Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Metaphysical Musings....Still stuck to 'Letter to an agnostic friend'

Winstedt [ or was it him!? ] once observed,' Three Indians, when they have a 'get together' under a coconut tree, would discuss how to form a Union..."
Three Kelantanese, from Serambi Makkah, brought up on a staple diet of budu, Nasi Kerabu and Nasi Dagang, would on the other hand, get very '...physical'!......Read on.

From Tan Sri AWH,
Sunday 28/11/10

Nik Howk,
I know nuts about the big bang theory and the origins of
matter, but you may want to google professor penrose and the conformal
cyclic cosmology theory. Nothing ever stays the same, I am afraid.
It's freezing in London where I find myself currently, which explains
why my reading has extended to subjects I would not have bothered with
Salam and warmest regards, AWH.


Tan Sri,

Interesting. As usual if one is an agnostic, as Penrose, Carl Sagan et al are, imagination has to run wild.
For us all mere mortals, KUN[ be ], FAYAKUN [ so it is ], suffice.

The best thing to do on a freezing cold winter in London is to enjoy salmon curry! If your Mrs is around ask her to just do that....mashaallah.

Nik Howk



I differ slightly in my view vis a vis faith and the pursuit of
curiosity and knowledge. Faith should embolden us to reach out, touch
and discover what is out there, rather than retreat into an
obscurantist shell merely to preserve the beliefs we were taught and
hold. My own reading of Islamic history suggests to me that the desert
tribes of Arabia attained the pinnacle of the then developed world by
not merely clinging on to the quran and hadith; the sense of
confidence derived from having the revealed truth on their side
allowed them to open the ancient manuscripts of the Greeks and the
Indians to provoke their curiosity and enrich their minds and enabled
the great scientific and intellectual flowering of the Islamic golden
age, which alas passed so long ago and yet to return. But there again,
I am unlike you not a man of science and may have missed the point
that scientific 'truth' must be by definition debilitating to one's
aqidah. I find that notion odd to say the least.

Yes, kari kepala salmon has occasionally graced our dining table here,
but regrettably my beloved and most resourceful wife is not with me
this time. We have often surprised Malaysian guests with nasi kerabu
and dagang, as well as laksa kelantan in the surrey countryside. But I
am here to attend to the refurbishment of the country place (the
problem with ancient country houses is they are lovely over summer,
frigid in winter and like ancient mythical beasts demand the
occasional feeding of big pound notes), do a bit of business and catch
up with my two boys who are into their final year at university here.
So it is take away kebabs and sushi from pret a manger for the next
two to three weeks, I am afraid. But it is a bit of a relief to be
away from the beloved but much lamented motherland. Salaam and


Tan Sri,

I must have given you the wrong impression.....My thinking though slightly off tangent to yours,is actually in the same mould as yours:
Islam is liberating....
Some part of science which we cannot fit in yet with our current 'Islamic World view of creation' , we have two choice,
1. Wait for' better science ' to clarify.., or
2. Get back to our Qur'an, and reexamine the ayats within the context of present day scientific progress and postulation. Though science at the highest level is still very much 'postulative' and assumptive, the laymen may assume it is already absolute truth. If hypothetically we assume what we have now is already nearer to the absolute TRUTH, we should get back and renew our understanding of the Qur'an. Ibnu Katsir is great, Hamka and Ridha are great, but this is 2010, there is nothing in the 'rule book' that say a 800 CE interpretation and undertanding of The Words of God is ironclad! We are learning new things every period and when we get back to the Qur'an and look at the 'allegorical ayats' , lo and behold, TRUTH has been staring at us for 1400 years! It was only we, the ummah, who could not get beyond our very own self limiting 'kopiahs and turbans'.

Our understanding of the 'muthasyabihat' ayats[ the allegorical ayats] may be very much lacking and need to be reviewed in the light of new discoveries and enlightenment.We can do this but of course with great care and understanding. Muslim scientists do see more in the Qur'an than the average ulama' do but generally would not want to get embroil in the 'discussion' because our ummah by and large are still stuck at and 'lost' at the 'rantings, leaves and the branches', still querreling on minor issues of the right way to take an ablution, still pointing fingers at one another saying your Islam is heretical etc etc etc and this happening even at the higher 'ulama' level, amongst ulama'!....

The problem with contemporary knowledge and I mean science is that the significant players on the ground started with the premise that there is no creator in the 1st place. That is why People like Penrose et al go in circles using of course his mathematics, and presto come with his 'cyclic cosmology theory' of the 'time' before the Big bang.My analogy that we are gold fishes in a silver globe sitting on a windowsill in Manhattan come into perspective.

In science answers are very much related to the question one ask and the premise one assume. As such if, hypothetically,Darwin, Penrose, Carl Sagans and Hawkins are Muslims, and they have their basic premise right, we would not be entertained to the 'going around in circles'. The issues of the Big bang, evolution would have already been resolved......What we dont know we dont know ,and we have to work further on it. What we know would further enhance our view of the universe.

Science at the highest level is just a toy,we have our premise , we have a set of rules, we make hypotheses and end up with postulates....... but we contemporary Muslims are 'stuck' at the 'abluiton phase' in 2010. Our ulama are still cowed into submission, they dont dare speak. They dont dare get beyond their' kopiah..... our science is non existent....'.We are just flotsams pushed aside by the waves'.

'What is precisely the problem Sir, are the Muslims very few at that time?'
'No....they just lost THE TRUTH......'

We lost our bearing: La ilahaillallah, Muhammadarasullallah!
We got stuck and lost in the branches and leaves. We listen and follow other gods!

Nik Howk


From Nadzru Azahari,[ an old classmate ] somewhere in the desert land of Sudan.....

Dear Nik Howk,

Agnosticism is here to stay and will remain with and among us till the end of the human race. Like poverty, I guess, agnoticism is to be managed not eradicated. Agnosticism is an indivisible part of our philosophical stretch. Fortunately Islam in its social contract and social structure can tolerate and accept agnoticism in its milieu, perhaps a necessary rainbow in the mosaic of the ummah at large. Our muslim society at large is a very merry lot, we have seen all sorts and shades of beliefs within 'cosmopolitan islam' , just outside its pale or outright juxtapositional to it. Muslims have left Islam in droves, came back in droves, left again in droves and remain back in droves. Islam, uber alles of that, never died. We are all still around.

I had the misfortune of studying physics to post-tertiary level, swallowing some facts and deciphering others and cheated a lot, working backwards from desired results to obtain my graduation certificates. However, for a passage of life history and perhaps my own passion and proclivity in the study of history, geography and politics , of which I wasn't examined and did not contribute to the amelioration of the mediocrity of my Physics grades, the studies of the liberal arts drew me to my consolation with Islam and the faith and physics and its Big Bang never bothered me one bit.

For this I share, TanSri AWH view. I am always fascinated with the Quranic exposition of its layout guidelines on the organisation of human society. The history of the ummah , pre and post Mohammadan era jives with The Quran. Islam reached its height when outside elements crept into the Islamic milieu. Islam is cosmopolitanism at its zenith. I like the logic and lucidity of the Quranic exegeses on the promulgation of law and order. When reading the Quran, the language of which is a default to my comprehension and acquaintance, I rarely need a translation or rendition in a vernacular, I would relegate the parts of those not pertaining to matters of law and order into ' poetic and linguistic niceties' and I would concentrate on the former, like I am reading a treatise and a lexicograph. I would re-read on the narration on human history. So pedestrian is my reading of the Quran that at times, I would do it in between my reading the 'Al-Ahram' newspaper editorials in Cairo cafes, a monthly stopover for me.

Even my large travelling compendium of The Quran called ( in english) ' A lexicography of arabic grammar and linguistic exigence
of The Quran'. So a tafseer of Surah Al-Israa' for me will be a wonderful journey into the linguistic rationale of how and why the ayat and passage is so structured. The fact that it is about the Prophet's journey from the 'near mosque' to the ' far mosque' appears like a law journal to me. This copy is always with me and weighs 0.5 kg in my bag.

History has recorded that even when the Ottoman State stretched for all that it could, agnostics were everywhere. The prophet died without managing to expunge the pornographic literature of Ibnu Al-Qayyes. It is now back into contemporary arabic literature with a vengeance. So, agnoticism is much harder than that to expunge and hence we must expect them to be with us forever, big bang or no big bang. I guess if physics has not given us the big bang theory, a small bang theory would have been found.

I believe if agnostics are law abiding, men and women of high morals, honest and altruistic, I think we should respect and welcome them as part of our milieu, part of our mosaic and symphony.

Like TanSri AWH said, more or less,Islam would like to continue saying , ' marhaban and ahlan wa sahlan to all'. Islam needs to maintain a semblance of hegemony though, it is necessary for implemetation of laws ,social, structure and ettiquette, themselves dynamic and ever changing.

The Quran, fortunately is a very easy text. People came into Islam in droves because of that ( laxity as I said make people leave it in droves too, nothing wrong with this liberal swing I guess). The well defined position of the assumed existence of God in the Quran when immediately embedded well into a social web of order and structure of the human race and the environment, it is so beautiful and perfect that it leaves no wanting for the understanding of the lesser understood ayats and the big bang theory.

Take the Haj for instance. Itself coming from the rootword ' Hujjah' , like the malay word, it means the argument. So when we perform Haj we are in a state of ' argument' and ' justifying' the Abrahamic history of our Faith, from Adam till Mohammad, not leaving Judaism and christianity alongside. Even the ' Blackstone' has a part in the ' Hujjah'. It is supposed to be a practical historical trace of the history of men's quest for Godhood. At least in the Abrahamic cosmosphere.

Nik Howk, I thought that it is our christian brothers and the believe in Trinity that baffles Godhood and should be the bane of the agnostics. Not Islam and its simple explication of Godhood.




Nik Howk,

Correction, it is 'Eimru El-Qayyes' not ' Ibn El-Qayyes. He was the most prolific pornographic writer at the time of Our Prophet in Mekka. Eimru El- Qayyes genre of writing came back in modern arabic literature, hidden in the fictions of Abdel Rahman Mouneef and 'Alaa' El-Aswany.

So strong is the Meccan addicition to his works that it survived the 'pornographic ethnic cleansing of Mekka ' during the Prophet's return. I likened it to the survival agnosticism. It will always be there.

Nik Howk, it is like what you said, the 'rennaissance of ablution studies' came alongside the muslim society during all times of the islamic revivalism in its dynamic forms in modern Egypt and South East Asia. Our Algerian brothers expressed in french as ' archivisme motorise' ( the motorisation of the archaic, not dynamism of the revolutionary) Remember Kota Bharu in the 1950s, when Maahad Muhammadi became the centre of the revival of arabic literature ( the balaghah), independence movement, revival of political thoughts, following along with equal vengeance was the 'rennaissance of wudu' and tayammum culture'.

Look at the sprouting in recent days of ' Maahad Tahfiz' in our country. Something that did not take place in the height of Islamic education reform of Maahad Muhammadi in the 1950s. There was only 'balaghah , culture, political studies and arabic literature' then. HE Dr Fakhreddin the Malaysian Ambassador to Egypt retorted to me two weeks ago in Cairo, that of the Maahad Tahfiz students from Malaysia in Al-Azhar University, 50% flunk, the 50% that passed took extra years to repeat and out of that 5% could express and formulate their thoughts and writings in arabic. That is worst than the 'rennaissance of the ablution culture!'. The culture of rote learning so dearly developed in our country is a disaster to the reconstruction of religious thought in Islam. Nik Howk, I sympathise with you.




You are certainly right. But we do have to address the 'agnostics' or rather the 'relative agnostics' within our ummah.The guys, Richard Dawkins et al would put as '1 to 2' on his scale of '1 to 7'.Scale 1 being quite unsure whether god is there or not, and even if He is there, could not really be bothered.7 mean definitely sure there is no god! Surprisingly Dawkins put himself 6!

The 1-2 group,such new 'animals' exist in abundance and flourishing. These are people, born of Muslim parentage, tertiary in education, mostly overseas bred, steeped in science and pseudo science but lacking in Islamic knowledge and wisdom but yet insisting to be adherrent of the ways of Muhammad, nominal or otherwise. For them though, the dichotomy between revealed knowledge and science ' cannot be reconciled, and as an 'intellectual' group, that remain their querrel with God, like that good friend of mine to whom the letter was addressed.To them, any claim to being Muslims, is just 'cultural', Islam been handed to them by virtue of birth.

We tend to have deep attachment to this group because 'culturally' we still regard them to be 'us'. I am telling them Islam and science could be 100 % reconciled, if we are willing to look things in a less myopic way.Open up the hearts and minds a wee bit, be less stringent and didactic. Be less of the 'arrogance of the ignorant'.

Islam is pro science. Islam is indeed paradoxically liberating from the perspective of TRUTH.

Back to yourgoodself,Nadzru, In America, guys like are termed' Arabists':expert in the language and several dialects and cultures of the Arabs. If you are in America, you can make tons of money as 'consultants' like Hamid Karzai, Chelebi etc etc. My Arabic on the other hand is zero beyond, 'Min Aina Anta'[ where are you from?], and 'Mashaallah' and 'alhamdullaillah'.I Read the Qur'an like a ' bl..dy' mualaf and depend very much on Quranexplorer.com on daily basis.Despite this obvious handicap, I do not feel contemporary Muslims beyond the Arabic belt should be apologetic and need an Arabic crutch to know Islam deeper.Literature abounds in English to one's heart content to immerse in. Just the other day I was wacthing a u-tube 'lecture by a very young 'Wahabbi' punk preacher hitting away at Imam Ghazali, TJ Winter, Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh al Qardhawi and just about anybody who do not talk and think like them! My God!, even amongst the Saudis so called Ulama', the 'ablution and tayammun' culture is very much in vogue.They cannot think beyond that, straight jacketing Islam into sets of rules and rituals only,minus the most important part , the 'hearts'. Their perception of Islam is almost just at the 'spinal' level!.

Islam is not just for the Arabs, and the Arabs just form now only about 20 % of the total Muslims today. They are a small but significant minority.' Ignorant minority' if one were to go by that young punk of a preacher! I may post him on the blog some time and you can judge for yourselves.

It is definitely possible to delve deep into Islam without knowing a word of Arabic and this is a boon for humanity and a mercy of Allah. I have been doing this for 20 years going through several excellent tafseer work on the Qur'an and my emphasis now is really looking at 'pearls and gem' from those allegorical ayats. I tend to skip over the 'muhkam' ayats that deals with 'rules and standard laws'. Dangerous practice you might say but I like to live 'dangerously' from schooldays. Once in a while when I do come across a gem or two in my 'personal journey' through the Qur'an, I got my 'fix'. It is an addiction now.....But of course Nadzru, if one knows Arabic, that would be excellent, without any shadow of doubt! I would be the first to agree and salute but it is not a prerequisite. A generous, 'open heart' is.

To me in 2010, Arabic or no Arabic is not an issue in acquiring knowledge in Islam." Berkilau air di sungai, sudah tahu jantan betina ikan itu". Something to that effect. My Malay is really bad. Understanding science and accepting science vis a vis knowledge ,as part of Islam is. But science is just informations and facts. Islam is revealed wisdom. We present day Muslims should not be overwhelmed by science. It is imperative for all of us to be able to 'marry' these two.

Hearts only move when we can accept Islam at the intellectual level, otherwise like millions before us, despite years of Prayers and Du'a, eyes remain dry, and the collective rust and dust that accumulate over years of heedlessness would not move.....despite being Muslims! Huwallahualam.

Nik Howk

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