The Roots Of Our Crises

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Hamza Yusuf

Channel: Hamza Yusuf

Episode Notes

Many of the Muslim nations are in turmoil. War, oppression, power struggles, political strife between political parties, between contending leaders, between countries is tearing us apart.

In this talk Sheikh Hamza Yusuf addresses the cause of the crisis faced by not only Muslim nations but humanity itself.

The horrendous extent of senseless killings has to have a root cause, a beginning and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf sieves through the multitude of causes to bring to us that needle in the haystack.

It is crucial that you listen to this talk to gain insight into the reason why we are squandering our present and destroying out future.

Episode Transcript

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Salam aleikum wa

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Salatu was salam, Mata cinema.

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Era, everything begins with ideas to something, people have something in mind this once was something other than it is now. But somebody had an idea to build a,

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a place of worship, it was a Christian place house of worship, and then it became a Muslim college. That was also in the minds of some of the Muslims in in the area, in mom's aide, Dr hat and myself. So things begin with ideas and ideas are very intriguing, because they're the contents of our mind. And, and yet, at the same time, very often, we really fail to examine the contents of our mind. And that's why we chose to begin the first journal with the topic of metaphysics, which is really about examining assumptions. The Islamic civilization was a civilization. It was a qualitative civilization and a quantitative civilization. It was a civilization of ideas in the mind, but it was

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also a civilization that produced many things in the real world, and, and impacted the real world. And it had two foundational sciences. One of them was grammar. It was a civilization that was obsessed with grammar. And arguably the Muslims probably did more to promote grammar than any other civilization in human history. And we have much debt to the Islamic civilization in terms of language, even the Jewish tradition, which base their

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lexicons on the Muslim lexicons, because the Muslims were really the first people to, to produce serious dictionaries. And the we owe a great debt to the Persians for their incredible analysis of the Arabic language, the deconstructing, and then the putting together again of the Arabic language. But grammar was everything to the Muslims, because they took language incredibly seriously. And they also wanted to understand revelation, they wanted to know what what are all the possibilities of these sentences in the Quran, there's so many possibilities. I'll just give you one example that the Quran says,

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not to,

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to debate with the people of the book, except in the most beautiful way. Illinois, Latino Bonomo. It says Illa

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Illa in Arabic is usually used as a as an exception, except for, but some of our scholars argued in this case, in the hair is actually a conjunction meaning and, and also, but it was done with the elect to point out that it's actually difficult to do that. So there's just an example. And and then there are many examples from Arabic poetry where Illa is used as a wow, an author, it's used as the conjunction and, and also, that's just one example. But when you get into Tafseer, what you see is that our scholars were just trying their best to see and exhaust all the possibilities in every verse in the Quran, and in every Hadith, or statement of the prophets allies to them. And the way to

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do that, in their understanding was first and foremost through grammar. And that's why they were obsessed. But the second great obsession of the Muslims was geometry. And this is why everywhere you go in the Muslim world, you will see geometric patterns everywhere. You'll see them in their tessellations. You'll see them in their mosaics, you'll see them in all of the mosques, the great mosques that the Muslims built. Even the great mosques of

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Turkey, which were designed after the Christian churches, you will see all of this geometry, Euclid was studied obsessive Li by our scholars, Euclid is reintroduced into European civilization through the great Arabic commentaries on Euclid. The Muslims were literally obsessed with the book of the 13 books of Euclid. Audioboo bucket him in an RV said that in his rattler, he said, By the age of 15, I had mastered the 13 books of Euclid, and I was capable of

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working out star positions with an asteroid about 15. So you can imagine what kind of civilization that was when the 15 year olds had done in our high schools. We study three of the 13 books in what's called High School geometry. But one of the things about Euclid and why he's so important, and Euclid is arguably one of the most influential human beings that ever

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lived his book had a massive impact on Western and Muslim civilization. But one of the reasons why you could so important is because Euclid is a metaphysician, Euclid you cannot do those theorems without going to the assumptions Euclid gives you at the very outset of his book. And then the chapters that need further elucidation, he gives you the axioms, the assumptions, the common notions. And he lets you know that these are things that cannot be proved. These are the first principles and and so what metaphysics is, is it's going to the first principles and this is why Muslims always began their sciences with the 10 macdaddy the starting places of their sciences to

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let you know, a definition we have now right next door, graduating class from Berkeley that are getting ba is a lot of them are getting ba is Bachelor of Arts. You also what that ba what what are the arts, that you are now a bachelor in? Most of them? Really, I don't think could answer that question. Because the BA we inherited the BA from an ancient tradition, which is a tradition of the liberal arts, these these sciences that are supposed to free us from the fetters of our faulty thinking, and but but now it really doesn't have any meaning. And a lot of our students now are given incredible assumptions from their teachers, but they're never taught. What are the

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metaphysical foundations of the civilization there, they're never taught about those first principles of the civilization. And just to give you a few very quickly, one of them is that

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anything that can't be proved empirically, or is not true by definition, what they call an analytic proposition.

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Anything other than, than those two, either empirically provable, or something that's true by definition, what they call the verification principle, is is gibberish. from from from gibberish is actually from Java. Because Java and Python, his books on chemistry are translated into Latin they were so difficult to understand. The Latins called him. The medievals called them gibberish, so that's but But literally,

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metaphysics, theology.

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theology is now seen as meaningless if you make if you say there is no God, but God, many, many people in the humanities and philosophy departments today will say that's a meaningless statement.

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That's an assumption of the civilization. Another foundational assumption that people don't really think about is is is that science, do we call for instance, is Isaac Newton a scientist, because in many ways, this civilization would not recognize Isaac Newton as a scientist, because he had many, many metaphysical assumptions about his, his work and his worldview.

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He believed, for instance, deeply in God, he believed in the Bible, he believed that the world was a supernatural event. Our modern science says that you cannot have recourse to the supernatural to explain anything. And this is why Darwinism makes so much sense. Because you've eliminated the the the metaphysical perspective, you've eliminated the divine. So you cannot explain being by something outside of being you cannot explain being by something that cannot be proved empirically. And therefore, we have to determine where did life come from? Without God? Where did life come from? That is a metaphysical assumption. And that's why Darwin is so compelling, because he's making that

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assumption. He's assuming that we cannot have recourse to the divine because if we do, it's no longer scientific. That is an assumption of this civilization. That's not an assumption of our civilization. So these are really important distinctions that are are often not made. Another one is the idea for instance, that belief is your rational, or belief people say I believe, I Why should I have faith in something because faith is believing without evidence. This is a very common trope in modern culture. You'll hear it from all the what they call the new atheist people like Sam Harris, who will literally say, you know, faith is belief without evidence that has never been true for the

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Abrahamic tradition.

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One of the most important aspects of the Abrahamic traditions was to ground their faith in reason and they gave very you cannot study if you didn't take a survey course on religion like the philosophy of religion. They'll do say Thomas Aquinas, his five proofs for the existence of God.

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They give them in very superficial, these truncated versions reductive,

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you have to spend a great deal of time to understand what Aquinas and three out of the five he got from the Muslims. But you have to you have to work very hard to understand why he came to those conclusions. The Summa is a summary of those. He has an entire metaphysical approach to those five proofs for the existence of God, which would used to take about 15 years before you can actually study those and really understand those because now they're taught in a philosophy course on religion, as if, well, here it is, here's their proofs for the existence of God. No, those aren't the proofs. So that's the conclusions of the proofs. And the same is true for the Kalam cosmological

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argument that the Muslims embedded their worldview in the Kalam cosmological argument takes a good deal of time to understand it can't be understood, simplistically. So our civilization, it's it's it's not my contention. It's the contention of some of the most brilliant minds in our civilization right now. One of them is setting up but our boss who is who's a true metaphysician, who really believes that the root of our crisis is a metaphysical crisis. And until we address the metaphysical crisis, we will only be dealing with the superficial, you have you have the political you can you can address things at the political level, but the political level is very superficial. I'll give

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you one example in the book of politics, Aristotle talks about something called status, which is civil strife. And and he has theories for for status, why civil strife emerges, he gives the efficient cause the material cause he gives the final cause. He doesn't deal with the formal cause of stasis. And the formal cause in Aristotle's approach, his metaphysical approach to understanding things is always the most important cause to understand what a thing is like, what is civil strife? What is it?

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But it's, it's something that can be understood, you can understand why it happened. And his argument is that you should do all you can to prevent it before it happens. Because if you don't, it's much more difficult to remedy. One example, the founding fathers understood that slavery was wrong.

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They were very aware of the problem of slavery wasn't like they, they didn't know that it was a problem. But because of the economic imperatives, they had, they chose not to address the issue. They kick the ball down the down the field, they knew that it was going to be addressed, they knew, but they just kicked it down the field will let other people deal with this. And some of the founding fathers considered this a grave mistake, like Benjamin Rush,

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then the Civil War happens.

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So now the problem because it wasn't remedied at the at the outset. It's a full blown crisis. We're still dealing today 150 years later with what happened over 200 years ago. And then what happened 150 years ago, with the Civil War, we're still dealing with the consequences, because the root problem was never addressed. The root problem was never addressed. The Syrian civil war, how did it come about their reasons it can be understood, but they will be dealing with the Syrian civil war for decades, if not, for

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a century or more.

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These things don't go away. They're profoundly painful. So we're in a crisis. Just one of the things that we tried to highlight in this was was the importance of the centrality but I just want to

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people know who chartoff is. They remember chartoff

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I know your mom's a political scientist. Of course, he knows who he is.

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Did anybody know who chartoff is? Other than the mom's eight?

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member chair top? Who was he? He's the guy that brought in all the that Israeli technology into the airports. Right? He was the head of Homeland Security. Right, wasn't it? Yeah. Well, his father was garish on chartoff, who did his PhD on imamura, bizarrely.

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But in it, he says, that's not his influence began to be felt in the middle of the 12th century. He did not become an authority for the Jews until much later, during the great controversy about the acceptability and the authority of philosophy all through the 13th and part of the 14th century, none of the contending

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Parties made use of Eleazar his name or any of his treatises, even though his ethical work had already been translated during the early period of the struggle, the important works of Allah kasali were subsequently translated into Hebrew and played an important role in the Jewish literature of the Middle Ages. We shall limit ourselves however, mainly to the translation of the mocassin. The acids serve for the Jews as a textbook of the peripatetic philosophy, according to the version of Eman Sina, and has that he whatever his own attitude and writing them posit came to be regarded by the Jews, by the virtue of it as the Chief popularizer of philosophy in the Jewish community.

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Right. So this is a Jew,

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a Jewish man

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who got his PhD from Columbia University on it has an influence on the Jewish community. Based on his his philosophy, one of the cars that he wrote them a posit, it's basically based on one of the books of Ibn Sina, he took a book of urban Siena, and he basically wrote philosophy for dummies, literally, if it was published today, it would be called philosophy for Dummies. And, and, and the scholars actually censured Imam Ali for doing it because they said he made philosophy accessible to a much larger audience because even seen as is very abstruse, he's difficult to understand, whereas because that he was very clear in his exposition, and so they argued that he he's done a grave

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disservice by writing this book. But what Allah has that he did, he wrote most of the philosophy, which is the aims or the intentions of the philosophers, and then and he was neutral. He just presented peripatetic philosophy. This is what they say. And all the peripatetic looked at it and said, You've done a marvelous job once they said that, okay. In other words, I understand your philosophy to absolutely it's a remarkable work of incredible clarity, you've made very difficult thought, easy to understand. Then he wrote to half of them philosopher, the incoherence of the philosophers. Now we have a moms that have no training in microbiology, and they write books on why

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evolution is not true.

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Right, write a book on evolutionary biology that's recognized by evolutionary about and then follow that up with why you don't think this is part of the problem with our civilizations become a very simplistic civilization, its approach to problems is very simplistic. And this is not to say that everybody should become a metaphysician On the contrary, there's not a lot of people that can actually do the work. It's difficult work. But if you don't have those people, then you have a major problem because you lose the intellectual defenders of your faith.

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You lose the intellectual defendant, and then the defense becomes either fanaticism, or even worse, violence, because fanaticism often leads to violence. When you have defenders of the faith intellectuals, the other thing that you lose is you lose the intelligent members of your community, because they have questions and they don't find answers for those questions. The world has a very troubling place. And if you don't think so I don't know what planet you're on.

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But the world is a very troubling place and and to try to understand what the world is, what our place in the world is, to try to understand these things is very difficult. And and for some people that are blessed with pure faith, a very simple faith, what what your mom and

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your mom, or Razi called the mom and agile is the face of old women. You know, there's a famous story where he was walking with a lot of his students, dozens of them, and an old woman asked

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one of the students who was the man, and don't you know, that's funny. He has 70 proofs for the existence of God. She said, Why would he need 70 proofs, he must have 70 doubts.

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And when Rosie heard that he said, You should have the faith of old women. You know, that's, that's real faith. And so it's very beautiful, the faith of old women that that's a beautiful faith, you know, we call them I grew up in the Orthodox Church, the ayahs. And they were always in the black. And they were the ones they were always the first ones at church, the last ones to leave the menus. He sat outside smoking cigarettes, waiting for the mass to get over. But those women and they've kept us on alive. You know, people like say Moo beans mother, in our region, who who's taught so many children, the fact they have, you know, these women that have this incredible, remarkable

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faith, a deeply rooted faith. But that faith, believe it or not, can easily be lost, not with that generation, but with the generation that comes from that generation, because that generation was a generation that grew up in a different time. And so we're losing those people. And that's why it's so important because when we lose our

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our our

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Intellectual foundations, then unfortunately, the devotional foundations often follow. And finally, in conclusion, this book was really, it's it's a, it's called hiddenness of fear. This book was the book that was studied in, in the later

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Muslim colleges. And usually with a commentary by Sayyidina tuff design one of the great intellectual giants of our tradition and to give myself and the students some hope, he was actually considered very, very stupid when he was in the madrasa and he had just an opening and suddenly became extraordinarily brilliant. And, and they attributed to his sincerity. But and that's why we don't really believe in IQ tests. And we don't believe in even now we know that these things are plastic that the brains plastic, we believe in

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is one of the names of God is the opener, the God can give you openings, he can open your heart, you know, the literary of flowering of the heart can happen, that people have intellectual awakenings, just like they have sexual awakenings, emotional awakenings, they can have intellectual awakenings, they can have spiritual awakenings. And in our tradition, an intellectual awakening is a spiritual awakening, because intellect and Spirit are not separate, that the mind itself is immaterial. The mind is a spiritual phenomenon. That's why really what's happening right now is a spiritual experience. It's just we're veiled to it. But consciousness itself is a spirit, people always say,

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you know, I want to have a spiritual experience, you are having a spiritual experience, it's called being conscious, what you have to do is wake up to it. And that's why you're already there, you just have to realize that you're already there. But this book, which is is a truncated

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summary, of a vast metaphysical tradition. And at the later period, they were no longer studying that tradition, they were studying the fruits of that tradition. And that's why so many of our scholars that have studied, don't really grasp the underlying foundations of this, because they did not get the tools to do that. And, and it's, it's one of the major problems and, and everything comes out of that. In other words,

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the metaphysical foundation of your tradition is going to inform your ethics, your economics and your politics. Muslims never produced a Machiavelli, all of our political literature is ethical. We never produced Machiavelli.

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Muslims no longer have serious ethical philosophers. And so we're in crisis there, which is why you can have scholars defending suicide bombing, because they don't understand the implications of what suicide bombing actually means. Right? What it means ethically, morally, the idea of opening the door of suicide, one of the greatest sins, a sin against the gift of life, opening up the door of suicide to depressed people, to people that just want to check out of the planet. There's a lot of them around. Some of them, the only thing that's keeping them here is their faith.

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So you open up the door within the faith, and suddenly, who wants to hang around here?

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Right.

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Anyway, I'm we're happy to see Dr. Mohan back in the corridors. And thank you sister Marion Farina, who's been such an incredible support. I truly believe that.

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For us as a Muslim community, if we're going to have a future in this country, it has to be with a serious alliance with the other religious communities in this country, which includes the Catholic community is probably the closest community to us, in terms of just tradition, and a lot of our values with the evangelical community that finds Islam, a demonic religion and odious religion. We just I was in Abu Dhabi. And we had an event with 10, evangelical rabbis 10 evangelical Rob 1010, rabbis, 10 evangelical ministers and 10 Imams and the evangelical ministers. It was just amazing. The breakthroughs that they had, they spent three days in workshops, there was no lectures, it was

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sitting down, they were honest with each other what you feel about our religion, the Jews, the Muslims, and the Christians sat down and had a conversation and the outcome was really life transforming for the people that were involved in it, including myself, and so it can happen convivencia you know, the idea of conviviality of living tear. This has happened in the past. It's happened within the Christian community. It's happened within the Muslim community, and it's happened within the Jewish community. All three of us have lived together, Muslims have lived

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With Hindus, they've lived with Buddhists. They've lived with Zoroastrians. They've lived with Catholics orthodox and all of the other iterations of Christianity. And it's it's a checkered history. undeniably, there's good and bad in it on all sides because we're human.

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But there are really beautiful bright spots. And and that's what we need to look at and try to make that real here. Thank you.