Saturday, August 14, 2010

My (Ignorant) Take on Ideological Islam

I've been reading about Salafism and Wahabism, the two allegedly fundamental Islamic school of thoughts. And although I have the need to mention now I feel more ignorant than before I began reading about it, I did find some interesting things.

Firstly, according to several sources, the term 'Wahabi', which is now popularly used derogatorily to refer to Islamist militant groups, came from the 'West' due to a Puritan-Islamic movement entering India which had generated from Pakistan. Al Wahab, the figure, was an 18th century reformist who criticised the phenomenon of Sunni Islam in Arab who became comfortable with a status quo. He had thought that they were leaving behind the Sunnah (what is recommended by the Prophet). Since he stirred the pot, he accepted protection from the Saud family, who, in exchange, received religious legitimacy (pragmatic, no?).

Secondly, I read about the three types of Muslims. The first is the Muqallid, those who follow Islamic scholarship without direct comprehension over textual evidence (Quran and Hadist). The second is Muttabi, those following the main texts (Quran and Hadist). And the third is Mujtahid, those who analytically deduce from textual evidence (ijtihad), comparing between school of thoughts (mazhab), historical context, and choose what is closest to the Quran. As I was Googling, there was a Q & A section that incuded the following:

Question: What should those who do not wish to conduct an ijtihad, do?
Answer: To choose an imam (leader) and follow the imam's mazhab.

Question: What is the law of those following a mazhab without changing (note: perhaps this refers to 'evaluating' or 'reading between the lines').
Answer: Haram (unlawful). Because he takes the Imam's truth as Allah's truth.

A human truth as a divine truth. Particular, absolute.

It got me thinking. That we are all accountable for our individual and conscious choice.

I began thinking about ideological difference within social science, my own field of expertise. How critical theory differs from positivistic approaches, as well as their fundamental assumptions. But all theories attempt to understand social phenomenon with the 'tools' they deem 'right'. I can even use two ideologically conflicting tools, modernism and critical theory, to explain the same social phenomenon.

And at the end, I think, ideology, mazhab, who our 'imam' is - are all decisions which we took consciously, even our choice to 'follow' instead of 'lead'. And the logic is also applicable to the notion of those who were accused of religious indoctrination (traditional santris) - they are just trying to live life, find their faith, the best way they know how. Just as true as the notion that liberal Islamic thinkers are accused of heresy. They too, are trying to implement their faith the best way they know how.

The point is to coexist, without feeling we know better than the other - because personal choice cannot be imposed on another human being. The point is, in a modern nation-state context, to apprehend those who use ideological religion to justify violence (e.g. FPI)* without condemning their fundamental ideas.

It become less relevant then to speak of factions, of ideological and/or mazhab differences because it is the responsibility of each Muslims to seek, choose, and accept them.

Just as every human being in the world are looking for ethical and moral guidance to interpret, lead and live their lives.

None the wiser.

* As far as I've read, in the context of Islamic thought, the Prophet taught values of peace, compassion, and thoughtfulness. These characters of the Prophet are largely accepted by those who claim themselves Muslims. From the hardliners to the liberals.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hit or Miss

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality,
they are not certain;
and as far as they are certain,
they do not refer to reality

Albert Einstein

I was watching Arya make basketball shots using Malik's toy ring when I concentrated on the momentum of shooting. There are several deterministic variables that decide whether or not the ball goes through the ring; distance, the pressure of throwing the ball, the fixity of the material of the ball and the ring and its reaction towards the pressure of the ball hitting the board (momentum).

You can calculate mathematically and determine a certain answer of whether or not the ball makes a hit or miss. All of the variables interact with each other - a string of actions and responses - which finally determine the result.

It got me to thinking about interpersonal communication. Before communicating with another person we have a goal set in our mind to deliver messages accepted in a certain way by the receiver. Resolving a fight with your partner, trying to make your children do the things you want them to, teaching, conducting a presentation, leading a meeting - the list is virtually endless.

Sometimes we are so focused on getting the message across - throwing the ball so to speak - that we lose control over the momentum. Sometimes we are too focused on making a hit with the ball that we concentrate less on calculating the distance, pressure, material, and reaction.

And the ball misses.

When talking with someone we need to understand what they are 'made of' (i.e character), because it determines how they will react towards what we say. We need to calculate the 'volume' of our voice, our angle, and the choice of words.

The same logic is applicable to other types of interaction; group, organisational, intercultural, and social interaction to name a few. We need to take into account all of the variables that come into play to select effective methods.

As I was observing Arya, the more he misses, the higher his stress level. The higher his stress level, the higher his degree of error. We need to be able remain objective in order to block out the noise of stress - to better our concentration and increase the probability of succeeding. But on the other hand, the more the mistakes, the better we calculate and control variables which help us master the skills of making hits.

But even then, sometimes we still miss. Despite all our calculation, we cannot fully control anything in our lives. And focusing on the effort becomes a good block to the noise of us stressing on our failures.

Because sometimes, calculating is the only thing we can do. And that the most important part is actually;

knowing when to let go of the ball.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

When the Pawn...

When the pawn hits the conflicts
He thinks like a King
What he knows throws the blows
When he goes to the fight
And he'll win the whole thing
Fore he enters the ring
There's nobody to batter
When your mind is your might
So when you go solo,
you hold your own hand
And remember that depth
Is the greatest of heights
And if you know where you stand,
then you'll know where to land
And if you fall it won't matter,
cuz you know that you're right.

Fiona Apple

Friday, August 06, 2010

Chapter 2


I have just finished reading your Ch 2. I think you are making excellent progress! This is a much more comprehensive version that your earlier draft.

I will scan the mss with my handwritten comments & send it to you within the next couple of days as a series of attachments to emails.



And so it continues. Drafting chapter 3...