Podcast, Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam – Reductionism, Reality, and Intention

Imam Marc discusses the relationship between reductionism, reality, and intention and how the Qur’an advocates for not a reductionist world view, but an expansionist one.

Phe·nom·e·non (/fəˈnäməˌnän, fəˈnäməˌnən/):

  • a fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, especially one whose cause or explanation is in question;
  • the object of a person’s perception; what the senses or the mind notice.

From Richard H. Jones’ Analysis & the Fullness of Reality, he quotes Robert Nozick on the relation between phenomenon, reality, and reductionism:

“The philosopher Robert Nozick labeled ours ‘the Age of Reductionism’, and most people in our scientifically-informed culture would agree. We want to understand the world, and under the influence of modern science we now want to know how things work in terms of material and efficient causes. Moreover, we are not fully satisfied with any suggested explanation of a phenomenon unless it is explained in terms of something we deem to be a basic reality. We search for the ‘true nature’ of things—what is ‘really real.’ And this is where reductionism enters the picture: we want to get down to the reality that is the source or substance of a phenomenon. We take a phenomenon apart to see what makes it tick, or we retrace (Lat., re-ducere, ‘to lead back’) the development of the phenomenon to its roots. A reduction thus proposes what in the final analysis is real in a phenomenon. We find that what was apparently real is ultimately ‘nothing but’ its parts or something else more basic. Thereby, an apparent reality is ‘reduced’ to something real, and our desire for understanding at least the reduced phenomenon is satisfied.”

Continuing, Jones says,

“It is important to note that reductionism is not merely a matter of the scientific identification of the causes at work in a whole. Rather, reductionists go further and claim that the parts and causes are all that is real in a whole—the reality of a whole is nothing but that of those parts. It is easy to see why many people are disturbed by such reductions: in moving from the more complex to the simpler in human beings, reductions deny what is distinctly human.”

وَإِذ قالَ رَبُّكَ لِلمَلائِكَةِ إِنّي جاعِلٌ فِي الأَرضِ خَليفَةً ۖ قالوا

أَتَجعَلُ فيها مَن يُفسِدُ فيها

وَيَسفِكُ الدِّماءَ وَنَحنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ۖ قالَ

إِنّي أَعلَمُ ما لا تَعلَمونَ

“When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am putting a khalif on the earth,’ they said, ‘Why put on it one who will cause corruption on it and shed blood when we glorify You with praise and proclaim Your purity?’ He said, ‘I know what you do not know’.” Qur’an, 2: 30

“More generally, reductionists ‘reduce the more valuable to the less valuable, the more meaningful to the less meaningful,’ and never the other way around. If things are reducible to a reality below the surface, then much of human life loses its value. The effect on our lives is to undercut the reality of what is specific to being human—consciousness, free will, personhood, our cultural creations.”

سمِعْتُ

رسولَ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم يقولُ إنما الأعمالُ بالنيةِ وإنما لامرِئٍ ما نوى فمَن كانت هجرتُه إلى اللهِ ورسولِه فهجرتُه إلى اللهِ ورسولِه ومَن كانتْ هجرتُه إلى دنيا يُصيبُها أو امرأةٍ يتزوجُها، فهجرتُه إلى ما هاجَر إليه

I heard Allah’s Messenger ﷺ saying, “The deeds are according to their intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for the sake of Allah and His Apostle, then his emigration will be considered to be for Allah and His Apostle, and whoever emigrated for the sake of worldly gain or for a woman to marry, then his emigration will be considered to be for what he emigrated for.” Sahih al-Bukhari, #6689

Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam: Muslim Spirituality Session 1


[Direct download]

Taj al-’Arus al-Hawi li Tahdhib al-Nufus by Ibn ‘Ata Allah al-Sikandari (al-Iskandari)

The Bride-Groom’s Crown Containing Instructions on Refining the Self

“The master of nature is vainly believed to be an adequate substitute for self-mastery.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

In his work, Sufism For Non-Sufi’s, Dr. Sherman Jackson writes,

“…part of Islam’s essential struggle from the very beginning was to identify good, substantively sound spirituality and distinguish it from and elevate it over bad, misguided spirituality. In sum, not all spirituality was or is good.” – Sherman Jackson

What is the function or purpose of spirituality from a Muslim perspective?

  • Inspire us: to do good, to do self-help, in all things which inspiration is required.
  • Elevate our morals: the world pulls at us asking us to merely adapt, not to transform.
  • Imbue us with “devotional confidence and resolve” to connect with God, worship God and put God front and center of our lives.

Spirituality and antinomianism:

  • “one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation”;
  • one who rejects a socially established morality;

Spirituality in the Muslim tradition should also perform two functions:

  1. Affirm the supernatural.
  2. Eschew the superstitious.

Hikam #1

من علامة الاعتماد على العمل نقصان الرجاء عند وجود الزلل

“Amongst the signs of leaning on one’s own handiwork of deeds is the loss of hope in the presence of mistakes.”

“Amongst the signs of relying on deeds is the loss of hope in the presence of mistakes.”

Understanding Islam

Life of the Prophet – Session 3: Theology Superstition and Modernity

The following is a short audio excerpt on the monthly class, Life of the Prophet, at Middle Ground. At the end, we discussed how the world was changing at the birth of the Prophet and the advent of Islam.


[Direct download]

Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam – Explorations on Faith Part II

We continued Understanding Islam this week with a continuation on the topic of faith (see/listen to Part I).


[Direct download (Part 1)]


[Direct download (Part 2)]


[Direct download (Part 3)]


[Direct download (Part 4)]

Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam – Explorations on Faith


[Direct download]

Also see Part II.

Faith
There are many reasons why we attain and affirm faith. Faith is often attain for the following reasons:

  • You have faith in those you trust.
  • You trust someone to be able to do what they say.
  • You trust someone based on previous actions and experiences.
  • You trust someone you feel safe with.

لِلَّهِ ما فِي السَّماواتِ وَما فِي الأَرضِ ۗ وَإِن تُبدوا ما في أَنفُسِكُم أَو تُخفوهُ يُحاسِبكُم بِهِ اللَّهُ ۖ فَيَغفِرُ لِمَن يَشاءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشاءُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلىٰ كُلِّ شَيءٍ قَديرٌ

آمَنَ الرَّسولُ بِما أُنزِلَ إِلَيهِ مِن رَبِّهِ وَالمُؤمِنونَ ۚ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لا نُفَرِّقُ بَينَ أَحَدٍ مِن رُسُلِهِ ۚ وَقالوا سَمِعنا وَأَطَعنا ۖ غُفرانَكَ رَبَّنا وَإِلَيكَ المَصيرُ

لا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفسًا إِلّا وُسعَها ۚ لَها ما كَسَبَت وَعَلَيها مَا اكتَسَبَت ۗ رَبَّنا لا تُؤاخِذنا إِن نَسينا أَو أَخطَأنا ۚ رَبَّنا وَلا تَحمِل عَلَينا إِصرًا كَما حَمَلتَهُ عَلَى الَّذينَ مِن قَبلِنا ۚ رَبَّنا وَلا تُحَمِّلنا ما لا طاقَةَ لَنا بِهِ ۖ وَاعفُ عَنّا وَاغفِر لَنا وَارحَمنا ۚ أَنتَ مَولانا فَانصُرنا عَلَى القَومِ الكافِرينَ

al-Baqarah, #284-286