Tag Archive for systems

Is All Social Commentary Visionary Fiction?

The world we shape

We know that all visionary fiction is a form of social commentary, but is it also true the other way round? My latest article for the VFA explores this question, with a special focus on a writer who is also promoting a form of visionary fiction. For the full article, click the link. - SK


Science fiction has long been the genre of choice for social commentary. By breaking away from the everyday real world and presenting alternative realities, it offers a safe haven for making statements on controversial or otherwise sensitive topics. Unsurprisingly, as a speculative fiction type, sci-fi is also a favourite genre choice for the visionary fiction writer, myself included. But just as not all visionary fiction is sci-fi, not all sci-fi is VF. Even so, with both being used for social commentary, the line that distinguishes the two can occasionally seem blurred. This is exactly what happened recently when the VFA came across a writer who was promoting a kind of fiction for which she had chosen the term “visionary fiction”. <– Click here for full article

The Original Conspiracy and the Two Nation Theory

1) The Original Conspiracy

The legend goes that human history is the record of an eternal battle between the Order of the Selfish Ones, and the Order of the Truth Seekers. Through the ages many Truth Seekers have embarked on the quest to unlock humanity’s true potential. But the Selfish Ones have slandered them, murdered them, and rewritten history, all to make humanity forget and stop believing.

- Systems, p.337

2) The Two Nation Theory

The Quran does not recognise the concept of majorities and minorities. It teaches that all humans are born equal on the basis of their having a common origin (4:1). It teaches that a true democracy rests not on the principle of simple majority rule (6:116) but rather on the principle of consensus (aiming for unanimity) by ‘mutual consultation’ (42:38). It also teaches that humans only differ by the type of deen [total civilisation: religion, politics, culture] that they follow; and that strictly speaking there are only two types of human society: one that lives by the universal spiritual principles of liberty, justice and solidarity, and the other that does not (5:56-7). This is the Quranic basis of the Two-Nation Theory. It has nothing to do with communalism, and everything to do with the active behaviour of a society that claims to be ‘good’. (2:148)

- Secular Jinnah & Pakistan, p.203 (Yes, I did consciously sneak the Cohesive Ethics Theorem into that passage at the time of writing the book.)

A one-time event?

A one-time event?

What we forgot

The above passages from my two books are basically talking about the came thing. I was recently having a conversation with a friend by email and something that came up there compelled me to write this post. These remarks from my email get straight to the point of what I want to share here:

“As an aside, you know the term “Original Conspiracy” of Systems is a corruption of the Christian [term] “Original Sin”, and that in any case the former [term] clears up the truth about the implications of the Adam story, aka the Two Nation Theory? And it also helps explain what Satan is – namely, the so-called dark side of free will, the selfish gene, human pride and arrogance, or intellect minus “love”? He is the original “other”, the bringer of the second choice, separation, and disagreement. … [The consensus/nationality principles] are timeless and have been taken up before … The Quran tells us that we have adopted them and forgotten them many times. “Satan has overcome them and made them forget the remembrance of Allah” (58:19). My “Conspiracy” is inspired from this idea of rewritten and forgotten history.”

Hanif Omar

Hanif Omar. Practical idealist.

The broad “implications of Adam’s story” (the Fall) mentioned in that email is what Systems is all about; and an individual historical case study of the Two Nation Theory is what SJ2 is all about. We are taught to believe that human potential has never been unlocked, that there has never been an ideal society – and that in fact it’s impossible anyway. Is this all really true, or have there just been enough slanders, murders and rewrites of history to make us forget?

“Some would say that what I have suggested is utopian, and moreover impossible. This is not so. As I see it, humanity cannot realise its true potential until we accept that an ideal society is not only possible, but absolutely mandatory.”

So says Prof. Hanif Omar in Systems. But does anyone share his belief in real life?


MA Jinnah. Another practical idealist.

MA Jinnah. Another practical idealist.

Words from a Truth Seeker

These are the words of MA Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, in Chittagong in 1948.

“It is natural for some to think only in terms of Government, but the sooner we realise and adjust ourselves to new forces, the sooner our mind’s eye is capable of piercing through the horizons to see the limitless possibilities of our State and our Nation, the better for Pakistan. Then and then alone it would be possible for each one of us to realise the great ideals of human progress, of social justice, of equality and of fraternity, which, on the one hand, constitute the basic causes of the birth of Pakistan and also the limitless possibilities of evolving an ideal social structure of our State. I reiterate most emphatically that Pakistan was made possible because of the danger of complete annihilation of the human soul in a society based on caste. Now that the soul is free to exist and to aspire, it must assert itself, galvanizing not only the State but also the Nation.”

Although this Truth Seeker was not murdered (despite what conspiracy theorists of another kind might think), after his death he has been certainly been slandered, and the history of Pakistan has been rewritten. It sounds far-fetched to some, which is understandable. Admittedly, I too might not have believed it, if I hadn’t discovered it for myself.

Straight off the Wall

Mount Sinai.

Mount Sinai.

At the latest Marghdeen Learning Centre course (Thinking with the Soul) last week, the present (seventh) lesson is titled “Completion”. It’s focusing on this Iqbalian concept, summarized in the introduction of the lesson as follows:

The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something, but to be something. In this effort, it develops the ambition to come into direct contact with the Ultimate Reality. One who stands unshaken in the Divine Presence is the one about whom it could be said that the person has achieved completion – by acquiring a more precise definition of one’s self, ‘which deepens the whole being of the ego, and sharpens its will with the creative assurance that the world is not something to be merely seen or known through concepts, but something to be made and re-made by continuous action’. Still, the journey doesn’t end, as life is one and continuous.

Put in Iqbal’s own words: “the world is not something to be merely seen or known through concepts, but something to be made and re-made by continuous action”.

The task for the lesson was to answer this “simple question”: Is that how you are feeling at the end of this lesson? Why, or why not? 

Every participant was expected to post his/her answer at the MLC forum (a blog set up as the online venue for the course).

AThe Peace Man: A true anarchist (though he doesn't like labels).

The Peace Man: A true anarchist (though he doesn’t like labels).

One of the participants, Abdul Aziz Khan, posted this brilliant reply (emphasis mine):

This last lesson is deep enough to be a course of its own. The idea discussed here can be expanded into so many realms, with so many repercussions that a total (and ongoing) reconstruction would be needed, not just of religious thought but legal, social and ethical principles. It calls for a constant breakdown and re-invention of everything until we reach “somewhere.” That “somewhere” is so big and so powerful that no ideology, philosophy or religious interpretation has been able to even give a name to it. Thus (for the sake of this discussion) let it remain un-named. 

What are my own feelings?

a) A distrust in inherited morals and cultural perceptions of right and wrong.
b) A distrust in reason for I am convinced that reason can only piece together data from five senses. Yet this course convinced me of something that I already knew all along. I am bigger than what I see, hear, taste, touch and smell.
c) Desire for an anarchy that I could call my own. No one else needs to own it for it will have no use for national labels and cultural insignia. It will be the start of a first step towards “somewhere” and the guiding principles for those steps are not to be understood. They lie above understanding as understanding itself is a rational sort of a thing.

This post almost perfectly describes the meaning of a line straight off the wall in the Peace Man’s room in Systems:

The Truth has no name.


The Marghdeen Learning Centre is an Iqbal Academy subsidiary body teaching the philosophy of Iqbal in straightforward terms. Anyone who enrolls at certain Marghdeen Learning Centre courses (including The Wisdom of Moses and Thinking with the Soul) courses gets an ebook copy of Systems for free in any format.

It Begins Today … Systems Excerpt

Somewhere in an imaginary world, today is the beginning of the end for the first generation of characters from my novel, Systems. To mark the occasion, here’s the passage that explains what happens that day … er, today.

Another one will appear here on the 16th. Enjoy! – SK


From Systems, Chapter Eleven (Leon’s Promise)

14 January 2014, Crescent Bay East

The professor entered the coffeehouse in an anorak and rubber boots, his dark wavy hair windswept. Leon and David stood to greet him as he came to their table, and Leon leaned over to shake hands with him. Omar however was preoccupied with his umbrella, which was dripping all over the floor. He propped it against an empty chair before perfunctorily shaking hands with the pair, and sat down.

Three years had passed since work had begun on the Systems Experiment, and Omar was finally looking to be vindicated. The experiment had run for ten weeks, simulating a time frame of two hundred and fifty years, and the computer had produced data on the five different political systems almost continually. Though the closing results had yet to come through, it was an open secret that the theorem was proven. The implications were enormous. Some were speculating that the theorem had the potential to influence policymaking in individual countries, and thereby affect the character of the Mutual World Alliance as well. The MWA, a body of democratic states, was only a few years old and still finding its feet. No analyst could yet make a long term forecast of its future. Its destiny was waiting to be written.

The MWA research bodies had conducted the experiment privately, but everyone expected the results to become public knowledge soon. Leon could hardly wait. For days he’d been walking around in an almost constant reverie, elated at the prospect of being part of such a momentous time in history. Omar however had a more self-effacing attitude towards his achievements, and he’d credited the success of the experiment primarily to David. In his typically offbeat style Omar had humorously dubbed him Abdul Salaam, or Servant of the Peace, for bringing about a bloodless “virtual revolution”, one that had incurred not a single human

As these thoughts passed through his mind, Leon hadn’t been fully cognisant of the anxious look in the professor’s tawny eyes. Omar combed his short neat moustache with his fingernail nervously, lowered his head and with a quiet voice he uttered the most awful words Leon would ever hear in his life.

‘They’re shutting it down.’

Leon frowned. ‘Sorry, what –?’ He looked at David, and saw the consternation on his face. Then he realised what Omar meant, and his heart sank. ‘The experiment?’

David looked sharply at Omar. ‘Where did you hear that?’

His indignation was justified. David was an integral member of the team and he’d written much of the main program himself. If anyone was pulling the plug, then he’d expect to be amongst the first to hear about it.

‘I have a friend on the inside,’ said Omar. ‘I can’t tell you his name, but I trust him. He called me to warn me of their plans.’

Leon looked at Omar in alarm. He knew the professor had received numerous threats throughout his career. Officially they’d come from religious fanatics, but according to Omar they answered to a higher authority of evil.

‘Y-you don’t mean –?’

‘It’s them. My friend has heard that the STRO executive board is about to hold a meeting. It’ll happen sometime in the next forty-eight hours, maybe less.’

‘They can’t do that!’ said Leon.

‘They can, and they will,’ said Omar, ‘because they don’t want the truth to get out.’

David was still on the defensive. ‘But then why did they let the experiment run in the first place?’

‘Because they always have to be the ones pulling all the strings,’ replied the professor with a wry smile. ‘They knew I wouldn’t give up until I found someone to test the theorem. It was to their advantage to let me run the experiment where they could keep an eye on me, and terminate everything at the first sign of trouble.’ He sighed. ‘I was aware of this possibility, but I had to take the risk.
Now they want to get rid of me, because they know I won’t go quietly. And, I’m sorry to say, you’re in danger too. My friend says they’ve had all of us under surveillance, and they’ve identified three people as my accomplices. That’s both of you, and Joanna.’

‘Joanna?’ said Leon. ‘She isn’t even working on the experiment.’ ‘But she knows too much. She applied for a consultancy position at the same time you did.’

‘But she didn’t even get the job,’ said David.

‘That doesn’t matter. Due to her relationship to you they’ve assumed that she is involved. Now we need to get away before they come for us. My friend has a safe house and I’m going there tonight. No one should notice my absence right away. David, you’re the only one with direct access to the data. I need you to get it to me before they destroy it. Will you do it?’

David responded with a blank look. Leon had the feeling he was struggling more with accepting the situation than the request.

‘Are you sure your friend’s information is reliable?’ asked Leon.

‘Absolutely sure. He has many connections. He even knows who supplied them with their information on us.’ He looked at David intently. ‘It’s someone you know.’



Leon was appalled. He’d known Adam since college, and had always known that unlike his twin, he could be arrogant, brash and selfish. But Leon would never have thought that Adam was capable of anything like this. He glanced at David, imagining that he felt much worse. David however appeared strangely calm, as though he’d known it all along and had only been waiting for a confirmation. His eyes were sad.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Omar.

David shook his head. ‘Don’t be. If truth be told, it explains a few things. Adam’s been asking me all sorts of odd questions lately. Most of them have been about you.’

Omar nodded, almost knowingly. ‘Oh, yes?’

‘Last week he was even asking me what Abdul Salaam meant. It really seemed to bother him. I told him that it was just a nickname but I don’t think he believed me. Instead he advised me not to associate with you. He said –’ He looked at Omar somewhat guiltily, and then smiled faintly. ‘Never mind. With hindsight, I suppose I should have realised what was going on.’

‘Your brother is just misguided,’ said Omar. ‘In his mind he’s doing the right thing. They have invented many lies against me.’

‘That’s very kind of you to say, but he changed some time ago. I don’t know my own brother any more.’ David closed his eyes momentarily, as if to offer a silent prayer. Then he looked at Omar.

‘Right, let’s do it.’

Omar smiled appreciatively. ‘And you, Leon?’

Leon needed no persuading. ‘Count me in.’


First year anniversary of Systems: Welcome to the dark side

Systems front coverSystems back coverToday is the first year anniversary of the release of Systems, and to mark the occasion I’ve changed the colours at this blog to match the rear cover of the paperback … a lovely shade of dark blue/violet. Wild, I know!

A newly edited version of this title will be released in spring. A CD of the song My Fate will accompany the book – and the CD might contain a hidden track. I say no more.

I’m also tinkering with the idea of presenting the Cohesive Ethics Theorem in a creative way. I have put off writing a formal piece on it for a long time, for various reasons, but mainly because I don’t want to couch a simple concept in stuffy language. That was my primary reason for presenting it in a novel in the first place, to give the abstract some context to which everyone can relate. Even if some formal discussion proves to be unavoidable, at the end of the day the concept is for all people, and not just academics or oddballs like yours truly.

Whatever I end up doing, it will likely be made in the first instance for the Marghdeen Learning Centre. (As you know, the novel is already available as a free download to anyone who joins the Marghdeen Learning Centre courses on Iqbal.)

I should add one more thing: I have other plans for the theorem too. But I’ll leave that for a future post.

Finally, a big thank you to all who have read my novel and sent me your wonderful feedback.

The end of Systems

The Spider's House .

– This post contains spoilers, and should only really be viewed by those who have read Systems.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!


Systems cover

On 14 January 2013, Systems will have been in print for exactly one year. For those of you who have already read it, you’ll know that at the end, Hitoshi, Aaron and Elise meet at the nightclub, intending to return to Creux Island and take down the Paragon3 computer program that is presently controlling the world, and replace it with Libredux’s code. We don’t get to see this happen, but it’s obviously implied, so the good guys have as good as won. The story has come to its proper closure.


For some of you, apparently not. A significant number of you have said that the novel’s ending was either too ambiguous or at least left sufficiently open-ended for a sequel. I’ll quote one reader word for word:

I thought it was brilliant – but I was so disappointed by the ending!

Is that how you felt? Now I don’t deny that there is an open-ended, er, ending. I borrowed the idea from Mortal Kombat, at the end of which Lui Kang defeats the sorcerer Shang Tsung and the world is saved. But just as Lui Kang leaves the temple with Raiden, Kitana, Johnny and Sonya, the evil emperor Shao Kahn suddenly appears as a giant crashing through a tower, and announces he has come for their souls. Raiden says: ‘I don’t think so.’ And the fighters all pose for the next battle.

‘You humans are so unpredictable’

Hitoshi Katayama

Hitoshi Katayama

That to me was a perfectly wrapped-up-and-yet-open-ended close to the movie, and I wanted to do something similar. So I wrapped up my story up as far as possible in the last few pages, in particular the hospital scene where Aaron and Elise discover what Hitoshi had really found at Creux Island. And at the nightclub, I ended with Hitoshi’s devilish smile to imply that the fight will go on.

But some of you said you would have liked to see the world change in a more definitive way by the end. Others were upset that Hitoshi destroyed the data from the original Systems Experiment, because it would have proved once and for all that Omar’s Libredux model proved an ideal society was possible. (Apparently, one of Hitoshi’s many lies that the Systems Experiment results were ‘inconclusive’ may have put doubt in some readers’ minds.)

I took this complaint seriously. I was concerned that I had failed to communicate the point of the ending well enough. I wrote in confidence to a friend that I was thinking of tinkering with the ending – not to change it but to extend it and clearly show that Hitoshi was similarly tinkering with the Paragon3 code, which was better than having the original data. My friend’s emphatic response:

Please, no. I liked the ending very much. The destruction of the disc is not evil because what it implied for me was that the Truth is not even dependent on one-time data. It will find some other way of manifesting itself.

Well, at least he got it. But he doesn’t count, since he also happens to be a genius. :) My instincts on this are that my original ending was right. I would never show how the world changed at the end, because that would conflict with my convictions that one should never seek to provide a ready-made blueprint of a vision for an ideal society. (Remember: Jinnah and Iqbal never provided blueprints either). But I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I have come to realise where the issue might really lie. And it’s not the Systems Experiment.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – A mirror opposite

One or two readers have compared Systems to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and I can see the resemblance. Orwell’s novel is set in a future and a dystopian world run by Big Brother. In fact, it’s set exactly 30 years before mine, which essentially begins in 2014. My fictional world is a semi-utopia that is later revealed to be a dystopia run by E3. In both novels, the bad guys deal with rebels by murdering and then writing them out of history.

The Triumvirate Committee - aka E3

The Triumvirate Committee – aka E3

Whereas Nineteen Eighty-Four has an undoubtedly tragic and pessimistic ending, Systems ends on a decidedly positive note. But in both stories, the evil rulers persist, and we don’t see them get the comeuppance they deserve. And this, it seems, is the real offending issue in Systems. It’s not the Experiment, or the data, but E3 … the appearance of E3 ultimately getting away with everything.

The penny finally dropped for me after a conversation with an academic who said she wanted to know what would happen to E3 in a sequel. I immediately thought: ‘But E3 is already doomed, once the good guys go back to Creux Island…’ And then I realised that I hadn’t explicitly stated this in the novel. Or rather, it had only been implied, and probably not clearly enough.

Know the Truth and Return to Liberty

So why wasn’t E3 finished off properly, or at least exposed? Well, aside from the fact E3 does lose (albeit after the closing pages) that isn’t even the point of the story. The end of Systems is not about the battle against an external evil, but about an inner battle … of human self-belief. That’s why it’s visionary fiction. It reaffirms a belief, in Manner’s words, ‘in all that is possible’ … what we think is ‘ideal’, but which is not only absolutely possible, but moreover necessary for our evolution. The end of Systems (see what I did there?) was to show that no matter how powerful our dictators and tyrants might seem, it’s a deception. All it takes to defeat the sorcerers is to see through the illusion. Whatever they tell us, human destiny really lies in our own hands, and unlocking our potential is a simple case of knowing it, and acting on it.

The Spider's House

A trap – but a flimsy one

Truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider’s house; if they but knew. - The Quran *

When I first started writing this post, I was going to announce my intention to change the ending. But since then, my conversations with some readers have shown me that I only need to change maybe a line. As Roz Morris has recently suggested at her blog, readers are usually right when something is wrong. But they are not always right about what is wrong.

So the ending will stay the same. Phew! But I am planning an edited edition (including that added line, obviously), with some extras …

More information will be made available on the first anniversary edition of Systems, in January 2013. Stay tuned.

* Incidentally, that Quranic quote is directly responsible for the title of Chapter 33 (The Spider’s House), and is a massive clue to the reader as to whether E3 is going to really get away in the end (especially since the Quranic ‘spider’s house’ is a literal allegory for Pharoah, Hamaan and Qaroon, the three symbols of tyranny on which E3 is based!). And Chapter 34’s title, Know the Truth, aside from being the tag line to the novel, is borrowed from the Biblical You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. That too is a clue linking Aaron and Elise’s discovery of the truth to the implications for their world … and for E3.

Excerpt of Systems at the VFA

What the title says. :)

The first part of Chapter 4 from Systems has appeared over the the Visionary Fiction Alliance. It’s the first scene in which we are introduced to the serial killer Peter Manner, aka the Peace Man, properly.

Click here to read it.

Do pop over and say hi.

René Raison – rebirth of reason

Note: I accidentally titled this ‘Rebirth of Thought’ when it should have said ‘Reason (for) Rebirth’. Corrected now. I’m half asleep today!

Note (again): It was really bugging me why I had thought ‘raison’ meant thought, so I double-checked. Turns out that when I originally chose the word ‘raison’ (some years go), I picked it for its second meaning: reason, mind. So my memory wasn’t mixed up after all. Note to self: Never second-guess yourself during a migraine!

Dr Muhammad Iqbal

Dr Muhammad Iqbal – Courtesy allamaiqbal.com

I intended to put up an entirely different post today, but will leave that for later (though that one is important too). Just wanted to mention something that has come up at the Marghdeen Learning Centre’s present course, The Wisdom of Moses, where Systems also happens to be part of its required reading list.

This week’s question was asking about what is common between two seemingly unrelated passages written by Iqbal. They are quite long so I won’t reproduce them in full here, but in short both of them mention the passage in the Quran in which there is a reference to ‘resurrection’ or ‘rebirth’.

As Iqbal quotes it:

Your creation and resurrection are like the creation and resurrection of a single soul. (31:28)

Aside from a few who believe that this is literally a reference to reincarnation on earth (and yes, I used reincarnation as a metaphor in Systems), most understand that this is a comment on the recycling of the universe (including life), and it is also a statement on the birth and rebirth of humanity as a whole, treated as a ‘single soul’. In addition, it’s saying that the fate of human society rests equally on each and every one of us. So each of us is also society (or humanity), and what every one of us does will affect its evolution.

But there is a bit more to it than even that – from Iqbal’s viewpoint. He was interested in the method for reviving society. His comments from the two aforementioned passages are as follows:

First passage: Allahabad Address: Is it possible for you to achieve the organic wholeness of a unified will? Yes, it is. … Pass from matter to spirit. Matter is diversity; spirit is light, life and unity. … One of the profoundest verses in the Holy Quran teaches us that the birth and rebirth of the whole of humanity is like the birth and rebirth of a single individual. Why cannot you … as a people, … live and move and have your being as a single individual?

Second passage: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam: A living experience of the kind of biological unity, embodied in this verse [as cited above], requires today a method physiologically less violent and psychologically more suitable to a concrete type of mind.

Now this has caused a stir over at the course. What is biological unity? What is ‘rebirth’? How do we achieve it? What does Iqbal mean when he says about society: live and move and have your being as a single individual?

Brain, mind - Two-in-one

Brain, mind – Two-in-one

The question becomes easier to answer if it is reworded: How do we reboot the mind (of society)? Obviously, through re-education, or, in biological terms, by rewiring the brain. We know how difficult it is in science to differentiate between brain and mind anyway. (Now you also know why reincarnation and psychic ability – what Hitoshi called a ‘worldwide neuron network’ – appear together in Systems.) If a society can achieve this, it will also achieve unity of collective thought – and unity of purpose. This is what the theorem (and the Systems Experiment) in the novel highlights as well (Chapter 11). Oh, and it was something I mentioned a few times in SJ2 as well, though there it was phrased ‘intellectual unity’. ;)

In other words, this is all theorem stuff again. My favourite Iqbal line, the one I call the ‘muse’ for the theorem, speaks of rendering the three intangible ideals (equality, freedom, solidarity) as ‘space-time forces':

Muse line (Reconstruction): The essence of ‘Tauhid’ [Unity of God] as a working idea is equality, solidarity, and freedom. The State … is an endeavour to transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realise them in a definite human organisation.

As far as I understand it, there is scant difference between this passage about the ‘state’ and the ones about ‘biological’ unity. Both are describing the meaning of true Unity. It’s just the subject that differs. One is the human being; the other the political state. In fact, the muse line technically mentions both ‘state’ and the human being (‘human organisation’).

René Descartes

René Descartes

Incidentally – more trivia for you – a key location (and a chapter) in Systems was quite deliberately named René Raison dam. It was a wink and a nod to René Descartes, the father of the dualist doctrine, as well as a phrase in French –  ignoring the bad grammar. :) Literal meaning is in the title of this article, and its implication is that we need to rethink what reality means. Is it split into spirit and matter, unseen and seen, thought and material, body and mind, space and time?

Or is it Unified?

Five things you don’t know about Systems

The Triumvirate Committee - aka E3


Trivia time: Here are five things you didn’t know about the novel and its characters.

Warning: May contain spoilers!


1) The Original Conspiracy: Read the copyright notice at the beginning of the novel for a hidden message.

2) Names: The names of most key characters in the novel carry significant meanings (Aaron, Adam, David, Omar, Kingswell, Kash, Peter). But the names Elise and Hitoshi are special because their respective meanings were not known to me when I chose them. They are a neat case of synchronicity.

Elise Archer - heroine

Elise Archer – heroine

Elise is a modern form of the Hebrew name Elisheva, meaning ‘My God is an Oath’. This has implications for the Cohesive Ethics theorem (which I won’t explain here); it connects directly to ‘Leon’s promise’ in the novel; and Elisheva also happens to be the wife of the Prophet Aaron in the Bible. Hitoshi means ‘equal’, ‘even-tempered’ or ‘simultaneous’ depending on the spelling. This makes perfect sense when you know what Hitoshi’s problem is!

3) Three ideals: Peter, Hitoshi and Aaron represent the three separated ideals of justice, liberty and unity respectively. Elise represents humanity encountering these three ideals in their ‘separated’ form, i.e. the limited way that we view them.

The Triumvirate Committee - aka E3

The Triumvirate Committee – also known as E3

4) Three evils: The evil organisation E3 is described in the novel as being made up of three divisions: Political, economic and religious. These three divisions are taken from the three symbols of tyranny listed in the Quran: Pharaoh, the representative of political tyranny; Qaroon (Korah), a wealthy magnate representing economic tyranny; and Hamaan, the high priest of the temple of Ammon who represents religious tyranny. All three of these figures were contemporaries, and they also represent the mirror opposites of the Cohesive Ethics ideals: oppression, injustice and disunity respectively.

Hitoshi Katayama - friend or foe?

Hitoshi Katayama – friend or foe?

5) The song and its writer: The song My Fate which appears in the novel originally had different lyrics. It was recorded under the title Ablaze, but I was never satisfied with the lyrics or the melody (an extract of that song is still lying around on the net). The present one is not yet recorded, though it has a melody.

The first verse of the present song represents David’s viewpoint, and the second verse represents Adam’s. The chorus and bridge represent Hitoshi’s outlook.

And this brings us to why Hitoshi is a lyricist. He is the reincarnation of David, whose Biblical counterpart was the bringer of the Psalms, a poetical form of Revelation often set to music.

The Battle for Marghdeen – Introduction

This title has already been released. Further info here

Seven Stages article at Republic of Rumi website

Anyone who has read Systems will know that its publisher, Libredux, is named after the ideal social system based on the Cohesive Ethics Theorem. When I used that name, I had no plans for it other than to publish the novel. But now, and quite unexpectedly, Libredux is taking on its second title, this time penned by the Marghdeen Learning Centre’s Khurram Ali Shafique.

At around the same time as I was formulating the theorem for the novel, Mr Shafique was formulating a theory of his own. His new book is inspired by a pattern he has found in the writings of Iqbal, which reveals a seven stage cycle for the development of a nation, or what Iqbal called the ‘collective ego’.

The book, titled: 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen, is due out on 14 August 2012 (coinciding with Pakistan’s 65th independence anniversary). I’m reproducing the Introduction below, to give you an idea of what it’s about. Further details will come later.

NB: Marghdeen is a fictional city on Mars, representing an ideal society as conceived by Iqbal in his epic poem, Javid Nama.



Khurram Ali Shafique has one of those rare gifts of being able to find patterns in the most unexpected of places. His discovery of the ‘seven stages’ in Iqbal’s works, (having first seen the connection between Iqbal’s epic poem Javid Nama and his famous Reconstruction lectures) is most intriguing and has wider implications for the study of history with an essentially inductive method. This is not to suggest it is a tool of prediction, but it does provide a method for analysing the psychological direction in which a given society is moving as a ‘collective ego’. Moreover, it serves to illustrate the universal principles that motivate all nations in pursuit of a Higher goal, and to also show what happens when these same principles are neglected.

2017: The Battle for Marghdeen coverIn this work, Mr. Shafique has looked at Pakistan (and also Bangladesh) as a case in point. The most interesting part of the cycle can be seen at stage four – the ‘freedom’ stage (1947-67). At first glance it seems thatPakistanis not moving as we might predict in light of the cycle of stages. As Mr. Shafique shows, this is because the ‘freedom’ stage marks the point at which individuals and small sections of Pakistani society actively began to focus on individualistic goals instead of collective goals. Some commentators on the history of Pakistan have similarly concluded that there is a point of departure from the ‘Pakistan idea’ in the same period. The main difference between most of these commentators and Mr. Shafique however is that Mr. Shafique has illuminated the fundamental reason for the departure in clear terms. ThePakistanidea was the Muslims’ collective basis of partition in 1947, but the point of departure also becomes manifest soon after 1947. The implications for the later stages, especially the final one we have entered as of 2007 (‘creation’), are very interesting indeed, if not alarming, depending on how one interprets the data.

Yet Mr. Shafique has also shown that surface appearances rarely if ever represent the whole of reality. In fact the decision and actions taken by a collective ego or nation are based, in his words, ‘either on the real goal collectively adopted thirty years earlier, or its misinterpretation’ (emphasis mine). What this means is that the collective ego will always choose between one of two directions, or what the Quran calls the ‘two highways’; and this has obvious implications for that much misunderstood concept called the ‘Two Nation Theory’. Again, as Mr. Shafique puts it, whether or not Pakistan proves true to herself ‘will depend, eventually, on whether or not its people manage to make its history a success story. That in itself seems to a daunting task just now, but this pattern itself might be a key to the solution’.

In other words, if the Pakistani nation can become consciously aware of its choices, it will be in a better position to make the right one and so succeed in the final phase. With this in mind, he has not only outlined the double nature of Pakistan’s path using some compelling evidence, but he has also supplied what he sees as the defining goal for the last phase, and the all-important turning point (2017) which will ultimately determine the outcome. Will Pakistan recognise her true nature? Will she transform into Marghdeen?

Whether or not Pakistan succeeds in the end, her journey through its seven stages nevertheless stands to offer invaluable information on the universal principles that motivate all nations in pursuit of a Higher goal.

And in any case, Mr. Shafique is optimistic, for he believes – based on what his theory truly implies – that there is no such thing as an evil age. Indeed he is, as Iqbal once described himself, ‘almost a fatalist in regard to the various forces that ultimately decide the destinies of nations’. This work thus presents an exciting new development not only for Iqbal and Pakistan studies, but for the field of history as well.

Saleena Karim, Nottingham, 28 July 2012

Systems in an Iqbal education programme

Dr Muhammad Iqbal

Courtesy allamaiqbal.com

Yesterday I learned that the Systems trailer has been included in a course (Title: DNA of History: History According to Iqbal) being run by the Marghdeen Learning Centre, a body affiliated with the Iqbal Academy. I felt truly honoured at the mention, especially because of the particular focus of the lesson in which the trailer appeared. (I would have linked to the lesson page, since the course is run online, but you can’t view it unless you’re a participant on the course).


Here are some of the most interesting points made in the lesson by the course teacher, Khurram Ali Shafique:

“Do we find any common strand” in the events of our times? Yes. Everything happening in our times is related to “Potential.”

In the field of natural sciences, we have already moved on from principles to potentials: the “principles” of natural sciences discovered in the previous phase gave birth to an age of invention in our times.

The problem is that while we discovered the tremendous potential of the physical world, we have not matched it with similar progress in discovering the potential of the human soul …

… Let’s begin with the most basic thing: Tawhid, or the Unity of God. According to Iqbal, the three principles implied in the Unity of God are “equality, solidarity, and freedom.” …

… Let me summarize. What I have tried to share is that we are now living in the age of potential. The three traits of this age are:

  1. Nations cannot be forced into slavery anymore, although they can still be deceived into it – and this is regardless of how weak the victim or how strong the oppressor. This is the potential of freedom.
  2. The world is rearranging itself into nation states, which are likely to develop a symbiotic relationship. This is the potential of solidarity.
  3. Nations can become aware of their destinies and make informed choices based on this awareness. This is the potential of equality.
Snapshot from Systems trailer

Snapshot from Systems trailer


So once again, the focus is on the three ideals that appear in the Cohesive Ethics Theorem. Most interestingly of all, Mr Shafique has stressed that Iqbal’s own reference to these three principles in his famous Reconstruction lectures should be understood literally. In other words, the key to unlocking human potential in full can only come from mastering our understanding of these specific three principles, just as we have begun to unlock the creative potential of the physical universe by mastering our understanding of the laws of nature. As someone says in Systems:

‘Some would say that what I have suggested is utopian, and moreover impossible. This is not so. As I see it, humanity cannot realise its true potential until we accept that an ideal society is not only possible, but absolutely mandatory.’

The lesson opens with this question: Do you think that this video (Systems trailer) is relevant to what is being discussed in this post?

I reply: Why yes, and not in a small way!

But then, I would say that. :)

And a final note: I highly recommend joining the courses at the Marghdeen Learning Centre. They are cleverly designed to be as informal as possible, while introducing some thought-provoking ideas.

How Secular Jinnah inspired Systems Part 3: The missing principle

As SJ1’s readership grew, so did the requests for a sequel. At first I only intended to release a revised edition and call it SJ2. And yet, all sorts of new information kept cropping up on the Pakistan story. My minor list of revisions soon became a monster file of notes which couldn’t be organised except in the form of a new book.


Then between late 2006 and mid-2007, two things happened to affect both the as-yet unwritten SJ2 and Systems. First, I came up with the ‘theorem’ for the novel in a kind of eureka moment, though this had been building up for some time. As I mentioned in Part 2, before this point my ‘ideal’ system model for the fictional Systems Experiment had been nothing more than a name. This was because I’d been semi-consciously aware that a fixed system was problematic. If I described the features of this system in the fiction in detail, it might be set in stone and treated as some fixed ideology. Fictional or not, I’d instinctively known I wanted to avoid that.

Single Source PrincipleThe fact that an ideal system is never fixed (because evolution itself is a Natural Law) now registered in my conscious knowledge for the first time. This was thanks largely to my in-depth study of the Pakistan story and in particular the thoughts of Jinnah and Iqbal (in that order. Jinnah’s  intelligence and acute ethical awareness remains greatly under-appreciated even among the experts). And so all the pieces came together. The idea (it had no name at first) was very simple and based on common sense. If you assume that everything in the universe has a common starting point of some sort, and you assume that the laws of nature also have the same starting point, then all ideals have the same starting point too … in principle. And just as the universe – with its zillions of atoms and subatomic particles and other seemingly separated bits and pieces called gravity and black holes and dark matter and space and time – actually remains one in principle, then all universal ideals must really be aspects or derivatives of a single common ideal.

I also remembered my old issue with that SJ1 appendix – the two irreducible ideals of justice and freedom. As it turns out, the two really are irreducible for reasons I won’t explain here, but whilst we often treat them as separate and ultimately incompatible, they really are not. In combination they represent one ultimate principle. I would later call this the Single Source Principle (though this part of the theorem was never explained in detail in the novel). Of course to many people it’s better known as Oneness, or Unity.

DNA cross section

Computer-generated cross section of DNA, from a top-down view.


At any rate, I finally had the essence of a testable ‘theorem’ (for the fiction, at least). As I put it in Systems:

… justice and liberty are the only universal ideals; all other ethical principles are either derivatives or aspects of these ideals. But justice and liberty are themselves interconnected because they come, just like the physical universe and every law of nature, from a single source.

It seemed natural to call this relationship cohesive ethics; like a kind of ‘theory of everything’ for universal ideals. (I later tacked on the word ‘theorem’ in the novel for effect). To my mind, any social system built around the ideals of both justice and liberty together would be acting in harmony with the Natural Order and so was bound to succeed. Its exact structure – the minor details – wouldn’t matter. What would matter was its type … what it aimed for … its spirit … its ethical DNA. And by virtue of a beautiful accident, I already had the perfect name for this type of system: Libredux.

a social system with no fixed rules, except for one binding principle which could not be broken under any circumstances.

Now I had almost everything I needed for the novel. But it still wouldn’t be finished for another five years.


Second, in around May 2007 I had some interesting correspondence with the late Pakistani parliamentarian MP Bhandara, which led to my inadvertently becoming involved with his constitutional bill to make the 11 August 1947 speech of MA Jinnah a ‘substantive’ part of Pakistan’s constitution. Again, details aren’t important (though we’ll touch on it in the next part; the whole story is in SJ2’s appendix in any case). But that experience showed me just how important a strong constitution is. It also alerted me to the fact that something extremely important might be missing in Pakistan’s constitution – something that was leaving its fundamental sections open to misinterpretation.

Next: Pt 4 (final): Reversal

Earlier posts in this mini-series:

Introduction … Pt 1: The first book 

Pt 2: Libredux … Pt 3: The missing principle 


(Some images in this post are copyrighted)