Five Dangerous Assumptions

Whether speaking on the job, to the public, preaching to a congregation, or just talking to a group of friends, I found the info in this article by Larry Moyer entitled “The Five Most Dangerous Assumptions in Preaching” to contain some useful points.

Here’s a summary [with a few personal tweaks]:

A group of high-wealth explorers took to the Aussie outback. While there a kangaroo jumped out of the brush and was struck by their Jeep. To have some fun, they put the driver’s expensive Gucci jacket on it and took a picture. Just as soon as they did,  the kangaroo jumped up and hopped into the brush. You can imagine the driver’s regret when he remembered his keys and wallet were in the jacket.

Lesson: False assumptions can be costly.

1- “People are dying to hear me speak.”

Avoid pride: Pride is an area where every speaker is vulnerable. Instead amazement with self, try being  overwhelmed with the privilege to speak. Focus on how fortunate you are to have your people, instead of the opposite. Instead of  thinking, “I can do anything,”  heed God’s warning, “Without me you can do nothing”.

Prepare: Examine your introduction, make sure it strikes a need and properly orients people toward the text. Be abundant in your use of illustrations to keep people’s attention. Have a healthy sense of humor that makes what you say enjoyable and meaningful.

2- “People don’t care how long I speak.”

People feel restless when you go beyond 30 minutes, and hence what they retain decreases dramatically. Ask yourself three questions to correct this misconception.

–          First, “Who do you enjoy the most: a speaker who stops before he had to, or one who goes longer than you wish?” Practice being the person you enjoy hearing.

–          Secondly ask, “What would help you be a better communicator: taking as long as you want, or taking everything you want to say and figuring out how to say it in 30 minutes?”

–          A third question is, “Which encourages people to come back: a speaker who stops before you expected him to, or a speaker who went longer than you wanted him to?”

3-  “People think I’m a good communicator.”

Speaking is not the same as communicating. Speaking is when the words of my mouth enter the openings of your ears. Communication is when what’s understood in my mind is understood in yours. Some speakers do well in speaking but they don’t communicate.

[Remember that God said “We have not sent a Messenger except with the vernacular of his people so that he may clarify the message to them” Abraham, verse 4]

To find out how well you’re communicating, here’s a helpful exercise: Choose two people to explain back to you what you explained to them in your message. Ask the “average”people. Just because you communicate with your elders doesn’t mean you communicate with your people. [Don’t preach to the choir, and certainly don’t ask them for critique if you do!]

4- “People never have trouble following my train of thought.”

No one wants to be regarded as “Christopher Columbus” in speaking. When Columbus started out, he did not know where he was going. When he got there, he didn’t know where he was. And when he came back, he didn’t know where he had been! More may regard you as a Christopher Columbus than you might think.

One reason many feel this way but do not mention it is because they’re accustomed to listening to confusing speakers, so they tend to think their confusion is normal. It’s also why, when they hear one that’s easy to follow, they talk about him for days. He or she stood out.

When people see you as difficult to follow, it’s largely because of two reasons.

–          One is that your thoughts seem disjointed.

–          Two is that speakers lose people in their transitions. They move on, but they don’t take the audience with them.

Again ask “average” listeners for input, and accept advice with a broken spirit, you’ll become a better preacher by improving in an area where you’re weaker than you thought.

5- “People have a pretty good understanding of the [Topic].”

In my experience, the older the preacher, the more he explains his terms and speaks simply, because he’s discovered over time that people are never where we think they are in their knowledge. Those fresh out of box often preach over the heads of their people.

How do you overcome this assumption? Interact with your people. In a non-threatening way, take the time to find out how much they know. Many will feel honored if you ask them, because it indicates a real interest in them as individuals. Secondly, when you speak, err on the side of explaining too much about what your listeners need to know. Do not assume they already know it.

Conclusion

Assumptions can be costly. Avoiding dangerous assumptions can be rewarding. Only when you know what the assumptions are and how to avoid them is communication enhanced. Don’t let our impact on people be hindered through false assumptions in our preaching.

Binding Contracts – Formation of Islamic Financial Law

A question seldom asked when investigating the intricacies of Islamic Law is how Islamic law came to be. Sure we all can look to the legal compendiums and the minutiae mentioned therein; review the marginalia and the facets of edge issues and dimensions of a particular position. But what is seldom seen is an analysis of how certain rulings were reached; what substantive principles were drawn upon to formulate those rulings that are taken as canon in the books of Islamic law, especially those of the standardized schools.

Let’s take for instance the stance of most schools concerning contracts: are they binding or not? A cursory look at the annals of Islamic law would show a plethora of categorizations, divisions, topical treatments, and stress on the form of contract under review. Without going into medieval positions on who said what, suffice it to say there are three opinions on the binding nature of contracts: they are, they aren’t, and it depends. When looking back to the primary texts on the topic, we find the verse 4:1 stating “Oh you who believe: Fulfill your contracts…” the imperative used here would apparently mean that any contract entered into should be binding.

Even though the nature of this text in unequivocal, if we were to apply the singular and apparent meaning of this verse, we would at times harm one or both of the parties to the contract. Because of this a holistic approach was taken, recognizing how a contract may be applied at times and the harm that may result there from, and giving precedence in those instances to the general and all-encompassing verses and hadith that forbid harm and reciprocating harm. In this case the contract was designated as non-binding, due to precautions of harming one or more parties to the contract.

Now after all of this, this is really not the point at all. What I’d like to highlight here is not that some contracts were viewed as binding and some not, but that in looking at this principle, i.e. deciding as to whether a contract is binding or not, we have not so far needed to mention the tomes of information on form based contracts that are most often, if not always, used as a basis for deciding what “is” Islamic Finance.

In short, we need a more substantive analysis of contract for Islamic Finance to flourish.

Derivatives in Islamic Finance

Andreas A. Jobst, IMF – Monetary and Capital Markets Department (MCM), has posted this article in Islamic Economic Studies (Vol. 15, No. 1) . Here is the abstract:

Abstract:

Despite their importance for financial sector development, derivatives are few and far between in countries where the compatibility of capital market transactions with Islamic law requires the development of shariah-compliant structures. Islamic finance is governed by the shariah, which bans speculation, but stipulates that income must be derived as profits from shared business risk rather than interest or guaranteed return. This paper explains the fundamental legal principles of Islamic finance, which includes the presentation of a valuation model that helps illustrate the shariah-compliant synthetication of conventional finance through an implicit derivative arrangement. Based on the current use of accepted risk transfer mechanisms in Islamic structured finance, the paper explore the validity of derivatives from an Islamic legal point of view and summarizes the key objections of shariah scholars that challenge the permissibility of derivatives under Islamic law. In conclusion, the paper delivers suggestions for shariah compliance of derivatives.

Interesting article, recommended.

Five Essential Tips For Every …

… [insert your title here]

I found this over @ Shariq Ghani’s site today, good stuff, I think its applicable to more than just activism, here’s a summary:

No matter how noble your cause there will always be a group of people who will vehemently stand against you for no particular reason.

1. They will put up a wall because you accomplished what they were not able to.

2. They will always say you don’t consult enough or you’re not organized.

3. No one will care until they see results.

4. Remove yourself from people who say you can’t.

5. You are your biggest enemy.

Check out the full article here.

Stilt on the Role of the Muhtasib in Medieval Cairo

Kristen Stilt (Northwestern University) has posted Price Setting and Hoarding in Mamluk Egypt (THE LAW APPLIED: CONTEXTUALIZING THE ISLAMIC SHARIA, Peri Bearman, Wolfhart Heinrichs, Bernard Weiss, eds., I.B. Taurus, London, 2008) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

    This Article studies the legal position of the muhtasib in medieval Cairo, using the biographical information available about the individuals who held the position to understand the actions they took in office. The muhtasib, who was an inspector of public places and markets in particular, was a key legal actor in terms of applying law immediately to a situation he encountered; he was a common face of the law in society. This Article, influenced in method by legal realism, shows that in addition to the law that a particular muhtasib intended to apply to a particular case, biographical information is crucial in explaining how and why each muhtasib responded to particular events.

Hat tip to: Legal Theory Blog