Civilian Execution to Inquisition

Just as echoes of a debate die down, facts surfaced which leaves our optic nerves unscathed but offends our moral sensibilities, injures our memory, disgusts our imagination and calls for action. The debate I refer to concerns how much effort Nigerians put in activism towards the Nigerian struggle, when much needed zeal is expended to the Palestinian struggle. The facts that surfaced is a gruesome footage reported by amnesty international which shows the atrocities (war crimes) of Nigerian military and Civilian JTF (which is a “State sponsored militia”). The relevance of the facts to the debate is that some Nigerians seem to be doing their part in documenting the ongoings of this unfortunate situation even if not enough according to some standards, for instance the brave soul that recorded the video and shared it, or the brave souls that forwarded what was recorded for sadistic exploits. Amnesty International depends on many of such Nigerians to gather their reports. I guess when you are the primary target of both Military and Boko Haram, you can’t but take it personal.

“When you fit the profile of a predator’s prey, you can’t help but to take the crimes personally” Amalia Ortiz

I recall an earlier report by Amnesty International in 2012 “Nigeria Trapped in the Cycle of Violence“, which depended a lot on such testimonies from Nigerians on ground. Having heard too many gruesome/unsettling stories on atrocities committed by both sides of the militia, it was a relief to have it reported by Amnesty International, whose voices matters more than the thousands of Nigerians. Perhaps that is why we must leverage on them. The Nigeria Police at the time responded to the report basically rejecting what we hoped was the gap filled by Amnesty International; which is credibility. Their argument was along the lines of: since Amnesty International gets its information from the same Nigerians (whom we refuse to take seriously), therefore we should not take the report seriously. Seriously?! They embarked on investigating the (written) report rather than the events reported. I was fumed with angered at hearing that fallacy of equivocation from the Nigeria Police, to dismiss the claims when it was common knowledge at least to those in the North East, meaning the fear was real. So angered, I wrote a Spoken Word Poem to that effect titled after the JTF as Green Demons of Death.

The intention is not to distract that ongoing debate but to give a background, because context matters. The dismissive attitude of security authorities leaves the psyche of the Nigerian destabilized because either they don’t care or we don’t know what they know even though we are to tell them what they should know.

No buildings, roads or other infrastructure can be seen in the video but the noise of cars confirms that it is near a road. Several of the armed captors are wearing military uniforms, one of which has the words “Borno State Operation Flush” emblazoned on the front. The ID number on one of the guns is also clearly identifiable (81BN/SP/407). According to military sources, the rifle belongs to the Support Company of the 81 Battalion and it has not been reported missing. – Amnesty International Secretary General

As to the latest report by Amnesty International, the response came from the Nigerian Military, and theirs was a more diplomatic “we shall investigate the allegations”; saner than the police two years ago. Notwithstanding, the Military has not yet decided to conclude its investigation on an assault reported some weeks earlier on the Shi’a Community during an annual procession, leading to the death of at least 12 civilians including 3 sons of the Shi’a leader, and 40 others injured. Nonetheless certain level of depravity is not unexpected, because war in the modern sense is but depravity amplified by technology. The result is security authorities are quick to turn rebellions and terrorist attacks into total wars; where combatants and non-combatants are not separated. Their license to kill is not only technological, it has its roots in the intellectual.

“Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from a defeat.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Some days ago, or weeks ago, more took place but nothing was put down, as is often the case; no documentation. It was heard, by me, and many others who knew someone in Yobe State. The epistemilogical status of the incident is that of oral traditions (of folklore). Accurate or not, the government would not act on it, even though the story may stir the emotions of those in Yobe. The story goes:

A young girl covered in a particular type of Muslim female covering concealed a bomb but had to cross the street to get to her target. She was dropped from a car driven by another man, who is her overseer. In the course of crossing the street she nearly got involved in an accident which caused a bit of commotion and attention fell on her. She seized that opportunity to expose the ploy, after her overseer had come out of his car to see her through the mission. She shouted that he is going to kill her, and a lynch mob soon wrapped their heads around what she meant. They killed the man and the girl is saved. This is how the story was told.

The story, and similar accounts, inspired me write a Spoken Word Poem telling the story above.

I wasn’t sorry for the field mastermind who was killed by the mob, I wasn’t especially happy that lives were saved because to do that would be to lower our expectations for preservation of life, I was interested in the evidence; who was the man, the girl and how they fit in relation to the source of terror. The girls are remoured to be among those captured by Boko Haram (which would include Chibok girls among others) but there is at least one known case of a male impostor. As evidence, the girl is not so interesting because she seems to be a victim herself, but the man is interesting because we expect him to know something about his conviction and how that translates to his allegiance to this terror. Unfortunately he was contaminated, he was exterminated. We have been protected. But are we, when we know so little about the enemy (or enemies)?

Mob killing is an incident that would be of interest for documentation, but it hardly makes progress unless we concede that avoiding retrogression progress. To solve the problem, locating the source of the problem is crucial. A phantom enemy who today is Boko Haram, and tomorrow is a non-Muslim, is utterly destabilizing and misleading. To kill attackers and foil attacks is to deal with symptoms that were fortunately discovered in good time, it does not solve the problem. In the case of lynch mobs, why aren’t they reasonable enough to capture these people and hand them to authorities? If they were reasonable, they wouldn’t be a mob. They might not have handed to authorities, but from past incidents we know what happens to those that have been apprehended by the authorities, or at least we know what did not happen to them. Perhaps someone in the government forgot that information is itself security, and the lack of it is not only insecurity, but a threat actually. No wonder we have conspiracy theories that explain the situation so perfectly. I don’t have the details of the conspiracy theory but below is a prototype of it:

Mr A was captured as the bomber of a Church
Miss B was captured as the bomber of Church
Mr C was captured as the failed bomber of Mr X
Mr D was identified after he successfully detonated himself with a bomb
It has been reported that military helicopters supply “Boko Haram”
Mr A is a Muslim of North origin, from Boko Haram
Miss B is a non-Muslim of South origin, not from Boko Haram
Mr C is a non-Muslim of South origin, not from Boko Haram
Mr D is a Muslim of North origin, a militiant, but unlikely from Boko Haraam
We only hear about Mr A and Mr D as Boko Haram from the State Security
We don’t hear anything about Mrs B and Mr C, we don’t know about their whereabouts

As critical as one is about conspiracy theories, one has to sometimes suppress the urge to believe the conspiracy theory which is so coherent especially in absence of a more convincing alternative. When alternatives lack coherence with fact, conspiracy theories seem as elegant as scientific theories; and the scientific thing to do is embrace explanations that best explains facts. See how elegantly the axioms are posited, how they connect chronologically capturing the tides of history, and how sneaky the conclusion presents itself even without stating… All this intellectual perversion because we know better/more.

It is not difficult to see the goverment’s complicit hand in sustaining this mess. Why else was it so easy to beileve the former governor of Adamawa state who alleged government’s passive collusion. Talk about passive aggressive. This is coming from a retired Military Admiral who is in a good position to estimate what the military can do, and can’t do, and what it could allow to occur unfettered. Whatever the truth of this, his career adorns him with that authority to speak on such matters, and be believed. There is just so much we don’t know, so we seek the best available explanation that takes into account the known facts.

My interest on the human evidence sparked a radical idea, though lacking novelty, on the situation. I am having increasing appeal towards the idea of having Civilians protect themselves from both insurgents and security authorities. Hail Nigeria where a household is its own government as it is proudly said; generating its own electricity, pumping its own water from the subterranean, and protecting oneself. In other words, the idea of Civilian JTF appealed to my Nigerian. Our instinct to survive aligns with our Nigerian-ness.

Unfortunately the Civilian JTF are not any better than the JTF since their defense tactic is as offensive and criminal. What we hoped for was that what Civilian JTF lacked in skill, they would compensate in ethics. Unfortunately no. The Civilian JTF is no different from a lynching mob, except that they are drunk in the audacity and arrogance typical of the military, in addition to government support.

In light of the contamination of human evidences by lynching mobs, the failure of the government to protect, the success of JTF and Civilian JTF in committing war crimes, and the acceptance of the idea of a civilian militia (Civilian JTF) in the psyche of Nigeria, I propose civilian interrogators! This would be a group of civilians with some training in the art of interrogation, perhaps commensurate to Civilian JTF in armed engagement, who have the credibility to interfere between the lynch mobs and human evidences. The Civilian Interrogators could also work with Civilian JTF if that is possible. Yes at this point I must say torture may not be avoidable…

Some of the values of having a Civilian Interrogators is that they would have the skill to reasonably separate the rightly accused from the wrongly accused. The Civilian Interrogators would require some basic interrogation skills not so much for a humane approach but so that their method would have credibility to those who might use the intel gathered. Other benefits of Civilian Interrogators would be… who cares?! This is not a pretty idea I am trying to sell, which is why there’s no powerpoint presentation, no beautifully bound companion proposal, just an ugly alternative to a hideous situation. Perhaps when the mob has Intel, things would change, for better or worse… It sure isn’t getting better.

Eventually this could lead to an Open Source community of Intel gathering where civilians could answer the question of who are the belligerents (in addition to the scape goat Boko Haram) in the country. A modest expectation is to answer that question within smaller geographic boundaries. Sift the opportunist criminals from the organized criminals from those who profit from manipulating these two groups. From Execution to Inquisition.

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What Makes Muslims Tick 4 – Manufacturing Motivation

Imagine you have been tasked with persuading Muslims to commit to a cause. Any cause. Assume you have been given free rein to cook up your motivational speech (and narrative) so that you have at your disposal all the scriptural motivations to select from as specimen. In your lab, you are a scientist. No, you are an artist. Now prove yourself a bonifide motivation artist and get as many Muslims to commit to your new cause for the longest period (a lifetime if possible) with the most dedication. If you are not sure where to begin, consider followers of some real reigning Muslims political or charity or advocacy (Da’wah) groups, then inspect the scriptural motivations behind their convictions. Now it is not so difficult is it? The trick is that the scriptural motivations may not be apparent, you might have to tease them out of chatter.

Ideologies often conceal scriptural motivations behind veils of inspiring narratives. For instance you might hear so much about how a certain Muslim group struggle to implement Shariah law (which is perfection or scary depending on the narrative you get), or the Muslim group who are quick to respond to charitable causes perhaps due to their universal concept of fraternity, or the proselytizing Muslim group that never tires from preaching regardless of rejection. But you hear very little about the Qur’an verses and traditions of the Prophet that promise rewards for these acts or praise these acts as noble, especially if you are non-Muslim (the only exception being 72 “virgins” which probably says more about those fixating on it than the militants it is attributed to).

No matter the obvious paradoxes, many abhor tribal representation of their struggles even if the discerning mind observes the contrary, especially among the political struggles. This is because the scripture frowns at any form of tribalism, racism and their derivatives. In cases where the struggle has tribalism written all over it, solace is found in having scriptural motivations (text) that one could always fall back on, in order to convince the self, or to create an uncontradictory reality. Having a scriptural motivation is very important then because it doesn’t only motivate, it legitimizes.

What would be the ultimate Muslim scriptural motivation? Well, it will largely depend on the targets of the scriptural motivation; the popular-Salafi or the popular-Sufi, which approximate the Salafi inclined and the Sufi inclined respectively. Based on common knowledge, and the previous posts, we can (mentally) correlate a target to a cause; popular-Salafis are more responsive to political radicalism whereas popular-Sufis are more responsive to charities. So to answer the question: scriptural motivations of reward and punishment (and threats of apostasy) would be more effective in political causes, while scriptural motivations of duty and pleasing God would be more effective in (sustainable) charity causes.

Scala Man - Bundled

It then is no wonder that many of the flourishing/reigning Muslim political causes have scriptural motivations of reward, punishment and Kufr behind their narrative of victimization. Thus instead of calling to establishing justice, it is the reward of fighting against “oppressors”. Instead of calling for decency in conduct, it is the fear of punishment (through natural disasters) that would engulf a nation that tolerates lewd acts. Instead of challenging a (governing or banking) system for its inadequacy and social harms (sins), it is Kufr-accusations that come with participating in those systems. Of course, in all the examples it is more a matter of emphasis rather than omission i.e. other motivations may be present but it is dominated by reward, punishment and Kufr.

Certainly Muslims have too much respect for scripture to fabricate its content in this day and age. Therefore all the scriptural motivations are validly used, and shouldn’t be an issue if used because it is then simply a matter of choice to use motivations of rewards and punishment or not. So it may seem, at first. There are two immediate implications. First, Muslims perform actions of religious importance according to the logic of the Calculating Self, which we saw is similar to the Atheistic conceptions of Muslims. Second, Islamic jurisprudence could be manipulated to extract a (legal) scriptural motivation which Muslims will feel obliged to uphold; it is a powerful tool to be able to convince a person that your cause is an obligation on them by God Himself. The first implication is self-explained, the second issue requires elucidation to understand how Islamic Jurisprudence can be used to arrive at scriptural motivations. How is this achieved?

The main tool here is interpretation (hermeneutics). A qualified Islamic jurist (Mujtahid) has the permission (Ijaza) to interpret scriptures, and following accepted methods, to arrive at juristic rulings that can be shared with the public i.e. when confronted with an issue, he/she could dive into texts guided by known methods then arrive at the legal ruling on the issue. From then on, he/she is to use the outcome of that research and he/she can proclaim it for others to follow if they care to. If another qualified jurist has tackled the same issue but arrived at a different juristic ruling, then the public (Muslims) is allowed to choose among the rulings. By virtue of this accommodation of Islamic jurisprudence, two Muslims could have different legal regard for the same issue.

Jurist Mind to Motivation

 

Scriptural motivations are bound to legal outcome, and legal outcome is strongly affected by the mind frame of the jurist especially when the jurist begins investigation (Ijtihad) already convinced of the outcome they want. This is what I call Manufacturing (Scriptural) Motivations (borrowing from Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent). Importance of the jurist’s mind frame cannot be dismissed. The proper mind frame of a jurist should be one which seeks illumination in scripture and trusts the methodology will yield legal rulings minimally affected by the jurist’s pre-convictions (and whims). If a jurist dives into the scriptures seeking legal grounds to support a cause they already have conviction for, then they are bound to find one, albeit the jurisprudential and hermeneutic gymnastics involved. Factors that could affect the mind of the jurist include political climate and simple personal relationships. The Qur’an is aware of this tendency for a mind’s state to affect the legal implication of an act when it reminds us to “let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.”

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (Qura’n 5:8 – Yusuf Ali)

Muslims know to uphold the principle of not having our desires steer our actions especially when we seek God’s assistance. This is Muslim common-sense. It is reflected a popular prayer for guidance in making (difficult) life choices; Salat al Istikhara. When a jurist opens the scriptures to seek guidance on a matter, are they not seeking God’s guidance like every other Muslim raising their hands, albeit intellectually? It should be no surprise then that in the past, and still persisting, jurists having the wrong mind frame by having pre-conviction on matters have reached legal positions to support sectarian and ideological biases. This is what Sectarian convictions are built upon! The paradox is when two jurists arrive at drastically opposing legal judgments using the same scriptures since they are both Muslims. How could that be? One has to give in or there is problem somewhere. Orthodoxy, which is a process of consensus across time and space, has helped to give perspective to some of these issues but not all. We can safely say that for most ideological Muslim groups, orthodoxy has dealt (and can deal) with new stuff they are coming up with. [This is what I call the Argument from Orthodoxy]

True, many Muslims claim Qalallahu wa Qalarrasul, meaning they only act if presented with scripture in the form of what God said (Qur’an) or what the Prophet said (Hadith). Unfortunately many lack the methodology to approach these texts yet they dive into it. Emphasis on scripture over methodology has lead to every Aisha , Ahmad and Fatima to deduce a legal ruling by simply being able to read the scripture, while casting an illusion of intellectual rigour, which is why many fall for these rulings… resulting in absurd conclusions… or preconceived conclusions. – Just Digressing

Yet we have Muslim political groups that have extracted all sorts of scriptural-legal motivations (cooked for the appetite of the Calculating Self), with a biased mind frame. Then these groups disregard the choice Muslims to have different legal opinion on the matter by imposing their skewed legal outcomes (which may not even be arrived at in the most straight forward way). Pick a couple of Muslim political movements, inquire about their scriptural motivations, you will be sure to find some Haram, Fard and Kufr, emphatically denying Muslims choice on the matter when there are, in addition to serving as motivation. Why? Because they said so… but of course they are smarter than to say that so they’ll say instead: because the scripture says so. As if that is all the scripture has to say. A word of caution is when certain powerful words are used in vain; in trying to persuade they say their interpretations of the scripture is clear-cut, or the technical word Qat’i. This is not the place to discuss what Qat’i actually is but it suffice to note that it is often used in vain.

Legal Manifestations of Scriptural Motivations to Different Levels of Muslims

 

At the heart of all this need to Manufacture Motivation is a logical fallacy I call the FarD Fallacy. I hope Muslim political groups could learn from this. Just because something feels right, it doesn’t mean it has to be FarD (obligation), nor does doing the opposite of it has to be Haraam (prohibited) or Kufr (rejection of Divine truth). Good ideas can be good ideas even without being FarD. Good ideas may not have a ready scriptural motivation beyond recommendation (MustaHabb) or abhorrence (Makruuh) . Good political ideas may even have a scriptural motivation to the Lofty Self not just Calculating Self; doing it satisfies a sense of duty, a more meaningful life, closeness to the Divine, but it doesn’t have to be an obligation, nor its opposite prohibited!

This is a good time to ask important questions about Muslim Political movements and the Manufacture of Motivations, keeping out an eye for FarD Fallacies. With Israel’s injustice ongoing, passively supported by world oligarchy, unimpeded by world wide protests, how are Muslims motivated to be active against it? (This is not to discount non-Muslim support but to focus on the subject of the post). Do Muslims need scriptural motivations? No, Twitter and Facebook seem to suffice. How are these scriptural motivations shaped by our biases against Israel (for some Israel = Jews, which is wrong). I actually feel there are scriptural motivations against these injustices, tons actually, but from where I am standing it seems to evoke a sense of duty to protest rather than fear of hellish punishment if I don’t. But I am not a jurist. Do we even need a jurist to motivate us in such cases when the Lofty Self concurs?

 

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PS: After writing this series of posts which is more argumentative than empirical, and fortunately, I came across an actual study by Michael Hoffman and Amaney Jamal of Princeton University which investigated if personal reading of scripture (Qur’an) can be associated with motivating people to participate in political protest. It turns out it vindicates my argument! This is their conclusion:

Qur’an reading, not mosque attendance, is robustly associated with a considerable increase in the likelihood of participating in protest. Furthermore, this relationship is not simply a function of support for political Islam. Evidence suggests that motivation mechanisms rather than political resources are the reason behind this result.

Quran reading moitvation study

See the link above for more detail on the study.

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What Makes Muslims Tick 3 – Two Sides of the Same Coin

“[Qur'an]… phrases and snippets taken out of context… is the one favored by both Muslim fundamentalists and anti-Muslims – Islamophobes” – Lesley Hazleton

Before divulging the secret formula to the ultimate motivation to Muslims, it is important to highlight an irony. Ironies I find have the power to communicate to that faculty in us that is proud and surprisingly rational because it abhors contradictions, with a pinch of disgust towards one side of the comparison. For instance the Islamophobe (Muslim haters) who sees the truth in the quote above (by Lesley Hazleton), would dissociate themselves from cherry picking verses of the Qur’an that serve their agenda because God knows they don’t like to be like the Moozlims, let alone the fundamentalists! Similarly it would apply to the fundametalist who sees the truth in this. There is a similar irony I wish to point out here. It is important to first recap the previous two parts of this series briefly.

In the first post, we abstracted the different levels of Man which forms the framework we use for the entirety of this series. We identified the fields of knowledge that have access to the different levels of Man. Psychology was noted as quite malleable/fluid between two levels (Animal Self and Calculating Self), in addition to the epistemic problems of moving between Animal Self and Lofty Self. In the second post, we categorized scriptural motivations in to two based on the level of Man addressed: to the Calculating Self, and to the Lofty Self. The Calculating Self pursues rewards and evades punishment, while the Lofty Self seeks closeness to the Divine through meaning and a sense of duty, hence the Lofty self is tightly related to Fitrah (natural disposition of Man towards the Divine and all that is good).

Scala Man - Motivations

Now, to the fluidity of Psychology as a discipline. Psychology being an infant Science, relative to natural sciences, faces the least problems when dealing between the Animal Self and the Calculating Self. Advancement in Psychology has lead to sprouting of specialized field such as Behavioral Psychology which has impact in many fields as Economics, Governance, History, etc. Psychology is able to achieve this without losing much of its identity. However when Psychology tries to deal between the Calculating Self and the Lofty Self, it often loses a part of its identity by taking a more philosophical character, lest it ends up in the familiar epistemic problems. Compounding to the issue is that many Empiricist Scientists who had access to the Lofty Self but with problems, now try to hijack Psychology because it is close enough to their knowledge field, then use it to make claims about the Lofty Self. For instance when they realized it is problematic to make the claim because “Mr A has large veins, he is therefore very compassionate'”, they can use Psychology to modify the statement to something like “because the immediate family of Mr A encourage compassion, he is therefore very compassionate”. This is how the Empiricist Scientists (Animal Self) meddles with Psychology (Calculating Self) to reach conclusion about the Lofty Self.

Empiricist Scientist ***meddles*with*** Psychology ===which=leads=to===> Empiricist Psychologist

The effect of meddling produces a new breed which is the Empiricist Psychologist, which can be broadly placed in two groups. The first group keep on repeating the same epistemic problems as their ancestors (Empiricist Scientists) only this time with some slant in Psychology (the likes of Richard Dawkins come to mind); this group deny the existence of the Lofty Self and it is by delusional dysfunction of the brain that theists claim to have “religious experience”. The second group is the more innovative one who approach the problem with a new “eye” by claiming that the Lofty Self exists but only as a phantom projection by the Animal Self (Jonathan Haidt and his Elephant and Rider Metaphor). Therefore people have “genuine” religious experience but it is simply an extension of the Animal Self. Majority of the Empiricist Psychologist are still in the first group and paying attention to them any longer may rob the reader of some their intellect; the interesting ones are the second group.

Scala Man - Knowldege

There are actually only two levels of man in reality even though Man experiences three levels, this is the claim of the second group. By extension, art and philosophy is explainable by Natural Science! This maneuver is actually genius. There is no longer any need to jump from the Animal Self, skipping the Calculating Self, into the Lofty Self; they are one and the same! In a nutshell, the second group of Empiricist Psychologists (Jonathan Haidt in particular) claim that what people call religious (and communal, and love…) experiences are merely phenomena that can be explained in the language of the Animal Self; i.e. we could open up a brain and observe it. In this view the Animal Self is actually the one in control of the Calculating Self, so much that it gives the latter the illusion of being in control. At the core of the Animal Self is a reward system in the brain which secretes *happy hormones* like Dopamine and Serotonin to reinforce/encourage communal rapport or “religious experience”, because they claim it is actually an evolutionary adaptation for survival. How? because the Animal Self has evolved to understand that having a community at peace, and an illusory God who regulates life, are all ways that evolutionary survival is secured! In summary, the brain rewards a person to be benevolent and “religious”, and that is why we are benevolent and religious. Did I mention Empiricist Psychologists are the prophets of Empiricist Atheists?

“In economics, homo economicus, or economic human, is the concept in many economic theories of humans as rational and narrowly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments toward their subjectively defined ends. Using these rational assessments, homo economicus attempts to maximize utility as a consumer and economic profit as a producer.[1] This theory stands in contrast to the concept of homo reciprocans, which states that human beings are primarily motivated by the desire to be cooperative and to improve their environment.” – Wikipedia

Now we move back to scriptural motivations we discussed in the second post of this series. Scriptural motivations to the Calculating Self we found appear to be working on the mechanism of reward AND punishment. Here is the Irony. The popular-Salafi (Hasanat Arithmetician) has much in common with the Empiricist Atheist in their understanding of what motivates a Muslim. Both can have their idea of religion mostly, if not completely, explained in the two lower levels of the Man (Animal Self and Calculating Self) by using the same mechanism of reward and punishment. Reward for the Empiricist Atheist can be reduced to brain secretion and evolutionary instincts, whereas reward for the popular-Salafi can be reduced to the ideal rational economic agent (homo-economicus). The only difference between the rational economic agent in micro-economics textbook and the popular-Salafi is simply the scope; the former concerns with the life of this world while the latter concerns both life of this world and the next world.

“The reduction of Islam to a system of reward and punishment is favored by both popular-Salafis and the Empiricist Atheists” – Winston Churchill ;)

I hope both groups (Empiricist Atheists and popular-Salafis) see the irony in the statement above and they improve their conceptions of religious motivation out of reason, or at least out of disgust for the other group.

The point has been made, the digression will then cease. Next post, we return to the formulas for motivating Muslims. In search of the ultimate Muslim motivational recipe.

 

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What Makes Muslims Tick 2 – Two Scriptural Motivations

Before delving into the abstraction of Man into the three Selves in the first post, we claimed that there are two major types of scriptural motivation to Muslims that are directed at the Calculating Self and to the Lofty Self accordingly. The Calculating Self plans and strategizes, and so responds to motivations from scripture that better allow it to plan and strategize for the future. On a different level, the Lofty Self seeks meaning and so responds to motivations that opens up new meanings especially with regards to relationship to God. Meanings can be found in a sense of duty and seeking the Divine.
Scala Man - Motivations
All scripture (Qur’an and Sunnah) that promises reward or punishment is directed at the Calculating Self. This allows Man to weigh the gains, risks and the losses they might benefit from (or despair in) before committing an act. Another characteristic of these motivations is that the rewards and punishment are often expressed in vivid imagery or palpable quantity e.g. scripture mentioning the comfortable and rich scene of paradise or mentioning the number of rewards or punishment allotted to an act. In other words, appealing to the senses and the mind. The Calculating Self shows itself in the most common ways: when Man refuses to cheat in commercial transaction given the opportunity and would like to, but then remembers the Qur’an verses that curses the cheat (Al-MuTaffifiin); when Man overcomes laziness in order to get to the Mosque for a congregation prayer because they know the Sunnah that announces 27 times the reward of praying without congregation (Riyad us Salihin 191); when Man recites the Qur’an because every letter uttered is 10 units of reward (in Tirmidhi). These are basic forms of scriptural motivation to the Calculating Self.
Woe to those that deal in fraud,- Those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, But when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account?- On a Mighty Day, A Day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds? (Qur’an 83:1-6)
Motivation to the Calculating Self has legal manifestation in the form of Ahkam (legal doctrines or juristic rulings). The most obvious one is Haraam (prohibited). That favorite word of Muslims today. A Haraam ruling would apply to actions which scripture promises punishment. The other ruling is FarD (obligatory); FarD would apply to scripture-ordained acts that incur punishment when not done. So FarD is also about punishment. The ultimate of motivations is therefore Kufr (apostasy) which is closely tied to Shirk (renown the only unforgivable sin in Islam). You can see that the legal manifestations of scriptural motivations to the Calculating Self are weighted on punishment.
Legal Manifestations of Scriptural Motivations to Different Levels of Muslims
The second type of scriptural motivation is directed at the Lofty Self which seeks meaning and lofty aspirations. This stirs up a sense of love for God and creation, a sense of duty towards God and Creation, and what may be called “religious experiences” ranging from communal belonging to servitude towards God to transcendental aspirations. Examples of this motivation in effect is: when Man refuses to cheat a customer because of a sense of responsibility to uphold justice even at one’s disadvantage, and God will be displeased (Qur’an 5:8); when Man goes to congregation prayer because scripture praises the communal presence of men and angels, and it pleases God (Al-Bukhari 555 and Muslim 632); when Man recites the Qur’an because scripture mentions the company of the angels that gather during recitation, and it pleases God (Muslim 1742). This second motivation (to Lofty Self) can rely less on scripture, in comparison to motivation for the Calculating Self, because it is in tune with Man’s Fitrah; Fitrah is the “natural” transcendental disposition of Man towards the Divine and what is good.
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (Qura’n 5:8 – Yusuf Ali)
This also has legal manifestations in the form of enjoining the legal rulings of MustaHabb (recommended, superogatory), MubaaH (neutral) and avoiding the legal ruling of Makruuh (disliked). In its loftiest manifestation, it refers to being in the presence and company of God, the Divine. Between the legal manifestations of the two types of scriptural motivations, we have mentioned FarD, Haraam, MustaHabb, MubaaH and Makruuh, but we haven’t mentioned Halaal! Well it is because Halal is neither a legal ruling nor a motivation in itself. In fact, the best definition of Halaal is that which is not Haraam. Remember  in the first post of this series, we mentioned that Halal is the default position of all (non ritual) actions in Islamic Jurisprudence. Notice that the legal manifestations of scriptural motivations to Lofty Self emphasize pleasing God; whereas for the Calculating Self they are emphasis is on punishment.
Emphasis on one of the two motivations has lead to two groups of Muslims. The group that focuses on the Calculating Self is embodied in the popular-Salafi Muslims. An extreme offshoot of this can be seen in that line that is the favorite of Islamophobes which is that the reward for suicide bombing is 72 virgins. In its mild form, we see what I call Hasanat Arithmetic (Hasanat is the unit of heavenly rewards). Hasanat Arithmetic comes with a psychological complex where a person is always calculating how much Hasanat they have amassed, forever fixating on the heavenly scale where salvation depends on one’s rewards outweighing sins. Implicit in this is a subtle arrogance in the form of that sense of entitlement to rewards that one worked for so that on Judgement Day when one is called to account, the Hasanat Arithmeticians can keep account! There’s more to say about Hasanat Arithmetic but it deserves its own post.
Here is a website which has calculated Hasanat worth of many chapters of the Qur’an, just so you know how much you are worth when you recite that chapter. Unbelievable, but true.
“O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
And if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
Grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”
- Rabi’ah al Adawaiyya
The second group of Muslims focus on the Lofty Self. This is embodied in popular-Sufi movements. The extreme case was enacted by Sufi saint Rabi’ah al Adawiyya in her controversial supplication (see above). In a sense Rabi’ah al Adawiyya is revolting against motivation of the Calculating Self. No wonder popular-Sufis and popular-Salafis don’t get along. To see this type of motivation to Lofty Self at work, we look to groups that display a sense of duty and compassion to the society in service to pleasure of God, without the rhetoric of Hasanat Arithmetic. Even fringe groups with Sufi-Muslim influence like the Ahmadiyya appear to be very active in charity in the society, I’ve been told.
So, what motivates a Muslim? Scripture and Fitrah among other things. What motivates a Muslim exclusively? (Islam’s) Scripture. Scripture motivates to two levels of Man; the Calculating Self and the Lofty Self. Knowing this, if I were given a mandate to move Muslims into action, what is the ultimate recipe to animate? (*feeling like the archetypal evil scientist*). What formulas can I deduce from “successful” popular Muslim movements? How can I use this knowledge to motivate (or manipulate) Muslims. Stay tuned to the series.

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What Makes Muslims Tick 1 – The Three Selves

Why do we do what we do? Such a profound question. Equally meaningless, without the most illuminating philosophical answer. Aphorisms tremble at the sight of this question. While awaiting heavenly assistance on the ultimate answer (like Physic’s Unified Field Theory) that explains all of man’s actions, I shall settle for toning down the profundity of the question to what has been occupying my mind recently: What motivates Muslims to act? For a Muslim, Islam is not simply a religion in the common sense of the word, it is Deen, a way of life with a worldview (Weltanschauung) that affects most, if not all their actions. Well that is what a Muslim ought to be because I suspect empirical account of lives of many Muslims may make my words empty.
In light of the ongoing destruction and killings of Palestinians by Israel, with Muslims and non-Muslims angered at the injustice of it all, we find Muslims unified and motivated to put an end to this continuation of great injustice. The graphic pictures and stark statistics may have help motivated Muslims and non-Muslims. God knows that is motivation enough, but how long before many take a radical approach toward Israel if the protests are directed to governments that are impotent to Israel… if many haven’t already. How many armed volunteers to the Baghdaadi “Khilaafah” will divert their resources to a more urgent cause? If they do, how will be sustained in the long term? How many political and militant groups have been formed mainly on account of Israeli oppression, and how is justified beyond the narratives we hear about?
Islam being a revealed religion gives primacy to scripture in all matters; including the way of life of Muslim. This legacy is palpable in the celebrated slogan of some Muslims (especially of the Salafi inclination) Qalallahu wa Qalarrasul, meaning they only act if presented with scripture in the form of what God said (Qur’an) or what the Prophet said (Hadith). In fact, the reason why Muslims don’t consult the scripture for every action (like breathing and walking) is because a of a legal (and moral) maxim deduced from the scripture which says: all actions are permissible except when indicated otherwise. This is why the default ruling on all actions is permissibility unless indicated otherwise. Given the primacy of scripture, we can identify two major sources of motivation for actions of Muslims, which are from the Scripture. The first is motivation to the Calculating Self, the second is motivation to the Lofty Self. To make this clearer, let us abstract what makes a human being.
I would like to emphasize here that the principle of natural permissibility is not only limited to things and objects but also includes all human actions and behavior not related to acts of worship, which may be termed living habits or day-to-day affairs. Here again, the principle is that these are allowed without restriction, with the exception of a small number of things which are definitely prohibited by the Law-Giver, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, Who says: …He (Allah) has explained to you what He has made haram for you…. (6:119) including both objects and actions. – The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam by Yusuf Al Qaradawi
Man can be said to be made up of three selves. In order of increasing nobility they are: the Animal Self, the Calculating Self, and the Lofty Self. These are my terms, they might have been used elsewhere, but this is the best description I could come up with at the moment.
Scala Man
The Animal Self is that which is driven by animal instincts. The Animal Self feels hunger, sexual desire, fear, anger, carnal pleasures, etc. The Animal Self lives in the present. The Calculating Self is that which calculates and strategizes, having a considerable control over the Animal Self. The Calculating Self lives in the past and in the future: learning from the past and planning for the future; or getting stuck in the past and anxious about the future. The Lofty Self is that which seeks meaning, through which the Divine is sought. The Lofty Self lives not in the past, present or future but beyond the realm of time; where the Divine can be sought, where art can be understood, where convictions can be made, where Sufis get frustrated trying to explain… Let us consider the different selves to be on different levels such that Animal Self is at the bottom, then Calculating Self, and Lofty Self at the top.
Scala Man - Progression
Several fields of knowledge have developed to better understand these states of man, or at least to interact with these states. Empirical (Natural) Science especially biological sciences investigates the Animal Self. Social Sciences like history and economics investigate the Calculating Self. Disciplines like Psychology try to combine studying the Animal Self together with the Calculating Self. Art and Philosophy (including Theology) are the fields of knowledge we rely on to have access to the Lofty Self. Each knowledge field has a methodology that suites the state of Man it investigates which for some is being perfected with time e.g. Empirical Scientific method of observations leading to hypothesis and laws suits Biological sciences which would include some Chemistry, whereas Historiography is reliable in forming History etc.
Scala Man - Knowldege
Advancement in each of these fields has blurred the lines that used to limit these fields of knowledge within the levels of Man they investigate or interact with. People now start investigation in one level of Man then in a stunning feat, they come out at other levels like the head of a mole in whack-a-mole. This would be an awesome breakthrough in the knowledge of Man if the conclusions they reach is verified true according to the methodology that interacts best with that level they “come out of”. Ok, I have a feeling that didn’t make sense, so go through the sentence again or see the examples below.
The most common example today is when  the self celebrating New Atheists coming from the background (knowledge field) of Empirical Science investigating the Animal Self, then they reach conclusions about the Lofty Self e.g. due to his large veins and arteries, Mr A is very compassionate. Whaaaaaat?! Another is when Empirical Science reaches conclusion about the Calculating Self. Actually there is a closer link between the two (Animal Self and Calculating Self), so the conclusions are not always problematic (epistemically). Due to the closeness, it is not difficult to see how the psychologist or economist could begin investigating the Calculating Self, then reach conclusion about the Lofty Self e.g. a statement like in the drive to maximize profit, Mr B became greedy. These closely linked interactions between knowledge fields in adjacent levels is not very problematic. It seems the most problematic one is jumping between the Animal Self to the Lofty Self.
Unfortunately the reverse is also the case. We have some “experts” beginning investigations from the Lofty Self and then reaching Empirically-Scientific statements about the Animal Self e.g. Mr A is very compassionate, therefore his veins and arteries are large. No thanks to proponents of “scientific miracles of the Qur’an” and “anti Evolution Theory”. Similarly when the reverse deductions are between adjacent levels of the Self, the epistemic problems are minimal e.g. Mr B is greedy, therefore he is driven to maximize profit. However exploring these problems shall be saved for another day because it will not shed light on the initial question: What motivates a Muslim? These epistemic problems shall unveil to us a surprising similarity between two groups of people on the issue of religion: the New Athiests and the Religionists (Muslims, who are the subject of interest). More on that later.
At the beginning, we established the centrality of scriptures in the life of a Muslim. In the second post of this series, we shall investigate scriptural motivations to Muslims further.

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Fasting Deep – With Leftover Iftar

This Ramadan, a (non-Muslim) friend sought me to solve a puzzle they had encountered about Muslim fasting in Ramadan: since the purpose of fasting is to feel the hunger of the poor and the needy (who are not able to afford meals), why is it that Muslims binge on food after sunset? That is indulgence in food. Astute, coming from a non Muslim because this observation escapes a lot of Muslims. I simply corrected my friend’s assumption that the WHY of fasting in Ramadan is to empathize with the poor and the needy. Actually, the WHY of fasting in Ramadan is that God instructed Muslims to do so, and it is even part of the pillars of Islam. However to feel the hunger of the poor and the needy in the society is actually an acceptable philosophy of fasting, by which Muslims can enrich the meaning of their fasting, by giving it this dimension of meaning. I think empathizing with the less fortunate is actually very much a spirit of the fasting in Ramadan.

By the act of fasting in simply abstaining from food and other bodily pleasures during the day, we fulfill our obligation to God. By fasting with the poor, the needy and the disadvantaged of society in mind, the act of fasting is nourished with meaning. This is what I call fasting deep; where depth depends on the worshiper’s level of philosophizing, empathizing and contemplating on the fast. By fasting deep, we improve our spirituality, we nourish our souls.

Let us be clear, Muslims should be fasting not feasting! We don’t see the two as opposing, or even contradictory because we say we can still fast and feast, innit?! Not when you realize that reducing your consumption and indulgence in bodily pleasure is at the core of the spirit of Ramadan. So when we do business as usual that is fasting-plus-feasting, our fasting is deficient in spirit, it is lacking soul; it is like robots playing the orchestra, it is dry, not soulful! You can call fasting-plus-feasting as Fasting Shallow. Why don’t we fast during the day, then eat regularly in the evening as we would when it is not Ramadan, at least in quantity if not in quality… Don’t get me started about how unhealthy a lot of Iftar food is.

It has not been easy trying to communicate this idea of fasting-not-feasting to people, I only mentioned it here out of stubbornness. Not giving up with this Da’wah against the tide of the villain consumerism! But even in this noble Da’wah, it might be necessary to tone down on the message to provide a conversion gradient; this could be achieved by having an intermediary step between fasting-plus-feasting to fasting-not-feasting would help. This intermediary step is the idea to be shared in this post: it is called Leftover Iftar! Instead of indulging in regular Iftar everyday, garnered leftover could be used for Iftar. For every three days of feast, how about you have one day of Leftover Iftar. That is to say in every Ramadan you could have upto seven Leftover Iftars… you decide on the frequency. Hint: the internet is full of creative ways to make fancy meal out of leftovers if you are interested, just search :)

Why does having a Leftover Iftar make one’s fast more soulful, or any deeper? because food conservation is a character of the ideal Muslim, more specifically aversion to waste and extravagance of any kind be it food, ones own wealth, or natural resources etc. Think about it this way. Fasting-plus-feasting is kinda like fasting and telling white lies, while fasting with Leftover Iftar is like fasting and telling the truth… may be there’s a better analogy. The point is that the spirit of the fasting is crippled by unhealthy caloric fattening with continuous feasting whereas it is healthier without the continuous feasting.

If you do Iftar with leftovers currently, now you can internalizing this act with meaning. What used to be an unfortunate condition can now be a conscious deep act full of meaning, and of course Soul! The least to be gained from Leftover Iftar is that people will try to put only what they can eat on their plate, to avoid the inevitable mess when we let our bodily desires to estimate what may satisfy our exaggerated hunger. Neat.

Deep fast is what stays with you after Ramadan because its effects is on your soul (or psychology or metaphoric heart). Shallow fast fades with the month of Shawwal, barely sustained by the Sitta ash Shawwal (six of Shawwal). Ever wonder why you don’t come out of Ramadan as an improved soul or with a better perspective on life? It is because your fast was not deep, not Soulful. You are what you feast on, but you are even more what you think (contemplate, philosophize) about, for meaning gives identity to your soul whereas food signifies your soul deputing your identity to your bodily pleasures. There are many other areas to improve the soulful-ness of your fast, many other areas to go deeper in your fast, having Leftover Iftar is one… InShaAllah ;)

Seek meaning. Contemplate. Fast Deep!

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Apostasy in Kano – A New Frontier

Today started with an interesting twist in the news, it was neither the world cup nor ISIS nor Boko Haram, it was about apostasy in Kano, Nigeria. Unfortunately the day didn’t end with that because we later heard about attacks (and deaths) in Wukari, Taraba State and this afternoon a bomb blast in Abuja and Adamawa (the two almost simultaneous). God save the souls of dead victims, and provide for the living. However, I intended to write about the case of apostasy in the morning so I shall focus on that now.

The news reported that a young (Muslim) man from Kano denounced the existence of God, or so I heard. In response to this madness, his family took him to a psychiatric doctor but the doctor concluded that the man is mentally sound. The family unconvinced with this outcome sought second opinion, as would be expected in every grave medical case. The second doctor came to the conclusion that the young man suffers from a mental illness of personality disorder. According to the young man’s emails to IHEU (International Ethical and Humanist Union), the doctor proved the personality disorder by claiming that even Japanese believe in God! Of course these reports may have left out more that it reveals but it provides an interesting situation and opportunity for introspection.


Not long ago Saudi officially ruled that apostasy is terrorism; and so a punishable crime. This was Saudi’s response to a poll on Saudis where about 5% of Saudis identified themselves as atheists. This was shocking to Saudi powers since it undermines the blanket religious status of Saudi; a status that is arguably only for the cities of Makkah and Madinah. These self-identified athiests were probably keeping with outward religious observance since they if they weren’t they we would expect 1 out of every 20 Saudis to default from religious practices. Not long after the Saudi fiasco, in Sudan a woman (of Muslim father but raised by her Christian mother) was charged with apostasy for becoming Christian, and adultery for marrying a Christian. For the former the penalty was death, for the latter it was 100 lashes. While unsure of Saudi’s prescribed punishment for “terrorism”, many Muslims believe (or subscribe to the reading) that the punishment for apostasy is death penalty as in the case of Sudan.

Of course not all Muslims subscribe to this view. One first has to understand what apostasy meant during the time of the prophet. To conclude that the punishment for apostasy is punishable by death is either to cherry-pick utterances of the Prophet, or to disregard a Qur’an injunction for freedom of religion, or to neglect the prophet’s character, or to ignore context, or to ignore the different capacities from which the prophet gives commands, or to do all of this. Simply put, apostasy is equivalent to a threatening political treason, not a change of heart. This is not the place for the debate on whether apostasy is punishable or not, but it suffice to say it is not death!

Unfortunately more Muslims perhaps subscribe to the position that apostasy is punishable by death. At least it is scary enough to know that Muslims around you believe that. In light of this, the move by the parents of the young “atheist” in Kano, is perhaps one of love and protection, not of loathing. If I were a parent with an “atheist” child in Kano, I’d rather call it madness than try to reason with the child because to reason is to attract wrath of the public; especially when the child allegedly broadcasts his “atheist” views on twitter. This is not to say the average Muslim in Kano is violent, no way especially given the diverse communities of Muslims in Kano, but it makes him an easy target for those who would want to use his beliefs as an excuse.

The public’s reaction is another point of reflection. Many people are reporting the event as: A man in Kano has gone mad, he denounces God! Luckily I have heard the original report in the morning so I know it should be reported more accurately as: A man is being considered mad because he denounces God. If the difference between the two is not clear, let us examine further. By default majority of people accept and conclude that this person must be mad; just like his parents do. However we have good reasons to suspect his parents “concluded” that to protect him (psychological defense mechanism) whereas the public seems to genuinely believe he is mad. Perhaps many heard the story from hear-say so they were already given adulterated version of the story. However the public psyche is not one with so much of intolerance for apostasy, but of ignorance and shock of apostasy! The public does not seem to adequately grasp apostasy; in its legal ramification as we have seen, and its theological significance which we shall soon see. In addition, the public’s reaction to the shock is to attribute it to madness since madness explains all the unexplainables. I won’t be surprised if some people are already explaining the situation as a case of magic spell casted on the young man. It is a case of shock where Muslims are confused as what to do.

The final point of interest is the position of apostasy within theology. Muslim history has had enough scars that persist today due to the most heated theological debates that took place early in its history. It was so rich a tradition that it resulted in its own sciences; the science of Kalam (speculative theology). Blasphemy was equated with apostasy. When definition of apostasy differs from school to school, its meaning becomes only an indication of disagreement. It was not uncommon for opponents of different “schools of Kalam” to denounce the other as apostates aka Kuffaar. This strategy in Kalam still persist, but now everywhere even outside Kalam. Of course there were the likes of Al Ghazali who sought theological tolerance, but seeking tolerance is not as sensational as denouncing others. In essence much of that tradition, or at least in its present mutation, is a power struggle; people seeking to affirm their theological positions by deposing and apostatizing others.

With regard to the situation of the young man in Kano, it could be simply a case of him disagreeing with theological positions of others. Of course I say this with a caveat because I have not looked into the content of his claims for four reasons: avoid slipping from research into gossip; I got a clue about his type of “atheism” from a report by IHEU; I have to work on my 9-to-5 job; his situation is only relevant to me as a general case. In fact, I know people who know the young man closely, to some extent, but I have not ventured into that. All I have from the report by IHEU is that he was being blasphemous and that he denied Adam (the first Man) existed. I am not surprised if it is based on this that he was accused of atheism; unless he is a self-identified atheist. Or if as some say, he denied existence of God, then of course that would be literally an atheist. Like I said it would not be surprising if he was simply accused of atheism but his concern about Adam is one that is being debated even among scholars that are grounded in the scripture. I have written about it within the framework of evolution. Of course these scholars do not deny an Adam, they simply have a different interpretation of Adam not in the literal sense but with an evolutionary slant. All this may say more about the intellectual desertion of Muslims and their unpreparedness to face of the challenges of this age where we are brought up on post European-Enlightenment reasoning.

Were many to ask certain questions about their held beliefs, they might end up becoming apostates. And many are aware of this. So the solution many have taken is to not ask questions, rather than to ask the questions properly and seek to resolve them within the proper framework. The Qur’an in numerous places assures us that if we were to proceed with proper reasoning, we would always be lead to God. Certainly reasoning according to European Enlightenment has its merits but it is deficient especially because of the historical baggage in its formation. What if the young man had all these questions but the religious community could not engage him on the level he was thinking? This is a wake up call to Muslims.

The situation says something about Muslims’ intellectual standing as a religious community especially in the field of apologetics. Muslims in Nigeria have been too comfortable with picking-on Christianity for far too long; that is what I call much of the prevalent straw-man debates with Christianity. Now a new breed is in town, it is atheism. Debates with atheism has been going on in many countries for a while now, especially “western” countries. I welcome this because perhaps it will change the position of Muslims from constantly trying to convert Christians to a more introspective position when they might have to reason through their beliefs because they take so much for granted. Of course it is for those who care to get involved in the debate.

 

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