Islam students at LUC

Archive for February 2013

This week in class, we spent a lot of time discussing levels of faith, good deeds, and intentions. The topic that most made me think–made me think all week, in fact–was that of selflessness. There was a lot of discussion about whether or not it was possible to be truly selfless, as people at the ihsan level are. (What I got from that, incidentally, is that people can get close to the ihsan level, but never actually get there. Prof. Mozaffar also asked if we’d want to be around someone like that, and I think I would. Someone so secure, so kind, so faithful, so comforting–why wouldn’t you want to spend time with such a person? If they’re at that level of thoughtfulness, they’re not going to shove religion down your throat or do anything except their best to make you happy, so I’d definitely want to be around that person. Except for the occasional break when I remembered how much I fail in comparison :P) Anyway, I tossed around a lot of ideas about the question of selflessness, but at the end of the day, I don’t really think it matters if you do something 100% selflessly. If you’re doing a really good thing, I don’t really care if you’re doing it for God or for a warm fuzzy feeling or just because it’s the right thing to do. I also don’t think these things are mutually exclusive–you can do something because your religion dictates it AND just because you know it’s right, etc. I think the only problem is when someone starts doing good for image reasons or so they can brag to their friends about what a saint they are.

I agree with your statement that people aren’t always looking for a reward when performing a good deed, idealistic though it may be. I kind of got the feeling from the class discussion that a lot of people felt that it was wrong to do something just for the good internal feeling one gets afterward, but I don’t necessarily think it is. If you do something good, why shouldn’t you feel good about it? I also don’t think it’s always a conscious thing–when I do a “good deed” for someone else, the community, etc., I don’t always do it with the reward in mind. I really don’t think they’re mutually exclusive–Islam pushes me to do good acts, but I don’t always think of Islam when I’m doing them. If I move a piece of ice out of the sidewalk, I’m probably not consciously thinking, “I AM GOING TO DO THIS GOOD THING BECAUSE I WILL BE REWARDED BY GOD.” I’m probably thinking more along the lines of, “I’m gonna move this thing out of the way so somebody doesn’t slip and get hurt.” Maybe later, I’ll hope in passing that God rewards me for it. I’m sure it’s like this for a lot of people, inside and outside of Islam or religion in general. I think that up to reasonable point, motivation for good deeds isn’t a huge issue. If you’re doing the right thing, the ‘why’ isn’t that important.

I really enjoyed this week’s discussion on the different levels of faith in the Islamic paradigm, starting at Islam and going up to Ihsan. We spent a lot of time looking at examples and trying to determine motivations for action, and I feel like there does not always have to be a selfish motive behind doing something. I’m thinking specifically of the example of the child who has fallen off his tricycle. While some people offered intentions based off prior experience of having fallen off a bike themselves or wanting somebody else to help you if you were in the same situation, I would hope that people would help somebody in need simply because it would be the right thing to do. Maybe that is the idealist in me speaking, but people aren’t always looking out for themselves and doing things to benefit themselves. That being said, I don’t believe that it is possible to be completely selfless, or self-less, for that matter. Although some scenarios will incite an automatic response, like the one mentioned above, I think many others require the actor to at least consider themselves as a player and the upcoming consequences. In the discussion of a person who has reached the level of Ihasn, it still seems impossible to me for a person to reach that state. A person’s point of view and how they see other things is in direct connection with how they view themselves. This contradicts the idea of self-less-ness and that one is never thinking about him or herself. Even if one is in constant communication with God, that person has to at least acknowledge him or herself as being in that situation. I keep thinking of Descrates saying “I think, therefore I am” and so by someone simply being congnizant of brain activity, that person is thinking of him or herself, even if it is just in the content of being a human being.


It’s interesting that you bring your background of psychology into this conversation, especially because we generally don’t think about science and religion intersecting much, if at all. I think the Social Learning theory is really applicable to our discussion. If I had never seen somebody help another person who was struggling, then I probably would not be inclined to help the toddler who has fallen. In terms of the parent acting selflessly for the child, one could argue that beyond a parent doing something for the sake of his or her child, they may be doing so in attempts to avoid the pain he or she will feel if anything would happen to the kid. In that case, it is another example of inherent selfishness.

This week in class, we discussed the topic of the levels of faith as well as the difference between a selfish person and a selfless person. In my opinion, I believe that it is difficult to be truly selfless. There is always a part of you that is doing this action for yourself, whether you know it or not. For example we brought up the example of a child that fell off his tricycle in the middle of the sidewalk. Would you help the child? My answer would be yes! Now, I may think this is just a good deed and I am doing it to help the child. But I am also doing it because I can relate to the young child because I have fallen off my bike before too. In addition, if my child were tangled underneath a bicycle, I would want someone to help them. This is an example of being selfish. Although one may think they are just doing a good deed, they are also being selfish. In addition, we also discussed the possibility of giving a dollar to a man smelling of booze. Would you give him a dollar to just go away or for you to be closer to God or not give him a dollar at all? To me, I would not give him a dollar because I do not know what he would do with the money and I wouldn’t want him to buy more booze. I also do not believe one sure do something just to be closer to God. I strongly believe one should do what they believe is right and in the end, may or may not be rewarded.

            In response to whosaidwhatnow, I agree that we do have these ideas conditioned in us whether that is classical conditioning or operant conditioning. Therefore, I agree with you on the fact that none of our actions are truly selfless. There is always some art within us doing the deed to benefit ourselves. Like you said, we have learned these throughout our lives from parents, friends and peers and have carried this knowledge with us throughout life. For example, if we saw our parents help someone change a tire on the side of the street or help push a car out of a snow bank, we would follow this example and believe that was the right thing to do. No one ever told us what was right or now, we just do what we believe is right. Selfishness is a very good thing, but I believe it is very hard to do because we are so genetically prone to being selfish in our lives today.


Today, we had a very interesting discussion on the levels of faith and selfishness vs. selflessness.  As a Psychology major, I tend to base a lot of my rationale for human actions on the Psychological theories.  I feel like there is no such thing as real selflessness.  Everything we do as human beings is done for a purpose, whether that purpose is the Divine or an intrinsic good feeling.  We may be classically conditioned to associate good works with good feelings.  There is such a thing called Operant Conditioning which involves rewards and punishments.  Through our experiences, we have always been rewarded for doing good works, whether it was from our parents, teachers, internal good feeling, or our belief in karma.  There is also something called Social Learning, in which we do not have to perform the task ourselves to know it is good or bad.  We may have seen our parents help our 70-year old neighbor shovel their driveway, so we understand that is the right thing to do.  No matter what it is, I feel that we know we are doing something for a greater purpose or greater satisfaction.  Even with the example of a parent for her or his child, I feel that is not necessarily selfless.  I understand there are many times that parents go out of the way to do things for their children, but I do feel like being a good parent, raising a good child, or maintaining a good family life are things that will either be rewarded immediately by society or in the Afterlife, if one believes.  Therefore, I still feel like none of our actions are truly selfless.  I do, however, believe selfishness can be good in many circumstances, specifically when it comes to such acts of kindness.

In response to greekforgrace:

I appreciate your comment about interpretation.  One thing we grazed on in class today was interpretation and intention.  Specifically with the suicide bomber example, we discussed how that individual could perceive their action as being altruistically selfless, as they are giving up their life for God/rid of occupation/their country/etc.  The interesting idea here is that one can frame such a terrible action in a way such that they truly believe it is correct.  Whether they are brainwashed or pressured or truly believe they are right, we can never really understand what is going on in that individual’s mind to evoke such an action.  So if that person’s intention is for God and if that person’s interpretation of their actions is for God, how do we classify their selfless/selfish actions?  They may be convinced that they are doing the right thing, so how would we explain to them they are wrong and that they are doing more harm than good?

Last week was a lot of fun. I think all the groups did a great job.  It was very entertaining.  I also found out how difficult it is to act. But what surprised me the most is the calm laid-back atmosphere. No one seemed to be nervous.    Even though the skits varied, everyone had the moral of the story. The best skit was Jerry Springer because it was so unpredictable. Who would have thought that you could make a Joseph story out of it?!  The funniest part was the tests when they came back. I also think it was a good idea to separate the winning skits into two parts; one an entertaining one and one that covered the story brilliantly.  It wouldn’t have been fair if only one won. I also agreed with the best actor being Khan and also Sleepy! She was hilarious.


As far as the judges are concerned, I think people are being so critical because they don’t know that the judges too were playing a role.  I believe one of them was playing Simon.    Everybody was acting and nothing should have been taken seriously.


In response to swat1224:


I completely agree with you when you said that Joseph holds a special place in our religion.  Presenting it in such a way did give a better understanding and a light hearted one. It grabbed everyone’s attention and gave an understanding of the moral of the story that everyone can understand.

We had so much fun last week. Every group created different interpretations of Joseph’s story, but the skits still contained the main lessons. I think doing the play helps me understand the story better. Also, I also got to know my group members better. Instead of boring lectures, I think this activity is a good idea in many ways. All of the groups are very creative, and the “Jerry Springer” Skit really deserves the best performance.  I can’t believe that the story of Joseph can be re-done in full of humor. I hope that we’ll do more activities like this in the future.

In response to loyolaprooo, I totally agree with you that the one who acted as Khan was the best actor so far. He made the skit more interesting because of his acting and the dialogue. I paid so much attention on him that I forgot the others. The judges didn’t give a lots of positive comments, but I think they did a good job so far. Overall, they came up with the choice of best performance, best actor and best actress that we all agreed with.


This week we did skits, which was an entertaining class period. Since I handled a good amount of the writing of our skit, I found that it was helpful to have the outlines that we did last week to help guide the writing of the script and get to the basic message of the story quickly. I also thought it was helpful to interpret the play, since I really had to go back and find the smaller details that helped fill out the larger story that we were trying to tell. Since we went with the Jerry Springer idea, we had a lot of room to add small details, like the “t-shirt test”, which brought in the idea that the shirt was ripped from the back. Since I played Joseph, I also tried to continue to go back to the idea that Joseph was always looking towards God, so even though I improved a lot of the lines (and wrote my lines) I always tried to throw that in, which helped me understand who Joseph was as a character.

In response to CatLover1415, I also agreed I was frustrated when we were first assigned skits. I have not had very good experiences with group projects, and often I find that skits boil things down to their simplest points, rather than a contextual/deeper understanding. However, I actually found that it was enlightening to see the story from several different angles. I also thought it was fascinating that people picked up on different aspects of the story that I didn’t focus very much on. For example, I noticed that the “Snow White” group brought in the last scene where the father is lured to the capital under the ruse that one of his sons was caught stealing. I completely missed that part when I was writing my skit, so it was a good reminder of that aspect of the play.