Random Thoughts and Notes No. 351-375

351.    Someone asked me a while back why I was not saying much about the whole uproar that is going on in the world, for example the shootings and bombings in Europe, then the subsequent rise in Islamophobic feelings in many places, and as a continuation of this, what this has led to in terms of acts of vandalism and arson on Muslim places of worship, and even physical attacks, including murders of Muslims living in the West.

What I can say is, as a beginning partial commentary: Firstly, there is an issue of civilizational conflict; I cannot in good faith say that we Muslims and the non-Muslims of various ideologies share the same base ideological and cosmological outlook, since this is a very misleading statement.

This is why I say that Muslims must always find the point of bifurcation, we must find the location where Islam starts saying that the preference has been set on one side of the scale over the other: if we can really understand that Islam gives the supreme right of legislation to Allah the Exalted and consider Him as the Lawgiver, then at least we have a clear view concerning questions of importance routinely directed at us.

And I think that yes, one of the major problems is that Muslims, both converts and non-converts (perhaps this latter category even more so), are trying to construct a ‘theory of Islam’ using building blocks alien to Islam altogether. It is true that we must understand the world we are living in and we must make strides in trying to give Muslims as much honor as possible, but we need to understand that the ‘modern secular framework’ presupposes atheism (or at most Deism, a belief in a ‘hands-off’ spiritual presence far removed from Prophets, etc.), and such a mindset cannot be brought together with Islam at its fundamental, base level.

In a sense, I think the secular countries have intuited this difference for quite some time now, which is why they are pushing ever so harder for Muslim groups living within their borders not only to denounce physical extremism and terrorism, but also to acquiesce to the overarching worldview of these secular countries. This is because they have comprehended that there is a fundamental difference in worldview, and are using their superior position in order to consolidate the basis of their polities. (I see this as a natural action from their side given their beliefs, but the question remains as to why we do not recognize this difference and start constructing ways to drive our beliefs across.)

A consequence of this (perhaps direct, perhaps indirect) has been that now “Islam” is presented as being defined by the “community of Muslims” in an almost democratic way. This is in fact very wrong, since it takes the establishing of Islam away from being a technical endeavor in need of trained professionals, to being the opinions and feelings of nominal Muslims who, even when zealous and sincere, cannot avoid the pitfalls that amateurism brings forth.

And sadly, we are even past the stage where Orientalist scholars or academicians in other fields would tell us what Islam is; now, the opinions of any Muslim, even teenagers, are paraded as formal definitions of what Islam is or of how the Muslim community must move forward. Nowadays, anyone can open an organization with a fancy name [like, “Muslims in favor of Legalized Incest”], and they will get an audience to support them somewhere, and use this to rile against “old, gray-haired men” who supposedly wish to keep power over the Muslim community to themselves.

Plus, this will then set the stage for the non-Muslim polities to start pitting Muslims (some sincere believing ones, and others only nominally so) against each other, and then say that there is only enough space in their polity for the “right” type of Muslim, the rest having to be removed from the polity – and those (nominal Muslims) who may show any sympathy towards the sincere, believing Muslim [perhaps due to ethnic, not even Deeni, affiliation] are also suspect. No doubt this is a crescendo starting with shrewd anti-Islamic rhetoric, followed by formal legislation which will inevitably make believing sincere Muslims legally disposable; physical acts of violence against Muslims are only some sections of the non-Muslim polities jumping the gun so as to say.

Based on this, then extremes will start appearing, one side being the ‘nominal Muslim’ position, which takes up Islam almost as an ethnic marker with no belief-related consequences, while some others might indeed resort to violence outside the dictates of the Shariah (as a sort of ‘communal overcompensation’ for what is seen on the other extreme). This is where the broader non-Muslim polity shows itself most adept at weakening and even neutralizing any serious Muslim community or community engagement, since it is now dealing only with extremes – one extreme it approves of, and the other which it can easily get rid of, and it forces the middle to take the “nominal Muslim” side it approves of.

352.    One weakness everyone has, but which is particularly dangerous for Muslims to exhibit, is the tendency to be disorganized in what we do and how we acquire knowledge. There will be times when one should relax and not worry about many things, and there are other times when one cannot carry out organized actions, or cannot gain formal knowledge. But if this becomes the norm, we must not be surprised if every other nation or polity surpasses us in every field of endeavor, sometimes surpassing us even in the amount of Islamic information they have with themselves.

353.    Note that Islam has been under attack for a very long time, indeed since the very beginning of its emergence; we should not complain nor flail our arms about this but rather remember that the attackers come and go, while Islam remains. Yet also, we must take the proper means within the Islamic Shariah to overcome the problems, and not wait for others (or other belief or ideological superstructures and their members) to cure our core problems, even if they have good intentions.

354.    We are asked many times about the Islamic concept of expansionism and total allegiance. The Islamic opinions do exist, but for many an indirect method may prove to give a better conceptualization: Different non-Islamic paradigms, including the secular liberal paradigms, compel its subjects/citizens to accept it absolutely, and it does have several ways in which it attempts to spread its ideology as far as it practically can, including military force whenever feasible, if political or economic pressure has proved insufficient and the goal is important enough. At the end of the day, we should ask, what is the imperative reason due to which martial force is said to be excluded from the range of options on the table for an ideology or belief to expand?

The practical, observable truth is that this method has definitely never been rejected by any nation or empire strong enough, and which believes it can or must effectuate changes for its own benefit. The regions where these changes can take place, and the material commitment that can be put into such efforts will change from nation to nation, but the fundamental rule is that military commitment to effectuate changes and to mold the world to the polity’s desire is an option today as it was in the past.

355.    Some people ask that, do we not need to have doctors, engineers, and scientists in the Muslim polity, that why are the “backward Mullahs” not understanding this fact, this religious obligation upon the community?

Allah knows best, but from what is seen, many times this statement is a cover for the questioner who simply wants to make money with his career. Besides, the truly obligatory knowledge that a Muslim must pursue is the one related to personally obligatory notions of faith and obligatory actions of the religion.

There are three noteworthy issues in this context: Firstly, many of the Muslims who study medicine, engineering, computer programming, etc., remain in communities that have an overabundance of such professionals even before they begin their studies; it cannot be said that they are filling a pressing need by taking up such careers.

Also, many times the communities such professionals eventually stay in are non-Muslim communities. Sure, we Muslims should work to make the world at large a better place, but if there really is a need for Muslim engineers or doctors within the Muslim communities, then can’t the migration be done to these places, so that the humanitarian assistance they wish to provide is materialized?

The third point is the most important: Many of these Muslim doctors, engineers and other specialists do not even know the personally obligatory matters in ‘Aqeedah or Fiqh (so one wonders, where this sudden concern for fulfilling ancillary duties of Islam arose, when the personally obligatory ones have yet to be fulfilled?). This is also the very reason why if any of these persons do graduate and excel in their fields, they may be “picked up” by various non-Muslim organizations or governments, even for purposes that go specifically against the tenets of Islam and the benefit of Muslims (so again, where did the desire for helping Islam go in this case?)

356.    On a related note, concerning the issue of “girls’ education” in Muslim-majority countries, I would say: Yes, it is imperative for girls and women to learn what is basic for their lives. But here again, the disagreements between us and the callers to women’s education become clear: We say that it is absolutely essential for them to first of all learn the fundamentals of Islam in terms of belief and practice, and we acknowledge that there will be problems in the girl’s and woman’s life if this knowledge is not learned (this is common between Muslim men and women, and in some cases the Muslim man’s responsibility may even be greater).

Anyway, it does not seem that the “liberal” opposition sees eye-to-eye with us concerning these fundamental notions of Islam to be taught. Because (to consider one point) one goal of education is to empower the students to become an effective part of the progressing economy. But we know that this may not always happen in the world (due to recessions, low quality of education, incompatibility between the education received and the job market, etc.), and within Islam there is no hard rule which says that the economy of the society must progress at all costs, such that there would be such a pressing need for a student-class to continuously drive this progress and that not doing so is religiously forbidden.

Or to bring up another case, we normally see a heightened level of competition and individualism stemming from the modern-day educational system. I would say this is a direct product of the Euro-American paradigm of the individual and of humanity as the great arbiter in the world, and what is related to this of individual human rights of movement, thought, speech, and similar language.

Again, while Islam might agree with a number of the specific points brought up, yet the paradigm itself is rejected, and even the style of education which promotes individual competition as a prerequisite of economic progress would be looked at suspiciously. In these cases then, the opposition is trying to establish action based on rules that do not really exist within Islam.

And a further point is, there is an imbalance between what is portrayed by some organizations and what is seen: often the girls/womenfolk in Muslim lands are much more advanced in terms of the formal education they receive in comparison to the boys/menfolk; meaning the alarms are being sounded off for a non-existent reality, a “reality” existing only in the mind of the objector.

357.    A further question is asked, that would we really take our children out of the school system, if we feel with certainty that their Islamic notions are under threat? To this, the simple answer is yes. To explain, one has to have a clear goal concerning what he wishes to achieve in his own person and for those who are under his guardianship. If the ultimate goals clash with certain circumstances placed in front of one, then the ultimate goals always take precedence. [I had written about this issue some time back, in the following link.]

358.    It seems that one of the reasons why many religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, or Taoism have an anti-realist bent in many of their forms is because they are trying too hard to understand the nature of the soul itself. It is known that Buddhism says that the soul does not even exist, but then again, this seems to be extremism in the opposite way, a direct contradiction to what Hinduism puts forth about the eternality of the soul and its non-distinction from the Absolute.

All this, while in Islam the Qur’anic Ayah is that we have not been given much knowledge of the soul, and that it is from the command of our Lord. We may add to this the fact that we need to nourish it by connecting with Allah the Exalted. However, the obsession with trying to find out complex realities behind the soul is frowned upon, especially for the common Muslim.

So yet again, we see that Islam adopts a middle approach: It does not exaggerate in the value of the material world nor that of the spiritual world, so that we do not become materialist atheists or anti-materialist spiritists (or even spiritualist atheists, as is becoming more common today).

359.    The nature of property is such that one can do with his property whatever he wishes. If I have a pen and I throw it away, from the point of view of property rights, no one can chide me as to why I am throwing something that is mine away…this rough analogy is important when we discuss Allah the Exalted’s dominion over His Creation: He has the full right to put whoever He wills in Paradise, and whoever He wills in Hellfire, and no one can ask as to why it was actualized in this manner.

Allah knows best, but it seems that if a person can understand this and accept it in his heart, he will definitely correct his ways through the conscious following of the Islamic religion. Otherwise, he will definitely be either severely confused about matters of Islamic Law, Islamic eschatology, etc., or he might even leave Islam because he thinks himself quantifiably comparable to Allah the Exalted.

360.    It is mentioned that the Awliyaa’ of Allah are hidden, even amongst those who are currently non-Muslims. Thus, it is appropriate for us, whenever we call people to Islam, to do it with the supposition that the person we are talking to is potentially better than us. We should make the recipient of Da’wah feel at ease, to feel that he is respected by the caller to Allah, and that perhaps Allah will open the eyes of his heart for Islam and make him excel in the Deen.

361.    Animals can be convinced with ‘Ayn al-Yaqeen (the direct access to the truth itself; the analogy is being in front of the fire, and being able to see it and even touch it in order to gain certainty of the fire’s existence); yet humans are a higher creation, and humans should also be convinced with ‘Ilm al-Yaqeen (knowledge that points to the truth; the analogy is smoke pointing to the existence of fire). On the Resurrection Day, the excuse that one was not directly face to face with the realities that Allah required belief in will not be accepted, since humans are a noble creation and make use of their higher faculties for everything they do in this world, and should have done so with regards to the world of the Ghayb (unseen) as well.

362.    When the non-religious non-Muslim rich people die, many times they give their money and estates to universities and foundations, so that their name and legacy will continue. This means that Allah has placed within everyone a desire to go on after his physical death, but without belief in the Hereafter, its manifestation is truly strange, such as a plaque or statue in front of the department of a university –this is the highest manifestation of that person’s “Hereafter” in his mind.

363.    In Surah al-‘Asr, when the loss the human beings are in is mentioned in addition to those who are saved, the rule is loss and the exception is escape from this loss; thus the exception confirms the general rule.

364.    The Shuyuukh mention that one of the particularities of Islamic Law is that there is no benefit in the law for the Lawgiver – that is, Allah does not benefit from the Shariah; this is besides His not benefiting whether we follow or discard Islam and the Shariah.

365.    It is clear that at the conceptual level, a root conflict between Muslims and others is whether Allah can and does reveal not only a religion that is practiced in houses of worship, but whether He reveals a ‘Deen’ in the sense of a total way of life. This idea is thoroughly mocked at and de facto taken out of the discussion in many countries, but it serves as the very essence of the Islamic religion – thus conflict is bound to happen time after time: The cosmology/theology gap between us Muslims and others [even other religious groups] is often quite substantial and cannot be “repackaged” away.

Yes, many a times we will try to mention the fact that Muslims do live in the world, in the real world as we find it, yet one way or the other the conflict will come up again and again – a main reason being that our true abode is the Hereafter; this world, though real, is a temporary abode for the human, and conflicts will arise with the ones who believe this world is all there is.

366.    A point mentioned by one of the Shuyukh: The brain is a tool whose correct usage has to be learned, just like any other tool or instrument available to us.

And I think one of the big tragedies facing the Muslim Ummah is how we have deprecated the use of our minds in looking at the world and in studying Islam. This is exactly why one routinely finds many Muslims believing every conspiracy theory that comes their way, and of not knowing how to construct a proper argument – let alone a method of discourse – whenever they discuss anything with Muslims or non-Muslims.

I know that historically the lay Muslim was not generally called upon to defend his religion, but if this is what he wishes to do or is compelled to do given the circumstances, then there is a course of action, mostly involving the proper use of one’s rational faculties which are to be followed; no shortcuts are allowed in these cases, at least not from our side. If our goal is truly Da’wah and defense of the religion, we cannot be lazy in looking for problems in the arguments of the opponents, since the opponents many a times are using quasi-logical statements to try and deprecate the Muslims, as has been mentioned before.

367.    After the victory of the Muslims in Badr, the phenomenon of idol-worship was finished in Madinah: People either converted to Islam in truth, or became hypocrites. Allah knows best, but as I have mentioned before, this also shows that power and victory has an effect in leading the community to view the victor favorably and of joining the cause of the victor– no one likes to be part of a community that is suffering defeats non-stop. Definitely, there are periods of difficulty, periods where men’s souls are tested, but if this goes on for one generation, two generations, and so on, then most people will simply shut down, since total hopelessness is not part of the things a human body and a human mind can take forever.

Allah knows best, but it seems that engaging in Jihad in the proper Shar’i manner has, as one of its good consequences, the emergence of a feeling among the Muslim community that they are on the ‘march forward’. This is definitely not part of a logical syllogism to prove Islam as correct, but rather has to do with feelings and emotions of attachment to the Islamic Ummah and to the project of the growth of Islam in the world.

368.    If a person can understand that Allah is not obligated to enter anyone from among His Creation into Paradise, it should be much easier to comprehend that Shar’i rules do not necessarily have to follow an “equality for everyone” basis. And in this, we see that one matter is related to choices Allah makes in connection with rules that are to be followed in this temporal world, while the other is with regards to eternal life, where the differentiation between individuals becomes fully demonstrated, since it is the ultimate manifestation of Allah’s Creative Will.

369.    We often hear about how the non-Muslims will always oppose the establishment of Islam, since this would lead to a total loss of freedom for the non-Muslims. I say that this is a recourse to an animalistic sense of survival within the human (What I call the “barbarian clause”: ‘We must destroy these barbarians or we ourselves will be destroyed’). The specific laws of Islam regarding establishment of its rule may be studied, and I am sure that non-Muslims would find some positives and perhaps some negatives as they see it, but crucially it would not be based on an animalistic fear, which is meant to immediately shut down any investigation or research.

Also consider that for religious Christians or Jews, the Islamic rules (such as Jizya) would be more amenable than their current situation under nation-states, where they are legally obligated to pay high taxes, while their own way of legislating and believing has come under tremendous pressure, and there is a very marked decline in the number of their community, year on year.

370.    A thought about the term ‘Islamophobia’: It seems to denote in my mind at least a phobia or a dislike of a natural characteristic, and natural in here means ‘ethnic’ like Jewish and its relationship to Anti-Semitism. But for us Muslims, the crucial factor is our beliefs and tenets, so it should be asked why more obvious terms like ‘anti-Islam’ or ‘Islam-hater’ are not used for those who purposefully deride Islam. I for one do not think ‘Muslim’ should be used (as in anti-Muslim or Muslim-hater), since unfortunately the term ‘Muslim’ has been watered down to the level of a pseudo-ethnicity. However, Islam as a way of life can still be identified as something that people will be for or against, that they will either love or hate.

(There are also seems to have been some laziness from our side when the discourse on, say, the Iraq War came up and the media identified the major groups as Kurds, Sunnis, and Shias – giving the impression to most people that all these were ethnicities, though the latter two are beliefs.)

371.    Synonyms in Arabic are never connotations of the exact same meaning as opposed to what we see in English, so one has to endeavor to find out what the difference in the meaning is, especially with regards to Islamic literature.

372.    Mu’aamalaat (Jurisprudential rulings regarding interactions between individuals) is based on the ‘Urf (custom), and the language of the people as well (again, dictated on customary usage). Definitely, certain words and phrases give an automatic effect, but many times the interactions are not based on these few words and phrases, and this is also why the Qaadhi (judge) must be someone from the locality, who knows how the people customarily interact with each other.

373.    People are often annoyed if you say that, at the most fundamental level of existence, everyone is a slave and needs to choose his/her master properly and prudently; but then, if someone is annoyed, this means he/she is taking a basically atheistic viewpoint of reality (i.e. one is equal with everyone else, the only relationships ever between existents are those of dependency with others, and similar propositions).

374.    If one reads history he will see how many times in the past few centuries (well before the end of World War 2), the French, Russians, Germans, and British were shredding each other into pieces, even as they forwarded so-called “enlightened ideals” unto the rest of humanity. In this sense, seeing Muslims as uniquely belligerent makes no sense. What happens is that most of us have a black hole when it comes to something other than World War 1 or World War 2, and this is lamentable, and plays right into the hands of the non-Muslim opponent. (What I mean to say is that there were many more major wars even of World war-caliber than these two, their being named as such seems to indicate all was well and dandy before 1914, which is definitely false).

375.    It seems that whenever warfare is carried out, there is a very slick usage of terms and concepts, sometimes a wholesale repackaging of linguistic terms. “Collateral damage in the theater of operations” is a phrase that comes to mind, which is a way of saying a bomb veered off course and killed an entire non-combatant family, for example. It is all fine that the existence of non-combatant deaths is acknowledged, but terms like ‘collateral’, ‘damage’, and ‘theater of operations’ seems at least to me, to implicitly say that non-combatants are legitimate targets in this play, this game. Otherwise how did they become ‘collateral’, which seems to be very much like ‘equivalent to’ the combatants? Perhaps there is an attempt at some level to conflate the equivalence in humanity between non-combatants and combatants to the equivalence in belligerence, since the audience cannot differentiate how and why the term is being used as such, especially in the course of the sentence being presented in a quick stream within a report. [Of course, Islam has its own rules of warfare, but here I am just looking at how the other side is using terms and presenting their whole enterprise of warfare].