The Qur’an by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem is one of the best translations of the Quran available in English. With its many clarifying footnotes, the book is especially helpful to people new to the study of the Quran.
The Qur’an by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem is one of the best translations of the Quran available in English. With its many clarifying footnotes, the book is especially helpful to people new to the study of the Quran.
IQ and intelligence, as a topic of study in themselves, no longer interest me very much because they are largely a foregone conclusion for me. Long ago I was convinced of the very realness and importance of IQ and of the fact that it is largely a genetically-mediated trait. What interests me these days is applying the knowledge gleaned from this field to other areas of inquiry that interest me.
I made an exception for the very short book Intelligence: All That Matters by the young researcher Stuart Ritchie, hoping that it would b an authoritative summary of the field that I can refer other people to in my work. And the book serves this function reasonably well.
Download [PDF – 23 MB]
Murteza Bedir’s PhD thesis The Early Development of Hanafi Usul al-Fiqh is an interesting study of the development of usul al-fiqh in the Hanafi school. It describes a process of slowly eliminating the freedom of intellect of the early Hanafi school as succeeding generations tried to reform the school to fit more with Shafi`i style orthodoxy. The earliest studied scholar is the Persian Hanafi legal theorist al-Jassas, whose writings provide the foundations for Hanafi legal theory, perhaps in large part due to his preservation of the opinions of earlier legal theorists like Isa ibn Aban.
The above is a download link to the study. I am placing it on my site since currently it is available for free on the rent-seeking site Scribd, which makes it difficult to download it. I am guessing Dr. Bedir couldn’t find a better way of offering it on the internet.
It is easy to think that the Abbasid caliphate was an “Arab” empire. The emperors themselves were proud to trace their lineage back to Abbas, uncle of Prophet Muhammad. Yet within 150 years of its founding, Arab genes made up 2% of the genetic makeup of the emperors, and this remained so until the very end.
The first significant emperor with Indo-European genes was the half-Persian al-Ma’mun, who had his capital at the Persian city of Merv in Central Asia for ten years before moving to Baghdad. During his reign a trend started for preferring Greek and Persian concubines for producing the next generation of emperors, so that the amount of Arab genes declined to insignificant amounts. Al-Muqtadir, who reigned from 908 – 929 CE was nearly 98% Indo-European.
It can be seen from the table below that the Abbasid caliphate was an Arab empire at its beginning, transformed into an Indo-European empire (with four successive emperors having 97%+ Indo-European genes!) during its Golden Age, then started to increasingly mix with Turkic genes during its decline.
|750 – 754||Al-Saffah||Muhammad (Arab)||Raita (Arab)||100% Arab||0%|
|754 – 775||Al-Mansur||Muhammad b. Ali (Arab)||Sallamah (Berber slave)||50% Arab, 50% Berber||0%|
|775 – 785||Al-Mahdi||Al-Mansur||Arwi (Yemeni Arab)||75% Arab, 25% Berber||0%|
|786 – 809||Harun al-Rashid||Al-Mahdi||Al-Khayzuran (Arab slave)||87.5% Arab, 12.5 Berber||0%|
|813 – 833||Al-Ma’mun||Harun al-Rashid||Marajil (Persian slave)||50% Persian, 43.75% Arab, 6.25% Berber||50%|
|833 – 842||Al-Mu’tasim||Harun al-Rashid||Marida (Turkic slave)||50% Turkic, 25% Persian, 21.875% Arab, 3.125 Berber||25%|
|842 – 847||Al-Wathiq||Al-Mu’tasim||Qaratis (Byzantine Greek slave)||50% Greek, 12.5% Persian, 10.9375% Arab, 1.5625% Berber||62.5%|
|847 – 861||Al-Mutawakkil||Al-Mu’tasim||Shuja (Persian slave)||56.25% Persian, 25% Greek, 5.46875% Arab, 0.78125% Berber||81.25%|
|870 – 892||Al-Mu’tamid||Al-Mutawakkil||Fityan (Persian slave)||78.125% Persian, 12.5 Greek, 2.734375% Arab, 0.390625% Berber||90.625%|
|892 – 902||Al-Mu’tadid||al-Muwaffaq, son of Al-Mutawakkil and Umm Ishaq, a Greek slave. Race: 56.25% Greek, 39.0625% Persian, 1.3671875% Arab, 0.1953125% Berber)||Dirar (Greek slave)||78.125 Greek, 19.53125% Persian, 0.68359375% Arab, 0.09765625% Berber||97.655%|
|902-908||Al-Muktafi||Al-Mu’tadid||Jijak (Greek slave)||89% Greek, 9.7% Persian, 0.34% Arab, 0.04% Berber||98%|
|908 – 929||Al-Muqtadir||Al-Mu’tadid||Shaghab (Greek slave)||94.5% Greek, 4.88% Persian, 0.17% Arab, 0.02% Berber||98%|
|946 – 974||Al-Muti||Al-Muqtadir||Slavic slave||50% Slavic, 47.26% Greek, 2.44% Persian, 0.08% Arab, 0.01% Berber||98%|
|974 – 991||Al-Ta’i||Al-Muti’||Unknown||50% Unknown, 25% Slavic, 23.6% Greek, 1.22% Persian||49.82%|
|991 – 1031||Al-Qadir||Al-Muttaqi, son of al-Muqtadir. Race: 50% Unknown, 47.2% Greek, 2.44% Persian, 0.08% Arab||Slave of uknown origin||75% Unknown, 23.6% Greek, 1.2% Persian (Al-Qadir is described as being “white” in history books, therefore it is likely that his mother was Greek or Persian)||24.8%|
|1031 – 1075||Al-Qa’im||Al-Qadir||Badr al-Daji (Armenian slave)||50% Armenian, 37.5% Unknown, 11.8% Greek, 0.6% Persian||62.4%|
|1075 – 1094||Al-Muqtadi||Al-Qa’im||Urjuman (Armenian slave)||75% Armenian, 18.75% Unknown, 5.9% Greek||80.9%|
|1094 – 1118||Al-Mustazhir||Al-Muqtadi||Altun Khatun (Turkic woman, prob. Seljuk princess)||50% Turkic, 37.5 Armenian, 9% Unknown, 2.95% Greek||40.45%|
|1118 – 1135||Al-Mustarshid||Al-Mustazhir||Kumush Khatun (Turkic woman, probably Seljuk princess)||75% Turkic, 18.75% Armenian, 4.8% Unknown, 1.47% Greek||20.22%|
|1136 – 1159||Al-Muqtafi||Al-Mustazhir||Fatima Khatun (Turkic woman, probably Seljuk princess)||87.5% Turkic, 9.375% Armenian, 2.34% Unknown, 0.73% Greek||10.1%|
|1160 – 1170||Al-Mustanjid||Al-Muqtafi||Tawus (“Thawus”) al-Karaji, slave (Most likely Persian, al-Karaji refers to the city of Karaj in Iran in Medieval last names)||50.019% Persian, 43.75% Turkic, 4.68% Armenian, 1.1% Unknown, 0.3% Greek||55%|
|1170 – 1180||Al-Mustadi||Al-Mustanjid||Ghaddah (Armenian slave)||52.3% Armenian, 25% Persian, 21.8% Turkic||77.3%|
|1180 – 1225||Al-Nasir||Al-Mustadi||Zumurrud (Turkic slave)||60.9% Turkic, 26.1% Armenian, 12.5% Persian||38.6%|
|1226 – 1242||Al-Mustansir||Az-Zahir, son of al-Nasir and unknown mother. Race: 50.14% Unknown, 30.4% Turkic, 13.08% Armenian, 6.25% Persian)||Turk Khatun (Turkic slave)||65.2% Turkic, 25% Unknown, 6.5% Armenian, 3.1% Persian||9.6%|
|1242 – 1258||Al-Mustasim||Al-Mustansir||Concubine of unknown origin||62.5% Unknown, 32.6% Turkic, 3.2% Armenian, 1.5% Persian||4.7%|
Sources: Wikipedia, The Slave Girls of Baghdad by F. Matthew Caswell, Islam in History by Bernard Lewis, Islamic Culture, Volume 2 (1928), various Arabic-language sources.
The table omits emperors who ruled for very short periods of time and/or who did not contribute to the genes of succeeding emperors.
* The values in this column are capped to 98%: Due to the fact that the Y-chromosome can only be inherited from one’s male relatives, and due to the fact that it makes up 2% of the genome, the Y-chromosome of the emperors would have been necessarily Arab, and therefore their percentage “Arab-ness” couldn’t have fallen below 2%, so that the most Indo-European that an Abbasid emperor could be would have been 98% realistically.
It has been just a little over a year that Jordan Peterson gained fame from his opposition to a Canadian compelled-speech law (Bill C-16). One of the topics he keeps coming back to is the evil done in the Soviet Union (to the chagrin of so many neo-Marxist leftists), and he often recommends that people read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. Google Trends shows that just as Peterson’s fame took off in November 2016, interest in The Gulag Archipelago increased by a factor of around 3.5 and has remained high since.
And in case you thought this may be accidental, Google Trends suggests “Jordan Peterson” as one of the related topics and queries for The Gulag Archipelago, which shows that there is a high correlation between searches for The Gulag Archipelago and searches for Peterson:
Kak Ahmadi Muftizada: Darwazayak bo Xabateki Nanasraw (کاک ئەحمەدی موفتیزادە: دەروازەیەک بۆ خەباتێکی نەناسراو, Ahmad Moftizadeh: A Gateway to an Unknown Struggle) is a 394-page Kurdish biography of the great Iranian Kurdish leader Ahmad Moftizadeh written by Sarwat Abdullah, apparently published in 2010.
I have been reading all available materials on Ahmad Moftizadeh, since he is one of the few modern leaders who have truly embodied the type of activist, Quran-centered and heart-centered Islam I believe in, and it would be a shame to not learn everything significant that his life can teach. In my view studying the lives (and mistakes) of the previous few generations coming right before us is crucial to making progress.
It is mentioned that his grandfather, Abdullah Dishi, “came from” the village of Disha (a Hawrami village), which would suggest that Moftizadeh’s family are Hawrami. According to The Last Mufti, Abdullah Dishi’s family were originally from the Kurdish areas and had settled in Disha, meaning that they weren’t originally from this village, and meaning that Moftizadeh’s family are not necessarily Hawrami.
Ahmad Moftizadeh came from Iranian Kurdistan’s religious elite. His grandfather had been given the status of mufti (chief religious law-maker) of all of Iranian Kurdistan, and this title had been passed down to his son (Moftizadeh’s father), and Ahmad Moftizadeh was in line to receive the title himself. Moftizadeh’s father lectured at Tehran University on Shafii jurisprudence, and Ahmad Moftizadeh would go on to lecture there himself later on.
It is mentioned that multiple people around him had dreams about him in his childhood in which they saw him as having a high status. This includes a very old and pious aunt of his when he was 4-5 years old. When he is 8 or 9 a friend of his mother has a dream in which she sees a great army in the city of Sanandaj and she is told that that is Ahmad’s army. She asks if they mean the little boy Aha Rash (a nickname for Ahmad Moftizadeh), and she is answered yes.
Moftizadeh had many dreams of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, in which the Prophet taught him things. Seeing the Prophet ﷺ in dreams is something highly prized by Sufis, whose influence on the area made the population look out for such dreams as well.
At the age of 13 a great officer in the army is invited to his home, so that his family cooks five types of rise and five types of meat. He is disgusted by this, considering it wasteful and thinking of all the poor people who have little to eat, and he decides not to eat anything of it. The aristocratic atmosphere of his home apparently makes him eager to leave it, so that he goes to Iraq to study.
After coming back from his studies, he goes to Tehran and is involved in some Kurdish nationalist activity, attracting the attention of the Shah’s secret police (SAVAK).
When Moftizadeh is imprisoned by the SAVAK 1964 for his Kurdish political activism, it is mentioned that he is taken to Evin prison, when in reality he was taken to Qezelqaleh prison as mentioned The Last Mufti. Evin prison comes at a later stage in his life, after the revolution. Later on, on page 53, the book contradicts itself, correctly saying that Moftizadeh was actually at Qezelqaleh.
In prison, in solitary confinement, with death feeling close at hand, he starts to feel guilty about his government job. He worked at a government office where part of his job was to assess and receive taxes from people. While he did his job with conscientiousness, not taking bribes and not cheating people (like other government employees would do), he has the realization that his salary from that job was partially impure, since it was from a government’s unjust taxes on the people.
At first he is too shy to seek repentance from God, feeling that with death so close at hand, the time of repentance is past. He eventually repents, and says to himself, “Even if my (infant) son Jiyan is about to starve to death, I will not use impure money to buy him powdered milk.”
Later in his life, one night his son Jiyan is extremely sick and the only open pharmacy in town is one that is Jewish-owned. He refuses to buy from them, thinking that his money would be used to “buy bullets” for Israel’s terror against Palestinians.
While somewhat extremist (Islam allows one to make exceptions in times of need), his method of thinking of ordinary daily decisions in activist terms is very important and relevant, and quite similar to Sayyid Qutb’s thinking. The spiritual world takes precedence over the material world. He refuses a material good (the feeding of his son, or his son’s health) to maintain a spiritual good (remaining true to God, refusing to be party to any form of injustice, even if it is merely by buying a drug from an entity that might possibly support injustice).
In mainstream Islamic practice, the culture and the clerics come in between the Quran and population. The job of making moral choices was outsourced to the religious establishment, so that morality was not something on the minds of ordinary people. If the mullahs allowed something, it was OK. If they didn’t, it wasn’t. Moftizadeh and Sayyid Qutb’s approach was to take the religious establishment out of the equation; one reads the Quran, understands its moral philosophy to the best of his or her ability, then follows it to the best of his or her ability in everything in their lives.
This is far more difficult, since there are many difficult moral choices the responsibility for which must be carried by each individual, instead of throwing the responsibility on the shoulders of the establishment without giving it a thought.
In prison, he has a dream in which he is about 13 years of age and the Prophet ﷺ is teaching him from the Quran. His elbows are resting on the Prophet’s left shoulder, with him looking on as the Prophet passes his right index finger over a book of Quran that he is reciting from. He mentions that this dream put him in a state of joy and ecstasy that lasted for many days, considering it such a great honor from God.
So far in his life, Ahmad Moftizadeh had been a classical Shafii jurist, having had a classical education under his father and other scholars in Iran and Iraq.
He has a dream in which he is standing on the rooftop of his childhood home in Sanandaj, when he sees two persons coming toward him from a distance. The persons do not take steps but appear to glide. They stand about a meter and a half from him and ask him to interpret Sura ad-Duha and Sura ash-Sharh (chapters 93 and 94 of the Quran). Instead of trying to interpret these chapters as an intellectual exercise, he starts speaking effortlessly, saying things he had never even thought of before.
He says that as he spoke, he saw the Prophet ﷺ and his followers during what is known as the Meccan Boycott of the Hashemites, in which the he and his followers suffered extreme difficulty. He saw the relevance of the verses he was interpreting to these conditions, as if they were all part of the same story that he himself had lived. He also sees the Prophet ﷺ praying ardently for Umar ibn al-Khattab to be guided to Islam. He says the things he said in his interpretation of these chapters were as obvious and clear to him as 2+2 = 4. When he wakes up, he is completely thunderstruck by the dream, since none of the things he had said had ever before seemed obvious to him.
This dream causes him to completely change his approach to the Quran. Before this, he had the classical approach, what I call considering the Quran a “historical artifact” or a “dead book”. He says:
Before that, when I would look at the Quran, I would look at its meaning as mere Arabic words and sentences. After that, when I looked at the Quran I saw it as a living thing. The way I looked at life, that way I also looked at the Quran.
Strangely, this appears to also have been the approach of Said Nursi and Sayyid Qutb, both of whom also suffered through prison, and both of whom went on to be great revivalists.
Moftizadeh considers this discovery his re-birth, and afterwards would go on to speak of “the old Ahmad’ and “the new Ahmad”, similar to Said Nursi’s “old Said” and “new Said”.
He says that without his discovery of the Quran’s nature, his life would have been empty, and that a hundred thousand lifetimes were nothing compared to that single moment where he discovered the Quran.
After being released from prison, SAVAK offers him a professorship at Tehran University in return for softening his rhetoric against the Shah’s regime, which he refuses. He goes back to Sanandaj with his wife and child. He appears to conclude that the best way to spread Islam’s message is to train activists, a vanguard who embody the Quran’s teachings and go on to create change within their own social circles. This was also Sayyid Qutb’s idea.
His non-classical (Quran-focused) approach quickly garners him fame and people start to flock to his house to learn his reformist-activist approach on various issues, such as women’s rights.
He invites a number of faqih‘s (mullahs-in-training) to come to Sanandaj to learn and work on his project, and works hard to buy them a house. He has a highly valuable rug in his own house that he gives away and places in the new house. When asked why, he says, “This was the last artifact I had of my jahili (pre-enlightenment) life, and you are the cause of freeing me from it.”
He starts giving lectures at Sanandaj’s mosques, until he attracts a fellowship of 60-70 people. SAVAK issues a threat against his followers, so that most of the followers leave and only 15-20 people remain. SAVAK approaches him and offers him wealth and protection, and not just for himself but for his followers too, in return for a. not working with political parties and b. softening his stance against the Shah. His extreme poverty and the pressure his extended family puts on him to make him accept this offer slowly makes him start considering it. He wasn’t going to be involved with political parties, so this wasn’t an issue. And what harm did it do to accept not to speak against the Shah?
He says this was the most difficult moral dilemma of his life, since the things offered him were so attractive, and the things required of him so seemingly unimportant. During this, he has a dream that involves the Prophet ﷺ and Umar ibn al-Khattab. The Prophet is about to tell Umar something, starting by “O Umar…”, but Moftizadeh wakes up before hearing it. This greatly upsets him and he starts to look in the books of hadith to find narrations in which the Prophet speaks to Umar in such a manner. Despairing of his search, he goes to the Quran and tries to find guidance in it for his situation, and he finds that in verse 13:17:
He sends down water from the sky, and riverbeds flow according to their capacity. The current carries swelling froth. And from what they heat in fire of ornaments or utensils comes a similar froth. Thus God exemplifies truth and falsehood. As for the froth, it is swept away, but what benefits the people remains in the ground. Thus God presents the analogies.
He sees the Shah and his apparatus as the ephemeral “froth” that is covering truth and justice for a time, but that will surely be swept away by the forces of time. This makes him decide that truth and justice are timeless principles that deserve his full and never-ceasing allegiance, while any request from the Shah and SAVAK for his allegiance should be automatically rejected, since they are the froth who want to cover up what benefits the people. They are nobodies who will be swept away by history, while truth and justice will remain supreme. He goes on to live by this learning for the rest of his life, even after the Shah falls and the “Islamic” Republic is established.
Moftizadeh garnered fame in Iranian Kurdistan by his famous speeches, such as the one he gave at the funeral of the poet Suwaray Ilkhanizada. His fearless criticism of the Shah (sometimes comparing him to the Pharaoh of the time of Moses) gave people hope, since the rest of the Islamic establishment was thoroughly hand-in-hand with the Shah’s regime. A Muslim scholar speaking against the Shah was something unknown and highly attractive.
Maktab Quran (“school of Quran”) is the name of the movement/organization he and his friends created, first in the city of Mariwan and later in Sanandaj. The word maktab refers more to a “school of thought” than a physical entity (as pointed out by Ali Ezzatyar in The Last Mufti), a reference to his use of the Quran as a source for a reformist-activist Islam. He did, however, create schools in multiple cities where the Quran and related topics were taught, so Maktab Quran was a physical entity as well.
Moftizadeh’s fame and opposition to the Shah made him a natural leader of Iranian Sunnis at the time of the Iranian revolution. The revolution worried him because he considered it untimely, and was aware of the great possibility for the rise of a new anti-Kurdish tyranny in Tehran (which is what happened).
He believes that if his movement had been given 10-15 years without the Iran Revolution happening, the movement would have been able to bring Kurds to a state where they were ready to be the leaders of revolutionary change, since his goal was to teach people to insist on truth and justice and refuse to (intellectually) submit to tyrants.
After the Iranian revolution, Moftizadeh worked with other Sunni leaders (such as the scholar Abdulaziz Malazadeh from Sistan-Balochistan) to create a unified front for interacting with the Shia-majority revolutionary government, accepting Khomeini’s promises of respecting democracy and pluralism. This unified front was called SHAMS (which means “sun” in Arabic, and was an acronym for shurayeh markaziyeh sunnat, meaning “central council of the Sunnis”). A meeting was held in Tehran in public in which the creation of SHAMS was announced and its details agreed upon by Sunni religious leaders from various areas of Iran.
Naturally, Khoemini and his friends considered this union of the Sunnis a dangerous attack on their establishment, and the Iranian propaganda press went into overdrive over the few days following the meeting, associating the meeting with foreign influence, treason and all the other buzzwords that governments use to describe those who make them feel uncomfortable. Khomeini even gave a speech denouncing SHAMS.
Khomeini’s extremist grip on power continued to increase as a number of convenient assassinations removed his more balanced Shia friends from Earth (such as Ayatollah Beheshti). This purging of the moderate Shias cleared the field for him to let his totalitarian tendencies run wild.
A year after SHAMS, the Iranian government cracked down on those associated with Moftizadeh’s Maktab Quran movement throughout Iranian Kurdistan and imprisoned many of them, including Moftizadeh himself.
They held him for ten years in solitary confinement, never allowing a single visitation by his family and friends.
During the revolution (between 1978 and 1981), Moftizadeh worked constantly to bring the Kurds together and have them reach a peaceable agreement with the new government to ensure the rights of the Kurds. The people he was interacting with, the leftist Kurdish parties on the one hand, and the Shia government on the other, were both equally power-hungry, duplicitous and unreliable, so that his efforts were seemingly entirely futile.
Moftizadeh continued to try to work with everyone else in good faith, expecting the best of them, signing agreements with Kurdish party leaders who would go on to change the agreement the next day, adding their own clauses to it that had not actually been agreed upon, or agreeing on one thing then acting another way.
Moftizadeh tried his best fulfill his role as “the leader of Iran’s Kurds” as he was widely considered, but to no good. Would it have been better if he had refused, seeing as the Kurds and the Shias were both totally and utterly incapable of working in good faith together? What is the point of trying to make things work when everyone you are dealing with is corrupt and selfish?
While his political work has generally been considered a failure, his appeals for peace and avoidance of blood-shed may have saved Iranian Kurdistan from having the same fate as Iraqi Kurdistan, with hundreds of thousands of lives lost in a war with the government. It is quite possible that hundreds of thousands of Kurds living in Iran today owe their lives to some degree to his political work.
I wonder at the people of this town. They have so many mullahs, yet they have managed to remain religious and pious and they have not lost the way of Islam. —Ahmad Moftizadeh
Ahmad Moftizadeh, despite being a classically trained religious scholar and being the son of the chief religious authority of Iranian Kurdistan (and being offered this position himself later on), was a strong critic of the Islamic establishment of his time. The Sufi sheikhs and mullahs had created a comfortable religious aristocracy where the population was made to serve their interests, finding clever ways of extracting money from the poor, such as making farmers take large portions of their harvests to the nearest Sufi establishment where a fat and corrupt Sufi sheikh usually presided.
The mullahs (clerics and preachers who worked at the mosques) weren’t much better, fleecing the population through things like “repairing” divorces, without actually working to solve the roots of society’s issues.
Islam had become a ceremonial religion devoid of its activist message. Moftizadeh considered the religious establishment cowardly and complicit with the Shah’s regime. Not a single leader could be found who dared to speak a word of truth against the Shah’s injustice. Moftizadeh made many enemies by opposing this system, so that some mullahs and sheikhs labelled him a “hypocrite” and scared people away from his circles. Eventually, with his radical honesty and fearless criticism of the Shah despite the dangers to his own life, he became the unchallenged leader of Iran’s Kurdish Sunni Muslims (and perhaps forever broke the hold of the religious establishment on Islam).
In Shia Islam, the clerical establishment claims to have secret powers to interpret Islam properly, powers granted to them as descendants of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This is highly convenient, since it gives the Shia clerical establishment monopoly power over the way Islam is interpreted and practiced.
Sunni Islam rejects this, saying there is nothing too special about being descended from the Prophet ﷺ. In practice, however, the Sunni establishment acts somewhat similar to the Shia establishment, requiring someone to be part of the establishment before considering their opinions valid. For many Sunni clerics, ordinary Muslims do not have the right to refute a ruling from an establishment scholar. The content of the refutation does not matter; if you haven’t gone through the establishment and do not have their stamp of approval, you do not have the right to speak your mind.
Ahmad Moftizadeh’s teachings took Islam away from the establishment and gave it to each Muslim capable of reading and understanding the Quran.
Moftizadeh insisted on wearing Kurdish pants, as a way of encouraging other Kurds to not be ashamed of their cultural practices. This was considered unfashionable in his time by other Kurds. They would tell him “You are not a lower-class laborer, so why do you wear that?” He says he replied to such a statement once by saying, “I am a human, and laborers are humans.”
In Sanandaj, the nicknames of kaka (“big brother”), khalo (“uncle”) and mamo (also meaning “uncle”) were used as a way of addressing lower-class people. Moftizadeh came to be called kaka, and he asked his followers to continue calling him this, rejecting honorific titles.
He strongly opposed titles like “sayyid”, “sheikh”, “mala”, “haji”, all of which were used as honorifics for people supposedly religiously or socially superior to others, and all o which could be used to describe himself if I remember correctly. He says these are used to separate one section of society from another, the holier from the less holy, and this makes them un-Islamic and sinful.
Ahmad Moftizadeh considers the Medes the ancestors of Kurds, and the Persians their usurpers. He considers the Persian Empire a permanent force of oppression against Kurds since its inception. He considers Nawroz (the Iranian new year celebration) an imperial and anti-Kurd invention that celebrates the Persian usurpation of Kurdish power.
I have my doubts about this theory, and believe that considering all the Iranian races (Kurds, Lurs, Persians, Pashtos) one race that slowly branched out a far better foundation for building a constructive identity. Kurdish victimhood identity is extremely dangerous, as like all victimhood identities (Zionism, communism, feminism, Shiism) it reduces empathy and the sense of moral responsibility. A victim has the right to more privileges and is held to lower moral standards, and acts as such.
In Moftizadeh’s view, Kurds have been oppressed for 2500 years. In my view, the oppression of the Kurds might very well be a 20th century invention, as Turkish, Arab and Persian nationalism grew as responses to colonialism. Before that, the Kurds were just another subject nation of the Ottomans and the Safavids, and often enjoyed great autonomy, and their noblemen were accepted in the courts of these empires as men of power and status.
Having a single, global humanist identity is so much more beautiful and productive (I should note that I am strongly opposed to globalism, but that is another matter). Western Muslim intellectuals are ahead in this regard, in shunning racial and nationalist identities. But Moftizadeh was a product of his time, and at that time, the issue of Kurdish identity was a matter of top priority, since Persians by and large considered Kurds a backwater nation that should be Persianized for their own good. Moftizadeh’s response was to fight for Kurdish identity, saying that Kurds had as much right to exist and exercise their language and culture as Persians.
Moftizadeh considers the Umayyads the root cause for the loss of the original “true” Islamic caliphate, and says things mirroring the Shia view on them; that Abu Sufyan’s conversion to Islam was not true and that Muawiyah was on the whole an evil ruler. Since he brought back the old aristocratic system, threw out the shura system of democratic rule, established a dynastic monarchy, and built a palace in which he lived in luxury, for Moftizadeh this is sufficient evidence to consider him evil and corrupt.
Personally, I doubt there is sufficient evidence to conclusively rule that Abu Sufyan or Muawiyah weren’t truly good people. They may have liked wealth and power and worked for it, but so do many other Muslims. They weren’t perfect, but this does not mean that they weren’t on the whole reasonably good people.
Moftizadeh’s anti-Umayyad stance comes from his extreme anti-aristocratic views and his dislike for the Sunni-Shia divide for which he holds the Umayyads responsible.
I believe a more balanced and sophisticated approach is needed when it comes to the historical facts of the matter. As for the religious division issue, focusing on history is not going help matters. The Shia establishment will continue promoting the Shia vicitmhood narrative, since this is important for maintaining power and relevance.
Moftizadeh says “An Islamic society is one in which there are no (social) strata,” advocating for a radical equality among the population, from the ruler to the lowliest laborer (using the example of the Rashidun caliphs to explain what he meant). Some mullahs said that he was becoming a communist with his calls for equality. In response, he instead make a powerful critique of communism, recognizing its feudal nature. He says that communism is actually aristocracy taken to its most obscene extreme, where the central government becomes the unquestioned lord and the entirety of the population its lowly servants.
He strongly disliked the undue respect that government officials received. In one Islamic gathering he sees that a section of the best seats have been reserved for officials. He goes and sits there, to set the example that officials should not be treated specially. When officials visit his home, he is harsh and unfriendly with them. On the other hand, he treats the lower classes with the utmost love and respect.
Regarding the problem of nepotism, ever-present in the Middle East, he says:
Anyone who in his or her dealing with a government official gets preferential treatment because of family ties or other things, and he or she accepts this treatment, they have done injustice.
And on respecting the lower classes:
How miserable is the person who works in the name of leading a religious movement and dislikes meeting the poor, while exulting at meeting the rich and powerful.
Some of his followers suggested that he should get bodyguards, since they feared for his safety with his great fame and high status. He rejected this, saying that he is no better than the Rashidun caliphs Ali and Umar, who never had bodyguards. He says that one must go among the people, like the prophets used to, that separating himself from the people would automatically make him a failure.
When out, his friends suggest using a taxi to go somewhere (considered a luxury form of transport at the time), he refuses, saying “Why can’t we go like the rest of the people?”
After his release from prison (and close to his death), he was extremely sick from cancer and his body broken by the torture he had received under the Iranians. At one point he was receiving visitors, with everyone sitting on the floor as it is customary in Iran, and as he himself tried to sit, he suffered extreme pain since he couldn’t sit comfortably on the floor. Some offered to bring him a soft cushion to sit on, but he refused, saying, “A sick person can relax as needed when resting, but when among the people, he must behave like the people.” His meaning was that his sickness did not give him the privilege of acting differently and being catered to. This was part of his extreme insistence on equality and “not separating from the people”.
At one point, one of his followers opens a car door for him as a show of respect. He tells them to close it, to go sit themselves, and says, “Do you think I don’t know how to open car doors?”
He sees that someone refers to him as “dear kak Ahmad” in writing, and tells the person not to attach any title to him, even if it is merely “dear”.
One of his followers, who goes on to be killed by the Iranian government, explains that the reason why Moftizadeh attracted such a devoted following was that he truly embodied the three points mentioned in this verse of the Quran:
And who is better in speech than someone who calls to God, and carries out wholesome deeds, and says, “I am of the Muslims”? (The Quran, verse 41:33)
Some members of the Muslim Brotherhood have mistakenly claimed that Moftizadeh was a member of their organization. While he had very close relationships with some Brothers, he did not do this out of allegiance to the Brotherhood, but out of his heart-centered approach; he would collaborate and help anyone who appeared like a good person.
He was, near the end of his life, against political work, and he is quoted in The Last Mufti as saying that one who engages in political work is very likely to lose the way of guidance.
The last 100 pages or so of the book is dedicated to translations of articles and interviews with him published in various Iranian publications in the early years of the Iranian Revolution.
The Last Mufti does a far better job of describing the cultural context of Moftizadeh’s time and the origins of his family, likely due to the fact that The Last Mufti relied on far more many sources than this book does. However, it does contain many interesting details and anecdotes not mentioned in The Last Mufti, so both are well worth reading.
Moftizadeh’s (and Sayyid Qutb’s) life shows that people need heroes. Moftizadeh was not the founder of a new school of fiqh and one cannot point to any major work of his. A scholarly skeptic, proud of his own works and education, may look at Moftizadeh’s followers and think “What is wrong with all of these people who glorify this nobody?”
Yet the service that Moftizadeh did Islam has been immense and worthier than the works of perhaps a hundred scholars. By embodying his radical message, he became the message. It is sufficient to mention “Moftizadeh” to any of thousands of Iranian Sunnis to renew their motivation, their hope, their trust in God, their insistence on truth and justice, their bravery.
So while many people belonging to the Islamic establishment will be able to call Qutb and Moftizadeh “nobodies”, it is sufficient to see the effects of these men on their respective audiences to realize that these men did tremendously important things, that they were greater than the thousands of religious clerics who failed to do the same, who preferred silence and comfort to telling the truth and putting their lives at risk.
This is an important realization for me; that Islam cannot revive hearts and cannot cause social change unless it is embodied in certain people, no matter how few. For true, dynamic, activist Islam to exist in a community, that community needs to have its own Qutbs and Moftizadehs who are ready to be crucified for its sake, who tell the truth and stand for justice despite the danger to their own careers and lives.
Without such people, the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized will look at the religious establishment and think, “Look at those pompous idiots who think they are here to bring us salvation while they do nothing to protect our lives and dignity.” This was the attitude of people in Iran, Iraq and Egypt toward the religious establishment until people like Moftizadeh and Qutb appeared, and this is probably the attitude of many Saudi people toward their cowardly and well-fed Salafi scholars who turn a blind eye to the abuses of the Saudi family.
This is also the attitude of many Westerners toward the churches. Churchgoers who are not eager to give up large portions of their wealth to feed the poor and the oppressed in their communities have little right to pretend to be followers of Christ, and fully deserve to be considered out-of-touch and pompous hypocrites who do not really believe in their message.
If you do not embody Islam or Christianity’s radically activist message, don’t be surprised if no one takes you seriously.
Moftizadeh’s manners and story is similar to that of Jesus in the New Testament. He fearlessly embodied his message of radical honesty, of respecting all humans, of working against injustice and tyranny, acting like a wrench thrown into the comfortable decay of the Shah’s Kurdistan.
Moftizadeh was the worst nightmare of every corrupt politician, cleric and faux revolutionary, never accepting to limit his speech against them, never seeking material gain (thus he was unbribable), and treating his followers with far more respect and honor than the figures of authority of his society, whether secular or religious, in this way creating a new power structure that discredited the existing ones and empowered ordinary people to feel as if they had the freedom to question things.
Just like it happened with Jesus, many people started calling for his blood, including the religious establishment he was a part of. His criticism of the Shah’s regime helped topple it, but instead of acting the expected way toward his new Shia masters, silently acceding to them, he continued just like before, speaking his mind, discrediting them, not taking them seriously and focusing on truth and justice above all else.
Moftizadeh represents the ideal Muslim citizen; a good and kind friend of every good and kind person, a peaceful activist who did his utmost to prevent violence, a nightmare to every greedy and power-hungry politician, cleric and aristocrat.
Moftizadeh is a very difficult ideal to emulate. People either choose to be power-seeking revolutionaries who risk some but get a lot in return, or quietist mystics who risk nothing and enjoy a comfortable living. Moftizadeh brings together the difficult parts of both lifestyles and throws away the parts palatable to the human ego; you must be a revolutionary who does not seek power, and a mystic who risks everything. Most humans can either live up to the revolutionary ideal or the mystic ideal, very few can unite the two, because not only is there no personal gain in doing this, there is much chance of personal loss. Moftizadeh did that and suffered horribly for it, but renewed the world with his suffering.
Mawlawi Tawagozi (1806-1882, known simply as Mawlawi in Kurdish) was an Islamic mystic and one of the great poets of Kurdistan, belonging to the Hawrami minority that I belong to. This book is a 160-page commentary on a small selection of Mawlawi’s 2450-verse poem Aqiday Mardia (The Approved Aqeedah), which tries to offer a journey through the field of Islamic theology, mentioning the foundations of belief (aqeedah), philosophical arguments by detractors, and Ashaari responses to them, with Sufi language and feeling spread throughout.
The poem is written in the Sorani dialect rather than Mawlawi’s native Hawrami, and makes ample use of Arabic and Farsi as classical Kurdish poetry does. It was finished in 1864 CE.
I stumbled on this book on the internet and was immediately interested, since it is regarding an Islamic topic (aqeedah), it involves Mawlawi, and it also involves Baba Ali Qaradaghi (بابا علي ابن شيخ عمر القرة داغي), a family friend and Islamic scholar of the Quran-focused school. I was involved with typing up the manuscript of his book Yawmul Mawti Yawmul Baa`thi (The Day of Death is the Day of Resurrection), a book that dares to challenge nearly the entirety of Islamic eschatology (the events that will happen around the time of the end of the world).
In typical Sufi fashion, his expressions of love for his sheikh Uthman Sirajuddin Naqshbandi take so many verses that one wonders what kind of force there was to drive someone to expend so much effort in expressing it.
Mawlawi explains that iman (faith in God) is either acquired through kashf (God removing the screen that hides Him from our eyes), through daleel (clues), or through taqleed (having faith because someone you love and admire has it). He has no hope of achieving the first status (of kashf), since it is only for the greatest masters, therefore what he aims at are the second (and the third, if I remember correctly).
He mentions the hadith narrations that say the Muslims will separate into 73 sects, all of which will be thrown into Hell except one, and says that he hopes that through the great and pure early and late scholars and mystics to be able to find his way into being among the firqa al-nājiya (the one group that does not get thrown into the Hellfire). See this post for the likely falseness of these narrations. A Salafi brother used this hadith as evidence to me that not being Salafi was almost certainly a surefire way of going to Hell.
At some point he starts with a tafseer (interpretation) of Surat al-Ikhlas (chapter 112 of the Quran, made up of only 4 verses), which in English can be translated as:
1. Say, “He is God, the One.
2. God, the Absolute.
3. He begets not, nor was He begotten.
4. And there is nothing comparable to Him.”
He says that the fact that the chapter starts with a command (“Say”) disproves physical determinism (that humans have no free will). The existence of a command implies the possibility of both obeying and disobeying the commander, therefore humans have free will. This is a false or incomplete line of reasoning, since you can use a remote control to issue a command to a device, with the device having no choice but to obey.
In a discussion of the Night Journey of the Prophet ﷺ, he addresses those of his time who were saying the telegraph is greater than the Prophet’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, since telegraph is near-instantaneous:
هەی تەل! هەی نەی کەی پێی گەی هەی نەی خۆی
وەک ماری زامدار هەر پێچدا لە خۆی
فەرقیان هەی فام ئەهلی زەمانە
هەر لە سەر زەمین تا ئاسمانە
Hey line, it is not for you to reach it, you will not
Even if like a wounded snake you coil yourself
Their difference, O sound-minded people of this age,
Is like the difference between the earth and heaven
In the first verse he is addressing a telegraph line, saying you will never reach the greatness of the Night Journey, or God’s power, or something like that. The telegraph had been in development and use in Europe for over 30 years at this time, so it makes sense that he would have heard of it. Baba Ali suggests that he may have even seen a working telegraph system.
He delves into the issue of free will versus determinism. In some verses, whose Kurdish translation is included by Qaradaghi, the Persian poet Khayyam asks the server to serve him wine, saying that God already knows he was going to do this, and this it was already written, implying that therefore he has no responsibility for the action, and therefore it is not really sinful. Khayyam is referring to Islam’s free will paradox; if an action is truly “free”, it should not be predictable. And if it is predictable, if it is already known and written, how can it be free?
Mawlawi answers the question by not answering it, in the mainstream Sunni fashion. He attacks the various theories others have put forward and concludes that the Ashaari creed is the true one (that our actions are already written, and that we are responsible for them, don’t ask why), and that we must act by the dhaahir of Shariah, do what it asks us and avoid what it prohibits us, without caring about philosophical concerns.
He talks about God’s perfection, the impossibility of any human to ever truly know and encompass Him, and ends by saying that you (the reader) is a pitiful mortal, so what business do you have worrying about such matters?
Being asked to believe in free will and predestination at the same time has always felt to me like being asked to believe in the Christian Trinity, that the Son is not the Father, and neither of whom are the Holy Spirit, but that all three are God. I have discovered a satisfactory solution to this paradox, which I call the Theory of Delegation, that satisfies the Quran and does not require one to believe in seemingly contradictory propositions. I haven’t published it due to its highly sensitive nature. I plan to read more first.
The Baghdad-based Sufi Kurdish Islamic scholar Abdul Kareem Mudarris has written a full commentary on this poem, which I found online and perhaps will read some day as a poetic introduction to the field of aqeedah.
In the Footsteps of the Prophet is a long-needed biography of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that focuses on his character, manners and experience, rather than merely narrating dates and facts.
Many classical Islamic books are somewhat out-of-touch for modern readers, so that while they may have been satisfactory to their original (often Middle Eastern) readers, when translated into English they end up being unapproachable and highly inadequate, often leading to more questions than answers. In the Footsteps of the Prophet, having been written by someone who lives and breathes the Western worldview, lacks these shortcomings, so that I can refer Europeans to it without having to make apologies for it.
From the outset, the Quran presents itself as the mirror of the universe. The term that the first Western translators rendered as “verse”-referring to biblical vocabulary-literally means, in Arabic, “sign” (ayah). Thus, the revealed Book, the written text, is made up of signs (ayat) just as the universe, like a text spread out before our eyes, is teeming with signs. When the heart’s intelligence, and not only analytical intelligence, reads the Quran and the world, then the two texts address and echo each other, and each of them speaks of the other and of the One. The signs remind us of what it means to be born, to live, to think, to feel, and to die.
His writing style creates vague clouds of meanings and feelings, and it is often left as an exercise to the reader to make out anything concrete from what he says. This is very much unlike my own style, but perhaps there is a demographic that finds better meaning in his. What he is saying above is that the Quran provides various pointers (rather than conclusive proofs) of the Creator’s existence and presence, and the universe around us also provides its own pointers (rather than conclusive proofs). When you bring together the total of the Quran’s pointers and the universe’s pointers, your conscience (what he refers to as your heart’s intelligence) is offered the very difficult choice of accepting faith or rejecting it.
When you run into sufficient ayat in yourself, in the world around you, and in the Quran, you reach a point where non-submission to the Creator becomes a sin against your conscience. This is the sin of kufr (disbelief), of denying God’s signs and/or favors.
Throughout your life, your conscience is like a jury watching a trial that tries to decide whether God exists or not. Sign after sign is presented to your conscience, never sufficient to conclusively prove to your rational brain that God exists, but never so little that you can deny those signs in good conscience. Once you have seen sufficient signs, you will feel guilty to deny God, because you have done something that goes against your conscience. Even if you can rationally justify your rejection of God, the guilt may never leave.
As for someone who has never seen sufficient signs, that is a different matter.
Ramadan embraces the idea that there was something special (super-human) about the Prophet ﷺ, narrating a few stories like the angels visiting him when he was a child and performing surgery on him to remove a black piece of flesh from his heart, in this way purifying him from something bad that other human hearts supposedly contain. The Egyptian scholar Muhammad al-Ghazali in his Fiqh al-Sīra rejects this story, saying that good and evil are a matter of the spirit, not the flesh.
The story is problematic because it suggests there is some inherently evil within humans, embedded right in their flesh, reminiscent of the Christian concept of original sin. This story is just one example of the myriad stories in books of sīra (biographies of the Prophet ﷺ) suggesting that the Prophet ﷺ was special, something more than human. The Christians turned Jesus into God, and Muslims would probably have done the same, out of love and a desire for a human divinity that wasn’t so terrifying as God, if the Quran wasn’t so insistent that God has no associates and wasn’t so critical of the idea of Jesus as a Son of God.
While we may not be able to conclusively say that there is was nothing specially super-human about the Prophet ﷺ, a truly human Prophet is far more admirable than a super-human Prophet in reality. What’s so special about bearing a burden if you are given super-powers by God to bear it? And resisting evil while desiring it is a greater accomplishment, as in the case of Prophet Yusuf (biblical Joseph), than resisting it after God sends angels to perform surgery on you to make you a better person.
The beautiful story the Quran tells us is that the Prophet was a human just like any of us, and that he was given a terribly difficult mission that terrified him. He had to bear this burden with all of his fears and weaknesses, he had to face humiliation after humiliation among his relatives and tribe, and he had to face death on numerous occasions, not as a super-man who couldn’t be harmed, but as a fragile human who could suffer, who could fear, who could desire, who could be impatient, who could make terrible mistakes.
Say, “I am nothing more than a human being like you, being inspired that your god is One God. Whoever hopes to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and never associate anyone with the service of his Lord.” (The Quran 18:110)
God did not tell the Prophet to say, “All humans are equal, but I am more equal than you.” He is told to say “I am nothing more than a human being”. That is it. There is no need to turn him into a super-man and in this way take away his achievements as a human.
In the Footsteps of the Prophet contains only a few such stories, which makes it superior to other books of sīra.
Sufficient evidence is not presented to show why the relationship between Aisha and the Prophet was special and exemplary, a claim that the book makes in multiple places. The issue of Aisha’s age is not addressed, and for someone who has this in mind while reading the relevant passages, nothing presented sufficiently justifies things (see my article here for the views of the latest scholars who say that there is good evidence that Aisha was close to 18 at the time of her marriage). He mentions that the Prophet ﷺ “stayed away” from Aisha for a month after she was accused of adultery, then mentions that this event “reinforced their love and trust”. But this claim is not convincing when no evidence is presented for it, and in fact evidence is provided that it harmed their relationship.
The very important spiritual side of this matter is not mentioned. This was an intensely difficult lesson for the Prophet ﷺ, for he had not received guidance on what to do in the case of someone being accused without evidence being presented. Since the person accused was his own wife, and since he had no specific guidance on the matter, he could do nothing but suffer. He did not dare interact with his wife, not knowing whether her status as his wife was valid anymore.
Mentioning these facts would have shown that his abandoning her for a month was not an him throwing away his wife until she was proven innocent, as it would appear to a critical reader. Both in this book and Karen Armstrong’s Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, the focus on the Prophet’s persona and his sociopolitical status sometimes causes the fact of his servitude toward God to be neglected. In the issue of Aisha’s accusation, he was a helpless servant of God, not knowing what to do to please Him.
Later it is mentioned that Aisha remained upset with the fact that the Prophet had doubted her chastity. Her mother asks her to thank the Prophet ﷺ for forgiving her and taking her back, but she says she will only thank God, since the Prophet ﷺ had doubted her. This, while seemingly a negative fact, is a good illustration of the fact that she maintained her independence of mind and did not act as an intellectual slave to her husband, but considered him a human that could be challenged.
Sufficient justification for the war on Khaybar is not mentioned: the fact that it continuously sought to pay Arab tribes to go to war with the Muslims, hoping to remain the supreme Jewish power over the gentiles of Arabia, the way Israel today hopes to remain the supreme Jewish power over the gentiles of the Middle East, and using one group of gentiles to do their dirty work for them against another group while they themselves remained safe in their fortresses, the way today they get Christians to fund and fight Israel’s wars for them.
As mentioned, the book approaches the Prophet ﷺ as a human to be understood and emulated, and many examples are shown of his immense kindness, tolerance and civility toward both his followers and his sworn enemies. While on the whole the image of the Prophet ﷺ presented by the book is believable, there are also passages like the following which appear to insert too much of the author’s own reading into the character of Prophet ﷺ:
The Messenger, moreover, drew from children his sense of play and innocence; from them he learned to look at people and the world around him with wonder. From watching children experience beauty he also more fully developed his sense of aesthetics: in front of beauty, he wept, he was moved, he sometimes sobbed, and he was often filled with well-being by the poetic musicality of a phrase or by the spiritual call of a verse offered by the Most Generous, the Infinitely Beautiful.
It would have helped if these characteristics were backed by concrete examples. We have no evidence that this is not merely how Ramadan wishes the Prophet ﷺ to have been.
In the Footsteps of the Prophet is a book I would recommend to anyone wanting to get something of an accurate view of Islam’s founder, a view that is neither harshly critical or fawningly uncritical piece of marketing. It shows the Prophet ﷺ as those who know the most about him see him, and I cannot give it a higher praise than this.
A non-Muslim may naturally be skeptical of a book, written by a Muslim, that offers such a seemingly charitable glimpse of the Prophet. Muslims have everything to gain if non-Muslims see the founder of their religion in a more friendly light. To that I will say that this is the Prophet ﷺ as Muslims see him. There are no dark secrets. If someone says that the Prophet said or did something horrible, we reject it. The Prophet’s character, as his wife Aisha said, “was the Quran”. We think of the Prophet as a follower of the Quran, someone who did his utmost to embody its teachings, and if someone makes a claim about the Prophet that is highly out of character for him as a person who lived and breathed the Quran, then we reject that claim regardless of where it comes from.
This is a simple matter of giving weight to more reliable evidence (the Quran) over less reliable evidence (hadith). If the more reliable evidence gives you one view of the Prophet, and the less reliable evidence gives you another one, if you are a rational human, you will prefer the view arrived at through the more reliable evidence, and this is what we Muslims do, and this is what In the Footsteps of the Prophet does. Those who have an ax to grind against Islam ignore the reliable evidence and waste their time building an alternate-reality version of the Prophet ﷺ based on less reliable evidence, a version of the Prophet that goes entirely against the Quranic view. What they say about the Prophet, therefore, is automatically rejected, since they intentionally ignore the most important evidence (the Quran) and instead focus on secondary evidence that confirm their preconceived biases.
A fair-minded person should therefore see that what In the Footsteps of the Prophet does is exactly what we Muslims do in trying to arrive at an accurate understanding of the Prophet ﷺ; we use the canonical, Quranic view to make sense of a world of secondary evidence of varying authenticity to reach a good enough understanding of the Prophet’s mind and character.
I read this book as part of my reading of all available material on Ahmad Moftizadeh. It is a short book of a little over 100 pages. Below I will mention some of the ideas and quotations I found interesting.
Regarding education, he says that the best way to raise Muslim children is for the parents to be good, spiritual Muslims, meaning that teaching them technical things about Islam is of secondary importance. Sending your child off to Quran school while they are treated with disrespect and abuse at home is not going to turn them into good Muslims. Their main idea about Islam will come from their parents and the rest of the people they see around them who are supposedly Muslim.
O God, if possible, place all the troubles of this world on my shoulders so that no on else may suffer.
The above is an expression of his love for humanity and his willingness to suffer and die for people’s sake. His unconditionally loving attitude toward people was perhaps the greatest reason why he attracted so many devoted followers.
Changing society is secondary and is a consequence of changing individuals. it is individuals that must first be changed.
The purest state of humanity is childhood. The purest human is a child. It is children who most deserve to be served and taken care of.
I am not sold on this idea, because an adult is just a child into whom decades of effort have been poured. When the time comes to decide between allocating resources to children versus adults, who should be given preference? Moftizadeh suggests it is the child, but I don’t see this as a clear choice. Serving an adult so that they can become productive members of society can make it more likely that children will be served.
Taking faith away from people is like taking instincts away from animals.
Meaning that without faith, humans will be as lost as animals would be without their instincts.
The Quran, for a person's spiritual livelihood is similar to the earth for a person's material livelihood.
Meaning that the same way that the earth sustains us materially, the Quran sustains us spiritually.
I swear to God, in all honesty and frankness, that true faith in God cannot exist in the heart of someone until that heart loves the poor.
The first pillar of religious activism is the love of the poor.
When a Muslim's past is not burdened with sins and disobedience of God, their eyes do not become veiled by delusion and they know that God continues to love them.
Meaning that when hardship strikes, a person who is close to God will not think badly of God and think that He dislikes them and enjoys punishing them.
Chon u La Kwewa Dast Pe Bkain (“How and From Where Do We Begin?”) is a 170-page Kurdish book based on interviews with Ahmad Moftizadeh done after he was released from prison (and soon before his death) and perhaps some of his writings.
It provides an overview of his thinking processes regarding various matters, especially the proper form of conduct for those who want to emulate his way. The information is often scattered and no formal approach program or vision is presented. Moftizadeh’s approach has generally been like the Prophet’s ﷺ, offering guidance as situations presented themselves, rather than sitting down to build systems for people to follow.
On the question of political work, he offers some guidance on the issues that his own movement had, without doing a formal analysis, and saying that different people at different times and places can reach their own conclusions regarding the best modes of action when doing Islamic political work. He strongly criticizes the political partisanship practiced by so many Islamist groups. In his view (and mine, too) matters of the heart take precedence, so that a Muslim who uses partisan thinking to attack another Muslim has automatically lost the way of wisdom. He also mentions that a key source of corruption within Islamic movements is when individuals seek power within the movement.
My key discovery regarding political Islam has been that Islamic movements must never seek power. His ideas are close to this, and his movement (Maktab Quran) does not seek power, but he does not clearly state it. In his thinking, it is apparent that he hasn’t arrived at this conclusion, thinking that at certain times and places, once a certain stage of growth has been reached, groups of Muslim can engage in political partying and do more good than harm.
He mentions that one of the biggest proofs the truth of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood ﷺ is that his wife believed in him immediately. A wife knows her husband of many years better than most people. She knows his weaknesses and flaws. If she had known him to be untrustworthy, or known him to have significant flaws, she wouldn’t have supported him in bringing about a new ideology that totally opposed her culture.
And after her, his closest friends also believed in him quickly, even though he didn’t have any proof to offer them except a few verses of the Quran. Again, this shows the immense amount of trust these people had in him.
He is asked about his opinion on certain luminaries of the 20th century Islamic revival, such as Maududi and Qutb, and is asked why he does not refer to them often, and is asked whether he somehow disapproves of them or dislikes them like some people have suggested.
He says that loves Qutb’s message and considers him far greater than himself, and mentions a few lines of poetry he had written in which the word “Qutb” is used both metaphorically and as a reference to Sayyid Qutb.
He says that he does not have a very good memory for crediting ideas and sayings to their authors, so that he uses what he has learned from these men without saying it is from them. He also says that due to his business with social and political work throughout his active (pre-prison) life, that he did not have time to read too much, often taking ideas from other people.
A large part of the book is dedicated to clarifying the concept of tazkiyah (which could be translated as “spiritual cultivation”), which in Moftizadeh’s view takes precedence over instruction. Instruction is merely the the transfer of information from a person to another, while in Moftizadeh’s view, Islamic education should focus on tazkiyah, imparting on people a subconscious appreciation for Islamic manners and ways of thinking. Instruction is the transfer of information, tazkiyah is the transfer of character, and far more important.
He does his best to clarify what he has in mind regarding the difference between tazkiyah and mere instruction, using the example of Prophet Muhammad. To perform tazkiyah is to provide for people the subtle guidance and encouragement for them to become spiritually uplifted. To merely instruct people, the way it is done in various Islamic education systems, without focusing on imparting character, is going to do little good and has little affinity to the Prophet’s method of instruction.
A large part of Moftizadeh’s thinking regarding Islamic education is to discredit the classical system that taught various technical topics without giving a thought to the cultivation of character, creating insincere clerics who did their Islamic work as a job without their hearts and souls being in it, and causing people to consider Islam something irrelevant to their daily lives, similar to government.
He is also equally critical of Sufis who cut themselves off from society and allowed Islam’s highly dynamic, highly activist message to be lost.
Moftizadeh and I agree on considering Islam an activist movement rather than just a religion, and I think he would agree with this principle of mine:
No Muslim's faith is complete if he or she is not an anti-poverty activist.
To me any Muslim leader who is not seriously worrying about and planning against poverty is either a hypocrite or a highly ignorant person, and in both cases is not worth following (he may, of course, have useful technical knowledge.)
One of Moftizadeh’s key teachings is that a crucial part of spiritually uplifting others (whether those others are religious or not) is to treat everyone with kindness (mehrabani) and love, and to joke with people and talk to them in a way that reaches them (one would call it “building rapport” today).
Talking about “reaching people” is quickly misinterpreted by many (Muslims and non-Muslims) as a way for advocating for clever manipulation tactics for converting people to Islam.
There are two types of dawa (“inviting people to Islam”). One of them spends time and money on increasing the number of Muslims, and creates semi-missionaries who encourage people to embrace Islam using various tactics. The other type of dawa is to embody Islam, to live the Quran.
To me religion is a very personal thing, and any effort to connect with the hearts of other people with an aim in mind (to make them Muslim) is automatically dishonest.
To me, and more or less to Sayyid Qutb, Moftizadeh, and Tariq Ramadan , our mission is to love and to be kind, to do good in this world, to help people find a better way when they are stuck one way or another, without ever having the goal of turning them into one thing or another, treating their dignity and privacy with the utmost respect.
Religion and spirituality is a very personal matter, and it is highly disrespectful (not to mention awkward, and futile) to barge into people’s lives and try to convert them.
Proper dawa is goal-less. You do not make someone your “project” and try to finish this project by converting them. You, instead, treat everyone with love, kindness and empathy, while also embodying the rest of Islam in your daily life. Our interactions with non-Muslims must never be on the basis of hopefully one day converting them to Islam, this always leads to short-term minded, power-seeking behavior. Any kindness and empathy we show them must be given freely, selflessly, without expecting anything in return, and this means without expecting any return of the favor, or any added friendliness from them toward us and our religion.
We practice Islam and in this way show people what it is. They can take it or leave it.
I also feel that any money spent on converting non-Muslims to Islam is far better spent on eliminating poverty and educating those who are already Muslim, and especially new converts. In my view anyone who converts to Islam should automatically be given a monthly zakat stipend by their local mosque (if they are not wealthy), to make them feel like they belong to a community that cares about their well-being.
Conflicts of Fitness: Islam, America, and Evolutionary Psychology by A.S. Amin is a highly original examination of the dynamics of gender and sexuality within Western societies on the one hand, and within Islamic societies on the other.
As someone who has been working on reconciling Islam and evolutionary theory and on developing a post-feminist theory of human sexual dynamics, I hardly expect most books to tell me anything I haven’t already heard or thought about, but this book manages it. It is a short and enjoyable read that sticks to the facts and does not often try to force an interpretation on them, which will make it agreeable to people coming from differing backgrounds and ideological currents.
The author’s main thesis is that different societies have different reproductive climates designed to maximize reproductive success. In a short-term climate, like that of most of the United States, human evolutionary instincts drive men to do their best to have sex with as many women as possible while not caring very much about a woman’s virginity and past sexual experiences. As for women, the climate drives them to display sexual receptivity through makeup, dress and manners designed to encourage men to think of them in sexual terms.
On the other hand, in a very-long-term climate like Saudi Arabia, men maximize reproductive success not by trying to have as many short-term relationships as possible, but by maximizing paternity confidence. Saudi Arabian seek virginal women so that they can be assured their children are theirs, and they go to extremes to ensure this; marrying very young women and preventing women from leaving the house, getting an education or a career.
This way of looking at the problem of women’s status in extremely conservative Muslim societies is a breath of fresh air from all of the moralistic or emotional treatments the subject has so far received on the hands of ideologically-driven intellectuals and commentators. It is also good to find another Muslim who can think of these matters in scientific and largely apolitical terms.
A reader of Conflicts of Fitness may wonder how a Muslim can write from an evolutionary perspective when Muslims do not generally accept the theory of evolution. Amin does not offer an explanation for this, focusing on his research topic without delving into this issue, leaving it to the readers to work it out. In my essay God, Evolution and Abiogenesis I explain how the Quran is compatible not only with evolution, but with abiogenesis as well.
Before reading this book, I had often thought of polygyny as a privilege granted men in order to deal with certain exceptional circumstances (such as having an infertile wife). Conflicts of Fitness explains that there is more to it than this, and that women, rather than men, are potentially the primary beneficiaries of polygyny:
Most Western women and men empathize with the underdog when thinking of hypothetical situations, therefore they are unlikely to accept the above explanation, since they empathize with the poor woman who will suffer having to share her husband with another woman. The fact that she chooses this over divorce is not given attention since it goes against the “Islam is misogynistic” narrative.
For a Muslim who already believes in the Quran, the explanation is a good vindication of the policy, and it should help restrain scholars overeager to place strict restrictions on polygyny. In a society where marriage is by consent and where people are free to divorce whenever they want, polygyny will be self-balancing. Men will have to balance the fear of losing their present wife with their desire for a second one, meaning that the majority of men will be unlikely to abuse this right. My experience of Kurdish and Persian society proves this correct.
In a short-term reproductive climate, women signal their receptivity to short-term-style sexual relationships in various ways, one of which is makeup. One thing that makeup does is simulate the effects of sexual arousal:
It turns out that when a woman becomes sexually aroused, certain physiologic changes take place. Among these changes are dilation of the pupils and the blood vessels in the cheeks and lips.
The author refers to this facet of makeup-as-a-signal-of-sexual-receptivity in many places in the book. However, while this is highly informative, it is not the complete picture. Makeup also serves as an important axis for enabling women to get ahead of themselves and other women. Makeup enables a woman to enhance her apparent quality as a worthy mate by making herself look younger and healthier. In a long-term or somewhat-long-term climate, makeup helps a woman appear as a better substance compared to her competitors. This, however, runs the danger of sending the wrong signal, of appearing to be receptive to sexual advances, for this reason in a long-term climate, a woman has to walk a fine line between enhancing her looks (which helps her get the interest of more suitors wanting to marry her) and signalling sexual receptivity (which garners the attention of the wrong audience).
The author mentions that an important reason for the strife that so often exists between teenage girls and their parents regarding dress and makeup is a generational gap in reproductive strategies. The parents grew up in a climate that was more long-term-oriented than the present climate, and they want to enforce the mores of their outdated climate on their children, not realizing that the climate has changed, and that by preventing their daughter from dressing more skimpily or wearing more makeup or dating more freely, they are causing her to fall behind her peers. Immigrants, especially Muslims, bringing up children in the West suffer a similar conflict. What should be done to handle this problem? The author does not say.
Should Muslims submit to the new climate, admitting that laxer standards are needed for their children, or should they fight off the West and try to keep isolated?
The Muslim Westerner’s mindset toward the West’s short-term reproductive climate should not reactionary, it should instead be constructive. Muslim men and women, following the Quranic program, should live and marry and construct their own Western society that proudly rejects everything it considers inferior and harmful and happily embraces everything it considers beneficial. Instead of trying to live in an “intellectual ghetto”, as Tariq Ramadan calls it, they live in the center of the Western intellectual tradition, reforming it, critiquing its weaknesses, calling for betterment, and freely defining new ways of life, exactly the way the intellectual elite throughout the ages have always done, defining new ways of life for themselves often at odds with the wider society.
I have seen some Western non-Muslim men wonder how you go about approaching a Muslim woman (to see if she is interested in a relationship), since the way they dress often signals unapprochability. The answer is that you don’t approach Muslim women (at least not the vast majority). The author gives an evolutionary explanation for this. Muslim women seek long-term partners, which requires deep knowledge of the man before any contact is made. It is for this reason that parents, relatives and friends are often heavily involved in planning and executing marriages. Approaching a Muslim woman, telling her she is beautiful and that you find her really interesting will most likely upset and offend her, since you are offering her exactly what she does not want; a relationship based on a short-term sexual attraction, and because being seen talking to a random man can harm her reputation.
Westerners, and some liberal Muslims, think these facts show that Muslims are out of touch or backward, and that they must be “better-educated”, “liberated”, “integrated”, “assimilated” and a whole lot of other euphemisms referring to the belief that Muslims should stop being Muslims and act more like non-Muslims for their own good.
The Quran requires that Muslims implement long-term reproductive strategies in their lives, meaning that for Muslims to remain Muslims, short-term reproductive behaviors can never be normalized. A Muslim woman who has a PhD and is attending a conference is not going to respond positively to some non-Muslim man’s pick-up line no matter how well-educated and liberated she is, if she is a devout Muslim. This is because in effect the man is calling her to abandon her chosen way of life. For her, sexual relationships are long-term matters that require the critique and approval of her family, relatives and friends, since Islam teaches her to think of herself as a member of a community, and to respect the opinions of her relatives and the authority of her parents. If a man is interested in her, instead of approaching her directly, he does it in a manner that shows his respect for the Muslim community and her family, and that shows his long-term interest in her, by having a friend or relative approach a friend or relative of hers.
Of course, this is not always an option, sometimes a direct approach is the only one possible, for example for a Muslim man and woman studying at the same college but knowing nothing else about one another, and having no one to mediate for them.
The book analyzes the significant relationship between reproductive climates and attitudes toward women having careers. In a short-term climate, men cannot be relied on as providers, since they are interested in independence and short-term sexual relationships. In a long-term climate, men can be relied on, since men have no option but to be providers, in order to be able to attract the love interest of women.
This means that in a short-term climate, a career can be essential to a woman’s survival, while in a long-term climate, it can be largely irrelevant.
Men who like to follow a short-term sexual strategy (having sexual access to many females without having to commit themselves) will have an incentive to promote women’s “liberation”. For such men, it can be frustrating to live in a society that limits the availability of women, and they may do what they can to bring about change, to discredit the “backward” patriarchs, to get women out of society’s protection and into their own hands.
In his analysis of Islamic thought as it applies to the topic, the author’s methods and ways of thought are close to mine, which was a pleasant surprise. He refers to some of my favorite scholars while also maintaining a critical eye toward their opinions. He makes many references to the UCLA professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, someone largely unknown to me until reading this book:
Reviewing many of the Qur’ānic verses used to justify women’s restricted access to divorce, he concludes that the full implications of these verses have not been fully considered and intimates his opinion that Islam gives women the same access to divorce as it does to men. However, Abou El Fadl seems somewhat troubled that his opinion is in disagreement with the majority of Muslim jurists throughout Islamic history. The question becomes, is the majority opinion the result of the unequivocal evidence found in the sources of Islamic law, or a manifestation of the reproductive climates in which those opinions were formulated?
A woman should have full rights to divorce, because ethically, this is almost certainly crucial for ensuring the fairness of the marriage system. A man is given a degree of authority over his wife in his household. To ensure that this authority does not lead to abuse and tyranny, a woman must always retain the right to leave. Preventing her from leaving is going to greatly reduce her bargaining power in the relationship. I also support the opinions of the Salafi scholars al-Albani and Ibn Baaz in requiring a formal procedure for a man to divorce his wife, requiring him to stay with her for one menstrual cycle without having sex before the divorce is considered official. I believe that allowing a man to perform a permanent triple divorce by uttering a sentence is a highly damaging and defeats many of the purposes of Islamic law.
Fiqh refers to Islamic jurisprudence, the field of discovering the best possible practical applications for the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah (the Prophet’s traditions ﷺ). One of the main theses of the book is that the reproductive climate affects the way men interpret Islamic principles.
According to Amin, in very-long-term climates like Saudi Arabia, paternity confidence is one of the prime directives in the minds of the jurists, so that they support nearly everything that can in some way restrict a woman’s freedom and make her a better reproductive object. Egyptians have a less long-term climate, so that their scholars are willing to make concessions to women’s freedom even if they acknowledge that in certain circumstances these granted privileges may lead to less paternity confidence.
Amin’s thesis is that reproductive climates affect the derivation of fiqh, leading to differing rulings (fatwas). This is one of the main conclusions of the book, that Muslim men prefer different interpretations of Islam based on their reproductive climates. To Saudi Muslim men, it is “obvious” that women should be restricted for everyone’s good, while to (cosmopolitan) Egyptian Muslim men, it is “obvious” that women should have more freedoms. A man’s reproductive strategy affects his values and makes him prioritize certain things over others, leading to a type of Islam that fits his own reproductive goals.
This scientific analysis of the derivation of fiqh is important and very much needed in order to separate what is truly Islamic from what is merely cultural within the rulings of the scholars. A new field can be launched, the (evolutionary) sociology of fiqh, that studies these matters.
The limitation of his evolutionary psychology approach is that it treats humans as genetic creatures, so that he studies how manifestations of genetically-driven instincts affect psychological behavior. To me this is only half of evolutionary psychology, although I know that many evolutionary psychologists limit themselves to this.
Humans are not genetic creatures, but genetic-cultural creatures, genes affect culture and culture affects genes. This adds a layer of complexity to human psychology that, if ignored, leads to incomplete theories. Thus the Egyptian toleration for less paternity confidence is not necessarily a consequence of the reproductive climate, it might be a cause of it. Perhaps the cultural appreciation of Egyptians for human rights led to a toleration for a shorter-term reproductive climate, so that this ideal was given priority over the concern for paternity confidence.
IQ is largely genetic (i.e. not cultural), but its consequence is a culture that appreciates various intangible ideals, whose consequence, in turn, is a re-interpretation of religion that tolerates a laxer reproductive climate, since this is more likely to achieve those ideals.
Having a high IQ does not mean that a person will be a nice, idealistic person. Rather, a high IQ population, after accepting certain teachings (Western/Christian philosophy, the Quran, Sufism), ends up becoming something of a humanist. A low IQ population, given the same teachings, will mostly focus on its form and ignore its content (ideals). Thus low IQ Muslims and Christians are often obsessed with appearances, socialization and ritual, while it is the high IQ Muslims and Christians who bother to read deeply into the texts.
It is, therefore, my hypothesis that when Islam is given to a high IQ population, the result is a humanist Islam, as is so well seen in cosmopolitan sections of Egypt. While when Islam is given to a low IQ population (Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan), the result is a focus on texts (naql, its extreme example being Wahhabism) and negligence toward the Quran’s principles.
While the author’s focus on reproductive concerns within the practice of fiqh is useful and enlightening, it is an incomplete view of the system. Genetics can lead to certain cultural (by “cultural”, I mean everything that’s not genetic) behaviors, which can then come back and influence reproductive behaviors, leading to highly complex feedback loops.
Amin mentions the fact that jurists have tolerated laxer dress codes for slave women compared to free women. According to his theory, this is a sign of the fact that since a slave woman is a short-term mate (more of an object of desire than reproduction), a short-term mindset toward her was tolerated, some jurists going as far as allowing her to show her breasts in public. Since paternity confidence was not a concern, the amount of skin a slave woman showed was not of much concern.
This behavior is also seen in Arab and Indo-Pakistani men living in the West who have short-term sexual relationships with Western women, but once they go on to seek a wife, they look for women from conservative families whose chastity and virginity can be relied on.
In both of the above situations, a double standard is maintained depending on the purpose of the woman in question. While the dress codes of slave women have no practical relevance to the modern practice of Islam, from a sociology of fiqh perspective, the matter might provide a useful insight into the thinking processes of jurists, showing how personal biases and reproductive goals affect the way Islamic sexual morality is interpreted.
It should, however, be noted that part of the justification for this double standard for the dress codes of free vs. slave women is verse 33:59 of the Quran:
O Prophet! Tell your wives, and your daughters, and the women of the believers, to lengthen their garments. That is more proper, so they will be recognized and not harassed. God is Forgiving and Merciful.
A common interpretation of “so they will be recognized” is that so that it will be known that they are free women and not slaves (as mentioned in al-Tabari’s tafseer). This clearly provides justification for tolerating different dress codes for different classes of women.
Another Persian scholar, al-Razi, interprets this verse as saying that virtuous women should dress more conservatively if there is a chance they will run into uncouth strangers, so that those strangers may recognize them as virtuous women and not women open to flirtation. This interpretation is more satisfactory in my opinion and prevents the use of the verse as justification for having double standards regarding different classes of women.
All societies select for something. —Greg Cochran
All policy is eugenics.1 —Ikram Hawramani
Another relevant and highly interesting topic that is not covered by the book is the effects of reproductive climates on genes. For example, in a society that practices polygyny for long enough, the sex ratio will likely correct itself so that slightly more women than men will be born.
As I explain in my essay The Gene-Culture, any study of humans that entirely focuses on genes, or entirely focuses on culture, is going to be incomplete, because it focuses on one force while ignoring its equally important companion force.
A study of religious policies toward gender as entirely reproductive strategies, while highly informative, is incomplete. Thinking in terms of centuries and millennia, rather than in terms of individual generations and societies, will bring into focus the importance of religion as a gene-modifying force; Islamic culture will rewrite genes by selecting for certain characteristics and against others, the same way that genes (and reproductive strategies) affect our practice and interpretation of Islam, causing us to focus on certain aspects of Islam (and ignore others at times).
Islam rewards and promotes self-restraint, which is strongly associated with IQ, therefore high IQ people will get a more favorable treatment under Islam compared to lower IQ people who have difficulty with self-restraint. A woman who has a reputation for being “wild” is going to be passed up by men in favor of women who have a reputation for restraint. A man who does not have the long-term planning capacity to get a degree and a good career is going to be passed up by women in favor of men who have such capabilities.
Short-term climates create winner-take-all realities where a few attractive men get to have sex with a great number of women, as Conflicts of Fitness studies in detail, while the less sexually attractive and shy “nerdy” men are going to find it very difficult to find mates.
The Islamic system prevents this reality from existing. It punishes the womanizing “alpha males” by forcing them into long-term relationships where they have to make do with one, two or at most four women. And since many of these “alpha males” will not have the money to take care of too many women at the same time, they will often be forced to make do with just one or two women. This means that the rest of the women will not have access to these men, so that they are made to settle for less attractive men.
In an Islamic society, similar to Japanese society 100 years ago, the majority of men will be able to marry, including shy and nerdy ones who are totally incapable of using charisma to attract women. This fact of Islamic societies may be a significant contributor to the high fertility rates that devout Muslim societies enjoy.
Conflicts of Fitness is a worthy contribution in the best tradition of Western civilization, an effort to arrive at the truth without concern for political considerations.
This book is a beautiful tribute to the memory of Ahmad Moftizadeh, may God have mercy on him, containing a detailed and well-supported biography of the man and detailing his works and beliefs.
As someone whose (Sunni) family spent the late 80’s and most of the 90’s in Iranian Kurdistan, Ahmad Moftizadeh and Nasir Subhani, I have been hearing the names of these two men mentioned with love for as long as I can remember.
I am thankful that such a work was done by someone with a Western background, since the quality of the research is much higher than that of Eastern publications.
On the matter of politics, the author quotes Moftizadeh as saying:
He who embarks on a political project is the most likely to lose God’s way. Just take a look at the world.
The book provides further evidence of the futility of political Islam, something I have been studying for years, beginning with my study of Sayyid Qutb. Both men belong to a class of Islamists who believed that “good and sincere” men would be the perfect men to govern a country, ignoring the fatal flaw within this hypothesis; that there is no way to reliably find “good and sincere” men, and once supposedly “good and sincere” men are selected, there is no way to reliably make them continue being good and sincere. You always end up with a limited democracy where all kinds of insincere power-seekers make it through the system and gain power. From the history provided by The Last Mufti and clues elsewhere, it appears that there were many good and sincere men among the Shia leaders of the Iranian revolution, but within ten years the revolutionary government was ruled by some of the worst criminal scum to ever walk this earth.
The critical weakness within political Islam is that for it to work, everything must go perfectly:
The conclusion I have reached at the moment is that seeking power is like seeking wealth, and that no God-fearing Muslim or group of Muslims will self-elect themselves to do it. Power corrupts and attracts the corruptible. All Islamist political activism that is aimed at seeking power (such as by winning elections) is inherently un-Islamic because the chances of it doing good are far smaller than the chances of it doing evil:
I am not against all Islamic political activism, however. The “good” form of Islamic political activism has one key attribute: It must never seek power. That is the key differentiator. We can criticize governments, we can publish exposés, we can refuse to do any evil the government apparatus asks us to do, we can try to influence politicians in a publicized manner (we must never scheme behind the scenes, as this too is a form of power-seeking, any dealings we have with politicians must be public, such as in the form of open letters, if it has to be secret, it is a way of befriending politicians and gaining power from it, and this causes it to turn into the “bad” type of political Islam), we can do everything we can to improve the world and to reduce tyranny, but none of this must include power-seeking.
This is the way of the Prophet, , while he was under the sovereignty of another power. He spoke the truth, but he never sought power. And his activities eventually made those in power uncomfortable, until they tried to kill him. What he did was not fight back, but immigrate to a different area.
If the Prophet, , had acted like today’s Islamists, using political organization and directly targeting Mecca’s power structure, he would have attracted the murderous attention of Mecca’s pagans far more quickly, perhaps within a few months. But by not doing this, by not being political, he was able to work for 13 years in Mecca. And once it became too dangerous for him to be there, he left for a different place.
Whether political Islam seeks or does not seek power, it will always risk persecution. But the point is that while Islamism spends lives needlessly (attracting murderous persecution quickly), the Prophet’s type of political activism does not spend lives needlessly.
Islamism tries to change the world in a top-down way; we gain power, then we will do good with it. The Prophet’s political activism, on the other hand, tries to change the world in a bottom-up manner; we work with the people and tell the truth, and this causes social and political change down the road.
The Prophet’s way is far more likely to be successful because:
At this moment, to me the facts that the power-seeking form of political Islam attracts insincere personalities, creates division and invites harsh persecution are sufficient to consider it a very foolish form of activism. The right way is the Prophet’s way, which is to never seek power, but to work with the people, helping them improve spiritually, while also criticizing tyranny and injustice, knowing that all power comes from God, and if the time is right, He will give it, if He wants.
In Islam, we neither seek wealth nor power. We act as if we already have these, not feeling poor or weak, but criticizing those in power bravely, because we know we are servants of the Most Rich and the Most Powerful. Like the Prophet, , our mission is to live the Quran while not being attached to wealth or power (because by the virtue of being God’s agents, we already have these). The seeking of wealth or power has nothing to do with our mission. Our mission is to be with the people, the poor, the enslaved, the voiceless, to teach them, to help them regain some hope and courage. Like the Prophet, we deal neither with wealth nor power unless these things are freely and openly given to us, in which case we follow his example in dealing with them.
One argument in favor of political Islam that Islamists mention is that Muslims need “organization” to better arrange their affairs. I agree, but we can have all the organization we need without seeking power, therefore this does not justify Islamism.
And if they say that Islamists are needed to protect the interests of the Muslims, the examples of the past century show that Islamists expose Muslims to far more persecution, torture and murder than they would be exposed to without them, therefore no, Muslims do not need this type of poisonous favor. Islamists have shown time and again that they are completely powerless at defending the interests of Muslims. Either they and their friends get imprisoned, tortured and assassinated en masse, or they gain power only to be bombed into oblivion by the latest bully on the world stage. They can say that ideally, if everything goes perfectly, they can do much good. Yes, but things never go ideally. Ideally communism can create great happiness and equality. Realistically, communism always creates police states, purges and starvation. In the same way, realistically, Islamism always creates far more evil than good despite the best intentions of its leaders.
It should be mentioned that Maktab Quran, Moftizadeh’s movement which continues to exist today, does not seek political power. However, it continues to act as something of a party, just not a political one, and this makes it suffer some of the issues Islamist parties suffer from (causing division, attracting persecution, having limited penetration among the population). They would have done much better if they had been nothing but a group of friends with each of them acting independently, becoming leaders in their own communities, and not naming themselves anything. They continue to be highly respected and to do good deeds, as they do not suffer from one important weakness of political parties, which is the promise of power attracting toxic personalities. Their lack of power-seeking ensures that only sincere people are attracted to their group.
Better than Maktab Quran would be a movement that is not a party, but a creed, and that has no organization (or need for one). It is an intellectual movement of educated and dedicated people acting together because they all follow the same creed, similar to a colony of ants which does not have central organization, but whose each part functions in tandem with the parts closest to it. And this already exists to some degree. Throughout the world, millions of Muslim intellectuals are developing a sense of belonging to a “mainstream”, loving its leaders and doing good works in their local communities. A new creed from a new Ghazali could help give direction to them and cure the Muslim world from the misguided, power-seeking form of political Islam.
The author provides the following interesting snippet on life in modern Tehran:
During the government of Mohammad Reza Khatami, the first so-called reformist president of the Islamic Republic, the author was an intern for Iran’s premier private consulting firm in Tehran. The firm’s management was educated and or raised in the West, while the majority of its employees had similar backgrounds, or came from a segment of Iran’s middle class that was educated and relatively progressive in its values. Headscarves were promptly removed in the office, flirting was common among the young employees, and everyone but the valet sipped tea throughout the day during the month of Ramadan. Even though most of these individuals voted for reformist candidates in the Islamic Republic’s elections, they disavowed allegiance to the system, and did not believe religion should play a role in government. For them, “reformism” ideally meant reforming Iran into a modern, Western-style secular country.
Through it all, I was often reminded of this good old joke:
A helicopter was flying around above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft's electronic navigation and communications qquipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter's position and course to fly to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter's window. The pilot's sign said "WHERE AM I?" in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. Their sign read: "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER." The pilot smiled, waved, looked at her map, determined the course to steer to SEATAC airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER" sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded "I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, like their technical support, online help and product documentation, the response they gave me was technically correct, but completely useless."
So here is how to actually get their amazing picker to work. I will assume you’ve already created your app in the App Portal.
You must first enable SSL on your demo server if you don’t have it. To do that quickly and for free, create a self-signed certificate and install it. Here is a guide on creating a self-signed SSL certificate.
When creating the certificate, don’t forget to use the Fully Qualified Domain Name for your local server. I use the fake domain myproject.dev as the domain name for my project, and put www.myproject.dev as the FQDN.
After you have generated your .key and .crt files, put them in /etc/ssl/crt/ or some such similar place.
With that done, create an SSL virtual host that uses the files you created, as follows (this is for a PHP website). The following code will have to be added wherever you have your VirtualHosts, it could be apache2.conf, or in a new file (such as ssl_vhost.conf) placed inside the sites-available directory (/etc/apache2/sites-available). If you put it in sites-available, you will have to run the command a2endsite /etc/apache2/sites-available/the_file_name_I_used.conf to enable the vhost.
ServerName default ## Vhost docroot DocumentRoot "/var/www/html" SSLEngine on SSLCertificateFile /etc/ssl/crt/myproject.crt SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/ssl/crt/myproject.key ## Directories, there should at least be a declaration for /var/www/html Options Indexes FollowSymlinks MultiViews AllowOverride All Require all granted Require all granted SetHandler proxy:fcgi://127.0.0.1:9000 ## Logging ErrorLog "/var/log/apache2/default_vhost_error.log" ServerSignature Off CustomLog "/var/log/apache2/default_vhost_access.log" combined ## Custom fragment
Put the full SSL link to the redirect file (such as https://www.myproject.dev/onedrive_picker_redirect.html) in the App portal, as shown in the screenshot below. You can keep the Logout URL blank.
We now get to the easy part. On the file from which you want to launch the picker, add the following code to launch the picker, or modify your existing code to match below. Notice the redirectUri parameter, which has to exactly match the one you used in step 3.
The picker will not work if you try to launch it from a non-https page. If you were doing your development on a non-https URL earlier, you will now have to go to the same page under https. If earlier the page was at www.myproject.dev/onedrive_picker_demo.php, now go to https://www.myproject.dev/onedrive_picker_demo.php.
Now click the button to launch the picker. You will get a login prompt. After logging in, you will get the picker. Click on any file you want and click “Open”.
To verify that everything is working properly, open the console, and if you used the picker code above that I used, you should see an object that contains the information for the file you picked:
Now that we have gotten Microsoft’s limitless supply of self-absorbed ineptitude out of the way, we can get to do some actual coding to interface with their horrible products and discover entirely new and never-before-experienced ways of suffering.
If you want to send the file info to a server to store it there, see my blog post on using PHP to download OneDrive files picked from the picker.
If you had a list of your ancestors and went back through them to your 87th ancestor, you will reach a man and woman who lived around the time Socrates was born.1
This chart below shows how unimportant we are. In 1000 years we will be just another number on someone else’s timeline. It also shows how important we are. If any of these men and women had failed to reproduce, the chain would have been broken and we wouldn’t exist today.
I was working on a book I’m writing in LibreOffice Writer. I am using the docx format for the book, as I plan to finish its formatting in Microsoft Word, not knowing that LibreOffice Writer has a tendency to corrupt docx files. After closing and opening the file again, I received the following error:
I extracted the docx file (which is just a zip file, on Windows you can rename it to something.zip to extract or, while Ubuntu Linux allows you to extract it without renaming it). Found the document.xml file and opened it in VIM. I used the following command to jump to position 791513 on line 2:
That is the position number followed by a lowercase L.
I don’t see any error there, so LibreOffice Writer is not telling the truth, the error is not there. I opened document.xml in Chromium, but it reported the same wrong error position. Since the error message I received was saying the “w:cstheme” attribute was redefined, I decided to use regular expressions to search for it. I spent a stressful hour trying to learn VIM’s ridiculous regular expression syntax, but couldn’t figure it out.
In the end, I decided to use egrep instead. I ran the following command on the command line, which looks for a “w:cstheme” attribute that is not separated by a forward slash from antoher “w:cstheme” attribute, meaning it will find tags that have duplicate “w:cstheme” attributes, which is the error that LibreOffice Writer is reporting:
egrep "w:cstheme[^/]*w:cstheme" document.xml
And voila! It highlighted the error:
I copied the highlighted text (using ctrl+shift+c), opened document.xml again in VIM, and pasted the text in VIM’s seach bar (first press forward slash to open the search bar, then ctrl+shift+v to paste):
<w:rFonts w:eastAsia="Times New Roman" w:cs="Times New Roman" w:cstheme="majorBidi" w:ascii="Times New Roman" w:hAnsi="Times New Roman" w:cstheme="majorBidi"/>
To this, removing one of the unnecessary ‘w:cstheme=”majorbidi”‘ attributes:
<w:rFonts w:eastAsia="Times New Roman" w:cs="Times New Roman" w:cstheme="majorBidi" w:ascii="Times New Roman" w:hAnsi="Times New Roman" />
I searched again for the error in VIM, to make sure there were no repeated errors. I fixed multiple other occurrences of the error until I couldn’t find any more. Now, when opening the document.xml in Chromium, no error was reported:
This was a good sign. I made the mistake of compressing the parent folder of the document, renaming it to docx, and trying to open it. LibreOffice Writer said the document was corrupted and offered to fix it. It tried but failed. After a long time, I realized my error. I shouldn’t have compressed the parent folder, I should have compressed the files and folders inside the parent folder directly, as follows:
To prevent this in the future, I will save the file in the ODF Text Document format (.odt), which is the native format used by LibreOffice that supposedly doesn’t suffer from this issue. Once the book is done, I will then save it as docx for use in Microsoft Word.
One thing that is rarely mentioned when speaking about Islam, even among Muslims, is that Muslim women don’t have to work. They can work if they want to, but they don’t have to if they don’t want to.
Islam makes it the duty of a woman’s male relatives to take care of her financially. Men have to provide for their sisters, mothers, wives and daughters. This is not merely an act of charity that men are encouraged to do. It is their legal duty. In a devout Muslim society, no woman can ever be homeless as long as she has a self-respecting male relative.
This provides a tremendous sense of freedom for women, including single women, who want to do creative work. They can focus on doing what they like, for example growing a small business or a writing career, while enjoying freedom from the stress of having to earn a living. Instead of having to work for potentially abusive employers or customers, they will have the option of only choosing jobs they like and leaving whenever they want.
In a country like the United States where two incomes are often necessary for a small family to maintain a dignified existence, it may seem unrealistic (and potentially unfair to men) for such a system to be implemented. How can a few men provide for so many people? The answer is Islam’s mechanisms for wealth-preservation and the encouragement of productive investment that ensure the super-wealthy can never get too financially powerful and collude to lower wages as has happened in the United States, and also ensures that a single stream of income is generally enough to feed a large family. These mechanisms, such as the ban on interest and the speculation tax, will be discussed later on.
There is one flip side to the system that needs to be mentioned. When inheritance is distributed, women receive half as much as men. Since Islam puts all financial duties on men, it rewards them by giving them a larger share of inheritance, as men’s wealth is, after all, also partially women’s, as a man is obliged to take care of all of his close female relatives. Islam, however, doesn’t run away with the idea of a male-provider society by giving all inheritance to men, since not all men can be relied upon to be good and fair care-takers of women. It also doesn’t run away blindly with the idea of equality by giving men and women equal shares of inheritance when it has burdened men with heavier financial duties. It chooses a middle ground between the two extremes. It gives men more duties and a larger inheritance, while also providing a fall-back in case of unfair and undutiful male relatives by giving women a half-share of inheritance.
The virtues and evils of such a system can be debated. Why not give men and women equality in all things? Islam’s view is that men and women are not identical when it comes to all things. It assigns different rights and duties to each sex depending on their particular strengths and weaknesses.
The main issue at question here is this: Is a system that takes the differences between the sexes into account more likely or less likely to be fair, compared to a system that assumes men and women are exactly the same? Is it unimaginable that differentiating between the sexes can lead to a fairer system of rights and duties compared to turning a blind eye to all differences?
Feelings run high when this matter is discussed. The only way to resolve the matter is to undertake large-scale scientific studies to find out whether sex-aware systems lead to better societal outcomes compared to sex-blind systems.
Does it improve the mental health and happiness of women for them to know they will never have to work, and for them to know that there isn’t one chance in a million for them to ever be homeless (given the potentially dozens of male relatives eager and willing to take care of them if they lose their homes or jobs)?
Does it increase or decrease a woman’s chance of career advancement for her not to have to worry about making a living while she focuses on her studies or work? Or is it better to put her in debt and compel her to work as a waitress or bartender so that she can make ends meet while she studies or grows her small business as it is done in the United States?
If we cherry-pick facts and anecdotes, we can make either system look good or bad, but rigorous and empirical comparisons can be done. We can fully resolve the debate through decades of unbiased social research that compares the outcomes of an Islamic system to competing systems.
Any comparison’s of an Islamic system compared to others will have to take account of IQ, as IQ is the most important factor in determining a population’s prosperity. India is much poorer than China, for example, not largely because of Hinduism versus Communism or Buddhism, but because India’s average IQ is in the mid-80’s, while China’s IQ is above 100. Populations of equal IQ tend to converge toward having the same level of prosperity. China is in the same league as South Korea and Japan when it comes to IQ, so it is practically certain that it will reach the same level of prosperity as these two countries within a decade or two. India, however, is in the same league as the Dominican Republic and Paraguay when it comes to IQ, so as it develops, it will converge toward the same level of prosperity as these two countries. Of course, different population sizes and natural resources will affect things, but not to a great degree, and the larger the populations of the countries that we are comparing, the smaller will the effect of natural resources become. To study this topic further, I recommend the book IQ and the Wealth of Nations by professors Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen.
To have a fair comparison of an Islamic system compared to others, we can compare ethnic Japanese Muslims to ethnic Japanese non-Muslims in Japan (similar IQ, same country) and see how Islam’s system of rights and duties affects the Muslim population compared to the non-Muslim one. Are ethnic Japanese Muslim women happier, more productive, more mentally healthy compared ethnic Japanese non-Muslims, or not?
Unlike Communism, whose adherents can claim that it wasn’t properly implemented when it fails, the Islamic system can be scientifically tested. The requirement is to account for IQ and devoutness (a Muslim who uses credit cards, mortgages and for-profit insurance is not following Islam properly and should not be counted toward the Muslim side). Examples of devout Muslim populations that can be studied are the conservative Muslim middle classes of Egypt and Malaysia. Egypt’s conservative Muslim middle class can be compared to the middle classes of non-Muslim countries of similar IQ (low-80’s), such as Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. And as for Malaysia (IQ 92), we can compare the conservative Muslim middle class there with the middle classes of Greece, Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
An annoying issue in Word 2013 is that sometimes the space key seems to stop working, until you press a non-space character, at which point Word deigns to show you both the space and non-space characters.
To solve the problem, press enter to create a new line, then go back to your line. The problem is caused by a bug in Word where having a page break or section break right after the line you are on prevents spaces from showing. Make sure there is a line (empty or not) below the line you are typing on, and the problem disappears.
Some blogs are calling the recent price wars between cloud providers “a race to zero”. But this is the wrong way to think about it. As technology progresses, we simply need to start thinking in terms of larger units.
Here is a table of historical Amazon S3 prices:
In terms of gigabytes the prices seem to be approaching zero. But in terms of terabytes, the prices are just barely starting to become reasonable. The linear projection below suggests that we will be using terabytes as our unit of choice when speaking of cloud storage until 2020 and later, when prices will start going below $1 per terabyte per month.
Some time after 2020, perhaps around 2025, we will start speaking in terms of petabytes per month.
Using my Windows 7 computer to browse the Fire Phone’s files, I found the screenshots in the following folder:
To take screenshots, you need to hold down the volume down and power buttons together. You will hear a sound and see an animation informing you that the screenshot was successfully taken.