Holding the Center by M Shahid Alam

I taped it to the black board
a map of the world
Rand McNally
printed in USA.

It split Asia
right down the middle:
the truncated moieties
exiled to the right
and left edges
of this fixed habitat.

It was necessary
this sundering: so
USA could sit
right spat
at the center
of subjected memory.

It isn't easy
holding the Center,
mind you.
See to it
that they
see you holding it.

You have to
charge the cavalry
of cartographers
the hired guns
of history
to center
the world on you.

(Source: M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University, Boston. His recent book, Poverty from the Wealth of Nations was published by Palgrave (2000). Copyright: M. Shahid Alam)

Islamic Perspective on Fundamentalism: Historical Analyses I

In this interview of Seyyed Hossein Nasr by an American TV channel, he gives an analysis of modern history [starting at 15:00 on "what went wrong with Islam recently"] (18-20th century) of Muslims concentrating on colonial, post-colonial situation, essentially from Islamic point-of-view, or at least his independent analysis as Muslim, who is opposed to secular-modernist scholars, which is very imperative. Dr Asad Zaman, professor at IIIU, has repeatedly stated the need of re-writing entire history of past 300 years and its all major developments & aspects from Islamic point of view, especially in this research paper, Developing an Islamic World-View.

Now, we've popular writers like Karen Armstrong taking lead, writing 'interesting' books on the development of so-called fundamentalism in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, interpreting the past 300-year history essentially from a modern, "secular-fundamentalist" * perspective. She and her likes are committed moderns calling all religious people fundamentalists, without distinguishing them from those who commit indiscriminate violence against innocent people, who resist the onslaught of modernity that threatens their religion. Hence again, we see a deep-rooted Euro-centrism in the works of such scholars who are many in number and dominate the scene.

In such a condition of intellectual bankruptcy in Muslim world, such lectures, presentations, interpretations from an Islamic point-of-view are blessings from on high to those who want freedom from the fetters of this world and coercive modernity that robes people of freedom to choose their own destiny.

* This latter term, "secular-fundamentalist," has been coined by Nasr, I came across in The Heart of Islam of the author, which perfectly fits with the mentality and acts of moderns who profess secularism imposing on others, and curtailing the freedom of 'other civilizations to be themselves'. This fundamentalism is most brutal and harsh 'than the most extreme of religious fundamentalism'.

How to tackle Literary Elephants?

We Ants of literature (i.e., students) are intimidated by Historical Towering Pillars of Literature who Dazzle us with their Magic. Their skill at giving cross-references to so many other works weigh heavily down on our shoulders, when we think of achieving the same level of rigor, depth, breadth and mastery over the subject, no matter how ordinary may the subject-topic be. But, their reign of terror is over. I've been introduced to a weapon of criticism that tells us: The author is giving inter-textual references for what purpose? I think s/he is using it to prove his greatness, show off and impress his/her readers.

Considering this possibility, which we Ants often tread to conceive, is quite liberating :) And as a writer a dose to remain on the Straight Path of humility and courtesy towards mankind.

From America with Love (?)

"We're proud to bring F-16 directly from America ... First time in the [deplorable] history of PAF (Pakistan Air Force) our pilots have brought F-16s directly from America [through flight] ... This is a great achievement for our nations [for it'd help us to destroy people in our tribal areas with LGB bombs, both in day and night with perfect accuracy, for it'd free Americans from destroying their enemies ... Masters don't do what slaves can]."

Is that what PAF pilot meant enclosed in brackets!? This is no literary irony. He just missed it! Watch Vipers coming down.


Still an athiest/agnostic, having given up his pure Roman-Catholic background, Nuh Keller here reveals what the unjust hides:

On a vacation home from school, I was walking upon a dirt road between some fields of wheat, and it happened that the sun went down. By some inspiration, I realized that it was a time of worship, a time to bow and pray to the one God. But it was not something one could rely on oneself to provide the details of, but rather a passing fancy, or perhaps the beginning of an awareness that atheism was an inauthentic way of being.

These words keep resonating in my mind. Its a kind of a testament. Hence as inspiration. Therefore beautiful.

Dynamics of Canonical Prayer

As soon as I enter salat/canonical prayer in Islam, I immediately am transformed from a state of anxiety, irritation, restlessness, and confusion, lack of concentration to a state of utter calmness, inner silence, flow, peace, and harmony. The greatest blessing is that I can’t sin anymore. I’m from the worldliness of ghaflah. I no more am in a state of dreaming or vulnerable to ‘create a dream around my world’ and forget really what my purpose is. People are safe from the bitterness and harmfulness of my tongue and hands.

In fact, whole society, whole world transforms beyond our imagination due to congregational act of salah. Because. As Islamic scholar Mahmoud Ayuob states in his book on Islam that when a believer enters salah ‘time and space are sanctified … whole world is purified [for her/him]’.

Hazrat Umer, second people’s caliph/servant of Islam – and I repeatedly use this example – wrote to all of his governors a letter. And in that letter he started off with what was most essential of him that all his governors must protect and establish – Salah! Sacred rituals revealed to mankind in this final, universal revelation* [listen to Abdal Hakim Murad on 'Islam and West' part 3-4] of Islam are greatest gifts to humanity. Unfortunately, the ‘native Orientalists’ (Shahid Alam’s article, Native Orientalists at the Daily Times) and those whose intellect has been atrophied fail to appreciate the Treasure salah and other rituals are.

* Christianity, first of all, a religion that has historically claimed and to a far degree succeeded to be a universal one, was never meant to be Christianity by its founder Sayyidina Isa (A.S.). He came as a Prophet to Jews. Modern biblical scholarship has proven that beyond doubt. First time I came to know of this apparently less known fact to many Christians was in, What Islam did for Us?, by Tim-Wallace Murphy. Then in works of Karen Armstrong, who even made a TV-documentary, The First Christian, on St. Paul, exposing using historical data how St. Paul made a new religion out of the message of Prophet Jesus.

Yin-Yang: "No Tyranny of the OR"

In Built to Last, authors argue that visionary firms that last and endure all phases a firm can endure and pass the tset of time, don't settle for half-half, for either this OR that. Rather. They're inspired by "Glory of the AND". Like, they give many examples for that and I'll just quote one:: "a relatively fixed core ideology AND vigorous change and movement" (p.44).

They also claim that their principles, glory of the AND just being one, extracted after a 6-year research on 36 different companies, applies well beyond the boundaries of business institutions, rather to all kinds of institutions. They didn't realize this when they authored the book, but by the feedback from all over the book.

In our society we see the shadows of the "Tyranny of the OR" pervading over the hearts and minds of I don't know how many people. Even genuinely good people at heart say, "You can't do a business without playing foul, or in (negatively) clever manner in Pakistan, we'll be doomed if you do that," "People are so mean, they don't even change, You're living in an ideal world." Idealism, that's good, given the evidence the authors of the book, although they call it pragmatic idealism.

On the role of philosophers in misguiding humanity

'The principle is that since God is one, human soul is one', hence the purpose of human creation should be one, and to term it more suitably, it be the core. The problem of philosophers is that many have misguided humanity and taken them away from finding and living that core, in the name of wisdom, while it is no more than hatred of wisdom in this case, as Seyyed Hossein Nasr calls it 'misophy'. What is that core, that purpose for men and jinn, it is NONE but WORSHIP of Allah, as Quran puts it.

Man will be man

 A psychiatrist, who also teaches human behaviour to MBAs, was informing my curious self: "If a child is raised in a cave with animals, says dogs or lions, and he never comes in contact with humans, he would behave as dogs or lions. The natural instinct of morality would become dormant owing to the dominant environment. But if you take out the same uncultured human being from this animalistic environment and put into human environment, he'd again start behaving as humans. All those moral instincts of shame, cleanness would return. On the other hand, if you take dogs and lions out of their wild environment and attach 'em with humans, they won't stop behaving as dogs and won't behave as humans!"

What does this suggest to you?

Seyyed Hossein Nasr on Rushdie Affair

Going through karen armstrong's books these days for 'special purpose', i encountered the representation of moderns' point of view on Rushdie affair. West was in uproar on that issue. They all were ablaze with sentimentalism on an issue that concerned life of one person, declaring that (hopelessly) it was attack on freedom of speech. And Mr. Rushdie emerged as a hero, on whom later were showered endless distinguished honors. And many Muslims, especially those living in west or affected by modernity, failed to sympathize with people of strong faith. Nonetheless, following short audio clip by Seyyed Hossein Nasr explains the Muslim reaction to Rushdie affair philosophically. I recommend it as very important for it'd also clarify many other issues raised by moderns now and then - the core idea/concept-as-a-living-force is SACREDNESS, right of God is the highest value & non-compartmentalization of religion from various vistas of life::

Metaphysics and Physics

You've to crack assumptions of people before you come to an understanding of the physical, bare argument or thing being said. It is a scientist's way of doing things; that although you're dealing with the outward/physical you start metaphysically. It is like an eyeglass which greatly affects the way images are formed in the eye, but the presence of which is often not felt or appreciated, so it goes unnoticed. Similarly, a fatwah on a political matter greatly disturbs a modern mind and he commits the sin of compartmentalizing things and often divorcing it from Heaven. This is an unacceptable position for any believer; hence he needs not pay any attention to such rants by moderns whose intellect is so atrophied.

Rationalism or Sentimentalism?

Moderns so much talk about their being Rational that one starts mistaking their so-called objectivity as Objectivity when in the clothes of rationalism it is nothing but an outcry of their nafs and passion of self, which are categorized as nothing but being subjective. They also one other gross characteristic: They criticize "revealed objective truths but rarely turn the barrel of criticism towards their own selves." Remember that Satan swims deeps down in the deep ocean of our heart. To fight him is very difficult. Hence the only way,. according to poet Iqbal, to win over him is to convert him to Islam through Qur'an. Because it is Qur'an which our rope to Heavens.

Shaykh gives a talk to school pupils

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf gives a very useful talk, followed by an interesting Q & A session, to school children. His words are filled with actionable advices and a jihad against modern inventions that affect children negatively, especially, addicting, useless video games, TV, consumerism, etc; and expounds timeless values for humanity from Hadith of Prophet Muhammad.

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Of a suffering... Where art thou my Cure?

(Source. In this post the blogger discusses different styles of procrastination.)

I'm suffering as half of Pakistani population from PROCRASTINATION... What should I do, O my Cure (Tabibi)?

Risks of Reading

Recently, I happened to read whole autobiography of a religious scholar, helping me decode and deconstruct (not in the philosophical sense, as I'm unaware of deconstructionism) her personality for research purposes, which I can't disclose here (sounds cool, sounds "top confidential," isn't it? ;). If it wasn't for some higher purpose I'd never have put myself Self in trouble. Allow my professor to explain: Every time we read an author, we get imprints/influence of his qalb (heart). So why allow hearts devoid of Light of Faith, Wisdom and Intelligence ruin our hearts? It explains much...

What do you say?
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MuddleHead Signs Off!!