George Orwell on “Freedom of the Park” – Tribune 1945

A few weeks ago, five people who were selling papers outside Hyde Park in London were arrested by the police for obstruction. When taken before the magistrates, they were all found guilty, four of them being bound over for six months and the other sentenced to forty shillings fine or a month’s imprisonment. He preferred to serve his term.

The papers these people were selling were Peace News, Forward and Freedom, besides other kindred literature. Peace News is the organ of the Peace Pledge Union, Freedom (till recently called War Commentary) is that of the Anarchists; as for Forward, its politics defy definition, but at any rate it is violently Left. The magistrate, in passing sentence, stated that he was not influenced by the nature of the literature that was being sold; he was concerned merely with the fact of obstruction, and that this offence had technically been committed.

This raises several important points. To begin with, how does the law stand on the subject? As far as I can discover, selling newspapers in the street is technically an obstruction, at any rate if you fail to move when the police tell you to. So it would be legally possible for any policeman who felt like it to arrest any newsboy for selling the Evening News. Obviously this doesn’t happen, so that the enforcement of the law depends on the discretion of the police.

And what makes the police decide to arrest one man rather than another? However it may be with the magistrate, I find it hard to believe that in this case the police were not influenced by political considerations. It is a bit too much of a coincidence that they should have picked on people selling just those papers.

If they had also arrested someone selling Truth, or the Tablet, or the Spectator, or even the Church Times, their impartiality would be easier to believe in.

The British police are not like the continental gendarmerie or Gestapo, but I do not think one maligns them in saying that, in the past, they have been unfriendly to Left-wing activities. They have generally shown a tendency to side with those whom they regarded as the defenders of private property. Till quite recently ‘red’ and ‘illegal’ were almost synonymous, and it was always the seller of, say the Daily Worker, never the seller of say, the Daily Telegraph, who was moved on and generally harassed. Apparently it can be the same, at any rate at moments, under a Labour Government.

A thing I would like to know – it is a thing we hear very little about – is what changes are made in the administrative personnel when there has been a change of government. Does a police officer who has a vague notion that “Socialism” means something against the law carry on just the same when the government itself is Socialist?

When a Labour government takes over, I wonder what happens to Scotland Yard Special Branch? To Military Intelligence? We are not told, but such symptoms as there are do not suggest that any very extensive shuffling is going on.

However, the main point of this episode is that the sellers of newspapers and pamphlets should be interfered with at all. Which particular minority is singled out – whether Pacifists, Communists, Anarchists, Jehovah’s Witness of the Legion of Christian Reformers who recently declared Hitler to be Jesus Christ – is a secondary matter. It is of symptomatic importance that these people should have been arrested at that particular spot. You are not allowed to sell literature inside Hyde Park, but for many years past it has been usual for the paper-sellers to station themselves outside the gates and distribute literature connected with the open air meetings a hundred yards away. Every kind of publication has been sold there without interference.

The degree of freedom of the press existing in this country is often over-rated. Technically there is great freedom, but the fact that most of the press is owned by a few people operates in much the same way as State censorship. On the other hand, freedom of speech is real. On a platform, or in certain recognised open air spaces like Hyde Park, you can say almost anything, and, what is perhaps more significant, no one is frightened to utter his true opinions in pubs, on the tops of buses, and so forth.

The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends on public opinion. The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them. The decline in the desire for individual liberty has not been so sharp as I would have predicted six years ago, when the war was starting, but still there has been a decline. The notion that certain opinions cannot safely be allowed a hearing is growing. It is given currency by intellectuals who confuse the issue by not distinguishing between democratic opposition and open rebellion, and it is reflected in our growing indifference to tyranny and injustice abroad. And even those who declare themselves to be in favour of freedom of opinion generally drop their claim when it is their own adversaries who are being prosecuted.

I am not suggesting that the arrest of five people for selling harmless newspapers is a major calamity. When you see what is happening in the world today, it hardly seems worth squealing about such a tiny incident. All the same, it is not a good symptom that such things should happen when the war is well over, and I should feel happier if this and the long series of similar episodes that have preceded it, were capable of raising a genuine popular clamour, and not merely a mild flutter in sections of the minority press.

Tribune, 7 December 1945

How the unravelling of Yugoslavia began with a Reagan Memo

Watch “the weight of chains” documentary about how the unravelling of Yugoslavia and the ensuing Yugoslav war and subsequent NATO bombing of Serbia all started with a memo written and signed by Ronald Reagan on March 19, 1984 called “National Security Decision Directive on US Policy towards Yugoslavia”, which at one point read “… US policy will be to promote the trend towards a market oriented Yugoslav economy…”

Open the link:

Nobel Peace Laureates Slam Human Rights Watch’s Refusal to Cut Ties to U.S. Government

Mairead Maguire, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Richard Falk, Hans von Sponeck, and Keane Bhatt write to Human Rights Watch president Kenneth Roth

On May 12 2014

Read

Nobel Peace Laureates to Human Rights Watch: Close Your Revolving Door to U.S. Government

open link:

http://www.alternet.org/world/nobel-peace-laureates-human-rights-watch-close-your-revolving-door-us-government?paging=off#bookmark

and on July 8 2014

Nobel Peace Laureates Slam Human Rights Watch’s Refusal to Cut Ties to U.S. Government

open link:

http://www.alternet.org/world/nobel-peace-laureates-slam-human-rights-watchs-refusal-cut-ties-us-government

 

 

 

John Pilger on George Orwell coming of age

In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl and asked her about her films that glorified the Nazis. Using revolutionary camera and lighting techniques, she produced a documentary form that mesmerised Germans; it was her Triumph of the Will that reputedly cast Hitler’s spell. I asked her about propaganda in societies that imagined themselves superior. She replied that the “messages” in her films were dependent not on “orders from above” but on a “submissive void” in the German population. “Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked. “Everyone,” she replied, “and of course the intelligentsia.”

Read John Pilger’s article by opening this link: 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/11/on-israel-ukraine-and-truth/

 

 

 

Asem al-Fouli on the misconceptions of the Egyptian secularists (Part 3)

Asem al-Fouli on the misconceptions of the Egyptian secularists (Part 3)

First appeared in Arabic on http://elshaab.org/thread.php?ID=101325

Socrates had defended reason as the basis for knowledge, so we was accused of corrupting the minds of the young people and was sentenced to death by poisoning

*The campaign by the scholar-jurists against Greek metaphysics was in order to protect Muslims from its superstitions

*Ibn Khaldūn and Ibn Ḥazm defend the value of philosophy and attack the Muslim philosophers for their misuse of it

*Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī learns Aristotelian logic and teaches it, insisting on its being a communal obligation and using it to attack the Islamic philosophers

*Having studied logic, he used to oppose and refute the conclusions of the Greek philosophers and their followers

*Ghazālī’s concepts of existence, movements, time and space are distinctive and profound, as well as consistent with modern scientific theory

*The complex rational judgements of the philosophers led them to conclusions that contradicted the beliefs of Muslims, but the scholars refuted them with their deep reasoning

*The followers of Socrates, Hippocrates, Plato and Aristotle adopted heretical positions in order to distinguish themselves from the majority of people, believing that this was a sign of cleverness and superior knowledge

*Is engaging in law and ḥadīth erroneous and reckless?

We began this study (in Part 1) by describing the allegations of the liberal-secularists that Islamic culture was hostile to reason on the basis that the scholar-jurists of old rejected Greek philosophy. In Part 2 we explained the most important conclusions reach by Greek philosophers of the Greeks and their differences with the Muslims in regard to theology. We begin from Part 3, here, to describe the real position of the scholar-jurists in the face of these conclusions and the way they dealt with them.

Previously:
For part 1, follow this link: http://different-traditions.com/?p=1331
For part 2, follow this link: http://different-traditions.com/?p=1480

On the inflammatory polemics between the two communities

In regard to the writings of some of the earliest scholars-jurists of old against philosophy, we can see that it is more akin to cursing and lampooning than to objective criticism, by way of incitement of the general public against the philosophers, than to a refutation of their views using incontrovertible reasoning. Such writings do exist, but why choose these writings alone, and ignore all the other (more reasonable writings) to represent the ideas of the scholar-jurists?! Can such choice be said to be devoid of purpose?! Part of this purpose – as we know – is the problem.

Before setting out the rational dialogue which took place between the two communities, it is appropriate to stop for a moment to discuss these polemical aspects. We shouldn’t ignore those rhetorical writings directed to the sentiments of the masses – their hearts rather than their minds – for we see them as natural events and in fact not uncommon in all intellectual conflicts across all civilizations and cultures. Even in the modern rational and tolerant era we live in today which believes in pluralism, the proponents of any trend of thought do not restrict themselves simply to conciliatory debates with their opponents. For instance, did Marx restrict himself thus?! Did Lenin limit his discourse in the face of recidivists within the Socialist camp; leave alone his methods against ideological opponents in other camps?! Or did he charge Marxist socialists other than his Bolshevik supporters with opportunism, cowardice, and the betrayal of socialism and the struggle of the masses, and so on? Were his opponents from the opposing camp simply happy to refute Marxism and expose its intellectual failings?! Or did they instead focus their efforts on creating divisions, for good or for bad?!

It is not strange, then, that a nation’s intellectuals seek to mobilize the masses and arouse them emotionally against any trend of thought seen as a threat to its cultural principles. This still happens in all cultures to this day. The important point is that this arousal is based on intellectual positions arrived at subsequent to study and research, not merely a rejection of something new, which they do not understand.

We shouldn’t put our heads in the sand. Yes, some writings are emotional – and thank God they are only few in number- and we wish they had not been written, but does engaging with the law and the ḥadīth one necessarily prevent one from error or recklessness?! Can one be surprised by the anger and emotion on the part of some when they read certain words written by Ibn Sīnā?! Those words where he accuses their prophet of lying and where he disparages the book they consider to be the word of God.

What was it that was rejected?

But this was not a rejection of the philosophy itself how it is portrayed to the public by our liberal-secular intellectuals as a reasoning activity. Here is Ibn Ḥazm leader of the Ẓāhirī School, for instance, the last person we might have expected to accept philosophical reasoning, who writes in his book “Al-fasl fī al-milal wa l-‘ahwā‘ wa l-niḥal” (The book of religious doctrines, schools and sects): «The truth of philosophy – in other words its meaning, product, and intended purpose in terms of its teachings – is nothing other than the improvement of the self, and this is the same thing in regard to the law, about which there is no dispute between the scholar-jurists of Sharīʿa law, except those who associated with philosophy in virtue of their claim to deny the law from sheer ignorance of the real meaning of philosophy, yet standing on its purpose and meanings”. Can you imagine this?! Ibn Ḥazm himself charged the philosophizing Muslims with ignorance of the truth of philosophy.

Ibn Khaldūn … and the science of metaphysics

Abdu l-Raḥmān bin Khaldūn, author of the “Muqaddima” and a Sunni Imām in his day, read the law and encapsulated his sophisticated understanding of things using a quotation from al-Nafīs: “What was of them [he means the arguments of the philosophers] in regard to existence beyond the senses, was the spirit, and they called this the divine science or metaphysics. Its animate nature could not be known directly, as it could not be grasped or made evident, given that the distillation of principles behind external objects occur subjectively, and therefore animate forces are not perceived other than to the extent that they are perceived by us. Perhaps there is a form of cognition other than that which does come from our perception, because our perception is newly created, and God’s creation is greater than the creation of human beings, and while its limits are unknown it is not within the ability of the mind and its perception. The mind is a true judge, and its conclusions are certain and undeniable, other than that you should not expect to evaluate the overall unity of things, the truth of prophecy and of the divine qualities and everything beyond the capacity of the mind; that is an impossible ambition”

The true judge and its certain conclusions

 
The mind – when working independently – is not capable of metaphysics; because it was not created for this, but “is a true judge, and its conclusions are certain and undeniable” if it applied within its own capacity. This is the commentary of Ibn Khaldūn, the great thinker, on the neo-Platonic distortions in regard to emanation, minds and souls …and so on, and resulted from the fact that Ibn Khaldūn was not influenced by the myth of the noumenon) like Plato, who believed that the mind had access to this noumenon which was the cosmic intelligence from which abstract thought was seen as being a part, and which led to the possibility of knowledge of all things.

Of course not all the objections addressed by the scholar-jurists in regard to the allegations made ​​by the philosophers shorn of all evidence, delusional, or made up of irrational fantasies. The philosophers had arrived at complex rational conclusions which contradicted the beliefs of the Muslims, and these were refuted by the scholar-jurists using profound rational arguments. These refutations came in the form of two schools: Ghazālī’s school, which approached the arguments of the philosophers using logic, using their own arguments to show they had erred conceptually, and Ibn Taymiyya’s school, which sought to demonstrate that there were flaws in the very approach itself, not merely in the way it was used.

Ghazālī adopts the logic of Aristotle

 
Abu Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī went through period of doubt during which he penetrated the nature of philosophy, but in the end he rejected the arguments of the philosophers and criticised them strongly, without however deviating from their manner of reasoning. He was committed to the logic of Aristotle, and considered its study a communal obligation on Muslims, such that there should be found from amongst them the scholar capable of this, otherwise the entire nation would end up in a state of unrighteousness. In the introduction to “Mustaṣfa” – a pillar of this science – he says: “I talk in this introduction about the perception of the mind, and its confinement to definitions and proofs [definitions and proofs being the main tools of logic] [...]; it is not part of the study of the principles of law nor it is an introduction to them, but an introduction to the study of all sciences. Whoever has not grasped it cannot as a matter of principle be trusted in his knowledge”. And in “Qisṭās” he writes about the laws of logic and says: “ I don’t claim to weigh in virtue of them religious knowledge only, but all computational, engineering, natural, theological and legal knowledge, and all true knowledge that is not factual”. So Ghazālī studied logic and taught it, and used it in facing up to the philosophers, not to refute their reasoning ways, but to refute the conclusions reached by the Greek philosophers and their followers; Ghazālī’s own conclusions were in fact the result of philosophical investigations.

The matter of the proof in regard to prophetic miracle

We should first mention Ghazālī’s point of view about how you should consider the matter of the prophetic miracle, being sure of its occurrence and that he is a prophet conveying God’s word, by accepting everything he says without the need to establish specific proofs in every occasion. In fact you would be behaving in the correct rational manner, doing nothing wrong in this respect, if you turned away from rational and philosophical discussions, and settled for an understanding the Qur’an, finding there what convinces you, what satisfies your inclinations, and pleases your literary taste. “Qisṭās” was in fact written to clarify the rational proofs found in the Qur’an

Degenerated minds and inverted opinions

In “Tahāfut al-falāsifa”, Ghazālī explains the reasons that led him to delve into philosophical matters… which was to do with what he perceived as “the actions of a sect of theoreticians [i.e. practitioners of theoretical reason] in respect of the role of Islam [its obligations and principles], and their turning away from the religion completely, following in this clear heresy those with degenerated minds and inverted opinions, in awe of hearing great names, such as Socrates and Hippocrates, Plato and Aristotle, pretending disbelief in order to distinguish themselves from normal people, thinking that disbelief is a sign of cleverness and knowledge” (Does the reader note here that there is nothing new under the sun?!).

Confounding through logic

 
Ghazālī refuted the views of the philosophers which were found to be contrary to what the revelation said on many subjects. They said that God had no knowledge of particulars for instance, and that nothingness after the existence of the self is impossible, and that the known angels are abstract minds which are essences in of themselves, and they denied the resurrection of bodies… etc… In all this, pure rational arguments were used, and they never used divine text in these arguments; for instance in their idea that what issued from God could only the first intelligence, because from “the One” there could only ever emerge “one” thing, Ghazālī replied: “your argument requires that there be nothing that is a compound of individual elements, so that all objects are single individuals; how then can there be all these compound elements that we see in the world? And yet there being one cause? So your argument is worthless: it is not true that only “one” thing could issue from “the One”… or does it issue from a compound cause? So the question arises as to where this compound cause came from?! If we go back in a chain of reasoning, it is inevitable that a compound object would, at some stage, have emerged from a single “one””

The first intelligence

It says in the work of the philosophers that only the first intelligence unravels the first principle (God), such that the thinking of the first intelligence creates a second intelligence, and a third, and celestial bodies and beings… etc… of which Ghazālī says: “what you mentioned in judgements, if related from a man’s dream, would be an indication of his bad disposition, since on this account the issue is of greater worth than the cause, because from the cause there only issued one thing, whereas from the result there issue three things, intelligence, being and celestial bodies, and also because “the One” only thought of himself, whereas the second intelligence produced himself, his principle and his judgement… And whoever is inclined to describe God on the basis of this arrangement, he has made him up to be baser than an existence that thinks of itself and of other things”. These discussions as you can see have nothing to do with justifications from divine texts (perhaps the reader might still mention Fouad Zakaria’s insistence that scholar-jurists are not ever able to fully complete rational proofs, as they always arrive at a point where they are forced to resort to the authority of scripture, in contrast to our insistence such an idea as this could not possibly have resulted from the study of Islamic thought).

The universe is not eternal

 
We should give special importance to Ghazālī’s refutation of the opinion of the philosophers that God did not create the world from nothing, and that it is eternal and has no beginning just as in the case of God. And the reader would agree with us on this, if he knew that modern science no longer accepted the idea of ​​an eternal universe. We shall inquire into how Ghazālī’s understanding of existence, movement, time and space was deep and insightful, as well as appropriate to the latest practices in scientific research. Here is a summary of what Ghazālī said:
Many philosophers, from their best to their worst, held that the universe was eternal, continuing to exist along with God… not succeeding in time but stemming from Him as the rays of the sun do from the sun, and that God’s priority to the world is the priority of cause to effect, a priority in essence and rank, not in virtue of time. The only exception was Galen who was undecided on the matter. The philosophers rested on three arguments:

First – The procession of a temporal being from an eternal being (without beginning) is impossible, since the existence of the world after its non-existence would require the presence of a determinant over the eternal (God) to summon this existence from Him. So without this determinant the world would only exist as mere possibility, without actually existing. If such a determinant existed then what caused this determinant unrelated as it is to the eternal being. And the determinant did come about at a particular time, why not at another time?

The creation of the universe in time

Second – The creation of the universe in time highlights the problem of pre-existence [the time within which the Creator waited before starting the process of creation]; if time is finite then it has a specific term, and pre-existence began before creation by a measure of this term, so pre-existence could not have been eternal. If time before creation was infinite, this means that creation could not have happened up until now, because infinity as we understand it never ends. So there could not have been any pre-existence, and existence exists in virtue of rank not of time.
Third – The existence of the world before creation is always possible, and there is no way that we can say that the world could not possibly exist and then later say that it had become feasible; if existence had been possible since eternity, and it now exists, then it has existed since time immemorial.

Denying the creation of the universe

Ghazālī says: “How can you deny that the world came about as a result of an eternal will, which demanded its existence at the time in which it came about, that nothing exist for the duration in which it lasted, that existence started when it did, and that prior to existence there not be any wish that it come about? When you said that the mind judges necessarily of the impossibility of an ancient will producing something after it without a determinant, you claim this based on the necessity of reason, so how come your opponents do not agree with you that is a rational necessity? [In other words this is the argument philosophers about a principle which is in need of proof, so it is not among the axioms accepted by reason without proof; for if it had been such an axiom, their opponents would have accepted it, just as all people accepted those axioms which are amongst the necessities of reason, such as the totality being greater than the part, or contradictories cannot add up, and so on. But this principle was not a axiom and it required a proof which was not given]

And those who believe that the world was created through an eternal will ancient and prior to its creation are not confined to a city or to any number, and there is no doubt that in spite of reason they believe something which they know to be untrue. It is necessary to prove logically that this is impossible, because all that you have said is but mere suggestion of improbability, and a comparison of our will with the Divine will [given that the human being if he wills something, he does not give up unless he is unable or is obstructed. Since God has no incapacity and is obstructed by nothing, according to the philosophers themselves, He could not have give up on creation].So the comparison is false, and you cannot equate the eternal will with that of creatures, and the suggestion of improbability is not sufficient and requires rational proof.

The beginning of time

 
Not only does Ghazālī demonstrate the flaws in the arguments of the philosophers and their lack of rational proof, but there comes also his brilliant idea about time, which anticipated events by a thousand years, where he says: “That the extent of the universe is infinite in size, and the perception of the universe as having no end is the trick of a delusory imagination. This means that space – the extent of the universe – is finite, such that space outside the limits of the universe cannot be imagined [this is the understanding of modern science about the entirety of the universe]… while time is the amount of movement, in fact it is the amount movement that is used in passing a certain amount of space. Thus if space is finite, then time is too. Add to that fact that time began with the beginning of the universe, and was created with its creation, such that God created it along with the universe [modern science does say that time began at a certain moment before which there was no time or space, and this moment was about 15 billion years ago]. So the perception that there was a time before the time within this universe is another trick of a delusory imagination”.

***

In all this is there any rejection of philosophy as a way of thinking? Or is it in fact a rejection of philosophy as it was as a set of certain principles which contradict rational thought? Whether you are satisfied with what Ghazālī says, or whether you feel his arguments were not sufficient to destroy the arguments of Greek philosophers, although modern science has in fact ended up demolishing most of them – you cannot help but admit that it involved rational and ordered thinking which does at no point seek the authority of scripture, and which in addition never deviates from the rules of Aristotelian logic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike Egypt, the United Kingdom endorses Islamic securities

Middle East Monitor wrote on 28th June:

Debate has been renewed about “Islamic securities” following the decision by HM Treasury in London to issue “Sovereign Securities compliant with the Islamic principles in an unprecedented step outside the Islamic world that will bolster London’s position as an Islamic Finance base.” Many people have recalled the battle waged by President Mohamed Morsi when he was in office to pass a law regarding this matter. At the time, Al-Nour Party stood in the way while secularists launched a vicious war of words against the first elected president of Egypt, claiming that it would pose a threat to national security. They accused Morsi of beginning a process to sell the Suez Canal and Sinai through the sukuk (securities) scheme. This, of course, was proven to be a lie.

At the beginning of May 2013, Morsi ratified the Law of Sukuk. The first security was supposed to be issued after August 2013. However, the coup and the fears of those opposed to the scheme hindered the passing and enactment of the law. The Shura Council approved the draft law that organised the issuing of securities for the first time in Egypt after taking into consideration the observations made by the scholars at Al-Azhar University. The cabinet of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil also approved the Islamic Securities Law, although the name was changed to “The Law of Sukuk”, omitting the word “Islamic”. The government during Morsi’s time was preparing to issue the executive bill for the law and to form the committee of Islamic law experts whose responsibility would have been to supervise the process of issuing the securities. Qandil’s government had intended, at the time, to rely on the securities to fund several projects, including the development of the Suez Canal area. It also intended to compensate for the deficit in the budget through the securities scheme.

Under Morsi, the sukuk were highlighted as one of the significant Islamic finance tools that would attract investment funds. The government expected that the scheme would bring to Egypt $10 billion per year. Nevertheless, the post-coup provisional government claimed afterwards that the articles of the law that was ratified by the Qandil government would be a threat to national security, despite the fact that the project was explained in detail to the public. The media onslaught on the project never ceased, noted Rasd News Network, just as happened with the “smart cards” project for the distribution of petroleum projects, the IMF loan, the energy subsidy cards and the Suez Canal development.

Britain as a hub for Islamic Finance

HM Treasury announced that the government has bolstered Britain’s position as a Western hub for Islamic finance after becoming the first country outside the Islamic world to issue sovereign securities. “I hope that the success of this government issuance of securities will encourage the private sector in the United Kingdom,” said George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He added that the securities issue has enabled the treasury to raise £200 million.

A coup version of the sukuk project

The head of financial control in the Central Bank of Egypt, Sharif Sami, said in May that the final securities draft law had been referred to the bank for revision prior to submitting it to the cabinet for ratification in June. In press statements, Sami said that the law was subjected to some amendments so as to become consistent with the Egyptian finance market which is considered to be “the father of the law” of investment in Egypt. In March, Finance Minister Hani Qadri said that he would reopen the frozen file of the Islamic securities law in order to study it in a bid to diversify the means of government borrowing after the general domestic debt had exceeded 1.7 trillion Egyptian pounds ($245 billion) by the end of 2013. The former deputy prime minister and minister of international cooperation in the provisional cabinet praised the Islamic securities law that was issued during the time of President Morsi. He stressed that, despite some flaws, the law could contribute to attracting foreign investment.

What are Islamic sukuk?

Sukuk are monetary papers that are issued in accordance with Islamic regulations with guarantees from investment projects. They generate income and are fixed assets. These securities act like property ownership, lease shares or mortgages of project assets. Islamic securities allow those possessing them to take part in industrial, agricultural or service projects where they have the right to dispose of them by selling them on the securities market. They are subject to profit or loss dependent on the profitability of the project in which the securities’ holder participates.

The Islamic securities system exists in a number of countries around the world, notably in Malaysia, which alone issues 60 per cent of the total Islamic securities issued globally, estimated to be worth $200 billion. A number of other Arab and European countries also have such a scheme.

Egypt has seen a lot of debate over the past three years because of the attempt to pass a law that would regulate the issuing of securities for the first time in the country. Every time this was tried there were fears that state assets might be used as guarantees for the sovereign securities and that eventually they would be lost in cases of insolvency. Experts have said that Egypt needs to rush through the issuing of securities in order to fund the escalating deficit in the budget since the January 2011 revolution and in order to start new projects that may defuse public anger at the economic crisis

see https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12424-debate-reopens-in-egypt-after-london-endorses-islamic-securities

Asem al-Fouli on the misconceptions of the Egyptian secularists (Part 2)

Asem al-Fouli on the misconceptions of the Egyptian secularists (Part 2)

First appeared in Arabic on  http://elshaab.org/thread.php?ID=100016

*Socrates argued for reason as the basis for knowledge, so he was accused of corrupting the minds of the young people and was sentenced to death by poisoning.

*Orientalists managed to establish the idea that Ancient Greek civilization represented the path to reason, freedom and truth, while Islamic civilization without it would have been incapable of developing systematic thinking.

In part 1, we set out the claim of some secularists that the Islamic intellectual heritage is characterized by the lack rationality, based on the rejection by our scholars of the philosophy and logic of Aristotle. We then set out the views of some contemporary philosophers in respect of the definition of philosophy, its objectives and scope. We explained how there is no specific thing that can be called philosophy, rather that there are many contradictory and conflicting philosophies, and furthermore that philosophical thought is not comprised of pure reason, rather of many individual subjective factors.

For part 1, follow this link: http://different-traditions.com/?p=1331

In this second part, we review the most important philosophers of the Greeks whose views circulated among Muslims, so that the reader can consider what it may have been that provoked our scholars to oppose them. In part 3 we shall demonstrate what the position of these Muslim scholars actually was, how their objections to Greek philosophy had nothing to do with their concern with reason, as some of them would actually use these very tools to refute Greek philosophical arguments. In part 4 we shall then deal with the criticisms of these tools by Muslim intellectuals.

 
* * * * *

 

It seems that Orientalists have succeeded – in virtue of their persistence – to establish the idea that Ancient Greek civilization represented the path to reason, freedom and truth, while Islamic civilization without it would have been incapable of developing systematic thinking, despite the fact that the most prominent intellectual achievements of Muslims had already been achieved prior to any knowledge Greek philosophy or the logic of Aristotle, on the basis that the most prominent Islamic intellectual achievements involve jurisprudence, its principles and what accompanied them in terms of the sciences. All this had been established whether in terms of jurisprudential rules or principles, before the beginning of the translations from Greek and the consequent exposure of our scholars to Greek thought. Nevertheless, matters are approach entirely differently by some secular intellectuals. They never discuss whether Muslims learned correct reasoning from the Greeks, or whether we developed our own traditions independently, they claim rather that our scholars refused rational thinking in of itself when they objected to Greek ideas, thus denying that we relied on reasoning for our arguments against the Greeks in the first place. This is clearly a different issue, which to answer requires first a review of Greek philosophy, which was the only philosophy that circulated at the time of the ancients in the early Muslim community.

Greek philosophy

 
When philosophy began in Greece, and questions were asked about the origin of the objects, it was only natural that physical explanations would be arrived at. Where the philosophers here who would have influence on Muslim culture did believe in one eternal God, their belief was, however, not based on religion or revelation, but on pure abstract thought. Greek religion didn’t supply these great minds with a basis for their thinking, because Greek religion was a religion steeped in paganism, worshipping gods described as being involved in immoral acts such as robbery, kidnapping, treason, and raping mortal human beings, producing half-gods as a result. Thus any reasoning person thinking on eternal matters would have had to brush aside all such ideas. In fact, we note that much older pagan religion from Ancient Egypt had sought to promote gods with a greater sense of moral principle and cosmic responsibility than these Greek gods, apart from “Seth” who was, after all, the Egyptian god of evil. We don’t know what it could have been in the value-system of the Ancient Greeks that led them to imagine such ignominious gods.

 
Greek thinkers and their abstract concerns

Greek thinkers focused exclusively on intellectual abstract and theoretical issues, without getting involved in concerns of the material life, such as technological innovation or the development of production methods. Similarly their abstract thought eschewed experimentation or the testing of theories, even when they considered the phenomena of nature around them. This contemplative impractical approach would seem to have been an expression of classes of people who relied on slaves, as Will Durant explains: “There was contempt by Greeks towards manual labour, which meant that only slaves were really concerned with production processes. Only intimate involvement with the machinery of production could reveal its flaws and produce a desire in people for technical innovation”.

 The industry of Pharaoh

 
But slavery couldn’t have been the only reason for Greek society to favour the contemplative mode of thinking. Taking the example of Ancient Egypt, once again, we find a caste system there, on the summit of which sat Pharaoh as god, with the priestly aristocracy enjoying high positions from their access to the substantial revenues generated by the endowments of vast tracts lands to their temples. Despite this, these priests pioneered advanced technologies, and were a repository of considerable knowledge that continues to bewilder the world until this day. So, none of this social context can have a bearing on our discussion. What is important is simply that Greek philosophy was based on the idea that everything had a nature which was the thing had an effect on itself or on the external world, and that the mind can perceive such a “nature of things”, in virtue of abstract thought, and that thought abstract alone all facts could be discovered.

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Greek metaphysics

Despite the general confusions and misconceptions surrounding the thinking of the philosophers of the Greeks in regard to the attributes of God and how they relate to the world, their proofs of the existence of God still evoke admiration, and attest to the fact that logical minds cannot but acquiesce in the idea that the world could not exist without a higher power. It is their logical proofs that we have inherited. Although it is not our task here to describe these proofs, but many Muslim theologians accepted them, finding that the Qur’an had already used them. They extracted verses on the subject from the Qur’an and explained them in ways that did not differ much from the explanations of Aristotle and Plato and other Greek philosophers.
But the thinking of these philosophers – in spite of its beauty and strength – does not transcend this material world, so that when it tries to express what is behind it in order to understand the attributes of God and how they relate to the world, they have nothing other than speculative hypotheses, which to us seem odd and untenable. But could there be anything more than this to the mind? The experience of Greeks confirms what Muslims knew from the outset: that the mind can grasp the existence of God, but does not have the ability to know the attributes nor of the relationship of God to His creatures.
We set out below those illustrious names among Greeks philosophers who believed in the eternal God, who necessarily exists and who is the efficient cause of all things.

Socrates

Socrates saw ethics in his time as collapsing before the polemics of the sophists. So his concern was to establish a firm basis for knowledge applicable to all, to overcome the deceptions and evasions of the sophists, by defending a foundation from reason rather than from the senses, and by attempting to prove the existence of unalterable truths evident to all minds, and to which they would comply. The purpose of this was to establish principles acceptable to all from which virtue would be defined. Ultimately however he was tried on charges of corrupting the youth through excessive debate and convicted, and was sentenced to death by poisoning.
The Socrates had his own private faith in an eternal and transcendent God, and believed that death was not the end. He believed there were eternal ethical principles that could not be built on the shaky foundations of Athenian religion, although he acknowledged the gods of Mount Olympian and their associated rituals.

Plato

Plato was a disciple of Socrates, and followed his rationalism. However,he framed it in “idealist” terms, a concept somewhat difficult to describe, but centered on the idea of shared meanings between “forms”, such as ugliness and beauty, reason and the senses. For our minds to be able to consider and conceived of these shared meanings, there had to be preconceived ideas about these meanings. So where would such a preconceived idea actually come from? If he had called it an invention of our minds, then we would be at the mercy of sophistry, in virtue of allowing everyone the possibility of adjusting meanings to give them qualities supportive of particular points of view. To overcome this,we would have to accept the idea that universal meanings had a truly independent presence, and were not purely ideas in our own minds. Plato called such meanings “ideals”. He also said that our souls, before being distilled into our bodies, existed in the world of “ideals”, and after this process of distillation, partially forgot the world of ideals. So learning is remembering “ideals”, whilst ignorance is forgetting them. For Plato, “ideals” as abstract concepts existing in of themselves, which are the essence of things and not dependent on anything. They are not creations of God but are permanent and eternal, which are not being specified in either time or space.

Plato believed in the eternal God as a necessary being, and the efficient cause of the world. However, when he sought to explain how God created the world, he encountered a contradiction that would later be experienced by many. He couldn’t imagine creation as being ex nihilo; so categorising things in terms of “matter” and “form”, he saw “matter” in origin as something chaotic or unformed, which God simply found and did not create. He also saw the “ideals” that were abstract forms, and shaped original matter into these forms. This was Plato’s God.

Aristotle

Aristotle conceived of an eternal world (i.e. existing without beginning or reason or cause). Eternal in terms of “matter”, “form”, “movement” and its “prime mover”, this being, of course, God. This world has no beginning, and God did not create ex nihilo, and God’s existence is not prior to the existence of the world. So God’s relationship to the world is not one of causation such that time is involved. It is, instead, a logical relationship, where the principles were provided for the outcomes, but in terms of thought not in terms of time. What led Aristotle to these thoughts was his belief in the eternity of “movement”, while this belief was reached by thinking as follows: given that the “prime mover” – God – is fixed and unchanging, having the same capacity from time immemorial, if we assumed that there was a time without movement, the consequence of this is that movement is not eternal, and while the “prime mover” having continued in his capacity since time immemorial, it cannot be imagined that he would, at some stage, be invited to preponderate. Who could there be apart from the preponderator to do so? So “movement” had to be eternal (this was refuted by Abu Hamid Ghazali using logic, which we shall return to). Aristotle’s God does not move the world by pushing it, because it would imply that he would have to conceive God’s movement in space, instead it is driven by a movement of attraction, such God is fixed and is not seen as moving as such, but the world is attracted to God as love is attracted to the loved.

God in the eyes of Aristotle does nothing ever other than think (perhaps because Aristotle himself does nothing over than think). He has no desires nor the will nor a goal, being absolute perfection, does not want for anything because he has everything, and therefore does nothing. His only role is to think about the essence of things, and given that He himself is the essence of things, His role is to think about himself. In Aristotle’s attempt to dislike God, he denied him any act of will, or planning, or organising this world, for he does not interfere in it. He thus awarded everything its own nature, and left the world to develop according to the “nature of things”, an idea which is still to this day dominant in the minds of many.

Aristotle set out the foundations of logic, which earned him the title of the first teacher first. He also had many ideas about the natural sciences, but these were the result of a process of abstract reflection shorn of any experimentation. He despised all manual labour, so his ideas on the natural sciences were set out as a series of amusing anecdotes. These were adopted by the (Catholic) Church after that as part of its Biblical exegesis, punishing such as rejected this authority. In the field of Astronomy Ibn Rushd talks about him in his “Tahāfut al-tahāfut” as says: “The sky is an animal obedient to God in respect of its circular movement, and is eternal (its presence cannot be ascribed to any prior reason) incorruptible, comprehensive, simple and light in weight, moving as a spirit, and circular motion cannot occur without a spirit… ” and so on.