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Monday, March 24, 2008

Closing of the Muslim Mind, Moses' vision and Ghar-e-hira

I have known SR for a number of years now. He is eclectic, irreverent, iconoclastic, a medical doctor by profession, father, husband and investor. He occasionally sends out letters to his friends. He does not blog (yet) so I asked him if I could share his latest mail with you here and he consented.

Closing of the Muslim Mind, Moses' vision and Ghar-e-hir

It is alleged that while Rome burned, emperor Nero sat around playing the fiddle. This historical anecdote has become a part of the language and is used in situations where someone who should be responding to a critical emergency does not do so but instead wastes time doing something else that is quite unnecessary.

While Nero may or may not have done so, Pakistanis seem determined to out do his legend by ignoring the real issues and paying attention to irrelevant nonsense.

It is a sad state of affairs here in the Land of the Pure. Shortages in water, power, food and fuel are reaching crisis proportions. There is no rule of law and no justice. Might is the only right. State inflicted terror and retaliatory suicide bombings are becoming routine affairs. Professional and educational standards are abysmal in almost every field while negligence and incompetence are the rule, not the exceptions. Corruption and dishonesty are ubiquitous. The environment is a disaster; both urban and rural areas alike are littered with wanton disposal of garbage and open sewage. Safe drinking water does not exist except in marketed plastic containers. Healthcare and education do not exist unless you have a lot of money. The litany is unending.

Surprisingly, however, instead of being outraged, Pakistanis endure all of this and more with a fatalistic sense of resignation. Hardly a handful protest any of it. Yet, there are spontaneous riots and public displays of misplaced anger at the rumour of some stupid cartoons published in some far away country. Hardly any of the protesters ever see those cartoons. As if this wasn’t absurd enough, no one has the courage to stand up and point out that our priorities are totally up side down. This can not be the spirit of our religion.

Several days ago Mohsin sent a web-link. This is what he emailed:
(this link may not work. there are more links at the end that work-t)

This was an article about some Israeli professor who claims that Moses’ (Hazrat Musa’s) visions on Mount Sinai were aided by the imbibing of a plant that contained some psychoactive substance.

I did not view this assertion as insulting or blasphemous in any way since the induction of a naturally occurring psychoactive substance could well be the mechanism through which divine revelation occurs.

This is something I had often wondered about.

God Almighty’s Laws are universal and constant. They don’t change. Only man made laws need amendments as time goes by and unanticipated circumstances unfold. Only the Omnipotent and Omniscient Almighty is capable of setting into motion natural mechanisms that can produce a cascade of phenomena resulting in pre-determined outcomes into the far future. Man is incapable of even the remotest comprehension of the complexity of these phenomena. We call them Natural Laws and we try to understand them, but all we can do is scratch their surface and get a vague idea of how they work.

In the absence of unambiguous understanding we do what a child typically does. We invent two-dimensional, over-simplistic, easy-to-understand answers. We get mentally lazy and develop magical thinking. We start believing in the easier interpretation of complex phenomena.
Take the concept of angels for example. The traditionalist tells us that these are supposedly ethereal beings that execute Gods orders and do not have any desires or wills of their own. A common man concept of an angel is extremely anthropomorphic. He imagines angels as little winged people made of “light” instead of “dust” and they are invisible but very powerful.

To my mind this is a childish view. Angels in my book are the “working forces of nature” that serve God’s will in the sense that He created them and they work for Him according to His Laws. (Note: I use the male gender in the third person pronoun only due to linguistic tradition. The Almighty can not be identified with any gender.) Thus, in my view, the angels are the cosmic agents that serve what we call “Nature.” Angels are things like light, gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces and many other, as yet unknown, natural forces that serve as natural agents and carry out the Divine Will. They execute the Divine Plan as it was designed even before the moment of Creation.

The human mind is only one among billions of miraculous wonders in the cosmos. Why is it so difficult (or objectionable) to believe that for a particular human’s mind to be made receptive to divine inspiration there is a natural mechanism that includes a natural chemical trigger? This could very easily be as much a part of God’s natural order as anything else.

To me it is more consistent with the Natural Laws than imagining a winged creature that flies down from the “seventh heaven” to whisper a message of the Almighty in His messenger’s ear. God could just as easily “speak” Himself directly into his ear, or even plant a thought in his mind… The result in either case would be the same. God placed this psychoactive agent in some plants. This could very well have been the “angel” that modified the mind of the recipient of the divine message. This is perfectly consistent with a modern day interpretation of a complex phenomenon that we ordinary people cannot fully comprehend. We can only understand it by analogy.

Just THINK folks. Which mechanism makes more sense and is more consistent with rest of God’s Natural Laws? I mean, if you are to send someone a message, you could pick up the cell phone and directly speak to him or you could send your chokidar to his house and have him repeat your words. Which would make more sense and be more reliable? The essential thing is getting the message across, not the method.

The difference between this and just a purposeless intake of a psychoactive agent by an ordinary mortal is very clear. The psychoactive agent could act like a cell phone. Anyone could use a cell phone but it will be of no use if no one is calling it. Only if your number is dialled by a Higher Authority will you get the special message.

Keeping this in mind I wrote the following in my response:

Yes, this has also been one of my long standing suspicions.

Next time I go for umerah I shall make a point of taking a leisurley stroll up to ghar-e-hera and will spend a day up there. Besides contemplation and meditation I shall also survey the flora and fauna on the far side of those hills.

No sooner had I sent this off that I got a very terse, almost abusive response from a friend who chose to address me privately. I shall come to him in a minute.

Apart from him I was almost admonished by Mohsin and Mansur. They came out with platitudes in response.

Mansur’s DEA indoctorinated hang ups about “drugs” clouded his narrow vision and he and Mohsin sent condescending, holier-than-thou messages. But that was fine.

What was not fine, however, was the private message from this other friend. This gentleman is a very kind, gentle, honest and honourable person. But he was overtaken by his dark side when he retorted to me without having any clue as to the philosophical underpinning of my statement.

This is what he wrote:

What you write is gross ! May ALLAH guide you to the right path; Instead of Umrah, I suggest that you go to Rawal dam for picnic; why waste money!
Apart from saying something disgusting you make a mockery of history.
If you say something like this in public somebody would chop your head off and it may serve you right!

Now this message is very judgemental, angry and hostile. But if you see who is sending it you will be surprised because this noble soul does not have an unkind bone in his body. He is clearly a victim of the closed mindedness to which we as a people have collectively succumbed.

He prays to God Almighty for my proper guidance, yet really does not believe in it. He himself assumes the prerogative of the Almighty and decides to sit in judgement over me.

His message has an air of self-righteous indignation and he has no reservations in his condemnation. Perhaps he feels he has the right to do God’s work. He claims to know that if I went for umerah it would be a waste of money. He warns that someone could chop my head off. I agree. He understands the level of ignorant extremism that prevails in our society. But he immediately reveals his violent urge by adding that “it may serve you right!”
This is the trouble with us. A kind and gentle person like this dear friend is brainwashed into such extreme rigidity that he endorses mindless violence against anyone who even APPEARS to be forwarding an interpretation that does not jive with his particular version.

This closed mindedness is what has greatly contributed to our downfall as a people.

Here is another link that I sent a few days back :
According to this commentator, Muslims themselves are the Biggest Insult to their religion...
He's an arrogant Islamophobic bastard, and I resented him all the more because, unfortunately, he's absolutely right…

May Divine Light shine upon our closed minds and widen our narrow opinions and expand our horizons so that we can rise again as a people. Amen.



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