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The Fallacy of Philosophical Logic & Reasoning An Insight into Ibn Taymiyya’s Radd ‘ala al-Mantiqiyyin

The great British philosopher, logician and mathematician, Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) wrote in his autobiography (1950, p. 395):

When I survey my life, it seems to me to be a useless one, devoted to impossible ideals. My activities continue from force of habit, and in the company of others I forget the despair which underlies my daily pursuits and pleasure. But when I am alone and idle, I cannot conceal from myself that my life had no purpose, and that I know of no new purpose to which to devote my remaining years. I find myself involved in a vast mist of solitude both emotional and metaphysical, from which I can find no issue.

Russell’s reflections are typical of those who trust in a particular style of reasoning as the means by which human beings can know and understand themselves and the world they live in. After a lifetime devoted to this style of reasoning, they become disappointed with reason altogether because it is unable to account for the most general, fundamental and most obvious of all realities: namely, that humans are intelligent and the world is intelligible to them, that the world seems to demand and reward human curiosity. Reason cannot account for the existence of reason. It is so, but reason cannot tell us why and how it is so.

Reason also cannot account for how and why we understand and respond to notions of value, like love, justice, truth, beauty, happiness, and their opposites. Notions like these form the basis of all the important practical judgements we make in life: who and what we like or dislike, what we strive for, our own behaviours and lifestyle and how we respond to others. We cannot define these values in any way that will apply to all situations or be agreed and accepted by all people. And yet in judging actual, particular situations we somehow know when these values are adequately expressed and when they are not.

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All human beings understand these values and have words for them.  They also have the competence to express themselves generally: they have the competence to hold in their own minds and convey to other minds, their perceptions of the real world outside them, and the feelings prompted by those perceptions. More than that, they can think, remember and imagine many things that are not directly prompted by anything in the world outside their minds. All human beings have this ability to express themselves, spontaneously and uniquely, with or without a prompt from someone else or from the world outside the mind. This ability takes different forms in different environments: humans do not all speak the same language, but they do all speak.

Our competence to hold perceptions and impressions in the mind, within the system of signs that we call language, and to hold them independently of any condition in the world outside the mind, enables us to compare this and that, to see patterns, to make analogies, to make suppositions, to plot and plan. This is how we learn: we make mistakes in perceptions and judgements, then we work through the errors and improve our perceptions and judgements; our plans go wrong, and then we try to make better plans. Because we can store what we have learnt in our language, what we learn and how fast we learn gathers pace and volume. Again, it is a mystery on top of a mystery that we can keep doing this and yet never seem to run out of storage space: our minds and language systems are, for all practical purposes, unbounded. Human beings do not just collect the food given in the world like nuts and berries and cereals, and the flesh of hunted or reared animals, they combine flavours and textures and fragrances: they cook, and so enlarge their own appetite as well as their ability to survive in different environments. This applies in all domains of human activity.

Nevertheless, for all its curiosity, its linguistic and rational competence, the human mind cannot see the whole of itself in action. We cannot predict or control all the conditions that affect our thoughts, feelings, attitudes and actions; we cannot predict or control all the consequences of our actions, not even upon ourselves and those near us, let alone upon people far removed from us in place and time, not to speak of the earth’s life-system as a whole. We can watch other people looking but we cannot, ourselves, see ourselves in the act of looking. That is how it is. We can know that we will die, but we cannot, so to speak, live through our own death. We can live through other people’s death, never our own. It is at this boundary that we experience our deepest need to know and understand, and the reason and language that seemed to serve us so well here fail us. This is the boundary of the seen and the unseen.

The need to cross this boundary is the root of the religious impulse. If there were no input from the unseen, this impulse could not exist. But it does exist. We are flooded with feelings of uncertainty, about why we exist at all if we are to die, why we have feelings, motives and effects in the world that we cannot fully understand, why we are followed by our past though it is no longer there, why we are thrown towards our future in great rushes of hope and fear. If there were no input from the unseen these feelings would paralyse us. But there is input: it is this that we call religion. Of this there are numerous forms in the world. The believers say the only reliable form of religion is what has been conveyed by the Prophets, men informed by God from the unseen and informed about the unseen. Muslims are exceptionally fortunate in that what our Prophet informed us about is perfectly preserved in the Qur’an, and almost as reliably preserved in the record of his teaching and example, the Sunna.

Because religion informs us about what we have not directly perceived, and more importantly, because it begins in an act of affirmation — we must affirm the truthfulness of the Prophets and their teaching before we begin to live by that teaching and its truth becomes a certainty for us – there is a human tendency to resist religion, to rebel against the Prophets, to distract from their message. This can take the form of an outright denunciation of the Prophet’s message as a fairy-tale or nonsense. But it can also take the form of an approval of the Prophet’s message as a necessary comforting delusion for the masses, but still a delusion. This approval is expressed in two ways: either the delusion is corrected by re-stating the Prophet’s message in the language of philosophical propositions which convey the message in abstract concepts, rigorously assembled as an argument. Or it can take the form of a thoroughly subversive alternative to the Prophet’s message, which claims insight into the unseen just as the Prophet’s message does, but is fundamentally contrary to the Prophet’s message: so if the Prophet teaches that God is absolutely other than His creatures, the alternative teaches that God and His creatures are essentially one and the same; if the Prophet teaches that Pharaoh was a wicked tyrant who is punished in this life and in the hereafter, the alternative teaches that Pharaoh understood the reality that he and God are essentially the same, and so he, Pharaoh, is entirely forgiven.

These two ways of resisting the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) message have in common the idea that this message is not expressed as it should be, that what it says in fact is not what it means; what it says is not how things really are. In short, both these ways believe that the revelation does not establish the truth, rather it establishes the rules and norms of a civic religion, a way useful to the elites for keeping the masses in order. The truth is something else, known to the philosophers, or known to the ittihadi Sufi shaykhs. These two ways have something else in common, namely the legacy of Greek philosophy, albeit the falasifa and the mutakallimun depend more heavily upon Aristotle, and the ittihadi Sufis depend more heavily upon Plato. Ibn Taymiyyah’s Radd ‘ala l-mantiqiyyin is a reasoned polemic against both, and one of the most vigorous defences of realist thinking ever written. Needless to say, he defends realist thinking, not for its own sake, but for the sake of defending Islam as a belief and as a way of life.

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (661-728/1263-1328) was a great Muslim thinker of Damascus. Besides his excellence in the traditional Islamic sciences, he was a great expert in logic, philosophy, theology and linguistics. He admits that had there been no Prophets, the philosophers would have been the best people on the face of the earth. He appreciates that philosophers raise and think about the right questions. But they do not have the right tools to get the answers that will benefit them or humankind. This is a point that he has elaborated in most of his major works, like Dar’ al-ta`arud bayna al-`aql wa-l-naql, al-Radd `ala al-mantiqiyyin and many of the essays and articles collected in Majmu` al-Fatawa.

In al-Radd `ala al-mantiqiyyin, he discusses in detail the methodological problems of philosophical logic, which is praised by the philosophers as the criterion or measure of right thinking, i.e., it has the same importance for reasoning as grammar has for language. His argument is that a methodology which can work within the domain of any narrowly defined discipline cannot necessarily work in other domains, and certainly does not hold for human reasoning as whole. His criticism against Greek logic is not that it cannot work in a limited disciplinary context, but that it should not be applied as a sort of test to every science and every effort of reasoning. (The philosophers and theologians explicitly deployed it in the discourse on metaphysical and theological questions, and in the argumentation used in jurisprudence and Arabic grammar.)

In the Radd Ibn Taymiyyah focuses on four claims of the logicians:

(1) that tasawwur (conceptualisation) cannot be attained except through hadd (a particular style of definition);

(2)that  tasdiq (affirmation, judgement) cannot be established except after qiyas al-shumul (syllogism; a particular style of reasoned demonstration);

3) that the hadd leads to reliable tasawwur;

and (4) that the qiyas leads to certain or near-certain tasdiq. Ibn Taymiyyah demonstrates the errors of the logicians in all four points in their theoretical discussions and practical application.

[For a detailed discussion of this subject please refer to the online seminar by Dr Mohammad Akram Nadwi on al-Radd `ala al-mantiqiyyin (Refutation of Greek Logicians) of Ibn Taymiyyah as part of the Introduction to Classical Islamic Texts Series at Cambridge Islamic College – www.cambridgeislamiccollege.org]

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zdv7XRL82rc

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Shaykh Mohammad Akram Nadwi is an Islamic scholar from the Indian city of Jaunpur and a graduate of the world renowned Nadwatul Ulama (India) where he studied and taught Shariah.Shaykh Akram is a Muhaddith of the highest calibre who has specialised in Ilm ul Rijal (the study of the narrators of Hadith). He has Ijaza (licenses) from over 600 scholars. Shaykh Akram Nadwi has a doctorate in Arabic Language and has authored and translated over 25 titles on Language, Jurisprudence, Qur’an and Hadith.In May 2010, he completed a monumental 457-volume work on the lives of female scholars of Hadith in Islamic History. Also now available in English is Madrasah Life (2007) the translation (from Urdu) of his personal memoir of a student’s day at Nadwat al-Ulama.Shaykh Akram is the recipient of the Allama Iqbal prize for contribution to Islamic thought. As a leading scholar steeped in traditional Islamic learning and in modern academia, Shaykh Akram is a former research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford.He is the Dean and the Academic Director of the Cambridge Islamic College.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Azmath

    March 13, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    Awesome!!! MashaAllah – really love this article. Please MM post more such articles on philosophy, logic and reasoning. It really helps get an insight into how thoughtful and amazing muslim scholars really were. Islam really calls for very deep reflection. Loved it very much!

  2. Avatar

    Stardusty Psyche

    March 19, 2015 at 9:23 AM

    Atheists like Russell and I do not “trust in…reasoning as the means…”. Immediately, brother Nadwi, I see you lack even the most basic understanding of the atheistic philosophy you are commenting on.

    We atheists are well aware that there is the potential for faulty perception and faulty reasoning. We simply do our best to perceive and reason as well as we seem to be able to do. “Trust” simply is not a factor.

    Neither do we become disappointed with reason itself, rather, we come to the realization through reasoning that human life has no ultimate purpose relative to the universe as a whole. Our lives only have the meanings we and our fellow humans assign to ourselves. Such meaning, our reasoning tells us, is transitory and ultimately insignificant as compared to the fate of the universe as a whole.

    Reasoning does account for intelligence. Reason most certainly does account for the existence of reason itself. Brains have evolved. You can read all about it from thousands of sources.

    Love, beauty, justice and all the rest are evolutionary artifacts, often observable in other species besides homo sapiens sapiens. Biological and cultural evolution have resulted in our having empathy and connections to each other and our environment because they impart a net survival advantage, or are side effects of such evolutionary processes.

    Indeed, we are pattern seeking animals that seek explanations for phenomena we perceive, both outside ourselves and within our own thoughts. Lacking any good explanation we invent imaginary explanations. Thousands of such speculations have been made up over millennia taking the form of almost uncountable imagined gods and spirits you would now dismiss as mere fantasy.

    We atheists share in your dismissal of all these thousands of imagined gods and spirits. We just go one god more :-)

    Peace
    Stardusty Psyche

    • Avatar

      A

      March 26, 2015 at 2:57 PM

      Appreciate the etiquette in which you posted that comment.

      Nonetheless, I’ve always found the verse below to be so relevant to atheists:

      “Think [Prophet] of the man who has taken his own desire as a god: are you to be his guardian? Do you think that most of them hear or understand? ” (The Qur’an 25: 43-44)

      In ditching religion, they form their own religion. In dismissing God, they construct their own god to worship – not one made of clay or stone, but of pure desire. Whatever conclusion they stumble upon by solely relying on reason, they blindly follow and wholeheartedly adopt into their lives. That is until their reason says something else, and their lives change 360 degrees.

      It is unfortunate that in ignoring their very nature, and its longing to worship one God and one alone, they invite so much instability in their lives and so much confusion. If they ever stumble upon the truth, and that is a big IF, it is after centuries of trial and error.

      • Avatar

        StardustyPsyche

        March 27, 2015 at 1:29 AM

        “A” is the shortest name I have ever encountered !-) Ok, maybe that means answer or author or something…

        Why would you suppose that atheists worship anything at all? Qur’an 25: 43-44 is not at all insightful into the atheistic outlook. Why would we consider ourselves to be gods if we think there are not gods at all?

        It seems theists theists are so steeped in worship of a god of some sort that most generally seem to assume we all must worship something as a god, so lacking any one of the thousands of proposed deities then theists such as yourself apparently feel obliged to identity who or what my “god” is.

        I don’t have a god, or a worship object, or a worshiped concept…most especially not myself or any of my faculties.

        “Blindly follow”…”wholeheartedly adopt”…”instability”…”confusion”. Gee whizzz, I am one really messed up guy!!!

        Sorry A, but we atheists are not blindly lurching from fad to fad, blindly following and wholeheartedly adopting. Most of us think scientifically, which is to say provisionally and evidence based.

      • Avatar

        John

        March 27, 2015 at 5:22 PM

        What truth? Moslem truth, my Christian truth, my friend’s Jewish
        truth, or our atheist’ buddy’s truth?
        Scientifically, our mind is the primary creative force in our reality, and
        the law of attraction principles apply, cant deny we all have atoms inside
        billion years old if you believe there are satellites up there.i mean, we can deny, does not mean it does not exist.. anyone can deny anything :) i am denying everyday things that dont belong in my “picture” of reality, we all are, but I hope that existence of atoms is a common belief between us, even with our spiritual and religious differences. God is the same, in my view, but I
        accept is not in yours on in any other individual’s perspective. My ego is
        not hurt if Atheists or anyone else dont believe in God, much less in my
        God. My relationship with God is my own, and is no better or worse than
        yours. Its my private perspective, and I am also free to think the world
        would be a much better place if people saw my “truth”. You can argue that
        i should listen to yours, I am not arguing that point of view towards mine,
        saying mine is the right one, the real one, or the best one. I try to love
        you all, within the principles of unconditional love, without expecting
        retribution, and I am sorry we cant talk more about things we have in
        common, instead of talking about our differences all the time.
        Not using this my convenient “truth” to get away of my terrestrial human
        positive compassionate duties that include trying my best to give
        unconditional love (Buddah’ type :) , that in my perspective are clearly
        drafted in my mind.

        Meaningful to me means Its expressed by anyone’s example of servicing
        others, wiht great examples of their convictions (aka passion, because
        passion can take us to places that talent cannot reach) and at the same
        time neutrality in judging others by our own standards. Anyone is free to believe whatever they want, and being neutral in harmony with the universe means that the sum of the activity=0 Zero, Nada. Thinking that I am right and you wrong, only exists in my own little head, and vice versus.

        I think one needs to be careful sometimes with words that only a
        few in the world know the meaning, words that might hide that golden
        nugget, but can also keep them prisioners in their own sandbox foreva! :D.

        What can we do together instead of trying to say loudly how good we are, how much do we really know about any given subject?
        You don’t get respect by demand it, it happens by our own example.

    • Avatar

      sperc

      March 26, 2015 at 8:36 PM

      Your comments typify the usual atheist rhetoric but they fail to address the deeper epistemological concern, viz. Münchhausen trilemma. Read about that and then you will understand the significance of what is described here:
      http://spiritualperception.org/the-real-battle-meaningful-vs-meaningless/

      • Avatar

        StardustyPsyche

        March 27, 2015 at 2:22 AM

        Thanks for the link, Sperc. Not to my surprise, it consists of a few interesting subjects raised in the framework of straw men, poorly reasoned arguments, and hopelessly vague scriptural quotes.

        ‘philosophical skepticism’ and ‘philosophical naturalism’ are defined in terms that simply do not represent any seriously held positions.

        Meaning is relative. One thing means something in relation to something else. Meaning is descriptive of relationship. Thus, all of existence has no meaning in this sense, because by definition there is nothing outside of all of existence for all of existence to relate to.

        Indeed we may entertain the notion that we do not exist, but, in entertaining that notion we are drawn inexorably to the realization that we must exist in order to entertain the notion that we do not exist. Cogito ergo sum.

        I can consider the speculation that I am god and you are all simply figures of my divine imagination, and neither you nor I can absolutely disprove that speculation. But, I have no positive evidence for that speculation, and in principle, there is no upper bound on the number of such speculations that might be put forth, so it seems infinitesimally likely I am god. I thus choose to live my life on the provisional basis that I am more or less what I perceive myself to be since that seems to be born out by my everyday experiences.

        It is true, Sperc, that I did not attempt an exhaustive dissertation on epistemology, but this is pretty basic stuff here…certainly nothing new that I have somehow uniquely expressed.

        As far as getting wisdom from the Qur’an…well, no…there is about a half a cupful of some good rehashed common knowledge, and the rest is either fantasy, or nonsense, or violent fascism or just mundane pointlessness.

        In case you have not noticed, a very great deal of violence and destruction is being perpetrated in the world right now in the name of Allah’s word as it was delivered by his messenger and the example of said messenger…led by people with very deep theological and scholarly knowledge of the Qur’an and the Hadith.

        All in all, the Qur’an is about the last place I would look to for any kind of positive or useful insights.

        So, I do appreciate the interesting link, but given the poorly constructed philosophical arguments plus the vague and rather pointless Qur’an quotations Dr. M. Nazir Khan unfortunately did nothing to improve upon all such articles of Islamic philosophy I have read thus far.

      • Avatar

        sperc

        March 27, 2015 at 5:38 PM

        Stardust, I’m surprised you were unable to address the issue specifically raised – namely Munchausen’s trilemma. I understand that you may be academically unequipped to handle such questions, but don’t underestimate yourself! Try and read up about Munchausen’s trilemma and attempt a thoughtful response. No dissertations required, just a direct answer. The trilemma pertains to evidentiary justifications – so you can keep repeating phrases like “positive evidence” but it reveals only that you are oblivious to the fact this is precisely the notion that is problematized by the trilemma. Try seeking education, it’s not a bad thing y’know.

        And unfortunately, just calling the article poor reasoning and then spouting red herrings about ‘moslem violence’ is unlikely to get you anywhere in intellectually competent dialogue. You are in a position to adjudicate very deep and sound theological knowledge of Quran and Hadith? Please. Do tell – which basic references on principles of jurisprudence are you familiar with? Ibn Qudamah’s (d/620H) Rawdah al-Nadhir? Ibn Hazm’s (d.456H) al-Ihkam? al-Zarkashi’s (d.794H) Bahr al-Muhit? Let me know. And please do yourself a favour so you don’t repeat the fallacies outlined here:
        http://spiritualperception.org/the-tactics-of-bigotry/

  3. Avatar

    Reed

    March 19, 2015 at 11:08 AM

    “Reason also cannot account for how and why we understand and respond to notions of value, like love, justice, truth, beauty, happiness, and their opposites.”

    This is not true. There’s a considerable body of research that looks at the biological bases for love, beauty, and so on.

    • Avatar

      Rizwan Ahmed

      March 27, 2016 at 10:14 PM

      I am a geneticist, and there is no biological reason for ‘love’ or ‘justice’ as used in the typical sense. In fact, the evolutionary instinct points in the opposite direction. Could you provide references?

  4. Avatar

    sperc

    March 26, 2015 at 8:31 PM

    The article by M. Akram Nadwi expresses an idea that is very similar to what is fully flushed out in detail here:

    http://spiritualperception.org/the-real-battle-meaningful-vs-meaningless/
    http://spiritualperception.org/fitrah-the-primordial-nature-of-man/

    Enjoy!

  5. Avatar

    Say

    March 26, 2015 at 10:06 PM

    “and one of the most vigorous defences of realist thinking ever written.”

    This is a joke, right?

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Aqeedah and Fiqh

Prosperity Islam And The Coronavirus Problem

Hadith: “Hasten to perform good deeds before seven events: Are you waiting for poverty that makes you forgetful? Or wealth that burdens you? Or a debilitating disease or senility? Or an unexpected death or the False Messiah? Or is it evil in the unseen you are waiting for? Or the Hour itself? The Hour will be bitter and terrible.

Islam encompasses all of human experience. We believe in the good and bad from divine decree. The ‘problem of evil’ is not a Muslim dilemma because the abode of this world is a test, and the next life is the abode of recompense. Those who do evil in this world may enjoy comfortable and pleasurable lives. Pious Muslims on the other hand may live in immense suffering and oppression.

One’s state with Allah is not known through worldly position.

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The Quran has lots of mention of suffering in this world and the reward for the pious is constantly in the hereafter. Distance from the Quran distances us from what our Creator told us about living in His world.

Habituation to feel-good religious programs and motivational talks has left us unable to know how to be serious. The Coronavirus pandemic should be all the motivation we need for serious learning and hasten to good deeds.

New-age religion and the prosperity gospel

Modern Islamic discourse intertwines notions of sulook (spiritual wayfaring) with new-age spiritual ideas which make spiritual progression a self-centering endeavor of ‘personal development.’ Missing from this discourse is submission to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), which entails doing what one is obliged to do- even if there is no apparent personal win. A self-centering religious perspective is antithetical to true religion, and ironically a spiritual pursuit becomes a selfish pursuit.

Within this approach, we see our practice of Islam not in terms of fulfilling obligations or understanding we must develop virtues we lack; rather we approach Islam as consumers and form identities around how we choose to be Muslim. This is visible on marriage apps where Muslims will brand themselves around how often they pray, whether or not they eat halal, and how practicing they are. Once this identity is formed, such Muslims are less likely to experience contrition and ultimately improve. The self is then a commodity on the marriage market.

When it comes to worship, for example, giving charity becomes an ‘act of kindness’ to fill the quota of selfless acts to becoming a better person. In other instances, acts of worship are articulated in worldly language, such as fasting in Ramadan being a weight-loss opportunity. One can make multiple intentions, but health benefits of fasting should not be used to articulate the primary benefit of fasting. In other instances, some opt to not pray, simply because they don’t feel spiritual enough to pray. This prioritizes feelings over servitude, but follows from a ‘self’ focused religious mentality.

Much like the prosperity Gospel, Muslims have fallen into the trap of teaching religion as a means of worldly success. While it is true that the discipline, commitment, and work ethic of religious progression can be used for material success, it is utterly false that religious status is on any parallel with material status.

Too many Sunday schools and conferences have taught generations that being a good Muslim means being the best student, having the best jobs, and then displaying the power of Islam to non-Muslims via worldly success and a character that is most compliant to rules. Not only does this type of religion cater to the prosperous and ignore those suffering, it leaves everyone ill prepared for the realities of life. It comes as a shock to many Muslims then that bad things can happen even when you work hard to live a good life. The prosperity gospel has tainted our religious teachings, and the pandemic of COVID19 is coming as a shock difficult for many to process in religious terms. There will be a crisis when bad things happen to good people if we are not in touch with our scripture and favor a teaching focused on worldly gains.

Why it leads to misunderstanding religion

Tribulations, persecution, and events that are outside of our control do not fit the popular self-help form of religion that is pervasive today. Islam means submission, and while we must avoid fatalism, we cannot delude ourselves into idolatry of the self. An Islam that focuses on our individual life journey and finding ourselves has no room for the ‘bad stuff.’ This type of religion favors well-to-do Muslims who are used to the illusion of control and the luxuries of self-improvement. Those who believe that if you are good then God will give you good things in this world will have a false belief shattered and understand the world is not the abode of recompense for the believer.

Islam means submission, and while we must avoid fatalism, we cannot delude ourselves into idolatry of the self.Click To Tweet

Tribulations may then effect faith because it questions the often subconscious teachings of prosperity gospel versions of Islam that we are in control of our own destiny, if we are good enough we will succeed. If this is the basis of a person’s faith, it can be proven “wrong” by any level of tribulation. Having one’s ‘faith’ disproven is terrifying but it should make us ask the question: “Does this mean that Islam is not true, or does this mean that my understanding and my way of living Islam are not true?”

My advice is do not avoid struggle or pain by ignoring it or practicing “patience” just thinking that you are a strong Muslim because you can conquer this pain without complaint. Running from pain and not feeling pain will catch up to us later. Learn from it. Sometimes when we are challenged, we falter. We ask why, we question, we complain, and we struggle. We don’t understand because it doesn’t fit our understanding of Islam. We need a new understanding and that understanding will only come by living through the pain and not being afraid of the questions or the emptiness.

Our faith needs to be able to encompass reality in its good and bad, not shelter us from reality because, ultimately, only God is Real.

Unlearn false teachings

Prosperity religion makes it much easier to blame the person who is suffering and for the one suffering to blame himself. As believers we take the means for a good life in this world and the next, but recognize that acceptance of good actions is only something Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows, and that life is unpredictable.

Favor from God is not reflected through prosperity. It is a form of idolatry to believe that you can control God or get what you want from God, and this belief cannot even stand up to a distanced tragedy.

Responding appropriately requires good habits.

Tribulations are supposed to push us towards God and remind us to take life very seriously. Even with widespread calamity and suffering, many of us still have a very self-centered way of understanding events and do not hasten to good actions.

For example, reaching old age is supposed to be an opportunity to repent, spend more time in prayer, and to expatiate for shortcomings. Old age itself is a reminder that one will soon return to his Lord.

However, we see many of today’s elders not knowing how to grow old and prepare for death. Most continue in habits such as watching television or even pick up new habits and stay glued to smart phones. This is unfortunate but natural progression to a life void of an Islamic education and edification.

Similarly we are seeing that Muslims do not know what to do in the midst of a global crisis. Even the elderly are spending hours reading and forwarding articles related to Covid-19 on different WhatsApp groups. This raises the question of what more is needed to wake us up. This problem is natural progression of a shallow Islamic culture that caters to affluence, prosperity, and feel-good messaging. Previous generations had practices such as doing readings of the Quran, As-Shifa of Qadi Iyad, Sahih al-Bukhari, or the Burda when afflicted with tribulations.

If we are playing video games, watching movies, or engaging in idle activities there is something very wrong with our state. We need to build good habits and be persistent regardless of how spiritual those habits feel, because as we are seeing, sudden tribulations will not just bestow upon us the ability to repent and worship. The point of being regimented in prayer and invocations is that these practices themselves draw one closer to God, and persisting when one does not feel spiritual as well as when one does is itself a milestone in religious progression.

While its scale is something we haven’t seen in our lifetime, it’s important to recognize the coronavirus pandemic as a tribulation.  The response to tribulation should be worship and repentance, and a reminder that ‘self-improvement’ should not be a path to becoming more likable or confident only, but to adorn our hearts with praiseworthy qualities and rid them of blameworthy qualities. Death can take any of us at any moment without notice, and we will be resurrected on a day where only a sound heart benefits.

Our religious education and practice should be a preparation for our afterlife first and foremost. Modeling our religious teachings in a worldly lens has left many of us unable to deal with tribulations to the point where we just feel anxiety from the possibility of suffering. This anxiety is causing people to seek therapy. It is praiseworthy for those who need to seek therapy, and noble of therapists to give the service, but my point is the need itself serves as a poignant gauge for how much our discourse has failed generations.

Benefit from Solitude

We should use solitude to our benefit, reflect more, and ponder the meanings of the Quran.  Completing courses on Seerah, Shamail, Arabic, or Fiqh would also be good uses of time. What should be left out however are motivational talks or short lectures that were given in communal events. In such gatherings, meeting in a wholesome environment is often the goal, and talks are compliments to the overall atmosphere. When that atmosphere is removed, it would be wise to use that normally allotted time for more beneficial actions. Instead of listening to webinars, which are not generally building an actual knowledge base that the previously mentioned courses would, nor is it a major act of worship like reading and reflecting upon the Quran. In other words, our inspirational talks should lead us to action, and studying is one of the highest devotional acts.

The pandemic should serve as sufficient inspiration and we need to learn how to be serious. I urge Muslims to ignore motivational and feel-good lectures that are now feel-good webinars, and focus on studying and worshipping. We should really ask if we just lack the capacity to move beyond motivational lectures if we still need motivation in the midst of a global pandemic.  The fact that after years of programming the destination is not the Quran for ‘processing events’ or studying texts for learning is symptomatic of a consciously personality oriented structure.

Muslims struggling to process a pandemic (opposed to coping with associated tragedies, such as loved ones dying or suffering) show the lack of edification feel good talks can produce.

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Coronavirus

A Doctor And A COVID19 Patient: “I will tell Allah about you.”

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By Dr Farah Farzana

I get bleeped at around 2.30am to review a patient. A Pakistani gentleman admitted with Covid19.

The lovely nurse on duty says, “He is on maximum amount of oxygen on the ward, but keeps on removing his oxygen mask and nasal cannula, very confused and is not listening to anyone.”

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I arrive as soon as I can to the ward. I stare at him through the glass doors of the closed bay, while putting on my inadequate PPE.

He looks like he is drowning, he is gasping for air, flushed and eyes bulging like someone is strangling him.

I immediately introduce myself, hold his hands and he squeezes my hand pulls it close to his chest. Starts to speak in Urdu and says he doesn’t know what is going on, he cannot understand anyone and he is so scared.

I give him my Salam and start speaking to him in Urdu. His eyes fill up with tears and hope.

I explain to him he really needs to have his oxygen mask on as we are trying to make him feel better. He tells me he is suffocating with the mask and he doesn’t like the noise. I grab his arm help him sit up in his bed.

We exercise synchronising his breathing and I put the mask and nasal cannula back on.

He asks me Doctor, am I going to die? I cannot hear the voices anymore, they don’t come to visit, everything is quiet and silent, like Allah is waiting to take me to Him. I am lost for words and tell him we are doing all we can to make him feel and get better. He tells me he has been speaking to Allah, he doesn’t care for himself just his family. I know he is scared and feels so alone. I tell him I’m here with him and am not leaving yet. I monitor his saturations and surely they come straight back up. I tell him I am going to give him medications for his temperatures and fluid in his lungs.

He agrees to take them.

He asks me why I didn’t come to see him until now, because I am his own. He says when he speaks to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) he will tell Him about me and that I am a good person and I cared for him.

I get a little choked up.

I can’t gather my thoughts before my bleep goes off again. I have to leave now though I tell him I have lots of patients who need my help. He begs me not to leave, but understands after a while and lets me go.I take off my inadequate surgical mask (PPE) before I leave the bay I look back at him to smile and he smiles back. We both wave goodbye. I can see tears rolling down his cheeks.

I don’t know how he will do, how he is now but I cannot stop thinking about him. I always assume positive outcome if I don’t get called back during the night to see the patient again. Plus it was such a busy night I had no time to stop to reflect, and I continued with a smile.

I speak fluent Bangla and my Urdu isn’t very good. But that night Urdu flawed so effortlessly out of my mouth without any hesitation and I was able to say exactly what I needed to him *SubhanAllah*.

My heart breaks for the minority patients, with language barriers. They are fighting this battle more alone and scared than ever.
Normally, they would rely on family members to translate for them, but given the current situation they must feel helpless.

It’s not just the suffering it’s the suffering alone that pulls on my heartstrings.

‘Indeed, to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return’
Quran 2:156

When all this is over, please remember to appreciate the little things.

  • Appreciate your freedom.
  • Appreciate all the hugs and love.
  • Appreciate your health and your health service.
  • Appreciate your families and loved ones.
  • And just be grateful to be ALIVE.
  • Stay at home. Save lives.
    #stayhome #nhs #gratitude

Courtesy: Facebook post

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I Once Spent Ramadan Semi-Quarantined, Here’s How It Went

Even though it was over 10 years ago, the memory of that Ramadan is seared into my mind.

I’d just taken my first consulting job – the kind in the movies. Hop on a plane every Monday morning and come home late every Thursday night. Except, unlike in the movies, I wasn’t off to big cities every week – I went to Louisville, Kentucky. Every week.

And because I was the junior member on the team, I didn’t get the same perks as everyone else – like a rental car. I was stuck in a hotel walking distance from our client in downtown, limited to eat at whatever restaurants were within nearby like TGI Friday’s or Panera. This was a pre-Lyft and Uber world.

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A couple of months into this routine and it was time for Ramadan. It was going to be weird, and no matter how much I prepared myself mentally, I wasn’t ready for it — Iftar alone in a hotel room. Maghrib and Isha also alone in a hotel room. Suhur was whatever I could save from dinner to eat in the morning that didn’t require refrigeration.

Most people think that with the isolation and extra time you would pass the time praying extra and reading tons of Quran. I wish that was the case. The isolation, lack of masjid, and lack of community put me into a deep funk that was hard to shake.

Flying home on the weekends would give me an energizing boost. I was able to see friends, go to the masjid, see my family. Then all of a sudden back to the other extreme for the majority of the week.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that Ramadan with the prospect of a quarantined Ramadan upon us. I wish I could say that I made the most of the situation, and toughed it out. The truth is, the reason the memory of that particular Ramadan is so vivid in my mind is because of how sad it was. It was the only time I remember not getting a huge iman boost while fasting.

We’re now facing the prospect of a “socially distanced” Ramadan. We most likely won’t experience hearing the recitation of the verses of fasting from Surah Baqarah in the days leading up to Ramadan. We’re going to miss out on seeing extended family or having iftars with our friends. Heck, some of us might even start feeling nostalgia for those Ramadan fundraisers.

All of this is on top of the general stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ramadan traditionally offers us a spiritual reprieve from the rigors and hustle of our day to day lives. That may not be easy as many are facing the uncertainty of loss of income, business, or even loved ones.

So this isn’t going to be one of those Quran-time or “How to have an amazing Ramadan in quarantine!” posts. Instead, I’m going to offer some advice that might rub a few folks the wrong way.

Make this the Ramadan of good enough

How you define good enough is relative. Aim to make Ramadan better than your average day.

Stick to the basics and have your obligatory act of worship on lockdown.

Pray at least a little bit extra over what you normally do during a day. For some, that means having full-blown Taraweeh at home, especially if someone in the house is a hafiz. For others, it will mean 2 or 4 rakat extra over your normal routine.

Fill your free time with Quran and dua. Do whatever you can. I try to finish one recitation of the Quran every Ramadan, but my Ramadan in semi-quarantine was the hardest to do it in. Make sure your Quran in Ramadan is better during the month than on a normal day, but don’t set hard goals that will stress you out. We’re under enormous stress being in a crisis situation as it is. If you need a way to jump-start your relationship with the Quran, I wrote an article on 3 steps to reconnect with the Qur’an after a year of disconnect.

Your dua list during this Ramadan should follow you everywhere you go. Write it down on an index card and fold it around your phone. Take it out whenever you get a chance and pour your heart out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Share your stresses, anxieties, worries, fears, and hopes with Him.

He is the Most-Merciful and Ramadan is a month of mercy. Approach the month with that in mind, and do your best.

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