The Old Mans Guide to the Virtuous Path: Pocket Edition

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As God tells him these narratives, He communicates the moral standards and secrets that His messengers have shared since the dawn of human existence. As Muhammad communicates these stories to his community, he becomes to them what God was to him: A narrator of universal, divine truths Q Others will be immortalized for their disbelief.

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They will fail to appreciate the universal significance of these narratives. This matters to us as moderns because what we expect from narratives has changed so decisively as imagined communities have replaced real ones, and as modernity has created more fragmented senses of identity.

We will become so focused on the present moment and isolated bits of information that we will no longer rely on the ancient art of storytelling for our sense of communal being. As Islamic intellectual history progressed, storytelling became a salient way in which Muslims interpreted the meanings of their scriptures and the lives of their saints.

The role that storytellers played in expanding the Hadith corpus was later lamented by scholars of Hadith.

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Yet even collections of Hadith verified as reputable can be treated as literary texts saturated with narrativity. I would like to explore two instances of premodern Islamic storytelling that reveal ways in which Muslim thinkers communicated ethics as part of a lived experience. In what ways does virtue ethics inform moral decisions? In this case, we will think about ways in which philosophical conceptions of human perfection become altered when seen in light of a personal narrative.

The Empirics of Virtue Theory: What Can Psychology Tell Us About Moral Character? | SpringerLink

Chapter Ten is, in other words, a case study. The tale begins when an elderly, sick man visits the doctor.


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He feels sorry for the man and, instead of breaking the news to him, lies, telling him that his cure can be found in doing whatever brings him pleasure. He wants the old man to enjoy his last few days. The old man takes this advice literally and imagines that he must act on any impulse that he has, for his health to be sustained. He rushes the doctor out of his house and decides to take a walk by the water—or, rather, his impulses tell him to do that.

So meticulous is the Sufi in his washings that the old, sick man suddenly has an urge to slap him on his neck. Of course, for him that urge is a matter of life or death, for if he does not act upon it—he imagines—he will never find his cure. Thus, he approaches the Sufi and slaps him forcefully on the back of the neck.

As Rumi says: A thunderclap erupted when [the sick man] slapped him. The Sufi wanted to punch him twice, three times, yank out each mustache and beard hair separately. People are ill from squabbling and are incurable, behind ramparts of slaps trapped, through the deceit of Satan, ravenous for torturing the guiltless, they all are, searching for weaknesses in the napes of one another… The Sufi screams out, and himself has the urge to retaliate with blows.

Even so, noticing the frailty of this sickly man, the Sufi holds back. Instead, he drags the old man to the judge and explains everything that has happened.

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The judge listens carefully, until the Sufi demands punishment in accordance with what has been written in books of Islamic law. He wants the elderly man to be struck or marched through town in shame. The judge, however, sees matters differently. Were he to take such measures, the decrepit man would die—and certainly a slap does not merit a life. Instead, the judge asks the old man how much money he has to give as compensation.

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The old man has only six dirhams. The judge rules that three should be given to the Sufi and that the old man should keep three for himself. After all, even a criminal must be able to buy food and other necessities. The Sufi is enraged at this injustice. The elderly man, however, relishes in getting away with assault for so light a sentence. He gives the remaining three dirhams to the judge and leaves, proclaiming that he is now cured of all illness. The Sufi expresses his schadenfreude at the justice served in this act.

A fitting turn of events. Saying—For spending, three dirhams for yourself? What makes it apt to place within his hand the rule and reins? The judge explains that the grimace on his face was a natural reaction to being slapped. Within, however, deep in his heart, he bears such suffering happily. Since all events originate with God, even this blow was a welcome sign of the divine beloved, who cared enough to cause him pain. Rumi says: Relinquished desire no doubt brings bitter taste, but less bitter than separation from the Real.

How could pain remain that instant when the Kindly Bestower would say—How are you holding up, My sick one? The story ends with an extended consideration of the meaning of human suffering. The Sufi begins to focus more on his own particular pain, asking the wise judge why suffering occurs—everything from a slap to death itself. After all, worldly pleasure is merely a diversion from the very purpose of the world. God has created humans for the sort of life in which is both pleasure and pain, good and evil, guidance and temptation, so that people might choose morally.

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. All Languages. More filters. Sort order. Loredana Valenzano-Slough rated it it was amazing Aug 27, Andrew Smith added it Mar 19, There are no discussion topics on this book yet. About Jeff Young. Jeff Young. If I were a sovereign, I would not wish to have to deal with atheist courtiers, whose interest it would be to poison me: I should have to be taking antidotes every day.

It is therefore absolutely necessary for princes and for peoples, that the idea of a Supreme Being, creator, ruler, rewarder, revenger, shall be deeply engraved in people's minds. Bayle says, in his "Thoughts on the Comets," that there are atheist peoples. The Caffres, the Hottentots, the Topinambous, and many other small nations, have no God: they neither deny nor affirm; they have never heard speak of Him; tell them that there is a God: they will believe it easily; tell them that everything happens through the nature of things; they will believe you equally.

To claim that they are atheists is to make the same imputation as if one said they are anti-Cartesian; they are neither for nor against Descartes. They are real children; a child is neither atheist nor deist, he is nothing.


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  7. That atheism is a very pernicious monster in those who govern; that it is also pernicious in the persons around statesmen, although their lives may be innocent, because from their cabinets it may pierce right to the statesmen themselves; that if it is not so deadly as fanaticism, it is nearly always fatal to virtue.

    Let us add especially that there are less atheists to-day than ever, since philosophers have recognized that there is no being vegetating without germ, no germ without a plan, etc.

    Some geometers who are not philosophers have rejected final causes, but real philosophers admit them; a catechist proclaims God to the children, and Newton demonstrates Him to the learned. If there are atheists, whom must one blame, if not the mercenary tyrants of souls, who, making us revolt against their knaveries, force a few weak minds to deny the God whom these monsters dishonour.

    How many times have the people's leeches brought oppressed citizens to the point of revolting against their king! Men fattened on our substance cry to us: "Be persuaded that a she-ass has spoken; believe that a fish has swallowed a man and has given him up at the end of three days safe and sound on the shore; have no doubt that the God of the universe ordered one Jewish prophet to eat excrement Ezekiel , and another prophet to buy two whores and to make with them sons of whoredom Hosea. These are the very words that the God of truth and purity has been made to utter; believe a hundred things either visibly abominable or mathematically impossible; unless you do, the God of pity will burn you, not only during millions of thousands of millions of centuries in the fire of hell, but through all eternity, whether you have a body, whether you have not.

    These inconceivable absurdities revolt weak and rash minds, as well as wise and resolute minds. They say: "Our masters paint God to us as the most insensate and the most barbarous of all beings; therefore there is no God;" [Pg 45] but they should say: therefore our masters attribute to God their absurdities and their furies, therefore God is the contrary of what they proclaim, therefore God is as wise and as good as they make him out mad and wicked. It is thus that wise men account for things.

    But if a bigot hears them, he denounces them to a magistrate who is a watchdog of the priests; and this watchdog has them burned over a slow fire, in the belief that he is avenging and imitating the divine majesty he outrages. Wretched human beings, whether you wear green robes, turbans, black robes or surplices, cloaks and neckbands, never seek to use authority where there is question only of reason, or consent to be scoffed at throughout the centuries as the most impertinent of all men, and to suffer public hatred as the most unjust.

    A hundred times has one spoken to you of the insolent absurdity with which you condemned Galileo, and I speak to you for the hundred and first, and I hope you will keep the anniversary of it for ever; I desire that there be graved on the door of your Holy Office:. There was pronounced a sentence in favour of Aristotle's categories, and there was decreed learnedly and equitably the penalty of the galleys for whoever should be sufficiently daring as to have an opinion different from that of the Stagyrite, whose books were formerly burned by two councils.

    Further on a faculty, which had not great faculties, issued a decree against innate ideas, and later a decree for innate ideas, without the said faculty being informed by its beadles what an idea is. In the neighbouring schools judicial proceedings were instituted against the circulation of the blood. In another year was judged the action: Utrum chimera bombinans in vacuo possit comedere secundas intentiones , and was decided in the affirmative. In consequence, everyone thought themselves far superior to Archimedes, Euclid, Cicero, Pliny, and strutted proudly about the University quarter.

    Author is a generic name which can, like the name of all other professions, signify good or bad, worthy of respect or ridicule, useful and agreeable, or trash for the wastepaper-basket. We think that the author of a good work should refrain from three things—from putting his name, save very modestly, from the epistle dedicatory, and from the preface. Others should refrain from a fourth—that is, from writing. Prefaces are another stumbling-block. He will never forgive you for wanting to condemn him to have a good opinion of you. It is for your book to speak for you, if it comes to be read by the crowd.

    If you want to be an author, if you want to write a book; reflect that it must be useful and new, or at least infinitely agreeable. If an ignoramus, a pamphleteer, presumes to criticize without discrimination, you can confound him; but make rare mention of him, for fear of sullying your writings. If you are attacked as regards your style, never reply; it is for your work alone to make answer.

    Someone says you are ill, be content that you are well, [Pg 49] without wanting to prove to the public that you are in perfect health. And above all remember that the public cares precious little whether you are well or ill. A hundred authors make compilations in order to have bread, and twenty pamphleteers make excerpts from these compilations, or apology for them, or criticism and satire of them, also with the idea of having bread, because they have no other trade.

    All these persons go on Friday to the police lieutenant of Paris to ask permission to sell their rubbish. They have audience immediately after the strumpets who do not look at them because they know that these are underhand dealings. Real authors are those who have succeeded in one of the real arts, in epic poetry, in tragedy or comedy, in history or philosophy, who have taught men or charmed them. The others of whom we have spoken are, among men of letters, what wasps are among birds.

    He has kept only the inspection of theatrical plays and works below those on printed sheets.