The War within Islam

By Raza Habib Raja

Legend says that Karachi is protected by the holy shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi. It is said that storms and natural calamities have largely spared Karachi due to the protection offered by the soul of the great sufi saint. But perhaps even more than that perceived status of the protector of the great coastal city, is the  importance of the shrine as a symbol of tolerant, spiritual and mystic version of Islam. This symbolic embodiment was perhaps its misfortune on the fateful day of 7th October.

The tragedy is similar to what happened at Data Darbar Lahore. The terrorists have clearly made their intentions clear that tolerant Islam won’t be tolerated. To them the only “acceptable” version is the Wahabi brand of Islam and the rest is “biddat”.

However, despite clear and selective targeting of the shrines, a substantial chunk of the media simply spins the facts and link these incidences to some grand conspiracy of  the foreign powers to destabilize Pakistan with the ultimate aim of purging that cursed nuclear arsenal. Media in its intellectually bankrupt obsession with so called “national sovereignty” and its rabid  anti Americanism fails to direct discourse at the real issue: the intolerance of the Wahabi hardliners towards other less literal as well as scripture inspired variations of Islam.

When incidence at Data Darbar took place, while the media influenced segment of the populace was again pointing fingers at US, the representatives of  custodians of shrines openly blamed hardliners. They were of the opinion that responsibility of the blasts rested on those elements who construe practices at shrines as some kind of “Shirk” (means to consider anyone god other than the God).

The Sufism in its very nature is to some extent an anti thesis to the formalistic and scripture based version of religion. There is relative lack of reliance on scripture and formalistic rituals coupled with the emphasis on mysticism and subjectivity. By its very orientation Sufi tradition promotes mysticism and subjective alignment of an individual with God.  Due to relatively less emphasis on scripture and literal interpretation, Sufism challenges the traditional power base of the orthodox clergy and also weakens the argument of fusing religion with politics. If nearness to Allah can be attained subjectively then formalistic following of the scripture based rules wont be that essential and it is this philosophy which makes it at loggerheads with the traditional literal Sunni version of Islam.  Sufism and its various schools of thoughts emphasize allegorical interpretation of scripture and thus are looked upon by suspicion by orthodox clergy.

Even within orthodox Sunni various school of thoughts exist and Taliban represent a fringe position. This fringe hates mystic and other variations and also thwarts any effort of the reinterpretation of the holy scripture.  While most of the orthodox Sunnis are contend on condemning various variations, the Taliban are ready to wage a “jihad” against those who in their opinion are adulterating the purity of Islam. This mindset will automatically see enemies in Shiites, Ahmedis, Visitors of Sufi shrines and even the Sunni scholars who are trying to call for reformation of religion.

Thus it is small wonder that Shiite processions are targeted, suicide bombings are conducted at Sufi Shrines, Ahmedi mosques are attacked , reformers like Dr. Muhammad khan are killed and scholars Javed Ahmed Ghamidi are forced to relocate to other countries. Violence and suicide attacks are basically embodiment of intolerance and not some grand conspiracy of the foreign powers.

These intolerant monsters won’t even hesitate to attack Sunni population and have attacked but generally the motive for that is to create hatred against the state policy of targeting militants. When they select minority sects and reformers, their intention is to punish the parties “guilty” of adulterating the “purity” of Islam. It’s a war waged against Muslims. It’s a war within Islam.

And yet no matter how strong the evidence is, our urban middleclass ends up either disbelieving it or starts formulating apologetic defense. Our refusal to feel much needed revulsion is contributing to strengthening these nihilistic forces. It is this soft yet critical support which is thwarting cultivation of tolerance and also rectification of the core issue. Unless and until we identify the real enemy rather than looking at the wrong direction, we will never come out of this mess. The enemy is amongst us but we are still in denial.

48 Comments

Filed under Pakistan

48 responses to “The War within Islam

  1. Talha

    This is simply Wahabi’s and Deobandi’s war on Pakistan.

    Simple as that.

  2. T.S. Bokhari

    A good analysis indeed, but rather superficial as it fails to touch the question as to why, of all the Muslim countries, Pakistan, has become the main battleground for this war, raising an existential threat to this so called Islamic state.

  3. Talha

    @ T.S. Bokhari

    We have the second largest Shia population after Iran, perhaps the highest in the world according to some sources. We have one of the highest Sunni population’s too and Pakistan is host to many different sects of Islam.

    We have Ahmadi’s, Agha Khani’s, Bohras, Barelvi’s, Deobandi’s, Sufi’s, Wahabi’s etc. Each having substantial population in Pakistan, perhaps the highest in the world for some.

    For this reason sectarian violence took new heights and is very much a big threat to that state itself. Similarly, as we implemented Islamic laws, they were only suitable for one sect and not the others.

    The Justice Munir Report does touch upon the matter of sectarianism and it clearly warned that if we were to please one sect with their demands. The problems would rise to form a very big threat to the state and it will be a joyous occasion for our enemies.

    Though we repeat this very often, the fact is that the Ahmadi issue is the beginning of sectarianism and appeasement of hardline religious leaders. That was the sole reason where all this started and look what it has reduced us to today.

  4. moniems

    Will we ‘come out of this mess’ if ‘we identify the real enemy’?

    If yes, how will we ‘come out’?

    What will we do after we have identified the ‘real enemy’?

    Do we have any organization or mechanism to deal with the identified ‘real enemy’?

    If we have no way of dealing with the identified ‘real enemy’, how will we ‘come out of this mess’?

    I can only see questions? No answers.

    Will someone please enlighten me?

  5. Feroz Khan

    @ T.S. Bokhari (October 8, 2010 at 7:16 pm)

    You said, and I quote, “A good analysis indeed, but rather superficial as it fails to touch the question as to why, of all the Muslim countries, Pakistan, has become the main battleground for this war, raising an existential threat to this so called Islamic state.”

    Why Pakistan?

    No other Muslim state/country was created in the name of Islam except for Pakistan. It is being targetted because it was created in the name of Islam so Islam could exist in Pakistan.

    The people of Pakistan are not Muslims and Islamic, according to the Whabbis and their Deobandi allies and therefore need to be exterminated so that true Islam and Muslims can claim Pakistan as their promised land, where Islam can exist in all its glory.

    In 1947, the State of Pakistan was created as a place for the Muslims, where they could practice their religion freely and now in 2010, they want that promise fulfilled.

    That is why Pakistan is only country being targetted in the Muslim/Islamic world. It’s pay back time!

    ciao

  6. moniems

    @Feroz Khan

    Are we not experts at finding someone or something, other than ourselves, to blame for all ourt ills?

    When will we turn our gaze inwards?

    In my humble opinion, we need to introspect, and that too urgently.
    .

  7. Talha

    But Deobandi’s and Wahhabi’s were not the Islamic groups who supported the idea of Pakistan. So why should they have any say on what the country should or should not be like.

    The most pro active Islamic groups to lend their support to Pakistan were Ahmadi’s and Agha Khani’s.

    There should be a clampdown on the Mosques and Madrassa’s of these extremists, we know who they are, who funds them and how they operate.

    Bastardized society like ours will not take any steps, its only a few who can make a change.

    We do not want another Afghanistan or Sudan in this world.

  8. Mansoor Khalid

    This war has been initiated by fundamentalists who failed to understand the pluralism of Islam. We must fight them in all capacities because Islam never discriminated against anyone on the basis of religion, race, gender or color.

  9. O J DEEN

    Obey the Holy Prophet and try to become his like
    To be a Muslim is not a child’s play. It requires complete submission in every thing to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Do not take it cursorily. It is a matter worth deep consideration. Do not feel complacent until you obey the Holy Prophet completely. If you call yourself a Muslim without doing so, you have only a shell without the kernel. A wise man will not be happy with a shell only nor on bearing an empty name. In old times a Muslim in name tried to convert a Jew to Islam. The latter chided him for rejoicing on outward from devoid of inner reality. He said,
    “What is there in a name? I named my son Khalid, after the name of the famous Muslim conqueror who lived long and won brilliant victories for Islam. But before it was evening I had to bury my child.”
    So do not be happy with mere names. Seek instead the inner reality. What a shame! You profess to follow the Holy Prophet, the greatest of all Prophets, yet you live like kafirs. So live your life like the Holy Prophet and frame your mind like him. If you do not do so you are following Satan.
    It is easy to understand that the object of man’s life should be to become the beloved of God Almighty. Until a man becomes so, he has not succeeded in life. But this object is not attained until you obey the Holy Prophet truly. The Holy Prophet has shown by his conduct the real significance of Islam. So follow that Islam if you want to become the beloved of God.

    (Al-Hakam, January 24, 1901)

  10. Raza Raja

    a lot of stuff has been written as to HOW we got here. In two pages it was not possible to cover each and every angle. The article tries to point out that we are not even realizing that we are HERE…

  11. Feroz Khan

    @ moniems (October 8, 2010 at 8:07 pm)

    Agreed!

    @ Talha (October 8, 2010 at 8:44 pm)

    They want your country as the territorial base from which to expand their world views. 1947 does not matter; what matters is the future! Whabbis and Deobandis are fighting to take over Pakistan for their own reasons in 2010 and do not care hoots about 1947.

    @ Mansoor Khalid (October 8, 2010 at 8:45 pm)

    This war was started by us, the people of Pakistan, when we allowed our governments; civilian and military to create the fundlementalists for attaining our state’s policies and objectives. We are the ones, who destroyed the pluralism in Islam by passing laws, which used religion and its interpretations by a select group as means of oppressing others. We are the guilty ones, who remained silent while all this was happening in our names.

    You said, and I quote, ” Islam never discriminated against anyone on the basis of religion, race, gender or color…”

    What about believes? What about values? What about the way you think?

    ciao

  12. Tilsim

    @ Mansoor Khalid
    “This war has been initiated by fundamentalists who failed to understand the pluralism of Islam. ”

    You have hit on an important point as far as why there is a war going on. However fundamentalists don’t arise in a vacuum. The idea resonates, , when you have some active powerful political players and certain conditions in society that let such ideas take root, much like totalitarian ideas in early 20th century did. We could just as much have an atheist/marxist version of the same war as we saw under Stalin.

    The war against fundamentalism also has to take a multifaceted and comprehensive approach in order to defeat it. First though Pakistanis need to recognise the enemy. I believe the evidence points to a slow recognition of the nature of the enemy but much more work needs to be done. Security type operations will not be sufficient.

  13. Ali Abbas

    @Raza, good article and actually you summed up some very important issues very well. Thanks

    @Talha, interesting and insightful comments

  14. O J DEEN

    WHO WILL CURE SPIRITUAL AILMENT ???
    **********************************************
    God guides mankind towards the cure of physical ailments why would He not do so in the sphere of spiritual ailment? In every age He sent Prophets for this reason and when human life became an amalgamation of spiritual ailments He sent the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and revealed His perfect teaching which made beastly people into godly people. After an age, when even the Muslims forgot to put this teaching in practice, in accordance with His promise, God sent the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) who discovered pearls of knowledge in the existing teaching of the Holy Qur’an and cured spiritual ailments. He asserted that the cure of the ailments of the ummah was in this teaching. In medical field doctors make discoveries after long and arduous research, however God gave the cure for spiritual ailments 1400 years ago in the perfect Shariah and pious people in every age availed of it. In the latter-days, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) informed us of the cures for the new ailments. He removed all doubts about any form of abrogation in this teaching and then alone the real cure and antidote could be appreciated.

  15. Tilsim

    @ Raza Raja

    It appears on this thread there is disagreement over the nature of the enemy. There are those that say, expunge Islam from yourself and fight (for the sake of Pakistan?) – people living outside Pakistan mostly I believe. There are also those that say Islam per se is not the enemy; it is the concept of enforcing one monolithic interpretation by a religious state and a violent attempt to grab that state. They appear to be trying to wake people up so that more effective ideological resistance can be achieved down in our galli/muhalla, in our security echelons and on our airwaves. A work very much in progress and most probably largely ineffective from a security perspective because it fails to reach the Taliban foot soldier but perhaps has some impact on the recruitment drive of the paymasters. Then we have the rest of the country as you correctly point out which is still in large measure confused about the very nature of the threat from political Islam and focuses on it’s day to day existance concerns.

    It’s easy to write off these efforts as too little too late. However, it takes time for change to come about and not all of Pakistan’s problems by any means can be laid down to religious extremism. We have had multiple societal failures which are nothing to do with religion – such as distorted national priorities, pervasive feudalism and the role of the military.

    Egypt and Algeria went through a huge and violent struggle with terrorism. Matters are more subdued there now after a robust State response. We need the military in Pakistan, the supreme power here, to come out with a decisive breaking of the umbilical cord with religious extremism.

    I am very suspicious of those that are advocating despondency – a perfect gift for the motivated militant.

  16. Moazzam

    perfect, enemy identified. what next, genocide against the ‘enemy’?

    Raza aren’t u doing exactly wht u r probably condemning? hate speech and branding a group as enemy? wht punishment tolerant version suggests for ‘enemies’?

  17. Prasad

    Feroz Khan:://In 1947, the State of Pakistan was created as a place for the Muslims, where they could practice their religion freely and now in 2010, they want that promise fulfilled.

    That is why Pakistan is only country being targetted in the Muslim/Islamic world. It’s pay back time!//

    Hi Feroz : another one of your wonderful note. I think it was one of the most selfless pieces written so far. It is indeed true. the ever growing no of perfect ‘practitioners’ want more ‘purified’ form of worship all the time. society needs to respond. For instance, when Ram sene was very virulant a few quarters back in K’taka, an ordinary girl silenced their system by starting ‘pink chaddi’ campaign. this was all about sending chaddi’s to the chief of sene. Ultimately it received such tremendous press and support from general public that completely silenced those ruckus mongers. Small lessons to carry forward!

    society needs to silence purification priests everywhere

  18. Raza Raja

    @ Tilsim

    I agree that to declare that every problem owes its existence to extremism or even political Islam will be exaggeration. I think at times militants have successfully filled in governance gaps which actually explain the large number of recruits at the grassroot level.
    Pakistan is facing a lot of problems and religous extremism is perhaps the most important though not the only problem.
    However what worries me is that our educated do not construe it as even a home grown problem when you start blaming only the outside forces for something you yourself cultivated rectfication and reversal is impossible.

  19. Tilsim

    @ Raza Raja

    “when you start blaming only the outside forces for something you yourself cultivated rectfication and reversal is impossible.”

    I fully agree. The focus on outside forces is a protective denial response. It gets some credence because the USA has been an active participant in the course of our national history and also it is in our neighbourhood with boots on the ground. India/Pakistan relations have also been mired in mutual hostility since 1947 – as active state policies and a determined by the establishments of both countries in my view. It’s easy for minds that are not used to critical evaluation to focus on the traditional suspects. Religion is also a space that has been frankly abandoned by our intelligensia and the vacuum left to mullahs. Look at how Zardari’s ‘secular’ PPP has appointed Mullah Sherani of the JUI to head up the Council of Islamic Ideology. What a grand bargain.

    The question is – are rectification and reversal impossible or can we can fight and beat the fundamentalist politicians and their supporters within the State in their mind games? To me the State and the political set up is weak and will not act decisively until society truly comes out demanding action or the military comes out decisively. I am not the in the military. I can only contribute as a citizen to raise awareness in society so that it can come out of this denial phase and try to influence those who are on the sidelines in the military.

    My point is also that I strongly disagree with the view that Islam as a religion is THE problem as being advocated by some for Pakistan’s state of affairs. Even the sane elements in the west do not see conflict in those terms, Samuel Huntington excepted.

    People who advocate these ideas are actually making it much more difficult to convince those in denial about the nature of our society’s problems.

  20. Tilsim

    @ T S Bokhari

    “it fails to touch the question as to why, of all the Muslim countries, Pakistan, has become the main battleground for this war”

    In my view, it’s because it’s easy to operate here. The State is weak and indecisive, the population huge and ignorant. A certain sympathetic environment exists. Borders are porous. There are lots of hiding places. Pakistan represents an amazing prize for Jihadists if they can win it and defeat the grand satan and it’s foot soldier.

    What the conservatively minded fellow Pakistanis, the mullahs and the more educated Islamists don’t realise is that they will be in the firing line of these Jihadists too. Out of all the “73 sects” at the end of time, only the Wahabi jihadists will be the ones allowed. The rest are therefore takfiris and legitimate targets for murder. They are fighting all the false idols: other muslims, non-muslims, democracy, secularism, you name it. They build up the spectre of grievance and persecution of Muslims – both real and imagined. They negate traditionalists as misguided and ignorant. They rely on convincing the ordinary man in the street to join their cause for the sake of God and salvation. The ideology has a developed doctrine.

    With such a nihilist philosophy it should not be beyond intelligent people to devise an effective strategy to defeat it or at least to stop further recruitment. However most of us are still confused about the precise nature of the enemy that represents the greatest threat. We want to make the problem bigger; let’s make it a problem about Islam itself. No wonder we are in a mess.

    We are educated but also disgracefully ignorant about practical matters. What have we done to study how Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Algeria have tackled this menace? What can we learn from them? Let’s study more and demand practical action that can actually bring about a change rather than run around like headless chickens.

  21. Perspective

    From a paper:

    “Superseding all other laws, Islam continually refocuses conflicting allegiances on the common goal of unity. At the heart of all these precepts rests the concept that, if everyone is individually obeying the divine rules of salvation, the Islamic state and society are both legitimate and prospering……..Even personal and family routines are linked by Islamic conservatives to a moral and physical bankruptcy in the life of their polities and their weakness in relationship to the outside world. Thus, some of the most virulent disputes in Islam have been waged by Muslims against other Muslims who are accused of subverting the purity of the aggregate.

    This was from 1990.

  22. Do we all really think it is a war from within? Well may be some years later, something will unfold to tell us how naive we have been to focus only “us” and something else. So let us not take every bomb explosion as something to do with various factions of Islam.

    We may be surprised one day. This is my hunch – I amy be wrong

  23. Nasir

    @ Jalal HB -you are in self denial or on drugs. Either way you need to seek professional help for your condition

  24. Feroz Khan

    By following this thread and observing how the argumentive lines of logic are developing, it is interesting to witness a gradual emergence of an intellectual mea culpa. It seems, from comments posted and replies made to them, that debate is being characterized as one between resident Pakistanis and non-resident Pakistanis and their view on Islam; with the non-resident Pakistani identified as seeking a more extermist response to the end of a religious role, while the resident Pakistanis suggesting that Islam/religion is not a problem, but its interpretation which is the root of all the evil in Pakistan.

    Pakistanis need to understand that the issue of religion has to be confronted and it has to be rationalized. Religion is the elephant in the room, which most resident Pakistanis, as seen from their comments, are afraid to speak out against it in a critical sense. Even, the oblique references to the “enemy” suggests that there is such a dread of the punitive powers of religion and its terror, at the disposal of the state, that most Pakistanis are not even willing to call the “enemy” by its name.

    This is the problem in Pakistan and this is the problem, which the resident Pakistanis will have to grapple with and eventually confront. There is a war being waged in Pakistan, for its soul, and in this war, like all wars fought in the name of a god, it will be long, destructive, divisive and intolerant.

    Wars, even if they are fought for a religious purpose, are expressions of secular politics and their conduct is often decided by the politics of that war; determinations of power. In this sense, the utilizations of a religion, Islam to be more precise, as a political motivation used as caus belli, is a secular aim; the attainment of political power and the excerise of that power within a territory.

    Even a theocratic ideal is bound by a secular reality and religion, in the process of fighting this war for its own ends, has to exist within a secular framework. In such a case, the “enemy” or religion and in the case of Pakistan, Islam, can be easily identified. When a religion is used to gain a political end, it loses its aura of infallibility and it opens itself for criticism. As the old Roman saying suggested: render unto gods what is god’s and unto to caesar, what is caesar’s, once religion is used for a more secular, temporal purpose of fighting a war to gain a political end, it ceases to be a religion and instead becomes another political agrument, which by defination and intent, is a secular idea.

    Islam, in this struggle, as being defined by those who wish to leverage it for their own political ends, is not a religious thought any more, but is an expression of a more cheapened commodity; political power. If Islam/religion wish to pursue the endeavors of political power in the secular world, then it opens itself for what the Germans refered to as “gegenangriff” – counter-attack.

    In the case of Pakistan, Islam and its ideology is no longer beyond the pale of untouchibility and such, can be questioned. Islam and religion, in Pakistan, are just another political idea, party, manifestation and doctrine and if Islam and religion in Pakistan wish to weild political power and enter the political arena; they should, and must, be judged by the standards of the arena they have entered of their own free will without anyone having forced them to do so, and which exists in the present world and not in the Hereafter.

    This, in the case of Pakistan, may have the trimmings of a religious war, but is in all actuality a secular attempt at gaining political power. Like all secular political parties, if Islam and the idea of religion wants to be a political force, then it it must be judged by the standards of accountibility that exist for politics in the secular world and not the by the standards of the Hereafter.

    Therefore, resident Pakistanis should not waffle and be confused and be afraid of questioning religion in Pakistan and its role in the Pakistani society.

    ciao

  25. T.S. Bokhari

    In my humble view, we the Pakies have been dehumanized by confusing overdozes of obscurantism. What is requred now is to rehuminise us by reminding us that we are not ‘Pak-satans’, but sinful human beings as Quran, in its hakeemanah mode says,”Fala tazaku anfosakum’ (Do not ascribe purity unto yourself) or in Urdu (Apne aap ko paak mat kaho).

    But we call our country, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, i.e., ‘The Land of Pak People’ when actually the world do not consider us human even.

  26. moniems

    @T.S. Bokhari

    I couldn’t agree with you more!

    You have hit the nail on the head. We have exaggeratedly high opinion of ourselves and our army, where as Pakistan commands no respect in the comity of nations.

    Falsehood and denial have become our national character. We are probably the most un-pak people in the world.

    Divine guidance is the need of the hour.

  27. T.S. Bokhari

    @moniems

    Thank you for your kind response!

    You rightly say:

    “Divine guidance is the need of the hour.”

    But unfortunately the Mullah-ZEB combine have shut the door on it by their seal of ‘Khatme-Nabuwwat’ and have thus monopolized all authority of guidance for their ‘deen-e-fassad’ under the label of Islam.

  28. T.S. Bokhari

    Correction:

    I meant ‘Mullash-ZAB’ c0mbine.

  29. T.S. Bokhari

    Sorry, again a correction:

    I meant ‘Mullah-ZAB’ combine.

  30. moniems

    ‘Mullah-ZAB’ c0mbine’s ‘Khatme-Nabuwwat’; heterogeneity of the population; absence of a unifying ideology around which people can rally (even Islam has been divisive!); and the lack of a cohesive political entity capable of capturing and directing the immense anger and discontent that prevails among ordinary Pakistanis across much of the nation seem to be the reasons why no grassroots movement for change has emerged. Even then, the seemingly permanent politico-army kleptocracy that has been the bane of the people for over 60 years is no reason to believe no unifying ideology will emerge against the status quo. And, from what is visible presently that unifying ideology will be none other than Political Islamism. The Army-ISI combine will not be able to permanently keep it from gaining political momentum.

    America’s war against Al-Qaida and Taliban, the incompetence and disdain of our ruling elites, the self interest and strategic priorities of Army/ISI, the desperate circumstances of the people, the demographic time-bomb (45% under 18 – UNICEF) and Saudi funded Wahabism are some of the reasons why the rise of political Islamism may not be stoppable. The possible mutation of the various terrorist Tanzeems into broader political and social entities is a distinct possibility too.

    The only weapon against this threat is the legitimacy of our rulers built on fairer and more equitable distribution of the national pie among all Pakistanis. Can our rulers find the wisdom and statesmanship to give up their narrow self interests to bring about the much needed social, political and economic change to save Pakistan?

    (With inputs from Shaun Gregory – University of Bradford, UK)

  31. Nasir

    the Khatme-Nabuwwat mullahs are a bunch of clowns who have nothing to do with the true spirit of islam or patriotism to Pakistan

  32. Vijay Goel

    @ Feroz Khan 9th Oct 7.16 pm. Wow what a novel and super thought. ‘If Islam is used as a political ideology it can be questioned and debated as say Marxim, Capitalism, Socialism or various mutants of these’. But Sir, you are wanting to pull the rug from under the feet of the so called proponents because they say their philosophy deals with the Hereafter and can not brook any opposition. However it can not remain so. All over the world whoever has wanted unbridled Secular Power by pedalling goodies for hereafter has fallen on his feet. His greed and arrogance have been his undoing. Feroz Sahib you may have to wait but your philosophy will definitely find many takers.

  33. Perspective

    Something to ponder: from Julian Sanchez:

    Could An Omnipotent Being Prove It?

    Ned Resnikoff ponders the question. It seems to me that the answer is clearly “no,” but for a reason Ned doesn’t actually offer: It would require a good deal less than omnipotence to make a human perceptual system experience any demonstration of omnipotence you might care to suggest. So we might imagine God zipping you back to the dawn of creation so you can watch him summon all the galaxies into existence, then mold the earth and breathe life into the first humans, and so on. The trouble is that if you’re aiming for parsimony, the simpler explanation will almost certainly be that you’ve encountered a being capable of simulating all these experiences to your primate nervous system. That is, of course, a hell of a trick—a being who can do that is certainly pretty potent!—but still pretty far short of complete mastery over all space, time, and matter. Even assuming that problem away, the tests would be limited to those feats observable by (and comprehensible to) humans. Maybe God’s almost omnipotent little brother can do just about anything, but could never get the hang of performing a 12th-dimensional loop-de-loop with whoozits sprinkles, which isn’t even on our mental menu of stuff-a-really-awesome-entity-could-do

    Ned ends with this thought:

    ” So perhaps the only way to directly experience the existence of an omnipotent God is to be that God.”

    Actually, this strikes me as posing some parallel epistemic problems—as illustrated, by the by, in a delightful bit of short fiction from Robert Nozick. Suppose you’re God: How can you be sure you’re omnipotent? Perhaps you can accomplish anything you can imagine in your own corner of reality—a lucid dreamer can say that much—but there’s some greater reality you’re not even aware of in which, like the dreamer wakened, you’d have no such power. Or maybe even within reality as you know it, there are gaps in your power you aren’t aware of because you can’t even think of the relevant tests. The obvious response is that you’d know all these things because you’re omniscient—but of course, the same problem arises. How do you know you’re really omniscient? At most, there might not be any questions you’re aware of being unable to answer—but that’s hardly the same thing. The subjective feeling of omniscience might in fact be a symptom of a profound ignorance—being unaware even of the existence of those domains of knowledge you lack. How, for that matter, do you know the answers are right? This is a particularly thorny problem when combined with omnipotence: If reality is whatever you decide it is, does it even make sense to speak of true or false beliefs? Beliefs, after all, are supposed to be true or false of an independent reality.

    I am not, of course, a believer, but if I were, I’d prefer to imagine a deity occasionally plagued by these thoughts—an agnostic God who sometimes doubts Himself.

  34. Feroz Khan

    @ Vijay Goel (October 10, 2010 at 3:21 pm)

    Islam needs to be questioned and debated. There is a striking fear in the hearts of Pakistanis, which makes a coward out of all us when it comes to religion. We are too afraid, because we think, that if we question Islam and our religion, we will not gain entry into heaven.

    You are the only one, who spotted my comment on the nature of political Islam. I did notice that the Pakistanis are, and were, avoiding that comment and its implications and rather latched on to my examples of Marxism thus, once again as is their national habit; of ignoring the real issues and debating distractions. Pakistanis, despite all their rhetoric and it is rhetoric, are not willing to tackle monster of religion, which is spawning evil in their midst.

    I have noted this trepedation on PTH. There is a urge on PTH, and this is true of all Pakistanis, to limit the debate to the interpretations of Islam and not to challenge the religion itself. Unless the main body of Islam is challenged and dealt with by placing it on par with other ideologies in the political spectrum and understanding it within boundries of secular political ideas, Islam will continue to exploit its position of primacy and supremacy in the lives of the people and escape accountibility for its actions.

    Let me share a few blogs with you and show you my reservations on the possibility of change happening in Pakistan. T.S. Bokhari, in blog dated
    October 10, 2010 at 7:04, says that Pakistanis have been dehumanized by obscurantism and need to rehumanize. Then in another blog, dated October 10, 2010 at 8:53 am, says and I quote, “Divine guidance is the need of the hour.”

    See the problem!

    The only manner in which Pakistanis can rehumanize; that is re-discover their humanism is to place religion in its proper perspective and reject those views, easily identified as “divine” guidances, because it has been the divine guidances and their unquestioning acceptance, which has dehumanized Pakistan and Pakistanis.

    How do you intend to solve the problem? If you think the cure to a poison is more poison, then you will die! This is why Pakistan is dying. It thinks that in order to stop the menance of religion, it needs more religion and not less of it.

    A long time ago, Robert Graves wrote a book on his experiences in World War I as a British infantry officer titled as “A Goodbye to All That”. In that book, he called England a hopeless place and said that he had no interest in England or its people. Observing Pakistan and the Pakistanis from a distance, I am starting to understand and identify with what Graves wrote and meant.

    There is no hope for Pakistan and its people, because they are too afraid to change. Pakistan and its people remind of the Russian writer Gogol. Gogol committed suicide by straving himself to death and the Pakistanis in Pakistan are also committing suicide by chosing to remain wedded to an idea – religion – which is slowly killing them.

    ciao

  35. Vijay Goel

    @ Feroz Khan Sir ! Can you send me your e – mail id mine is vijaygoel@eth.net

  36. Perspective

    I cannot imagine a God so petty and spiteful that She will be angered by mortals debating her revelations. Like a small baby, one thinks one is the center of our mother’s universe! and we attach an unnatural cosmic significance to our doings in this small part of a small planet in one solar system of a billion in this galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion visible galaxies, in the few years of our lives, which are but a blink of the eye even in human history, let alone the chapter of the earth; and of the sun which is already of the third generation of stars in the universe that we have observed so far.

    What we do is of no significance but to ourselves. Even a few generations from now, we will be mostly forgotten, at most name in books, fading photographs, and video recorded on obsolete media. If that.

    One who fears cannot be said to believe in Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful. You are free to follow where your reason leads you, provided you allow as much for the fallibility of your own thought as that which you doubted in the first place.

  37. Feroz Khan

    @ Raza

    A well argued and salient article.

    ciao

  38. no communal

    @Feroz Khan

    “Once, it becomes self-evident that religion is not capable of providing all the answers and what it says does not mesh with the reality of the experience, then the thoughts of the people become more pre-occupied by the present (secular) world and how to live in it..”

    One word, excellent! Thoughts like these are nucleated in nodules. In a conservative society they will not spread like wild fire. But their power is infectious.

  39. Perspective

    Irony: Islamic reform begins an idiom applicable to Hindus. Feroz Khan wrote: My contribution to the debate is to break holy taboos and slaughter as many sacred bovines as possible….. That too, when the cows do not represent a problem of Hindu society; at most a nuisance.

    Perhaps the Islamic debate has to begin with an Islamic idiom. How about “shave as many beards as possible?”, “rip out your whiskers?” or “let people sleep late in the morning?”

  40. Perspective

    “Azan se azaadi”?

  41. T.S. Bokhari

    @Perspective

    “Azan se azaadi”?

    Yes, you have hit the nail on its head. The power of the Mullah lies in Holy Loudspeakers(LS) which adarn every mosque in dozen despite the fact that Dew-bunds edict signed by 50 jayyad ulema declares it to be a ‘bid’at’ (fornication in Islam). The Mullah never cared about it. A modern Ullema, Dr. Ghulam Mustafa, had declared its use in mosque as Haram and was found murdered a few days afterwards. Here is an ilog of mine on ‘chowk.com’ on the topic, as slightly edited:

    “The cult of the loud speaker.

    It is 4.20 AM and the mullahs have opened up their horrible loud speakers all around our house. Nothing could prevent the mullah from misusing this torture instrument: Neither the Fatwa of 50 Jayyad Ulema of Dew Bund who had declared LS as a ’Bidat’ (fornication) nor the law of the land (Mush’s Law) which tried to regulate its use. I recall Dr. Yunus who in one of his books puts a question “What is common between the cock and the mullah?” and he answers himself, “It is the love for the hen and the ’Baang’”. But, thank God, the cock does not use LS. The mullah’s LS says “Allah is great but come to my ’Masjid’ for ’Fallah’ when what he actually
    preaches is generally nothing but ’Fassaad”, as his Deen, according to Allama Iqbal, is ’Deen-e-Fassaad’.

  42. Saleem Qureshi

    Very thought provoking and enlightening topic and comments. So what is the remedy? In my view August 11, 1947 address of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, to the members of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, to the status of a national covenant. That it has
    ” You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State… We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State… I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in due course Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

  43. Bin Ismail

    @Saleem Qureshi (October 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm)

    You’ve nailed it. Very well said.

  44. moniems

    @Saleem Qureshi

    I agree too, but is it practicable?

    Retracing steps is not easy. We have gone too far on the wrong road.

    Any ideas about how we go about it, and how long it may take?

  45. T.S. Bokhari

    In my view the free use of the loudspeaker by the Mullah, especially when the religion has been sectarianized, is the root cause of all ‘fitna’ among muslim society.
    Even otherwise, the use of the LS is controlled by the civilized societies just to prevent inconvenience to the affectees of the noise and uncalled for broadcasts.

    Here I may tell an anecdote about my experience of the control of LS noise by the British society during my stay in London during early 90’s, attending a Jumma prayer in a house turned mosque.

    Not more than 50 namazies were huddled up in a small room for the prayer but the mullah considered it necessary to use a hand LS to deliver his long harangue. Since all the doors and windows were closed the atmosphere became choking after some time. So I asked a young man who was concerned with the administration of the prayer house to open a window to relieve choking. He said,” No Sir, this can’t be done as if the noise of the LS goes to the neighboring house they may complain about it to the Council and they may shut our prayer house for ever as a public nuisance”.

    Now another scenario of LS nuisance in Rehmanpura, Lahore. During early 60’s when I was there I used to offer Juma prayer, led by Moulana Amin Ahsan Islahi marhoom, in the central mosque of the locality. As the Moulana used to deliver his speech in a very low tone, the namazies who had difficulty in listening to his speech due to the noise created by the LS’s of the two mosques, one of the Barelvi muslak and the other of the Ehle Hadees, who used to indulge in open noisy munazirah on their high pitch Ls’s. One day a delegation of the central mosque went to request the Khateebs of those noisy mosques to keep their volume a bit low to let them here the speech of Islahi Sahib, but they totally refused to oblige and advised the delegation to make the volume of their LS’s highier to help them listen to the speech.

    Such is the nuisance created by the horrible LS for other mosques, what they do to the patients and the students and other people praying and studying in there houses can be well-imagined.

  46. Saleem Qureshi

    Moniems

    I agree that we have gone too far on wrong path. We have distorted Qaid’s vision for this country and there will be no respite unless we correct our and especially religious Ulmas (of all factions) concept of creation of Pakistan. There are the basics and cannot be compromised. We got to get back to the basics and there are no short cuts. President Zia’s era has added fuel to fire and has been a catalyst. We need to work on short term plan to slow down the process and long term plan which will slowly but surely get us back to basics. Regular and frequent meetings (monthly minimum) of ulmas from of all factions, and asking them to give measures to rectify situation. Frequent interaction has its effect and by the time it starts diminishing next meeting would refresh it again. Long term we should make Qaid’s vision part of our constitution and propagate as part of national campaign. More thought proving exercise on the subject can be fruitful.
    But such measures need stability in the country both economically and politically none of which is prevailing right now. We are a country of thugs, for thugs and run by thugs. The presence of good element is negligible hence insignificant. There are many other factors that are threatening our survival. I hope we get out of this in one piece.

  47. O J DEEN

    Narrated by Ahmed in his Musnad, from Al-Nu’man b. Bashir, who said: ‘The Messenger of Allah said ‘Prophethood will be amongst you whatever Allah wishes it to be, then He will lift it up if He wished to lift it up. Then there will be a
    There will be a Khilafah !!!!
    @@@@@@@@@@@
    Khilafah on the way of the Prophet, and it will be whatever Allah wishes it to be, then He will lift it up if Allah wished to lift it up. Then there will be an inheritance rule, and it will be whatever Allah wishes it to be, then He will lift it up if He wished to lift it up. Then there will be a coercive rule, and it will be whatever Allah wishes it to be, then He will lift it up if He wished to lift it up. Then there will be a Khilafah on the way of Prophethood.’ Then he was silent.”