The Hadith by Bill Warner PhD

The Hadith:  Review of Bias in Warner’s

The Hadith.

 

Dr Chris James

Abstract.

Discrimination against Muslims in the west has always existed, but since 9/11 it has become intensive. This paper is a response to the growing bias towards Muslims. In particular it addresses, what I view as an offensive post 9/11 work, titled The Hadith: The Traditions of Mohammed by Bill Warner, PhD. In my opinion, the work by Bill Warner, calls into question, what is a fair critique of modern-day Islam, what is permissible as credible academic literature and what constitutes bigotry and Islamophobia. I am not a Muslim, I am a scholar of religions and have a particular interest in Islam, its future and what it means for humanity in general. I present this review because the aforesaid work and its interpretation of the Hadith, is in my view, misleading, vitriolic and unhelpful to the analysis and progress of philosophical studies and debate, but unfortunately it is not the only example, just the one I choose to focus on here. Post 9/11, Muslims are experiencing an unwarranted social and political backlash. Many Muslims were killed in the terrorist attacks on the US World Trade Centre in 2001 and the majority of Muslims condemned the violence. Nonetheless, Muslims are still perceived as threatening and unwelcome in many quarters of the western world. The problem appears to be, not so much one of race, but religious doctrine. From time to time all religions come under scrutiny, but in this respect, Islam stands alone from all other forms of religious examination because the scrutiny is relentless. Warner’s work is a typical example of this attack and it needs to be challenged.

Introduction.

This paper is in response to a book titled The Hadith: The Traditions of Mohammed, by Bill Warner, PhD. Bill Warner established the Centre for the Study of Political Islam (CPSI), an acclaimed educational organization, which states it provides “factual knowledge about political Islam”1 A short biography of Dr Warner gives the reader an overview of “a life-long interest in religions, including Islam, and their effects on history and civilization.” Warner’s aim, according to his biography, is to make the “Islamic political doctrine, which he says, impacts non-Muslims, available to the average person.”2 Warner’s work is based largely on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) whereby he uses statistical methods to identify, what he calls “dualism” and “submission” as the foundational principles of the Islamic doctrine.3 However, Warner’s interpretation of these criterion is significantly incomplete and in my view, biased.

The Hadith is one of a series of books included in Warner’s “Self-Study Course on Political Islam”. The course is taught in two levels, the first A taste of Islam, which is based on four books, The Sira Law for Non-Muslims, The Hadith, The Koran and The Sharia. The second level also contains four books, Persuasion, Slavery, Women, and Christians and Jews. I have limited my critic to The Hadith.

Objectives.

I am always dubious when an outsider steps up and produces a critical treatise on something s/he has not had first-hand experience in. Academic critique of works is a crucial component in scholarship, but balance and context are also important. The Hadith as prescribed by Warner, “is a condensed version of the Islamic Hadith Collections,” but in my opinion, it is deliberately negative and presents Islam as an archaic system of superstition, oppression, violence and persecution. I am not a Muslim, but I am a scholar of Hebrew and Islamic studies and in my reasoning, I would suggest that Warner’s work is extremely offensive to anyone who identifies as Muslim. Literary critique and political polemic are not the same thing. I have respect for the right to critique religious and political texts, but fair academic critique should not be weighted solely on the side of disparaging statements that are devoid of contextualization and a cross fertilization of scholarly interpretations. Further, Warner’s post 9/11 work is not the only example of discrimination and angst against Muslims or their supporters. There are in my opinion, two levels of global attack against Muslims, one is in the prevalent dismissal of bias and hate speech, the other is to ignore the wars, persecutions, hardships and attempted genocides that have been an integral part of world history and our modern society. Warner’s examples of the Hadith texts are replete with unexplained violence. Wars were carried out against Muslims in the time of Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers and they are still being carried out against Muslim populations today. Some Muslims have reserved the right to fight back, but this is not an act of advocating or condoning violence, but one of survival. We must face the realities; the world is divided and when one side bullies the other side it will strive to retaliate and mediation is a delicate process.

If we adhere to the universal right to freedom of religion then it is important to call out any limits imposed upon that freedom, be they individual or en-mass. Just a peripheral glance at the statistics on social bifurcation, pain and displacement of the worlds’ peoples’ today, the vast majority who are suffering are Muslims. In my opinion Warner’s book incites further hostility and suffering, it does nothing to close the gap.

Dedication.

Warner’s book dedication is to the “millions of victims of jihad over the past 1,400 years.”4 If we were to relocate this dedication to Two World Wars alone, fought largely in the west, we would be remembering the warriors on all sides as heroes, not victims, albeit there are no winners in wars. Importantly, the word’s “jihad” and “victims” put together carry a very heavy payload, they form part of a common and very selective vocabulary aimed at targeting one particular group and labelling them the enemy of western civilization. Muslims are not the enemy of the west. Governments trade with them, share their achievements and celebrate mutual international agreements. Many Muslim migrants make a huge contribution to public life and the western economies. Why then are they so alienated?

Warner’s note to his readers, tells us that after the attack on the World Trade Centre Towers in 2001, “no one knew the doctrine of Islam”, he therefore devoted his life “to educating the world about its political doctrine.” The very nature of this goal draws concern. To devote one’s life to targeting and exposing a particular group of difference is, in my view, far from helpful or indeed, healthy. Warner goes on to say his work “contains objective knowledge, not opinion.”5 Perhaps the word “selective” would be more appropriate. The quotations marked for his volume are extremely selective and misleading. In the following paragraph Warner tells his readers, “the common dismissal of Islamic doctrine is that moderate Muslims do not follow it. He states, “the book is not about Muslims, moderate or extreme, but about Islamic political doctrine and history.” Warner, then pushes back against this statement by saying, “You will only get a personal point of view when you ask a Muslim about Islam. And what kind of Muslim do you ask, a moderate Muslim or a jihadist? Both moderate and jihadis all submit to the Sunna of Mohammed and the Koran.”6 The statement speaks for itself, all Muslims are tarnished with the same brush, there is no individualism and no Muslim is worthy of consideration.

There is not a Biblical or classical text in history that is free of some kind of violence or innuendo. The one most important piece of information missing from the debate is that the Qur’an contains both the Hebrew Torah and the Christian New Testament. Hitherto, if one is a portrait of violence then all must be viewed from this perspective. However, the measure of attack against the Jewish or Christian Scriptures is in no way measurable at the level of that against the Qur’an and other relevant Islamic discourses.

The Texts.

Dr Maurice Bucaille in his work The Bible, the Qur’an and Science (1987) tells us that Muhammad’s own attitude (PBUH) towards the Qur’an was quite different than that of his personal sayings because the Qur’an constituted the teaching of Allah and was proclaimed by him as a Divine Revelation.

Over a period of twenty years the words were classified with what had to be written down and what had to be learned by heart to become part of the liturgy of prayers. The Hadiths, according to Bucaille, are in essence an account of the Prophet’s deeds and personal reflections, but he left it to others to find an example in them for their own behaviour and to make them public however they liked: he did not give any instructions.7 We can deduce from this that only a very limited number of the Hadiths may be considered as the Prophet Muhammad’s thoughts (PBUH). The Hadith then is dealing with the thoughts of men of his time, hence when compared to the Qur’an there are profound and anticipated differences, both in context and theological articulation. The differences serve to highlight the extraordinary chasm between the Revelation given to the Prophet (PBUH) and the lives of those upon whom the knowledge was bestowed.

According to Islamic tradition, the Qur’an is regarded as the literal word of God as recited to Muhammad (PBUH) through the archangel Gabriel and according to tradition Muhammad (PBUH) recited what the archangel Gabriel revealed to him for his companions to memorize and write down. Muslims believe that the wording of the Qur’anic text available today corresponds exactly to that given to Muhammad in the years 610–632,.8

However, language changes over time. The early Arabic script transcribed 28 consonants, of which only 6 can be readily distinguished, the remaining 22 having formal similarities which means that what specific consonant is intended can only be determined by context. It was only with the introduction of Arabic diacritics some centuries later, that an authorized vocalization of the text, and how it was to be read, was established and became canonical. 9 Prior to this period, there is evidence that the text could be read in different ways, with different meanings. We know this from the work of Al-Tabari who wrote history, theology and Qur’anic commentary. He prefaces his early commentary on the Qur’an showing that the precise way to read the verses of the sacred text was not fixed, even in the day of the Prophet (PBUH). As the story goes, two men disputing a verse in the text asked Ubay ibn Ka’b to mediate, and he disagreed with them, coming up with a third reading. To resolve the question, the three went to Muhammad who then asked the first man to read out the verse, and announced it was correct. Then the second man was asked to read the verse. He made the same response when the second alternative reading was delivered. He then asked Ubay to provide his own recital, and, on hearing the third version, Muhammad also pronounced it, ‘correct!’ Noting Ubay’s perplexity and inner thoughts, Muhammad then told him, “Pray to God for protection from the accursed Satan”.10 Clearly, according to the Prophet (PBUH) the text was never definitively absolute.

The Doctrine.

The Qur’an does not stand alone as the doctrine of Islam. Complimentary information of a legislative nature was sought in relation to the Revelation. These came from an oral tradition. Those who undertook the task were faced with what Bucaille calls very “taxing…accounts of past events.” They nevertheless aimed for accuracy and this is illustrated by the fact that in all of the Prophet’s sayings (PBUH), “the most venerable collections always bear the name of those responsible for the account.” This included an examination of those who first collected the information from members of the Prophet’s family (PBUT) or his companions.11 A number of the Prophet’s words (PBUH) appeared under the name of Hadith, the word means “utterances”, but the Hadiths also covered details of the Prophet’s deeds. The first collections, made after the Prophet’s death (PBUH) were said to be fairly restrained and two hundred years elapsed for more words were recorded, so we might question the accuracy of the statements and attributions. Bucaille tells us that the statements by Al Bukhari are the most reliable, but they are still vulnerable to interpretation. Bucaille warns against translations that are inaccurate or contain untruths, or, to put it differently, those “which are more interpretation than translation.”12 Bucaille informs us that on occasions the Hadiths have had such considerable change that there is no sense in which they contain the real meaning. Indeed, he compares some of the versions with the inaccuracies contained in the Christian Gospels, which are known to be somewhat inaccurate.13 In more recent years a bilingual Arabic/English edition of the Hadiths has been issued by Doctor Muhammed Muhsin Khan of the university of Medina, which promises fewer errors.14

Bucaille has explored the Hadiths just to see how the Prophet (PBUH) expressed himself outside the context of the Revelation, while being aware that the texts were originally from an oral tradition. His focus was on issues of science as quoted in the Qur’an. What Bucaille found was that the Hadiths already set out in sections of the Qur’an and modern science were highly accurate. These are the only Hadiths he was concerned with. However, he tells us that “Hadiths which have as their subject interpretation of certain verses of the Qur’an sometimes lead to commentaries which are hardly acceptable today”15 and many Muslims recognize this, but by the same token, the errors provide a weapon for any opponents.

Bucaille provides the following example of literary embellishment.

(Sura 36, verse 36) dealing with the Sun, “which runs its course to a settled place”.

Here is the interpretation given of it in a Hadith: At sunset, the sun…prostrates itself underneath the Throne, and takes permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then (a time will come when) it will be about to prostrate itself…it will ask permission to go on its course…it will be ordered to return whence it has come and so it will rise in the West…(Sahih al Bukhari).

The original text (The Book of the Beginning of Creation.Vol lV p 283, part 54 chapter lV number 241 is, according to Bucaille, obscure and difficult to translate. Nonetheless, Bucaille says, “this passage nevertheless contains an allegory, which implies the notion of a course the Sun runs in relation to the earth: science has shown the contrary to be the case. Bucaille then tells us that the authenticity of this Hadith is doubtful.16 Hence, differentiating between the Qur’an and the Hadiths is essential, specifically for good scholarship.

Bucaille goes on to question other Hadiths that have been given poetic licence. The Qur’an does not give any advice on remedial arts, barring one exception (Sura 16 verse 69) comments on the possibility of using honey as a therapeutic aid. On the other hand, the Hadiths devote a great deal of attention to medicine. According to Bucaille there is a Hadith that certain kinds of date may be used against the effects of magic.17

Conflicting Groups.

In the years that followed the Prophet’s death (PBUH) texts were to be recorded with two groups of teachings. Emphasis needs to be put upon the disparity between these two groups of texts. In the years that were to follow the Prophet’s death (PBUH) the first gathering of Hadiths was created 40 years after Hegira, (the shift from Mecca to Medina), while the first collection of Qur’anic texts had been made beforehand under the guidance of Calif Abu Bakr. There are some differences that have never been settled.

Bucaille concludes his investigations by asserting that while the Qur’an appears commonplace, concealing data that science was later to bring to light, certain statements in the Hadiths, which allude to absolute agreement with the ideas of the times, are also opinions that are out of step with science today. Bucaille suggests, “they have slipped into an aggregate of statements concerning Islamic doctrine and legislation, whose authenticity is unquestionably acknowledged, but not in line with Muhammad’s (PBUH) own views.”18

Bucaille concludes, that the truth of the Hadiths, from a religious point of view is beyond question, but when they deal with earthly affairs, they can be called into question. Bucaille tells us that one Hadith gives an account of the Prophet (PBUH), which should be noted first hand: “When I command you to do something related to religion do obey and if I command you do something according to your own opinion (do remember this) I am a human being.”

Dualities.

There is no doubt that many of the Hadiths contradict the Qur’an and Warner’s work gives its impetus to the most negative of literal readings. He writes:

The Hadiths include brutality by Mohammed and the Muslims. Mohammed ordered that some thieves have their hands and feet removed, hot nails put in their eyes and that they be left to die of thirst lying on sharp rocks in the hot sun.”19

One cannot deny a history of brutality in the regions. It is not a history that is unique to the Middle East. Notwithstanding, who might we blame? It is a philosophical question that has little relevance to today’s reading of Islam. The world has changed and most devotees of religion are seeking unity.

Many Muslims note the unreliability of some Hadiths and they focus on the Qur’an, but this is dismissed by Warner as an excuse and he suggests that the Qur’an does not offer enough information on how to practice Islam. In fact, Warner claims, “if you throw out the Hadiths, you can’t practice Islam.”

Segregation.

Warner puts a strong impetus on the word Kafir to distinguish the Muslim from the Other. In today’s climate the word Kafir is deeply offensive. As part of the ancient Qur’anic discourse, the term typifies all things that are unacceptable and offensive to God. The most fundamental sense of kufr in the Qur’an is “ingratitude”, the wilful refusal to acknowledge or appreciate the benefits that God bestows on humankind, including clear signs and Revealed Scriptures. 20 Kufr is an Arabic term which marks a person as an infidel, a pagan, or someone who rejects Allah, a nonbeliever. The meaning of the word today is politically painful and often used as a demarcation between black and white people.

The term Kufr is used in different ways in the Quran, with the most fundamental sense being ungrateful or thankless towards Allah. Its opposite is īmān or faith. 21 Kafir can be used interchangeably with mushrik, a polytheist. Sometimes overlapping Qur’anic terms for wrong doers are allām (villain, oppressor) and fāsiq (sinner, fornicator).22 Historically, while Islamic scholars agreed that a polytheist/mushrik is a kafir, they sometimes disagreed on the propriety of applying the term to Muslims who committed a grave sin or to the People of the Book. The term has a history of disparity not acceptance.

The Qur’an distinguishes between mushrikun and People of the Book, reserving the former term for idol worshippers. Some classical thinkers view the Christian doctrine to be a form of shirk. In modern times, kafir is used to describe self-professed Muslims, particularly by members of Islamist movements.23 The term is indeed, historical and loaded with separatism and alienation, but this is no reason to continue its use. By implication Warner suggests that Islam is religiously divisive, which in the modern context has no basis since there is more religious unity across beliefs today than ever before. Added to this, Islam is the most open and hospital of all the religions requiring only a belief in Allah as the only one God and the most merciful. Compared to other religions conversion is simple, welcoming and without complex learning or ceremony. It demands that the person be ethical.

Warner implies there are different sets of ethics, one for the Muslim and another for the Kafir. “One set tells how to treat the Muslim and the second that describes how to treat the Kafir” and they are, in Warner’s opinion, not equal.24 This is clearly out of step with the more modern liberalised Muslim beliefs. Warner also puts the focus on Jihad. Warner states, “The suffering caused by jihad, slavery, dhimmitude (non-Muslims), and the killing of apostates is all based upon the duality.”25 According to Pew’s statistics the number of people who leave Islam in the US is about equal to the numbers who join. Further, there is no record of killing those who leave.26

Unification.

There should be no quarrel between Islam and the other Book Religions. The Qur’an mentions many of the people who are previously mentioned in the Bible. The Islamic view of Revelation is that it is one of three Testaments, the First was the Jews, the Second was the Christians, the Third and final one is Islam. The Testament of Islam is one for our times because as most scholars agree, the world is in a period of crisis. Stories related in the Qur’an usually focus more on the spiritual significance of events rather than the details. The stories are generally comparable, but there are differences between Testaments. One of the most profound differences is the Islamic view of Jesus and the crucifixion. The Qur’an maintains that Jesus was not crucified and did not die on the cross. Jesus was a teacher and prophet, he may well have been killed, but he was not crucified. This is only to reiterate what many have been thinking.

Conclusion.

It is often said that the Qur’an is not a book of science, but a book of signs and while the many discourses on science in the Qur’an have been found to be correct, the work is most definitively a tool for changing human behaviour towards a disciplined existence. Warner claims his work uses the scientific method, but in my view, it is neither neutral, nor has it progressed beyond theory. A distinction must be made between a scientific theory and fact. Theory is intended to explain the not already known details which must be tried and tested to gain the facts. Modern science must also be current and purposeful. The only purpose I could find in Warner’s work was to describe a Muslim culture in such a manner that it might elevate the culture of the imperial west and make it sacrosanct.

The Qur’an has been tried and tested over the centuries and it has served to produce harmonious communities across the globe. There is an inner peace to be had away from the politics and worldly competition and skirmishes. The main focus of the Qur’an is not war or hostility it is an opportunity for peace and prayer, that can only be brought about by honour, respect and self-discipline. With this in mind, I find Warner’s interpretation of the Hadith misleading and mischievous. The Qur’an encourages every Muslim to follow Muhammad’s example (PBUH). Warner’s work covers a vast range of topics, but none are presented as peaceful or liberating, while Islam is predicated on a spiritual liberation in this world and the next.

 

References.

1Bill Warner 2010. The Hadith, The Traditions of Mohammed. UK Centre for the Study of Political Islam www.cspipublishing.com

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid

4Ibid p iii

5Ibid pv

6Please note I have retained Warner’s spelling which differs from my own.

7Maurice Bucaille. 1987 The Bible, the Qur’an and Science. The Holy Scriptures examined in Light of Modern Knowledge. Paris Seghers p264.

8 John Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, Extended Edition, p.19-20 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Quran

9Christoph Luxenberg 2007 The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran. Verlag Hans Schiler, p.31.

10Christoph Luxenberg, 2007 p.36

11Maurice Bucaille. 1987 The Bible, the Qur’an and Science. The Holy Scriptures examined in Light of Modern Knowledge. Paris Seghers p260.

12Ibid.

13Ibid.p260

14Ibid.p260

15Ibid p261

16Ibid 261.

17Ibid 263.

18Ibid

19Bill Warner 2010. The Hadith, The Traditions of Mohammed. UK Centre for the Study of Political Islam p12. www.cspipublishing.com

20 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kafir and Adams, Charles; Reinhart, A. Kevin. “Kufr”. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Retrieved 16 April 2021.

21Ibid.

22Ibid.

23Emmanuel M. Ekwo Racism and Terrorism: Aftermath of 9/11 Author House 2010 page 143

24Bill Warner2010. The Hadith, The Traditions of Mohammed. UK Centre for the Study of Political Islam p12. www.cspipublishing.com

25Ibid.

26https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/26/the-share-of-americans-who-leave-islam-is-offset-by-those-who-become-muslim/

 

 

The Sun will rise in the West.

                                                       Image from NASA

The Qur’an tells us that Allah the Almighty created the sun which is a sign that indicates the Power and the Mercy of Allah. Allah says in Surah 24 Al-Nur (The light): Allah alternates the night and the day. Indeed, in that is a lesson for those who have vision.1

The Qur’an has disclosed information about many scientific aspects including the planetary motions of sun, earth and moon. It has been reported that between the eighth and twelfth centuries AD, when development in science was restricted in the Christian world, a large number of studies and discoveries were made at Islamic universities. It was said that the Calif’s library at Cordoba contained 400,000 volumes and Greek, Indian and Persian sciences were taught.2 The scientific considerations that appear in the Qur’an are highly accurate in nature and in line with today’s modern science.

Accordingly, in Islam, whether everything in this universe is observable or not, it is under the writ and guidance of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala (SWT)), which translates as “Glory to Him, the Exalted” As the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him (PBUH)), said literally or philosophically… that Sun goes (i.e. travels) till it prostrates Itself underneath the Throne and takes the permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then (a time will come when) it will be about to prostrate itself but its prostration will not be accepted, and it will ask permission to go on its course but it will not be permitted, but it will be ordered to return whence it has come and so it will rise in the west).3

When the Earth’s magnetic poles shift, North to South, it is said that the East would be the West and thus the sun would rise in the West. The process of the pole shift is called a geomagnetic reversal or a change in a planet’s magnetic field such that the positions of magnetic north and magnetic south are interchanged (not to be confused with geographic north and geographic south). The Earth’s magnetic field has alternated between periods ( These periods are called chrons) of normal polarity in which the predominant direction of the field was the same as the present direction, and reverse polarity, in which it was the opposite. In recent years, hypotheses have advanced toward linking reversals to mass extinctions. The end of superchrons have caused vigorous convection leading to widespread volcanism, and the subsequent airborne ash caused long periods of darkness, leading to extinctions. As the Earth’s magnetic field would also be much weaker during such reversals, high-energy particles trapped in the Van Allen radiation belt could be liberated and able to bombard the Earth, which would be exposed to radiation infiltration without the existing strong magnetic field to protect it. Detailed calculations confirm that if the Earth’s dipole field disappeared entirely (leaving the quadrupole and higher components), most of the atmosphere would become accessible to high-energy particles, and cosmic ray collisions would produce secondary radiation in the atmosphere of beryllium-10 or chlorine-36. This would be fatal to life on earth, and potentially it would destroy most life forms in what could be considered the final hours.4 Scientists therefore claim that the geomagnetic reversals could be cataclysmic leading to the extinction of life. In simple language this could be explained through the prediction of the rising sun in the West, as described in Islam. It has been suggested that the flipping of the Earth’s poles together with a drop in the solar activity 42,000 years ago could have generated an apocalyptic environment that may have caused the extinction of the megafauna and the end of Neanderthals. 5

The Earth’s magnetic field acts as a protective shield against damaging cosmic radiation, but when the poles switch, as has occurred many times in the past, the protective shield weakens dramatically and leaves the planet exposed to high energy particles.

One temporary flip of the poles, known as the Laschamps excursion, happened 42,000 years ago and lasted for about 1,000 years. Previous work found little evidence that the event had a profound impact on the planet, possibly because the focus had not been on the period during which the poles were actually shifting. Now scientists say the flip, together with a period of low solar activity, could have been behind a vast array of climatic and environmental phenomena with dramatic ramifications. According to Prof Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales and co-author of a study, “it probably would have seemed like the end of days”.6

1Qur’an Surah 24 an Nur 44

2Dr Maurice Bucaille. 1986. The Bible the Qur’an and Science. Seghers Publishers p125.

3 When writing the name of God (Allah), Muslims often follow it with the abbreviation “SWT,”

4 S. Cassim. 1998. (BSc from London School of Economics and Political Science) https://www.quora.com/According-to-Islam-the-sun-will-rise-in-the-west-in-the-final-hours-Is-there-any-scientific-explanation-to-support-this Retrieved 30th March 2021.

5 The Guardian January 2021 End of Neanderthals linked to flip of Earth’s magnetic poles… https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/feb/18/end-of-neanderthals-linked-to-flip-of-earths-magnetic-poles-study-suggests Retrieved 30th March 2021.

6Ibid.

Caring for pets and protecting the environment.

This is Sheba. She is a four year old rescue cat. She is not allowed outside to kill the wildlife. Is she not the most beautiful creature? She is loved and cared for with thought and consideration for the environment. All life deserves care and respect.

Islamic Art.

Islamic art: We look at it, we admire it, but how much do we know about it and why should we bother?

Not only is Islamic art beautiful, it tells us about the past and the future. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today and it is predicted to become the only religion. Islam is rigid, disciplined and aimed at survival.  That said, as things stand we, as a people,  are undisciplined and destroying everything around us.  We no longer have prophets to save us. Even the Torah notes the importance of Muhammad as the last prophet. Many people make judgements about Islam based on false information.   Sometimes what is  promulgated as Islam is really just political and fundamentalist.  The true Islam is in the Quran.

Crime and punishment.

Art by Yiskhah

There is a discussion of crime and punishmentin the Talmud that reminds me of the modern notion of deterrents. Do they work? The evidence suggests they do not work. From the position of psychotherapy deterrents fail to work because what drives us to action is not always a matter of conscious awareness. We are by and large, not rational human beings, we tend more towards the emotions and the chemicals that thrive on drama and challenge, the same chemicals that make us creative individuals and keep us alive. We live in a punitive society and when we read the old laws we can see why. “An eye for an eye” appears to be a suitable form of natural justice, but it does not take account of the power relations that sit beneath almost all forms of harmful activity. As Freud pointed out, we are taught to love our neighbour, but who truly loves their neighbour when they throw rubbish into your yard or they keep you up all night with heavy metal music? Love becomes a false premise! I spent several years working in criminal justice in the belief that regardless of the crime, every human being has a right to dignity and fair treatment. Retribution in any form does not resolve the underlying features that create societal problems that are grounded largely in inequality and a lack of opportunity to thrive. All crime and retribution is, in my view, a form of neurosis because it takes place in the context of fear. There are some people who commit offences regardless of their social disposition because they are fully embedded into a competitive capitalist system and need to survive emotionally as well as physically.  The system itself generates immense fear in the minds of those who must live in it. Society creates its own criminals, but rather than address the aetiology of the offence we punish the perpetrators because it provides a feeling of being in control. However, the reverse is true. When we demand rights, we do not consider the number of new laws we need to enforce them. The more laws we have the more incentive to break them. The very nature of this duality insists that when one side of the duality gains more power the other must rise to match it. As for the crime of rape. Studies have shown that when perpetrators are forced to confront their victim to explain why they committed the rape, the discussion is far more effective for behavioural change than locking someone up in detention. This is a hard process for the victim, but it also opens the pathways for healing because it is only when we confront our worst fears that we can be truly healed.

Are we alone?

Sun roof paining by Yishkah.

I recently finished reading a book called We’ve Never Been Alone by Paul Von Ward who is a Christian minister. He  is not like any Christian minister I have met before. He writes about what he calls Advanced Beings (ABs).

Von Ward reviews the sacred texts, myths and old legends as well as contemporary data to suggest that all knowledges, historical, archaeological, scientific and more, have been brought to us from extraterrestrial visitors from other planets.  This sounds very fanciful, but it is a highly scholarly work of some 400 pages and therefore not easy to dismiss.
Von Ward states that governments, religious leaders and scientists know about the ABs, but they have chosen to ignore it. He states that there is a covert struggle for the control of human consciousness and this is why the knowledge has not been made public.
I do see such a struggle taking place for the capture of consciousness.  I have spent many years studying consciousness and its various levels of insight and manipulation.   To this end, Von Ward states that we still have contact with the Advanced Beings, but no one will admit to it,  because it would significantly cause a change in human consciousness. One Advanced Being, Von Ward identifies is God.  This contact happens, states Von Ward, through Divine Revelation as in the visions of prophets. What Von Ward is really saying is the Prophets (and other ABs arrived from another dimension, universe or planet and they came in large numbers to teach us via Divine Revelation.
With regard to Islam Von Ward writes, “modern Egyptian society almost totally consists of an Islamic culture unrelated to that of ancient Egypt.  Rather, it can be traced to a metaphysical encounter in the year 610 CE between a human from a Kuraish tribe and an AB”.  There is no mention of how the writer traces this encounter. Von Ward goes on to say: “From Mecca Mohammed reported that the Angel Gabrial appeared to him in several visions and instructed him to propagate a new religion. By 630 CE a group of believers had organised themselves and they took over the City of Mecca giving birth to Islam.  The writer tells us that after this, any future prophets were imprisoned  as imposters and knowledge of Advanced Beings was blocked out, (this from a Christian Minister)? Wow!
Von Ward states the aforementioned events across the globe caused a split between the natural and supernatural and this in turn resulted in a split in human consciousness, which today moves between neurosis and psychosis.
I agree with the social and psychological diagnosis, there is a split between the natural and supernatural and of course this impacts the human psyche on many levels.  As far as we know, no such split takes place in other animals, in this dichotomy of mind, we humans are unique.
Now I will get to my point.
What I find interesting about Islam, is the teachings are not Platonic, but are grounded in Aristotle and his naturalism, this takes place while Christianity embraces supernaturalism and the esoteric as does Judaism in the Kabbalah.  I am not opposed to some forms of supernaturalism. The human mind cannot perceive everything.
Aristotelian naturalism is the metaethical theory most often associated with contemporary virtue ethics. In this view, moral goodness is a form of natural goodness, which is a sort of species-relative goodness that applies in the evaluation of living organisms.   Nature, according to Aristotle, is an inner principle of change and being at rest (Physics 2.1, 192b20–23). This means that when an entity moves or is at rest according to its nature this may serve as an explanation of the event.
  How does the Quran bode with Aristotle’s explanation of a natural event?  For example the Big Bang has a natural scientific explanation, not an esoteric one. It rests on certain principles. In contrast, for Christianity the science of evolution, otherwise universal expansion, is considered as blasphemy against God’s Creation. There is no identifiable natural principle here, only the esoteric.
Mohammed was said to be illiterate, but today we know that there are different states of mind (different levels of cognition) where different forms of learning take place.  Take for instance the person with autism, or indeed any person on the lower areas of the accepted cognitive spectrum.  Today, we have some of the highest levels of autism that the world has ever scientifically calculated. Yet, how we understand this depends on our own perception of what autism is and is not. As a general view the autistic brain is one that thinks differently.
Might we see a correlation between the rise in Islam and its appeal to minds that think differently?   In this sense autism is not a disability, but a different ability. This may also be relative to evolution.
 Let me qualify this further, by saying, different thinking may not be caused by a difference in brain capacity, there may be many other reasons for difference, including spirituality.
With this view in mind, I would like to believe that spirituality is part of our evolution, not something to be abandoned or attributed to visiting Advanced Beings.
Do I believe in Von Ward’s proposal?  I do not know, I am keeping an open mind.
There is great joy and peace to be found in spirituality, whether taught by ABs or whether it came naturally. Prayer, worship and trust are more likely to be a natural phenomena built into the human disposition and maybe lost over time or in difficult circumstances.    To be able to share feelings with others is a great gift.
Many are turning away from the old religions and finding new ones.
Islam is in a state of revival. Before the Iranian Revolution hardly anyone in the western world knew anything about Islam.  Today, it is the fastest growing religion next to atheism. Can this be attributed to ABs?  Do we all share part of an AB legacy?  Who knows?

Saving the Animals.

Drawing by Yishkah.

We should love animals because we too are animals.  Living on Land for Wildlife has provided me with some important lessons about nature and the creatures that inhabit it. Animals might share our landscape, sometimes courtesy of fashion or, hopefully in loving kindness, but wild animals are entitled to their own domain and it is gradually being taken away from them.    We are losing a precious part of our worldly existence, the pleasure of seeing animals in their own environment.     In removing animal habitat, we change the landscape and invite plagues and feral species and we turn passive animals into dangerous predatory creatures.  Some years ago, I lived up in the forested mountains of a small town called Warburton.  It is a picturesque town, which is today a mecca for tourists. When I lived there it was a timber town and the ancient forests of mountain ash, streams and water falls were being decimated by the forestry industry.  One could say, okay, we need timber, our cities were built on forest timber, but this harvesting of timber that I speak of, was being shredded for woodchip and exported abroad. So much timber was taken that it sat on the docks for weeks before there were enough vessels to transport it.  Harvesting the timber in gluttonous amounts was not the only problem, it was being harvested from a water catchment area, which provided the fresh water for the City of Melbourne.  Battles over this harvesting ensued for years and they are still ongoing. Watching the logging trucks steaming through the town was difficult enough, but when the forest coup was cleared what was left in debris was set alight and burned to ashes.  This was the most painful experience of all because every small animal emerged out of its burrow frightened and confused and one had to stand helpless and watch as these creatures tried to find an escape from the smoke and flames.  There were snakes, wombats, possums, birds and more, often burned alive.   We love our pets, we fight to save them, but how much do we love and fight to save our wildlife?  It takes a mass population to hold influence over the multinational industries that destroy our lands.  Those who do protest are up against some of the most powerful corporations in the world. We are called the “greenies”, we march in protest, campaign outside public buildings, climb tall bridges to hang protest banners and the rest. We are beaten up, spat upon, kicked, hit and abused, but still we protest. I got too old to protest.  I have been protesting since the 1960s. Now I just pray and thank G-d for giving me my own small plot of land so I can have a sanctuary for some of the wildlife.  I feel truly blessed and not a day goes by when I do not feel as though I am in my own piece of Paradise and those animals, often thought to be dangerous, live with me in harmony on my land.

A cow with a needle in it?

The Corona virus has been difficult, but in Australia it has not been nearly as bad as elsewhere. Added to this, I have tended to place the cause of pandemics into the environment in which they take place. What are we doing to this beautiful planet? I am trying to glean some insight of this problem from the daily readings of the Talmud. “Yes”, I am an environmentalist, sad and angry at the treatment of G-d’s magnificent world. Let me pose a proposition gleaned from an image in the Talmud of the cow pierced by a needle.
The world is made of of living organisms from the largest to the smallest. When we cut down the trees in the forest we can see the harm, the animals lose their habitat, their food supply is diminished, they get killed on the roads while searching out a new home. When we poison the rivers we see the dead fish by they wayside. They look back at us with open mouths, wide eyes and watery gills. When we look at a polluted pond, what do we see? Foam and poisons line the perimeters, perhaps a green algae floats on the top of the water, but we do not see what is underneath, the tiny microbes that make up a healthy ecosystem.
Water acts as a sink for a number micro organisms that are harmful to humans. When the pond dries up or the environment changes many of these organisms escape. They get into the air or into our food. Sometimes they get carried on the backs of animals or birds. However they are transported these are the organisms that make people sick. What do we do in response to this dilemma? We search for a medicine, a vaccine, but when do we clean up the pond or the environment….NEVER.
I  saw the cow and the needle piercing its stomach in my sleep. I live adjacent to a diary farm, one of the cruelest industries on the planet. At birth the calves are ripped from the mothers. Their cries can be heard some distance away. the females are kept the males are killed. Their tails are cut off, because they get in the way of milking and the animal is left without a weapon against flies and insects, of which there are many in Australia. The animal is milked until every last drop is squeezed from the udder, leaving it red and often bloodied and congealed.
The needle in the cow reminded me of factory farming, not just of cows but all creatures whose role it is to satisfy the appetite of we humans. As we try to decipher the rules of what is pure and impure in the Talmud, might there not be room for considering the plight of the unvoiced creatures whose lives never extend beyond servitude.
We are taught that slaughter must be carried out humanely, but why slaughter at all, when clearly the cow as food makes no economic sense in a world where so many people go hungry for the sake of a hamburger and a life of rank gluttony and obesity in the west.

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