Authors: Murray Hunter, Azly Rahman
In concluding our essay on Tawhidic-Singularity as a new philosophy of Islam, we proposed that Muslims need to interpret the core teaching of One-ness from a kaleidoscopic perspective.
We asked readers to reflect upon the applicability of Chaos or Complexity Theory to view Islam as an organic and living religion inviting its believers to look at the concept of One-ness as the manifesting of Many-ness. In this essay, we go deeper into the discussion of the soul of the Quran itself and how Muslims could perceive and read it as a postmodern text with multiple-level meanings based on his/her unique life experiences. We wish to propose the worldview of “Quantum Islam,” as a new way looking at this cultural belief system. We invite readers to think of Islam as more than just unquestioning faith and rites and rituals but as an evolving text to be made alive. The idea of a “living Quran” is a means of perceiving and feeling one’s existence as a world of interconnectedness. This world of deep personal connectivity is a world of the physical, emotional and spiritual self as it exists in the realm of the Universal self as a world designed as a Quantum being in itself.
Multiple Universes and the Quran
Islam is about what cannot at present be explained intrinsically through the science we know today.
The Qu’ran is a deeply layered book of meaning. However, the majority of Muslims have tended to take literal views. The Qu’ran has also foreseen many scientific discoveries and defined the nature of our realities. Such a view of the cognitive and metaphysical nature of the text has been dominant at a time when Islamic philosophy was being conceived, especially in the debates between scholars trained in Greek philosophy with those trying to rid the influence of rationalism in epistemologizing the meaning of existence.
The Qu’ran and Hadiths have shaped the worldview of 20% of the world’s population. But Islam today is viewed as a singular reality, embedded in ‘Arabism’ and ‘hellfire’ paradigms, coercing Muslims to follow literal views, within a ‘carrot and stick’ enlightenment and fear syndrome.
As a consequence Islam has not been the means to a higher level universal wisdom that the Qu’ran can facilitate, if read with this understanding.
Allah rabb al-àlamin, the Lord of the Worlds indicates a multiverse with parallel realities. There are parallel universes mentioned within the Qu’ran that we don’t have access to. These worlds are widely talked about within the Qu’ran, the world of the jinns, as in the verse ”And the jinn race, we had created before, from the fire of a scorching wind” Qur’an (15:27)
The 99 names of Allah also suggest multi-existential paradigms.
Challenges of constructing this multi-universal view
The first challenge is to escape the unipolar world and live in, and transcend to the multipolar world the Qu’ran describes. i.e., atoms can be both a particle and wave and thus be in multiple places at the same time. True realities are multipolar dynamics, rather than unipolar statics. Thus, to understand the complexity of the environment, we must develop both our personal self-awareness and social awareness. So where reality is multi-layered and kaleidoscopic, layered and deeper meanings can be derived from the chaotic environment we exist within through contemplating the layered intricacies and meanings within the Quran.
Muslims viewing the text of the Qu’ran as a living and evolving one, can find a meaningful guide to life and the universe, which we propose is what Quantum Islam means. What one sees with the naked eye, a phenomenon to be studied is just a level of Reality that we construct cognitively. However as one reads deeper into the meaning of the Quran, one may find the signs and symbols manifesting themselves in newer ways, which we digest and make meaning of through our self-awareness or spirituality.
The second challenge is that we must understand that we are not at the centre of the world. We must override the assumption that modern humankind has adopted in that humans can control nature and nature is here to serve us. What we think and the assumptions behind our very thoughts may not actually resemble reality, and may not be the truth. Once we shed this egocentric view of the world, we come to realize that we cannot control nature and we must nurture nature. In the Quran it is said: ”Say: He is Allah, He is One, He is Eternal He Begets not nor is He begotten and there is none equal unto Him” Surah Ikhlas 112.
Muslims engaged in a cognitive and metaphysical reading of the Quran may propose that human existence is both physical and conceptual, and that as a Platonic view would content, we are both Forms and Appearance, and that if the self is an invention/creation to manifest the “truth”. There is a larger truth of “being and nothingness,” in another world of the “unseen,”. This is the idea of corresponding reality of existence. Islam proposes that this view of Quantum state of beingness can only be understood if one understands the meaning of “selflessness” or the “destruction of the Ego,” and to allow the self to be liberated from the confines of a physical and mechanistic world.
The third challenge is to read the question from a “culturally-neutral” perspective. This means stripping the notion that all that is Islam is Arabic and with fallacy, to believe that religious belief is not cultural. This is to begin to believe that to be a Muslim, one need not aspire to be or to become an Arab. If Islam is a universal truth, it is not ‘Arab-centric’, and many of the rites and rituals cannot be universal, if for example, Islam was to the truth on another planet like Mars. What would Islam be like without the cultural anchors that have grown around it and almost strangled the truth? If, as the last message of Prophet Muhammad would content — that Islam promotes a universal message of peace – and be viewed as the “final revelation,” and that only 20% of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims are speakers of the Arabic language, what has been the consequence of Islam as religion that has been too much caught in the semiotics of Arabism? Simply put, why is being Muslim today synonymous of being or looking Arabic?
The three challenges above, namely that we are living in a multipolar world, that our existence is not central to the Universe, and that religion is a cultural construct to present ways for Muslims to view Islam differently. The Quran, in its very first few words of revelation, “Read … in the name of thy Lord who created Thee …” is a clear enough proposition for believers in this religion to “read oneself and to read the world on is living in.” It is an invitation for readers to not only “read the world” but also to “write” a story of one’s life, based on one’s own worldview and to unshackle oneself from being defined by others.
The challenges above are existential in nature, given by the Quran to the readers.
“Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding; Men who remember Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the creation of the heavens and the earth (with the thought) Our Lord! Not for nothing have you created (all) this. Glory to you! Give us salvation from the suffering of the fire” Qur’an (3: 190-191)
The Ummah as Singularity in Multiplicity
The Ummah is an interconnection of oneness, not segregated tribes who are at war with each other.
We are left to reflect upon the multiplicity of worlds that were created and understand that we are only a tiny part of it.
This opens up wisdom, develops humbleness, and increases empathy towards there being something greater than ourselves. The quintessential and foundational chapter of the Quran, Al Fatihah, or The Opening offer this idea of mercy, peace, gratitude, and wisdom in choosing between Good and Evil. It introduces the reader to the idea that the path of righteousness or the “Siratul Mustaqim” is the path of peace that will guide human beings in this journey through the bountiful and merciful world created by The Lord of the Universe. This path is a challenging one, as we can see that even the world “Islam” can be used to strike terror in others as well as create untold magnitude of destruction. The emergence of the ISIS “Islamic State of Syria and Iraq” or ISISL, The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant” or the Daesh (Darul Islamiyah) and the globalization of terror has is an example of how the word of Islam and the tawhidic message of peace can be misrepresented and be a guide to the path of “those cursed” as the last verse of the Al Fatihah reads.
This takes us into the “tawhidic-singularity” realm of Islam with the idea of Gnosticism factored into the belief system – of the ‘alam al-ghaib’, the concealed dimension of reality
We are told within the Tawhid to submit to Allah and be part of the greater universe. Yet the behaviour espoused by Islam scholars today tends to deem that OUR humanity is at the centre of the universe. It puts humankind above the natural laws of the universe, in a state of arrogance, detested in the Qu’ran itself.
Today we see many political Islamic ideologies that seek to dominate all.
This is contrary to Allah’s scheme of things within the Qu’ran.
The continual return to referencing Allah as the Merciful and the Compassionate reminds us of the need for humility, not hostility and cruelty to humankind.
Choice is open to humankind within the teachings of the Qu’ran. This implies man can choose the realities he wants to exist within:
I control what I perceive
I control what I think
I control how I act
I am responsible for the consequences.
This must occur beyond the bounds of ego-centric consciousness and the assumption that there is only one possible reality.
The action upon literal translation of the Qu’ran is a denial of the true realities that the Qu’ran lays out in front of us. Literal scholarly understanding of the Quran has shackled our understanding to the cultural metaphors that have bounded Islam to its Arabness that we see today. This has blinded us to seeing the deeper dimensions of Islam and the messages of transformation towards Tawhidness. The Quran is a dynamic book, talking about change. It’s been interpreted as static dogma and doctrines, losing the central message about our journal of transcendence to the state of Tawhidness.
The paradoxes of metaphoric and material universes
The paradoxes of the Qu’ran advise humanity not to be too self-excessive and egocentric. Our greed, and other negative emotions, narcissism and other neurosis, addictions, pleasures, accumulation of wealth, and how we treat others is a quantum introspection that we are taught within the Qu’ran, in order to assist us seeing other realities (universes), that we have choice to enter and exist within.
Only through this open awareness can we experience the realities of the world around us, learn to submit to the greater universe around us, which is called Allah. Our essence of purity through the state of spirituality is the only paradigm we can use to understand the deep meaning of the Tawhid and its greatness, far beyond any person, society, or time.
Thus the Tawhid provides humanity with a meaning of life; that of being part of a greater existence; a worldview that accommodates not only the multiple worldviews of existing belief system but also respects the process of constructing emergent new ones.
The introspection of a literal Allah is a neurosis that blinds us to Allah’s true greatness and our true appreciation of this. This is the true reality.
In Islam, worldviews such as that proposed through Sufism takes Muslims away from the ordered mechanistic world view. The world can be seen for what it is, complex in almost mystical ways, as even the laws of nature itself can be seen beyond cause and effect, beyond karma which is too simplistic to explain reality. This is the Quantum view of Islam, which can also be found in the way Buddhism views the self, Reality, and existence. Buddhist ideas such as the self as non-existence and constantly evolving as the “being and becoming bodhisattva” journeys towards “nibbbana or Nirvana,” and constantly being aware of the impermanence of the self and the ephemerality of physical beings, and to live a principle of “non-attachment to this mechanistic and material world,”, and finally to view that life is a process of samsara or the evolution towards liberation, perpetual happiness, and next to enter the realm of “being and nothingness” – this view is where the similarity of Quantum Islam and core metaphysical teachings of existing cultural philosophies lie.
Perception and feeling become more important than any form of quantitative measurement in understanding reality. The Qu’ran itself is not a quantitative work. It is a compendium of propositions inviting readers to think of multiple interpretations of the meaning of texts, subtexts, and cultural contexts. It is a postmodern text that has not proper arrangement or a sense of story of creationism. In other words, it is not a structured story about the metaphysics and physics of creation and Man’s place in the universe. The Quran, in short is merely a set of annotated readings inviting the reads to deconstruct meanings. It is a book about representations of alternate realities in which even the “speaker” or “narrator” of this grand text utilizes shifting pronouns in telling stories and passing down decrees.
Reality and Quantum Islam
The perception of reality is about awareness as the Qu’ran teaches. It is about how individuals transcend the universe through a journey towards a destination and seek the final reality.
Mathematics breaks down in any view of reality, i.e., mathematics cannot explain 10% of infinity. Science cannot explain reality; as if we look at an atom we are not sure whether it’s a particle or a wave. There is a duality to everything, i.e., atoms can be in more than one place at the same time. Half of what we look at is in decay, so the “Schrodinger’s cat “is both alive and dead at the same time. There is a duality of consciousness that we must understand. It is both psychic and physical, full of emotion and emotionless, black and white, good and evil, hot and cold, attracting and repelling. Reality is thus an inter-connectiveness of nature and a web of relationships between humanity and spirituality, that makes up a unified whole within us.
The form of our realities is the product of our observation of this. A tawhidic consciousness is therefore so important in our interpretation of reality.
Seeing this is the order within the chaos that shrouds our minds by focusing too much on the poles of the existential paradoxes. Paradoxes can only be understood through balance. Then one can see the truths within people, relationships, and events.
Prof. Anis Bajrektarevic indicates that it: “corresponds with the Buddhist Yogacara assumption that all perceptions do leave traces which make future similar perceptions more probable/plausible – origins of the potentialities within the quantum realm.” Finally, professor concludes: “This is why mankind kept practicing a prayer.”
Many Islamic writers resorted to using poetry to enhance the understanding of non-linear world.
The Qu’ran talks of a transition to a level where the duality of mind and body cannot be distinguished. We shift into a singularity where there is no time, no space, just a transcendence or universal oneness. We transcend the four dimensions that we understand into further dimensions which the Qu’ran speaks of but we have no direct prior experience. This is the state called Syurga.
The direct experience of reality is a psychic and emotional breakthrough to what Islam calls Al-falah.
The only tool needed to see reality is a tawhidic transcending awareness, which is the key to openness and seeing something greater than our selves.
This is why we rely on rituals such as Zikir (where prayer is incorporated) which builds up higher levels of consciousness. Zikir should help us create an empty mind so all thoughts are cleared to enable us to see the greater universe free of our own egocentrism.
This is where insight come from as we experience ‘eureka manifestations’ of both personal and universal nature. Einstein wrote of this epiphanic moment in his journey to construct the “theory of relativity,”
Our intellect is developed through our experience, which gathers knowledge and interprets meaning for us. The heart of all knowledge for a human is experience. For example, we cannot know what it is like to scuba dive, without actually scuba diving. 100 hours in a classroom cannot give you the same knowledge as a few minutes under the water.
Without experiencing the universe we are blind. This blindness can only be overcome through being open and empathetic to the world around us. Blindness to the universe is a human neurosis.
Science, sense, and soul
A quantum view of reality puts an end to materialism. It is within this paradigm Quantum Islam that one need to look at reality in a different light, taking into consideration that life is not entirely founded upon Materialism.
The Tawhid espouses us to transcend materialism. The non-physical element of our life is our existence, not material things, only their images and symbolic meanings within our minds. This triggers our emotions which create Al-fasad realities for humankind, bringing humans to a level of personal destruction through greed, etc.
This also has repercussions in thought and future actions, and can be considered ill-intentions, contrary to what the Qu’ran espouses. This is our mystical jihad of finding our true uncorrupted existence.
The worldly realities mediate and shrivel over our Tawhidic consciousness, which tells us what is right. Going against what is right is sin and our physic destruction.
Tawhidic consciousness is the true universal wisdom, just as quarks within atoms possess energy which has its own consciousness described for example, by physicist such as Freeman Dyson. Like quarks, we have the capacity to make free decisions.
The non-physical, all embracing empathetic and compassionate mind is what we can develop through Tawhidic guidance. This takes us into the realm of Allah and Syurga.
Allah exists within our higher levels of consciousness, as we are told many times within the Qu’ran.
The narratives of the Qu’ran are concerned with both individual and social (universal) consciousness, the yin and yang of our existence.
This has great implications which haven’t been discussed within the Islamic world. Most are restricted to reading from the literal universe of the Qu’ran, and clinging to this unipolar universe.
To see reality, we must discard the concepts of language and images. Structure gives bias and shackles our ‘knowing’.
Higher intellect cannot be obtained through the processes thinking within mechanistic realities. This blinds us to the understanding of the essential nature of the universe. With a literal understanding of the Qu’ran we are in a paradigm lock within a singular universe of nature. Without paradox, we cannot see meaning, as paradox is the only way we can interpret. Paradox is the language above all other languages, the only way we can create benchmarks within our mind, in order to interpret the universe around us.
However, these paradoxes are ruled by personal emotions, of which we both project and introspect with the dualities that define our world. It is within these dualities that we define ‘good’ and ‘evil’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘virtuous’ or ‘sinful’.
Islam and particularly the Tawhid is a field of potential. It is a reality beyond our materialistic reality, and our consciousness which is intertwined with our ego-self. The Tawhid can only be entered into, discovered, or become an awareness through humility on the inside and compassion filtering to the outside, without the ego-self bounding us back to our materialistic existence. This dimension is a field of human and universal purity, full of wisdom; al-Falah. Islam is really about how we transcend the lower earthly dimensions of ourselves into the higher dimension of Tawhid-purity.
This is Quantum-Islam; the potential to be, the choice that has been given to all humanity within the Quran.
Exploring idea of Quantum Islam, as the name suggests, requires the mind of the Muslim to engage in the phenomenological and metaphysical experience of conceiving worldviews beyond the mechanistic view of the personal and physical self and move toward a higher plane of quantum physics and metaphysics. In other words, Muslims should raise the level of understanding Islam from mere doctrinal and cultural to philosophical and muti-universal and multi-dimensional. This requires a new understanding of what god is, beyond how this concept of a creator is understood. A Kuhnian shift in Islamic metaphysics and ontological evolution is needed, as how the idea of a Heisenberg Principle of observing Objectivity was conceived. Muslims need to explore the semiotics of believing itself and venture deeper into the meaning constructing the meaning of reading their “book of readings”: The Quran.
Euthanasia, Living Will and The Analysis In India
Euthanasia, i.e. mercy killing, refers to the act of painlessly putting to death a person who is either very old or very ill to prevent further pain and suffering. It is basically a practice that is done on people suffering from incurable diseases or incapacitating physical disorder wherein they are allowed to die by the withdrawal of artificial life support system or withholding of medical treatment. On 9th March 2018, the Supreme Court of India, in a historical decision, legalised passive euthanasia and the right of terminally ill persons to give advance directives for refusal of medical treatment. Therefore, the concept of ‘living will’ was recognised which essentially refers to the document that the person writes in a normal state of mind seeking passive euthanasia when he reaches an irreversible vegetative state or when he gets terminally ill. For a comprehensive understanding of this whole topic, we have demarcated between different types of ‘mercy killing’ in the next section. Also, we will discuss the concerned judgement in detail not forgetting to mention the backdrop that led to the much-anticipated move. Additionally, we will try to summarise the arguments of both the supporters as well as the dissenters of the move before finally moving to the conclusion.
Active Euthanasia, Passive Euthanasia, Indirect Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
Active Euthanasia refers to the deliberate act of ending the life of a terminally ill or incurable patient through the administration of a legal drug or injection by the physician. Passive Euthanasia is the withdrawal or withholding of artificial life support system when the patient requests to do so or when prolonging of his life is termed futile. Indirect Euthanasia means the provision of treatment with an aim to reduce pain and suffering, but which eventually speeds up the process of death. And, assisted suicide (also called physician-assisted suicide) refers to the situation when the doctor intentionally and knowingly provides the patient with the knowledge and/or means to commit suicide. The laws regarding euthanasia differ throughout the world. In countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, euthanasia has been legal since 2002. The practice of ‘Assisted Suicide’ is legal in European countries of Switzerland and Germany. In England, both euthanasia, as well as assisted suicide, are illegal. In most of the U.S., euthanasia is illegal but physician-assisted suicide has been legalised in ten of its states. In India, passive euthanasia was legalised two years back. The next section discusses the same in detail.
Euthanasia in India: The Aruna Shanbaug Case and the Common Cause Judgement
The case of Aruna Shanbaug has been quite instrumental in changing the euthanasia laws in India. Ms. Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug was an Indian nurse who in 1973, was sexually assaulted by a ward boy in the hospital as a result of which she went into a vegetative state. In 2010, a plea was filed by activist Ms. Pinki Virani before the Supreme Court seeking euthanasia for Ms. Aruna Shanbaug. The Court took up the plea and finally, on March 7, 2011, delivered the historical judgement. Ms. Virani’s plea got rejected but at the same time, broad guidelines were issued legalising passive euthanasia in India. It was held that the decision to withdraw life support must be taken by parents, spouse or other close relatives in the absence of all of whom, the ‘next’ friend would be entrusted with the responsibility. In this particular case, the hospital staff that had been taking care of Ms. Aruna for years was called the ‘next friend’ and not Ms. Virani. In 2015, Ms. Aruna Shanbaug, after 42 years of constant suffering died of pneumonia at the age of 66 but not before playing a vital role in influencing upcoming euthanasia-related laws in India.
In a separate move, ‘Common Cause’, an NGO working for people’s rights, approached the Supreme Court under Art. 32 of the Constitution in the year 2005, wherein they prayed for the declaration that ‘Right to Die with Dignity’ be made a fundamental right under Art. 21  i.e. Right to Life. Additionally, they requested the court to give directions to the government with regards to the execution of living wills in case a person gets terminally ill. The argument was that subjecting terminally ill people or the people suffering from chronic diseases to cruel treatments denied them the right to live with dignity. On February 25, 2014, a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by the then CJI P. Sathasivam started final hearing in the case wherein it came out that the previous judgements given in the case of Aruna Shanbaug v. Union of India (2011), as well as the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab (1996), were inconsistent. The matter was then referred to a 5 Judge Constitutional Bench. And finally, on March 9, 2018, in a historical decision, CJI Deepak Mishra led bench recognised the concept of ‘living will’ that was to be drawn by terminally ill patients for passive euthanasia and also laid down comprehensive guidelines for the same. Hence, the ‘Right to Die with Dignity’ was held to be a fundamental right.
Euthanasia- a good or a bad thing?
The proponents of Euthanasia argue that allowing an incurable patient to die will alleviate the constant pain and suffering that one has to go through when in the vegetative state. The other point which they talk about is that ‘right to die with dignity’ is a matter of personal choice and no-one else should be allowed to interfere in the patient’s decision. It has also been said time and again that timely executed euthanasia could also relieve the financial burden on the family of the patient which in case of absence of the law, could exert a lot of financial burden on poor households.
Moreover, coming to the major points that the opponents say, the fact that the law on euthanasia could be misused is always talked about. It is argued that children of old and ill parents would certainly want to neglect their parents when they are needed the most. This does not fit with the kind of social and cultural environment that we have in India, where parents are supposed to be provided with care when they get too old. Also, the opponents lay emphasis on the sanctity of life and reckon that accepting euthanasia would lead to a reduction in society’s respect for life.
Benefits of recognising Living Will
Recognition of Living will indeed have some good impact. The concept essentially requiresa person to write the will as an advance directive when he is capable of making a sensible decision. And, thus, this rules out the possibility of the situation when the patient, being too ill, is not able to make an informed and competitive decision especially so in the case of Mentally Challenged patients and the patients who are incoma. Also, the living will, to much extent, would relieve the moral burden from the family member who actually takes steps for euthanasia, for ultimately, he would be fulfilling the informed wish of the patient only. Passive Euthanasia could sometimes, in exceptional circumstances, lead to the allegations of murder so the existence of a living will have a role to play in preventing such situations. In and all, the legalisation of ‘living will’goes a long way in effective implementation of the laws of euthanasia in India.
In the course of this article, we tried to explain with clarity the concepts of euthanasia as well as ‘living will’. We listed out the arguments of both the proponents as well as the opponents of euthanasia and also mentioned how the ‘living will’ is going to have a positive impact. Giving due importance to the judgement of the Supreme Court in the Common Cause Case, the long-anticipated Fundamental Right to Die with Dignity has finally been accepted. The legalisation of Passive Euthanasia, along with the recognition of ‘living will’ would make a lot of difference in how the severely ill patients meet their death. Having a dignified death is equally important as having a dignified life, so in that respect, the laws on euthanasia would come out to be of vital importance. As far as the living will is concerned, it is definitely going to simplify the entire process of euthanasia. In the end, we could just hope that the laws are able to achieve the desired objectives.
The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 32.
The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 21.
 Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, (2011) 4 SCC 454.
Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, (1996) 2 SCC 648.
 Common Cause (A Regd. Society) v Union of India and Anr, 2018 5 SCC 1.
Reimagining Governance after Covid-19
What will it take to rescue the global economy in the wake of COVID-19? Are adjustments, improvements or amendments enough? Haven’t we done this before? Maybe it’s time to rethink this with a mindset, not of ‘starting again’ which would tend to invite ‘again’ thinking, but instead to begin with a completely blank slate – no preconceptions – just goals.
I suggested a new paradigm, a total reset.
Change most often happens incrementally, over decades, if not centuries and many historical truths define the present long past their relevance. For one, the fundamental principles of our global economy still rest on the agrarian and industrial revolutions. Tilling the soil and staffing factories remain the foundations of today’s economic planning – despite the fact that we have well entered the digital, automated world.
Another of these historical, yet increasingly outdated conventionsis the pervasiveness of male leadership.
The position of women has evolved incrementally and at best- unevenly – throughout the world. Although women comprise half the population, the world’s political, economic and social systems continue to be based on designs stemming from and reflecting men’s nature.
All things being equal, it is very costly to knock down the entirety of something and start from scratch. Perhaps fortunately, the devastation caused by COVID-19 is happening at a time of acute and increasing awareness of the imbalance in society. This offers a rare, first-ever opportunity to revisit the definition of effective.
That is whyit make sense to re-architect these systems now, imbuing governance with a mix of qualities of success that are peculiar to women as well as those of men.An op-ed in the British Medical Journal recently noted that to avoid ‘groupthink’ and blind spots, policy decisions must include representatives with diverse backgrounds. But during the outbreak of covid-19 the male-led governments of the UK and Sweden relied mainly on epidemiological modeling by internal advisors. Few channels were open for dissenting views. By contrast, Merkel looked to outside sources, beyond epidemiology to medical providers, and as far as South Korea’s successful testing and isolation procedures.
Two notable characteristics of leadership of women leaders during Covid-19 were inclusiveness and compassion: embracing diversity in political institutions and empowering society. In the battle against corona this meant transparency, clarity of responsibility with everything visible – not behind the scenes. It meant swiftly finding ways to allow the populace to become stakeholders in the solution. It included appealing to the citizenry with an executive demeanor that conveyed commitment and a sense that there was a consistent plan of action that demanded civic responsibility while at the same time, leaving the people with a great deal of discretion and personal influence over their own experience.
Compassion informed a compelling vision presented with warmth.
Some like Peter Huang of the University of Colorado Law School, have already noted the most important leadership lesson of COVID-19:put more women in charge. But is that enough when the system itself is informed by and imbued with male characteristics, language, energy?
Societal norms are defined and shaped by millennia of men at the helm. Thus most women remain compelled to conform to the existing framework, created by and for men, to attain and hold their positions. In most cases, that means; act like a man. Adapt to systems where leaders are expected to be aggressive, domineering and cut-throat.
The devastation wreaked by COVID-19 shows that the existing framework is no longer relevant, opening an opportunity to invent something totally new. The virus has created a moment where we can begin to see the possibilities devoid of the limitations of our old ways. The time has come to expand the definition of what is effective and reimagine measures for governance based on entirely new systems that emerge from a cooperative process of creation. For the first time in the history of humanity, society can be built on foundations rising from a fully cooperative process between men and women. With a clean slate and a balanced – male and female, yin and yang -defined approach, we have the opportunity to do it right.
Contextualizing the causes of rape: Battle of ‘wrong’ perceptions
The recent sexual assault committed at the outskirts of Lahore motorway has sparked tremendous outrage in Pakistan, from highlighting CCPO’s misogynist remarks, defending him, demanding public hanging, justice for the victim and overall security for women to spreading gender awareness in the society. However, to my utter surprise, the discourse rarely mentioned the perpetrators the way they should have been mentioned. The predominant yet absolutely fallacious focus remained on how ‘rape’ stems out of some ‘sexual deprivation’ or ‘uncontrollable sexual urges’. In other words, rapists seek ‘sexual gratification’ through rape. The problem with this statement is that it minimizes the legal responsibility of rapists and attributes the causes of rape to something beyond their control. Once the legal responsibility of rapists is removed or reduced, then either the circumstances or the victims themselves are blamed for creating situations in which the criminal lose control of themselves for sexual fulfilment. How can one consider and accept this supposed ‘uncontrollability’ of men, when this very society ‘informs’ us that men are more ‘rational’, ‘sound’ and ‘prudent’ while women are ‘emotional’ and ‘sentimental’. In religion and in wider social discourse, majority of leadership and managerial positions are reserved for men because they are considered logical and mentally more stable than us females. How can someone who is allegedly more rational, more reasonable and sensible have no control over their sexual behavior? Have no sense of individual dignity and self-restraint, personal responsibility and moral accountability? If we accept this wrong perception about men’s incapability to control their sexual desires, then, we should immediately overhaul the society and put men into the confines of their homes and must restrict their exposure to public space, because they have no power over themselves. Do you see where this argument may lead if we keep thinking that men cannot control their sexual urges and rape just happens out of lust and sexual desires?
The truth is both genders have equal sexual needs and desires, the only difference between them is that society has ‘normalized’ male sexuality and stigmatized ‘female sexuality’. And yes, both genders have equal control over their sexual urges. Rape never happens randomly and just out of extreme sexual urges, remember, it is an act carried out by the rapists intentionally. Moreover, majority of rapists (as various researches shows) have multiple venues to fulfil their sexual needs through extra-material ‘consensual sex’ and prostitutes. Paradoxically, a lot of rapists are married men, and men in powerful positions who have unlimited access to free but ‘consensual sex’. Therefore, we need to reject widespread notions that perhaps sexual impulses are uncontrollable, and because they cannot be controlled, they will ultimately lead to sexual crimes or rapists are essentially some ‘sex-deprived individuals’. The wrong emphasis will lead to wrong solutions to eradicate this social evil.
In this context, it is extremely necessary to understand the reasons and motives behind rape and sexual harassment. Various researches on this subject indicates that majority of rapists are motivated by an impulses of aggression incorporating power, acceptance of violence, revenge and anger. They are also encouraged by a combination of aggression and sexual expression emerging directly from the traditional male sex-role which is why when rapists are asked about motivations, ‘they often indicated that rape most commonly stemmed from a sense of sexual entitlement, and it was often an act of bored men… seeking entertainment’ (Rachel Jewkes, 2010)
Also, Rape is often ‘used’ as a weapon by the rapist to control, violate, and belittle the victim or to compensate for his perceived inadequacies such as lack of power, control, identity, and authority through the act of rape. There are extensive interviews of rapists available, in which, the perpetrators have elaborated how the act of rape was not really about ‘sexual pleasure’ but rather how it satisfied their wish to attain control, spread violence, and seek punishment and domination. Susan Brown miller, a feminist scholar, famously proclaimed that: “Rape is not a crime of irrational, impulsive, uncontrollable lust, but is a deliberate, hostile, violent act of degradation and possession on the part of a would-be conqueror, designed to intimidate and inspire fear…’Moreover, another feminist researcher MacKinnon found out that ‘aggression against those with less power is often experienced as sexual pleasure, an entitlement of masculinity that creates and maintains a sexual/gender hierarchy’. This has been demonstrated through Sanday’s Study on rape that distinguished between ‘‘rape-prone’’ and ‘rape-free’’ societies. Her cross-cultural study found that rape-prone societies were associated with interpersonal violence, male social dominance, and the subordination of women. In contrast, rape-free societies were characterized by respect for female authority and decision making and the near absence of interpersonal violence.
Besides, if we look at the history we will realize that rape has been used as aweapon of war and oppression throughout history. It has been used to degrade women and weak, vulnerable- unprivileged man and their communities and for ethnic cleansing and genocide. In jails all over the world, male rape is pervasive and never even highlighted through ‘breaking news’. In the famous rape case of Mukhtar Mai, the focus almost entirely diverted towards her, whereas her 14 years old brother was, also, a victim of repeated gang-rape by the three Baloch Mastoi men. And let’s never forget that it was the local Jirga who ordered the rape of Mukhtar Mai. How sick is this society where men are not punished for their criminal acts but rather their sisters, daughters, wives and mothers are punished. If a man sexually assault a woman, that man should be punished not woman belonging to his family. There are hundreds of examples where woman and man were sexually assaulted to humiliate or dominate and take revenge or inflict pain and injury either directly on the victim and their family or to disgrace one gender as a whole. Therefore, It can be established that rape has numerous motives as Beverly McPhail, renowned feminist scholar who has done extensive research on causes of rape, asserted that rape is both “a political, aggregate act whereby men as a group dominate and control women as a group,” and “a very personal, intimate act in which the body of a singular person is violated by another person(s).” She asserts further that “Rape occurs due to multiple motives rather than the single motivation… The multiple motivations include, but are not limited to revenge, power/control, and attempts to achieve or perform masculinity recreation or sexual gratification (of violent ‘nonconsensual sex).”
However, the common misperception in the society is that rape occurs because of ‘uncontrollable sexual urges’, ‘late marriages, ‘broken families’, ‘women not wearing veil’ and the like. The whole notion that the rapists might have felt ‘out of control’ is a gross rejection of the fact that rapists ‘intentionally’ commit assault to ‘control’ the victim. This line of thinking perpetuate the false notion that perhaps man are some desperate beasts and therefore cannot control their sexual urges. Unfortunately, there is a subtle acknowledgment of such wrong, delusionary and misplaced perception in the tone of so many people, who, perhaps think our society is ‘sex starved’. In fact, our society is obsessed with sex and the daily news of sexual assaults are emblematic of this. Men in our society have raped ‘dead females after exhuming’, minors, (both boys and girls) and animals. If this is not obsession then what it is? This doesn’t sound like ‘starvation’.
The major problem emerges with patriarchy and how ‘sexual violence’ has been normalized and accepted. Yes, our society has stealthily ‘accepted’ sexual violence when majority of populace of Islamic republic chants in unison the notions of ‘chadar and char devari’ to ‘save’ women from sexual harassments. Ironically women are not even safe in their homes or in some cases in their graves, and don’t forget a huge number of girls and minors are raped by family members. Such mentality forgets to look at the causes of rape, ending rape culture, and correcting male behavior, instead it just loves to assume as if ‘chadar and char devari’ has saved and protected women. Our society has accepted and normalize sexual harassment when films and media is blamed for spreading vulgarity and spoiling the young generation, as if before the advent of social media and films, rape cases were non-existent. Our society has normalized sexual harassment when male children are brought up differently than females and when the family and educational institutes do not inculcate gender sensitization in students. This very ‘Islamic republic’ tolerate sexual violence when women are routinely given rape threats but law enforcement agencies rarely take actions; when rapists are not punished and roam freely. When criminals committing domestic violence, acid attacks, honor killings go unpunished. Every time when women is stared at by men in streets (even if she is wearing burqa) , when she is groped or touched in public, in schools, universities, offices and she remains silent out of fear of retaliation and humiliation and cannot hold the culprit responsible, this ‘rape culture’ is nourished and strengthened by ourselves. Moreover, the extent of hypocrisy that is maintained through this rape cultureis such that perpetrators are virtually ‘morally acquitted’ of their heinous crime. For the most part, there is a little reference towards them being ‘real culprits’. Our society has attached no stigma no disgrace towards the offenders of sexual violence, staring, catcalling, eve teasing and the like. Instead, it dearly devotes all its energy towards ‘disgracing’ and ‘dishonoring’ the victims and their family. We never shout out and label the perpetrators as ‘disgraceful’, ‘dishonorable’, ‘criminals’ and of course ‘sinners’ as well. This society tell victims that how they are ‘disgraced’ or have ‘lost their honor’ by the sexual assault whereas in reality the victim is innocent and mazloom. The victim’s human rights are violated and s/he is oppressed, and who is oppressed cannot be ‘dishonored’. It is only the oppressor, the criminal who is disgraced and dishonored by his crimes and sins. But have we ever, collectively and vocally, renounced and stigmatized the rapists in particular and perpetrators of other acts of sexual harassment in general? Would it be wrong to say that staring, catcalling, abusing, eve teasing etc. by Pakistani men have actually become our ‘national character’ and majority of man are not even sorry for these shameful and inhumane acts. The day when sexual harassment is removed in all these forms at grassroots level, heinous crimes like rape will tremendously reduce as well.
To add insult to injury, the clergy (the Mullahs, the Allamas) has all the time in the world to ‘preach’ and perform their ‘religious duties’ during Ramzan and Moharram, and who, vociferously condemn ‘bad behavior’ in women, suddenly disappear from the scene when incidents of sexual harassment occurs. No ‘jaloos’ or ‘rallies’ by these religious leaders are organized to denounce the crime committed largely by individuals from their gender. Of course they can’t come out and condemn such crimes as most of these religious figures are themselves involved in such crimes and the others simply do not bother about the societal problems because their sole responsibility is to strengthen and disseminate their respective sectarian believes through Mosques, Iman bargahs, jammatkhanas and madrassahs. Because, they are very part and parcel of patriarchal society and all the notions of male superiority and domination have given them tremendous advantages in their personal and professional lives.
Nonetheless, it is their moral responsibility to ‘educate’ the masses (particularly males) that how grave a ‘sin’ rape is (and a crime against humanity in both national and international law), that how God has ordered men to ‘lower their eyes’ and guard their modesty. In the common discourse all the notions of modesty and chastity are only confined to women, as if God has given men the ‘freedom’ to do as he pleases. The truth is modesty (sharm-o-haya) is compulsory for both men and women as God has ordained in verse 24:30 ‘Tell the believing men to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do’. Have you ever noticed that most of the time no one talks about this, people only talk about how only women need to veil and act modestly, and if they don’t ‘behave’ this way, it is the God given right to men to sexually harass them.
Sorry to disappoint you, God has not bestowed any such right to men, He has, explicitly, ordered men to guard their chastity, but majority of the men in our society have ‘completely’ forgotten and neglected to safeguard their modesty (Sharm-o-haya). In fact, if society had taught this sharm-o-haya to our men, sexual violence would not have become endemic and gender equality would not have become so hard to achieve. Therefore, if we really want to become a civilized and progressive society we need to inculcate this fundamental principal in our men with the same emphasis, because they are fully accountable and responsible for their actions. It is about time that we change our focus from ‘victim blaming’ (or women blaming) to ‘reeducate’ men in our society. To achieve this, we have to break the cycle of patriarchic values and advocate the absolute inviolability of individual dignity and equality of human beings. Don’t wait for the society to miraculously change, start with the person in the mirror.
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