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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Thinking properly: a view from the Qur'an

"Do you not see how God presents a parable : a wholesome concept (Kalimatan Tayyibatan) is like a wholesome/healthy  tree (Shajaratin Tayyibatin), firmly planted in its roots, yet it's branches reaches out to the sky. It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the permission of it's Lord. God sets forth parables (Amthaal) for people's [benefit] so that perhaps they will engage in thinking. And the parable of a repugnant concept [ Kalimatin Khabeethatin] is that of a repugnant tree, torn out of the land, having no stability." ( Qur'an 14:24-26)

The Importance of a Correct Foundation

The Qur'an has not come forth in order to make us blind or mindless followers, rather it has come in order to create a solid or positive foundation upon which to develop further. "Indeed, We (Allah) have made it a pure recitation, in order that perhaps you will use your minds." (Q 12:2).

Yet, what is that thinking supposed to be built upon? How are we supposed to identify what constitutes Kalimah Tayyibah, as mentioned in the above-mentioned Quranic text? The attributes of a wholesome concept is Firmness, Far Reaching and having a widely felt positive impact. Thus, Allah says "..firmly planted in its roots, yet branching out to the sky, it brings fruit at all times, by the permission of its Lord"

The Muffasiroon generally assert that the expression Kalimah Tayyibah in verse 14:24 is a reference to the confession of faith in the One and Only God and that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger. If we do adopt that view, the implication would be that when this Shahaadah becomes the core of the believer, that it belongs to you [as opposed to simply an inherited religious formula] your life and your thinking will get better and better.

A person who is firm upon the teaching that God alone deserves worship and that God has inserted his mercy and will into the collective life of man [by sending forth messengers, ending with the Quranic revelation to Muhammad, upon whom be peace] won't be stuck in incorrect thinking, If they are stuck in incorrect thinking, and yet  still claiming to be believers, than the implication is that they have serious deficiencies in their foundational roots, despite their claims to the contrary. The Qur'an informs us:  "They seek to deceive Allah, and those who hold to [real] faith, yet, they deceived themselves, but perceive not. In their hearts is an illness, and God has [as a consequence of their own acts] increased that illness, for them is a terrible penalty, for they are lying." { Q 2: 9-10}

Believers can sometimes make mistakes and hold onto wrong concepts, yet, like the flu, in time the sincere ones recover and head towards that which is correct. "And whosoever obeys Allah and his Messenger have achieved a mighty achievement" { Q 33:71}.

Yet, in all honesty, we are reading the term Kalimah Tayyibah as referring to more than the Shahaadah. We understand this to refer to the foundations of correct thinking, that wholesome concepts are identified by the attributes of stability, positive impact, and far reaching.

Look at the benefits trees bring. There are countless variety of trees worldwide, all of which having different types of benefit. Allah presents to us that lasting ideas are like those fruits that the healthy trees are producing!


We see this in both religious and non religious contexts. We see this in Prophet Jesus as well as Prophet Muhammad, peace be on them both, but also in the great social reformers and minds such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Malcolm X [Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz].
Repugnant concepts are not long-lasting

The parable continues by telling us of the  repugnant tree [Shajarah Khabeethah]. The Repugnant concept is compared to such a tree. It is a waste of soil. It produces nothing except headache and worry. It is always on the warpath.

Wrong thinking and wrong concepts are like that, even though initially it looks attractive. Consider Eugenics, as well as Fascism and Nazism. These three very related and intertwined pseudo-scientific ideologies attracted the love of millions, including highly educated people. They held political power in important nations [notably Germany under Adolph Hitler  and Italy under Benito Mussolini ] . Yet, the ultimate fruit from those ideas was racial hatred, wars, genocidal actions [perpetrated against the Jews in concentration camps, leading to the death of an estimated six million in those camps] and dictatorship. Today, even in the places where these destructive ideas were given birth, these ideas have, at best, followers on the fringes. They are, by and large, seen for what they were, terrible ideas that are best forgotten rather than remembered (ft.1) .


Believers have to always be on guard to protect their core

In light of the realities of confusion and misguidance, Muslims in particular, but people in general, have to be on guard to protect themselves from being upon or following repugnant concepts, regardless if the source of it's preaching is from the Imam's podium on Fridays or from the office of political leaders!

For Muslims, aids in protection include, but are not limited to, praying, fasting, regular Qur'an study, the company of goodly persons and strong family. For Non Muslims, the same formula can be applied.  For all their faults, both Dr King and Mahatma Gandhi  [Non Muslims]  were deeply spiritual people, dedicated to certain principles obtained largely from seeking out Divine guidance.This is a reality that should not be denied simply due to religious label!

In today's world, we see a rise of narcissism, of racism, scapegoating and stereotyping of peoples. Most disturbing, modern culture seems to glorify all the repugnant behavior that is ultimately destructive. Ignorance is not only tolerated, it is preached, and knowledge, even the seeking of knowledge, is seen as an oddity{ft.2}.

More than ever, we have to seek to be connected to God, we have to divorce ourselves, even if only in a limited way, from a destructive world, particularly from entertainment which is not wholesome, from people who seek to use and abuse, and from vices which can be used against us or work against us.

Wonderful ways of maintaining some levels of protection include simple things like going to the park, exercise, staying off one's mobile phone/computer sometimes, praying not only in the places of worship but also outside, goodly company on family and intimate level, and of course, travel.

Particularly for Americans, who traditionally have been reluctant to leave North America, it is important to see the world. Travel opens up one's mind to new and better things, to see how others live and think. The Qur'an speaks highly of travel { 12:105, 22:46, 45:3, among other places}.

I would dare say that traveling is embedded into the religious tapestry of Islam. After all, we are all obligated to make Hajj, where one sees the many nationalities and peoples created by Allah on this Earth.

Allah ends this particular exposition in these powerful words:


'Allah is establishing those with faith with the firmly established expression [Al Qawl Ath-Thaabit], in this life and the Hereafter: Allah lets stray the oppressive, and Allah does what He wills." { Q 14: 27}



Footnotes

[1] In many European nations, open support for Fascism and Nazism are deemed criminal offenses, even things such as doing Nazi salutes and the like.


[2] This writer has in mind many of the entertainment programs such as The Fox production It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The protagonists are narcissistic bar owners, drifting from one relationship to another, using people and seeking out a quick road to riches in the process. It glorifies, in many of it's episodes, ignorant behavior and thinking. However, this is not the only program which does this. This is found in much of entertainment today. 

9 comments:

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Non Believer said...

Something I spend considerable time thinking about is your comment:

"Wrong thinking and wrong concepts are like that, even though initially it looks attractive. Consider Eugenics, as well as Fascism and Nazism. These three very related and intertwined pseudo-scientific ideologies attracted the love of millions, including highly educated people. They held political power in important nations [notably Germany under Adolph Hitler and Italy under Benito Mussolini ] . Yet, the ultimate fruit from those ideas was racial hatred, wars, genocidal actions [perpetrated against the Jews in concentration camps, leading to the death of an estimated six million in those camps] and dictatorship. Today, even in the places where these destructive ideas were given birth, these ideas have, at best, followers on the fringes. They are, by and large, seen for what they were, terrible ideas that are best forgotten rather than remembered"

For the 80% of the people in the world who not accept the prophethood of Muhammad, Islam is a "pseudo-scientific ideology". As such, much of what you say applies to Islam as well. You cannot argue that we have have not seen Islam in the centre of hatred, wars, genocides and dictatorships. There are people who would say that Islam is a terrible idea that is best forgotten rather than remembered.

The difference between Islam and the others is that it is a religion of Divine Truth and its followers cannot accept that it can have flaws of any kind. With the other theories, we can examine honestly what goes wrong with them; we can use our intellects to try to find ways to achieve the goals of the theory (social justice) while avoiding the pitfalls that we have seen. With proper understanding, we can make the world a better place.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...

Hi NB!

Thanks for your comment.

I think that your treatment of religion, particularly the religion of Islam, is not really fair. Your seem to feel that Islam is inherently violent and prone to genocide, but that is simply not the case. Indeed, even looking at the Jewish plight in the middle ages within Europe, the Jews would have to flee to areas within the Muslim world, and it is onlt recently, with the emergence of the state of Israel, that tensions have been made between the two groups. Here, it is worth noting that even in that, the most virulent Anti-Zionist political movements among Palestinans and Muslims in general make sure to distinguish between the Jews as a religious group and Zionism as a colonial ideology!

Your assertion that Islam is alone in viewing itself as God's complete and uncorrupted guidance is also incorrect, for the simple fact is is that other faiths see themselves in the same terms. Yet, for Muslim thinkers in particular, the thinkers are looking at avenues by which we seek to understand and apply Islamic ethics in our age and circumstances. In any case, it is a matter of faith, and I think you should not have fault with believers who act upon their faith.

Non Believer said...

You've brought up Zionism and claim that Anti-Zionism is not Antisemitism. I think you need to give greater consideration to the Zionist period from the founding of Zionist Organization in 1897 until the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

The Zionist Organization was founded in reaction to the increased persecution of the Jews in Europe; the pogroms in Russia (1881), in particular. It was recognized long before Hitler's rise in Germany that it was no longer safe to remain in Europe. The Jews became refugees. Where could they go? You call this a "colonial ideology"? I agree that the refugees arriving in those early days of Zionism wished for self-government. Of course they did.

However, what was the reaction of the Muslims? The Jews were buying land legally and establishing Jewish settlements legally. Sure, these were "colonies". If Muslims are not Anti-Semitic, as you claim, then what legal objections could they have? Yet, there was much resistance from the Muslims. You have people like the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Amin al-Husseini organizing Muslims against the Jews. This man would travel to Germany in 1941 and meet with Hitler. With such a man leading Palestinians Arabs, what hope was there for a peaceful relationship between Jews and Muslims?

It is important to see the current situation in the context of what happened in the first half of the 20th century. Had the Muslims welcomed the Jewish refugees and accommodated them in the way that Europe is expected to welcome Muslim refugees now travelling in the opposite direction, the situation would be totally different.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...

Hi NB!

I think you give a sugar-coated reading of Zionism. It is something which has been opposed, both at it's inception and upto today, by many religiously and Non Religiously Jews themselves [the most famous modern example would be Noam Chomsky], so is it fair to call such persons Anti Semitic?

The Zionist migration to Palestine was not a benign one. It was one which was supported by a British establishment which wanted [because of their own Anti-Semitism] to get rid of the Jews any way they can, without the permission of the natural inhabitants.

Indeed, the Zionist state of Israel was born out of violence, of wiping out towns and villages, habitations of both Palestinian Muslims and Christians. I think the attempt [as many writers and defenders of Israel] to imply an Arab/Muslim connection to the Holocaust because of the Jerusalem Grant Mufti's meeting with Adolph Hitler is really off the mark.

Muslim history has not always been angelic, however I think your treatment of this issue is unfair. After all, It was Nazi Germany [and their allies among other European parties] which attempted genocide against the Jews, not the Arabs or the Muslims [most of whom were under European occupation at some levels anyways]. Why should the Palestinians be usurped because of the crimes of the Nazis?

It's not an academic discussion when you consider that upto now, Palestinians are suffering in their very own homeleand as a result of the Zionist enterprise, and that millions of them are living in the diaspora, in places near and far away from their original homes [including the USA, Australia and even in far east Asia] because of Israeli expulsion of their families and Israeli expansionism.

Non Believer said...

page 1 of 2
There's a lot to unpack here...

Let's start with "their very own homeland" and "natural inhabitants". This is the same language that White Nationalists use. "This is our homeland" "You will not replace us" It's a general statement of xenophobia and proves the point that I'm making about Jewish immigration to Palestine during the last few decades of the Ottoman Empire (sorry, no British or other colonial power to blame!). They were not powerful people "usurping" Arabs; they were refugees fleeing pogroms in Russia and other countries. They did not take land by force. They did not take up arms until it became obvious that they needed to be able to defend themselves.

This same class of refugees also emigrated to Canada and the USA. Here, too, there was Antisemitism. Jews were denied many rights that were automatically granted to immigrants from Britain. Did we see any of the violence that became commonplace in Palestine? No. The Jews were allowed to attend public schools, establish synagogues, buy property, own businesses with few restrictions and so on. They bore the discrimination without fighting and quietly developed their own societies. They were willing to make compromises when necessary. These Jews laid the foundation for the American Jewish identity which has produced many, many notable people. I'm not aware of any major confrontation involving American Jews and their hosts.

This was not the experience of this same class of Jews who emigrated to Palestine. Here they encountered a far more virulent form of Antisemitism. There was no willingness for integrated communities as we saw in Canada, nor were the Arabs even willing to live alongside Jewish communities.

And my question about this was: Should the West treat Muslim refugees today the same way that Arabs treated these Jewish refugees 100 years ago?

Moving forward in time a little to the period of the British Mandate... now there's a increasing menace for the Jews, the rise of Nazism in Germany. You claim that during times when the West would not accept Jewish refugees, the Arab world did. Well that wasn't the case leading up to the Holocaust and how many Jews may have escaped with their lives if not for Arab hatred? You dismiss Al-Husseini's meeting with Hitler as insignificant, but you ignore the decades prior to this and his Anti-Semitic acts and his pressure on the British to reduce quotas on Jewish immigrants. You also ignore that he encouraged the use of that hate filled Hadith, now emblazoned in the Hamas Covenant Article Seven, as incitement against Jews.

Non Believer said...

page 2 of 2
When you say "the Zionist state of Israel was born out of violence, of wiping out towns and villages", I presume you are speaking of the 1948 war. Are you saying that the Arabs did not openly try to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel and that the neighbouring Arab states did not provide military support to the Arabs living in the former Mandate? Are you saying that the Israelis had no legal right to defend their territory? What is it that I'm "sugar coating"? What do you think the Israelis should have done at that time in their history? The fact that some Jews today are not Zionists in no way "proves" that the violent anti-Zionists of the 1940s where not Antisemitic. What matters is how you explain the animosity of the Arab population towards the Jewish State in the period leading up to the establishment of the State. Clearly this animosity continues to this day and will never dissipate until its cause is understood and steps taken to eliminate it.

If you want to talk about "sugar coating", have you read the Hamas Covenant (1988)? Article after article of Antisemitism, much of it defended using the Quran and Hadith. Muslims tell us that we are "misinterpreting" these texts, but you are just diverting us from how these texts are being used to spread hatred.

Hate is hate. Israelis are people too. Having failed to annihilate Israel over many, many decades, Arabs continue to wage a war of hate against them. This is sufficient to discredit Muslims as peaceful, tolerant people. How does hatred like this have any place in a religion of peace? An occasional polite, scripted rebuke of Islamic terrorism does nothing. When we see thousands of Muslims turning out in Arab cities in opposition to Hamas, in the same way that thousands of Americans turned out in Charlottesville to oppose neo-Nazi hatred, we will know that peace is possible.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...

Hello NB!

I think that the comparison between the Arabs and the White Nationalists is oddly made. The Arabs and the Jews are ethnically related, share much in common, and more importantly for much of their Post Muhammad history it was Jews who found sanctuary in Arab [and the wider Muslim ] lands.

Zionism is a secular ideology which seeks to provide cover for the usurpation of lands. This is why it was compared to Apartheid, because practically the same results emerged. If Zionism did not exist, Hamas would not exist!

Anyways, here's an interesting article that you should take a look at. http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/how-deal-zionist-trolls-and-their-facts-78866604


Non Believer said...

Thank you. By not answering my question you've answered it loudly and clearly:

Should the West treat Muslim refugees today the same way that Arabs treated these Jewish refugees 100 years ago?