Saturday, April 21, 2012

Book Pondering: The Closing of the Muslim Mind, by Robert Reilly - Some final thoughts.

 My review of Reilly's book has for the most part not touched on the "Muslim Mind". Before explaining too much, I will repeat a quote from Sun Tzu's The Art of War:

 "He who knows the enemy and himself will never in a hundred battles be at risk; He who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes win and sometimes lose; He who knows neither the enemy nor himself will be at risk in every battle."

There certainly is a war going on, but as Sun Tzu notes, this is only winnable if the West both understands the enemy and understands itself.  My strong belief is that the West doesn't understand itself, which sets a severe limit on what it can achieve.

As for understanding the Muslim Mind, this presumes that the enemy is the Muslim Mind.  How do we know that?  If we do assume this, we are left with the problem of entering into the world view of Islam.  This I haven't made any attempt to do beyond reading the Koran, but that is no good to really understand what is going through the heads of the average Muslim.  In the case of the Greek philosophers and church fathers, I generally tried to read a large set of their writings at a time so that I could get some notion of how they thought while keeping it segregated from how others thought.  The random quotes from clerics in this book are useful, but do people really listen to clerics?  (Speaking as an American.)  Does a ranter represent the views of a society?  What if there are multiple Muslim Mind(s)?

The notion of Islamism is one that really needs looking at.  My belief is that this is trying to foist onto Islam a fraudulent concept that was invented for throwing Christianity into disarray.  It starts with the argument that there is a distinction between the teachings of Christ and Christianity.  No doubt this is true, but the end result is almost always that a new Christianity is substituted that is even further from Christ.  The concept of Islamism is one that tries to separate Islam from Islam, when the real separation is the degree to which humans embrace a particular religion or ideology.

To put it another way, atheism as an ideology is purely amoral, with no belief in right and wrong, true or false.  Yet atheists themselves almost all take on some degree of morality and affirm that things are right or wrong, true or false.  Occasionally, however, we have people like Stalin who were true to their ideology,  Do we then try to subdivide and distinguish between atheism and atheismism?  Of course not.  The distinction involves the degree to which atheists internalize the doctrines of atheism and how they weigh them relative to conscience and interactions with society at large.  Similarly, Christianity teaches one thing, but Christians often behave quite differently.  This is not evidence that Christianity is divided, in spite of how it is presented.  Thus, I believe that the notion of Islamism is something that makes it impossible to understand the Muslim Mind.

I should also say that I believe that there is a spiritual dimension to all this, as outline in the book of Galatians and also the story of Hagar and Ishmael in the book of Genesis.  This part I feel I have some glimpses of, but I don't expect to understand it fully during my life time.

5 comments:

Delirious said...

Actually, I do believe that Christianity is divided. I am told that because I believe in repentance, (relying on the atonement of the Savior), that I am going to hell. This is a huge gulf in the Christian world. In addition, I am told that because I believe in modern prophets and continuing scripture and revelation, that I must be part of a cult, and that I'm not even Christian. Yet this was the nature of the church in the Old Testament. I see a lot of division between Christian churches by and large. The term "Christianity" is narrowly defined by some.

Looney said...

Now I am thinking I chose an impossible position to defend!

I am reminded that the major split in Islam is between the Shiites and the Sunnis. This started as an argument over the succession of the prophets. Although there are bitter differences that caused them to fight each other for more than a thousand years, there still seems to me to be a common Islam.

Now I will probably be condemned as a heretic, but you said you believe in repentance and atonement through Christ Jesus. The prophets also taught repentance and pointed towards Christ, as did Jesus. There are bitter disputes, yet it seems to me that the core or evangelical Christianity remains in spite of the various (and sometimes drastic) excursions that happen otherwise. The Bible still draws people back towards a center with notions like "love your neighbor as yourself". The ones who have completely broken faith are the modernists who deny sin and repentance. Thus, I still believe there is a common thread.

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

Sun Tzu is on the same page as Niccolò Machiavelli: knowing your enemy as well as yourself is of paramount importance.

I think the west knows itself but some parts of the west know little about the Islamist mind. Is it enough to read the Koran, the Haddith, the Shariah Law and other texts? I'd say it is only the beginning.
To help understanding the mind of the average Muslim one would have to interact with Muslims (I have been fortunate enough to interact with many Muslims, including in school; and still think I have a long way to go in comprehending their mind because there is a difference between westernised Muslims, African Muslims and ME Muslims).

"What if there are multiple Muslim Mind(s)?"

Exactly!

"Yet atheists themselves almost all take on some degree of morality and affirm that things are right or wrong, true or false."

I don't believe in atheism. And you are right about their contradictions.

I am presently trying to learn more about Islam and Islamists. So far, I have noticed that Islamists corrupt Islam to suit their own radical views (because from what I have read so far, they have several positive things) and politicians manipulate Islam to hold on to power - Christians have done the same, in the past, right?

Great piece, Looney!

Cheers

Looney said...

Max,

"I am presently trying to learn more about Islam and Islamists. So far, I have noticed that Islamists corrupt Islam to suit their own radical views (because from what I have read so far, they have several positive things) and politicians manipulate Islam to hold on to power - Christians have done the same, in the past, right? "

This is quite an amount of time and work! Have you taken a look at Memri.org? I am wondering if you have other sources that I don't know about.

Getting to know people is certainly the best way.

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

"This is quite an amount of time and work! Have you taken a look at Memri.org? I am wondering if you have other sources that I don't know about."

Indeed. No, I haven't (but I will, thank you for the suggestion; then I will share what I think of it). I doubt it, Looney (except for Portuguese material; but from what I have read in English it is all practically the same)...do you watch Al-jazeera? Because it is the only special thing I began doing lately...

"Getting to know people is certainly the best way."

It is...

Have a blessed week ahead.