Project Humanbeingsfirst's Response to a Letter from a thinking Muslim.
Dateline California, Christmas Holidays, Tuesday, December 23, 2008, 1 PM.
Dear Ms. S.
Thank you for sharing so many aspects. I felt like responding to the following key perspective by sharing my own modest conception of these matters since I have already written about it (albeit only superficially and only peeling the most apparent layer of the 'onion'):
“Honestly, I still don't understand agnosticism experientially, only theoretically, and it was learning about Islam that made me realize the need to question the existence of God even just to that extent rather than to accept it on blind faith and the needs and desires of the heart. What I do understand experientially, however, (and wish that I didn't?) is questioning the justice and mercy of God. I'm still wrestling with that one and I refuse to stop wrestling until I have a satisfactory answer, one way or the other.”
So please permit me to weave a quick poor-man's tapestry through it – your mileage may of course vary.
1) Yes, at times, it also appears to me that ignorance is blissful. Most of my friends enjoy that state and are quite happy in the pursuits of their respective 'American Dreams' the world over. That's quite forgivable, to my mind. Live and let live is a worthy motto.
2) What isn't forgivable however, again only to my mind, is the apathy – the 'banality of evil' as Hannah Arendth so eruditely put it, the 'looking from the side' as John Pilger once put it, 'sitting on the fence' as a worthy mathematician once wrote me – and the 'uncle toms' and the 'native informants' are the worst among these on-lookers. For, in addition to 'looking on', they also apologize for the crimes of their new masters by denigrating their own kith and kind. And I have discovered that many a 'people of the cloth', especially the well-off Muslims living comfortably anywhere, but especially in the West, are the worst offenders here. They might delight in proselytizing and remembering 'Allah' (if they are religious), but will not lift a finger to come to the aid of their fellow man let alone protest tyranny. The United States Muslims, mainly the first generation immigrants, are the most pathetic in this regards. Perhaps they might be forgiven by the victims of tyranny someday for all their 'piety' in their mosques – I don't know. See: http://prisonersofthecave.blogspot.com/2007/04/chapter-8.html
3) This leads to your point “questioning the justice and mercy of God”. The topic that has bedeviled mankind since it invented fire. See my own personal narcissistic reflections in 'My Little Jihad' http://zahirebrahim.blogspot.com/2007/04/about-me-and-my-little-jihad.html, and my take on this matter of why the existence of God is philosophically mandated as a reflection of human condition. That this existential necessity for postulating god is of no less significance and measure than the 'out of body experience' of physicist Richard Feynman noted in my letter to the godless Dawkins (which you already read) http://humanbeingsfirst.blogspot.com/2008/02/letter-dawkins-god-delusion.html
In other words, regardless of the 'reality' of whether or not some 'creator' really exists, the existential human condition and sufferings – wherein, even though man is born free and yet finds itself in chains everywhere – requires postulating the existence of a 'merciful and just' god who will administer the said virtues to compensate matters at some future times. The evolution of this doctrine among mankind is elegantly explored in the voluminous work “The Great Transformation” by Karen Armstrong. A must read book, a first of its kind tracing the relationship of the evolution and history of religion across the various landscapes on earth.
4) This 'justice and mercy' question naturally leads to the conception of 'hope' http://humanbeingsfirst.blogspot.com/2008/09/happy-happy-in-hope-voluntary-servitude.html
And as the reflections in this essay ponder, the abundance of hope is also what prevents rectifying the same servitude and bondage which mandates the existence of the axioms of 'justice and mercy of God' which lead to such hope.
A rather circular self-fulfilling positive feedback loop which feeds upon itself to create further bondage waiting and living for the future, leading to further reinforcement of the axiom of “the justice and mercy of God”.
5) So has Islam addressed this aspect?
If one dissociates oneself from being a member of this religion (and all religions and 'systems of living'), moves oneself to Mars so to speak, and rationally peers through a microscope-telescope at the earthlings to understand them and their 'systems' (including those of obfuscations and Machiavellis which isn't the topic here), it becomes easier to uncover these matters by bringing at least some degree of dis-associativity and thus, arguably at least, some objectivity.
So if one studies Islam as a 'system' and tries to uncover its first-principles of operation (and by this I do not mean corollaries and derivatives, but its fundamentals), one actually finds that items 2 through 4 noted above are quite elegantly addressed. In my limited view, that is this conception of 'Ashraf-ul-Makhlooqat'. It is only pointed to in the 'happy-happy' essay mentioned above, which also references (but only in passing) the pithy and beautiful Surah Asr of the Qur'an. It is an empowering prose worthy of considerable reflection by any person, Muslim and non, in the context as weaved in this humble tapestry.
Insights gained through one's own reflections and study are far superior to those acquired by reading about someone else's insights and merely nodding one's head in agreement. Which is what typically happens when one reads a commonsensical book or a paper. Thus I would like to stop weaving this tapestry here and leave the rest to one's own search for the “River of the Arrow” (from Kipling's 'Kim'). But I would like to observe in conclusion in response to another aspect from your letter, that a self-reliant life, whether in the outback, or in the cities, is indeed worthy of emulation in these times! Much worse times are to come upon us, all of us, and more one is self-reliant, living off the soil, able to sustain oneself without losing one's sanity and humanity, able to make a living being self-employed, and able to raise the next brood with values one cherishes, that is the best one can do. These hungry children are even denied that (pic1, pic2, pic3, pic4):
The last pic above is pathetically in my own neck of the woods, surrounded by palatial homes and millionaires aplenty. As any rational person can attest, these deprivations have nothing to do with being a 'test from god' and/or absence of 'god's justice and mercy' in this world and therefore, having the victims to wistfully wait for it until the next life. But that is precisely what the survival instincts, as well as philosophers, or perhaps the most devilish Machiavellis, have led us to believe since time immemorial. In fact – and surely only coincidentally of course – since the time when 'hegemony' was discovered by man. And Zbigniew Brzezinski glibly asserts that “hegemony is as old as mankind” as justification for further perpetuating it. It is these usurpers and tyrants who create the conditions of deprivation for “full spectrum dominance” and conquest, as amply documented by Project Humanbeingsfirst and others.
And these are indeed the prime-movers who actually beget the false issue which all mankind seems to have been forced to struggle with since time immemorial: “questioning the justice and mercy of God”. A very clever red herring. Mankind's attention is nicely deflected from the Tyrant, King, Emperor, Feudal Lord, President, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Treasury, Banksters, Federal Reserve System, World Bank, IMF, CIA, to karma, predestiny, philosophy, and god! But since god was killed off after the Renaissance in the West, its replacement has been necessitated by the invention of the dialectics which in these times reside between Orwell and Huxley, between manufactured consent, and manufactured dissent.
And in my view, Islam, as a system, irrespective of the question of god (and that might seem like a nonsequitur), empowers, nay sanctions, one to rectify these matters in its bold conception of 'Ashraf-ul-maklooqat' – the best of creation! Whence such a beautiful man, and beautiful woman, today?
Salaam O Alekum.
The author, an ordinary researcher and writer on contemporary geopolitics, a minor justice activist, grew up in Pakistan, studied EECS at MIT, engineered for a while in high-tech Silicon Valley (patents here), and retired early to pursue other responsible interests. His maiden 2003 book was rejected by six publishers and can be read on the web at http://PrisonersoftheCave.org. He may be reached at http://Humanbeingsfirst.org. Verbatim reproduction license at http://www.humanbeingsfirst.org#Copyright.
A Tapestry: From suffering God and Tyrants to Hope and Servitude December 23, 2008.