Thursday, 25 September 2014

Floods Fury: Natural or Supernatural

All this is not in anyway absolving those who are guilty of massive planning blunders in designing our urbanizatioin, housing, roads, and flood control measures
It can never be asserted that a given suffering has been imposed because of victim’s sins. The Biblical account of the Book of Job clearly states that even righteous people can suffer and suffering could well be a trial or result of laws that constitute the world defined in terms of disequilibrium. The thesis that all suffering is necessarily because of sin is refuted by the existence of suffering of innocent children. Flood washed away children as well. However it is to be noted that evils that befall us are in a sense invited or deserved because God attributes goodness to Himself and evil to our nafs.
The current flood can be in principle attributed to such collective sins as destruction of environment, love of vanity, wrong planning etc. and the widespread perception that it was targeted operation of flood mokals, a warning or retribution can’t be dismissed on the naturalist rationalist grounds. Huxley exemplifies this modern prejudice thus: “if events have natural causes, they don’t have supernatural causes.” Traditions assert that everything is first decided in heavens. Amr belongs to God. Naturalist thesis is refuted by eyewitness accounts and strange pattern of flood waters that seems more targeted than random sparing some lives, some properties and damaging some more than others. Although it would be absurd to judge people on the basis of extent of flood fury inflicted on them – none knows for whom it is a trial and for whom a punishment and in any case children of even the sinners are innocent – all of us can agree that a merely naturalist account that takes no consideration of moral and spiritual factors is hard to maintain. The Prophet used to hurry to mosque on seeing impending natural calamity. Here we make some sadaqa after seeing fearful dreams to counter their ill effects. There are many reports of dreams much before flood date that clearly saw Srinagar etc submerging.  It means things had been decided much before in the higher world. There are no accidents, no mere coincidences in nature according to the best of thinkers. We have great number of accounts of rescue and that people best describe as miraculous. The Quran has a supernatural genesis for even such routine occurrences as meteors. Every event is a message for those who can read it. Everything is a symbol. There are no merely natural things or events according to every religion.  Our tradition narrates that with every drop of rain is accompanied by an angel and everything is sent in a measured quantity. All this is not in anyway absolving those who are guilty of massive planning blunders in designing our urbanizatioin, housing, roads, flood control measures etc.

The fact that collectively (and usually individually as well) we are guilty of transgressions against moral law, against divine order can be shown by analyzing how people responded to threat of imminent death.  People cried and screamed not just for help for rescue but also from fear of death. Death must be welcome with dignity, calm and composure. The way Socrates died and the way he has argued why death has to be welcome and we need to celebrate it in some sense rather than only mourn it in Apology needed to be considered by every person who has suffered close encounter with death. We believe death has an appointed time and still could not sleep for nights while being stranded and possibly facing death – Ghalib lamented this.
About thefts I wish to make one point only. Isn’t a system that allows so much disparity in wealth, that creates an elite culture distinguished by among other things pride, possessive spirit, hoarding, vain glory of bigger and bigger and lavish houses, that tolerates so much unemployment, so much deprivation, so much squalor and rat race for getting higher standard of living worth drowning?  Without legitimizing theft let us not forget that much of private property constitutes a theft according to most economists.It is only by looting community resources that a lavish wazwaan can be served or a house costing many millions of rupees constructed or decorated. This can be understood by analyzing capitalism and vestiges of feudalism that have created it in the first place. “ No man is willfully bad” said Socrates and we can add no culture is. Kashmiris are capable of greatest heroism, nobility and compassion. If there are some stinking reports about exploitation of fellows we must blame the system and not the people en masse. We have failed to educate people despite mushrooming of elite schools. We have failed to give fundamental rights to people. We have not done enough to dent class divisions that have wrecked havoc on social moral fabric of our society. As humans made in divine image we still love justice, goodness and truth. If we see some perversion it is mostly because of faulty system – sponsored corruption and political and economic disaster that constitutes our destiny today. We love Good above everything and that alone explains sacrifices of volunteers.
Modern Srinagar has fast buried time honoured traditions and looks like any other sinful city like those of the West and not a pir waer. Scholars of city culture and urbanization report about moral and spiritual costs of modern developments that we as a community hardly care about. The land of Shah Hamdaan and Makhdoom Sahib is not just like any other land. It has a sanctity of its own that can’t be allowed to be desecrated.
A few points that may help some of us including flood victims to better face the losses we incurred. Meister Eckhart, one of the greatest saints about whom it has been remarked that God hid nothing from him, says that we suffer because we invite it. To quote him: “if I am sad for passing things, not loving God with all my heart nor even giving him the love he might justly expect to meet in me, what wonder if God ordained that I should still suffer loss and pain”. Eckhart’s argument is simple and straight forward that if one is good and believes God to be good and in control there is absolutely no ground for getting sad and troubled. By definition there can be no good man who doesn’t want what God wants, “because it is not possible that God should not want anything but goodness, and just because of this, when God does want something, it must be not only for the good but for the best.” We have been taught to pray that God’s will be done. From this it follows that we have no ground for complaint for whatever happens by the will of God. Seneca when asked what comfort might be best for those in misery has expressed this Christian-Islamic insight thus: “It is for man to take everything that comes as if he had asked for it, nay, as if he had prayed for it.” Those who have truly surrendered or submitted to the will of Allah seek only to glorify, to please God. Their prayer is ‘God! Grant us the will to will whatsoever You will.’ This is a corollary of the station of raza that Sufis seek. Eckhart has quoted a prayer from a non-Christian authority in this connection: “Lord, supreme Father and only Master of high heaven, I am ready for anything you will; only give me the will to want what you will.” One can quote dozens of Sufi sayings in this connection. Just one will suffice from Ba Yazid: “I only will not to will.”

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