected the Qur’an, quantum physics, and planetology. It was beautiful to witness. It was beautiful to be seen.
Here are some things I have found during my wandering:
kombe (drinking washed off Qur’anic verses), which I learned about in a class with Brother Butch Ware as well as his book (and I go on to write-ramble about in relation to other practices of faith-based ingestion (“absorptive truths” among the Peruvian Urarina, communion!!! - I went to Catholic high school and have been fascinated by this ritual)
My ongoing project, Mapping the Spirit, extends my own theological itinerancy to an interest in theological wandering among other folks of African descent in North America. As I consider this language of free-range Muslim™, I can’t help but think about Ashon Crawley’s work, Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility (2016). Crawley offers us the language of “centrifugitivity” as the “enactment of centripetal and centrifugal force spontaneously, simultaneously” and that which angles “against the notion of centering.” Crawley reminds us to think Kongo cosmology; think tawaf; think ring shout. Centrifugitivity offers a different kind of movement, a movement that rubs (!!!) up against Saidiya Hartman’s ideas of “waywardness.”1
My interest in being a free-range Muslim™ has much to do with my identification as a learner, not an artist. At the core is an investment in the *process* of growing closer to Allah (which I imagine leads us to wander for sensemaking). I am not interested in immediatism or plug-and-play enlightenment. Wandering beyond the enclosure of a sect or general community has invited me to a more nuanced spiritual experience. It is also lonely sometimes, particularly as I join the legion of other unmosqued Muslims.
Much of these reflections are part of my ongoing research on enclosure systems, escape orbits, rogue planets, free-range (everything!), Crawley’s “centrifugitivity” and Hartman’s “waywardness” in relation to Black and Islamic histories. I came across the article An Earth-sized rogue planet discovered in the Milky Way (2020).
And more (!!!): Astronomers may have detected a 'dark' free-floating black hole (2022)
For both the rogue planet and the free-floating black hole, I am fascinated by the cosmic loneliness (lollll!), their ability to evade detection, and their perceived waywardness. Their waywardness isn’t offensive or disruptive; rather, it aids our broader understanding of the universe because it challenges the boundaries of what we believe is possible. Likewise, I am interested in the ways we take this planetary lesson to consider what peeking around the corner or beyond the perimeter of our own orthodoxy can offer. And offer, not in terms of extraction from a buffet of traditions, but offer in terms of the importance of wandering as a central part of learning.
Like, I am a better Muslim because of my wandering. My parents took seriously the “There is no compulsion in religion…'“ (2:256) and took a step back so I could form my own relationship with Islam that was not dictated by their choice to become Muslim. In my early teens, I took my Shahadah because it was important for me to make that conscious decision. So maybe, what I am saying is that learning is wandering.
Learning is a gesture toward “waywardness.”
Learning is a gesture toward “centrifugitivity.”
Learning is a gesture toward an anti-dance.
— Reading List —
A Good Memory or a Bad One? One Brain Molecule Decides. (Quanta September Magazine, 2022)
He Created the First Known Movie. Then He Vanished. (The New York Times, April 2022)
What on earth is a xenobot? (Aeon, August 2022)
Sneeze by Sneeze, Sponges Fill the Seas With Their Mucus (The New York Times, August 2022)
— Rewind —
One of the first photographs I took the summer I moved to NYC in 2010. I started off as a photographer (!) I have felt the itch to photograph again, especially as I have taken on more video-based work.
— A Prompt —
— Good Things to Support —
We are watching two regions submerged underwater: Puerto Rico and Pakistan. Please give as much as you can.
Get tickets for the Fundraiser for Pakistan Flood Relief! I am donating art as hard as are a bunch of other folks!
How to cite this newsletter: Rasheed, K. (Year, Month Day). Newsletter Title. I Will (?) Figure This All Out Later. URL
The next THICC issue is released on October 4, 2022.
The next SLIM THICC issue is released on October 18, 2022.
In Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals (2019), Hartman describes waywardness as “…the unregulated movement of drifting and wandering...black locomotion...to elude capture...to be unmoored...the right to opacity...”