Our Music Our Selves


Commentaries, 23 Rabee`ul-Aakhar (February 12, 2015) — al-Mursalaat (again) // Suggested Listening: More Overtures

Posted in Miscellaneous Essays by Lester Knibbs on the February 12th, 2015

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

As-Salaam alaikum! Peace!

I bear witness that there is nothing and no one
worthy of our devotion and service except Allah,

and I bear witness that Muhammad
is the servant and the messenger of Allah.

Our Music Our Selves is an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of the Qur’an and an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of our serious music, and of the role of both in shaping our human history and identity.

What is the message of the Qur’an?

According to Canadian journalist Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980):

The medium is the message

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Symphonic Qur’an:

077 al-Mursalaat

Soorat-al-Mursalaat — the 77th soorah (chapter) of the Qur’an — displays two of the three essential characteristics of ancient, traditional and modern African music and of African-American music: riff, and refrain.

This soorah opens – after “bismil-Laah-ir-Rahmaan -ir-Raheem– with five aayaat (verses) in an ancient rhythmic pattern — a riff — fundamental to African and African American music. I call it the chaconne (after its Afro-Cuban form, which was carried to Europe, where it became a musical form and a fundamental aspect of symphonic music).

The refrain (the repeated passage) in this soorah is one ayat (one verse) — “Wailun yauma-‘idhin lil-mukadhdhibeen” — repeated as the 15th, 19th, 24th, 28th, 34th, 37th, 40th, 45th, 47th, and 49th aayaat.

The third essential characteristic is response — often called “call-and-response” — which is found elsewhere in the Qur’an. These three chacteristics — RIFF, RESPONSE, and REFRAIN — found both in the Qur’an and in traditional African and African-American music, are also fundamental methods of education.

These are the most effective methods of learning. And there they are, in the Qur’an. Allah knows best, doesn’t he?

I call on my fellow Muslims to read/recite the Qur’an (which is in Arabic and only in Arabic) regularly and often.

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Symphonic Listening — More Overtures

I don’t know how or why I overlooked the following overtures in the previous blog, but with the exception of Wagner’s overture to The Flying Dutchman, they are every bit as excellent and exciting as the others. (I am particularly fond of the opening theme of the Flying Dutchman overture. It was used for a TV show — Captain Video and His Video Rangers — which I remember loving, but cannot for the life of me remember anything of its content. This overture, however, is not one of Wagner’s best works. Still, you might enjoy the whole thing more than I do.) (Click on the duration for the YouTube performance.)

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I continue to suggest that you listen to at least one symphony every week. The later symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, any of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies, Schubert’s eighth or ninth, Mendelssohn’s third or fourth, Tchaikovsky’s fourth, fifth or sixth, Borodin’s second, or Franck’s only symphony. There are others we might suggest. If you are ambitious, you might listen to Mahler’s second, fifth or sixth. Dvorak’s seventh, eighth and ninth are also excellent.

****************************************

I also suggest that most of us become familiar with one or two symphonies in particular, so that they becomes a sort of common currency. I suggest, first and foremost, Beethoven’s fifth symphony — perhaps the most famous symphony ever composed. The first movement is fairly compact, for a symphonic movement, and exciting. If you are not familiar with listening to symphonic music, this might be a good start. Dvorak’s ninth symphony (“From the New World”) is another symphony that we all might become familiar with — especially since it is influenced by African American themes.

Good listening!

****************************************
****************************************

Dear Brothers and Sisters, please check out my other blogs from time to time. They are:

Doctor Hakeem: African-American Commentaries

and

Word-to-Word: A Comparative Study of the Bible and the Qur’an

Thanks.

Take it easy.

As-Salaamu alaikum! Peace!

Brother Lester

Commentaries, 3 Rabee`ul-Aakhar (January 23, 2015) — al-`Aadiyaat: Rhyme, Rhythm, and Structure in the 100th Soorah of the Qur’an

Posted in Miscellaneous Essays by Lester Knibbs on the January 23rd, 2015

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

As-Salaam alaikum! Peace!

I bear witness that there is nothing and no one
worthy of our devotion and service except Allah,

and I bear witness that Muhammad
is the servant and the messenger of Allah.

Our Music Our Selves is an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of the Qur’an and an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of our serious music, and of the role of both in shaping our human history and identity.

What is the message of the Qur’an? According to Canadian journalist Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980):

The medium is the message

****************************************
****************************************

Symphonic Qur’an:

100 al-`Aadiyaat

Rhyme, Rhythm and Structure
in the 100th Soorah (Chapter) of the Qur’an

(bis-mil-Laah-ir-Ramaan-ir-Raeem)

(1)                        wal-`aadiyaati ḍabḥaa

(2)                        fal-mooriyaati qadḥaa

(3)                        fal-mugheeraati ṣubḥaa

(4)                        fa-atharna bi-hee naq`aa

(5)                        fa-wasaṭna bi-hee jam`aa

(6)                        innal-insaana li-rabbi-hee la-kanood

(7)                        wa-innahoo `alaa dhaalika la-shaheed

(8)                        wa-innahoo li-ḥubbil-khairi la-shadeed

(9)                        a-fa-laa ya`lamu idhaa bu`thira maa fil-quboor

(10)                        wa-huṣṣila maa fiṣ-ṣudoor

(11)                        inna rabba-hum bi-him yauma’idhin la-khabeer

_________________________

(1)            . . .   dabhaan              1-a

(2)            . . .   qadhaan              1-a

(3)            . . .   subhaan              1-a
__________

(4)            . . .   naq`aan              2-a

(5)            . . .   jam`aan              2-a
__________
__________

(6)            . . .   kanood               b-3

(7)            . . .   shaheed             c-3

(8)            . . .   shadeed             c-3
__________

(9)            . . .   quboor               b-4

(10)            . . .   sudoor               b-4

(11)            . . .   khabeer             c-4
__________
__________

The Rhyme Scheme

The above list presents the last word of each ayat of Soorat-al-`Aadiyaat. The superscript “n” represents the tanween which is normally not pronounced at the end of an ayat. The spacings indicate the grouping of the ayats into four smaller groups and into two larger groups, based primarily on rhyme scheme, secondarily on rhythmic pattern, and thirdly on content.

The rhyme scheme is indicated by the column of letters and numbers to the right of the list. The letters “a”, “b”, and “c” indicate the long vowel sounds “aa”, “oo”, and “ee”, respectively (represented in the Qur’an text by the letters alif, waaw, and yaa’). The numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 indicate the consonant sounds of haa’, `ain, daal, and raa’, respectively.

Looking at the above list, we see that the first three ayats end in rhyme 1‑a, which is “haan”. The next two ayats end in rhyme 2‑a, which is “`aan” (substituting `ain for haa’ as the initial consonant).

The next three ayats (6 through 8) end in rhymes b‑3, c‑3, and again c‑3. All three end with the letter daal – in b‑3 preceded by the letter waaw (the sound “oo”), and in the two c‑3’s preceded by the letter yaa’ (the sound “ee”).

The last three ayats (9 through 11) end in rhymes b‑4, again b‑4, and c‑4. All three end with the letter raa’ – in the two b‑4’s preceded by the letter waaw (the sound “oo”), and in the final c‑4 preceded by the letter yaa’ (the sound “ee”).

The symmetrical pattern in the last six ayats is: one “oo”, followed by two “ee’s”, followed by two “oo’s”, followed by one “ee”.

Two symmetrical patterns connect the first three ayats and the last three ayats:

(1)            In the first three ayats, the haa’ of the rhyme is preceded by baa’, daal, baa’ (first ayat, second ayat, third ayat). In the last three ayats, the “oo” or “ee” of the rhyme is preceded by baa’, daal, baa’ (ninth ayat, tenth ayat, eleventh ayat).

(2)            In the first three ayats, the vowel in the first syllable of the word is fathah, fathah, and dammah. In the last three ayats, the vowel in the first syllable of the word is dammah, dammah, and fathah. The sounds “a”, “a”, “u” in ayats one, two, three; the sounds “u”, “u”, “a” in ayats nine, ten, eleven. The sounds of all three fathahs are affected (pronounced as “aw” in “saw”) by a preceding emphatic or guttural consonant (daad, qaaf, or khaa’).

The two middle groups of ayats (4 and 5; and 6, 7, and 8) are connected by a common fathah in the first syllable of each word. In none of these five ayats is this fathah preceded by an emphatic or guttural consonant, retaining the sound of “a” as in “at”.

The Rhythmic Pattern

The rhythmic pattern groups these ayats in the same grouping as the rhyme scheme (not always the case in the Qur’an). Ayats 1 through 3 have the same rhythmic pattern; ayats 4 and 5 have a similar pattern. Ayats 6 through 8 switch to a different pattern; and ayats 9 through 11 switch to yet another pattern.

The rhythmic pattern in the first three ayats marks out a metrical pattern which medieval European musical theorists called “hemiola” – a rhythmic pattern of two against three common in African music and which spread to Europe during the period of Muslim government in Spain (711-1492). This pattern had resurgent interest in the 17th century (the music of J.S. Bach, for instance) and again in the 19th century (the music of Brahms, for instance). This pattern also occurs in African-American music, especially in the old country blues and in honky-tonk music.

Overall Structure of the Soorah

Both the rhyme scheme and the changes in the rhythmic patterns serve to emphasize a division of this soorah into two parts – ayats 1 through 5, and ayats 6 through 11 (although, as mentioned above, there is a secondary pattern in the rhyme scheme – a repeated fathah – which connects ayats 3 through 8). The first part (ayats 1 through 5) shares with the opening ayats of the 37th, 51st, 77th, and 79th soorahs (as‑Saaffaat, adhDhaariyaat, al‑Mursalaat, and an‑Naazi`aat) the same regular rhythmic pattern and allegorical language. The second part (ayats 6 through 11) switches to categorical language and a less regular rhythmic pattern.

Summary Comments

Warith Deen Muhammad said, “Words make people”. And he clarified that with, “A word is anything which brings a message to your mind”. (I understand this to mean, “anything which brings a message to your nature”.) W.D. Muhammad also pointed out that every aspect of the Qur’an is a part of its message.

As we know, the Qur’an is the word of Allah, the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. Every aspect of it is determined by the will of Allah. The smallest details and the largest overall structure go together into making the Qur’an be what it is and do what it does. “The medium is the message.”

When we recite the Qur’an or listen to the Qur’an being recited, all of those aspects of form and expression, whether we understand them or not, whether we are conscious of them or not, go into making us what Allah in his generous mercy wants us to be.

This particular soorah is not unusual in the complexity of its structure.

It is important that we expose ourselves on a daily basis to the Arabic Qur’an. There is no English Qur’an, no Spanish Qur’an, nor any Qur’an in any language but the clear Arabic language in which Allah revealed His message. Even if we do not understand Arabic, it is essential to the message of the Qur’an that we experience the arrangement of vowels and consonants, short syllables and long syllables, the placement of accents, the rhyme schemes, the rhythmic patterns, refrains and repetitions and recapitulations, divisions of a soorah into sections, the unity of each soorah as a whole, groupings of soorahs based (most commonly) on similarities in rhyme and rhythm or outright repetition of the opening ayat, and the structural unity of the Qur’an as a whole.

Examples of the groupings of soorahs are those soorahs which begin with the muqatta`aat – the mysterious letters: “Alif laam meem” (soorahs 29 through 32); “Taa seen” or “Taa seen meem” (soorahs 26 through 28); “Haa meem” (soorahs 40 through 46); and others.

Another example of a grouping of soorahs is the group of eight soorahs from al-Hadeed (soorah 57) to at-Taghaabun (soorah 64). soorahs 57, 59 and 61 begin with the words “Sabbaha lil-Laahi maa fis-samaawaati …” and soorahs 62 and 64 begin with the words “Yusabbihu lil-Laashi maa fis-samaawaati … .” The other soorahs – 56, 58, 60, and 63 – have different beginnings, with no pattern. We have a grouping of five, alternating between three regular beginnings and two “irregular” beginnings, and group of three, alternating between two regular beginnings and an “irregular” beginning. An “off-center” symmetry of a five-soorah group balanced by a three-soorah group.

When we recite the Qur’an, or listen to the Qur’an being recited, all of these aspects of form and expression, whether we understand them or not, whether we are conscious of them or not, go into making us what Allah in his generous mercy wants us to be.

 

 

 

 

Commentaries, 14 Safar1436 (December 6, 2014) — al-Mursalaat // Suggested Listening: Tone Poems

Posted in Miscellaneous Essays by Lester Knibbs on the December 6th, 2014

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

As-Salaam alaikum! Peace!

I bear witness that there is nothing and no one
worthy of our devotion and service except Allah,

and I bear witness that Muhammad
is the servant and the messenger of Allah.

The final internet radio program of Our Music Our Selves on American Muslim Blogtalk Radio was on the 29th of Dhul-Hijjah 1435, the last Thursday of the Hijrah year (also known as October 23, 2014). Our Music Our Selves is continuing (Allah willing) as a blog, and possibly in other forums. Hopefully, you will enjoy and benefit from our commentaries and suggestions.

Our Music Our Selves is an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of the Qur’an and an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of our serious music, and of the role of both in shaping our human history and identity.

****************************************
****************************************

Symphonic Qur’an:

077 al-Mursalaat

Soorat-al-Mursalaat — the 77th soorah (chapter) of the Qur’an — displays two of the three essential characteristics of ancient, traditional and modern African music and of African-American music: riff, and refrain.

This soorah opens – after “bismil-Laah-ir-Rahmaan -ir-Raheem– with five aayaat (verses) in an ancient rhythmic pattern — a riff — fundamental to African and African American music. I call it the chaconne (after its Afro-Cuban form, which was carried to Europe, where it became a musical form and a fundamental aspect of symphonic music).

The refrain (the repeated passage) in this soorah is one ayat (one verse) — “Wailun yauma-‘idhin lil-mukadhdhibeen” — repeated as the 15th, 19th, 24th, 28th, 34th, 37th, 40th, 45th, 47th, and 49th aayaat.

The third essential characteristic is response — often called “call-and-response” — which is found elsewhere in the Qur’an. These three chacteristics — RIFF, RESPONSE, and REFRAIN — found both in the Qur’an and in traditional African and African-American music, are also fundamental methods of education.

These are the most effective methods of learning. And there they are, in the Qur’an. Allah knows best, doesn’t he?

I call on my fellow Muslims to read/recite the Qur’an (which is in Arabic and only in Arabic) rhythmically, regularly and often.

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Symphonic Listening — Tone Poems

According to Wikipedia:

A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral or concert band music, usually in a single continuous section (a movement) that illustrates or evokes the content of a poem, short story, novel, painting, landscape, or other (non-musical) source. Hungarian composer Franz Liszt first applied the term to his 13 works in this vein. In its aesthetic objectives, the symphonic poem is in some ways related to opera. Whilst it does not use a sung text, it seeks, like opera, a union of music and drama.

While many symphonic poems may compare in size and scale to symphonic movements (or even reach the length of an entire symphony), they are unlike traditional classical symphonic movements in that their music is intended to inspire listeners to imagine or consider scenes, images, specific ideas or moods, and not to focus on following traditional patterns of musical form (e.g. sonata form). This intention to inspire listeners was a direct consequence of Romanticism, which encouraged literary, pictorial and dramatic associations in music. Musical works that attempt to inspire listeners in this way are often referred to as program music, while music that has no such direct associations may be called absolute music.

For our purposes, tone poems are convenient listening, in that they are normally one-movement pieces that are not as lengthy or complex as a traditional symphony. In my opinion, a good tone poem needs no explanation. You can enjoy listening to it without knowing what the programmatic idea behind the music is. The programmatic idea may be helpful, but it is not necessary. For the tone poems listed below, I have included links both to performances available on YouTube (click on the duration) and to reference articles in Wikipedia (click on the title). It is your choice whether you listen with or without knowing the programmatic idea. (In the list below, the number of stars indicates how highly I recommend them for your listening. It is not an estimate of how good I think they are. For one thing, the tone poems of Richard Strauss tend to be rather long. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is in the list only for the opening theme, which was used for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. I don’t find the rest of it particularly interesting.)

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I continue to suggest that you listen to at least one symphony every week. The later symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, any of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies, Schubert’s eighth or ninth, Mendelssohn’s third or fourth, Tchaikovsky’s fourth, fifth or sixth, Borodin’s second, or Franck’s only symphony. There are others we might suggest. If you are ambitious, you might listen to Mahler’s second, fifth or sixth. Dvorak’s seventh, eighth and ninth are also excellent.

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I also suggest that most of us become familiar with one or two symphonies in particular, so that they becomes a sort of common currency. I suggest, first and foremost, Beethoven’s fifth symphony — perhaps the most famous symphony ever composed. The first movement is fairly compact, for a symphonic movement, and exciting. If you are not familiar with listening to symphonic music, this might be a good start. Dvorak’s ninth symphony (“From the New World”) is another symphony that we all might become familiar with — especially since it is influenced by African American themes.

Good listening!

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****************************************

Dear Brothers and Sisters, please check out my other blogs from time to time. They are:

Doctor Hakeem: African-American Commentaries

and

Word-to-Word: A Comparative Study of the Bible and the Qur’an

Thanks.

Take it easy.

As-Salaamu alaikum! Peace!

Brother Lester

The Chaconne

Posted in Miscellaneous Essays by Lester Knibbs on the November 25th, 2014

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

Chaconne” is the name I am using to refer to a musical format which, in symphonic music, has three aspects – rhythm, melody, and harmony.

The rhythm of the chaconne is an ancient rhythm – at least thousands of years old, perhaps tens of thousands. It seems to have originated in Africa. For ourselves, as African American Muslims, it is particularly significant that this rhythm occurs in the first several aayats of at least five soorahs – soorahs ##37, 51, 77, 79, and 100 – of the Qur’an.

The rhythm and melody of the chaconne was introduced to medieval Europe by the Moors – Black African Muslims — who conquered and ruled in most of what is now Spain for several centuries. It is from the influence of the Moors that symphonic music evolved in Europe.

(See my “Outline for ‘The Music of the Moors: The African Roots of European Classical Music’” – http://doctorhakeem.com/blog/2013/08/03/outline-for-the-music-of-the-moors-the-african-roots-of-european-classical-music/)

In the current Age of European Domination, the chaconne was again introduced to Europeans by the enslaved African captives in Cuba. It is from this point in history – Europe’s 16th century in particular – that the rhythm, melody and harmony of the chaconne can be heard to join the diverse musical expressions of Africa, Europe and the Americas. It becomes evident in the following century that the harmonic aspect of the chaconne is the catalyst for the development of modern tonality – which I refer to as “cadential structure” – which is the foundation of symphonic music.

The chaconne is strongly present in the music of Spain and in Afro-Latin music, and can be heard in the Rhythm-and-Blues forms of African American music in the United States. It is heard in symphonic music that openly incorporates Spanish and Latin American influences, as well as in chaconnes and sarabandes, in certain types of themes and fugue subjects, and in the form of phrase or section ending traditionally called the “Phrygian Cadence” – but which I prefer to call the “Moorish Cadence”. The chaconne is also present, as an organizing principle, in many passages of extended development in symphonic movements.

The chaconne was our overall theme for the year 1435 A.H. on American Muslim 360 Blogtalk Radio. Several of the featured works of that year are based partly or entirely on the chaconne. If you are interested, you can examine the schedule for 1435 A.H. and find those works performed on YouTube.


Commentaries, 14 Muharram 1436 (November 7, 2014) — Suggested Listening — Overtures

Posted in Miscellaneous Essays by Lester Knibbs on the November 7th, 2014

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

As-Salaam alaikum! Peace!

I bear witness that there is nothing and no one
worthy of our devotion and service except Allah,

and I bear witness that Muhammad
is the servant and the messenger of Allah.

Our Music Our Selves is an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of the Qur’an and an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of our serious music, and of the role of both in shaping our human history and identity.

The final internet radio program of Our Music Our Selves on American Muslim Blogtalk Radio was on the 29th of Dhul-Hijjah 1435, the last Thursday of the Hijrah year (also known as October 23, 2014). Our Music Our Selves is continuing (Allah willing) as a blog, and possibly in other forums. Hopefully, you will enjoy and benefit from our commentaries and suggestions.

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Suggested Listening — Overtures

Overtures were originally written as the opening piece for an opera or other music making use of voices and staging. The word “overture” means “opening”, and in the 17th and early 18th centuries, an overture could be the opening piece of any kind of music involving several pieces grouped together — such as a suite of dances written for a keyboard instrument, or a cantata for voices and an instrumental ensemble. From the late 18th century into the 20th century, an overture was usually the opening to an opera.

Starting in the early 19th century, some stand-alone pieces came to be called overtures, and some overtures originally intended to begin an opera came to be performed as stand-alone pieces. An example of the former is Felix Mendelssohn‘s “Hebrides Overture (10:20, the duration of the YouTube selection, in minutes and seconds) (also known as the “Fingals Cave Overture”) — an excellent and exciting example of the form.

An example of the latter is Ludwig van Beethoven‘s “Leonore Overture No. 3 (14:02) — perhaps (and certainly in my opinion) the finest symphonic composition ever written. Beethoven wrote three overtures for three different performances of his opera originally entitled Leonore (after the real name of the heroine). He eventually wrote a fourth overture, known as the “Fidelio Overture (6:49) — after changing the name of the opera to Fidelio (after the assumed name of the heroine, who had disguised herself as a male prison guard in a scheme to rescue her husband from death in a political prison).

I don’t like Beethoven’s “Leonore Overture No. 1 (9:20) — a melodramatic mess, if you ask me. His “Leonore Overture No. 2 (13:41) is an inferior version of the “Leonore Overture No. 3″. You might try listening to them back-to-back, and see which one sounds more effective to you. A live performance of symphonic music is usually best, and in the case of the “Leonore Overture No. 3″, when the strings get going in the build-up to the final climax, you can actually feel the air moving if you are sitting close enough to the orchestra. And, of course, seeing all those string players hustling up a super sweat is worth the price of admission. I suspect that Beethoven’s dissatisfaction with the “Leonore” overtures — and this is especially true of the third — is that, after hearing the overture, who needs the opera? What a workout. The “Fidelio Overture” is a much less ambitious work.

Beethoven wrote only one opera, and he was, in my opinion (and I am hardly alone in this), not such a great opera composer. As you should know, I hate opera — but I study it for professional reasons — actually, for more than professional reasons, which I plan to discuss later. Nevertheless, I admire something when it is done well.

One of the most famous and excellent opera composers of the early 19th century was Gioachino Rossini. I’ve heard only parts of one or two of his operas — because they happened to be on the classical music station while I was driving somewhere. What I am familiar with — as both listener and violinist in my high school orchestra — are his opera overtures. These are fun pieces. I will repeat that: These are fun pieces. (Just be patient with the introduction.) They are not impressive examples of symphonic composition, but they are effective. Rossini wrote them on the fly — usually the night before dress rehearsal — but they demonstrate something that becomes evident in some of Rossini’s later works, that Rossini was quite a capable symphonic composer.

Most opera composers were either uninterested or incapable of quality symphonic writing. Giuseppe Verdi — possibly the best opera composer of all time — apparently was uninterested in symphonic writing. (His overtures make disappointing listening, to me.) Only a few composers demonstrated superlative gifts in both operatic and symphonic composition — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Wagner, come immediately to mind, and Wagner wrote almost nothing but operatic works. Rossini is one of the few who demonstrated gifts in both areas.

I recommend the following Rossini overtures: “The Barber of Seville (7:48); “The Italian Girl in Algiers (8:02); “The Thieving Magpie (10:05); “Semiramide (13:29); “William Tell (12:06). The first three (and, to some extent, the fourth) have some things in common, which I will leave for you to find out for yourself. Parts of the “William Tell” overture should be familiar to anyone who has watched a certain classic TV western. The “William Tell” overture is a more subtle work than the others and I suspect that Rossini did not just dash it off at the last minute.

I just learned the following from Wikipedia: During his lifetime, Rossini was the most popular composer in history. He retired at the age of 37 and lived to the age of 76. He left a fortune at his death, and the Rossini Foundation continues to support the Rossini Conservatory to this day.

There are more overtures I could recommend. The following is a short list, in addition to those already mentioned.

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Once again — I call on my Muslim Brothers and Sisters — especially my Brothers (because Allah has given men the responsibility of leadership) — to read/recite the Qur’an (which is in Arabic and only in Arabic), and to do this regularly and often.

****************************************
****************************************

I continue to suggest that you listen to at least one symphony every week. The later symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, any of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies, Schubert’s eighth or ninth, Mendelssohn’s third or fourth, Tchaikovsky’s fourth, fifth or sixth, Borodin’s second, or Franck’s only symphony. There are others we might suggest. If you are ambitious, you might listen to Mahler’s second, fifth or sixth. Dvorak’s seventh, eighth and ninth are also excellent.

****************************************

I also suggest that most of us become familiar with one or two symphonies in particular, so that they becomes a sort of common currency. I suggest, first and foremost, Beethoven’s fifth symphony — perhaps the most famous symphony ever composed. The first movement is fairly compact, for a symphonic movement, and exciting. If you are not familiar with listening to symphonic music, this might be a good start. Dvorak’s ninth symphony (“From the New World”) is another symphony that we all might become familiar with — especially since it is influenced by African American themes.

Good listening!

****************************************
****************************************

Dear Brothers and Sisters, please check out my other blogs from time to time. They are:

Doctor Hakeem: African-American Commentaries

and

Word-to-Word: A Comparative Study of the Bible and the Qur’an

Thanks.

Take it easy.

As-Salaamu alaikum! Peace!

Brother Lester

Commentaries, 29 Dhul-Hijjah 1435 (October 23, 2014) — Suggested Listening

Posted in Miscellaneous Essays by Lester Knibbs on the October 22nd, 2014

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

As-Salaam alaikum! Peace!

Our Music Our Selves is an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of the Qur’an and an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of our serious music, and of the role of both in shaping our human history and identity.

The final internet radio program of Our Music Our Selves on American Muslim Blogtalk Radio is today, the 29th of Dhul-Hijjah 1435, the last Thursday of the Hijrah year (also known as October 23, 2014). Our Music Our Selves will continue (Allah willing) as a blog, and possibly in other forums. Hopefully, you will enjoy and benefit from our commentaries and suggestions.

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First of all — once again — we to call on our Muslim Brothers and Sisters — especially our Brothers (because Allah has given men the responsibility of leadership) — to read/recite the Qur’an (which is in Arabic and only in Arabic).

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Secondly, we suggest that you listen to at least two symphonies each week. The later symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, any of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies, Schubert’s eighth or ninth, Mendelssohn’s third or fourth, Tchaikovsky’s fourth, fifth or sixth, Borodin’s second, or Franck’s only symphony. There are others we might suggest. If you are ambitious, you might listen to Mahler’s second, fifth or sixth. Dvorak’s seventh, eighth and ninth are also excellent.

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Another suggestion is that most or all of us become familiar with one or two symphonies in particular, so that it becomes a sort of common currency. We suggest, first and foremost, Beethoven’s fifth symphony — perhaps the most famous symphony ever composed. The first movement is fairly compact, for a symphonic movement, and exciting. If you are not familiar with listening to symphonic music, this might be a good start. Dvorak’s ninth symphony (“From the New World”) is another symphony that we all might become familiar with — especially since it is influenced by African American themes.

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There are also a number of stand-alone symphonic works — overtures and tone poems — we might suggest. Mozart’s overture to his opera “The Marriage of Figaro”, Beethoven’s “Leonore Overture No. 3″, Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides Overture”, Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture”, and Sibelius’ “Finlandia” — among many others.

Concertos — usually for solo instrument and orchestra — are usually exciting. We’ll recommend a number of these later.

Good listening!

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, please check out my other blogs from time to time. They are:

Doctor Hakeem: African-American Commentaries

and

Word-to-Word: A Comparative Study of the Bible and the Qur’an

Thanks.

Take it easy.

As-Salaamu alaikum! Peace!

Brother Lester

FINAL PROGRAM — Yaum-ul-Khamees (“Thor’s Day”), 29 Dhul-Hijjah 1435 (October 23, 2014) — Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”)

Posted in Programming by Lester Knibbs on the October 16th, 2014

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

As-Salaam alaikum! Peace!

Our Music Our Selves is an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of the Qur’an and an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of our serious music, and of the role of both in shaping our human history and identity.

We ask and attempt to answer the questions, Who are we? What are we? and What will we become? Our mission is a mission of healing, a sacred jihaad, to overcome the damaging effects of over two thousand years of religious lies which enslave the vast majority of human beings, and to overcome, as well, the damaging effects of the Middle Passage, the centuries of terroristic exploitation and oppression, and the generations of self-perpetuating self-destruction which continue to afflict the African American people. This program is not entertainment; it is struggle, healing, and change.

Our scheduled broadcast time is Thursday morning from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/americanmuslim360. Because of the length of the featured symphonic work, there will be no time for calls.

THIS YAUM-UL-KHAMEES (“THOR’S DAY), 29th of Dhul-Hijjah 1435 (October 23, 2014):

Our theme for the year 1435 A.H. was The Chaconne. See complete programming for the year. Our planned two-week review of The Chaconne was cancelled.

This final program of Our Music Our Selves on American Muslim Blogtalk Radio will feature the Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”) for very large orchestra, chorus and soprano and contralto soloists. This awesome work was composed in 1894 by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). This symphony has five movements — the first, a rather robust funeral march in C minor; the second, a mostly lyrical and dancelike movement in A-flat major; the third, an energetic and occasionally boisterous scherzo in C minor; the fourth, a slow and hymn-like short movement featuring the contralto soloist; and the fifth, a symphony in itself, from its wild outburst opening passage to the glorious and triumphant conclusion featuring the combined forces of a huge orchestra and large mixed chorus with soprano and contralto soloists. The symphonic concludes in the glorious key of E-flat major — a resurrection from the solemn opening key of c minor.

The texts of the fourth and fifth movements, with translations from the German, can be found in the Wikipedia article here.

All of Mahler’s symphonies use cyclic form — re-using themes from earlier movements in later movements. In this symphony, the triumphant theme of the last movement is heard (in truncated form) at the height of a climax in the first movement. Cyclic form in reverse.

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This is the final program of “Our Music Our Selves” on American Muslim 360 Blogtalk Radio.

This is a personal decision on my part, based on limitations of time, energy and focus. There are so many things we all need to be doing, and we need to prioritize and make sometimes difficult decisions. We plan to continue sharing information and ideas on this blog.

Thank you for listening to us over the months and years, thanks to our Brother Thomas Abdul-Salaam, Executive Director of American Muslim 360, for sponsoring us, and thanks above all to Allah who makes all things possible. May Allah continue to bless you.

****************************************
****************************************

As usual, we to call on our Muslim Brothers and Sisters — especially my Brothers (because Allah has given men the responsibility of leadership) — if you have not been reading the Qur’an (which is in Arabic and only in Arabic, which is what Allah says, so do not be one of the mukadhdhibeen and call Allah a liar), I am calling on you to admit that you have never ever read the Qur’an.

Just ‘fess up and say:

“I have never ever read the Qur’an.”

That’s all. Do that, and you will be helping yourself and many, many other Muslims. In fact, you will be helping every person in the world — more than you know.

****************************************

Thank you for joining Brother Solomon and myself for our four-year long conversation.

The American Muslim 360 website (which may be currently non-functional):
http://americanmuslim360.com/

The American Muslim 360 Purple Politics website:
http://paper.li/AmeriMuslim360/1348707714
(or find the link at http://americanmuslim360.com/)

Purple Politics seeks to bring fair balanced reporting on the issues that matter in the lives of everyday people because we care about the state of our world. Peace is our vision, mission and hope for all of humanity! Your comments matter to us. Peace 2U!

Dear Listeners, my good Brothers and Sisters, please check out my other blogs from time to time. They are:

Doctor Hakeem: African-American Commentaries

and

Word-to-Word: A Comparative Study of the Bible and the Qur’an

Thanks.

Take it easy.

As-Salaamu alaikum wa-rahmatul-Laahi wa-barakaatuh!

Brother Lester

Yaum-ul-Khamees (“Thor’s Day”), 22 Dhul-Hijjah 1435 (October 16, 2014) — Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5

Posted in Programming by Lester Knibbs on the October 9th, 2014

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

As-Salaam alaikum! Peace!

Our Music Our Selves is an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of the Qur’an and an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of our serious music, and of the role of both in shaping our human history and identity.

We ask and attempt to answer the questions, Who are we? What are we? and What will we become? Our mission is a mission of healing, a sacred jihaad, to overcome the damaging effects of over two thousand years of religious lies which enslave the vast majority of human beings, and to overcome, as well, the damaging effects of the Middle Passage, the centuries of terroristic exploitation and oppression, and the generations of self-perpetuating self-destruction which continue to afflict the African American people. This program is not entertainment; it is struggle, healing, and change.

Our scheduled broadcast time is every Thursday morning from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/americanmuslim360. Our call-in number is 646-716-4478. You can call in to listen or, by dialing “1″, join our conversation. Call us! We love to hear from you.

THIS YAUM-UL-KHAMEES (“THOR’S DAY), 22nd of Dhul-Hijjah 1435 (October 16, 2014):

Our theme for the year 1435 A.H. has been The Chaconne. See complete programming for the year. We will not be having a two-week review of The Chaconne.

This week, we continue our series of 19th century symphonic works with the Symphony No. 5 composed in 1902 by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). This symphony has five movements — the first, a funeral march in C-sharp minor; the second, a stormy and energetic movement in A minor; the third, a huge and (mostly) joyful scherzo in D major; the fourth, a very slow and very lyrical movement for only strings and harp in F major; and the fifth, a joyful and energetic rondo in D major. These five movements are grouped into three parts — the first and second movements comprise the first part; the scherzo by itself is the second part; and the fourth and fifth movements comprise the third part. For technical reasons, I prefer to say that this symphony is in D major.

This symphony — like eight of Mahler’s nine symphonies — is composed for a very large orchestra.

All of Mahler’s symphonies use cyclic form — re-using themes from earlier movements in later movements. In this symphony, the first two movements share much thematic material, and the last two movements share much thematic material. In addition, a huge, joyful climax in the key of D major in the second movement is brought back, in more complete form, at the end of the finale.

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Next week — the last week of the year 1435 A.H. —  we plan to share with you the Mahler’s awesome second symphony (“Resurrection”), scored for huge orchestra, with full chorus and soprano and contralto soloists.

  • 22 Dhul-Ḥijjah 1435 (October 16, 2014):
    Gustav Mahler, Symphony #5 in D major (1902)
  • 29 Dhul-Ḥijjah 1435 (October 23, 2014):
    Gustav Mahler, Symphony #2 in C minor (1894)

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Next week will also be the last program of “Our Music Our Selves” on American Muslim 360 Blogtalk Radio. This is a personal decision on the part of myself, based on limitations of time, energy and focus. There are so many things we all need to be doing, and we need to prioritize and make sometimes difficult decisions. We plan to continue sharing information and ideas on this blog.

Thank you for listening to us over the months and years, thanks to our Brother Thomas Abdul-Salaam, Executive Director of American Muslim 360, for sponsoring us, and thanks above all to Allah who makes all things possible. May Allah continue to bless you.

****************************************
****************************************

As usual, we continue to call on our Muslim Brothers and Sisters — especially my Brothers (because Allah has given men the responsibility of leadership) — if you have not been reading the Qur’an (which is in Arabic and only in Arabic, which is what Allah says, so do not be one of the mukadhdhibeen and call Allah a liar), I am calling on you to admit that you have never ever read the Qur’an.

Just ‘fess up and say:

“I have never ever read the Qur’an.”

That’s all. Do that, and you will be helping yourself and many, many other Muslims. In fact, you will be helping every person in the world — even if just a little.

****************************************

Please join Brother Solomon and myself for this very special sharing and conversation.

The American Muslim 360 website (which may be currently non-functional):
http://americanmuslim360.com/

The American Muslim 360 Purple Politics website:
http://paper.li/AmeriMuslim360/1348707714
(or find the link at http://americanmuslim360.com/)

Purple Politics seeks to bring fair balanced reporting on the issues that matter in the lives of everyday people because we care about the state of our world. Peace is our vision, mission and hope for all of humanity! Your comments matter to us. Peace 2U!

Dear Listeners, my good Brothers and Sisters, please check out my other blogs from time to time. They are:

Doctor Hakeem: African-American Commentaries

and

Word-to-Word: A Comparative Study of the Bible and the Qur’an

Thanks.

Take it easy.

As-Salaamu alaikum wa-rahmatul-Laahi wa-barakaatuh!

Brother Lester

Yaum-ul-Khamees (“Thor’s Day”), 15 Dhul-Hijjah 1435 (October 9, 2014) — Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”)

Posted in Programming by Lester Knibbs on the October 2nd, 2014

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

As-Salaam alaikum! Peace!

Our Music Our Selves is an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of the Qur’an and an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of our serious music, and of the role of both in shaping our human history and identity.

We ask and attempt to answer the questions, Who are we? What are we? and What will we become? Our mission is a mission of healing, a sacred jihaad, to overcome the damaging effects of over two thousand years of religious lies which enslave the vast majority of human beings, and to overcome, as well, the damaging effects of the Middle Passage, the centuries of terroristic exploitation and oppression, and the generations of self-perpetuating self-destruction which continue to afflict the African American people. This program is not entertainment; it is struggle, healing, and change.

Our scheduled broadcast time is every Thursday morning from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/americanmuslim360. Our call-in number is 646-716-4478. You can call in to listen or, by dialing “1″, join our conversation. Call us! We love to hear from you.

THIS YAUM-UL-KHAMEES (“THOR’S DAY), 15th of Dhul-Hijjah 1435 (October 9, 2014):

Our theme for the year 1435 A.H. has been The Chaconne. See complete programming for the year. We will not be having a two-week review of The Chaconne.

This week, we resume our series of 19th century symphonic works with the Symphony No. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”), composed in 1893 by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904). This was his last symphony, and his most popular.

Dvořák composed this symphony while living in the United States. He had accepted the offer to be the director of the new conservatory of music established in New York City, but only on condition that African American and Native American students attend the institution tuition-free. He was so fond of the African American folk spirituals that he had one of his students — Harry T. Burleigh — sing them day after day for many hours. (Burleigh became one of the leading African American composers of symphonic music.) Several of the themes in this symphony are based on African American spirituals, and the third movement — the scherzo — is influenced by Native American music.

This symphony makes extensive use of cyclical form — bringing back themes from earlier movements in the later movements. It’s cumulative in this particular symphony. Each movement recalls at least one or two themes from every previous movement. This leads to powerful climaxes in the finale.

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Next week and the week after that — the last two weeks of the year 1435 A.H. —  we plan to share with you the fifth symphony and the second symphony by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. We will not have the planned two-week review of the Chaconne.

  • 15 Dhul-Ḥijjah 1435 (October 9, 2014):
    Dvořak, Symphony #9 in E minor (1893)
  • 22 Dhul-Ḥijjah 1435 (October 16, 2014):
    Gustav Mahler, Symphony #5 in D major (1902)
  • 29 Dhul-Ḥijjah 1435 (October 23, 2014):
    Gustav Mahler, Symphony #2 in C minor (1894)

****************************************

As usual, I continue to call on my Muslim Brothers and Sisters — especially my Brothers (because Allah has given men the responsibility of leadership) — if you have not been reading the Qur’an (which is in Arabic and only in Arabic, which is what Allah says, so do not be one of the mukadhdhibeen and call Allah a liar), I am calling on you to admit that you have never ever read the Qur’an.

Just ‘fess up and say:

“I have never ever read the Qur’an.”

That’s all. Do that, and you will be helping yourself and many, many other Muslims. In fact, you will be helping every person in the world — even if just a little.

****************************************

Please join Brother Solomon for this very special sharing and conversation.

The American Muslim 360 website (which may be currently non-functional):
http://americanmuslim360.com/

The American Muslim 360 Purple Politics website:
http://paper.li/AmeriMuslim360/1348707714
(or find the link at http://americanmuslim360.com/)

Purple Politics seeks to bring fair balanced reporting on the issues that matter in the lives of everyday people because we care about the state of our world. Peace is our vision, mission and hope for all of humanity! Your comments matter to us. Peace 2U!

Dear Listeners, my good Brothers and Sisters, please check out my other blogs from time to time. They are:

Doctor Hakeem: African-American Commentaries

and

Word-to-Word: A Comparative Study of the Bible and the Qur’an

Thanks.

Take it easy.

Brother Lester

Yaum-ul-Khamees (“Thor’s Day”), 8 Dhul-Hijjah 1435 (October 2, 2014) — Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”) (symphony postponed for two weeks / archived program will be broadcast instead)

Posted in Programming by Lester Knibbs on the September 25th, 2014

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

As-Salaam alaikum! Peace!

Our Music Our Selves is an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of the Qur’an and an exploration of the symphonic structure and message of our serious music, and of the role of both in shaping our human history and identity.

We ask and attempt to answer the questions, Who are we? What are we? and What will we become? Our mission is a mission of healing, a sacred jihaad, to overcome the damaging effects of over two thousand years of religious lies which enslave the vast majority of human beings, and to overcome, as well, the damaging effects of the Middle Passage, the centuries of terroristic exploitation and oppression, and the generations of self-perpetuating self-destruction which continue to afflict the African American people. This program is not entertainment; it is struggle, healing, and change.

Our scheduled broadcast time is every Thursday morning from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/americanmuslim360. Our call-in number is 646-716-4478. You can call in to listen or, by dialing “1″, join our conversation. Call us! We love to hear from you.

THIS YAUM-UL-KHAMEES (“THOR’S DAY), 8th of Dhul-Hijjah 1435 (October 2, 2014):

Our continuing theme for the year 1435 A.H. is The Chaconne. (See complete programming for the year.)

NOTICE: This week, instead of the program originally scheduled (and discussed below), we will be re-broadcasting the program originally aired on May 15, 2014. The featured work is the Symphony No. 5 in C minor by Ludwig van Beethoven. Next week, we will re-broadcast the program originally aired on June 5, 2014 — which featured the Symphony No. 1 by Johannes Brahms. Live programming should resume the following week (October 16) with the symphony originally scheduled for today. The two-week review of The Chaconne is cancelled, and the final program of 1435 A.H. will feature the Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler.

****************************************

This week, we continue our series of 19th century symphonic works with the Symphony No. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”), composed in 1893 by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904). This was his last symphony, and his most popular.

Dvořák composed this symphony while living in the United States. He had accepted the offer to be the director of the new conservatory of music established in New York City, but only on condition that African American and Native American students attend the institution tuition-free. He was so fond of the African American folk spirituals that he had one of his students — Harry T. Burleigh — sing them day after day for many hours. (Burleigh became one of the leading African American composers of symphonic music.) Several of the themes in this symphony are based on African American spirituals, and the third movement — the scherzo — is influenced by Native American music.

This symphony makes extensive use of cyclical form — bringing back themes from earlier movements in the later movements. It’s cumulative in this particular symphony. Each movement recalls at least one or two themes from every previous movement. This leads to powerful climaxes in the finale.

****************************************

Our theme for this year — The Chaconne — is the name of a musical form in the symphonic repertoire. I am using this term to refer to an ancient musical idea which probably originated in Africa and which, in historical times, was introduced to Europe and the wider world from Africa — especially during the Moorish occupation of Spain and as a consequence of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

During these last few weeks of the year 1435 A.H., we are sharing symphonies by Antonín Dvořák (his ninth symphony) and Gustav Mahler (his fifth symphony). In addition, we plan to have a two-week review of the Chaconne and its influence on 19th century symphonic works:

  • 8 Dhul-Ḥijjah 1435 (October 2, 2014):
    Dvořak, Symphony #9 in E minor (1893)
  • 15 Dhul-Ḥijjah 1435 (October 9, 2014):
    The Chaconne in 19th Century Symphonic Works, Part I
  • 22 Dhul-Ḥijjah 1435 (October 16, 2014):
    The Chaconne in 19th Century Symphonic Works, Part II
  • 29 Dhul-Ḥijjah 1435 (October 23, 2014):
    Gustav Mahler, Symphony #5 in D major (1902)

****************************************

As usual, I continue to call on my Muslim Brothers and Sisters — especially my Brothers (because Allah has given men the responsibility of leadership) — if you have not been reading the Qur’an (which is in Arabic and only in Arabic, which is what Allah says, so do not be one of the mukadhdhibeen and call Allah a liar), I am calling on you to admit that you have never ever read the Qur’an.

Just ‘fess up and say:

“I have never ever read the Qur’an.”

That’s all. Do that, and you will be helping yourself and many, many other Muslims. In fact, you will be helping every person in the world — even if just a little.

****************************************

Please join Brother Solomon for this very special sharing and conversation.

The American Muslim 360 website (which may be currently non-functional):
http://americanmuslim360.com/

The American Muslim 360 Purple Politics website:
http://paper.li/AmeriMuslim360/1348707714
(or find the link at http://americanmuslim360.com/)

Purple Politics seeks to bring fair balanced reporting on the issues that matter in the lives of everyday people because we care about the state of our world. Peace is our vision, mission and hope for all of humanity! Your comments matter to us. Peace 2U!

Dear Listeners, my good Brothers and Sisters, please check out my other blogs from time to time. They are:

Doctor Hakeem: African-American Commentaries

and

Word-to-Word: A Comparative Study of the Bible and the Qur’an

Thanks.

Take it easy.

Brother Lester

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