Saturday, November 14, 2015

55. The Benevolent One

In the name of God, the Benevolent, the Merciful

1. The Benevolent One
2. taught the Recital,
3. created man,
4. taught him expression.
5. The sun and the moon
follow calculated courses,
6. and *the stars and the trees bow down.
7. The Benevolent One
has raised the sky,
and set the balance,
8. so you would not
overstep balance.
9. So establish weight justly,
not letting the balance
give short measure.
10. And the Benevolent One
has set the earth for creatures,
11. with fruit there,
and date palms with spathes,
12. and grain with stalks,
and fragrant herbs.
13. Now which of the blessings
of your Lord do you deny--
14. having made man
from clay, like earthenware,
15. or having created the sprites
from a mixture of fire--
16. which of the blessings
of your Lord do you deny?
17. Lord of the two Easts
and Lord of the two Wests--
18. which of the blessings
of your Lord do you deny--
19. having loosed the two
bodies of water to meet
20. without overflowing
a barrier between them--
21. so which of the blessings
of your Lord do you deny--
22. from them come pearls and coral--
23. so which of the blessings
of your Lord do you deny--
23. owner of the ships
under sail over the sea
like mountains--
25. which of the blessings
of your Lord do deny?
26. Every being on earth perishes,
27. yet there remains
the design of your Lord,
sublime and honorable:
28. so which of the blessings
of your Lord do you deny?
29. All beings in the heavens and the earth
ask of the One who's in charge every day--
30. now which of the blessings
of your Lord do you deny?

(The Qur'an, trans. by Thomas Cleary).

Friday, November 13, 2015

"Unfortunately, three negative forces retarded the founding of an Orthodox rabbinical college.

First in importance was the low prestige and the lack of power and economic security which plagued the East European Orthodox rabbis in America, largely a result of the poverty of their congregations. The rabbis were so harried with maintaining their positions that they lacked the time, energy and vision to create a uniting force. Because of their own personal insecurity, they were more critical than constructive and most hesitant to merge forces where the yielding of individual sovereignty was involved. The dissension that characterized their relationships was described by a prominent East European Orthodox rabbi in the following manner: "There is no unity and no agreement among them as to how and by what means to raise the prestige of religion....Each decides and acts as of he were the only one in the world." [43] [...]
The sorry position of the Orthodox rabbinate was further aggravated by a lack of aggressive, and imaginative leadership to rise above the sordid conditions of the day. There was no Orthodox rabbi with the perseverance and consecration to inspire a following, to create a movement, to evaluate a problem, and to devote his life to improving the status of his fellow immigrants. [...]
The second factor was the absence of an upper class that had the means and the leisure to sponsor a rabbinical seminary. [...] The main obstacle, however, was the absence of a proper organization and structure to sponsor and support such a school. [...]
To sum up, therefore, the efforts of East European Jews to create a rabbinical school were hampered initially by the weak position of its rabbinate, by the limited and undeveloped financial resources, and by the absence of a congregational union to sponsor and support such an effort.
-Gilbert Klaperman, The Story of Yeshiva University: The First Jewish University in America, (Toronto: The Macmillan Company, 1969), pgs. 46-47.

e: I wonder how far one could make the analogy with the Muslim community in America today. We certainly have a lot of scholars and folks who have studied and it perhaps remains to be seen if they can work together and muster their resources together, instead of each one trying to have his/her own institute/seminary.

On the other hand, Muslims in America are spread around the country and so all the scholars don't necessarily have to be tied to one specific institution in a single geographic area. However, in a certain region, shouldn't folks pool their resources together and collaborate, even if they have differences?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"This is an empty fancy, yet it is prevalent among most men.

Thus, whenever you trace back a statement and attribute it to a speaker of whom they have a good opinion, they accept it, even thought it be false; but whenever you attribute it to someone of whom they have a bad opinion, they reject it. even though it be true. This they always know the truth by men, not men by the truth--which is the ne plus ultra of error!"
-Al-Ghazālī, Deliverer from Error, p. 40.

Imam al-Ghazālī on Specialized Expertise

"A person skilled one one field is not necessarily skilled in every field. Thus a man skilled in jurisprudence and kalām is not necessarily skilled in medicine, nor is a man who is ignorant of the speculative and rational sciences necessarily ignorant of the science of syntax. On the contrary, in each field there are men who have reached in it a certain degree of skill and preeminence, although they may be quite stupid and ignorant about other things."
-Al-Ghazālī, Deliverer from Error, p. 32. 

Shaikh Abdulhakim Murad Winter - Master Classes on Imam Al Ghazali - 1

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

AL-GHAZALI: REASON AND REVELATION, Zaytuna College 3rd Annual Islamic Higher Education Conference

March 4th-6th, 2016


"a politics of enlightenment"

Siddhartha left his throne to seek a precise understanding of reality in order to serve society better. After experiencing that comprehensive awareness which he called awakening or enlightenment, he did not float away on a cloud of bliss into some otherworldly realm. He stood up and began a sustained campaign of social action, offering all people in all nations a chance to improve their moral, emotional, and intellectual lives, while creating a greater world for future generations. By founding institutions of education, he initiated, on the cultural and social levels, a politics of enlightenment.
[...] A revolution that transforms the outlook and behavior of many individuals and thereby slowly transforms a society can be called a 'cool' revolution. It educates people to think critically, to enter that realm of nonconformity that has always been the source of change.  When people have transformed their minds, they will naturally and cooly act to transform the society and eventually the polity. Shakyamuni turned politics on its head and proved that best way to build a healthy society was from the bottom up -- through the development of individual - not from the top down.
-Robert Thurman, Inner Revolution, pgs. 94-95. 

"We are the savages of outer modernity."

We have imagined our world to be tamed, or civilized, since we live in cities and seem to have nature under control. It is hard for us to think of ourselves as wild and untamed. But 'civilized' should mean something more than just living in cities. It should mean that we are wise, gentle, just, and even artistic in our dealings with the world and with other animals and humans. Our civilization is what I call an 'outer civilization'; its modernity is an outer modernity. It is based on turning the full force of human reason on the enterprise of conquering and taming the outer universe -- the universe of matter and energy, lands and continents, materials and products--and on viewing people as resources to be managed and developed for production. [...]
And what we have not controlled? We have not tamed our own minds very much at all. Our religions did do something of a taming job up to the modern period. They kept our world picture wholesome and made it meaningful for us to restrain our more bestial impulses most of the time. [...]
We are the savages of outer modernity. We have reached the point where the lethal passions are emerging as planetary enemy number one.  [...]
The middle way between the two extremes of authoritarian repression and self-defeating nihilism is to take our systematic and scientific cleverness, enthusiasm, and ingenuity and turn our attention toward the inner self the way we have turned in to so successfully on outer nature.  Why not engineer spiritual balance and harmony? We can investigate the lethal passions and their institutional foundations, find out precisely how they work, how they take hold of us and use us as their instruments. Then we can devise technologies and arts to conquer them and to transmute them into useful energies. Or we can use the technologies of the adepts who have gone before.
-Robert Thurman, Inner Revolution, pgs. 216-218. 
"Despite appearances, and the urgent but mistaken desire of many Muslims to engage in dialogue with purely secular thinkers and ideologies, we are primarily called to speak to the ‘People of the Book’."

"Religion is about truth, and unless truth be properly discerned and defended, nothing else will come right." -AHM

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The echo chambers of today...

This atomization and polarization have been exacerbated by the decline in the news audience share captured by the three major networks, which for decades at least tested against some standards the accuracy and completeness of the information we received, and which provided a common information template shared by Americans even of divergent views. Today, viewers have been drawn to niche channels, attractive to them precisely because they echo their preconceptions. A common canon of information has been supplanted by an echo chamber in which people pick a particular news source to fit their views, and their views then are validated and reinforced by the new information they receive, information tailored and targeted for them – and untested for its accuracy against any meaningful standard.
The general tendencies are reflected in the increasingly impoverished quality of what is said by our political leaders in the public forum. Candidates for public office now relentlessly employ slogans, talking points, simplistic messages and attack ads. We have moved far from the Athenian ideal of participatory, dialogic democracy. This led Fortune’s Matt Miller to write:
Is it possible in America today to convince anyone of anything he doesn’t already believe? If so, are there enough places where this mingling of minds occurs to sustain a democracy? The signs are not good. Ninety percent of political conversation amounts to dueling “talking points.” Best-selling books reinforce what folks thought when they bought them. Talk radio and opinion journals preach to the converted. Let’s face it: the purpose of most political speech is not to persuade but to win, be it power, ratings, celebrity or even cash. By contrast, marshaling a case to persuade those who start from a different position is a lost art. Honoring what’s right in the other side’s argument seems a superfluous thing that can only cause trouble, like an appendix. Politicos huddle with like-minded souls in opinion cocoons that seem impervious to facts.
"Dogmatism and Complexity"

"Rediger was a good writer.

He was clear and concise, and occasionally humorous, as for example when he derided a colleague--no doubt a rival Muslim intellectual--who had coined the phrase 'imams 2.0' to describe imams who made it their mission to reconvert French you from Muslim immigrant backgrounds. It was time, Rediger countered, to launch imams 3.0: the ones who'd convert the natives. Rediger was never funny for long; he always followed up with an earnest argument. He reserved his bitterest scorn for his Islamo-leftists colleagues: Islamo-leftism, he wrote, was a desparate attempt by moldering, putrefying, brain-dead Marxists to hoist themselves out of the dustbin of history by latching onto the coattails of Islam. Conceptually, he wrote, they'd stolen everything from the so-called Nietzcheans of the left. Rediger was obsessed with Neitzche, but I didn't have much patience for his Neitzchean mode--no doubt I'd read too much Nitzche myself. I knew and understood Neitzche too well to find charming. Bizarrely enough, I found myself more drawn to Rediger's Guénonian side. René Guénon is boring, if you try to read him straight through, but Rediger offered an accessible version-Guénon lite.
-Michel Houellebecq, Submission, pgs. 223-4. 

"And I don't guess you're really an atheist, either. True atheists are rare."

"You think? On the contrary, I'd have said that most people in the Western world are atheists."
"Only on the surface, it seems to me. The only true atheists I've ever met were people in revolt. It wasn't enough for them to coldly deny the existence of God--they had to refuse it, like Bakunin: 'Even if God existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.' They were atheists like Kirilov in The Possessed. They were humanists, with lofty ideas about human liberty, human dignity. I don't suppose you recognize yourself in this description."
No, in fact, I didn't; even the word humanism made me want to vomit...
-Michel Houellebecq, Submission, p. 204. 


Guénon mentioned in Houellebecq's new novel

The two bottom shelves were full of bound photocopies. These were dissertations from various European universities. As I browsed the titles, my eye was drawn to a philosophy dissertation, presented at the Catholic University of Loivain-la-Neuve, entitled "René Guénon: Reader of Nietzche," by Robert Rediger. I was just pulling it from the shelf from Rediger came back into the room. I jumped, as if I'd been caught doing something wrong, and tried to slip it back in place. He walked over to me, smiling. "Don't worry, there are no secrets here. And besides, why shouldn't you be curious about the contents of a bookshelf? For a man like you, that's almost a professional duty."
Coming closer, he saw the title. "Ah, you've found my dissertation." He shook his head. "They gave me my doctorate, but it wasn't much of a thesis. Nothing like yours, anyways. My reading was, as they say, selective. In retrospect, I don't think Guénon was influenced b Nietzche especially. His rejection of the modern world was just as vehement as Nietzche's, but it had radically different sources."
-Michel Houellebecq, Submission, pgs. 199-200.

Upholding the Prophetic Character in a Divided World – Shaykh Abdal Haki...

Monday, November 9, 2015

Upholding the Prophetic Character in a Divided World – Shaykh Abdal Haki...

"Chesterton and Belloc and their ideas appear in “Submission” as a kind of secondary sound, a Greek chorus."

Houellebecq takes very seriously the enterprise, in which Huysmans is also implicated, of rejecting Enlightenment modernity in favor of some kind of mystical-spiritual nation reëstablished on a foundation of faith. There is a passage in “Submission”—by Houellebecq’s own account the key scene in the book—in which the narrator goes south to contemplate the Black Madonna of Rocamadour and has a moment of blissful vision, one that he wishes to sustain but can’t. Islam rushes in to fill the absence. Houellebecq makes the entente of Islam and Catholicism attractive. “My book describes the destruction of the philosophy handed down by the Enlightenment, which no longer makes sense to anyone, or to very few people,” he said in an interview. “Catholicism, by contrast, is doing rather well. I would maintain that an alliance between Catholics and Muslims is possible.” 

"only religions can fight efficiently against other religions."

Q. Because a novel doesn’t have the power to do that?
A. Yes. People can read all the novels they want. That will never change political opinion. It’s striking. The response to jihadism — it’s a religious sect from start to finish, it’s a variation, a deviation of a religion — it’s never easy to fight against a religious sect. The police are useful, but in principle, only religions can fight efficiently against other religions.

'To return, though, to Houellebecq.

For him, self-becoming requires separation from bourgeois false consciousness, and only two such separations are currently available: Islam and idealistic hedonism. His option is for the latter, but only because the former is alien to him. But perhaps in that very alienness lies an authentic Otherness, an option which would enhance our free separation from the monoculture. Another Frenchman, Rene Guenon (1886-1951), who during the period portrayed by Proust had experimented with a range of alternative lifestyles, exercised his own freedom in favor of the Islamic Other. Guenon entered Islam at the hands of an Egyptian Sufi, and spent the remainder of his life writing and praying as a semirecluse in Cairo. [28] In his numerous books, which constitute an absolute apostasy from the modern doctrines of progress and humanism, he advocated Islam as the most appropriate religious choice for Westerners who seek freedom from the monoculture, both because Islam is radically unsecular, and because it is spiritually proximate to the Christian genius which the Enlightenment had suppressed. "This Islamic civilization," he wrote, "with its two aspects, esoteric and exoteric, and with the religious form which the latter is clothed in, comes nearest to being like what a traditional Western civilization would be." [29]
-Tim Winter, ‘Ishmael and the Enlightenment’s crise de coeur: a response to Koshul and Kepnes,’ in Basit Bilal Koshul and Stephen Kepnes (eds.), Scripture, Reason, and the contemporary Islam-West encounter: studying the ‘Other’, Understanding the ‘Self’ (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 158.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Be Attentive

Many mistakes in reasoning are explained by the fact that we are not paying sufficient attention to the situation in which we find ourselves. This is especially true in familiar situations. That very familiarity causes us to make careless judgments about facts right before our eyes. We misread a situation because we are skimming it, when what we should be doing is persuing it. Often, we assume that a familiar situation will be but a repeat performance of a similar situation we've experienced before. But, in the strictest sense, there are no repeat performances. Every situation is unique, and we must be alert to its uniqueness.
The phrase 'to pay attention' is telling. It reminds us that attention costs something. Attention demands an attentive, energetic response to every situation, to the persons, places, and things that make up the situation. It is impossible to be truly attentive and passive at the same time. Don't just look, see. Don't just hear, listen. Train yourself to focus on details. The little things are not to be ignored, for it is just the little things that lead us to the big things. 
-D.Q. McInerny, Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking, p. 3.

We were blessed to read through this book in the first year of the Zaytuna seminary program with Imam Zaid, alhamdullilah.

Good training in logic and critical reasoning is essential to building independent people who think for themselves and are not just 'groupies.' Being critical doesn't have to mean having bad adab.

We should make sure we have spaces in which dissent and disagreement and alternative viewpoints are welcomed, if not at least tolerated.

God help us.