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In the Name of God بسم الله
  1. Abu Nur

    Abu Nur

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         1 comment
      Summary
      Just because something is not created via the scientific method, does not mean it can't be useful - implications about how we think about religious precepts.
      Serendipity (pot luck)
      I have previously remarked upon how, in some fields of human endeavour where the scientific approach is held to be the ideal, in reality human scientific and technological discoveries has often been the results of luck and even mistakes.
      Social science 'theories'
      There is a corollary in the field of the social sciences which also emphasise the value of the scientific approach to generate knowledge. In this domain the anomalies are various frameworks and models that are widely taught and even used, but which have no basis in rigorous scientific research.
      The famous work by Abraham Maslow on motivation and his resulting 'hierarchy of needs' is very widely studied and used. He posits that human motivation at the fundamental level is driven by physiological needs, and once these are satisfied (he did qualify this in later works) people try and address safety needs and then, social needs and self-esteem and finally self-actualisation. 
      But Maslow did not come up with this through any research that would hold up to scientific scrutiny.
      Does the lack of a scientific approach invalidate a model or framework?
      Yet the Maslow hierarchy is productively used by professionals in a variety of industries, managers, MBA students and others in universities. For example, people use it to understand why consumers buy certain products.
      The same issue applies to Bloom's taxonomy in the field of learning and also Elmo's buying funnel in the area of marketing. The three laws of robotics have their basis in science fiction and in the area of web searching there is no scientific basis for the information-navigational-transactional categories that are used.
      Face validity
      The implication from this is that while ideas and knowledge may ideally be the result of the scientific approach I.e. hypothesising and then testing, there are many instances where this is not the case. In the area of the social sciences and management the value of some types of knowledge seems to rest on their 'face validity', do they make sense to the individuals who are presented with them and can those individuals make better sense of their external environment as a result of using these tools and if they can, that is good enough.
      Implications for religion
      The same principle could surely apply to various aspects of religion. There may be no scientific proof underpinning various religious ideas, but if they have face validity, if they help the individual make sense of their external environment and manage it, surely that is good enough?
         1 comment
      [This was originally written on November 25 2017 and was updated on Sept 13 2023, to include the graphic, headings and a summary, further updated on 27 May 2024 to include references to Artificial Intelligence]
      Summary
      There is an inverse relationship between human labour for any activity and the moral and ethical issues related to it. The less we work, because we have automation, for example, often the more we need to exercise moral and other consideration related to that work. As a result automation and AI won't necessarily make people unemployed, they'll simply free us up to do more philosophising.
      For people who believe in a benevolent God who seeks to perfect man, this makes eminent sense.
      Introduction
      There's an interesting piece about AI and robots in today's London Guardian:
      https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/nov/25/cobot-machine-coming-job-robots-amazon-ocado#comments
      It's a fair piece because it includes opinions along the lines of "we're doomed with robots doing everything" through to the other end of the spectrum where the argument runs that "no previous innovation killed us off and neither will this one".
      I am in the latter camp, for what it is worth.
      An atheistic concern
      An atheist may well believe that an outcome where robots replace us in for every imaginable activity will make us redundant and worthless. And in a world without a benevolent God, that outcome is entirely possible. 
      The theistic angle
      In a more theistic perspective on this issue, I believe that human development so far has been one where we have increasingly had the capability to indulge in exercising freewill, as standards of living and technological capabilities have risen. Going hand in hand with that capability has been the ability to think about our actions and pay more attention to moral judgements. I am using the shorthand of moral judgements to refer to issues related to what is considered to be ethically right or wrong, just and equitable. included in this discussion are issues to do with sustainability and the greater awareness that the decisions we take need to take into account their future costs (e.g. on the environment) as well as current benefits (e.g. to consumers).
      An inverse relations between human labour and attendant moral issues
      Fewer people now work the land in the agricultural industry, as mechanisation and the use of chemicals have taken over, but there are more people being employed to investigate our impact on that environment, understand its implications and then research remedial action. Employment has not fallen, it has risen, but the tasks we perform are more cerebral and more of them involve making moral judgements.
      We can even map this as an inverse relationship, this is illustrative only and there's no specific relationship implied by the curve.

       
      The same process applies to the raising of farm animals and their slaughter. Affecting all of this is the entirely new industry of people making moral judgements about what is (morally) right in agriculture and what is wrong. Some of those judgements are informed by a theistic perspective, and some are not. In the latter instance we may question the validity, for example, of policy-makers in the West focusing on the last few seconds of an animal's life (as is the case in the debate about halal slaughter, as opposed to their accepting what are improvements but still cruel aspects of the husbandry of animals during the much longer period of their lives.
      There are similarly eye-brow raising moral considerations such as the most humane form of capital punishment. Nevertheless, the reality is that moral judgements are being made in all aspects of our lives and more and more time and resources are being devoted to them. 
      Perfecting man
      For a theist then, I believe the trajectory that we are following is proof of a God who desires to perfect man. He gives us the increasing opportunity to exercise moral judgements, both in terms of the time available to us with which to do this and secondly in terms of the situations to which those analyses can be applied. The latter are becoming ever more complex and challenging.
      The pastoral farmer of a few centuries ago obviously had the need to exercise moral judgements and take issues of sustainability into account when making decisions, but my point is that given smaller population sizes prevailing at the time and the more limited technologies available the nature of those judgements was necessarily more simple and straightforward than is the case, for example with the use of genetic modification.
      That perfection I believe helps us understand some of the issues around artificial intelligence. Like other disruptive technologies it enables people to have machines do what was previously done by humans. One difference is that whereas previous technologies made menial word redundant, how it is more cerebral work and this has an entirely new class of people very worried. What happens to their jobs? To some extent I think they are right. Indeed there will be machines doing more and more white-collar jobs and people who thought that a high level of education would keep them in employment forever may get a shock. 
      There is however a difference between how a theist would approach this problem and how an atheist would. The latter only has available to him the argument that all previous disruptive technologies have simply led people to do more value added work. Employment has continued to rise. The theist, who believes in God's desire to perfect man would likely add a spin on this and say that artificial intelligence enables people to focus on moral and ethical issues related to all fields of human endeavour.
      Until now we have always been limited in terms of how we make ethical judgements because of the limitations in terms of the quality and quantity of information that we have. Those limitations are now going to be removed.
      So if we want to judge the environmental costs and benefits of a course of action we will likely be able to do with with the help of AI. What choices we actually make will need to be made by humans who have a soul. That's where the employment opportunities will exist
      Conclusion
      As living standards continue to rise and societies become more complex, we will face an increasing number of situations of increasing complexity which will need moral solutions. And that is something which robots can never do, they don't have a soul. They are not prone to temptation and nor do they have to deal with it.
         0 comments
      This was co-written with chatgpt4o
      In the bustling city of Uthmaniya, where the skyline is dominated by minarets and modern skyscrapers, Ahmed was the unchallenged king of signs. His business, "Visionary Signs," was the go-to for creating grandiose displays for conferences, exhibitions, and governmental offices. Ahmed’s workshop was a hive of activity, always buzzing with the latest projects commissioned by the government.
      Every new initiative, every plan, no matter how nebulous, required a sign. These signs were not mere informational boards; they were masterpieces, adorned with resplendent images of the rulers, their eyes looking far into the future, with slogans that promised greatness. The text, always laudatory, spoke of unprecedented progress and prosperity, though specifics were conspicuously absent.
      One day, Ahmed received a call from the Minister of Public Enlightenment. "Ahmed, we need a series of signs for the new initiative. The Global Vision 2030 Summit is next month, and we must impress our international guests."
      Ahmed knew the drill. He listened patiently as the minister outlined vague goals of development, innovation, and cultural enrichment. “Of course, Excellency. Leave it to Visionary Signs. We will ensure that every sign conveys the magnificence of our vision.”
      In his workshop, Ahmed gathered his team. "Alright, folks, we need to design signs for the Global Vision 2030. Remember, it’s all about grandeur. The words must sing praises, the images must captivate, but as always, we keep the details fuzzy."
      His designers got to work, crafting enormous signs with majestic images of the rulers. The captions read: "Towards a Brighter Tomorrow," "Innovation at its Peak," and "Cultural Renaissance for All." The wording was eloquent but evasive, avoiding specifics like timelines or measurable outcomes.
      As the summit approached, international guests began arriving, and Ahmed’s signs were strategically placed throughout the city and the grand conference hall. The guests, impressed by the splendor, often paused to admire the signs. They would nod appreciatively, making polite comments about the visionary leadership and the ambitious goals.
      During the opening ceremony, the rulers themselves mingled with the attendees. Ahmed found himself face-to-face with the Emir. "Ahmed," the Emir said, a faint smile playing on his lips, "your signs are quite impressive. They speak volumes to our guests about our aspirations."
      "Thank you, Your Highness," Ahmed replied, bowing slightly. "We strive to capture the essence of your vision."
      The Emir’s gaze was steady. "It is important that our international friends see the progress we are making, even if we are still in the planning stages. A good message is key, Ahmed. It is the impression that counts."
      Ahmed nodded, understanding the unspoken directive. The real work, the actual implementation of the grand plans, was secondary to the portrayal of ambition and vision. As long as the signs were convincing, the world would believe in the progress of Uthmaniya.
      The summit concluded with numerous accolades and polite applause. The international guests left, carrying with them memories of impressive signs and lofty promises. Ahmed, back in his workshop, received another order for a new initiative, equally grand and equally vague.
      In Uthmaniya, Visionary Signs continued to flourish, a testament to the power of perception. Ahmed knew that as long as his signs could speak of greatness, the city’s image would remain untarnished, even if the ground beneath them changed little.
         20 comments
      Most of us struggle with purpose in our life when we are young. However, even older people, who thought they had direction and purpose, find their life has changed and they must think about it again. Purpose is our 'reason for being' or called Ikigai in Japanese. Purpose is important and I pray that everyone contemplates their purpose and stays on the straight path. See the image below:

         3 comments
      An orphan is the name of a child who lost his mother,
       But what is the name of a mother who loses a child? 
       Crushed between the door and the wall along with the souls of Hassanain,
       Robbed of her child, her right, her husband's, she fights through the pain.
       Her name is Fatima. The one whose essence mankind will never reach, 
       For God Himself has shielded her with a protection that none can breach,
       Mistress of my soul and the women of the worlds,
       With her name and her hand the secret of this life unfurls,
       The strength of my heart and the strength of Haidar,
       The strength of the lion who conquered Khaybar, 
       For who else can converse with such beauty and power,
       Fight the usurpers after the loss of Mohsen, the wilted flower? 
       Her name is az-Zahra, the radiant light, illuminating a path,
       For those who want to see and be away from God's wrath,
       For he who angers az-Zahra has evoked the Messenger's displeasure,
       And no doubt, God's own wrath which follows is that beyond any measure,
       For who is so aligned with the will of her Creator,
       Which woman did He create, that other than her there is no greater? 
       Her name is al-Batool, unsurpassed in every way,
       Be it the chastity, the virtue, or the worship she did display,
       No man equalled her strength the day she fought her right,
       Look around you now- see the destruction of Fatima's might.
       For which woman could have such eloquence and knowledge of the Book? 
       Fadak was hers then and now, no matter what they took. 
       Quoting the verses to them that were revealed to her very door,
       Every lie, every plot of theirs and tactic, into shreds she tore. 
       For she is as-Siddiqa, the truthful, no matter who calls himself this too,
       A name is just a name but the truth lies in what we do,
       Ali is with the truth, truly this is no lie,
       And the truth is with Ali, but she will shortly die,
       Leaving behind a house that is both so full and bare,
       Full of Ali's grief, but of a mother's warmth, left bare,
       A homely nest no more, for its mother is no longer,
       A house that used to buzz with life, now remains mourning and sombre.
       Hassan holds her feet and Hussain cries on her chest, 
       An imagine after which the heart of Ali will never find rest,
       Zainab and Kulthum sob as they await the darkness of night,
       One final farewell they crave before facing a new plight.
       And Ali...? A broken man, half a human, dealt his biggest blow,
       He sits with his head in his hands, and tears of anguish now freely flow. 
       The lion, the warrior, the hero that roared with such might,
       Now quietly sobs for her pain and her loss, a flame of grief now alight.
       Two souls intertwined...now world's apart,
       A long journey of loneliness Ali has to start,
       Her orphans, her prayer mat, the memories of her days,
       With these he will survive, and he now says...
       'A flower, nipped in the bud. From paradise it came, and to paradise it went, but has left its fragrance in my mind'. 
         0 comments
      Take:
      Everyday   ,   Every second,         Every situations,         Every difficulties,           Every achievements 
      Take all these a test and trials where your patience is tested, your faith is tested, your ability to control your desires and emotions are tested, family relations is tested etc.....
      Focus on passing these tests with patience, faith in God, doing religious obligations, praying to God, always seeking help from God, seeking forgiveness and thanking him in every situations we are in.  
      Remember God has something better waiting for you in the after world so try and somehow put a smile on your face every now and then...
         5 comments
      قال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام: رحم الله زرارة بن أعين لو لا زرارة و نظراؤه لاندرست أحاديث أبي عليه السلام
      Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: May Allah have mercy on Zurara b. A`yan, if it was not for Zurara and his peers the narrations of my father عليه السلام would have perished
      سمعت أبا عبد اللّه عليه السلام يقول: لعن اللّه زرارة!
      I heard Aba Abdillah عليه السلام saying: may Allah curse Zurara!
       
      Did the Imam Curse Zurara?
      Zurara is such an important narrator in the Madhhab. No one has narrated more narrations than him. There are more than two thousand surviving Hadiths attributed to him in our books. No surprise then to find that we have a lot of reports of praise from the `Aimma confirming his esteemed status. A bit more difficult to explain away is the not insignificant number of narrations that portray him in a negative light. These have been latched onto by polemicists who believe that they can damage the Madhhab by weakening this man who transmitted such a lot of knowledge from the `Aimma that he became a cornerstone of our Fiqh. How do we defend him? There is a reliable text preserved by al-Kashshi in his book which I believe is useful in explaining this phenomenon preserving as it does a candid assessment by the Imam of the real situation.
      The words of the Imam are indented and a relevant commentary is provided directly below each section. The  text can be accessed in its entirety here https://sites.google.com/site/mujamalahadith/vol1/book-of-narrators/zurara-b-ayan [See No. 17/172]
       
      Abdallah b. Zurara said: Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said to me: convey my salutations of peace to your father and say to him …
      The letter that the Imam dictates to this son of Zurara is done in confidence and with the expectation that no one else will come to know of its contents. It seems to have been prompted by Zurara’s grief, conveyed directly to the Imam, for censuring him to fellow companions and others, such that word reached back to him. Zurara seeks to clarify what the Imam’s true opinion of him is.
       
      I only defame you as a way of defending you, for the masses and the enemy hasten to whomever we draw near and praise his station so as to cause harm to the one we love and bring close. They accuse such a one because of our love for him and his closeness and intimacy with us, and they consider causing him harm and even killing him as justified. On the other hand, they praise every one whom we fault even if his affair is not praiseworthy. Thus, I fault you because you have become notorious as a result of your association with us and your inclination towards us, which have caused you to become blamable in the eyes of the people and your works to be looked upon unfavourably, all this because of your love for us and your inclination towards us. So I wished to fault you so that they can praise your religious stand as a result of my denigrating and diminishing you, and this becomes a way of warding off their evil from you. 
      This narration is important because it is the lens through which all the negative narrations about Zurara should be seen. The Imam explains his rationale for publicly cursing Zurara i.e. the Imam is defending his companion through Taqiyya.  As he notes, the enemy wishes to bring down everyone they draw near, a fate which he does not wish for Zurara. Zurara was particularly at risk because of how many narrations he had from them and how closely he was associated to them.
       
      Allah Majestic and Mighty says: “as for the boat then it belonged to the poor working at sea so I wished to damage it because there was a king after them who seizes every good boat by force” (18:79) … No by Allah! he did not damage it except that it be saved from the king and is not ruined in his hands. It was a ‘good’ boat which had no question of being defective Allah be praised, so comprehend the parable, may Allah have mercy on you!
      The Imam likens his act of criticizing Zurara to Khidhr damaging the fisherman’s boat, both seem ostensibly cruel on the surface but they are ultimately done to secure the very person they seem to hurting.
       
      … this is a revelation from Allah [including the word] ‘good’ …
      The Qira’a of the Ahlulbayt includes the word صالحة in the verse which is not there in our existing copies. This can be seen as an interpretive addition which happens to be quite straightforward and does not go against conventional understanding. This is also how Ibn Mas`ud and Ubay b. Ka`b read the verse [See Tafsir al-Tabari].
       
      You are by Allah! the most beloved of people to me and the most beloved of the companions of my father in my estimation both in life and after death. Indeed you are the best boat in that tumultuous and stormy sea, and there is a tyrannical and usurping king after you, keeping watch for the crossing of every good boat returning from the sea of guidance so that he can take it for himself and seize it and its owners, so may the mercy of Allah be upon you in life and His mercy and pleasure be upon you after death.
      This is the true status of Zurara in the eyes of the Imam. It becomes very clear that Zurara is the principal companion of al-Baqir and al-Sadiq and the closest to them. This tallies with the Madhhab’s conception of his status where he is seen as the greatest of their companions barring Muhammad b. Muslim which is arguable.
       
      Let not your heart constrict in grief if Abu Basir comes to you with the opposite of that which you were instructed by my father and by me, for by Allah! we did not instruct you and him except with an instruction that is fitting to act upon both for us and for you, and for each [instruction, even if seemingly contradictory] we have diverse expressions and interpretations which all agree with the truth. And if we were allowed [to explain] you would come to know that the truth is in that which we have instructed you.
      The Imam acknowledges a second problem which Zurara seems to have raised which is the Ikhtilaf [differences] of instructions which are attributed to them. The Imam accepts that these may indeed go back to them but notes that they have a reason for every instruction they give even if the companions cannot fully comprehend the reasons behind them. However, the Imam is very clear that despite the seeming diverse answers there is a way to reconcile them and all agree with the truth. 
       
      The one who has divided you is your shepherd who has been given authority by Allah over His creation. He [the shepherd] is more aware of what is in the interest of his flock and what can corrupt it. If he wishes he divides between them to safe-guard them, then he unites them once more so that it is secure from destruction and the fear posed by its enemy, in such a time as Allah permits, bringing it thereby safety from His place of safety and relief from Him. Upon you is to submit and to refer back to us and to await our affair and your affair and our relief and your relief. 
      The significance of these words of the Imam cannot be overstated. It reveals that the `Aimma would purposely teach different things to different Ashab aiming to purposely divide them. Elsewhere it is explained that they saw Madhhabic uniformity among their followers especially in rituals as being a distinctive marker that would make them a target. What the companions have to understand is that answering differently to different people is the prerogative of the Imam. No one can question this practice. What the companions have to do is submit fully to whatever they receive from the `Aimma and know that it has an explanation behind it for which the time is not ripe. All will be finally revealed when the time comes.
       
      However [if you do not submit wholly then], if our Riser were to rise and our Speaker speak and he recommences teaching you the Qur’an, the Laws of religion, the rulings and inheritance shares the way Allah revealed them to Muhammad the ‘people of insight’ among you will repudiate it on that day a bitter repudiation, then you will not remain steadfast upon the religion of Allah and his path except under the threat of the sword over your necks!
      If the companions cannot submit now, when they have lived through a chain of living Imams, then it augurs badly for the reaction of the self-appointed ‘people of insight’ who will be the first to line up against the One al-Sadiq calls ‘our Riser’ and alternatively ‘our Speaker’. When he comes back after a long period of occultation and recommences teaching them the religion as it is supposed to be the opposition to him from the Shia themselves be deafening! Those scholars who have cherished their dusty books will still cling to them even though the Imam who is the living embodiment of the Sharia is himself telling them otherwise.
       
      The people after the prophet of Allah were left to embark by Allah the same example as those who came before you, so they changed, altered, distorted, and added to the religion of Allah and reduced from it, consequently there is not a thing which the people are upon today [following] except that it is distorted when compared to that which was revealed from Allah. Respond then my Allah have mercy on you away from what you are calling for to what you are being called to, until comes the one who will renew the religion anew.
      Why did it have to come to this? This is the unfortunate consequence of the Umma betraying the will of the prophet. It has become utterly divided. Not having the correct leaders has meant that the authentic message of Muhammad has been irredeemably altered. There is not a single act of worship or belief that has been left un-corrupted because every middling scholar can peddle his interpretation. The temporal rulers are also more than happy to take advantage of the confusion and extend patronage to scholars whose interpretations were power friendly. The Imams themselves cannot openly propagate the actual version without repercussions.
       
      To be continued ...
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