Tuesday 7 June 2011

Pyrrhic victory

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)

Read more at quranistvoices.wordpress.com

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