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On absuridty and the game of Life – Worldcup 2010 reflections

Has it ever happened that a referee withdrew a decision due to a player’s objection? Not that I know of. Never have I seen a soccer referee call a foul, penalty kick, disqualify a goal, or send out a player, only to withdraw the decision following objection and uproar. Players don’t get to choose which decisions they accept and which they don’t.
If so, then what goes on in the minds of players when they run up to a referee pleading, screaming, and challenging a decision? Do they actually think that the referee will change their mind? Shouldn’t it be common sense that once a referee makes a decision they will never change it? Why don’t players understand this concept and stop fussing about decisions they don’t agree with?
I think it is irrational for a player to argue with a referee. Rationally speaking, one should infer that referees don’t change their minds during matches. Why then do players object? Imagine a game where players, no matter how much they disagree with a decision, swallow it and move on. In such a game, the referee reigns supreme and their decisions are Ultimatums. I thought about it and feel that that would kill a game, as it would kill life in general. Here is why.
Consider that the arguing of players with referees is the same as objecting to an unjust verdict (according to the objecting player). In real life, objections directed to a court’s decision makes sense because there is an appeal system; unless the court in question is a supreme one that does not allow appeals. However in a game, there is no appeal system and the referee’s decision is an ultimate one. Yes, one could appeal *after* the game to the FIFA, but that is a completely different process and does not justify a players objection to a referee after a whistle. Objecting to a perceived unjust decision during a game is nonsense, because it never works. At best it’s a ridiculous waste of time and effort and at worst it may earn you a card, and at the end of the day, all what goes down in the books is the final score.
Now consider objection a form of resistance; resistance to injustice. Yet a player’s “resistance” to a referee’s decision is in vain, for the player has no leverage, no choice, and the decision is final. If only players would understand this! If only they would become rational beings that understand the Laws of the game! There are written rules, and there are inferred Laws, and of the later is that resisting a referee’s decision is absurd, and all that will go down in the books is the final score.
However, resisting an ultimatum reflects hope; hope in the absurd. Such absurd hope is the essence of our lives. Such hope is what reminds us of our individual existence and that what we do matters and has meaning. If players were to completely refrain from resisting a referee’s decision, bit by bit, the referee would become the source of the game. A foul is a foul not because “I” the player committed it, but because the referee decided so, for only the referee decides what a foul is or is not. If I am offside, it is not because “I” was sneaking behind my opponents lines, but because the referee decided that I was in the wrong space and time, for only the referee decides where and when I could be. Why, if I score a goal, I have no reason to rejoice, for it was not of my effort, but of the referee’s decision that a goal shall be granted to my team. Why I should rush and thank the referee rather than run to the corner pole and perform my dance!
If players stopped objecting to the decisions of referees they will become performers, and the referee the only player. Performers are sub-players that kick the ball around for any reason other than the joy of competition and victory. Performers entertain the spectators and bring in the dollars for their superiors. Therefore, the real joy of football and the realness of its players can only be preserved if we maintain the absurd behavior of objecting to perceived injustice on the field. For only such absurdity retains referees at our level; reminds them that they are human as well and that we can look them in the eye, get their adrenaline rushing and heart beating if we don’t like their decisions. Only such absurdity makes the referee “one of us” as opposed to the above-and-beyond Absolute Judge. Only such absurdity gives meaning to our actions on the field, justifies our emotions and warrants a player’s euphoria. That is why the most joyous of players, and the realest of players are those who kick around cloth balls, oranges and rocks on beaches and in alleys around the world. The realest of all games are those with no referees, because not one person decides, but we all decide, and therefore we all still have a choice.

Logical Paradoxes and the Kierkegaard-Russell Barber

To request of something to be in two opposite states at the same time is a logical paradox; it is to demand being and not-being at the same time. Thus in the face of such a paradox Shakespeare’s immortal utterance emerges; “To be or not to be. That is the question.” However, the resolution of that paradox is to absurdly be and to not be.

fear and tremblingThus Abraham was faced with a logical paradox; to be (faithful to God) and not to be (a murderer). We are not able to logically reconcile the murder of an innocent soul with piety and obeying God. Yet this was the paradox Abraham was faced with. Absurdly, he chose to be and not to be!

Russell’s Barber is also faced with a paradox; to be (shaven) and not to be (shaven). We are not able to logically reconcile him shaving himself and not shaving himself. Yet this is the paradox the Barber is faced with. Absurdly, he must choose to be and not to be!

Upon Abraham’s absurd decision, the absurd happens but once again, and Lo and Behold, the same thing can be something and its opposite at the same time. Abraham does indeed willfully kill his son, but before the resolved will materialized, God ransoms the son. Thus Abraham successful was (faithful to God) and was not (a murderer)!

To save Russell’s Barber from his confusion, he must absurdly proceed with shaving. If he does so… if he fearfully trembles and struggles through such defiance of the Law in order to absurdly obey the Law, then the absurd will happen for a second time. As the razor approaches his face… as the resolved will materializes, Lo and Behold, every follicle of hair that ought to have been shaven will fall on its own, the way trees shed their leaves during the Fall! Thus the Barber will successfully be (shaven) and not be (shaven)!

Space-Time-Being in Arabic (2)

As I stand closing my eyes under the rain, the drops of water splash on my skin. Each drop brings a sensual experience. With each drop an experience chasing After me comes Before me. I am constantly feeling the “future” unfold before me.

As I sit closing my eyes before the ocean, the crashing waves reach my ears. Each wave brings a sensual experience. With each crash an experience chasing After me comes Before me. I am constantly hearing the “future” unfold before me.

As I enter the market in Old Cairo, the rainbow of fragrances fills my nose. Each spice and oil brings a sensual experience. With each smell an experience chasing After me comes Before me. I am constantly smelling the “future” unfold before me.

As I lay at night in my bed, the dreams of my mind roam in my head. Each scene brings a sensual experience. With each visualization, an experience chasing After me comes Before me. I am constantly dreaming the “the future” unfold before me.

The future is after you and will soon be before you. The future is the unseen, the yet to be experienced. The past is that which passed from behind and is now before you. There is the unseen, and the seen. There is the hidden, and that which enters into the scene. There is the unexperienced and the experienced. There is the future behind you and the past before you.

I stand as a spectator to all this. I watch this emergence of the experienced before me and I react, but could never act. I, the Angstable Core, react to this ever-unfolding scene before me, but can never act. Angst is not the “dizziness of freedom”, but the “apprehension of helplessness”. I, the Core, am a spectator seeing this ever-unfolding scene before me, and I toggle between contempt and content, between fear and ease. I rotate and turn between a variety of reactions, but I can never act.

The Angstable Core is a free prisoner, it is free to react, but is imprisoned in the inability to act.

The Core experiences the ever-unfolding scene and intends. It intends to move forward, in reaction to an unfolding scene in the horizon, an unfolding sense from below, and an unfolding brush of air on the skin. The Core intends to stand, in reaction to an unfolding contraction of the legs, and unfolding stretch of the back. The Core witnesses the unseen as it emerges through the body onto the scene.

The body sees, hears, feels, smells, tastes and reasons. It reasons ways to figure what might emerge onto the scene through figures. It counts and counts on its counting in order to prepare for the advent of the emerging Before. The Core witnesses all this and reacts, but can never act. The Core can only realize the actions of the body and intend, or helplessly reject them.

The body channels the unfolding scene to the Core. The Core can only react to that which is emerging Before it. The body itself navigates its way through this perceived world. The body reacts and acts according to the senses of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. It also reacts and acts according to the sense of reason. It can also react and act according to the reaction of the Core. Yet the Core itself, can only react, but never act.

When eating, the body reacts and acts according to the sensation of the abdomen, the nose, eyes and tongue, and to the sense of reason, and to the reaction of the Core, and all what the Core can do is react.

I am the Core, but by virtue of my residence, I am also the body. This body in which I reside emerged in a certain place and time, all which the Core witness and reacts to, but can never act. This body in which I reside reacts and acts to the unfolding scene it perceives, and the Core witnesses and reacts, but can never act. I am the Core, but by virtue of my residence, I am the tanned, the male, the Egyptian, the American, the 29 year old, the son, the brother, the husband, the father, the student, the typing, the reading, the thinking… all of which my Core bears witness to, and reacts… but may never act.

My body reacts and acts the way other bodies act, whether they are human, mountains, water or trees, but my Core reacts the way Cores react… and they can never act.

To be continued…

Space-Time-Being in Arabic (1)

Whenever I get stuck while thinking about an issue, I starting thinking about it in the other language I know… then things start to get moving. This happened to me while struggling to understand and appreciate Graham Harman’s “vicarious causation”. To refresh my mind, I decided to try and build up to it in Arabic. So as I began to furnish the stage with the appropriate Arabic terms, I went on a tangent that I quite enjoyed.

Thinking about Space and Time in Arabicarabic anatomy

Interestingly, Arabic has a provoking usage of terms to reflect spatiality and temporality. The root Q-B-L is used for “front” and “before”, while D-B-R is used for “back” and “after”. This is counter-intuitive, and the best way I found to describe it in English was to use anterior and posterior. “Anterior” is used to reflect the front side, or “ahead of”. However, “antiquity” is used in reference to the past. Conversely, “posterior” is used to reflect the back side, or “behind”, while posterity is used in reference to the future.  This reflects the usage of Q-B-L and D-B-R in Arabic.

Now this is counter to the way we tend to imagine the relationship between space and time. Usually, we think of forward and future on-the-same-side-and-opposite-to behind and past. However, anterior/posterior provide a radically and paradigm-shifting perspective. I find the word “before” to capture this different perspective. Before-ness refers to that which is spatially in front of you as well as temporarily in the past.

The image that unfolds thinking this way, is not of a person facing and heading into the future, but rather a person being dragged backwards into the future while facing the past. To succinctly express this image I would say: “Future is after you and will soon be before you”.

When you think about this more, you realize that the Spatial Before is rather superficial. We are biased, due to the design of our bodies to think of Spatial Before as “in front”. However, if I were to use a type of optics that provides me with a 360 panoramic view, and I learned to get used to it, that would eliminate the normal front/back bias. What becomes of Spatial Before? In this case, Spatial and Temporal Before will both united into the same concept; that which is evident, or that which is experienced. Before-ness is that which is experienced.

360panorama

If that is the case, then After-ness is that which is not experienced, because it has not been encountered yet (or was encountered but forgotten?).

Let’s say that I wear my 360 optics and look at the horizon. The landscape is before me, as I am experiencing it, it is all Before me. While doing so, there are numerous changes that are occurring, each of those changes, each new experience is an After reaching me and becoming Before me. In this scenario, I am passively experiencing the ever-arriving Before. If this were not a serene horizon I was watching, but a war zone for example, then I would be apprehensive of what might happen. I would not know what will enter, or push itself against the screen of my experience. That apprehension is an alternative way I understand Angst. For in this case, Angst is not the “dizziness of freedom”, but the “apprehension of helplessness”.

To be continued….

The Artifact of Logic

The beginning of man’s awareness is that of his Painful Want.

Painful Want is the first Fact and the only fundamental perception of man. Painful Want is not merely that which we feel with our skin, but reflects an unsettling inconvenience. Confronted with such disturbing inconvenience, man creates a world to dwell within in order to attain what he Wants and reduce that Pain. To create this world, man asserts his Being. When asserting your Being, you Are, or you Art. Art-ing, or Being, is the initial artifact (fact of Being) by which all other are made possible. Man is, bes and arts by virtue of the Painful Want which he seeks to escape. Man’s Being is the initial artifact. Thus revisiting Descartes famous statement, “I think therefore I am,” one must proceed it with a more fundamental one; “I am therefore I painfully want.

Painful Want

Painful Want

The next artifact man creates to ease the Pain of Want is happiness. Happiness is an artifact because there are only, for fact, grades of Painful Want. To speak of happiness is akin to speaking of ‘cold,’ when there are only grades of ‘heat.’ To suggest happiness is to suggest ‘darkness’ when there is only light or lack thereof. Painful Want is the only fundamental perception of man, but in his Painful Want to reduce his Painful Want he creates happiness.

Happiness is the second artifact of man, and it is by virtue of his be-ing (art-ness), that he produces such Art. Painful Want is the only fundamental perception of man, the only Fact, and happiness is an artifact. Thus, at this critical moment of awareness; this Big-Bang of awareness so to speak, Painful Want gives rise to the Art of Being which is followed by the artifact of happiness.

The purpose of Art is to reduce the Painful Want prior to Being, for it builds a world in which man may dwell, and by dwelling, man is distracted from the Painful Want. Instead of their being only grades of Painful Want, man artistically set against it an opponent. Thus with the creation of happiness came opposition and contrast, for man now, not only had the Fact of Painful Want, but it’s opposite; the artifact of Happiness. Opposition became man’s next artifact.

Man has now created a world in which he dwells; a world of not only Painful Want, but happiness; a world not only of things, but their opposites as well. However, Opposition gave rise to more artifacts; for when asserting Art, and resorted to Art to reduce Painful Want, man saw in Opposition an infinite world of artifacts.

Painful Want is the first fact of man, in it he sees himself, prior to Being. Happiness is an artifact in which man sees his aspired Being. Both Pain and Happiness reflect the same man (the fact and the artifact), but when held in opposition they give rise to an infinite world of artifacts, rooted in the fact of Painful Want, as is the case when two mirrors are held in front of each other. Thus man, to escape Painful Want created for himself a system that gave rise to an infinite world of Art and Facts.

Man marveled and dwelled in Opposition and saw it in room for another artifact, for when opposites oppose each other, a space is created, and the most Artful act man could think of is to find the centermost locus in this space. So man dwells in his Art, and as he dwelled in the artifact of opposition, he sought to find its centermost locus. The pursuit of the mean between the opposites becomes a work of art that fulfills man’s desire to reduce the Pain prior to Being, the Pain of Want.

Thus opposition gave rise to another artifact; the mean, from which rose the art and fact of symmetry. Symmetry is the result of creating happiness to oppose pain; and the Art of symmetry became an extension to man’s Being.

The Art of Being

The Art of Being

Perhaps most profound in man’s art is the artifact of equality, where not only did he find it artistic to divide and divide, but to do so with equality. Though he saw his hand divide into fingers of ‘unequal’ sizes; in his mind, he made division between the each finger equal. For man, not only counted, but did so artfully, in equal increments.

Equality allowed man to proceed with his art of happiness to cope with Painful Want. Equality is an artifact, it is a result of man’s Art-ing. However, not only was it a product of dividing between two opposites, but it also allowed man to re-collect that which he had divided. Furthermore, by creating happiness man had created a world of infinite artifacts, so not only did equality allow man to re-collect that which he had divided, but allowed him to gather that which had never before been one.  For man was now able to see equality between the infinite observations he saw in the night sky, and that equality was “star.” He saw equality between himself and the Other, and that equality was “man.” He, artistically dwelled in the equality between that which reduces the pain of his belly and that equality was “food.” Category became man’s next artifact.

And from the artifacts of equality and categories, he developed the Artifact of Logic.

Knowledge/Belief, the Pen and Pain

Below is a summary of thoughts I shared on the MEISGS list and thereafter developed.

I start off by asking, ‘what does it mean to know?’ My position is that to know is to acknowledge and to acknowledge is to admit. Knowledge is an observation that you cannot escape from even if you desired to. I contrast that with belief/faith which is an observation that you sustain by your passion and desire.

At the heart of this distinction between knowledge and belief/faith is the former’s ability to impose itself on us despite our rejection. An example of knowledge is that ‘fire will burn my hand.’ To attempt escaping from this observation will inflict a significant level of pain and discomfort that will compel you to immediately admit and concede. That ‘fire will burn my hand’ is not dependent on my desire or passion to uphold it, but is able to assert itself during this worldly life.

Contrast that to another observation that is not of knowledge; the existence of a Fire in the Afterlife. This observation is not of knowledge as you can escape from acknowledging it if you desired to. Rather, it is a belief that you sustain by your passion and desire. The Fire of the Afterlife cannot impose itself on you in this worldly life if you do not acknowledge it.

That is how I start off.

However, to speak of an observation’s ability to impose itself or not, is to speak of a person’s susceptibility to imposition. For example, to say, “a person cannot survive for more than 5 minutes without air,” is not only to speak of the “knowledge of air’s indispensability” imposing itself, but also to speak of a person’s susceptibility to such imposition and readiness to acknowledge such observation.

To speak of a person’s susceptibility to the imposition of “knowledge” is to speak of a person’s endurance of pain. To deny the imposition of ‘a would-be knowledge’ is to endure the pain of denial. This pain can either be a result of harm inflicted by the rejection or a result of loss of pleasure that would have been attained.

To say that to know is to acknowledge and to acknowledge is to admit, is to speak of a person’s ability, capacity and resilience in denying (or willingness and readiness to accept?). Thus the borderline between knowledge and belief may shift according to each individual.

As human beings with certain features, there are observations that we are generally willing to acknowledge in order to avoid the enormous pain inflicted when denying them. The same contingency of knowledge on the avoidance of pain exists for civilizations, cultures, groups, families and individuals. You know only what you acknowledge and you acknowledge only what you are unable to deny. Thus knowledge is contingent on personal ability to endure the pain of denial.

If that is knowledge, then what is belief? Belief is what occurs when the mentioned contingency of knowledge is exposed and challenged. When a person knows something and then realizes that withdrawal of that acknowledgment will not inflict undue pain or hardship, they are left with two alternatives. Either they may reject that which they no longer acknowledge, or still accept it. To accept that which is not-imposed-on-you-by-virtue-of-your-limited-capacity-to-endure-denial, is not knowledge, but rather belief.

Belief is to impose yourself on an observation rather than an observation to impose itself on you. Thus belief is not sustained by your inability to deny it, but rather by the unwillingness to deny. Belief or faith is a form of loyalty to a truth which is sustained by the personal desire.

However, this seeming contrast between inability and unwillingness (to deny) is an illusion. For inability is due to the pain inflicted upon attempt, but so is unwillingness. To want to remain loyal to an observation is to value that observation and desire to preserve that which is valued. The prospect of losing that which is valuable is a form of pain that prevents you from letting go.

If that is the case, then what is the difference between knowledge and belief? In terms of worth and value, one cannot discern any difference. However, in day to day life, there is a difference. Knowledge, I would say, is that which is shared by the majority and goes unchallenged. Belief on the other hand, is that being challenged by the majority while its proponents resist the temptation of abandonment. Thus knowledge and belief are two terms to describe the popularity of an observation.

To say that knowledge and belief are both contingent on pain, is to say that knowledge and belief are both contingent on our humanness. One may go further upon reflecting on animal behavior, and speak of knowledge/belief being contingent on our livingness. One may say that knowledge/belief is contingent on reducing pain during life. However, I will leap and claim that it is perhaps more suitable to say that knowledge/belief is contingent on the pain of existence in general.

Knowledge/belief is an attempt to reduce the pain of our very existence.

Thus, not only is ilm (Knowledge/Belief) derived from the qalam (Pen. see 96:4), but also from alam (Pain). The relatedness of these words as well as that of wujud, wajd, waja3 and sahl, mahl and jahl are the topic of a future post inshaa Allah.

Umar’s Gate and Kierkegaard’s Paradox

Most dreams I have evaporate as soon as I wake up, but today’s precipitated heavily on my heart. I can extract the sources of many of its symbols, but nevertheless, the take-home message is one I will be reflecting on.

Notably, this was a long dream, with an elaborate scenario. Our town was being invaded by a cult (source: reference to the “cult of Harun Yahya” in a critical article I recently read). The leader of the cult was a religious figure I encountered in Lausanne. Under his leadership worked an army of gruesome 1-foot-tall aliens and hypnotized teenagers. They had already seized a high-school and devoured most of its students. The main character of the dream managed to escape from the school and reach the State Police barracks in the neighboring town. Incidentally, the cult seized the SP barracks in the town they were invading. From a megaphone, the cult leader began to speak softly and calmly thus luring the population of the town hypnotically to come to him (source: Guyana Tragedy). The main character of the dream sneaked into the invaded town where people were now dark under their eyes and confused. The cult’s plan was to gather everyone in one place and execute them all in one blow.

The main character manages to enter a police station where chaos is erupting. In the midst of this turmoil he suddenly enters a state of calmness and approaches a metal door next to the police station’s entrance. The main character knows that this is the “Gate of Umar” (source: thinking about Umar ibn al-Khattab and his Shariah-inspired politics/management or Siyasah Shar’iyyah, the gate must be in reference to the hadith in which Umar is the gate blocking fitna/turmoil). [In the dream] the Prophet Muhammad had declared, “No one enters through this gate except Umar.” This statement was similar to the tone in his declaration that all house doors leading to the courtyard of the mosque were to be sealed off except for that of AbuBakr.

However, the main character of the dream, although he wasn’t Umar, approached the gate with a resolve to enter it. Not only that, but the guard – appointed to prevent anyone from entering it after the death of Umar – acknowledged his attempt and in fact instructed him that it’s the right panel, not the left that is to be pushed. As the main character opens the “Gate of Umar,” he enters into a small courtyard, in the background he can hear the music from ‘Gladiator’ when Russell Crowe is killed at the end of the movie and opens a door to the afterlife. As he enters the courtyard, he sees a hypnotized teen pass by and a heart drawn on the inner wall gets peeled off and evaporates in the air. He hears someone read from Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, “Thus, either the single individual stands in absolute relation to the absolute, or Abraham is lost.”

At the end of the courtyard was another gate which opened to the street, as the main character traversed the courtyard and exited from the other side, he was no longer who he used to be, but was now Umar himself, with a white thawb and beard. In entering through the gate of Umar, he became Umar. “Umar” now crossed the street and proceeded to a known destination. I, the dreamer, do not know where this “Umar” is going, but I see him entering quietly into a small building and being greeting in whispers by a young adult. “Is everything ready?” Umar asks, to which the young man nods. All of the sudden, we see a stream of young children coming out from a room they were hiding in. They know this “Umar” and they smile at his arrival. He hugs some, kisses others and wipes on their heads. I, the dreamer, am shocked when I see the young man hand Umar an axe (source: The Hunting Party). One by one, Umar goes to each child, rests them on the floor and deals their neck a blow with the axe! He finishes them all, then goes back to some few who were moving, and deals them another one to put them to rest (source of sacrifice: Fear and Trembling).

I wake up.

I woke up thinking about this heavy dream, in which “Umar” to protect the children from the invading cult in fact kills them himself. I reflect on the absurdity of this plan and remembered Mishmish, my cat. The first time Mishmish gave birth to three kittens, she ate them all! I didn’t know how to explain this except that she wanted to protect them and by keeping them inside of her she was doing just that. As absurd as it might have seemed, I could only see a mother’s instinct.

“Umar” to protect the children, killed them himself. I then remembered the movie “The Hunting Party” which I had watched the day before, and wondered: If I were a [Muslim] Bosnian father and my village was under siege and the enemy was minutes from our home. As I look at my daughters I would see in them victims of gang-rape and murder. Would I, the loving father, kill them with my own hands rather than they be raped and killed at the hands of a heartless enemy? Would I, to protect my daughters kill them? If I were a Jewish father and the Nazi’s were approaching my home, would I think of my family’s fate in the gas chamber and rush to suffocate them myself in their sleep?

Such is the paradox of a bona fide sacrifice; to protect something you forsake it. For Abraham’s sacrifice of his son was but a sacrifice of Abraham. In killing his son, for the love of God, Abraham was incurring God’s wrath over the murderer. To protect God’s love to him, Abraham was forsaking it. That is how I see the paradox in Abraham’s action.

To protect God’s love, Abraham forsakes it. To protect his daughters the Bosnian father kills them. To protect his family, the Jewish father suffocates them. To protect her kittens, Mishmish eats them. To protect something I forsake it. That is a paradox. However, this paradox is easily explained in the case of “Umar”, the Muslim, the Jew and the cat, but not in the case of Abraham. For when killing their children they are not protecting their “lives” by forsaking their “lives,” but rather they are protecting their peace and rest, by an act of merciful and quick murder instead of succumbing to the endless brutality of a torturing enemy. Yes, they will no longer be alive, but they are resting and they are at peace.

Abraham on the other hand… is utterly different. For in sacrificing his son, he obeys the command of God in order to protect that flow of love emanating from the Divine to himself. However in spilling the blood of an innocent child he incurs the wrath of God. Abraham knows this fate, but he can only proceed, for to reject God’s command is also to incur his wrath. Abraham’s trial was that he was put into a situation where he must incur God’s wrath, at the time his journey in life was close to its end.

I can understand the Bosnian father, I can understand the Jewish father and I can understand the cat. Why, I can understand a nurse hit by Hurricane Katrina; responsible for terminally ill patients faced with imminent drowning, chooses to inject them with a lethal dose of pain-killer. I can even understand the Egyptian father, when losing all his savings in the stock market kills his family lest they suffer poverty. I can understand them, even though as a judge, I would not lessen their sentence (except for the cat). I, as a judge would not forgive them, I would sentence them the way a murderer is sentenced, but I would then take off my robe, go home and as Ahmed, I would pray that the Almighty forgives them.

But Abraham… What can I do for Abraham? After sentencing him the way a murderer is sentenced, how do I go home and pray that the Almighty forgives him, when the reason behind the test from the very beginning was to incur God’s wrath?? Abraham becomes all alone. Abraham’s test is to love God knowing that God will not love him back.

Thus, I cannot agree with Kierkegaard that Abraham proceeded with sacrificing his son because deep inside he knew that God would deliver them both. No, for that would resolve the paradox. Rather, Abraham chose to proceed because deep inside he knew that to love God while expecting reciprocity, is but an act of hypocrisy, and that true love… is one that does not waver if the loved does not respond.

Perhaps I can now understand Abraham, but for sure, I can never be like him.

If one returns once again to the dream, the hypnotic teen in the courtyard should not have been there. For this was a restricted area behind Umar’s gate. Rather than someone who entered the courtyard, I find this person along with the evaporating heart a symbol of the state the main character entered when he transformed into “Umar.” This new “Umar” became, to the observer, a hypnotic figure with no emotions as we know it. No longer can we sympathize with him nor appreciate his actions as sympathetic, and no longer can we trust his reasoning. This new “Umar” when shifting his attention off of “Life” and focusing on the abstract of Rest and Peace, exits the realm of human understanding. For man thinks and plots in this world so that he may survive, where the end product of his actions should be a longer life, whereas this new “Umar” is defeating the entire purpose of man’s actions. He becomes heartless and irrational. However to the new “Umar” he is expressing the utmost level of compassion.

On Consensus

A paper I co-authored is coming out in the near future in which we critique the claim that Scholarly Consensus (ijma’) has been reached regarding the impermissibility of female-led mixed-gender prayers. The paper also expresses a subtle disfavor of the concept of Scholarly Consensus in general. I didn’t have space in the paper to communicate my general views on the issue, which is what I will attempt to do here.

The concept of Scholarly Consensus (ijma’) is rooted in al-Shafie’s interpretation of the verse:

“And whoever acts hostilely to the Messenger after that guidance has become manifest to him, and follows other than the way of the believers, We shall leave him in the path he has chosen, and land him in Hell. What an evil refuge!” [Quran 4:115]

This “way of the believers” (or the ‘flow of the believers’ as I will occasionally refer to it) has been restricted to what scholars of jurisprudence have articulated the ‘way’ to be. It is my belief that the intended way of the believers transcends that articulated by scholars of jurisprudence and refers to the general consciousness and overall flow of the body of believers. Such a flow is the manifestation of what we can call the normative. The normative is not established by scholars articulating rules, but by the passion, tears, sweat and blood of the believers (which include, but are not limited to scholars). The normative is the evolving reflection of what the believers collectively find as acceptable to their faith and conscious.

In the verse mentioned, Allah warns of a severe punishment for those whom go against the flow of the believers. This alludes to an inherent moral paradox which is ubiquitous within matters of faith. On the surface, this verse may be understood as a call to uphold the status quo. However, the believer may at times feel compelled by his faith in God to stand against a common practice done by the community of believers. In other words, the believer finds himself in a conflicting situation.

God tells him in the Quran not to deviate from the way of the believers. However his very faith in God and the Quran compel him to speak out and act against his brethren in faith.

This I feel, is similar to (yet radically distinct from) the type of paradox mentioned by Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling. The flow of believers establishes an equivalent of the “universal,” which the believer accepts by virtue of his faith. However that same faith may require of the individual to rise above the “universal.”

I therefore see consensus as an authentic aspect of faith, as is occasional dissent against consensus. This contradiction may be considered a paradox. This paradox is the climax of spiritual experience. It’s a climax in which two believers may stand face to face each believing that God demands him to kill his brother. This climax is an intense moment of tension in which each person exposes who they truly are and who their g/God really is.

The believer must therefore uphold consensus as reflected in the flow of the believers. The believer must also go against that flow when his faith in God compels him to do so. A believer should not ridicule and dismisses the elaborate and caveat-ridden system of scholarly consensus established by our Scholars, rather if compelled by his faith, must be steadfast and ardent in working against it.

The believers should work to marginalize dissenting views that disrupt their flow. Yet the dissenting believer must continue to move uphill and demand his position in the center. This tension is the meat of faith. This tension is revealing of who we are. Such exposure of ourselves is the yolk of life.

So to speak about consensus as informed by the Quran, I cannot help but speak about dissent as well. The continuous conflict and tension inherent in this understanding confirms my belief that this world is not the abode of human mutual understanding, perpetual peace and prosperity, but rather a context in which we choose to experience the tension of faith in God or run away from it. In either case the objective is to reveal yourself.

This world is not the place of answers to such paradoxes. In this world we do not learn who was “right” and who was “wrong.” Rather, in the next world we learn who was more sincere to God in his faith, and who was not.

So you ask about my true opinion regarding scholarly consensus. I respond that my faith in God and the Quran lead me to accept whatever the scholars have accepted and work to defend and uphold it. Then in the same tongue and same breath I would vow to fight against every single scholar and every believer if my faith in God compels me to do so.

You ask me about my true opinion regarding scholarly consensus.  My belief in it is derived from my belief in God. Such belief may make me a passionate defender of the normative, or its thorn.

AbdelWahab al-Messiri once referred to this position in a negative light, in which one collapses the distance separating him from the Absolute thus leading to a suspension of morality and ethics. Kierkegaard also reflects on this problema in Fear and Trembling. However the suspension of morality and ethics is explainable as long as it is seen as a derivative, not an absolute. Morality and ethics when a product of faith in God, are means to a goal; obeying God. That same goal may demand another mean which may contradict to former. Thus to suspend ethics is to seek an alternative route to the same goal.

This is key; as the very definition of “obeying God” determines if the suspension of ethics means obeying one’s desires or obeying God. This leads us to a grand question. How to you know if you are obeying God or not? Or, what does it mean to obey God? Who am I obeying when I obey God? Such answer-less questions maintain the paradoxical nature of faith, in which we act and move not knowing exactly why or to where. Such tension and lack of tangible knowledge is the substance of faith.

Let me tell what I believe faith is like. Faith is like being in a dark forest when its pitch black and you can see absolutely nothing, then running full speed without any hesitation. The continuous tension between running faster and faster while knowing that if you hit a tree you will hit it hard, and it will be painful… that tension.. that heart squeezing feeling, that immense and increasing fear, despite which you resolve to run only faster… that is the feeling of faith. Such faith can only exist in the presence of an enormous gravitating force you observe, feel and believe in.

That gravitating force would compel me to defend my brethren and protect our flow. That same gravitating force may pull so hard as to make me knock every single one of them down in the way. That is faith.

So when you ask me about my position on consensus I say God will punish those who deviate from it, and in the same breath and with the same tongue I say, yet one’s love of God may compel him to seek His wrath. Thus, Abraham’s sacrifice of his son was really a sacrifice of his own self. I cannot agree with he who said that Abraham’s sacrifice of his son was stemmed from his faith in the absurd; that after complete resignation, all will be salvaged. No! His love of God and desire to submit totally to his Lord, was strong enough to have him obey regardless of the punishment awaiting the murderer. That is faith, to love God enough to accept a fall into the Fire… that is Faith.

To the believer, we have faith in God so that we may enter Paradise. However, to some believers… to the Knights of Faith, we have faith in God, even if that means being sentenced to the Fire.

Thus when we read again the verse of the Quran:

“And whoever acts hostilely to the Messenger after that guidance has become manifest to him, and follows other than the way of the believers, We shall leave him in the path he has chosen, and land him in Hell. What an evil refuge!” [Quran 4:115]

When we read this verse we acknowledge that although most of those who go against the flow of believers do so in obedience to their gods of personal desire and worldly interests, there are a few Knights of Faith whom, while trembling, would accept the evil refuge of the Fire. For their object of devotion is not Paradise, but God.

So when you ask me about my true views on consensus, I say, I am its most adamant defender, and its worst nightmare. Yet, never am I comfortable with this position. Never am I able to rest with such a conclusion. For if my object of devotion is God and not Paradise, I then remember the question, “What are you wary of when you are wary of God?” I also remember the answer, “I am wary of loosing God.” If God to me is unconditional love and endless mercy and if the Fire is not mere burning, but an expulsion from God’s love and mercy, then I do fear the Fire, and thus the paradox remains. How can I do something in the name of yearning for God’s love and mercy when I know that doing that would expel me from such an abode?

I can only hope that God would pardon me from his wrath, yet that only adds another layer of uncertainty to the equation. Now, not only am I running while fearing the trees, but while wary of losing my way and falling into the deep Abyss of Fire.

Thus the paradox remains. How can I respect the flow of believers while knowing that I might swim against it at times? In swimming to God, how can I avoid drowning?

That is why when Abraham was sacrificing his son, he was only sacrificing himself, but he believed that even if he was doomed to the Fire and expelled from God’s love and mercy, eventually.. eventually after eons of trials, torment and torture… eventually God would look upon him with love and mercy once again. Eventually he will reach his destination. Thus if I choose to reconcile my view with the one I just rejected, Abraham’s faith that all will be salvaged is not in reference to his son, but rather in reference to his relationship with God.

The trail of Abraham was not that he was going to sacrifice his son, no. the trial of Abraham was that God put him in a situation where his arrival was to be delayed and interrupted with a transit in the Fire. That was the trial… out of nowhere, the journey of life that was almost over for Abraham was extended by an afterlife transit in the Fire. Kill your beloved son Abraham! Kill him for God! Kill him, deserve the wrath of God and enter the Fire… so that eventually, after eons of pain, you will once again be God’s most beloved friend.

That is was the trial of Abraham.

So when you ask me about my view on consensus, I sigh and say… stay with the flow of believers lest you enter the evil refuge of the Fire. But know that your love of God may compel you to earn such a refuge. And hope that after eons of pain and anguish, God will look upon you and accept you once again.

I now stand fearful that the abode of the Fire will not be a transit, but rather going against the flow of believers will result in eternal punishment. If so, I fear my faith is not strong enough to forsake the reciprocity of love between me and God for a unilateral expression of love. God forgive me for I am weak. I only love you hoping that you would love me back.

I can now imagine a trial greater than the trial of Abraham. God would say to his servant, love me for eternity, but I will never love you back. God, have mercy on us, for we are weak, humble and meek!

So when you ask me about scholarly consensus and the flow of believers. I’d cry and say… O’ God have mercy upon us both, him and me!