[This post is part of the Solutions series.]
Before the reconstruction of the Quranic State can begin, we need to know who its constructors are. What manner of person is willing to march into a storm, the likes of which made even the prophets nervous? This time they won’t even have a prophet to lead them. They have only the Quran and their intellect to rely on. That’s the point of a final revelation. The training wheels are off. The stakes have been raised. Our species will either destroy itself, or figure it out.
This will be an exploratory analysis to understand what makes these constructors different. The Quran calls them the Muhsineen. I consider them as God’s operators. An “operator” in physics, is a function that evolves the system. That is the purpose of the Muhsineen, to spur the evolution of human civilization. An “operator” is also a term used by special operations forces, which is apt here because God has ordered them to accomplish a seemingly impossible mission. One way to begin understanding the Muhsineen, is to compare this Quranic archetype with the other major contenders. I have chosen the traditional Knight of Faith and the modern Übermensch as the competition, to see how the Muhsineen stack up.
The term “Knight of Faith” comes from Kierkegaard, while “Übermensch” is Nietzsche’s. Neither Kierkegaard nor Nietzsche originated these competing models. But they did describe them best. Just as the Quran defined its own ideal, which existed before its revelation. All three are powerful archetypes, offering competing ideals for humanity to aspire to. I will reduce each to its essence, so we can compare their relative merits.
We must understand that the aim of all three models is the same. They all try to solve the crises of suffering in the human condition. This phenomenon of suffering and the desire to overcome it breathes fire into each model. Beyond all the intellectual abstractions, at their very core, each archetype is essentially a prescription for this one ailment, that most vicious of demons that resides in everyone. It afflicts us all in different forms, at varying levels of intensity. Few have experienced its full effect, in all its vicious glory. Fewer still, have survived with their soul still intact.
I’ll begin with the Knight of Faith, which is the traditional ideal that religion has always driven its followers towards. The essence of this archetype is given in Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. Kierkegaard examines the figure of the prophet Abraham, and the biblical version of the events of his famous sacrifice. Muslims usually get hung-up on which son was being sacrificed, as usual, completely missing the point. That is not the important difference between the Quranic and the Biblical narratives. Here is Genesis 22:1-2, note the words carefully, they will be compared to the Quran later:
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”
This is the crises of the Knight of Faith. God (allegedly) orders His Knight to commit murder, and not just murder anyone, but his beloved son who was innocent. How do the religous reconcile this with their intellect? This biblical narrative represents much more than Abraham’s personal dilemma. It comes across the problem of evil in philosophy and the very definition of morality. Let’s read some Kierkegaard at length, as he has explained the faith ideal more beautifully, and honestly, than any other philosopher, perhaps in the history of all religion. I’ve added emphasis to the parts that are crucial:1
“Why then did Abraham do it? For God’s sake, and (in complete identity with this) for his own sake. He did it for God’s sake because God required this proof of his faith; for his own sake he did it in order that he might furnish the proof. The unity of these two points of view is perfectly expressed by the word which has always been used to characterize this situation: it is a trial, a temptation (Fristelse ). A temptation-but what does that mean? What ordinarily tempts a man is that which would keep him from doing his duty, but in this case the temptation is itself the ethical…which would keep him from doing God’s will. Here is evident the necessity of a new category if one would understand Abraham. Such a relationship to the deity paganism did not know. The tragic hero does not enter into any private relationship with the deity, but for him the ethical is the divine, hence the paradox implied in his situation can be mediated in the universal.” (117)
“For faith is this paradox, that the particular is higher than the universal… If this be not faith, then Abraham is lost, then faith has never existed in the world… because it has always existed. For if the ethical (i.e. the moral) is the highest thing…. then one needs no other categories besides those which the Greeks possessed or which by consistent thinking can be derived from them.” (108-109)
“Therefore, though Abraham arouses my admiration, he at the same time appalls me. He who denies himself and sacrifices himself for duty gives up the finite in order to grasp the infinite, and that man is secure enough…. But he who gives up the universal in order to grasp something still higher which is not the universal-what is he doing? … He suffers all the pain of the tragic hero, he brings to naught his joy in the world, he renounces everything … and perhaps at the same instant debars himself from the sublime joy which to him was so precious that he would purchase it at any price. Him the beholder cannot understand nor let his eye rest confidently upon him. Perhaps it is not possible to do what the believer proposes, since it is indeed unthinkable. Or if it could be done, but if the individual had misunderstood the deity-what can save him?” (118)
“Before the result, either Abraham was every minute a murderer, or we are confronted by a paradox which is higher than all mediation. The story of Abraham contains therefore a teleological suspension of the ethical. As the individual he became higher than the universal. This is the paradox which does not permit of mediation. It is just as inexplicable how he got into it as it is inexplicable how he remained in it. If such is not the position of Abraham, then he is not even a tragic hero but a murderer. To want to continue to call him the father of faith, to talk of this to people who do not concern themselves with anything but words, is thoughtless. A man can become a tragic hero by his own powers-but not a knight of faith. When a man enters upon the way, in a certain sense the hard way of the tragic hero, many will be able to give him counsel; to him who follows the narrow way of faith no one can give counsel, him no one can understand. Faith is a miracle, and yet no man is excluded from it; for that in which all human life is unified is passion, and faith is a passion.” (128)
“… What every man has not a right to do, is to make others believe that faith is something lowly, or that it is an easy thing, whereas it is the greatest and the hardest… For the movements of faith must constantly be made by virtue of the absurd, yet in such a way, be it observed, that one does not lose the finite but gains it every inch. For my part I can well describe the movements of faith, but I cannot make them… (be that a duty or whatever it may be), in spite of the fact that I would do it more than gladly…. I can walk about existence on my head; but the next thing I cannot do, for I cannot perform the miraculous, but can only be astonished by it.” (103, 79, 102-103, 77)
This, above, is the most powerful exposition of faith, I believe, ever written by any human. It is both beautiful, and heartbreaking, because it was written by someone who’s heart had been shattered. Kierkegaard himself was caught in a crisis at the time he wrote this, and was honest and wise enough to know the limitations of his paradigm. He describes what real faith entails, but admits that he can’t see how anyone, least of all himself, would be capable of ever reaching it without a miracle, because it is inherently paradoxical.
There are multiple ways to expand on this “movement” of faith that Kierkegaard is referring to. One way is the Divine Command Theory (DCT) according to which God’s command essentially equals morality, and is prior to any other requirement.2 There are nuances of course. Some philosophers believe Kierkegaard subscribed to DCT, while others believe his model “transcends” ethics, and so differs from DCT. But such philosophical musings are besides the point for Muslims. I will show later on when we get to the Quran, that such a debate is simply unnecessary for us, given the Quranic version of this event.
The example of Abraham, is an extreme one. Kierkegaard confronts it so we can appreciate the gravity of the issue. But he also provides a more relatable example. He creates a scenario based on romantic love. He posits that a peasant of modest means falls in love with a princess. This is also a crises, and Kierkegaard establishes three categories of responses to it, each defining a mutually exclusive set of people:3 4 5
- The Aesthetic Slave, is Kierkegaard’s average person. This man will abandon his ‘love’ for the princess, deeming it “foolish.” He will settle for some match he can easily attain.
- The Tragic Hero, or the Knight of Infinite Resignation, exists in the realm of the ethical, and Kierkegaard believes everyone should at least try and live up to this ideal. This man does not abandon his love for the princess. However, he gives up hope of being with her in this finite world: “Spiritually speaking, everything is possible, but in the world of the finite there is much which is not possible. This impossible, however, the knight makes possible by expressing it spiritually, but he expresses it spiritually by waiving his claim to it.“
- Then comes the Knight of Faith: “He makes exactly the same movements as the other knight (tragic hero,) infinitely renounces claim to the love which is the content of his life, he is reconciled in pain; but then occurs the prodigy, he makes still another movement more wonderful than all, for he says, ‘I believe nevertheless that I shall get her, in virtue, that is, of the absurd, in virtue of the fact that with God all things are possible.'”
This analogy directly parallels the case of Abraham. The difference is that the stakes have been reduced, by an order of magnitude, to seemingly relatable levels. What makes the Knight of Faith miraculous, is that he can overcome the apex of suffering, and continue his mission, without collapsing into the tragic hero. The Knight of Faith feels the loss initially as much as our tragic hero, but through an absurd and miraculous faith, overcomes the suffering completely and resolves to march onward, conquering the finite. This is exactly what Abraham will have to do in order to survive.
Can anyone claim to understand how a father, after killing his innocent and beloved son, would overcome the suffering that will inevitably follow, let alone be able carry the existing burden of his already exhausting mission? No. It is not possible to claim such a feat is understandable, without an appeal to the absurd/miraculous/paradoxical. One might claim that in the romantic analogy, the ‘double movement’ of the Knight of Faith is understandable. Any person claiming that, has never experienced love. The analogy holds because it provides an appearance of a situation that seems relatable. Think of it like representing a 3D cube on 2D paper. It seems like it’s actually 3D, but it isn’t. Both ‘double movements’ in either scenario, are equally impossible. One of them just seems like it is understandable, so we can get a sense of it. That is the brilliance of Kierkegaard at work.
This I believe, is the essence of faith. We can never understand it, because it is a paradox. All attempts to explain it rationally, will fail. This is the crippling flaw of this archetype. The ‘Achilles heel’ of the Knight of Faith, is faith itself. It was this weakness that when finally exposed, lost it the war. Today the Knight exists only as a shadow, a ghost of its past glory.
Next, comes the Übermensch, the archetype which decisively defeated and overthrew the Knight of Faith from the center of collective conscioussness. I covered this ideal in the Western Abyss. I won’t repeat the details of its influence on society and (most tragically) science. I will, however; quickly review its basic tenet, and then analyze how the Übermensch fought and defeated the Knight.
Unlike the Knight, the Übermensch is not a paradox. It is a much simpler creature. He declares that he has killed God and claims the throne of divinity for himself. Like the Knight of Faith, he also rejects resignation, transcending it, by resolving to conquer the finite. The difference is that he does it through the sheer force of his ‘will to power,‘ without binding himself to any paradoxical faith, or even an attempted ethics. The only ‘truth’ he has, is that there is no truth, no objective reality. All that exists is desire, and the will (or lack thereof) to satisfy it.
It may seem as if the Übermensch is a purely villainous creature, but he isn’t. He is the inevitable outcome of the Knight of Faith’s thousand year reign. The Übermensch is the Knight’s son. He destroyed his father’s kingdom, his own inheritance, out of despair. This was his response to the suffering that fell upon him as he discovered the kingdom was built upon a lie:6
“Proof by pleasure. – The pleasant opinion is taken to be true: this is the proof by pleasure (or, as the church puts it, the proof by power) of which all religions are so proud, though they ought to be ashamed of it. If the belief did not make blessed it would not be believed: how little, then, will it be worth!”
Let no one be fooled, such “proofs by pleasure” are indeed a lie. The lies are corrected by the Quran, but the Übermensch has no patience to search for other foundations. The Knight of Faith could not answer the damning but valid questions the Übermensch raised. This is what Kierkegaard, and other disciples like Dostoevsky, found so “appalling” about their own faith. They were also fiercely critical of the Church. Yet, they still forced themselves to blindly believe in the paradox, keeping loyal to their Knight, fearing the abyss that would surely consume their civilization if they faltered. They were not stupid men. They knew the rebellion was coming and tried to hold back the Übermensch, with all their intellectual might. But the anger in his despair brought the temple down nonetheless.
Let no one doubt that the reasons behind the Übermensch’s rebellion were completely valid as well. Nietzsche makes it clear how the cancer of faith was used by the “ascetic priests” in order to establish their tyranny. By the early Middle Ages, the priests of Europe realized they could overthrow the other “beasts of prey” and take the crown for themselves. The priestly elite did this by exploiting the “most powerful organizational device yet known to human history: the ascetic ideal” 7 Nietzsche brilliantly describes how faith became tyranny, in his “Geneology of Morals” and “Human, all too Human.” The following are some powerful excerpts:8 9
“We must count the ascetic priest as the predestined savior, shepherd, and advocate of the sick herd: only thus can we understand his tremendous historical mission. Dominion over the suffering is his kingdom, that is where his instinct directs him, here he possesses his distinctive art, his mastery, his kind of happiness. He must be sick himself, he must be profoundly related to the sick – how else would they understand each other?-but he must also be strong, master of himself even more than of others, with his will to power intact, so as to be both trusted and feared by the sick, so as to be their support, resistance, prop, compulsion, taskmaster, tyrant, and god. He has to defend his herd-against whom? Against the healthy, of course, and also against envy of the healthy; he must be the natural opponent and despiser of all rude, stormy, unbridled, hard, violent beast-of-prey health and might.” (GM, III:15)
“The Catholic Church, and before it all the cults of antiquity, had command of the whole domain of the means by which man is transported into unfamiliar states and robbed of the ability to calculate coolly or to think clearly.” (HH, sec. 130)
“The influence of a man and his work has never yet grown great without his blind pupils. To help a perception to achieve victory often means merely to unite it with stupidity so intimately that the weight of the latter also enforces the victory of the former.” (HH, sec 122)
“Thus a child believes in the judgements of its parents, the Christian in the assertions of the founder of the Church.”(HH, sec 53)
“No power could maintain itself if its advocates were nothing but hypocrites; however many ‘worldly’ elements it may possess, the strength of the Catholic Church rests on those priestly natures, still very numerous, whose lives are hard and full of meaning and whose glance and wasted bodies speak of nightwatches, fasting, fervent prayer, perhaps even of flagellation; these men deeply affect other men and inspire them with fear: what if it were needful to live thus? – that is the dreadful question the sight of them lays on the tongue. By propagating this doubt they continually establish further pillars of their power; even the free-thinkers do not dare to confront the man selfless in this way with a harsh sense of truth and say to him: ‘Deceived yourself, cease to deceive!’ -“(HH sec 55)
“In this way Christianity as a dogma was destroyed by its own morality; in the same way Christianity as morality must now perish too…” (GM, III:27)
These are the weapons with which the Übermensch waged his war upon the Knight. This is the crises of the Übermensch. He rejected the cancer of faith, but what is infinitely worse, he has become the cancer himself. The Übermensch has blind faith in himself, his own creative ability, his will to achieve his desire, which is his god. This archetype has always existed as a response to religion. But now he is finally let loose upon the entire world. As the Übermensch established his own kingdom, our species became a cancer for this planet. We have now “become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
The God of the Quran knows the Übermensch, declaring his eternal despair in verse 45:23:
“Then seest thou such a one as takes as his god his own vain desire? Allah has, knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart (and understanding), and put a cover on his sight. Who, then, will guide him after Allah (has withdrawn Guidance)? Will ye not then receive admonition?”
But the Quran also knows the Knight of Faith, and its cancerous consequences, (9:34):
“O ye who believe! There are indeed many among the priests and monks, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder from the way of Allah. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah: announce unto them a most grievous penalty”
Thus we arrive at the Quran, which counters both the Knight of Faith, and the Übermensch, with its own archetype of the Muhsineen. Like Kierkegaard, who lamented at never having encountered his ideal, I’ve also never personally met anyone who lives up to this paragon of character. Also like Kierkegaard, if I ever met one, I would obssessively start studying such a specimen. However, unlike his Knight, the Muhsineen are understandable. They require no miracles or paradoxes to exist, as we will see. This is an archetype that is actually attainable. I won’t cover all the details of their character mentioned in the Quran, just the core differences which set them apart from the Knight and the Übermensch.
This set of individuals is classed with the prophets themselves (6:84). They are trusted by God, who has declared that He will never abandon them, because they are unwavering (31:22). In order to establish the differences between the Muhsineen and the other archetypes, I’ll use two case studies. The first is the narrative of Abraham, as it exists in the Quran, which is a correction to the Biblical narrative. This will be used to counter the Knight. The second will be Joseph’s narrative in the Quran, which will counter the Übermensch.
In the Quranic narrative, proceeding chronologically, first Abraham tells his son that he had a “dream.” God doesn’t say He tempted/tested Abraham in this verse, unlike Genesis, and this is important. In verse 105, when revelation does come to Abraham, in order to stop him from basically committing murder, the word used by God to describe his dream is “l-ru’yā.” The root here is رآى and it is associated with “mental perception.“10 In this verse, God confirms that Abraham’s dream was not a revelation, it was a function of Abraham’s own psychology, which he perceived/interpreted, and did not receive from the Divine.
This is the point at which the word for “trial” or “test” is used, in verse 106, after it has been confirmed that the actual dream was not a Divine order. The sequencing of words and their choice is not trivial. The “trial” for Abraham was to use his judgement to reject the incorrect notion his own mind had generated, that God had ordered him to take a life “which Allah has forbidden except for the requirements of justice” in verse 6:151. There is no “justice” in taking an innocent life, nor is there much consistency in a God who issues contradictory commands.
God stops Abraham before he murders his innocent son, and this is the “reward of the muh’sinīna.” It was not a reward for blindly following a contradictory command, which did not exist. G.A. Parwez comments on this verse, explaining that the reason God was still pleased with Abraham, despite the fact that he failed the test, was because Abraham was dedicated and unwavering, even in failure, and that still counts for something.11 Failure, after all, is unavoidable for us mere mortals, even for prophets. Failure teaches, if one is willing to learn. This is why the Quran states in verse 33:5: “There is no blame on you concerning that in which you made a mistake, but only that which you do intentionally. God is All-forgiving and All-merciful.”
This difference in the narrative completely changes the nature of Islam in relation to Judeo-Christianity, which the Knight of Faith is bound to. The moral of the Judeo-Christian narrative is to blindly follow God. This is an objective basis, but it is also an absurd basis. While the moral of the Quranic story is twofold. 1) Use your judgement to avoid mistakes, and 2) God protects the Muhsineen from catastrophic errors in judgement, which all humans invariably make. Thus, the conflict of ethics versus morality is completely alien to Islam, as defined by the Quran. In Islam, morality does not contradict itself, like it does in the Bible. Thus, the Muhsineen simply sidestep the crises that traps the Knight of Faith.
To deal with the Übermensch, I’ll present the case of Joseph. Let’s first understand that even though the Übermensch is a simple creature, the factors that lead to its rise are not. On the one hand, the Knight’s paradox fueled its anger, because it is an absurd explanation demanding blind obedience, which was hijacked by the priestly elite. This is easily dealt with above. But on the other hand, there is that apex of suffering that still requires a solution, which is much more complicated. This mental state has many forms, the Knight’s heartbreak in Kierkegaard’s example, the “the dark knight of the soul”, an “existential crises” etc. It has many names. I call this psychological phenomenon the demon. Not just any demon, but that demon. The one that can shatter your soul and your connection to an objective reality. The Knight of Faith defeated it with a paradox. But it was a Pyrrhic victory. The paradox became its own undoing, and the Knight’s fall gave rise to the Übermensch, who is possessed by it.
The twelfth chapter of the Quran is dedicated to an individual who battled this demon, and conquered it. Joseph’s story is declared as “the best of narratives” in the Quran. This chapter, like most, is multilayered. There are obvious lessons on the surface, but beneath them are deeper lessons. Usually, Joseph’s story is cited to support a case for chastity. He was indeed chaste, and that is part of the message. Another common reason for its citation is its supposedly miraculous nature. But there are no miracles in this chapter, or any other of the Quran. I won’t tackle the issue of miracles here, as that deserves a dedicated argument. Suffice it to say, no law of physics is being violated in the narrative of Joseph. The dreams which he could interpret are the subject of consciousness and that which lies beyond it, neither of which we can even define, let alone construct a physical theory for. Hence, no law of physics is being violated here. All claims of miracles in the Quran are either incorrect literal interpretations of allegorical verses, or misunderstandings of the content itself. But I digress…
I’ll skip to the part where Joseph lands in prison. Imagine his situation thus far in the story. First he loses his father at a young age, because his own step-brothers leave him for dead in a desert, out of envy. He gets abducted and taken to a foreign land and is then sold into slavery. If that isn’t bad enough, while in Egypt living as a slave, he gets thrown into prison based on a false accusation. And why? Because he wouldn’t commit fornication with a woman, the wife of his master, who desired him passionately. He followed God’s laws throughout his ordeals, but what did he get for it? God threw him in prison. He found no help in any human, not his family, not his slave owner, nor the other prisoners. He was trapped alone with these thoughts, a prison within a prison. His life, had become hell, and for what? What did he do to deserve losing his youth, his freedom, his family? Even his honor was falsely tarnished. All he did was follow God’s laws, and for that he lost everything, now trapped, alone, in a foreign land.
This is where the story goes dark. The Quran states that Joseph remained in prison, presumably for a few years. No mention is made about what happens to him during this time. But if we analyze the state of Joseph’s personality, before and after, it is clear that something profound took place during this missing period in the story. This crucial piece of the puzzle God has hidden from us. I presume that is because it covers something intensely personal, between God and Joseph, and no one else is allowed in that space. However, God has given us a way to connect the dots.
The key here is to look at the character delta, i.e. the change in Joseph’s personality before the story goes dark and when the narrative resumes. When Joseph first enters prison, he can’t wait to get out. He pleads with another prisoner to get his master to help him. But presumably years later, when the Pharaoh himself grants him a royal pardon, he rejects it! By now, he would rather stay in prison than be released before he is fully exonerated of all wrongdoing. Outwardly at least, the present reality no longer scares him, nor even his possibly darker future! Whereas previously, he was desperate and afraid enough to ask other prisoners for help, now he is placing demands on the Pharaoh! Clearly, this is a profound change in his character, and it occurs during the missing period.
This is where the battle with the demon occurs, when the story goes dark, hidden from view. Imagine the questions that might have tormented Joseph while he was in prison. Was this simply pain without purpose that God was inflicting upon him? That would imply God is evil. Can God be evil? Maybe He simply doesn’t care, or maybe He doesn’t even exist. Maybe everything Joseph thought he knew about God was a delusion, and life is a result of deterministic chaos in the universe, which would explain all this seemingly senseless suffering. But if there is a God, and He is good, and there is a non chaotic order to the universe, then why this suffering? What’s the lesson here?
I would guess that such questions appeared in Joseph’s mind, and if so, he was surely tormented by their very occurrence. He was only human. This was his battle with the demon. This was his moment of crises. Like the ones the believers faced in the Battle of Uhud (33:10-11):
“Eyes became dull and hearts almost reached the throat, when they attacked you from above and below, and you started to think of God with suspicion. There the believers were tested and shaken, with a severe shaking.”
The difference between the hypocrites and the believers, was that the latter survived this “shaking” and stood firm, while the former wavered and said: “Allah and His Messenger promised us nothing except delusion!” (33:12) At this point, Joseph had to choose a path through his suffering. The following are the options he had on this multiple choice exam:
- The Aesthetic Slave: Surrender individuality, and thus responsibility, adapt and live within the current dynamic.
- The Tragic Hero: Surrender individuality in the finite, hope for justice in the afterlife.
- The Knight of Faith: Assert independence internally via appealing to the absurd.
- The Übermensch: Assert independence internally and externally, by revolting against God, i.e. Absolute Reality.
- None of the Above…
Joseph chose #5, because the path of the Muhsineen is distinct from all of the above. He learned something that none of the other archetypes understand. The key to defeating the demon is to: Assert independence by revolting against all unjust dynamics, seeking help only from God, and accepting responsibility for one’s own decisions. After all, Joseph himself chose prison over fornicating with the woman who tried to seduce him. Joseph also chose to remain a slave in Egypt that whole time.
To one extent or another, every adult has a hand in the results they see. Even if one is completely righteous in an action, but the result of such an action brings more misery, even that misery is then chosen, and one must withstand it with patience and perseverance, holding firm to the principle and the path one chose to walk. There is no guarantee of victory in the finite, and yet the chances of it greatly increase using such a strategy. This is speaking of archetypes like Joseph, while for us regular folk, the scales are usually heavily tilted towards self sabotage anyway.
This is how the Muhsineen, the Quranic operators, assert their independence and overcome suffering. They do not retreat into the absurd, nor do they revolt against God and abandon objective reality. First they must become aware of the root causes of suffering in the human condition and then they must actively oppose/correct them, truthfully accepting blame for their own mistakes along the way. It is almost never the case that man shares no part of the blame in an affliction, and even when he/she is purely oppressed unjustly, even then the Muhsineen do not retreat into any form of absurdity. This is a drastic change within the mind, a paradigm shift. It forces the psyche to focus on the bigger picture, extracting it from the downward spiral of dark thoughts. Once this switch is flipped, it not only changes Joseph, but the entire universe around him. Notice what happens in the story when it resumes. Before, almost everything in Joseph’s life was conspiring against him. But now, the universe itself turns to his help. Everything starts falling into place.
When the story resumes, the Pharaoh has an ominous dream he wants interpreted and the forgetful prisoner in his court finally remembers Joseph. He goes back to the prison and Joseph gives him the interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dream, but this time Joseph does not bother asking for his help. The Pharaoh issues a royal decree demanding the release of Joseph, but Joseph refuses the pardon! He does not want any favors from any man, which would make him dependent on them. Joseph issues a counter-demand to the Pharaoh, that he must hold an inquiry into the matter of his incarceration, and determine who the guilty party was. The Pharaoh obliges, and the woman finally admits that she tried to seduce Joseph. Keep in mind, Joseph had no way of knowing which way the verdict would land. It was still his word against her’s. The odds were against him. For all he knew, he would have been deemed guilty once again and stay in prison, or worse. But this time, the woman confesses! It seems from her confession that she had a genuine conversion to Islam while Joseph was in prison. At this point, Joseph has impressed the King of Egypt, one of the most powerful rulers in the world, and the Pharaoh grants him whatever he wants. Joseph chooses to stay in Egypt to help it manage the coming drought. Seven years pass as he diligently works to help humanity. During this period, he does not even ask the Pharaoh for help in finding his family, because that would also be a favor that would indebt him. Again the universe yields to help Joseph, by uniting him with his family nonetheless. Notice that when his step brothers come to Egypt during the period of drought, Joseph is in a position of great authority. He is responsible for managing the storehouses of Egypt, which are responsible for feeding the entire population in this time of severe drought. What were the odds that his step-brothers would have encountered Joseph? He just happens to be in the right place, at the right time. This initiates another series of events, which finally reunites him with his father. Joseph stuck to his guns, it was the universe that yielded.
This is how the operators assert their independence. Not by adapting to unjust systems or resigning their hopes in the finite, nor do they passively appeal to the absurd, doing nothing to correct the world or themselves, and they certainly do not compromise on an objective reality to raise their own desires above everything else! Their independence is asserted by focusing their will to power towards resisting the pressure to surrender their independence, by correcting their internal weaknesses, and also exploiting all opportunities to change the entire system for everyone’s benefit. This is how they defeat the demon, by figuring out where it hides, and attacking its home base. The goal of the demon is to enslave one’s psyche to something, fear, bitterness, regret, desire etc. That is what suffering is, that is Hell. If it’s a fear, by what right does it exist? God has allowed no enslavement to fear, period. If it is a regret, then repentance/tawba is the cure. If it is a valid desire within the scope of God’s boundaries, then who dares to forbid what God has allowed in His universe? And bitterness can not exist without ignorance of one’s own faults, or a lack of patience. I’ll put this in terms of Kierkegaard’s desire scenario, if the princess and peasent want to be together, and the social system keeps them apart, then that system is God’s enemy, and the task of God’s operators will be to bring about an evolution towards a better system.
This is the directive, the mission of the Muhsineen, as defined by verse 31:1-3. Their task is to establish the Quranic State based on salah and zakah. These are not the Empty Rituals ‘muslims’ think they are, as explained in a previous post. Islam is not a paradoxical ritualistic dogma, like the one which brought down the Knight of Faith. Nor is it this vicious nightmare of the Übermensch, where all humanity is reduced to a set of ‘financial incentives,’ competing to cut each other’s throat and destroy the entire planet’s ecosystem along the way. Wolfgang Streeck, a German economic sociologist, recently declared that this “crises penetrates into social life in such a way that social life cannot even reproduce itself anymore.“12 He is referring here to the “deepening social disintegration” caused by this same system, which is now resulting in a “catastrophic” fall in birth rates across Europe.
The Quran provides the Economic and Political Axioms to foster social integration, justice, independence, growth and development for all humanity. The goal of God’s operators is to construct and maintain a Quranic State based on those axioms. It is this set of individuals, His constructors, who He helps directly, and He doesn’t need any miracles to do it. The universe He designed is geared to help the Muhsineen, when they resolve to truly walk the path He wants them to walk on. Events unfold according to His design, and are influenced by our responses to the trials we face in our lives.
Sidenote: This may seem absurd at first, but it only requires a suspension of “locality” not “realism.” And we have to choose one or the other anyway, given Bell’s Theorem. As this choice in Quantum Mechanics is covered in detail in the previous essay, I won’t repeat those details here. But I will further recommend the reader to see the collaborative effort of Wolfgang Pauli (one of the greatest physicist in history) and Carl Jung (one of the best psychologists) on what they termed “Synchronicity.” It is not a science (yet) and may never be, but what their work shows is that such a phenomenon, even though it may be outside the scope of science, is not in contradiction to it either. Keep in mind that Pauli was an extremely sharp intellect. After all, this is the same man who coined the term “not even wrong!” to dismiss ridiculous ideas. Just the fact that he took this speculative field seriously, and granted it space for further inquiry, says a lot. I am not trying to rely on an argument from authority here, but merely proposing that such a concept should not be dismissed outrightly, because it has at least been examined by Pauli himself, who took it seriously.
This is how Joseph won the finite in the end, because the finite has been made subservient to the Muhsineen, through dynamics as yet unknown to us. This was the significance of Joseph’s dream in the beginning of the chapter, verse 12:4:
“O my father, indeed I have seen eleven stars and the sun and the moon; I saw them prostrating to me.”
This is why the “angels” bowed to Adam. The forces governing events in our lives bow to the Muhsineen. This is how God designed our universe. There are the laws of physics that govern mass/energy, but beyond them is a deeper set of laws, that connect conciousness with mass/energy, non-locally, but without breaking the bounds of realism. It is by this set of deeper laws that all past civilizations that defied God met the dust. It is by them that a prophet born in a desert, created a Quranic State with the help of God and a handful of Muhsineen in a single village, which submitted all of Arabia and the opposing superpowers. It is by this same set of laws that such a revolution can happen again, if the Muhsineen arise once more, but this time, without a prophet.
- Søren Kierkegaard, “Fear and Trembling: A Dialectical Lyric.” trans. Walter Lorrie. ISBN 978-0-691-15831-0 ↩
- Manis, R. Zachary. “Kierkegaard and Divine-Command Theory: Replies to Quinn and Evans.” Religious Studies, vol. 45, no. 3, 2009, pp. 289–307. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27750019. ↩
- Kierkegaard, Fear & Trembling, p 86 ↩
- Kierkegaard, Fear & Trembling, p89 ↩
- Kierkegaard, Fear & Trembling, p 94 ↩
- Nietzsche. Human, all too Human, sec. 120, trans. Hollingdale ↩
- Christa Davis Acampora (Editor) (2006). Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals: Critical Essays. “How We Became What We Are,” Daniel W. Conway. pp. 316. ISBN 978-0-7425-4263-1. ↩
- Nietzsche, On the Geneology of Morals, trans. Kaufmann & Hollingdale. ↩
- Nietzsche. Human, all too Human, trans. Hollingdale ↩
- Arabic-English Lexicon by Edward William Lane. http://www.tyndalearchive.com/tabs/lane/ ↩
- G.A.Parwez Audio Lecture (Urdu Language), September 12 1980 – As Saffat. Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/04SuraAsSaffatAyat100122 ↩
- CBC Radio: Ideas, with Paul Kennedy. (Guest: Wolfgang Streeck.) Feb 9, 2017. “Surviving Post-Capitalism: Coping, hoping, doping & shopping”. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/surviving-post-capitalism-coping-hoping-doping-shopping-1.3973042 ↩