Tag Archives: Motivation

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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