Pyrrhic victory


I know it always seems to be a victory when we can prove a point or make someone realise that what the Quran teaches is not what (all) the Hadiths teach. I think it is really important to bear in mind that the intention is to invite to the truth and expose falsehood, but never to make anyone feel embarrassed or for them to lose their dignity in front of other people. We are instructed to debate/dispute/argue/discuss  in the best manner (16:125) and (29:46).

I’ll be honest – I am not really sure what the best manner is! Maybe I spend too much time wondering about the safest way to ensure the other party does not get humiliated? Is the only real way to do that for the debate to be done in private? Should debates be private or public? A public debate can be very revealing and educational, and obviously can benefit more people than the alternative of private conversations with each individual. After all, we are all in the same boat, looking for the truth, so no-one has anything to hide do they? Or do they? The problem is that it is natural to want to “save face” and I think we should always be aware of our own ego and pride and try to remain humble and never arrogant. By focussing on the issues and the evidence and never letting the debate turn into a personal attack about intelligence, I think the debates can be productive and to the point.

I think one way to “debate in the best manner” would probably be by presenting evidence, highlighting the illogic of the opposing argument and remaining calm and polite and respectful. I wondered whether sarcasm is included in “debating in the best manner”

Wikipedia says:

“Understanding the subtlety of this usage (of sarcasm) requires second-order interpretation of the speaker’s intentions. This sophisticated understanding can be lacking in some people with certain forms of brain damage, dementia and autism,[11] and this perception has been located by MRI in the right parahippocampal gyrus.[12][13]

Cultural perspectives on sarcasm vary widely with more than a few cultures and linguistic groups finding it offensive to varying degrees. Thomas Carlyle despised it: “Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it”.[14] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, recognized in it a cry of pain: Sarcasm, he said, was “usually the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.”[15] RFC 1855, a collection of guidelines for Internet communications, even includes a warning to be especially careful with it as it “may not travel well”.”

However, it is interesting to note some examples from the Quran about how Ibrahim dealt with the one who tried to argue with him in 2:258. It seems to me Ibrahim used irony to prove a point and I imagine it was said with a smile 🙂  In 21:63 too, again a point is proven by Ibrahim. This shows that sometimes we have to highlight the illogic in a profound way to prove the point, without beating around the bush! After all Ibrahim is a good example (60:4)

Who is the audience? Sarcasm, irony, rhetoric, hyperbole and understatement are misunderstood communication devices, too often unnecessarily considered rude when in fact there is no malice intent. I think if it was available in a tube the instructions would be “Apply sparingly” and “Use with caution” ! 🙂

I don’t have the opportunity very often to debate in real life face to face, so I am thinking about online debates mainly. Maybe I am over-sensitive though? Maybe I need to toughen up! 🙂 I don’t really like conflict so I guess I sit on the fence a lot. Or maybe I think it is sitting on the fence by refusing to take sides when people have heated discussions, once I have shown my evidence (verse from the Quran) – I guess I have this automatic instinct to stick up for the underdog, and I don’t really believe in “kicking a guy when he’s down”. Even though that would probably not be reciprocated! Maybe that is a weakness on my part. But still the truth must prevail over falsehood. I need to remember 2:42

I suppose for those who choose to engage in public debates know what they are getting into and do so at their own risk, but I think the good that can come from effective debates must outweigh the possible negative side effects.  I sometimes find myself being drawn in to online debates and then it is difficult to end things without being accused of “running away” which is not the case – it’s just I don’t see the point in repeating my evidence. There has to be a line drawn somewhere when the debate is no longer productive. After all, time is a precious and limited commodity! Some people think that having the last word means you have won the debate! I don’t agree with this simplistic and superficial view. Agreeing to disagree is a good one! (28:55)

The last point I wanted to make was that although quranists do get attacked constantly,  it seems a little extreme to tar all the attackers with the same brush with the concept that if they do not follow quranism (islam based on no other source than the Quran) then they are “polytheists” by default. I will admit; I am naive and I give the benefit of the doubt all too often. But I don’t like to brandish anyone, call names or mock – 49:11 comes to mind and I feel it is important to remember quranic etiquette and manners at all times, especially in debates. I think it is REALLY important for the quranist “movement” to lead by example and prove that the Quran really does have everything we need. A recent attack on Quranism was that if we did not have the hadiths then we would not have good manners, which I certainly do not agree with. Here are some links about Attitudes and Etiquette from the Quran.
More verses about truth and falsehood :

Chapter 2 – 2:42;
Chapter 3 – 3:71;
Chapter 8 – 8:8;
Chapter 13 – 13:17;
Chapter 17 – 17:81;
Chapter 18 – 18:56;
Chapter 21 – 21:18;
Chapter 22 – 22:62;
Chapter 31 – 31:30;
Chapter 34 – 34:49;
Chapter 40 – 40:540:78;
Chapter 42 – 42:24;
Chapter 47 – 47:3;

Happy debating! Remember to smile – it’s from the Quran! 27:19 ! 🙂

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