Science & Islam

The Islamic ummah is currently unique amongst the Abrahamic peoples in the depth of its deference to science and technology. (There might be a postcolonial reason for this or, perhaps, the deference has a more indigenous lineage, back to a rationalist subjectivity the Muslims themselves invented centuries before Europe took and ran with it so successfully. That’s not our concern today.)

Running from the East to the West of the body of Islam, in homes, mosques and discussion circles, we find the “proof” of Islam’s veracity is often couched in reference to scientific theories. Popular authors such as Bucaille, Yahya, Deedat and Naik will often claim the Qu’ran’s eternal Truth by arguments that it “predicts” scientific facts that could not have been known at the time of the Prophet Muhammed. Bucaille, for example, claims the Qur’an predicts the movement of the solar system in orbit around the centre of the Milky Way. Yahya claims Einstein’s theory of relativity and the communication system of the honey bee were shown to Muhammed by Gabriel. Passages that might have been mysterious in the past are now clear in their prediction of scientific facts: and for this reason, we know that the Qur’an is Truth.

We could contrast this with modern day Christians (from ecstatic American Pentecostals to more sedate Anglicans and Catholics) who tend to emphasize a personal, emotional, experiential, supernatural aspect of their faith (being touched in some way by the Holy Spirit/Jesus, miracles of saints, visions of Mary etc). And this difference is often utilized by Muslim apologists to illustrate a key division between the religions: Islam is scientific, Christianity is superstition. The fact that this argument works so well illustrates how respected the scientific perspective is within the Islamic ummah. (We see the same argument employed by the same group of Muslims against Sufis, with their claims to astral travel and so on.)

There are deep problems with this perspective. Science and spirituality are “compatible”. As a Sufi, I could elaborate on the numerous spiritual problems (or stumbling blocks) that arise from the currently predominant Muslim position on science and religion. I’ve spoken about such things elsewhere within this blog. But, speaking as a Muslim and a scientist, I am concerned with an orthogonal issue: in deferring to these dubious authors and apologists, the Muslims believe themselves to be deferring to science, but are in fact utilizing pure pseudoscience. They are deferring to cranks. They are basing their “proof” of the Qur’an’s Truth upon pure inauthenticity: there is nothing more inauthentic than claiming to think scientifically when there is no science thought. Inauthenticity is the nature of hypocrisy. And basing the proof of your religion on hypocrisy can’t be good for anyone.

A few points of criticism, regarding Bucaille and Yahya, but with applicability to the rest of the bunch also in mind.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas.

Jubilation at the emergence of the Son of Man from the Virgin Womb, whose derivative containment is closest, by a triad, to that Most Underived Love,

Jubilation at this Vine of Truth whose Human Body is our Life, the voice existent, now polyphony!

Oh, such rhizomatic vocabulary in glorious bifurcation of that Word, each a branch outward, each a fruit, each a harvest, each a diamond trajectory of such perfect inscription, the human’s eternal return to that most Inhuman of Loves!

A merry mass of Christ.
Is, unto us, the Word. So rejoice in reading!

Thank you!

It has been two years to the day that I began peddling my wares here at the Doctrine. 167 entries, 366 comments and 43,623 views (and a few public engagements, dubious TV appearances and a spinout multimedia publishing portal) later, the site has grown into, if not a successful business, then, at least, an important part of my life, whose readership affords me an opportunity to learn more about myself (according to the “Three Princes” principle of intersubjective reflection).

In December 2008 the readership began with an average of 1 or 2 views a day but, over the course of Time, has moved into the 100s. Our busiest day was around 400 views, thanks to Facebook shares of my piece on “Draw Muhammed Day”. My day job involves academic research in a specialist area of computational logic and demands I publish papers to disseminate my research results. I would be lucky to get more than 500 readers for a popular paper in a year, much less for a typical paper: so in terms of what “impact factor”, my secret identity as your friendly neighbourhood tailor has become more significant than my everyday research job. That said, I have found the two roles blurring increasingly: at least I consider the entirety of this and that to be one Science, a investigative continuum of Logic and Love.

I’m touched, honoured and blessed that you have deemed my couture work something worth inspecting and hope I have not offended over this time.

Sadiq the Jeweller (Mystic Saint) came to visit me in London recently. He has been very helpful in publicising this portal: my main business referral, so to speak (we’ve done the odd two-for-one offer over the years, jewels and robes).

We were discussing niyat, I suppose: intent. I was explaining my original motivation was quite grand, certainly Quixotic: to change the way the ummah read the Reading — I believe I’d been to one uninspired hutba too many (the last in that December involving a profoundly asinine literal reading of the story of Umm Waraqah, whose ultimate significance is the nature of jummah itself, a significance outlined rather tersely in my first post).

But things turned out the other way. The Doctrine changed me, not the ummah (who continues to confound me with her ultimate unreachability), particularly with respect to motivation. You might say I’ve lost all motivation: except to read and keep on reading. Because that’s how I love. And to read aloud to you and with you, as friends, if you have an ear (or tolerance) for my accent, because that’s probably the only way I can express my love for you.

In closing, I’d like to thank the Academy, my readers, my parents, my darling wife, my two daughters and, last but not least, Allah.

And offer you a gift in appreciation of your readership (it will only be downloadable for about 3 days from now, so grab it while its hot): a free download of the Friends of Design’s Suficore album which, in its own way, is the most effective precis of what I’ve been trying to say here all this time. (Lyrics are available over at Fernmind.)

Ewan Wesi on the Friends (8th Track)

(Excerpt from rock journalist Ewan Wesi’s article 100 greatest nasheeds of the 15th Century, NME, Muharam 1501 AH.)

“Authority Flow” is the 8th track from the Friends of Design’s eponymous debut album. It is what Sally Deen would refer to as their “Ringo” track — the one song on the album that features the Tailor on lead vocals with the Matronita playing the backing chanteuse.

The song is primarily concerned with the seeker subject’s relationship to the Awliya Allah, the collective “friends”/”allies” of God. These Friends feature within esoteric and exoteric Islamic organisational hierarchies on the basis of their mention in the Qur’an

Unquestionably, the Friends of Allah: no fear/threat upon them and they will no grieve, those who believe and are conscious. For them are good tidings in the life of the world and in the hereafter. No change is there in the Words of Allah (kalimati lilah). That is what is the great success. (Qur’an 10:62-64)

The Friends of Allah are yattaquna, a word meaning conscious in the sense of a fearful awe/reverence (in consciousness of the Infinity of Love, as distinct from the fear-of-threat that the verse promises is not upon the Friends), in the related sense of possessing taqwa, God-consciousness-as-piety.

The breadth and scope of the awliya — who’s in and who’s out — was, at the time of the Tailor, a point of contention amongst the Muslims and, specifically, groups professing to Sufism. Some called the Awliya an elect group of saints and teachers, others a level of Islamic practice accessible only after long discipline under a teacher, others “merely” a desirable level of piety embodied by the majority of Muslims in general.

Of course, since the Verandah Vanguard brought Tailorism into the mainstream, utilizing these very nasheeds as their weaponry, as we enter into this very Tailorite century, each one of us a Tailor-unto-himself, there is no longer any dispute and we all understand that all of the above is partial truth.

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Ewan Wesi on the Friends (12th Track)

(Excerpt from rock journalist Ewan Wesi’s article 100 greatest nasheeds of the 15th Century, NME, Muharam 1501 AH.)

“Taming of the New” is the 12th track from the Friends of Design’s eponymous debut album.

Its title is a dubious play on Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”, a comedy we know featured occasionally in Tailorite reading as, not merely a piece of Elizabethan misogynist fun, but also a coded piece of 16th century (AD) Christian/English Kabbalah.

Petruchio’s methods for taming the rebellious Kate, read by today’s standards, are a case of clearly unfunny domestic abuse. They include starvation, restriction of social interaction and physical humiliation. Ultimately he gains total mind control of his wife, to the extent that her very perception of the sun or moon is in complete submission to his:

PETRUCHIO: I say it is the moon.

KATHARINA: I know it is the moon.

PETRUCHIO: Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed sun.

KATHARINA: Then, God be bless’d, it is the blessed sun:
But sun it is not, when you say it is not;
And the moon changes even as your mind.
What you will have it named, even that it is;
And so it shall be so for Katharina.
(Taming of the Shrew, Act 4, Scene 5)

We know that the Tailor read the wife and husband of the English Bard’s comedy in precisely the same fashion as he read the Law of martial relations delivered by the Arab Prophet:

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in their sleeping places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great. (Qur’an, 4:34)

He considered the wife/Kate to be a “potentially immanent plane of symbolic receptivity/reading”: the husband is always the Nur of Prophecy, the Light of Divine Gnosis while the feminine within us is our “darkened mirror”, our perception of the world, our reading of the world. When married/polished/disciplined into obedience to the husband, our feminine perception of the world perceives the Truth of God’s Love in all signs within her mental framework.

And while this process of polishing is sometimes difficult, uncomfortable and, when enunciated and considered with a literal reading, obscene and awful, it is, in essence, innocuous and Loving. At the end of the play, Kate and Petruchio are harmonious, at peace, in Love, because the process of “Taming” is born out of Love, moving through Love, becoming Love. And it is a farce, not a tragedy, because we trust in the Lover who authors the farce in Love: we know that Love would never write us a tragedy, so we ignore these dips into bad taste and instead laugh (Sara’s laugh) where, with any other human author, we would immediately call the cops.

Continue reading “Ewan Wesi on the Friends (12th Track)”

The Friends of Design: Unleashed!

After two years’ of work, Sally, myself and the Geographer have finally released our debut album as the Friends of Design on the Fernmind label. Sufi pop has a new face: that mellifluent mystic Matronita minor! Our first single, “The Pilgrimage”, can be viewed here:

WARNING: do not click this if you have objections to music (particularly space doo-wop), Kazakh sufis — or more, seriously, suffer from epilepsy (the video contains strobe effects).

Lyrics are here. They concern the bidirectional “event” of fight/pilgrimage between the two cities (the left/northern City of Logic and the right/southern City of Love.) All to a funky space doo-wop beat.

The album itself can be bought from iTunes, Napster, Amazon and Tesco, amongst other stores. Go to the Fernmind Unilectic homepage for details.

The Tailor and the Exiles

The Tailor would sometimes sell his garments in the lands north of the City, wherein resided wild men and women, nomads and tribes and communes, loosely conflated as self-governing collective.
He never made any sales, but would always get into heated debates with the wild men regarding difficult, obscure or superficially offensive verses of the Reading. They hated the Reading because they only saw confusion and hatred within: he loved the Reading because he saw clarity and love within, despite or, rather, because of its darker tropes. In the past, this “failed sales-pitch” (da’wah-as-failure he would say to his wife) afforded him the inspiration to design new garments, and sell them in the City.

While they painted their bodies in blue wode and walked on the earth in near nakedness, these people were not indigenously wild but, rather, exiles from that City. They were a disparate group — anarchists, political dissidents, Darwinists, homosexuals, converts to other religions — but what they had in common was their apostasy from the City, from its rules, its conflation of statehood and faith, its mindless body constraint, its denial of science (with a hypocritical embrace of pseudo scientific rational posturing when justified).

The Tailor still maintained business linkages within the City, but had some appreciation of the apostates: after all, his west end shop had recently had its window smashed in, his wares defaced and fabrics stolen by the so-called Enlightenment Defense League, a neo-fascist vigilante group formed with the sole objective of ridding the City of strangers (and strange clothing). The police of the City, at the command of the new Mayor, had turned a blind eye.

Nevertheless, the Tailor enjoyed sparring with the Exiled tribes, regarding the nature of the Reading. For he still clung to its words: despite the fact that the city lay in confusion and ruin, with forces such as the Enlightenment Defense League corrupting those words beyond any hope of recovery, so that its words were used to abuse the inhabitants into consent, into acceptance of starvation, to turn them into blind slaves of the new Mayor. Despite that abuse, the Reading continued to form the basis for his trade, his designs, his work, his life.

And so, sentimental and nostalgic fool that he was, by “defending” the Reading to the Exiles, he could position himself (for a moment at least) as a True City-dweller, a Reader with Civic Authority, a civilized man, rather than the endangered and despised stranger he was becoming. To position himself in defense of the Reading reminded him of the old days, when his wares were purchased by the Mayors themselves, by their families and wives. Days when business was sweet, when he had a position, when he was consulted, when people Read with him.

It might well be that by defending the Reading, by making the sales pitch this time, he could momentarily forget the fear he felt at the last EDL attack, to forget the darker night that was inevitably descending.

What follows is a transcript of their sparring, wherein the Tailor spoke of the Reading for the umpteenth time and consequently, selfishly, for an hour at least, felt like a respectable City businessman once more.

Continue reading “The Tailor and the Exiles”