Going Gongola – Efficient In-Security

Over two weeks ago, I was in Gongola State of Nigeria! A state doesn’t exist officially by that name since 1991. What used to be Gongola State is now Adamawa State and Taraba State. I have my reasons for preferring to use Gongola, not simply because “Gongola” sounds more adventurous. My destination was Taraba State (Jalingo City) but since there is no operational airport in Taraba, and the road is long and insecure, I had to get to Adamawa (Yola) first then proceed to Taraba, which is just less than 200km from the airport in Adamawa. He who traverses the two states in a single journey has earned the right to call it Gongola; after all airports and destinations (local) should be in the same state. And it is. Gongola!

It is tempting to rant about the condition of the airport, but that would be cheap, I would rather write about something more interesting. However the condition of the Yola Airport (Captial city of Adamawa) is still worth mentioning. In summary, Yola Airport ‘s main building was missing its entire roof. The story goes that wind took off the roof… How… is a mystery. Easy to imagine but hard to believe. On stepping out of the plane we saw a group of passengers who were obviously waiting for us to empty the aircraft so they can board it. We walked passed them and their looks were reassuring because they didn’t seem one bit uneasy about the absence of roof, nor did they seem oblivious to it. They seemed to have accepted the situation with grace only a Nigerian could exhibit, difficult to differentiate from pretense. Only on my return journey would the reason be revealed. At this point I was more amused than disappointed. Our human train ended just some tens of meters from the plane. Immediately we saw our bags being unmounted from the aircraft, replaced by luggage of the new passengers, then ours loaded on large trolleys. Within a minute or less, we had the first batch of trolley with our luggage and one simply picks up theirs. In roofless airports, one discovers that aeroplanes are like large cars after all, they have boots!

Gongola State of Nigeria – before 1991

Quite striking was the time efficiency in picking luggage. It seemed retrieving luggage outside, on trolleys took less time than retrieving luggage inside from conveyor belts. What good is technology when it is not more efficient (in time and other resources) than in its absence? That is called a liability. In any computerized systems, we know that a bad setup or configuration of any is bound to be result in waste of resources, if not setback in efficiency. Look around and see how many state-of-the-art technologies have been deployed via government contracts but how useless they are when not set up properly. To be frank, I can’t say the absence of conveyor belt is faster than its presence with statistical confidence because this is the first time I was at this airport so I can’t compare it with the time it takes before the wind. However, it felt like the fastest luggage-pickup time for me across local airports.

Efficiency. This thought about efficiency conditioned my mind to watch out for other efficiencies on the long road to Jalingo (Captial city of Taraba). Typically the journey should take a little over an hour, but due to bad roads and series of security check points, it takes 3 hours (and that is the shorter route). The car for the journey was a Toyota Starlet! (didn’t know these exist today) and it was a good deal; one-third the cost of taking an airport taxi (Peugeot 406). It was 6:00pm. The sun retiring from our horizon, we zooooomed… not really, because we hit the first check point before testing how fast it takes a Starlet to go from 0 to 60km/h.

Toyota Starlet

It would be tedious to narrate the experience at all the check points passed, for both the writer and the reader. Moreover, only the most skilled writers are able to narrate waiting on a queue, on the highway, at night, in prose, and of course in a Toyota Starlet. Through out the journey, we went through eight major check points and five minor ones; the minor ones are the small ones within settlement areas of local governments. And guess what else they have in common apart from having little or no queues… They were the only check points manned by Nigeria Police! That is to say, in this Gongola region, the Police play a small role in security. The Police looked more pathetic than the typical Nigerian Police on the road, a new level of wretchedness.

So who are the bigger security players in Gongola? There was Nigerian Military, NetForce, SARS, Immigration, Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force); I may be missing out one or two more. In case the mind wondered, SARS doesn’t refer to the epidemic, I was told it stands for Special Anti Robbery Squad. It seemed all these groups are doing the same thing which is slowing down cars, then peer in with piercing eye contact to find a weak-target, if identified then exploited. Few found it worthwhile to exploit the driver. They also pick on people with beard, people like me; I am getting used to this Muslim-beard harassment. It is something to deal with another time.

With all these explosions of security groups, some of which are new and others revived, I couldn’t help but think about the situation in terms of efficiency; efficient use of opportunities. Given the security situation in the North East, a lot of economic activities have been halted. Both the legal and the illegal. Therefore there is an unemployment pool of low earning merchants, physical labourers and no-income miscreants, in addition to the graduates sitting at home. Recall, Nigeria budgets hugely for security in recent years. We also know that much of the economy depends on the government expenditure. If I were an entrepreneurial citizen paying attention, and living in these circumstances, adding two-plus-two equals get-a-job-in-the-security-industry! It seems many others in the North East have solved this equation. Perhaps Security is the fastest growing employer in this region… perhaps.

Recently, Amnesty International reported crimes committed by the Civilian JTF, which is no different than those by the Army; I even wrote about my disappointment and a proposal. Witnessing the Civilian JTF in action made me question an inconsequential mis-assumption I had that the Civilian JTF embarked on the task to protect their community, in spite of being civilians, due to a sense of duty. However pondering on the amount of jobs created by the security industry, I am more inclined to think it is a job opportunity; Efficient use of opportunity. Moreover I asked the driver if the security personell on ground are from all over the country. He replied that with the exception of Military, Police and Immigration, majority are local to the North East. Efficient use of local manpower in the booming industry.

The darkness remained as the night got colder, in a car made for the 1970s, on a road evidently made earlier than the 1980s, ever more surrounded by ancient mountains visible as giant shadows casting safety while stimulating imagination… it felt like time travelling. Indeed, this is a journey to Gongola. The surreal atmosphere of the journey even inspired a Spoken Word Poem. The journey brought to mind the saying “it is not about the destination, it is about the journey”. Even this writing is about the journey.

Security check points have also be optimized to be quite efficient, not unlike an industrial production line. The vehicle queues are deliberately made long it seems, in order to create opportunities. To go faster, you pay; that is the service. This business model is similar to many online file sharing services where free users are given a slow speed, not because there isn’t resource available, but so as to create a service a customer would buy into when frustrated enough by the slowness. The security check points would offer valuable case studies for students interested in manufacturing demands; by selling efficiency. This is how it is done.

For trucks which transport certain goods, there is a corporate security efficiency plan. It is assumed that trucks carrying the same goods on the same route, belong to the same industry and those truck drivers must have a corporate body or union. Let us take example of the one I witnessed; the cattle market. Trucks carrying cattle barely slow down for check point queues, simply flash headlamps, indicating it is them and every car is halted until they pass… without checking! The driver explained to me that the union of cattle trucks for that route has a commercial agreement with the Military (which were the majority checkpoints) “securing” that route; they pay a flat sum of N500 per truck per check point and they would be allowed to pass efficiently. Imagine if I was an arms dealer trying to traverse that route? Get a truck with cattle. Easy. The service is so sophisticated that the truck drivers don’t pay the check points directly, the military infantry simply count the trucks that pass, then claim their tab at the end of the week or the day. So if I was a arms dealer, I would probably traverse for free!

For small cars, purchasing efficiency service is optional, unless in the few cases (on my return) when it is demanded. If one decides to pay, the service is called No Delay (Seriously! I heard them call it that) and it costs N50 per car per checkpoint. On one occasion during my return journey, the driver gave them N200, and they asked him to go forward to collect change of N150. No kidding. The service is that no questions are asked, one simply carries on. No Delay is not as well packaged as the service for cattle trucks because one has to queue anyway, No Delay only avoids further delay when your turn to be checked finally comes.

If a small car decides not to go for No Delay, they have to be efficient as well to avoid longer delays. This is how. Put a humble face (the driver), smile if possible, say hi to all the security personnel, then roll down your windows for the security personnel to have an easy view of the insides. At night, in addition, one dims their headlamps while queuing for a check point (to avoid straining the eyes of the grumpy security personnel) and turns on their inner lights for better visibility. In other words, if you don’t want to pay N50 naira at a checkpoint, you have to be overly nice and considerate. But if one is paying, you are entitled to keep a frown, simply dim the head lamps (that may not even be necessary).

That was my efficient-ful road trip. The experience at my destination was interesting in its own right but not much on efficiency so it wont be featured here.

<Few days pass experiencing Jalingo… Back at Yola Airport>

I mentioned earlier that I didn’t understand why the passengers we met on arrival seemed unfazed by the devastated airport. I found out it is because they went to through the same process one goes through in properly functioning airports. The only difference here is that everything is done manually, even the ticket is written on with a pen! This is not a bad thing, in fact I think it is praiseworthy. For every task accomplished by a (computerized) technology, it is important to be able to understand the component processes well so that it could be manually carried out in case of disasters; for instance, a Yola Wind (we know how terrible those are). Even the temporary building, where the manual process takes place, seems to have been put up in a hurry because it is made of ply wood. It is environmentally friendly too because there are minimal electrical appliances powered, not for lighting or cooling, and half the waiting chairs/benches are outside, under a tree with large shade. How African. How environmentally efficient!

As we waited for the new arrivals to empty the aircraft we were to board, I noticed the amazement in a few eyes, and I hope I gave them a similar reassuring look I received on arrival days earlier. They should know that the manual process of check-in is well done at Yola Airport, quite efficient, and the temporary airport is environmentally efficient!

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Micro-Marxism… Or Something Like It

What would the analysis of a household look like? What would a discipline inquiring into the socio-economic relations within a household look like? Even though the taught subject of Home Economics captures the essence of economics in it’s recognition of resource allocation, it is a no brainer because it is all built on capitalist assumptions which is reflected in its unbounded choices of the consumer. Perhaps Sociology in a nuclear family would better capture socio-economic relations. Perhaps Anthropology of polygamous homes. One of my favorite descriptive lenses is Marxism, even though I have only cursory knowledge of it. I find its analyses enlightening and refreshing even while disagreeing  with its fundamental assumptions; hence my disagreement with its prescriptions. The Marxist analyses rests on the belief that social relations can be (solely) explained by means of production; therefore social relations should change as means of production (technology) changes, or else social contradictions (class struggle) will result. Means of production is the base, nature of social relations is the outcome. Economic systems are build on social realities. Therefore economic systems built on contradictory social relation, results in a contradictory economic system, which is Capitalism.
I wonder if this Marxist approach could be used to analyse intra-household relationship; the social relations within a domestic space. Although borrowing from Marxism, the economic relation within a household is not relevant because little or no economic activities take place completely within the house, and also because the societal economic atmosphere affects the household social relations, perhaps manifesting significantly in home architecture (more on this ahead). As the real Marxist looks at means of production, I would like to look at home architecture to see how it affects or results in the social relations in a household. It is tempting to attempt to understand this matter through the lenses resembling Marxist spectacles.
Due to my limited understanding, I am not able to use the equivalent of Marxist “scientific” jargons but shall attempt to use plain language to understand the power relation within a typical nuclear household;; ignoring extraneous influences for now. Even more specific is to focus on the relationship between a husband and a wife; and by extension their respective house guests. Power (social) relations can only be interesting for analysis if one side enjoys more privilege than the other. What better framework to use to discuss systemic inequality than Marxism, or something inspired by it.
So, architecture. I am more familiar with the architecture of a typical North-Nigerian households, which I find quite consistent even across religions. I wonder why I haven’t paid attention to architectures of different cultures within Nigeria. But this is not comparative exercise, it is an inquiry, with some hypothesis for descriptions. Perhaps other cultures shall be examined at another time. How could the architecture of a typical North-Nigerian household be different from any other in cosmopolitan cities like the capital where tenants rent buildings regardless of cultural background? By architecture, it is not meant the physical architecture, but the effective architecture which is imposed on the physical architecture.
Physical architecture simply provides physical space. With the exception of special-purpose spaces like kitchen and toilets, other spaces are essentially rooms which could be molded into whatever the tenants decide (except those dictatorial capitalist landLORDS who coopt tenants to use certain rooms for sitting rooms and nothing else using contracts; that essential weapon of a capitalist). Assume such capitalist overseer is not present, for now. Therefore tenants have the choice to decide whether to have a sitting-room or not, to have a sleeping-room or not, to have shared rooms or separate, if separate which room belongs to the husband or the wife, will there be a room reserved for guests, will the guest room be dedicated to guests or will it double as something else? This effective architecture will hopefully reveal what underlies and defines social relations within a household, and it is what is meant as architecture in this post. Since no “scientific terms”, we shall explain with examples.
First let us take the simple case of a household with two sleeping rooms, a sitting-room and the special purpose spaces (kitchens, toilets etc.). Assume the husband and the wife have separate sleeping rooms, one for each. The scene is set, now the social relations can be observed. A typical situation is that when the husband has guests, they OCCUPY the sitting-room. The wife is confined to the inner room. This default allocation of spaces in presence of husband’s guests comes from tradition, which is external to the house architecture, and which we take as a given since we are dealing with the typical North-Nigerian household. Beyond this, we shall observe the effect of architecture  which is our interest. Now if the wife has to get to the kitchen and the kitchen requires she crosses the sitting-room, then she is likely to make prudent use of her passes to and fro the kitchen. It is expected she doesn’t interrupt the occupiers every now and then. If however to get to the kitchen, she doesn’t need to cross the sitting room, then her ecosystem has been defined. She can now transition freely between room and kitchen. The right place of a woman?
So in this scenario, the choice of the woman’s room and how it is accessible to her “favorite” rooms, would decide the liberty she enjoys in the presence of husband’s guests. The more liberty she enjoys, the less free she feels amidst the husband’s company because she might not have cause to interact with them when she can move between her room and say the kitchen without meeting them. Is this what Marxists call dialectic?! In the opposite case, the opposite follows. The implication of this to social-relation between husband and wife is the degree to which the two live a double life, as a couple and as individuals with friends, given a particular architecture.
Still on the same scenario, assume the wife receives guests. Unlike the husband’s friends, they wouldn’t occupy the sitting room because she has her room; again due to traditions external to the house. So her guests are hosted in her room and are OCCUPIED within it. This time the wife is free to get to the kitchen because only the husband is probably in the sitting-room; however her friends probably wouldn’t feel so easy. Interestingly, when the husband is out of the house, the wife and her friends are able to occupy the sitting-room, just like the guys. Is being male or female a relative status depending on the presence of competition?… In the two variations, given the same architecture and tradition/culture, the social relation between husband and wife mainly reinforces the culture which was decided outside of the house architecture; even though the choice of architecture influences the degree of double life.
One thing that is rare, or which I have seen rarely, is for the husband to retreat to his room and allow for the “girls” to occupy the sittingroom as was granted to the “boys”. What if the husband has the equivalent of a kitchen, if not THE kitchen, to keep busy if needed; a garage would be the American equivalent but it is difficult to picture Nigerian married men having a hobby other than watching TV.
Let us look at a second case of the same house with a slight variation to the first architecture: assume the husband and wife share a sleeping-room. Therefore there is a spare room which in this case is used as the dining room. When the husband’s friends visit, they occupy the larger sitting room as in the previous case. When the wife has guests, they cannot use the sleeping room since it is also the husband’s private area. It means the husband would have to allow the girls to OCCUPY the sitting-room, while the husband is OCCUPIED in their shared sleeping-room! In other words, architecture subverts external cultural dictates which defined social relationship between husband and wife.
Between the two architectures explored, are interesting points to speculate about domestic social relations. Simply put, the external social tradition (North-Nigerian) is reinforced by the first architecture, whereas the second architecture is defiant. In both cases where one of the spouse has to make way for the other, double life is a consequence, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and perhaps not completely avoidable. Would it be possible to manipulate household architecture to minimize gap between the double life?
Other interesting scenarios in these two cases is what happens when there are mixed guests; either the husband hosting female guests or the wife hosting male guests. In that case is there consistency e.g. does the location of hosting guests determined by who the host is, or the sex of the guest, or a mixture of both, or does one of the factors seem to dominate in determining the hosting location? What about when the guests are neither for the husband or the wife alone but for the couple, where are they hosted; which factor dominates in determining the location? See how the social relations is getting complex?
To map the socio-economic aspect of this, we need to map these simple and complex social relations to economic realities. For instance, the assumption here is a family where the husband is the breadwinner. What if the woman is the breadwinner, does everything attributed to the husband get reversed and fall on her? Or is there a glass ceiling for wives? Or is glass ceiling the wrong way to look at it and should be called accommodation instead?
So far, what was explored are very simple cases (husband and wife, with one sitting room and two other rooms). What if we add a second sitting-room, or a dedicated guest-room etc? This envisioned complexity is why a Marxist-type analysis may assist in making sense, even if simplified, of this relations using a “scientific” approach. Perhaps a theory could come out to make sense of the apparent complexity of the socio-economic interaction between physical architecture, culture, and means of production of a family. Charity begins at home. Marxism should begin at home!

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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?



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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