The power of Romanticism, radicalism, anti-racism, and the urge for human survival imbue the Power poems in Power and Conflict Cluster of the AQA anthology for GCSE English Literature

An article and commentary on the Power poems from the Power and Conflict cluster of the AQA GCSE English Literature course to assist in revision for GCSE students

Powerful spectres, phantasms and shadows lurk in the power cluster poems, which conjure images of abject human polities before awesome, tyrannical figures. Shelley, the radical; the anti-authoritarian poet, evokes a fictional representation of Rameses the Second, “king of kings” whose “sneer of cold command” and “wrinkled lip” conjure a portrait of a cruel, tyrannical leader. Blake, the visionary, composes a bleak vision of an impoverished London population, who “cry”, “sigh” and “curse” the shadowy oligarchies of the monarchy, the church, the government and ruling society who imprison them through bans, “chartered streets”, child labour, prostitution, and exploitation. Browning, some decades later, explores the egoistic, supremacist mind of a fictional Duke of Ferrara in My Last Duchess. Through the dramatic monologue, and through supreme understatement and euphemistic expressions (“I gave commands/ And all smiles stopped”), Browning horrifies us with this man, who kills off his duchess as he deems her love of life dishonourable and her carefree attitude an insult to his rank and status (“My gift of a nine hundred years old name”).

So far, the power poems caution us on the follies of human arrogance, hubris and corruption.

We see the futility of Ozymandias’s self-worship through the enduring supremacy of time and nature. His memory, in Shelley’s imagination, is but a “Half sunk, shattered visage”. The powerful elites in London fail or even refuse to perceive their abuse of power and their unjust privileges, which deafen them to the struggles of the poor. Blake’s sensory evocations of “sighs”, cries, curses, “blasts” and “marks of weakness” perhaps foreshadow the coming centuries of working-class uprisings, the development of democracy and the disintegration of pyramidal societal structures. We are being warned of an oncoming storm of human uprisings.

A storm also consumes Heaney’s imagination, but he conveys a sense of survival and equilibrium in his islanders, who have learned to weather the tempests of nature, and perhaps the Northern Ireland troubles. Heaney’s islanders, with a sense of solidarity, prepare for the winds as they have built their houses “squat” and roofed their houses with “good slate”. For these islanders, they have come to a realisation that it is “a huge nothing that [they] fear”. Gone are tyrants, the despots and barons on this island, and now they learn as a polity how to survive through the inevitable storms of life, and power of nature.

Wordsworth, sharing his anecdote as a young boat thief in the Lake District, reveals an unforgettable and paradigm-shifting encounter with the power of nature and the human imagination. His narrator’s youthful escapade with the “elvin pinnace” begins with a euphonic promise: “small circles glittering idly in the moon” and “one track of sparkling light”. But the “huge peak / black and huge”, the immense physical presence of the mountain, and symbolically, nature’s spirit and imagination, haunts him, stalking him back to shore. Until all that is left is “huge and mighty forms” which are a “trouble to his dreams”. In this, Wordsworth encounters a supreme power that we perhaps should not rally against, like Ozymandias and the Duke. Instead it is a force that we must come to terms with and bow to with a degree of respect: the unearthly power of nature and the imagination.

The imagination and particularly memories and history drive Carol Rumens and John Agard in their poems to speak out against the spectres of racism and exile. Carol Rumens narrator is an emigree or an exile, who faces hostility in their new city, whilst being drawn back to the “impressions of sunlight”, the “tastes” and the “evidence” of sunlight of their native city. Despite their city being “sick with tyrants” and accusations of being “dark” in their adopted city, this narrator cannot avoid seeing the daylight of their memories, in stark contrast to the figures of degradation in Blake’s London. Rumen’s oppressed wanderer possesses a power of will and survival through their turmoil.

Agard’s voice also speaks with a passionate pride for his Black history and his resignation and mockery of “Dem tell me / Wha dem want to tell me”. His voice acknowledges the suffocation of his history through the supremacy of  Western education, but now is standing firmly against this bias and is “carving out [his] own identity”. Now we can see power structures fading behind the rising spirits of historically oppressed voices and communities. 

And finally, the rug, or should we say, the tissue, or the paper is pulled from under the feet of all these power structures through Dharker’s musings upon the power of tissues, and how they can “let the daylight break through capitals and monoliths / through shapes that pride can make”, through egoistic statues, through covetous paintings, through palaces, through the corridors power and history books. Human tissue, for Dharker, is both vulnerable and, like paper, “thinned to be transparent” which raise structures that are at peace with their mortality, with nature and with the human soul.

We Need Peace In The Middle East

We need peace in the Middle East

We need peace with an immediate ceasefire at least

We need peace from the aerial bombings at least

We need peace from the indiscriminate killings at least

We need peace from killing mostly civilians at least

We need peace from the chemical and nuclear weapons-and of course from the rockets at least

From the tanks, the infantry, and the white phosphorous at least

We need peace in the Middle East

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The Brave New World Of Sufism


Transcript from an interview between Mureed Supreme, Mostafa Marx and host, Uncle John, recorded live at the studios, in the Fukrfield Festival of Democracy and Equality, at the London arena in Central London.

December, 2080

(Theme Music followed by rapturous studio applause. MM and UJ lighted on the stage, seated on stylish leather chairs and separated by a smart coffee table with glasses and water decanter. Applause and music fades out)

UJ: Welcome, my dear audience and citizens at home, to another segment of ‘Talking Heads’, I’m Uncle John. And today I would like to introduce our guest, none other than Mureed Supreme, Mostafa Marx! (Applause)

MM: Many thanks, John! God bless, God Bless! (Applause ends)

UJ: So let’s cut right to the chase. You are Mureed Supreme of what’s known as ‘tariqa waahidiyya’. Could you tell us more about your movement and its achievements since you were given this role?

UJ: Well, Uncle John, first of all, I would like to thank you for your kindness in inviting me onto your programme where I can discuss this critical work we’ve been doing. As you know, our society has quite rightly equalised every facet: parents and children, teacher and student, police and citizen, prime minister and constituent. We have finally reached a societal reality, thanks to our Founding Citizens, in which parents can no longer manipulate and control their kids; teachers can no longer wield authority over their learners; and even the leader of our country over the lay person on the street. We are all equal, and only God is higher- but even that height is in all of us…. God is one- but the knowledge, the truth and the power are in the many….. And religions, of whose heart is Sufism, is no exception to these ideals…

UJ: Mmm, fascinating, please elaborate about Sufism….. How so?

MM: Well, in primitive times, when people believed in the supernatural and so-called ‘spiritual states’ like ma’rifa, shuhood, hubb, shukr, and kashifaat, this all went hand in hand with notions of hierarchy, respect, deference and obedience to what was known as the ‘shaykh’. A ‘shaykh’ was supposedly someone who had attained these supernatural, spiritual states and could transfer them state into an aspirant, thereby helping their student or mureed to tread a path of enlightenment and journey in God. All Pugwash, I have to say! These spiritual states and these spiritual guides were mostly psychological tricks performed by charlatans, wielding undemocratic power over their students and committing various acts of spiritual, physical and sexual abuse at will. Whilst the few so-called ‘real’ ones, one could say, brought some kind of inner peace into the lives of their associates through ‘ma’rifa’, the majority were pushing the faithful towards an abyss of humility, forbearance and frankly extremist quietism. But as the Founding Citizens showed us so clearly, supernaturalism indeed is all in the head, there is no God but God- which really means the God of the mind. Religion and spirituality work at their best through their facilitation of socialization, camaraderie, and communal spirit. We kept the latter and got rid of the former.

UJ: Okay, that sounds rather challenging… How on earth did you rid our society of the evil of supernaturalism?

MM: Well, we came up with these ingenious devices known as the ma’rifa and shuhood inhibitors. We patented them of course. And these wonderful, life-saving devices were used on so-called shaykhs and mureeds who displayed signs of supernatural states, like spiritual tears, visions, light in the face, peaceful countenance, and so forth. The ma’rifa and shuhood inhibitors were installed on these individuals and frankly, after some time, they were cured of their so-called inner peace and inner light….

UJ: Oh yeah, how is that?

MM: Well the inhibitors were essentially locked-in headphones and digital glasses. Every time these wackos felt a bit spiritual and thought they were touching the so-called divine light of God, the inhibitor kicked in, and they got blasted by some real-world stimuli, like flashes of pornography, or hearing orgasms, and the like. The glasses had these neat, high definition video screens and the headphones crystal clears. Just some regular flashes and screams while these guys went for their morning prayer, or said invocation before sleep, and all that so-called ‘shuhood’ or ‘ma’rifa’ poured out of them like water in an unplugged bath.

UJ: So you got the old God out of them…

MM: Indeed, out with the old, in with the new…. We got rid of these shaykhs, these spiritual states, these undemocratic relationships, these inevitable oppressive structures and spread the concepts of equality and oneness. We abolished all the tariqas, and united them into one, tariqa Waahidiyya- the way of the one. No more Qadariyya, Naqshbandiyya, Shadhiliyya and all their ilk that claimed to be supernatural chains to attain these bogus spiritual states. Complete nonsense; and all divisive, conflicting bodies of shaykhs and mureeds vying with each other to see who has the most mureeds, who has the biggest tomb, who has the most attended zikrs. The tariqas were complete chaos. We abolished all notions of shaykhs and shaykhdom- now there are only mureeds, or seekers and enlightenment is naturally found within- no other has an authority and access to special knowledge that another has to show deference to. We are one and equal, our God is one and equal, and even the Prophets, every one of them, are the same as every one of us- they were just stepping stones to the rational zenith we have reached now, all through the tremendous work of the Founding Citizens. Currently, anyone who wants to enter the path of Sufism registers online, pays a monthly membership fee, and has access to every Sufi centre and mosque on this earth. 

UJ: Hmm, fascinating, fascinating… But now, as this is Talking Heads…

MM: Indeed, indeed, I know what’s coming up

UJ: Yes, yes, you know it. devil’s advocate. I have to play it.

MM: I knew you would play devil’s advocate….although the devil is all in the mind and in the small print! (mild laughter)

UJ: As your detractors say, including that renegade so-called shaykh who is still at large…. Haven’t you gotten rid of the heart of Sufism? Isn’t the whole point, that Sufism links you to the ineffable presence, through an ineffable, physical representative on earth? And surely, some deference should be showed for the one who brought such riches to your heart?

MM: Ah, yes, you quote the words of the devil himself and advocate for him well! Insha Allah the authorities will catch him and end his heresy soon….. He loves to talk about the ineffable… But as the Founding Citizens have taught us, ineffability leads to oppression- the supernatural was the biggest stumbling block and inhibitor of human progress. The so-called shaykh and his magical tricks cannot prevent the road of progress moving on through the supreme democracy of the human project.

LONG LIVE THE FOUNDING CITIZENS! (He rises and salutes. UJ and the audience follow suit then they all sit down)

UJ: Do you have a message for the shaykh if he is watching this programme or otherwise?

MM: Yes- stop pretending you are conduit for ma’rifa- become a conduit for the supremacy of the mind and equality of the human race. Amen

UJ: Mostafa- a pleasure as always. Mostafa Marx dear audience!


Rihlas 1997 and 1998: Storms and Stillness in Nottingham and Fez

Some photos from the Fez Rihla, August, 1998. The final picture shows, me with Shaykh Jamal Adh Dhahabi and other students from the Rihla
Available on Amazon:

For me, a first year BA English Literature student at Kingston University in London, enclosed by quintessential Western atheism and hedonism; Bollywood bonanzas; Salafi, Sufi and Hizbut Tahrir skirmishes; Qadianis; Kozovo ‘Jihadis’; and Pakistani parental, tribal expectations; the prospect of the Rihla was rather intriguing and daunting.

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True Stories: The Rise and Fall Of Aylesbury Asians (1991/1992) Part 2

Our sponsorship photo with a factory in Aylesbury. I’m at the back in the middle…

Before I begin this second, extended memoir of the Aylesbury Asians saga, I must give an apology. All that is written here is but fragments from my flawed memory and perception, so I ask those whom I have missed out to forgive me, and to those who disagree with my version of things, you are more than entitled to pull me up. May Allah give us the wisdom to say what is beneficial and leave out the nonsense! Ameen! My intention in sharing these stories is to shine a light on the past, with the hope that it brings cheer and nostalgia, which enriches our present moments and futures. I would also like to thank all the people I have mentioned in these accounts for making our collective lives richer, funnier and greater, both then and now. Alhamdulillah, in Aylesbury, us Paks have grown up together, inhaled the same air, walked the same streets and chilled in the same parks. Long may it continue! Ameen!

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I’m A Muslim Man In Britain



I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien. Sting            


This is what I think it means to be a British Muslim today, who was born and bred in England but hailed from immigrant parents. To have an eclectic medley of voices swirling around in your brain. Living and constantly shifting between different worlds, religions, languages, cultures, traditions and voices, all competing for some kind of hold on your identity, on your spirit, your will. All this baggage, mixed-loyalties, competing face masks and fashions stuffed into a short-lived life, which, for many of us, typically consists of home, school, mosque and holidays to Pakistan and the holy lands or whichever country you hail from.

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True Stories: The Rise and the Fall of Aylesbury Asians FC 1991-1992 Part 1

(Parental Advisory- bad language)

During the early 1990s, an amazing thing happened to the flourishing British Pakistani community in Aylesbury. An event, I am proud to proclaim, that I was part of.

So what was it?

A royal visit to the Pakistani ghetto? (Fleet Street, Havelock Street and New Street)

An opportunity to meet Pakistani cricketing icons like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis? (I’m sure some of the guys actually fancied Waqar…)

A chance to win free PIA tickets?

Dream on!

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