Bismillah, alhamdulillah, was-salat wa salam ala Rasulullah
This section is arguably the most important section of AHM’s Contentions. Here he touches on a number of issues ranging from the scientific, philosophical and political in the Western framework. This section may be a little abstruse but its crucial for Muslims to start discussing some of these more challenging topics.
Part of this section (modernity, monoculture and liberalism) are relevant to the next sections of Islamic Ideologies and Isms/Geopoltics since those are in response and often connected to these ideas.
-‘Science looks for where it lost the ring under the streetlight because that’s the only place that it has any light.’ (Nuh Ha Mim Keller)
93. Those that are wedded to the science of this generation may be orphaned in the next.
-Science will most likely abandon us, treating humanity as little more than guinea pigs, so we have no support in the future and perhaps turn to religion instead
-The problem with science nowadays is the lack of values and ethics that stablise it, if the line between does and don’ts is always shifting sooner or later it will be the science that gets hurt
-AHM may be hinting to the fact science may so radically alter us in our psychology and biology that we will be unable to approach science in the same way
35. Science is the revelation of order. Faith is the revelation of liberation.
-What does order reveal and what does liberation reveal?
-AHM has mentioned that philosophy has debated and wrestled over the idea of ‘being’ which here may correspond to liberation, and the ‘order of being’ which corresponds to ‘order’ or perhaps ‘order of being’ corresponds to liberation in the sense that faith orders our existence
80. Scientists show us only dead matter. (‘God calls you to what gives you life’.)
-Science is materialism and engages in a type of necrophilia because it has its limits (i.e. this Earth) and its rigor often sounds like its beating a dead horse
-Often science has more to do with disproving and often trying to be a kill-joy to the more mysterious aspects of life,
-’When a scientist says something is possible he is almost always right, but when a scientists says something is impossible, he is almost always wrong’
76 The frontier between seen and unseen moves in time, so why not in space?
-As time has gone on we can now see with microscopes, ultrasound, x-ray or telescopes what we once could not see, so if that is the case, and our understanding of reality is that time and space are interconnected and intimately related, so then we have a basis for the possibility that we can ‘move’ spatially into those unseen worlds
-He is suggesting our moving from this world to the Next via what we know of time-space
58. We are designed to fall to our knees.
-AHM I believe is commenting on the intelligent design argument for the existence of God, like the watch-maker explanation for God, and building upon it by saying we are designed not just to prove God’s existence but to also for prayer, and therefore designed for His worship
-There is a design to the world in that we do become overcome by grief and do collapse and look up in prayer
22. Taskhir is usufruct, not a title deed.
-The argument of intelligent design is on loan, that is, perhaps Muslims are just borrowing it from Christians and its not really a ‘Muslim’ argument in that we own it
-Or that we are allowed to use the world around us, but it is on loan from God and therefore not truly ours
32. The existence of God is proven by existence. The existence of existence is proven by the one for whom it exists.
-I don’t think it could be said any clearer than that so I won’t comment on this
85. Man is the proof of God. The man of God is the proof of religion.
-Man proves God which proves the man of God which proves religion
-The sight of the Awliya and the Prophets is often enough to change an atheist into a believer
70. Atheism: all faith is idolatry.
-Muslim definition of idolatry applied to any belief in a god
-Atheism is a purism, but from what?
60. Nietszche: God has died because of those who believe that God died.
-A clarification of Nietszche’s ‘God is dead’ which really refers to the appreciation and fear of God which has vanished
-’I am in the opinion of My servant’ (Hadith)
-People ‘believe’ God is gone, meaning they still have potential to ‘believe’ in something, but why has it been reduced to a belief in an absence?
37. Ex nihilismus nihil fit.
-From the nihilist nothing is done
-Nothing is meaningful for the nihilist who surrenders to a fatalism
-Julian Benda echoes an Islamic idea that one should do good not because of its results, since it may achieve little but because it is good, similar to the hadith, if one is planting a seed and the end of the world arrives, you should finish planting the seed
65. Atheism: the belief that water originates in the well.
-AHM mentions in one of his talks, to use aql for an end, and only to an end, leads to atheism and a believer that has aql is more true to aql
-The problems of philosophy are about being and order in being, so why is there water and why is the well ordered neatly, why isn’t a big gooey mess?
42. Atheism: I live, and I will die. Theism: I live, and I will live. Tariqa: I am dead, and I will live. Haqiqa: Allah is Alive, and does not die.
-A continuum of beliefs and progressions on the spiritual journey
-This is a very close definition to belief and how it can radically alter our world moving from a mere idea to a lived reality
84. Free will secularises by authenticating the alterities.
-Free will alone suggests we are the other in our choices and that we can be coequal to God in the scale of our decisions when in reality God has destiny operating as well
-A commitment to free will validates the idea that there are other non-religious ways of being, that can be just as good as Islam, which for Muslims it makes Islam feel like its not as sacred or any more special than any other religion or ideology
98. Is it willpower that frees us from our wilfulness?
-Will power as a battery and willfulness is intention or the action that uses willpower to power it
-Having the ability to choose satisfies us so we don’t do anything very meaningful volitionally
-What actions do we do that are truly wilful?
-AHM talks about this elsewhere, ‘You won’t find certainty through any amount of equations that you write up on a chalkboard. You won’t find certainty by looking through a microscope because that’s all dunya and it’s all self-referential. It’s the hall of mirrors. Certainty is a gift. Allah (SWT) is the one who bestows it…’
9. Relative existence has no reality of itself. See it only as signs made of shadows.
-Signs made of shadows which is similar to mirror made of reflections, where we relate our existence to others and find mutual hollowness
-A sign made of shadows vanishes when Light is near and so God can efface our reality when guidance and the proper spiritual openings come
86. The only thing that is inherently uncertain is the claim that everything is inherently uncertain.
-If everything is inherently uncertain then this statement too would be inherently uncertain and false too
26. Uncertainty is only superficial.
-See the previous and next Contention
39. If you are sceptical about coincidences, God will help you.
-Hamza Yusuf in one speech mentioned the word coincidence is made up co-incidences meaning that the cause-effect relationship is not being followed clearly and there is something not quite normal going on
-God will help us in that He will manifest coincidences in our lives so as to show us His omnipotence and that He truly is in control and that miracles are not as far-fetched as we imagine them to be
83. Determinism does not exclude providence, it excludes everything else.
-Determinism out rules the possibility of something different occurring, that cause-effect relationship, is binding and God may have let that come about because of His Sunna but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to occur
-The fact it excludes everything else, for example, means that it out rules the paranormal, and other possible explanations and therefore also out rules and cannot any further than cause-effect and appreciate the mysteries of life
-The miracles that occurred in Prophetic history have spiritual effects but just because God causes a miracle doesn’t mean people will believe, some won’t since deterministic understanding of cause-effect makes them still doubt it
-The uni-drectional linear flow of time creates a very limited world of experience
-AHM says elsewhere, ‘secularity must be the public certainty; all other certainties must be contemplated in private.’
-Syed Naquib al-Attas dedicates a portion of his writing to differentiating secularism and its related processes, where secularism is the crystallization of the process of secularization and secularity is the state of being secular and apart from religion so the crux of the issue is the ‘progress’ of secularism and whether it can succeed
82. Nothing is more counter-intuitive than secularity.
-It goes against our intuition to compartmentalize and divide our experience of the world and thereby diminish it
85. The secular are just like everyone else, only less so.
-Secularism is defined by reaction and subtraction
-Religion carries with it glorious expressions of human history, our emotions, poetry, art and our maximum potential but the secular in separating from this make themselves voluntarily lesser than past society and currently existing religious societies
-The scope of human experience is severely limited and there is a great deal of depression and confusion
99. Can one belong to the West and not subscribe to the illusion of a secular ethic?
-Our participation in society has to do with the secular ethic of keeping religion private, and its implicit in our society, but it is an illusion since we have freedom of speech, so if we were to go and speak about religion publicly would this shatter the illusion or make us ‘lesser’ members of the West or somehow nullify our membership as citizens?
6. Nothing is more risky than the thought that the world has been ‘secularised’.
-Secularization of the world cannot ever be fully achieved since something will always make it under or over the fence, so when Muslims start believing in secularisation happening then they begin to denigrate Islam
99. Secular morality: modernity’s saving fiction.
-Its undefinable and whatever aspect of morality is there has more to do with Judeo-Christian morality than with a secular morality, since a secular morality is little more than biological determinism and a cynicism and critique of altruistic behaviour
96. Secularity excludes universals
-In secularity, everything is specific, isolated, fragmented, and disconnected
-There is little internal coherence in secularity
-“Humanism in the conventional sense of the term de facto exalts fallen man and not man as such. The humanism of the moderns is practically a utilitarianism aimed at fragmentary man; it is the will to make oneself as useful as possible to a humanity as useless as possible.” (Frithjof Schuon)
-AHM remarks in one of his essays, ‘…theme of “becoming oneself” that ironic modern quest which, as Robert Pippin has noted, has replaced the ancient and Enlightenment dream of “knowing oneself” so that instead of learning what it is to be human, the novelist avoids any generalization from his own self-awareness to the nature of humanity as such or the quality of reality. “Self-becoming” takes place through relationality, once the experiment with isolation has failed; and relationality’s summit is not romantic love, but sexuality. Hence, as with Proust, Houellebecq’s narrator is only able to reflect upon his own growth to self-becoming in connection with the body.’
21. True humanism: the Real is known only through mu‘amala.
-God is only known through meaningful interactions with each other and Him? Uncertain if AHM is trying to say something else.
32. True humanism: there is no account of God without a knowledge of human potential.
-’He who knows himself, knows his Lord’ (Imam Ali)
-One must be realistic in matters of religion with respect to people’s ability which means, not simply looking at our individual choices but what we as human beings are capable of otherwise its ‘personism’; not selling humanity short
58. Comfort and freedom are unnatural bedfellows.
-‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.’ (Thomas Jefferson)
15. Tolerance is no substitute for holiness.
-Being tolerant is not the core of religious teaching, though it is important, holiness and a sense of something greater than ourselves and the world around us is far more important
16. The solution is liberality, not liberalism, for liberalism takes more than it gives.
-Being more generous is the solution since liberalism only seems to be taking things away from people
-“If they merely took pleasure in affirming their imagined superiority, the illusion would only do harm to themselves; but their most terrible offense is their proselytising fury: in them the spirit of conquest goes under the disguise of “moralist” pretexts, and it is in the name of “liberty” that they would force the world to imitate them.” (Guenon)
44. Liberals make mercy colder than justice.
-A passage from Chesterton who AHM has referred to elsewhere: ‘He takes us into the schools of inhumanist learning, where there are neither books nor flowers, nor wine nor wisdom, but only deformities in glass bottles, and where the rule is taught from the exceptions. Macaulay said that the Puritans hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. Of such substance also was this Puritan who had lost his God. A Puritan of this type is worse than the Puritan who hates pleasure because there is evil in it.’
10. Exoterism offers only literalism or liberalism.
-If there is nothing sacred or spiritual then everything has to do with maximizing pleasure and the morality is nothing more than world-play and manipulation
28. There is no liberation in the world that is not also a liberation from the world.
-There is no spiritual satisfaction in the dunya unless it has to do with the Akhira and Allah
81. Not all autonomy is dignity; but all dignity is autonomy.
-Being dignified carries with it autonomy but simply being autonomous doesn’t win you dignity
77. The hardest choices are those between justice and equality.
-The problem of ‘redistributive justice’ where to be compassionate or give rights to one person may take away from another person, especially if there is a limit on resources, which is related to Marxism
-How can we say this is fair or just in relation to another? On what scale are our values set?
-AHM says elsewhere, “What Westerners call progress is for Moslems nothing but change and instability; and the need for change, so characteristic of modern times, is in their eyes a mark of manifest inferiority: he who has reached a state of equilibrium no longer feels this need.”
89. ‘Progress and catastrophe are two sides of the same coin’. (Hannah Arendt)
-The use of the word ‘coin’ indicates gambling as the true nature of what society is doing, in gambling with ideas and the emotional and intellectual lives of millions
94. ‘If somebody scratches where it itches, does that count as progress?’ (Wittgenstein)
-The mechanistic reactionism of progress indicates the banality of it, its short-sightedness, and how it actually produces nothing but is little more than small desires
4. Nothing is more pessimistic than a naïve belief in progress.
-There is no control in that since one is putting faith into a ghost or a mystery whose values and decisions cannot be predicted and change rapidly
59. Liberation is always mutual.
-If I am liberated at the expense of another its not really a liberation because my conscience will imprison my soul, therefore both must be liberated for my soul to also be liberated
-This is something AHM has identified and make Muslims understand about the Western society; the monoculture with its uniformity is compared against the beautiful multiculturalism of Islam where religion is internalized regardless of race or culture
-AHM says in one of his talks, ‘Islam is the only religion that emerges against its society; Jesus is part of that society, Buddhism has India’s reincarnation ideas- and this is so God wanted us to recognize the greatness of Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam’
-AHM remarks in one of his essays, ‘For him, self-becoming requires separation from bourgeois false consciousness, and only two such separations are currently available: Islam and idealistic hedonism. His option is for the latters, but only because the former is alien to him. But perhaps in that very alienness lies an authentic Otherness, an option which would enhance our free separation from the monoculture.’
17. Islam is muwahhid; the monoculture is muwahhad.
-muhwahhid means monotheist, while muwahhad is the object form of the word and the monoculture treats people as objects, not people
78. If you seek to keep up with the Monoculture, you will always be out of breath. If you seek to excel it, you will be at peace.
-The monoculture always runs around in circles, consider how long it took for modernity to catch up with women’s rights, protection of minorities and abolishing slavery which Islam afforded a long time ago
66. The Monoculture annihilates difference for fear that the Other might show it what it truly is.
-Like a killer it needs to eliminate witnesses who have seen its violence
-AHM says in one of his papers, ‘For Davutoglu, the Enlightenment’s liquidation of non-Western cultures traps us forever in the monoculture, since the option of borrowing and syncretism open at earlier times of civilisational crisis has now been confiscated.’
64. The Monoculture is opaque to itself.
-Can’t see through itself or demands everybody else be transparent so it can judge other cultures yet no one can evaluate it
-This may change as there is now a new sociological discipline called ‘White Studies’ that has just begun
59. The Monoculture: an easy way of making life difficult.
Zahir: a difficult way of making life easy.
Batin: al-din yusr.
-Ease and tranquility have more to do with the cognitive frames one uses than with life itself
89 The Enlightenment’s falsest promise was the development of strong autonomous personalities.
-Better elaborated by the contention ‘87. False culture opposes consciousness.’
-How conscious are we? How self-conscious are we?
77. Happiness is more important than conforming to the Monoculture.
-There is a difference between the Monoculture and happiness, since the idea of happiness in the monoculture is material while happiness in Islam is about spiritual sakina
6. It is better to engage fully with the Monoculture from a position of dislike than to engage partly with it from a position of admiration.
-In terms of negotiation strategy, it is better for us to voice our beliefs about what we dislike about the monoculture and engage in it that way than to engage with it in a position of admiration where it may simply walk all over us
76. The Monoculture: everyone toes the line, saying: ‘I am in a different place!’
-To think freely is often to think alike, rather than differently
-Often the same people who demand freedom of speech aren’t very good at freedom of thought
4. The Monoculture has no principle save the absence of metaphysics. (Without the One, there is no Many.)
-’The first rule of fight club? Don’t talk about fight club!’
94. The monoculture is as relaxing as its trousers.
-Something about society is reflected in the sorts of pants it produces: baggy jeans that are half way down your legs, tight pants, yoga pants, torn jeans, or corduroys
-The pants are meant to stifle us and make us self-conscious and anxious about our appearance and adherence to the monoculture and latest fashions; there is no contentment
40. ‘I should’ now only means ‘I should not obstruct my neighbour’s “I want”.’
-Going along to get along
-Our morality is basically little more than getting out of the way
34. Detachment from the need to conform is perfect only when it yields perfect conformity.
-If we Muslims abandon conformity to societal norms then it is only perfect when we conform to the sunnah, or else if we do not conform to the sunna than what we do in the name of Islam often imitates the monoculture (ex: Islamic fashion shows or game shows)
72. The élites want everybody to be nobody.
-When an army invades, especially a Western superpower, the first people to die are those who are distinguished as leaders or learned people so that the masses can be more easily manipulated and not rise up
-AHM may be hinting to the state of modernity as alienation from what one is capable of
-AHM says elsewhere, ‘Muslims, in their wisdom, developed science and technology only to a point where divine agency and human frailty were still undeniable; and were providentially protected from further “progress”’
-AHM says in one of his papers, “If late modernity tends to strip us of true agency, then must we conclude that the core Enlightenment ideal can only be found in religion?”
7. The modern West shows that without a Shari‘a there can only be scattered hunafa’.
-There are only a few people remaining who believe in monotheism, that is among non-Muslims without the Shari’a
50. Modernity: ‘a world full of Christian ideas gone mad.’ (Chesterton.)
-Capitalism, Liberalism and the Monoculture have basis in the history of Europe
64. Modernity deprives us of the most basic right of all: the right to be traditional.
-It forces us to re-invent ourselves or always be changing
-To be traditional is to be like those who came before us and simply follow the culture of the geographical region without any unnecessary pressure from elsewhere
10. Modernity: a way of drowning in nothingness.
-Modernity advocates nothing and spreads this vaccuum which leads to depression
64. Modernity offers more and more ways of being the same sort of thing.
-In the spirit of things it is more of the same, though superficially it may appear differently
-This Contention is especially relevant to the next section which shows how Islamism and extremism are manifestations more of the West than they are manifestations of Islam especially in how they are related to utopianism of Communism and democracy
96. Which is the bigger prison: Islam in the eyes of modernity, or modernity in the eyes of Islam?
-Islam in the eyes of modernity looks exoterically a prison, but is esoterically open while modernity in the eyes of Islam is exoterically open but esoterically very constricting
26. What can modernity tell those who dislike shopping?
-When Christian Lauder, (who wrote ‘Stuff White People Like’) was praised for representing ‘white culture’ he replied, ‘This isn’t a culture, its a shopping list!’
11. Modernity, at best, is a nostalgia for desire.
-All modernity reminds us of are our biological and material desires over and over again
42. Modernity has only footnotes; faith has text as well.
-While Islam has the Qur’an and its own commentary, modernity has cut itself of from the flow of history, perhaps seeing itself as the ‘end of history’ it has concluded and started writing footnotes
-Often it is the footnotes which frame a text leading or misleading the reader
95. Modernity: such a huge arena for so little activity
-Spreading modernity around the world to absolutely no purpose, except perhaps economic benefit
-Loneliness has become epidemic with modernity
27. Modernity is confined to Westernness; Islam is not.
-The monoculture vs. the multicultural; the melting pot vs. the mosaic
100. Modernity finds it hard to distinguish between rest and idleness.
-Productivity and vacation, that after a while we become used to constantly working and find pleasure in it
35. Modernity offers us everything except pleasure and leisure.
-Today most people work 5 days a week and take 2 days off in a week, and retire late when they are aging, whereas in the Muslim world in the past, people would work 6 months and make sufficient money and for the next 6 months not work and spend their time in in leisure, worship and learning knowledge
13 Modernity has not healed our pain, it has only dried our tears.
-It is merely the flow of time and a comforting tough it has no healing for our pain
-In this sense it is purely exoteric and blind to what is esoteric
-An apt analogy might be having someone from a different religion comforting you at the funeral of a loved one
100. Modernity is the teaching of perfect misunderstanding.
-‘And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.’ (Qur’an 7:179)
27. Modernity: the nuclear winter of the Reformation.
-The Protestant reformation is likened to a nuclear war in which everybody has suffered modernity in a winter brought on by the blotting out of the sun by the theological fallout
-Its an example as to how internecine religious disputation when it goes on for too long can destroy the religion both sides seek to improve
9. Modernity: an accelerating attempt to shovel matter into the growing hole where religion used to be.
-’The blank in the modern heart is a God-shaped blank’
-’A religion small enough for our understanding would not be large enough for our needs.’
-Note the sharp disparity between matter/modernity inadequately replacing spirituality/religion
70. Against Modernism: between signs and science there is neither rhyme nor reason.
-There is no order nor inherent sense in the relationship between physical sciences and philosophy (signs/signifiers)
87. The cause of modern panic is non-referentiality.
-There is no tradition and therefore no security or ‘home’ to go to when things get bad
-No one to look up to for guidance or support, but having a constant societal pressure to invent and innovate
-Postmodernism is the idea that everything is subject to open interpretation, a decadence that means everything is meaningless and banal
6. Postmodernism is Jahiliyya. Each tribe has its own story.
29. Postmodernity: a galaxy of dogmatisms.
22. ‘I particularly like the idea that my paintings may say nothing.’ (Magritte)
-A decadence that becomes too lazy to intend anything
-If people believe life has no purpose that comes to be reflected in the artwork
71. Heuristics: the ideal ear is the idea without the Id.
-‘Reason is the slave of passion.’ (David Hume)
9. The task of the intellectual is to atone for his complexity.
-There is a hadith, ‘Yassiru wa la tu’assir, Make things easy, not difficult, Basshiru wa la Tunaffiru, Spread good news, not bad.’
1. It is better to be a naïve believer than an intellectual bereft of intuition.
-An intellectual can become deluded with pride in his knowledge and intellect and may reject Islam, but a naive believer remains humble with the vicissitudes of life and preserve their Islam
-AHM often mentions a hadith, that most of the people of Jannah are simple-minded (or foolish) people
44. Academic Islamic Studies is as foolish as it is because we are as foolish as we are.
-Its hard to make Muslims noble by studying their strange idiosyncrasies
17. Most people would benefit greatly from learning a first language.
-AHM’s writing and is a clear example of why you should master your first language
-When Islam becames an integral part of a country Islam becomes a part of the language, but first Muslims must make Islam understandable to the general masses with a better use of language
76. The saint says a few simple things, and changes the world. The academic philosophises, but does not change even himself.
-We can become slaves even to our ideas and they can control us, but the saint strives and changes the only thing he can change, himself and Allah
Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.