14. MORALS, MANNERS AND ABUSE OF PSYCHOLOGY
Deception is so prevalent in nature that sometimes even insects are ‘guilty’ of it. For example there are insects which take the exact colour, shape and texture of the leaves on the branch it is perching and attack and devour any fooled worms or fellow insects. As such it is a survival instinct aand man needs it as much as any other animal. To hunt he needs to catch his prey unawares; to beat of an enemy nothing helps as much and as cheaply as deceit. That is why the Prophet sws said “al harbu khud’atun”, i.e., war is stratagem.
But as always man cannot be always innocent like animals mostly are. As everything else deceit itself is neutral. It can be put to use both for good and evil. What we are worried about in this lesson is all forms of deceit which have evil intentions behind them. By evil we mean what is unjust, especially when too much is at stake.
Modern age probably is not guiltier than the past in committing injustices through deceit. All the same, Islam is against all evils and therefore all forms of deceit with evil (unjust) intent. One of the most famous evil deceits in Islamic history Muawia’s deception on Ali through Amr’s ruse against Abu Musa at Siffiyn. It helped to open a rift among muslims which festers and bleeds to this day. In fact among muslims politics has been the main cause of most deceits and remains so to this day. A recent example was the notorious Iraq-Iran war which lasted a decade and killed millions of muslims. The irony was that both sides vowed vengeance on Israel for many years, never attacked Israel in any serious way at least and used up their accumulated powers on each other in a war of attrition which lasted as long as First and Second World Wars put together. As such both deceived muslims in the sense that they armed themselves to the teeth by spending people’s wealth only to exhaust them on each other. It was as if the much drummed up towards Israel was a ploy for each to arm themselves at the cost of bankrupting their subjects and then settle accounts with each other instead of the professed common enemy.
For its part
But deceit is not confined to politics and diplomacy. It has been an is everywhere and as all evil it can never be eradicated. What we intend to show and try is then this: I cannot be allowed to go unchecked. Like fighting ill health is the never ending mission of medicine, fighting evil is the never ending mission of Islam. Any amount of success in this fight is better than less and therefore worth it. From interpersonal relations including marriage to buying and selling all human transactions can be plagued by deceit. We may sell or be sold shoddy products or services or let down on promises despite paying the price for them, as in a political party deceiving us of our votes and not delivering even a fraction of their promises. Women deceive men by falsely beautifying themselves with various tricks, treatments and artifices while men do the same often through romantic lies. See what the Prophet sws did- he condemned women who removed their body hair or did this or that to look more beautiful to their suitors. Because the sexes warm up to each other through their attractive features on which tamperings can only mean- FRAUD!
One of the most frequent and notorious examples is the diet-weight loss business. Media are flooded with adverts for special diets which promise as atrocious a promise as guaranteeing one stone per week weight loss by eating anything you want any amount provided you also take their herbal or synthetic concoction. Similarly radical treatments for baldness are legion none of which. Like in the diet case really works. These enterprises benefit from man’s gullibility, the slowness of the law cathing up with them and sometimes also some innocuous looking and microscopically printed cautions and disclaimers and also deliberately going out of business soon enough and disappearing before plaintiffs and prosecutors knock on their door. Soon they set up shop in a different fraud business in a different location and one day they join the millionaires club often laundering their ill gains in the process.
Yet perhaps one of the greatest frauds of the modern Western world is the concealment of almost any moral crime behind a veneer of impeccable manners. This is a legacy of yesterday’s ‘nobility’ to today’s plebian masses and is helping not only to erode real morality but make it too profitable to resist. From promising politician and prattling conman to Gospel-thumping missionary pleasing and captivating manners are used to push sales or win converts all of whom are out to be cheated badly. None of these appeal to Allah and His Prophet sws and true believers and muslims should know about the dangers coming from such.
By skilfully exaggerating with judiciously added false statistics and false or distorted quotations or other ‘evidence’ it is perfectly possible to sell each and every lousy thing as pure gold. So we find, can you imagine, a prime minister, for example, to surround himself with ‘spin doctors’ to ensure that facts and figures surrounding his administration are massaged and packaged to give them the most favourable appearance almost at whatever cost to honesty. For example the spin-doctored message may paint a healthy image of the National Health Service a few years from now, the spinners know that it is not as rosy as that and it turns out to be bad in fact when the time arrives but all the same they do it, all do it, must do it for that is the rule of the politics game. It is about remaining in power as long as possible and anything the power-holder can get away with he will try to use to prolong his tenure. Insurance firms do the same, banks do the same, at least by blaming others for their inconcealable woes until the bitter truth is finally exposed and those responsible left with golden hand-shakes and trying again their luck in other pastures.
This is exaggeration at its noisiest and flashiest to hypnotise as many people as possible to serve the interests of the ‘hypist’. From street-theatrical massive Nazi demonstrations to huge ballons and colourful plumes releasing soft-drinks or chewing gum advertisement campaigns hypes come in all shapes and forms and even religious cults stoop to it when they fill the streets and squares with hymns chanting or pagan dancing devotees pretending to be dissolved in bliss but in actual fact anxiously trying to figure out how they are seen by the surrounding public. Being in many respect similar to apes such hyped demonstrations cannot fail to impress large numbers of people, especially the newly romanticised youths (often late secondary early university age section) as well as those who remain adolescent despite their advancing years. Had this result been a temporary diversion gripping the romantically (i.e. idealistically) minded it could be benevolently ignored. But often there is a hard core of hardened ideological tacticians as well as thugs who often either organise first-hand or skilfully and methodically hijack a demonstration somehow organised and turn it into another exercise for the promotion of their political agenda.
Both Faschists and Nazis as well as cultist religious groups employ such public hype and feed them survival skills by deliberately provoked violence which must and will suck in police and even the army and cause bloodshed and destruction. The more entanglement of the demonstrators with the forces of law and order and the more blood and destruction the better for the idelogical conspirators. They simply add to their growing catalogue more ‘martyrs’ and the louder they can shout through bigger crowds next time. CND was such ideological hype group who sought to push the West into unilateral disarmament vis-à-vis the Marxist power block explaining that (it was better to be) ‘Red rather than dead. Thanks God the Western bloc leaders kept their nerve and the majority of the public their distance and in the end it became obvious that our choices were not as narrow as that. In fact it turned out that it was the Read that became dead! Hype was trying to convince us of the opposite!
HYPE IN COMMERCE AND SCIENCE
From the days when almost all commercial advertisement consisted of the shouts of hawkers and market stall holders nothing changed in the basic motive of advertising one’s goods and services: to persuade others buy. Even the oldest stories and histories are filled with complaints about the exaggerated or plain fraudulent claims of the vendors and service providers and in the age of electronic revolution commercial deception via untruthful advertising is still with us at least as worse as before despite our boasts of being the most advanced and civilized generation ever. In fact the hype possible and committed today dwarfs anything in the past. From huge billboards dominating the skyline of towns to internet screens flashing with sneaky eye-catchers all are at the throat of all else to ease them of more and more of their money. As the once hit song had it “money, money, money, it’s a rich man’s world”. And no age as far as we know produced as rich and as many people as today. Any kings and queens are small fry when compared to today’s business-based super-rich. All such rich arguably thrived on some hyped advertising as much as business acumen. Even the unavoidable medical drugs have to advertise as glossily and hypedly as possible.
Unfortunately hype is also employed in science. Poorly investigated observations, bold speculations or half- baked theories reach the public as proven or almost proven facts and serve as raw material for sensational media articles or programs as well as commercial commodities. The most noticeable example is the alternative medicine business. With few exceptions, long-tried and discarded medical systems are raised from the dead, dusted off and walked around as cure-alls. Shops are flooded with ‘drugs’ which promise to prove the promises of the resurrected system. Herbs and homeopathic medicines do sometimes help, especially the latter but claims made on behalf of both are sometimes too much hyped while claims made on behalf of others like magnets or so called food-supplements turn out to be great hypes bordering on rackets. For example, drinking water and all foods are only too rich in calcium and magnesium, yet luxuriously packaged and astronomically priced calcium and magnesium supplements are offered in well-arranged and decorated shops promising preventing osteoporosis or even cure it once started. The fact is that this disease is not caused by shortage of calcium and magnesium intakes but failure of the body to utilize them because of hormonal changes which is common in older women.
Although modern Western diet is rich in vitamins and minerals (so much milk and cheese and meat are consumed by almost all) and fruits are never far away whether in natural form or or as pure juice in carton the public is asked to buy tubs and tubs of high-dose vitamins blaming the ‘junk food’ for the alleged shortage of vitamins in body. Only plain milk, just one glass, is enough to meet all vitamin requirements in people with the possible exception of Vitamin C which again can be obtained from one hundred grams (a handful) of any fresh fruit or vegetable. One particular product leaflet showed creased faces dotted with brown spots of senility which also were featured on pictures of diseased brains and asked its readers to buy a concoction of herbs and minerals to stall this horrible eventuality in themselves. With the creation of such pathological anxiety a powerful psychological button has been pushed. On the technical side all literature evidence to the efficacy of the ingredients were totally suspect to say the list. Such hyped products are priced handsomely and intended to be pushed as life-long ‘medication’ so as to create a constant cash flow for the pseudo-medical racketeers. Ironically however most such enterprises prove short lived indicating that it was a scam to start with and once enough fools were robbed the racketeers moved on to another racket. They are exploiting older men’s desire for long life in good health without really helping it much. And secular laws have almost no remedy to it.
As for non-medical scams there are firms which sell land in the moon or mars or book passengers to travel to the same when the travel becomes possible. In Islamic law such transactions are invalid because what is uncertain cannot be sold for what is certain (ready cash in pocket against uncertain benefit). In fact humanity is suffering very many harms by ignoring Islamic Law and instead living under often non-sensical secular laws which frequently create unreasonable and unjust judgments with no remedy possible. More about legal matters in another lesson. Academic examples of hype in science are also legion. The less exact sciences like sociology and psychology are the prime culprits in deceiving others often with an ideological bias behind the deceit. Marx’s proletarian thesis (scientific socialism) and Freud’s sex-based psychoanalysis are classical examples. The first helped precipitate perhaps the bloodiest and nastiest social upheavals in history while the latter grossly abused psychiatric patients by making them own up to unspeakable crimes which they could not have committed and then waste their time and wreck their nerves month after month- and charge them fees for the ‘favour’.
ABUSE OF PSYCHOLGY
All spins and hypes are examples of abusing psychological knowledge on the part of certain unscrupulous psychologists or more commonly and on a far larger scale on the part of amateur psychologists who skilful salesmen, conmen, unscrupulous men of religion and cultists, politicians, diplomats, all manipulative personality types (like some marriage spouses), advertisers, spin doctors… are at. Each tries to locate the psychological buttons in their audience or victims (call them what you will) so as to become able to push the appropriate ones of them to tune their mental responses to the exploitative suggestions peddled. This does not mean that it is only such conscious and deliberate professionals are abusing psychological insights to steer their listeners, readers or watchers. All of us do and in fact MUST do some psychological massage and manipulation to get on in life. It becomes a crime only when it is used for unjust ends.
Financial Salesmen’s training is a case in point. To sell people products like life insurance or pensions they are drilled and trained how to get appointments from prospects and handle them at interviews. Their whole body language and talking regimen are meticulously trained to make a refusal by a customer almost an immorality. Extremely skilful probing and challenging questions are thrown at the prospect to make him or her feel compelled to say ‘yes’ and sign up. To financial sales magicians are added windows and fitted kitchen salesmen who, once inside your home are almost impossible to throw out because of their many buttons manipulating glib talk. It is not for nothing that the Prophet sws said “Some speech is magic”.
To drive home more graphically the potency of abuse of psychology let us take just two examples. Stage magic (technical magic) and ideological campaigning (mostly word magic).
In stage magic both physical science and knowledge of cognitive psychology are exploited by the magician. The first is used to create illusions as in the following simple example. If a man’s face is lit by a light which is first normal light (all visible spectrum there) and then gradually all frequencies are switched off and only pure yellow light remains the features of the man’s face gradually dissolve away in response to the disappearance of various light frequencies from the illumination. For example the reddish hair and the blue eyes disappear and are replaced by blackness. Eventually only the bare forehead, the cheeks and the chin remain visible giving the impression that we are now looking at the mere skull of the man. This is one of the cheapest numbers in the repertoire of petty local festival magicians working from a tent. As for the employment of cognitive psychology in magic let this example suffice.
The eye retains any image once it is momentarily shown it for another 1/16 seconds minimum after removing the object from his sight. For a bright object this can be far longer. If we look at an the sun and them close our eyes the sun’s image still persists and may take minutes to fade away. This cognitive fact has been used to produce and screen motion pictures, which are a form of magical effect. A very famous magician has a number among his tricks in which he supposedly makes a huge locomotive disappear from the stage. What he does is that the locomotive is a huge balloon which when tightly filled assumes the accurate shape of a rigid shiny locomotive. It is covered under a silk cloth which then is electrified. This makes the cloth stand erect as caused by the shape of the ‘locomotive’. Then the loco is deflated but the cloth retains the shape. Lastly the cloth is de-electrified, it collapses and no locomotive seems to support it any longer. To see the trick one needs to have scientific as well as cognitive psychological knowledge which most among the magicians audience lack.
In the case of ideological magic (including religious and cultish persuasion) the main magical buttons used are fear and hope. Terrible cosmic consequences are put before the mind’s eye of the prospect with another contrasting image of only elitist salvation. Although great religions employ the same tactic they are justified by the utterly honourable intentions behind them which most fully apply to Islam in its original form in which no privileged classes are created to dominate and exploit others. In fact Islam’s prohibition of priesthood let alone an organized church and its non-recognition of superiority by birth (nobility) or race are obvious indicators of its implacable aversion to domination and exploitation of some by some others as a matter of rights and so were the first two or three generations of Muslims. Only after them came royal or spiritual pretensions to automatic superiority which can be regarded as inundation of Islam with rival cultures predating and surrounding it.
Secular ideologies are not entirely but dominantly modern belief systems (communism has been known since antiquity and communist revolutions and regimes came and went in
What is important to understand here is this:
Almost all virtually successful people employ hype and magic consciously or not but skilfully for sure, to cause an image they chose to be created in the minds of their audiences (customers, electorates or other victims). Which means we must never blindly follow the herd in anything except long-tried and tested matters and especially be very careful about sales or voting offers and not take popularity or supposedly given evidence as a reason to do what is wanted from us. We must not join almost all demonstrations about the subject of which we have no personal first-hand or almost first-hand knowledge and adequate understanding but stay out of the way. We must not buy goods, services or advice or teachings from people we don’t know well and have no reason to trust simply because they and their wares are becoming very popular. Behind such sudden or narrow range popularities may lie great cons, scams and disappointments, be they material or spiritual wares.
MANNERS REPLACING MORALS
Let us remind ourselves the deceits used by animals. An insect changes features to capture an unsuspecting worm or insect. The cat lies low stays still like a statue and barely breaths so that a bird feeding a few yards away suspects nothing and in fact may move closer in pursuit of tasier worms. Then the mask is thrown away and the cat lands on the bird at no time. The sexual seducer or the commercial conmen is all good will, politeness and charity until his victim trusts and relaxes. He then proceeds to get the benefits he is after and as soon as that is obtained the mask may be dropped or kept on for a second time conquest. This consummate hypocrisy are not peculiar to such soft criminals but to almost all of us to varying extents. But it becomes criminal only when injustice is the aim. For example the hypocritical treatment of a hostage taker in order to fool him into complacency and run away from him is not a criminal but legitimate act. Be it as it may, hiding behind masks to appear what we are not is a universal social game which can be put to good or bad use.
What we want to convey in this section is this: Practical knowledge of psychology we learn from living proved us that we must assume and keep certain social manners if we want to be successful in our dealings with other people. But we should also had learned that persuading somebody that we or what we offer to them are good for him is not itself a success. It becomes a success if we do it with wholesome moral intentions which must lead to justice as a minimum condition.
In other words injustice cannot be ignored simply because it was created by a very polite and pleasing manner in its mover. Unfortunately the modern examples and social education lie too much stress on manners than the morality of our acts. In some worst cases very polished manners may be used as a mask to commit all sorts of crimes and indecencies on others. Ironically a criminal who gets his ends from behind a veneer of good manners is a greater and more dangerous criminal than another who has poor manners, becaue the latters’ boorishness may serve as a warning to keep your distance. Great gangsters often called ‘fathers’ often come out as very charming and obliging characters who drip with impeccable manners. Some even torture and kill their victims with such nice manners always on that they dare ask the victim to thank them for the ‘just’ punishment. From such worst examples down ranges all levels of criminality behind a mask of good manners and modern social education and examples seem to have persuaded more and more people to believe that manners are more effective to get what one wants in life than the morality which makes one worthy of the thing.
This is a very dangerous philosophy and practice and may account for the technical incompetence and oppressiveness of many highly placed individuals in society, from top politicians to my or your sharkish bank manager who could not otherwise be more dignified and polite-looking.
That a lot of crime(often theft) is being committed from behind the masks of respectability, manners and dignity can be verified by anybody, for example, by visiting a number of travel shops and asking for a quotation for the same prospective travel by the same airline. It is very likely that each gives a quotation which could not be more divergent than the rest and the different between the highest and lowest quotations may be more than 50%. What the higher quoting is committing cold-blooded theft. Do not think that it is “that’s my price” kind of thing. The travel agent is taking the tax-included price of the airline as if it is tax not included and adding the tax all over again. That is to cover his back if challenged and caught. He can then ‘explain’ with many politest apologies that it was a mistake and refund the excess. But such refunds are out question to many others who bought the same product until they also suspect and find out, which is very unlikely. Here we see a good example of manners employed to commit immoral acts and it extends to all levels and limits of modern society. In fact polite fraud and theft are institutionalised and many employers and companies teach how to do it to their trusted employees and suitable management trainees as a matter of factly. Diplomats however are the supreme trainees in deception behind veneers of respectability and impeccable manners and we may be afraid that other classes are catching up.
Islam is all for goodwill and only after that good manners and masks. It admits that under certain circumstances deception may be vitally necessary but that should be very rare indeed. Its only justification is avoiding unjust harm to innocents which the general public is assumed to be in principle. For example one may deceive an arsonist who wants to blow up the local power station or water pump and send him away to blow up an empty shed instead and not let him blow up a vital utility. He must not let him commit an atrocity thinking that the population of the area concerned are not pious enough people and need not be spared but punished (the ‘religious’ terrorist’s thesis).
In brief good manners are at least as important to Islam as to any other civilization but goodwill is more important and morality and charity are paramount.
15. SCIENCE, SCIENTISM AND PLAYING GOD
Originally science means knowledge. It has been in more recent history that it came to gain the specialised meaning of knowledge based on research and rational treatment of subjects. As it assumed more and more the said research and rationality its discoveries multiplied and began to challenge the beliefs based other kinds of knowledge, particularly religion. That of course did not mean and to a less extent do not still mean that only areligious people pursued science or religious people did not. A lot of Renaissance scientists were also priests and remained so until well into the 18th century. Additionally a\ lot of lay (non-priest) scientists were quite religious, e.g. Sir Isaac Newton (17h C).
More recently Einstein was professing belief in God and especially among contemporary American scientists believers in God are quite common. Which means religious faith does not necessarily clash with scientific convictions and each may be verified in their own way.
This not infrequent overlapping of religiosity and scientific formation is an important matter if not always helpful for the either side of the relationship. While an atheistic scientist may take scientific adventure a legitimate pursuit under all circumstances and therefore endorse if not indulge in ‘playing God’ (tampering with nature in a fundamental way) another scientist who is religious may resist experiments which in his opinion infringes on God’s privileges. The most telling recent example of this dilemma is in the dizzyingly fast developing field of genetics. From genetically modified crops to custom-made babies some scientists seem trespassing into the Divine territory. How real, good or dangerous are these? A modern Muslim need to know.
IS SCIENCE INFALLIBLE?
Many who don’t know enough about science and even some immature and imprecise scientists claim that science is eventually infallible, i.e., its conclusions must be taken as true, as representing reality in every way.
However not only this is far from being the case but not all branches of science are equally precise and reliable. A science to be precise and reliable its subject must be as simple as possible. Mathematics tops the list of all sciences in precision and accuracy, because it is based on a few imaginary or axiomatic items from which an infinite number and forms of discoveries can be made and verified. That is why it was the earliest science to attain its maturity or almost maturity. Among all sciences we inherited from the Greeks only mathematics comes close enough to its modern version. In comparison Greek chemical knowledge is almost nothing by today’s standards in chemistry. For chemistry’s subject is too complicated and needs incredible amounts of laboratory work to investigate.
Yet even that divine mathematics is not as reliable as it looks to many at first sight. Ambiguities as well as fundamental limitations apply to it. Its application to many scientific subjects remain probabilistic as well as partial and often seriously unreliable in its results. For example the subject need not to be sociology or psychology to respond poorly to mathematical treatment. Even a science as far removed from human level sophistications (as in psychology) and is in fact a branch of physics, namely meteorology, gives many ridiculous predictions, especially in turbulent climates like