The Here-After: An Inconveniencing Truth

In our discussion group at Middle Ground, lately we have discussed one the maladies plaguing modern western civilization, namely the selfish pursuit of happiness. In reflecting on how this has influenced modern attitudes towards belief — and doubly so religion — we were reminded of a quote from the 20th century Polish poet, Stanisław Lec,

“Pity that the only way to paradise is in a hearse.”1

Notes

1. Márquez, Jesús Silva-Herzog. Trans. Tanya Huntington. The Idiocy Of Perfection. Houston, Literal Publishing, 2017.

#MiddleGroundPodcast – Meaning Is What Makes Us Truly Alive


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We come into the world with our eyes closed.

We have to open our eyes to find meaning and purpose, not just happiness.

All worldly happiness has limits and limitations.

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

“Then He constructs each person in their mother’s womb, then breathes into him something of His spirit. Then He endows you all with faculties of awareness: hearing, sight and feeling.Yet, for all of these gifts, you’re hardly thankful at all!”Qur’an, 32: 9

قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنَا عِنْدَ ظَنِّ عَبْدِي بِي وَأَنَا مَعَهُ حَيْثُ يَذْكُرُنِي

وَاللَّهِ الَلَّهُ أَفْرَحُ بِتَوْبَةِ عَبْدِهِ مِنْ أَحَدِكُمْ يَجِدُ ضَالَّتَهُ بِالْفَلاَةِ

وَمَنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَىَّ شِبْرًا تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ ذِرَاعًا

وَمَنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَىَّ ذِرَاعًا تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ بَاعًا

وَإِذَا أَقْبَلَ إِلَىَّ يَمْشِي أَقْبَلْتُ إِلَيْهِ أُهَرْوِلُ

“Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, said:

‘I am as My servant thinks of Me to him. And I am with him as he remembers Me.’

The Prophet further said:

‘By Allah, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His servant than were one of you were to finding that which he holds most precious (the object of his search) in a waterless desert.’

God continues saying, ‘When he draws near Me by the span of his hand I draw near him by the length of a cubit.’

‘And when he draws near Me by the length of a cubit I draw near him by the length of a fathom.’

‘And when he draws near Me walking I draw close to him hurriedly’.” — Sahih Muslim, #2675

For other khutbahs and podcasts, see the Middle Ground Podcast.

Unapologetic: Good For God’s Sake

In a recent appearance on the Steve Harvey Show, Ibn Ali Miller, the brother who chose to interview between street youths fighting, demonstrates the importance of being grounded in being Muslim. I say this not because brother Ali chose to wear a thawb, or traditional Middle Eastern garb — this has nothing to do with Islam, per se (though it obviously means something to him as a Muslim!) — but because he’s so comfortable in being Muslim he’s not concerned about how this appears to others. For our Muslim youth today, what we need are not only Muslim leaders who can exude confidence, but regular ol’ uncles, aunties, brothers, sisters, etc., who are humble and confident. May Allah continue to bless brother Ibn Ali Miller to be an example to us all. Amin.

“I’m not a TV guy. This is not for me. I do you, Steve … I’ll be honest, I did you because of what you do off camera: Because you care about young black men in America”Ibn Ali Miller speaking to Steve Harvey

The Vacuum of Choosing Happiness Over Meaning

“Mankind does not strive for happiness; only the Englishman does.”Friedrich Nietzsche

In the episode of the Middle Ground Podcast, A Return To Meaning, I discussed the quandary of modern humans and their shortsighted tendency to prioritize happiness over meaning. What’s intriguing about this topic is that Nietzsche, one of the West’s most influential philosophers, is sadly only know for his statement, “God is dead”. But even in this it is most telling that in an age of truncated statements, most of those who cheer Nietzsche’s statement do so without having read what his commentary on the statement was, namely that once religion/belief in God was removed, mankind would spiral off into despair, a result of meaning no longer being a pursuit1. Where once a believer could contrast his life on earth to a life in the Here-After, now we are left with contrasting our lives with objects: How we possess them (always needing the latest gadget, for example) and how many of them we possess. In a further turn of irony, Nietzsche, an atheist, turned to his “Übermensch” theory as a way for modern man to make his own values to establish meaning. The problem with Nietzsche’s Übermensch was that he felt it was out of reach; it was in a way a kind of utopia, the place which literally “does not exist”. In many ways Nietzsche, in his attempt to resolve the gaze of abyss2, created a perspective that drew upon a religious cosmology. There seems to be no escaping religion — even if only in the realm of imagination — for the atheist.

Nietzsche’s prescient insight into the challenges we face today should leave modern Muslims with much to contemplate. As I mentioned in the podcast, some of this can be seen in how increasing numbers of Muslims are prioritizing emotions (chiefly, happiness) over meaning, leading many to feel a loss of faith. For the one who pursue happiness, they may find themselves incessantly departing but never arriving. For according to Nietzsche, meaning is what we really long for.

Notes

1. Hendricks, Scotty. “‘God is Dead’: What Nietzsche Really Meant”. Big Think, 12 Aug. 2016, http://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/what-nietzsche-really-meant-by-god-is-dead.

2. Aphorism #146. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Trans. Ian Johnston. Beyond Good And Evil: Prelude To A Philosophy Of The Future. Arlington, Richer Resources Publications, 2009.