Self Aware

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It is important for the sake of our own development that we differentiate between the different types of knowledge to which we are exposed. In our understanding of ourselves, and of the presenters of knowledge, an awareness of the distinction between various propositions; their types, value or purpose, is key. As an example, we should develop ourselves to identify pieces of information or knowledge we are taught as something accessible to us (in ordinary circumstances) or as something beyond our reach. We should know when we are being taught knowledge that is new to us and brings us out of ignorance, and that which only acts as a reminder of what we already knew to be true; through attainment or innately. Continue reading “Self Aware”

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Knowledge Without the Nafs

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It is not always our disagreements that divide us, rather, more often than not, it is how we deal with those differences. It is completely possible and plausible that despite our differences, we can still have a respectful and peaceful relationship. In fact, were we to observe the words of Muhammad b. Hasan (d.461/1068), one of the early and most reputable Shia scholars (better known as Shaykh Tusi), we’d see that it is possible to oppose another jurists views, but still maintain the bond of religious brotherhood. Continue reading “Knowledge Without the Nafs”

Disciplined Relations

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For many centuries, fields of study or subject areas within the mainstream intellectual tradition of Islam have been categorised as rational or textual[i]. For instance; the science or art of logic undeniably falls under the category of ‘rational’, as does the study of prophetic narrations fall under the label of ‘textual’. Mysticism/gnosis, for those who studied it or considered it among the Islamic disciplines, either enjoyed its own category or was seen to be derived from the aforementioned two. Continue reading “Disciplined Relations”

Reviving Truth

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As one of the culprits, I must confess; we have contributed to and lived in a post-truth world ever since we decided the truth and facts mattered less than people’s sensitivities and feelings. When we concluded that the best way forward, albeit not the ideal, was to avoid offending anyone, regardless of their opinion’s merit, and that we should rock no boats, we recklessly stained our hands with the blood of truth. Yes, one may choose a better occasion to address an issue, but to accept conditions as they are without any intent to change them (through education and the like), is a crime against the well-being of humankind. This is not a call to hold all individuals accountable or to point the finger of judgement towards them, since very many may be tactfully working to tackle the absurdity that surrounds us (within and outside of our communities). I wish we would all decide today that the truth and facts are more important than (irrational) emotions, and that from now on, we will be a force to support (real) education and the (genuine) intellectual advancement of our species and to end, where possible, ignorance.
Many a time, what we see today is a result of our own actions or inaction in the past.
Commit to learning, teaching and implementing (not in that order necessarily).

Musk And Masks

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‘Musk is known by its perfume and not by what the perfumer says’
Sa’adi Shirazi (Gulistaan)

One of the numerous obstacles of true intellectual growth in our communities is the association of knowledge to what’s on the head rather than what’s in the head. The clerical garb has a symbolic place in our tradition, however, it is not an absolute or exclusive indicator of knowledge. We need to take a critical approach to what is being presented to us from the platforms of guidance (or so they should be), and raise the standards of our conversations and discourse. Continue reading “Musk And Masks”

Personalised Knowledge

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‘We’ve turned the conversation about Islam into conversations about books written by people about Islam. Those books have become Islam.’

There is a fine balance between knowing Islam, and knowing what is said about Islam, just as there is a fine line between knowing something and knowing what people say about that thing.

Books, speeches, and even courses, do not guarantee a correct understanding of a topic. For most subjects, they can be among the best means, but for others, they can not ensure such a thing. Continue reading “Personalised Knowledge”

Between The Lines

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Say, ‘I am just a human being like you.
(Quran, 41:06)

One of the things I admire about the Qur’an is its commendable faithfulness in sharing different aspects of the Prophet’s life. It does not suffice with sharing the strongest and most determined moments of his journey, nor does it limit it’s mention of the Prophet (s) to his best moments. Rather the Qur’an paints a picture of a man who faced challenges and difficulties, and with all his impeccable qualities, still needed the guidance and assistance of God. Continue reading “Between The Lines”

Consideration of Mental States in Islamic Jurisprudence

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A system dealing with human-beings and aiming to administer their behaviour and guide their path in life, giving them internal and external order, cannot ignore their various dimensions. For this reason, a holistic approach cannot ignore vital elements of the human-beings makeup and being, for focusing on one and ignoring the other/s can be detrimental to the whole. Interdisciplinary studies are highlighting this truth in their every advancement.  In our time, along with the attention towards the physical well-being of humans, there has been a huge step in bringing to light the importance of mental and emotional health. Considering the different stages of the human psyche and the various psychological conditions that can impact humans, new research in these areas presents us with the possibilities of readjusting our understanding of previously held ideas.  Continue reading “Consideration of Mental States in Islamic Jurisprudence”

Fight Yourself First

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Whether it’s writers like Orwell and Nietzsche or mystical movies like Star Wars and Kung-Fu Panda, they have all touched on the oft-repeated idea, now also acknowledged in pop culture; that we become the the object of our hate and the force, person or character that we set out to fight.

We are warned by these writers, movies, and many other thought-provoking works to not become that which we despise, or the monsters that we fight. Some go as far as to caution that such an outcome is almost inevitable.

My few years of experience have shown this to be an inescapable reality; that many people end up adopting characteristics, principles and methods that they so vehemently rejected and attacked at an earlier stage of their life. In many cases we fail to see these same traits or qualities within ourselves (on occasion even while we claim to hate them; though some thinkers claim that we hate them because they exist within us).

Is the solution than not to go forth or oppose? That can not be an absolute answer, for that would entail that evil and vice should be free to exist unchallenged. The answer seems to be partly in what a wise sage advised students of the seminary when he said,

‘Every step forward which you take in the acquisition of knowledge should be matched by a step taken to beat down the desires of the soul, to strengthen one’s spiritual powers, to acquire nobility of character, and to gain spirituality and piety…God forbid that before a person develops himself, that people should pay heed to him, that he should become a personality and have influence among the people, causing him to lose his soul. Before you lose hold of the reins of your self, develop and reform yourself!’

When we take up a cause, it must firstly be based on an educated decision, with awareness of the necessary considerations. Secondly, throughout our engagement with this cause, we must make a point of regularly checking ourselves and evaluating our thoughts, intentions and motivations. We can not abandon our self-development and focus solely on what exists externally to us. When we become heedless of our own selves, we leave room for all those previously despised traits and realities to find a home and place for growth within us. We become manifestations of those evils and vices.

Before looking at ourselves and removing the relevant vices from within, we need not to make large movements to remove them or similar aliments from others.

This happens to people on the path of knowledge and to activists alike.

Before fighting others, fight yourself first.

This is of course not a complete answer to the predicament (addressing necessary social issues while still being secretly plagued ourselves), but can be a starting point for discussion.

A Threat to the Community; Some Thoughts

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Man should be cautious that in the process of critiquing one problem, other unnecessary and possibly more harmful problems do not come into existence.
Constructive criticism and challenging wrong actions or policies are essential for progress, as is recognising ones strengthens and achievements and paying their due thanks.
However, for everything there is a method and not following correct procedure can be ruinous rather than productive. Sometimes, the damage done to a community from within, is far more than any enemy could dream of doing, even with all their resources. The devastating implications of some actions can be more crippling than any enemy plot and can be far more difficult to recover from, if at all possible.

Continue reading “A Threat to the Community; Some Thoughts”