"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Monday, October 24, 2005

An Alternate Solution to the "Islam Problem"

From time to time, we hear various solutions to the "Muslim problem." Islam is so profoundly anti-life, anti-human, anti-knowledge, anti-reason, anti-progress, anti-reality, anti-, anti-, anti- EVERYTHING, that it has become a serious pest. All the rest of us in the infidel world are beginning to tire of always having to turn around to clean up after some mess some Muslim or other has made.

They make the messes, and yet they blame all of us infidels for them. They have the emotional maturity of two-year-olds; they do not play well with others, they're in a constant state of pique--which they discharge by throwing temper tantrums--they seek immediate gratification, they want what they want and they want it NOW, all their problems are ALWAYS the fault of others, they NEVER consider taking any responsibility for themselves, they have no insight, they are professional victims who blame everyone else in the world for their hideous way of life, their unhappiness, their frustration and their hostility--all because they have a total disregard and antipathy for the requirements that reality places on them. Reality is, for them, the enemy; they don't understand anything about it; when it comes to reality, they are slow learners who just can't grasp the fact that reality always wins in the end, and that it won't change to accommodate them and their whims, wishes, and desires.

We infidels are a tolerant lot; even under the malignant influence of the Postmodernists, though, our patience is finite, and one day, we will have to solve the "Islam Problem." We cannot, and will not, indefinitely put up with their attacks, whether they involve murder and mayhem or da'wa, on our way of life.

We're willing to give them time to grow up, and we even supply a role model for a happier way of relating to reality. Many individual Muslims throughout history have observed infidels, and consciously or subconsciously, some have seen that there is something more satisfying beyond the restrictions of Islam.

Among those who understand that Islam is, indeed, a problem for all the rest of us, numerous suggestions for a solution have been offered.

One so-called "solution" is to cave, to give in; that's the Postmodernist-Leftist-Liberal "solution." Europe, Canada, Central and South America, Africa, and parts of Asia have already made the decision to become dhimmis, but we, and with any luck, Australia, will not go that route. So caving is out--at least for a few of us.

A second "solution" is to destroy their three holiest sites: the Kaaba in Mecca (the meteorite that they believe was built under the supervision of Adam to resemble the heavenly house of Allah), the Mosque of the Prophet Mohammed in Medina (the burial site of Mohammed and his family), and the Dome Mosque in Jerusalem (for an explanation of the nature and importance of both the initial "vision" of Mohammed, and his "night voyage" to Jerusalem, please see

Victor Mordecai, the pen-name of a respected authority on Islamic terrorism, says that if these sites were destroyed, it would prove to Allah's followers that he was not "the greatest" after all, and that they would feel the need to find themselves a "strong" God--maybe even the Christian God--and that the effort to make a world wide caliphate would then fizzle.

If all else fails, and Islam doesn't change its moral code to one that no longer maintains as its "standard of the good" the conversion of the entire world into an Islamic planet, the destruction of these sites certainly remains a viable option, as does a much wider path of destruction throughout the Islamic world. If it comes down to an "us vs. them," situation, we're on our side, and while we do not presently have the political will to carry out this version of a solution, we certainly have the capability.

There actually is a third solution, but while it would be an uphill climb for those few Muslims who really want to "give peace a chance," and lead productive, happy lives, it is a solution taken from their own history and would not require them to leave Islam. Doubtless, it would be considered heretical in the worst way by the current crop of mullahs and ayatollahs, and by many of their ordinary Muslim neighbors and family members, but it does offer a potential solution.

That having been said, once upon a time, after Mohammed died and before al-Ghazali, the "father of Islamic fundamentalism" won the battle to mold Islam into the shape we see today, there was actually a group that didn't feel threatened by the beliefs of other religions, that understood that human beings had free will, that considered debate to be a good thing, that realized that innovation wasn't a sin, that believed that questions needed to be raised and answered, that considered much of the content of the Koran to be allegorical, that realized that knowledge was beneficial to humankind--well, you know; it was definitely not the version of Islam that we have all come to know and hold in so much contempt today.

These guys were a sort of a philosophical "flash in the Islamic pan" called "Mu'tazilites."

The Mu'tazilites were "rationalists," who believed that truth could be discovered with the use of reason; they were very active in the scholarship that exixted during that window of opportunity between the death of Mohammed and the meeting of religious authorities a couple of hundred years later, when it was decided at an Islamic version of the "Conference of Nicea" what Islam was to "look like" from then on.

During that brief period, even some Muslims were free to think, to question, to debate, to discover--all the good stuff that later became known as the "Golden Age."

Greek philosophy, upon which this sort of thinking was based, had spread with Alexander the Great throughout the still pagan world, and that included the Arabs. It was the Greek way of thinking, especially Aristotelian thinking, that led to all the great centers of learning where scholarship thrived--Alexandria, Byzantium, Pergamum, Damascus, etc.

The reason the Mu'tazilites were able to take such great advantage of Greek philosophy without undue interference, even though they were Muslims, was because Islam hadn't yet become crystalized into the form we see today. There were many varieties of Islam, among them these Mu'tazilites, who, because 1) of their own non-fundamentalist views (as described above); 2) of the relative disregard that the first dynasty of caliphs, the Umayyads (661-750), had for the Koran (one of them is even said to have stuck a Koran with a lance and shot it to pieces with arrows); and 3) of the fact that the attraction of Islam for the Bedouins was not for its spritual qualities, but for an opportunity to participate in wars leading to booty and wealth (some estimates of the number of true, believing converts to Islam at the time of Muhammed's death were fewer than one thousand).

The Mu'tazilites, who were against the establishment of a theocratic state, were seriously opposed by many fundamentalist groups who wanted one. The fundamentalists prohibited debate, said that question about Islam were not permitted, that innovation was a sin, that the Koran had been revealed from Allah and contained all the knowledge that was worth knowing and was the literal word of Allah. Scientific discoveries of the sort being spread about by the Mu'tazilite scholars and their ilk seriously contradicted much of what was contained in the Koran, so science, among other things, was a "no-no."

The Mu'tazilites could have gone on and continued to influence Islam, but they shot themselves in the foot. For all their "rationalism," despite certain bits of very advanced thinking, they had some very serious flaws. The most important was that they had not yet developed any concept of "rights," a problem that enabled them to behave in a self-destructive manner later on.

When the "godless" first dynasty of caliphs was overthrown, the second dynasty, the Abbasids, took their place. These latter were convinced that the Mu'tazilites' relative indifference to religion--Islam in particular--was a form of opposition to religion. Certainly, the Mu'tazilites' open opposition to a theocratic state was a problem for the Abbasids, who wanted to establish one. All the authority would come from Allah, but (of course) they, the Abbasids, would be his only legitimate representatives, and thus the only ones who could communicate his will.

There were many significant points of disagreement between the Mu'tazilites and the new, more fundamentalist-inclined dynasty, and the Mu'tazilites weren't well treated because of that. One of the most contentious differences was whether the Koran was eternal, something that had been in existence for all time, and merely revealed to Mohammed at the moment of his "vision" (for an explanation of just what this was, along with the famous "night voyage to Jerusalem" that is causing so much trouble between the Palestinians and the Israelis today, please see:, or whether it had been created de novo at the moment of the "vision." The Mu'tazilites believed that it was created de novo, and not that it was eternal.

The Abbasids treated the Mu'tazilites poorly, but nevertheless, one of the Abbasid Caliphs took their side on the particular issue of the eternal vs. the finite existence of the Koran. He began a campaign to force all government officials, and many others, to state that this was their belief. To encourage them to do so, al-Ma'mun, the Caliph in question, took to imprisoning, torturing and executing people until and unless they confessed this belief. The whole thing turned into a sort of Muslim predecessor of the Spanish Inquisition. This process of imprisonment, torture, and execution continued throughout the reigns of three caliphs.

The Mu'tazilites jumped right on this bandwagon; their own intolerance of superstition, mythology, literalism, etc. was extreme, and so they were pleased with this movement in support of their own view, even if it was only of one part of their belief. When the persecution of "eternalists" ended, it was under the reign of a caliph who was himself very intolerant of the entire Mu'tazilite position, and the tables were turned; the Mu'tazilites now became the persecuted.

That was how the Mu'tazilites shot themselves in the foot, and quite possibly contributed to the failure of Islam to develop along a more reasonable line. Had they merely held firm, and gathered about them more and more followers who believed as they did, and not climbed aboard the persecutorial wagon, it is entirely possible that Islam might have evolved differently. Even the Asharites, followers of the fundamentalist al-Ashari, who were among the more traditional groups opposing the Mu'tazilites (and who were considered to be the ones who were responsible for their final defeat), left a teensy bit of room for a less literalist way of thinking, in that they believed that knowledge that depended solely on the most traditional sources was not always entirely reliable, and that it sometimes needed to be confirmed by reason.

It was the strict fundamentalists, though, who in the end, won the battle for control over the direction that Islam was to take, and it was they who were responsible for what Islam is today.

The bottom line, and the reason for giving this mini-history of early Islam here, is that Islam actually included a way of thinking that, had it survived, had the potential of becoming something that could have become something very different from the hard-core anti-life, anti-knowledge, anti-human nature entity that we see today, and which makes of its followers the miserable, non-productive, frustrated, hostile, humans they are today, who have been taught that all the very things that characterize human beings are morally corrupt.

If those Muslims who have succeeded in "compartmentalizing" their beliefs--that is, who accept the more reasonable aspects of Islam, and reject those aspects that make it impossible for them to work productively with non-Muslims--the problems of both Muslims and non-Muslims would be significantly reduced, and Muslims could be a happier people. Nobody ever accuses them of being dumb, it's just that their substantial intellects are held prisoner by a viciously anti-life system that causes them to lose out on patents, non-politicalized Nobel Prizes, accomplishments equal to those of any of the infidel world--oh, it is a very sad thing.

It is the Mu'tazilite tradition that gives Muslims a stepping stone, from within the history of Islam itself, to a form of their religion that could accomplish this. If that could be done, thinking about other "solutions" could be abandoned. Islam could keep its stories, its scriptures, its festive practices, its rituals, and still not put its very existence at risk.

They just have to adopt a form of their religion--and the Mu'tazilites had sown the seeds of such a form--that permits them to have a moral code that does not insist that its "standard of the good" be the imposition of Islam on everybody else.

This shift in emphasis requires the kind of respect for reason that the Mu'tazilites had just begun to have, and that the West later adopted and refined.

Good luck, all you Muslims. There is still time.


  • At Thu Oct 27, 08:29:00 AM PDT, Blogger Jason_Pappas said…

    Enjoyable essay! With regard to the “Golden Age” and hopes for a “Reformed Islam,” that’s what I think people like Daniel Pipes and Irshad Manji have in mind. My position is to advocate a rational/secular/individualist alternative and understand that under such pressure there will be Muslims that want to create a compromise. Today, many in the West start by advocating the compromise, which I believe will fail. I agree that we should respect the compromisers, like Manji – or should I say, respectfully disagree – while keeping the pressure with criticism (as 6th Column and others have done so well.) And we should be ready to applaud and encourage the steps taken by the reformers.

    I’d like to know more about the Mu’tazilites. I’ve found some interesting facts about Hellenic philosophy in Arab history. Did you know that they never translated Aristotle’s Politics (until recent times?) They relied on Plato’s Republic and Plato’s Laws. They did have Aristotle’s Ethics, however. But without Aristotle’s moderating influence – respecting private property and individual initiative, for example – they apparently adopted an elitist/centralized political philosophy. I’m confident that they didn’t know about Cicero’s notion of natural law – a precursor of the idea of natural rights.

    Another interesting fact is that they conflated Plato with Aristotle until Averroes realized that several texts attributed to Aristotle were actually written by neo-Platonists.

    But what I find interesting was that translators (all Christian and Jews) didn’t translate the Greek dramatists into Arabic. Without the examples of Greek drama, great Arab philosophers couldn’t make heads-or-tails of Aristotle's Poetics. Islam failed to receive the artistic heritage of the Greeks.

    As we know, Islam has a proscription against portrait painting. In many ways, they were starved of fine art, especially without the Hellenic heritage. Personally, being of a scientific/philosophical background, I tend to focus on these achievements first when studying cultural history. However, let’s appreciate Rand’s emphasis on literature – art in general – as being indispensable for living one’s life and changing one’s culture. Accepting Greek science is a good first step, but applying reason to human affairs and experiencing one’s abstractions in vivid concretized expression is the step that Arab philosophers never secured. I’m still reading about this fascinating history; but these are some tentative thoughts and findings.

    Again, enjoyable essay!

  • At Fri Oct 28, 06:54:00 PM PDT, Blogger Cubed © said…


    Manji absolutely represents the Muslim who has properly "compartmentalized" Islam; I don't know if she knows about the Mu'tazilites, but I think she might agree with them if she does. Bright lady; I used to criticize her for not discarding Islam altogether, since she knew so much about its evil. But if she were to be a pioneer with some others in the serious neutering of Islam, I could find it in myself to forgive her!

    I also learned a lot from your comment to my blog; I did NOT know that "Politics" had not been translated in early times. The heavy influence of Plato is so apparent--an elite corps showing all of the "little people" how they must lead their lives... This whole idea came from Plato's attempt to solve the epistemological problem of concept formation, and it was this very point that led to the serious argument that Aristotle had with Plato and that did very significant damage to their personal relationship.

    Avarroes is one of my heros; I turly believe that there would not be a United States today if it weren't for what he did. Oh, there would be Europeans in North America, but without him, would Aristotle have kick-started the Renaissance etc?

    He was the last chance that Islam had to take a different course. The fundamentalists had only recently established themselves, and if some of those in the western part of the Islamic world had taken advantage of what he had to say...oh, well.

    There is just NO WAY, in my humble opinion, that he could be so very interested in Aristotle and simultaneously have been a truly devoted Muslim. A "born-again Mu'tazilite," maybe, but not a true-blue Muslim. Rumor has it that he was the son of parents who had been forced to convert, and history tells how, at the end of his life, his works were all destroyed. Fortunately, of course, many had already made their way into non-Muslim territory! He was held in such low regard by his North African colleagues over his devotion to Aristotle that he barely made it into Paradise with the proper credentials. Rumor also had it that he was sent into what amounted to exile, where he died under suspicious circumstances.

    What a movie! Maybe the book should come first...

    The Muslims really tied it all up by limiting artistic expression--art was certainly to be feared by them as a sort of "stealth" teacher of philosophy. Can't have that, now, can we? Surely art must be one of the most feared branches of philosophy for Islam.

    Thank you so much for your very interesting comment. I'll try to get some sources on the Mu'tazilites to you; what I have comes from scattered sources--you may already have everything I have, but I'll give it the ol' college try!


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