How are the greater and lesser jihads distinct and entangled? What are the experiences of force given in Islam? What are the relations between beauty, divinity, history and the forces of peace, truth and violence in this tradition? These are the prayers, the questions silently addressed in this filmic presentation of the anguished work of poesy and asceticism against historical violence in the painter-poet Sadequain (1930-87) – a presentation of the experience and logic of another force given in Islam, and dramatized in the life and oeuvre of this postcolonial Pakistani artist. Through a range of effects – including a generous and dynamic display of striking images juxtaposed with ravishing lyric from both Sadequain, as well as the larger Indic-Muslim and affinate traditions of the pre- and post-colonial modern period – this lecture-film enacts the experience and logic of this force in three dramatic scenes of a performative lecture by Nauman Naqvi. The scenes - the hand, the head, and gesture - are scenes of what Sadequain called the technique of 'mystic figuration' in his painting: a certain tortured entanglement of the aesthetic, the ethical and truth in Muslim inheritance. An anguished entanglement of beauty, the good and truth in their ecstatic, episodic appearance in the secular world – the world of sight and sound – that is inseparable from the demand of sacrifice, of a certain strenuous self-canceling intention given in the fugitive aspect of a subtle violence of immanence in the Muslim understanding of being and existence. In tracing this haunting, subtle force of life, the lecture-film not only presents a radical phenomenology of violence in Islam, but also gestures towards the potential inheritance of a radically ethical politics of universal grace in this tradition.
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This lecture has now been published in essay form here:
THIS IS THE STORY OF A NIGHT WHICH CHANGES THE LIFE OF A YOUNG GIRL AND A MAN CALLED JOHN. NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS TO BE AND THE TRUTH IS MORE PAINFUL THAN YOU THINK. EVERYONE HAS A SECRET BUT SOME SECRETS CAN DESTROY A LIFE, SO CAN YOU KILL THE MOCKINGBIRD ?