A Date at the MET, The Mighty Moorish Empire, Schools of Thought & Discerning between Love and Lust  

NYC | A rainy day | The Metropolitan Museum | Him and I.

We stood in front of the oil painting. It suited its gold frame. With their smooth dark skin and an aura contained by tradition and power, even the common Moor looked like a king. I looked at the decorative jewels the men wore, the precision in the creases of their turbans, and the intricacies of the tapestry rug in the backdrop. Before Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros began his inquisition to forcefully convert the Moors into Catholicism, the Moors colonized and ruled much of the Iberian Peninsula—reviving the oppressed and stagnant times of Europe with their intellectual and progressive practices. The elaborate use of geometry in their windows and walls were awe-inspiring, and surgeries performed in the hospitals of Cordoba would have been adopted by the rest of Europe only centuries later. The Moors were Muslims, and of skin like night. It is no wonder that their honor and empire have systematically been ‘forgotten’ in much of academia.

The first time I heard of the Moors was in Shakespeare’s Othello, as Othello himself, the protagonist was a Moor. I remember my literature teacher defining a Moor as a black Muslim. He wasn’t entirely wrong, but his simplistic description was a microaggression of sorts. Yes, Moor has come to historically describe the affluent Muslims post 711 AD who were black, but the word moor derives from ‘marvo’ of Greek etymology, which simply means black, and nothing more. And to finitely equate Moor to mean ‘black Muslims’, implies two things. Firstly, it neglects the Moorish achievements and the intellectual essence of who they were in deducing how we define them to a physical basis. And second, it makes it as though being black and Muslim must be mutually exclusive as if when a Muslim so happens to also be black, the distinction must be made because that deviates from the ‘norm’ or the Arab Muslim. But since we’re all striving to be more politically and historically correct than we were yesterday, let’s also not forget that Arabs were originally black.

The fabrication of history books certainly favors the oppressor, but art like this does a sort of justice—telling a truth that cannot be untold. This sort of art is my favorite. The type that represents my people, or those of the like, in high esteem.

We moved on to the next painting in the “Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia” section. We stood close to each other, as waves of people with rehearsed tour guides passed by. I tuned them out and made it so that he was the only person in the museum. Us and the art. We silently observed the next piece, and he then asked me about the way I prayed.

“When you say the shahada, as you conclude your prayer, do you simply point your index finger up, or do you move it like this?” He motioned his finger to illustrate.

***

The shahada is what Muslims pronounce in each prayer to cleanse their spirit and revitalize their faith.

It reads:

“Ash hadu an la ilaha ill Allah wa ash hadu anna Muhammada Rasul Allah.”

“I declare there is no god but Allah and I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

Although a simple saying, it holds much beauty and weight. Allah simply translates to “the one God”, and motioning of the index finger in prayer is a physical manifestation of emphasizing the oneness of God.

***
“I move my finger, as you just did,” I told him.

“Ahh, you do it like the shafi’i,” he said slyly.

“And what is that?”

“It’s one of the Islamic schools of thought, Somalis are of it. I used to go to a Pakistani Sunday school though, so I have some Hanafi tendencies, that’s another school of thought.”

I raised my eyebrow, and fixed my eyes on the painting as I said, “I don’t see the need for all these divisions in ideology, they’re just deviations of God’s word and these people with a motive justify it by calling it ‘a school of thought’ because certainly knowledge is easier to swallow than announced deviation”

“Ya, that’s true Karima. Not everyone thinks that clearly though. Your soul is good, may Allah preserve you and what we have.”

“Ameen walal

It was funny that I so easily called him ‘walal’ (a Somali word meaning sister/brother, but also used as a form of endearment and respect), funny how things the other says so often eventually find a way on your tongue.

I looked at him as he continued to look at the art. He had a nice way of dancing between his hunger for me and his self-control, it was an art of itself.

We moved on to the next exhibit. Hand in hand, rooted in culture and faith. Sustained by God as we sought a happy medium between our love and lust.

***
Weeks later I texted him, and the conversation went as follows:

–How do men know they wholeheartedly appreciate a woman for her soul? If lust and love are so intertwined for them? This is something I’ve always heard. How do they differentiate? How do you differentiate?

//Good question Reem. It’s a feeling that is intertwined for sure. But one must like someone for their character, followed by their physical attributes. If it is the other way around, then lust is the driving force. It’s much deeper than this of course.

–So then how do you know if it’s love of her soul or love of her physique that takes mental dictation?

//I guess one can argue and say that……… good question fam. I’m at a loss for words. Somethings are felt. It’s hard to express love.

–Yeah makes sense. If anything comes to mind tell me.

//I got you. What are your thoughts?

–Well for me the two, lust and love, have always been compartmentalized. They never initially mixed. I wasn’t physically drawn to you. I’m hardly ever physically drawn to men at all. I’ll find them attractive, but I’ll never entertain a thought into the realm of lust. So, I have to know one’s character before being drawn in. You get me fam? Then a trust has to be built. And then, only after the trust is established, can lust develop. So, you see, the two are never really intertwined with me. It’s sequential, and therefore controllable.

// That’s well said, Reem. I won’t lie, for men, sometimes, actually most times, lust is preliminary. It’s an asshole thing to say, but I’m just telling you like it is. And despite that though, when you respect and honor the woman for the way she presents herself, you train yourself to settle those desires. And in a weird way, sometimes the lust shapeshifts into some type of fire that fuels your desire to learn about her on a deeper level. So, I wouldn’t disregard the lust entirely. It’s energy. So, tell me, if you don’t lust first, how do you go about getting to know someone deeply?

–Valid, and well I guess I sort of just listen to them with no expectations. And they’ll eventually say something impressive to stimulate me mentally. I’ll talk more and more with them, and eventually a trust forms. And then I envision the potential of sexual relations, and if I see them fitting that role too, then love follows. That’s my process, full circle, and whole

//Interesting.

–So I’ll cut the bullshit, I guess lust lowkey precedes love for me too. But it just happens deeper into the game, further into the process. You feel me? Lust is never an initial thing for me.

//I feel you. I love how you think. Your mind is a science homie.

–Really? Is it easy to follow?

//Sometimes. Once you break it down. I think I’m keeping up well.

–lol, yeah, I suppose you are.

***

People discern between love and lust in different ways. Emotions are of the spectrum and beyond the spectrum. When you try to quantify it, you deduce it to what is tangible. Emotions are not of the tangible realm, to begin with. They are meant to be overwhelming at times and inarticulable. Despite this, this is a glimpse into how I view it.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

 

 

 

 

 

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