Beneath The Surface

Certain minds – but especially great minds – eventually arrive at an understanding that worldly knowledge has its limits, just as all other things in the world have their limits. Hence, the concept of “asymptotes” in mathematics and so forth. An “asymptote” travels along infinity, but it never touches or meets infinity. Although I was horrible at geometry and trigonometry when I was in high school, the concept of “asymptotes” was the one concept that stuck to my mind all these years since graduating from high school. Also, at one point in time, I was interested in learning about “gene therapy” and gene engineering, and whether human genes can be altered or engineered so that human beings can become a more robust and refined species. But the more I learned about this subject, the more I learned that gene therapy and gene engineering can never be carried out to its fullest extent. To a large extent, change and evolution is a psychological and social struggle, not a biological or scientific endeavor. Thus, the challenge and struggle of human existence. That basic struggle of being human can never be negated by science and technology, because being human is tantamount to struggling. Without the struggle, one is not human, but rather, a God or a spirit.

Beyond the limits of worldly knowledge is either imagination or spiritual knowledge. As Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” Although knowledge is limited, any amount of knowledge one can acquire is nonetheless essential and important. As Socrates said: “Knowledge is the only good, and ignorance is the only evil.”

As mentioned before, the outermost boundaries of the social sciences – or the pinnacle of the social sciences – is known as “World Systems Analysis.” What “World Systems Analysis” does is that it distills the “Trinity” of the social sciences – namely, economics, politics, and sociology – and it arrives at the basic conclusion and overarching or overriding idea of the social sciences, which is that the world system is being upheld by two basic pillars, namely, unbridled capital accumulation and hegemony-rivalry.

Moreover, one can legitimately argue that the more capitalistic and hegemonic and rivalrous an individual or group becomes, the more racist and sexist they become. One can legitimately argue that the tendency towards unbridled capital accumulation and hegemonic rivalry directly correlates with a tendency towards racism and sexism. They are, so to speak, two sides of the same coin. One side of the coin is capital accumulation and hegemony-rivalry, and the other side of the coin is racism and sexism. Therefore, the world system is in need of reform, as has been argued by a number of world systems analysts, given that the world system is being upheld by two basic pillars which translate into racism and sexism. It follows that not only are there economic and political implications resulting from the two basic pillars of the world system, but there are also social implications which directly correlate with the two basic economic and political pillars of the world system.

Islam is often seen as an alternative or a renunciation – if not an enemy – of the prevailing world system, for a number of reasons. The West is largely a “Judeo-Christian” civilization whose laws and norms have been derived to a large extent from the “Judeo-Christian” tradition. While Christianity rests largely on blind faith and while Judaism is largely legalistic, Islam is largely based on the accumulation of scientific knowledge, the cultivation of art, and the development of spirituality. Islam does not kowtow to money, power, and status, and there is reasoning and logic behind this stance, because kowtowing to money, power, and status diminishes and degrades knowledge, art, and spirituality. The inevitable degradation of knowledge when it becomes a tool or instrument of power became a focal point of the thoughts and works of the late Edward Said, and Said’s thoughts and works were then expanded and enriched to a certain extent by the Columbia professor and scholar Wael Hallaq.

Bridging the gap between money, power, and status on one hand, and knowledge, art, and spirituality on the other hand is virtually an insurmountable and impossible task, which is why the establishment and the elites of the West have long failed to recognize or understand Islam. Why Islam fails to be recognized and understood by Western establishment types and the elites – even though Islam is the fastest-growing religion even amongst the general population in the Western world – is because money, power, and status are mutually exclusive from knowledge, art, and spirituality. Thus, there is more beneath the surface of commonly-held beliefs and perceptions not just about Islam, but about many other issues which have largely been fomented by the establishment and elites.

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