When We Chose Technique Over Self Mastery

“For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality, and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline, and virtue. For the modern, the cardinal problem is how to conform reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique.”C. S. Lewis

Can A Humanist Sustainability Work?

Edward Humes Garbology is a fascinating read. In it, he points to numerous challenges plaguing modern man, namely the issue of waste and how it not only degrades the natural environment but actually cases harm to humans. I know many secular humanists who hold to the notion that, to quote Matt Damon’s botanist, Mark Watney, “I’m gonna have to have to science the shit out of this”.

But what’s most striking is that it’s science, or perhaps more accurately, scientism, that got us into this issue in the first place. I make the designation of scientism, in that it is precisely that humanist strain of science which has sought to divorce itself from religious and spiritual ethics. Humanism, according to dictionary definition is “a system of thought criticized as being centered on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the unintegrated and conditioned nature of the individual”. It is specifically this “autonomous self”, detached from the natural world — through its “rational” mechanics — which gives license to itself to treat the world as mere objects, having no sign or significance beyond their molecules and atoms.

So how, precisely, are we going to science the feces out of our conundrum when the malady points to a much deeper diagnosis: schizophrenic god-complex. Schizophrenia in that modern man is caught between expelling God and attempting to be God himself. Thus far, the “science-ing the shit out of this” theory doesn’t seem to hold water.

American Muslims and the Need To Be on the Right Side of Society

Daniel Haqiqatjou, of the Yaqeen Institute, brings to light an important topic challenging American Muslims: the pressure many feel to be on the “right side” of a whole cadre of subjects ranging from Darwinism and eurocentric science to homosexuality. Paraphrasing Marwa Elshakry1 from her Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950, Haqiqatjou says,

“…accepting Darwinism was due less to a careful intellectual assessment of the theory and more to Muslim intellectuals, politicians, and elites simply signaling their social and political alignment with modernization, secularization, and Europeanization. Likewise, the rejection of Darwinism by traditional Muslim scholars and their students was at times a marker of their general opposition to colonialism and its cultural and religious impact on Muslim society.”

What’s important to note here is that while Haqiqatjou’s article speaks to the question of will American Muslims adopt Darwinism wholesale or not, the phenomenon he outlines is even more critically important. The bigger question is not the embracing Darwinism “inevitable”, but more urgently, is the abandoning of an independent skepticism — regarding all that is western and its implied bias that that which is western is inately better — inevitable? Will Muslims, due to pressure from their society as well as a collapse of a relevantless leadership in the face of these challenges, relinquish the ability to think on their own? If this happens, the question not only becomes “how will Muslims thrive in the West”, but also how can they contrinute to it as Muslims, with any sort of Muslim genius, if intellectually Muslims cast themselves into the dustbin of bygone ideas?

You can read Haqiqatjou’s article here.

Notes

1. Elshakry, Marwa. Reading Darwin in Arabic: 1860-1950. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Scientism and the Promise of Prosperity For All

The modern world prides itself on its scientific and technological advance, in particular the advances which have garnered some in the west great wealth and prosperity. But central to the core of scientific tenets is the claim that in order for a thing to be scientifically true it must also be replicable. The question to be asked then is: why has science not shown itself to have bequeathed to poor black and brown populations, in the Americas for example, that which it has done to its whiter and wealthier populations? In other words, science’s prophecy of prosperity for all has not come to pass. In fact, when factoring in modern science’s collusion with capitalism, science seems that it should have no other choice other than but retreat from the one-stop-shop that it’s presented itself as, in modernity, for what is good, beneficial, and true. Clearly, something other (some other knowledge- or truth-claim) than exclusively science is needed in order to bring dignity and prosperity to these groups and others. 

Adaptive vs. Transformative – A Khutbah


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The scientists and the atheists get it wrong. They fixate only on the capacity for organisms to adapt, and in doing so they reduce all organisms to the same playing field. But clearly the human being has not only been able to adapt but it has been able to transform.

Our ability to achieve greatness is not determined by our biology: it is determined by our spirit (something animals lack). This is due to unique nature of human beings having the Spirit of God blown into him.

إِذ قالَ رَبُّكَ لِلمَلائِكَةِ إِنّي خالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِن طينٍ
فَإِذا سَوَّيتُهُ وَنَفَختُ فيهِ مِن روحي فَقَعوا لَهُ ساجِدينَ

“Your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am going to create a human being out of clay. When I have formed him and breathed My Ruh into him, fall down in prostration to him’!” Qur’an, 38: 71-72

وَالَّتي أَحصَنَت فَرجَها فَنَفَخنا فيها مِن روحِنا وَجَعَلناها وَابنَها آيَةً لِلعالَمينَ

“And she who protected her private parts. We breathed into her some of Our Ruh and made her and her son a Sign for all the worlds.” Qur’an, 21: 91

ثُمَّ سَوّاهُ وَنَفَخَ فيهِ مِن روحِهِ ۖ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمعَ وَالأَبصارَ وَالأَفئِدَةَ ۚ قَليلًا ما تَشكُرونَ

“…then [God] formed him [Adam] and breathed His Ruh [Spirit] into him and gave you hearing, sight and hearts. What little thanks you show!” Qur’an, 32: 9

Animals don’t worry if they’re too fat or skinny. They can experience hunger but they do not think of transforming themselves.

Therefore Muslims are here not just simply to adapt or assimilate but to transform and to realize.

Transforming from a quiet piety, where one is merely observant of God, (adaptation to the modern American environment where religion is a quiet and conformist religious experience), to one based on knowledge, particularly where knowledge leads to action.

One is not merely satisfied to complete one’s prayers and other duties in the quiet privacy of one’s home, but one’s knowledge of God and His Messenger compels one to act:

  • Homelessness,
  • corruption,
  • aggression and oppression of the weak.

There are a great many who would love for things to remain the same: a weak, impotent and intimidated Muslim collective who will not challenge society. A weed has no greater friend than an absentee gardener.

أَنَّ رَجُلاً، سَأَلَ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَىُّ الإِسْلاَمِ خَيْرٌ قَالَ – تُطْعِمُ الطَّعَامَ وَتَقْرَأُ السَّلاَمَ عَلَى مَنْ عَرَفْتَ وَمَنْ لَمْ تَعْرِفْ

“A man asked the Prophet ﷺ “Which Islam is good/best?” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “To feed the poor and greet those whom you know and those whom you do not know.” Sahih al-Bukhari #12