Reflections On Ghoma's Article
Ghoma my dear compatriot, you write with so much arrogance, that it seems you think you are a God of some sort. I hope you have the patience to read this essay point by point, as I have done for yours. Before I begin, however, I shall give you one advice; if you write to communicate your ideas to a certain audience, with any hope of winning them over, shouldn’t you be careful not to insult them, and instead invite them into your idea with humbleness? It is naïve to think that with your manners you will get anywhere with those who find your views repulsive to begin with.
Now since you present yourself as an expert in logic, let us begin with your premise that reason and religion are two separate things. Any explanation as to why they are two separate things? Not that I had seen. This is your own personal opinion, and you really ought to explain why they can’t be the same. Ironically, later in your essay, you inserted something close to a famous quote from Socrates “unexamined rituals are not worth the practicing.” (I believe you have misquoted him in fact, for it is the ‘unexamined life (that) is not worth living’ for Socrates, which is, in fact, exactly what Allah and His Prophet Muhammed SAW also taught). By not exploring why religion cannot be reason, and vice-versa, you have contradicted a point which you chose to mention later in your essay. If you are assuming that everyone agrees with your opinion, let me point out what you probably already know; that’s one heck of a big assumption to make.
My personal opinion is that you skipped arguing for the premise that reason and religion are separate because your entire essay depended on it being true, and that making that case is completely out of your ability. I will briefly argue the opposite to your opinion, before completing the critique of your essay. First and foremost, above all other reasons, Muslims make Hajj because Allah, the God that they believe in, has commanded them to do so. They (like myself, I should make clear) believe that among God’s traits is that He is The Wise, The Omnipotent, and that whatever He should decide would be better for them, and often in the Qu’ran, verses about Allah’s wisdom end with ‘La Aalakum Ta’aqilown’, or ‘Lo that they should know/be mindful’. Out of the 2.1 Million pilgrims, can you honestly say that not a single one of them ask why it is they believe in God, and why it is that they are making great personal sacrifices to make the pilgrimage? That would be an even ‘braver’ as! sumption then your previous one, that reason and religion are separate. Next time you want to go out on a limb like that, I strongly recommend you engage in every angle of every point, otherwise you will only be successful convincing yourself.
As for your editorial on how social manifestations influence peoples’ ideas about religion or rituals, I will agree. In fact, Islamic notions of brotherhood clearly indicate that social influence is an intended consequence of Islam. It actually applies to just about every other group under the sun as well. As we Muslims believe that our religion is true, we make sure to educate each other and ponder upon our religion to further reassure ourselves of our faith. Even God’s Prophets did this. And the testimony to the truthfulness of Islam is that it has never stopped growing since the arrival of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW). I challenge you, Ghoma, to find (with facts) another religion or entity which has grown as Islam has, non-stop since its inception (over 1400 years ago). Let me also mention here that for the last 1400 years or so, it is impossible to count how many Muslims pondered upon every single practice in Islam. Only God knows how many Socrates there were from then to ! now. Anticipating a possible criticism of this point, that these facts and numbers don’t matter, but rather the soundness of the philosophy and the logic of all those billions of people that is the issue, I need only to point to the first line in the second paragraph of your own essay. You did not explain why religion and reason are separate, and here I am presenting you with a gigantic phenomenon that proves that they are interrelated—unless of course the causation isn’t obvious enough to you.
I will not dwell on the other religions you mentioned, because it is also obvious that I have no intention to defend them. Thus my next advice: when criticizing an entity, be wary of lumping it together with entities that are not it. Like our fingerprints, no two religions are alike. If you are going to make a case that they are, you better do a damn good job of showing first why religion and reason are different, before taking on the even more daunting task of arguing that Islam is the same as or even similar to Hinduism or what have you. Speaking of which, my Microsoft Word count says that you dedicated a mere 435 words to this subject. You’ll need a few more then that to convince the Ummah of Islam that they are hindus.
Just for you own tast, in a Socratic manner, let us now examine why the goal of Hajj, "to continuously strive to achieve one's goal," starting with the question of why this goal, from time to time, must be renewed, if not re-defined. Perhaps Ghoma is so much wiser than all of mankind, that he does not need to dwell on this point, but rather can easily move on to ask: “Is it an imaginative goal or some other still rarefied goal?” Therefore it is upon us to uncover Ghoma’s wisdom behind skipping the question of why the goal MUST be renewed, if not re-defined. This can be done in two ways. The first is to assume that nobody has ever asked why the goal must be renewed, and no one ever will. In that case, you can move forward to whatever next point you want to make. But because it is so obvious that people will ask why, then there must be a reason; and for Muslims, in a nutshell that reason is that Allah, The Great, The Wise, The Omnipotent, has commanded them to ! do so. Why do Muslims believe in God, and obey his commands? Why, this was discussed starting in paragraph three of this essay! The subsequent conclusion I make is that Ghoma’s logic is beyond that of an ordinary person such as myself, and that only he can enlighten us from Plato’s metaphorical cave, John Rawls’ veil of ignorance. I urge you to do so, Ghoma J.
Interestingly enough, Ghoma provides us, the ‘less wise’, with a prescription in the very paragraph that he discusses the goal of Hajj. “…[P]onder what does that mean remembering also what the poet Federico Garcia Lorca had said: " the imagination hovers above the ritual.” Great, Ghoma the wise writer has told us to ponder some poet’s anecdote, rather than the word of God which he so arrogantly challenges. Ok everybody, I guess we should all commit shirk and do what Ghoma says (/end sarcasm). This leads me to ponder on the quote by Ghoma just shortly after: “Are we not getting into a deep and murky waters here?” (nice grammar by the way). And look at this: shortly after this quote, Ghoma quotes somebody who has pondered upon the pilgrimage!! Surely this is an act of ‘Ghomian’ heresy? A shame that our beloved intellect Ghoma did not bother to commit much effort into explaining why he derived a meaning from that quote that is quite different from the meaning in the Hade! eth Sahih “Ina el A’amaal bi niyaat”—actions are judged by intentions. ACTIONS are judged by intentions, not ‘imaginations are judged by intentions’. Thank you again for not clarifying, shall I assume that this was another intended omission?
Here comes my favorite part of the essay, after elaborating (uselessly) on the meaning of ‘imaginative’ (thanks for doing that by the way, why would I want to pick up a dictionary and look up the meaning of the word?), the Kaatib El Libiy (should I also add Great Thinker, Lone Falcon, and Great Liberator to your titles?) presents a long list of facts and numbers about how Hajj money could have been spent elsewhere. Nice of you to put in a list of all the places it could have gone as well, which I honestly believe is the most splendid thing you wrote in the entire essay. Anyone can come up with impressive numbers and use them to make a point, so to make my point, I will do the same. There are, taking a conservative figure, 1 BILLION Muslims on earth. The minimum annual zakah, or alms, that a Muslim must give is a mere 2.5% of a full year’s savings. Let us say that these billion Muslims each saves 100 dollars, or units if you prefer, of money each year. 1 Billion (x) $2.50 = o! h, about 2.5 Billion dollars. Well short of the conservative $11 Billion mentioned in Ghoma’s essay. But wait, Zakut-ul Fitr is $7 per head in Canada, so we can add that too (for a cause at least as worthy as any mentioned by Ghoma). If 500,000 out of the 750,000 Muslims in Canada complete this task, there’s another 3.5 billion dollars. Of course, this only adds up to $6 Billion, with conservative figures as well. But if you had not stopped to think that another billion or so Muslims are doing the same thing every year, you would not have found that whatever figure you end up with easily dwarfs the amount of cash that is spent on Hajj every year. If a relatively small, and highly specialized aid organization like Human Concerns International raised $40 Million is 25 ye! ars for the specific task of sustainable development projects, (see their website), can you even begin to imagine how much money billions of Muslims, the majority of which are willing to spend a couple thousand dollars for a pilgrimage, spend on good causes?
Now it’s my turn to make a wisecracking remark at the end of an essay longer than what most people are willing to read. At the end of the day, Hajj is not a trip to Cancun. Why don’t you go calculate how much money is spent on honeymoons all around the world every year, and proclaim that those idiot married people should give all that money to charity? As sure as the earth is round, the true believer loves God more than any man or woman. Then is it not only right (and logical) that they should commit a trip, which God has so mercifully asked that we do so only if we can, to where he has asked us to go, and only once in our lives? With that, I am willing to stick my neck out and say that the only reason few others have bothered to reply to you, Mr. Ghoma, is not because they are overwhelmed by your arguments, but simply that they are overwhelmed by your ignorance, and are not willing to spend an hour and a half trying to enlighten a person who thinks so highly of himself.
A. A. Omar