Heightened Senses

Hello. I'm Imraan. This is the only thing I own outright; I write from time to time, in the hopes that free-association might save a trip to a sanatorium.

Category: Atheism

Pictures of the World – Between Method and Zeitgeist?

“One of the most disagreeable present consequences of the failure to understand what method is, and hence what the limits of any method must be, is our current fashion in respectable pseudo-science. Every scientific epoch has been hospitable to charlatanry and hermetic nonsense, admittedly; but these days our shared faith in the limitless power of scientific method has become so pervasive and irrational that, as a culture, we have become shamefully tolerant of all those lush efflorescences of wild conjecture that grow up continuously at the margins of the hard sciences and thrive on a stolen credibility. This is especially true at the fertile purlieus of Darwinian theory, which enjoys the unfortunate distinction of being the school of scientific thought most regularly invoked to justify spurious theories about precisely everything. Evolutionary biology, properly speaking, concerns the development of physical organisms by way of replication, random mutation, and natural selection, and nothing else. The further the tropes of Darwinian theory drift from this very precise field of inquiry, the more willfully speculative, metaphysically unmoored, and empirically useless they become. Yet texts purporting to provide Darwinian explanations of phenomena it has no demonstrable power to describe pour in ceaseless torrents from the presses and inexhaustible wellsprings of the Internet. There are now even whole academic disciplines, like evolutionary psychology, that promote themselves as forms of science but that are little more than morasses of metaphor. (Evolutionary psychologists often become quite indignant when one says this, but a ‘science’ that can explain every possible form of human behavior and organization, however universal or idiosyncratic, and no matter how contradictory of other behaviors, as some kind of practical evolutionary adaptation of the modular brain, clearly has nothing to offer but fabulous narratives – Just So Stories, as it were – disguised as scientific propositions.) As for the even more daringly speculative application of Darwinian language to spheres entirely beyond the physiological, like economics, politics, ethics, social organization, religion, aesthetics, and so on, it may seem a plausible practice at first glance, and it has quite in keeping with our cultural intuition that evolutionary imperatives somehow lie at the origin of everything (an intuition, incidentally, impossible to prove either as a premise or as a conclusion), but it is a purely analogical, not empirical, approach to things: pictoral, not analytic. It produces only theories that are neither true nor false, entertainingly novel metaphors, some more winsome folklore to add to the charming mythopoeia of materialism; and there is no way in which it could ever do any more than this. As soon as one moves from the realm of physiological processes to that of human consciousness and culture, one has taken leave of the world where evolutionary language can be tested or controlled. There are no longer any physical interactions and replications to be measured, and no discrete units of selection that can be identified (assuming one is not so gullible as to take the logically incoherent and empirically vacuous concept of ‘memes’ seriously). Even if one believes that human consciousness and culture are the results solely of evolutionary forces, one still cannot prove that they function only in a Darwinian fashion, and any attempt to do so soon dissolves into a rosy mist of picturesque similes.

“No doubt it says something about the extraordinarily high esteem in which the sciences are held today, after so many remarkable advances over so sustained a period, that there is scarcely a field of inquiry in the academic world that would not like a share of their glamor. It also goes some way toward explaining the propensity of some in the sciences to imagine that their disciplines endow them with a sort of miraculous aptitude for making significant pronouncements in fields in which they actually have received no tutelage. It is perfectly understandable, for example, but also painfully embarrassing, when Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow casually and pompously declare that philosophy is dead (as they recently have). They might even conceivably be right, but they certainly would not be competent to know if they are (as the fairly elementary philosophical errors in their book show). Every bit as silly are the pronouncements of, say, Richard Feynman or Steven Weinberg regarding the apparent “meaninglessness” of the universe revealed by modern physics (as if any purely physical inventory of reality could possibly have anything to tell us about the meaning of things). High accomplishment in one field – even genius in that field – does not necessarily translate into so much as the barest competence in any other. There is no such thing, at least among finite minds, as intelligence at large; no mind not constrained by its own special proficiencies and formation, no privileged vantage that allows any of us a comprehensive insight into the essence of all things, no expertise or wealth of experience that endows any of us with the wisdom or power to judge what we do not have the training or perhaps the temperament to understand. To imagine otherwise is a delusion, no less in the case of a physicist that in the case of a barber – more so, perhaps, as the barber, not having been indoctrinated with the very peremptory professional dogmas regarding the nature of reality, would no doubt be far easier to disabuse of his confidence of the limitless capacities of tonsorial method.”

David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss (Yale, New Haven: 2013), pp 72-74. Okay it has been a while since I’ve had to cite anything properly, but that ought to suffice, one hopes! Typos are most-definitely mine.

On Suffering

Tell me what you do with your suffering, I will tell you who you are.

Dr Tariq Ramadan’s understanding of suffering through Nietzsche as a transformational experience.

I wonder, what do we do with our  day-to-day suffering that elevates us above our current selves? There’s something to be said for the current fad of ‘self love’ and ‘self acceptance’; where is the depth of our thinking?  Why do we turn away from the radical power of transformation that our lived experiences can provide for us. The pursuit of material felicity through accepting oneself and thus turning a blind eye to our lower selves is wholly unsatisfying for the soul that is now so clouded by its own self-reverence that it cannot see its innate purpose.

“Man is the proof of God. A man of God is proof of religion.” (I believe that one is from Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad).

What Mastery of the Mystical Sciences…

Stillness and motion do not apply to Him. How can a thing occur in Him which He has Himself made to occur, and how can a thing revert to Him which He first created, and how can a thing appear in Him which He first brought to appearance? If it had not been so, His Self will have become subject to diversity, His Being will have become divisible (into parts) and His reality will have been prevented from being deemed eternal. If there was a front to Him then there will have been a rear also for Him. He will need completing only if shortage befell Him. IN such case, signs of the created will appear in Him and He will become a sign (leading to other objects) instead of signs leading to Him. Through the might of His abstention (from affectedness) He is far above being affected by things which effect others.

Below, I have typed up Sermon 28 from  the Peak of Eloquence, the vast repository or  collection of Sermons, sayings, letters Imam Ali  (a.s), compiled by Sharif al-Radi.

This version is published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, New York.

I’ve included sections from others that are utterly awe-inspiring (emphasis mine, mostly!)

Sermon 28 – About the Transient Nature of this World and the Importance of the Next World

What a truly edifying, (perhaps terrifying) words of perennial wisdom and admonition; how easy it is to forget the life that is to come; too easily do we live as if we will never die, that we’ll repent tomorrow – yet in whose mortal hand does the power exist to guarantee his tomorrow? Sharif al-Radi, the compiler of this great work,

“So now, surely this world has turned its back and announced its departure while the next world has appeared forward and proclaimed its approach. Today is the day of preparation while tomorrow is the day of race. The place to proceed is Paradise while the place of doom is Hell. Is there no one to offer repentance over his faults before his death? Or is there no one to perform virtuous acts before the day of trial?

“Beware, surely you are in the days of hopes behind which stands death. Whoever acts during the days of his hope before the approach of his death, his action would benefit him and his death would not harm him. But he who fails to act during the period of hope before the approach of death, his action is a loss and his death will harm him. Beware and act during a period of attraction just as you act during a period of dread. Beware, surely I have not seen one who covets Paradise asleep nor dreads Hell to be asleep. Beware, he whom right does not benefit must suffer the harm of the wrong and he whom guidance does not keep firm will be led away by misguidance toward destruction.

“Beware, you have been ordered insistently to march and have been guided as to how to provide for the journey. Surely the most frightening thing which I am afraid of about you is to follow desires and to widen the hopes. Provide for yourself from this world what would save you tomorrow (on the Day of Judgement).”
The Last Portion  of Sermon 83 – The Lesson to Be Learned from Those Who Have Passed Away:

“O servants of Allah!! Where are those who were allowed (long) ages to live and they enjoyed bounty? They were taught and they learned. they were given time and they passed it in vain. They were kept healthy and they forgot (their duty). They were allowed a long period (of life), were handsomely provided, were warned of grievous punishment and were promised big rewards. You should avoid sins that lead to distraction and vices that attract the wrath (of Allh).

“O people who possess eyes and ears, health and wealth! Is there any place of protection, any shelter of safety, or asylum or haven, or occasion to run away or to come back (to this world)? If not, how are you, then turned away (Holy Quran, 6:95;   10:34;   35:3;   40:62) and whither are you averting? By what things have you been deceived? Certainly, the share of everyone of you from the earth is just a piece of land equal to his owns stature and size where he would lie on his cheeks covered with dust. The present is an opportune moment for acting.

“O servants of Allah! Since the neck is free from the loop and spirit is also unfettered, now you have time for seeking guidance. You are in ease of body; you can assemble in crowds, the rest of life is before you; you have opportunity of acting by will; there is opportunity for repentance and peaceful circumstances. (But you should act) before you are overtaken by narrow circumstances and distress, or fear and weakness, before the approach of the awaited death and before seizure by the Almighty, the Powerful.”

*”Sayyid ar-Radi says the following: ‘It is related that when Imam Ali ibn Abu [sic] Talib delivered this sermon people began to tremble, tears flowed from their eyes and their hearts were frightened. Some people call this sermon Brilliant Sermon (al-Khutbatul-Gharra’).

A Portion of Sermon 184 – on the Creation of the Universe

“In His creation, the big, the delicate, the heavy, the light, the strong, the week are all equal. ** So is the sky, the air, the winds and the water. Therefore, look at the sun, moon, vegetation, plants, water, stone, the difference of this night and day, the springing of the streams, the large number of the mountains, the height of their peeks, the diversity of languages and the variety of tongues. Then woe unto him who disbelieves in the One who ordains, who denies the Ruler! These believe that they are like grass for which there is no cultivator nor any maker for their own sundry shapes. They have not relied on any argument for what they assert, nor on any research for what they have heard. Can there be any construction without a constructor, or any offense without an offender?

The Wonderful Creation of the Locust

“If you wish, you can tell about the locust (as well). Allah gave it two red eyes, lighted for them two moons like pupils, made for it small ears, opened for it a suitable mouth and gave it a keen sense, gave it two teeth to cut with and two sickle-like feet to grip with. The farmers are afraid of it in the matter of crops. Farmers cannot drive the locust away even though they may join together in their effort. The locust attics the fields and satisfies its hunger although its body is not equal to a thin finger.”

The Glory of Allah

“Glorified is Allah before Whom everything in the skies or on earth bows down in prostration willingly and unwillingly, submits to Him by placing his cheeks and face (on the dust), kneels before Him (in obedience) peacefully and humbly and hands over to Him full control in fear and apprehension.

“The birds are bound by His commands. He knows the number of their feathers and their breaths. He has made their feet stand on water and on dry land. He has ordained their livelihoods. He knows their species. This is the crow, this is the eagle, this is the pigeon, and this is the ostrich. He called out every bird by its name (while creating it) and provided it with its livelihood. He created heavy clouds and produced from them heavy rain, spreading it on various lands. He drenched the earth after its dryness and grew vegetation from it after its barrenness.”

**

Modernity as Moral Arbiter

Here’s a comment piece by a hero of mine from the Left, Owen Jones, who indeed celebrates the loss of the case in the Supreme Court by the Bulls today, who lost their final appeal to say that based on their religious grounds, they had a right to turn away a gay couple from their privately owned guesthouse. I’m not sure of what to make of this – though readers will know I’m a regular critic (albeit an unsophisticated one) of ‘Modernity’ or ‘Progress’ or those other Humanistic metanarratives, I do feel very uncomfortable at the precedent that this case will set.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/martyrs-guesthouse-owners-who-turned-away-gay-couple-on-religious-grounds-are-nothing-of-the-kind-8967077.html

Elsewhere, the BBC reported:

“Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said: “Sexual orientation is a core component of a person’s identity which requires fulfilment through relationships with others of the same orientation.”

Indeed, this may well be true; my question is, on what grounds, and what evidence, can you stake this ontological claim? What in any Modernist discourse actually tells you that the above is the case?

Couldn’t there equally be some postmodern critique to say that these notions of monogamous sexual relationships are merely part of a scheme of oppressive grand narratives? Why then stick to the rather Judaeo-Christian notion of a monogamous relationship, so much in vogue in the Middle Ages,  for which he shows such disdain? Surely we’ve moved past that age of bleak ignorance.

I’m not sure about this ruling, and for once I happen to strongly disagree with Mr Jones; and disgusting and odious as I find him, I think David Starkey has a reasonable solution; I am intrigued as to why the notion of an objection to what is perceived ‘morality’ on say, sexual acts, is somehow conflated with the notion of ‘homophobia’ – what has happened to the state of moral discourse and argumentation?

If indeed one is making a legal case (whether or not the subtext might reek of something more sinister), the arguments should be taken for what they are; I see no point in a judge already coming to a case with a narrative already framed.

I cannot see why, within reason, religious discourse cannot frame one of multiple narratives through which ‘modern’ liberal society can operate. I don’t see why the narrative of ‘modernism’ or ‘Progress’ ought to be favoured over any other; to say that one objects to pre-marital intercourse has nothing to do with the Middle Ages – morality shouldn’t change merely because the times have, and if it does, you ought to be very, very worried if there has been a very small body of thought put into it. Shouting ‘Equality’ is fine – but the term in and of itself is empty.

Religion has been cheapened immensely – what on earth has Southern Cafe owners got to do with this, or the book of Leviticus? Were there moral, cultural, economic (or a combination)  reasons then given? Having taken a course or two on South African history, I fail to see what ‘moral’ arguments were made to sustain those decades of apartheid… it seems to me historical forces were perhaps more important in what resulted in that very bleak period of South African history from which she has not recovered.

Would Jones be happier if they made an economic or utilitarian argument in favour of their view?

Perhaps some solid Marxist argument that the modes of production to keep this liberal edifice, in which his moral framework operates, are better served by stable family model predicated upon a man and a woman whose reproductive capacity is functional and uninhibited? Is that what we’ve come to? What hubris!

Or is he perhaps failing to see that his model of morality, predicated upon some notion of ‘autonomy’ of the self (again, what reason he has to suppose this is beyond me), is fine so long as it does not interfere with the productive capacity of the state; i.e. crudely, do what the heck you want – just keep going to work and paying your taxes and buying things.

An ardent socialist activist with a capitalist framework for ethics? At least he’s not the first. Why he’s buying into a crude economic narrative strikes of something pathologically rotten at the core of some social activists. And it breaks my heart – seeing as I happen to be of the ‘Left.’

Why, suddenly, is religion somehow one of the vestiges of an age of Ignorance – that same tyranny in which the dominant narrative that he found distasteful then is now being re-implemented, only in this case it is his own narrative that has exerted its proverbial agency.

I for one find myself within a moral universe, and though it’s not always apparent what the right thing is to do – though we have a tremendous amount of collective memory and wisdom, traditions and Scriptures that speak to this understanding – I don’t see what privileged access Mr Jones has, considering (in all fairness), that his vision of a moral and liberal world is erected upon very shaky foundations; he would do well to not rest on his laurels for too long.

I wonder what he would say if Mr Jones was informed that those in the Middle Ages found themselves in the same moral universe in which he now exists – would he have to bankrupt himself of any notion of ‘morality’ simply because those in times gone past also attested to its existence?

Jones is committing what MacIntyre (I believe) warned us of – he’s merely speaking a different language to the Bulls; I wonder if by speaking past them and not taking the time to consider the immense body of collected wisdom and thought put into their beliefs, he is indeed oppressing them by suggesting that his narrative ought to displace theirs.

On the Soul

Dear friends, 

I have, for the last few days, been dipping into a wonderful collection of essays by Marilynne Robinson, called When I Was a Child I Read Books. I’ve managed to steal a computer for a short time from relatives – who have grown perhaps as dependent upon them as have I! So here is what I could produce in a short amount of time:

If indeed you’re looking for a read that will draw your attention merely to the state of ‘marvel,’ or ‘wonder’ at the glory of the very fact that you ‘are,’ then there are very few books I might recommend more highly than this one, for it is exquisite. Robinson has a way of lovingly crafting her sentences, and drawing the reader’s internal eye to a state of reflection that I feel few modern writers can do comparably well. 

Here is a stunningly beautiful passage from her first essay, Freedom of Thought, on modern discourse and the soul: (I hope I have not breached any copyrights – though dear readers feel free to inform me and I will edit the passage as necessary; my hope is just that you get a decent and tantalising spoonful of her work that would draw you in to purchase her books):

“Modern discourse is not really comfortable with the word “soul,” and in my opinion the loss of the word has been disabling, not only to religion but to literature and political thought and to every humane pursuit. In contemporary religious circles, souls, if they are mentioned at all, tend to be spoken of as saved or lost, having answered som set of divine expectations or failed to answer them, having arrived at some crucial realization or failed to arrive at it. So the soul, the masterpiece of creation, is more or less reduced to a token signifying cosmic acceptance or rejection, having little or nothing to do with that miraculous thing, the felt experience of life, except insofar as life offers distractions or temptations. 

Having read recently that there are more neurons in the human brain that there are stars in the Milky Way, and having read any number of times that the human brain is the most complex object known to exist in the universe, and that the mind is not identical with the brain but is more mysterious still, it seems to me this astonishing nexus of the self, so uniquely elegant and capable, merits a name that would indicate a difference in kind from the ontological run of things, and for my purposes “soul” would do nicely. Perhaps I should pause here to clarify my meaning, since there are those who feel that the spiritual is diminished or denied when it is associated with the physical. I am not among them. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul says, “Ever since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” If we are to consider the heavens, how much more are we to consider the magnificent energies of consciousness that make whomever we pass on the street a far grander marvel than our galaxy? At this point of dynamic convergence, call it self or call it soul, questions of right and wrong are weighed, love is felt, guilt and loss are suffered. And, over time, formation occurs, for weal or woe, governed in large part by that unaccountable capacity for self-awareness. 

The locus of the human mystery is perception of this world. From it proceeds every thought, every art. I like Calvin’s metaphor – nature is a shining garment in which God is revealed and concealed. As we perceive we interpret, and we make hypotheses. Something is happening, it has a certain character or meaning which we usually feel we understand tentatively, though experience is almost always available to reinterpretation based on subsequent experience or reflection. Here occurs the weighing of moral and ethical choice. Behavior proceeds from all this, and is interesting, to my mind, in the degree that it can be understood to proceed from it. 

We are very much afflicted now by tedious, fruitless controversy. Very often, perhaps typically, the most important aspect of a controversy is not the area of disagreement but the hardening of agreement, the tacit granting on all sides of assumptions that ought not to be granted on any side. The treatment of the physical as a distinct category antithetical to the spiritual is one example. There is a deeply rooted notion that the material exists in opposition to the spiritual, precludes or repels or trumps the sacred as an idea.This dichotomy goes back at least to the dualism of the Manichees, who believed the physical world was the creation of an evil god in perpetual conflict with a good god, and to related teachings within Christianity that encouraged mortification of the flesh, renunciation of the world, and so on.

For almost as long as there has been science in the West there has been a significant strain in scientific thought which assumed that the physical and material preclude the spiritual. The assumption persists among us still, vociforous as ever, that if a thing can be “explained,” associated with a physical process, it has been excluded from the category of the spiritual. But the “physical” in this sense is only a disappearingly thin slice of being, selected, for our purposes, out of the totality of being by the fact that we perceive it as solid, substantial.We all know that if we were the size of atoms, chairs and tables would appear to us as loose clouds of energy. It seems to me very amazing that the arbitrarily selected “physical” world we inhabit is coherent and lawful. An older vocabulary would offer the word “miraculous.” Knowing what we know now, and earlier generation might see divine providence in the fact of a world coherent enough to be experienced by us as complete in itself, and as a basis upon which all claims to reality can be tested. A truly theological age would see this divine Providence intent on making a human habitation within the wild roar of the cosmos.”

 

Why is it never said that a woman is ‘potentially pregnant’ at 24 weeks?

If you happen to be an ardent secularist, or a person that finds my views unsavoury because I happen to come from a religious tradition, or just don’t like that I happen to disagree with a secular consensus on this issue, please don’t bother to read this. The discussion on the subject of abortion has gone to such ridiculous dimensions, full of non-sequuntur (or is that non-sequiturs), that we are no longer even talking about actual people  – and so I apologise in advance if this appears more a screed than anything else.

I mean no disrespect to the women who have had to undertake such a drastic step – in fact, my heart bleeds for them – it is primarily the discourse with which I have a problem – it sidesteps the greater debate about preserving the equality and dignity of women…not just despite the fact that they have a womb…

Dear readers – here is my first rant in God-knows how long… I have not slept, and so I am trying to tire myself out by putting down all my current thoughts on this subject. That said, you will clearly be able to tell that I am no moral philosopher nor have any command over modal logic – these are my visceral reactions to some of the rather tiring things I hear. I will offer unsophisticated arguments to what I see as very unsophisticated arguments that I read.

In the last couple of years or so, I’ve begun to find myself overwhelmingly in what will be called the ‘pro-Life’ camp in the debate surrounding the termination of a life in the WOMb of a WOMan… (see a connection? Maybe not linguistically correct but it says something profound about the incredible biologic and spiritual function a woman plays in relation to the man).

Part of this has something to do with my disillusion with that liberal secularism in the West – the principles upon which it stands are flimsy at best – we find ourselves in a situation where we insist on protecting and preserving the most vulnerable of our society, yet it seems to conflict with the apparent right to be sovereign over one’s body).

Recently, in the UK anyhow, the debate has produced great dicta of sophistry:
“This is a legally decided matter  – the issue has been resolved.”

With a lack of moral clarity over the matter, the secular age has resorted to the free-consensus of the general, sentient population to legislate upon moral issues. Try as they might – in an age driven purely by the discourse of ‘don’t infringe upon my rights to do anything’, there is an utter conflict. Surely Hitler and his power-apparatus alone weren’t solely responsible for the tragedy of the mass and industrialised killings of the first half of the twentieth century? Whether or not the people had legislative power, no doubt a general consensus was a necessary reason for the events that tragically ensued.

But what about propaganda, or the (mis)guiding of the discourse from the top, resulting in a sort of mass hysteria or a delusion…? Well, good point. But then what about the case of the discourse from the bottom, as the top, which says “these are my rights and therefore I can…” without giving a thought to the rights of whoever exists within the womb?

What about the fact that ‘religious views ought not be involved in the legislative process’ – what about the fact that those religious traditions represent a broad church of those for whom values are sacred and moral judgements more founded than mere ‘consensus’-politics… is this not an equal steering of the discourse by systematically excluding voices in a hard secularist paradigm.

For example – despite a large protest from Catholic, Islamic, conservative/Orthodox Jewish, conservative Christians, and many other religiously affiliated groups – the matter is not resolved on terms of “what are the moral consequences for the soul [which won’t exist in this discussion],” “or where is the fundamental sacredness of life in this debate?” “Why is the termination of a life of an unconscious fetus more significant than that of an equally unconscious animal?”

“How dare you tell me what I can do with my womb?”

Is this the epitome of hubris? There’s all sorts of things that I can and cannot do with my body upon which we legislate for reasons that seem liberal and democractic. I.e. I am not allowed to, say, use my hands – from which the sustenance of my child is produced – to beat my child to the edge of his life… why? Because it is an abuse of a vulnerable entity – concious or otherwise – the law applies equally to my five year old as it would my newborn.

I am not allowed, for example, to kill my cat because I find myself in dire financial straits or find it untenable to continue to let it live. Why? Same reason – this being is perhaps less conscious than my five-year-old yet for some reason, its life is protected also?

“I’m not pro-abortion, I’m merely pro-choice…?”

What if one was to say that your right to choose directly affected the right to life of the unborn, over which you seem to insist upon full sovereignty? Could you imagine saying that about a newly-born child who is still entirely dependent in its existance over you… Why do you get to decide when life actually begins, if, in theory, the sovereignty that you wish to express physically will impact that child in the same way – that it will find itself dead – only in both cases, fetus and newborn, it is not conscious and has no cognition over what you will do in deed that would directly affect it…

Height of doublespeak here, I feel, the clause may as well read “I’m merely pro-choice [to abort] What is to be said of the fact that “I am pro-choice [to end a life]” or “I am pro-choice [to kill a human being that had no choice in the matter of coming into existence, but, for the most part, was as a consequence of my consensual act of sexual intimacy]”

Why omit words? Why not say it like it is – should this be such a straightforward issue in terms of the moral discourse…?

“This is a decision of the woman and not the man, should she so choose.”
– there is a very dark irony in relation to this one, considering we have a host of absenteeism when it comes to fathers. There is something so fundamentally jawdropping that the woman who claims she can decide to end the life of that child (which she ultimately carries to full=term), equally feels that the father of her soon-to-be-born ought to have positive role in his or her life… Of course, this is a rhetorical generalisation, but for God’s sake…

Nor am I saying that one sufficiently leads to the other – but for some reason we have systematically excluded men from the discussion and not, in this secular, radically feminist (and I speak as a feminist) age where there is almost a guilt-complex meaning that men are somehow excluded from the discourse regarding an act in which they were involved, in which resulted in the beginning of a human being…?” They might say  – “ah, but this is only a ‘potential‘ human being”… to which I could say a fatuous thing such as…

and this is an extreme example (but follow my thought here) –
“I am pro-choice to abort the life of my middle-aged mother –  who is disabled that I help to look after – to save her, and me, the indignity and costs of her old age,”  Sound ridiculous? I have equal sovereignty over her life, and if she is severely disabled I am the one upon whom she depends entirely – whether or not she happens to know it.

Why the hell not? After all – she merely has the potential of becoming an old person… why not save her, and more importantly, me, the heartache?

Our secular mentality is at a complete contradiction – whereas we give rights to those that don’t even know they have it, we still insist that our own self-mastery can in some, rather peculiar cases, override those rights of others because of the fact that the agent is conscious and has an upper hand in the balance of power between child-and-parent.

What is happening to [our – for yes, men have a stake in them too] women today – in what situations are they finding themselves – that for financial or social reasons, they feel often compelled, in their best interest, to have to end the life of the child? We are failing our women. This provision has merely sidestepped the issue of gross inequality toward women. It seems utterly unfeminist to have to lead to a situation where a woman feels compelled to undertake such an undignifying procedure – in an age in which we want women to be seen for all that they are, including the half of the species that will inevitably nurture future generations, – we have done a grave disservice to them.

As the feminist writer, Daphne de Jong, says (according to this) “If women must submit to abortion to preserve their lifestyle or career, their economic or social status, they are pandering to a system devised and run by men for male convenience.”

“Well I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant, was I?”

Sure, your pregnancy wasn’t a choice, but did you seriously think that that absolves you from the duty of nurturing a child if you chose to have sex? Why are they not teaching people anymore that a child is a natural consequence of sexual intercourse? Is this a form of cognitive dissonance?
Why are we not taught that whatever our acts, however safe we are,
the sexual act isn’t merely something that we ought to do and bear no responsibility for the outcome? Reminds me of those sex-ed campaigns that teaches teenagers that they have a right to orgasm daily…

What if a doctor didn’t treat a car-crash victim because she hadn’t attempted to get run over by a car when she crossed at a zebra crossing? Okay, a little indulgent sophistry on my part… Yup, his responsibilities end for some reason? Do your responsibilities of being a parent to a child cease just because you took some precautions, knowing full well that there was a tiny possibility even of your pregnancy?

We’ve become a sex-obsessed culture. Richard Dawkins and the late Chris HItchens used to speak about (as David Berlinski aptly summarises), their moral  judgements are based upon the fact that each human being can solve all his problems (and get rid of those pesky religious arguments) if they happen to have a great sex-life. Uninhibited, unfettered. All problems solved therefore.

We seem under the illusion that giving way to our own pleasures as a primary right – something wholly alien to the pre-modern age where rights were (though some were of course repressed, women in particular) were treated as moral propositions that had to be exercised with great judgement. That there was no such thing as an uninhibited right. And then they believe that if indeed all precautions are taken, it would reduce the number of abortions in sum. Well the evidence is of course far to the contrary. Liberal sex-ed programs in New York, for example, have not stopped abortions in genocidal proportions. Have a listen…

Father Robert Barron, the philosopher and priest, makes an excellent case in which he outlines what has happened to the rates of abortion despite all of these measures. His case is excellent, and very solid I think, and is worth paying attention to.

I shall end there. No conclusions at all…

A Humbling Prayer

Friends; apologies for my absence. I’ve been battling something of a relapse of late (tremendous fun, don’t you think?), but have been managing to read a little for the last three…so I thought I’d share:
Here’s a short part of a prayer, as narrated by a Saint from the Islamic tradition, Ali ibn Husayn (the great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, may God’s Peace descend upon him always), and one of the Imams of the Shi’a tradition; it describes to me something very profound – the concept of Mercy. I prefer this to ‘Grace’, because the former suggests a much greater need for Him in the relationship between man and his Lord.

The fact is, truly, that millennia of human civilisation have shown that we are incredibly fickle, and lack spiritual strength, often lost in a world of choice because our ethics change according to the era we find ourselves in. Time and again we have created and done things that have been to our immense detriment; though some of these have enriched the human experience and affected our collective memory, it is so tragic that, for example, the last century has wrought such incomprehensible chaos and human calamity that we ought to have avoided. My theory has been this  – that if only we had humbled ourselves… David Berlinski once remarked, and I happen to agree, is that the catastrophe inflicted upon our brothers – Jews as well as others –  in what became (and I use the lower-case on purpose as it is more-encompassing of all) known as the holocaust, could take place because they saw that there was no Power greater than their own.

I think it applies to all cases of man’s inhumanity. We fail to realise that our Higher attributes cannot come from other than him; namely, they do not originate in us…because we originate in Him.

O Lord, do not allow our souls to choose as they like, for, verily, they will choose what is evil, unless you show pity. They will choose what is bad unless you show Mercy.

(From His Supplication in Yearning to Ask Forgiveness from God, as found in: Wilayat in Qur’an, Sayyid Athar Husain Rizvi (trans.), Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli)

With love,

Imraan

“They deserve life, because we all deserve life.” – The Virtue of the Vicious

Here is my rant for this morning… long awaited I’m sure. My condition is a little treacherous  – I had this massive surge of adrenaline and so my ears are ringing furiously, my vision is blurred and the lights seem to be getting brighter all around me, though I’m sitting in near-darkness!

But that makes it a great time to vent over the last two days. I am a Muslim. I am British. I despise these salafist jihadists with every fibre of my being. Yet I will not be subject to simplistic discourses about Muslims being the enemy.

What an incredible distortion of history.

This man has utter contempt for fact.

Funnily, in two days, he has clearly seen no ‘condemnation’ coming from the community (though Mehdi Hasan seems to have been published in every possible outlet, and the now the near-legendary MCB statement is ubiquitous)… one must wonder why on earth this man seeks to absolve himself from any moral agency in terms of what his government is responsible for. Please remember this, if nothing else… our enemies…well they have families too, you know. You kill one…you devastate an entire family also.

One wonders…what about the things that he, dear Tommy Robinson, is responsible for? He speaks of the “Sunni v Shia” fury raging in Iraq…does he not realise that there was not one suicide attack in Iraq prior to his glorious troops’ invasion (yes, they were coerced…that is the nature of the military…they go where they’re sent…and yes, Saddam was a tyrant)… or the so-called ‘liberation’ of the Muslims in Bosnia only came long after Western complicity in massacres… the fact that Syrians are crying out for Western troops comes, to large degree, because of his own country’s warmongering in the region at-large, and the support of fanatic jihadists receiving material from his noble country’s government…driving the war into immeasurable depths.

The thing that I will agree with him about is our rampant support for kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia, which has promoted fanatical Takfiri and Jihadi culture/theology…and my suspicions are that most of these atrocities are carried out by people that adopt such world views. Whether they’re blowing themselves up in Iraq or in Afghanistan, or whether they’re promoting Jihad in Syria whilst ignoring the plights of their brethren in Gaza, Bahrain, Yemen, Qatar… Funny that…where’s their Jihad in Israel? Anjem Choudary was recently asked… the fact that he couldn’t answer coherently is very telling about the nature of these mercenaries and barbarians. For that is what they are. A bunch of paid lunatics…sold to the highest bidder. Only we forget that we actually own them, often. Until they go their own way and then we need to fight them again to remove the weapons from their hands, the ones that we gave them in the first place. As was said…you create the monster…and then act surprised when he behaves like one! Have a memory longer than twelve seconds, people!

But I will not be taught morality by a man who believes a government mercilessly sent troops to liberate people from a dictator, when In fact a war was started on false premises that was never supposed to overthrow him in the first place (the former was merely an excuse to justify our further adventurism, quite frankly), and not when his own government provided the aforementioned dictator the wherewithal to construct chemical weaponry to massacre his own population…when his glorious government was part of a system that led to the death of a million Iraqi children in the ’90s.

Do I support the troops? I can’t say I’m a fan of avid or avowed nationalism, or a military culture that glorifies potential death. As it stands, until there is a shift in our political culture, that “Patriotism is a virtue of the vicious” applies desperately to those that govern us. And we are fools for letting them dominate our discourse.

I don’t glorify death and I don’t like the culture of death. Because then the human body becomes an expendable biological commodity to fight someone else’s war. For me, the preservation of life is a sacred duty. But I support honour. I support the fact that the men and women entering the armed forces are convinced that they are doing so for noble causes, and their families sacrifice much when they are active.

I support them because I believe that to a a large degree, they are pawns being moved about a chessboard by an oligarchy that could not care less whether they lived or they died. They deserve life, because we all deserve life. I do not support their unnecessary deaths, including the one we saw a couple of days ago.

To say I value the life of a British soldier does not go far enough…because my moral responsibility rests on the fact that I am complicit in allowing a soldier to fight an unrighteous, morally bankrupt and illegitimate war, invariably resulting in someone else’s death… because his death could be avoided, because he deserves a chance at life, just like that of the soldier. The only thing is, the soldier goes in prepared to die…what of the innocent children being mercilessly killed by drones operated somewhere in Nevada…and now Waddington…?

What of the civilians blown-up to pieces by multiple-tonne bombs that we fire at densely populated cities…what about the infrastructural damage we committed when we broke up the entire Iraqi medical enterprise because we were afraid of Ba’athists taking over them… what about the thousands of doctors that have had to flee that country invariably causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis….

What about the hundred-thousand people in Pakistan who will now not get Polio vaccinations because the UN has had to withdraw their agents responsible for it, because American irresponsibility in capturing OBL…

I’m not saying a beheading in London was justified… don’t get me wrong. But do you find it shocking when people complain about the deaths caused by the West in the Islamic world? Maybe you fear a religious affinity – we here seem to take exception to deaths on our own soil…when “one of our own” is killed here…yet why do we not so actively condemn the deaths that we are involved in thousands of miles away… we become surprised because of the fact that these “nutters” seem to sympathise with those people so far away… maybe if we practised that sort of charity we wouldn’t need them to do it.

Because in a state of need, I’d rather have your sympathy than that of those “nutters”, for they are no friends of mine.

But don’t trade your morality so that they can fill that moral vacuum.

Yes…as the equally nuttish fellow above says…the war “is with Islam” he declares proudly – we “need to name the enemy” and so forth. So because of my metaphysical beliefs, I’m somehow an enemy of the state? Incredible.

Timothy Winter on Salafism

Again, here’s a principled, intellectual, moralistic critique – by an intellectual giant in the West; a principled, ‘mainstream’ Islamic scholar, Timothy Winter – of the contemporary Salafi ideology that’s sweeping the Islamic world

(I’d argue that it’s an anti-intellectualist, anti-philosophical, ‘protestant’ form of interpretation of scripture and canon – sometimes with an overemphasis on literal meaning) with disastrous results on the intellectual health of the Islamic community – critical faculties seem to be cast away, despite the fact that this Salafi worldview is an hermeneutical construct.)

That said, there are plenty of people who belong to this school that one can have a meaningful conversation, I met many at university, for example – however my concern, as Seyyed Hossein Nasr points out – that the dominant theology behind Salafis and other groups have not been able to produce heavyweights in the senses of al-Ghazzali, Ibn Sina, Mulla Sadra and so forth. Certainly, these latter figures have contributed to the Islamic mystical climate for the most part – however the worldviews that they espoused had a much broader application – there are ontological, epistemological, ethical criteria outlined by these great visionaries that could prove utterly beneficial when Muslims face the challenges of a modern, secular, imperialist hegemon, as well as when it comes to dealing with internal affairs, the relationships to their own dictatorial governments, etc.- these are things that don’t seem to occur any more because of perhaps an over-reliance on ‘authority’ in a hermeneutic sense. That said, I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

Whatever path takes you there, I guess. But I wonder if we might be able to expedite our own progress if we just permitted ourselves to reflect more, just a little…? Not to be afraid of our thinking if we remained steadfast to our fundamental Islamic beliefs – Tawhid (divine ‘Unity’, I guess), Revelation, and importantly, the place of the intellect in relation to this.

Below, I’ve pasted a brilliant talk by Seyyed Hossein Nasr on the need for philosophy in the Islamic world that you will get immense benefit out of. He is a true moral heavyweight, and a very brilliant man at that. Not to mention a polymath. Please watch, if you’re interested.

Good ol’ Frothy Hitchens

This about made my week. I have recently taken to reading David Berlinski’s The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions and read this early on, and just had to share:

Because atheism is said to follow from various scientific doctrines, literary atheists, while they are eager to speak their minds, must often express themselves in other men’s voices. Christopher Hitchens is an example. With forthcoming modesty, he has affirmed his willingness to defer to the world’s “smart scientists” on any matter more exigent than finger-counting. Were smart scientists to report that a strain of yeast supported the invasion of Iraq, Hitchens would, no doubt, conceive an increased respect for yeast.*

No, I am not in any way related to the Discovery Institute, nor do I have a personal stake in the books’ sales (and if all three of you buy it, we probably won’t be able to start that literary revolution) – nonetheless, it is worth a read despite the fact that my pockets won’t feel heavier. How’s that for self-effacing…?

*(David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions; New York, NY: Basic Books; 2008; 4-5).

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