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08 April 2015


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Interesting but you might want to change the title to "Islamic Religion and Middle-Eastern Culture" or "Islamic Culture and South-West Asian Culture"

ex-PFC Chuck

Thank you. Very informative for those of us in the middle of Flyoverland. I've been reading SST since early in the last decade but I apparently missed its previous post.


I have been reading all these valuable contributions but there is an aspect in my view that needs to be clarified. For some reason the idea has crept that European civilization was brought about by the Protestant Reformation, I mean, the Reformation being the efficient cause of the European transformation. Islam has had many reformations if by reformation we understand the return to the original springs of belief. That is what the Reformation was intended originally for but it arose in a society where technology was already actively growing and modifying the mental horizon of some people. My point is that the Protestant Reformation did not inspire technology it was merely an accident within the mental progress of Europe. Among the Muslims reformations have been numerous. The peninsula where I was born was invaded several times from North Africa and the invaders had originally been movements of return towards the unicity and purity of God. The Almoravids, the Almohads, the Marinids had in view a restoration of original Islam. Soon after every reformation they fell into quarrels and one movement was replaced by another. The idea that a reformation of Islam in imitation of the European Reformation is possible is improbable. There is a book on the failure of the Reformation in trying to bring back the original Christianity. It concludes that the idea of reformation brought about the death of Christianity something that seems to be happening in the Euroworld at this moment.


Nice overview. I think one of the hardest thing for people of more structured/hierarchical faiths to understand is captured in slide 25. It explains why an imam at one mosque can preach something totally at odds with the preaching of the imam at the mosque next door. And both can have huge followings.

It seems to me there are some parallels with the proliferation of evangelical churches, with superstar pastors and their own personal brand loosely affiliated with the larger religion.


Definitely a "Clash of civilisations"!
There are conflicting views on the role of Al-Ghazali, he "saved" the Sufis and, for some, had a beneficial influence on Islam "philosophy" and intellectual achievements while OTOH his theological positions appear to support absolute irrationality and therefore provides arguments to any arbitrary interpretation from whomever Muslim "illuminati", any opinions from SST contributors?
From another perspective the sack of Baghdad by Hulagu certainly struck a deadly blow to Islamic civilisation which may still be felt today.

Babak Makkinejad

The "Protestants" of Islam are called Wahabis and assorted other neo-Salafis.

I suppose one could view ISIS as the Sweden of our time; a Protestant state fighting the "good" fight.

Babak Makkinejad


This feature of absence of a central authority in Islam also is hared Judaism.

Israelis have tried to mitigate its effects by creating a quasi-Vatican called the Rabbinate in Israel.



I would say both with regard to Al-ghazali. Please remember my original audience. There was a limit as to how complex I could make this for people who were already "taking a drink from a fire hose." pl


It 's worth mentioning that reasonable estimates of the number of people killed in the European wars of religion are in the millions. 30% of Germany's population was killed or driven into exile. The Christian Reformation was marked by barbarous violence on a scale that ISUS can so far only envy.


Babak, you are correct. However look at the current state of the Rabbinate and tell me that's a good thing.


Members of Congress have been talking to U.S. generals behind the scenes and urging them to publicly resign “in a blaze of glory” if they disagree with how the White House is handling conflicts in the Middle East, according to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado.

The Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee made the remarks at a Sept. 23 liberty group meeting in the basement of a Colorado Springs bar … following a kilt-wearing contest.

During a question-and-answer portion of the forum, a service member urged Lamborn to work with his congressional colleagues in both parties to “support the generals and the troops in this country despite the fact that there is no leadership from the Muslim Brotherhood in the White House.”

“You know what, I can’t add anything to that, but do let me reassure you on this,” Lamborn said. “A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation.’”



Colonel: with respect, God the Creator is what we call Allah. Christian Arabs also call the Creator Allah. In Aramaic, the Creator is Allaha.


Al-Ghazali wrote a scathing critique regarding philosophers in his book "Incoherence of Philosophers". He was mainly criticizing people like Avecena(Ibn-e-Sina) and Al-Farabi who had investigated Greek philosophy of Aristotle and Plato.

Averos (Ibn-e-Rushd, known as "commentator" for his commentary on Aristotle) tried to counter him with "Incoherence of incoherence", trying to illustrate that he had premised his critique on misunderstood concepts.

It was too late unfortunately.The usual torch and pitch fork crowd burned Averos's house and he was sent in exile for his transgression. Philosophy and rational thought pretty much went down from there on wards.

Neil deGrasse relating that episode in Islam to current concerns regarding science in modern USA:


dear col. or anyone else who's knowledgeable,

I need a small clarification. In your presentation (and also in the previous post), you have defined "hadith" as "Various authorized collection of records of the practice of Muhammad and the early Muslim community"/"traditions of the early Muslims".

But wikipedia (few other sources) says that hadith "only" relates to the prophet Muhammad. It does not mention anyone other than prophet Muhammad. There can be different versions by different author but it only relates to the prophet.

So is it only about Muhammad or does it contains about others too?


It is a phenomenon of the ME mind that any commentary on religion or culture by an outsider is met by a game of "got ya." What are we playing, "trivial pursuits?" pl



Ah! More "got ya!" Technically you are correct but the hadith really have meaning in what they say about the context in which the Prophet acted or said something. That context had to do with the community and in that sense is about their practice as well pl


Clear and informative.

Thank you.



Can you expound on why negotiation in the ME is more often zero-sum than win-win? While poverty might temp one to "grab it all" wouldn't win-win be beneficial by minimizing the likilhood of future conflict with your interlocuter as he would feel less slighted by the outcome? You've also mentioned dislike for the social sciences a number of times. A post on that topic and what you consider a better approach to understanding people and groups might be good food for thought for readers here.



I have been doing this long enough that I have a couple of old pieces that I re-posted for you. You are quite right that there is no rationality in opting for zero sum outcomes as a prevailing choice in the ME/SW Asia area, but that is the case. I attribute this phenomenon to the continuation of what I can only describe as a Jungian collective memory of poverty and uncertainty so strong that a belief exists that win-win solutions are not only impossible but indicative of a lack of mastery that leads eventually to defeat and destruction. pl


dear col.,
thank for the response. But "technically" Wikipedia will be the correct one because I don't know much about islam.

So basically the hadith are based on the person who wrote it. In other words the author wrote his version of the events based on his (or his communities) beliefs and practices.



basically, yes. pl

Babak Makkinejad

I think Al Gazzali was only giving people what they had wanted to hear; no need for continuous inquiry into Truth - sacred or profane - just perform your sacraments (of Islam) and you will be all right.

In other words - "Have a good time!"

It is conceivable for me that an analogous book by a Western Thinker of Philosopher - or a by a hundred thousand such men - would alter the mind-set of the Western people and cause them to abandon what they are today and become "Dumb, Fat, and Happy!"



Averreo and Avecena were the only hope the Islam had to become what Christian religions were to become, allowing rational thought to guide human progress.

The Europeans during the dark ages,within their respective universities, studied the ancient texts of the Greeks and Romans, and were open to scientific inquiry, cause and effect, and most importantly an intellectual curiosity to understand the laws of nature independent of religious dogma.

After long, tortious sectarian wars, Jewish linguists translated all Aristotle and Plato had to offer into Latin, maybe from Arabic, maybe straight from Greek, and their works found their way to first fledging universities of Europe, to be studied and digested for a century, then to be put into practical use through renaissance and enlightenment, and then towards the industrial revolution. Averreo and Avecena were silenced forever in Africa and Levant, at 11th century the princes of the dark took control of all positivist intellectual activity within the Muslim world, and they rule still. I am writing this for anyone who comes from a Western mode of thought, who has attempted a rational argument , or discussion with a person from a post Averreo or Avecena era of discourse, or of a unquestioning believer of frame of mind. Example, a very useful tool of persuasion in an argument, or to bring someone to one's way of thinking, a fallacy, widely used by any politician or a lawyer, has no counterpart in Turkish language, though widely used. I came across it very recently, as uttered by a Harward educated scholar on a TV interview, a "Mantik carpitmasi", which I have never heard of, as much of the language I know. It translates loosely to "logic deception".

So, a discourse which takes its guidance from faith based body of literature, most of it oral, but not from rock solid foundations of Aristotelian logic of how to make sense of anything, is bound to lead to confusion, least of it all, of a young American soldier going to Iraq, or Afghanistan to do his duty as his conscious commands, in his attempt to understand the culture he will be interacting with. And moreover, to deviant ideologies like of ISIS, with plenty of adherents who bother not to burden themselves with even a crumb of critical, binary thinking.

This is how I explain to my many fundamentalist Muslim friends when they ask me how come Muslims don't have the economical power which their numbers should command, or the number of patents registered by Moslem inventors or technological innovations are a millionth of non Moslems. I attempt to explain that faith and reason should part ways at a certain crossroads at a point in time,keeping an eye on each other's progress and respecting each other's relevance, within easy reach of help if one or the other needs it, separate and distinct, but complementary and mutually accommodating.

All critical thinking, along all possibility of any chance of reform along changing times has been forever banned from believers of the Koran in 11th century, whose consequences are evident on TV screens everyday, or where we choose to live.


Albayim, there are other reasons why a win-win rational outcome in any negotiation situation here is not likely to be opted by all parties, beyond the Jungian rationale you provided.

One is to do "Sevap", to do something beneficial, and benevolent out of one's grandiose. To help out. Something that would count in the final reckoning of good deeds in heaven. This outcome is most likely between parties of unequal status.

The other is fear, very Machiavellian, to reach a deal, even at considerable compromise by the other party, that not doing so will hurt or disparage more in the future. Here, most aggrandized and vague one's status, and perceived reward/relief for the other party will go a long way to clench a deal.

Third is purely objective, the guy, or your negotiating partner simply likes you-considers you a stand up guy with a heart in the right place. Rationale, or cool business calculation does not count here, you can get the deal you want and still everyone wins.

Of course, it helps to have relatives, fellow countrymen, and people you know in influential positions, whom one may need in the future, or whom one would like to avoid the negative consequences of not tying up the deal.

Ahhh, it is not so simple and tidy for linear, binary and temporal thinkers here in good ole ME.


Negotiation in ME,

Never direct.

Always personal.

Merits secondary, reputation and references first.

Hand shake more important than contract.

Contract enforced more by community than courts.

Face, honor, appearance, social position before everything.

Personal trust most important, possible only through personal contact.

Extreme importance on personal non-business like relationships, nepotism, ideological affinity, family and regional ties.

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