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retread| Inheritance 23 September 2006

Posted by EDITOR in History, Law, MOZAFFAR, Philosophy, Relationships.
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Retreads are quality posts from yesterweeks that are given a second run on Saturdays. This piece was originally posted by MOZAFFAR on 27 Mar 2006.

I’m in a tiny hotel business office right now; I think our bathroom is larger. Musak plays in the background. I haven’t recognized any of the tunes, until now — the theme to the 70s TV show Taxi. I’m picturing Danny DeVito right now with somewhat full head of receding messy hair, and grey, worn out business vest and pants. Black, loosened tie.

I’ve been suffering from some very serious insomnia lately. I don’t know if it’s insomnia, because I get plenty of sleep, just at the wrong time of the day. I think I’ve almost conquered it, but I’d thought I’d share something briefly.

I would lie there in bed unable to sleep. I’d think. I take pleasure in closing my eyes and thinking. I take pleasure in closing my eyes and experiencing the world around me. Try it. Go to the park. Close your eyes. Listen. Smell. Sit in your car, close your eyes, and experience the world around you (but just make sure the car is not running, or else you won’t see the people in front of you running).

But, as of late, I’d think about the gigantic burden of responsibility on my shoulders.

Not only am I a participant in the most powerful democracy in the world, making the actions of the nation an extension of my own being,…

not only am I a son, husband, father, neighbor, resident, teacher, etc…

but, I’m also in a field where my comments and writings can carry an impact on many individuals. At times, it will (if God wills) be a great impact, and at times it will (if God allows) be a bad impact.

Let me give you an example. Consider the strange rape laws in many parts of the Muslim majoritied nations. I won’t go into detail about them in this post, except to say that they are ridiculous.

But, here is the catch: at some point, someone had to write that law. Someone went through his processes of legal thinking and developed the law. I don’t allege that this jurist is anti-woman. I don’t allege that this jurist is suffering from any sort of mental problems. I don’t even allege that there are massive problems in Islamic law (and in previous posts, I’ve begun to assert where the core problems really begin).

Rather, I’m guessing that he went through the proper steps — as well as he can understand them — and somehow developed an absolutely crazy conclusion.

But, there is more to the picture. In the decades (maybe centuries?) since such a law was written, many jurists have seen this law. Chances are that some jurists have suggested changes. But, it’s also probable that some have not suggested any changes, because, according to their own understandings, proper procedures have been followed.

The result then is that when a woman gets convicted of rape, she gets convicted of unlawful fornication. Convicted of Rape. Convicted of Rape. Convicted. Rape.

Perhaps, some scholars have noticed the glaring problem in this legal verdict and have remained silent, because they turned their attention to what they regarded as more pressing issues. Perhaps, it was just fear of reprisals.

I have no idea, except that I’m sure that many jurists have seen these laws, have even seen the real consequences of these laws, and the law hasn’t changed. [On a side point, see Prof. Asifa Quraishi’s article arguing that the crime of rape should be treated as brigandry and violence, rather than a as a crime of fornication].

But, let’s take the issue to a different field: medicine. Vioxx. You are a physician treating your patient for arthritis. Vioxx is the drug of choice. After prescribing Vioxx to a number of them, you discover that some go into Cardiac Arrest. Some die. You acted properly. You read journals; you saw the data; you prescribed the appropriate medication for the illness. People died.

Back to my insomnia. Will I make such mistakes, where the mistake is not necessarily mine, but a manifestation of a problem in the system?

Every field has its strengths and its limitations. In philosophy, you cannot disprove or prove that God exists. You can try, but you’ll fail. You can, however, ask great questions about the world and life.

In the hard sciences, you cannot answer the question, “why” is the universe so ordered (at all levels). You can observe the ordered-nature of everything, everything (including chaos itself), but you can’t explain why. You can observe patterns of repetition, which would help you predict events. This simple sounding process may be used to warn people of an upcoming hurricane, or may be used to design medicine. But, you can’t explain “why.”

In history, you cannot explain why a leader from 1000 years ago made a particular choice that seems to affect us through to today. You can conclude that s/he made a choice, but you will never know what was in his/her heart at the time. You can discover patterns to human behavior. You can develop a great understanding of how we got to where we are today. You can learn a great deal about the human experience in this wonderful world. But, you will never know what was in the hearts of those many people.

When we approach the borders of these fields (trying to prove things that philosophy can’t prove, or trying to answer “why” in science, or trying to make conclusions about peoples’ hearts in human history), we enter an arena that may be one of simultaneous creativity (perhaps helping us develop great insights) and great speculation (i.e. guesses). As a result of this speculation and creativity, we may discover great new things, and we may make many mistakes.

But, I’m not even talking about this area, where mistakes are guaranteed. I’m talking about mastering a particular field, and using that particular field in the way it is supposed to be used, like an Islamic legal scholar using Islamic law, and developing a ruling that is whacked. I’m talking about a physician prescribing medication that is later determined to cause more problems than solutions.

This is keeping me awake at night.

But, I did find two solutions. They haven’t cured the insomnia, but they’ve definitely helped me.

I’ll elaborate shortly, but the solutions involve, among other things, being sincere, being practical, and converting these self-defeating worries into small, consistent positive actions.

May Allah bless you.

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