In other words, a child, and I want to uh, make it very clear here, that when it says the parents will make it a Jew, a Christian or Magian…this needs to be understood within the context of the Islamic uh,…vision. And I would say that the Jew, the Christian or the Magian are literally…arch-types. In other words, they are forms, ah,upon which human beings are susceptible, given the world view of the Islamic teaching.
And this is no way, meant to be offensive to people that happen to be Christian, or Jewish or even Magian. Those three traditions are actually honored in the Muslim tradition, and their churches and synagogues traditionally were protected in the Muslim lands, based on injunctions from the Quran itself and the Prophet Muhammad.
But at the same time, there’s, ah… in modern society, there’s a tendency to relativize religious tradition. And to create dialogue in which each religious tradition is equalized to the same level. And in a sense Islam refuses to do this, despite the fact that many Muslims are willing to engage in this practice. Islam itself refuses to do that, because Islam declares a supremacy as a teaching.
Now, I would like to point out to the Muslims, that I personally believe that these archetypes, Muslims can easily, people who consider themselves Muslims, can easily fall into these archetypal forms. In other words, there are many Muslims who are in the archetypal form of whats being terms a Jew here. And I want, I’ll go into that later.
The same can be said of the Christian and the Magian. And so basically what I would like to do, is talk about this Hadith and I will get into a clarification of what these uh, arrows mean.
In terms of, of just as a start. I want to take a very brief, and this has to be recognized for what it is, it is a brief overview, of really in a sense, how we got to where we are in the united states, And in many ways, all over the world, because westernization, which, really, is a term, that is no longer appropriate, in the sense that, the this this phenomenon, which we have traditionally called westernization, it has now become a global phenomenon that does not respect traditional geographical, ah, borders and boundaries and traditional points of reference such as the east and the west. Rudyard Kipling’s, famous, “The east is east, the west is west, and never the twain shall meet.”
Well they have met, and it’s been disastrous, and …in many ways it’s been disastrous because the, ah, west has won this stage of the battle.
And when I speak about the west, I speak about really, the worst elements of the western tradition, because there are certainly within the western tradition itself, many uh, exalted elements. And certainly many aspects of high culture. But really what I’m talking about is ah, is the, imperialistic tendencies, ahh, the western hegemony, over knowledge, over thought and discourse, and ultimately over the commodification of the world itself. Ah, the, literally the desacrilization of the, of the world in which we live. And the exploitable nature, of western pursuits all over the world in terms of what, are, called, traditionally, resources, both, and I really don’t like this type of terminology, but both minerals and quote unquote, “human resources”.
And it’s an interesting term, because again it articulates a commodification of human beings. Human beings have been reduced to resources, that are to be exploited like other, ah, resources.
If you look initially at the beginning of
western civilization, in a sense it has to begin ,
in what is termed the Hellenistic
And the Greeks have a unique ah, characteristic and that is that at a certain point, most people pinpoint around the 6th century BC or before chr…Christian Era, which is the point at which the traditional grand narrative which was ah, a in a sense a pseudo religious explanation of the world based on these gods that lived on Mount Olympus, based on the oral traditions of the gods, began to be challenged by a group of people that began what the Greeks would eventually term …philosophy, they began to philosophize and speculate rationally about the nature of the world, where it came from, what it was made up of.
And it’s very fascinating, because these people, had many different theories. Some said, everything ultimately atoms, these nonads, these irreducible components of the universe. Others said it was made out of water, others said, …other things. And what happened because there were so many versions, ultimately a group arose out of the Greeks called the skeptics. And the skeptics were people who said that nothing can be known, because obviously human knowledge comes up with all these fanciful ideas and ultimately there’s no supremacy of one over the other. Which is a really important historical point, because in a sense that is where we have arrived at again.
We are back to the skeptical perspective which is that there is no certainty. Now, from this movement arose a group of people called the sophists. And the sophists were an interesting uh, lot, who basically were extremely clever at the rhetorical manipulation of words, and and embellished words ornamentally, in a way that was designed, to influence people through speaking. And, they were really not concerned with truth. They were simply concerned with the most persuasive way of bringing people over to their idea. And it really wasn’t important whether they investigated their idea, whether it was valid or not. The point, I have an opinion, I want you to have that opinion, so I’m going to convince you of that opinion. And they began to study, uhm, how to do that effectively.
And what happens from that, is a very
interesting character pops up, whose name is Socrates. And Socrates basically was declared by the
oracle of uhm,
And uh… this was very curious to these
people because here’s the Oracle saying he’s the most learned man in
Now, this is what the Arabs traditionally called simple ignorance.
And they said it was remediable, that you could cure it. Meaning, if someone knew that they were ignorant, then they could be easily cured of that sickness, by teaching them knowledge.
But the form of ignorance that they considered incurable, was compounded ignorance, and that is the type of ignorance that is where somebody thinks they know something, and in fact they don’t. Well Socrates, the clever man that he was, went about basically, seeking out people who claimed to knew things. And his heuristic discourse would basically reduce their arguments to ah…, to untenable arguments. Because he would basically continue to question them, and find, before long they try to sneak out the room, like Visepherous.
Or uh, others that uhm, its very fascinating what he did, but really the character is so important, as a character, because he is like the child in Han’s Christian Anderson’s wonderful fairytale – ‘The Emperor without any clothes’.
What he did basically was just say , “The Emperor doesn’t have any clothes”. And because he did that, that is actually a very dangerous thing to do. They condemned him to death, because emperor’s don’t like to be told that they’re naked, when they’re doing incredible things to convince people that they’re in fact ornamented in the most extraordinary clothes. Now, Socrates has this student named Plato. And from Plato emerges a theory of education, and this is really one of the first formulations, certainly in the west, of a theory of education.
And his theory of education is basically based on this idea that the human beings have 3 qualities, or three abilities. One is the ability to reason. That we can know things and we can think the good. And this is an ambiguous term, but this is basically …the idea that the human reason is this ability to strike from the good.
And then the next one is the ability of appetition or the appetite, that we are also human and have animal qualities. So, on one hand we have the angelic aspect and on the other hand we have this… animal aspect.
And then there’s this third point which is the will and the idea of the will, which is the ability for reason to solicit the use of the will in preventing the appetites from taking a person from destruction. Now this is not all so dissimilar from the akhal, or the intellect. Where it would differ is that according to the Muslim belief the intellect itself is incapable of knowing the truth without divine revelation. Now Plato had an idea of direct intuition which is his highest form of knowledge. And whether by that he meant revelation, is is uhm, is just fodder for scholars.
But, in the Islamic tradition the idea that the intellect needed divine revelation. Now the reason for this is important. And that is based on this Hadith…that there is an inherent nature to the human being. But that nature must be nurtured. It must be nurtured, and it must nurtured by divine guidance. And if it is not nurtured by divine guidance, it deviates.
Now this would be what the Christians called original sin. The move… the progressive move to the deviation the hearts swerved. And in the Islamic tradition, there Is not that idea but there is a similar idea uh, that it is not based on this sin we’re born into , but rather that the human being has this dual nature and there is a proclivity towards doing the animal aspects uh,… to excess,… and that must be reared in by the higher self.
Which is called the Nafs al.. Luwama, and the Nafs al-Mutmaina. The Nafs al-Luwama is the blaming or reproachful self. That when it sees the Nafs al Luwama, which is the command self, moving towards wrong, it will blame it.
Now there are two ways this is done. There is preventative or if the action is committed, then it will renew its state of purity through an act which is termed ‘Taubah’ in the Islamic tradition. Which is similar to the Christian idea of repentance. That one literally turns away from this this blemish, and renews ones ah, spiritual wholeness. And it’s done in most religious traditions through ritualized forms. In Islam its its quite simple, asking, saying “Astigfirullah” <ARABIC> and asking for the covering or the veiling of God over ones wrong action. It also entails, if there was harm done, that the harm be, be dealt with.
Now, … ah From from, the ah…, Plato’s tradition, comes a student of his , who’s name is Aristotle. And Aristotle basically moves away from the metaphysical speculations of Plato, into a more ah, empiricist traditional or pragmatic tradition, his his concern was more with experiential knowledge rather then ah…intuitive knowledge. And this begins a split in western tradition that will have profound implications and is directly related to modern society, and modern education. And this is the split between the rational and the empiricist tradition.
What happens is the advent of Christianity, in Western civilization, brings a new tradition. And that is that western civilization is infused with the Semitic ideas of the the Hebrews. The Jewish tradition. But it also is synthesized with the Hellenistic ideas. So you have on the one hand, the ah, …the the Hellenistic tradition, the pagan tradition. Which is formidable, and it can’t simply be thrust aside. And you have on the other hand a a movement that actually began as a reformist messianic movement of the Jewish people, and it suddenly universalized through a brilliant polemicist, and orator named Paul, or Saul of Tarsis.
And Saul of Tarsis was from uh, an interesting town, Tarsis, which is in Asia Minor and this was the center of a Roman tradition which was known as Mithraism, and it was a basically a Babylonian mistri cult, that had been Romanized, and they believed, they believed in a God that was born on Dec 25th, he was the sole invictis or the unconquerable Sun God, who was also seen to be the Son of God. And actually died for the sins of human beings through self-immolation. In the form of a Bull. And his Blood and his Flesh were, were taken in, imbibed and eaten, as a way of redemption.
And this is all historically documented,
the whole tradition of Mithraism. In
In other words, when they were confronted with the similarities between Christianity and Mithraism, this is how they dealt with it, as ‘This is from the Devil trying to shake our faith’, which is a really interesting psychological mechanism that believers uh, tend to resort to uh, when they are confronted with something quite frightening.
And uhmm…in the Quran, there’s many examples of this resorting to a kind of irrational argument when Ibrahim the great iconoclast, Abraham, ah challenges his people ‘what are these idols, what are these images that you are assiduously worshipping?’ and and and uh, you know, ultimately when he says, ‘they can’t talk, they can’t do anything’, they they, it says literally, they returned to themselves <Quranic Verse> they returned to themselves and they realized he’s got a point. And at that point its very frightening, because belief has suddenly been undermined. And what their response of these people was, is really the final refuge of the rogue in the Quran, which is, ‘this is what we found our fathers doing.‘
Now, human beings are really fascinating in that aspect. It’s been said that rats, uhmm, will if if you have four doors and you put cheese on the fourth door, and then you open these doors, and let the rats go down . They will go down one, they’ll smell the cheese, go down one, if its say the third door, they’ll keep going, they’ll go down it a few times, and they’ll go down maybe, number 2 door. When they finally get to the fourth door, then they eat the cheese, again cheese is put in the fourth door, and this is reinforced several times.
And so finally, when they, this funny scientist takes the cheese out and doesn’t put it down the fourth door, puts it down the second door. The rat will go down the 4th door several times, but at a certain point he will stop. He’ll realize that this is futile and he’ll go down that second or first door and find the cheese. Now, the interesting thing about human beings, unlike the rats, is that they will tend to keep going down the fourth door. And never really go to the other door. And the reason for that is this extraordinary capacity that we uniquely hold and that is to believe.
The rat does not believe that there is cheese at the end of the... He’s just interested in the cheese, because he is a creature that has a very limited uhh…brain, which is not like the human brain, a triune brain, but a singular brain that doesn’t have a little uh..reptilian brain, or core brain.
Now the Christians, interestingly enough, begin to Hellenize their tradition and the Gospels originally articulated according to most of the Scholars, in the Aramaic tradition, are written in a Cornier Greek, which was the vernacular of the people at that time. And transmitted through the Greek language. In fact, the the Gospel is a Greek word, “Yaamadell” which is the good news and which uh, the gospel, which is the good news. Which is termed Ingeel in the Arabic language.
And what happens within the Christian tradition the the there is an interesting focus on Platonic thought , unlike the Aristotelian thought, and particularly neo-Platonic thought and that of a famous philosopher known as Polotinus.
And, you have a brilliant ahh…, articulator in the church known as Augustine. Who is actually from North-Africa. And Augustine, also begins to formulate ideas about education, and his basic idea is that education is to create conversion and constant repentance in the individual. Now, Augustine like many of the priestic fathers of the Christian church, uh, he really disdained the body. And the man was really in a very difficult position. He visited, by his own confession, the prostitutes of his city, as a young man. And he used to say, “Oh God, give me faith, but not yet”.
In other words, he wasn’t ready to give up,
uhm, the the quote unquote,
‘the temporal pleasures of this world’. But when he finally did in his conversion in the garden. Uh,
he renounced completely the body. And he
began to write things about the body. Uhmm…as has been
written by Jerome and other church fathers. Really interesting aesthetics go off into the
In other words, they did this thing, and then they didn’t really fulfill what they were attempting to because of its very unnatural aspects…which is to deny the body itself. Because we are dual natured. We have this high angelic self, but we also have the body that cannot be ignored. And the Islamic tradition is a tradition that literally synthesizes the two, and recognizes that each has its qualities and characteristics and has its aspects that are to be enjoyed. And what the Islamic tradition does, is it simply puts uh … boundaries on each of the two.
In fact the idea of monasticism is something the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, actually rejected. And said that there is no monasticism in my tradition.
He said, My tradition is the way of family and marriage, and whoever turns away from my tradition is not from me. And he said beware of excess in your religion. So he neither liked excess in the spiritual pursuits, nor did he like excess In the worldly pursuits, but saw that the human being should be this balanced, uh, man and woman, walking between these two aspects, taking from both, but within the generous boundaries of the Quran itself.
And so, Augustine then basically sets out an ideal, an educational ideal that becomes in many ways, the ideal of the Chris…of the European tradition, and that is the ideal of the liberal arts.
And the liberal arts were not really new they were kind of a reformulation of also the platonic, uh,… tradition and the Aristotelian tradition, and the liberal arts were that that oo, that at the elementary level there should be certain tools mastered in order to free one, from the bad habits of thought. And these were called the liberal arts. And liberal comes from the idea of freeing or freedom.
And Aristotle actually points out that the liberal arts are in contradistinction to the illiberal arts. And the idea is that the liberal arts are for the free man, and the illiberal arts are for the slave.
In other words, the slave is to learn things, in order to provide a purpose and a function to his, or her master. And not as an end onto itself, Like the free man who learns, simply, for the sake of learning, and to free his mind. So, the interesting thing about this is that, servile classes in any culture will ultimately be subjected to illiberal arts, and in many ways, in modern society, the educational system is a system which is teaching the servile classes, functional works, that they can perform, for an elite group of people. You see, this is really what modern education is about. Its not about freeing peoples minds.
And if you think it’s about freeing peoples mind. You’ve really been enslaved. You’re that character that I put up there, the first <laughing> the first picture…really…if ..if you think, that the goal of education, is to free your mind, then they’ve really done a number on you. And to break that is is really difficult. <