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What Are You Reading Currently? [OFFICIAL THREAD]

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(bismillah)

 

(salam)

 

I've been meaning to read this one for a while now. What do you think of it so far?

 

Well worth the time, I'd say, and very nicely written, in easy language and clearly delineated characterisations of major players and important events to lay out the earliest divisions which later became full blown Shia-Sunni split.

 

The style is that of plotted storytelling, not told strictly chronologically, with emphasis on particular events through which the author builds the larger narrative. For example, the book starts with the infamous episode of the Affair of the Necklace, when the teenager Ayesha was accused of adultery by some men. Ali at that time suggested to the Prophet to divorce Ayesha to save his honour (or so the accounts go in history books).  The writer uses this event to set the scene for lifelong enmity between Ayesha and Ali and beefs up their story with more events as history unfolds later, pulling into the story other major characters such as her father Abu Bakr, Umer and later Talha, Zubayr, Muawiyah and other Banu Umayyah, and culminating in Ayesha's rebellion against Ali and the challenges the cunning of Muawiyah posed to Ali. 

 

Someone said it picks up the Sunni version of events. Sunnis say the opposite, ie, that it is too much pro-Shia in that the author makes repeated claim that the most natural successor to the Prophet was no other than Ali and Ali himself many a time made that clear to everyone, but did not rebel against the usurpers of caliphate for the sake of - in his own words - greater good of the nascent Islamic community.

 

The character of Ayesha is also painted in a negative light. She's depicted as bold and courageous but an impulsive and impertinent girl with a certain seductive charm as a teenager, and headstrong, vindictive and rebellious as a mature woman - the only wife who wanted all of Muhammad to himself, who hated the late Khajidah, Khadijah's daughter(s), and was generally jealous of other wives; someone who was not a good example of a good Muslim woman. The author also takes a dig at Uthman for his cronyism and the corruption of his governess and blames Uthman's men for taking things too far as to almost compel the rebels to attack the Caliphal Palace in Medina where they had set quarters for a long time, waiting for Uthman to listen to their grievances, and take action, in vain. And the writer is unforgiving towards Muawiya, whom she calls a Machiavellian politician and the one whose character would fit Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince many centuries later. This is far from picking Sunni line.

 

But it's true she doesn't set much store by the Shia claim that Ali was divinely appointed. Hazleton makes a remark in the book that Ali never made a clear, solid, unambiguous claim to that effect from the time of Thaqifa till the wars with Muawiyah, which renders Shia reading of the hadith of Khum weak. She is of the view that the Prophet did want Ali to be the caliph but since Islam was all about merit and egalitarianism, the Prophet was wary of making his wishes known for the fear of starting another dynastic rule. Even then, the most natural and practiced way of rulership in those times in Arabia was kinship, family ties, and the nobility of lineage, if not straight primogeniture, and in that context, Ali was the most natural and able successor.

 

The book also explains in detail what the author calls the staggering behaviour of some senior Companions - they ran for a meeting of elders to elect the successor when the body of the Prophet was still not yet buried and when his immediate family (Ali and other Banu Hashim) were still not available to take part in any proceedings to elect the successor. This, in the view of the author, renders the meeting of Thaqifa illegitimate.

 

Do keep in mind that the book casts a very secular and mundane view on the history of Shia-Sunni rift and does try to balance the claims of both camps through various possibilities of events and interpretations. In that, it's a neutral book. The botched attempts of Hassan and Hussain to lead the Ummah and reclaim their right to rule (as the Prophet's kin) are painted as desperation of Banu Hashim to find some importance in a Muslim community that had become almost oblivious to their existence.This was foolhardy since neither Hassan nor Hussain were statesmen or politicians or had any experience of politics when both in their turns found themselves leading a group of pro-Ali proto-Shias. In short, the writer holds that the children of Ali were bound to fail; they were great scholars and models of piety but unfit to rule. She also criticises Imam Hussain for letting himself be fooled by Kufan letters and for ignoring the warnings of some confidants on his way from Mecca to Kufa. He should have turned back, but he didn't.

 

I meant to write a few brief lines but ended up with almost a complete review, methinks :squeez:

Edited by Marbles

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Objections Sustained – Phillip E. Johnson

The primary purpose of the book was to analyse and evaluate the scientific validity of the Darwinian theory of evolution. Attention was also paid to the social implications of Darwinian evolution; particular focus was centred upon the monopolisation of the educational system by Darwinian evolutionist teachings and the detrimental effect this has upon the morals and spiritual health of communities who adhere to this philosophy. (NB: the utilisation of the word philosophy as opposed to theory, and in particular scientific theory, will become evident as the review of the book unfolds.)

 

First of all it is perhaps prudent to give a rough definition of the theory of Darwinian evolution. Darwinian evolution can be defined as a process whereby random genetic mutations lead to advantageous changes in physical characteristics. Those animals who have undergone favourable genetic mutations will be more likely to survive a given environment, hence, they will propagate themselves at a greater rate than the genetically less adapted animals and through this process those animals with favourable genes will tend to dominate a given population. To concretise this perhaps abstract concept imagine that a ground dwelling bird happens to undergo a genetic mutation that causes it to grow longer legs which in turn allow to it to run faster whilst hunting prey and whilst running from predators. Such a bird will be a favourable mate due to its adaptation, which will presumably allow it to consume more food and thus have a healthier and stronger body relative to shorter legged birds. Therefore, when Mrs Bird sees the strapping young Mr Long Legs she will fall for him, as will other Mrs Birds, and hence, the genes of Mr Long Legs will come to dominate the genetic pool of future generations.

 

Now, Mr Johnson does not deny that this is possible and in fact affirms the existence of this sort of evolution, however, it is an example of micro evolution (the definition of micro evolution is somewhat nebulous but perhaps we can term it as non-fundamental change, therefore, legs can grow longer, bulk may be added but a bird will remain a bird and will not for example evolve into a cat type animal. My terminology is not exactly scientific but I think you can grasp the fundamental point without the requirement of going into a hair-splitting consideration of animal taxonomy). The important thing to note is that this is micro-evolution and it is the only form of evolution that has ever been observed. So the question arises to what Darwinian evolution is.

 

Darwinian evolution is, according to Johnson, essentially a philosophical worldview that is predicated upon the extrapolation of observed microevolution into a theory of macroevolution i.e. basically it is an assertion that small-scale changes validate the ‘fact’ of large-scale changes. Now a problem arises as to precisely how these large scale changes come about, that is to say, by what processes can a relatively simple organism such as the first living organism (whatever that maybe, the Darwinists have yet to posit how life originated), evolve into the plethora of life that we observe today? This point is of critical importance to Johnson’s thesis that Darwinian evolution is in fact a philosophy and not a scientific theory and that point is that the process of natural selection is creatively impotent i.e. it is devoid of any ability to create genetic information, it can only “work” with what has existed from the beginning, and if what has existed from the beginning is very ‘simple’ organisms than it appears that the Darwinist is in a bit of pickle to explain how new genetic information arises. Furthermore, what were thought to be ‘simple organisms’ by Darwin and his cohorts e.g. single cells, have turned out to be highly complex and sophisticated. However, let us disregard that rather important unaddressed issue and grant that in fact natural selection is a process that is capable of explaining the existence of complex life forms from simple ones. Does this validate Darwinian evolution then? Johnson asserts that it does not.

 

The reason for this is that one of the main empirical implications of natural selection is the existence of a fossil record that shows an abundance of intermediate forms. Remember that natural selection is based upon a tenet that the animal species are the end products of a continuous and slow process of genetic mutation; hence, we should be able to see in the fossil record a whole bunch of fossils that display minor and gradual changes. However, the fossil record, according to Johnson, is unsupportive of the notion of gradual change and continuity. In fact, the fossil record tends to show sudden bursts of new life forms that are fundamentally different life forms. Reference is made to the so-called Cambrian explosion, a fossil record that shows a sudden explosion of a variety of invertebrates that have no fossilised precursors. This has led to some Neo-Darwinists such as Stephen Gould to abandon the notion of gradual natural and opt for a theory that better fits the fossil date (Gould posits a theory of punctuated equilibria that facilitates sudden and rapid change in given animals). Notwithstanding, this has caused a stink between evolutionists as some join the side of Gould, whilst others augment the ranks of traditional Darwinists such as Richard Dawkins. This theoretical bifurcation is not new however, as the division harkens back to the very founder of Darwinism, Charles Darwin himself and his most ferocious and ardent defender Thomas Huxley (who acquired the moniker of Darwin’s bulldog). The student and master also did not see eye to eye on the issue of natural selection and Huxley is said to have repudiated it. Notwithstanding, Huxley did not repudiate the theory of evolution as a whole and used it as a tool to bludgeon the Church clergy into submission.

 

Indeed, the fact that the Church was berated with the philosophical club of Darwinian evolution is a very telling clue as to why the theory of evolution remains so dominant, despite the apparent scientific chasms alluded to above. For a full understanding of this phenomena reference must be made to the analogy of Darwinian evolution as being akin to a blind watchmaker; a blind, purposeless and meaningless watchmaker. Now, the very essence of religion is teleology i.e. there is a creator and that creator has created is creation in a purposeful manner which is ultimately to serve and glorify Him. But, if we assume the position of Darwinian evolution then we must assume metaphysics of materialistic naturalism and this is a metaphysics that has crowded out any potential room for a transcendent creator. Thus, when Darwinian evolution is seen in the perspective of metaphysical materialism, which necessarily entails atheism, then it becomes rather clear that a concerted effort to eviscerate Allah out of any active role in the affairs of humanity is the main factor causing the inordinate promotion of the theory of Darwinian evolution. Therefore, the primary reason for the retention of Darwinian evolution is an ideological and philosophical one, not a scientific one. In fact, palaeontologists who are intimately aware of the fossil records and its incongruence with the process of natural selection are said to be holding onto the theory precisely due to the aforementioned ideological reasons.

 

If the tendency to affirm the belief in Darwinian evolution were isolated to the scientific intelligentsia it would perhaps pose a small risk the faith of young believers who attend public education institutions, however, the dangers these students face is that the educational policy formers are by enlarge adherents to Darwinian evolution and the curricula they formulate reflects this. Therefore, instead of public institutions being learning centres that are bereft of religious indoctrination they are in fact covertly educating young student with the atheistic religion of Darwinian evolution. One may vehemently disagree with the argument that Darwinian evolution is in fact a religion, however, Johnson claims that that is exactly what it is because it is unsubstantiated by scientific facts. Well if that is true than how can all the educational boards get away with implicitly indoctrinating young students with the religion of Darwinian evolution? The answer lies in the important distinction the materialists have made between objective and subjective knowledge. The former includes Darwinian evolution and the latter includes religious belief. Thus, there is an a sense a sort of epistemological elitism where objectivist naturalism is at the helm and subjective ‘religious’ knowledge is literally not allowed a foot in the door. This distinction boils down to the following rather terse but perhaps accurate summation: naturalistic scientific knowledge (code for Darwinian evolution) is the only acceptable creation theory, any other theory which remotely smacks of creationism is considered outside the scientific purview and thus unscientific. I am perhaps labouring this point too far but it is a crucial point to hammer home because it is the means by which Darwinism retains its sole supremacy as a creation ‘mythology.’

 

Another tactic that Johnson affirms is used by the Darwinists is to lump all the creationists together. This results in all creationist arguments being falsely subsumed under the umbrella of young earth creationism. Young earth creationism is seen as a particularly ridiculous theory among scientists, both astronomers and palaeontologists, who claim that the Earth is in fact billions, not thousands of years old. However, Johnson argues that the age of the Earth is not ultimately of concern; what is of integral concern is whether Allah created it or not because if there is a creator then this would imply purpose, meaning, and would be utterly antithetical to the Darwinian theory of evolution which posits that the watchmaker (the creator of the universe) is in fact ‘blind.’ The theist would of course retort and affirm that the watchmaker in fact has 20/20 vision. Nevertheless, both evolution and creationism come out as dogmatic, in the opinion of Johnson, if one were to attempt to validate either as scientific on the basis of naturalistic scientific analysis.

 

The two theories may be dogmatic but this dogmatism manifests in inordinately divergent ways from a philosophical, religious, ethical, moral, and metaphysical perspective. If one is to accept Darwinian evolution as true then it would literally lead to the total evisceration of morality and purpose, as the theists knows it, and it would do this in one fell swoop. The reason is that according to the materialist philosophy of evolution we are in fact nothing but meaningless bits of meat whose only goal is to propagate and hence morals, ethics, and purpose are nothing other than illusory concepts, however, if in fact they are illusory this would seem to imply that some sort of ‘reality or truth’ exists but to determine how one would allow for truth in a Darwinian materialist framework totally escapes my comprehension. This leads to another interesting epistemological conundrum for the Darwinists i.e. how can one affirm the truth and veracity of Darwinian evolution when in fact there is not such thing as truth in the Darwinian world? The answer is obviously that one cannot. Thus, some materialist philosophers do not even hold onto the veracity of Darwinian evolution and affirm that the only thing one should do is to hold firm to the method of the scientific enquiry. But hang on a second, is that in itself a value judgement, that is to say, to hold onto the method of scientific enquiry is in itself a prescriptive statement and thus external to the purview of the descriptive materialist epistemology. Therefore, we see that once again the materialist is ensnared in the same booby trap he thought he had laid for the non-naturalist. In fact it appears as though the creator has made it literally impossible for his creations, notably humans, to ignore the fact that there are certain truths that lie beyond the sensory world but I am not philosophically sophisticated enough to substantiate such a claim.

 

I pray to Allah that someone will find some benefit from this review and gain some knowledge from my meagre work. May Allah bless us all and may we continue to struggle to find our way to the truth.

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(bismillah)

 

(salam)

 

 

 

 

Thank you for the thorough review. I purchased a physical copy and I will be beginning it soon inshallah. 

 

Wasalam, your welcome, do review the book on here once you've finished the book, would like to hear your thoughts.

 

Meanwhile, curently, spurred by the death of Gabo Marquez, I am reading his magnum opus, the following novel

 

solit_zpse7a9de37.jpg

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

Translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa

 

First published 1967, in English 1970

 

 

And a history book which is:

 

chachnama_zps0f9f4870.jpg

 

The Chachnamah: An Ancient History of Sindh: Giving the Hindu Period Down to the Arab Conquest by Ali bin Hamid Al-Kufi, written 1216/17 CE

 

Translated from the Persian into English by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg, first published 1900 CE

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Hydraulics, by Horace King.

The problem with public domain technical books (or at least this one) is the lack of supplemental tables and figures. :squeez:

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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

Translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a true epic, a class act, a mind-altering story of modernity, love, war and sadness. I didn't think much of it when I was into 70 pages or so (out of 400+) but then this novel unfolded into a picaresque and episodic tale of the family of Buendias, and I was mesmerised by the time I was half way through, and couldn't rest till I gouged my eyes reading it through the loneliness of the nights.

 

Detailed review later, perhaps, but I must pay homage to Marquez for this work of beauty. Subhanallah.

 

Great books are always exhausting reads. So now by way of recuperation I am reading the following, a light thriller maiden novel from an ex-police officer from Pakistan. It's losely modelled on the abduction and eventual killing in Pakistan of Daniel Pearl, a reporter of Wall Street Journal.

prisoner_zps8e443876.jpg

 

The Prisoner by Omar Shahid Hamid

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

 

Man Booker prized novel, I got a discounted copy on a whim and then I was discouraged by its mammoth size. I should read it soon as the reviews are really good, but first I need to mentally transport myself to Tudor England.

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Man Booker prized novel, I got a discounted copy on a whim and then I was discouraged by its mammoth size. I should read it soon as the reviews are really good, but first I need to mentally transport myself to Tudor England.

Yes its size is quite daunting. I haven't read much but so far its really interesting

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