Dr. Jonathan Brown on Historical Criticism of Islamic Primary Texts

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

This blog post is adapted from my notes taken from Dr. Jonathan A. C. Brown’s lecture on the topic of historical criticism and how it’s been applied to Islamic primary texts, especially the hadith collections. Watch the lecture here: part 1part 2part 3. Note that it’s about 3 hours long including the Q&A, so be warned. It’s definitely worth a watch though, from beginning to end.

The lecture was given around the time that the UK government-sponsored documentary Islam: The Untold Story by charlatan historian Tom Holland was in the news. Basically, the documentary tries to tell a speculative revisionist story of the origins of Islam. Dr. Brown’s lecture is not a direct response to the documentary, but it contextualizes some of the assumptions being made in this documentary and other revisionist pieces that are claiming to examine Islam from a “critical” lens. Anyway, I’ll end the introduction here and start the portion based on my notes. Note that the section “My Thoughts” at the end of this post is not based on the lecture; those opinions are strictly mine.

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#academia, #channel-4, #christianity, #criticism, #dr-jonathan-brown, #hadith, #history, #islam, #%ef%b7%ba, #muhammad, #orientalism, #prophet-muhammad-%ef%b7%ba, #quran, #religion, #revisionism, #sahabah, #science-2, #secular-science, #secularism, #tom-holland, #uk

Is Darwinian Evolution True?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

A subject that has received significant attention and discussion in the modern and post-modern era is that of Darwinian Evolution, and the consequences it has for our religious, philosophical, or metaphysical beliefs. I want to address this topic from an Islamic point of view. Of course, I do not claim to represent Islam or Muslims in any way; these views only represent one person and that’s me. I hope to follow up on this with another post that addresses human evolution specifically, In Sha Allah.

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My Notes from Mind and Cosmos

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

I read the book Mind and Cosmos by Thomas Nagel some time back, and I figured it’d be a good idea to share the notes I took while reading it. Nagel is an atheist philosopher, though he’s one of the few honest atheists, so he talks quite openly about how many of the current orthodox theories about materialism, evolution, etc make no sense.

It should be stated that these are my notes, and not a summary of the book. I didn’t understand some parts, like some of the stuff about teleology, so I left them out, and I paraphrased some stuff according to my own thoughts and interpretations, so please do not assume that everything written below is coming from Nagel (though much of it indeed is). I would recommend you read the book also if you’re interested, it would give you a better idea and more detailed explanation of these concepts than my notes.

Also, I used Google Docs voice typing to transcribe these notes. I tried my best to correct the mistakes and format them, but there still might be errors, so I sincerely apologize if any of these errors slipped through uncorrected. Please notify me in the comments or via Twitter DM (@604yousuf) if you notice anything.

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Thoughts after reading The Brothers Karamazov

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

I recently finished reading The Brothers Karamazov, a book written in the year 1880 by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It’s one of the famous classical books, although it was a challenging read and quite long (took me nearly 2 months), so I wanted to get my thoughts & reactions down in this blog post. This post isn’t really coherent so please forgive me for that. I might also edit or add more as I continue to reflect on the book.

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David Berlinski on the God of the Gaps

بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

I previously quoted David Berlinski here, but as I am currently reading a book about Intelligent Design (which is often accused of employing the god-of-the-gaps fallacy) I decided to quote him again. This is a good one so make sure you read it carefully. Like before, the source is his book titled The Devil’s Delusion. And in case you are wondering: “Wotan” was a pagan deity who is no longer believed in or worshiped.

Scientific atheism is not an undertaking that has cherished rhetorical inventiveness. It has one brilliant insult to its credit, and that is the description of intelligent design as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” I do not know who coined the phrase, but whoever it was, chapeau. By the same token, it has only one stock character in repertoire, and that is the God of the Gaps. Unlike the God of Old, who ruled irritably over everything, the God of the Gaps rules over gaps in argument or evidence. He is a presiding God, to be sure, but one with limited administrative functions. With gaps in view, He undertakes his very specialized activity of incarnating Himself as a stopgap. If He is resentful at the limitations in scope afforded by His narrow specialization, He is, scientific atheists assume, grateful to have any work at all.

When the gaps are all filled, He will join Wotan in Valhalla.

As a rhetorical contrivance, the God of the Gaps makes his effect contingent on a specific assumption: that whatever the gaps, they will in the course of scientific research be filled. It is an assumption both intellectually primitive and morally abhorrent—primitive because it reflects a phlegmatic absence of curiosity, and abhorrent because it assigns to our intellectual future a degree of authority alien to human experience. Western science has proceeded by filling gaps, but in filling them, it has created gaps all over again. The process is inexhaustible. Einstein created the special theory of relativity to accommodate certain anomalies in the interpretation of Clerk Maxwell’s theory of the electromagnetic field. Special relativity led directly to general relativity. But general relativity is inconsistent with quantum mechanics, the largest visions of the physical world alien to one another. Understanding has improved, but within the physical sciences, anomalies have grown great, and what is more, anomalies have grown great because understanding has improved.

The God of the Gaps? I am prepared with the best of them to revile and denounce him. It is easy enough to do just that, one reason that so many scientists are doing it. But why not say with equal authority that for all we know, it is the God of Old who continues to preside over the bent world with His accustomed fearful majesty, and that He has chosen to reveal Himself by drawing the curtain on His own magnificence at precisely the place in which general relativity and quantum mechanics should have met but do not touch? Whether gaps in the manifold of our understanding reveal nothing more than the God of the Gaps or nothing less than the God of Old is hardly a matter open to rational debate.

Well said.

~ Yousuf

29 November 2014

#allah, #atheism, #biology, #chance, #david-berlinski, #fallacies, #general-relativity, #god, #god-of-the-gaps, #intelligent-design, #paganism, #probability, #quantum-mechanics, #science-2, #scientism, #signature-in-the-cell, #special-relativity

Does science lead to objective truth?

بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, a well-known and respected physicist, published this tweet a few days ago:

No doubt, he is referring to scientific discoveries when he talks about “objective truths.” But does he have any rational justification for asserting that? Continue reading

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My Response to Jerry Coyne

Bismillah was-salaatu was-salaamu ‘ala Rasoolillah.

Jerry Coyne wrote an article, published on his blog as well as in the New Republic, in which he claimed that it’s wrong to claim that ISIS is not Islamic. The title of the piece was: “If ISIS Is Not Islamic, then the Inquisition Was Not Catholic.” He claims that both ISIS atrocities and the Inquisition are examples of crimes carried out in the name of religion, and so if we argue that ISIS is not truly Islamic we’d have to claim that the Inquisition was not truly Catholic. However, the piece is full of logical fallacies (and factual errors: such as his claim that the Qur’an calls for killing apostates) as articles by “New” Atheists usually are, so I’ll respond to his main claim here:

  1. There is a such thing as “true” religion. Perhaps Jerry Coyne and his fellow atheists see the world (specifically: moral values) in subjective and changing terms. But religion deals with absolute Truths. Coyne himself acknowledges this when he criticizes religion for promoting “dogma.”
  2. The Inquisition was sanctioned and carried out by the official Catholic Church. ISIS has been condemned by every major Muslim institution throughout the globe. Coyne’s comparison of the two is a false equivocation.
  3. Muslims have been fighting against ISIS for almost a year now. Thousands of Muslims have lost their lives trying to stop ISIS. Just because it wasn’t on the news, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. For more info, see: this, this, and this. Also, a June 2014 report (link – AR) by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that 2,764 Syrian rebels alone had died, up to that point, fighting against ISIS. That doesn’t even include Kurds and Shi’ites, who are also Muslim, and it’s probably even higher by now. There have also been thousands of civilian casualties, vast majority Muslim.
  4. How many Catholics lost their lives trying to stop the Inquisition?

So I think we can safely conclude that while the Inquisition was indeed “Catholic,” ISIS is certainly not Islamic.

Salaam,

Yousuf


Update: Musa Furber has some excellent comments about Coyne’s article in this Facebook thread as well: https://www.facebook.com/musafurber/posts/833924539981748.

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