Are You There, ISIS? It’s Me, Irfan

It is unlawful for a believer to kill a believer except by accident…He that kills a believer by design shall burn in Hell forever. He shall incur the wrath of Allah, who will lay His curse on him, and prepare him for a woeful scourge.

Qur’an, Surah An-Nisa’a, 4:92-93, tr. N.J. Dawood

Not that I’m saying that they should go around killing non-believers. I’m just saying that basic acquaintance with al-Primary Text’ul Qur’an shouldn’t be too much to ask of aspirants to al-Khilafat’ul Muslimin (the Caliphate of the Muslim Community).

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Here’s the “explanation” for the title of my post, for the sadly deprived minority of you who didn’t spend fourth grade memorizing the Qur’an while reading Judy Blume.

Eid Mubarak to PoT’s Muslim readers, by the way–whenever it was.

Postscript: And yes, the “Eid Mubarak” link goes to a story about a fifteen foot birthday cake baked for the Prophet Muhammad in Faisalabad, Pakistan. You don’t need to know any Urdu or Punjabi to get the gist of the story: they’ve been making this Prophet-Cake for the last 25 years; people come from far and wide to eat it, regardless of their religiosity; it’s really big, and requires this much sugar, and this much milk; etc. etc.

3 thoughts on “Are You There, ISIS? It’s Me, Irfan

  1. The question is, How does one determine the identity of a ‘believer’? When all is said and done, only ‘Allah knows what is in their hearts’ (an oft-repeated refrain in the Qur’an). It is presumptuous for ANYONE to claim such knowledge of others (or ‘other minds’). Logically and in effect, such a claim implies equality with Allah; and as such is the ultimate presumption, the ultimate evil of which Iblis is the archetype.

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    • You can only determine the identity of a believer by asking him or her what she believes. If they give you the uncoerced response that they don’t believe, that seems clear enough. If they say that they do believe, you have to apply the same standards you would to any other instance of testimonial evidence. Sometimes, I think that yields evidence that’s clear enough in the “yes” direction, especially if the person’s actions consistently reflect belief.

      The tricky cases are the ones where a person professes belief, but doesn’t (ever) seem to act accordingly. Can a person really be said to believe if he never, ever prays, and flouts all of the requirements of his professed religion? The most obvious-looking explanation for the apparent discrepancy between professed belief and action is lack of genuine belief. But it’s also possible that there’s such a thing as weakness of will and/or dozens of variants on it. So there’s a lot of room for agnosticism about other peoples’ states of mind.

      The Qur’an is not altogether agnostic, though. Surah 109, Al Kafirun, is a Muslim prayer, asserted in the first personal singular, and addressed to infidels. (In principle it could be included within the elective part of the daily prayer. I don’t attend mosque frequently enough to know whether it ever is.) The Surah couldn’t be constructed that way unless we assume that believers sometimes know that some people are infidels. It defines infidelity (kufr) in terms of what a person worships (‘abd), and by the way of life (din) defined by what one worships. If a person’s whole life centered around something that excluded the worship of God, it’d be a good bet, though perhaps not a certainty, that they were an infidel. Of course, kufr also seems (in Arabic) to imply a culpable inner act of concealment or deception, but there’s no way for a third part to know that (unless the third party is God, of course).

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  2. Only now (2/21/16) have I read your response. Wandering in cyberspace. — The whole question, it seems to me, is whether a mental state can be determined through physical manifestation. “Belief” is a mental state, and as such is subjective and private. One’s actions do not necessarily “exhibit” one’s beliefs, for one may judge badly (or, subsume a particular under the wrong universal), but overt actions are a better proof of a belief than a mere verbal statement, which can be muddled, insincere, or deceptive. (“By their fruits ye shall know them.”) I don’t want to get too aporetic here, so let me just say that I distrust “faith” and “belief” as markers of religious understanding, and prefer behavior as the marker. Jihadists as well as the evangelicals of the Falwell-Robertson type that support Ted Cruz loudly proclaim their belief in a loving and compassionate God, but their behavior proclaims their true mental state, which is full of hate, desire, and loathing.

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