Freedom from the Social Hell: A Response to the 2016 U.S. Election

This essay was partly inspired by the recent presidential election in the United States. It was an extremely strange election, one that presented us with the picture of a number of groups waging all-out war on their mental images of other groups, on phantasms that gave the definite impression of having departed further from reality than any we’ve seen for a long time. This is one necessary outcome of the mental illness known as ideological thinking. As soon as you grant greater authority to an ideology that you’ve adopted, or that’s been imposed on you, than to your own experience, or to the collective experience of the human race over many millennia, you have entered a condition of socio-political insanity. Suggestions as to how to cure this dangerous malady appear below.

A bully sees everyone who’s not a bully as a weakling. A coward sees a person with a strong character as a bully, or at least a potential one. A person eaten up with intellectual pride sees a loving person as a flabby sentimentalist. A materialistic person sees an intellectual as someone living in an “ivory tower”. An obsessively moralistic person sees an easygoing person as lax and degenerate. An amoral person sees anyone with moral principles as “judgmental”. A sentimentalist sees all intellectuals as cruel and cold-hearted. A swindler sees an honest person as foolish and naïve. A hard-hearted individual sees a compassionate person as nothing but a “bleeding heart”. A hypocrite thinks that everyone else must be a hypocrite like he is. A cold, calculating manipulator sees anyone who would never descend to such manipulation because he respects other people as either a hypocrite or a fool. An introverted narcissist sees a more extraverted person as brassy and shallow. An extraverted narcissist sees a more introverted person as either a social coward or a secret snob, etc., etc., etc.

The effect of these false and self-serving opinions is that any notion of a strong person who isn’t interested in dominating others, of a person whose love is inseparable from discipline and intelligence, of a sage who possesses real practical wisdom, of a friendly and gregarious person who isn’t addicted to self-indulgence, of a moral person who is more interested in rectifying his own faults than searching for faults in others, of an intellectual with real empathy and emotional understanding, of an honest person who understands what dishonesty is and knows how to protect himself from it, of a compassionate person who is not dominated by sentimental pity, of a “straight” person who is no more nor less than what he shows himself to be, of an intelligent person who has no desire to use his intelligence to gain advantage over others, of a self-contained person who is perfectly content not to draw attention to himself, etc., etc.—all these ideas of what it is to be a human being disappear from our collective mythology. The upshot is that we begin to see ourselves more or less as demons living in the society of other demons, and can no longer easily imagine any way of acting other than the way demons act. This is how human society is transformed into a collective Hell.

What is the origin of these false opinions and delusions? In the last analysis, every one of them stems from the same thing: the disastrous fact that we no longer know what a human being is.

We believe—because we are taught—that a human being is an animal, a machine, an automaton controlled by unconscious obsessions and complexes, an organism designed by deoxyribonucleic acid to create and propagate more deoxyribonucleic acid, a function of class, a function of race, a function of genetics, a function of gender, a function of advertising, a function of social conditioning, a function of past trauma, a function of systematic social engineering, a function of technological society, a function of environmental influences, a function of brain chemistry. But we are wrong: a human being—the sort of creature we used to think of as having an inalienable right to something called human dignity—is none of these things: a human being is a microcosm; an axial being; the locus-of-manifestation for the Imago Dei; the bearer of the Trust; the divinely-appointed steward of creation; the human face of the Names of God on earth. This used to be so obvious that we had no words for it, nor did we need any. It is now so forgotten that all the words in the world can’t make us remember it.

If we really knew this, like we once did—if we knew that the Presence of God blazes in the human heart like the Sun—then we would see the integral, authentic, harmonious, balanced, virtuous aspects of the human character as so many rays of that Sun, shining into, and imprinting themselves upon, all the multiple facets and variations of our social interaction, so as to constitute the universally-recognized norms of these many human worlds. If we knew integrity, we could recognize disintegration. If we knew authenticity, we could discern deception. If we knew virtue, we could detect degeneracy. If we knew harmony, we could sense discord. If we knew balance, we could evaluate chaos. If we truly understood these things we would possess the universal Criterion, the one that caused Protagoras to declare that “man is the measure of all things.” But we cannot know integrity, authenticity, harmony, balance and virtue, we cannot know that man is the measure of all things, unless we first know that God is the measure of man. He is the One Who possesses our eternal design, the integral human form that slipped from our consciousness when we ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and thereby obtained both the vain, prideful knowledge of ourselves as good and others as evil, and the bitter, envious knowledge of ourselves as evil and others as good—much better than they deserve to be, which is why they need to be torn down so there can be “a level playing-field”.

So what is the way out of this collective human Hell—the one that led Jean-Paul Sartre to say, “Hell is other people”? The way out is for us to stop defining ourselves according to the criterion of “other people”. If we get our DNA from our ancestors not our contemporaries, can’t we mold our characters on true and traditional principles rather than ephemeral social norms?  The way out is for us to stop trying to conform ourselves to collective stereotypes, and to do so as quickly as possible so we can let God create us again, as we were in the beginning: “Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth” [traditional Catholic prayer, based on the Psalms]. Nimrod, in the Book of Genesis, started building a Tower he hoped would reach to Heaven, till God stopped him in his tracks. He did this to give Nimrod a chance to remember that he was that Tower already. “Unless the Lord build the House, they labor in vain who build it” [Psalm 127]. But Nimrod did not remember—and we in our own time have forgotten even what little he knew. That’s why our own towers are even taller than Nimrod’s was, and less stable than his, and a lot uglier: They forgot God, says the Qur’an, so God caused them to forget themselves [59:19].

The work is only to remember, to pray to God as if you saw Him, because even if you don’t see Him, He sees you [hadith of Bukhari and Muslim]. What we see is biased; even the saint still has the faint, tiny glimmer of a bias in him (and knows it—that’s what makes him a saint). But God sees things as they are. Only He really knows who’s who and what’s what, so it’s best to leave the decision up to Him. We may issue our decree, and even manage to enforce it, but we can never rest in it; there is no rest for us except in God’s decree. His Eye is the farmer’s plow and the mason’s hammer; He creates what He sees simply by seeing it. In the depth of His Will, and our submission to it, lies the end of all conflict—the “Peace that passeth understanding” [Philippians 4:7]. Enfolded in that Peace, we understand that all existing things, including ourselves, do not exist as we see them, only as He sees them. Knowing this, we can free our self-imagined selves from the imagined hell represented by “other people”, and those other people from the hell of our own social ideologies, our own abject failure to achieve omnipotence and omniscience and eternal justification; we can learn how to receive “the rain that falls on the just and the unjust” [Matthew 4:45]. While we are occupied only with measuring our imagined selves against our real selves, our self-created mythic existences against our true and eternal forms in the mind of God, we will have neither the space nor the time to measure others—only to salute them.

Mankind were but one community; then they differed; and had it not been for a word that had already gone forth from thy Lord it had been judged between them in respect of that wherein they differ. [Qur’an 10:19]

The word that had already gone forth from thy Lord was the fitrah, the Primordial Adamic Human Nature, the original revelation of God to man—and as man. As soon as we recognize this fitrah in ourselves, we gain the ability to see it in others. Our socio-political insanity is cured. Ideological thinking comes to an end.



A Muslim Challenge To President Donald Trump

Donald Trump, now elected President of the United States, appears in the minds of many of us to have slandered every Muslim in America. He might not have intended this; he may not be fully aware that this is the effect of some of his reported statements. Whether or not he plans to unleash widespread persecution of American Muslims, whether or not he intends to deny us our legal and constitutional rights as Americans, remains to be seen. Be that as it may, everything we presently fear from him goes back to this original and fundamental slander. Perhaps he did not express this slander in so many words, but—unless the whole problem can be attributed to the mis-reporting of his statements by the Liberal media—he certainly appears to have done so by implication, by innuendo, by omission, and by accepting the support of, and failing to distance himself from, those groups and individuals who would see Muslims denied equal protection under U.S. law, subjected to special censures and restrictions, persecuted specifically as a religion—a practice which, if it ever becomes law or enters into widespread practice, will almost certainly be applied to other religions as well. And he has not only apparently slandered us for being Muslims, but for being bad Muslims, for betraying our own religion, for being apostates from Islam. The calumny that many Muslims, rightly or wrongly, presently see as coming from him is that American Muslims, as well as Muslims as a whole, are so destitute of honor and self-respect, so lacking in the fear of Allah, so deficient in fundamental human dignity, that every Muslim is a potential terrorist—and therefore that we would willingly, and without the slightest shame, lower ourselves so far, sink so deeply into the scum of life, as to give our approval and our support to the likes of ISIL and al-Qaeda and al-Nursa and Boko Haram, to these sub-human mad dogs who defile the Holy Qur’an every day of their lives, who spit in the face of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, dragging his name in the dirt and spreading the most scurrilous slanders against him to all corners of the earth, till the very name “Muhammad” has become synonymous in the minds of many with “criminal madman”! The substance of this slander is that the majority of Muslims would easily, off-handedly and without the slightest pang of guilt, betray what we claim is most sacred to us, that we would rush to give our support to traitors and apostates who have violated every precept of the Holy Qur’an, who have replaced the image of the noble character of the Prophet in their hearts with the putrid corruption of the devotees of Shaytan (Satan) and the minions of al-Dajjal (Antichist). He has spoken and acted in the apparent belief that we have taken as our moral ideal a bunch of lowlife fifth-columnists and traitors who have actually had the temerity, and also the rank stupidity, to accept funds, arms and logistical support from the nations of the West, first among these being the United States of America! And all this in the name of defending Islam against neo-colonialism and foreign domination!

Heretofore a minority of U.S. Muslims have felt it politic to turn to the administration of Barack Obama, as well as to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, to advance our collective interests and seek protection from the rising tide of Islamophobia. And if certain indications appeared that the United States was not as committed to the destruction of ISIL as one might conclude from a cursory overview of the daily news, this was more or less accepted as part of the “deal”.

But now that deal is off. If Hillary had been elected, if it can be proved that Huma Abedin does indeed have close ties to both the Wahhabi establishment of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood as has been reported—the ideological and financial centers of radical Islamic extremism—and if she had remained a close advisor to Hillary, possibly her chief of staff, then the U.S. would likely have continued in the grip of a hopeless contradiction: supporting terrorism while simultaneously fighting it. Under such conditions, every move that we as American Muslims would have tried to make toward dealing with Islamophobia and countering the accusation of secret Islamicist sympathies would have been compromised from day one by the willingness of a short-sighted minority to accept patronage and protection from those elements of the power elite who have been dealing with and giving aid and support to Islamicist extremism all along—a reality which, in this age of WikiLeaks, could in no way have been kept under wraps as it has been in the past. So our goose would have been thoroughly cooked.

Two cases in point: A 2014 email exchange released by WikiLeaks between Hillary Clinton and John Podesta (then White House adviser to President Barack Obama), frankly welcomed the ISIL 2014 offensive in Iraq, stating that “the advance of ISIL [ISIS] through Iraq gives the U.S. Government an opportunity to change the way it deals with the chaotic security situation in North Africa and the Middle East. The most important factor in this matter is to make use of intelligence resources and Special Operations troops in an aggressive manner.” Hillary apparently recognized, according to one interpretation of this statement, that ISIS provided a pretext for launching a renewed US military intervention aimed at furthering the strategic goal of American hegemony in the Middle East under the guise of a struggle against terrorism. As for case number two, it now appears—based on statements from government officials (including FBI director James Comey), policy recommendations from think-tanks (including the Brookings Institution), as well as reports from a number of sources close to the White House, that it was U.S. policy under Obama not to arrest and prosecute ISIS fighters returning to the United States, but to attempt to “reintegrate” them into U.S. society, thus putting all Americans at risk. It would have been a weary task for American Muslim leaders to try and convince the American people that “we’re not all terrorists” while their less enlightened brothers and sisters continued to accept Federal patronage, even as damning revelations like these continued to emerge. And in view of the fact that ISIS has published a hit list of American Muslim leaders, the willingness of a minority of American Muslims to seek patronage from Barack Obama and uncritically support Hillary Clinton appears, in hindsight, to have been a bit unwise.

Now, however, we have been relieved of this burden of enforced self-destruction by two truly game-changing developments: first, the election of Donald Trump; second, the unequivocal excommunication of the Salafi extremists in the group fatwa known as the Grozny Declaration, issued in August this year after a conference of traditional leaders in the city of Grozny in the Chechen Republic. It’s as if, to compensate for the hard blow of Trump’s election—which some have interpreted as “now it’s open season on Muslims”—Allah in His Mercy has sent us this Declaration, at almost the same moment, as a great and powerful ray of strength and healing. No longer will we be assaulted by painful moral ambiguities and uncertainties as to what constitutes the true Islam of the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. No longer will we be forced to harbor a vague and secret guilt—a false guilt if there ever was one—which whispers to us that we are somehow less than faithful Muslims because we can in no way stomach the crimes of ISIL and Boko Haram, their rapes, ghoulish tortures and heartless murders and genocides, not only of Christians but of many more Muslims than Christians—of any Muslim at all, man, woman and child, who refuses to go along with their perversion and destruction of the very religion they pretend to follow! Now we can be sure that the voice of our fundamental humanity, that voice which told us in no uncertain terms to reject these crimes of torture and murder of innocent civilians as fundamentally incompatible with our Muslim faith, was the true voice, that nothing in Islam ever could or ever will contradict it, seeing that Islam is al-Din al-Fitrah, the religion of the prophet Adam himself, of our primordial humanity as Allah created us—and consequently that the voice of the sneaking whisperer [cf. the Surah an-Naas] who told us that Allah would forgive any crime, no matter how shameful or vicious, as long as we committed it in His Name, was nothing less than the voice of Shaytan. Just think about it for a moment, my brothers and sisters. If we were to commit adultery and then tell our spouse “I did it for you”; if we were to murder our brother and then tell our father, “I did it for you, to show my respect for you”—should we really expect our parent, our spouse, to except these excuses—or, rather, these flat-out self-condemnations? The Grozny Declaration simply re-affirms, in the name of many of the central authorities of traditional Islam—Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the central authority of traditional Sunni Islam; the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam; the ex-Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa; Usama al-Azhari, religious adviser to  President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt; Habib Ali al-Jifri of the Tabah Foundation, based in Qatar; Abdul Fattah al-Bizm, Mufti of Damascus; and last but not least the Russian Council of Muftis, which seconded the Grozny Declaration in a declaration of their own—what we already knew in our heart of hearts: unless, that is, we were already irretrievably lost. We certainly cannot pretend that this declaration was issued in a political vacuum nor that it will not produce a degree of division and conflict within the House of Islam; such is always the case when the truth is told, clearly and without fear or shame, to a world threaded through with lies and corruption and moral compromise.

Newly armed and strengthened by the Grozny Declaration, and armed as well with the list (now in preparation) of literally hundreds other of statements, projects and actions by Muslims in opposition to ISIL and the other Takfiri terrorists, both within the United States and in many other parts of the world, let us challenge Donald Trump to rethink and restate his position vis-a-vis the religion of Islam, providing him with all the information he would need to come to a fair and just decision. It may well be that Trump’s position is simply based on a very common type of ignorance—though an unwillingness on his part to consider the evidence we offer would compel us to come to a different conclusion. We must always remember the words of the Prophet Muhammad, “acts are judged by their intent.” If his intent is pure, if he is acting mostly out of ignorance, he may still adopt a more reasonable and helpful stance. He may yet prove to us, and to the American people, he is serious about allying with Russia to bring down ISIL, that this pledge is not just one more in a long line of empty promises that he, like so many presidents whose identity in office bears little resemblance to their various stated positions on the campaign trail, will not and cannot keep. If so, we are duty bound to let him know that we are willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with him against this cancer that is destroying Islam. But along with this offer of help goes a necessary warning: that there is no way that he, or Alexander Putin, or anyone else can defeat ISIL and the other Takfiri terrorists presently infesting the world, without the help of the true and traditional Muslims. The outcome of the Grozny conference apparently demonstrates that Putin already knows this. Let us watch and wait to see whether Trump learns the same lesson, in the short time still remaining for him to learn it. The ball is in his court.

The Age of Absolute Flight

What is the Calamity?
Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Calamity is!
A day wherein mankind will be as thickly-scattered moths [Qur’an 101:2-4]

We have entered an age of absolute flight from reality. We don’t want to be who we are or where we are or what we are. We want to be a different sex (Bruce Jenner), a different race (Michael Jackson), and pretty soon, I’m sure, a different species. An under-age boy apparently asked his parents if he could be a girl, so they had him castrated and pumped full of female hormones. Why is this not considered child abuse? And what if he had asked to be a raccoon instead? Science and the medical profession will undoubtedly soon be able to provide him with at least a first step toward this newly-conceived “freedom”…

We have entered an age of mass human insanity. Prof. Stephen Hawking has said that one of the things that frightens him most is the possibility of human contact with extra-terrestrial alien intelligences. His response to this threat? To partner with a billionaire and initiate an all-out campaign to discover extra-terrestrial alien intelligences. Both the United States and the European Union have dedicated financial and technological resources to finding extra-terrestrial life. Why? They have done so in the wild, last-ditch hope that we might thereby discover that we are “not alone.”

But there are over six billion of us now; why do we feel alone? We never felt alone when there were far fewer of us. If we ever do find living bacteria in the sub-surface oceans of Ganymede, I hope they will be some very compassionate and understanding bacteria, “friendly” bacteria, like those in our digestive tract…if these bacteria love us—or at least if they agree not to destroy us—maybe that will overcome our cosmic loneliness. We might even be able to establish communication with them…

A number of scientists apparently now believe that if we ever discover life, even the most rudimentary kind, on other planets, this will somehow disprove the existence of God—a notion that is completely devoid of any form or degree of rationalism or logic; a non-sequitur; a convulsive, arbitrary declaration with no meaning to it whatsoever. Clearly few of them realize that every religion that believes in a Creator believes He created not just the earth but the entire universe, as well as a vast chain of higher worlds, both formal and formless…stunning ignorance! The Holy Qur’an, for example, names Allah Rab al-Alimin, “Lord of the Worlds”, often given as 18,000 or 70,000 in number, and speaks of other races of humanity than the one we know…

Our loneliness does not stem, however, from uncertainty as to whether other planets inhabited by intelligent beings exist. It stems from the fact that, as a collective, we can no longer confidently conceive of the existence of God, His awareness of us, His care for us, His awesome wrath and majesty if we betray and abandon the human form He has created us to inhabit…which is simply to say that the loneliness that science claims to be laboring to save us from, it itself has created.

Luckily there are graces available to us in these latter days, these days of the fitna, that were never accessible before, because never necessary. In the words of the great Hindu epic, the Ramayana:

In the first age of the world
men crossed the ocean of existence
by their spirit alone.
In the second age sacrifice and ritual began,
and then Rama lived,
and by giving their every act to him
men lived well their ways.
Now in our age what is there to do
but worship at Rama’s feet?
But, my friend, the last age
of this world shall be best,
for then no act has any worth, all is useless….
except only to say Rama.
The future will read this. Therefore I tell them:
When all is in ruin around you, just say Rama.
We have gone from the spiritual to the passionate.
Next will come Ignorance. Universal war.
Say Rama and win! Your time cannot touch you.