Thursday, August 2, 2012

Decoding Contentions - 1

Contentions are the aphorisms coined by Shaikh Abdul Hakim Murad. By now seventeen sets are on the public stage. Here is our attempt to grapple with them. We have made some preliminary remarks on these when Dawud Israel was blogging about them.

1. Activism will only succeed when it remembers that history is in good hands.
We are living in the age of activism. Will it succeed? Normally the answer would be yes if the guiding principle of the people indulging in activism is right. If there guiding principle is Islam. Shaikh Murad feels that it will succeed only when it acknowledges that history is in good hands. History is in hands of God. Anyone remembering that Allah (SWT) is around us then he or she should certainly benefit from this realization.

But Allah (SWT) does not waste hard work of His slaves. Thus even success, in this world, is granted to people who toil. So ultimate success certainly depends upon faith in God but in this world you see it, supposedly,  rather randomly distributed. Thus yours truly end up in not complete agreement with the first contention.
2 We must not overestimate the calamities of our age. A misplaced rigorism is less dangerous than an improper liberalism.
Laxity or rigidity are two ways to err about any dogma. Same can be said about religion. Shaikh contends that former is more harmful in present times than the latter. In short, in present times, we should watch out for our laxity a liberalism regarding Islam. This might look like a strange stand keeping in view the Salafi-type rigidity that is so common a sight today. But the Shaikh is on the dot in his assessment for the number of liberals around us is much more than the total number of religious type people - Salafi and moderate combined.
3. This sin of the Muslim world: menefregismo.
We gather that the Shaikh is talking about apathy. Heedlessness is the usual word for the same thing. By and large this too is a correct diagnosis on part of the Shaikh. The part of Muslim Ummah in the west might be quite alert owing to the negative focus that Islam has received recently but even there the vast majority will fall into the don't-care category. Indian sub-continent is sort of boiling at the moment and it has got some thing to do with Islam also but one still is hesitant to  call it Islamic awakening. This is in spite of the Tabligh work that, Masha Allah, is in quite good health in all three countries as well as in Sri Lanka. There is some awareness in Indonesia-Malaysia region also but perhaps we are confusing the visible economic activity with Islamic revival. Of course there are notable Islamic concerns in public and private lives but these too fall short of what we can term awakening. Gulf is all in a state of turmoil - we have the so called Arab Spring revolution there. Its Islamic focus is not very clear so far. Saudia is a counter example to this contentions as well as the previous one. If the two things are combined then we have the same net result as is asserted in the present contention. If you are awaken in a wrong way then you are still asleep. Or, better still, you were better sleeping.
4. In senescence, religions have two possibilities: Alzheimers (the amnesiac option of the secular elites) and manic-depressive (the false Salafism).
Senescence is old age. Religion is never old so here we have to focus upon people's old age. In old age the responsibility is much reduced and hence there is not much point on dwelling upon this aspect. Unless again we are completely missing as to what the Shaikh is saying.
5. Aid for ‘moderate’ Middle Eastern regimes is meals on wheels, because it does not expect to rejuvenate.
Economically these regimes are rather well off - so again we do not know the purport.
6. Postmodernism is Jahiliyya. Each tribe has its own story.
The Shaikh is on the dot. Post-modernism is, or perhaps was, the big thing  in the west and it was being gobbled by the east - hook, line and sinker. And it was a balloon. Or an emperor with new clothes, that is, no clothes. We feel that by now it has evaporated but we do not have a name for what it has been replaced by. Jahiliyya is certainly very apt description for that.
7. The modern West shows that without a Shari‘a there can only be scattered hunafa’.
Again a very correct diagnosis by the Shaikh. Western society is broken and we see few decent individuals here and there and that is all.
8. ‘There is no God at all, and Atatürk is His prophet.’
The first part is the Kufr of the Kemalist Turkey and the second part is representation of its absurdity. Here western idiom has been put to the best use by the Shaikh.This makes the effort to navigate the Contentions worth it.
9. The Umma without its Law is like a man without his Prayer.
Good one. Like is a good choice and like is not same. Without Prayers you damage your this world and hereafter. Without lay you damage you present world for sure. So much so that your hereafter might be in jeopardy.
10. The East is content without form; the West is form without content.
East has the content, that is Islam. It is not putting it into practice. I do wish that east was not content with that. West is putting something into practice but it lacks guidance. It is dry wisdom on Shaikh's part. That seems to be the character of wisdom - it is dry.
11. It is as fallacious to assert that Islam is unsuited to the age as it is to believe that the age is suited to Islam.
Islam is a faith for all seasons. It is suitable for present age and it is suitable for all ages. A good reminder for those who try to fit Islam by deforming it to suit their taste. The second part is the reverse argument.
12. Modern India: we are called to put the rahma back into Brahman.
There can be few interpretations of this. Brahminism is discrimination on caste basis. Removal of that discrimination is bringing of mercy - rahma. Calling the Indian elite to Islam is the need of the day and the Shaikh has courageously put his finger on the pulse.
13. Which came first: intolerant preaching or its subject-matter?
May be it is helpful to have the answer but yours truly can not think, at the moment, in which way.
14. Whether God can forgive Europe is perhaps the greatest problem of theodicy.
Is the Shaikh complicating the things here? We know that no religion is acceptable to Allah (SWT) except for Islam and that is it.
15. Islamic modernism: a danse macabre flirting with the spiritual death of the Enlightenment.
Again a good observation. This again is a reminder about the futility of efforts to fit Islam into so called modernity.
16. Have we become like the Incredible Hulk, ineffectual until provoked?
The reference is to a movie character. Observation is about, again, the laxity of Ummah. Character of Islam is assertive and not reactive. Muslims in present times are not completely in the assertive mode.
17. The radicals are announcing only one thing: ‘Attention! This vehicle is reversing!’
In metaphorical sayings precision is not the concern and hence we can make some sense out of it. The so called radicals have got no idea about the assertive aspects of Islam. 
18. Wahhabism: the war on polychromy. (Vermeer: the perfect Protestant.)
Rigidity of Wahhabism is being equated with non-allowance to diversity. Vermeer reference is not illuminating without help from the author.
19. Followers of Antichrist see with only one eye, whose name is Zahir or Batin.
 Strange saying because when Batin comes into picture then a sense of wholesomeness prevails. A person satisfied with Zahir is indeed in danger of falling into Dajjal's trap but the reverse statement is not so easy to make. A person obsessed with Batin only is deficient in a way but not to the extant of Dajjalism. Wallahualam.

20. St Cuthbert never defeated the Green Man, who has now returned with a Law.
 St. Cuthbert is a seventh century figure. Why should Muslims in general be directed to investigate esoteric corners of Christian history?
21. The Crusaders served us at least once: they let al-Khidr loose in Sherwood.
 People have guessed some connection with Green Man (Khidr --> Kh-D-R) of previous contention. Cross-word like clues do little to religious understanding - Islam is Deen-i-Mubeen, clear cut Deen.

22. British Buddhism: who can abide this chinoiserie?
 Chinoiserie stands for Chinese-like. Why bother about Budhism, whether British or Japanese or original Indian?
23. Converts: we must jump the gap without losing our clothes.
This about a convert's dilemma and understandable.
24. Blake’s Job shows that repentance can never be paid for.
 William Blake produced a series of twenty-two engraved prints in  1826 of the biblical Book of Job.
Now try to fill in the gap, if you can. Without loosing your clothes.

Once yours truly was talking to professor Alok Rai about twisted English prose of some people. He was of the opinion that some people have the attitude of watch me move. Shaikh should have tried his utmost to make the expressions as close to the intended meaning as possible. Mental gymnastics is good thing but it is not for all. Mixing that with Islam is a bit risky for Islam is universal - for all.

After seeing Blake's paintings the Shaikh must have got some idea. Now ideas are fleeting. They must be caught and chained - in plain words. Some times you yourself are puzzled by your own ideas when you have a look at them. "Was it me", you some times wonder at your own thoughts. Hazrat Aqdas Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA) said that some times I am surprised my own answers to seeker's questions when they are read to me later on. This itself has something to do with the Grace of Allah (SWT) and His guidance. Recording that in plain language can be of much value.

The fact that we are reading Shaikh's Contentions should be taken as an acknowledgement of his value. After that he should make effort to make the things easy for us plebeians.
25. William Law plus the social gospel: is anything left before Islam?
Missed it again. Now we fear the Law mentioned earlier might be William Law. Shaikh has summarizes the world before Islam and we are clueless about it.
26. Versailles is Augustinian; Hidcote is Pelagian.
 Here is the help from Mind, Body, Soul:
Versailles – A city in north central France near Paris; site of the Palace of Versailles that was built by Louis XIV in the 17th century.
Augustinian – A Roman Catholic friar or monk belonging to one of the Augustianian mostaic orders
Hidcote – Hidcote Manor Garden that was created from 1907 onwards by Lawrence Johnston
Pelagian – Received its name from Pelagius and designates a heresy of the fifth century, which denied original sin as well as Christian grace.

Make sense out of it - if you can. Tauheedullah is little more expressive. In summary, if you are British and if you have Christian background then you are likely to have some knowledge of Christianity.
27. ‘The English lack nothing to make them sound Mussulmans, and need only stretch out a finger to become one with the Turks in outward appearance, in religious observance and in their whole character.’ (The Fugger Letters.)
This one is little more comprehensible. Only if the British will declare the creed of unity of God they are as good as Muslims. Some times we raise a finger to declare unity of God. This is a tribute to British character. Shaikh stands absolved of self-praise for he has already left Christianity.
28. British religious painting: why this indifference to the Passion?
Let us assume he is not talking about the so called Last  Passion of Jesus Christ, may Allah (SWT) forgive us for talking about such things. After making that assumption we are still left high and dry. If the contentions are meant for British people only then it raises a very nasty question as to what we are doing here.
29. Closet converts are the malamatiyya: they know, but are not known.
A malamatiyya is one who admonishes his Baser Self. A closet covert is indeed knows Islam and others do not know that they are Muslims. Why bring malamatiyya into picture? I know, I know, Shaikh has no intention of making us look like illiterate.

30. The Abrahamic wandering, for us, but not for Levinas, is to polis, to umm al-Qura. It was Islam, not Judaism, which united Abraham and Odysseus.
This too is a distraction. Mythology is mythology, an antithesis of religion. There is no need to unite the two. Why spend the precious time and energy on musings about connection of Greek mythology to Islam and lack of connection between Judaism and Greek mythology?
31. Hagar, that ‘root out of a dry ground’, the most fertile woman in history.
We pray for abundance on the progeny of Muhammed (PBUH), same abundance  that was granted to the progeny of Abraham (AS). Since spiritual progeny and biological progeny are combined in the blessing the abundance is rather clear to all.
32. Hagar is the matriarch of liberation because, unlike Sarah, she fends for herself.
Jewish and Christian people might object to this and say that it is other way round. Unless yours truly has again missed the train.
33. ‘Judaism is dead; but we are going to give it a magnificent funeral’. (Rabbi Zunz, fount of liberal Judaism.) Is Islam the reverse? And if so, what are the grounds for dialogue?
Why this obsession with a family with a religion? Oh, Israel is there. Right. The ground for dialogue is land. land of Palestine usurped by Israel - the people who are allowed by their scriptures to indulge in usury.
34. Judaism and Islam have resisted Christianity through eros and thanatos. Hence the magnitude of their victory.
Facing holocaust vs facing crusades? Good going, sir.
35. Liberal Protestantism: God is no longer the Father, but an occasional and indulgent Grandfather.
Yours truly lives in a predominantly Hindu country. Christianity does not tickle the fine bone in these quarters. But for UK dwellers too it would have been nice if the clues were a bit less cryptic. Cross-word is self-indulgence and and self-indulgence might be halaal but it is unlikely to be encouraged. Wallahualam.
36. The ‘universal’ religion is not merely the religion that claims to be for all; it is the religion that claims that God has always been for all. There can be no Muslim ‘scandal of particularity’.
A point.
37. Some religions out-narrate others.
Good observation. Specification would have been appreciated.
38. Annunciation vs. enunciation: the word is best made word.
 People have found spiritual content in this. Yours truly has not.
39. Christianity was providential as preparatio evangelica.
Dawud Israel says ( also see the discussion at MBS), "Paganism carried some truths that helped pave way for the success of the Gospel, but in reality, Christianity prepared the world for Islam." Bravo Dawud - I would not like to try that hard. I love puzzles and I hold Islam dear. But I would not like to put hurdles in the path of Islam - neither for myself nor for others.
40. The Paraclete was indeed the Comforter. We were in a state of ascetical panic about ourselves.
Excess in Christinity was ascetical. Paraclete removed that and the panic turned into comfort. Right sir?
41. The liberal theory of religion is homeopathic. (The more you water it down, the stronger it will become.)
You might agree or disagree with homeopathy but the comparison is apt.
42. Juda-yi Ism: the absolutizing of a people.
Edom: the absolutizing of a person.
Islam: the absolutizing of God.
Great observation.
43. Our God is too generous to require an ‘economy of salvation’.
There is a pun. Christianity is rather prone to economic exploitation, Islam is essentially not.
44. Have Christianity and Islam exchanged views of each other?
In any case you are faith bound to fall on the right side.

45. Salat is the zakat of time.
Does it take two and half percent of your time?
46. In the measure that we accept the Prayer it is accepted by God.
When you accept Prayer you are behaving like a slave. Allah (SWT) accepts that.
47. The dietary laws are an opportunity to fast.
I am sure there will be a connection. But I like my Islam pre-cooked. The stakes are too high to make any room for any game at all. Shaikh I shall play it safe. In the next opportunity I shall declare that I am dense.
48. Text without context is pretext. ‘He withdraws knowledge by withdrawing the ulema.’
True, we can not make sense of text without Scholars. Allah (SWT) can take away knowledge by taking away scholars from us. And, Shaikh, I am really dense. I got this one because this one was easy. I have a complement for you in the next comment.
49. Literalism is the laziness that masquerades as courage.
Agree. But some one might be indulging in literalism after banging his head against a wall. Literalism might be his last resort. I am sure you are talking about some particular case. Shaikh you are really the Ghazali of the times. Actually this was my complement. I have delivered it because I am sure cryptic clues to come might spoil my mood to a point of no return.
50. The recipe for chaos: the qat‘i grows until the zanni is almost abolished.
Or other way round. I give up on this one.
51. The false scholar: a muezzin whose fingers are stuck.
Yeah, he will not listen to you.
52. God’s ada shows that we are made in His image. He functions according to sunan and is not diminished by them. ‘Acquire the character traits of God!’
Shaikh, we Sufis are a reviled bunch already. Try to make it easier for us.
53. Deed is creed. Lex orandi, lex credendi.
54. Praxis is the content of belief.
55. The lottery: a way of exploiting the weak-willed in order to reward the undeserving.
56. The lottery: a tax on stupidity.
57. The Law: all freedom is difficult.

58. The Tawaf is about Abraham, the Sa‘y is about Hagar. Only in Islam is a woman the initiator of a form of worship.
59. The femininity of the crescent, the masculinity of the cross. (Max Ernst, Men shall know nothing of this.)
60. Layla: the chador of God on earth.
61. Islam is the religion of women because Madina had no place for Oedipus.
62. Women are native to Paradise: is this not the most underestimated disclosure of the Book?
63. Our Paradise shows that the Dionysian mysteries were proleptic.
64. Cranial nudity. Adverte oculos! The hijab is indeed an amulet, which wards off the evil eye.
65. Stay home during the peek season.
66. Veiling the unavailable: noli me tangere.
67. Christian women: celibacy. Muslim women: cellulite. Thus have two prophets been forgotten.
68. It is the economy of desire which shows that Law is pure mercy.

69. Exclusivism is less oppressive to the oppressed than to the oppressor.
70. Bacon, like a pious pasha, has blurred our faces. Is this the condition of postmodernity? To be a two-dimensional cartoon without a face?
71. Nureyev in La Bayadére finally acknowledged the light in his name. Where are we to welcome such penitents?
72. ‘Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life’. (Brooke Shields)
73. It’s called the consumer society because it consumes us.
74. ‘The fact that it is so difficult for present-day man to pray and the fact that it is so difficult for him to carry on a genuine talk with his fellow men are elements of a single set of facts.’ (Buber)
75. ‘Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can’t help but cry. I mean I’d love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff.’ (Mariah Carey)
76. The Sunna is suluk, for the Divine Other may only be intuited. ‘Perception does not attain Him, but He attains perception.’
77. The proof of God is the form of the proof.
78. Natural theology is the blind man’s stick.
79. Imamology is a theodicy because it assumes the categoric novelty of Islam.
80. Shi‘ism is a schism, lacking the sea of Mercy.
81. Sunni political theory: the pole star need not be the brightest star.
82. It is in its Ash‘arite occasionalism that Islam most radically sacralises the world.
83. Determinism does not exclude providence, it excludes everything else.
84. Free will secularises by authenticating the alterities.
85. The antinomy of autonomy: our freedom is in the Free.
86. Because the body is the single shared cross-cultural common factor (Mary Douglas), Islam, which affirms it, is dialogical in nature.
87. Islam is a hidden treasure longing to be known.
88. Iman is derived from ‘Immanence’. The centre must be present in the periphery.
89. We should be reluctant to forgive reluctance to forgive. Rigour and mercy circumscribe each other.
90. If you fail to pelt the pillars you can only pelt the pilgrims.
91. The veils of the world must be walked through. The veils of sin must be walked around. (Imam al-Haddad.)
92. Guilt is a warning.
93. To attribute the maqam of da‘wa to one’s self is to be open to the Divine ruse.
94. Wonder is the first passion.
95. The Qur’an shows, it does not just explain.
96. Courtesy and knowledge are like two hands washing each other.
97. Without the inward whom can we worship? The Outwardly Manifest?
98. No-one is uncircumcised, for the bezm-i alast was too joyful to be forgotten entirely.
99. Truth is the further shore of love.
100. Only in Unity can suffering find no place.