Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Tao_Equus, May 10, 2008.
sorry Tao too pissed to coment
Who made the attribution?
Chapter and verse for above claim please.
I'd be interested in your definition of truth.
Considering that historical detail regarding much of Muhammad's life is in dispute, I'm puzzled that you would speak with such certainty about it. The issue of historical accuracy aside, it is unclear whether Muhammad' life story is relevant to an evaluation of Islam in general or the the faith of contemporary Muslims in particular. FYI, my considered opinion is that attacks on the Prophet Muhammad constitute a logical fallacy known as argumentum ad verecundiam or appeal to authority. From the Wiki:An appeal to authority or argument by authority is a type of argument in logic consisting on basing the truth value of an assertion on the authority, knowledge, expertise, or position of the person asserting it. It is known as argument from authority, argumentum ad verecundiam (Latin: argument to respect) or ipse dixit (Latin: he himself said it). It is one method of obtaining propositional knowledge, but a fallacy in regard to logic, because the validity of a claim does not follow from the credibility of the source. The corresponding reverse case would be an ad hominem attack: to imply that the claim is false because the asserter lacks authority or is otherwise objectionable in some way.It seems some of these characterizations of the Prophet are intended - not to explain the origins of the religion - but to cast aspersions on the spiritual character of the religion's founder in order to discredit the religion. It's a cheap trick and does not make a case. I'm not buying it.
I'm not a Muslim and am not in a position to defend the faith. But I find it very easy to point out that certain characterizations lack support and have no place in evaluating the value of the religion of Islam, especially when specific claims are either simply unsubstantiated or, at best, in dispute.
If you are interested in getting a big picture, you might want to study the countries that are predominantly Sufi Islam. You might also want to study the cultural transformation of places like Saudi Arabia, whose hard line stance is actually a very recent development, which coincided with the establishment of dictatorships following extended periods of war and colonialism. In particular, the Wahhabists were enabled by Ibn Saud after they helped him get into power. Even the current Saudi regime is forced to placate these people.
I would be interested in what you turn up from a search on the prevalence of Islamic fundamentalism in countries that have been subject to grass roots movements or larger nationalistic movements in the wake of the chaos and instabilities produced by internal conflicts among various fiefdoms and/or colonization by Western powers. Poverty and unemployment should also be factored into the analysis. My working hypothesis is that the quasi-religious quality of some of these movements relates to attempts to drum up support and organize the masses.
Btw, you don't specify which countries you have in mind. Saudi Arabia is often cited as a bad example of Islam, as is Iran. It is my understanding that the situation in Iran has no historical precedent whatsoever and is discussed among Islamic scholars as being no only a historical aberration, but also discontinuous with Islamic tradition and jurisprudence.
Iran should be included in the analysis when examining my working hypothesis, particularly given recent evidence that "Islamic" rationalizations are used in conjucntion with unusual forms of control, with an intensification of quasi-religious modalities that correlated positively with a rise in social unrest and economic privations in the general population.
Btw, like Saudi Arabia, Iran has a long history of political instability, with a combination of extended conflicts (some lasting up to 100 years) and short-lived dynasties. Some of the greatest instabilities were recent.
In thios context, I predict raq will become fertile ground for radical fundamentalist power grabs on the part of factions who are playing off the US-led occupation. This is somewhat remarkable development considering that Iraq used to be a secular country. Widespread unemployment and lack of education among an entire generation of uprooted and dispossessed young people will provide many recruits. The situation will be largely self-perpetuating because it thrives on chaos.
Iraq's current transformation will go down in history as an example of unusual culture shock. Iraq had the largest middle class of any country in the region. Despite its immense oil resources, I believe the country is doomed to long-term pauperization by extended political disorganization.
I think you will have much better luck when you consider socioeconomic superstructure rather than blame religion.
Hi Netti. You’ve brought up some important historical and political considerations especially the relatively recent phenomena of the Wahhabism (the preferred term from the inside is Salafism, referring to Muhammad and his immediate companions), and the Iranian state, which is unique in the history of Islam.
I haven’t followed this discussion, and don’t want to really get into it, but I do have one point to make: that we can waste a lot of time when we fall into either/or on this question, blaming either religion or historical/economic/political/ecological factors. Surely we can agree that there’s an interaction between religion and other social factors. If it’s true that Islam in itself doesn’t always and everywhere lead to violence, that it’s not simply and intrinsically violent, it’s also true that its repeated invocation in the cause of violence tells you something about its fundamental structure. As Sam Harris, has said, we don’t really know of a lot of Tibetan suicide bombers – at least not so far. The point is that while practically any doctrine can be used to justify violence, given the right pressures, not all doctrines are equally susceptible.
So in instead of taking this issue as an occasion to either defend or attack Islam, I think it’s more useful to point out how these various factors work together: the core doctrines of Islam, the impact and fusion of Western totalitarian ideologies, the legacy of competition with Europe and European imperialism, the toxic rectangle of the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and oil, the ages-old traditions of Middle Eastern despotism, etc.
I think some of what you mentioned above is a good start on this.
The distinction between motive force versus ideological rationalization would suggest that "historical/economic/political/ecological factors" are likely more the powerful factor. I see the religious aspect as potentially being little more than "window dressing" or a secondary element in recruitment and political cohesion.
I disagree. For example, suicide is forbidden in the Koran. Political motivations for such action even though it is fobidden by the religion may be stronger in some parts of the world. The predominant religion may be completely incidental.
Here it seems you are ascribing more importance to doctrine than to "historical/economic/political/ecological factors."
It's interesting to debate competing explanations off the cuff, but in the end a broad empirical and historical perspective is required. I suspect that given the role of negaction human behavior, that behavioral predictions based mainly on ideology to the exclusion of superstructure considerations and powerful emotional issues that arise from economic and political privations are likely to be poor in predictive validity.
Everything I say is from the Koran itself or from some of the oldest and most respected Hadiths. I hope you are prepared to try and defend the indefensible. I will be back with a comprehensive series of quotes.
Hi Netti Netti. Nice to see you haven’t lost your edge! But you seem to be taking me as far more contrary to your point of view than I in fact am. (Perhaps you’re over-reacting to me because of the either/or debate you’re having with Tao?) I’m firmly in the middle on this. I fully agree on the first importance of the whole complex of root concrete conditions. But while one can point to particular cases where religious ideology is mere “window dressing”, I don’t believe one can say that this is true categorically in the present circumstances, or that Islamic strands of thought are uninvolved or have no true motive force.
But I’m sure you don’t really mean to take it that far, because you’d have to adhere to some brand of strict materialism to hold that only material/economic conditions really count, and unless I misjudge you I don’t think you do; for if Islam has no true motive force now, then how can we assume it ever did: its original emergence from the peninsula was perhaps simply a factor of political/economic forces of the time and the weakness of competing empires. If religious ideology has no motive force, then the rise of Christianity was similarly incidental and it too had no transformative power.
Of course, if one is engaged in apologetics, then the issue is a little different. From the point of view of apologetics, there is some ideal orthodoxy located somewhere in the past. It is by definition perfect and cannot produce evil. Any evil done in its name is distortion and slander. This is a theological position.
But perhaps you agree that what at issue here is not theology. It’s the attempt to assess the root causes of certain varieties of human violence. And again, my position is in the middle and pragmatic. Briefly, both the Koran and the Tanakh/Old Testament were produced in concrete conditions of great conflict and violence, which they both on the one hand reflect and on the other hand try to address. Atheists like Sam Harris maintain that these books reflect pretty much nothing but this violence, and primitive violence at that; apologists maintain that their books are the pure solutions to violence, God’s keys to the kingdom.
The reality is that people have always read these texts both to support and to suppress violence; sometimes one motive predominates, but more often then not the motives are mixed. Such is the state of our confusion, and that’s why one can’t easily separate the sheep from the goats. (And that’s why in my view one can’t point to some inerrant text at year zero: an inerrant text can only be confirmed by an inerrant reading, and that is yet to appear, whether you believe in this possibility or not.)
In my view each side of this either/or is imaginary: a pure Islam has never existed, either as a religion of peace or of a religion of war. The tendency in this debate is to drastically overemphasize one side or the other – and the motives in either case are usually obvious.
So I was only trying to call attention to the middle ground, more reflective of actuality, where I believe stands of Islamic thought do interact with other conditions to produce what we see as outcomes.
To be clear: I wasn’t saying that you’re necessarily wedded to one side. I understand the dynamic of your interaction with Tao. Again, I was only drawing attention to the problem, and commending your move of bringing out some historical background.
Indubitably, said Dr. Watson as he tamped down and lit his pipe, gazing out into the darkening moors...
Just keeping the thesis going in the antithesis.
I do appreciate you following the argument closely and I recognize your effort to steer toward a middle ground. However, I am not so sure a middle ground is warranted.
Large-scale surveys have found negligible correlations between religiosity and political attitudes in predominantly Muslim countries. Further, indepth interviews with radical fundamentalists from these parts have revealed political grievances and personal pathologies of various kinds that seem highly specific to these individuals and have nothing to do with religion. I wonder whether there any religious motive force at all.
The variable that most closely resembles a religious commitment that would have motive force is a desire to defend Muslim countries from encroachment by nonMulsim entities. This is more like nationalism and a wish to preserve cultural purity and autonomy than religiosity.
My understanding is that the initial spread of Islam was fairly informal and organic along trade routes.
I see the Church as having had motive force.
It is one that would seem to make any direct challenges pointless.
Btw, I was interested to read the Church's guidelines concerning the interpretation of scripture. One of the hermeneutic criteria was "Analogy of Faith." A nice term for adapting ambiguous passages to other interpretations that have already been declared authentic by the Church. In formal epistemology, this is known a "stacking the deck."
I would distinguish the religion from specific cultural and institutional practices.
Nothing wrong with that.
Actually the model I'm referring to is emminently testable by straightforward regression analysis.
reading through your discussion here with Devadatta it is apparent to me that again you are trying to divorce rational scrutiny from anything you deem to be religious. This is the most disingenuous and fraudulent effort to avoid pragmatic truths. I can only imagine that whoever you are and whatever you do you must have some kind of vested interest in steering the debate away from rational scrutiny. Something you have time and time again tried to do. For example you make this effort to disassociate law and politics from Islam, frankly this is one of the most ridiculous propositions I have ever seen forwarded in any debate here at CR. Or your utterly preposterous contention that the two historical waves of Islamic expansion were peaceful!! I do not care about your university endeavours to to intellectualise what is after all a mass movement of common people led on the whole by typical despots. The masses of Muslims and their leaders are not University scholars and all your playing with words has no effect on what they think, do or what is a fair interpretation of Islam. You can do a wonderful analysis of the different starches and sugars in a potato, but to the masses it is still just a potato. The Koran was not written for university scholars, it was written as the politcal/religious law of the people of Islamic faith. It is a religion of supremacy, conquest and barbarity to non-believers.
I am still working on a comprehensive presentation of Islam by Islam to demonstrate that it is anything but peaceful. But the way you already charged me to do so as I think about it already says a great deal to me. You seem to present yourself as highly knowledgeable about Islam but you are asking me to take the time to compile that which you MUST KNOW exists. In this, and in what I have referred to many times already as your slippery attitude, I am left with no option but to believe you will never meet me on neutral ground. So be it. The truth has its own need to be told. William Shakespeare.tao
Interesting. The Koran seems to hold a key for this sort of thing: While the scriptures describe both good and evil, there is a provision regarding right guidance:
Koran, M.H. Shakir translation
[6.80] And his people disputed with him. He said: Do you dispute with me respecting Allah? And He has guided me indeed; and I do not fear in any way those that you set up with Him, unless my Lord pleases; my Lord comprehends all things in His knowledge; will you not then mind?
[6.81] And how should I fear what you have set up (with Him), while you do not fear that you have set up with Allah that for which He has not sent down to you any authority; which then of the two parties is surer of security, if you know?
[6.82] Those who believe and do not mix up their faith with iniquity, those are they who shall have the security and they are those who go aright.
Since I haven’t read these studies I’m going on supposition here, assuming there are few devils in the details. But from what you describe, certainly these kinds of studies are important, but I guess what they lack – and what’s fairly difficult to provide in a definitive way – are control groups, other populations of different ideological formations undergoing similar pressures. (We do have rough analogies, of course, the paucity of Tibetan suicide bombers I mentioned, for example.)
And I think you’d agree that it isn’t simply a question of this or that motive a subject admits to having, but also a question of mentality and ideological conditioning. The same two individuals with similar motives, and even similar levels of mental instability, may very well act out their distress in radically different ways, following the blueprint and possibilities of their formative ideology.
On the issue of suicide bombing, there is of course the evidence of the sheer numbers of Muslims willing to make this murderous sacrifice, so certainly there is a significant correlation, i.e., significant in the sense of the sheer numbers. The question is whether that correlation is meaningful, i.e., does it provide any information about the mental world of Islam?
In the absence of any definitive answer we’re left with probabilities, and of course with the political/pragmatic question of whether giving Islamic thought a pass on this is useful in getting this violence under control, or a compassionate act in relation to Muslims.
But of course this isn’t just about individual suicide bombers. It’s also about their level of approval in Muslim societies. It’s about violent reactions to the depiction of Mohammad, to the mere suggestion of the desecration of a Koran. It’s about the popular demand for death to apostates, for the mere act of converting to Christianity. Now, one can easily say that this is just a question of self-interested or psychotic elites manipulating the sense of grievance of the masses, or the backwardness of some of these societies. But to take Islam out of the equation when it is the mental world in which this all takes place seems to me a counterproductive move if one is trying to understand what’s going on.
Consider as well this whole issue of historical grievance. As you may have seen, I’m as anti-imperialist as one might wish. I fully appreciate the idea of blowback from the centuries of European and the decades of American meddling in that region. But imperialism was and is a global phenomenon, as is poverty and other sources of grievance. But there’s a special pathology to the various kinds of disarray we see in the Arab and Muslim worlds, which is far more psychological than material in nature, which festers on despite decades of independence and vast amounts of revenue from oil – ironically, this revenue only fuels the pathology, funding radical madrassas and the operations of terrorists.
For me this is of a piece with the historical crisis in the Arab and Muslim worlds, its difficult adjustment to modernity, which is taking its own unique form, and again within the common mental sphere of Islam.
So in my view we should not give Islam a pass. The truly compassionate action is to call Islam to account.
Well, I'm not an expert on this either, but we should keep in mind that the control of trade roots was a function of great powers from the earliest civilizations in middle east on, so one can't ignore the imperial dynamic. What your're saying here is more desriptive of Buddhism, which spread without assuming any administrative/imperial function.
I'm not sure of your point here. Are you saying that the scriptures lie outside culture?
Hi Seattle. Strangely enough, your quote sets up a form of the dichotomy I was talking about, without even going to the “harder” passages of the Koran or the Hadith. Verse 6.82 provides a moral test for faith, while verse 6.80 invests the ultimate guarantor of both faith and morality in the person of Muhammad. So one believer may focus on the message of morality, while another on the authority of Muhammad. What was the focus, do you think, of the people who burned down embassies over a cartoon of the prophet?
So again, I agree with you that the keys are there for people who choose to use the Koran as a way to peace, and I sincerely hope that this is the destiny of Islam. But I also recognize that the Koran and the Hadith are replete with material that can be used in the cause of oppression and war. In my view, the Koran, like the bible, is not a magic text, whose recitation automatically leads to peace. To anyone who makes this claim (and I’m not saying you are) my challenge is simple: don’t tell me, show me.
That's why I posted it.
I would say that their focus was on the authority of Muhammad. (Would that be considered as ascribing partners to Allah?)
I see it as a way to 'separate the ore from the scum,' as mentioned in Surah 13.16-19, in a way that all can see, imo.
I'm not sure. I suppose the people in question would consider they're simply carrying out Allah's will. But this is for Muslims to decide. I'm not qualified to say. I can only offer my outside perspective.
The thing is that you cannot apply the same kind of pick and choose that you might with the Bible in Islam. There is the Law of Abrigation which dictates which Surah has precedence and in the 9th and final book, the most violent and bloodthirsty, many of the Surah directly overrule the earlier, (debatably), peaceable revelations. For example there are 124 versus that call for tolerance and patience that have been cancelled and replaced by one, single verse. This verse is called the verse of the sword:
"But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)....." Surah 9:5
The fact is that if you believe the Koran to be the authority on how you conduct yourself in the name of Islam then it is the extremist Jihad warriors of Al Quida and the Martyrs Brigade that are the most faithful to their religion. In addition all Muslims are under compulsion to lie and deceive in order to bring about a totalitarian global Islamic state.
Source: "al-Nasikh wal-Mansoukh" (The Abrogator and the Abrogated) and was authored by the revered Muslim scholar Abil-Kasim Hibat-Allah Ibn-Salama Abi-Nasr.
You're a braver man than I am, Gunga Din! I think by rights it should be Muslims who wrestle with the Koran, the Hadith and the problems of abrogation. Unfortunately, that challenge has not been taken up here, to my knowledge, beyond the usual apologetics. So I can understand your wading into this. I believe a stiff challenge is the sincerest contribution one can make on such questions.
Cheers, Shanti, etc.
Again I think this is western thinking. We are used to having some personal input into what is or is unacceptable. Of course there are many Muslims out there that only pay lip service to their faith, or that make a concious decision to ignore the violent majority of the Koran, or are just completely ignorant about it. The layout of the chapters of the Koran means you really have to be a scholar to know the details of where Abrigation is applicable. But very many do know precisely what it says and I unabashedly claim that the Islamic scholars who have been attempting, and succeeding, in selling Islam to the west as a religion of peace are deliberately fraudulent, and in that they are being exemplary Muslims. In the Islamic schools across the Islamic world Abrigation is taught and so is the requirement to lie or to trick the infidel , to lay traps that he might be ambushed. This is the Jurisprudence that is taught as standard*, not as the exception as they would have it painted to us.
On September the 11th 1683 the King of Poland broke the siege of Vienna, defeated the Muslim invaders and ended the the 2nd great wave of Muslim expansion. It has been a symbolic date in the schools of Islam since then along with the message that it is duty bound by every Muslim to retake ground won for Allah, that there is shame on the people of Islam until they have done so. Lying, subterfuge, trickery....all valid tools of the cause make it impossible to trust any apologist or those that say Islam is peaceable. The Islamic notion of peaceable actually means the world will be at peace only when Islam is the only religion. And we in the west ignore that fact at our peril.
*From the book Why I left Jihad by Walid Shoebat (a former high ranking Palestinian killer) and the eminent French scholar Bat Ye'or and her book, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam.
I find argument hard to accept given that the conclusion is based on a premise about adjusting to modernity that does not square with what we know about how Islam influenced the growth of civilation.
In actual fact, the Golden Age of Islam was making tremendous strides in all areas -- including science and medicine -- while Europe languished in the dark ages. Toby Lestere is right: "Islam became one of the world's great religions in part because of its openness to social change and new ideas."
Your premise suggests that there is something inherently unprogressive about Islam. This view is hard to reconcile to the historical record and also ignores the fact that the Koran itself embodies significant advances with respect to human rights and jurisprudence that were literally hundreds of years ahead of any European "Enlightenment" equivalents, including for example rules of warfare protecting noncombatants. In addition, the Koran contains numerous passages that emphasize the importance of learning.
You say we should not "give Islam a pass." Maybe that's shorthand for saying the applications of Islamic warrant further scrutiny. Your position would have more appeal if the premise were substantiated and if the thesis were stated more precisely - i.e., in a way that makes a distinction between a religion from its applications.
I thought the point of trade was to make money.
No. I'm saying there are culural developments that may have occured before or after a religion that donlt necessarily folow from a religion not are they endorsed by a religion. Consider the pre-Islamic tribal practices that are sometimes atributed to Islam in an effort to discredit the religion.
Hi Netti. My original purpose as I said was not to enter into a long exchange, but simply to offer a moderating voice. At the same time I don’t want to be evasive, so let me answer several of your points.
First of all, I wasn’t saying that Islam is inherently incapable of adjusting to modernity. (If it isn’t, then we truly are in trouble.) I was only pointing to its present reality and its now centuries old difficulties and weakness in the face of Western competition. You mention the “golden age” and the achievements of Islamic civilization. Fair enough. These achievements are widely recognized, even by critics like Bernard Lewis. It’s not a bad idea to provide some balance. And I realize that Islam has always been slandered by its blood enemies among Christians. So if your purpose here is to stick up for the underdog, I appreciate that. I’m always for the underdog. (Perhaps you have the plight of the Palestinians in mind? But they’re victims as much of their fellow Arabs as of the Israelis.)
But I think you’d agree that we need broader historical perspective to put this into context. It’s not enough to simply point to a golden age; that golden age was relatively brief. The intellectual decline of Islam began long before the beginnings of the economic and military decline that mirrored Europe’s rise from early modern times and ended in the catastrophe of colonialism. Remember that Islam began with the much the same resources as the West: the moral resources of the Judeo-Christian traditions and the legacy of classical learning. In addition, it had the great advantage of starting fresh at a time when the old empires were receding. Yet after a relatively brief “golden age” and its achievements little further progress was made. The “gates of ijtihad” were closed and the law was fossilized. Not only that, philosophy itself and spirit of free inquiry was essentially shut down (see al-Ghazali, The Incoherence of the Philosophers). Islam has experienced many reform movements since, but these have been almost invariably backward looking, and free inquiry is yet to recover.
So while I agree that in theory Islam has the intellectual resources to meet its challenges – the clarity of its monotheism is one advantage, the simplicity of its core practice is another, the inspiration of its past achievements is yet another – it also has a long history of not effectively doing so, but of instead constantly fighting rearguard actions, and of resorting to brute violence over intelligent and effective action.
But the point is that there is no simple distinction between a “religion” and “its applications”, or again there is a simple distinction only if one posits religion in the abstract as an ideal orthodoxy or as an ideal text, which I can’t accept. In my view, the Koran is embedded in human culture like any other product of culture. It carries with it difficulties and ambiguities from its inception. Certainly, much was added to Islam from various cultures. One can’t say that everything bad simply and directly flows from the text of the Koran. But that’s not the issue. The issue is the pragmatic one of what Islam actually is and has been. Certainly, the Koran is a major player in this, and can’t fully escape the implications of Islamic practice, but its place and reading is for Muslims to work out. You and I are not qualified to decide. We can only provide honest outside perspectives.
But isn’t the issue here the violence or lack of it of the first wave of Muslim expansion? Again, I’m taking what I think is the moderate position between “rampaging hoards” on the one hand, and the idea that Islam was simply disseminated as a byproduct of trade on the Buddhist model on the other. Islam had armies. It moved into territories of opportunity and assumed an administrative role and eventually empire. These are not operations that normally exclude violence. As for trade, its role was not passive. As I said (though typos were involved!), one of the primary original impulses to the spread of civilization and empire was precisely the need to control vital trade routes. Again, the vigor of emergent Islam in contrast with the weakness of established power would have made these trade routes targets of opportunity.
Perhaps. But you have very clearly been taking positions and making factual claims in connection with these positions.
How long did it last? And what caused it to end?
Ah, Netti. No more games! Al-Ghazali dates from the 12th century. The closing of the gates of ijtihad dates to around the same time or a little later, depending on your sources. In early modern times (16th century or so) the so-called "gunpowder empires" in the middle east and Asia, including the Ottomans, retained military importance, but were already falling behind the West where it really mattered, in intellectual capital. By the 18th century the Ottomans were essentially on deathwatch, like the latter days of Franco or of the Hillary Clinton campaign. But you can look all this stuff up yourself. I’m not going to swell out my already over-long posts with interminable history lessons or post links to sources you can easily locate yourself.
I suppose you have the crusades, the reconquista and European imperialism as bogeys waiting in the wings? I’m anti-imperialist by nature and would be the last person to minimize the many sins of Christian tradition, but playing the victim card here does an injustice to the victim. It offers no real defense of Islam. Again, honesty is in my view the more compassionate action.
But look, unless you feel absolutely compelled to append some other point, I think we’ve established we have different views on this, so let’s leave it at that, and redirect our contrarian energies where they would be more useful – wherever that might be – for we do indeed have that and a native stubbornness in common.
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