Inferiority Complex towards Physical Sciences

As a humanities student, please share your positive negative experiences and thoughts, especially in Pakistani context.

My thoughts in piepline... Excuse the laziness


Beginning was careful. Hours spent in stalking and careful planning of the right moments and measured inputs; in search for appropriate openings for advancement across the enemy field, arousing least suspicion. State of mind was curious, attachment and investment was minimal; but there was desire. Minimal desire stays, but investment and extraction of pleasure has pervaded whole body and psychic being. Will, fueled with desire, helped me take action despite risk of cover getting blown.

Book Review: Alchemist by Sehrish Asghar

I always consider books to be my friends. They are the ones that guide and show me the right path. Out of all these good friends, if I have to choose my best friend it would be “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.

Paulo Coelho through this book has taught me that a fighting spirit is very important indeed. The famous quote from the Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” has had a big impact on my life. People usually comment about me that I am hard-working and sensitive about my studies; I feel that this is somehow due to this book and this famous quote.

This book revolves around a boy named Santiago who travels to the pyramids of Egypt to chase his dreams. During the course of this journey he meets many people, overcomes many obstacles and learns many lessons. He learns the importance of following his dreams. A huge emphasis has been laid on the Soul of the World. This philosophical, but very influential, concept is definitely the beauty of the book. When we start a task, the first few stages go very smooth. This is because the soul of the world is letting us get comfortable with the task at hand. But later we find many difficulties, because the soul of the world is then testing us.

The Alchemist is a beautiful book indeed! The writing style is simply mesmerizing. You never get bored. It is all very philosophical, symbolic and a fun read. To me this book is an all-time classic – not a doubt in it. Another plus point of this book is that it is not a lengthy 500 page long book like many other best-sellers. Rather it is a very “petite”, very concise and to-the-point one. And it is amazing how beautifully Paulo Coelho has summarized these lessons of persistence and chasing your dreams with such precision. I would say to anyone who has not read this book: go grab a copy. You are missing out on a timeless classic.

This book has left a deep impact on me. The Alchemist has not taught me how to make the elixir of life, but the book has given me something much more precious, much handier for the rest of my life. It has given me the formula for the elixir of strife. Now I know struggling, fighting back and chasing my dreams is very important – and when I do that, the soul of the world will always be there with me. A person is never aware of the outcome, and the outcome might differ from what was originally anticipated. But what really matters is your strife, your search for the realization of your dreams, and this is what the book talks about.

Ghalib & nature of universe

عالم تما م حلقہء دام ِ خیال ہے

Footnote: Hoodbhoy & Iqbal

"It may be pointed out here that Syed Ahmad Khan, Syed Jamal-ud-Din Afghani and hundreds of the latter’s disciples in Muslim countries were not westernized Muslims. They were men who had sat on their knees before the mullas of the old school and had breathed the very intellectual and spiritual atmosphere which they later sought to reconstruct. Pressure of modern ideas may be admitted; but the history thus briefly indicated above clearly shows that the upheaval which has come to Turkey and which is likely, sooner or later, to come to other Muslim countries, is almost wholly determined by the forces within, It is only the superficial observer of the modern world of Islam who thinks that the present crisis in the world of Islam is wholly due to the working of alien forces."

From, Islam & Ahmadism, by Allama Iqbal.

Dialectic & Poetry

Frithjof Schuon writes:

Dialectic convinces us with ideas,So that we may understand things abstractly;Poetry has feeling, works with imagesAnd seeks thereby to soften the austerity of thought —So that we may see the truth with our heart.

Like a seed bury yourself

Fears about uncertain future cloud my mind. But more than that i have failed to appreciate the potential i've within myself, like any other human being. Dr Hameedullah compares potentials of man to a tiny seed that turns out to be a colossal tree if nurtured well, and in the first place if it buries itself in the darkness of the mother earth.

How can i be so ungrateful to Allah and be hopeless of my in-competencies? I've to tell myself again and again. I've to be singularly focused on my growth like a selfless seed. I've everything at my service due to Grace of God. Yet this yaas, despair and irrational doubts...

Toxic Effects of Inferiority Complex in Pakistan (III)

Read part I and part II.

In South Africa there are two million whites against almost thirteen million native people, and it has never occurred to a single black to consider himself superior to a member of the white minority.
– Frantz Fanon

The feeling of inferiority of the colonized is the correlative to the European’s feeling of superiority. Let us have the courage to say it outright: It is the racist who creates his inferior.
– Frantz Fanon

(First quote of Fanon really shook our spines to the core. This thought has never occurred to us! We must confess. Ask yourself. The second one is a ‘proven’ psychological fact.)

There’s an undeniable existence of self-hatred, self-pity and total disregard for our Way (cultural and above all religious) present in many of us, especially those dazzled by all things ‘western’. Another term for this disease is Occidentosis. Speaking of which Jalal Al-i Ahmed writes in his famous Occidentosis: A Plague from West:

“Under [occidentosis] we are like strangers to ourselves, in our food and dress, our homes, our manners, our publications, and, most dangerous, our culture. We try to educate ourselves in the European style and strive to solve every problem as the Europeans would.”
Jalal has comprehensively summarized negative effects of westernization in various aspects of our individual and collectives lives which we’ll attempt to examine as following.

Read full article here.

Blasphemy Laws: A Rationale

Muslims - by the virtue of the Prophet - still have a sense of Sacred. This is why they so emotionally and intellectually react to any desecration of Sacred. It is their civilizational right & duty to defend the rights of God, his prophets & his idyaan. West fails to understand that, perhaps.

 In USA, if you curse God or Prophet Jesus, nobody would even care, they won't even look at you and pass by. But if you curse someone's color, race or even nose, you'll get sued for 100k dollars or even worse.* This is because they've lost that sense of Sacred. It is against this aggression towards the rights of God that blasphemy laws exist.

Last para example is taken from an audio clip on Salman Rushdie Affair by Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

Modern Science & Beauty?

The morning dew is a source of freshness and is a proof of God too (at least for a saint). Unfortunately, those who worship modern science and technology whole day, do not realize that from its standpoint everything is nothing but matter, with no vertical dimension and causality to it. Divine Imprint is the source of all meaningful beauty.

This mechanistic and materialistic view of nature, that modern science possesses, is also the cause of so much destruction of environment. Because from its view, there's no sacred element to material world, hence it's there to be captured according to free market forces. They realized it later that destruction of nature creates imbalance (too obvious to us though). We must salute from heart all native cultures that are disgusted by the idol of indefinite economic progress. Yet, many muslims who're envious of worldly power and resources have fallen to the same trap seculars did.

Historical Roots of Inferiority Complex in Indo-Pak

Blowing brains and spirits out

Colonial Invasion & State Structures. Loss of self-confidence in Muslims is justifiably related to defeats on the battlegrounds at the hands of west. But a military defeat is not enough to enslave hearts and minds, as it can be an impetus for revenge. Today Muslims are envious of West’s power, which proves the fact that the real challenge of west is not of materialism, but of intellectuality (which modernity certainly lacks in the true sense of the world).

However, what happened after the first phase of colonial invasion? How did colonials succeed in subduing large populations in vast areas? We’ve partial answers.

Realizing the danger that native “monkeys” might overrun them by sheer numbers, colonizers had to play the games of perceptions and mind control. They had to look big and strong. Few in numbers, they developed railway and laid communication systems to travel fast over the huge mass of land to subdue any possible mutiny, which did take place and successfully crushed. But the physical assets won’t do the job if the natives were enthusiastic and confident of their victory. Hence, that spirit of rebellion was decimated, and fear and inferiority complex were placed like time bombs beneath our (un)conscious. Self-confidence was shattered when Muslims’d see Tipu Sultan’s majestic dress being worn by peons of whites. Healthy, buildup, young officers constantly replaced older ones to give the illusion that all whites are brave and strong and can’t be messed with. These are just few of countless examples of this social-engineering.

We’ve to contextualize heroic things we attribute our colonial masters. Colonialism was about dispossession. In a paper on this very topic, Cole Harris summarizes colonists’ grand strategy of dispossession as following: 

“The initial ability to dispossess rested primarily on physical power and the supporting infrastructure of the state; the momentum to dispossess derived from the interest of capital in profit and of settlers in forging new livelihoods; the legitimation of and moral justification for dispossession lay in a cultural discourse that located civilization and savagery and identified the land uses associated with each; and the management of dispossession rested with a set of disciplinary technologies of which maps, numbers, law, and the geography of resettlement itself were the most important…” (‘How Did Colonialism Dispossess? Comments from an Edge of Empire’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 94, No. 1 (Mar., 2004), abstract)

Hence, administrative and other infrastructures, and all the technologies were means to loot and pillage, although in a more civilized or face-saving way.

Education: Colonists’ Most Favorite Vehicle (MFV)

While military and political subjugation of colonists broke the spirits of many, colonial education convinced many that modern West’s ventures in barbarism were for our own benefit. When defeat induced fears of a mightier foe, the education changed the victim’s heart. As Akbar Abadi said: ‘An easterner would cut off the head of the foe; a westerner would change his heart’. British justified their rule to their own people on the pretext of ‘civilizing’ natives. This was different from what was happening to Blacks in Africa. This comparison will make things more clear.

Blacks were made colonizers on the basis of their color. They were led to believe that their skin color reflects that of sin, ugliness. Black lies are unforgivable, white lies are ignored. They don't have any right to exist. Be white or disappear was the attitude of their colonizers. Blacks even had dreams of being white. They craved for white color at any cost.

Our minds were made slaves. Our color is not such a problem to them. Our culture, religion, and thought endangered their existence. They worked to snatch our inheritance, our ilm from us. That is why they used education. They changed minds.

Economic-historian Atiyab Sultan writes that in the beginning of 19th century, colonization became more ‘pedagogic’ in India. Previously, Britishers were consolidating militarily and administratively. It was time to tend to education, which was primarily used to create a special kind of class of natives, loyal to them.

Liberals and utilitarians advocated ‘civilizing’ natives in the “universal image” of modern western man. There were 3 distinct groups in British parliament who lobbied for their own educational programs (with unmistakable similarities): Evangelicals, utilitarians, and uiberals. Evangelicals like Charles Grant believed Indians to be 'race of men lamentably degenerate and base'; liberals like Macaulay fancied, “A single shelf of a good European library is worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”; and utilitarians like JS Mills considered Indian stock of knowledge to be ‘obscure and worthless’ (perhaps he did so without digesting a page of Indian literature). On the contrary, Dr Asad Zaman argues, “A single chapter on sacrifice in a book like Fazail e Amaal that teaches man to go against his nafs, is worth the whole literature of modern West.” Only Orietnatlists, Atiyab mentions, argued that colonial educational system in India should be according to indigenous sources and be taught according to indigenous views.

In a way summing up the educational policy, which was fiercely debated in English parliament, Atiyab further writes:

“Education was also a chief instrument in the creation of a colonial subject that would be a loyal and willing consumer of British knowledge and produce. Macaulay voiced this concern thus: ‘Indians should not be too ignorant or too poor to value and buy English manufactures’ (Basu 58.) In a larger sense, the loyal subjects were needed for the calm preservation of empire, echoing the imperial policy of cultivating supportive local elites …”

It becomes clear that their educational institutions served colonists needs, not ours. This reminds of what Iqbal called the “un-Muslim character” colonial education produced. Also, that system was unfair to the masses as it sent few to higher service, leaving the rest impoverished. We should also add that this created an anti-native character in Indians at large, to which Hindus responded very well, boycotting foreign goods.

Triumph of Materialism. Hamza Yusuf (HY) notes that the colonists saw the global and historical link Muslims maintained due to their religious Tradition. Muslims had many global learning centers which played vital role in this regard and maintained some kind of visible unity (although the underlying unity of ummah is still undeniable and, in fact, crucial to the venture of Islam). In order to destroy that unity among Muslims, colonists sought to destroy this ‘historical link’. And as per HY, they did so by injecting inferiority complex in Muslims regarding their lack of material progress. “It’s all documented how they did this,” he emphasizes. For instance, they’d compare paper to pre-modern tablet, which Muslims used for instruction. “Using a tablet is backward. Now we’ve paper!” This notion of backwardness is still on the lips of 75-80% (if not 100%) of Muslims, especially the educated class.

Eurocentrism. The roots of civilizational inferiority complex may also lie in the venom called eurocentrism, especially for uncritical bookish minds. These are more less two central tenets of this mythological, racist & historicist thesis: All civilizations must develop along the lines of West to achieve the idols of indefinite economic progress, civility and “enlightenment”; and that Europe is at the center of world stage, and that all other civilizations are mere supporting pillars, resource fields to it. But western civilization not the end of civilizations, argues Rene Guenon:

"So long as western people imagine that there only exists a single type of humanity, that there is only one 'civilization', at different stages of development, no mutual understanding will be possible. The truth is that there are many civilizations, developing along very different lines, and that, among these, that of the modern West is strangely exceptional, as some of its characteristics show."

Further Guenon scrutinizes the true nature of this highly over-rated civilization, which dominates the world materially so far (we would concede to the objection that even its material dominance is soon to be surpassed):

"The civilization of the modern West appears in history a veritable anomaly: among all those which are known to us more or less completely, this civilization is the only one which has developed along purely material lines and this monstrous development, whose beginning coincides with the so-called Renaissance, has been accompanied, as indeed it was fated to be, with a corresponding intellectual regress; we say corresponding and not equivalent, because here are two orders of things between which there can be no common measure. This regress has reached such a point that the Westerners of today no longer know what pure intellect is; in fact they do not even suspect that anything of the kind can exist…"

Post-Pakistan: British Legacy goes on. Leadership produced by the British took over the country after the partition. They molded state policies and institutions in the image of their departed masters, more or less. Discussion of continuation of such structures is not relevant here. What’s important is that the inferiority complex of native Brown Sahibs’ turned into superiority complex that caused much harm.

After 1947 we witnessed exploitation of our Bengali brothers, which was at once racial and materialistic. It wasn’t religious extremism that separated two brothers, but the absence of spiritual training of the governing “elites”, in bureaucracy, politicians and army. We’ve accounts of how West Pakistani elites treated Bengalis as lower level race. Our false-elite was certainly a clone of their masters.

Co-authored with Noor.

Despair & Knowledge of Self & God

In despair, man rises above the fetters of this world. This world, i intuit, has an element of forgetfulness to it. Its a trap of illusion that deludes many. The chains of senses imprison us. Hunger, passion, thirst, lust, caprices, etc., can reduce us to an animal. But in despair all of this is cracked open. In fact, all of the chains melt away. Forgetfulness of imminent, inevitable, unavoidable death vanishes. Delusion of independence of man is seriously challenged. Naive belief in absolute efficacy of our efforts, and the causes, falters.

Interestingly, while the whole day is spent in the agony of despair, it is punctuated by very brief moments of unjustifiable euphoria. After it dissipates, horizon looks gloomier.

Despair only teaches us to lean on the Absolute. Tribulation is seen by spiritual and religious masters as a blessing in disguise that connects us to our Beloved, with whom depths of our souls so want to reunite. As one's animalistic desires dissolve - of eating, drinking and taking pleasures of various kinds - one sincerely and actively invokes Allah's name. And after tribulation ends, hearts solidify and everything becomes history.

This isn't the sum-total of something one might experience from despair. A skeptical mind, (either) brainwashed by modernism and/or thanks to the whispers of Satan, can view things differently, although not objectively. He can say in his very despair that i'm invoking God because i need him. Hence, my mind has invented him as a support. He doesn't necessarily exist. (Curiously this has nothing to with the realm of pure intellect, rather emotion. For if pure intellect [not separated from heart] had been operating, there won't have been any despair in the first place.)

Here, firstly, the existence of God has nothing to do with this inversion or error-ridden whisper by torch-bearer of falsehood. The fact that one yearns to lean on the Absolute and find solace in it is what metaphysicians point to as 'truth within us'. 'We know truth because we are truth,' says Frithjof Schuon. Secondly, this has to do with skepticism, which doubts everything. In its limitation lies its singular cure:
"Ibn-e-Sina talks of a hanging man, who is hung in the middle of space. His feet don't touch anything; his legs don't touch anything. He doesn't know where he is. [Thus] he can doubt the existence of earth, he can doubt the existence of air - there is nothing he cannot doubt! The one [and only] thing he cannot doubt is himself that is doubting everything."
"'I think therefore God is.' Not that 'I think therefore I am'." - Seyyed Hossein Nasr, In the Beginning was Consciousness, The Dudleian Lecture delivered at Harvard Divinity School.

Response & Absorption to Modernity: Religion in India & Pakistan

Dr Hina Azam reviewing Dr Qasim Zaman's insightful work, The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change, observes the political thought and advocacy of Pakistani vs Indian Deobandis, or more generally, Pakistani religious elite ("pro-Pakistan Iqbal" and Jamat-e-Islami) vs Indian religious leaders ("Maulana Azad and Wahid-ud-din"):

One cannot help but notice that the religious establishment, perhaps unwittingly, frequently ends up justifying existing state policies.

I believe that this is not very accurate picture of Pakistani religious elites and establishment. In Pakistan, since its inception, we've seen a very strong contest b/w religious elite which advocates state-level implementation of their interpretation of Shariah* vs modernist/secular leadership (although in minority, but very resourceful and powerful).

In India, we don't see religious leaders advocating that. Their framework is "pluralistic secular" political solutions, which obviously is optimal solution for protecting Muslims there.

However, what is very interesting [it's so interesting, i'm quoting whole summary of this argument] is the following argument of Dr Qasim, summarized by Dr Hina:

"Another provocative theme of the book is Zaman’s insight into what happened when the Western notion of “religion” met a traditional Muslim society’s much older understanding of its deen (usually translated as “religion”) in the asymmetrical context of colonial domination. We know that after the time of Hume, Hegel, and Darwin, European thinkers generally conceived of religion as developing, on the metaphor of biological evolution, alongside the progress of human societies from primitiveness to civilization, from simplicity to complexity, from irrationality to rationality, to find its end in either (Protestant)Christianity or in science. In the liberal view, religion is that which is best left to private life, separated from the public, civic sphere. In contrast, the centuries-old tradition of Islamic thought did not draw any firm lines between the sacred and the secular; it conceived the divine command as overseeing both the private and the public domains. What Zaman tells us is how the British carried their ideology of religious evolutionism into India with them, and how out of the marriage of European liberalism and South Asian tradition was born the concept, new for the indigenous Muslims, of their deen as a “religion.” Indeed, says Zaman, the ambivalences created by the tension between religion as private and religion as comprehensive, as well as the doubt created by the idea of “religion” as that which is less than “useful,” continue to express them-selves in self-contradictory approaches to religious education and relations with the state to this day. 

Building on a standing religious studies thesis that Islamic “fundamentalist”movements are in fact thoroughly modern in their technical and political strategies, Zaman adds that, first, the modernity of contemporary Islamic movements is reflected in their very notion of Islam as a subtype of “religion” and that, second, not only the modernists and the Islamists but also the ulama have inherited this new discourse of “religion.” This is seen in their belief in codification and implementation of Islamic law at the statewide level and in the role of the ulama as “specialists” in religion. These efforts are possible, Zaman insists, only due to the reification of Islam that resulted from Muslim absorption of the European idea of “religion” as a fixed content (rather than, say, aprocess of moral transformation or a relationship of spiritual surrender)." [got to know full explanation of this author]


West's Routes to Wealth: Old & New

(If you came from the article on MybitforChange: please see lecture # 3 on this page by Dr Asad Zaman.)

Dr Asad Zaman gives an account - a rare account - of a major factor of rise of power of West. Western people were so barbarian that they'd engage in continual warfare with each other, on sectarian, tribal or such issues. They developed a lot of mastery over the technology of warfare. The Orient was living in a much relative peace. Due to certain experiences, they realized that world was aloof there 'progress' in killing humans, and were leading much peaceful life (perhaps because they lacked the technology, who knows?). Hence, the agitation and impulse of intra-warfare was calmed down to focus on rest of the world. For various reasons, they're able to come over many countries; and that gave birth to endless plunder of resources, which helped the west become richer and richer.

Today this task is carried out in much more subtle ways by America. See Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John perkins, where he explains how a group of secretive 'economists' (on US govt's payroll actually) would convince surrogate govts to sell off their national natural resources to America; they would convince them to take loan from IMF and World Bank, which would never go out of American economy though. They are the first line of attack of enslaving countries. If they fail, CIA sends in 'jackals' to remove patriotic leaders (like Mossadeq, and perhaps our Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto too). And if CIA fails, as they did in Iraq, the country worth enough is invaded. Perkins was such economic hitman. After 9/11 his conscience finally decided to unleash his secrets that he had been withholding beforehand. The agent of imperial America has spoken to us.

Of Extremism

We need to reflect on the proposed meaning of the terms that are susceptible to abuse in this dark age. There's no limit to the abuse of the term extremism, etc. The most rational, sound, compassionate and/or traditional/orthodox would be called religious extremist if they say something inconvenient about modern superstitions. At a mundane level, son of America and Islam, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf notes that in reality "extremism is as American as apple pie." He points to the fact that it's not the problem in the context of it's actual usage: violence is. I suppose he implicitly would agree to my adding important adjectives like indiscriminate, unjustifiable, "without right." Synonym of this kind of violence may well be "oppression/a-fitnah", which as per Qur'an is worse/greater than killing.

Similarly, calling such fascist-liberals or false-liberals, or even liberals [based on philosophy of liberalism] would be a disservice and abuse of the term extremism. Because it is about wrong thinking, as such.

Use of word extremism is only appropriate when things are view from the Centre and Origin, which is the Prophecy, or traditional, orthodox understanding of it. Anything that is away from First Principles or Centre or Revelation of Islam, is extreme. The 'radical middle way' from which we can keep check on extremism is very clear and pluralistic at once: the sunnah of final Prophet sent to humanity. What more need to be said on this than the fact that Prophet Muhammad warned against "ghulu" (translation as extremism) in religion.

Foundations of Secular Educational System

While nineteenth century materialism closed the mind of man to what is above him, twentieth century psychology opened it to what is below him (René Guénon)

The ‘eclipse of human soul and intellect’ by secular thought has brought disastrous consequences not just at pure intellectual level, but at societal and practical level as well. The change agents have been ‘false prophets of modernism’ (i.e., modern philosophers and theorists). At intellectual level, they’ve lost the traditional, religious view of nature and knowledge, and created false alternatives – the cause of mass misguidance. Not only that, these handful of men have produced this ‘Dark Age’, a material civilization, in which both human actions and intellectual efforts are profane and cut off from Divine guidance. At practical level, though they have discovered in their way great deal of facts about human mind and body, but still paved way to moral degradation, materialism and suffocation of public morality.

Read full article here.

1st 2013 Post: What do I love about modernist culture & art

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