Distasteful!

July 9, 2006 § 2 Comments

48 Laws of Power

After all that we have seen as a global community; after all that we have shared as family (humanity) we still find ways prove that the depths of Shaytan’s rancor have no limit. Never have I been so disgusted by literature than when I began to read “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene. At first I thought that I would not write about this because the fact that I am writing about it may peak someone’s interest but here I am writing… criticizing, warning, making a case against the effort of this book.

The First thing I observed about the book is that “power” was spelled vertically. Secondly, I noticed the contrast in color, which was red and blue. Thirdly the obvious physical detail was that the publisher is Viking Penguin. These things made the physical appearance of the book interesting, attractive yet there was an unsettling feeling when an acquaintance suggested it as a good read…

When I saw the name Robert Greene I thought maybe this was some lost article of Shakespear’s rival by the same name. Alas, it was not, in fact Robert Greene is a contemporary author of other books such as “Seduction” and “The 33 Laws of War”.

I think the reason I was so surprised by this books is because it exploits and seems completely contrary to sound Islamic teachings (da’wah), but not only against sound Islamic teachings but time honored religious teachings which are fundamental of all traditions to my knowledge. To make sure analyzed the text and found specific details that I felt were contrary to my intention as a Muslim.

I felt that Chapter One, The first Law, “Never Outshine the Master”, was acceptable. My initial feelings were that Greene was suggesting that humility is the First Law. However at the tailend of his commentary what he calls “Judgement” he writes,

“Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power”.

This struck me as an incomplete thought because it makes no mention of sincerity being a factor. In fact it almost seems that a tongue and cheek show of flattery would suffice and satisfy this law. In this chapter there is an Interpretation of the meaning and significance of this Law where Greene discusses an ill-fated scenario between King Louis XIV and Nicholas Fouquet, King Louis XIV finance director. The story describes Fouquet hosting a lavish and lush party trying to win the favor of King Louis XIV, however it was so extravagant it appeared as though the party was meant to show off and as a result offending the king. Greene suggests,

“When you show yourself in the world and display your talents, you naturally stir up all kinds of resentment, envy and other manifestations of insecurity. This is to be expected. You cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others. With those above you, however, you must take a different approach: When it comes to power outshining the master is perhaps the worst mistake of all.”

Although there is truth in this statement it is strangely mixed with error therefore is erroneous. In light of Al-Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (s.aw.s) which teach us that, Power is Allah’s alone and the distribution of Power is decided by Allah and not man’s cunning. This is supported in the third chapter (surah) “The House of ‘Imran”, when it says,

“O Allah! Lord of Power (And Rule), Thou givest power to whom Thou pleasest, and Thou strippest off power from whom Thou pleasest: Thou enduest with honour whom Thou pleasest, and Thou bringest low whom Thou pleasest: In Thy hand is all good. Verily, over all things Thou hast power” (Al-Qur’an, 3:26).

In addition a hadith of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) narrated by Abu Huraira suggests sincerity brings reward of moral solace when he says,

“The Prophet said, “Goodness and comfort are for him who worships his Lord in a perfect manner and serves his master sincerely” (Bukhari, 003:046:725).

Sincerity by virtue of its nature should not inspire feelings of insecurity. Further more a modest effort would probably have been more appreciated than gross extravagance to win the Kings heart. So in some ways Greene’s suggestion is correct however the prescribed method is loose and ambiguous leaving it unclear whether insincerity, lies and manipulation are optional tools to achieve success in the First Law, to “Never Outshine the Master”.

In conclusion I would not recommend this book to those seeking virtuous advice for the application and use of power in their lives from this book. There is a fundamental element of deceit and trickery supporting the theories of this book seemingly borrowed from aristocratic social customs among money hungry materialists. Since I wrote this article, I will look for something more suitable however, Al-Qur’an is the best source for this kind of wisdom… in my opinion.

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§ 2 Responses to Distasteful!

  • Aaminah says:

    Asalaamu alaikum.

    I would suggest that the first problem is with the notion of wanting power and trying to find ways to become more powerful. There is a difference between learning to be more effective, or a better leader or other such useful (and beneficial to others, inshaAllah) skills, vs. the actual use of the word “power” which in my mind already brings about a conotation of selfishness, greed, backbiting, backstabbing, and other sins.

  • Very amazing site! I wish I could do something as nice as you did…mary

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