RAMADAN ON SESAME STREET

Not Even Water

We are now well and truly in the blessed month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. Because the Islamic calendar is based on a lunar cycle and the western (Gregorian) calendar is based on a solar cycle, Ramadan keeps shifting back about 11 days every year, which is why this year’s start of the month is earlier than last years, as will be the case next year.

For me this month is an intense spiritual period where we Muslims step up a gear, where we try to be a better version of ourselves compared to the previous 11 lunar months. I remember reading Ramadan being described as ‘high altitude training for the soul.’ This is the month where we use the power of fasting to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. This month is when we Muslims try to rebalance our spirituality, in order to gain further insight into our faith, a concept best expressed by the Muslim caliph Imam Ali:

Conquer your lustful desires and your wisdom will be perfected. – Imam Ali (AS)

Also, it is this time of year where Muslims have to listen to the famous non-Muslim proverb of “What? Not even water?” There is even a website called notevenwater that provides further details of Ramadan. The idea of fasting for religious purposes is something that other faiths, such as Christianity, are also fully aware of:

We observe that in the scriptures, fasting almost always is linked with prayer. Without prayer, fasting is not complete fasting; it’s simply going hungry. – Joseph B Wirthlin

As expected, there is currently a glut of articles written about Islam, Muslims, fasting, and Ramadan. Below is my attempt to collate a few bits and bobs that I have come across over the past few days, things that I hope provide further awareness and deeper understanding of what Ramadan is all about. Enjoy!


An interesting article about Ramadan and the British retail industry…

Fun, Fashion And Halal Lipstick: Retailers Cash In On £200m Ramadan Economy

Harriet Sherwood, 29 Apr 2018, theguardian.com

Muslims observing Ramadan are increasingly being targeted by supermarkets and brands in the UK, which has led to a rise in spending on food and gifts during the month, according to new research.

The Ramadan economy in the UK is worth at least £200m, with supermarket chains such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons increasingly gearing products, displays and special offers on popular food items to Ramadan in areas with significant Muslim populations. This year, for example, Morrisons is selling a Ramadan countdown calendar, similar to an Advent calendar, aimed at children.

The month-long Muslim religious observance starts in mid-May and its ending is marked with the Eid al-Fitr holiday. MAC cosmetics, the Body Shop and Godiva chocolates are some of the brands specifically packaging goods as Eid gifts.


Why do Muslims fast? Here is an interesting answer…

The most common question I get from people of different faiths has to be why we fast. Many people answer this question with a response, “to feel how the poor feel when they have nothing to eat.” Personally, I think that since fasting in Ramadan is not that difficult, it is almost an insult to claim that it is to feel the poor’s hunger. The hunger they feel is much greater, especially since they may not know when their next meal will come. Fasting is a means to gain something called Taqwa. Taqwa is an Arabic word that means many things, such as being aware that Allah (our word for God) has full knowledge of your actions and intentions. In Islam, Allah has knowledge of everything we do and even think. Fasting is more than abstaining from food and drink. It is understanding that Allah has full knowledge. And because of this, we must navigate through the world with caution of our actions and intentions – to be good to our fellow human beings and to yourself. All of our deeds and intentions should be virtuous and for the sake of Allah. Ramadan is an opportune time to be able to reflect and be more aware of this. – Dr Magda Abdelfattah, May 2018, from an interview in the Wisconsin Muslim Journal


My favourite Ramadan 2018 tweets so far…


Wajahat Ali wants more from his Ramadan…

This Ramadan, I’ll Try Praying for Enemies, Friends, Frenemies and Kanye West

Wajahat Ali, 16 May 2018, nytimes.com

In recent years, Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, has become part of mainstream American society. It is frequently cited in hip-hop and even made an appearance in Eminem’s epic freestyle takedown of President Trump at the BET Awards. In keeping with the tradition started by Thomas Jefferson, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama hosted community leaders and dignitaries at Ramadan dinners featuring a variety of exquisite halal meats. (Mr. Trump eliminated that beautiful gathering. That’s not surprising given his belief that “Islam hates us.”)

The holy month is now even linked to the most sacred American tradition, consumerism: Party City has introduced a line of Ramadan decorations featuring mosques, stars and crescent symbols.

But I want more. This Ramadan, I’m in search of something substantive that nurtures my soul and truly transforms America, which is wounded, suffering from a resurgence in open expressions of hate against racial and religious minorities, and politicians who seek to profit off the divides. I know the solution will start at home, so this month, I aspire to evolve into an overweight, middle-aged superhero without a cape, disciplined and mindful, grateful for my privileges, spiritually aware and more compassionate. I’ll try praying for enemies, friends, frenemies and Kanye West.

The Arabic root for the word Ramadan means “scorched.” The month deliberately disrupts your routine, your comfort and your mode of thinking. You hunger, you thirst, you long for sex, you engage with family members and community members that you’d otherwise avoid and disown.

The disruptions bring pain and annoyance, but they can also create opportunities for growth. I welcome these strictures as an invitation to expand my community and capacity for generosity. This might sound like a Deepak Chopra Hallmark card, but I really do try to practice what I preach.

Try is the key word here. The hassles of everyday life don’t stop during Ramadan.


The casual Muslim Zanny Ali confesses all…

On Ramadan – Confessions Of A Casual Muslim

Zanny Ali, 16 May 2018, refinery29.uk

I wouldn’t say I’m a bad Muslim. I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly good one. I’m not so sure you can even say either of those things about someone that follows Islam. There’s a sense that, simply put, you are or you aren’t a Muslim. But what about someone that’s a ‘bad’ Muslim for 11 months of the year and then tops up on God points for 30 days during Ramadan? That’s the category I’d fall into.

Still, I identify as Muslim. I am Muslim – albeit a sinful one for most of the year, during which I’ll overindulge without a second thought: eat and drink what and when I want, stay up all night, live the life of a heathen. Then for one month I’ll be on lockdown: eating well, no boozing, early nights, working hard, thinking pure thoughts. It is genuinely my favourite time of the year and I always look forward to it.

I wouldn’t say I’m a bad Muslim. I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly good one. I’m not so sure you can even say either of those things about someone that follows Islam. There’s a sense that, simply put, you are or you aren’t a Muslim. But what about someone that’s a ‘bad’ Muslim for 11 months of the year and then tops up on God points for 30 days during Ramadan? That’s the category I’d fall into.

Still, I identify as Muslim. I am Muslim – albeit a sinful one for most of the year, during which I’ll overindulge without a second thought: eat and drink what and when I want, stay up all night, live the life of a heathen. Then for one month I’ll be on lockdown: eating well, no boozing, early nights, working hard, thinking pure thoughts. It is genuinely my favourite time of the year and I always look forward to it.

Towards the end of the month, with nearly 30 days of clear(er) thinking in the bank, it becomes obvious that Ramadan is not about the hunger or thirst at all. My favourite thing about Ramadan, and one of the things that made me start fasting again in my mid-twenties, was seeing how it brought family and friends together each day. Having the excuse and making the effort to see my large extended family, and eating with them at sundown, is something I cherish. Every day there is genuinely something to look forward to. How many are fortunate enough to say that? And what I’m most anticipating on Eid isn’t being able to stuff my face during the day, or going to meet my friends for a drink afterwards – it’s seeing my family all together.

For me, Ramadan serves as a reminder to do things that I should already be doing throughout the year. To be kind, to help people out. I shouldn’t need a month of fasting to be reminded of this, but it does help. It is carrying out, or at least trying to carry out, these lessons for the rest of the year that forms a large part of my identity as a Muslim, despite other people’s assumptions of what a Muslim is or should be. And in the current political climate, with some idiots-calling-themselves-Muslims preying on the softest of soft targets with increasing regularity, it does make you rethink your own relationship to your religion and the expectations that go with it.

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WHY DO PALESTINIANS THROW ROCKS?

Aggressor

The current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington is the most divisive politician of modern times. Bear in mind in this modern era we have had politicians such as Margaret Thatcher, Robert Mugabe, Tony Blair, Nigel Farage, George W Bush, Vladimir Putin, and many other contenders to the throne of undisguised tribalism.

Politics all around the world is moving quickly and dangerously to the extreme ends of the political spectrum. Divisions are growing not just between countries but within them. In Britain we have a virtually empty centre ground, with only the Liberal Democrats clinging on to dear hope. And then at one end we have the austerity mad immigrant hating Conservatives, and at the other end we have the increasingly anti-Semitic socialism of Labour.

Over in the States the right continues to radicalize, becoming more and more ideologically homogenous and extreme. This has resulted in a white supremacist now in power, supported by the predominantly white Republican Party and its base. Trump is opposed by the Democrats, a toothless party who are meandering politically with no clear direction. Whilst American society is increasing in diversity, it is also paradoxically becoming more and more polarised and segregated, as described in detail in the Washington Post.

This does not bode well for the future of politics as politicians all over the world, especially conservative politicians, now know that anything goes. According to journalist David Roberts in order to have “a long and comfortable career in conservative politics…corruption in service to tribe is no vice at all.” Which basically means that if you think things are bad now then you ain’t seen nothing yet. In the same article Roberts goes on to describe a link between the Republicans, Trump and tribalism:

The GOP has rolled over for Trump like a puppy. His naked corruption and overt authoritarian tendencies do not occasion any oversight or even objection, because they are deployed on behalf of the tribe. When you are involved in zero-sum warfare, the ends justify any means…For the tribalist, there are only opposing tribes and the battle between them. Pretense to the contrary, appeals to any sort of trans-partisan standards or restraints, are merely a ruse, a gambit in the endless war. – David Roberts

This ‘them’ and ‘us’ narrative is hardly a new one, indeed it’s as old as human history, but the increasing ease with which populists are adopting and exploiting this is disturbing. Whether the ‘them’ in question refers to immigrants, perceived scroungers, elites, people of another political persuasion, or even adjacent countries, one of the most pervasive effects of globalism seems to be how easy it is to convince people that they’re missing out. A simple way that Trump divides groups into ‘them’ and ‘us’ is through the use of pronouns such as ‘them’ and ‘us’ in his speeches, a point noted by Time magazine:

President Trump likes to talk about “us” and “them.” In speeches and interviews, Trump frequently uses collective pronouns to talk about the United States versus other countries, especially China and Mexico, as well as to address his supporters. That’s not uncommon. A 2013 study of candidates for Australian prime minister since 1901 found that the winners used “we” and “us” more frequently than their unsuccessful opponents in 80% of elections. But how Trump defines those terms is unusual, at least in American politics. In several notable instances, Trump has used “we” to refer to men, used “us” and “them” when discussing Islam and America and talked about taking down Confederate statues as “trying to take away our history.” – Ryan Teague Beckwith

Ian Bremmer, author and staunch globalist, has written a new book called Us Vs. Them: The Failure Of Globalism. The book looks at how this ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality has resulted in a worldwide explosion of growing nationalism and populism, a direct consequence of which is support for anti-establishment politicians like Trump and other far right groups. Bremmer sees little light at the end of this tunnel, as the divide between the haves and have-nots continues to sharpen, so the book offers a dark prognosis for the world and the future.

Whilst the book is well worth reading in full (Bremmer has a very confident writing style) presented below are 2 quotes that offer a taste of what the book is like. The first speaks about the overall failure of globalisation and the subsequent rise in inequality, whilst the second is about Trump and the state of democracy in the ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture we find ourselves in. Enjoy!

PS Before we start, here is a little joke from the American comedian Jay Leno about throwing rocks…

An Israeli man’s life was saved when he was given a Palestinian man’s heart in a heart transplant operation. The guy is doing fine, but the bad news is, he can’t stop throwing rocks at himself. – Jay Leno

Anyways, on to the excerpts from the book Us Vs. Them: The Failure Of Globalism by Ian Bremmer…

Ian Us Them

Why do Palestinians throw rocks? To attract attention? To improve their lives? To make progress toward creation of a Palestinian state? They throw rocks because they want others to see that they’ve had enough, that they can’t be ignored, and that they can break things. Voting isn’t helping them. Outsiders don’t care. Where are the opportunities to bring about change? There is nothing left but to throw rocks.

In that sense, there will soon be Palestinians all over the world. Workers everywhere fear lost jobs and wages as a shifting global economy and technological change leave them behind. Citizens fear surging waves of strangers who alter the face and voice of the country they know. They fear terrorists and criminals who kill for reasons no one can understand. They fear that government cannot or will not protect them. Gripped by anxiety, they get angry. To make themselves seen, heard, and felt, they start to throw rocks.

Then the call for help is answered. Donald Trump tells an excited overflow crowd that he sees them, that he sees their enemies, and that only he can take them (back) to the promised land. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders tell cheering fans that big corporations and Wall Street banks are robbing them blind. Champions of Brexit tell voters they must reclaim Britain’s borders and reject laws and rules imposed by Europeans. European populists tell followers they will lead the charge of patriots against foreigners and globalists.

These leaders aren’t arguing that government should be bigger or smaller, that it should tax less or spend more. They’re challenging the right of “elites” to make the rules that govern our lives. They tell citizens they’ve been cheated of their chance to succeed, and that the media is in on it. They promise to comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, and burn down the houses of power.

We can attack these populists, mock them, or dismiss them, but they know something important about the people they’re talking to, and they understand that many people believe that “globalism” and “globalization” have failed them. These would‑be leaders have a talent for drawing boundaries between people. They offer a compelling vision of division, of “us vs. them,” of the worthy citizen fighting for his rights against the entitled or grasping thief. Depending on the country and the moment, “them” may mean rich people or poor people, foreigners or religious, racial, and ethnic minorities. It can mean supporters of a rival political party or people who live in a different part of the country. It can mean politicians, bankers, or reporters. However applied, it’s a tried-and-true political tool.

This book is not about the rocks or the damage they do on impact. Rocks are expressions of frustration. They don’t solve problems. Instead, we must look more closely at the deeper sources of these frustrations, at how governments around the world are likely to respond to them, and how political leaders, institutions, companies, schools, and citizens can work together to make things better.

There was no wealth where I grew up in Chelsea, Massachusetts, but from my childhood street you could see it in Boston’s green and gold skyline. I had no idea what went on inside those towers, but they had my attention. How do you get from here to there, I wondered? When my high school offered a program called “Teach a Kid How America Works,” I leaped at the chance to join. We junior achievers put on our coats and ties, headed downtown, up the crowded streets, past the men in suits, through the tall glass doors, up the quiet elevator before gliding to a silent stop, waiting, and stepping into the place where the executives worked. I think it was a bank. It had the deepest carpet I’d ever seen.

Then we were ushered in for an audience with Tim, a man who seemed genuinely glad to meet us. He had a strong handshake, and he looked at me like he was really looking at me. “Would you like to work here?” he asked the group. One of us said yes and the rest nodded in agreement. “Nobody’s stopping you, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to be successful, you just have to study hard and work hard. It’s totally up to you.” He believed it, so I did too.

He was right. From the projects, I earned a college scholarship and then a PhD, got an idea, launched a company, made money, got on TV, and wrote books. A kid born on the hard edge of a great American city, the child of a single mother (my dad died when I was four) who, with uncommon singleness of purpose, walked two boys past every trap and pushed us toward success. One small example of the American dream.

As a young adult, the American dream came wrapped in a package of “globalism,” a belief in universal interdependence and international exchange that seemed to provide paths to prosperity for both the poor boy I was and the successful man I hoped to become. Globalism seemed a generous choice; it’s the game everyone can win. Embrace capitalism, lower the walls, hire, build, and expand. People who’ve made it, or who believe they’ll get a fair shot, are drawn to globalism. I devoted my professional life to it. Why not? The system worked for me, and it has lifted hundreds of millions around the world from poverty. Why can’t it one day work for everyone?

It didn’t, and it hasn’t. An early counterexample came with the rioting at the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization, where what began as a peaceful, well-organized, pro-labor protest became a magnet for anticorporate, antinuclear, anti-what-else‑ya‑got anarchist street theater, and then a running battle between kids dodging rubber bullets and cops dodging rocks. Globalists didn’t pay much attention. In retrospect, it was a warning sign.

In 2008, years of deregulation, bad bets, and bad faith brought down some of the world’s biggest banks, sending shock waves around the world. Next came the Occupy Wall Street movement, leaving bankers worried that the vagrants might get violent. The World Economic Forum at Davos that year was fascinating. No one knew how bad things would get for the global economy or what would happen next. But then came the bailouts for banks, which stabilized the markets. China’s leaders injected billions to keep China’s economic engine humming, the world’s elites went back to business, and Wall Street’s occupiers went home.

The Arab world’s aborted revolutions got our attention, and the refugee crises it triggered brought them closer to home, but it wasn’t until Britain voted to leave the European Union that the indictment of globalism became unavoidably obvious. Then Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States.

Today, the watchword is inequality. We have always known the world remained an unfair place, but most of the world’s elites believed, with plenty of evidence, that globalism was the solution, not the problem. But while the elites convene for debate, more people are getting frustrated.

Back in Chelsea, in my old neighborhood, people are angry. They no longer believe that hard work and education are enough. They don’t see a path, and they feel they’ve been lied to. For decades. My brother voted for Donald Trump, and if my mother were alive, I bet she would have too. She certainly wouldn’t have voted for anyone who has spent any time in Washington over the past thirty years. The anger is becoming more obvious—in Appalachia, in Gaza, in Latin America, in North Africa, and in Eastern Europe.


No one voted for Donald Trump because he believed the United States was growing more secure and more prosperous. In a country where working-age men without jobs outnumber those with jobs by three to one, and half of unemployed men take daily pain medication, a lot of people want “change.” It’s hard to imagine what sort of future Americans can expect if the fate of these people is ignored.

It’s easy to find fault with populists like Trump. He’s obnoxious, dishonest, and incompetent. But Donald Trump didn’t create “us vs. them”. “Us vs. them” created Donald Trump, and those who dismiss his supporters are damaging the United States.

There are good reasons to want smaller government. It’s natural to fear that Washington spends too much money. There are reasons to worry that political correctness will kill freedom of speech and the birth of good ideas. There are plenty of Americans who care sincerely about people with preexisting medical conditions, but who fear that creation of another entitlement program will one day bankrupt the country, leaving government without money to cover anyone.

These people aren’t stupid or mean-spirited. They don’t hate poor people. Some of them are poor people. Many are Americans who fear that intellect too often overrides common sense, that their countrymen are more interested in what they can get than in who will pay, that too many politicians care more about universal ideals than about American workers and their families, and that the country they knew is fading away.

Many Trump voters, including those who once supported Barack Obama, backed him because they wanted change. Actual change, not the kind of change promised on campaign posters. There’s a working class in the United States that really has seen more losses than gains from free trade. U.S. infrastructure is crumbling, the country’s education system is underperforming, its health care system is in real trouble, and the U.S. penal system doesn’t work. American soldiers have fought and died in wars that seemed to accomplish nothing and that were never adequately explained to the American people.

These failures belong to the entire U.S. political establishment. Citizens feel lied to or ignored — by politicians, the mainstream media, the business elite, bankers, and public intellectuals. They believe the game is rigged in someone else’s favor, and they have a point.

American democracy itself is eroding. Donald Trump was elected president with votes from 26.3 percent of eligible voters. Hillary Clinton won 26.5 percent, but lost the electoral college. Yet here is the most revealing number: Nearly 45 percent of eligible American voters didn’t vote at all.

Some didn’t show up because they felt their vote represented a drop in the ocean, and some lived in states where the outcome wasn’t in doubt. Others felt that none of the candidates could or would make things better. But many of these more than 100 million eligible American voters just didn’t believe the outcome mattered. Just 36.4 percent of those eligible voted in the 2014 midterm congressional elections.

It gets worse. According to a study published in The Journal of Democracy, the share of young Americans who say it’s important to live in a democratic country has dropped from 91 percent in the 1930s to 57 percent today. Fewer than one in three young Americans say that it’s important to live in a democracy. In 1995, just one in sixteen Americans agreed that it would be “good” or “very good” to have military rule in the United States. In 2016, it was one in six.

Trump has made things worse. He has further poisoned the attitudes of his followers toward government and the media, inflicted lasting damage on U.S. ties with close allies, and embarrassed the country before the world. Worst of all, he has deliberately pitted Americans against one another for political gain. We see the polarized electorate in Trump’s own poll numbers. His supporters have backed him through conflicts and controversies that would have ended the careers of any other public official, and his detractors wouldn’t thank him if he pulled them from a burning building.

But when critics focus on the man and ignore the underlying emergencies that lifted him to the White House, they exacerbate the American problem of “us vs. them”. They make it easier to build walls and harder to help those who need help most. It’s much easier to mock Donald Trump, rail at his excesses, and caricature his backers than to work toward solutions to the problems that leave many convinced they have no future and that their fellow Americans don’t care.

As in the United States, it’s easy to demonize those Europeans who fear open borders as heartless racists who care nothing for refugees and hate Muslims. We can ignore those who say their governments have ceded too much power to bureaucrats in Brussels. But these people know that if they welcome unlimited numbers of migrants, they’re inviting large numbers of people to risk their lives and those of their children to make the journey and that smaller European countries will struggle to manage the overflow. They’re right that not all these migrants are truly refugees, and that encouraging so many to leave their home countries allows autocrats in North Africa and the Middle East to drive out those who don’t support them. It is not racist to acknowledge that the best of intentions sometimes produce terrible consequences.

Further, democracy is undermined when growing numbers of the decisions that govern people’s lives are made by people who don’t stand for election within the borders of their countries. Attacking political demagogues like Beppe Grillo and Marine Le Pen is one thing. Dismissing the hopes and fears of those who turn to them exacerbates the problem of us vs. them and makes it more difficult to rework the European social contract in ways that both left and right can accept.

Challenges that are serious for the United States and Europe are even more daunting for developing countries. The introduction of automation and artificial intelligence into the workplace will create more turmoil for workers in wealthy countries, but it will be profoundly disruptive in the developing world, where there will be fewer factory jobs to pull less educated people from the countryside into the urban workforce. Governments without money to invest in technological innovation—and to upgrade education systems and retraining programs to help citizens profit from it — will create fewer opportunities for young people. Social unrest will test the resilience of governments, and political officials will stoke more conflict between us and them to protect their own power and influence.

The result will be a widening of the divide between wealthy countries and poor ones — and between rich and poor within each country. And if we focus mainly on the demagoguery of the populists who try to take advantage of these trends, we will only widen the gap between those who can afford to ignore them and those who can’t.

There is another danger common to every nation on Earth.

Each year, human beings now produce more data than in every previous year combined.

The choices we make, particularly online, help algorithms understand our interests, wants, and needs better than our friends and families do. Add the reality that people are easy to influence. Fake news generated on the Internet shapes public perception in ways we still don’t fully appreciate, and a coming wave of digitally sophisticated fake images and video will complicate things further.

It’s not difficult to imagine a world in which technical specialists looking to make money help politicians looking to gain power understand and manipulate us in ways that undermine the political influence of citizens in every country.

Over time, people wise up. They become less easy to fool. But they can easily become more cynical, and that can lead them to turn their backs on politics altogether, leaving elections to be decided by the angriest and most opinionated.

In the meantime, there are choices to make. Build walls? Or rewrite the social contract? Both strategies can work in many countries, at least for a while. Both demand capable government with the resources to construct and sustain these systems. The construction of walls won’t kill the idea of responsive government. It will simply create a form of digital apartheid that ensures some are well served while others aren’t served at all. As in Israel. And, increasingly, as in the United States.

Reinvention of the social contract is going to be politically impossible in many countries for many years to come. The sense of crisis isn’t yet strong enough, because so many globalists continue to profit from the system as it is, and walls of various kinds will protect them, temporarily, from real danger. Things have to become much worse, particularly for the winners, before they can become better for everyone else. This is the ultimate failure of globalism.

Where and when it becomes possible to experiment, efforts to rewrite the social contract will work most easily in countries with relatively homogenous societies, borders that face relatively little pressure, and the means to continually expand economic productivity. But this principle can work in any country where a positive political consensus is possible. Remaking the relationship between citizens and government is much more likely than the construction of walls to create lasting security and prosperity for the greatest number of people.

History and personal experience show that people give their best when the best is required of them. That day is coming sooner than we think. Even those who think they want war will change their minds when they see its costs. Human beings use their natural ingenuity to create the tools they need to survive. In this case, survival requires that we invent new ways to live together.

Necessity must again become the mother of invention.

ISIS IN IRELAND? ARE THEY MAD?

Bill Kathy

As someone who is trying to be a ‘practicing Muslim’ my natural allies should be fellow Muslims and non-Muslim Islamophiles. My natural enemies should be all those Islamophobes, atheists, and anti-theists, people like Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Ricky Gervais, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Bill Maher. But the problem I face is that occasionally these natural enemies of mine come up with words of truth that I fully agree with.

One such example of this occurred with the always controversial anti-theist weed smoking comedian Bill Maher. On a recent edition of his show Real Time With Bill Maher (the one first aired on the 9th of March 2018) he was discussing the concepts of comedy and free speech with the even more controversial comedian Kathy Griffin. Maher made the rather poignant point that:

We need comedians. I know that sounds like a pat on the back because I am one of them, but we really do, especially in this era, and in any era, to sometimes go over the lines so we know where the lines are. And also to establish that we do indeed live in a country with free speech. – Bill Maher

Later in the same discussion Kathy added her thoughts, saying to Maher that:

You and I do the kind of comedy that pushes boundaries, and to do that you have to move them, and then cross them, and push them again, and see what works. And I’m finding that, and I know you’re on the road as well, I’m finding that people are wanting that kind of comedy. We are in such intense times that people don’t want dog-and-cat jokes. They want the real deal. – Kathy Griffin

Whether I should or I should not, I find myself fully agreeing with Maher and Griffin. We definitely need humour, comedy, and satire, in all forms, especially in these troubled and divisive times. We need them not just to explain what is going on all around us in a more humanistic manner, but also to help us stay grounded, to give us a voice, no matter how small and impactless that voice may be, a voice that stops us feeling like redundant cogs in a machine. As George Orwell wrote, “Every joke is a tiny revolution.”

So, in the hope that I too can somehow give people the right kind of comedy, of the non dog-and-cat variety, please find below several comedy clips (or several tiny revolutions) that will hopefully generate simultaneous amounts of laughter and thought. As always, I have transcribed where appropriate. Enjoy!


Omid Djalili on how easy it is to establish a controversial fact…

There is a story of a Palestinian delegate at the United Nations who got up and said “Before I make my point I would just like to tell you a little story.”

She goes “Hundreds of years ago in Palestine Moses was walking through the desert. He came across a rock and he banged the rock with a stone, and a fountain of water came out and created a pool. So Moses took off his clothes and he bathed in the water, but when he got out of the water he realized that his clothes were gone. Because they were stolen by a thieving Jew.”

At which point the Palestinian delegation was interrupted by the Israeli delegation who said “Objection! At that time in Palestine there were no Jews there at all.”

At which point the Palestinian delegate said “Well, now that that fact has been established I’d now like to start my speech…”


Andrew Ryan on why ISIS should not go to Belfast…

I go to Belfast. I love Belfast. If you’ve not been, go. I said to my friend “I’m going to Belfast.” My friend looked at me and went “Oh! Be careful. Be careful in Belfast.”

I go “Listen, it’s 2017. Belfast is a lovely place. The people are very nice.”

She goes “No, no, what I mean is…ISIS.”

I said “Woah, say that again.”

She said “ISIS could come to Belfast. ISIS are ‘doing the rounds’ at the moment.”

And I said “What, are they on shift work or something?”

I said “Really?! ISIS in Belfast? Do you really think ISIS have the fucking balls to turn up in Belfast?”

Can you imagine ISIS in their man cave somewhere, going through all the cities that they’ve attacked. “Right, we’ve done Manchester, we’ve London, we’ve done Paris a couple times. Do you know what? Do you know where I think we should go? We should go somewhere where they’re not expecting us. So I think we should go where they don’t think we’ll ever turn up and attack. How about, I recommend that we should go next, guys, we should go to Belfast.”

“Mate, we’re terrorists. We’re not fucking mental.”

Can you imagine ISIS on the streets of Belfast? It would be the funniest thing you’ll ever see in your life. They turn up with their suicide vests and they come out and they go “Death to the west!”

All the Belfast people will just come out and they would just be staring at them, going “Ha ha ha! You call that terrorism? We’ll fecking show you terrorism.”

One fellow comes out playing the flute, the other fellow with a hurley. “There’ll be no foreign terrorism in this land. We support our own home grown terrorism.”

No way, it’s not happening.


Chris Kehoe on sitting next to spiders with rucksacks…

Let’s lighten the mood. Let’s talk about Islamophobia. I’m from a place called Bolton. Yeah, that’s always met with disinterested silence. That’s fine. And round our way it’s not civilized and sophisticated like a big city like Liverpool. And we’ve got these people called Islamophobes. Have you heard of these people? Have you got them around here? You know who they are. You will have seen them in the pub and in the shop, and places like that. And in the park maybe, if it’s a nice day, in their natural environment.

I’ve got a theory about Islamophobes, and my theory is this. You know how lots of homophobic people turn out to be secretly gay? Well I reckon the same is true for Islamophobic people, they’re secretly Muslims but they’re just too embarrassed to come out in case their friends take the piss out of them. They’ll be like, “You heard about Steve?”

“No, what about him?”

“Well, apparently he’s a bit…you know…[whistles]”

“He’s what?”

“How can I put it? He leans to the east. He’s very comfortable in bare feet. He’s of a Sunni disposition.”

“Oh no, not Steve…”

It was just a pun at the end of it all. That was a waste of time, really, that. I did that bit at my local pub recently and fuck me that went down well. And one of the guys came over to me, I think he’s the vice president of the local Islamophobic Society. At least that’s what his badge said anyway. And he walks over and he said “That bit you did about Islamophobia is bollocks mate.”

I said “No it wasn’t, I wrote it.”

And he went “No it is. I’m telling you now, it bollocks because everybody’s a bit Islamophobic.”

I said “I’m not.”

He said “You are.”

I said “Well, how do you work that out?”

He said “Everyone is because there’s no evolutionary value in not being frightened of things that are different. And Islam is ‘other’ to us so therefore you will be, on a subconscious level, a little bit Islamophobic.”

And I was like, oh fucking hell, that sounds vaguely scientific. I’ve got to think about this now, and I thought am I Islamophobic under those terms? Am I? I thought maybe I am. Maybe I am. Only in the same way that I’m arachnophobic, in that I’ve got nothing against spiders, I’m not frightened of them. Some of my friends are spiders but, and I’m not proud of this, I would notice if one of them sat next to me on the train wearing a rucksack. I would. I couldn’t help but notice that. That’s not the spiders fault, is it? He’s probably just going about his daily business, feeling very self-conscious about it all, thinking “I bet they’re all looking at me again.”

And it’s not really my fault either, is it? I’m just a product of my environment. No, it’s the media’s fault because spiders get a terrible time in the press, don’t they? When was the last good news story you heard about a spider in the press? It’s fucking none, isn’t it? If there are stories about spiders in the press they’re all stories about spiders coming over here, pretending to be bruises on bananas, just waiting to rise up.

And if it’s not anything about that, it’s stories about false widow spiders. False widow spiders, for those of you who don’t know, are spiders that were born in this country but their grandparents are foreign or something. They’re sleeper cell spiders, that’s why they are. If you compare the press that spiders get to a decent British animal like a dog, it’s completely different. A dog kills a toddler, happens fairly regularly, we don’t blame all dogs, instead we say that’s a bad dog, it’s a lone wolf attack, isn’t it?…Spiders do something though and it’s all part of the wider global arachnid agenda, no doubt orchestrated by some shadowy clandestine movement called something like, I don’t know, Al-Spaeda. Yes!


Do Muslims and skinheads share a common cause…?

A very funny clip from the satirical TV show The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret (Series 3 Episode 6)…


Kevan “K-Von” Moezzi says once you go Persian…

You know how they say “Once you go black, you never go back?” Well “Once you go Persian, there’s no other version!”

In fact, so famous is this little catch phrase that you can even get it on a t-shirt.


Khaled Khalafalla on seeing the glory of God…

There’s this turn of phrase in Arabic, “Sub-haan-Allah”, it means the glory of God. You say it when you see something so beautiful, so amazing, that you think only God could have created this. And my mum says this all the time. We’ll be walking down the street and she’ll see some birds, I’ll be on my phone or whatever, and she’ll just shout “SUB-HAAN-ALLAH!”

And I’ll be like “Fuck! What is it?”

And she’ll be like “How?”

And I’ll say “How what?”

“How do these birds fly like this? How?”

And I’ll be like “I don’t know. I didn’t fucking do it.”

And she’ll say “Only God…only God can do this…Sub-haan-Allah…Sub-haan-Allah…say it!”

And I’ll be like “Sub-haan-Allah.”

“SUB-HAAN-ALLAH!”

We’ll be watching TV and the Niagara Falls will come on and David Attenborough will be like “…the absolute beauty of…”

And my mum would just go “SUB-HAAN-ALLAH!”

“What?”

“Sub-haan-Allah…Sub-haan-Allah!”

And I’ll be like “Yes, I’m on your side.”

“Who?!”

“Who what? I think it’s David Attenborough.”

“No. Who did this?”

“God?”

“Only God can do this!”

One time we were walking down the street, we were driving, and she points out the window, some people were walking down the street, and she says “SUB-HAAN-ALLAH! SUB-HAAN-ALLAH!

And I’m like “What the fuck is going on?” And I look outside and it’s just a group of Asian kids, and she’s like “SUB-HAAN-ALLAH!”

And I’m like “Where is the glory?”

And she’s like “How…how do they see?”

RAMADHAAN 2018 – SOME USEFUL RESOURCES

Kaba pic

We are nearly at the start of the month of Shabaan (moonsighting.com), which means Ramadhaan is just around the corner. Preparations for Ramadhaan should ideally begin now. With this intention, I am hoping the list of resources below can help us all to make the most of this blessed month, insha-Allah…


Information about the month of Shabaan…

Please see the following PDF file about the month of Shabaan, from the excellent book The Best Of Times by Muhammad Khan. Please read this in order to make the best of this blessed month.


Islamic lectures…

An excellent lecture about Ramadhaan is Preparing For Ramadan by Shaykh Zahir Mahmood (scroll down the kalamullah.com page please in order to get to this particular lecture).

Another excellent lecture is from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf called Ramadan Advice.


Useful websites…

A useful website with loads of really good practical hints and tips is http://productivemuslim.com.

I came across a really good website where if you type in a post code it will show you the qibla direction: http://www.qib.la/.


Useful files…

Four files that will insha–Allah provide some good information:

Complete Guide To Ramadhan

Laylatul-Qadr – guide

Ramadhaan checklist

Ramadhaan preparation pack


OVERALL…

Know that you only get out of Ramadhaan what you are willing to put in. Therefore please make time to read the articles and listen to the lectures highlighted above, before Ramadhaan begins.

To hopefully inspire us all further, here are 4 quotes related to Ramadhaan and fasting:

We have become like gerbils in the dunya, chasing after things…The job of the dunya is to make you unstable…the more you become immersed in this dunya, the more you become invested in this dunya, then the more unstable you become…Some scholars have said that jahiliya is to see something and to perceive it as something else, that this is ignorance…in Islam true knowledge is to perceive something as it really is, as best you can…people who immerse themselves in this dunya have immersed themselves in a lie, and they are getting played like a piano on Sunday school, and that is why they are not stable…this dunya calls you to become people who are completely insecure with themselves…Fasting and Ramadhaan call us to be stable. – adapted from a speech by Imam Suhaib Webb

Ramadan is not a temporary increase of religious practice. It is a glimpse of what you are capable of doing every day. – Shaykh Abdul Jabbar

The less fasts certain people keep during Ramadhaan, the more eager they seem to be to celebrate Eid. – Anon

This month of Ramadan is about asking “Where is your heart?” Is your heart with God? Is your heart with your own ego? Is your heart with your lust? Is your heart with your passion? Is your heart with your greed? Is your heart with your pride? Is your heart with your envy? Is it with your resentment? Is it with your desire for revenge? “Where is your heart?” That is the question this month is asking us: “Where is your heart?” And this time that we have been given, a few days of reflection, this is the time when you can actually go into yourself, and dig into yourself and ask that question: “Where is your heart?” Because as Sayyidina Ali said “A man lies hidden under his tongue”, because the tongue expresses what is in the heart…“Whoever loves a thing does much remembrance of it”. If you love Allah, God is on your tongue. If you love the world, the world is on your tongue. That is the question: “Where is your heart?” This is the time to return to God, to give the heart back to the One who possesses the heart… – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from a speech entitled Ramadan Advice

JORDAN PETERSON CHOOSES HIS WORDS VERY, VERY CAREFULLY

Jordan Peterson Blue

In this glorious digital age in which we live in, all of us like to think of ourselves as philosophers and indeed as intellectuals. In a documentary I recently saw Nicola Roberts, former singer from the group Girls Aloud, said something rather simple yet deeply profound:

In today’s society we all feel, especially with social media, that we all have a voice and we all feel entitled to give our opinion. But a lot of the time that opinion is uneducated. – Nicola Roberts, from the 2017 BBC documentary New York Hijabis

The writer and satirist Armando Iannucci also made a simple point as to why we feel our voices, when projected online, are somehow more important than we perhaps realise:

The trouble now is, of course, anything online looks true because it is in print. It’s typed. I mean, it is as simple as that. – Armando Iannucci

Despite the fact that we may now think of ourselves as being intellectuals, what exactly do we mean by an intellectual? The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre described an intellectual as “someone who meddles in what does not concern them.” Edward Said, a Palestinian American Professor, took this theme a few thoughts further in his definition of an intellectual:

An intellectual is someone whose main concern is to try to advance the cause of freedom and justice…someone able to speak the truth to power, a crusty, eloquent, fantastically courageous and angry individual for whom no worldly power is too big and imposing to be criticised and pointedly taken to task…neither a pacifier nor a consensus-builder, but someone whose whole being is staked on a critical sense, a sense of being unwilling to accept easy formulas, or ready-made cliches, or the smooth, ever-so-accommodating confirmations of what the powerful or conventional have to say, and what they do. Not just passively unwilling, but actively willing to say so in public…Least of all should an intellectual be there to make his or her audiences feel good: the whole point is to be embarrassing, contrary, even unpleasant…Real intellectuals are supposed to risk being burnt at the stake, ostracised, or crucified. – Edward Said

So who are the recognised intellectuals of today? Who are the people that speculate profoundly on all things metaphysical? Who are (to borrow a phrase from Foreign Policy magazine) our modern “Global reThinkers”? There are some obvious names that spring to my mind, although I am not sure if the people I am thinking of are intellectuals or if I just think they are, but here are my starters for ten: Adam Curtis, Armando Iannucci, Barbara Ehrenreich, Fareed Zakaria, Fran Lebowitz, Frankie Boyle John Gray, Karen Armstrong, Malcolm Gladwell, Naomi Klein, Naomi Wolf, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Noam Chomsky, Pankaj Mishra, Professor Robert George, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Imran Hosein, Slavoj Zizek, Steven Pinker, Tariq Ramadan, and Thomas Friedman, to name but some.

Sometimes intellectuals get things incredibly right (gold star to Samuel Huntington for his ‘clash of civilisations’ hypothesis; and similar plaudits to Edward Said for his analysis of orientalism), and sometimes they can be oh so wrong (a lifetime of detention for Francis Fukuyama and his ‘end of history’ nonsense; and feel free to ignore virtually any point made by the prominent Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali).

jordan peterson

Whilst these are all people I have been aware of and admired for some time now, a new name can be added to this personal list of mine. Professor Jordan B Peterson is, to borrow from Said’s definition, someone who is completely unwilling to accept easy formulas, and he is actively willing to say so in public. Like all great intellectuals I may not always agree with what he is saying, but I most definitely admire the effort of thought that is put into what is being said. In a famously controversial interview he did for Channel 4 News with presenter Cathy Newman, Peterson said “I choose my words very, very carefully.”

Peterson recently came to prominence due to his online presence on YouTube and due to his best-selling book 12 Rules For Life. This new found fame has brought Peterson his fair share of admirers. Tom Bartlett describes him as “an obscure psychology professor [who] now he leads a flock of die-hard disciples.” Dorian Lynskey says he is a “psychology professor and culture warrior.” Zack Beauchamp says he is an “obscure Canadian psychologist turned right-wing celebrity.” Slavoj Zizek pins him down as an “alt-right scientist,” whereas Melanie Phillips describes him as “a kind of secular prophet…in an era of lobotomised conformism.” Camille Paglia anointed him “the most important and influential Canadian thinker since Marshall McLuhan.” And then we have David Brooks who takes this to the next level by declaring Peterson as “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now,” a view shared by economist Tyler Cowen.

Being an online celebrity means he also has his critics, mainly due to what people perceive his views to be on race, gender, politics, and religion. A good overview of where he stands on various topics is presented by Dorian Lynskey in a Guardian profile, well worth a read.

Jordan Peterson Religion

I recently saw a two and half hour interview Peterson gave. The interview topic was ‘Religion, Myth, Science, And Truth: An Evening Of Darwinian Thought With Dr Jordan B Peterson.’ During the interview Peterson does indeed manage to cover the big topics of religion, myth, science, and truth, but he also touches on other complicated subject matters such as dominance hierarchies, Darwinism, Egyptian and Mesopotamian theologies, patterns, archetypes, Jung, Nietzsche, rationalism, patriarchy, Mother Nature, the Columbine school shooting, the invention of sacrifice, and so much more. His views on the Bible are particularly interesting as it seems to me that Peterson dissects and analyses the Bible to the same level of depth as the great Islamic scholar Imran Nazar Hosein does with the Qur’an.

It is only after listening to someone like Peterson that I realise how little I actually know, and how far it is possible to go when a person spends that much time and dedication to applied thinking. As someone who is trying to be a good Muslim I found the interview fascinating, in a mind expanding kind of way. One of the main concepts that emerged for me from all the lengthy discussions was that religion is not some simple man made concept to control the masses. Religion is far more complicated than that.

These ancient mythological representations, these old stories of morality, surely these things are primitive? As Peterson says quite a few times during the interview “Don’t be so sure.” These primitive religions were perhaps not so primitive. Instead they can be looked at as stepping stones, each helping us in our intellectual evolution, allowing us to determine what is moral and immoral, and what is rational and irrational. These ideas of morality are embedded in us today because they have been developed over large spans of time, mainly through religious practice and understanding. This is something that atheists and rationalists ignore, so much so that at one point Peterson refers to Dawkins and his ilk as wanting to have their cake and eat it too. Maybe, perhaps, just perhaps, religion is more embedded into our psyche than we realise, or would care to realise.

This is something I have thought about often, but never really had the intellect to articulate, not until I heard Peterson do so so brilliantly in this interview. Anyways, a link to the entire interview is presented below, along with some of my favourite quotes, as per usual. It has been virtually impossible to pick out my favourite bits as the whole discussion is so in-depth, intense, and wide ranging in topic. These quotes, whilst interesting in their own right, are taken out of their original context and are far more interesting when placed back in their original wider contexts. At times thoughts and ideas are presented in such numbers and at such speed that you find yourself having to catch your breath, exhausted from having to perform all those mental gymnastics. I lost count of the number of times I paused or rewound a clip to reflect on what was just said. Anyways, enjoy!


Religion, Myth, Science, And Truth: An Evening Of Darwinian Thought With Dr Jordan B Peterson

A discussion about Religion, Myth, Science and Truth. It was originally recorded by Transliminal in November 2015.

It’s not just rational behavior that drives people towards war. There’s an irrational element of it that you can’t explain without recourse to religious language. It’s the only language that’s deep enough to get at it properly.

There are patterns of action and perception in a sense, or cognitive categories, that’s another way of looking at it, that lie at the bottom of our thoughts. They structure the way that we look at the world. And they have a deep evolutionary basis. And they have the quality, in a sense, of God. And that really frightened me, that idea.

So, now, then you ask yourself, well, how do you determine whether or not a theory is true? Then you ask yourself, well, what do you mean by true? Well, then you’re in trouble. Because I think you can take a Newtonian perspective on that or a Darwinian perspective, but you can’t do both at the same time.

And you might say, well, of course the materialistic perspective is right. Look what we’ve built with it. We’ve built hydrogen bombs, for example. But then you might object to that by saying, well, yeah, we’ve built hydrogen bombs. But the only reason we could build them or were willing to was because we left things out of the equation. Well, what things? Well, things like, is it really a good idea to build hydrogen bombs, for example? I can give you another example of that. I read a book a while back that was written by a KGB officer who claimed to be exposing the inner workings of the Soviet scientific community with regards to biological warfare. And the people in the Institute that he described were trying to cross Ebola with smallpox because smallpox is extremely infectious and Ebola is extremely deadly. So like, that’s a valid scientific enterprise. OK. Then you think, oh, isn’t that interesting that that’s a valid scientific enterprise? Because obviously, that’s insane. So then you think, well, if it’s so obvious that that’s insane and it’s a valid scientific enterprise. Well, there’s some disconnect there between two different views of what constitute at least appropriate behavior. Now, you know that this is why the definitions of truth start to become so important. Like, is it truth as expressed in action? Is it truth as it serves Darwinian purposes? Is it truth as defined by the axioms of the materialist philosophy…which by the way, aren’t even true anymore, because if you go down far enough into material reality, now we know you hit a realm that’s so bizarre that we can’t even comprehend it. And there are implications of that bizarreness that we can’t comprehend. So I would say we will develop a materialist philosophy of consciousness eventually. But it won’t be using the same material that we use now.

There’s an implicit assumption that’s what’s out there, in objective space, is what’s real. OK, well, but the problem with that is that that’s an assumption about reality. Now, it’s obviously a powerful assumption. But here’s another way of looking at the Darwinian problem, as far as I can tell. So part of the reason that the Darwinians insist that random mutation is the source of continual — it’s not progress — continual survival is that the underlying environment changes, and it changes unpredictably. By its essential nature, it’s unpredictable. Thus, if it’s unpredictable, only random transformation can keep up with it, a lot of random transformation. Hopefully, the randomness of the environmental change will be matched by the randomness of the genetic change. OK. So what that means in part is that the environment, so to speak, is finally incomprehensible because you can’t predict it. OK. So that means that a limited creature that’s established itself by Darwinian means can’t have access to the truth. They can only have access to sufficient truth. And sufficient truth is the truth that allows you to survive and reproduce. And from a Darwinian perspective, there isn’t any truth past that. So I don’t think Dawkins is a Darwinian. I think he’s a Newtonian because he believes that there is truth. The Darwinians don’t believe that. The Darwinians say, no, there’s enough truth to keep you alive and have you survive, and that’s all. And eventually all that’s going to go to because, you know, 99.5% of all species are extinct…Look, the American pragmatists figured this out in the late 1800s.

A simple part of the problem too is that because science is reductionistic, whenever you measure something extremely accurately, there’s a whole bunch of other things you’re not measuring. And your assumption is that the knowledge gained by that precision isn’t undone by the dismissal of everything else. Well, is that a valid claim? It depends on what your preconditions are for determining validity. Like, automobiles get you from point A to point B. You might say, well, that’s their fundamental purpose. That’s what they were designed to do. But I could say, well, no, it turns out that there are fundamental consequence, if not purpose, is the complete transformation of cities, the demolition of the rural communities, and the destruction of the atmosphere. It’s like, oh, we left something out. Yeah, you left something out. So you gain precision. But you pay for it with the loss of something else.

If a truth drives you insane, it’s not a truth. There’s something wrong with it.

What I think about religion is very Darwinian. I think religion is evolved knowledge. And it’s knowledge about action. And the world is made out of action, especially the human world. And so you can’t say well, that’s not real. It’s like, that’s wrong. It’s real.

The fundamentals of truth are those that guide action. And then the object of science is nested inside that. It has to be. There’s no way around that.

What are the principles that guarantee universal success? So you might say, well, that’s the ultimate question of life. It’s like, yes, that is the ultimate question of life.

It’s complicated. But one of the things that Jung recognized was that the core doctrine of Christianity, in some sense, is the truth buttresses you most thoroughly against the vicissitudes of being. That’s your salvation, the truth, the spoken truth. So you might say, well, people say, Christians say, well, if you believe in Christ you’re saved. Well, what do you mean by belief exactly? You say Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And you say, I believe that. Just because you say that, doesn’t mean you believe it at all. It has almost no bearing on what you believe. The question is, how do you act? And the fundamental question that’s under all that is, is your speech true?

The story that underlies Christianity — and it’s not only Christianity, but it’s Christianity that I’m most familiar with — is that the rule is live in accordance with the truth and see what happens. So in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, Christ basically says, set your sights on allegiance to God. It’s like, whatever the highest value is, we’ll say. And act in a manner that’s concordant with that. So that’s your goal. Then pay attention to the here and now, your best strategy for the future. Then you might say, well, prove that. Well, that that’s when the question starts to become existential. It’s like, well, you can’t prove it. You have to try it. That’s like Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. You cannot tell if this works unless you do it. And that’s a commitment.

The figure of evil throughout history is always the hyper rational intellect. And the reason for that is the intellect is God’s highest angel. So that’s Lucifer. And it falls in love with its own creations. It likes to make totalities out of its own creation. Once there’s a totality, there’s no room for the transcendent. There’s no god. That’s Satan’s error, by the way. And everything immediately turns into hell.

There’s information in chaos. And we’re information scavengers. And that’s our niche. It’s like, outside what we know, there’s information.

The Enlightenment is like, it’s really thin paint on a mile deep piece of rock. It’s nothing. One of the things I really liked about reading Jung was that Jung tracks the development of thought say, back 10,000 years. It’s like, wow, that’s a 10,000 year span of history. That’s a long time. It’s like, well, not compared to 300 million years. That’s a really long time. OK so if we’re going to talk about the Darwinian underpinnings of the brain, or of the human organism, let’s use some time spans. So Dawkins has Darwinism painted on Enlightenment rationality. He’s an enlightenment guy. It’s like, rationality rules. It’s like, this is how you make sense of the world. It’s like, OK, well, we thought that more or less for 400 years. So what did we think for the other like, 300 million years? How did we manage without that if it’s truth? So, it’s a form of truth. It’s a partial form of truth. And it’s a powerful partial form of truth. But to say it’s truth? Well, then it depends on what you mean by truth.

Some things are only true for one thing. Some things are true for 10 things. Some things are true for a million things. It’s like, well, that’s a better truth. Well, and what the religious imagination, which is the imagination that’s concerned with values, is always trying to determine is well, what’s the highest value? That’s the religious question, what’s the highest value, which is what should you serve, let’s say, to ensure your viability across the broadest domain of time?

SPEAKER: What you’re saying is that religious systems that are often derided by, let’s say, enlightenment or post enlightenment thinkers for axioms that are just not true: that they are false about the world, that they are religious superstition, that they are clearly wrong, that they are backwards. But what you’re saying is they were and are very much true in the sense that they are almost pre-conscious representations of correct action…JORDAN PETERSON: And the environment in which correct action takes place, which is fundamentally the dominance hierarchy.

The universal isn’t real till it’s being made particular. And what we are are particular manifestations of the universal. And the particular and the universal are both important. So the general pattern is crucial. But so are the details. So the archetype is a general pattern. Your religious task, in a sense, is to figure out how to embody the archetype in actual time and space. So it’s a pattern. But, you know, you still have to fill in the details. And it’s not like the details are irrelevant. They’re really relevant.

JORDAN PETERSON: If you think about religions as at least in part variations of hero mythology, which they are in part, then it’s a story that can be told 1,000 times in 1,000 ways. I mean, that’s what the movie is if it’s an adventure movie. It’s always a hero myth of some sort. I mean, Christ, the ones we have now are almost purely archetypal, like all the superhero movies. Those are archetypal right to the core. And it’s funny because I know a comic book artist or author who writes Batman and Wolverine. And there’s a community that the comic figure serves. So if it’s Batman, and you’re a writer for Batman, you don’t just get to do anything with Batman. There are Batman rules. And the whole community of Batman fans, they know the rules. And so if you muck about with Batman, then they tell you. So Batman is actually an archetype that’s been generated by the collective. Right? And they all feel well, that’s not quite right. Well, why do you feel that the story isn’t quite right? Well, the answer to that is it’s like a Platonic answer. You know the story. You just don’t know that you know the story. And so when someone tells you the story properly you think, wow, that’s the story. It’s like, key in lock!…SPEAKER: Which is fascinating. And is your argument, then, that we know it’s right when we see it because it’s so ancient and ingrained in us on so many levels, biological and social?…JORDAN PETERSON: Absolutely. Yeah.

The conspiracy theorists, you know, the people who say, well, you know, this is all about control by the upper classes. It’s like, they assume that you can just generate up some arbitrary rules that happen to serve you, and then enforce them on a community. Well, no. Partly, but fundamentally no. You know. Because that’s not biological thinking. You know, that’s dawn of the industrial age thinking, or something like that, or post agricultural thinking. Who cares about that?! You know, let’s go back to when we lived in trees. We’ll go back 60 million years, and start talking about who we are from that perspective. And that’s just a start. We’re older than that. So it’s way too narrow a view. It’s not informed by biological reality.

All scientists are devoted to the truth. What truth? Maybe they’re devoted to the purpose of demonstrating that there’s no meaning in life so that they don’t have to bear any moral responsibility. It’s like, why not that? Oh, we wouldn’t think that. It’s like, well, I’m a psychoanalyst. I might think that because whenever anybody says to me I believe x, I think, what does that allow you not to believe? I’m for x. What are you against?

It’s more than that because as an individual, I’m an individual. But as a human, I’m not an individual at all. I’m this unbelievably old thing. I’m like, as old as life. I’m really old. Well, there’s the “me” in this, which is this thing that was like come around in 1962. But there’s the deeper reality of this thing that I am. You could say, well, that’s the Jungian self. That’s one way of looking at it. And it has its nature. It’s the human nature. Well, good and evil are human terms. Whether we refer to something transcendent, that’s a whole different question. That is not a simple question because we don’t know what role consciousness plays in being. So like the deepest strata of thought that I’ve encountered makes the case that the most real thing is the eternal battle between good and evil. And I’m prone to believe that. So what exactly that means, that’s a different story. It’s a complicated idea.

Objective reality encompassing mythology, that is one proposition. Mythology encompassing objective reality, that is another proposition. And that’s my proposition. It’s like, this (mythology) is way deeper than this (objective reality). It’s incomparably deeper. Now, that doesn’t mean this (objective reality) isn’t deep. It’s deep. But it’s sterile. And that’s dangerous. And then when you forget which is embedded in which, then you make mistakes. It’s like, yeah, well why not cross Ebola with smallpox? Well, that’s a good question. Why not do it? Well, you know, a rationalist would say, well, I’m capable of making that judgment. OK, well, let’s really specify that. What exactly do you mean that you’re capable of making that judgment? Because again, with Dawkins and his ilk, they make the claim that they can have their cake and eat it, too. So they can have all the benefits of an evolved morality, which is basically a Judeo-Christian morality in the West. And they can say, well, yeah, but we don’t have to accept any of the metaphysical presumptions. It’s like, says who? Yeah. You could be right, but why would you assume that you are? This is Nietzsche’s point, maybe the metaphysical presuppositions are absolutely necessary.

If you look carefully at the structure of the Old Testament, and Northrop Frye did this, Frye’s argument was basically this. Well, you’ve got the really old stories, forget about them, history starts basically with Abraham. What is the Old Testament about? The Israelites climb up to dominance. They get corrupt, they forget about the widows and the children. A prophet comes up and says, you better look out, you’re off the path. They ignore him. Whap! They’re in chaos for like a long time. They get all humble and they build themselves up again. And when they get power, they get all corrupt. And a prophet comes along and says, you better look out, you’re off the path, you’re not paying attention to the widows and the children, and all hell’s going to break loose. Like, bang, down they go. Six times. Is that arbitrary, or is that actually the right idea to derive from history? It’s like, power corrupts. So you make your kingdom, you make your empire, and it’s serving its proper purpose, but you let it get corrupt, things are going to fall apart. So I can give you an example of that. It’s like, what caused the flooding in New Orleans? A hurricane? No. No. Corruption. If the dikes would have been built properly, as everyone knew they should have been built. If all those millions of dollars hadn’t gone into the pockets of corrupt politicians, there wouldn’t have been any flood. In Holland, they build the dikes for the worst storm in 10,000 years. In New Orleans, they built them for the worst storm in 100 years. Well everyone knew that was insufficient. So why didn’t they do something about it? Well, if you get corrupt enough, God will send a flood. It’s like it’s an old story. It’s right. Now, the question is, who is God? Well, I would say the ancient Israelites never said who God was. They just said, look the hell out for him. You deviate from the path, man, you’re going to get flattened. The people who wrote that book…first of all, it was assembled loosely as a book. It’s a bunch of books. That’s what Bible means. It was edited and assembled across vast stretches of time. We have no idea what process led people to assemble it that way, except that they felt that that made sense. So they were guided by their internal intuition of meaning. Weirdly enough, it produced a document with a narrative. Now, the narrative is difficult in some ways to discern given all of the detail. So I would say, give our ancestors a break, for God sake. What do you want? You want absolute perfect coherence when they’re trying to be so inclusive? It’s very hard to be coherent when you’re trying to be inclusive. Those two things battle. So have a little respect. That’s how it looks to me. Those people weren’t stupid. They were seriously not stupid. And what they thought was not stupid.

OK, so you make your sacrifices. It’s like, why do people do that? God, that’s primitive. It’s like, no. The invention of the sacrifice was probably the single greatest stroke of genius that mankind ever was given or produced. What is a sacrifice? You give up something of value now so that things might be better in the future. It’s like that’s the human discovery. That’s the human discovery of time. Everybody makes sacrifices. It’s like, I’m going to go to university instead of partying and snorting cocaine. It’s like, because that’s fun. Why? Well, because if I organize my behavior properly and I make the right sacrifices, God will smile on me in the future, or at least the probability seems enhanced. It’s like, OK. Well, we don’t use the same terminology. Well, we use the same terminology. We don’t burn rabbits. But then again, we’re not agriculturalists. So the people who are playing with the idea of sacrifice, they were acting out the discovery of time. You can give up something now. Try to get a bone from a dog and tell him you’re going to give him two bones. It’s like, he doesn’t give a damn about that. Bone now! And we regard the civilized person as the person who’s capable of deferring gratification. Deferring gratification is a sacrifice. Does it please God? Well, everyone thinks so or they wouldn’t do it. So you burn the sacrifice. Why? Well, God’s in heaven. How else is he going to figure out the quality of your sacrifice? Well, you might say, well, that’s primitive. It’s like, don’t be so sure. It’s like, they got the sacrifice idea right. They got the awe part right. If they’re acting it out, it’s concretized. It’s like a drama. Does that make it primitive? Well, no. It’s not primitive. It’s unbelievably sophisticated. It’s ridiculously sophisticated. Because the mode in the Old Testament is you make the right sacrifices and you will thrive. It’s like, do we believe that? Yeah, it’s the basis of civilized behavior. You don’t get a complex civilization without that presupposition.

So it’s not like I dismissed the capacity of science to produce useful information, but I am also terrified of it. It’s like, there’s no reason to be so optimistic about scientific truth. The other thing that I’ve noticed about the rationalists — the empiricists, they’re sort of off in the same corner — is that they always make the assumption that if we transcend our historical religions, we’ll no longer be religious. And what we will be is rational. It’s like, I think, no, no. You’re completely out of your cotton-picking mind if you think that. It’s like, well, how do you account for the emergence of new age philosophy? It’s like, if you want incoherent, just take a wander through that desert. It’s like, you blow out these carefully constructed historical frameworks, what you get is like a rampant and insane Protestantism. The idea that people will magically become like Newton because we’ve blown out the substructure of morality. That’s so absurd that that’s the sort of thought that I think is motivated. It’s like, there’s a reason to believe that because who the hell would believe that? You don’t know anything about people if you believe that. It’s hard to think scientifically. It’s really hard.

Here’s a way of thinking, too. You can reduce religion to sort of Darwinian principles and sort of destroy it that way. Or, you can expand your notion of Darwinism, so that it actually encompasses the genuine phenomena of religion. Man! That is way more interesting.

What you assume to be true structures your argument. And you have to assume something to be true because you don’t have infinite knowledge. So you make that initial choice. Why? Well, it might be because you’re a true truth seeker. Well, I would be careful about making that claim because you’re probably not.

So then the question is, well, how do you best deal with complexity? And the reason I think truth is so useful is because generally it reduces complexity. I mean, one of the things that’s really useful about trying to say things that you believe to be true is you don’t have to remember what you said. It’s like, well, what did I say? Well, I don’t know, but I was trying to explain things properly. Then you don’t have to tear through all your rationalizations and think about what you have to keep track of. Deceptions, they grow. They’re like hydras. So well, don’t do that. OK. Truth, simpler. That’s one big advantage. And people can say, well, truth isn’t always the answer. Well, there are sometimes you get into a situation that’s so awful, you’ve made so many mistakes that not only would it be very difficult for truth to rescue you, you’ve already warped your character to such a degree that you couldn’t even use it. Well, you’ve had it. You’re off the radar at that point and nothing short of a miracle would save you.

My experience has been that, to the degree that I’m able to speak carefully, and I do speak carefully. And I don’t really care about the consequences. It isn’t that they don’t matter. It’s that I’m not speaking to produce a consequence. I’m just trying to say what seems to me to be the case. For me, that’s been incredibly, ridiculously, practically useful. Insanely useful. Like it’s opened doors that I would have never dreamed of opening. And in my professional life, it’s produced all sorts of opportunities. And it’s been a real aid in my private life, too. And in my professional life…I can’t believe that I’ve been able to lecture about the things that I lecture about without running mightily afoul of something. Because my classes are quite different than the standard psychology class or the standard university class. They’re very different. I don’t know. So far, it seems to be working, which is a surprise to me.

So that’s what I would say to people, is like select the domain in which you can act. Straighten it up first, and that’ll transform things a bit. You put your house in order. Then, you can start to put your town in order, or maybe your street, or maybe your neighbor. God only knows. Start where you can start. And you might think, well, what’s that? Well, it’s nothing you can wave a placard in the street about, which is a good thing. That’s like praying in public. This is more like praying in private. Fix up what you can fix up, and see what happens. And I don’t think that there’s anything that’s more powerful than that.

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE RAMADAN

Muslim Boy Green

Muslims pray during Eid al-Fitr to celebrate the end of Ramadan in New York.

It’s that time of the lunar year where we are fast approaching the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. We are about 6 weeks away and to gently help us all with its imminent arrival, for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, please find below 5 articles that I hope are amusing, interesting, and somewhat informative. These articles show Ramadan, Eid, and Muslim celebrations in a more positive light, by describing the experiences of different Muslims from different parts of the world.

We begin with two articles from the always brilliant Mehdi Hasan, who provides some basic details about all things Ramadan. These are then followed by travel writer Sarah Khan, who describes how she celebrates Eid in her neck of the woods (not sure why she prefers to spell Eid as Id, but each to their own, it must be an American thing). In the next article Bim Adewunmi describes how “Ramadan is my time to shine”. And we end with the sombre thoughts of Fahima Haque on how “celebrating Eid has become a sort of political act”. All 5 articles are presented in full and, as always, they are well worth reading in their entirety. Enjoy!


What Is Ramadan – And Other Questions Answered

A brief guide to the Islamic season of Ramadan for the curious, the bored, the uninformed and the ignorant.

Mehdi Hasan, 13 Aug 2010, newstatesman.com

Some of you may have noticed that it is the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. My stomach has. I can hear it groaning as I type this post. I won’t be eating anything till 8.38pm.

I’ve been fasting since I was about 12 or 13, and every year I’m asked the same bunch of questions about Ramadan by well-meaning non-Muslim friends and colleagues. So I thought I’d use this blog post to answer some of these common queries. Here we go:

What is Ramadan?

It’s the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims all over the world spend 30 days observing the fast. Muslims believe it is a blessed month; it is the month in which we believe the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

So you don’t eat for 30 days? Is that physically possible?

Sorry, what? There seems to be some confusion about the timing of the fast. The fast takes place from dawn to sunset each day, for 30 days, that is to say, during daylight hours only. We don’t actually fast for 30 whole days in a row – that would be impossible, if not worthy of a permanent place in the Guinness Book of Records.

You can drink water, right?

Nope. No water, no juice, no milk, no liquids whatsoever. In fact, the list of “prohibited” items and activities in Ramadan is fairly comprehensive: no food, no drink, no smoking, no drugs, no sex, no bad language or bad behaviour whatsoever, from dawn to sunset each day. That’s the challenge.

But doesn’t that damage your health?

Hmm. I haven’t noticed my fellow Muslims dropping like flies around me, as we fast together each year. Millions upon millions of Muslims, in fact, have been fasting for centuries without falling sick, toppling over or suffering from premature death. Fasting, contrary to popular opinion, doesn’t damage your health. Vulnerable individuals – the sick, the elderly, children, pregnant women – are exempt from the requirement to fast. And then there is the range of academic studies which show several health benefits arising from Ramadan-type fasting, “such as lower LDL cholesterol, loss of excessive fatty tissue or reduced anxiety in the fasting subjects”.

So do you end up losing weight at the end of it?

I can’t speak for others, but I always end up putting on weight because I eat so much every night, at iftar time, to compensate for not having eaten all day! From my own experience, few Muslims treat Ramadan as a period of dieting, or use the fast to lose weight.

Why is Ramadan in the summer this year? Didn’t it used to be in winter?

Since 622AD, and the time of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam has operated on a lunar calendar, with months beginning when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. As the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year and contains no leap days, etc, the date of Ramadan moves back through our calendar each year. (For example, a few years ago, Ramadan coincided with our winter; the days were shorter and the fasts were easier!)

What is the point of starving yourself for 30 days?

Ramadan is a deeply spiritual time for Muslims. By fasting, we cut ourselves off from the distractions and temptations of our busy, hectic, materialistic lives and try to gain closeness to God. The Quran describes the main purpose of the fast as being to “attain taqwa“, or “God-consciousness”. We use the fast to try to purify and cleanse our souls, and to ask forgiveness for our sins. We also learn self-restraint and we become much more aware of those less fortunate people around us for whom “fasting” is not a choice, for whom hunger is part of daily life. The fast is an act of worship and a spiritual act; it is also an act of social solidarity.


Ramadan: A Guide For The Perplexed

I’m fasting for Ramadan. It might be a good time to lay to rest some common myths about the whole business.

Mehdi Hasan, 03 Aug 2011, theguardian.com

I crawled out of bed this morning at 2.45am, exhausted and bleary-eyed. I wolfed down two eggs, two slices of toast, a croissant, half a banana and several glasses of water. Then I went back to bed.

I performed a similar routine at a similar time yesterday, and the day before that, too. Awoke, ate and slept again. Have I gone mad, I hear you ask? Why do I seem to be having pregnancy-style, middle-of-the-night cravings for fried breakfasts and lots of liquid?

I don’t. There’s a more prosaic explanation: it is Ramadan and I’m now on to my third day of fasting. Luckily for me, and for the 1.6 billion other Muslims across the world, there are just 27 more days to go. (Is that my stomach I hear groaning?)

Fasting, or “sawm”, in Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam – the others being the “shahadah” (declaration of faith), “salat” (the five daily prayers), “zakat” (almsgiving) and the “hajj” (pilgrimage). The fast is considered to be a “wajib” or obligatory act (though there are exemptions that I’ll come to in a moment).

Muslims fast for 30 days in Ramadan. Just to be clear: we fast from dawn (hence the 2.45am wakeup) to sunset (around 9pm at the moment) each day. We don’t fast for 30 days as a whole. That, of course, would be impossible. Not to mention suicidal.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is regarded by Muslims as one of the most holy months: we believe that it was during Ramadan that the Qur’an was first revealed to prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.

The Islamic calendar has been lunar since its inception in AD622, with each month beginning with the sighting of a new moon. As the lunar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year, the start date for Ramadan moves back through the western calendar each year. A few years ago, Ramadan coincided with our winter, when the days were shorter and cooler; this year, too much moaning and griping from British Muslims (yes, me included), it’s fallen in the summer, with much longer and hotter days. That means the fasting isn’t easy. Imagine, for instance, going on the underground in the sweltering August heat without being able to take a bottle of water with you.

In fact, you’re not allowed any liquids: no water, no juice, no milk…The list of “banned” items and activities in Ramadan is extensive: no cigarettes, drugs, sex, bad language or bad behaviour, from dawn to sunset. That, dear readers, is the challenge. (In case you’re wondering, chewing gum isn’t allowed either.)

“Has it begun?” my colleagues asked me earlier this week, their eyes expressing a mixture of sympathy, pity and – just perhaps – awe. Most (well-meaning) non-Muslims view Ramadan as deeply oppressive. Isn’t it dangerous, I’m often asked? Doesn’t it damage your health? Weaken you?

The short answer is No. Millions (billions?) of Muslims have been fasting for centuries, without suffering any Ramadan-specific illnesses or diseases. Vulnerable groups – the sick, the elderly, children, pregnant women, travellers – are exempt. And, in recent years, a number of academic studies have demonstrated the health benefits of fasting. According to a paper published in April by the Intermountain Medical Centre Heart Institute in Utah, it can lower the risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, and keep blood cholesterol levels in check. The researchers found fasting could also reduce other cardiac risk factors such as excess weight, blood sugar levels and triglycerides.

Some of the world’s leading athletes and sports stars have managed to fast while performing at the highest levels. Next year, Ramadan starts in July, and will cover the whole period of the Olympics. East London will be home to Muslim athletes from across the world, fasting, competing and – I guarantee you – winning medals.

It’s nothing new. In the 90s, Hakeem Olajuwon, a devout Muslim considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of his generation, would often play in the NBA for the Houston Rockets while fasting. “It made me stronger and my statistics went up,” he later remarked. “I was better during Ramadan, more focused.” In February 1995, Olajuwon averaged an impressive 29 points per game and was named NBA Player of the Month, despite the entire month coinciding with Ramadan.

More recently, Manchester City’s Kolo Touré, also a practising Muslim, has had no qualms about fasting and playing top-flight football. “It doesn’t affect me physically,” Touré argued during last year’s Ramadan, which happened to correspond with the first month of the Premier League. “It makes me stronger. You can do it when you believe so strongly in something.”

Ramadan becomes an unparalleled, month-long opportunity for personal and spiritual growth – and the fast is a deeply private act of worship. “Of the five pillars of Islam, the fast of Ramadan is perhaps the most personal expression of self-surrender to God,” the American writer and convert to Islam, Jeffrey Lang, argues in his book, Even Angels Ask. “We can observe a Muslim performing the other four pillars, but, in addition to himself, only God knows if he is staying with the fast.”

So far, I’ve managed three. Now, what time is it? Noon. Hmm. Just eight hours and 55 minutes to go.


All-American Id

Sarah Khan, 07 Nov 2011, nytimes.com

When I think of Id, I think of doughnuts.

Some might expect more ethnic fare to be symbolic of this holy day—haleem, perhaps, or baklava. But growing up frequenting a mosque in suburban New England, my Id mornings involved leaping up as soon as prayers were over, dispensing the customary three hugs to everyone in my vicinity and racing with my friends to the social hall, where a smorgasbord of powdered and jelly-filled confections awaited. To this day, nothing says “Id Mubarak” to me quite like a chocolate-glazed doughnut.

In countries with significant Muslim populations, Id-al-Adha—Bakr-Id, or Festival of the Goat, as it’s known throughout South Asia—is synonymous with qurbaani, or the sacrifice of animals. But you’d be hard-pressed to find Muslim families in the United States ferrying sheep home in the backs of their SUVs, securing them to their white picket fences and slaughtering them on their driveways. In the motherland, the ritual is as standard a practice as baking Christmas cookies is here, but most Muslims I know in America have never witnessed the practice themselves.

Instead, my family, like countless others, has outsourced our qurbaani to—where else?—India, where the meat is then widely distributed to the needy on our behalf. And then we eat doughnuts.

Id-ul-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan, is enthusiastically anticipated by hungry Muslims counting down the days to the finish line that marks the culmination of the month of fasting. But it’s harder for those of us not participating in the hajj pilgrimage to muster the same level of enthusiasm for this Id—ironic, considering it’s perhaps the greater of the two, and most symbolic of the very core of the faith. The word Islam means submission, and today we celebrate Abraham’s submission to the will of God when he was asked to sacrifice his son. When he agreed without hesitation, a lamb was sent in his son’s place; today, Muslims honor that devotion by sacrificing lambs, goats or cows.

That’s not to say I’ve never had a close encounter of the sheep kind. I’ve witnessed the full-fledged Bakr-Id experience numerous times at my grandparents’ home in Hyderabad: servants gathering lambs in a shack behind the house; my grandfather reciting a prayer and solemnly slaughtering the first animal as I peer through a window; and, soon enough, fresh shami kababs being served for lunch. At least I always knew exactly what was going on; some of my less fortunate acquaintances naively made friends with their family’s Id goat—the name Billy was an obvious go-to—only to be dismayed to realize that their new pet was the main ingredient in the holiday biryani. They were left so scarred that it’s a wonder I don’t have more vegetarian friends.

An American Id has its own homegrown traditions, albeit more sterilized ones. We stay up late the night before for chaand raat festivities, midnight bazaars and cookie-baking parties. The hearts of desi-centric neighborhoods like Jackson Heights in New York and Devon Street in Chicago resemble Delhi or Karachi, with cars honking, revelers overflowing in the streets and music blaring from every storefront. We visit family and friends all day, going from house to house feasting on kababs and sheer khorma, a sweet milk concoction with vermicelli, saffron, and nuts. Meat plays a major role in the form of lamb biryani, mutton chops and goat nihari galore, though unlike in Hyderabad I can’t trace its provenance to my backyard. At night some might play Pin the Tail on the Goat; in years past I’ve participated in Secret Idi exchanges. When I have kids, there just may be an Id Elf responsible for mounds of presents magically manifesting themselves. He’ll likely navigate by way of a flying camel.

But when you’re living in New York, far away from your parents and hometown mosques, the local community takes on a whole new level of importance. In a city like this, friends become family; and with the restrictions imposed by most Manhattan shoebox apartments, gatherings at homes are replaced by massive brunches at Sarabeth’s after prayers. When I’m really lucky, I score an invite to one of my adopted families’ homes in Brooklyn or New Jersey to fill up on kheema rolls and kebabs.

On Sunday morning I donned a new shalwar kameez and took a cab to the Islamic Center of New York University. Imam Khalid Latif, 29, something of a rock star in the Muslim American world (he also happens to be married to one of my best friends, Priya), led the service and delivered the Id sermon. His words resonated as I sat there, part of one diverse, transient yet unified community: “When you celebrate today, celebrate with each other. Don’t just extend your greetings to the people you know. Don’t leave each other alone.”

And we didn’t. Nearly a thousand New Yorkers—students and young professionals; families and children; people of all races; dressed in jeans, suits, hijabs, thobes and kurtas—gathered in that crowded space, in the basement of a church, to celebrate Id together in a quintessentially all-American way.

Then we ate. The spread was elaborate—bagels, fruit, muffins, pastries, chicken tikka, M&M’s, baklava and more—but, to my dismay, something was missing.

And so on my walk home, I made a pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts

Id Mubarak, indeed.


I Love Ramadan – It Makes Me Feel Connected

I am not a model Muslim, but Ramadan is the one pillar of Islam I do really well; it’s my time to shine.

Bim Adewunmi, 20 Jul 2012, theguardian.com

It’s finally Ramadan. All year long, I’ve been waiting for this, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, the month that all non-Muslims can name because of what we do during it – fasting. I love it. It is the one pillar of Islam that I excel at, every year, without fail. Ramadan is my time to shine.

I was raised Muslim by my Nigerian parents and have an Arabic middle name. And though I have long forgotten how to read Arabic, I can still recite most of the alphabet I was taught by the tutor who came to our house every Saturday for a few months (we requested the tutor). My parents were remarkably relaxed about our “faith”: there was always an understanding that we were Muslims, but it didn’t stop us from attending a Catholic school, where we did the Stations of the Cross every Friday (I can still name all 14 of these). In the school holidays, we would sometimes attend Jumaah services, going to the local mosque at the end of the street with our cousins. I learned how to do a water ablution (wudu), to reply to greetings with a jolly “Wa-alaikum salaam!” and to bless the prophets when their names came up. I learned the shorter Qur’anic verses: suras Al-Fatihah, Al-Iklas, Al-Falaq and Al-Kawthar among them. My father’s extended family is deeply religious – his grandfather is widely credited with introducing Islam to his hometown – but we were never made to feel like we were doing Islam “wrong” by anyone in the family. We all did what we could, when we could, and in the meantime, got on with life. I honestly think this was the best approach to religion.

I think I was 11 when I took part in my first Ramadan. I was at boarding school in Nigeria, and the bell prefect sent one of her minions to wake us up for the pre-dawn meal, the sehri. A few hundred sleepy girls got up to walk to the dining hall at 5am to queue up in front of older girls who dished out piping hot rice and stew. Afterwards, we’d trudge back to our dormitories to catch some extra sleep and/or pray. In the evenings, we slipped out of prep to attend the Taraweeh prayers in the assembly hall. During the day, we would go to class as normal, virtuously turning down drinks and food with exaggeratedly pious expressions. The Ramadans of my youth were brilliant – communal pre-dawn meals of cassava, yams, rice or bread, followed by evenings of breaking the fast (iftar) with fruit, cornmeal and bean cakes. There was alms-giving, introspection and a community feeling; moments that have made it my favourite Islamic month.

It is the reason I still fast today. I am not a model Muslim: I swear like a sailor, I’m not often “modestly” dressed and cannot ever see myself wearing a hijab. I fall down on all the other pillars quite regularly – my zakat is sporadic, I have never done the hajj, and I don’t make five prayers a day; I take heart in the Islamic view that sincerity in intention is the foundation of all actions. But Ramadan, I can do. I am good at Ramadan. I love every element of it – the not eating, sure, but also the long tasbih sessions, the contemplation, the meditation, the communal prayers, the hum of anticipation right before iftar. It is a month where the halal butcher puts a little extra into my bag when I’m buying lamb shanks. It is the time when I throw out “Salam alaikum!” to hijabis and they smile back and reply. It is the time where I overhear Yorubas, who have a greeting for every occasion, say “E ku ongbe” empathetically on the bus. Everyone is better during Ramadan, more patient, more kind.

Ramadan makes me feel connected. There’s a network of us all across the globe; more than a billion of us, all doing the same thing at the same time. However disparate our lives, whatever freedoms we enjoy – or otherwise – however different our experiences, someone else is probably feeling exactly the same way I am. I find that incredibly moving and life-affirming. At this point in my life, I’ve documented my various issues with organised religion – and I’m not entirely comfortable with everything I see. But I know I love Ramadan. I fast because I want to, and because I can. I fast because it makes me feel good.

And of course, the glorious feast after a month of fasting is nothing to be messed with. Roll on, Eid.


Celebrating Eid: ‘As A Conflicted Muslim, This Day Doesn’t Come Easily’

At the end of a Ramadan marred by violence, Fahima Haque reflects on how her relationship with Islam has shifted from active rejection to thoughtful resilience.

Fahima Haque, 06 Jul 2016, theguardian.com

Growing up, whenever a classmate would shout “fucking Hindu” at me, I was devastated. It felt like no one could see me, that all they could see was yet another brown person. I was lumped into some incorrect category driven by ignorance. Then, September 11 happened and I realized how different it was to be the subject of active hate.

As far as insults went, “Hindu” was inaccurate and ignorant. But being asked if my family were terrorists or being told to “go back to where I came from” cut right through me.

And so as Ramadan ends and Muslims across the world joyously celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with feasting and presents, I am grappling with the faith I was raised with.

My parents are devout, and it became clear to me as a child that straying from Islam was not an option. There was no exploratory period of what Allah meant, what other religions meant, or what not believing in a higher power could mean. It was suffocating and with every surah I memorized, I felt more stifled. Did I really want to be Muslim? Would I be more enamoured with another religion? I wanted a chance to find out for myself, but doing so was out of the question.

As I got older, I had more and more reservations about Islam. Things like not being able to wear shorts when my brother could, to knowing women in a Muslim nation like Saudi Arabia still can’t go anywhere without a chaperone were very hard to reconcile with my budding sense of my self as a feminist.

So, as a teenager, I adopted the age-old liberal trick of disavowing religion; because religion is for the ignorant and narrow-minded. I knew enough to know that the sky is blue because of scattering light and tiny molecules, not merely because Allah said so. In college, I avoided telling people I was raised Muslim. I didn’t observe Ramadan, and the prayer rug my mother so lovingly packed for me gathered dust in the back of my closet as I finally wore what I wanted freely for the first time.

While I can now honestly say I never really stopped believing in God, I definitely tried. I publicly called myself an atheist and smirked at those who needed religion, but secretly I never abandoned simple rituals like saying a short prayer before eating or absentmindedly asking a higher power for guidance when lost.

But that all changed because of Isis. Islam needs real allies in in the face of such barbaric acts like those we have seen in Orlando or my family’s home country or Turkey or Iraq or Saudi Arabia. So, within the last five years I started to double down on Islam. I am the one now initiating discussions on Islam and its role in politics, race and feminism in my social circles. I am no longer ashamed to say “Yes, I am Muslim” but “No, I probably will never wear a niqab and yes, I too have a lot of questions myself”. By having such frank discussions, I had to admit to myself that being a Muslim was ingrained for me and I could never abandon it – but I did have to find a way to practice.

Like any other religion, there is a spectrum of belief for Muslims. I never had progressive Muslim role models growing up, but that’s changing. People are speaking up, using their experiences to rally on behalf of inclusion, that really helped me see how identifying as a Muslim was not mutually exclusive with me being an American, a liberal or feminist. People like Hasan Minhaj poignantly talking about being different in his one-man show, London mayor Sadiq Khan’s delightfully frank essay on fasting, queer Muslim photographer Samra Habib sharing the stories of other LGBT Muslims, Muslim American teens in New York City coping with identity and books like Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women are refreshing and inspiring. The Muslim experience is no longer a monolith.

When you’ve spent most of your life as a confused Muslim, days like Eid don’t come easily. I don’t have many Muslim friends, despite growing up in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in Queens, and my family never really spent it as a cohesive unit mainly because getting the day off from work or school wasn’t a guarantee.

So for me celebrating Eid has become a sort of political act. My attitude towards celebrating has changed now that my six nieces and nephews are older. Their version of Islam can be full of merriment and acceptance. In fact, this Eid I will be at my brother’s home with his white, American wife and their newborn son, and I can’t think of a more inclusive way to celebrate.

With every terrifying terrorist attack that is being wrongfully blamed on Islam, Muslims across the world understand Aziz Ansari’s fearing for his family’s safety or comedian Dean Obeidallah’s feeling of immediate, internal turmoil that happens whenever there’s a terrorist attack. And I can’t do much to stop any of that.

But what I can do, is celebrate Eid with courage and show by example what it means to be Muslim – as varied and complicated as it is to be human.

SHAYKH HAMZA YUSUF AND THE AGE OF FEELING

Hamza George Shake

Cambridge Analytica sounds like a friendly Harry Potter spell that does all your homework for you. In reality CA is a data analytics firm that is very much in the news these days, and for all the wrong reasons. They were caught using Facebook data to ‘psychographically microtarget’ millions of American voters online with various smear campaigns, in the aim of ‘electronically brainwashing’ them to vote pro-Trump. And to try and target them better CA essentially weaponized the Facebook data they took without consent. They wanted to know everything about potential Trump voters: where they lived, what car they drove, what books they liked to burn.

The controversy surrounding the embattled organisation continues to send shockwaves across the political spectrum. One of the reasons for this is that this complex yarn has many factors: the illegal breaching and harvesting of Facebook data, deep states and how they mine and misuse big data, data privacy and safeguarding issues, online political manipulation, Steve Bannon as a former CA board member, links to Russia interfering in our elections, the undermining of democracy, trust issues with big tech firms, political and propaganda warfare, and so much more. The website Vox has some helpful diagrams explaining how all these things connect. So great is the impact of this ongoing saga that we now have some people, be they alarmist or not, commenting about the future of western democracy itself.

Was this manipulation of data the main reason Trump came to power? Would Brexit have happened were it not for CA? In order to get to the bottom of it all CA are currently being investigated on both sides of the Atlantic. They are a key subject in two inquiries in the UK (with Theresa May finding the whole thing “very concerning”) and one in the US, unsurprisingly as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump-Russia collusion. In the current political realm it really does not get any bigger than the Mueller investigation.

But this is not just about the manipulation of data. Because CA has essentially turned data into fear, this is also about the manipulation of emotions and feelings. In a secret recording from January 2018 Alexander Nix, the now former chief executive of CA, in reference to making false allegations against political opponents, said:

These are things that, I mean, it sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true, as long as they’re believed. – Alexander Nix

There are similar comments from managing director Mark Turnbull, who was also secretly recorded speaking to potential clients, this time in November 2017. Turnbull said something that is, after closer examination, a fundamental truth of how we now do politics. He openly admitted that the company is in the business of preying on people’s fears:

The two fundamental human drivers, when it comes to taking information on board effectively, are hopes and fears. And many of those are unspoken and even unconscious. You didn’t know that was a fear until you saw something that just evoked that reaction from you. And our job is to drop the bucket further down the well than anybody else, to understand what are those really deep-seated underlying fears and concerns. There is no good fighting an election campaign on the facts because, actually, it’s all about emotion. It’s all about emotion. – Mark Turnbull

Brexit and Trump have clearly demonstrated the words of Turnbull to be chillingly true. Late night talk show host Seth Meyers, when analysing the ongoing saga with CA, made a similar point about how our fears are being toyed with:

A whistle blower who worked with Cambridge Analytica told The Guardian newspaper over the weekend, “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons.” Incidentally, “inner demons” is a much more accurate name for what Facebook really is. – Seth Meyers, Mar 2018

Dr Thaddeus John Williams, assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Biola University, adds a little more historical depth to this idea that feelings not facts dominate our mainstream culture:

If Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and a mix of our ancestors from virtually any age of human history were crammed into a time machine and hurled into the twenty-first century, there is something normal to us that they would find totally bewildering…I am referring to the sacred, unquestioned authority granted to feelings in our day. Western culture has been through a so-called ‘Age of Faith’ and an ‘Age of Reason.’ We live in what Princeton’s Professor Robert George calls “the Age of Feeling.” Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor prefers the moniker “the Age of Authenticity” to describe how staying true to your feelings, whatever they may be, has become the highest virtue of our day…In our Age of Feeling the only condition required for a feeling to be valid is not that it conform to the world beyond us, but simply that it be felt. – Dr Thaddeus John Williams, May 2015

Dr Williams mentioned the brilliant Professor Robert George, who serves as the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. He is also a Roman Catholic and is considered to be one of the leading conservative intellectuals in America. He recently came to prominence when he tweeted the following (the quote has since been memed and Photoshopped to within an inch of its life):

We can argue the toss as to whether the current geological epoch we live in is the Holocene age, or the Anthropocene age, or even the Trumpocene age (a Google search on “the age of Trump” brings back over half a million results), but on a different cultural plain one thing is blatantly clear: welcome to the age of feeling. Welcome to a narcissistic age where feelings have been accorded as much currency as facts, if not more so. Welcome to an age where no one person can claim to have more or better feelings than anybody else. Welcome to an age where we have turned our collective backs on the ages of faith and reason. Welcome to an age where we feel more for our own selves and less for others.

To understand this age of feeling further here is a lengthy but nuanced and sophisticated discussion between Professor George and his good friend Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. This conversation took place in July 2016 in the elegant surroundings of the Princeton University Chapel in Princeton, New Jersey. Both of these prominent scholars tackled the concept of the age of feeling, specifically from within the framework of the Abrahamic faiths. It is a fascinating discussion that is well worth listening to in full and, as per usual, presented below are some of my favourite quotes from the event. As always some of these quotes have been lightly edited for length and clarity, but their original intent hopefully still remains. Enjoy!


PS I very recently came across a few more articles with journalists trying to define the era we live in. Missy Comley Beattie asks if we are living in “the Age of Hatred” or “the Age of Annihilation” before declaring “I’m going with the Age of Absurdities and Atrocities.” Frank Bruni asks the question “Shouldn’t experience count in politics, too?” before declaring we now live in “the Age of Inexperience.” Paul Mero declares that we live in a time where “Intellectual integrity flies out of the window,” thus naming our modern age “the Age Of Unreason.”


Hamza George Poster

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is an eminent scholar and thinker. Working together with him is really an enormous gift to me. I admire Shaykh Hamza not only for his obvious brilliance, but also for his courage. It takes a lot of courage to speak the truth out loud, especially in our current climate. Shaykh Hamza has put his very life on the line for the sake of the truth, and for the sake of bearing witness to the fundamental values that are shared by the great Abrahamic traditions of faiths. – Professor Robert George

Telling the truth in any time and place has always been a difficult thing. And we are called to be witnesses, the Abrahamic traditions share that idea of being witnesses. The Qur’an says “Be witnesses unto the truth.” And it actually says “Even if it is against your own selves.” So sometimes we have to acknowledge the shortcomings in our own traditions, in our adherence, behaviour, and actions. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

One of the hallmarks of true tradition is beauty, and one of the hallmarks of a loss of tradition is ugliness. Hence so many ugly modern buildings. So it is really nice to be in such an incredible environment as the Princeton University Chapel. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

How one feels about something does not change the underlying reality of the thing. – Professor Robert George

There is a story of a famous Evangelical Christian woman, a singer, known far and wide throughout the Evangelical Christian community. She left her husband for another woman’s husband. And when she made her public justification, for an act condemned by her faith, she said that God would not have put into her heart her love for this new man or into his heart his love for her, if God did not mean for them to be together, even though it meant abandoning their own families. There, it seems to me, is the challenge for the Abrahamic faiths in the age of feeling. The criterion of that singer for the rightness of an action is not faith as such, for we know what the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths say about adultery. It is not even the demands of reason. That was not her plea. It was that she knew something about where she belonged and what it was right for her to do, or at least not wrong for her to do, in virtue of something subjective not objective, something personal to her and to her feelings. – Professor Robert George

One of the problems with religion today is that it has lost, in many ways, its true defenders. Historically the vast majority of people, and today the vast majority of believers, are people that feel in their hearts that what they believe is right and true. And a lot of this is non-cognitive, such that faith is not so much about reason for a lot of believers. But that type of faith traditionally was considered a very flimsy faith and a very dangerous faith to have, because somebody could easily create doubt in their hearts. And this is certainly the role that the devil plays, whether it is a human incarnation of that concept or whether it is doubts that come to the mind. But the Muslims actually felt that faith had to be rooted in reason, and this was the dominant scholarly opinion. And it was to such a degree that some scholars actually argued that blind conformity to faith was unacceptable, but the majority said if that was the case then we would have to say the vast majority of believers did not have faith. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

I think it is very hard to argue, given the type of society that we are living in now, that people are happy, especially when we actually look at the statistics and social sciences that we have out there. I don’t think people are doing very well. On the other hand it is arguable that every time and place has these crises also. But as somebody who has lived in a Bedouin culture, what really struck me about living with Bedouin is that I did not see anybody that had any signs of depression. The people that I lived with in Mauritania in West Africa were deeply rooted in faith and reason. This was one of the rare examples in human history of aboriginal nomadic people that had a scholastic tradition. So I actually studied Aristotelian logic inside a tent with a Bedouin teacher, which is really amazing. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

What is happening now is because of a loss of real metaphysics and, as you know, the most fundamental metaphysical question is: why is there something as opposed to nothing? And for most people that idea does not occupy their thoughts but if they would allow it to occupy their thoughts, then their thoughts would automatically make an exponential leap from where they are in their unexamined existence to really having a difficult question put in front of them. And I think modern people do not realise how profound that question is. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Hamza George

Empirical science today is considered by some as the only acceptable methodology, the only way, to examine reality. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Imagine we are in this church and this is all we know of the world. We don’t know about Princeton, let alone New Jersey, let alone the United States, let alone planet earth, let alone the universe. We are just in this church and we have been here all our lives and this is all we’ve ever known. And if somebody escapes and comes back into the church and tells us that there is this whole other world out there, most of the people in the church would find that very difficult to believe because this is all they have ever known. And one of the problems with modern thought is they deny the possibility of ever getting outside of material reality, and yet thought itself is an immaterial reality, and therefore thinking about it is already being outside of it. This is because no matter how hard they try, they have never proven that consciousness has a material basis. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

When you remove God from the equation then I think critical theory makes perfect sense. But when God is still part of the way you are understanding the world, then critical theory I think, especially in its post-structuralist iteration, is the single most dangerous thing to theology and to Abrahamic metaphysics. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The twentieth century has been the bloodiest century in human history. Wars have been fought on ideological grounds, but they have very little to do with religion, unless you define religion as ideology. And people like Christopher Hitchens have tried to define religion as ideology, but I don’t think that is really fair to religion. Human beings obviously have ways of understanding the world and these modern ideas, like materialism and Marxism, have been very appealing to large numbers of people, and mostly to people that have been oppressed. One of the things I find really fascinating in Marxism is the quote that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” This is the great statement on religion by Marx. But it is never quoted in its entirety, because what he said was “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed, it is the heart of a heartless world, it is the soul of a soulless place, it is the opiate of the masses.” In other words it is a way of numbing the pain of the world. What our modern world has done is that it has removed religion to fulfill the function of an actually healthy opiate, and it has replaced it with a real opium. We have a huge opioid crisis right now in this country. People are numbing themselves to the pain of the world because they have lost spiritual grounding in what the world is and what it always has been. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

What is confronting us right now as a species is that without the ethical tools that allow for really serious prescriptive answers, then I think right now we can possibly completely lose our humanity. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The world is fundamentally designed to let you down, because you cannot put your faith in the world. If you put your faith in the world you will always be let down. And I think there is this diabolic impulse, this idea that somehow man can solve all of his problems. And this is certainly where technologists reside. They reside in this world where we are going to have a technological or a pharmaceutical solution to these problems. These problems can never be solved technologically. They cannot be solved pharmaceutically. And I do not believe they will be solved through transhumanism. I think transhumanism is just another arrogant attempt at playing God. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

We are living in a world where we have lost balance, we are profoundly out of balance in many ways. This plastic bottle of water that I am holding is a great example of complete insanity, and I will give you an example. I brought a Bedouin here from west Africa, he is a brilliant man who is really well versed in a lot of sciences. We were in Arizona in New Mexico, I was teaching a course there and he was with me. A person took one of these cups, drank some water out of it, and then threw the cup in the garbage can. The Bedouin asked me “What is that?” And I said “What? The garbage can?” And he said “Why did he throw that cup in there?” And I said “Well, those cups are made for one time use.” And he said “That is a very bad sign when a civilisation reaches that level of extravagance.” You could tell by his face that he was horrified by that, by the old sin of luxury or luxuria. He grew up in a place where everything is recycled because desert people live with very limited resources. So the idea of creating a bottle to be used once and thrown out is complete insanity. This is not sustainable, nobody can argue for the sustainability of a lifestyle of going to Starbucks everyday and getting that cup and just throwing it into the garbage can. And recycling is a total lie. And so these are real problems of balance. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

One of my favourite quotes from Confucius is “When I was 15 I set my heart on learning. When I was 30 I knew where I stood. When I was 40 I had no more doubts. When I was 50 I knew the mandate of Heaven (i.e. life’s purpose). When I was 60 my ear was obedient (i.e. my moral sense was developed). And when I was 70 I could fulfill the desires of my heart without going astray.” That idea of working on the self, the idea of self-mastery, has been so removed from the spiritual part of the human being. Where we see this type of mastery in sports, there is incredible discipline in sports. Our great athletes have phenomenal discipline. And musicians also, because you know how much work it takes to actually achieve that type of mastery. But the idea of mastering the soul has really been removed from our civilisation, and that to me is the greatest tragedy. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

One of the things that Muslim scholars say is that disobedience out of pleasure is always followed by ‘inkhibah’, a constriction of the soul. And obedience, which often involves a constriction of the soul because it is hard to do, is always followed by an expansiveness. And this is one of the signs that you have done something good is that it is followed by what the Qur’an calls ‘inshirah’, an expansion, in that it feels good. And this is why people do not like to exercise but after they finish exercising they always feel good. So when we do things that are good for ourselves that we don’t like, what follows is something very, very positive. Whereas when you eat that cheesecake, which initially appears very desirable, but afterwards you wonder “Why did I do that?” And these are very mundane examples, but when it comes to sin, really serious sin, because the cheesecake is not going to put your soul into perdition, but that other person’s wife will. And we have innumerable films where the scene after the sin is “Why did I do that?” – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The major crisis in Islam right now is a crisis of authority. The Catholics have an advantage because they have the magisterium, where the Pope and the cardinals can determine what policy or doctrine is right, and that helps to a great deal. The Muslims are like the rabbinical tradition, we have a scholastic tradition which traditionally was based on what was called ‘isnad’, or ‘chains of transmission’. So one of the things they always asked Jesus was “Who were your teachers?” Because they wanted to know what the rabbinical chain is. “Are you from Hillel? Are you from Shammai? Who is your teacher? So we can know what school you are following.”…The only people that have a type of magisterium right now are the Turks and the Iranians, the Shia tradition. The Turks have a very standardised tradition, so that all of their scholars go to the same schools and learn the same books. The Iranians have the same situation. The Sunnis are in anarchy right now and this is a great problem for us. Normative tradition has really broken down. So, in essence, to help people that are from other faiths, I represent a more Catholic tradition and a lot of people say “Islam needs a reformation.” My response is “This is the reformation! You guys don’t know your history, because the reformation was one of the bloodiest periods in European history.” – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf