Sam Harris is a popular Atheist who has very critical views of Islam. Some would say he is an Islamophobe. Regardless his recent post on his site on Islam is very interesting. I found these comments surprising coming from someone who probably would love to rid the world of Islam.
Even with all his dislike of Islam, he finds parts of Islam beautiful. Reminds me of the first Muslims, many of whom were enemies of Islam and became the best Muslims like Khalid bin Waleed or Umar ibn al Khattab. Here are some of the lines where he shares his positive comments on Islam:
First, by way of putting my own empathy on my sleeve, let me say a few things that will most likely surprise many of my readers. Despite my antipathy for the doctrine of Islam, I think the Muslim call to prayer is one of the most beautiful sounds on earth. Take a moment to listen:
I find this ritual deeply moving—and I am prepared to say that if you don’t, you are missing something. At a minimum, you are failing to understand how devout Muslims feel when they hear this. I think everything about the call to prayer is glorious—apart from the fact that, judging by the contents of the Koran, the God we are being asked to supplicate is evil and almost surely fictional. Nevertheless, if this same mode of worship were directed at the beauty of the cosmos and the mystery of consciousness, few things would please me more than a minaret at dawn.
I also love the poetry of Rumi, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is one of my favorite musicians of all time. True, both of these men were Sufis—and Sufism is reviled as heresy throughout much of the Muslim world. But I expect that many of the people who attack me as an anti-Muslim bigot will be surprised to learn that I love these products of (nominally) Muslim religious devotion more than most other forms of art. If you have never heard Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, you owe it to yourself to listen:
I also have no problem with spiritual devotion, ecstasy, and awe—in fact, I think they are among the most important experiences a human being can have. I just object to the incredible ideas that surround such experiences in every church, synagogue, and mosque. I also worry that certain religious beliefs make devotion, ecstasy, and awe both divisive and dangerous. Again, my tolerance for difference is much higher than my critics understand. I’m not a scared white guy who is put off by the howls of the natives. In fact, I’ve done a fair amount of howling with the natives myself. I know what these people are experiencing, and I value many of the same experiences.
To see the world through my eyes—or to realize why you do not—watch at least a few minutes of each of the following videos.
I know that many readers will view the scene depicted above as an example of disturbingly irrational, mob behavior. Are these people crazy? No. These are Turkish Sufis chanting the Zikr. I have done this practice—not in such a crowded and colorful context—but I understand what these people are up to from the inside. And I know contemplative rituals of this kind can be extremely rewarding. Here’s another example, of a sort more reminiscent of my own experience:
I find this sort of chanting beautiful—and I know how good it feels to do it for hours at a stretch, even all night. Here is the practice in a Hindu context:
It is true that I’m more comfortable with what the Hindus are doing here, because they are expressing their devotion to God in the form of a Divine Lover, and their feelings of religious ecstasy are explicitly channeled in that direction. There is no evidence that Lord Krishna exists, of course, but we needn’t worry about whether any of these people are fans of global jihad.
Unlike many of my critics, I recognize that these practices profoundly affect people. In fact, I’ve spent thousands of hours doing practices of this kind. I am not even slightly scared of “the Other.” I love the Other—I love his food, music, and architecture, and I even share his spiritual concerns. That is why when I see something like this, I fear for the future of civilization:
Watch the entire video with your full attention. If you cannot feel the haunting beauty of this recitation, if it is inexplicable to you that people can be moved to tears by the mere sound of these verses, then you are not in contact with the data. Indeed, if you don’t understand how someone could be willing to die to defend the legitimacy of such an experience, you are very poorly placed to understand the problem of Islam.
This video has everything: the power of ritual and the power of the crowd; tears of devotion and a lust for vengeance. How many of the people in that mosque are jihadists? I have no idea—perhaps none. But their spiritual aspirations and deepest positive emotions—love, devotion, compassion, bliss, awe—are being focused through the lens of sectarian hatred and humiliation. Read every word of the translation so that you understand what these devout people are weeping over. Their ecstasy is inseparable from the desire to see nonbelievers punished in hellfire. Is this some weird distortion of the true teachings of Islam? No. This is a recitation from the Koran articulating its central message. The video has over 2 million views on YouTube. It was posted by someone who promised his fellow Muslims that they, too, would weep tears of devotion upon seeing it. The reciter is Sheikh Mishary bin Rashid Alafasy of Kuwait. He has as many Twitter followers as Jerry Seinfeld and J.K. Rowling (2 million). In doctrinal terms, this is not the fringe of Islam. It is the center.
Source: Sam Harris’s Blog
Sam Harris completely misses the point on the last video. The tears are not for the disbelievers. The tears that are shed upon hearing that excerpt from the Quran recited by Shaykh Mishary is about our own self. We are thinking about our own life and our own actions for fearing that the sins we committed will take us to the hell fire. We are not crying because disbelievers are going to the hell fire. That just sounds stupid. We cry because we are afraid of the punishment of the hell fire. We are afraid for answering for our sins. We are afraid for displeasing God. That is why we are crying. That is why we shed tears upon hearing those verses.
And to add, I guarantee you without even understanding what is recited, people cry out of beauty. I do it and have done it. I’ve listened to many recitations of the Quran not understanding one word but come to tears just by listening to the beautiful recitation. This is the beauty of the word of God.
May God guide Sam Harris to peace.