By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
24 August 2017
Common sense is defined as our ability to perceive, understand, and judge things that are shared by ("common to") nearly all people in our community, and can reasonably be expected of nearly all people within the community, without need for debate.(The definition is taken partially from Wikipedia)
In practical terms, we can speak about what is common to a homogeneous group which may be a nation, ethnic group, a religious community etc. To talk of what is common to all the people of the world would only betray our ignorance, and the all too common weakness to generalize based on the particular, which is what is common to us. Stealing and killing is a criminal act by common sense in most cultures, but not for the thugs and other criminal tribes for whom it is a sacred service to their deity. Neither was this common sense to others until religion gave them the criterion of right and wrong.
Perception, understanding and judgment depend on values, notions, principles and concepts commonly held by the community which vary from community to community. What we consider as common, is usually a reflection of our world view and the ideologies that we have internalized.
If you can influence peoples’ values, notions, principles and concepts, you can change their behaviour. It is through manipulating these and through it their “common sense”, that powerful interest groups change the way that people react and behave. For example, it has become “common sense” to consider every conspiracy theory as no more than the imagination of cranks. We therefore swallow the official version and reject everything else. The government and other powerful interest groups can go on doing what they please, and sell us their “official story” as the truth. The people will swallow the official lies, because their common sense tells them that conspiracy theories are only theories and not fact. In one stroke of genius, the government has placed itself above suspicion of any wrong doing or a conspiracy! How is this achieved? They are helped by the fact that many of the conspiracy theories are in fact only the imagination of cranks and very few of them are true. There may be just one good conspiracy story which is nearer the truth and 99 other cranky stories about the same incident. The government will not touch the one good story but effectively refute the 99 other stories and convince the people that all the conspiracy theorists are cranks! In the impressive evidence against the cranks, the one true story is easily lost.
War is made acceptable by demonizing and dehumanizing the target “enemy. The Japanese people were made out to be monsters and therefore it became acceptable to nuke them although doing so had no military objective. It was simply to test the destructive power of the nuclear bomb and to warn the USSR. It marked the end of WWII and the beginning of the cold war. We know how war against Afghanistan, Iraq and interventions in Syria and Libya were made acceptable to the American people by their government.
In the past, one may have may appealed to common sense when arguing against gay marriage but today, this may not be possible in the western society because their common sense about the LGBT community has changed.
We trust our common sense, because it serves our purpose admirably on many day to day issues. The fact that the people are lazy thinkers, who trust their common sense blindly, is misused by the powerful manipulators and exploiters to their advantage.
Take the community of Muslims. Within this community, the examples of what are considered as “common sense” religious concepts beyond argument but are erroneous and some both erroneous and highly detrimental to themselves and the society are:
Kafir = Non-Muslim, (Kafir does not mean disbeliever or non-Muslim even in a single verse of the Quran. The Quran consistently uses la Yuminun to mean a disbeliever)
A Muslim is one who recites the Kalima. (This is Islamic theology and not what the Quran says. According to the Quran, Islam is submission to Allah by whatever name we may call Allah by and a Muslim is one who submits to Allah)
Shaheed = martyr (It has only the meaning of witness in the Quran and never used for the slain in the cause of Allah)
Immortal soul exists (The Quran does not contain any word or an expression that could mean an immortal soul)
Punishment in grave for the sinners (A dead man does not come alive until resurrection on the Day of judgment and therefore there can be no punishment in the grave and what people call an immortal soul that lives on after death just does not exist)
Deen = Quran plus Sunna which means following the Ahadith (The entire Deen including the Sunna of the prophet relevant for following the Deen is in the Quran)
The testimony of two women equals the testimony of one man. (Two women can witness a document jointly and testify when required jointly. They are not required to testify separately. So, it would remain a single testimony given jointly, consulting each other. This is a concession and not a legal requirement)
The Quran contains the concept of triple Talaq. (It does not)
The Prophet was fighting battles against the “disbelievers” and “disbelief” rather than against religious persecution. (This wrong notion comes from the mistranslation of Kufr/Kafir and overlooking verses that dispel such a notion)
That even the peaceful polytheists who had not fought against the Muslims nor persecuted them did not have the choice of retaining their faith and become Jizya paying subjects. (This is incorrect and a falsehood)
Erroneous common sense arguments
What may be generally true is not always true. Take, for example, the following arguments:
The fact that common notions among the common Muslims and their scholars as above are considered to be erroneous means that the Quran is not a Book that makes things clear.
While the Quran may be a Book that makes things clear, the Muslims could still deviate from the Quran for narrow political interests, bigotry and parochialism that is common among the religious right in every religion. The reason that Muslims have many erroneous concepts is because of their theology which is based on the Ahadith and not on the Quran. The Ahadith differ from the Quran on every subject. The Ahadith were compiled two centuries after the death of the Prophet and its sole purpose appears to have been to bend Islam to the needs of powerful interest groups. A person who is first indoctrinated in the Ahadith will view through glasses that distort the truth and will not find the truth. A common Muslim learns about his religion through the theology of his sect. When he reads the Quran and finds a gulf between his beliefs and the Quran, he gives up reading thinking that the Quran is beyond his understanding. My articles on each of these misconceptions are proof that the truth is easily ascertainable and contrary to the common view.
The Book contains many contradictions which is why the scholars treat many of the verses as abrogated.
The contradictions are between what the Quran says and what the Ahadith say. Those who take the Ahadith as correct will find many contradictions. The Quran is internally consistent and without a single contradiction
There is a difference between the Meccan Quran and the Medinian Quran. The Meccan Quran says “To you (peaceful rejecter of Islam) be your religion and to me mine”. The Medinian period is about war against the disbelievers until they give up disbelief and abrogation of this principle.
The principle of “To you (peaceful rejecter of Islam) be your religion and to me mine”was never violated. Those who remained peaceful had the right to security of their life and to retain their faith. The battle was never against the peaceful rejecter of the faith of Islam. The judgment for the polytheists who were the persecutors and those who fought against the Muslims and their crimes described in 9:12 is in verse 9:5 and for the peaceful polytheists the judgment for them is in verse 9:29.
What we call our common sense, is highly susceptible to being manipulated through lies, half-truths and distortions and through such manipulations, powerful groups control us and our behaviour. We call contra intuitive, what does not fit in with our common sense. What is contra intuitive is so common, that we need to be always circumspect about common sense. Science may become common sense over a period, but rarely was any new discovery as a result of our common sense. It was therefore vehemently opposed during the dark ages. The criterion of right and wrong which has become part of our common sense was not so when we first received it from religion. Every valuable idea has come from inspiration or inspired thinking and not from common sense.
Religions gave us the most valuable criterion of right and wrong but have for the most part become bad through the man-made development of theology through which the common sense of the followers has been manipulated in the direction of increasing bigotry, parochialism and exclusivism. We need to do a clean-up act by resetting our theology to the ideals of our scriptures and discard all our erroneous notions and concepts that our theology has given us.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to www.NewAgeIslam.com