Knowledge(s)

Hey everyone (if anyone’s left :p),

Sorry I haven’t been posting regularly. I’ve started a new Masters which takes up a lot of time but I also haven’t thought of anything to post about in a while. Like I said in my last post, the way I approach Islam is very different now, so I haven’t been struggling as much as I was before.

What contributed to this is what I’m studying now. Although the Masters is in Development, the type of thinking is just fantastic.  Unveiling western hegemony, westernization, and the negative effects of globalization, rationality, and modernity has made me see Islam in a whole new light.  Modernity is something quintessentially western, in the way we understand it today. When we think “I have to be more modern” – what kind of traits and values are we thinking of? In many cases it means becoming less traditional/cultural and becoming more global (i.e. western). So I believe modernity is mostly a process of westernization.

After reaching that conclusion, I realized that I didn’t need to hold Islam up to a bar (modernity) that was created by white men. Wasn’t I doing the same thing I accused the literalist/salafi Muslims of doing? That is, holding Islam up to a bar created by Arab men?

Can Islam be understood ONLY in terms of rationality? No. Is that a negative thing. Absolutely not! That was where I kept going wrong before: I kept trying to analyze Islam from a rational, purely scientific perspective. Until I began reading readings by post-colonial theorists (Escobar, Said, Benjamin) who show there are OTHER ways of understanding the world. You don’t have to have empirical evidence to prove something. You don’t have to understand the WHOLE world through science.

There are different types of knowledges.

For thousands of years people have understood the world in diverse ways.  Suddenly all those knowledges got degraded and devalued for not being “scientific” or “rational.” There was a new knowledge in town: pure empirical, rational science. Sure, it couldn’t solve everything, and sure, it couldn’t explain everything. So whatever it couldn’t solve/explain was simply ignored or seen as an “irrational question.” Good example: the existence of God.

But those knowledges are still around. Of course there are Egyptians today who are more westernized than westerners themselves. But there are more who still possess that beautiful way of thinking that is uniquely Egyptian – that got trampled under decades of colonial rule and then decades of western imperialism in the shape of globalization and aid.

I’m not saying science is bad. After all, Muslims and Arabs were some of the greatest contributors to science and medicine. What I’m saying is that science has been turned into an authoritarian discourse: there is no other way to be or think. And if you dare to think otherwise, you are seen as “irrational” or “traditional.”  (I can’t even imagine a time when ‘traditional’ meant something positive.)

I’m not saying modernity is bad. But the modernity I think of today is not my modernity. It’s the west’s. And that’s fine. But why is it being imposed on all of us?

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61 thoughts on “Knowledge(s)

  1. Makes a lot of sense. Its hard, if not impossible, to approach religion in a purely rational form if you are a believer. There are so many “irrational” things about it. You kinda have to open yourself up to other ways of thinking to really figure out what is going on. 🙂

    • I think for many non-western people it’s less about opening yourself up and more about being confident in the way you already think/your parents/grandparents think. Today we grow up in highly westernized countries so it’s hard to distinguish between western culture and our own, especially since we’re taught one is valued more than the other.

  2. Brilliant! You know, I have spent the last four years opening my mind to this way of thinking – and I am so glad I majored in International Studies. I’ve written my thesis on post-colonial theory and the rise of ‘isamism.’ Right now, I’m looking into master’s programs myself, and want to delve even further into this sea of knowledge that is out there.

    I’m loving the way you are thinking, and asking questions now. I have always been captivated by post-colonial studies and the different theoretical approaches to development. It exposes us to a whole different outlook on the world. I have a friend who is currently taking her masters at the London School of Economics, and she is studying the feminist approach to development, which has also fascinated me. It was really interesting to see how much in common feminist economics had with socialism. I think you will be so glad you are taking this program, and will learn much much more :).

  3. The Egyptian way of thinking has not only been trampled by colonial rule and western imperialism – in fact it has been trampled by Arab, Ottoman, Ptolemaic, and even Libyan rule (for about 120 years I admit, but it happened nevertheless!) – We adapt however, and that’s what makes us resilient, maintaining ancient traditions that have been passed through the generations, but on the other hand, it also makes us a little too patient and tolerant of injustices against us.

    This obviously all sounds very poetic, but unfortunately it is only a general description. When it comes to describe the Egyptian way of thinking on the individual basis, I end up with words like sly, crafty, superficial, ignorant, greedy, hypocritical and hormonal coming to my mind.

    This obviously doesn’t apply to all Egyptians, but it does apply to a significant proportion, especially the ones you might have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, such as shop keepers, taxi drivers, and so on. However, this most likely stems from financial situations, as well as what might be called the ‘norm’ of things here in Egypt – It is the ‘norm’ for a taxi driver to request a hefty tip over the meter reading. It is the ‘norm’ for a shop keeper to overcharge you if you’re not from around the area. It is the ‘norm’ for young Egyptian males to be lewd.

    I doubt westernization is the cause of all the problems related to this form of thinking – but is likely to be a contributing factor.

    So I would like to ask – what is that beautiful way of thinking that is uniquely Egyptian?

    P.S. Love your style of writing, great thought-box.

    • “The Egyptian way of thinking has not only been trampled by colonial rule and western imperialism – in fact it has been trampled by Arab, Ottoman, Ptolemaic, and even Libyan rule.”
      I stand corrected – this comment actually made me realize there is no such thing as “Egyptian thinking.” I guess what I meant was a more balanced approach to life: not just relying on science/pure empirical evidence in order to understand the world. I love, for example, how many Egyptians believe in God and are quite spiritual.

      “I end up with words like sly, crafty, superficial, ignorant, greedy, hypocritical and hormonal coming to my mind.”

      I can definitely see why, and I must admit that is how many Egyptians are today. However, it is a new phenomenon which is why I always put it down to socio-economic factors. From everything i’ve heard and read (especially when I lived in Cairo), Egypt was an amazing place to live up until the past ten years or so. This made me come to the conclusion that modern life has made Egyptians become not so nice, simply because life is just too difficult for most Egyptians.

      I think westernization is the cause of many of Egypt’s problems: not only did it devalue Egyptian culture (especially Islam) but it also is responsible for almost all economic problems – which I think are the root of all socio-cultural problems in Egypt in general.

      Welcome to the blog by the way 😀

      • Having lived in Egypt for only the past ten years, I guess I arrived a little too late.

        I agree with the fact that westernization has had detrimental effects on Egypt’s culture. Whether it has had a detrimental effect on Islam in particular, I am not so sure. Islam could be viewed as a relatively recent aspect of Egyptian culture. With fluctuating trends, and the constant shift in the public’s adoption of different forms of practice, it’s hard to tell whether westernization has weakened or strengthened belief. Egypt has been viewed as a secular country prior to the 1980s, but since then has made faith it’s harbor, albeit the encroachment of western methodology. Whether this faith is genuine, lax, radical or moderate, it is more pronounced than it has ever been in the 20th century.

        This is possibly due to socioeconomic factors stemming from westernization/modernity. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening, due to myriad of factors including privatization, extensive population growth, corruption, inflation and so on. Studies have been preformed which demonstrated an inverse relationship between socioeconomic status and religious adherence.

        Ultimately however, I am as clueless as the next person. This process of westernization in Egypt has been going on since the early 19th century. Modernity is not a simple word for me to define.

        And thank you for the welcome!

        • “Islam could be viewed as a relatively recent aspect of Egyptian culture.”

          That’s one way of seeing it but I would argue that it isn’t recent at all. The type of Islam and the way people practice it has certainly changed, due to many different influences and factors, but I don’t think the appearance of Islam is new at all.

          Westernization has strengthened and reinforced a certain kind of Islam, I believe – a more conservative,”authentic” Islam. If you look at discourses in Egypt now, many are being argued through Islam because that’s what people want now. If you want to help women, then argue that Islam is a gender-equal religion, if you want to help the environment, argue that the Prophet cared about the environment etc – this shows that Islam is what people relate to now. That doesn’t mean Egyptians weren’t religious before, I think they were but in a different way.

          “Studies have been preformed which demonstrated an inverse relationship between socioeconomic status and religious adherence.”
          I have always tended to believe these studies, but at the same time many of Egypt’s upper class is becoming just as “religious”, which is an interested exception to the norm.

          • The reason I have stated that Islam is a relatively recent aspect of Egyptian culture is due to the relatively ancient traditions that have managed to survive the waves of ages in Egyptian culture. Examples include celebrations such as Sham-El-Neseem, or the El-Soboo’ when a baby is born.

            Others include the hybridization of Islamic and ancient traditions in burial (For example the countless mosques containing burial chambers/tombs) or mourning women’s practice of wailing and throwing sand on top of their heads during funeral processions. These are relatively ancient traditions that have been maintained or incorporated into Islamic rituals. In fact, Muslims in other countries largely view these as blasphemous – this could be attributed to their relatively young cultures, their stricter interpretation of Islam, as well as having unsubstantial loyalty to their traditions compared with Egyptians (this probably stems from ancient times as well, with ancient Egyptians being know to be fervently attached to their land, ways, and Gods).

            Even though they might not know it, these are just a few of the practices that can be traced back to ancient Egypt. Hence I used the words “relatively recent”.

  4. The last sentences are exaclty what is happening..our democracy has to be implemented in the whole world, our way of thinking, our way of freedom, our capitalism and so forth.
    I usually say that fanatics in islam are not much differend then fanatics in the west, both want to impose their thinking on others and if people dont listen or dont accept that, then they are killed, shunned or degraded in various ways.

    Muhammed Baqir al Sadr wrote a book where he stated that some parts of religion are built on rationalism, and others are made of pure belief/feelings.

    • Capitalism is a brilliant example – it is a purely western form of economic relations that has come to dominate EVERYONE, even though it has destroyed so many people’s lives, not to mention the environment.

      Fanatics in general are always dangerous. It’s funny how often we hear about Muslim fanatics and never about the European/American ones.

      I’ll definitely check that book out!

  5. Asalamu Alaykum,
    I’m actually doing my BA in International Development and Globalization and only a few profs have brought out this perspective. I completely agree with you and i think there is a lot of literature pertaining to this sort of thought, in “post-development”. The only problem I am having with is how this is enforced on the ground, or on the field when the whole field of development is created from this sort of modern thought of having to ” develop” non western countries. I’ve heard of these bottom-up approaches and grassroots movements, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on practicing this approach on the ground?

    • Hi! Welcome to the blog 😀

      I think from a development perspective, it is really problematic. Even the idea that countries need to develop implies that there are standards – but who set these standards? And even if we accept that there are “developed” and “developing” – why are some countries more developed? My answer would be because they exploited other countries which are now developing or underdeveloped.

      Unfortunately the reality is that there are many people who need help, so we can’t just get rid of the development field. However, I think the difference can come from the grassroots: so people practicing development on the ground do have a choice in the way they approach the people they are working with. For example, don’t assume they are backwards just because they aren’t like you.

      Then again it’s difficult to change things on the ground when all the policies are being made by bullshit organizations such as the UN, World Bank and IMF, and when countries like the US are re-colonizing the world and killing thousands of people in the process. Theories and policies affect the work on the ground, so I think we do need to challenge the whole system.

      What do you think?

  6. Ahem… tea party movement… ahem ahem

    FANATICS for sure! LOL

    I think it is interesting how Euro/American fanatics’ thoughts and outbursts are mulled over and taken seriously, while Muslim fanatics are shunned as extreme and the reasoning behind their fanaticism largely ignored.

    I am very interested in this change you are going through and I do hope you allow your blog to evolve to these new thoughts and ideas you are mulling over.

    Ahh so you have read Edward Said? He is so great!
    Orientalism and Reflections of Exile are two of my favorite reads.

    • Sarah I think you are one of the people who I think identifies with my new way of thinking and seeing the world – your comments, ideas and posts seem to fit in well with post-development in general 🙂

      It’s interesting that Bin Laden’s reasoning is actually very sound! He usually refers to political and economic neo-imperialism, which is something I also agree with, even though his methods are ridiculous and extremely immoral (not to mention un-Islamic).

      Have I read Edward Said? I worship him!! I think his theory of Orientalism has had the biggest impact on me in terms of social theory. I love him!! Have you read Out of Place?

      • Hmm, no I have not read Out Of Place. I don’t think I’ve even seen it with his other books. I’m off to check for it on Amazon! lol

  7. Yah I completely agree with your points on development. I get so frustrated being in this field because for the most part in my classes we discuss the problems within this whole paradigm of development and how to make the current policies better, like the new one enforced by the world bank is ” participatory ” approach where enforce a program and call it participatory by getting someone’s opinion. This in my opinion will still not work since it is a ” top-bottom” approach and was still created by the World Bank.
    I think challenging the whole system is key but it is quite a difficult task because most of the academics with this perspective do not have much influence on these institutions because most of their opinions are stated in literature.
    I will be finishing my BA this year and am looking to start my Masters. I am in Canada but have a EU passport so I was wondering if you know of any good schools and programs that focus on Anthropology of Development in the Netherlands? I’m not sure about rankings, but the University of
    Radboud University Nijmegen had a program I was interested in Anthropology and Development Studies , M.Sc.. Have you hear of this school? Do you know of any other schools that are good?Are there Muslims in that area?Is the town nice?
    Thanks alot and look forward to your future posts on these topics.

    • The World Bank in particular are absolutely ridiculous – their aim is to keep the world the way it is now, with people at the top and people at the bottom – their aim is certainly not development! How can a commercial bank have development goals?!

      I’m currently doing my MA at the Institute of Social Studies in the Hague and I highly recommend it! It’s changed my life completely. http://www.iss.nl
      I’m not sure if the program you mentioned at Nijmegen is good, but I think other universities in the Netherlands may be a better option. I know Amsterdam also has a good Anthropology program. In the end though, I’d recommend the ISS over a Dutch university, also because it is extremely diverse – there are around 55 nationalities in my program! Nijmegen on the other hand is a small place, and I know there are more Muslims in the Hague than in Nijmegen.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!!

  8. Nothing has changed since imperialism ruled the world. Now when you speak to islamophobic people, you will hear that we are backward, that we are apes, that we are living in the medievel ages. They think that we are supposed to learn, like if we are children, who are not intelligent enough to choose our own path.
    I think that a big problem is that people dont really know how it is like in the muslim world, they dont realise that the reason why the muslims are backward, is because of rulers who are lead by the west or because they have rulers who are supported by the west.
    They dont realise that media and the elite in the west, on purpose or out of stupidity, teaches wrong things.
    I had a teacher in religion, who was supposed to teach us about islam. He gave me a book entitled the Quran of Fatima. The book says that shias have their own Quran ( a myth that wahabis still spread) So if this teacher teaches this nonsens to his students in a country like Sweden, what else have these people been teaching the masses?
    Some years ago, before Al Qaidah got big, they mentioned on swedish tv that over 80% of all the news in media about islam and muslims, were negative..
    All this leads that even we as muslims in the west, get brainwashed that there is something wrong with us or our culture or our religion.

  9. Oh, this one showed up. I wrote a few comments when you first posted this that didn’t show up and I thought you had comment moderation. Maybe something wrong with my browser 🙂

  10. I think it is often too easy to swim in the abstract and debate religions on so many issues. Yet it is curious that all too often, people refrain to be honest with themselves, to share what they really think about the core question of the religion. Instead, it’s always easier to talk about modernization, colonization etc.

    Imagine that we’re having an interview with 2 murderers. We ask them why they would kill people. Murderer A says he kills people because he is convinced that people are trying to enslave or even kill him. It may be just his imagination. We then finds out that his parents are totally against his murderous habit.

    We then ask Murderer B for his reasons for killing people. He says more or less the same thing as Murderer A, except that in his case his parents were the ones who instilled in him those ideas.

    The question now is, “Is it fair to blame the parents of Murderer B for his acts?” Would it not be natural to blame the parents for the offspring’s mentality? Would you say those parents good or bad people?

    People from all religions have been known to be violent at one time or another. And I do not rule out that perhaps many of them would claim that they’re doing it for their respective religions. But only the Quran and Mohammad promote violence—plenty of it. During his lifetime, Mohammad actually demonstrated and applied the teaching of the Quran. He led his armies to war; his war captives either beheaded, sold as slaves etc. He and his men were free to have sex with the female slaves without the need for marriage even.

    I am a non-believer of religions. But when looking at the men, Jesus, and Mohammad, I see 2 very different qualities. There is no evidence (at least not to me) that Jesus was God (or the son of God), but giving him the benefit of the doubt, I will accept for the moment that he, and Mohammad were both prophets of God. Yet it is so hard to see Mohammad as reflecting the quality of a God who’s loving and forgiving.

    Today, whenever Islam is criticized, the reaction, first and foremost, is that taught by the prophet—shut the critic up.

    I was told that there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today. I’d like to think that the majority of them are not violent people. But I would say that they’re not purely following the teachings of the Quran and Mohammad, and strictly from that point of view, they are not really ISLAM as originally intended; or at least not the ISLAM that Mohammad had in mind. And that is a very good thing.

    • You mentioned in another comment that you may not be very familiar with Islam/different interpretations of Islam (although here you sound certain of what you are saying). What you just said sounds exactly like what I see on Fox News when they discuss Islam.

      When I read biographies of the Prophet, historical documents, oral story-telling, works by non-Muslims, etc I see a COMPLETELY different picture. Muhammad was not “pro-violence.” Did he sometimes carry out violent acts? Yes. He was living in the 14th century in the desert, not in 2010 in a world with different standards of morality and violence (well, then again we do have Rwanda, Afghanistan and Iraq so maybe not so different).

      I’m sure you’re going to put this down to Muslims being brainwashed into thinking our Prophet was a peaceful man, but actually many biographies by non-MUslims show the same thing: that Muhammad was always reluctant to use violence. It is not the black and white picture many Islamophobes try and portray it as. If you research more, you’ll see that.

      I recommend Karen Armstrong – if you are interested, that is 🙂

      • No, I still do not claim that I know Islam well—far from it! I have mentioned all these things about slavery, violence, marrying a girl 6yrs old etc several times before in this blog and in other blogs. And each time Muslims simply tip-toed around the subject.

        I read about Islam and the prophet from Islamic and non-Islamic blogs, and these are the info I’ve gathered. The basic facts are all generally the same. The only difference is that in the Islamic blogs, the general sentiment is that Muslims are trying to defend the prophet for his heinous crimes, much the same way you’re trying to here, e.g. that he lived in those barbarian eras (where the standards of morality and violence were different). The prophet, if he was really one, and especially if he’s guided by God almighty, should be free from the elements of time. His actions should have reflected the quality of God (since God was constantly “communicating” with him), not subject to his living environment.

        Jesus, too, lived in the era of barbarians, but he did not bring his followers to war, rape women, and behead his enemies. Ask yourself from the bottom of your heart who, between the two, was a vile violent man?

        Why do Muslims ALWAYS try to compare wars, e.g. Afghanistan & Iraq etc to justify Mohammad’s crimes? The aggressions against Afghanistan & Iraq etc were mainly political in nature, e.g. trying to remove the leaders/dictators whom were/are perceived to be threats to the attaching county(ies). These aggressions were not religiously-motivated. But I have always said that I cannot accept wars, political or religious in nature.

        Mohammad, on the other hand, went to war mainly because (he claimed) he was guided by the revelation of God. He claimed to have the support of God in his crimes. Always in the name of Allah. How can his wars be the same as those we see today against Afghanistan & Iraq?

        If honesty is not an ingredient of the thought process, we will never ever find the truth. At least that’s how I see it. If Jesus did all the violent crimes, I would readily condemn him in exactly the same way.

        If these info are wrong, then by all means, show me which ones are wrong. And I will try to research to verify my info if I can.

        I must google up that discussion on Fox News you referred to. I’m sure it’s an interesting discussion.

        • Yes. Is violence good? No. Is it sometimes the only means? Yes.
          Nelson Mandela used violence. And I’m sure you’re going to say he wasn’t a prophet. Yes – but Muhammad being a prophet didn’t mean he was perfect, as the Qur’an makes clear. He was human.

  11. “The prophet, if he was really one, and especially if he’s guided by God almighty, should be free from the elements of time.”

    Why do you believe this? Is it your own idea of prophecy or something you find in the texts?

    “His actions should have reflected the quality of God (since God was constantly “communicating” with him), not subject to his living environment.”

    God was communicating with him but the Prophet still made his own decisions, which is why he made mistakes the God then corrected him about.

    “Why do Muslims ALWAYS try to compare wars, e.g. Afghanistan & Iraq etc to justify Mohammad’s crimes?”

    That’s not what I was doing at all! I had made a comment saying 2010 was a civilized era, then I realized maybe that wasn’t the case. I thought that was pretty clear. I was in no way linking those wars to what the Prophet did.

    I think the issue here is approach to the Qur’an. I believe in contextualization, as is pretty clear from this blog. My interpretations are also very different from the ones you seem to be used to.

    I don’t believe the Qur’an allows polygamy. I believe the Qur’an allows war only in self-defense. The Qur’an does not allow people to kill other people. The Prophet did not marry a 9-year old.

    Can you give some concrete examples of when Muhammad attacked people for no reason? As far as I know from my extensive research is that it was always a case of self-defense, or in the case of Quraysh one of preventing them from attacking Madinah constantly. But I am interested in finding out which battles you are referring to.

    Also I’m curious as to why you do not accept interpretations that state that Aisha was not 9 when the Prophet married her? Why do you believe the ones that say she was? Is this because you have researched the matter thoroughly? Or choosing the one Muslims cite the most?

    • “God was communicating with him but the Prophet still made his own decisions, which is why he made mistakes the God then corrected him about.”

      When he allowed Muslim men to marry up to 4, was that one of Mohammad’s mistakes, or did God reveal to him that that was allowable? And if that was disallowed, i.e. that it was indeed a mistake, at which point did God correct that mistake?

      “I don’t believe the Qur’an allows polygamy.”

      In that case, do you accept that Mohammad went against the Quran when he took many wives, even more than the 4 he allowed his men?

      “Also I’m curious as to why you do not accept interpretations that state that Aisha was not 9 when the Prophet married her?”

      Not really. I do not accept that Aisha was 9 when Mohammad married her. I have read several accounts, giving Aisha’s age when she married Mohammad. And it’s a surprisingly wide range too, between 6 to 19. And if I’m not much mistaken, I’ve also seen 25! But with such a wide range, I am unable to confirm with any certainty Aisha’s age at the time. I can only guess, and let me hasten to admit that my guess may be wrong! However, if I were trying to defend Mohammad, I would imagine that my guess of Aisha’s age would lean towards 19 as opposed to 6.

  12. Sara and i differ on this aspect. Muhammed was perfect. As the quran states, he didnt speak out of his own whims.
    As for violence. Do you claim that allt he jewish prophets that you as christian are supposed to beleive in, were not Gods prophets becaause they used violence?

    If you read about the Prophet and the wars, you will see that the deathtoll was very little.

    As for 1.5 billion muslims. Do all christians follow the rules of Jesus? Do all the lovers of democracy and “freedom” follow those ideologies?
    Trust me the same blogs that speak of democracy are the ones that hate me for my views and for my values, so they dont follow the rules that say in a democracy you are allowed to think and express yourself..

    • “Muhammed was perfect.”

      I am not surprised at all. That is how the vast majority of Muslims see Mohammad. If that is how you see him, then that is your right, please do not worry that I will hate you for that.

      I do not see this man as “perfect”. In fact, I think he is a shameful example! But that is me; I can accept that you do not agree with me.

      Amongst others, this illiterate man killed so many people in his day, was a womanizer, led his men to war, and tortured his captives. To me, he is far from perfect! Therefore, I can only speculate that your standard and definition for “perfect” is different than mine.

      “As the quran states, he didnt speak out of his own whims.”

      Yes, but the contents of the Quran came from Mohammad himself, which he claimed was revealed to him by God. Only God knows if that was true.

      “As for violence. Do you claim that allt he jewish prophets that you as christian are supposed to beleive in, were not Gods prophets becaause they used violence?”

      I wish to clarify that although I was baptised a Chatolic, I don’t believe in religions. I don’t practise Christianity. I have said that if indeed Jesus killed his enemies, raped women, brought his people to war against others etc, I would condemn him too in exactly the same way.

      “If you read about the Prophet and the wars, you will see that the deathtoll was very little.”

      How do you tell someone dying of an act of the violent prophet that he is just one of those within the “very little” deathtoll? Does it really matter that the prophet “was reluctant to use violence” when he did use violence in the end anyway?; that his acts led to “very little deathtoll” when some people had to die anyway?; that instead of marrying a child of 6, he married a child of 12, when he is old enough to be the grandfather of that child? Do you not see that all the excuses you’re using to protect him can’t even come close to cancel his terrible acts?

      If I were a rapist, does it really matter if I raped 10 women (only) instead of 100 women? How do you tell my victims that I am a perfect man, because I raped only 10 women?

      “As for 1.5 billion muslims. Do all christians follow the rules of Jesus? Do all the lovers of democracy and “freedom” follow those ideologies?”

      No, I don’t think so. Because there is no element of force, you see. It is up to you to interpret the teachings. But in the case of Mohammad and his Quran, you cannot challenge it—everything is cast in concrete, at least that was the original intention of the prophet. And if you try to challenge or reinterpret the Quran’s contents in a different way than that of Mohammad’s, then you are no longer considered to represent Islam!

      • “But in the case of Mohammad and his Quran, you cannot challenge it—everything is cast in concrete, at least that was the original intention of the prophet. And if you try to challenge or reinterpret the Quran’s contents in a different way than that of Mohammad’s, then you are no longer considered to represent Islam!”

        I’ve heard this before…oh yes, from Islamic fundamentalists!

  13. Bahlool…, “he didnt speak out of his own whims.”

    This is clearly false considering God reprimands him several times in the Quran…not to mention threatens him with a severe punishment if he strays from the path just like anyone else…which indicates it was possible for him to do so…which indicates he wasnt perfect. The only perfect thing, if you want to go that route, is God. If the prophet was perfect he would be a god.

  14. The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the perfect example for humankind, it doesn’t mean he didn’t make mistakes, but he always repented and God has forgiven him all his past and future sins.

    Allah says in the holy Qur’an (Surah 68:Verse 4), concerning the propeht in various translations:
    “YUSUFALI: And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character.

    PICKTHAL: And lo! thou art of a tremendous nature.

    SHAKIR: And most surely you conform (yourself) to sublime morality.”

    And the prophet himself warned us not to praise him to the lengths Christians have praised Jesus (as). He said that we all sin, but the best of sinners are those who repent most often.

    As for Corneliu’s comments above – it seems to me that you’ve tried filling a cup that was already half filled – with regards to your (mis)understandings of Islam. A cup which is now overflowing with preemptive and premature condmenations of the Islamic faith based on prior biased and very negative notions of what you thought Muslims believed — NOT what we actually do believe.

    I’d advise you empty this cup,start with a clean slate, and understand what islam TRULY is and what muslims TRULY believe — not what YOU think we believe!

    With Peace!

    • “The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the perfect example for humankind…”

      Let’s not dwell on Muhammad as the perfect example for humankind. I have given my justifications why I consider him as anything other than “perfect example for humankind”. All the violence (even if he was “reluctant” to use it), the killings (even if the deathtoll was “very little”), how he treated women as his sex toys, especially women slaves (even if he repented and God forgave all his sins) etc etc. You have not provided me with your reasons why he is a “perfect example for humankind”, other than what the Quran tells you, which apparently you do not have the courage to question or challenge. And don’t forget that the Quran was “revealed” via Mohammad.

      “He (Mohammad) said that we all sin, but the best of sinners are those who repent most often.”

      I can agree with the first half of the sentence, i.e. that we all sin. Of the second half, I say nothing—it is truly deplorable! I’m sure each time he had sex with his women slaves, he repented; when he beheaded his war captives, he repented. And because he repeated his terrible acts “most often”, he repented “most often” too. I can’t see anything mysterious in that at all. And then suddenly that became a standard parameters for “the best of sinners”. Listen to your own argument, my friend. You don’t have to be honest to me, but maybe if you tried hard enough, by a stroke of miracle, you may become honest to yourself.

      “…it seems to me that you’ve tried filling a cup that was already half filled – with regards to your (mis)understandings of Islam. A cup which is now overflowing with preemptive and premature condmenations of the Islamic faith based on prior biased and very negative notions of what you thought Muslims believed — NOT what we actually do believe.

      I’d advise you empty this cup,start with a clean slate, and understand what islam TRULY is and what muslims TRULY believe — not what YOU think we believe!”

      I hate to disappoint you, my friend, but actually it’s the other way round. I approached Islam with a “clear slate”, and immediately stumbled upon a man who claimed that he’s a prophet of God. But his behaviour was very unbecoming of the person he claimed to be. No Muslim can give satisfactory answers to explain his terrible acts. They tried, but always giving justifications which could not hold water for a minute! They simply have the pre-programmed notion that he’s a “perfect example of humankind” because the Quran says so. Who do you think between the two of us is the one who really started with a half-filled cup?

  15. Sara,

    My apology for being too direct in my comments. I will try to refrain from further arguing about Mohammad. Not sure if I can control myself though. LOL!

    To Bahlool and nida, been exciting to “discuss” with you two. Thanks for obliging this old man.

  16. Dear Cornelious, you can give me sweeping generalizations about our prophet Muhamamd (peace be upon him) ’till there’s no tomorrow – just like every other misinformed person does. Untill you can cite me historical facts and actual sources where you might be getting these allegations from, there is no point in ‘discussing’ anything with you.

    Good Day!

    • Yes, nida, since my opinion is not consistent with yours, then I must be a misinformed person. Let me gracefully withdraw from this discussion. Thank you and good day.

      • Not at all dear Cornelius, it’s the fact that you are not able to provide concrete proof, or proper citation to your claims that is making me believe as such. Any opinion has to be supported with evidence if it is to be conssidered at all. You may withdraw, it would have been best not to make such fallacious claims about our prophet (upon whom may be peace) in the first place.

        Best,

        • nida, if you insist, I will try to furnish you with sources of info. I wouldn’t go a far as furnishing you with “evidence” because I don’t think anyone can do so, not even you.

          OK, if you insist, let’s start with Mohammad having sex with his slave. Do you deny that? Would you like my source of info on that?

    • Oh yes, by the way, I’m just curios, nida, since Sara doesn’t believe that Mohammad was perfect; or that the Quran allows polygamy, would you say she, too, is misinformed?

  17. I sympathise with a lot of what you say here and definitely think western colonialism has a lot to answer for. But my question is, how to rectify the imbalance now?

    If science and reason and technology and so on are good things, it doesn’t matter who invented or discovered them. Surely by labelling them as “western” you are perpetuating the divide when the success of the human race relies on us all working together. I agree it’s unfortunate that even some of the good aspects of modernity have a very western flavour, but the rest of the world labelling them as “foreign/western” will not help change that.

    I see science as a natural, organic thing that happens because humans are naturally curious, intelligent and creative. If “the west” didn’t discover reason and the scientific method of using objective evidence, someone else would have. It happened because the universe follows natural laws that can be understood in an objective, non-arbitrary way, and this understanding works to our advantage. (Technology, medicine, the fact that we don’t drown witches any more, etc.)

    In that sense science is an inevitable human phenomenon. And it is certainly imperfect. It is quite likely *impeded* by our inability to think outside of our western box. Modernity/science/progress is not a perfect western thing held up as an example to the rest of the world, in my mind; it is an imperfect human thing, and it needs *all* of us to work together to make it better.

    • Nice to have you comment again 😀

      I agree that science, reason etc are great. And they existed before the west began to lean heavily on them post-Enlightenment. However, what I am criticizing is the idea that they are the *only* way to understand anything. Science and rationality have become hegemonic discourses. And I don’t agree that that has happened because that’s how we naturally are – I think that’s what is said to justify its dominance.

      I’m not against science. Like I said, Islam and science go way back. The thing is, Islam incorporated science into a bigger system. Today what we have is science AS the system – the only system for that matter.

      “If science and reason and technology and so on are good things, it doesn’t matter who invented or discovered them.”

      I agree that science and technology can be value-free, but reason is not. What type of reason, logic, method? If I reason that I know God exists because I can feel Him when I pray, is that acceptable from a scientific point of view? No.

      In terms of rectifying the imbalance colonialism has created, we could start by getting rid of western dominance that exists today – dismantle the UN security council, get rid of the IMF and World Bank, get the west to stop invading countries etc. Colonialism is far from over.

      • Science certainly isn’t the only way to understand things, but it by definition produces results that are demonstrably true, whereas religion is by definition based on faith. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to live by hadith alone and reject western medicine. And you don’t want to live by objective truth alone either. As I understand it you want something of a mixture.

        I can definitely sympathise with that and I too am wary of the idealism of sticking only to rationality. I think the question of what is best for us is not trivial. We have a spiritual hunger, and stringent rationality probably wouldn’t create a utopia even if it were possible.

        Having said that, I would rather live in a country where science rather than religion was “the system”. I would rather that the only authority on truth was objective evidence. Wouldn’t you?! In a court of law for example, most people would agree that that’s the safest way for it to be.

        Traditional, more subjective systems of thought *are* empirically tried and tested in a sense, because they have stood the test of time; there is often a lot to be said for them. But by the same token, they might only have worked in a completely different set of societal conditions (e.g. religions that originated in more tribal eras). They might also have worked well only for a subset of the population (e.g. religions that persecute other faiths, gay people etc.) I think they need to be open to change. I know you do too. But on what basis do we make changes? Surely adapting a tradition to new conditions is essentially a reason-based approach? 😀

        Ideas can come from anywhere; they can be new or old; different cultures have different ideas; and all should be given equal consideration. I think the difference between different “systems” is in how we evaluate the ideas: either we think freely and use reason, or we stick to some traditional/subjective authority. I think this is the crux of the issue. Western thinking has embraced reason and rejected all traditional authority, and that is so similar to your approach to Islam that I can’t help but smile. 🙂

        • You’re absolutely right! I see a lot (if not most) of western-based rationality in my own relationship with Islam, and that has led me to struggle time and time again. My previous post called Change is about how approaching Islam with a mixture of rationality and other forms of (equally valid) knowledge makes more sense to me now, and has made things much easier. I’ve been brainwashed by the west just as many non-westerners have been, and its a truly liberating thing to realize that and begin to decolonize my thinking.

          Great comment!

          • Funny. I read your “Change” post as being about you *stopping* trying to accept the traditionalist version of Islam and therefore very much falling down on the side of using your own reason!

            If you feel like writing posts about the other forms of knowledge you use, I would be interested to know about it. 🙂

            • Ah really?! No I meant something else 😛

              I will definitely post about other knowledges. In this sense Foucalt and Edward Said are interesting, as they both talk about the need for other knowledges to fight the dominant one. Foucalt calls them subjugated knowledges.

              By the way, this is not about traditionalist Islam. I didn’t accept that before and I don’t accept that now. traditionalist Islam is not the only alternative to rational thinking 🙂 Spirituality is one, and that was more what I was thinking of when I wrote the post.

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