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Abdul Fattah
12-31-2012, 11:44 PM
This is an article I wrote a year or two ago, so people who befriended me on facebook already saw this, but since I'm back here now, I thought, why not post it here, :)

Part 1

Before I converted to Islam several years ago, one of the profounds thoughts that struck me was; that no one had told me. That my views on Islam were so different from reality. That it is in fact so beautiful, so logically consistent, so amazing. Why had they kept this secret to me up until then? Or perhaps people had tried, but I just wasn't listening before. Or perhaps yet; they simply couldn't reach me since they had no idea just how profoundly off my views were. After converting, I made it my personal mission of telling people what I had found, and how much it had put my world up-side down, and how much I loved it and benefited from it. And doing so has been a very interesting learning-curve so far. It has pushed me to constantly expand the boundaries of my knowledge, to seek answers for all and any question people might have. But the most important thing it has thought me, is something much more profound then this practical knowledge, which I hope to share with you in this article.



When I look around me, to the brothers in the mosque, to the man in the street, to the anonymous on the internetfora and of course to the reflection in the mirror, I see that so often we forget the most crucial ingredient when engaged in da'wah. People of different intellects will approach da'wah differently. Some will attempt to come up with a fit-for-all proof, an infallible truth, that in their minds no honest person can reject. Others will see da'wah more as a skill-set, and a collection of different answers that might resolve any reservations a person might have against Islam. And yet others prefer a defensive position, luring people to argue against Islam, and then refuting their arguments.



These methods will occasionally prove effective, but most of the time they won't. I believe this is because a much more vital ingredient is often overlooked. Whether the da'i developed his method cognitively or intuitively; all these methods are based on the idea that people choose their belief, or their disbelief, based on a rational analysis. But, as frightening as it might seem to admit this to ourselves; this idea is false! As much as we like to think that we believe in Islam because it is logical, consistent, plausible and probable; that simply isn't true. Well, don't get me wrong, I do believe that Islam is logical, consistent, plausible and probable. However, I don't think that these are the reason we believe in it.



But how do we choose then? If not by rational analysis in what sense do we make use of our free will? If you accept Freud's topography of mind, much of the weight in any decision we make comes from the subconscious , a place where feelings such as, pride, desire, shame, guilt, love, fear and so on reside at. But you don't have to take his word for it. Tests show that brainscans can accurately predict which decision a person will make by interpreting the activity monitored in the subconscious. Not only can they predict the decision, they can do so before the test-subject even makes his mind up consciously. In other words, this shows that we have already made a decision before we even realize that we have decided. The conscious rationalization that follows is just trickery. Self-delusion in order to accept what we desire to accept. So clearly, we don't make our choices with our minds but rather with our hearts. And actually; as Muslims, we should know better. After all, don't we believe that Allah subhana wa ta'ala holds the hearts of every person between his fingers and that he can turn it either direction at any time? Don't we believe that if Allah wishes to guide a person, that not even the whole of mankind and djinns together can lead such a person astray? And don't we believe that if Allah lets a person astray, that nobody can guide him to the truth? How can we believe any of these things, and at the same time think that we decide with our minds rather then with our hearts what we believe?



But there is another important issue to be made here. The whole idea of life as a test, responsibility of our actions, and punishment and reward; these concepts all rely on the existence of free will. Without free will, none of it makes sense. So how does it work? If our conscious rationalization is so powerless, free will doesn't do us much good there. If we have free will, then I argue, it must be subconscious. It must lie in which feelings we choose to obey. Do we follow our desire, or our conscience. Our lust, or our shame. Our love or our hate. We are all given destructive and constructive feelings. As Muslims we believe life is a test. But is it to test our mental capacity to rationalize? Did God want to test how smart we are? Or is the test rather, in seeing which feelings we obey? I do believe we choose our religion. But we don't choose it directly. We choose which feelings to obey, and once those parameters are set, belief or disbelief is an inevitable result of that. So our responsibility lies not in our rationalizations, but in how we deal with our feelings, which is scary considering most people seem to be unaware of why they chose to believe. Which feelings led them to it.



And so if there is a universal dawah tool, a one-fit-for-all magical formula, is is not a formula of words.

It is to listen to people, hear their stories, connect to them genuinely and profoundly and try and discover what their emotional reservations against Islam might be. You can't reach people by winning their minds, you have to win their hearts first. And I'm not saying answering questions isn't important. The arguments, the explanations, the analyses; please don't see any of this as a reason to throw that all overboard. I'm merely suggesting that we need to enrich those with the right approach, at the right time and place. That for people to accept our answers and arguments, they first need to trust us. We need not only to be honest; but also to connect with them, to be patient with them, to set an example by living a virtuous life. Only then have you brought an argument on the table that they cannot reject.
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Alpha Dude
01-01-2013, 02:11 PM
:sl: Nice to see you back bro!

I agree with everything you've written.
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Abdul Fattah
01-01-2013, 05:37 PM
part two:

In part one of “The quest for the universal dawah argument” I already approached the issue of whether or not we make our choices with our rational thinking, or with our emotions. In that note I argued that people make their choices based on emotional inclinations, rather then on rational thinking. And perhaps that wasn't a really accurate representation, but somewhat of a simplification. I didn't go into much detail on that previously, so I'd like to do so now.



Consider this, no matter what argument you bring, no matter which theory you build on, no matter what viewpoint you have. There is always a premise. It is inevitable to rational thought, without it, thoughts are abstract and meaningless; intangible to the real world. There's always an assumption, a axiom. Something you cannot prove, but simply accept at face value, bias. The semantics of words even. Change any of those, if you are able to pinpoint them, and your whole world-view might change. So in that sense, all views that mankind has are rational to some extend. And even if you can show that a certain view really is irrational; those who do believe it, will think that it is rational after all. Almost nobody accepts an irrational world-view knowing fully well that it is indeed irrational.



But then, why do some people believe in one view, while others believe In a different view? Or, if all views are rational, depending on which angle you're looking from, then what determines the “right” angle? Well, this angle, this method of seeing the world and everything in it. It is a combinations of concepts and ideas of how the universe is like, all loosely connected to one another. A sum of premises, axioms and semantic definitions of words, that will be decisive in determining which theories you find rational. This is a paradigm, a chaotic and dynamic world-view. A cobweb of thoughts. Dynamic, because you can break a connection here, and make a new one there. And chaotic, because there's no real beginning or end, and nothing is concrete. But how do we form this world-view? There are so many premises to be chosen from, in so many issues. So many axioms, so many different definitions for so many different words. It's very plausible that considering the number of variables, there are more unique paradigms to be formed then there are people in the world. We can't possible work out all possible variations and permutations. Let alone comparing them to see which one, if any of them, is the most accurate view of the world. And so, the human mind does what it always does when it's facing a problem to big to work out. It falls back on emotions. Our emotions are our guide in choosing which premise, which definition of a word we associate things with. Of course, a part of this is also conditioned and even taught cognitively in school. But still a lot of our views are formed based on our emotions. Small things, which seem innocent and insignificant at first. But then, you're trying to wrap your head around complex questions such as religion, and philosophy and morality and ethics, and suddenly these small things, all of them combined, they matter. They matter a lot. If you've ever had a long debate or argument with somebody, you might have noticed after a while that at the ground of this argument, was that you both had different definitions and ideas of the very concepts you were arguing about. And so cognitively, it seems as though you're approaching these issue such as religion in a rational way. But it only seems so because you chose your bias a long time ago, the emotional influence is already set and you have forgotten. You're taking it for granted. It is subconsciously set, much like a stage. And now all that is left is for your cognitive, conscious part of the mind to “play” out the rationalizations that have been pre-determined by this stage of your own making. Yes, there might be exceptions in this, sometimes people might not do what is rational. Sometimes an urge or emotion can grow overwhelming enough to overwrite this set stage. But such events are rare. In most day-to day choices we make, the stage is inevitable.



As for how this ties in with the Islamic point of view, in the previous note I mentioned how we believe that life is a test. And then I went on to ask, whether God is testing our mental capacity to rationalize, to test how smart we are, or rather in seeing which feelings we'd obey. If we do set our own “mental stage”; by which only one world view is rational. And if this stage is determined by our emotions, then which emotions do we allow to get the upper hand? Our urges, our fears, our needs, our shame, our instincts, our conscience? Perhaps you've heard somebody once say something similar to: “Well I can't believe, I'm simply not able to because it doesn't seem true, and I would just be lying to myself. “

and then if you go on asking why religion seems false, you'll get a never-ending avalanche of issues and arguments. And no matter how many of them you reply to, the person will accept your response and just move on to the next one. And nothing ever changes. Well perhaps over time, if this is repeated enough the person becomes more “politically correct”. But at the same time, his or her reservations against Islam will just grow more complex, because the subconscious mind seeks new justifications; and then feeds them trough the right “stage”. And so, no matter how much progress you seem to be making in your dawah; you always seem to get back to square one. Unless you're actually aware of these hindering subconscious emotions and address them, or they are changed by an outside factor.
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