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When Intellectualism Meets Arrogance and Mockery

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Wit is the epitaph of an emotion. (Nietzsche)


Intellectualism; in·tel·lec·tu·al –adjective

  1. devotion to intellectual pursuits.
  2. the exercise of the intellect.
  3. excessive emphasis on abstract or intellectual matters, esp. with a lack of proper consideration for emotions.
  4. Philosophy.
    1. the doctrine that knowledge is wholly or chiefly derived from pure reason.
    2. the belief that reason is the final principle of reality.

So, let me preface this discussion by stating frankly and honestly, that I am your average guy. I am no intellectual; I don’t pretend to be one, and I don’t desire to be one (at least not the wrong ‘type’ as I will expound later). My dear intellectual friends usually carry more burden on their poor brains than I will ever care to. Eventually, a good portion of them self-implode, explode on others or simply have their whole life disintegrate around them. So, no thank you, Mr. and Ms. Intellectual, I am just fine being the average guy with an average family, who speaks with average eloquence, and writes the average blog entry. Once or twice, I’ll share a new word or two with my readers, just so that they remain fresh with the dictionary… but I absolutely do not require a dictionary as a companion text. No sirree, I am just your average dude on the street.

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And sorry to break it to you, my intellectually-endowed friends: most of us are in fact ‘average’. And most of us also LIKE being average, and reading average content. Being average means that most of us have indeed heard of Nietzsche, but most of us don’t give a hoot as to what he says or what he thinks; and really, do we really need to? The guy’s life and fame was built around denying what we hold dearest to ourselves— the belief in the Creator; Nietzsche, who mocks the religious and who exalts egoism (you can start to see how this ideology is becoming contagious):

“After coming into contact with a religious man I always feel I must wash my hands”

“Egoism is the very essence of a noble soul.”

I am sure by now, you, my intellectually-equipped friends, must know where I am going with this… Let’s just say that I am about fed up with all this intellectual twaddle! Now wait a minute, my regular, average Muhammads and Fatimahs, don’t run to the thesaurus! Because that indeed is wherein I found this word, so I’ll spare you the effort: Twaddle simply means mumbo-jumbo or nonsense. Now, couldn’t our intellectual friends just use ‘mumbo-jumbo’ instead of twaddle? I mean it gets the message across just fine, doesn’t it? But you can bet your life that they would rather use twaddle. And why is that, you may ask? Because by making you run to the dictionary, they have impressed upon you their superiority in language, in other words, they are impressing upon you that ‘they know better’. And the impressionable average guy like me is thinking, “wow, this guy really knows what he is talking about” instead of the more realistic “if I had so much time, I could read a zillion novels and learn some SAT vocabulary as well”. But do we really need to, do we really want to?

Don’t get me wrong, my intellectually-loaded friends. If Allah has endowed you with a sharp mind, by all means, employ it. And if you stick to part 1, part 2 and to some extent part 3 of the definition listed above, then Godspeed to you my brother (or sister). Go ahead and read the works of Nietzsche, Husserl, Frege, or even Descartes, Socrates, Hume; but before you do so, equip yourself with the Divine knowledge lest your raw mind is debilitated by the sorcery of words.

On the authority of Ibn `Umar (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (S) said: “Verily, some eloquence (can be so beautiful); it constitutes sorcery.” (Agreed Upon)

So go forth, be intellectual as you wish, in the likes of such contemporary bloggers as this, this, this, this, this or some others like them. They are simple men like us who have used the philosophers’ wisdom to enrich themselves, but not at the expense of stripping themselves of their Islamic identities. And if we are to talk about the great scholars, then follow the footsteps of the great scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, who used philosophy to destroy the philosophers. Ibn Taymiyyah (RH) embodied intellectualism as probably very few other scholars did; yet his intellectualism only strengthened his Islamic resolve, and strengthened the defense of Islam against the enemies of Islam.

But be warned, my intellectually-laden brothers and sisters, do not tread the path of those that fall under definition #4 above. Do not let the arrogance of your intellect, which after all is the creation of the same Lord who created the brain it resides in, take you down a path where aql is your god and god becomes a figment of this aql. Arrogance is where ignorance finds its soul-mate. After all, those who are arrogant are indeed ignorant about what they don’t know; because if they knew what they don’t know, they would find what they know to be minuscule on the grand scale of knowledge.

Lest you fall down yonder, lest you become like those ignorant, intellectually-warped souls treading down the road of arrogance… protect yourself! Indeed, this road leads only to the house of mockery. And the house of mockery includes the following:

  • reliance on, a near-obsession with ‘famous quotes’ of people most of us have never heard of;
  • derision, near-repulsion of anything that is from the Quran or hadith;
  • disdain of scholarly statements, considering them as couth only if they are not ‘philosophical’ or ‘intellectual’ in flavor.

So, how many times have you quoted Quran or hadith and have been slapped with “please take your hidayah books and your memorized quotes from so and so website or book somewhere else, been there and done that”. Been there and done that? Done what? Done Islam? Is it outdated now? Do we need to find replacements for the eloquence of our Lord and our Prophet and our Companions and our Scholars? By Allah, if we go looking for what amounts to an ounce of truth, wisdom and acumen relative to the Speech of Allah or the speech of His Messenger; we will come short. So, don’t even waste your time.

If we do not cease, and if we enter the house of mockery, everything becomes, as they say, ‘kosher’. The nations before us brought the respect and love of religion out of peoples’ lives by engaging in jokes and satire about their deen. We have all heard jokes about St. Peter at the pearly gate of heaven, checking folks in. What do you suppose this mockery instills in the hearts of the average Christian regarding St. Peter, heaven or about Christianity in general?

“You will follow the wrong ways, of your predecessors so completely and literally that if they should go into the hole of a lizard, you too will go there.” We [the Companions] said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Do you mean the Jews and the Christians?” He replied, “Whom else?” (Bukhari)

So, then it becomes okay to joke about the symbols of our faith, it becomes okay to joke about our scholars (here comes the ‘mullah’— a religious man in Urdu… to the point that the word ‘mullah’ has taken on a pejorative sense), it becomes okay to talk derogatorily about hijab or about our Imams or even about our Prophet (S). If they [the nations preceding us] are drawing caricatures about Jesus unabatedly, then why should we, the enlightened ones, be left behind and not do the same about our Prophets? It is all okay my friends… all in the spirit of freedom of expression.

To those who have entered and now reside in the house of mockery, I say: Yes, we live in free countries, so yes, from a legal point of view, it is okay. But then DON’T pretend to be an authority on Islamic or Muslim matters. Stay on one side of the aisle, so that from a distance, we can recognize for what you are.

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet; said, “A slave (of Allah) may utter a word which pleases Allah without giving it much importance, and because of that Allah will raise him to degrees (of reward); a slave (of Allah) may utter a word (carelessly) which displeases Allah without thinking of its gravity and because of that he will be thrown into the Hell-Fire.” (Bukhari)

Beautified is the life of the world for those who disbelieve; they make a jest of the believers. But those who keep their duty to Allah will be above them on the Day of Resurrection. Allah gives without stint to whom He will. (Qur’an: 2:212)

Yes, this last verse is talking about disbelievers and hypocrites. But it contains a warning to the all of the Muslims, because to engage in an act that resembles a hypocrite is not far from the act that ends up taking one into that sphere. It is indeed a serious offense to ridicule and mock the pious believers.

So, next time you see someone mocking Islam, next time you witness a satire about Islam or the Prophet of Islam or about the symbols of Islam, do one of two things: (1) Take action with your words to refute or to advice the person (esp. if professing to be Muslim) or (2) Find it blameworthy in your heart and leave the conversation (online, in person or wherever). The second part represents the LEAST of your faith, beyond which your heart is devoid of iman. So, Just DO IT, for Islam if it means anything to you.

Before I conclude my ramblings (forgive the length), let me share with you a couple of gems that are unmatched by Nietzsche or a thousand like him:

Indeed, those that committed crimes used to laugh at those who believed (Quran Al-Mutaffifin 83/29-30)

Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood (ra) used to say, as narrated by Ibn Abee ‘Aasim, “By Allah whom there is no God but He, there is nothing more worthy of a prolonged incarceration than one’s tongue.” (Saying of the Companions)

So, my intellectually-adept friends, those with an extra degree or two, you may be wondering why did I in fact choose to begin this post with a quote from our atheist friend, Nietzsche? I am sorry to disappoint you but I really had no intellectual reason to do so, except to inject a little spin into it. Since you ‘intellectuals’ like to begin and end your god forsaken posts and articles with quotes from him and others like him, I hoped then, that perhaps by matching your style, I may attract a couple of you to come over here and read this average guy’s ramblings. And so as not to disappoint you further, I end with another one:

To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity (Nietzsche)

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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Mujahideen Ryder

    May 15, 2007 at 1:46 AM

    I loved this post! Two thumbs up!

    I didn’t even know about the “denuding nikabis” thing. SunbhanAllah…

  2. nuqtah

    May 15, 2007 at 2:18 AM

    masha Allah ta’ala. Intellectualism has certainly become a ‘status quo’, anyone who isn’t in is basically looked down upon. Such narrow mindedness is in direct contradiction of the whole moral basis of being an ‘intellectual’; which is to *enlighten* humans….

    …pshht.

  3. Abul-Hussein

    May 15, 2007 at 2:43 AM

    AS

    Hope all are well.

    It was narrated that Imam Malik Bin Anas {r} said :

    [Is it that] every time a person comes to us with greater intellectual prowess and debating skills and rational arguments than another person we are to abandon what Jibril {as} brought to Muhammad {saw} for the intellectual clamor of the person who has better arguments than another?

    {Risalatu Hamawiyyah}

    It is true, we should have a discussion on the boundaries of reason but what is clear is that it is not superior to revelation despite what some may claim. And Ahl as-Sunnah Wa’l Jam’ah will never accept the neo-mutazila da’wah that passes itself off as orthodoxy and ancient but it just another packaged form of “reason is superior to revelation”

    Fine we are irrational but at least we admit it.

    Abul-Hussein

  4. jinnzaman

    May 15, 2007 at 4:49 AM

    Well it looks like he deleted his post, so perhaps you should do the same. :)

  5. Amad

    May 15, 2007 at 7:17 AM

    ASA, JZ, jak for letting me clarify. To be honest, this post wasn’t intended as a response to one person or entity. Rather, I was contemplating this subject for some time. And just to be sure, in the spirit of reciprocation (alhamdulillah for the opportunity), I removed the few fingerprints pointing to the person in question.

    The advice is foremost to me, because I too feel that I am sometimes pulled into this swirl of intellectual shenanigans, to the point that the two texts can start looking irrelevant or not intellectual enough. After me, the advice is to everyone who feels that they have to table the wisdoms of our Lord and our legacy in order to make an intellectually stable argument.

    So, if there is still something in the post that seems too ‘direct’ of a response to any one entity, pls email me :)

    wasalam

  6. sophister

    May 15, 2007 at 10:39 AM

    Imam Ghazali also used philosophy to destroy trends of Greek thought in Islam.

    Just to note – I would consider all of our great classical scholars (as well as contemporary) as intellectuals, as they did inspect our religion to codify it and to use some of their own rationale (in its limited capability) to explain and apply our religion.

  7. Pingback: When Intellectualism Meets Arrogance and Mockery - Islamica Community Forums

  8. Abu H

    May 15, 2007 at 1:51 PM

    For some reason I get hungry reading the post, maybe it is because Mr. Nietzsche reminds me of nacho and cheese… so when you say it quickly, its like nacheeze… I better go find some to eat.

  9. Abû Mûsâ Al-Habashî

    May 15, 2007 at 1:52 PM

    “We have all heard about St. Paul jokes at the gate of heaven, checking folks in.”

    Not me. Just out of curiousity what is this referring to.

  10. Amad

    May 15, 2007 at 2:17 PM

    Click here for google results of plenty of St. Paul at the ‘pearly gates’ jokes.

  11. Abu Bakr

    May 15, 2007 at 3:43 PM

    Errm, I think its actually Peter at the gates.

    Anyhow, great post… I somehow or another got into a philosophy course or two (or three or four, dont remember exactly) in college while doing my Poli Sci degree, and I remember my conclusion was “what utter rubbish!!!”

    In fact, I remember one of my professors absolutely hated children (as he himself had told us) and had a morbid sense of humor which creeped out every single student in the class. At some point in class, we read something about a mother deliberately drowning her child in the bathtub and making it look like an accident, and as he was reading it, he started laughing and just could not stop. And this guy was teaching a class on Ethics!

  12. Abu Bakr

    May 15, 2007 at 3:43 PM

    Errm, I think its actually Peter at the gates (in the jokes I mean)

  13. Amad

    May 15, 2007 at 3:52 PM

    Peter, Paul its all the same thing. Leave it a FOB to mess it all up! Thinking back though, something didn’t feel right about it!

    And akhi abu bakr, you don’t have to rub it in by saying it twice! :) I fixed it now, it was too embarrasing to leave it with St. Paul, besides the fact that it seems to have confused some people!

  14. Nazia

    May 15, 2007 at 5:16 PM

    Good post, it really makes you think. Me and my husband had the same discussion about progressives and how traditional Islam is considered backwards. We concluded that no matter how smart you are, how many alternate theories you can come up with, how many intellectuals you can gather in one room, human beings will still strive to live up to the moral and ethical standards that Islam commanded so many centuries ago. All of our technological advances and scientific breakthroughs didn’t enhance the relationships between parent and child, or one spouse with another. They didn’t make us more brave or honest or sacrificing. We are still trying really, REALLY hard to be good people and some of us are failing at it. The only difference is that instead of being guided by the wisdom of the Quran and Sunnah, we are left with vanities and empty theories.

    So who said Islam is backwards?

  15. Amad

    May 15, 2007 at 5:48 PM

    ASA, Great comment Sr. Nazia. You are right. If we really think about things that matter, let’s start with even just leisure time… all our appliances that are supposed to save us time, do in fact save our time, but for what end? So, that the time can be used to put in more work.

    We work more than ever before probably and in the end our quality of life is no better at best, but likely worse than those who didn’t have all the fancy “time-saving” conveniences of present-day life.

    But we digress… I do wonder why intellectuals have this certain disdain for divine guidance and why they prefer the words of mortal man to the words of an Eternal Creator? Any intellectuals up to it? You can remain anonymous :)

  16. Faraz

    May 15, 2007 at 9:20 PM

    Great post. I’ve often held a certain degree of animosity for those who believe that quoting some dead guy will make their arguments any stronger. I could understand if that person was someone who had a significant influence in his life, but people tend to exaggerate the contributions people like Nietzsche and Sun Tzu had on the world. Certainly, they may have said quotable things, but their quotations should not be enough to reinforce a poor argument.

    It really comes down to arrogance, the feeling of intellectual superiority that comes with knowing something that someone else doesn’t. But it’s illogical, even for an atheist, to believe that a Nietzsche quote should have more value than a quote of a Prophet like Muhammad Salallaho’alayhi wa salam or any other Prophet, because no matter what your belief, it’s clear that the historical significance of these Prophets was far greater than any philosopher in history.

    I’ve passed by quite a few “progressive Muslim” blogs that feel that because they’re “intellectual”, they can get by without any haya, and say the most filthy things. It’s quite disturbing, and people will excuse it because they find it “intellectual”. It’s sad, really.

  17. abu ameerah

    May 16, 2007 at 8:01 AM

    @ Amad:

    You GAVE IT! You GAVE IT … FULL FORCE … FULL ON … a FULL FRONTAL ASSAULT!

    I seriously enjoyed the article.

    Thanks for GIVING IT!

  18. Amad

    May 16, 2007 at 9:31 AM

    Allah parvardigaar ka buhat shukr hey @ Abu Ameerah.

    Faraz, you know I was thinking more about this issue and wanted to compare and contrast the Prophet (S)’s sayings and the philosophers’ sayings:

    *Both could be wise and profound
    *Both are concise, though if you go into the books and don’t depend on ‘quotable quotes’, philosophers take about 20 pages to just introduce what the heck they are saying.

    And that’s probably where the comparisons end. As for contrasts:
    *While the Prophet(S)’s words influenced billions of people, and will continue to influence billions; the words of Philosophers usually affects much fewer, esp. in the elite.
    *While the Prophet(S)’s words converted nations from paganism to monotheism; the philosophers’ words (most of them were atheists), only managed to convert a few to their deen (of atheism).
    *While the Prophet(S)’s words are simple in meaning yet profound in wisdom such that both the Bedouin and the intellectual can take something from it; the philosophers’ words need a companion text-book to explain what they are saying. Even then it will only probably mean something to the highly educated.
    *While the Prophet(S)’s words moved entire nations into action and out of lethargy; the philosophers’ words usually lead to lethargy.
    *While the Prophet(S)’s words increased compassion and love; the philosophers’ words usually led to contempt for something– whether religion, people or society.
    *While the Prophet(S)’s words brought us to the worship of the Creator; the philosophers’ words took people away to the worship of the creation (i.e. themselves as in atheism).

    Any more to add??? Perhaps, as the smartest blog readers on the net, you can help us compile another post where we gather all the similarities and differences between the Revealed texts and the Philosophers’ texts… Who is up to it??? Leave your comments here and when and IF we have enough, we’ll put it in the form of another post inshallah.

  19. Ruth Nasrullah

    May 16, 2007 at 10:26 AM

    Asalaamu alaikum. It seems to me that if someone believes that holy books are divinely revealed and the prophets’ messages divinely inspired, they’d obviously consider those as the greatest sources of guidance and knowledge. If not, clearly the alternative is to seek guidance from human authors, from which there is a vast array to choose, not just philosophers but scientists and various pundits as well as cult leaders. Progressive Muslims aren’t the only people to do this – it’s the heart of secular humanism and of religions like Unitarianism. In my experience, debating people who don’t believe in divine revelation is pretty fruitless, and I think I’m missing something here – but it wouldn’t be the first time I’m in the dark on this and other Muslim blogs, so please forgive me if I’m off base.

  20. Amad

    May 16, 2007 at 10:45 AM

    Actually, it is the people who claim Islam or pretend to be “Muslim Reformers” that this post and comments are most targeted at. As for those who reject the divine revelations, then really, as you mentioned, we have no fundamental basis to discuss anything on.

  21. Hyder

    May 16, 2007 at 2:55 PM

    why do u quote Nietzsche?

  22. Amad

    May 16, 2007 at 3:07 PM

    Hyder, read the article again, specifically the last paragraph for the answer to your question…

  23. AnonyMouse

    May 16, 2007 at 3:32 PM

    Y’know what this reminds me of? Well, not this post specifically, but rather all those who are into “reforming” Islam… the aayah in Surah al-Baqarah where it is said, “Do not cause mischief upon the earth,” and they say in response, “We are only reformers!”

  24. zafar

    May 16, 2007 at 7:52 PM

    Salaamu alaikum,

    Amad?? is this borther sheikh from UH??

    I wonder if you remember me :)

  25. Amad

    May 16, 2007 at 8:12 PM

    Not the Zafar who used to live in Cambridge Oaks across us????

  26. Anon.

    May 17, 2007 at 6:50 AM

    Amad, yooooou da man! ;)

  27. zafar

    May 17, 2007 at 5:00 PM

    yeap thats the one. how is it going bro?

  28. Hyder

    May 18, 2007 at 9:23 AM

    assalaamu`alaikum brother

    forgive me, i was put off upon seeing the quotations and bypassed the article. afwan.

    i must admit the last quote is a good one.

    jazaakallah khayr

  29. SaqibSaab

    December 23, 2007 at 1:27 AM

    JazakAllah khair.

  30. Dawud Israel

    December 23, 2007 at 2:48 PM

    I think the issue is that most people simply don’t read enough. The standard has been lowered to youtube and the internet so that people who think they are being intellectual are simply just showing off the little that they know…or heard about on youtube!

    As for Muslim intellectuals…THAT we need more of…people who talk and act both! :)

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