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In the Name of God بسم الله


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    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
      Using a decision theory framework, according to the Biblical account Abraham's decision-making is a direct response to a divine command, showcasing a hierarchical obedience. In contrast according to the Qur'anic version Ibrahim's decision-making involves communication and consensus, reflecting a more collaborative form of obedience.
      I was having a general chat with GPT4 about social science perspectives on the Qur'an and we ended up at a point where it seemed interesting to explore differences between Biblical and Qur'anic accounts of the same story and assess the implications using a social science framework. I am copy/pasting the prompt below, but taken out of the context of the conversation it may not make a lot of sense, but nevertheless the answer is meaningful enough.
      As ever take this as an example of an output from generative AI and material that needs verification and validation.
      Could you run an analysis on any story where the difference between the two versions is likely to lead to a different outcome?
      One story that has distinct variations between the Qur'anic and Biblical narratives is the story of Abraham (Ibrahim in Islam) and the sacrifice of his son. This story, often referred to as the Binding of Isaac in the Jewish and Christian traditions and the Sacrifice of Ishmael in the Islamic tradition, can offer different insights when viewed through a lens of obedience, trust, and testing of faith.
      1. Narrative Overview
      - Biblical Narrative (Genesis 22:1-19): 
        - God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.
        - Abraham obediently takes Isaac to the place of sacrifice without hesitation.
        - Right before Abraham is about to carry out the act, an angel of the Lord stops him.
        - A ram is provided for sacrifice instead.
      - Qur'anic Narrative (Surah As-Saffat [37:102-107]):
        - Ibrahim sees a vision of sacrificing his son (believed to be Ishmael in Islamic tradition).
        - He discusses the vision with his son, who willingly agrees to fulfill the divine vision.
        - Before the sacrifice, Allah ransoms the son with a great sacrifice (a ram).
      2. Analysis Framework - Trust and Obedience
      - Communication and Consensus:
        - Biblical: Abraham does not discuss the command with Isaac; the obedience is unilateral.
        - Qur'anic: Ibrahim discusses the vision with his son, reaching a mutual understanding and willingness to obey.
      - Divine Intervention:
        - Biblical: Divine intervention comes externally through an angel at the climax of the narrative.
        - Qur'anic: Divine intervention is suggested through the ransom, yet the mutual understanding between Ibrahim and his son reflects an internal resolution.
      - Trust:
        - Biblical: The trust is primarily between Abraham and God.
        - Qur'anic: Trust is twofold - between Ibrahim and Allah, and between Ibrahim and his son.
      3. Theoretical Lens - Decision Theory
      - Biblical: Abraham's decision-making is a direct response to a divine command, showcasing a hierarchical obedience.
      - Qur'anic: Ibrahim's decision-making involves communication and consensus, reflecting a more collaborative form of obedience.
      4. Implications and Insights
      - The distinct narrative elements might lead to different discussions or insights regarding the nature of obedience, trust, and divine testing.
      - The Qur'anic narrative might provide a basis for exploring collaborative decision-making and mutual trust in the face of divine testing.
      - The Biblical narrative might lead to discussions around hierarchical obedience and the nature of faith in adhering to divine commands without questioning.
      These variations between the two narratives could lead to different discussions and insights when analyzed through modern theoretical frameworks, thereby enriching the understanding and interpretations of these ancient texts in contemporary contexts.
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
      The conversation started in relation to the navigation thread, and the focus here is on immanence more broadly
      Thank you, I wanted to check the following. It is said that the notion of risk is immanent within the concept of trust because in order to demonstrate trust in someone you have to take a risk with them ...
      Are there any other pairs of concepts within the Qur'an that are more or less explicitly immanent within each other?
      The Qur'an frequently presents concepts in pairs or juxtapositions, where one concept is deeply intertwined with or immanent within the other. This relationship often helps in emphasizing a particular moral, spiritual, or existential lesson. Here are some pairs of concepts that demonstrate this immanence:
      1. **Belief and Righteous Action**: Faith in the unseen is often paired with righteous deeds. Belief is not just a mental or emotional state but is deeply intertwined with action. Righteous actions are the manifestation of true belief.
      2. **Life and Death**: The Qur'an frequently juxtaposes life and death to underscore the transient nature of worldly existence and the reality of the afterlife. The cycle of life and death is a reminder of resurrection and divine power.
      3. **Gratitude and Patience**: These are two fundamental virtues in the Qur'an. Gratitude in times of ease and plenty, and patience in times of hardship, are often mentioned together, emphasizing the believer's attitude in varying circumstances.
      4. **Worldly Life (Dunyā) and the Hereafter (Ākhirah)**: The temporal nature of this world is contrasted with the permanence of the hereafter. The attractions of this world are fleeting, while the hereafter is eternal.
      5. **Knowledge and Humility**: The more one knows, the more one realizes the vastness of the unknown. True knowledge leads to humility before God and His creation.
      6. **Mercy and Justice**: God's attributes of being the Most Merciful and Just are often mentioned together. They reflect the balance between compassion and accountability.
      7. **Loss and Gain**: The Qur'an speaks of the soul that is at loss and contrasts it with those who believe and do good works. The temporal losses of this world are set against the eternal gains of the hereafter.
      8. **Fear and Hope**: Believers are often encouraged to approach God with a balance of fear (of His justice) and hope (in His mercy).
      9. **Creation and Command**: The Qur'an frequently mentions God's creative power and His command or decree, emphasizing both His might and authority.
      10. **Signs Within and Without**: The Qur'an speaks of signs (āyāt) both in the external world and within ourselves, pointing to the divine.
      These pairs demonstrate the Qur'anic method of teaching through contrasts and relationships. The interconnectedness of these concepts serves to provide a holistic understanding of existence, morality, and spirituality.
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
      Ships are an interesting phenomenon that are referred to in the Qur'an on a number of different occasions. For the Arabs at the time of revelation they would likely have been considered as an object that people made and used. The Qur'an points out that the source of the innovation is God and that they are an example of His Mercy. My belief as a layperson is that this supports the contention that Islam is supportive of product innovation. Once we start talking about ships an associated construct - 'navigation' immediately arises. This is interesting because God explicitly refers to the tools necessary for navigation (stars) also being an example of His mercy. So not only do we have a product that He created for us, but also the knowledge and supporting resources necessary to use it. Worth noting is that these resources were created millions/billions of years and light years apart. The words used for knowledge also subsume notions of both navigation in a physical sense and also a metaphorical or spiritual sense. Finally all of this points towards our dominion over nature and the vocabulary used for this involves man needing to be grateful to God for this provision. Introduction
      This originally started off as a reply to @Northwest and as I dug deeper opened up new and interesting areas of enquiry. So the first post here is the reply to Northwest and it should make sense even when taken out of the context of the thread, though I also provide some background.
      The replies to the first post (below) go deeper into the issue of knowledge/epistemology and naval navigation - fascinatingly that area of enquiry yields results. 
      The thread in which the following material appeared was to do with technological innovation. My contention was that the Qur'an not only accepts this, but puts it in a positive light. In order to support this claim I made reference to the Qur'anic story about Prophet Daoud's (عليه السلام). chain mail. I also pointed out how the Qur'an points out the moral/ethical burden of such technological development.
      But this example was considered too specific and singular to be adequate. My challenge therefore was to come up with references to technology and innovation in the Qur'an that were more widespread and hence the material that appears below.
      The initial post
      You've stimulated me to bring together something which I had noticed but never addressed or thought to bring together - the numerous but disparate references to ships in the Qur'an. As per my usual format of showing conversations with chatGPT, my prompts are in bold red and its answers are in regular black text.
      I think it's reasonable to argue that ships per se are not the kind of innovation that Prophet's Yusuf and Nut ((عليه السلام).) brought i.e. to avert calamity and nor are they innovations for use at a specific point in time which applies to those two Prophets' innovations and that of Prophet Daoud ((عليه السلام).)
      Rather the creation of ships is not tied to a specific time or situation and nor indeed is is specifically tried to human survival in an acute sense.
      More than this of all the innovations we could be talking about ships are actually quite profound in terms of the social and economic impact they have e.g. in terms of migratory flows of people, encouragement of specialisation in terms of means of production and so on. Obviously they also present challenges in terms of movements of goods that have cultural baggage attached and the obvious impact of international competition and so on.
      My inference here is as a layperson and not a theologian, but if there is one innovation that points to Divine encouragement of human societal sophistication and complexity, this is it.
      What are all references in the Qur'an to ships?
      In a material sense ships are the product of human innovation, but clearly that human inspiration is God given and as the Qur'an says it's a sign of His mercy and something which enables us to prevail over nature.
      1. Surah Al-Baqarah (2:164): 
          - "Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, the alternation of the night and the day, the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason."
      2. Surah Ya-Sin (36:41-42):
          - "And a sign for them is that We carried their forefathers in a laden ship. And We created for them from the likes of it that which they ride."
      3. Surah Az-Zukhruf (43:12-14):
          - "And who created the species, all of them, and has made for you of ships and animals those which you mount. That you may settle yourselves upon their backs and then remember the favor of your Lord when you have settled upon them and say. 'Exalted is He who has subjected this to us, and we could not have [otherwise] subdued it.'"
      4. Surah Al-Jathiya (45:12):
          - "Allah is the one who subjected the sea for you so that ships may sail through it by His command and that you may seek of His bounty, and perhaps you will be grateful."
      5. Surah Al-Isra (17:66):
          - "Your Lord is the One who drives for you the ship in the sea so that you may seek of His bounty. He is indeed Most Merciful to you."
      6. Surah An-Nahl (16:14):
          - "And it is He who subjected the sea for you to eat from it tender meat and to extract from it ornaments which you wear. And you see the ships plowing through it, and [He subjected it] that you may seek of His bounty, and perhaps you will be grateful."
      7. Surah Ar-Rum (30:46):
          - "And among His Signs is this, that He sends the winds as glad tidings, giving you a taste of His Mercy, and that the ships may sail by His Command and that you may seek of His Bounty, in order that you may be thankful."
      8. Surah Al-Furqan (25:53):
          - "And it is He who has released [simultaneously] the two seas, one fresh and sweet and one salty and bitter, and He placed between them a barrier and prohibiting partition."
      Are there any roots that commonly appear in association with ships?
      In the Qur'an, the primary root associated with ships is {ف-ل-ك} (F-L-K). The derived word "فُلْك" (fulk) specifically means "ship" or "vessel." 
      Let's look at the occurrences of this root in the context of ships and check for any other roots that consistently appear in close proximity to it:
      1. Surah Al-Baqarah (2:164): The verse mentions ships as "الْفُلْكِ الَّتِي تَجْرِي فِي الْبَحْرِ" (the ships which sail through the sea).
      2. Surah Ya-Sin (36:41-42): The term "الْفُلْكِ" (the ships) is used to signify the ships that sail, carrying their passengers.
      3. Surah Al-Isra (17:66): The verse mentions "الْفُلْكِ" (the ship) that sails in the sea.
      4. Surah An-Nahl (16:14): Here, the ships are referred to as "الْفُلْكَ" (the ships) that move through the sea.
      5. Surah Ghafir (40:79-80): The verses mention "الْفُلْكِ" (the ships) as a means of transport on both land (referring to animals) and sea.
      6. Surah Ash-Shura (42:32-33): Ships, "الْفُلْكِ", are mentioned in the context of signs of God's power and mercy.
      Looking at these verses and their contexts, ships (fulk) are often mentioned in relation to:
      - The sea {ب-ح-ر}  - B-H-R
      - Sailing or traveling {ج-ر-ي} - J-R-Y
      - Signs of God's mercy and creation {آيات} - Ā-Y-T
      Thus, while the primary root associated with ships is {ف-ل-ك} (F-L-K), it frequently appears in the context of the sea, travel, and divine signs.
      Going back to your preceding answer, for each instance of the occurrence of f-l-k can you tabulate where a-y-t appears please?

    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
      This was an interesting exercise. My initial prompts encouraged gpt4 to focus on the English word 'loss' in the initial root analysis that it did. I had to reset the analysis to focus on the relationship between Arabic words.
      Summary (partial, a reply to this post will contain the second set of analysis and associated summary)
      In essence, the interconnectedness of these roots F-Q-D, D-N-Y, and ‘-Q-L in the Qur'an underscores the idea that an excessive focus on the worldly life, especially without the proper use of intellect, can lead to various forms of "loss"—whether it's the loss of guidance, understanding, or eternal rewards in the Hereafter. In essence, the interplay between {T-B-'}  and {‘-Q-L}  in the Qur'an serves as a reminder of the dangers of blind following and the significance of informed, intellectual engagement in one's choices and actions. Thus, the directed graph's relationships reinforce the narrative's interconnectedness, where the soul (N-F-S) plays a pivotal role in connecting the concept of "loss" (Kh-S-R) with "truth" (H-Q-Q). The soul becomes the focal point through which the implications of one's relationship with the truth are realized, leading to either guidance and success or misguidance and loss.
      Please do a semantic field analysis for roots related to the notion of 'loss' in the Qur'an.
      The notion of "loss" in the Qur'an can be encapsulated by multiple Arabic roots that convey different shades of this concept. Let's identify the main Arabic roots related to the idea of loss and then conduct a semantic field analysis for them:
      1. خ-س-ر (Kh-S-R): This root primarily means "loss" or "to be in a state of loss." The most famous occurrence of this root is in Surah Al-Asr (103:2) where Allah swears by time and states that "Indeed, mankind is in loss."
      2. ض-ل-ل (Dh-L-L): This root pertains to "going astray" or "misguidance," which can be seen as a form of spiritual loss.
      3. غ-ي-ر (Gh-Y-R): This root can mean "to change" or "alter," and in some contexts, it implies a negative change or deviation, leading to loss.
      4. ف-ق-د (F-Q-D): This root denotes the meaning of "missing" or "losing something."
      5. ت-ب-ع (T-B-' ): While it primarily means "to follow," in some contexts, it implies following misguided paths, leading to loss.

      Thank you this is really helpful. Could you please talk me through the relationship between f-q-d, d-n-y and '-q-l ?
      Certainly! Let's delve into the relationships between the roots {ف-ق-د (F-Q-D) د-ن-ي-ا (D-N-Y), and {ع-ق-ل (‘-Q-L)
      1. **ف-ق-د (F-Q-D)**: 
         - Meaning: This root primarily conveys the idea of "missing," "losing something," or "lack."
         - Qur'anic Context: It's often used in the Qur'an to describe the absence or loss of something valuable, whether tangible (like property) or intangible (like guidance).
      2. **د-ن-ي-ا (D-N-Y)**:
         - Meaning: This root refers to the worldly life, the life of this immediate world as opposed to the Hereafter.
         - Qur'anic Context: The Qur'an frequently contrasts the transient and deceptive nature of the worldly life (Dunya) with the eternal and real life of the Hereafter. The worldly life is often portrayed as fleeting, temporary, and something that can lead one to "loss" if it becomes the sole focus at the expense of the Hereafter.
      3. **ع-ق-ل (‘-Q-L)**:
         - Meaning: This root is related to "intellect," "reason," or "understanding."
         - Qur'anic Context: The Qur'an emphasizes the use of intellect and reason to understand and reflect upon its signs. Those who do not use their intellect are often described as being at a loss or astray.
      - F-Q-D and D-N-Y: The relationship between these two roots can be seen in the context of humans being engrossed in the worldly life and consequently "losing" sight of the more important aspects of existence, such as spiritual growth and preparation for the Hereafter. The idea is that an excessive focus on the Dunya can lead to a "loss" in the broader, eternal scheme of things.
      - F-Q-D and ‘-Q-L: The Qur'an emphasizes that those who do not use their intellect ('Aql) might "lose" guidance or be at a disadvantage. Not employing one's reasoning capabilities can lead to a lack of understanding, misguidance, or loss of valuable insights.
      - D-N-Y and ‘-Q-L: The Qur'an encourages believers to use their intellect to reflect upon the transient nature of the worldly life and recognize the eternal reality of the Hereafter. Those who are overly attached to the Dunya, without using their intellect to understand its temporary nature, may be led astray.
      In essence, the interconnectedness of these roots in the Qur'an underscores the idea that an excessive focus on the worldly life, especially without the proper use of intellect, can lead to various forms of "loss"—whether it's the loss of guidance, understanding, or eternal rewards in the Hereafter.
      Certainly, taking the directed graph's relationships into account, the narrative would evolve as follows:
      1. **خ-س-ر (Kh-S-R) and ن-ف-س (N-F-S)**: 
         - The direct relationship between "loss" and "self/soul" in the Qur'an emphasizes the individual responsibility and consequences one's actions have on their soul. When the Qur'an discusses loss, it often frames it in terms of the soul's well-being or detriment. An individual's deeds, beliefs, or choices in this life can lead to their soul's loss in the Hereafter. This relationship underscores the idea that the ultimate loss is not necessarily material or worldly but spiritual and eternal.
      2. **ن-ف-س (N-F-S) and ح-ق-ق (H-Q-Q)**:
         - The soul's state is intrinsically tied to recognizing and adhering to the truth. When an individual aligns their soul with the truth, they achieve spiritual clarity, guidance, and success. Conversely, denying the truth or turning away from it can lead to the soul's detriment. The relationship between the soul and truth in the Qur'an suggests that one's spiritual well-being is deeply connected to their relationship with the truth.
      3. **خ-س-ر (Kh-S-R) and ح-ق-ق (H-Q-Q)**:
         - Even though the direct link between "loss" and "truth" is through the "soul" in the graph, the broader narrative still stands. Those who deny or turn away from the truth are described as being at a loss. Recognizing and adhering to the truth is portrayed as a means to avoid loss, especially in the eternal sense. The soul (N-F-S) serves as the bridge or medium through which this relationship manifests, as it's the soul that experiences the consequences of recognizing or denying the truth.
      Thus, the directed graph's relationships reinforce the narrative's interconnectedness, where the soul (N-F-S) plays a pivotal role in connecting the concept of "loss" (Kh-S-R) with "truth" (H-Q-Q). The soul becomes the focal point through which the implications of one's relationship with the truth are realized, leading to either guidance and success or misguidance and loss.
      What other roots are associated with these (and the nature of their relationship with notions of loss) and which could be added to the direct graph?
      To expand on the concept of "loss" in the Qur'an and its related Arabic roots, we can consider several other roots that convey nuances related to loss or have contextual relationships with the roots already identified. Some of these roots include:
      1. ب-ع-د (B-'-D): Meaning "distance" or "to be far." In a metaphorical sense, it can refer to being far from the truth or guidance, which is a form of spiritual loss.
      2. ن-س-ي (N-S-Y): Meaning "to forget." Forgetting divine guidance or obligations can be perceived as a loss.
      3. ظ-ل-م (Zh-L-M): Translates to "injustice" or "wrongdoing." Committing injustices can lead to both worldly and spiritual loss.
      4. س-ل-ب (S-L-B): Meaning "to deprive" or "to take away." It directly relates to the concept of loss as it indicates the act of losing something.
      5. ح-ر-م (H-R-M): Meaning "to prohibit" or "to deprive." Being prohibited from blessings or guidance can be seen as a form of loss.
      6. ر-ب-ح (R-B-H): Meaning "profit" or "gain." This is antithetical to loss, but understanding profit in the Qur'an often requires understanding its opposite, loss.
      This is great, thank you. And the t-b-' root link with '-q-l please?
      Certainly! Let's explore the relationship between the roots {ت-ب-ع (T-B-')}  and {ع-ق-ل (‘-Q-L)} :
      1. ت-ب-ع (T-B-'):
         - Meaning: This root primarily conveys the idea of "following" or "pursuing." It can refer to following a path, a way of life, a leader, or even a set of beliefs or desires.
         - Qur'anic Context: It's often used in the Qur'an to describe those who follow a particular path—whether it's the path of guidance and righteousness or the path of misguidance and error. The root can also refer to following desires, whims, or societal norms without proper discernment.
      2. ع-ق-ل (‘-Q-L):
         - Meaning: This root is related to "intellect," "reason," or "understanding."
         - Qur'anic Context: As previously mentioned, the Qur'an places significant emphasis on the use of intellect and reason to understand and reflect upon its signs and guidance. The intellect is considered a critical tool for discerning truth from falsehood.
      Relationship between T-B-' and ‘-Q-L:
      - The Qur'an frequently highlights the importance of using one's intellect ('Aql) in choosing whom or what to follow. Blindly following (T-B-') leaders, societal norms, or desires without engaging one's intellect can lead to misguidance and deviation from the right path.
      - There are instances in the Qur'an where those who follow their desires or societal pressures without critical thinking are described as not using their intellect. Such individuals are admonished for "following" without proper "understanding" or discernment.
      - The relationship between these roots underscores the Qur'anic emphasis on the importance of intellectual engagement in decision-making processes. Instead of blindly adhering to a path, tradition, or leader, believers are encouraged to use their reasoning capabilities to ensure they are following the truth and aligning with divine guidance.
      In essence, the interplay between {T-B-'}  and {‘-Q-L}  in the Qur'an serves as a reminder of the dangers of blind following and the significance of informed, intellectual engagement in one's choices and actions.
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
      [This was originally written on November 25 2017 and was updated on Sept 13 2023, to include the graphic, headings and a 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.
      There's an interesting piece about AI and robots in today's London Guardian:
      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.
      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.
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
      A previous blog post, that I had written by myself) on this subject disappeared after it was posted. So here is another attempt, but this time I have resorted to posting a conversation with GPT4, pursuing lines of thought that had motivated the previous post. So usual caveats apply i.e. the references it gives etc. do need to be checked for accuracy.
      Please give some examples of the usage of the word 'measure' as used in English translations of the Qur'an.
      Sure, I can provide some examples from well-known English translations of the Qur'an that feature the concept of 'measure'. However, please remember that translations can vary based on the translator's understanding and interpretation. Here are a few examples:
      In the context of divine creation: In Surah Al-Furqan (25:2), the concept of 'measure' is used to describe the precision and orderliness of God's creation: "He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and who has not taken a son and has not had a partner in dominion and has created each thing and determined it with [precise] determination." In the context of sustenance and livelihood: In Surah Al-Isra (17:30), it is said that God provides for whom He wills in measured amounts: "Indeed, your Lord extends provision for whom He wills and restricts [it]. Indeed He is ever, concerning His servants, Acquainted and Seeing." In the context of time and life: In Surah Al-Insan (76:3), the term 'measure' is used to refer to the predetermined life span of every individual: "Indeed, We created man from a sperm-drop mixture that We may try him; and We made him hearing and seeing." In the context of moral and ethical standards: In Surah Al-Mutaffifin (83:1-3), those who give less than due when they measure or weigh for people are condemned: "Woe to those who give less [than due], Who, when they take a measure from people, take in full. But if they give by measure or by weight to them, they cause loss." These are just a few examples to illustrate how the concept of 'measure' is used in the Qur'an. It's a multi-faceted term with different implications depending on the context.
      Please expand on the references to the notion of measurement when applied to moral and ethical standards.
      The Qur'an, as the central religious text of Islam, contains numerous references to moral and ethical standards. These standards are often articulated in terms of measures, weights, balances, scales, or equivalents, metaphors that imply fairness, justice, and equity.
      Here are some instances where the notion of measurement is applied to moral and ethical standards:
      Fair dealings and honesty in transactions: In Surah Al-Mutaffifin (83:1-3), it is emphasized that people should be fair and honest in their transactions. The word 'measure' is used metaphorically to represent the moral standard for economic transactions. Those who cheat or give less than due when they measure or weigh for others are condemned. The recompense of deeds: The metaphor of scales or balance is often used in the context of judgment in the Hereafter. In Surah Al-Qari'ah (101:6-9), it is mentioned that on the Day of Judgement, people's deeds will be weighed, and those whose scale of good deeds is heavy will be successful, while those whose scale is light will have lost their souls. Here, 'measure' is used to metaphorically represent the weight of a person's good and bad deeds. Justice: Justice is a key value in Islamic ethics. The Qur'an urges believers to uphold justice, even against themselves or their kin. In Surah An-Nisa (4:135), it states, "O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives." Here, the notion of 'measure' is inherent in the concept of justice, implying fairness and impartiality. Equitable treatment and reciprocity: In Surah Al-Baqarah (2:279), the Qur'an provides guidance about dealing with debts and emphasizes the importance of writing down the amount borrowed to ensure fairness and prevent disputes. This is a metaphorical use of 'measure', representing clear and fair dealings in social and economic transactions. These examples demonstrate how the Qur'an uses the concept of 'measure' to prescribe moral and ethical standards for individuals and societies. The consistent theme is a call for fairness, justice, and honesty in all dealings.
      Please expand on the issue of measurement where the references are to do with fair dealings and honesty in transactions.
      In the Qur'an, the concept of fair dealings and honesty, especially in business transactions, is heavily emphasized. The term 'measure' is often used as a metaphor to reinforce this principle. Here are some key examples:
      Surah Al-Mutaffifin (Defrauding; 83:1-3): "Woe to those who give less [than due], who when they take a measure from people, take in full. But if they give by measure or by weight to them, they cause loss." These verses clearly condemn dishonest business practices, specifically those involving shortchanging or defrauding others in measurements or weights.  Surah Al-An'am (The Cattle; 6:152): "And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance. That is the best [way] and best in result." This verse underscores the importance of giving full measure and maintaining a balanced weight, both literally in commerce and metaphorically in all dealings. Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey; 17:35): "And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance. That is the best [way] and best in result." This verse is a near-repetition of the one in Surah Al-An'am, further emphasizing the importance of honest measurements and dealings. Surah Hud (11:84-85): "And O my people, give full measure and weight in justice and do not deprive the people of their due and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption." These verses were spoken by the prophet Shu'aib, admonishing his people to act justly in their business transactions and warning them against spreading corruption. These verses underscore the Qur'anic emphasis on integrity, honesty, and fairness in business transactions. From a broader perspective, these principles can be seen as fundamental to the Islamic concept of 'Adl (justice) and Ihsan (doing what is good and right). This includes upholding trust (Amanah), being truthful (Sidq), and avoiding deceit and corruption. Such principles are seen as crucial for maintaining social harmony and economic justice in society.
      You used the word metaphorically in your last answer. Can you please expand on the notion of how measurement refers in the Qur'an on a more metaphorical basis in the context of dealings?
      In the Qur'an, the concept of measurement is often used metaphorically to convey deeper moral and ethical lessons. When applied to the context of dealings, especially in business transactions, the 'measure' becomes a symbol of integrity, fairness, and justice. 
      Symbol of integrity: When the Qur'an instructs to give full measure, it's not just about the literal physical measure in transactions, but also about being fully truthful and transparent in all aspects of life. For example, when you promise something, you should fulfill it completely, not partially or deceitfully. Indicator of fairness: The measure in the Qur'an often symbolizes fairness. When it instructs to give full measure, it's urging fairness not just in transactions, but in all interactions with others. This includes treating others with respect, not taking advantage of others, and giving everyone their due rights. Representation of justice: The Qur'anic emphasis on accurate measurement can be seen as a metaphor for justice. Just as you wouldn't want to be cheated out of a full measure in a transaction, you should not cheat others out of their rights. This concept extends to social justice, implying that everyone should get their fair share of society's resources and opportunities. A signifier of balance: The Qur'an often pairs the concept of measure with balance, especially in the context of dealings. This can be interpreted metaphorically as a call for balance in all aspects of life, including personal conduct, social relationships, and economic activities. This balance is crucial in maintaining harmony and preventing exploitation or excess. These metaphorical interpretations of 'measure' highlight the depth of Qur'anic teachings, where simple instructions carry profound moral and ethical implications. It's a reminder that the principles of integrity, fairness, justice, and balance should permeate every aspect of a person's life, from business transactions to personal relationships and societal interactions.
      Can you give references to any commentators who have written about these metaphorical uses of measurement in the Qur'an, quotations from their works would be useful.
      Islamic scholars and commentators have indeed explored the metaphorical aspects of the Qur'an's teachings on measurement, particularly in the context of ethics, justice, and societal dealings. While I don't have direct quotations available, I can provide an overview of these interpretations based on various well-known exegeses (Tafsir). 
      Tafsir Ibn Kathir: Ibn Kathir, a renowned medieval scholar, in his commentary on Surah Al-Mutaffifin (Defrauding; 83:1-3), explains the metaphor of measurement in terms of fairness and honesty in transactions, and extends this to mean fairness and honesty in all aspects of life. Tafsir Al-Jalalayn: The two Jalals, Jalaluddin Al-Mahalli and Jalaluddin As-Suyuti, in their Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, provide succinct interpretations of the Qur'an. Regarding verses about measurement, they stress the importance of justice and integrity, interpreting these metaphors in both a literal and ethical sense. Tafsir Al-Tabari: Al-Tabari, a prominent early Islamic scholar, interpreted the verses related to 'measure' as moral and ethical guidelines applicable to all aspects of life, not just business transactions. His interpretation also highlights the repercussions of dishonesty and deceit. Tafsir Al-Qurtubi: Al-Qurtubi, known for his emphasis on the practical and legal implications of the Qur'an, interpreted the verses about measurement and balance as guidelines for just dealings and the establishment of a fair society. For direct quotations and a more in-depth understanding, I would recommend consulting the mentioned Tafsirs or commentaries. They are widely available in various languages, including English. 
      Remember, interpretation of religious texts can be complex and subjective, and different scholars may have different interpretations of the same verses. For a nuanced understanding, it's important to consider the historical context, the entirety of the Qur'an, Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), and scholarly interpretations.
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
      [This blog was first written in 2018 and has been updated]
      A vegan professor writes
      The vegan position in a nutshell
      Raising animals to be eaten is cruel Killing animals prematurely is cruel And there are environmental issues as well My counter-vegan proposition
      The cruelty arises in terms of how the animals are raised - there can be humane methods Giving an animal some reasonable life (albeit shorter than its natural lifespan) is better than it not being born at all What should people who care about animals do?
      Vegans believe that not eating any meat at all is the solution. It isn't. The solution would surely be that they should eat meat, but that which is raised to the highest welfare standards. It would obviously be preposterously expensive - but that's the whole point. 
      The most ethical position regarding meat consumption, in my opinion, is not avoiding it altogether. It is eating it as an occasional treat.
      If that were the position of those who claim to love animals, there would be more focus on raising different breeds of livestock - which would be better for environmental / genetic diversity and varieties of flavoursome food.
      Unintended consequences
      The unintended consequence of veganism is that money that would otherwise be spent on high-welfare meat production is taken out of the equation and isn't spent rewarding those farmers who would prefer to raise high-welfare animals.
      People who claim to love animals make an economic choice which means that animals are not bred for food and therefore have no life at all.
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