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

The Bible and the Qur’ān—they’re quickly the most read publications in the history of humankind, and also for that fact they’re the most cribbed from, quoted, and also critiqued. The human being of hip-hop is one also preoccupied in numerous ways v the scriptural and spiritual domain, and also many influential stars in the rap game wear their religiosity on your sleeves—Kendrick speaks openly about his wishes for salvation, possibility the Rapper quips that a “mustard seeds is every you need,” against a backdrop of swelling gospel music in “How Great,” Lupe Fiasco opens his fiery “Muhammad Walks,” a song critiquing the battle on Terror, through the bismillah, dedicating his lyrics in the surname of God. Others openly grapple with id in your music, or also outright reject it. There’s the Roots’ questioning, emotional “Dear God” (Dear God, I’m trying tough to with you…/They stated ‘he’s busy, hold the line, please’/Call me crazy, ns thought probably he could mind read), if Childish Gambino jokingly calls self an “Airport atheist,” saying he “may pray when there’s turbulence” in “Won’t Stop.”

Rarer, though, are the folks that make an outright parody or appropriation of religion as part of their personal brand if also plainly having part pretty deep feeling of religion around them. I’ve previously discussed Kanye West’s ridiculously outsized ego, which leads him come spout such lyrics together “I to be a god,” and identify himself through the moniker “Yeezus,” however Kanye also references the Bible reasonably regularly in his lyrics, borrows imagery from Christian art and iconography right into his music videos, and also literally wrote a song that has actually the stop “Jesus walks through me” (to it is in fair, he overrides the blog post in this song when, in his track “Otis” feat. Jay-Z, he insurance claims that the tune is a sort of indulgence that has actually bought him the end of going to hell…. So, oops?). In one interview, Kanye says that, “Religion is prefer clothing. Human being want comfort. Human being don’t desire to need to take the off. Civilization don’t want to expropriate the concept of there not being a sky possibly, or the principle of losing someone and not see them again.” that is possibly not coincidental the Kanye is also a garments designer…


Ḥammām b. Ghālib, aka al-Farazdaq (which literally means “lump that dough/bread”), to be born in the east Arabian territory of Yamāma approximately 641, much less than a te after Muḥammad’s death, and also spent much of his life in the Iraqi city that Basra. He would live through many of both the power of the very first four caliphs and also the Umayyad dynasty, dice in the so late 720s/early 730s. That made his name as a poetic figure of keep in mind in the courts of assorted Umayyad provincial governors, and in a tempestuous stint at the court the the caliph Marwān (we’ll look at at among his odes to Marwān below). Al-Farazdaq caught the imaginations the even countless of his near-contemporaries, and also he had many imitators, haters, and also hype-men; basically, think the Cardi B’s lyric “They see photos they say ‘goals’/Bitch I’m that they tryna be,” and also you’ve obtained Farazdaq’s tradition pretty well-pegged. The details the his biographies frequently read together exaggerated to accentuate his idiosyncrasies (or, in Blachère’s words, his “cowardice, bawdiness, drunkenness, and venality”), likely to justification inveighing against him and giving background to his eventual expulsion native Marwān’s court, i m sorry supposedly came around because he boasted the breaking into the caliph’s harem for some extracurricular fun. It is complicated to authenticate few of his poems (especially satires versus the caliph Mu’āwiya), due to the fact that they may have been composed by poseurs influenced by Farazdaq’s style; due to the fact that of other such poems, though, the is often declared by Shī’ī groups as miscellaneous of a pioneering dissenter that wrote poetry in assistance of Muḥammad’s descendants with ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib. Among his poems in this vein earned that a insignificant in prison.

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In many ways, Farazdaq’s job embodies the minute of change that the Islamic people was in throughout its earliest developmental decades: aside from the obvious introduction of a whole brand-new religious movement, brand-new power frameworks were solidifying, dynasties and dynastic models were in contest, and a change from an emphasis on tribal politics to a more central form of dominion organized approximately the rule of a unified faith community, the umma, remained in development. Together a result, one can uncover references in Farazdaq’s poems the feel caught in between the immediate past and present—in few of his poems around death, that evinces a respectful are afraid of dahr, the pre-Islamic, noumenal idea Time or Fate, even as in others he speak of an afterlife or the a last judgment. Much more famously, Farazdaq was thought about one the the last of the lack poets, in that though he to be ensconced in a court, the poets v whom the sparred most vigorously in diss competitions (naqā’id) to be from other tribes or other branches that his very own tribe, and so he upholds old defect rivalries even in a new context. His most prominent rival, Jarīr, hailed from a various clan in ~ the Tamīm tribe, and this point was not shed on the writer al-Hamadhānī when, numerous centuries later, the convened an imagine debate about the two poets’ particular merits in his own ornate prose (this is Robert Irwin’s translation),

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

Farazdaq himself is claimed to have been depressed at the decline of what he observed as really Bedouin poetry, and also he regularly styled his poems in a similar fashion come his predecessors. Possibly this lends come the unbelievable that appears in few of his poems that deal most explicitly with new, Islamic ideas and also language. In a memento mori poem (wa’iẓ), expected to remind the listener of his mortality and call him to righteous, honorable habits in this world so regarding secure donate in the next, Farazdaq remarks in the last lines on the futility of such a poetic genre: if you’re the kind of human who needs to it is in reminded that your inevitable fate, a poem more than likely won’t lug you any kind of grand epiphanies.

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

with some star amid Fate’s celestial sweep

For neither is over there anything to store him indigenous evil

no one is over there anything to impel him toward good

A man’s not aided by a memento mori

If his own observations don’t warning him that his mortality

And there’s no an excellent in a branch the doesn’t advantage its root

for this reason if that dies, his relatives aren’t too sorry over it.

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

When confronting Marwān’s men,

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

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

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

met your apostates in Mecca, at the abode,

Where those persons were set aright by bladed beatings

They left no solitary one, praying behind part ruse

All turned back to the confidence or met one ugly fate,

A death, a reckoning!

Were a poor lot, they’d have made fairly a mess,

But he turned the troops far from grabbing spoils.

The second stich the this poem is heavy with semantic irony. As pointed out above, despite we have the right to read the beginning of this line together stating the the blades of Marwān’s men safeguard Islam, it likewise appears the enemy is being literally prohibition or impede from one of two people Islam the faith or islām, a surrender, which can be review as winkingly upturning the ethics of pious warfare in i beg your pardon conversion would an initial typically be offered (as he discusses a couple of lines further down) in donate of a bloodbath. In the second fifty percent of the line, the verb used to express that the blows of the swords space inflicted upon apostates is yuwakkal, i m sorry literally method “entrust,” and also the source of which creates such terms as wakīl, an individual who has been invested with speakership on behalf of a divine entity. Utilizing such a verb offers the victim an almost sacred quality, together though they have actually been given a divine gift in the type of their knife wounds. In act this, Farazdaq elevates the opponent into gift the metaphorical custodians that Marwān’s arsenal and semantically muddles the difference between the functions of Marwān’s troops and the enemy. In a last undermining the the poem’s ostensible central theme of divine war against an exterior foe, Farazdaq turns at the end from praise of the troops’ initiatives on the faith’s instead of to worship of Marwān’s judicious funding of his army, properly saying the were Marwān’s males not well-compensated, they’d run roughshod end everything. Bringing the troops in line is that is own battle after the fact. V this closeup of the door verse, the soldiers’ technique is revealed not to it is in the product of your lofty motivations, however rather a practical outcome of your earthly circumstances. If this perhaps pays homage come Marwān together a strategist, it does detract somewhat from praising that on the stamin of his authority as caliph.

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

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

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

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

and his militaries descended on the man’s pantries,

All the hungry hordes that Gog and Magog

might surely ingredient themselves for a month in ‘Adhāfir’s larder

We’re now far, much removed indigenous the pious objects that a wa’iz poem. Instead, Farazdaq explicitly brings in the grotesque, doomsday imagery in organization of praising an earthly patron’s material wealth. This profaning of the significant topic the eschatology is probably cushioned by the fact that Farazdaq is making use of reviled, devilish images—the Antichrist and the corrupt peoples of Gog and also Magog—however, over there is one moment beforehand in the poem once Farazdaq takes a sideswipe in ~ God’s generosity. The word arzāq, the plural of rizq or succor, deserve to indicate dry goods, but additionally direct bestowals that sustenance from God, who is al-Razzāq, or the supreme provider. Even with all such provisions piled increase in one go, a solitary serving tray in ~ ‘Adhāfir’s table amounts to more.

like any an excellent court poet, Farazdaq knew just how to write around wine. We could dismiss the entire genre the khamriyyāt, or drink odes, together being just a de facto irreverent, unorthodox type of poetry because of the topic matter, but first of all, this overlooks a far-ranging amount of wine-as-metaphor poetry that deals quite deeply and also reverently with spiritual topics in the mystical tradition and also second, because that those poems that are simply straight-up drinking shanties, part are an ext overtly riotous than others. Before, I’ve talked around Abū Nuwas’ erotic, devil-may-care alcohol songs. Here, Farazdaq has actually his own take:

The vessel is bedewed through drink together 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 in ~ dawn, before the cocks’ caw

When it’s done, let’s hope the day of judgment (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 bottle looking prefer a star is beautiful, to it is in sure, and also it additionally is familiar. The 35th city of Sūrat al-Nūr in the Qur’ān, referred to as the “Light Verse,” looks like this:

Allah is the irradiate of the heavens and the earth.

The example of His irradiate is like a niche in ~ 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 indigenous a blessed olive tree,

Neither the the east nor that the west,

Whose oil would virtually glow even if untouched by fire.

Light top top light.

Allah travel guide to His light who He wills.

And Allah presents examples for the people,

and Allah is understanding of every things.

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See any similarities? God is likened in the verse over to luminous human body on luminous body, a glass stop 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 share image—but the closing references to the work of referee make me think that the overlap is intentional. Farazdaq end the poem by praying that after the bottle—an old, good vintage—has been completely drunk fatality will come quickly, because after the time of youthful bacchanalia has passed there’s little point in living. Both death itself and the fatality of youth (i.e. Old age) are described as a form of final, irrevocable judgment, end which God alone is an alleged to preside. Farazdaq seems to want to wrest some regulate of his fate away from divine powers; drinking wine and also stealing part moments that rowdy fun is a part of this reclamation. That he phrases together a mundane type of illicit activity (there to be no shortage the wine drink in Farazdaq’s time) in Qur’ānic language takes what might be a ho-hum poem and rebrands it as something inflammatory, anti-establishment, and an extremely Farazdaq.



With Fuzzy Jones’ framing verses in mind, the remainder of the song can also be understood as layering irreverence upon irreverence; no only have the world excluded from the production procedure been put in Kanye’s imagine purgatory, but they then need to be tortured accordingly—the opened of the song starts with “your chick,” i.e. The listener’s woman, lusting after the rappers in the song, committing action of infidelity with them, and so on. The title “Mercy,” as a double-entendre because that an act of dispensation and also the nickname for the car in which this acts are developing (a Lamborghini Murcielago) might relate to the rappers in the track begging “mercy” from their thirsty fan, or it might evoke the grace the Kanye and also his partners may market their competitors who have been planarization by your music. In any case, one thing’s for sure: it’s Kanye and also his friends who room playing God, who form our world and its entertainments, and also who pass final judgment on the remainder of the industry’s fate. The complicated pastiche through which this impression is achieved—sampling an currently kind that irreverent but densely religiously referential little from Fuzzy Jones and using it together a an equipment to bookend standard images the rappers’ success like sexy cars and also women, bumpin’ dance floors, flossy French vacations, etc.—resembles Farazdaq’s own technique of fusing standard poetic genres the are, perhaps, doctrinally heterodox in their significance with Qur’ānic references in together a means as come render lock confrontational and also contrarian. It’s this that leads him come compare polishing off a party of alcohol to referee Day or Marwān’s earthly provisions to divine inspiration, and to re-inject ancient soothsayers’ ideas of fate and the irredeemable nature that (some) people into a genre the poetry the had due to the fact that mostly been reformed to focus on pious Muslim themes; his contradictory streak also sometimes leader him right into piety, ~ all, his rebellious poem in defense of Zayn al-‘Abidīn ‘Alī b. Ḥusayn in the court of the caliph Hishām that acquired him in so much warm water is fundamentally a godly praise-poem. As soon as Kanye does this sort of stuff, he always does it come trounce other rappers in ~ their own game, and often the succeeds. At the same time in fairness, once Farazdaq go it, he’s periodically acting top top principle fairly than ego, and at time he faced far-ranging consequences to doing so. Maybe Kanye’s reckoning with an effect is also on the horizon…