Arief S. Arman || 1 Nov 2023
The crisis in Gaza did not begin on the 7th of October 2023. It is a plight that has gone on for decades, and its history is mired with varied definitions, narratives, and labels. For a bigger picture, it would be wise to delve into the past, but of our immediate concern is a crisis of conviction. What is meant here is the ease to which opinions are conjured, and shared as if such thoughts are absolute truths. With the ongoing events, ‘experts’ of every persuasion are given airtime. We are also bombarded with images of chaos and destruction, inciting within us a reaction of a visceral kind.
Within the field of media studies, propaganda can be understood as the dissemination of information – arguments, half-truths, rumours, or even outright lies – to influence public opinion. Mass media does its part in the dissemination of such information in order to influence a polity’s attitudes, as well as beliefs so as to either agree or disagree with a particular stance. In the current context, we observe outlandish claims made by journalist Nicole Zedek, who works for the 24-hour Israeli cable news channel i24, that Hamas had beheaded 40 babies in its violent attack on a kibbutz in southern Israel,. We understand that propaganda works both ways, and can be used as a tool to galvanise support for Hamas themselves (a polarising entity, with some considering them to be a bona fide terrorist group, while others seeing them as freedom fighters).
At this juncture, there is no need to be apologetic of what one professes. If we are honest with ourselves, the veracity of a particular event can be seen with our own conscience. It need not be undermined by the ‘guilt-tripping’ evident in many advertisements carried out by the Israeli government, or claims that the 7thOctober events were ‘unprecedented’. Now, isn’t the annihilation of Gaza a problem that finds its roots in the concept of nation-states? Which is an offshoot of colonialism? Which ran on the basis of ethno-centrism? Which is made permissible when one views himself to be better than others?
There is no doubt that deceit is being peddled by many media houses in the West. With this in mind, we observe comments made by Abdal Hakim Murad (of Cambridge Muslim College) in his Commentary on the Eleventh Contentions, that human perfection is found in prophecy, which cannot lie and instead reassures us with consistent trust and openness; corruption finds its zenith in the Devil, the insidious trickster, who “holds out promises to them, and fills them with vain desires: yet whatever Satan promises them is but meant to delude the mind.” (Sura An-Nisa’; 4:120. Translated by Muhammad Asad). As such, the stiff, rigid heart does not wish to change, or to acknowledge an error or weakness. It thus attempts – with all its resources – to adjust reality, and not itself. The lie is perpetuated due to sheer arrogance, be it by the individual and/or the collective. Isn’t this what is put on display today? Genocide is now termed ‘self-defense’.
Forcing ourselves to speak truthfully allows for a heightened sense of self-awareness, which in turn, makes us more cognisant of how our words and actions have an impact on those around us. Think about it. If we are vigilant of a truth, any risk of breaking it would entail a feeling of disappointment. Therefore, to speak truthfully is to preserve the self from deceit. If a lie is uttered, the right to truth is taken away from s/he who is being deceived. We’ve heard – like a broken record – honesty is the policy. If only the Western powers (read: United Nations) are honest about their policies of encroachment and pillaging, rather than to hide behind the façade of human rights. We are well aware that ‘Western powers’ is a broad term, but to say ‘Global North’ is to apply a synonym to which we all know the meaning to.
Within narratives played out by the media, we see an obvious shift from ontological questions to epistemic ones. This is also understood as the change from questions about the nature of the world to questions about the nature of intelligence, and the relation of intelligence to the world. The crisis of conviction alluded to earlier, stems from a starting point of scrutiny. We are not able to recognise the presence of the Real when doubt takes hold of the self. Modern society seems to be filled with those whose doubt outweigh their convictions, and thus anything goes to quell that doubt. It is this very doubt which has been capitalised by those at the helm. Freedom remains an illusion when rights are trapped in a charter.
Now, recognition is the first stage towards the acquisition of a primary or basic concept. It is, thus, the most fundamental of all intellectual processes. To be able to recognise implies that there is an a priori engagement with a specific person, place, time. We are saying here that this engagement is one which is beyond the physical, and is intrinsic within the human being. The inability to recognise and to make distinctions, will inevitably lead to arbitrary approaches to the lives of human beings. If we are quick to undermine that which cannot be observed with the naked eye, or to fall into the trap of Scientism, we become susceptible to the dictates of the material. It is this sort of materialism which gives rise to land-grabbing, and a control of resources. We need not mention who the miscreants are here.
There is a hidden consonance between the signs in nature and the signs in his revealed Message. If one begins to develop a keen sense of this consonance, s/he is not easily swayed by the distraction of conjecture. Every step is a step in conviction, and the crisis is hopefully averted. If the West is honest and serious in alleviating the plight of those suffering the world over, the best place to start is Gaza. To think of it in absence, I must first learn to recognise its presence.
“And say [in thy prayer]: “O my Sustainer! Cause me to enter [upon whatever I may do] in a manner true and sincere, and cause me to leave [it] in a manner true and sincere, and grant me, out of Thy grace, sustaining strength!”
[Sura Al-Isra’; 17:80. Translated by Muhammad Asad]
 Al-Amin is a title of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). ‘Al-Amin’ is someone who can be trusted; not someone who cheats or betrays. In his book, al-Tabaqat al-kubra, Ibn Sa’d says: “as perfect as his good characteristics were, the Prophet (SAW) was not called in Mecca except as al-Amin.” It is important to note, one of the necessary traits for Prophethood is Amanah (trustworthiness).
 The Mithaq of Alastu comes to mind.
“AND WHENEVER thy Sustainer brings forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam, He [thus] calls upon them to bear witness about themselves: “Am I not your Sustainer?” – to which they answer: “Yea, indeed, we do bear witness thereto!”
[Sura Al-A’raf; 7:172. Translated by Muhammad Asad]
Arief Subhan Arman holds an MA (Religion in Global Politics) from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Prior, he attained a BA in Philosophy & Political Science from the University of Queensland, Australia. He is also a former Research Assistant to Emeritus Prof. Datuk Dr. Osman Bakar at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC), Malaysia. His research interests include Existentialism, Sufism, and Jewish-Muslim relations from the Almoravid Period onwards.