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Discussions / Isaiah's Job
« on: January 20, 2022, 01:45:22 PM »
I post below the following essay in full for those who may be interested. The source of the article is:
https://mises.org/library/isaiahs-job

Isaiah's Job
This essay first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1936.

I
One evening last autumn, I sat long hours with a European acquaintance while he expounded a political-economic doctrine which seemed sound as a nut and in which I could find no defect. At the end, he said with great earnestness: "I have a mission to the masses. I feel that I am called to get the ear of the people. I shall devote the rest of my life to spreading my doctrine far and wide among the population. What do you think?"

An embarrassing question in any case, and doubly so under the circumstances, because my acquaintance is a very learned man, one of the three or four really first-class minds that Europe produced in his generation; and naturally I, as one of the unlearned, was inclined to regard his lightest word with reverence amounting to awe.

Still, I reflected, even the greatest mind cannot possibly know everything, and I was pretty sure he had not had my opportunities for observing the masses of mankind, and that therefore I probably knew them better than he did. So I mustered courage to say that he had no such mission and would do well to get the idea out of his head at once; he would find that the masses would not care two pins for his doctrine, and still less for himself, since in such circumstances the popular favorite is generally some Barabbas. I even went so far as to say (he is a Jew) that his idea seemed to show that he was not very well up on his own native literature. He smiled at my jest, and asked what I meant by it; and I referred him to the story of the prophet Isaiah.

It occurred to me then that this story is much worth recalling just now when so many wise men and soothsayers appear to be burdened with a message to the masses. Dr. Townsend has a message, Father Coughlin has one, Mr. Upton Sinclair, Mr. Lippmann, Mr. Chase and the planned-economy brethren, Mr. Tugwell and the New Dealers, Mr. Smith and Liberty Leaguers — the list is endless. I cannot remember a time when so many energumens were so variously proclaiming the Word to the multitude and telling them what they must do to be saved. This being so, it occurred to me, as I say, that the story of Isaiah might have something in it to steady and compose the human spirit until this tyranny of windiness is overpast. I shall paraphrase the story in our common speech, since it has to be pieced out from various sources; and inasmuch as respectable scholars have thought fit to put out a whole new version of the Bible in the American vernacular, I shall take shelter behind them, if need be, against the charge of dealing irreverently with the Sacred Scriptures.

The prophet's career began at the end of King Uzziah's reign, say about 740 B.C. This reign was uncommonly long, almost half a century, and apparently prosperous. It was one of those prosperous reigns, however — like the reign of Marcus Aurelius at Rome, or the administration of Eubulus at Athens, or of Mr. Coolidge at Washington — where at the end the prosperity suddenly peters out and things go by the board with a resounding crash.

In the year of Uzziah's death, the Lord commissioned the prophet to go out and warn the people of the wrath to come. "Tell them what a worthless lot they are." He said, "Tell them what is wrong, and why and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don't mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you," He added, "that it won't do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life."

Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job — in fact, he had asked for it — but the prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so — if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start — was there any sense in starting it? "Ah," the Lord said, "you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it."

II
Apparently, then, if the Lord's word is good for anything — I do not offer any opinion about that, — the only element in Judean society that was particularly worth bothering about was the Remnant. Isaiah seems finally to have got it through his head that this was the case; that nothing was to be expected from the masses, but that if anything substantial were ever to be done in Judea, the Remnant would have to do it. This is a very striking and suggestive idea; but before going on to explore it, we need to be quite clear about our terms. What do we mean by the masses, and what by the Remnant?

As the word masses is commonly used, it suggests agglomerations of poor and underprivileged people, laboring people, proletarians, and it means nothing like that; it means simply the majority. The mass man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such people make up the great and overwhelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses. The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance. The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.

The picture which Isaiah presents of the Judean masses is most unfavorable. In his view, the mass man — be he high or be he lowly, rich or poor, prince or pauper — gets off very badly. He appears as not only weak minded and weak willed, but as by consequence knavish, arrogant, grasping, dissipated, unprincipled, unscrupulous. The mass woman also gets off badly, as sharing all the mass man's untoward qualities, and contributing a few of her own in the way of vanity and laziness, extravagance and foible. The list of luxury products that she patronized is interesting; it calls to mind the women's page of a Sunday newspaper in 1928, or the display set forth in one of our professedly "smart" periodicals. In another place, Isaiah even recalls the affectations that we used to know by the name "flapper gait" and the "debutante slouch." It may be fair to discount Isaiah's vivacity a little for prophetic fervor; after all, since his real job was not to convert the masses but to brace and reassure the Remnant, he probably felt that he might lay it on indiscriminately and as thick as he liked — in fact, that he was expected to do so. But even so, the Judean mass man must have been a most objectionable individual, and the mass woman utterly odious.

If the modern spirit, whatever that may be, is disinclined towards taking the Lord's word at its face value (as I hear is the case), we may observe that Isaiah's testimony to the character of the masses has strong collateral support from respectable Gentile authority. Plato lived into the administration of Eubulus, when Athens was at the peak of its jazz-and-paper era, and he speaks of the Athenian masses with all Isaiah's fervency, even comparing them to a herd of ravenous wild beasts. Curiously, too, he applies Isaiah's own word remnant to the worthier portion of Athenian society; "there is but a very small remnant," he says, of those who possess a saving force of intellect and force of character — too small, preciously as to Judea, to be of any avail against the ignorant and vicious preponderance of the masses.

But Isaiah was a preacher and Plato a philosopher; and we tend to regard preachers and philosophers rather as passive observers of the drama of life than as active participants. Hence in a matter of this kind their judgment might be suspected of being a little uncompromising, a little acrid, or as the French say, saugrenu. We may therefore bring forward another witness who was preeminently a man of affairs, and whose judgment cannot lie under this suspicion. Marcus Aurelius was ruler of the greatest of empires, and in that capacity he not only had the Roman mass man under observation, but he had him on his hands 24 hours a day for 18 years. What he did not know about him was not worth knowing and what he thought of him is abundantly attested on almost every page of the little book of jottings which he scribbled offhand from day to day, and which he meant for no eye but his own ever to see.

This view of the masses is the one that we find prevailing at large among the ancient authorities whose writings have come down to us. In the 18th century, however, certain European philosophers spread the notion that the mass man, in his natural state, is not at all the kind of person that earlier authorities made him out to be, but on the contrary, that he is a worthy object of interest. His untowardness is the effect of environment, an effect for which "society" is somehow responsible. If only his environment permitted him to live according to his lights, he would undoubtedly show himself to be quite a fellow; and the best way to secure a more favorable environment for him would be to let him arrange it for himself. The French Revolution acted powerfully as a springboard for this idea, projecting its influence in all directions throughout Europe.

On this side of the ocean a whole new continent stood ready for a large-scale experiment with this theory. It afforded every conceivable resource whereby the masses might develop a civilization made in their own likeness and after their own image. There was no force of tradition to disturb them in their preponderance, or to check them in a thoroughgoing disparagement of the Remnant. Immense natural wealth, unquestioned predominance, virtual isolation, freedom from external interference and the fear of it, and, finally, a century and a half of time — such are the advantages which the mass man has had in bringing forth a civilization which should set the earlier preachers and philosophers at naught in their belief that nothing substantial can be expected from the masses, but only from the Remnant.

His success is unimpressive. On the evidence so far presented one must say, I think, that the mass man's conception of what life has to offer, and his choice of what to ask from life, seem now to be pretty well what they were in the times of Isaiah and Plato; and so too seem the catastrophic social conflicts and convulsions in which his views of life and his demands on life involve him. I do not wish to dwell on this, however, but merely to observe that the monstrously inflated importance of the masses has apparently put all thought of a possible mission to the Remnant out of the modern prophet's head. This is obviously quite as it should be, provided that the earlier preachers and philosophers were actually wrong, and that all final hope of the human race is actually centered in the masses. If, on the other hand, it should turn out that the Lord and Isaiah and Plato and Marcus Aurelius were right in their estimate of the relative social value of the masses and the Remnant, the case is somewhat different. Moreover, since with everything in their favor the masses have so far given such an extremely discouraging account of themselves, it would seem that the question at issue between these two bodies of opinion might most profitably be reopened.

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General Discussions / Explanation for 22:15
« on: November 22, 2020, 10:00:32 AM »
I am struggling a little to understand the meaning of 22:15. Some translations below:

If any think that Allah will not help him (His Messenger) in this world and the Hereafter, let him stretch out a rope to the ceiling and cut (himself) off: then let him see whether his plan will remove that which enrages (him)
-Yusuf Ali

Whoso is wont to think (through envy) that Allah will not give him (Muhammad) victory in the world and the Hereafter (and is enraged at the thought of his victory), let him stretch a rope up to the roof (of his dwelling), and let him hang himself. Then let him see whether his strategy dispelleth that whereat he rageth!
-Pikthall

Whosoever thinks that God will not help him in this world and the Hereafter, let him stretch out a rope to Heaven. Then let him sever it and see if his scheming removes that which enrages
-The Study Quran

A possible explanation for me is that the verse refers to hanging as an example means of end for an individual who is in anger and despairs of God's help. But it is implied that such a means, or indeed any means, is futile. Does this seem reasonable? What is a better explanation?

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General Discussions / Apps for reading the Quran on the go
« on: July 26, 2019, 01:19:13 PM »
Peace to all.

I am looking for a good Android app for comparative English translation reading of the Quran.

Preferably devoid of destracting commentary from non Quranic sources.

All this while I was using the excellent "Quran Translations" app by Mercan Software, but the owner seems to have abandoned the project since 2015. Unfortunately this app, in its current outdated state, is not compatible with newer phones.

I once saw a post somewhere that Islamawakened.com was producing an app. But I can't seem to find it published anywhere on their webpage or on Google's Playstore.

Suggestions are much appreciated.



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General Discussions / "Muhammad was not from Mecca" by Sam Garrans
« on: March 08, 2019, 12:09:34 AM »
I post below the link to a youtube video by Sam Garrans in which he summarizes points made in the book "Qur'anic Geography" by Dan Gibson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inJ1mCIsz5A

He argues that Muhammad was not from Mecca based on Quranic descriptions of the geography.

I would appreciate it if anyone here could critique his points.

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General Discussions / Use of the word 'Eternal' in article 'Time & Space'
« on: December 31, 2018, 11:24:50 AM »
The use of the word 'Eternal' in the info-graphic bothers me. Link here: http://www.quransmessage.com/articles/timeandspace%20FM3.htm

The reason being that 'Eternal' would seem to imply perpetual continuity within the boundaries of time, and a major point of the article is that God does not exist within that which He created - i.e. time.

May I suggest 'Uncreated and Timeless' as an alternative?

Actually I am not very sure if even Timeless is appropriate! A thesaurus does not seem very helpful somehow as all similar words are either a measure of, or in relation to, time.

Or perhaps it is better to just use 'Uncreated' and add nothing more. IMO this would be most appropriate, and yet I also understand that use of 'Eternal' is to illustrate the meaningless nature of time in relation to God.

I know this is just an exercise in semantics and I apologize for being overtly pedantic.

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When a boy is born it is common practice to prefix the given name with the name 'Muhammad'.

The use of the name 'Muhammad' is traditional, in deference to the prophet. It would not typically be the name used to refer to the child, and it usually only manifests itself in official documents.

Would the use of 'Muhammad', in this traditional sense, be in violation of God's command to make no distinction between prophets?

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General Discussions / An alternative rendering of Surah Qadr
« on: June 26, 2018, 05:37:03 PM »
I have found this alternative rendering of Surah Qadr which I found extremely interesting.

https://lampofislam.wordpress.com/2018/06/10/lailatul-qadr-night-of-meditation/

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Discussions / A logical basis for why God exists
« on: June 12, 2018, 10:21:25 AM »

https://tomwoods.com/ep-272-am-i-a-dummy-for-believing-in-god/

The 30 minute podcast episode in the link above explains a logical basis for believing why God must exist. The logic is based on Aristotelian philosophy.

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I was pondering over verse 7:163 about the people who broke the Sabbath to fish and who were subsequently punished for this transgression.

According to Google, the Sabbath is a day on which trade and work is to be abstained from. From my understanding this is to be strictly observed by believers. I do not know the Quranic definition so please correct me if I am wrong on this.

In 62:9 God calls believers to abstain from trade and assemble for prayer. The wording used for this verse is somewhat variable, for example:

Translation by Monotheist Group: "O you who believe, if the contact-method is called to on the day of assembly, then you shall hasten towards the remembrance of God, and cease all selling. This is better for you, if you only knew."

The use of the word 'shall' suggests a strong command to leave off trade and assemble for prayer.

, and yet the translation by...

Mohamed Sarwar: "Believers, on Friday when the call for prayer is made, try to attend prayer (remembering God) and leave off all business. This would be better for you if only you knew it."

...which sounds more like a recommendation.

Most translations do not use 'shall' or 'try', which implies to me that the order to assemble is a command, but the latter "This would be better for you if only you knew it" suggests that, like the giving of charity, it devolves to a status of being a strong recommendation.

So my question is this: Is this command to abstain from trade, though shorter in time period, similar to the command to observe the Sabbath?

In some places I have lived I have observed many Muslim traders continue business during Jummah prayers with reduced staff perhaps, and those who remain pray the noon (zuhar) prayers instead. Do these people wrong themselves through a misunderstanding of the Quranic command to assemble for prayer?

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Discussions / Thanks
« on: December 21, 2017, 01:16:49 PM »
Assalamu alaikum,

This forum appears to be waning unfortunately, and I'm not sure what the future of it might be.

Let me then take this opportunity to thank Joseph Islam and all those who have directly and indirectly contributed to his works.

Before stumbling on quransmessage.com I was surely a lost soul, a Muslim by name and but not a Muslim of understanding.

From the principles expounded in this website I have learned much and now I think I understand better.

And what an exhilarating feeling it is to understand, and how sad and utterly beautiful is Islam the religion and God's creation.

As a result of this understanding I find myself in constant combat with the yearnings of my mind and body and the restraints issued to me by my soul. This combat has increasingly become visible to me in stark relief. Life is both easier and harder at the same time.

And this I think is how it should be, for that is how we grow. I do not think I would want it any other way. But I am sure that I will face the harshest of punishments should I waiver. Such is my fate and I hope I am successful. May God be merciful.

This is not a goodbye. Only thanks is  given. So once again I thank you all and wish you all my very best.

Wassalam.

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Discussions / Where do rights come from? (Tom Woods' audio podcast)
« on: September 19, 2017, 10:55:29 AM »
I am sharing herein a podcast episode from the Tom Woods show which I found interesting:
http://tomwoods.com/ep-969-where-do-rights-come-from/

Tom Woods is an American historian and libertarian. In his podcasts he conducts interviews and discusses a variety of issues related to libertarian ideology, the Austrian school of economics, history, law, Christianity and many other general topics.

A link to his other podcasts (now more than a 1000 episodes) here:
http://tomwoods.com/podcasts/page/4/

Though he is not a Muslim, nor does he discuss Islam or the Quran, I personally have benefited greatly from his show as he has helped me to deconstruct and make simple seemingly complex topics like economics and politics. What I find fascinating is that this additional knowledge, simplified to its absolute fundamentals, is broadly consistent with a Quran-centric understanding of the world. I therefore recommend these podcasts to any Muslim because they have helped me to appreciate God's works better.

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General Discussions / Best wishes for Ramadhan
« on: May 26, 2017, 11:44:59 AM »
May your soul benefit from the month long fast

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Discussions / A video about where Muslims pray
« on: May 08, 2017, 11:35:25 PM »
Here is an interesting video showing about the various places Muslims pray.

https://www.facebook.com/quartznews/videos/1567598799940483/

Just sharing for general interest.

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General Discussions / Question about the Islamic lunar year
« on: February 24, 2017, 10:41:46 AM »
Salaams.

I have noticed that in the Chinese and South East Asia region calendars the lunar year is reset every few years.

This has the consequence of causing celebrations like the New Year to fall within the January and February months and never stray into the later months of March. 

A similar pattern is followed in the Buddhist and Hindu cultures of Sri Lanka, India and subcontinental nations.

I believe that this practice has its roots in order to align with the harvesting seasons. It seems like this practice would naturally manifest in any society because the seasons would reset with the solar year of about 365 days and not in every 12 lunar months.

I would like to know if the Islamic method of strictly adhering to the lunar calendar has basis in the Quran or historical precedent.

Wassalam.

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Discussions / Typo in article titled "Gabriel"
« on: January 25, 2017, 02:35:38 PM »
Salaams. There appears to be a typo here (underlined):

"Therefore, it seems that is was not an angel that visited Mary in the incident covering the Quranic narratives in verses 19:17ff, but a 'Spirit'. If the Biblical perspective is accepted whereby Gabriel visited Mary to give glad tiding of a son, then the Spirit mentioned in the Quranic narrative would imply it to be Gabriel. Such a synonymy of Gabriel and the Holy / Faithful Spirit has already been noted in the Quranic verses cited above (2:97, 16:102 and 26:192-195).

However, in verses 19:17ff, it appears that the Quran deliberately avoids using the term 'angel' in the comparable narratives concerning Mary when it could have done so as in verse 3:45. This is 'possibly' with a view to depart from the Christian understanding that Gabriel was in fact an angel."

As always, thank you for the insightful articles.

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