Islam

Jonathan Brown’s Lecture on Slavery

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Here is an excellent lecture by Dr. Jonathan Brown on the subject of the abolition of slavery. It is a forerunner to his upcoming book Slavery and Islam which will be released on August 23, 2019. I have already preordered the book and intended on doing a full-length book review, inshaAllah. Continue Reading

Dr. Jonathan AC Brown Boycotts Male-Only Panels: A Response

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

This article was co-authored by The Muslim Theist and Mr. Bilal Muhammad

Recently, Dr. Jonathan Brown, an associate professor at Georgetown University and popular Muslim intellectual, announced that he would no longer participate in any Muslim program or conference where the organizers have not made “exhaustive, good faith efforts to include women” on panels and among speakers.

We must acknowledge Dr. Brown’s contributions and willingness to tackle difficult questions. He has addressed issues that are especially challenging in today’s liberal milieu – from the age of ʿĀʾisha, to the infamous wife-beating verse, to the “spread by the sword” thesis. Given some of his traditionalist stances, a simplistic analysis of Dr. Brown would not be in good faith. Additionally, he was nuanced in his demand – he did not condemn “manels” outright, and he clarified that female speakers should be in line with the ideological leanings of organizers. He made aware that some seemingly “valid calls” for events to include women are really just subversive efforts by ideologues to “include participants whose views are marginal, heretical or outside the bounds of Islam altogether.”

Dr. Brown justifies his position by saying that “practicing, committed and qualified Muslim woman scholars (sic)” feel “excluded and alienated”, and thus something must be done. Others may argue that including women on panels would be a good feature of Islamic daʾwa, and thus a bidʾa ḥasana.

This issue raises a few concerns that need discussion.

Why isn’t fiqh foregrounded in these discussions? Continue Reading

What is the Point of Daniel Haqiqatjou’s Writing?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Daniel has caused a series of firestorms within the last month or two, ranging from his support of the Hudood in Brunei to his criticisms of MuslimGirl and their supporters such as Dalia Mogahed. Continue Reading

A Conversation With Connor – Part 3

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The following is a conversation I had with a convert friend of mine in April, 2016. I thought it would be of general benefit to my readers. I have done some very light editing but otherwise left the conversation as it is. My friend’s name has been changed to protect his anonymity. See Part 1 and Part 2. Continue Reading

A Conversation With Connor – Part 2

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The following is a conversation I had with a convert friend of mine in April, 2016. I thought it would be of general benefit to my readers. I have done some very light editing but otherwise left the conversation as it is. My friend’s name has been changed to protect his anonymity. See Part 1 here. Continue Reading

A Conversation with Connor – Part 1

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The following is a conversation I had with a convert friend of mine in April, 2016. I thought it would be of general benefit to my readers. I have done some very light editing but otherwise left the conversation as it is. My friend’s name has been changed to protect his anonymity.
Continue Reading

Scientist Responds to “The Difference Between Proof and Evidence” – Part 2

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I previously posted a discussion I was having with a physicist friend of mine. You can catch up here. What follows is the continuation of that discussion.

Muhammad:

If the premise includes the conclusion already then the question becomes how do we know that the premise is true? This requires unfolding the deductive proof and making the premise of the last argument the conclusion of an earlier one and thus finding new premises for the old later premise (now conclusion). This requires you to go back to the first premise, the one upon which everything else rests. The question becomes, what is that premise? What is the proof that it is true?

TMT:

Yes, exactly. That’s what I said in the article this is an old problem in philosophy. The first principles are those that are known not by demonstration but by presence (i.e. Ilm hudhoori )

Muhammad:

When logicians talk about the first premise being true they require it to fulfill couple conditions:

1. Mirrors the external reality in an exact form

2. It is true and will forever be so.

What proof do you have that our first principles match any of these? Yeah ilm hudhoori and presence are nonsense answers for the most part. Every time they get stuck they resort to that answer. And when you ask them about the evidence for the truth of the presence, they reply is always “it is obvious,” ilm badihi (first principles), or the common experience of the people. It is quite ironic because they take you on a long ride through their deduction to finally tell you that the whole thing rests on the consensus of the majority i.e ijmaa’ (which ironically is probabilistic). That’s when philosophers become fiqh scholars … when stuck resort to ijmaa’. That’s the reason why I brought up the electron argument. Prior to quantum mechanics, people’s common sense or obvious understanding of the physical reality was that an object exists only in one place certainly. QM thus has corrected our understanding of nature by evolving our “obvious” and “common sense”. One can thus say that our common sense is ever changing and is refined by induction (through new experiments and observations).

One more thing. The last paragraph regarding “physicists” not being able to ever refute any of the laws of metaphysics. The argument really boils down to what is the evidence for the truth of knowledge (the first principles of metaphysics). What is classically done (repeated here as well), is that first principles are assumed to be certainly true otherwise everything else falls down (math, science etc ). Or they will resort to the Ilm Hudori argument. But what if I don’t have that presence or Ilm hudhoori of the first principles? The reply will obviously be that I am insane. But ironically the side that doesn’t have that ilm hudhori will think that you are insane and now how do we resolve who is actually correct. If we say that the rest of the knowledge rests on it and thus must be correct, I would say that this is not good evidence since the rest of human knowledge is admittedly probabilistic. Thus despite human knowledge like science and math using the same “first principles” as metaphysical knowledge,  it is only presumed to be correct until proven otherwise – we do not assert that they are certainly true or always will be. Once again human beings lack this kind of evidence. Lastly, if we rely on the common experience or what all people understand to tabulate the truth of first principles then 1. You are really using induction here to prove the first principles of deduction 2. Examining ALL the population in the closed set would be impossible here since they set has elements that no one has access to (the newborns and the deceased) so we are left with studying a sample of the population which is once again a probabilistic conclusion, not a certain one (logical certainty). As for the constant reference to mathematics, I will comment on that too. Metaphysics and Math are very different from each other and to equate these two to each other is way too simplistic of an approach and inaccurate.

TMT:

I think my dear brother, you are misunderstanding the thesis of the article. The thesis of the article is that science has certain foundations let’s call it the set of x. Metaphysics also has certain foundations, which are a subset of x, let’s call it y. One cannot therefore affirm science and metaphysics in principle by attacking y, because y is a subset of x. If one accepts science, one must accept metaphysics; alternatively, one could accept metaphysics and reject science (on the basis that within set x, things that are not y are unreliable), or one could reject the whole of x, essentially claiming that neither science nor metaphysics will get you knowledge.

I am not saying knowledge is exclusively deductive, only that the deductive element is more primary, which is evident when you consider that the probability calculus itself relies on deduction, non-contradiction and the other laws of logic. I don’t have to give an account for what the foundations of all knowledge are in order to show that science and metaphysics have shared foundations. You seem to be thinking I was offering a complete defense of an Aristotelian epistemology (which I suspect you think characterizes the whole of philosophy), when all I am doing is attacking what one might call naive scientism, which you appear to sympathize with. If you want to offer a defense, you should focus on the arguments made showing the shared foundations of metaphysics and science, rather than attacking what you have supposed I am proposing as an alternative. Even if you were right, all you would be doing is showing that in fact neither science nor metaphysics give knowledge, because as I said science relies on shared foundations that you are attacking.

To make this more concrete: I gave like 7 reasons why quantum mechanics does not only not show the law of excluded middle to be false, but could not even in principle, only for you to repeat that quantum mechanics shows our “common sense notions” are wrong, without addressing anything I said.

Second, you are confusing Aristotle’s theory of ilm badihi with ilm hudhoori, though there is some overlap. Ilm badihi pertains to the foundations upon which ilm husooli (acquired knowledge) is built – Aristotle actually thought that perception was ilm badihi (this is why it appears that science can rewrite philosophical conclusions, because some of our perceptions turn out to be wrong or more complicated than Aristotle thought. Though, most of Aristotle’s metaphysics are based on abstractions from perception which actually remain unaffected and in principle cannot even be affected by what science discovers because they are so general/abstract that they cover all possible worlds which science could discover). Ilm hudhoori is a different kind of knowledge; it is knowledge by presence – those things that are directly experienced in consciousness and cannot be doubted even in principle. For example, you cannot doubt your own consciousness, or experiences as they appear in your consciousness – though it is possible to doubt whether some of your experiences correlate to an external reality. If I experience pain and it feels like my hand has been chopped off, I cannot doubt the “I” that is experiencing, nor the experience of pain itself; I can doubt whether or not my hand has actually been chopped off, but not the pain I’m feeling. If you were insane, as you posited my dear brother, then you would still have some ilm hudhoori – as long as you are a conscious being you are aware of your own consciousness and your immediate experiences; what you would lack is the ability to understand when your experiences correlate with an external reality and when they do not and that is precisely what would make you insane. No philosopher has ever used “ijmaa'” as a justification for his epistemology, despite the facetious comments alluding to that. The justification for knowledge must begin with consciousness itself because that is what the knowing subject has access to. If one cannot perceive the necessity of the law of non-contradiction and why a syllogism must be true, as you were suggesting, then no husooli knowledge is possible for that person. Again – we have people like this, we call them insane. If someone who is not insane claims they don’t have this knowledge then really they are just making a claim (and lying) which anyone can do. I can also claim that I have no experience of consciousness right now, or that I can’t understand English. It doesn’t mean anything. If someone is speaking a coherent sentence in any language, even to say “I do not perceive the necessity of the law of non-contradiction”, then their very formulation of the sentence belies their claim, because non-contradiction is necessary to even form a sentence for reasons I mentioned in the last reply (see the example of the chair.)

In this regard, here’s what I said to a commenter [shout out Atheist Messiah!] who brought up a similar concern about foundations being determined by induction:

This is a confusion between two different meanings of “foundations.” The absolute foundation of deduction is consciousness itself; knowledge by presence. “A” cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same regard; consciousness perceives this truth directly. Everything that we experience directly within our own consciousness is not open to doubt precisely because we cannot doubt that we are experiencing, nor the “I” that experiences. That there is existence, even it is limited to ourselves, or even bundles of thoughts or whatever it may be, cannot be doubted. Most of metaphysics is built off abstracting these foundational experiences and then applying deductive logic (the laws of which are also known by presence) to them, and thus metaphysics constitute the most secure form of knowledge after the experiences themselves. Metaphysics usually gives an account of what must be the case for all possible worlds; thus it does not matter what the details of the science turn out to be because the broad lines of what must be true about any conception of reality has already been drawn out. This will start to make sense after the next post where, God Willing, I offer a deductive proof for the existence of God (I look forward to your take on that.)

That being said, sometimes we have what we might call relative foundations – which means things that may be established by induction and observation which everyone takes for granted or that no one seriously doubts, and then we may proceed to deduce on that basis. A small subset of these relative foundations are not open for revision by science because science presumes them (for example, the idea that there is an external reality outside the mind), but the vast majority of these “foundations” are open to revision by science, and have been frequently overturned. These are things like earth being at the centre of the universe, or Newton’s laws of motion applying universally. I believe every example of “common sense” being challenged is essentially one of these latter cases of relative foundations. However, if someone makes a sound deductive (metaphysical) argument on the basis of something science necessarily presumes itself, something that science could not possible revise (e.g. causation), then the metaphysical argument is going to be at least as strong as the most certain inferences science has ever made. Thus we can have a metaphysical argument in which you might ask “well how do we know the foundational assumptions are correct”, but if those foundational assumptions are shared by science, then one must either doubt everything or accept both. One cannot both deny the metaphysics and accept the science if they share foundational assumptions. That last line is really the purpose of this post. Continue Reading

Bible Verses That Condemn Drinking

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I recently wrote a post about how the medieval church considered drinking to the point of drunkness to fall under the deadly sin of gluttony.

A commenter on a message board I frequent provided some references to Bible passages in which these prohibitions are made more explicit. I’ve provided them below:

Proverbs 20:1New International Version (NIV)

20 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
    whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Proverbs 21:17 New International Version (NIV)

17 Whoever loves pleasure will become poor;
    whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.

Proverbs 23:19-21 New International Version (NIV)

Saying 16

19 Listen, my son, and be wise,
    and set your heart on the right path:
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine
    or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
    and drowsiness clothes them in rags. Continue Reading

Getting Drunk Was Considered a Sin in Medieval Christianity

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

TIL that getting drunk was considered a sin in Medieval Christianity. Alcohol itself was considered permissible, but drinking to the point of inebriation was considered a subset of the deadly sin of gluttony.  The full reddit thread on r/askhistorians can be found below, although I’ll quote the relevant parts:

 

Prevalence of Alcoholism in Middle Ages? from AskHistorians

//embed.redditmedia.com/widgets/platform.js

Americans today (I understand ideas about alcoholism and its treatment can be quite different) tend to think of alcoholism as an addiction or even a disease. This was not so in the Middle Ages. Inebrietas–inebriety or drunkenness–was normatively a sin, a subset of the Deadly Sin of gluttony or overconsumption.

We must separate the rhetoric of preachers from the daily lives of medieval people (including, presumably, many of those preachers). An evening at a formal or informal tavern was the heart of socializing for a lot of urban people. It’s not for nothing the tavern was derided as the “chapel of the devil”; it was the secular parallel for social life to the Church and religious civic gatherings. As with today, not everyone would get drunk, and even fewer of those would get drunk so often and compulsively as to compare to modern alcoholism. And of course, the role of alcohol in the display of battle prowess and noble/royal power is well known to anyone who read Beowulf in high school….

…But in the background, and increasingly pushed by preachers and didactic authors over the 14th through 16th centuries, was the point that drunkenness inherently represented overconsumption, a focus on the material world and personal pleasure that distracted from God. It was a sin. And in both prescriptive theoretical sources and actual criminal records, medieval people knew and experienced the costs of inebriety.

In theory, drunkenness would lead to other sins. It loosened the tongue and mind, resulting in a rise to wrath. Naturally in women in particular, it heated the body and aroused it to lust. It led the drunk person to forget about others, greed. And so on. Meanwhile, coroners’ rolls from England and court records from French and German cities attest handsomely to the fights, assaults, and murders inside taverns and spilling onto the streets outside.

This is still just alcohol consumption, though. What can we say about the compulsion to drink caused by a pattern of overconsumption? First, in the medieval imagination though not in practice, pattern inebrietas was gendered heavily male. In German popular literature, there were two stock “parents who waste their family’s money” figures. The woman is the haute palate, the one who must always have the richest food, the most expensive clothing while her children go hungry and threadbare. The man, however? The man spends every night at the tavern, drinking away his children’s bread. The latter, at least, had a basis in reality. Women in early modern Germany sometimes petitioned their cities for emergency financial support or for legal living-arrangement separation from their husband, because he was ruining the family financially through drinking every coin. Continue Reading

The Difference Between Proof and Evidence (Proof for the Existence of God Part 3)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Despite the repeated use of the phrase “there is no proof or evidence for the existence of God,” I would imagine most atheists, and indeed most people, are unaware that there is in fact a technical difference between evidence and proof. Fittingly, the distinction between proof and evidence was initially taught to me in an introductory evolutionary biology course by an ardent atheist professor during my first year of university. My professor used this distinction to justify why she would not be receiving objections to evolution in her class. (Literally, she said that we were not allowed to question evolution or present counter evidence during the lecture, and that she would not entertain it during her office hours.) It was the most bizarre and dogmatic moment I had in my entire education, and I say this as someone who was blessed to study theology in a seminary environment for a year. Contrary to popular opinion, the seminaries are far less dogmatic when it comes to foundational beliefs, as they permit questioning the existence of God and raising objections to the proofs offered.

She argued that evolution was based upon good evidence, but could never attain the status of complete certainty. It was a probabilistic argument, like virtually all of science, rather than a demonstration, as in the case of mathematical proofs (and, as we shall see, metaphysical arguments.) I still vividly remember the slide used to showcase an example of rational certainty – it was that of a triangle with some lines and an accompanying trigonometric proof.

Because evolution (along with all empirical science) could never attain 100% rational certainty, she argued that it was always possible to be a skeptic, to raise objections about inductive inferences which are probabilistic at best, or to posit alternative explanations that could explain the data, no matter how improbable. Oh the irony. If scientific atheists only applied their standards consistently, they would either deny science or accept God. We will see why more clearly later on when we explore the evidence for the existence of God. But that is neither here nor there. For now, what I want to do is just go over some basic concepts in reason in order to set the table for the coming arguments.

Reason

Reasoning is divided into two parts; inductive and deductive.  As we shall see, inductive reasoning depends on deductive reasoning, which is higher in the hierarchy we are in the process of building. Inductive reasoning works by evaluating the probability that one thing is true, given another set of truths. Deductive reasoning works by understanding that some things are necessarily true, given another set of truths. “Evidence” pertains to inductive reasoning. “The evidence” is the set of premises or supposed truths on the basis of which we make a probabilistic judgement. “Proof” pertains to deductive reasoning – it refers to the premises which if true, show a conclusion to be necessarily true as well (or proven). This is the process upon which all of mathematics are built.

Inductive Reasoning Continue Reading