Sunday, January 1, 2023

Disadvantages of Modern Muslim Groups

Maulana Syed Abu Ala Maududi has a small booklet in Urdu, advocating the importance of being formally part of an Islamic group. Among the cited advantages are protection, organization, accountability, feedback, development program, shared resources and ideology. I do not doubt these benefits, but there are definite disadvantages to joining any Islamic group these days which one should clearly consider before committing oneself.

Most Islamic groups differ in their methodologies even if they all claim to be following the Quran and Prophetic teaching. Their ideology and methodology are derived from the interpretation of their founder’s understanding on how the Quran and Sunnah should be implemented in our modern world. Due to human deficiency, their ideology is specific to a particular geographic and historic context. It is dependent on their intellectual maturity and understanding, which will always be less than that of the Prophet (SWAS) and His Companions (RA). Thus, we find one group emphasizing calling people to Islam, another spreading knowledge, another struggling to revive the khilafa, another emphasizing adopting Prophetic teachings, another following the pious predessors, and others calling for struggle. While the common man is entangled in fiqhi (jurisprudence) issues without understanding of the essence of the faith.

Each group is like a blind man examining an elephant. One feels its trunk and considering the elephant as a pipe. Another feels its tail considering the elephant as a rope. Another feel its feet considering an elephant as columns. Another feels its ears considering an elephant as a cloth. Another feels its teeth considering an elephant as a spear. Yet another feels its sides considerng an elephant as a hairy wall. In the elephant analogy, the blind men might represent intellectual founders of all modern groups and the "elephant" is Islam (with all due respect to all groups).

Whatever the ideology, it pales in comparison of the holistic vision of Muhammad (SWAS) who was able to see the whole elephant for what it is. Our duty is to follow the Prophet (SWAS) as faithfully as possible by espousing his vision. By joining a modern group, we automatically put limits on that vision. We give up the essential personal duty for deep contemplation to the leaders of the group we choose to follow. Joining a group makes us give up holistic study from the sources of Islam and limits it to the group’s literature. We tend to study specific curriculum designed by its education department, repeatedly emphasizing Quranic verses and hadiths cited in their literature to justify their methodology.

What turns off most non-Muslims from Islam and many Mulims from joining a group is observing the state of the members of such groups. Most people tend to follow their leaders blindly and not willing to hear anything negative about their methodology. It seems that their kalima (formal statement of faith) has become the mission statement of their groups. There is a lot of leader “worship” in such groups. The amount of backbiting one hears of other groups is just amazing. It seems that Muslims who have joined other organizations are fair game for backbiting as membership rules do not apply to them. We need to understand that although others are not members of their organizations, they are still Muslims and enjoy the benefits of brotherhood just as well. A lot of effort is wasted in these organizations in just trying to put down the other Muslims.

One should understand that most groups are working for similar goals even if they adopt different methodologies. Some cite a specific Prophetic saying, making it incumbent on a Muslim to join a group. This saying is specific to a bygone era when there was khilafa (Representative of the Prophet of God on Earth). In that case, a Muslim should not live without giving an oath of allegiance to a group leader. Our "group" is those we daily pray with in congregation no matter what their national origin, race, colour, ethnicaity, or modern Islamic group ideology. God forbid, if we study a coursse with a Muslim organization or even just "like" a Muslim's post because of its content, it does not apply that we give our allegiance to their "group". Is it not possible to learn from each other?

Sunday, December 5, 2021

"Halal" - A Catalyst for Refining Culture


Many people complain about the "restrictions" that Islam applies to liberties in areas such as accepted male-female interaction, forms in art, literature,  media, entertainment, jokes, work, finances, food, and dress.  Muslims have a special word to describe the permissible forms of such activities. They call them halal (permissible) as opposed to haraam (impermissible).

Why halal?

Rather than leaving people to carry out activities with no guidelines, Islam places certain parameters that are according to the natural disposition of mankind. Doing them otherwise would violate the principles of their essential being which they are divinely created to operate on. These parameters on human activity, allow us to rise from our crude base selves and evolve into our full potential.

Islam does not change the fundamentals of culture, but it refines it based on correct thought coupled with halal action. This is evident in societies which Islam impacted whether they be North Africa, the Levant, Persia, Turkey, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. Islam was the catalyst the filtered and refined the ancient culture to come up with the best, by subjecting them to the parameters of halal.

When people are forced to operate within halal parameters they develop their intellectual abilities to come up with something useful, exquisite, subtle, and elegant that did not exist before. Thus, it refines the culture from the easy, direct, base, and vulgar haraam possibilities that are common in non-Muslim cultures. 


  • Male-Female Interaction

Unrelated men and women are to observe proper dress code and a degree of formality. They are not to meet each other in seclusion. They should be careful about the tone of their voice and their body language.

Such rules allow synergies between the sexes to achieve great achievements without opening the door for the development of unlawful desires among them.


  • Art

Muslim art does not show created beings as their depiction can open the door to polytheism. Moreover, it is not vulgar or blasphemous. Such guidelines led to the evolution of new forms such as Arabic calligraphy, floral patterns, geometric motifs and, refined architecture that can be seen in masterpieces like to Mosque of Cordoba. In the Middle Ages, Muslim art was copied all over Europe. 


  • Literature / Media

Halal literature/media are not vulgar, blasphemous, derogatory, and hateful. The eloquence of the Quran and the historical eloquence of the Arabic language set the standard for quality Muslim literature/media. The impact of Islam on every non-Muslim civilization resulted in a tremendous refinement of their language and literature. 


  • Entertainment / Jokes

Believe it or not, even Muslims like to have fun. Nevertheless, their amusements are inclusive and devoid of negativity. Muslims cannot have fun at the expense of other, either individuals or groups, nor can their fun be vulgar, blasphemous, or based on falsehood.


  • Work / Finances

Halal work is based on ethical principles. It should be based on fair effort, devoid of interest, deception, and ambiguity. Work should be constructive and beneficial.


  • Dress

The Muslim dress code covers the hair and the whole body for a woman, except after the wrists and the ankles. There is a difference of opinion about if the woman's face needs to be covered. For the man, everything from between the navel to the knee needs to be covered. 

The clothing for both sexes should be loose and opaque.


  • Food

Normally when we think of halal we just think of food. Halal food is devoid of pig products and alcohol. Furthermore, the permissible animals need to be slaughtered in an Islamic manner.

Jokes In Islam


Contrary to popular belief, enjoying jokes is permitted in Islam. In fact, the Prophet (SWAS) was known to jest to strengthen his relations.

Anas b. Malik narrated: A Bedouin named Zahir brought presents from the desert to the Prophet. As he was leaving, the Prophet also gave him presents and told him:

“Zahir represents us living in the desert and we represent him living in the city.” Although he was physically an ugly man, the Prophet loved him dearly. While Zahir was shopping, the Prophet hid behind him and asked “Who am I?” Zahir recognized him.

Then the Prophet asked, “Who is going to buy this slave?”

Zahir replied: “O Messenger of Allah, do you find me worthless then?”

The Prophet replied:

“Are you not a slave of Allah? You are very worthy in Allah’s presence (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Tirmizi, Kandahlavi, III, 1176).


Nevertheless, the following types of amusements are not permitted in Islam.

 

1.    Making jokes at the expense of hurting an individual's feelings 

 

2.    Making jokes about different groups of people, e.g. nationalities, etc.

 

3.    Vulgar jokes

 

4.    Jokes based on lies

5.    Jokes based on the religion


Saturday, December 4, 2021

A Speech of Peace

 

Just before the arrival of the Prophet (SWAS) in Madinah there was great anticipation among those who had never met him before. Among them was Abdullah Ibn Salaam (RA) who was a Jewish Rabbi who later became a Muslim. 


He was a keen student of the Torah, where he had carefully studied the characteristics of the prophet to come. When it was announced that the Prophet (SWAS) was about to enter Yathrib, he was amongst those in the forefront. Upon observing the face of Muhammad (SWAS) he declared, “this is not a face of a liar”.


At this critical juncture in history, the first speech the Prophet (SWAS) gave was critical. It reflects the priority of a minority seeking refuge in a multi-religious host society. That  Hadith reaches us through the narration of Abdullah Ibn Salaam (RA).


Abdullah ibn Salam (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: “When the Prophet (peace be upon him) arrived for the first time in Madinah, I went with everyone to see him. When I saw him, I knew his face was not that of a liar. The first words he said were, “O people, feed the hungry, spread Salam (greeting of peace), maintain your kin relationships, and pray at night while others are asleep. With this, you shall enter Heaven in peace.” (Al-Bukhari)


This hadith which begins and ends with Salaam (peace) and is reported by Abdulllah Ibn Salaam (RA) is known as the Hadith of Salaam.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Social Interaction of Prophet Muhammad (SWAS)

 


  1. He was not confrontational 
  2. He was not extreme with people
  3. He did not involve himself in what did not concern him
  4. He did not criticize people 
  5. He did not pry into their personal issues
  6. He spoke meaningfully and only if it was beneficial 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

A Treasure at Home

The home library might seem like a burdensome fad from the past, especially now that books are produced with digital rather than paper formats. Libraries are now going virtual in the cloud rather than physically in our homes. It certainly makes moving easy and we can practice minimalistic living. Nevertheless, the advantages of a traditional home library outweigh those of a digital library.

The government of Sharjah campaigns for families to have a home library due to their emphasis on the education and development of their people. Every year, they hold the biggest international book fair in the UAE, which is visited by the whole population. The streets of the Buhairah Corniche become clogged and parking near the venue becomes elusive.

Amazon was a breath of fresh air in terms of the availability of books outside North America. In the early 2000s, it was considered a luxury to have the latest books delivered to your door through Amazon. Yet now online shopping is ubiquitous making the desirable physical books available almost everywhere. 

In those parts of the world where public libraries are rare or are for just show, there is little recourse but to purchase books to read. This is even more so when our subjects of interest are not very popular. It is rare to find Islamic books in English, not tainted with orientalism or popular Western bias, in the public library. We also struggle to find books on history, Islamization of the sciences, self-development from an Islamic perspective, etc. A home library should have books of interest to all members of the family.

In a home where a physical library exists, the likelihood that family members taking advantage of it is more than if they know that a digital library exists in the cloud somewhere. This is especially true if there is a culture of self-education in their parents. The home library can be better utilized if there are restrictions on digital distractions that most homes have, e.g. TV, movies, video games, social media, smartphones, etc. 


Monday, November 15, 2021

Oreo

 


Being a Muslim is independent of ancestral culture per se. To be faithful to Islam, we do not necessarily need to speak, dress or eat like our grandparents.

Similarly, being “White” is not about appearances. We have so many oreo cookies who are colored from the outside and white from the inside. The society we belong to is not determined by our inherited appearance and behavior per se but rather what ideology we have internalized.

 

With time, the internal beliefs result in an external culture which naturally springs from who we really are inside.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Islam in a Secular World


In an age where religion has become increasingly irrelevant, why is Islam the exception? Mainstream thought now equates all religious beliefs as originating from ancient myths and superstition. This is not surprising as the supremacy of reason in the last couple of centuries has a way of discrediting belief in all the matters of the unseen. It is understandable that this is the case with Western religious traditions and scriptures, as they have been liberally corrupted and used for selfish motives for millennia.

When the global thought leaders declare something from the experience of their own religious experience, it is expected that the whole world will follow, especially when the world’s religious beliefs are clearly based on myths as well. Who in their right mind can rationally justify the superstition in traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, etc. that have no clear messengers or intact authorized divine scripture.


Thus, the whole world feels little inhibition about jumping onto the secularism bandwagon. They believe in the rationality of science to explain the observable while being agnostic about the unseen. With regards to their ancestral religion, they now use it for just fossilized cultural traditions of their heritage, like the celebration of festivals, marriages, deaths, etc. With the death of their god(s), their religion has also died. 


In an increasingly secularized world this might be true for everyone except the Muslims. In contrast, Islam is the only real challenge to a godless world. Never before since its initial expansion, has the destiny of Islam been brighter than today when it is the world’s fastest growing religion. It is growing in all societies of the world.


The causes of this exception are many. Perhaps the simplest reason is that it is the Truth which is once again emerging to expose the falsehoods of the New World Order. It is the first and only religion of mankind. As a natural way of life for all humanity, other religious traditions were offshoots of this original which were later corrupted.


The presence of a divine scripture verbatim in God’s own words, a living miracle, preserved 100%, in a language which is still spoken and understood today, with centuries of scholarship makes the Quran's guidance accessible to each seeker of guidance today. 


The last teacher of Islam, Prophet Muhammad’s (SWAS) private and public life is extensively documented in a system of historical record taking that is so foolproof that the reference system of modern research was built based on it. Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) was sent as a teacher and example to the whole humanity so that they may learn from him by emulating his experience with the Truth of Islam.


In contrast to other religions, Islam is based on scholarship using the senses and critical thinking to arrive at conclusions like modern scientific inquiry. Nevertheless, it is not “blind” like it, in that if revelation from God says something it is believed even in the face of seeming “irrational” based on the human senses and experience. Indeed, reason is not infallible, and the believer is humble to recognize that God knows more that they do. The fact that the sources of Islam, the Quran and the Sunnah are intact means that this methodology can successfully applied even today.


If the West was quick to throw the baby of true belief with the bathwater of corrupted ideologies in its search for a modern methodology of global progress and learning based on reason, Muslims do not need to follow them. Instead, they need to re-educate the world about a balanced methodology of learning and development based on faith and reason.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Philosophy of Work Life Balance

Work stress is killing us. Our health and family are suffering. We are becoming workaholics. How can we restore work-life balance in our fast paced lifestyles? If only there is a way by which we can fulfill all our responsibilities well while consistently delivering quality work.
There might be several approaches to work-life balance which work for different people. I would like to outline a generic methodology.
If we have a deep realization that we are not put on this earth haphazardly, but have a purpose and will be accountable for what we do with the gift of life, we will become very proactive. We will become program managers - managing and executing various projects for all aspects of our life. So, we have projects for our career, family, health, spirituality, education, finances and social circle. Each of these projects are important and cannot be neglected to maintain our natural state of happiness. For most people, there exists an all-encompassing philosophy that covers all the projects. Thus, they are integrated and lead to the overall vision.

We need to sincerely believe in our philosophy of life, whatever it is. For us it should not just be a philosophy, it should be reality. We must implement it and try to deeply understand it. When we try to understand it, we will start finding deep meaning in all our different responsibilities where everything is related to everything else. Thus, since we are working with a single overall personal vision, we will enjoy doing them all, even if it is something as simple as throwing the garbage out. We will strive to give every responsibility its due right – not neglecting anything.

We will have micro-visions and goals for every aspect of our life that fit with our overall vision based on our personal philosophy. Thus, we plan and track each aspect of our life as we tend to plan and track our professional work.

If we make our personal accountability based on our philosophy to be more important than anything, it will be easy to keep two steps ahead of the game by anticipating things that might happen and deal with them before they happen in all our projects. If we inculcate this proactive inner feeling within us, we will be pulled to do each activity of our life by being sincere to our philosophy rather than being pushed to do them without a vision. Thus, we would do each task with excellence and ease.

Professional work is one of our important personal projects within the program that an individual can manage well. If we do not manage other aspects of life well, we would become imbalanced, overworked and stressed. Our work would lack initiative, creativity, passion and quality. Our life would become miserable because it would become out of synch with the natural principles of well being.

Thus, we need to firmly manage expectations that others might have from us, otherwise we risk being burnt out. We need to set clear boundaries about what we can and cannot accept, then consistently deliver quality work based on it. We also tend to suffer most when our personal philosophy is not compatible with our corporate vision. If we work in an organization where we can grow our personal philosophy in line with corporate philosophy we can be more happy and balanced.

To keep ourselves motivated, we need to keep sharpening our personal vision by studying and reflecting on the sources of our philosophy of life daily so that we always increase in mindfulness and improve in all areas. We study the lives of successful role models who were able to achieve success in very different areas of their lives based on our philosophy.

If we become selfish and keep our secrets of success to ourselves, we risk drowning in the negativity of the people we interact with. Rather, we need to teach our philosophy of life to others by positively influencing them so that they can be empowered to self reform. Through this synergy, we become more efficient, balanced and happy as a society.

In terms of personal routines, we start the day before dawn, plan and execute each day as if we are strategizing a project. We just focus of getting one day right, every day until it becomes a lifestyle. We use the power of habits and scheduling to propel us. By observing our routine and experimenting with it, we try to find out what factors make us most productive. Removing distracting activities which do not add value, such as TV, too much news, social media and useless conversations, makes us focused. We have time to rest. We go to bed at the same time every night and get enough sleep. We eat healthy, exercise regularly and practice meditation at key stages of the day. Finally, it is essential to live with a supportive family who has imbibed these principles themselves.

In a nutshell, we need to willingly subject ourselves to the natural principles of our philosophy to stays happy carrying out the obligations of the philosophy. When we do this we would be subjecting ourselves to the natural system of all the elements of our philosophy. In that state of harmony, we can feel fulfilled, balanced and happy.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

How to Pursue Dreams

The miracle of the Prophet (SWAS) was that there were no miracles. He became the most successful man ever by rational strategy to achieve his goals. The Sunnah is intelligent strategy so if we want to become successful, we should deliberately plan to achieve our dreams.

If we adopt the right methodology to pursue our dreams, we will be pulled to our goals rather having to push ourselves towards them. Even when we are tired we would be motivated to keep working towards them. What if we are automatically pulled towards every good thing we decide to achieve?

When we adopt this methodology everyone around us gets influenced including family, colleagues and community. When we work on one area of our life (e.g. career) all other areas of the life get affected, e.g. family, health, religion, relationships, etc. These are the different hats we wear.

We start off by trying to pursue our dreams in one or two areas of life. This pursuit is a journey. It needs to be strategically planned and monitored stage by stage. The Prophet (SWAS) excelled in all areas of life.

The heart of this methodology is the identity. When we decide to pursue a dream, wearing a specific hat, we take on an identity that is characteristic for that hat, e.g. someone wanting to perfect tajweed might take the identity of Abdul Basit Abdus Samad. When we take an identity, it psychologically conditions us to successfully achieve that dream.

The identity is enhanced by habits. When we adopt the habits, they enable us to believe in the identity which leads to our dreams thus success boils down to habits. Habits should be defined to be at a specific location and specific time. They should be of two minutes or less in duration.

Who we become during the journey - the identity - may be more important than the dream. The journey transforms us. If we are only focused on the dream we will be miserable after we get there. We might feel a sense of euphoria on reaching the goal, but nothing more. We must learn to enjoy the journey otherwise the journey will seem to us as an obstacle or something we hate which will discourage us to fulfill our dreams. We must love the journey in order to accomplish our dreams.

To live a good life throughout the journey, we should have faith and do good deeds. We can be happy, emphatic, loving, satisfied, etc. at any moment in the journey, not necessarily after we get to the destination.

We need to try to quantify the progress of the journey and try to measure it to see how we are doing at different stages.

There is some vital behavior which leads to the success of this methodology and needs to be determined scientifically through hypothesis testing. If we get the vital behavior right on a daily basis everything in the methodology can work out. It can be as simple as going to bed at the same time every night.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Knowing What to Know


Modern theory of knowledge is baffled by discovering a foolproof systematic method of differentiating true knowledge from false. Without knowing what to know and what to reject we will be overwhelmed in our age of massive volumes of information. Determining the truth from falsehood is essential to guide global human society to holistic success. Yet, without resolving this fundamental philosophical question, the modern world feels lost.

Classical epistemology states that to have knowledge of a proposition like “the earth is round” requires that the statement is true by our belief of it based on some justification. Since we believe that the earth is round based on observation from space, we can classify this as knowledge.

Unfortunately, the classical theory breaks down when we consider the problem the philosopher Gettier uncovered. He showed that even if we believe that a proposition is justified as true it might have just been true by luck. In fact, such statements should not be classified as knowledge. As an example, consider a stopped clock that shows the correct time of the day by chance that a person looks at it at the right time. The proposition that the “clock shows that it is 10 O’clock” is believed to be true by the person justified on his observation. The fact that it is indeed true does not mean that can be classified as being knowledge as you cannot get to tell the time by looking at a stopped clock. It was just by chance that the person looked at the clock at 10”.

How can philosophers decide if information can be classified as true knowing that there exists information out there that can be justified and believed to be true whereas it was only true by chance when it was being observed? This has confused philosophers as to what exactly is knowledge. They do not have a general theory of knowledge which they can apply universally to classify information as true knowledge.

How can humanity be sure what to believe? How can we be protected from delusions of the information deluge of our age? Can there be a general theory of knowledge? The Islamic paradigm provides answers to such elusive questions. In the Islamic paradigm, there are two sources of knowledge – this world and that world (the unseen world). Absolute knowledge comes from divine revelations. They provide natural basic principles which are universally at work in both the worlds. When we observe phenomena in our environment, we observe cause and effect rationally, guided by the principles of revelation, e.g. the fact that the revelations say that every man shall taste death, makes us exclude research into immortality as it is based on false knowledge that “man can live forever”.

To be classified as knowledge a proposition should be believed to be true when justified by universal principles either directly from revelations or by rational observation guided by such principles. If rational observation shows that something is true while revelation shows something is false, we believe it is false e.g. even if our previous knowledge that the divine command instructed dipping a fallen fly in a drink might seem irrational, we accept is as true knowledge. Rational observation can help take us to the truth but rational observation is not infallible. It cannot sit in judgement of the truth. This removes classifications of delusions like those into the realm of knowledge which is the problem with coming up with a universal theory of knowledge in modern philosophy.

Thus, we can attempt to improve the general theory of knowledge with the help of the Islamic paradigm. A proposition is believed to be true if it can be justified through rational observations in the light of divine revelations or by divine revelations alone. Islam acknowledges mankind’s ignorance with only Allah being All Knowing. Even with this theory, there might be propositions which cannot be completely classified not by the weakness of the theory but by human deficiency to find the justification. With this improved epistemology, humanity can be more confident as to what is true and false increasing them in conviction and avoiding delusions. This would result in better guidance of our global society which has lost the capability to judge right from wrong.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

How to Develop Thought

Perhaps thought inspired on sound principles has become the rarest commodity in the 21st century. It is increasingly difficult to reason independently based on reality due to the dominance of global thought rife in its philosophical paradoxes. Think tanks with vested interests make political, academic, social, cultural, economic and moral policies globally. They set the agenda of governments, media, university research, social policy, religious control and economic reforms through international organizations. Media has almost 24/7 grip on humanity's thoughts. Unless one completely isolates oneself, one cannot protect oneself from the influence of their delusional thoughts. At the same time, one cannot develop correct thought to analyze a world which one is isolated from. The strategy to develop inspired thinking for the 21st century needs effort, sacrifice, patience and wisdom.

Bad intentions result in corrupt thinking which results in bad actions which result in bad consequences. Whereas, good intentions result in sound thinking which results in good actions which result in good consequences. To have sound thought we must have "good" intentions. Who defines "good"? our parents? our primary school teacher? our employer? our government? Good intentions are based on a deep understanding of the principles of Islam. Thus, to have sound thought, we must constantly be immersed in the Islamic paradigm by studying it from its sources, in a world which constantly streams ideas counter to it. To think properly we need to critically filter our culture, our social trends, our national trends, our media, globally promoted ideas and initiatives, ideas of deviant groups and ideas taught in educational institutes. We need to be global citizens having independent minds rather than minds tainted by nationalism.

By studying with and listening to a genuine Islamic scholars we reinforce our understanding. We must learn Islam academically in courses rather than just practice what our forefathers used to do. By doing this, we can glean principles of reality from it the same way we glean the laws of motion from the academic study of physics. Just like physics has natural principles which help us study aspects of the physical world from an internally valid systematic framework, Islam has natural principles which help us study reality of this and the unseen world. Whereas, western philosophy cuts off the stream of knowledge gleaned from the unseen realm, Islam uses that knowledge to guide intuitive reasoning to understand things more comprehensively. The vision of secular thought is monocular, that of Islamic thought is stereoscopic - using knowledge of both the seen and unseen universe to form it.

Intentions can be kept pure by living fully immersed in the Islamic paradigm and controlling exposure and influence of mainstream ideas which oppose it. This is possible by constantly studying Islam formally, thinking about it, implementing it and teaching it to others. The home environment can be kept pure when all family members have the same aspirations, living without a TV, controlling what is seen , heard and read on digital devices; keeping healthy and loving relations with family members. The more we implement and teach Islam, the deeper our thought becomes. When thought is not juxtaposed among Islamic, cultural and secular worldviews it will not be confused. It will be possible to just continue building everything on the Islamic foundation as one learns new subjects of knowledge.

The intentions to acquire beneficial knowledge continuously should be for our higher spiritual development - to develop the light of understanding by which we can see things as they really are so that we positively impact the world. Care should be exercised that the world does not distract us from this mission for the hereafter. We should not covet by it praise,wealth, status, fame and honor. Lives full of meaning might be more enriching than meaningless ostentatious lives.

To understand the 21st century world one needs to understand modern knowledge. It is relatively easy to acquire empirical and analytical knowledge like that of the natural sciences, engineering, computer sciences, mathematics, etc. because they are based on observed/measurable phenomenon of this world and do not conflict much with Islamic principles. We should not try studying the humanities without first studying Islam well. Nevertheless, after studying Islam significantly, we should study the social sciences by using Islamic principles as a criteria to judge the knowledge before we decide to incorporate it in our framework of personal knowledge. Thus knowledge streams from a variety of disciplines can constantly be acquired by such self-learning.

Pure intention and correct knowledge are insufficient by themselves in developing sound thought. They need to be supplemented with good life experiences and keen observation of the phenomenon we experience with our senses. Thought is developed by practicing thinking about one's observations in the context knowledge and life experiences. To enrich thought, one needs to increase variety and depth of one's knowledge and experiences, Thus living in different societies, learning different languages, working in different industries and having a diverse social network is essential for rich thought.

The more one thinks at a meta level about things, the more one's thought develops. Thinking is a muscle which needs to be exercised daily. Writing one's thoughts allows one to think about them systematically and deliberately. One train of thought leads to another connected one. As the thought network develops, one can see trends and patterns of deep realization like it is done artificially in data mining these days. This is the beginning of wisdom. With time, one can develop discerning insight (firasa) which is sudden intuitive understanding.

To see reality as reality, thought must be pure. Pure thought is thought based on the right intentions, correct knowledge, positive assumptions, good character, good speech, good morals, good deeds and good living. Constant effort is needed to keep thought pure by studying and implementing Islam genuinely. Impure thought results in distorted concept of reality causing one to suffer from delusions about aspects of reality. Modern thought lacks such a basis, diminishing humanity's ability to understand reality for what it is.

When most of humanity will be immersed in virtual worlds, sound deep thinking will become increasingly rare. The masses will have reptilian brains that instinctively react immediately to stimuli. They will be controlled by few social architects who see humans as animals and will decide when and what global populations will think and do. The masses will constantly be concerned with personal physical survival. People will become like machines and machines like people.

Among all peoples of the world, only Muslims have the sources and methodology of sound thought development which can restore humanity to humans. Rather than rushing to adopt Western thinking, should not Muslims take the means to reform their own and then teach how to think to the world? 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

"Nasiha" for 21st Century Muslim Students

Dear Son/Daughter of Islam,

The mindset of success needed to succeed holistically in the future will be significantly different form what was needed for our generation. The challenges of a one-world globalized world that you will inherit are bigger and more complicated than those we faced. At the same time, this period is very interesting and full of potential for the rightly motivated student.

The Quran indicates that normally people attain religious satisfaction and the right understanding of reality (wisdom) at age 40.  Until then, a Muslim needs to exert serious efforts to seek knowledge, keep themselves pure - mentally, spiritually and physically, learn skills, develop personal independence while serving others, become satisfied with being alone and search for meaning.

The first thing that the 21st century Muslim student needs is a worthy intention - not to get a high GPA, a good job, a perfect spouse, wealth or fame. The intention should rather be something higher - to understand reality and willingly submit oneself to excel in the part they will play in the universe. A person who is driven to discover and play out their natural destiny to the fullest will get their share of worldly success and they will be satisfied with it. In contrast, someone who chases the world might not get it and they will unsatisfactorily be chasing elusive goals throughout their lives.

With the right intention, the modern Muslim student must love all useful knowledge - worldly and Islamic, seeking to quench their thirst from all pure sources of it while always contemplating about their deeper meanings. The pursuit of knowledge should not be limited to just one's major but rather knowledge should be gleaned from a wide range of disciplines. A Muslim is not just a doctor, engineer, computer scientist, financial analyst, manager, lawyer, etc. A Muslim is a Muslim in the full sense of the word and a Muslim thinks holistically from the paradigm of Islam about all disciplines. They do not differentiate social sciences from physical sciences nor theoretical sciences from applied sciences. To a Muslim all knowledge is based on the universal divine principles in the sources of Islam and need to be studied in as a holistic fabric of knowledge to get to know reality. It is such pursuit of knowledge which is considered worship in Islam and was practiced by the Muslim scientists/thinkers of Islam's Golden Age.

The Muslim student needs to protect themselves in the world full of sins and distractions. Purity of intentions, thoughts, goals and actions are vital in a world which is based on a dysfunctional model of reality. In such a world, it is praiseworthy to exclusively desire fame, wealth and status; to waste precious time in never ending frivolous games and entertainment; to glorify sinful living; to have girl friend / boy friend; to have bad manners and to have selfish goals. By repeatedly reminding themselves of their higher intentions, Muslim students can become like guided smart missiles, which are focused on their target while not being effected by their environment.

The Muslim student needs to implement Islamic practice little by little in their lives - always growing in it. Islam is the natural way of life of all creation. In our youth, we get to appreciate different aspects of it in parts as we are not trained to see the whole picture due to our lack of knowledge, life experiences, understanding and attention span. Nevertheless, it is important to implement what little we learn and make it part of us as it is when we are immersed in it the more intense our understanding and appreciation of it becomes.

The Muslim student needs to lean useful skills that will be needed in our tech-driven world. Focus should be on those human attributes that cannot easily be replicated by machines - human creativity and human compassion. Students should learn to think holistically, debate meaningfully, speak publicly, read voraciously, write eloquently and give compassionately while practicing impeccable morality. Such higher human abilities are more important to learn than skills which are taught in assembly-line fashion such as technology which is changing very fast and can be mastered by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Muslim students should try and learn languages including their mother tongue, a global European language (French, Spanish, etc.), a global Asian language (Chinese, Hindi, etc.) while paying close attention to mastering Arabic and English. Languages are windows in perceiving the worldview of the reality of the universe and it is only by meticulously combining and analyzing inspirational thoughts from different global communities do we get to appreciate aspects of the ultimate Truth.

By learning to live independently, the Muslim of the future will increase their learning exponentially. This is essential as a Muslim must find satisfaction is being alone. Learning to be content without necessarily finding stimulation from constant face-to-face or virtual interaction, builds character, thought and abilities. Living alone is not recommended for long periods.

When they feel the need, they should get married to someone keeping excellence, knowledge and practice of Islam as their criteria of selecting their life partner. To some marriage might be recommended early considering the flirtatious nature of the 21st century world. The right life partner is indispensable to the Muslim student's higher intention as they will help them achieve their goals while providing them satisfaction in so many ways. Living with someone who does not have the same intentions, will only make things more difficult. Thus, commitment and formal knowledge of Islam are indispensable for marriage.

No matter what stage of education a Muslim is in, they can try to always implement the knowledge they learn by applying it to serve others. This gives deep insights into the knowledge, while developing the habit and outlook of helping, as it provides feedback and thus an opportunity to improve one's understanding. It prepares us for our careers but most importantly it rewards us in the hereafter if we have that intention. I person with such an attitude should not have to ask people to find them a job, they will naturally know what they want to do and opportunities in their career will seek them out.

A lifetime of effort in seeking knowledge, skills, understanding and experiences will prepare the Muslim student of the 21st century to enjoy the ultimate pleasure of this life - not eating at the best restaurant, being with the best spouse, getting the best professional position or being honored globally. No. We get our ultimate pleasure from spending our mundane lives in deep ecstasy that comes from living our part fully in the divine natural scheme of things - having the ability to understand and deeply think about our role in context; to ponder on different aspects of the world from the right frame of thought and to use these abilities to positively change the world. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Islam and Western Moral Philosophy

Western moral philosophy's area of meta-ethics tries to answer the question of how can we decide if something is moral or not. Passing moral judgement like "lying is bad only if you get caught" is not as universally accepted as empirical judgement like "the earth moves around the sun". If there is no universal consensus as to what is moral and what is immoral how can our global society make moral progress which is vital for humanity?

Western philosophy does not have the answer. As the Scottish philosopher, David Hume rightly observed the realm of philosophy is limited to the cause and effect of phenomenon experienced in the world of the philosopher. They are incapable of penetrating the infinite worlds beyond as that is where the realm of philosophy ends. The extreme corruption in the church doctrine of the Middle Ages which they take to be Christianity through whose lens they judge all religions, resulted in Western philosophers to reject divine teachings as a source of practical thought in the Renaissance. Thus, without rational religious principles to guide them, today's Western Philosopher is utterly confused about such issues as morality.

Western philosophers categorize moral judgement in three main categories: objective moral judgement, relative moral judgement and emotive moral judgement. People who believe that moral judgement is objective believe that it is as true as empirical judgement, e.g. "genocide is bad" as true universally as "I am less than 6 ft. tall". Such people fail to explain the magnitude of differences in moral opinion that exists in humanity. People who believe that moral judgement is relative believe that a judgement is dependent on the individual, their background and their culture. It might be true in one society and false in another society, e.g. "bank interest is harmful to global society". People who believe that moral judgement is emotive do not reason and think about morality but rather depend on their emotions to decide if something is morally good or bad, e.g. "polygamy is bad". Meta-ethics is a very active field of research in western philosophy university departments. They are trying to come up with a unified theory that tries to tie together all these three positions on moral judgement. Without a true religion, they find it excessively elusive.

Islam has the solution to this as well as perhaps most modern philosophical conundrums because the sources of research are not only the observable world (as is for philosophy) but also the unseen. A believer is engrossed in research by observing the causes and effects of this world (i.e. to make empirical judgments) in the light of divine revelations in the Quran and what was revealed to us from the unseen by Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) (i.e.to make moral judgments).

The Western mind, automatically relates this to Christian moral philosophy and rejects Islam's explanation to the meta-ethics conundrum as as simplistic and insufficient as Christianity's religious morality. Whereas the moral principles are developed by Christian philosophers after the formation of Church doctrine, Islamic moral principles are directly from the divine - the words of Allah, either in the Quran or as reported in authentic ahadith. The authenticity of both these sources are empirically well established - the Quranic scriptures being studied to be unchanged almost from the century of its revelation and the hadith having a meticulously scientific methodology of classifying the authenticity of hadith. 

The Muslim philosopher works with these divine building blocks using the Prophetic methodology rather than man made constructs from the church clergy. These moral principles are part of a holistic reality, violating which disturbs the whole fabric of the universe. Thus, empirical principles and moral principles are both universal principles from the one divine source - Allah.  Just as not watering plants caused them to whiter and die, lying causes us to become self-deluded. Just as empirically stating "grass is green" is not always universally true, saying "lying is bad" is not always true. Islamic morality is as sophisticated as the depth of its sources. These divine words are pregnant with deep meaning, fine detail and a multitude of implications. There are so many exceptions to the general principles e.g. in the case of lying, a Muslim is allowed to lie to make their spouse happy, they can lie in times of war and lie to reconcile between people.

Islamic philosophy is not really philosophy. It is a way of thinking based on the natural universal principles with all their sophistication that befits modelling the natural reality of existence. Since the complexity of the reality being thought about is so profound, human language is insufficient to express its universal principles – whether empirical or moral. Thus, literal divine words which have been completely preserved since their revelation are gifted to humanity to live a meaningful and moral life in complete harmony with the rest of the natural universe.

Moral principles are universal principles for all humanity and for all times. There is tremendous detail and sophistication to them which allows their relativistic application in different societies and times. Since they are based on natural principles, they directly affect the human psyche resulting in an emotive response. Thus, Islamic paradigm of thought completely and comprehensively solves Western philosophy’s meta-ethics conundrum which is plaguing humanity.


The lack of the basis of morality in our modern global society means that humanity is blindly groping for a means to create a global ethical society. The moral values of humanity are at a all time low and worsening. The meta-ethics of Islam completely satisfies this need. Humanity can progress in morality as far as it has progressed empirically, if it adopts Islamic ethics. 


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Meaning of Being Human in a Post COVID-19 World

A sign of enslaved societies is that they lose the capacity to contemplate on, understand, articulate and act on the principles of their own civilization's philosophy. Enslaved peoples lose their identity. They see and judge themselves from the worldview of their masters. Their master's beliefs become their beliefs. Their master's preferences become their preferences. Their master's aspirations become their aspirations.

In a one-world post-COVID 19 scenario, two essential human attributes might become increasingly rare: creative, independent thought and genuine compassion. As globalization reaches its pinnacle and all people of the world increasingly think the same. The differences among individual nations will be external and insignificant (traditional dress, gourmet food, ancestral language, ancestral religion, national currency, national policy and some cultural vestiges), until those too will diminish and disappear.

Residents of this emerging Orwellian world become like robots - devoid of creativity and compassion -  while machines will be endowed with these and other artificial human characteristics. The potential for chaos and anarchy would increase as people fight to survive in an environment where they are unable to judge right from wrong, truth from falsehood and friend from foe. Without thought, rumors and false news may cause hysteria to spread giving authorities the excuse to use force to further implement their agenda of complete global control.

With global thought controlled by formal news, media, advertisements, social trends, social media, celebrities and popular trends, people will end up following one another - the blind mice following other blind mice. The inability to think would be compounded with nearly 24/7 screen time of content created by others, brainwashing humanity and making them believe, like and do what the global social architects wish. All humanity will think and talk about the same issue at the same time.

The single global digital currency would not only control humanity's financial destinies but would also allow further control on them by using data analytics to study their spending histories. Thus custom advertisements/media content would be streamed to them based on all these trends locking people to their smart devices forever. People will develop reptilian brains by which they could only react by instinct, leaving little room to develop deep, alternate thought patterns.

People of the world would become excessively isolated - not marrying; living without family, let alone an extended family. Thus, they would only be able to practice compassion with animals or machines! Without emotional intelligence, their perception of their predicament would likely be more distorted and they would slide further from intellect and wisdom.

If we examine the philosophy of all the non-Western civilizations in the world, we would realize that although some are very ancient and deep such as the Chinese civilization, the Indian civilization, the Native American civilizations, the Sub-Saharan civilizations, the Aboriginal civilization, etc. they do not have the characteristics that can provide an alternative to this one-world scenario we are entering. At best, they can just add their flavor to the external personal practices and well being of its practitioners in this new world. They cannot challenge the new "reality" or provide a comprehensive, natural, just, practical, methodological and foolproof way of life that can replace the emerging system.

The only liberating philosophy from such a man made system is that of Islam. As our sincere, learned scholars pass away there will be fewer people to carry forward the mantle. People would have to guard and grow in what they know like the early Muslims did in Makkah - learning, safeguarding and teaching in a globally antagonistic world. Nevertheless, Islam will be the only liberating theology par excellance that all conscientious peoples of the world will flock to it restore their humanity. Thus to be a human in the post-COVID 19 world in the full sense of the word, one would have to be a Muslim in the full sense of the word.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Why Can't Muslims Think?

Muslims are often criticized for not contributing intellectually to the modern world. Rather they are avid consumers of ideas, products and services from others. They fail to contribute with respect to the shear weight of the numbers. What are the factors that make it difficult for Muslims to innovate holistically for the greater good of humanity?

To consider this issue, we need to understand the legacy of the series of Muslim capitulations since the failure of the Siege of Vienna, which eventually relegated them and thus their worldview as the non dominant global paradigm. Colonialism and the New World Order consolidated this position. It was not the deficiency in the Islamic worldview which led to their defeat but rather its lack of understanding and hence the laxity in its implementation, which weakened them. This fact is evident when we consider that subsequent Islamic revival movements in different parts of the world were successful when they adhered to this pristine worldview even if they were short-lived. The truth is that Muslim groups practicing Islam properly from the sources continue to exist in one part of the world or another till today.

Thus, it is no wonder that Muslims of today seem so backwards in terms of education. Their education system is based on rote memorization. Their education system does not teach to think rather it develops students to only pass exams. Studying is seldom equated with enlightenment and development of the thought process. Rather it is meant to provide jobs, socio-economic uplift and gender equality.

Since the Islamic worldview permeates all aspects of life, the average Muslim is confused. On the one hand they attempt to stay faithful to Islamic values, but on the other hand he realizes that the modern world is based on a secular worldview which is in many ways diametrically opposed to Islam. Thus the average contemporary Muslim suffers from conflicting juxtaposed personal worldview which makes it impossible to develop any original thoughts as they do not have any sound personal system of intellectual reference to base it on. Thus, Muslims, in general, relegate thinking to other civilizations and just focus on personal socio-economic improvement. This is the hallmark of an enslaved mentality which can only instinctively do what it is habituated in doing and incapable of intellectual breakthroughs. Even when such people become professors or other intellectuals professionally, they only do it as a means to earn a paycheck, seeking to be engaged in the apparent process of innovation based on established theories in their fields - never actually making an intellectual breakthrough themselves.

On one end of the spectrum of Muslim society are people who are only entrenched in the traditional worldview. Among them there are some whose sources and methodology are not Islamic. Also among them are many who do not understand the modern world. This leaves very few intellectuals who have a pure and monolithic mental frame of thought to impact the global thought.

On the other end of the spectrum of Muslim society are the secularist who have all but completely discarded the Islamic worldview. They have freed themselves of the mental confusion and can make progress in intellectual endeavors completely immersed in secular values and not shackled by and contracting Islamic values. Thus, to innovate such individuals from Muslims societies are forced to leave the realm of Islam.

In order for Muslims to really think, they need to simultaneously and continuously seek Islamic and worldly education with the right intentions. These include holistic learning, deep contemplation, self-reform, doing legacy building projects and teaching others.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Delighted is the One Who Knows Him - 1

With this book the knower of the divine swims in the ocean with no shore and discovers the Names of Allah and His Attributes with its true measure what is permitted with it and fills the treasures of conviction from the pathways of knowing the Lord of the worlds and builds a solid fort with the eyes of the heart to the lights of the Names and the Attributes and a great spiritual pleasure for the most beautiful of what can be known: knowledge of Allah.

The goal:

To build high walls around the souls of the precious believers, so that sadness does not reach them nor doubts neither any arrows of fleeting desire and this for the treatment of the soul and preventative programs and practice self accountability and visions full of lessons and healing summaries and effective supplications.

And he benefits from it who draws nearer with it to the Lord of the world and I ask Him that it be an intercessor for me on the day of Judgement
So, rejoice if it is found in your hand,
and Allah makes it a witness for you and not against you,
and makes blessed for you this knowledge because this is the source of healing,
and give good news that reading with the heart and understanding with intellect is a great acceptance from Allah and a magnificent reward.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Evil Effects of Sin

If we are not careful, we may become habitual in sins, especially minor sins. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) described the effects of sins.

Sinning causes us to be deprived of knowledge for knowledge is light that Allah causes to reach the heart, and sin extinguishes that light. When Imam al-Shaafa’i sat before Imam Maalik and read to him, he admired him because of the intelligence, alertness and understanding that he saw in him. He said, “I think that Allah has caused light to enter your heart, so do not extinguish it with the darkness of sin.”

The second effect of sin is that it deprives a person of provision. The Messenger of Allah (SWAS) said: ‘A man is deprived of provision because of the sins that he commits.’”

Sins cause a sense of alienation between a person and his Lord, and between him and other people. One of the salaf said: “If I disobey Allah, I see that in the attitude of my riding beast and my wife.”

Things become difficult for a sinning person, so that he does not turn his attention towards any matter but he finds the way blocked or he finds it difficult. By the same token, for the one who fears Allah, things are made easy for him.

The sinner will find darkness in his heart, which he will feel just as he feels the darkness of night. So, this darkness affects his heart as the physical darkness affects his vision. For obedience is light and disobedience is darkness. The stronger the darkness grows, the greater becomes his confusion, until he falls into innovation, misguidance and other things that lead to doom, without even realizing, like a blind man who goes out in the darkness of the night, walking alone. This darkness grows stronger until it covers the eyes, then it grows stronger until it covers the face, which appears dark and is seen by everyone. ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Abbaas said: “Good deeds make the face light, give light to the heart, and bring about ample provision, physical strength and love in people’s hearts. Bad deeds make the face dark, give darkness to the heart, and bring about physical weakness, a lack of provision and hatred in people’s hearts.”

Sin breeds sin until it dominates a person and he cannot escape from it.

Sin weakens a person’s willpower. It gradually strengthens his will to commit sin and weakens his will to repent until there is no will in his heart to repent at all… so he seeks forgiveness and expresses repentance, but it is merely words on the lips, like the repentance of the liars, whose hearts are still determined to commit sin and persist in it. This is one of the most serious diseases that are most likely to lead to doom.

A persistent sinner will become desensitized and will no longer find sin abhorrent, so it will become his habit, and he will not be bothered if people see him committing the sin or talk about him.

The Prophet (SWAS) said: “All of my ummah will be fine except for those who commit sin openly, and that includes cases where Allah conceals a person’s sin, but the following morning he exposes himself and says, ‘O So and so, I did such and such last night, so he shamelessly exposes himself when all night his Lord had concealed his sin.”

When there are many sins they leave a mark on the heart of the person who commits them, so he becomes one of the negligent. As one of the salaf said, concerning the aayah (verse)–

كَلَّا بَلْ رَانَ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِم مَّا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ
“Nay! But on their hearts is the Raan which they used to earn” [83:14] 

this means sin after sin.

How this starts is that the heart gets stained by sin, and if the sin increases then the stain grows bigger until it becomes the raan, then it increases until it becomes a seal, and the heart becomes covered and sealed. If that happens after a person had been guided and had understood, then his heart is turned upside down, and at that point the Shaytaan gains control over him and directs him as he wants.