Thursday, February 15, 2007

Law as the New Religion

"Man cannot exist without bowing before something…. Let him reject God, and he will bow before an idol” - Dostoevsky

I’ve been reading this book “Law’s Quandary”for sometime now and thought I’d share some of the interesting discussions mentioned in the book about the relationship between law as the religion of people (particularly in the US legal tradition). I’ve had discussions with my friends about our impressions of this feeling and the author of the book details this theory in full.

In the gist of the two arguments he lays out for the view of the law as this new religion of people, the first:

Is this persistence in the practice of law as the people’s new religion but NOT in the metaphysical premises that seem necessary to support the practice. To shift the religious vocabulary, if contemporary law is a species of idolatry, it is a peculiar and confusing sort of idolatry in which the devotees regulary deny that the idol has the transcendent qualities it would need to justify the uses they make of it.

This confusing condition leads to considering the second, not only different but almost opposite possible view: Could it be that at some level legal practitioners do sincerely believe in “the law,’ and that if they are guilty of ‘bad faith,’ their misrepresentation or self-deception occurs not when they engage in the practice an discourse of the law but rather when they consciously or explicity disavow its metaphysical commitments? Meaning, while lawyers and judges might be in ‘bad faith’ when they engage in practice of law, their overall behavior seems more consistent with the hypothesis that self-deception occurs when they engage in explicit theorizing about law- and when in the course of such theorizing they deny the metaphysical commitments that they in fact hold.

Interesting huh? Not many lawyers, judges, or even Americans view their legal system in such a light… and this isn’t even comming from a Muslim but thier own legal theorists.

In the end, I found Smith's answers quite shallow. I mean he resorts to the platonic thinkers mode of analysis and says that that should be or could be the best way to consider the question of how we can know that the law exists and is. The problem with the platonic mode is the reliance upon this "form" of "law" out there that everyone assumes exists - and somehow agrees is the same form of "law."

I felt he coped out of real answer - or just found it hard to admit that there was none or he didn't have one. I know his answer or semi-answer is more complicated than that, especially his explantion of the ontological gap, but I'll discuss that another time.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Qur’ān and Us

This is from the first sections of an article I was sent on the Quran and our relationship with it. It's one of the few things I've read recently that has actually been able to get past my surface.

I admit that I am most affected by the 'post-modern' state of mind because of the nature of the beast I am with. I'm surrounded by people all day who are obsessed with only what is present before them. Even if they have their own spiritual beliefs and views, they check them in at the door when the arrive and pick them up on their way out.

Perhaps I am over reacting to this and it may be a blessing to be with people who don't speak about their religion or look to propogate it ... I think I just need a spiritual vocation. I've never had one in my life.

Anyways, read the below article - its worth it.

One of the results of living in our post-modern societies in the West is our increased cynicism with all that which is classical, holy, blessed, miraculous, supernatural etc. This has been a direct side-effect from growing up and living in a community which is purely secular in nature, where God has no significance, and where anything that can not be directly observed and proved is immediately rubbished. Call it the Age of Empiricism or call it the Age of Ignorance, what can not be doubted is how it has affected the mindset of millions of Muslims in the “developed” world, and worse even, now starting to play its way down into the Muslim (often synonymous with the) “developing” world.

It’s unfortunate that many Muslims hesitate to act freely in certain issues, afraid that others surrounding them might consider such actions or beliefs as backward or strange. Hence for example, we find some Muslims whilst still having an internal theoretical faith in the subject, are unwilling to express their belief in the supernatural or as the Qur’ān describes it, al-‘Ālam’l-Ghayb or the “Unseen Realm”.

Consequently, we find great difficulty in having a serious discussion about Angels or the Jinn. We find it complicated to talk about al-Hajr’l-Aswad (the Black Stone) or al-Rukn al-Yamāni (the Yemeni Corner of the Ka‘bah) etc. Likewise, to freely extol the blessings of a certain act, or a certain day or a certain night such as Laylat’l-Qadr becomes strained, especially if questioned on the rationale or logic. Naturally, the Believer recognises the basis of such belief in the Unseen and is strong upon that but yet must still recognise the threat. If the prevailing environment still hasn’t shaken the internal belief, it seems apparent from ones observations that the frequency and intensity of religious devotional practice of the external is very much in danger.

Add to this the incredibly fast-paced way we live our lives with the further problem of materialism and secularist ideology insisting that religion be practised and expressed on the “down-low” and then we can recognise a real problem facing our Muslims today.

Couple this modern problem with the ever-existent ikhtilāf or difference of opinion that exists amongst scholars with respect to certain spiritual acts and rituals and one might not be blamed for believing that deep spirituality and emotions such as esteem and sanctity are under attack.

As this section is dealing with the Qur’ān, one can observe specific problems of a similar nature with respect to our direct relationship with the Holy Book.

It is a sad fact that people are not reflecting and benefiting from this great gift to humanity: a deep spiritual message and yet expansive code of conduct for life itself. It is a shame that so many people, whilst recognising its internal beauty and melody, its healing power and the way it invokes ones strongest emotions and yet logically clarifies ones senses, still find difficulty in connecting to this holiest and most sanctified of words – indeed the words of our Creator, Allah, the Mighty and Exalted.