Roughly two weeks ago my elderly father, nearly 86, fell, and fractured his hip, having to go for emergency surgery. It has been, to say the least, an enormous test for my family. But like all moments of difficulty, they also warrant introspection.
Modern life, so much of which champions a post-religious worldview, is increasingly miserable and incapable of dealing with the vicissitudes of life. The result has been a society which is not only crippled but obstructed from attaining the means of learning how to suffer and survive. Religion in general—and Islam in particular— does not simply place value on redemptive suffering but rather on the knowledge of why we suffer; an acknowledgment that knowing how to suffer—and that one may indeed suffer in accordance with God’s plan for you in this life—is crucial to living a full life. It is this point, that suffering is a part of the richness of life, is what seems to incense today’s profiteers of an imminent utopia: a heaven on earth.
Having increasingly lost the ability to suffer, this alone gives tremendous insight as to why this generation, with all its technological wonders and political progressivism also boasts increasingly higher and higher rates of suicide and drug use. Ironically, it would seem from the traditional religious point of view that heaven can wait. That one must live before one dies and that one’s life will have its ups and downs, and knowing this, embracing this, could perhaps be the cure so many today are looking for: a cure for post-religionism and post-modernity.
وَابتَغِ فيما آتاكَ اللَّهُ الدّارَ الآخِرَةَ ۖ وَلا تَنسَ نَصيبَكَ مِنَ الدُّنيا ۖ وَأَحسِن كَما أَحسَنَ اللَّهُ إِلَيكَ ۖ وَلا تَبغِ الفَسادَ فِي الأَرضِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لا يُحِبُّ المُفسِدينَ
“Seek the abode of the Next World with what God has given you, without forgetting your portion of this world. And do good as God has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. God does not love those who cause corruption.” — Qur’an 28: 77
To say that we live a time of extremes would be a monumental understatement. It is no coincidence that extreme forms of political ideology have emerged in the last 50-plus years, equally able to gobble up followers on the Left as well as the Right. Traditional theological movements have found themselves scrambling to find dry ground as the deluge of liberalism and conservatism threatens to wash them away. As a result we see before our very eyes the evolution, or dare I say de-evolution of religious and theological thought. An example is the above image outside of a church located near Culver City, boasting a sign inviting the skeptical with the words, “NO JUDGEMENT Only Love”.
That most of Christianity has capitulated to the demands of western secularism—few have chosen to take Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option—is undebatable. What is worthy of interrogation is whether or not Muslims will have the courage to chart their own course, navigate and negotiate the demands of American secularism, and have the requisite literacy to understand that there can be no community without sound judgment and morality and the insight to understand there is a fine line between judgment and condemnation.
There are few topics more sensitive than sexual ethics in the Muslim community. This can undoubtedly be explained, admittedly in part, due to the secularization of the Muslim mind, particularly in the West. The result of this secularization process cannot be better seen in the way Muslims, especially younger Muslims, simultaneously perceive that there is a god whilst at the same time denying that same god any authority over their lives. One particular manifestation of this is what I now dub the “low hanging fruit” syndrome.
Continue reading “Low Hanging Fruit”
There was an interesting interview today on WBUR’s On Point in which Tom Ashbrook interviewed Rod Dreher, author of the new book, “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation“. In it, Dreher articulates something that I’ve heard kicked around in Muslim circles, namely what do we do about, what Zygmunt Bauman termed “liquid modernity”. Bauman felt this term was more articulate than postmodern in trying to describe the phenomenon of a constantly changing society, especially one driven by technology. The interview also showcases some competing ideas between Dreher and his fellow conservative Andrew Sullivan (author of “The Conservative Soul“). I look forward to reading and discussing Dreher’s book at Middle Ground as part of our book club, starting after Ramadan, God willing.