29 Dec 2018

Read Time : 4 - 5 minutes

Updated: February 10th 2019 Updated: January 10th 2019 Updated: January 7th 2019 Updated: January 3rd 2019

Habibi - Craig Thompson

I am using this post to document the elements of Arab culture, Muslim lore, and problematic tropes found in Craig Thompson’s Habibi. This will also include discussions of what it does well. Once completed, this will transform into a more complete text.

“أظأظدحأ” is not a word.

Lo Shu - Presented as an old Arabian tale, but actually originates in China. Bears mentioning that the presented alphabet uses the older Abjadi order, rather than the modern Hijaz. Later, in chapter 3 (The Raping of Eden), the Buduh(بدوح) is introduced. It is later attributed to Jabir Ibn Hayyan, alongside chemistry (referred to as Alchemy), seven planets (which include the sun and the moon), and Aristotle proposing the four elements.

Passages from the Qur’an:

First Sura 96th (al Alaq)

“Say BISMILLAH, in the name of God, as the priest does with a knife when he offers an animal. BISMILLAH your old self to find your real name” - Rumi

“Mystic tradition says there are 70,000 veils of light and darkness that separate us from our Creator. Every baby is born weeping for the soul knows its separation from ALLAH. And when a child cries in its sleep, it is the soul remembering some piece of what has been LOST.”

The Buraq is mentioned in passing, while refering to Dodola (while describing her as the “desert witch”, who is made of “sand and fire”).

Some passages are not in classical Arabic, but perhaps modern Arabic or Parsi. This can be seen by the use of the “پ”, within “فالنطر إلا پ‬ن مم خلق”, which translates to “It is only a matter of creation”. However, with a classic “ب”, it becomes: “فالنطر إلا بن مم خلق”, meaning “Only the son of a man is created”

To maintain Christianity, “أيوب” (Ayub) is maintained as “Job”.

A poem by Badr Shaker Sayyab (بدر شاكر السياب), likely Rain Song (انشودة المطر) is copied in Arabic only. It’s relayed after Dodola tells a story of how her village would dress her up in flowers and vines, before dousing her in water while she spun like the Dervish, only to then follow with a treaty about how the earth is being destroyed, and how Dodola’s body will remain a commodity.

During the recounting of the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr, better translated as “the Night of Decree”), no translation is provided of Muhammad (pbuh) reciting Jibr’il’s words: “أعوذ بوجه الله الكريم ، وبكلمات الله التامات التي لايجاوزهن بر و لا فاجر ، من ش ما ينزل من السامةء ، و شر ما شرج منها ،و من فتن الليل و النهار ، و من طوارق الليل و النهار ، إلا طارقا يطرق بخير يا رحمن”

The phrase “I don’t got much patience for honkeys” was written and made to be spoken by a large black man.

“That WHORE is a threat to the integrity of our harem.” That “harem” is already compromised.

Idris, the father of writing and mathematics.

Dodola, a black-haired middle-eastern woman and made to be the sultan’s favourite concubine (who calls her Sfayi), gives birth to a blond-haired child.

Most black men are presented with traits closer to that of an ape. (furrowed brow, hanging lips in a constant state of frowning, large bodies)

Likening masturbation to the magic lamp.

Unlike the tribal traditions of Arabs, Amazigh, and other inhabitants of the real-life analogues to this fictional setting, no one is hospitable to a stranger.

Zam decides to be a enuch because he considers sexuality to be sinful. His lust doesn’t stop (duh)

The Hijras are presented only as AMAB individuals (with the exception of one…hermaphrodite). Hijra in this instance is mainly a term from India to represent two-soul people. The association with India is further cemented with the presence of Bahuchara Mata.

And then the Hijra are made to be either fanatics, or buffoons looking for money. This is preceded by one of them telling Zam about one of theirs: “Her path is different from ours. Hers is sensual. Ours is spiritual.” and then they go on to act like buffoons at a (very problematic) wedding, and then comment that sex work is shameful (“There aer some of us who will defile their bodies for money”). Zam befriends (and becomes intimate) with the “shameful” hijra (named Ghaniyah (meaning “Song”)), and then is told of her means of earning more money withough drumming and clapping. Some start discussing prostituting Zam, before we learn that Ghaniyah was gang raped.

“These are the just the discards from the sultan’s harem. The sick, the skinny, the old – like over twenty five!

Al Khidir (الخضر)

A selection of texts from The Hooded Utilitarian on Slow-Rolling Orientalism

Can the Subaltern Draw?: The Spectre of Orientalism in Craig Thompson’s Habibi - Nadim Damluji

A Comment on the Subaltern’s Progress through Habibi - Ng Suat Tong

A Conversation about Habibi’s Orientalism with Craig Thompson - Nadim Damluji