Column by Zahir Ebrahim | Project Humanbeingsfirst.org
Tuesday, August 02, 2011, 2nd day of Ramadan in the United States, Muslim year 1432
Despite a slight throbbing headache due to abstinence from my usual cups of morning tea on my second day of fasting, I feel motivated to address an observation made by a fellow Muslim at an Iftar in a Pakistani restaurant in Islamabad many years ago. In the past few years I have spent many a Ramadan in Pakistan and often visited the same restaurant for breaking the fast with a lavish buffet meal. Servicing a mere day’s hunger from self-imposed deprivation can be a sight to behold. Any sensible person watching privileged Muslims feast at Iftar with perfunctory courtesy to Islam would surely wonder about our religion. Thank goodness non-Muslims don’t approach Islam by looking at the behavior of us gluttonous Muslims, but rather by approaching the Holy Qur’an directly. And that’s the topic of this column – understanding Islam directly from its singular source, the Holy Qur’an.
The good fellow who was one of the restaurant managers and was pursuing part-time studies in Arabic at the Allama Iqbal Open University, sometimes would sit with me for a cup of tea. As I vividly recall, on one of these visits for a hearty meal, he had asked me a rhetorical question to which I had partly replied in some seriousness with reference to the Holy Qur’an. My interlocutor’s immediate riposte to me was something like this:
“don’t quote me the Qur’an; everyone quotes their favorite verses to justify their own narrow positions; the shias quote it, the sunnis quote it, the wahabis quote it, the barelvis quote it, the deobandis quote it, the qadianis quote it, and yet they all have slightly different understanding of the same Holy Qur’an and each would rather die for that difference than relent in their view.”
Indeed, as many Muslims who have read the Holy Qur’an are aware, anyone can pretty much find at least some justification for any agenda, any belief, and mainly the one into which one is socialized at birth, in that most unusual Book.
It is an empirical fact that that’s how Muslims become divided into sectarianism. Not by rationalism, logic or investigation, but by the fact of being born into a Muslim home and adopting the dominant theology and practices of the sect to which the parents belong – whether or not they be practicing Muslims. Often times, the de facto socialization parameters are determined by the dominant sect of the culture, nation, or civilization where one is raised. This is why the majority of Muslims in the world are classified in general terms as sunnis – the dominant sect among the Muslims. This is also why a Saudi Muslim is different from an Iranian Muslim, for example. Neither chooses their sectarian version of Islam – each is born into it. But each claims to be the sole custodian of Islam’s true interpretation. As the dominant mainstream, the sunnis don’t consider themselves to be a “sect” by the fact of being the majority. Only the other minority is a “sect”. Every minority of course think the majority is usually wrong pointing to how it killed Socrates. Some ask: is the religion of Islam a “democracy” – that fifty one percent of the people who are born into it define what Islam and its Book must mean for the rest of the forty nine percent? Isn’t that also called mob rule – where majority ignorance rules? Should one follow the majority just because they are a majority irrespective of the merit of their position? And what objective merit is that when every group, big and small, sees maximum merit only in their own socialized interpretation of Islam?
The vast majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide are directly socialized into our sectarian beliefs from birth. As adults, our understanding of the religion of Islam is thence derived almost exclusively from our birth-sect’s dominant worldviews. Our respective beliefs are further strengthened when we see our sect’s ullema (Muslim religious scholars) most eloquently argue their respective theological raison d’être for differing with that other sect’s mumbo jumbo directly from the Holy Qur’an, and from other secondary and tertiary books of their own sect. That fact of socialization applies recursively to all scholars and compilers of antiquity as well, the bulk of their writings constituting the secondary and tertiary sources of information for subsequent generations of Muslim scholarship, each naturally selecting the narrow views of their respective socialization to promulgate forward to the next generation in a classic example of a crippled epistemology which incestuously feeds upon itself.
This is quite empirical. Pick up any book of antiquity, from tafseer to hadith compilation to history, and one will see the clear separation of shia vs. sunni dichotomy run through them. Examine the background of the authors and they invariably exactly fall along that same boundary. A very peculiar state of affairs which is inexplicable since all sects claim to have the same exact text of the Holy Qur’an, unless one begins to understand the power and influence of incestuous socialization in Muslim scholarship. Few escape it. And this fact is evidenced by the straightforward observation that socialized masses and scholars alike, don’t account for it in their self-righteous proclamations entirely rooted in the superiority complex of their respective inheritance.
Is religion therefore, practically speaking, merely reduced to an inheritance?
The Author of the Holy Qur’an vociferously decries that notion of following in the footsteps of one’s forefathers, often warning not to follow the religion of one’s ancestors just because one is born into that religion. Surah Al-Baqara is replete with that theme. E.g., “This is a people that have passed away; they shall have what they earned and you shall have what you earn, and you shall not be called upon to answer for what they did.” (2:141); and “(On the day) when those who were followed disown those who followed (them), and they behold the doom, and all their aims collapse with them. And those who were but followers will say: If a return were possible for us, we would disown them even as they have disowned us. Thus will Allah show them their own deeds as anguish for them, and they will not emerge from the Fire.” (Surah Al-Baqara, 2:166-167)
The Holy Qur’an repeatedly invites individual reflection of every human being in the matters of beliefs instead of merely inheriting the beliefs from one’s forefathers, as in Surah Al An’aam: “So when the night over-shadowed him, he saw a star; said he: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: I do not love the setting ones. Then when he saw the moon rising, he said: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: If my Lord had not guided me I should certainly be of the erring people. Then when he saw the sun rising, he said: Is this my Lord? Is this the greatest? So when it set, he said: O my people! surely I am clear of what you set up (with Allah). Surely I have turned myself, being upright, wholly to Him Who originated the heavens and the earth, and I am not of the polytheists.” (Surah Al An’aam, 6:76-79)
The Holy Qur’an enjoins such reflection even while also accepting socialization as an empirical fact among mankind. The Author of the Holy Qur’an Itself proclaims that It created mankind in tribes and nations, “O mankind! Lo! We have created you from male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.” (Surah Al-Hujraat, 49:13). And that, “If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people” (Surah Al-Maeda, 5:48) The Holy Qur’an therefore rationally countenances socialization for those pursuing their respective beliefs other than Islam, despite the Holy Qur’an oft stating that Islam supplants them all as the final Revelation in a tamper-proof package: “In a Book well-guarded, Which none shall touch but those who are clean.” (Surah Al-Waqia, 56:78-79) See the examination of Surah Al-Fatiha and Surah Al-Maeda in Islam and Knowledge vs. Socialization for the consequent principles of pluralism for virtuous conduct regardless of beliefs inherent in the message of the Holy Qur’an which unequivocally avers: “There is no compulsion in religion.” (Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqara, 2:256)
Read the Holy Qur’an with some reflection and one will easily perceive what’s stated here – these are some of the lowest hanging fruits of the tree of Islam and there is an unequivocalness to it which omits all room for subjective interpretation.
While accepting socialization as a fact, the Qur’anic recipe to circumvent socialization as a means for independent evaluation of beliefs, is to approach the Holy Qur’an with a cleansed heart. (Ibid.) But we still observe all the cleansed hearts throughout the ages still pretty much fall along the same sectarian demarcation among the Muslims. Why does the cleansed heart recipe evidently fail when it comes to sectarianism for the topics which divide the Muslims? Perhaps the hearts aren’t cleansed enough.
But that platitudinous metaphor for utmost earnestness in seeking the understanding of the Holy Qur’an without bringing preconception and prejudice to it, doesn’t really lend any additional insights into the subject and is a dead-end as far as further intellectual inquiry is concerned.
Therefore, the question naturally arises, if it is observed that everyone finds their own self-serving justifications to validate their respective socialization in the Holy Qur’an, how is one to study the Holy Qur’an objectively in order to understand what its own Author wanted to convey in that Book?
How are we to prevent the hijacking of the Holy Qur’an from a self-serving understanding of it for our own selves?
Before one can even begin to perceptively answer that crucial question, commonsense suggests that one has to first diagnose and dissect the problem more precisely.
Therefore, we begin by formulating the problem in this way:
What are the inherent impediments for studying the message of the Holy Qur’an which make the Book so amenable to self-serving interpretation, socialization, and even bastardization by anyone?
Just to briefly footnote the usage of the latter villainous word, it is no secret that today, its harbingers include the most notable Western propagandists. E.g., Bernard Lewis of Princeton University who wrote the thesis “Crisis of Islam – Holy War and Unholy Terror”; and Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski who easily gave to the USSR its Vietnam War in Afghanistan in Muslim blood with nothing more profound than a simple retake on the German Third Reich’s battle cry Gott mins uns: “God is on your side”. Moreover, today, both “militant Islam” and “moderate Islam”, the Hegelian Dialectic to advance the cause of empire’s “War on Terror”, draw justifications from the Holy Qur’an. One for Holy War, the other for Holy Peace. Each side has its partisans among the public because each side easily sees the correctness of their own position – it is, after all, (selectively) rooted in the Holy Qur’an they each claim.
However, mechanisms for the bastardization of a religion is not the focus of this article. See Islam and Knowledge vs. Socialization, Islam vs. Secular Humanism and World Government, and Case Study in Mantra Creation for these details. The political novel (or historical fiction – the only fair way to characterize it) “Memoirs Of Mr. Hempher, The British Spy To The Middle East” is revealing of how the hijacking of the religion of Islam can be so diabolically engineered by planting and cultivating stooges for cognitive infiltration into the religion via a subversive sect creation in the 18th century. In PART SIX of the novel, key insightful observations are made about the religion of Islam and the Muslim psyche which regardless of who authored them – whether as historical fiction or a real handbook of subverting Islam – are empirically visible even today.
Empiricism lends direct credence to the description of the Machiavellian methods of subversion of the religion of Islam in that political treatise (read pertinent excerpt) irrespective of who is its author or what literary device is employed to convey the malignant thesis. Just as “Philip Dru Administrator : a Story of Tomorrow 1920 – 1935” by Edward Mandell House depicts in a fictional narrative, the first principles used for the author’s own Trojan Horse role in controlling President Woodrow Wilson’s presidency (1912-1920) as a puppet on behalf of oligarchic powers behind the scenes. First principles which one can observe being practiced for all American presidencies ever since, including today for President Obama’s puppet presidency. Just as empiricism also lends incontrovertible weight to the Machiavellian methods in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion regardless of who wrote that malignant treatise whose effects in the world today are plainly visible as if blueprinted directly from that villainous recipe book of subversion. All these political treatises in varying forms are akin to the political novel The Prince by Machiavelli, written in the 16th century which still forms the guide-book for modern statecraft, and that is the heart of the matter – the principles of subversion espoused in them. Just as Machiavelli is read and followed in statecraft, so are any recipe books which permit subverting the enemy, including the 2500 years old Chinese treatise of Sun Tzu, The Art of War (read all these works).
And lastly, in that same vein of subversion of a lofty religion for seeding havoc among its followers, the two articles Egypt and Tunisia – The ‘arc of crisis’ being radicalized! and Unlayering the Middle East War Agenda: Making Sense of Absurdities, delve into the more recent cultivation of the shia Iranian Revolution of yesteryear to connect with the present “revolutions” suddenly erupting in the Middle East. Its juxtaposition to the cultivation of the sunni “Mujahideens” in Afghanistan at exactly the same time period, both of them to fertilize the “arc of crisis” with bipartisan Muslim blood, is frightening testimony of the persistence of vulnerable fracture points among the followers of Islam which are perennially ripe for harvesting.
The Muslim fratricide of Iran-Iraq war was only made possible by deftly employing the age old historical schisms of shia-vs-sunni, arming both sides and contriving the fratricide in untold millions. That contrivance is a textbook example of game theory being put into practice for a global agenda. The effects of fertilizing the “arc of crisis” in Muslim blood predictively percolated into enabling other premeditated global events, ultimately setting into motion the creation of a New World Order – of one world government. Read the aforementioned two articles to fathom the self-serving Cassandra-like predictions made by Zbigniew Brzezinski right after lighting that fuse to what he prophetically (sic!) called the “arc of crisis”. A fuller understanding of that epoch of the latter half of the twentieth century minimally requires a book-length read which perceptively re-links the seemingly disparate and often unlinked antecedent and subsequent events, wars, collapses, revolutions of the past century, melding directly into the searing event of the New Pearl Harbor on September 11, 2001. See a précis in Of Ostriches and Rebels on The Hard Road to World Order.
With the preceding bird’s eye view of the age old villainous methods of subversion and harvesting of the religion of Islam from within, the focus in this article is exclusively on the natural impediments to the earnest study of the Holy Qur’an by a genuine seeker of its knowledge who willingly comes to the Book.
So you open the Holy Qur’an to read, with a cleansed heart, Muslim or non-Muslim, native Arabic speaker or reading many translations in your own language alongside. Common impediments now make the study of the Holy Qur’an uncongenial to the ordered mind. Let’s dissect that uncongeniality with a surgeon’s scalpel. The result is not as obvious as it might first appear.
Let’s begin with a thought experiment. Imagine Mr. Spock from Star Trek curiously picking up the Holy Qur’an to examine its fascinating contents. What will he find?
For those unfamiliar with Mr. Spock, he is a fictional character in a science fiction television series of the 1960s. Spock is a completely logical being. He exhibits no human characteristics of subjectivity and emotionalism. He has no intuition, no imagination, and no inspiration. He makes rational analysis of any matter based solely on available facts and data. He draws linkages, makes inferences and deduction, theorizes and opines, based solely on factual logic and not on intuition or other un-quantifiable human notions of tea-leaves reading, sixth sense, gut feel, love, hate, etc., all of which transcend rational logic. Therefore, Mr. Spock can put no subjective spin on his analysis. His opinion is always supported by facts at hand. When he is forced to speculate, he refrains by saying one needs facts to even speculate. When he theorizes for the unknown, he only does so based on available factual evidence.
It is fair to say that Mr. Spock is completely un-socialized into any worldview other than of pure logic and empiricism. Thus he brings no presuppositions and no prejudices to his testimony other than that which naturally falls out from pure logic applied to empirical data. An example to illustrate this is from the episode titled “Court Martial” where Mr. Spock is being asked to testify in a court martial of his captain. When Mr. Spock asserted that it was not possible for his captain to be guilty as charged because it was not in his nature to make such an error, he was accused by the prosecutor of bias due to loyalty to his captain; that Spock hadn’t actually watched the captain not do what he was charged with doing. Mr. Spock’s response is elegantly logical: “I know the captain. Lieutenant, I am half Vulcanian. Vulcanians do not speculate. I speak from pure logic. If I let go of a hammer on a planet that has a positive gravity, I need not see it fall to know that it has in fact fallen.”
As the science officer aboard the starship Enterprise, Mr. Spock is the second in command and has the distinguished record of one hundred percent objective situational analysis of fast breaking crises one hundred percent of the time. Just the kind of mind we need to launch our forensic examination of the Holy Qur’an – the separation between the object under study and the observer. Mr. Spock’s logical mind lends us that much needed cleavage.
To be continued in Part-II.
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The author, an ordinary researcher and writer on contemporary geopolitics, a minor justice activist, grew up in Pakistan, studied EECS at MIT, engineered for a while in high-tech Silicon Valley (tinyurl.com/zahir-patents ), and retired early to pursue other responsible interests. His maiden 2003 book was rejected by numerous publishers and can be read on the web at PrisonersoftheCave.org. He may be reached at Humanbeingsfirst.org. Verbatim reproduction license at humanbeingsfirst.org Copyright.