IR8b Ghazali Project: Rejecting Western Wisdom

{bit.ly/IR8RWW} The goal of the Ghazali project is to recognize the Quran and Hadeeth as the greatest treasure of knowledge given by God to mankind as a whole. This knowledge is perfect and complete, superior to anything anyone else has, and is fully capable of solving our modern problems far better than any alternative approach developed in the West. To arrive at this position requires three steps – building faith in God, rejecting Western wisdom, and learning how to develop Quranic solutions to modern problems. This post is a lecture about the second step. For the first step see previous lecture on IR8a Ghazali Project: Deliverance from Doubt

The Eurocentric Myth: The West claims that human history started with the European Enlightenment, when mankind started to reject superstitions and tradition, and learned to reason for the first time. As a result of this turn to rational thought, Europeans made tremendous advances in all fields of knowledge. All valuable knowledge we have today was created by Europeans in the past few centuries.

Incoherence of modern philosophers: The first step of the Ghazali Project “Deliverance from Error” is to build strong faith in Allah. This is based on purifying our hearts, which have been built with the capability of recognizing the Noor of Allah. We have to cleanse them of the love of pleasure, power, and profits (that are the goals of life for the West). A strong faith in Islam will be created when we learn to love Allah T’aala above all things. One consequence of this recognition will be that the gifts of knowledge given to Allah T’aala in the final message (Quran) is complete and perfect. It is far better than anything anyone else might gather. We need to attack the myth of superiority of Western wisdom, and show the “incoherence of modern Western philosophers”. This is the second step of the Ghazali Project. (The third step involves showing the superiority of the teachings of Islam over current teachings of the West, which is the topic of the next lecture.) In rejecting the wisdom of the West, we need two different strategies, one for the social sciences and one for the physical sciences. We start with the Social Sciences.

Recognizing Social Sciences as the Religion of the West: The Social Sciences claim to be objective factual knowledge of universal validity. We have established this is false in previous lectures on Origins of Western Social Sciences (WSS), and The Puzzle of Western Social Science. What are WSS, if they are not objective universal truths? Just as Islam is a Deen – meaning a complete way of life – so WSS is the Deen of Europe. WSS arose as a replacement for Christianity, after secular modern ways of thinking rejected Christianity in Europe. This required re-thinking, from scratch, normative standards for behavior for individuals, communities, and nations. The key elements of the European religion of WSS are the following:

  1. Since there is no God, Afterlife, Judgment, the purpose of our collective and individual efforts must be the maximization of pleasure during our present life on this earth.
  2. Since no religion is valid, everyone is free to pursue whatever they desire, to make up whatever goals they want. Freedom must be the key value in a Godless society.
  3. At the social level, the key problem is to resolve the conflicts created by providing maximum amount of freedom to everyone. This involves defining rights for everyone and a judicial system which adjudicates disputes between individuals.
  4. Morality and rights are defined and enforced by the rule-of-law within a nation-state. In the international arena, since there are no laws, there are no rules and no morals.

Deadly Errors of WSS: Even if we deny God and Afterlife, it is wrong to think that we can maximize pleasure by consumption of goods, and by pursuit of wealth and power. Happiness studies show that consumption only creates short-run pleasure. Long run welfare and happiness depends on our social relationships and our character traits. In particular, gratitude and contentment, key Islamic virtues, are character traits central to happiness. Setting our goals for life is the central question we all face, since everything we do depends on these goals. Leaving everyone free to choose their goals means abandoning the intellectual heritage of mankind, which has devoted an enormous amount of effort to discussing this question. In particular, teachings of Islam provide us with guidance, in this dimension where the modern West is blind. In particular, Islam teaches us to build societies on the basis of generosity, cooperation, social responsibility, and unity. These values are almost the opposite of the values advanced and advocated by the WSS.

The Physical Sciences: It is obvious that the West has made an enormous amount of progress in the Physical sciences. When we take about “incoherence”, we do not mean to reject the established accomplishments of science. Rather, our target is the philosophy of “scientism” according to which science is the sole source of knowledge, and science will end up solving all problems of mankind. If we do a cost benefit analysis of science, we find that the benefits have been largely offset by the enormous costs. These costs, which include the deadliest wars in the history of mankind, which destroyed more than 50 million innocent lives in the past centuries. Scientific exploitation of the planet has created a climate catastrophe which has destroyed the majority of species, biological and botanical, which existed on the planet. It also threatens to destroy human life. The problem is not the technology, but the intention behind the creation of the technology. The power generated is used to exploit human beings and the planet, instead of helping the oppressed, and nourishing and caring for the planet which has been given to us as a trust.

LINKS: For the previous lecture, see IR8a Ghazali Project: Deliverance from Doubt. For a list of all lectures in this sequence, see How to Launch an Islamic Revival?. For more on how Western Social Sciences emerged as a replacement for religion, after Europeans rejected Christianity, see IR3 Origins of Western Social Sciences

IR8a Ghazali Project: Deliverance from Doubt

{bit.ly/IR8DfD} The central problem facing the Ummah today is the problem of the Modern Mu’tazila. To understand what this is, we must first understand the problem of the Ancient Mu’tazila. We can also call that the first crisis of knowledge in the Islamic Civilization. This occurred when the early Muslims came into contact with a treasure-house of knowledge from many other civilizations. Translations made simple desert Bedouin acquainted with sophisticated, deep, and complex philosophies, which deeply impressed Muslim intellectuals. So much so that the Mu’tazila declared that AQL (by which they meant Greek philosophy) was on par with WAHY – the revelation of the Quran. This was adopted as the state religion by Khaleefa Al-Mamun, and scholars who opposed this were persecuted. Had this state of affairs continued, Greek philosophy would have been mixed up with the teachings of Islam – this is exactly what happened to Christianity. Later, when central principles of Greek philosophy (such as the Earth being at the center of the universe) were proven wrong, Christianity itself was discredited. Allah T’aala protected His Deen from this fitna, and this position was eventually rejected by the majority of the Muslims. Otherwise, Islam would have suffered the same fate as Christianity – rejection as a bunch of ancient superstitions which have been proven wrong by science.

So, what is the relevance of the story of the Ancient Mu’tazila for today? We are suffering from exactly the same problem. When Islam became a stranger to the Muslims, the thirst for knowledge was extinguished. This is the core and spirit of Islam. Meanwhile, teaching of Islam, in very DISTORTED form, reached Europe. Even this distortion was powerful enough to end their dark ages, and bring about radical change – which THEY call the European Enlightenment. Distorted and corrupted forms of Islamic philosophies created the foundations for new enlightenment philosophies of Europe. The entire structure of European knowledge over the past few centuries was built on these false foundations. As a result, this entire structure of knowledge is deeply corrupted, and extremely harmful to human welfare, both at the personal and at the collective level.

Imam Al-Ghazali played a central role in providing the philosophical basis for ending the first crisis of knowledge of the Islamic civilization, created by the Ancient Mu’tazila. His efforts can be summarized in three steps, each of which needs to be replicated today, to tackle the Modern Mu’tazila. The three steps are represented by three book of Imam Al-Ghazali:

  1. Al Munqid Min-al-Dhalala: Deliverance from Doubt
  2. Tahafatal Falasafa: Rejection of the Philosophers
  3. Ihya Uloom-ud-Deen: Revival of the Religious Sciences

This post is about the first step: starting from a position of doubt, how can we arrive at certainty about religion? Al-Ghazali starts from the premise that SOME group must have this knowledge; it all knowledge is completely lost, then it would not be possible to rediscover it starting from zero. So, he examined the approaches to faith among four different schools of thought existing at this time:

  1. Theologians (mutakallimûn): Apologists, who attempted to counter Greek philosophy on its own grounds.
  2. Followers of so-called infallible teachers (imâm): Taqleed.
  3. Philosophers – imported methods of Greeks into reasoning religion, and gave primacy to “reason” over religion.
  4. Mystics (Sûfîs).

Each of the first three methods has serious defects. The theologians use reason to arrive at faith, and also to produce counterarguments against Greek philosophy. But, by following this procedure, they make “reason” the standard of judgment. Now, reason is incapable of producing “knowledge”. It can only start from a set of given suppositions, taken to be true on faith, and then argue to some conclusions on this basis. Reason cannot start from zero, and produce some knowledge. Because of this, all groups are able to use reason to arrive at their own favored conclusions, and it is impossible for reason to judge between two such groups. There are many obvious defects in the methodology of Taqleed. Imam Al-Ghazali says that this principle make men the standard of truth, instead making truth the standard by which to judge men. The third approach of using methods of Greek philosophy to arrive at knowledge, leads to many different errors, which are enumerated by Ghazali in his book on the “Incoherence of Philosophers”. Thus this approach cannot lead to certainty about Deen either. The only approach left is the way of the mystics, who say that it is the experience of God which leads to faith. This experience cannot be described with words, and it cannot be understood by reading books.

“Ihsan” – the experience of God – is the only sure basis for removal of doubts regarding God. The need for conscious awareness of the presence of God, is explained in many Ahadeeth and also in the Quran. For a more detailed discussion, see Ihsan: Living in Presence of God. The conclusion of this discussion is that doubt about God and Deen can only be removed by the experience of God. Certainty is a state of the heart, which experiences the presence of God. Certainty is not a state of the mind, and cannot be achieved by reasoning. Some of the key practices required to arrive at the state of Ihsan can be listed as follows:

  1. Remember and use Dua’s for all occasions of daily life – this will remind us of God on a continuous basis.
  2. Some of the key Dua’s in this regard are: Dua for waking up, Wudu, concentrating before Salat, full attention in Salat, eating, drinking, buying, selling, and greeting others (Salam).
  3. On a Moment-to-Moment basis, ask God for guidance on what to do next, how to approach every choice in life.
  4. For major life-decision, follow the recommended practices of Istikhara and Istishara.

For the previous post in this sequence, see IR7 How Education Shapes Our Thoughts. For a list of all the lectures in this sequence, see How to Launch an Islamic Revival?

IR7 How Education Shapes Our Thoughts

{bit.ly/IR7est} This is the 7th lecture in a series on How to Launch an Islamic Revival?.A more detailed 55m video is linked below, after some brief explanatory remarks. For the next lecture, see IR8a Ghazali Project: Deliverance from Doubt.

We like to think that our thoughts are independent and free, but in fact, they are very strongly conditioned by our education, both formal and informal. A western education is designed to teach us three major lessons, all of which emerge out European history. European got wealthy by a process of global colonization and conquest, killing millions, enslaving millions, and destroying the cultures and civilization of millions all across the globe. So one lesson which is built into a western education is that all is fair in pursuit of power, profits, and pleasure. This philosophy emerged in the West as a result of their rejection of Christianity (see European Transition to Secular Thought). Loss of faith in Christianity led to the emergence of a market society, where everything is for sale, and money is the supreme God. A western education is designed to create human resources for use in a labor market. It trains us to think of ourselves as commodities for sale, instead of human beings, robbing us of our true identities (see Learn Who You Are!). At the heart of capitalism is massive amounts of over-production. To handle this over-production, it is necessary to create a consumer society, where everyone thinks that the purpose of our live is to buy more and more goods, and chase after ever increasing standards of living, and ever higher GDP per capita. The Islamic concept of contentment with what you have, is in radical conflict with educational requirements for a capitalist society. Today, the legacy of colonization (see The Conquest of Knowledge) has created an inferiority complex throughout the Islamic world. This leads us to imitate blindly Western systems of education which poison our minds in the three major ways mentioned above, as well as creating countless other harmful habits of thought and action. Some of the major myths which we need to understand, so as to liberate ourselves from them, are discussed in the lecture below.

LINKS to Related Materials: For a brief summary of the three mega-events and how they have shaped our thoughts, see the 1000 wd post and 18m video in this link to a previous version of this lecture: Three Mega-Events which Shape our Thoughts. For the previous lecture in this sequence, see IR6 Rebuilding Islamic Societies. All of the lectures are listed and described briefly in: How to Launch an Islamic Revival?

Islamic Alternatives to Eurocentric Myths

This is part 2 of a two part lecture on the concept of development, delivered at National Institute of Management, Peshawar on 4th Apr 2018. For the first part see Rejecting Eurocentric Conceptions of Development. The concept of “development” in the West matches the requirement of brutal global conquest and colonization: development is pursuit of power, pleasure, profits without any moral constraints. Western education has spread these poisonous myths all over the globe. Islam launched a revolution 14 centuries ago by explaining that “development” refer to learning how to be a human being, modeled on the excellence of conduct of our Prophet Mohammad SAW. Changing the meaning of development means changing what we strive for, in our personal lives, and also collectively, as a society. In this second part of the talk, we consider some of the major myths created in our minds by our Eurocentric education, and provide Islamic alternatives to them. We also explain how Islamic societies and commercial activities are organized along radically different principles from those developed in the West.

Eurocentric Myths about Development: Twists and Turns of European history led them to a large number of false beliefs both about the nature of human beings, and also about the nature of external reality, the world we live in. We will cover these Eurocentric myths in greater detail in other lectures. So I will provide a very brief introduction here. When Europeans rejected Christianity, they decided to reject all unobservables – God, Angels, Afterlife, Soul. They become committed to “materialism” – a philosophy which says that only material substances exist. The effect of a materialistic philosophy is to reduce the role of human beings: our ideas, dreams, visions, energy, determination – all of these things are not material, and therefore not important, to a materialistic philosophy.

Colonization is Conquest of Minds: A handful of Europeans cannot conquer a country like India, with millions of inhabitants, without conquering their minds. Creating the belief in superiority of Europeans, and our own inferiority, is a necessary part of the colonization. This belief is created by an educational process which continues in the same way today, as it did during colonization. This Western education we receive today creates the same beliefs in Western superiority and Eastern inferiority that colonization did earlier. To liberate our minds, we need to radically change the educational process. Success requires re-shaping our VISION about the goals which are worth striving for. Our visions are generated by the history that we learn. If Eurocentric history teaches us that all valuable knowledge originates in the discoveries of the European civilization, we will end up with enormous respect and admiration for the West. This will result in our accepting everything we are taught by the West.

Some Central Eurocentric Myths: The idea that history starts with the European Enlightenment needs to be countered by the realization that it was the light from the advanced civilization of Islamic Spain which ended the dark ages of Europe. The story of the White Man’s Burden – Europeans conquered and colonized the globe to bring mankind the benefits of their advanced civilization – needs to be countered by the facts of history. Colonization was a violent, ruthless, and brutal destruction of human societies all over the globe, solely for purpose of acquisition of wealth and power. The European countries are rich, and we are poor, because they looted the wealth from all over the globe, making them rich at our expense. In a non-Eurocentric history, we will see that all civilizations participated in creating the modern world. For instance, Inca’s were master botanists, created tomatoes, maize, and many other plants which feed the world today. Countless scientific discoveries originate outside Europe

Secrets of European Conquest: One argument for the superiority of the West is the simple fact of global conquest – they did conquer the world, while we did not. We need to understand that this is not because of some inherent superiority of the West. Eurocentric historians have written that the West rose to the top of world civilizations because Europeans are rational, strong, courageous, creative, natural leaders with initiative, and a whole list of great qualities which the rest of the world does not have. This is not true. The truth about history starts from the European rejection of Christianity, God, and morality. This lead to the worship of power, pleasure, and profits, as the central goals of the Western civilization. Their philosophers, like Machiavelli and Hegel, taught them that there are no moral constraints in the pursuit of power. Historians have written that the global conquest came about because Europeans had a comparative advantage in violence: they were prepared kill millions of people for the sake of gold. None of the other civilizations on the planet was so completely without compassion for human lives. This attitude persists to this day. When asked about the millions of children killed in Iraq, the US representative Madeleine Albright said that it was worth killing them to achieve political goals of the USA!

Wisdom of the West: The West argues that they have contributed tremendously to the progress of Human Knowledge. In fact, while they have indeed acquired a tremendous amount of Knowledge of External World – Science, they have become increasingly IGNORANT of the internal world – the heart and soul of human beings. This has led to breakup of families, sharp rise in loneliness, stress, suicide, and a rapid decline of morality. This last is documented in  Julie Reuben: Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and Marginalization of Morality. Many books document how top graduates of Western educational institutions have created political strategies which involve killing millions for profits, both in war, and also for corporate profits. Islam teaches us the most important wisdom: how to be a human being. This is something beyond the capabilities of the West.

Contrast between Western and Eastern Knowledge: WHAT in the teachings of Islam led ignorant and backwards Arabs to World Leadership? DOES this message have the same power today? Because of belief in the West, Muslims today think that Western knowledge — chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics – is the secret to success. We need to de-colonize our minds to realize that the most important question we all face is: What is purpose of life? The West teaches us that the purpose is worldly goals like money, enjoyment, eating, drinking, happiness, wealth, career, power. However, the Quran teaches us that man has been created in the best of forms. Humans have the potential to rise above angels, and also to be the worst of the creations. The goal of life is to realize the potential for excellence which is buried within EACH human soul. The West teaches us that valuable knowledge teaches us how to earn money. Islamic KNOWLEDGE is what teaches us how to be better human beings. How to soften our hearts, how to create compassion. How to advance in our spiritual journey towards God.

We will conclude this lecture with some of the central lessons from Islamic knowledge:

Emulating the Prophet: God sent us the perfect example, to teach us how to live our lives in the best possible way. Our prophet Mohammad SAW was the Mercy to All Nations. He taught us to do Good in return for Evil; to change enemies into friends. To join ties with those who break them. He taught is that our Deen is excellence in conduct, and he was the best example and role model for this purpose.

Unity and Love: The Ummah is like one body. We will have the help of God if we remain united, and not fight with each other. Communities are based on strong families, clan, neighborhood, work-relationships. To create strong communities, we must love one another. If one person is hungry, uneducated, sick, has problems, we are all collectively responsible to help him/her. The Ummah is like one body; if one part hurts, then all parts feel pain. The rich have responsibility for the poor. Strength has been given to the strong to protect the weak from oppression. All the children of the Ummah are OUR children. We must provide them with as much love as we as can give. We should provide equal educational opportunities for all children

Islamic Models for Business: Harvard teaches students that the Bottomline is Profits. Service meant to earn profits. Humans are input to production of wealth. Islam teaches the opposite lessons: Bottomline is SERVICE. Profits used to pay factors comfortably, to ENABLE and SUSTAIN provision of service. Islamic firms will not kill babies for profits like Nestle baby milk powder, or powerful drugs. Creating pollution, externalities, must be considered by a firm which in business for providing service. Of course, Islam does not assume that humans are angels, and an excellent system for justice – beyond current Western conceptions – is part of an Islamic system. Islamic economics asks us to re-conceptualize Firms as motivated by service. Then Labor becomes a form of worship. Earning of wages is part of my obligation (Farz) and Ibadah for me to feed myself and all my dependents. At the same time, All creation is family of Allah, providing service to them makes Allah T’aala happy. Islamic businessmen will be with Shuhada’ and Sadeqeen – as long as they have the intention to provide service to the creation of God.

Money, Banking, & Finance: The spirit to accumulate wealth is reflected in the Bank, the central financial institution of the West. The spirit of spending on others at the heart of Islam is reflected in the central Institution of WAQF. A cooperative society can be happy with FAR LESS production than a competitive society. Massive amounts of wasteful production and consumption is essential part of capitalism. Furthermore, people try to keep up with their neighbors, which leads to ever rising standards of living, but no increase in happiness.

Does Money Buy Happiness? Since capitalist societies focus on accumulation of wealth, it is natural to ask if wealth leads to happiness. Study of large amounts of data reveal the “Easterlin Paradox”. Massive 30 fold increase in consumption levels has taken place in Western societies, without any corresponding increase in happiness. WHY? Consumption brings only short term pleasure (see The Coca-Cola Theory of Happiness) Long Term happiness depends on human development. In particular, cultivating gratitude to Allah, and the attitude of surrender to His will are very important for happiness.

The Human Development Paradigm: The Western paradigm of development as accumulation of wealth was challenged by  Mahbubul Haq, who created the Human Development approach(see The GNP Illusion). This is aligned with Islamic teachings. Our Prophet SAW developed human beings along spiritual, emotional, character dimensions. THIS is the meaning of development. The West can provide us with KNOWLEDGE to earn money, but only Islam can provide us with KNOWLEDGE to realize hidden human potential.

Escaping Colonial Chains: Our biggest problem today is the chains on our thoughts created by colonization. Economists are HIGH PRIESTS of the religion of capitalism. Everything they teach is false doctrines, designed to keep poor countries poor. The Coconut Class – brown on the outside, and white on the inside – derives great benefits from collaborating with the West to exploit the public. Islam offers a radically different framework to think about human beings and society. Islam teaches us to build societies on the basis of Mutual cooperation, responsibility, generosity, instead of competition and greed.  European global conquest led to spread of false and harmful Eurocentric ideas, meant to justify their conquest. Shock-and-Awe, Inferiority Complex generated by defeat, led to Muslim’s acceptance of ideas contrary to Islam.

Final Thoughts: Islam does not ask for results from us – it only asks us to struggle for the good. When we join the struggle, we have already succeeded, regardless of the Outcome. This process and action-oriented approach is radically different from the outcomes-oriented approach of the West, which only looks at success or failure. We must learn to think in terms of the struggle, and what we can do, rather than final outcomes, which are always in the hand of Allah. May Allah T’aala accept our lives  and struggles and use them for the establishment of His Deen. Ameen.

Rejecting Eurocentric Conceptions of Development

{bit.ly/AZrecd} The greatest harm done by the process of global colonization and conquest carried out by the Europeans has been the colonization of minds. We have been trained to believe that development means pursuit of power, pleasure, and profits, by any means – fair or foul. This is an ideology which justifies their own actions in destroying all rival civilizations, and committing genocide of many peoples, to loot wealth from all over the globe. We must replace this odious conception by the Islamic view that our goal is to develop the capacities for excellence as human beings, following the perfect model of character – our Prophet Mohammad AS. This lecture provides some essential antidotes to the Eurocentric History which is used to indoctrinate our minds into believing the superiority of West and the inferiority of the East. This is part 1 of a two part lecture on the concept of development, deliver at National Institute of Management Peshawar on 4th Apr 2018.

Defeat Shapes Minds. Minds of the colonized are trained to believe in the superiority of the (European) conquerors. They accept inferiority of their culture, heritage, religion, intellect, and attempt to imitate the victors in all dimensions. The Islamic Civilization dominated the world for a thousand years, and the benefits flowed to everyone. However, the past few centuries have been a series of defeats on many fields. These defeats have shaped our thinking about EVERYTHING.

Victory Shapes Minds.  Edward Said’s book Orientalism argues that all European knowledge about East is shaped by the imperatives of conquest and colonization. About 85% of the globe was under European control in early 20th Century. The colonization process was incredibly savage & brutal, with unthinkable acts of cruelty, inflicted on vast scale. Millions of Africans were degraded to the status of animals. Untold millions of inhabitants of North and South Americas were killed. European carried out a genocide many civilizations across the globe. The truth is so ugly that it has been suppressed in historical accounts – it would be traumatic to read. Only a few accounts are available from the point of view of the losers. From the native Americans, Bury my heart at Wounded Knee is a moving account. The immense atrocities carried out in Belgian Congo are documented in King Leopold’s Ghost. The enormous amount of suffering inflicted on African slaves in the USA is movingly documents in Inhuman Bondage. Shashi Tharoor has documented British atrocities in colonized India in An Era of Darkness. What has been documented is just the tip of the iceberg. The vast amount of suffering inflicted on humanity by the rise of the West will never be documented. Britain has destroyed records of its colonial crimes, and many more were never recorded.

The problem does not lie in the past so much as the effect of this gruesome and inhuman past on the present and the future. The policies of destroying entire countries under false pretences of benevolence continue to this day. The destruction of Iraq was carried out by deceiving the public. The claimed reasons were to protect the world from Weapons of Mass Destruction, protect the Iraqis from an evil dictator, and bring the benefits of democracy and freedom to the people. Similarly, many countries which defy US hegemony have been destroyed for their defiance – Libya, Afghanistan, Vietnam – while many countries in Latin America have suffered from regime change managed by the CIA. Popular governments have been replaced by tyrants who favor US interests over the public interest.

Perhaps more deadly than imperialism and colonization are the ideologies necessary to justify it. The key philosophical justification for conquest and exploitation is “might makes right”. The West defines development as the pursuit of pleasure, power, and profits, by any means – fair or foul. Because they dominate the world, these toxic ideas are implanted into the minds of the colonized. Thus, we also learn to believe that making money is the goal of life. Countries all over the world pursue the goal of more GNP per capita – regardless of what it takes to get it.

To understand how we can liberate and de-colonize our minds, we must look at the polar opposite of these Eurocentric teachings about development.  Islam Created a revolution 14 Centuries ago. Teachings of Islam catapulted ignorant and backwards Arabs to world leadership. These teachings created a unique civilization which dominated the world for a thousand years. Today it seems that these teachings have lost their power – Muslims are once again the most ignorant and backward people on the planet (collectively). In fact, these teachings are just as revolutionary today as they were 14.5 Centuries ago. However, “Islam came as stranger, and will become a stranger”; instead of applying Islamic teachings, Muslims are pursuing the West. This has happened because we have accepted Western definitions of development, allowing them to replace Islamic conceptions.

Islam created a revolution in ways of thinking about the world, society, and human beings. Some of the forgotten revolutionary ideas of Islam are listed below:

  1. We should strive for excellence in conduct, following the model of our Prophet, who was a Mercy to all Nations.
  2. We are given strength to protect the weak, not to oppress them.
  3. Excess wealth should be spent on the needy.
  4. Social Responsibility: As a society, we are collectively responsible for all members.

For more details, see Modern Miracles of Our Prophet.

To liberate our minds from colonial chains, we need two unlearn two major myths created by Eurocentric history. One is the idea that history starts with The European Enlightenment around the 16th Century. To counter this, we need to remember our “forgotten history” – the wonders of the Islamic Civilization. In the human dimension of racial equality, harmony, and tolerance, our achievements have never been replicated by the West even today. Unequalled culture of peace, harmony, tolerance in Al-Andalus, Islamic Spain, is documented by Rosa Menocal in Ornament of the World. The problem of “forgotten history” is compounded by what Jack Goody calls the “Theft of History”. Europeans took inventions of other civilizations, and claimed them for their own. Major thinkers who shaped Western intellectual thought borrowed heavily from Islamic Civilization. Revolutionary thinkers like Copernicus, Descartes, Newton, and many others, owe major unacknowledged debts to Islamic scientists (see: Is Science Western in Origin?)

What does it matter? They took the contributions of the Islamic Civilizations and claimed them for their own. But that happened centuries ago. Now, they have developed all of the disciplines far beyond their origins. At this point, we need to look at the modern developments, instead of seeking light in pre-modern ideas. The surprising fact is that in many areas of knowledge – especially in the social sciences – the West has actually gone towards the darkness from the light. Western social sciences are actually a branch of ignorance, rather than knowledge. The intellectual tradition of Islam, even today, offers an approach to building societies on the basis of cooperation, justice, social responsibility, and excellence in personal conduct, radically different from Western principles of competition, selfishness, individualism and hedonism. The Islamic approach is dramatically superior to the best available approaches within the Western Social Sciences.

To be continued.

The Greatest Teacher of All Time

There is no doubt that our Prophet Mohammad SAW was the greatest teacher of all time. At the very beginning of Wahy, in the Cave of Hira, Allah T’aala introduced Himself as the one who gives knowledge to man which man did not have. This knowledge was transmitted to the companions and continues to influence the lives of billions living today.

This Ummah was given the responsibility of conveying this final message of God to all of mankind. However, due to colonization, conquest, and mental enslavement, we forgot this mission. Instead of following the revolutionary methods and subjects of education developed by our Prophet, we started to imitate Western methods and subjects – following the Jews and Christians into the holes of the lizards.

My six part talk on “How to become a great teacher” explains that the Final Message of Allah, when transmitted using the methods of the Greatest Teacher in all of human history, still has the same revolutionary power that it did 1450 years ago. It can change our lives, and it can change the lives of our students, and teach them how they can become human beings, the best of the creations of good. As opposed to this, a Western education teaches students how to become human resources, commodities for sale on the labor market. As Muslims, and as educators, we must fulfill our responsibilities to provide USEFUL knowledge beneficial to mankind to our students, and protect them from useless knowledge – which our Prophet sought protection from. Some of the key elements which we need to know, in order to emulate our Prophet SAW, are given in this six part talk linked below:

  1. bit.do/azbgt]: Intro: The Greatest Educator, The knowledge given to man by God, in form of the Quran, and demonstrated in the person of our Prophet Mohammad SAW, changed the course of history. How can we learn to follow in his footsteps?
  2. bit.do/azgt2]: Obstacles to Excellence, Some major misconceptions about teaching, knowledge, and education, which are barriers in the path of our learning to become great teachers.
  3. bit.do/azgt3]: Our Lives for Sale.: The Western system of education is designed to turn us into human resources, commodities for sale in the labor market. We need to learn the Value of Human Lives, to avoid giving this message to our students. Instead, we must teach them that human beings are the best of the creations, and all the gold in the world is not enough to pay for even a small portion of our lives.
  4. bit.do/azgt4]: Three Mega-Events Which Shape Our Thoughts: Historical Events shape our lives and thoughts in ways that we do not realize, and we are not consciously aware of. These ways of thinking tie us down, and prevent us from realizing our hidden potentials as human beings, the best of the creations of God. NOTE: Updated and Expanded Video available: See IR7 Three Mega-Events (1 hr)
  5. [bit.do/azgt5]: Reshaping Lives: Identity and Purpose: A great teacher reshapes lives of students by changing their goals and thereby their identities. A Western education teaches students that the goal of their lives is to earn money. Instead, we need to teach our students that they have infinite potential for excellence, and the goal of life is to develop the capabiilties built into their hearts, to the maximum extent possible.
  6. [bit.do/azgt6The Ghazali Project: Revival of Deen: This explains how global conquest and colonization by West created shock-and-awe of Western knowledge among the Muslims. The post explains how we can recover our lost confidence by recognizing the  nature of Western knowledge as being suited to conquest and pursuit of power and wealth. Islam teaches us love, compassion, mercy for all mankind, and pursuit of excellence in conduct. This is knowledge of an entirely different sort, which still has the capability to revolutionize the world, just like it did fourteen centuries ago.

May Allah T’aala bless us all with the Noor of Guidance, open for us the path to the truth and enable us to take it, and enable us to see the darkness, and to avoid it. Ameen

IR6 Rebuilding Islamic Societies

{bit.ly/IR6RIS} This is the 6th Lecture in a sequence of Lectures on “How to Launch an Islamic Revival?”. It explains that the vast majority of efforts for reform today are based on the idea that progress will be achieved by following the West. It explains where this idea comes from, and why we must change this Eurocentric paradigm to the idea that progress will be achieved by following the teachings of Islam. Previous Lecture: IR5 Changing our Development Paradigms. For next lecture, see IR7 How Education Shapes Our Thoughts

The Conflict between Eurocentrism & Islam

The advent of Islam more than 14 centuries ago created a revolution unique in world history. As the Quran testifies, it took warring tribes steeped in ignorance and barbarism, and transformed them into models of excellence for all times to come. The society created by the teachings of Islam held the center stage of world civilizations for a thousand years. But, as prophesied, Islam came as a stranger and will become a stranger. Today, Islamic societies are once again steeped in ignorance and superstition. In all dimensions of life – social, political, economic, educational, judicial – Islamic societies imitate Western institutional structures. This has resulted in enormous damage. The central question addressed in this series of lectures on “How to Launch an Islamic Revival” is the following: “(How) Can we replicate TODAY the revolution created by Islam 14 centuries ago?

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Stepping Outside the Box

Some questions trap you by creating boxes far removed from the truth. A classic example is “When did you stop beating your wife?”. The option that you never did this, is not on the table; it is not within the range of possible answers. The only way to handle the situation is to REFUSE the question as being valid, and step outside the boxes created by the question. Recently, the Palestinian Ambassador was asked on a TV interview whether or not he approved of Hamas actions in sending rockets to Israel. He refused the question by saying that focus of attention should be on the enormous amount of suffering being inflicted on innocent civilians of Palestine. The cartoon below provides another illustration.

The responder steps outside the boxes created by the question. A market society conditions us to identify ourselves as human resources, and to value our own lives according to the amount of money we can earn. In order to refuse the question, you must rediscover your identity: Learn Who You Are!

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Why Newton Matters? Nine Philosophical Problems

Newton’s discoveries launched philosophical controversies which have lasted centuries. Our purpose here is to recapitulate these briefly. Newton noted that the observed elliptical orbits of the planets could be explained if we assumed that planets attracted each other according to the law of universal gravitation. Making this assumption, all three of Kepler’s observations about orbits of planets could be explained. In addition, a large number of other phenomena could also explained. All of this empirical evidence points towards a hypothesis about matter: there exists a gravitational force which particles exert upon each other. The force is proportional to the masses of both and inversely proportion to the square of the distance. The video lecture explains how Newton’s Laws raise the following nine questions, which are central to modern philosophy:

Nine questions which emerge from Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation:

  1. Does this indirect evidence allow us to conclude that there is such a thing as “the force of gravity”? That this is an inherent and essential property of all matter? Realist science asserts that the answer is yes. Nominalist science says that the inference is not warranted, and not necessary. We can do science without taking a stand on this question. The debate rages, unresolved, to this day.
  2. The cosmological argument says that the amazingly precise and intricate design of the universe is indirect evidence for the existence of a designer. This is especially important because Newton explicitly makes such arguments for the existence of God in his writings.
  3. Can we extend and generalize this inference from what we have observed to all particles in the universe, whether or not we have observed them? Is this projection, from what we can observe to the unobservable, valid across space and time?
  4. Does the force of gravity “cause” the planets to move? To explain this causal effect, do we need to find a mechanism by which this effect operates? Alternatively: How can a planet exert a force on another planet millions of miles away, through the vacuum of space?
  5. Do we learn something from saying that the force of gravity explains the observed elliptical orbits? In what sense does ascribing “Virtus dormitiva” to opium explain the fact that it creates a tendency to sleep?
  6. Given that we have observed the elliptical orbits of the planets for the past few centuries, can we conclude that these orbits will continue to be elliptical for the next few centuries?
  7. Newton’s law of universal gravitation shows that there is a remarkable conformity – a perfect correlation – between the solutions of a mathematical equation and the observed planetary orbits. This correlation, and other indirect evidence, lead us to the belief that Newton’s laws are “true”. Is this belief warranted? What is the nature of the inference from the observation of elliptical orbits to the conclusion that the laws of gravity hold? What is the level of confidence that we can have in knowledge generated by such inferences?
  8. If all particles in the universe follow a deterministic law of motion, then given current configuration of particles and their velocities, we can in principle forecast everything which will happen from here to eternity. Assuming that the universe consists purely of matter, it follows that we then live in a deterministic universe. Is this conclusion warranted?
  9. Do human beings have non-material souls, and if so, can we affect what happens, disrupting the laws of physics which allow us to perfectly predict the past from the future? This leads to a fork, both branches of which are unpalatable. If it is so, it following that all human beings are little miracle makers – we can disrupt the laws of physics. BUT if not, it follows that all our future actions are completely determined by the past. Is our feeling that we can make choices, and that our choices make a difference to the future, just an illusion?

Controversies over these questions have raged for centuries, without any resolution. In later lectures, we will show that this is because philosophers have set an impossibly high bar for “knowledge” – they want to demonstrate the truth or falsehood of answers to above philosophical questions with the certainty of a proof in Euclidean geometry. The most amazing learners in the universe known to us are little children. If we adopt their modest epistemological goals, we can make substantial progress towards resolving these nine riddles, as well as many other less central issues in philosophy. This path forward will be discussed in later lectures.

Western Philosophy: Tragedy of Errors

{http://bit.ly/RSIA10B} Lecture 10B of Real Statistics: An Islamic Approach. The goal of the remainder of this course is to explain the concept of causality, and to differentiate it from correlation. Whereas the correlation of X and Y is symmetric, causation is one-directional. Psychologist have found that infants start understanding causality even as early as six months. This is hardly surprising – infants learn that crying loudly will bring an adult caretaker – basic causality. With time, they develop an amazingly sophisticated approach to learning about causal relationships. In contrast, Western philosophers who study the subject have only become increasingly confused. The number of papers written, and the number of positions taken about what causality means, and how we can learn about it, is increasingly large, complicated, and headache-inducing. Why do infants find causality easy to understand, while philosophers have such great difficulty with it?  The lecture attempts to explain this mystery.

The story is long and complex. This lecture provides a very brief outline of material which is covered in hundreds of books and thousands of articles. The story starts with the advent of Islam 1450 years ago. The final message of God to mankind promised to give human beings new knowledge. This knowledge, revealed in the Quran, and in the sayings and example of our Prophet SAW, revolutionized the world. It made ignorant and backwards Bedouin thought-leaders of the world. The light of this knowledge eventually reached Europe and ended their dark ages, bringing about the Enlightenment. The flood of knowledge in the books of the Islamic civilization clashed frequently with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Church attempted to suppress this knowledge but could not succeed. For a diverse set of reasons, Europeans rejected their religion and made science their new religion (see: Corruption of Clergy & Loss of Faith in Europe: http://bit.ly/azetst2).

The discoveries of Newton’s were tremendously influential in shaping the development of Western philosophy. Rejection of religion led to the rise of materialism. Rejection of God, afterlife, heavens, and the soul eventually led to the rejection of all unobservables. Newtons universal laws of motion showed that every particle obeyed a determinate trajectory. This led the creation of a belief in a deterministic universe. A core commitment to this belief has dramatically affected, for the worse, the development of philosophy in the Western intellectual tradition. The idea that the universe is deterministic conflicts with our strong intuition that we are free to make choices, and the future depends on the choices we make. Nearly all of modern Western philosophy of science is an attempt to reconcile free will with Newton’s deterministic universe. Philosophers work on an impossible goal, since one cannot create a philosophy which reconciles truth with falsehood. This crack in the foundations has had profound effects on the entire structure of knowledge created in the West over the past few centuries. Since one cannot use science to derive moral principles, Western intellectuals have abandoned morality on the whole. This has had disastrous effects on the educational process – see the Marginalization of Morality in Western Education. More relevant to our current concerns, philosophical controversies over concepts central to science have continued without satisfactory resolution for centuries. Commitment to determinism makes it impossible to understand the concept of causation, and to differentiate it from correlation. This explains why Western philosophers have not managed to arrive at a satisfactory definition, even thought infants understand causality very well. In later lectures, we will explain more clearly and directly how infants understand causality, while philosophers fail.

Links to Related Materials:

  1. •CK Raju: Is Science Western in Origin: http://bit.do/azswo
  2. •What the world lost due to the decline of the Islamic Civilization. http://bit.do/azrdm     
  3. •European Transition to Secular Thought: http://bit.do/etst1a