Islam students at LUC

Archive for February 28th, 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.

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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.

whosaidwhatnow:

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.