Interview with a Syrian Army defector

Question: What happened to the 61st Army Brigade in Daraa after it defected? Is it true that everyone was killed?

Officer: The head of the 5th squad, which the 61st Brigade is part of, was General Rifaii, who was ordered to crack down on the demonstrations and refused, and he had the support of the officers with him. President Assad himself negotiated with him, but he stuck to his position, saying that he refused to shoot at unarmed men.

They planted a trap for him. An order was then given to him to spread his troops in Daraa but not to shoot at protesters, as he wished, but then his forces were attacked by forces from the Fourth Brigade and they massacred them.

(via A. Schindler)

إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ

From Allah we came, unto Him is our return.


Gandalf on the Ring of Power

In the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf the Wizard tells Frodo about the dangers he will face as the one who must bear the Ring of Power on a perilous journey. He warns Frodo, who is skeptical, it’s just a ring, after all. As a test, Gandalf challenges him to give up the Ring, destroy it.

“Try!”, said Gandalf, “Try now!”

Frodo drew the ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. The gold looked very pure and fair, and Frodo thought how rich and beautiful was its roundness. It was an admirable thing and altogether precious.

When he took it out, he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire, but he found now he could not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the ring in his hand, hesitating and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will, he made a movement as if to cast it away — but he had found that he had put it back in his pocket.

Gandalf laughed grimly, “You see?”

from The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns.

Just browse his quotes, the writing is quite boring.

On the Translation of ‘Aql as Intellect or Reason

The word intellect is the preferred translation of the Arabic word ‘aql, in keeping with the original meaning of intellectus in Latin Christendom, or nous in the Greek. Reason, on the other hand, better translates as ratio in the Latin and the Greek dianoia

For whereas the intellect/nous is capable of a direct contemplative vision of transcendent realities, Reason is of an indirect, discursive nature; it works with logic and arrives at mental concepts, only within those realities.

With the intellect, then, one can effectively contemplate or ‘see’ the Real. With reason, one can think about it. Losing sight of this distinction entails the reductive view of knowledge that has increasingly characterised western epistemology since the end of the Middle Ages.

(c.f. Knowledge and the Sacred, S.H. Nasr, 1981; Principles of Epistemology in Islamic Philosophy, Mehdi Yazdi, 1992; From Religion to Philosophy, F.M. Concord, 1957)

Cross-reference with this quote:

The heart has reasons that reason cannot know. – Pascal Blaise  

Socrates’ Definition of the Good

At an important point in The Republic, Glaucon presses Socrates on the definition of the Sovereign Good.

“But Socrates, what is your account of the Good? Is it knowledge, or pleasure, or something else?”

Socrates refuses to give an account, saying, after some further dialogue, “I am afraid it is beyond my powers; with the best will in the world, I should only disgrace myself and be laughed at.”

It is interesting to note that Dhi’lib Al-Yamani very much after the manner of Glaucon, provacatively asked the Imam whether he had seen the object of his devotion.

To this, the Imam replied, “I would not be worshipping a Lord whom I have not seen.”

Dhi’lib asked, “O Commander of the Faithful! How didst thou see Him?”

The Imam replied, “O Dhi’lib, eyes see him not through sight’s observation, but hearts see him through the verities of faith.”

This is a deep saying to meditate on. The Qur’an does refer to Ayn al-Yaqeen, the Eye of Certainty that comes with faith. I feel Imam Ali here is saying conversion is a decision of the heart, and not until an individual chooses Islam (and/or says the Shahada) does he see his Lord.

Plato on the Disciplined Life

While speculation may abound as to whether there was any spiritual method in Plato’s teaching and why he did not divulge it, one answer can be guaged in his famous 7th Letter where he denies that any exposition can given to the true reality of philosophy, and points instead to the disciplined way of life and rigorous daily routine, which the subject demands if philosophy in the deepest sense can be realized.

“No treatise by me concerning it exists, or ever will exist. It is not something that can be put into words like other branches of learning, only after a long period partnership in a common life devoted to this very thing does truth flash upon the soul like a flame kindled by a leaping spark, and once it is born there, it nourishes itself thereafter.” 

The Incorporation of Shiite Worship

“Sincere worship transforms the notion of the Absolute into a concrete reality that imparts to the soul an existential impetus, a spiritual resource, which buttresses, stabilizes, and deepens one’s moral life. What is derived from the consciousness of a divine reality is not so much a philosophy of ethics as a “spiritual morality”, an ethical orientation that is both the consequence of a lived spirituality and the cause of continuous, dynamic, and ever-deepening realization of spiritual truth.

Virtue in such a perspective becomes a “moral truth” or “moral realism”, understanding by a realism, an assimilation of spirituality, and ethical behavior that translates truth into action, on all planes, individual, social, and political.”

from The Sacred Foundations of Justice, by M. Ali Lakhani.