Penulis (Author) : Gai Eaton
Genre: Religion, Islam, Theology, Philosophy
Tarikh Tamat (Date finished) : 21 Jun 2017
“This is a beautifully written book. It offers a taste of theology, of history, of aesthetics, and of eschatology blended in such a way as to provide a whole and balanced image.” – Parabola
“This book possesses a profound message for both Westerners who are in quest of authentic knowledge of Islam… and for Muslims who are caught in the labyrinth of modern ideas and trends. – S.H Nasr.
The problem of modernity, time, jihad, Shariah, Flat-Earthers, Ignoramus, Horizontal – Vertical, Esoterism, Mysticism, Paradox, Theodicy.
These are to name a few of the things touched by Gai Eaton in his book. Don’t let the jargon fool you for he explained it in a simple way. For me at least.
Having read Muhammad Asad’s Road to Mecca and Muhammad Iqbal’s The Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts, I could not help but notice the similarities in their views and writings with Gai Eaton’s. Although words fail me to describe the common theme or tone of the books, one word that could package it all together is “internalisation”.
Internalisation in the sense that deep thoughts of the religion and not settling for just the superficial and rhetoric but also contemplate on some issues and ideas that either arise due to limitation of mankind or the cultural and local influence on the practice of Islam.
Gai Eaton separated the book into two parts. The first part in answering questions that clash with the Western values and ideals while the second part touches on the fundamentals and principles of Islam.
As you can expect from a learned Westerner, he is well-read in the domain of philosophy and history(Christian history, Iran’s reawakening) ; quoting philosophical and historical occurrence sporadically. In addition to that, I have learned as well to put high expectation on the learned Westerner Muslims to provide a critical view on the Western values and the vertical crisis that are common throughout that side of the world and truly so, Gai Eaton doesn’t disappoint in that sense.
A new term that I encountered from this book is “Flat-Earthers”. Yes. Flat-Earthers. However, this is not the people that argue that the Earth is flat. This refers to men who lived on this Earth such that YOLO (You Only Live Once). This refers to men who lived with only the horizontal connection and ignoring the vertical aspect of life. The vertical aspect here is the concept of religion and God.
The above concept does not only pertain to atheist or agnostics. It also rings true to people of religion as well. Consider this. Some of us have the tendency to do things in the name of God or in the name of religion. Is that so internally or is it just lip-service?
The evergreen problem of women:-
I like this statement from Gai Eaton. One that is new to me.
“If women no longer require protection in order to fulfil their feminie role and to nurture the next generation, then one is entitled to ask how many men are really necessary for the survival of the tribe, the people, the race… If women no longer need men, this has not diminished man’s need of woman. There are subtle differences in the sexual drives of the two sexes.”
Are men’s inner ego and need for women the reason for oppression against the opposite sexes? What I mean is either domestic oppression, or at the legal level or even the implementation aspect? It could be one of the reasons, but I feel it is not the only and strongest reason. But definitely, inner ego of men plays a role.
Also, Gai throws a satirical attack on men. Women keeps men realistic and not lost too much inside theoretical world. It is said the widow of Karl Max sighed that he didn’t collect enough capital despite writing numerous books and letters. (Then again, it might be a story created by a capitalist)
Alas, then, the views on women from the Muslim world and the western world are probably two different perspective. One side will ask how does the Muslim women can tolerate being treated as second fiddle to men? On the other side will ask how does the western women can tolerate being treated like dogs? Two different perspectives. Which are correct? The answer is not so clear cut. In fact, no answer is correct because the questions are incorrect in the first place. The question, I believe is filled with biases and cultural and local influence in the first place. Ignoring the external influence, whether one take into account the historical timeline and the vertical aspect of life (referring to adhering to religion) would determine whether the answer is satisfying or not.
Paradoxes, Theodicy, Free Will and Pre-destination:-
What is meant by theodicy is the ever problem of good and evil. Now, one would argue that there is no evil. Evil is in fact an absence of good. I held to this view not just long ago but still won’t answer the underlying issue of why is there a need for absence of good in the first place. Of course, people would say that to differ between those who are righteous and non-righteous but I don’t agree that as the first argument. I agree that as the hikmah or wisdom but not as the first line of argument. The same goes to Free Will and Pre-Destination. People will argue that we have free will but there is also arguments that we are pre-destined. Nothing is in our control. These are some of the paradoxes that I feel, despite countless arguments and debates, won’t ever be solved. I like the fact that Gai Eaton quoted this from Neil Bohr.
” the opposite of a profound truth is also a profound truth “.
It is in fact, a limitation of human language, and in turn, limitations to human knowledge to understand certain things and ideas. We can try, and God knows we might even get the answer. It seems I might take the easiest route by not trying to delve deeper into the paradoxical questions, but contemplating on what I have known so far, safe to say, the Einstein’s theory of relativity is the closest that can convince me of the answer.
Our time and perspective is different from God’s Time and Perspective (I put it as T capital and P capital for God is not bound to anything. It is just a reference so that I can understand in terms of my knowledge)
There is much more to write about this book. However, I feel suffice to stop here for I don’t do justice by polluting such a masterpiece with my immature opinions. This is a smashing book indeed. Infinitely grateful that I was presented the chance to read this. Can’t wait to read his other book, King of the Castle.