” What is enlightenment?-An Islamic Perspective” ( Isalm is What Muslims Do)

” What is Enlightenment? An Islamic Perspective” is a powerful article by M.A. Muqedar Khan, University Of Delware. Dr. Khan is one of the new generation of Islamic Scholars who not only forcefully argues for reasoning and independent thinking in Islam but also argues against hiding behind the argument that what Muslims do is separate from what Islam stands for. Muslims should take the ownership of what Muslims do because Islam is not confined to sacred un-implemented texts. (F. Sheikh)

Shared by Muhammad Wahid.


This essay draws on Immanuel Kant’s concept of enlightenment as an escape from self- imposed ignorance and argues that a similar concept of enlightenment can be understood  within the Muslim context as escape from self-imposed  jahiliyyah , which is understood as fear to exercise reason publicly. The article advocates for ijtihad , is critical of Taqlid , and invokes Islamic sources to invest confidence in contemporary use of reason for interpreting Islam.

Return of Jahiliyyah

An Enlightenment has come to you from your Lord (Quran 6:104).

For nearly a millennium and a half, Muslims have understood Islam as a human condition that is antithetical to jahiliyyah  (ignorance). Most historical and religious accounts of Islam begin with a discussion of the state of ignorance in Arabia and often use it as a benchmark to underscore the civilizing influence of Islam on the barbaric Arabs of pre-Islamic Arabia. The great Islamic civilization that was produced with the explosion of knowledge in the fields of philosophy, science, sociology, medicine, and mathematics still remains a central influence on Islamic identity and an example of the indubitable truth of Islam and its transformative potential. In the same vein, the rationality of Islamic beliefs and Islamic socio-political order remains a major theme in the discourses of Islamic intellectuals, scholars, and preachers. The point I seek to make is simple: Muslims have always understood Islam as enlightenment, the path that rescued humanity from ignorance,irrationality, and superstitions and catapulted human society towards the apex of civilization, towards the realization of a perfect community based on divine principles.  The present Ummah can hardly be described as a perfect community or as one that is organized around divine principles. It clearly lacks enlightenment. This is not to deny the presence of many enlightened individuals and even movements, but the overall condition of the global Muslim community can hardly be described as worthy of emulation (see Abu Sulayman). Indeed, modern revivalist thinkers of Islam are conceptualizing the present age as an age of  jahiliyyah 

. Here ignorance is defined as the absence of Islam as the central fountain from which society derives its organizational principles (see Khan 2001a, 2001b). In order to understand the fundamental causes behind this state of decay, we need to understand what enlightenment  is and how it relates to the vigor of societies. We need to learn to recognize the conditions that indicate the presence or absence of enlightenment in society and to elaborate, for popular consumption, why Islamization is enlightenment.

Kant’s Conception of Enlightenment In order to elucidate the meaning of the term “enlightenment,” I wish to turn to a famous essay by Immanuel Kant, originally published in Berlinische Monatsschrift in December 1784, “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” In this essay Kant, one of the great philosophers of European enlightenment, defines enlightenment as “Man’s emergence form a self-imposed immaturity.” An enlightened man for Kant was “one who had the courage to use his own understanding.” In Islamic terms, this means one is competent to do one’s own  ijtihad  (independent thinking). Kant was seeking to liberate human reason from the shackles of stagnant religious traditions that had deprived humanity of the freedom to use reason. He lamented the fact that, due to indolence and cowardice, a great proportion of humanity remained in a state of immaturity and subcontracted their thinking and faculties of judgment to others. For Kant, immaturity was the inability of an individual to rely on one’s own understanding. Kant argued further that society could come out of such a state only if “people had the courage and freedom to use reason publicly in all matters.”  The significance of Kant’s analysis and prescriptions for modern Muslims is enormous.  The present Ummah exists in a state of unparalleled immaturity. Not only has the capacity to think independently and freely nearly disappeared, it has become illegitimate. Attempts to institutionalize and democratize the spirit of ijtihad  inspire fear among the masses and incite anger, resentment, and opposition from the Ulema, by generating discourses that have instilled a fear of reason and independent thought, have rendered the Islamic Ummah incapable of relying on its own judgment. The Ummah seems to know only one way – Taqlid (imitation).

The present Muslim world attempts to either ape the West or ape the past (a glorified and nebulous golden age). Sadly, we fail to realize that even to be good at imitation requires creativity and initiative. The condition of immaturity or  jahiliyyah  has become so  widespread that the Ulema too, have become immature, have ceased to rely on their own rational faculties, and have surrendered the cardinal function of “judgment/reasoning” to the scholarship and religious judgement of a canonized and sacralized privileged elite from the second and third centuries of Islam. True religious scholarship has been reduced to memorization and recycling of medieval opinions and methodologies. New scholars are appreciated as long as they are seen as revivers of the past, and those who seek to reform or institute new practices are immediately viewed with suspicion. We remain a civilization that is petrified to think, following those who refuse to think. In the absence of new, invigorating thought, widespread immaturity prevails (see Ahmed; Nyazee; Khan 1999b; Fadl).

Near the end of article Dr. Khan argues;

“Muslim scholars and intellectuals need to change the psyche of the masses by focusing attention not on what Islam is but on what Muslims do. The artifact of separating Islam from Muslims allows Muslims to have the best religion with the worst followers. The only way to escape this is to deconstruct the myth of the essential Islam and argue that Islam is what Muslims do and shift the burden of manifesting Islam on to human actions and away from sacred, un-implemented texts. We have to realize that Islamic civilization, in its totality, inclusive of its best and its worst, is also a  tafseer  (exegesis) of the Quran. Therefore it is not enough to glorify ideas confined to text. They are meaningless until they are realized in this duniya  (world).

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Exploring the Deep Connections Between Mind & Universe

Exploring the Deep Connections Between Mind & Universe



1. Introduction


This evening I invite you on a trip deep into the human psyche. The trip is influenced by insights from Quantum Theory, Depth Psychology, Neurobiology, Eastern Philosophy, and Comedy.


At the quantum level of reality there is no logical sequence of events, no clear past and future, and no absolute certainty. What we do find are intriguing, spontaneous leaps and creative probabilities.


So in keeping with this quantum nature, our trip will take some unexpected turns, forsaking clear, logical order for imaginative leaps and intuitive connections.


A quick note on the word, “Psyche.” It comes from the Greek meaning both mind or spirit.  Along with this derivation, I include “Psyche” as used in depth psychology to mean a study of the connection between the conscious and unconscious mind.


Our trip this evening is fueled by:


A quote,

A joke,

One of the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, and

One of the most influential symbols of Eastern Philosophy


The quote:

Imagination is more important than knowledge.


This statement was not made by a painter. Nor by a poet nor a novelist.


Imagination is more important than knowledge.


This statement wasn’t made by a musician or a craftsman.


It was made by the man considered the greatest scientist of the 20th century……Albert Einstein.


The Joke:

Guy goes to the doctor.

“Doctor,” he complains, “It hurts when I touch here (touches his left knee), hurts when I touch here (touches his right hip), and hurts when I touch here (points to his chest).  What’s wrong with me?”


“Um, Excuse me,” the doctor replies, “You’ve got a broken finger.”



By the end of our trip this guy searching for the source of his pain may point us to an important insight.


One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen:

I’m five years old walking along a sidewalk when I look down and see this thin blade of grass which had grown through the cement sidewalk!  How could this be?  How could this frail piece of grass get the power to grow through that hard cement??


One of the most influential symbols of Eastern Philosophy:


The Yin/Yang symbol of the Tao






With the quote, the joke, the blade of grass growing through cement, and the Yin/Yang symbol in mind, let’s begin our trip.



The Doorway into the Modern Mind: The Year 1900


As the 19th century came to an end, science had made leaps and bounds in discovering the nature of the universe.  Through the genius of Isaac Newton and scientists like James Clark Maxwell whose equations revealed the wave nature of  light and electricity, the whole world seemed to fit so well into a few simple laws.


Science did not have much more to prove…we lived in a mechanical universe with clear laws of cause and effect which can explain everything including our own minds and bodies.


But in the year 1900, the first year of the 20th century and the gateway to the modern era,  signals were emitted that would change everything.  The materialist, predictable universe was about to break apart at the seams and initiate an enormous paradigm shift–a shift we are still trying to engage in the 21st century.


I quote Thomas McFarlane, a contemporary philosopher with an honors degree in physics:


In the 20th century the modern materialistic world view began to unravel in the face of scientific and psychological developments. It led a number of thinkers to consider that the human psyche may be more involved , in some mysterious way, with the observed properties of matter.


Physics was about to meet up with the Quantum and the Dream.




In the year 1900, the first year of the 20th century and the first year of the Modern Age:


Max Planck discovers the quantum;


Sigmund Freud publishes An Interpretation of Dreams;


And an unknown writer publishes a story which will become the most influential spiritual

tale of the 21st century.



Max PLANK and his “Excited Bundles of Energy”


Light has fascinated scientists, philosophers, nature lovers, artists, and spiritual practitioners for millenia. After all, the most influential creation story in history, that of Genesis, has the memorable line,


Let there be light.


But what was light made of??? In the mid 19th century, James Clark Maxwell discovered that light consisted of electric and magnetic waves.  Furthermore he was able to determine the speed at which light waves traveled:  186,000 miles per second.


In the year 1900, Max Plank, an unambitious, pragmatic scientist had been commissioned by electric companies to create a more efficient light bulb; an unintended consequence was the discovery of the photoelectric effect which revealed that under certain conditions light doesn’t move in a steady stream of continuous waves as previously thought—-light is emitted in particles Plank described as  “discrete bundles of excited energy.” 


Particles are very different phenomena from waves. Maxwell’s equations had proved light to consist of waves.  Now Planck was solving a physics problem by considering light consisting of particles.  He referred to these particles as “quanta,” a Latin word for, “How much.”


Planck tried to grasp the meaning of energy quanta, but to no avail. It was simply a convenient way to solve a practical problem about radiation. He wasn’t interested in exploring the apparent wave/particle paradox he had uncovered.


But 5 years later Plank’s discovery inspires the first quantum theory of light based on the idea that light exists as tiny packets, or particles. And the man so greatly influenced by the quantum is ……Albert Einstein.


In 1905, Max Plank was the editor of the physics journal which publishes Einstein’s paper, the first ever on the quantum theory of light.


It will win Einstein a Nobel Prize


Then just two months later in June, Einstein completes his paper on special relativity – which adds a dramatic twist to the story: Einstein’s paper on the quantum theory of light treats light as particles, but special relativity is based on light as continuous waves. How could light be both?


It’s physically and logically impossible!


What makes Einstein unique among scientists trying to resolve this apparent paradox is that he doesn’t try to prove one or the other– he accepts light as wave AND particle, picking the attribute he needs to confront each problem in turn.


Einstein’s mind was imaginative enough to play with the paradox rather than struggle to resolve it.  This ability to be imaginative and think outside the box enables Einstein to discover what scientists in the best equipped laboratories in the world and in the best universities in the world could not.


The two papers Einstein published in 1905, greatly influenced by Plank’s discovery of the quantum in 1900, begins a paradigm shift of seismic proportions—a whole new way of viewing the universe based on an apparent paradox involving particles and waves. Science was supposed to make the universe more understandable, more objectively true. It wasn’t supposed to perpetuate a deepening mystery.


One of these mysteries was Einstein’s proof that time and space are not objective realities.  Not only do time and space feel different to us psychologically (we’ve all had the experience of time moving faster when we are totally interested in something and time moving more slowly when we are not)—Einstein proves mathematically that time and space actually change depending on the relative speed at which objects, including ourselves, are traveling.


Time and space are no longer clear, objective qualities—they are affected by the special conditions of an observer.


Suddenly the subjective situation of an individual Observer is connected to how the Universe works.


Let’s look a little more closely on how it is that Albert Einstein, working as a mid-level clerk in a Swiss patent office, uncovers unseen qualities about the nature of light which will dramatically change the way we understand the Universe and our place in it as observers.


Albert Einstein loved to create imaginative thought experiments.


At the age of 16 he comes up with his favorite– he imagines himself chasing a light beam and catching up to it. To his surprise and delight, when he catches up to the light beam, time stops and space disappears!!!


Einstein later credited this thought experiment along with Max Planck’s discovery of the quantum as helping him to discover Relativity.   For according to the Theory of Relativity not only is it impossible for anything to travel faster than light, but at speeds close to the speed of light time actually begins to stop and space begins to disappear!


And as we shall see a bit later on in our trip, Einstein’s discovery of the the quantum nature of light will inspire four future Nobel Prize winning physicists to create the most successful scientific theory in the history of science—a theory which will inspire, confound, mystify, and force even a deeper re-consideration not only of the nature of the universe, but our role as observers of this universe.





Dr. Freud and the Unconscious


Let’s return to the pivotal year 1900. In this same year the quantum enters human consciousness, a book is published which is going to radically influence medical doctors, artists, writers, philosophers, and inspire a new field called Depth Psychology. The writer is a medical doctor named Sigmund Freud and the The book is titled, The Interpretation of Dreams


Freud demonstrates the workings of a psychological Unconscious, an unobservable (DARK) psychic reality which contains repressed impulses and desires. He demonstrates how these hidden psychic contents exert a tremendous influence on our conscious lives.  Today it is commonly accepted that the vast majority of our behavior day to day is influenced by this vast, deep, dark Unconscious.


So how do we access this Unconscious. According to Freud  “The royal road to the unconscious” is the dream.


Historically, Freud has been marginalized. Much of this he brought on himself—a creature of the Victorian age he had a narrow view of women, particularly female sexuality.  He was autocratic.  He couldn’t accept criticism and and was totally inflexible when it came to his theories.


But it is Freud who opens the gateway between our dreams and the vast hidden world of the Unconscious, and in 1900 The Interpretation of Dreams bursts onto the modern stage of ideas and perceptions.  By connecting dreams back to the powerful myths and stories of ancient Greece such as the Oedipal and Electra dramas and introducing therapeutic techniques such as “free association,” Freud opens up creative doorways not only to medical science and the new field of Psychology, but to the worlds of music, art, and literature as well.


Is it a mere coincidence that a year after Freud publishes his book on dreams, Picasso begins his “Blue Period” where he expresses on canvas the creative darkness of primitive emotions? Is it a coincidence that within a decade of Freud’s book on dreams Igor Stravinsky composes a ballet score, The Rite of Spring, so wrought with primitive dissonance and unfamiliar stresses and rhythms that it causes a near riot in the theater?


And just a few years later Salvidor Dali showcases his painting The Persistence of Memory featuring those incredible melting clocks which came out of a dream he had and is a clear reference to the dream world and the subjective nature of time revealed by Einstein’s Relativity?


Freud’s best student and most impressive colleague, Carl Jung, will soon surpass Freud in understanding the deeper levels of our dreams….the same Carl Jung who will have dinner conversations with Albert Einstein about the connection between mind and matter. The same Carl Jung who will collaborate with one of quantum physic’s founders to discover ways in which our human psyches are directly connected to the underlying nature of the Universe.


More on this a bit later on our trip.


So.. in the year 1900, Sigmund Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams and Max Plank discovers the quantum. Just 5 years later Einstein discovers the most famous equation in human history, E=MC2 and reveals that space and time are dependent on the subjective role of an observer.


We’ve seen how Planck’s discovery of the quantum influenced Einstein, but is there an underlying connection between Freud and Einstein?


While Einstein and Freud did exchange a few letters, there is no evidence that they sought out a meeting. But there is a deep underlying connection between the mind of Einstein and the mind of Freud: Einstein writes in his memoirs:


My entire career has been a meditation on a dream I had when I was 11 yrs old.


Here is Einstein’s dream:


I was sledding with my friends at night. I started to slide down the hill but my sled started going faster and faster. I was going so fast that I realized I was approaching the speed of light. I looked up at that point and I saw the stars. They were being refracted into colors I had never seen before. I was filled with a sense of awe. I understood in some way that I was looking at the most important meaning in my life.


So in addition to doing creative thought experiments, Einstein’s scientific imagination was greatly influenced by a dream.



“ISIS & USA” By F. Sheikh ( Brief Thought)

USA has jumped again in Middle East to take a lead in war against ISIS.  Again there is no clear end game, and it may turn out to be as disastrous as our previous endeavors in Middle East.

ISIS originated out of blue as a consequence of Iraq war when our backed ex-PM of Iraq Mr. Al-Maliki refused to accommodate Iraqi Sunni in the Government and embarked on revenge killings. The situation has not changed much even with the election of new PM of Iraq. The Iraqi Sunni still prefer to back ISIS than Iraqi Government. The Kurdish Army is still poorly equipped. Many nations have promised to join the fight, but they, especially Gulf States, will provide fig leaf support as in the past.

Even if we are successful in eradicating ISIS, then what will follow?  There is a strong possibility some other extreme group will rise to fill the vacuum because there is no strong legitimate Government that can effectively govern the area grabbed by ISIS. We are betting on moderate Syrian rebels, but as history dictates, they may not turn out to be as moderate as we think.

At present it is a civil war and we have jumped into a civil war. We should have let it play out and when other neighboring states were threatened, these states should have taken the lead against ISIS and we should have just supported them. These States deliberately did not take the lead, because they knew USA will jump in. Now we have become the face and target of this war and these Middle East states will take a back seat and blame USA to appease their masses. It will further fuel anti-USA sentiment and terrorist activity.

Although recent barbaric beheadings by the ISIS is an evil act, but in many other aspects it is just a matter of toss of coin to differentiate between ISIS and many current Middle East states. If we have let this civil war play out, ISIS and these states may have been busy settling their scores among themselves, and most likely USA and other Western States would not have become the target.

We may become a party in this civil war, but we cannot prevent this civil war. Let Middle East stand for itself or face the music.If we are doing this to prevent the oil fields falling in the wrong hands, the corrupt rulers has the same incentive to prevent their source of income fall in the wrong hands-and it may force them to defend themselves.

If we could start the world over again, would life evolve the same way?

By Emily Singer

 In his fourth-floor lab at Harvard University, Michael Desai has created hundreds of  identical worlds in order to watch evolution at work. Each of his meticulously controlled environments is home to a separate strain of baker’s yeast. Every 12 hours, Desai’s robot assistants pluck out the fastest-growing yeast in each world — selecting the fittest to live on — and discard the rest. Desai then monitors the strains as they evolve over the course of 500 generations. His experiment, which other scientists say is unprecedented in scale, seeks to gain insight into a question that has long bedeviled biologists: If we could start the world over again, would life evolve the same way?

Michael Desai

Many biologists argue that it would not, that chance mutations early in the evolutionary journey of a species will profoundly influence its fate. “If you replay the tape of life, you might have one initial mutation that takes you in a totally different direction,” Desai said, paraphrasing an idea first put forth by the biologist Stephen Jay Gould in the 1980s.

Desai’s yeast cells call this belief into question. According to results published in Science in June, all of Desai’s yeast varieties arrived at roughly the same evolutionary endpoint (as measured by their ability to grow under specific lab conditions) regardless of which precise genetic path each strain took. It’s as if 100 New York City taxis agreed to take separate highways in a race to the Pacific Ocean, and 50 hours later they all converged at the Santa Monica pier.

The findings also suggest a disconnect between evolution at the genetic level and at the level of the whole organism. Genetic mutations occur mostly at random, yet the sum of these aimless changes somehow creates a predictable pattern. The distinction could prove valuable, as much genetics research has focused on the impact of mutations in individual genes. For example, researchers often ask how a single mutation might affect a microbe’s tolerance for toxins, or a human’s risk for a disease. But if Desai’s findings hold true in other organisms, they could suggest that it’s equally important to examine how large numbers of individual genetic changes work in concert over time.

“There’s a kind of tension in evolutionary biology between thinking about individual genes and the potential for evolution to change the whole organism,” said Michael Travisano, a biologist at the University of Minnesota. “All of biology has been focused on the importance of individual genes for the last 30 years, but the big take-home message of this study is that’s not necessarily important.”

Yeast on plates.

The key strength in Desai’s experiment is its unprecedented size, which has been described by others in the field as “audacious.” The experiment’s design is rooted in its creator’s background; Desai trained as a physicist, and from the time he launched his lab four years ago, he applied a statistical perspective to biology. He devised ways to use robots to precisely manipulate hundreds of lines of yeast so that he could run large-scale evolutionary experiments in a quantitative way. Scientists have long studied the genetic evolution of microbes, but until recently, it was possible to examine only a few strains at a time. Desai’s team, in contrast, analyzed 640 lines of yeast that had all evolved from a single parent cell. The approach allowed the team to statistically analyze evolution.


Posted By F. Sheikh