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31 December, 2013

One Grand Retraction

Writing it out, that has been my way of organizing my thoughts. I have been doing that for over a decade now. I have been writing for magazines, newspapers, websites and blogs, until recently, when I abruptly stopped. My primary objective has always been to make sense of my life and help people in making sense of their lives. It was not just writing. I have been delivering lectures, teaching books, making videos, developing software, compiling poems, debating, counselling, writing emails etc. I was deeply involved and ecstatic.

At the back end of this enormous output was a very immersive effort. I was deep diving into books, listening to lectures, attending seminars, watching documentaries, contemplating and praying. I have been sincere. Although, I have been very equivocal of what I believed to be right, I have always been critical of my own views. I have retracted several times. I have never been shy of saying ‘I was wrong’. And yet again I want to do the same: ‘I was wrong’. You might have applauded the spirit in my writing, the choice of my words, the clarity of my argument, but many a times ‘I was wrong’. You might have distributed it further, you might have given me a prize for it but many a times ‘I was wrong’. Hence, I save myself the pain of revisiting what I’ve said on any digital or non-digital forum and writing individual retractions to them, I am making do with this one grand retraction.

“There’s more to life than happiness”; for those born in religious societies, this very basic lesson is being taught from early childhood. Unfortunately, this message is appended with a very narrow understanding of what is ‘more’ to life than happiness. A very confined, restricted and unamendable understanding of salvation is indoctrinated into kids from early childhood. Along-side, a very static and stringent moral code is also injected. Critical questioning is given a death blow by discouraging, and stigmatizing it. To question the ‘ultimate truths’ is presented as one humungous sin. So, I religiously adopted the scheme of salvation that was injected into me paternally, socially and culturally, without any need to critically look beyond what is being indoctrinated. I was a blind follower. I subscribed to the long list of ‘moral laws’ presented to me by ‘arguments of authority’.
Then I started challenging what was told to me as ‘ultimate truth’. I realized there are hundreds of versions of ‘truth’ being broadcasted out there with the same amplitude and I could not gulp the fact that I was ‘born lucky’ on the one true path. Then it was a long struggle to find out which version of truth was right. I accepted, tried and rejected several versions of truth. But, I never was able to fully break out of the ‘filter bubbles’. I was ever-changing, but always in quest for a long list of ‘ultimate truths’. With every version of truth that I accepted I was always convinced that I had hit the jackpot of true path to salvation.

I have been precariously zealous; always eager to get the message across and convey what I thought to be right. And after every intellectual jump I was struck by grave regret on what I had been transmitting with so much passion. And when the same thing happened over and over again, I was forced to take a step backward and contemplate. I realized there was something fundamentally wrong with my approach. It was far too narrow. I was looking for a truth that was absolute, static and fully-told. What if truth had never been fully told? What if there were versions and facets of truth still to be explored? May be it’s in the very nature of reality, that it can never be fully-told.

This idea melted all my rigidity and transmuted my constricted understanding of reality. This realization led me on the most treacherous of journeys; the journey of radical doubt, maybe that’s what, makes it holy.  It was no easy leap; it was a leap of faith into restlessness of reason. And I took my time to unlearn the truths that I had absorbed. I took my time to uncondition myself of cultural and social learnings and habituations. Now, that I feel free, I can truly empathize and philosophize. For me 2013 has been about these two words. And I plan to carry on this quest to submerge into versions of truth that have been already told and understand the dynamics of truth. I plan to enhance my ability to empathize with another soul, which requires enormous learning; learning of human mind, human instincts, human conditioning, human body and many more. But, before I go farther from the shore, where I fail to recognize what I was, I wanted to put out this grand retraction, so I can truly make a fresh start.


Note: A little apology to all those who have been sending me emails regarding religious OCD and other related issues. I was not able to reply, I clearly have been quite busy in my mind, as you can see. I plan to be back in February 2014 in a much more organized way. 

08 August, 2013

Muting the Question of Salvation

Salvation, the core question in the ancient religious and non-religious philosophies, was insentiently muted by modern philosophies. Central entities in moral philosophies of the past; cosmos, divine and God, were supplanted by individual conscience in modern philosophy.  Modern philosophy revolutionized the meaning of virtue, and understanding of morality, and left no room for ancient aristocratic views of the stoics, but it left very little room for discussion on salvation. God has been discussed only in the practical context, as in Critique of Pure Reason by Kant, and there is little or no discussion on after-life or death. Modern efforts in philosophizing have reflexively suspended the discourse on overcoming ones primitive fears. Philosophy became a discussion on ethical and moral laws, and has favored the democratic order and peaceful co-existence, but failed to provide any answers to the question of salvation; as Luc Ferry puts:

“Ethical principles, however precious they may be, have no purchase whatsoever on the great existential questions that were formerly taken care of by the doctrines of salvation” (Luc Ferry, 2011: 134)

10 July, 2013

The One Line Preface



Its 610 AC, a man named Muhammad, in the deserts of Arabia claimed to have received a revelation from God. He calls people to that revelation. The revelation continued for 23 years, and it was named as the Quran (the recitation). The revelation was powerful. Now, there are 1.6 billion Muslims on the globe, representing 23 percentage of the world’s population [1], all of them accept Quran to be the verbatim word of God.

After the opening prayer, Quran begins with these lines:

alif-lam-meem
dhālika
l-kitābu
rayba
fīhi
hudan
lil'muttaqīna
Alif Laam Meem

That
(is) the book
no
doubt
in it,
a Guidance
For the Muttaqeen

It may be read as:

-          Alif Laaf meem. That is the book, no doubt. In it, a guidance, for the Muttaqeen.

-          Alif Laaf meem. That is the book; wherein there is no doubt. A guidance, for the Muttaqeen.

P.F. Collier who studies prefaces and prologues of various classics, writes:

“ No part of a book is so intimate as the Preface. Here, after the long labor of the work is over, the author descends from his platform, and speaks with his reader as man to man, disclosing his hopes and fears, seeking sympathy for his difficulties, offering defence or defiance, according to his temper, against the criticisms which he anticipates. It thus happens that a personality which has been veiled by a formal method throughout many chapters, is suddenly seen face to face in the Preface.” [2]


The preface of Quran is unique:

Firstly, the preface was not revealed/ written after the long labor of work. Quran was not revealed in the order of recitation/reading. Quran was revealed in parts, in thousands of fragments, over a period of 23 years, with information on where the particular revelation was to be placed once the Quran takes the form of book. This one line preface was revealed, in rather early days of revelation.

Secondly, the author does not descend from his platform; rather there is grandiosity to the very first words: Alif-Laam-Meem.  The author of the Quran begins with three disjointed letters of Arabic language. Some understand them to be an abbreviation. Some deem them to be acronym. Some speculate that the words numerical values have some hidden meaning. Some believe that these letters are author’s signature that contains a hidden numeric code that runs throughout the Quran. Similar disjointed letters appear before several chapters of Quran. So, the author does not break down his efforts into easy wordings and give readers comfort that this reading is going to be an enjoyable ride. Rather, the message seems opposite. The author is showing the reader that there are things beyond their comprehension. He is not starting with the easy lessons first, but he is starting with the basic lesson first that no matter how hard you try, there will be secrets in this book hidden from your eyes and intellect. You will never fully unravel the mysteries that this book contains. There will always remain an element of unknown, a tinge of mystery to what this book has to say. 

Thirdly, the author does not disclose any hopes or fears. The author does not seek any sympathy for his difficulties. The author says plainly ‘This is the book; there is no doubt in this (information)’ and ‘this is the book, wherein is no doubt’. The author makes the bluntest statement and in doing so shows his supreme command over the language. The author does not reveal/ write any punctuation marks, and engages you in the effort of choosing your pauses. Quran does not declare the need for you to select any one of the meaning that may be derived with various pauses, rather it leaves it to your rationality to decode the massive meanings hidden in one sentences; meanings that multiply with punctuation marks. So, Quran is saying it is a fact, that this is the book (Al-Kitaab), and leaves it there. It does not say outright, what that book is. As you read the Quran, you find numerous references to the book (Al-Kitaab) and when I combine all those references, I feel Quran giving me an image of a collection of books, a bible containing all the testaments, a collection of all that was revealed to human kind from God. And, all that has been revealed, Quran says, are not assumptions, theories, hypotheses, conjectures but are facts and truths. Quran touches the subjects of science, biology, physics, meta-physics, history, pre-history along with many others, and yet, the author of the Quran claims that there is nothing in this book has any element of doubt. 

Fourthly, the author does not bind himself to any stringent methodology in any of the chapters. For instance, the author does not feel the need to introduce himself formally in the preface. He does not feel the need to keep the preface, entirely separate from the chapters. Rather, as one reads the Quran, the reader understands the author more and more. The introduction to the author and the message are interwoven, perhaps, because this introduction of the author is one of the primary messages of the Quran. So, the preface ends: ‘A guidance for the Muttaqeen’. Who are the muttaqeen, is what Quran addresses in the following verses and the tone shifts from being introductory to descriptive, rather swiftly.

Lastly, this one line preface is an introduction to the book, rather than the author of the book. The author chooses to introduce himself through the book. He realizes that it is beyond the capacity of the readers to understand him directly, so he is intriguing the readers to understand him through his message, through his book, the book.

References:
[1] The Global Religious Landscape , A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010 [Web Link : http://www.pewforum.org/global-religious-landscape.aspx]
[2] Prefaces and Prologues. Vol. XXXIX. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14; Bartleby.com, 2001. www.bartleby.com/39/.

09 July, 2013

Why Fast?

You get hungry and you start eating; in the words of Kant, that is not autonomy, but heteronomy. All non-human animals are heteronomous and submit their will to instincts, impulses and empirical desires. Humans, have the ability to shun the slavery to instincts, impulses, empirical desires, socio-cultural constructs etc. and become truly autonomous. That, I believe, is what fasting teachings us with the practice of not eating, when you get hungry. The lesson should not end here. Fasting should equip us with the ability to look beyond established paradigms, social norms, cultural bindings, conditioned desires and make us autonomous individuals who abide by laws that they have themselves inspected and accepted. Fasting is a journey from heteronomy to autonomy.

HAPPY RAMADAN

20 June, 2013

Religion Gave Birth to Democracy

History of philosophy often starts with the Greeks. Luc ferry (2011:17) states that ‘most historians agree that philosophy first saw the light of day in Greece, sometime around the sixth century BC’.  The pre Hellenistic philosophical exercise in the east by the followers of Abrahamic religions, Vedic and Pre-Vedic religions, Zoroastrianism etc. are ignored perhaps because in the philosophical literature faith is seen in contrast to wisdom / reason, and philosophy is translated as the love of wisdom. Secondly, there are no written accounts of philosophical exercise, during the time of Moses or his descendants. The Dead Sea scrolls are the oldest manuscripts available for the Old Testament and they have been dated back to 250 BC only. Furthermore, there is lot of scepticism as to when the Old Testament finally took its current form after going through various transformations over the ages. Similar reasons can be applied to other pre historic religions. Nevertheless, for someone deeply engrossed in the act of philosophizing, the struggle of overcoming one’s primitive fears, it is truly saddening that the development of thoughts in primitive man is ignored.

Most philosophical texts of today contrast the Greek schools of thought prevalent at times of advent of Christianity i.e. the Hellenistic philosophers (Epicurean and Stoics) with the new religious phenomenon. Very often, these comparisons regard Christianity as the first religious phenomenon and narrow the Christian thought to the one prevalent today in which salvation (the act of overcoming one’s primitive fears) is personalized in Christ. Philosophical implications of Trinitarian beliefs of believing in a Man-God who died for your sins, to those of Unitarian beliefs in which God is seen only as one metaphysical being are far apart, which are ignored in most philosophical literature while busy in contrasting faith with reason.

This prelude was essential in understanding the place given to religious thoughts in the philosophical literature. Luc Ferry (2011) argues that the new belief system (i.e. Christianity) brought a theme of religious humility that replaced philosophical arrogance. He contrasts between the fundamentally aristocratic views of humanity, where people at top saw those below them as inferiors, to the notion of human equality brought by Christianity. He believes that the whole world owes its entire democratic inheritance to Christianity for bringing up this concept. He elaborates that in Greek moral vocabulary virtue was almost always linked to natural endowment that is why slavery was accommodated into the society, whereas in Christian thought, these inequalities have no bearing on morals. He says that the concept of human equality which we take for granted today was unheard of at that time, and with the advent of Christianity this powerful concept turned the world upside down. In the words of Luc Ferry (2011:73): ‘We exit an aristocratic universe and we enter a meritocratic universe’; a world, which replaced the stress on inherited qualities with merit. Greek philosophers (especially the stoics) had a pantheistic view of world, in which everything ultimately fell in its place, hence, talents / superiority bestowed by nature was seen as intrinsically virtuous. Christian thought regards these natural gifts, received at birth as qualities but not on a moral place. Free will became the determining factor for morality of an action.

‘Christianity revolutionized the history of thought. For the first time in human history, liberty rather than nature had become the foundation of morality. At the same time, the idea of equal dignity of all human beings makes its first appearance: and Christianity was to become the precursor of modern democracy’ (Luc Ferry, 2011:73)

Luc Ferry, crowns Christianity as the founder of democracy and equality, for they replaced the prevalent philosophical concepts that encouraged inequality. Ancient scriptures indicate that other pre historic religions also presented similar concepts of human equality and understood morality in the framework of freewill.  The journey from an aristocratic view to a meritocratic view was of supreme importance, and essentially it was religion that brought forward this concept, as opposed to what is commonly believed today. Perhaps it is because the modern day religionists stress their ‘superiority’ merely as the ‘chosen ones’ and do not strive to prove their excellence democratically on a moral or intellectual plane. Or perhaps it is because the atheists are selective in the way they process the effect of religion on the modern world. Or perhaps it is the inability of both to look beyond the religious and non-religious paradigms of today and peek into the past to derive important lessons from it. Perhaps, it’s all of the above.

References:
Ferry. L, (2011), A Brief History of Thought, Haper Collins Publsiher, Newyork. 

13 April, 2013

List of Articles on OCD

1. Religious Causes of OCD in Muslims

Discusses the 'religious' causes of OCD in Muslim population. Through vivid examples it is explained how extreme rulings lead to obsessions that in turn lead to compulsions. This article seeks to abolish the angelic view of scholarship that is administered into people and works to their disadvantage by making it difficult for them to find the balance.

2. I Counsel: Some Reflections

Some reflections on my encounters with OCD Sufferers ; some observations and some tips.

3. Worried About Blasphemous Thoughts? 

A first aid kit for those pre-occupied with blasphemous thoughts. 

4. Journey into an OCD Mind

An academic journey into the mind of an OCD sufferer. Insight into neurological, psychological, biological, socio-cultural and religious causes of OCD.

5. A Comprehensive Guide to Overcome OCD for Muslims

An explanation of scrupulosity in Muslims, and a comprehensive analysis of doubts in light of scriptural rulings and rationality. 

6. Solusi Islam untuk OCD (was-was) - A Review

Above article in Malaysian/Indonesian Language.

7. Overcoming Waswaas - Whispers in 'Ibaadaat (Worship)

An explanation of doubts that Muslims encounter while worshiping, and how those doubts are transformed into obsessions and compulsions. 

8. Overcoming Waswaas - OCD from an Invisible Angle

A meta-physical explanation of OCD. 


'Religious' Causes of OCD in Muslims


If knowledge is power, then the knowledge of disease amounts to a kind of power over that disease. Particularly in the cases of mental disorders, the way we think about the disease entity has a lot to do with how the sufferer regards his or her condition.