Remembering Uzza

If the story of Islam was told to me in a pub

(1st draft)

2.3 Who Are You Calling Stupid?

Uzza: I've talked too much. Maybe I should leave.

Archie: I'm sorry; it's just that sometimes the stupidity of the Arabs just pisses me off.

Uzza: ARABS ARE NOT STUPID! I am not an Arab but I know they are not stupid, just like the vast majority of Muslims, who, by the way are not Arabs, and also not stupid. If Muhammad had not revealed the Koran when he did, an Arab, not a Jew would probably have discovered relativity and long before Einstein did.

Gerry: How so?

Uzza: The pagans Muhammad was trying to convert had a very modern outlook on the nature of our existence. You might even have called the pagan Arabs the first atheists. When told that it was Allah which caused them to grow old and die, and if they worshipped Him and only Him, He would bring them back to life and admit them into His Paradise, they said this was nonsense. They told anyone who would listen that there was only this life and that it was destroyed by the passage of time; what we know today as entropy. When Allah heard this, He repeated what they said in His Koran and accused them of not knowing what they were talking about. He said they were only "conjecturing".

Gerry: Conjecturing correctly as it turned out.

Bob: What has the discovery of this entropy have to to do with relativity?

Uzza: [looking at Archie, then at Bob] And you call Arabs stupid. Entropy is all about the impact of the passage of time which Einstein identified as the fourth dimension.

Bob: Who are you calling stupid?

Uzza: It was nothing. I didn't mean it. [turning to Gerry] If Allah had not insisted that, what we now know as entropy was nothing but conjecture, an Arab would undoubtedly have discovered relativity long before Einstein did. They were that smart!

Archie: So what happened?

Uzza: Isn't obvious?

Archie: But, if I said it I could be arrested.

Uzza: And I could be killed. The Koran asks us to believe with certainty in what it contains. To believe with certainty in revealed truths is to abandon our ability to reason and arrive at logical conclusions. The result of this capitulation to what the pre-Islamic Arabs called nonsense, was the Arabs of T. E. Lawrence.

Bob: Are we talking about Lawrence of Arabia?

Uzza: Yes. As much as he loved and admired the courage and perseverance of the Arabs with whom he fought the Turks, he never understood their outlook on life. What he wrote about them in Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a sad testament to what happens to even the brightest when scriptures overwhelm the mind.

They were a people of primary colours, or rather of black and white … They were a dogmatic people, despising doubt, our modern crown of thorns. They did not understand our metaphysical difficulties, our introspective questioning. They only knew truth and untruth, belief and unbelief, without our hesitating retinue of finer shades...

This people was black and white not merely in clarity, but in apposition. Their thoughts were at ease only in extremes … they never compromised; they pursued the logic of several incompatible opinions to absurd ends, without perceiving the incongruity.

They were a limited, narrow-minded people, whose inert intellect lay fallow in curious resignation. Their imaginations were vivid, but not creative.

Gerry: But Muslims, Arabs and Persians mostly, did make substantial contribution to science; astronomy and mathematics in particular?

Uzza: That was mostly during the short-lived Muslim Renaissance.

Bob: There was a Renaissance before the Renaissance?

Uzza: Between the 8th and 10th century, when Islam was in its infancy, there emerged an Islamic school of thought largely influence by Plato and Aristotle and which became known as Mu’tazilism or Philosophy of Rationalism, or simply Islamic Philosophy. The most emblematic philosopher of the period, al-Kindi wrote: "We should not be ashamed to acknowledge truth from whatever source it comes to us, even if it is brought to us by former generations and foreign people. For him who seeks the truth there is nothing of higher value than truth itself."

Bob: WOW!

Uzza: Mu'tazilites argued that the Koran should not be taken literally and that human reason was more reliable than scriptures.

Bob: WOW again!

Uzza: The leaders of the believers of the time, the most noteworthy being Caliphs al-Ma'mun, Mu'tasim Billah and Wathiq actively supported this sensible open-minded interpretation, allowing it to thrive, until dogma reasserted itself with a vengeance and revelation again smothered reason.

Gerry: That is really too bad.

Uzza: For both you and us. Today, the man most responsible for Mu’tazilism is reviled by Islamists and al-Ghazali, the man most responsible for its demise is celebrated as one of the greatest thinkers of all times.

It is not a coincidence that most of Islam’s substantial contribution to the advancement of science was from this period when Mu’tazilism was accepted by the Caliphate as a legitimate Islamic school of thought.

Gerry: That would also explain why the Muslim world which constitutes 21 percent of the world’s population has produced only 10 Nobel Prize laureates, with only two in the physical sciences, physics and chemistry, while the Jews who constitute about .02 percent of the world's population taking an incredible 892, 22% of all Nobel prized given out to-date.

Uzza: It's depressing, isn't it?

Bob:  Not if you're Jewish.

Uzza: [makes Uzza smile if only for an instant] Not to be overlooked is the requirements of an Islamic education where priority is given to learning Arabic and attempting to memorize the Koran in its entirety; the negative impact on critical thinking just as damaging, if not more, than the time not available to non-religious subjects which Islamists consider very much a pre-occupation of the ignorant as is time not spent at prayer or glorifying Allah.

If excessive worship is the answer, than the world may eventually owe Islam an enormous debt.  

Archie: I apologize. What I took for stupidly is simply, from your explanations, the result of indoctrination. But, surely, the preachers and the so-called Islamic scholars who believe in flying horses and that the earth is flat and Paradise a few miles up are not praying with a full set of beads.

Uzza: The preachers and scholars are the smartest of the smart. I doubt very much that they believe in what you said was a fairy tale. They know that religion is not so much about belief but about control, control over people who want to believe, and that is most of us, that there is more to our existence than meets the eye.

Gerry: Then, you agree with Marx that religion is an opiate exploited by people who would rule over us.

Archie: That would explain why the faithful tend to be immune to a slow burning planet. They're all stoned on religion.

Uzza: That is funny, what you just said Archie, but also what Gerry said, because that is almost exactly what the leaders of Mecca said to Muhammad when he told them he was sent by God to instruct them on how Allah wanted to be worshipped and how they must behave if they did not want to burn in His Hell for an eternity.

Gerry: Speaking of who said what. Someone said a long time ago that religion was invented when man first became aware that he was mortal and could not deal with it. Which is why religion made death a sort of a rite of passage, not the end, but a new beginning. Islam, from my understanding, has been the most effective in alleviating this fear by actually making death something you yearn for.

Uzza: That is true to a large extent, the suicide bomber a constant reminder of the effectiveness of this siren's call. Are you sure you have not read the Koran?

Gerry: Yes, I'm sure. But everyone of course has heard somebody quoting from it, especially to distance the religion from those who commit terrible things in its name.

Uzza: One of the most effective battle cries of the Koran, and there are many, is about this yearning for death, "You were yearning for death before you actually met it. Now you have seen it and you are beholding it." Allah said.

Archie: That is not distancing anyone!

Bob: Guys, speaking of battles, remember Badr...

Archie: [ignoring him] The preachers and scholars control the masses by instilling a fear of god whose instructions they claim to understand better than anyone and have a duty to enforce. Right?

Uzza: Yes. Also a fear of them, what you call "a duty to enforce." The big guy who came in earlier was not sent by God.

Archie: That message includes that men are in control of women. Right?

Uzza: Yes. God said that men are in charge of women and can beat them if they don't behave or the man in charge fears they will misbehave because they spend money on their maintenance and are superior to them by at least one degree, whatever a degree means. Just more unassailable truths that believing women must put up with if they want to remain in Allah's good graces.

Archie: So, what's in it for the women?

Uzza: What women?

Archie: The veiled women you see on television all the time and on the internet who defend Islam. They scare me more than the men. They are so in your face!

Uzza: You've answered you own question.

Archie: How's that?

Uzza: Some women, just like many men enjoy bullying people. They too feed on the fear they instill in the people they intimidate. For the veiled women you say intimidate you, you are an inferior and many take pleasure, I am sure, in the fear they instill in you by standing up for a religion that uses terror as a means to an end.

Archie: Why would they consider me an inferior?

Uzza: You are an inferior as far as Islam is concerned, an inferior in faith who must inevitably be made to submit to Allah's Will. 

Bob: But didn't you just say that women are inferior to men?

Uzza: One of the Prophet's explanation as to why Allah put men in charge is that women are inferior in faith therefore can't be trusted to follow Allah's Law to the letter. They may be inferior in beliefs to a believing man but they are superior to every unbeliever and that includes all of you. And that means they can bully you and get the satisfaction that their husband must get from bullying them. Bullying is contagious, within the family, from generation to generation and within the umma.

Bob: What is a umma?

Uzza: It means the community of believers. It is just another transliteration of an Arab word, and a very evocative one at that, that you see preachers use during their sermons and believers when talking among themselves in a language other than Arabic as a reminder that it is us against them.

Archie: Transliteration, what's that?

Uzza: It is basically spelling a word in the alphabet of another language so that you can pronounce it.

Bob: So trickle-down bullying is how Islam keeps everyone in line. Got it!

Archie: When you said that as far as Islam is concerned we are inferior in beliefs who must be dealt with one way or another, is that what they mean when they say Islam is a supremacist religion?

Uzza: For Islamists, absolutely.

Bob: Is that like the superior race?

Uzza: No, but the methods used to achieve their goal by both claimant to a greater right to life and the bounty of this world are not dissimilar.

Archie: [in a whisper] Are we talking genocide?

Uzza: The greatest mass-murder of an indigenous people may not have been committed by Hitler, Mao or Stalin but by the Mughals.

Bob: What are Mughals?

Uzza: Mughals were Muslim invaders and rulers of much of the Indian sub-continent. Based on Muslim chronicles of the period, and the demographic calculations done by historian K. S. Lal in his book Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India, it is estimates that between 1000 CE and 1500 CE the population of Hindus decreased by 80 million.

Bob: So?

Uzza: That means that for much of that period the death rate among Hindus exceeded their birthrate. If the eminent historian’s estimates are even remotely accurate, this period would have witnessed the largest cold-blooded killing of an indigenous people, in this instance believers in more than one god for whom death was the only option if they refused to convert, in all written history.

Archie: That is incredible.

Bob: Were the Jews of Badr worried that they would be killed for their beliefs.

Uzza: Yes and no.

Archie: What kind of answer is that?