Love and the Law: An exerpt from Bulleh Shah (Required reading if you have studied the law)

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, a humanist and philosopher from what is now considered Pakistan. As one of the leading figures in social thought and spiritualism, Bulleh Shah continually challenged the norms of society, be it materialism or hate for one’s fellow man.

While his work is expansive, the following passage was picked for a personal reason.  Throughout my career as a law school student I have felt an internal stuggle between what I would call my “Universal Self” (or innate sensibility of “fairness”) and the technical nature of the law as embraced by practioners and academics. Several justices over the years, the worst of which is Justice Scalia, have treated the cases that come before the US Supreme Court as a time to showcase thier talent of rationally explaing a inhuman or heartless decision by the court.

Most law school students in the first year, before they have been indoctrinated to accept the notion that injustice can/must be done in order to maintain the court’s precedent, always raise questions of a court not deciding the “right way” even though the Justices were maintained a high level of technical legal analysis. That is because we come into law school believing in our own internal moral compass, again what I would call a relationship to the Universal Self, and the process of learning the law forces one to take actions that may violate one’s own moral code becuase it is the “technically” correct thing to do.  

So I present Bulleh Shah’s verse which I will label as Love and Law. Though he presents teh argument as lambasting the laws created around religions by organizations and priests, but it easily translates to the abject focus on technical rationality in the modern legal forum.  This has been a more significant and epiphany inducing peice than anything I have read in law school- so for all the young lawyers, PLEASE READ THIS!

Love and Law are struggling in the human heart.
The doubt of the heart will I settle by relating questions of Law
And the answers of Love I will describe, holy Sir;

Law says go to the Mullah (priest) and learn the rules and regulations.
Love answers, “One letter is enough, shut up and put away other books.”
Law says: Perform the five baths and worship alone in the temple (reffering to the 5x daily prayer of Muslims) 
Love says: Your worship is false if you consider yourself seperate from the Universal Self.

Law says: Have shame and hide the enlightenment
Love says: What is this veil for? Let the vision be open
Law says: Go inside the mosque and perform the duty of prayer
Love says: Go to the wine-house and drinking the wine, read a prayer

Law says: Let us go to heaven; we will eat the fruits of heaven
Love says: There, we are custodians or rulers, and we ourselves will distribute the fruits of heaven
Law says: O faithful one, come perform the hajj (pilgrimage), you have to cross the bridge
Love says: The door of the Beloved (God/Allah) is in ka’baa; from there I will not stir 

Law says:  We placed Shah Mansur (a contraversial Sufi Saint) on the stake
Love says: You did well, you made him enter the door of the Beloved (God/Allah)
OUT OF LOVE, HE (Allah/ God) has created Bulleh, humble, and from dust.   

The Great Cornell West on the Examined Life: Courage to think, Courage to love, Courage to Hope

Philosophers are lovers of wisdom. It takes tremendous discpline, takes tremendous courage to think for yourself to examine yourself its socratic and imperative to examine yourself requires courage.  William Butler Yates used to say it takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your soul than a it does for a soldier to fight on the battlefield Courage to think critically, courage is denabling virtue for any philosopher or human being in the world. Courage to think Courage to love Courage to Hope.

Plato says that philosphy is a meditation on and a preparation for death. And by death what he means is not an event, but a death in life becaues there is no rebirth no change no transformation without death. So the question becomes how do you learn how to die. Of course Montaine talks about that in his famous essay, “to philosophize is to learn how to die.” You cant talk about truth without talking about learning how to die. I believe that Theodore Adorno is right when he says that the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak, that gives it an existential emphasis you see? So were really talkin about Truth as a way of life as opposed to truth as a set of propostions that correspond to a set of things in the world.

Human beings are unable to ever gain any monopoly on Truth- captial T. We might have access to truth, small t, but they are fallable claims about truth, they could be wrong they could be open to revisions and so on. So there is a certain kind of mystery that goes hand in hand with Truth. This is why so many of the existential thinkers be they religious like Meister Eckhart or Paul Tillich or be they secular like Camus and Sarte, that they are accenting our finetude and our inabilty to fully grasp the ultimate nature of reality, the truth about things.

 So you talk about Truth being tied to the way to Truth. Because once you give up on the notion of fully grasping the way the world is- you are gonna talk about what are the ways in which I can sustain my quest for truth. How do you sustain a path or journety toward truth, the way to truth? 

Waris Husain Editorial: “I Have A Nightmare”

One week before the U.S. celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, a citizens’ demonstration was held in Karachi, not unlike the March on Washington led by Dr. King in 1963 where he declared “I have a dream.” However, the message of Karachi’s protestors was more of a nightmare, as they were assembled in support of the nation’s blasphemy law that has been used to persecute Pakistan’s religious minorities and indict innocent Muslims.  This protest has been organized to show the strength of the nation’s ultra-conservative right wing in the wake of the assassination of Governor Salman Taseer. The deafening silence from the liberal elements of Pakistan has exposed the dominance over the national discourse by ultra-conservative lawyers and religious figures. The U.S. entered a new era of democratic rule when the confluence of religious men like Dr King and lawyers like Thurgood Marshall were able to take hold of the nation’s hearts and minds. Oppositely, Pakistan could be entering a dangerous era with the dominance of militant Islamic rhetoric supported by religious figures and lawyers.

The issue of the blasphemy law has come to the forefront of Pakistani political discourse since the assassination of Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s largest province. Governor Taseer was killed by his security guard because he believed the law should be revised to prevent its misuse. In the aftermath, one could expect the most extreme elements of Pakistan’s society to have supported the cold-blooded murder. What was alarming was the degree to which the general public supported Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin. Some individuals in the media have even given him the title of “ghazi” or religious warrior. 

However, the most frightening support for the assassin came from Pakistan’s lawyers’ community, who showered Qadri with rose petals as he exited the court house for his first appearance last week. Over 500 lawyers have volunteered to defend Qadri and public statements have been given by lawyers in support of the blasphemy law and the murder of Taseer. It seems quite ironic that lawyers would support the actions of an individual who took the law into his own hands. Indeed, there wouldn’t be much need for courts or lawyers if the citizens could operate like the assassin Mumtaz Qadri.

Much of the world looks with disappointment at these lawyers, some of whom helped to organize a non-violent movement that brought the end of the Musharraf dictatorship. Pakistanis had high hopes for the Lawyer’s Movement to act responsibly as it previously had in peacefully protesting to restore judicial independence and democracy.  It may seem that the Lawyer’s Movement has lost its way by supporting anti-state actors like Qadri, but one should note that the lawyers themselves are facing an ideological split like the country as a whole.

There are two camps in the law community with several variations but many adhere either to modern secularism or religious-based traditionalism. These two opposing groups joined forces for the first time in rejecting Musharraf’s regime and his firing of Supreme Court justices.  However, with the military dictatorship having ended, the voice of the liberal lawyers was drowned out by the ultra-conservative rhetoric emblematic of Pakistan’s middle class.

This does not mean that the liberal lawyers are without their support. The election of liberal human rights advocate Asma Jahangir to the Lahore Bar Council shows the ability of the left-leaning lawyers to garner votes. Much like the politics of the nation, the conservatives have the loudest voice on the streets by organizing marches and protests, but cannot turn this into seats in Parliament or in Bar Councils.

However, one must note that the confluence of religious figures and lawyers has allowed the conservative religious parties to dominate the public discussion over issues like the blasphemy laws. While the lawyers provide legal and organizational support, the religious leaders are the ones who can draw on huge numbers of supporters to attend rallies or carry out fatwa orders. The power of these imams has grown since the 1980’s when General Zia Ul Haq sent out a beacon call to all militant Islamic scholars to set up madrassas and mosques in Pakistan. He further allowed certain conservative elements to begin dominating middle class institutions like public schools and colleges, the civilian bureaucracy, the military and police.

These religious figures now enjoy considerable prominence in the society, with rather large followings, and will issue fatwas that call for the death of individuals like Salman Taseer, who was one of the few progressive voices in the nation. Thus we see that the religious figures and lawyers are working conjunctively: when someone acts on a fatwa issued by a religious leader, lawyers will attempt to legitimize this murder by defending the illegal action in court or in public. Dr. King and Thurgood Marshall employed similar tactics in fighting racism in the United States, where Dr. King would inspire an individual to break a discriminatory law and lawyers from groups like the NAACP would then defend that person.

However, the difference was that Dr. King’s movement was non-violent and called for an end to minority oppression, whereas the religious right-wing movement in Pakistan is creating an increasingly hostile and violent environment for the nation’s minorities. In the same vein, there is a lesson to learn for the liberal elements in Pakistan’s religious and legal circles: that they can collectively inspire the Pakistani people to do away with the violent narrow-minded rhetoric of the past in favor of a new modern and tolerant era for Pakistan to enter.


Brian Greene- Darkness on the Edge of the Universe

IN a great many fields, researchers would give their eye to have a direct glimpse of the past. Instead, they generally have to piece together remote conditions using remnants like weathered fossils, decaying parchments or mummified remains. Cosmology, the study of the origin and evolution of the universe, is different. It is the one arena in which we can actually witness history.

The pinpoints of starlight we see with the naked eye are photons that have been streaming toward us for a few years or a few thousand. The light from more distant objects, captured by powerful telescopes, has been traveling toward us far longer than that, sometimes for billions of years. When we look at such ancient light, we are seeing — literally — ancient times.

During the past decade, as observations of such ancient starlight have provided deep insight into the universe’s past, they have also, surprisingly, provided deep insight into the nature of the future. And the future that the data suggest is particularly disquieting — because of something called dark energy.

This story of discovery begins a century ago with Albert Einstein, who realized that space is not an immutable stage on which events play out, as Isaac Newton had envisioned. Instead, through his general theory of relativity, Einstein found that space, and time too, can bend, twist and warp, responding much as a trampoline does to a jumping child. In fact, so malleable is space that, according to the math, the size of the universe necessarily changes over time: the fabric of space must expand or contract — it can’t stay put.

For Einstein, this was an unacceptable conclusion. He’d spent 10 grueling years developing the general theory of relativity, seeking a better understanding of gravity, but to him the notion of an expanding or contracting cosmos seemed blatantly erroneous. It flew in the face of the prevailing wisdom that, over the largest of scales, the universe was fixed and unchanging.

Einstein responded swiftly. He modified the equations of general relativity so that the mathematics would yield an unchanging cosmos. A static situation, like a stalemate in a tug of war, requires equal but opposite forces that cancel each other. Across large distances, the force that shapes the cosmos is the attractive pull of gravity. And so, Einstein reasoned, a counterbalancing force would need to provide a repulsive push. But what force could that be?

Remarkably, he found that a simple modification of general relativity’s equations entailed something that would have, well, blown Newton’s mind: antigravity — a gravitational force that pushes instead of pulls. Ordinary matter, like the Earth or Sun, can generate only attractive gravity, but the math revealed that a more exotic source — an energy that uniformly fills space, much as steam fills a sauna, only invisibly — would generate gravity’s repulsive version. Einstein called this space-filling energy the cosmological constant, and he found that by finely adjusting its value, the repulsive gravity it produced would precisely cancel the usual attractive gravity coming from stars and galaxies, yielding a static cosmos. He breathed a sigh of relief.

A dozen years later, however, Einstein rued the day he introduced the cosmological constant. In 1929, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that distant galaxies are all rushing away from us. And the best explanation for this cosmic exodus came directly from general relativity: much as poppy seeds in a muffin that’s baking move apart as the dough swells, galaxies move apart as the space in which they’re embedded expands. Hubble’s observations thus established that there was no need for a cosmological constant; the universe is not static.

Had Einstein only trusted the original mathematics of general relativity, he would have made one of the most spectacular predictions of all time — that the universe is expanding — more than a decade before it was discovered. Instead, he was left to lick his wounds, summarily removing the cosmological constant from the equations of general relativity and, according to one of his trusted colleagues, calling it his greatest blunder.

But the story of the cosmological constant was far from over.

When Einstein introduced the cosmological constant, he envisioned its value being finely adjusted to exactly balance ordinary attractive gravity. But for other values the cosmological constant’s repulsive gravity can beat out attractive gravity, and yield the observed accelerated spatial expansion, spot on. Were Einstein still with us, his discovery that repulsive gravity lies within nature’s repertoire would have likely garnered him another Nobel prize.

As remarkable as it is that even one of Einstein’s “bad” ideas has proven prophetic, many puzzles still surround the cosmological constant: If there is a diffuse, invisible energy permeating space, where did it come from? Is this dark energy (to use modern parlance) a permanent fixture of space, or might its strength change over time? Perhaps most perplexing of all is a question of quantitative detail. The most refined attempts to calculate the amount of dark energy suffusing space miss the measured value by a gargantuan factor of 10123 (that is, a 1 followed by 123 zeroes) — the single greatest mismatch between theory and observation in the history of science.

THESE are vital questions that rank among today’s deepest mysteries. But standing beside them is an unassailable conclusion, one that’s particularly unnerving. If the dark energy doesn’t degrade over time, then the accelerated expansion of space will continue unabated, dragging away distant galaxies ever farther and ever faster. A hundred billion years from now, any galaxy that’s not resident in our neighborhood will have been swept away by swelling space for so long that it will be racing from us at faster than the speed of light. (Although nothing can move through space faster than the speed of light, there’s no limit on how fast space itself can expand.)

Light emitted by such galaxies will therefore fight a losing battle to traverse the rapidly widening gulf that separates us. The light will never reach Earth and so the galaxies will slip permanently beyond our capacity to see, regardless of how powerful our telescopes may become. Because of this, when future astronomers look to the sky, they will no longer witness the past. The past will have drifted beyond the cliffs of space. Observations will reveal nothing but an endless stretch of inky black stillness.

If astronomers in the far future have records handed down from our era, attesting to an expanding cosmos filled with galaxies, they will face a peculiar choice: Should they believe “primitive” knowledge that speaks of a cosmos very much at odds with what anyone has seen for billions and billions of years? Or should they focus on their own observations and valiantly seek explanations for an island universe containing a small cluster of galaxies floating within an unchanging sea of darkness — a conception of the cosmos that we know definitively to be wrong?

And what if future astronomers have no such records, perhaps because on their planet scientific acumen developed long after the deep night sky faded to black? For them, the notion of an expanding universe teeming with galaxies would be a wholly theoretical construct, bereft of empirical evidence.

We’ve grown accustomed to the idea that with sufficient hard work and dedication, there’s no barrier to how fully we can both grasp reality and confirm our understanding. But by gazing far into space we’ve captured a handful of starkly informative photons, a cosmic telegram billions of years in transit. And the message, echoing across the ages, is clear. Sometimes nature guards her secrets with the unbreakable grip of physical law. Sometimes the true nature of reality beckons from just beyond the horizon.

Waris Husain Editorial- The Empire Without Clothes

To be published in Pakistan Post.

The heinous murder of Governor Taseer was shocking, but one should consider the reactions in support of his assassin amongst some Pakistanis as a sign that the society is at a crossroads. Governor Taseer’s life was stolen from him because he rejected a blasphemy law based on a narrow-minded view of Islam that subjects the nation’s minorities to discrimination. Laws such as these reveal the increasingly conflicting view of Pakistan’s future: either as a nation that is able to adapt to modern times and protect the rights of all its citizens or one destined for devolution into chaos through a medieval view of Islam and the state.

For a moment, I would like to speak to the readers of this column who ardently and passionately believe in the direct role of Islam in the state.  The only way to describe the benefit of a secular and modern society is to understand that the body of Pakistan may undoubtedly be Islamic for some. However, just as any human body requires clothing to protect itself from the elements, so then does a religious-minded public require secular and tolerant policies that provide protection against the political elements.

Just as when individuals put on clothing to protect themselves, their body remains unchanged, a tolerant secular state does not challenge the beliefs in the heart of Pakistani Muslims. Rather, it provides protection for their faith unfettered by political winds. This protection is especially necessary when facing a harsh environment, which well describes a Pakistan beset with economic crises, a war raging across its border, and its flood of international extremists.

Without recognizing that the fallacy of obsessively attempting to create an Islamic state devoid of tolerance, the Pakistani Islamists are walking through a cold winter night naked, believing they will not catch pneumonia and die. However, we know that if the body continues to stay in the environment of Pakistan today, it is destined to become sicker and sicker until it meets an unfortunate end. And it would not just symbolize the death of Pakistan, it would be demise of the true components of Islam that compose its body.

The most striking thing about Islamists who proclaim the necessity of harsh blasphemy laws is that they are embodying a perspective of false prophets who have been prophesized about throughout the Old Testament, and Koran. Mullah Shahi and his cohorts blasphemously assume the role of Allah as omnipotent judges of the Pakistani people, issuing infallible fatwas against the likes of Salman Taseer and Benazir Bhutto. Their irreverent rhetoric provides credibility to horrendous and unjust acts of violence, like assassinations and discrimination against religious minorities. Thus the analogy remains true, that with increasingly intolerant laws that are falsely proclaimed as being Islamic, the body of Islam in Pakistan is withering.

However, the inability of the general public to see the nakedness of Pakistan is due to the inter-generational brainwashing towards conservative orthodoxy. This process was started by Z. A. Bhutto due to his appeasement of conservatives as a means to garner more political support. While Bhutto enacted such laws as the banning of alcohol, the brainwashing of the public with jihadi rhetoric was masterminded by General Zia ul Haq during his 1980’s military dictatorship. General Zia created the blasphemy law as part of an overall propaganda campaign to spread an violent form of Islam in order to achieve his political goals of gaining popular support.

The General encouraged the influx of ultra-conservative Muslim scholars, especially from Saudi Arabia, who established free madrassas and began indoctrinating poor Pakistanis who could not afford to send their children to schools. General Zia also believed that his brand of bellicose chauvinistic Islam should be spread to the middle class. By allowing ultra-conservative groups like the Jamaat-i-Islami to exercise power through force and terror on middle class-dominated institutions like Punjab University, he accomplished this goal. 

The presence and intimidation by the Jamaat-i-Islami led to the silencing of most liberal professors who were attempting to counteract the religious brainwashing of their students. In fact, huge numbers of the professorships were given out to these ultra-conservatives who began to infect the mind of the middle class, just as had been done with the lower class through madrassas. Thus, the reaction from across Pakistan’s socio-economic spectrum in favor of the assassin is directly attributable to this long-term brainwashing the public has widely spread in the body politic.

As the cold darkness envelops Pakistan, its people have become increasingly sick. The only way for the nation to survive is to cover it with ‘clothing’ — the kind of governance necessary to survive in the modern world. This requires correcting the misinformed about religion and its role in the state.  Without developing a secular and tolerant state identity that can provide equal protection to all its citizens regardless of their background, incidents like the assassination of Gov. Taseer will become common-place. And to the millions of Pakistanis who have been forced to stand by as their society is overrun with hate and violence- the words of Bob Marley should resonate: “Rise up fallen fighters, rise and take your stance again… when the heathen back them against the wall.”

Noel Isama Editorial: Religion and Reality

For many the killing of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s most populous and prosperous province, by his own bodyguard was another bad omen for Pakistan. According to guard, he murdered the Governor because he dared to defend a woman that was sentenced to death after being accused of ‘speaking against Islam’. He believed, rightly so, that killing someone for a such an accusation was a wrong that went beyond religion, but violated our basic concept of humanity. His death is not a good sign as Pakistan lost another rational voice in a sea of insanity.

An even more menacing omen could be seen on the bodyguard’s face. With chaos surrounding him,  the assassin had a smile of inner satisfaction as he sat cuffed in the back of the police van.  The expression was most grotesque. There was no expression of distress at not getting away. No expression of remorse at the thought of killing another man.  No expression of disdain for those who arrested him.  No expression of worry for impending consequences that may await him (i.e. beatings and torture).  

 What force could suppress the most natural human reactions? What could inspire humans to  devalue life, such that it can wantonly snatch away? Radicalism.  But that is only a trait. In order for one to be a fanatic or radical there must be a source. This source is a belief in something so great that it is worth killing, note not dying, but killing for. In Pakistan and many other countries it is religion, plain and simple. For these countries religion is a destructive force.

 Religion need not come in the form of the divine (i.e. the North Korean state and it surrounding mythology could be considered religious). But one common trait is creation of system of action based on a belief.

When one “believes”, they’re ascribing truth to something that they cannot completely substantiate themselves. Often times this indicates a disconnect at some point with the reality or the world around them. It is in this space or disconnect that the seeds of religion is sowed. It deals with the inner workings the human being that are so mysterious, yet so powerful.

What drives us? What motivates us? What we need that can’t be provided by the “real” material world.  Religion is there to account that which we don’t know. This is often a good thing because it helps identify the feelings in humans that compel is us to act in ways that aren’t obviously beneficial in a personal sense. It keeps us pushing in the face of adversity. It helps us locate compassion and assist our fellow man. It helps us cope with death and despair. No religion is not a bad thing, it is in fact very good. It becomes negative when it leaves this mysterious realm and falls into the hands of those who want to use it to shape their world view.

The point at which religion becomes a destructive force is when you take something which is supposed to account for uncertainty and act as if it is certain. On the basis of this supposed certainty you then try to force the world to conform to your belief. This implies the use of religion as  the motivation in coercive actions against the outside world. Because religion occupies the space of uncertainty, that disconnect with reality, it can ignore it and serve as unextinguishable fire that burns all.

 Religion stands apart from other forms of radicalism, political or otherwise, which can be challenged by reality. However, the most radical believers in religion can choose to ignore realities that would otherwise require them to reconsider thier beliefs.  To illustrate one could look to the rise of communism in Russia, whose most ardent followers passionatly believed in the concepts of equality and fairness in thier society. However, to accomplish the ends of changing societies, the Communists utilized acts of brutal violence that violated all respect for humanity.  The fall of the Soviet empire was a time when reality challanged the communist fanatics because thier governments failed and thier economies couldn’t sustain thier people. The reality for many of these governments and systems could not be ignored, and it was reality that was the impetus for change.

 It is hard to see what role reality plays in fanatic interpertations of religion.  The abject focus on God becomes a tool to blind people to the truth that may exist arround them, to realize the suffering of thier fellow man here on earth. It is the most convenient of masks because unlike politics, the masked figure purporting to act on a higher power’s behest is not held accountable for his actions whereas the politican must face elections or public dissidence. In the fanatics mind, everything is for God to take care of at some point, and man is forever never responsible because  it is not the individual who is acting, but allegedly God acting through him. (A presumption to say the least, unless the individual has a direct line to heaven)

It is difficult to carry on a discourse with a fanatic because they utilize mysterious divine concepts rather than looking to the world around them and rationally explaining a belief. As a result  religion thrives in circumstances where there is a deprivation of knowledge, where mystery rules all things. It is no surprise that the destructive religious force has found its base in one of the poorest regions in the world. It is no surprise that some of the most oppressive countries are religious in nature.

 What the death Salamaan Taseer and sadly the positive reaction of many Pakistanis to it, illustrate is a dissociation from reality caused by religion. This may be our greatest threat as humans. Taken to extremes it has given people the “strength” to engage in needless war (i.e. George Bush) and is surely a path to sure destruction. Look at the threat of nuclear Iran or the possibility of a American president completely entrapped in the armagedon mindset. But the greatest tragedy is the satisfaction people will gain from such actions. In the past reality served as that which brought us down to earth from heaven. Can it save us from the gates of hell and wipe that smirk of the face of the monster who took an innocent man’s life?