Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Faith and Science: Solipsist Implications

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007   No comments

by Mohammed Golam Ahad, University of Central Florida

Abstract: For centuries throughout history, paradigm shifts caused by scientific discoveries have placed religion on the defensive pertaining to the quest for truth. Discoveries attained via the scientific method have compelled theologians to change their model of God in an attempt to legitimize it by conforming it to facts of science. However, in this paper I will assume science and religion are indeed conflicting entities. I intend to employ the philosophical doctrine of metaphysical solipsism to promote skepticism towards empiricism and logically validate faith over science.

Indisputably the most hackneyed argument for atheism is simply the scarcity of empirical evidence for the existence of God. Science, the process of attaining knowledge through repeated observation and experimentation, remain the foundation for pursuing the unfalsifiable truths of the universe for most atheists. Richard Dawkins, eminent evolutionist at Oxford University and outspoken atheist clearly summarized the dilemma between religion and science:

“Well, science is not religion and it doesn't just come down to faith. Although it has many of religion's virtues, it has none of its vices. Science is based upon verifiable evidence. Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy, shouted from the rooftops.” [1]

Carl Sagan, eminent Cornell astronomer, shares similar sympathies towards science and religion:

Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy. Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? [2]

The centuries of paradigm shifts caused by scientific revolutions in history have weakened the credibility of religious doctrines. Numerous theologians, such as William Lane Craig and Zakir Naik, take the “concordist” approach towards science and religion by accepting scientific theories and accounting them to their respective God. They assume science as truth and incorporate science into their faith in an attempt to legitimize it.

In this short paper however, I intend to employ the “conflicting” approach between science and religion, considering religion as primary truth while science being secondary. The study of metaphysical solipsism places science under scrutiny. With the implementation of solipsist principles, I intend to promote skepticism towards anything observed via the scientific method.

According to British philosopher Anthony Flew, solipsism is the “The theory that I am the sole existent. To be a solipsist I must hold that I alone exist independently, and that what I ordinarily call the outside world exists only as an object or content of my consciousness.” [3] Solipsism denotes that anything observable is actually a projection of the mind. In other words, the human mind has no valid vindications for believing the existence of anything in the material universe besides itself. Anything observed are actually sensory input conjured in the human mind and does not necessarily exist, which is analogous to dreams, as Rene Descartes elucidates:

“How can you be certain that your life is not a continuous dream, and that everything you think you learn through the senses is not false now, just as much as when you are asleep? In particular, how can you have learned that you were created by a superior being who, being all-powerful, would have found it no more difficult to create us just as I am describing than you create you as you think you are? [4]

Indeed this paradox explained by Descartes provides us a reason why we shouldn’t rest our trust on empiricism in our quest for truth. Descartes incorporates three justifications for this doubt:

1.) The dream argument: The idea that perceptions may not be caused by the external world but may actually be a dream.

2.) The deceiving God argument: The contention that an omnipotent God have deceived the human mind even pertaining to areas of logic.

3.) The evil demon argument: The idea that a demon, instead of God, is deceiving the human mind.

All three arguments share a theme that external world may not be experienced directly, but rather through images that may not be true representations of it. “Unreal world” solipsism questions the rational grounds upon which we perceive the things we perceive are real rather than unreal. Hence, since science is based on data attained from our senses, metaphysical solipsism undermines the truthfulness of the laws of the sciences since our perceptions have potential to fool us.

In conclusion, I believe that the presumed incompatibility between science and religion is a logically invalid reason to undermine religion and change our model of God. Metaphysical solipsism, as explained earlier in this paper, logically imposes the potential deception of the scientific method.


[1] Richard Dawkins, “Is Science a Religion,” Humanist (Feb. 1997)

[2] Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark (Ballatine Books, 1997)

[3] Antony Flew, A Dictionary of Philosophy, (St. Martin’s Press, 1979)

[4] Rene Descartes, The Search for Truth in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vol. 2, (Cambridge University Press, 1984)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Torture for Interests: The Denial of Human Dignity

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007   No comments
By A. E. SOUAIAIA (05/2007)

Recently, as I sat to dinner with several people, and during a moment of uncensored honesty encouraged by the intimate environment, one of these people, a middle class middle-aged lady who counts herself as a humanitarian liberal, made the most disturbing comment; a comment that reflects the attitude of the majority of American voters these days. As we discussed the senseless murder of innocent people at Virginia Tech and Iraq and the plight of the poor in Africa and Louisiana, she almost “killed” the conversation by saying something along these lines… there are too many people in this world and not everyone can be rich or have a great life… if people are not dying in Iraq, they could be dying elsewhere, may be here in our cities… there will always be rich and poor people in this world.

Those words mirrored other declarations by the leader of American conservatives, George W. Bush, who repeated on many occasions (and on the campaign trail during the 2004 presidential elections) equally disturbing supremacist ideas. Justifying his invasion of Iraq, he argued that if we don’t fight them in their backyard, we will be forced to fight them in our cities. In order to sell his immigration policy, he also declared that America must find a way to allow these “aliens” to do the kind of work that Americans don’t want to do.

And more recently, I heard George Tenet, the former boss of the CIA who is now promoting his book, refusing to use the word “torture” to describe the US treatment of some detainees and to defend the practice because “it saved lives.” When asked to comment on this argument, John McCain, the Senator from Arizona and hopeful 2008 presidential candidate, disagreed because “it [torture] doesn’t work.”

Sadly, these attitudes explain America’s apathy to inhumane practices if they are told or made to believe that their interests are at risk. We may never live in a world where everyone is rich, but we don’t have to live in a world where a minority is filthy rich and a majority is living in the filth of poverty.

The above comments show that American domestic and foreign policies are not manipulated by few power-hungry politicians; rather, it is expressive of deep-seeded egotism that blind most voters from seeing the inviolable dignity of every human being. In a democratic system where people elect their leaders, these leaders necessarily reflect the ethos, mores and values of their electors. If American politicians and policy-makers legitimize and practice torture, it is because a majority of Americans allow it to happen and those who disagree cannot articulate a convincing position against torture. McCain’s argument is widely used by opponents of torture, but it is very weak, counterproductive, and inaccurate.

The statement that “torture does not work” is inaccurate because torture “does work” and the evidence is overwhelming and that is why it has been used by governments, monarchs and other social control institutions since the emergence of the first of human civilization. From biblical times until modern era, rulers and control freaks used torture to achieve what they wanted and in many instances they succeeded. In South America and in the Arab world, dictatorial regimes lasted and some continue to govern thanks to their brutality that featured the most cruel and inhumane aspects of torturing dissidents.

The statement that torture is bad because it does not work is counterproductive because if the proponents of torture manage to show that “it did work” and “saved many lives” as claimed by Tenet and others, then those who oppose torture on the ground that “it does not work” will be proven wrong and thereby justifying torture in the eyes of all.

The statement that “torture is bad because it does not work” is a weak argument because it appeals to one’s concern for her or his personal interests instead of appealing to one’s sense of fairness justice and belief in the sanctity of human dignity. People should not oppose torture because it is an ineffective tool that does not produce results and that tarnishes “American image” in the eyes of the world; rather, people should oppose torture because it is a violation of human dignity which is the essence of and common link to human beings. Human dignity is the universal quality that is not qualified or forfeited by the color, gender, nationality, behavior, class, religion, sanity, or behavior of the human body in which it is vested. Society may have the right to impose some restrictions on the body of the human being who violates its laws, but society cannot and should not violate the endowed dignity inhabiting that body. In other words, society may control the vessel but society has no right over the dignity contained in that vessel.

Torture is unacceptable not because it is not effective in stopping lunatics and terrorists; rather, because our respect to human dignity outweigh and override our outrage over the acts of lunatics. Otherwise, we become them, we act like them, and we give credence to their ways.

It is undeniably the case, that the world community’s commitment to human dignity is tested in the most profound way. In the end, however, the victorious society will be the one that does not sell out in its commitment to respecting and protecting human dignity. Unfortunately, in the US, the patriotic zeal is being transformed into latent racism that places the interests of Americans above the interests of all other peoples. The blood spilled in the streets of Baghdad is seen by many as a necessary sacrifice for the security of the citizens of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles; we are made to feel the grief for the fallen only after his or her ID card is checked; we export chaos elsewhere in order to keep order in our streets; and we dump surplus grains in the oceans and we pay farmers to stop cultivating fields (through government programs) to keep the hungry begging and selling their dignity in order to “buy” sustenance.

It is wrong to think that some people are created to do certain jobs that others find beneath their dignity. It is wrong to think that some people’s security justifies the chaos inflicted on others. It is wrong to think that torture and other inhumane practices can be justified if such practices bring results. It is wrong, because no race, no nationality, no, ethnic group, no class of people have an exclusive monopoly on life with dignity.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Imam Musa Sadr and Religion in the Contemporary World

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007   No comments
Sunday, February 4th, 2007

by Seyed Javad

Although he is most known without Muslim World as a political leader who brought unity to the shattered Lebanese factions of various interests nevertheless Sadr’s political leadership was not solely based on his diplomatic skills. On the contrary it stemmed from his intellectual vision which was deeply rooted in the soil of Philosophy in its true sense namely Love of Wisdom or as, Seyyed Hossein Nasr puts, Philosophia Perennis. As a matter of fact, his political involvement was an expression of how he viewed the notion of ‘Worship’ as a philosopher as he was trained by one of the most distinguished contemporary philosopher from Iran, i.e. Allameh Tabatabaei. As Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr eloquently put it:

… his great political influence and fame was enough for people to not consider his philosophical attitude, although he was a well-trained follower of long living intellectual tradition of Islamic Philosophy.

One of his famous writings is a long introduction for the Arabic translation of Henry Corbin’s History of Islamic Philosophy. He is one those Muslim leaders who understood the plague of modernity (Kafkazli, 2003a,b,c) while being critical of the reactionary state of affairs that Muslims were enveloped by and for that he attempted and finally put his life for as he believed nothing true could come about when one is not ready to give up the best of him-self, namely life for the sake of the Holy (and whatever serves the Sacred). (Kafkazli, 2002) Here we shall look at Sadr’s view on the relevance or place of religion in the actual affairs of the globe, not only as a metaphysical episteme (which for him is of a great essential importance), but, in relation to the constitution of self and society or what is known within disciplinary sociology as the existence of social self (which is an expression of the complexities of the dynamics of self as a subjective objectivity and society as an imagined reality).

It is important to understand the approach Sadr takes in analyzing the intricacies of religion (not only as an intellectual question but) in its various interactional equations which becoming ever-important in the context of modernity (which for him is based thoroughly and metaphysically on Materialism (Kafkazli, 2004) that has not created only a problem for European societies but added a double crisis for East)

… [… that due to] … speedy development of technologies … Man is faced by the daunting situation which calls for ‘Tafakor’ (reflection, reflexivity, thinking) and ‘Barnamehrizi’ (planning) … . (1384. 29)

The question of the relevance of Religion in contemporary world (Meynagh, 2006c) is of twofold nature for Sadr and he explicates what he has in mind when poses the question of ‘relevancy’ of religion in relation to modernity. (Meynagh, 2006a,b) Lest we don’t judge him hastily as many of those who pose the question of interrelationship between modernity and religion most often incline towards either a relegation of religion or ending up distorting the religious universe just to fit the sacred within the parameters of the Enlightenment Tradition we should rest assured that Sadr’s approach is not of either secular or modernist and not even a fundamentalist one, which by denouncing modernity the proponents of this stance tend to refute the categorical significance of Time too as though the ‘Temporal Transformation’ is a secular invention. This results in a view of religion which is frozen in time and stuck in a past historical space. The spirit of Sadr’s approach is beyond these common trivialities and demonstrates a sense of comprehensiveness in relation to temporal transformations as well as spatial peculiarities within the parameters of Primordial Wisdom (Ahkam Avalliyeh).

The first sense of what he means by the relevancy of religion in contemporary era refers to the actual state of religion (and all those who consider themselves as religious forces or people who claim, right or wrong, to be the representative of religious traditions across the globe, in general, and among Muslims, in particular), on the one hand, and the relevance of religion in the sense that what kind of ‘role’ it can play or if it could have any managerial role in the affairs of society and self in a global sense as if it cannot have any role, then, in Sadr’s estimation, the very state of civilization or the very fabric of terrestrial existence of humanity shall be at grave risk or even to a point of annihilation (which already are evident in our ecological, political as well as economic domains).

In other words, although he firmly believes that

… the actual state of religion in our time is not very promising due to the fact that it depicts, so to speak, a very beautiful but flat portrait in the hearts of those who ascribe themselves to religion. It does not shine and it has no aura. Faith, in its best form, has become like a panacea to forget the pains and atrocities which envelop us from all sides … it has lost its energetic appeal for life-shaking acts … . The faith has become as a defining boundary between the children of Adam … and the Sharia [instead of being an avenue for flow of benediction it has] … turned into a legal heritage, which, in itself and by itself, is a beautiful ornament for those who respect and follow its decrees … but it is only a beautiful ornament … . (1384. pp 31-32)

For the modern man

… who desires to be free from all tutelage … these decrees have no appeal … and for those among modern people who still aspire for an ethical life the ethicality is only an aspect of individual self and has no connection to the fabric of society in its grand scale … . In other words, to be ethical is good only as far as it serves our utilitarian purposes in politics, business and/or economy … . (1384. p 32)

In this context which has been imposed by modernity in the context of culture, religion is only

… a frame of interpretation which belongs to the bygone ages … i.e. the historical past which has no managerial significance for the issues of contemporary life … and we can see this in the fabrics of all modern societies and personalities … . In other words, religion is not anymore on a leadership position but in an enslaved position … and those who speak on behalf of religion as a matter of fact live on at the expense of religion by giving the most distorted view of religion …. Which reduces religion from an awe-inspiring sense of consciousness into a ritualistic routine that is devoid of truth … and whenever those who sincerely work for religion and put themselves at the disposal of religious truth … sadly lack the Vision … which is the raison d’etre of religiosity … and by being oblivious to this fundamental visionary element of religion they turn it into a soothing recipe of collecting rewards for afterlife … . (1384. pp 33-34)

Since early days in 40s Imam Musa Sadr was concerned about religion, not only in the context of Iran or even Muslim Community, but on a global scale in terms of universal concern, i.e. ‘Manaviyat der Jahan’ (Spirituality and Religiosity in the context of Modern World). (Sadr, 1384. p 34) For him religion was an answer for the inner request of human being or it is the voice of ‘Fitrat’ which has lost its external foundations and sadly turned into a flat and spiritless thing of past historical significance. In order to understand the ills of today and why we have ended up in the contemporary miserable situation we need, argues Sadr, to analyze the role and nature of religious role which gigantically transformed the conditions of people then and drew the conclusions which could be of profound significance for us today that live in a world with different conditions. The question is, in other words, what role should or could we expect from religion today. (1384. p 34)

In understanding the role of religion we need to understand the metaphysics of Faith and on what grounds it is based. Faith means ‘delimitation’ of affairs and establishment of conducts within the ‘Divine Limits’. But now there is a question here for an inquiring spirit in relation to the nature of these limits which constitute the backbone of the Faith and which we may call the Divine Limits. The question is; are these limits ad hoc and artificial or expressions of true nature of reality in its most fundamental/primordial sense?

In other words, what we call the theophanic limits are just ‘cultural’, ‘ethnic’, ‘racial’, ‘national’, ‘historical’, ‘economic’, and ‘political’ limits which are clothed under the guise of ‘Revelation’ or are these the very nature of how God relates to the human nature (and existence in general) within the paradigm of the Fallen Condition?

Within the paradigm of Imam Musa Sadr’s philosophy religion in its first step relies on

… faith in unseen, faith in the absolute and faith in God. (1384. p 34)

But one needs to pause for a second and assess the foundations of religion in relation to modernity and see

… whether the modern man is in need of faith or belief in the absolute … the unsystematic approach may give us an illusion that in the face of modern technological and scientific advances there would be no need for faith and faith in unseen or reliance on God … or the Infinite … . (1384. p 34)

But the truth of the matter

… is contrary to this unsystematic impression which basically is only an impression and far from truth. Because, regardless of the length or depth and magnificency of achievements of human reason, whatever is made by Man is nothing but a product of human mind … and albeit a grand product … nonetheless a product and prone to changes … and this is an undeniable fact that … humanity shall progress, advance and change in all spheres of science, technology, philosophy and law … … … but progress is in essence equivalent to transformation and alteration and … by nature altering condition brings instability and insecurity … because what I may know today could be falsified tomorrow and replaced by a better or even its contrary … in other words, everything in every context is prone to change and in a state of impermanence … and this applies to all spheres of science, art, law and philosophy. To put it differently, whatever that changes is unable to act as a reliance for human being and hence devoid of a sense of Ultimate Reality or a Focal Point of Worshipping … . To put it otherwise; all these grand achievements of human civilizations along the march of history in all domains are creatures of Man and not Creator of Man. (1384. p 35)

Man in his terrestrial life is in need of instruments and all these achievements are of great instrumental significance but they are not man’s ma’bod or what gives him an existential grounding and a sense of reality as well as a direction in a reliable fashion. (1384. p 35) Man, by definition, is in need of permanence that is truly (true to the fundamental constituents of reality of Life) able to care and secure his-self. Once Man finds this reliable anchorage in his existence then he will feel a sense of prowess and this strength would bestow upon him a deep sense of grounding which would enable him to move towards lofty ideals and utopia (i.e. where it is desirable to be). (1384. p 35) Man

… works, learns, thinks and all these instruments are conducive for the furthering of civilization … and progress. But these are not one’s Ma’bod [the focal point which bestows meaning upon one’s life, i.e. Deity].

For Sadr faith in Unseen is not harbinger of despair but a source of permanent hope, on the one hand, and

… on the other hand, the hope is the essence of existence. In other words, hopelessness is akin to being torn apart and alienated from future. A hopeless person does not live even for the next hour, let alone planning for the future … there is no future for him and he does not exist in future … as a matter of fact he is stuck only in his present situation and immobility is akin to inertia and that is another name for disintegration and death. And to be above the vicissitudes of life while being part of the tides of this world requires that one is related to the source of life that imbues the whole reality with a sense of hopefulness and man cannot be in that state except by faith in the Infinitude. (1384. p 36)

In discussing the question of faith Sadr speaks of ‘Religious Work’ (Sazandegi Deeni) and by that he does not mean only

… the construction of mosques, churches … as in religious charity we don’t mean only prayers and fasting. On the contrary, what we mean by the ‘Religious Work’ is whatever that is conducive in the construction of human civilization and the role of this work in the make-up of individual human life. (1384. p 40)

This approach to religion is not what fundamentalists or modernists have in mind as the former reduces religion to a mere ritualism and the latter an epiphenomenon of the ‘social’ but Sadr as did Dr. Ali Shariati, Imam Khomeini, Dr. Beheshti, Muttahari, Iqbal, Taleghani, and so on goes beyond these reactionary approaches by arguing (in true spirit of religiosity) that

… whenever you view the whole life as a vehicle and not as an aim in itself … then whatever you do in life when the intention is for God it is akin to prayer and one should not understand the notion of prayer only in terms of rituals … . (1384. pp 36-40)

Therefore the distinction between religious work and secular approach is not in the domain of activity but in the direction of action as within a religious paradigm

… we work on the earth and develop it but under the commandments of Heaven. (1384. p 40)

In other words, everything within the parameters of sacred tradition is a form of prayer when it is based on ‘benedictory intentions’. But on the other hand, we have the secular approach which views Man separated from God in contrast to Man as a creature of the Divine. These two understandings are not only of metaphysical nature but have very serious consequences on our

… lives on this planet. (1384. p 44)

But the question is why are we worried to allow religion play a role within our lives individually and collectively? If we follow the arguments put forward by disciplinary social scientists on the question of secularization we can see that they focus on religion in terms of abuses which are not of sacred kinds but abused images of religiosity. We, on the other hand, need to enlighten people about these abuses and not throw the very fountain which connects the extremely finite into the tremendously infinite. (1384. p 44)

We need to elaborate Sadr’s view on Sacred Paradigm in relation to modernity or what he calls the West (and its materialistic civilization), which, in turn, would enable us to understand the perspective he has in mind when he employs the word ‘Deen’ in a context where the very existence of Religion within the individual self and society has been greatly polluted– not only in the West but in East too. Imam Musa Sadr has a very novel approach to the questions of modernity and its origin. Although we have had many such as Weber who discerned the origins of Capitalism within the theology of Calvin and Protestant Ethics but Sadr goes even deeper than that by suggesting where to discover the origins of the metaphysics of Protestant Ethics. The essence of life, as aforementioned, is hope but what is the primary substance of Faith? To put it differently; what made the secularization possible on a planetary scale?

In a nutshell the divorce of ‘Faith’ from the everyday life made the secularizing project possible and its expansion accomplished. Faith needs to be at work and have its connection with the daily life. Otherwise it

… weakens and loses its influence and we cannot find any replacement for it once it loses its role within the parameters of daily life. If we try to confine religion to its external manifestations such as mosques, churches, or by venerating the dignitaries of religion … we cannot ignite the fire of the faith within the hearts of men and societies they build … because … rest assured that none of these cannot replace the energy of faith which can alone nourish the human self and society … and that energy needs to be nurtured through involvement with daily life … . (1384. p 46)

It is important to realize that how this system of secularizing paradigm came about on a global scale. Because Imam Musa Sadr thinks that this whole civilization has been possible through a divorce of involvement of faith from the affairs of everyday life and in that life he includes scientific, technological, social and economic aspects too. When we look at

… modern civilization we realize that this grand world system has been edified based on the relegation of religion from scientific, technological and social life. Although the founders of modernity did not deny religion but they certainly ignore it as well as obstruct its influence upon (Zendegi) life. Therefore modern ideologies have all been borne out of touch with the Holy and the common denominator of all these isms and man-made ideologies is chaos which prevails all over human activities in all domains … and we can see these rebellious acts in Capitalism, Imperialism, Colonialism, imposed wars … pollution of the environment … and very recently in ideologies such as nihilism and hedonism or what is called sexual revolution … . (1384. p 46)

In Imam Sadr’s view in all aspects of modernity we can see the spread of chaotic movement due to the fact that this chaos (i.e. the lack of cosmos or order) is inherent within the edifice of modern civilization. Because

… this civilization is not based on the mores of Divinity … on the contrary it is a mundane civilization which is unfamiliar with the language of Heaven. (1384. p 46)

Like many religious thinkers such as Guenon, Schuon, Lings, Nasr, Buckhardt, Muttahari, Malcom X, Shariati, and Shahid Baqir Sadr, he thinks that the reasons for contemporary wars, conflicts, famines, global poverty and pollutions as well as diseases are not of external nature but

… only expressions of inner distortions which are in perfect harmony with their external forms. In other words, there is a balance within this unbalancing situation which is in perfect proportion to the foundations of modernity that are of chaotic character … and in this sense we cannot reap cosmos (order) out of disordering principles. (1384. p 46)

The result of modernity’s civilizing progress has resulted in grand systems and surveillance social orders with grand mathematical exactness but the condition of man qua man has not improved yet. (1384. p 47) This approach to modernity which does not deny its actual significance within contemporary historical context of humanity but also at the same time rejects its claim for universality enables Imam Mus Sadr to pose a very piercing question vis-à-vis Modern Civilization namely

Is this culture a human civilization or an anti-humanist social order which reduces the integral reality of man into one single fragmented dimension? (1384. p 47)

This question needs to be understood within the larger context of Sacred Tradition which views Man as part of Divinity and as a matter of fact Imam Musa Sadr argues that within the contemporary era we are faced with two broad anthropological conceptions regarding human being which one is based on Man as a Divine Image and the other Man as an Alienated Undivine Thing. In other words, when he asks whether modernity is a human culture it refers to the possibility of modernity (based on its undivine foundational principles) to pave the way for realization of Man as a potentiality into a self-realized Image of God which would establish a society that could express Beauty, Truth and Good in an integral fashion or what is called within Shia Tradition as Mahdavi Society. To put it differently; for Imam Musa Sadr to say human being it is equivalent to say Image of God and to deny or relegate and ignore God within one’s individual life or within the society is tantamount to destruction of Man qua Man as the essence of human being is his divinity and once it is ignored, denied or relegated it is as though making a grand palace with all material beauties for the corps

This idea of relegation of Divine into the periphery of human civilization which has been solely accomplished within modernity has led Imam Musa Sadr to reflect upon one of the most significant questions regarding the metaphysical foundations of Modernity. His concern is not of the Weberian kind which is at a theological level with sociological consequences but a unique one which is based on a piercing observation regarding the background assumptions within the edifice of anti-metaphysical domain of modern metaphysics with world-systemic consequences. In this sense Sadr’s approach along with Dr. Shariati, Dr. Beheshti, Shahid Seyyed Baqir Sadr, Ayatullah Taleghani, Allama al-Attas and Ustad Muttahari are among the most paradigmatic discourses on global civilizational issues of secularism and it’s planetary destructions from within a religious worldview.

By dividing the nature of world civilizations into four categories in relation to Religion or Tradition and Revelation (or what he calls the Path of Heaven), namely 1) a civilization that is based on Denial of Revelation, 2) a civilization that is established on the Relegation of Divine to the periphery of human life, 3) a civilization that is Indifferent (or simply does know anything) about God and finally 4) a civilization which is Tamaduun namely the direct result of Madina which has been possible due to the Deen or the reconnection of the Celestial and the Terrestrial via Revelation in the Heart of the Prophet (1384. p 47) Imam Musa Sadr remarks that the metaphysical foundations of modernity seems to be based on the Judaic (and not Mosaic, as the former has become as an ethnical index while the latter is of an ethical hence universal significance but with a very limited scope of influence either on the life of people or the formation of modernity) cultural ethos. He elaborates his point by reference to two sources of History and Tradition (Koran) and argues that

… the first people who argued that God has no relevance in the affairs of the world while not denying the existence of the Creator … were people of Judaic descendants … and apart from history of ideas we can find out about this position in Koran where it refers to the Judaic position … namely there is God but His Hands are enchained or … to put it otherwise … they believed that there is God but God has no influence within our lives … . (1384. p 47)

Sadr explicates his remark on the Judaic nature of modern metaphysics (which has resulted in a planetary civilization devoid of God) in the following fashion:

… this Judaic metaphysics is based on the notion of a creative God who made the world but since time immemorial left the affairs of the world in the hands of Man … . (1384. p 47)

This is the raison dêtre of planetary secularism and evident in all domains of global management or rather mismanagement and as long as modernity’s civilizing process is going to be continued upon these premises

… I doubt religion could play any role along with globalizing modernity which is based on segregation of Faith and Life … . (1384. p 47)

Because if the nub of faith is action based on religion within the world and if the meaning of modernity is the separation of faith from action in a managerial sense then we should not expect any role for religion in the world and its institutions. Here Imam Musa Sadr argues that the planetary civilization as we know it is pregnant with colossal transformative storms. In other words,

… I don’t believe that modernity is able to dissociate itself from being indifferent towards the demands of Heaven as this is raison d’être of being what it is i.e. a system based on materialism … and I cannot foresee any essential role for religion in this system and assuming that it can accommodate itself within this system then the question is what the religion can accomplish when the foundations, structures and goals are inhumane … . (1384. p 47)

The only way Sadr can foresee any role for religion in the world is a Grand Revolution against profane civilizations and reconstruction of these cultures anew. Otherwise whether this modernizing progress is positive or negative and Occidental or Oriental Religion cannot assume any leading role within the set conditions where the foundation is based on Materialism. He concludes his reflections upon modernity and spirituality by these words on the probable significance of the East in relation to declining state of humanity:

… maybe East can stave off this derisive march of destruction by awakening the humanity after it has been worn out from these belying sweet dreams … . (1384. p 48)

Imam Musa Sadr was not (or maybe he was and he is) around to witness one of those Grand Revolution against planetary materialism in 1979 in Iran but surely the Revolution needs the core of his vision for it’s creative renewal on a planetary scale. Otherwise it will turn into a new tyranny which is devoid of any sense of Sacred which is by nature emancipative as well as liberating in its telos. This is a point which Seyyed M. Xatami (the former president of Iran and Sadr’s son-in-law as well as the founding director of BARAN institute in Tehran) has been arguing for in the past twenty years within the parameters of his discourse on ‘Dialogue Among Civilizations’. To elaborate this thesis we need to write another essay but suffice to state here that the core of his thesis is what Shariati and Muttahari argued for almost half a century ago namely ‘Shenakht’ (Knowledge based on self-consciousness) as the only way forward to bring, firstly, religion back into the Public Square and, secondly, emancipate religion from ‘religion of ignorance’ that puts the mantle of Prophet and claims our total allegiance based on ‘blind imitation’ (see Shariati Religion against Religion).


Kafkazli S. J. ‘Is it a World-System we live within or a Military World-State? A chapter published in Unveiling The Real Terrorist Mind, Edited by Nadia Batool Ahmad and et. al. in 2002 by Xlibris in USA.

Kafkazli S. J. History of Social Theory in the light of intercivilizational Perspective: Perennial Questions and Modern Answers. Xlibris: USA 2003a.

Kafkazli S. J. Scientific Thought in the Balance of Religious Reflection. Xlibris: USA, 2003b.

Kafkazli S. J. Transcendentalism and Other Essays. Xlibris: USA, 2003c.

Kafkazli S. J. Social Theory Deconstructed? Religion between Developmental and Authenticity discourses. Xlibris: USA, 2004.

Meynagh S. J, Social Theory in the Balance of intercivilizational dialogue: A brief anthology of Chinese intellectual thought. Published by London Academy of Iranian Studies, United Kingdom, 2006a.

Meynagh S. J. Unknown Ku-Hung Ming: Rediscovering the Confucian Intellectual Tradition. Published by London Academy of Iranian Studies, United Kingdom, 2006b.

Meynagh S. J. Reflections on Sporadic Episodes of Modernity: Particular random issues within metatheory of secular hegemony. Published by London Academy of Iranian Studies, United Kingdom, 2006c.

Sadr Imam Musa, Der Ghalamroe Andishe Imam Musa Sadr: Nay ve Ney (The Thoughts of Imam Musa Sadr); Collected and Translated by Ali Hojjati Kermani; Imam Musa Sadr Cultural and Research Institute, Tehran, 1383.

Sadr Imam Musa, Adyan der Khedmate Ensan: Jostarhai darbareh Deen ve Masaele Jahane Moaser (Religion at the service of humanity: Issues on Religion and Global Questions in the Contemporary World); Published by Imam Musa Sadr’s Cultural and Research Institute, Tehran, 1384.

Fine-Tuning Democracy: Too Much Power… too Little Power

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007   No comments
Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

By A. E. SOUAIAIA* (12/2006)

As the current US administration prepares to make a significant strategic shift in Iraq to stop the deterioration of the military, economic, political, and social conditions therein, it is helpful to consider the situation in other Middle Eastern countries to see the root causes of the US failure to bring positive change in Iraq and in the region. In my view, the civil war in Iraq (and possibly in Palestine and Lebanon) is primarily due to the manipulation of the political process to pre-determine the outcome on the expense of the democratic principles. There is no “way forward” anywhere without trying to reverse the damage. There must be a full stop first, admission of responsibility second, and restarting the process the right way third; and the right way entails respecting the will of the people regardless of who comes to power. For the sake of the long term stability of the world, not just the region, the West must also initiate, encourage, and preserve true separation of governance powers in the Arab world at all cost.

Although the true impact of wrong strategy to seed democracy in the region are now becoming apparent, the root causes behind the current condition can be found in the numerous contradictions and missteps advocated by the West and implemented on the ground militarily or as a matter of policy through unilateral actions in the form of sanctions and embargos. In order to highlight some of these contradictions, I will briefly review the very recent developments in the region.

It must be recalled that when Ariel Sharon came to power, he froze all communication with the Palestinian authority then led by Yasir Arafat. In remarks on the eve of a visit to Washington (October 15, 2002), he demanded that the Palestinians change the “murderous regime” before any peace talk take place. He argued that Arafat is unelected yet he has too much power. After 30 months of stalled progress in reaching a peace deal, and bowing to US and Western pressure, Arafat agreed to cede most of his power by agreeing to the creation of the office of the Prime Minister and he appointed Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazin) to the post. Abbas was given the right to form a cabinet and supervise ministers, the sole preserve of Arafat until that date (March 2003). However, despite this change, Sharon refused to engage the Palestinians on account that Arafat retained control over the security forces and the final say over peace talks.

Fast forward to 2005: with Arafat dead, Abbas elected President, Fatah controlling the Palestinian parliament and government (the Prime Minister, Ahmed Qureia, is also a Fatah chief); Sharon continued to refuse to deal with Abbas on account that the latter failed to reign in Hamas and other “terrorists.” Abbas knew that he cannot control Hamas but if Hamas joins the Palestinian authority, he thought, it will be bound by the decisions of any body in which it is represented. After months of negotiation, he managed to convince Hamas to participate in the general election. On Wednesday January 25 2006, Hamas did participate and captured 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats in a certifiably free and fair election. Fatah barely won 44 and the rest of the seats went to independent candidates and representatives of other factions. Abbas and many other observers thought and hoped that the results will be the reverse of the final ones: Hamas winning some forty seats and Fatah winning a majority. Had this wishful thinking materialized, Hamas would have been politically dwarfed and thus controlled. But that was the theory; the reality is what we now know. Nonetheless, and in the light of these impressive results, Abbas had no legal option but to ask the majority party to nominate a Prime Minster. Initially, Hamas attempted to form a unity government but when negotiations failed and the process dragged for too long, Ismail Hanya (then Prime Minister-Designate) moved to create a Hamas-run government.

As soon as such government was formed and approved by Abbas, the US and its Western allies moved quickly to impose a dubious financial and economic embargo on the Palestinians. It would appear that the purpose of the embargo was to weaken the government to the point that it will force it to collapse or overthrown by hungry Palestinians. Almost a year later, none of that has happened and recently, it appears that Hamas was successful in securing funds from some Arab and Muslim countries to help it overcome the Western freeze of aid and Israel’s refusal to transfer tax revenues. At this juncture (December 16, 2006), Abbas called for early presidential and general election and gunmen from Hamas and Fatah rushed to the streets shooting at each other: Fatah security personal supporting the Abbas’ declaration and Hamas’ Executive Force resisting what they called a “coup d’etat” against the legitimate government.

Even if we assume that Abbas’ decision is legal, there are no guarantees that Hamas will not win again if another election were to take place in three to six months. In fact according to a poll conducted by the independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Haniya and Abbas are in a dead heat in a presidential race while Fatah leads 42-to-36. These numbers are not that different from the same poll numbers of the survey that was conducted before the first elections. Furthermore, there are no indications that Hamas has lost any support among its supporters and it is likely that it will retain a decisive number of seats that will allow it to block any decisions taken by a government that is formed without it.

These events are more troubling for the West and especially for this US administration which has made the spread of democracy its principal goal after the collapse of security threat pretext for war (dealing with Iraq’s possession of WMDs). After years of trying to reign in the power of one-man rule, the paradigm of choice in all Arab countries, it is now pressing for more power to Abbas:

Since Hamas won legislative elections in the spring, Abbas has been encouraged by foreign diplomats – led by the US - to strengthen the power of the presidency to counter Hamas. The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, recently said she would ask Congress for tens of millions of dollars to strengthen Abbas’s security forces. (See The Observer; Sunday December 17, 2006).

The Western support of one faction against another is not theoretical, according to the New York Times, the US and its allies are in fact providing direct military support to Fatah: “After coordination with Israel and the United States, Egypt has sent weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip to forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, Israeli officials said Thursday.” (See New York Times, December 28, 2006).

The US administration is steadfast in its support for Abbas and so is Tony Blair who visited Abbas on December 18. Blair praised Abbas’ call for early presidential and legislative elections and promised him his full support. The other option they offered Hamas is to relinquish its right to govern (which it earned just a year ago) and establish a unity government with Fatah. This may sound reasonable, but when one considers the Western position regarding a similar demand for a unity government in Lebanon, then Western hypocrisy and double standards become obvious. Regarding the Lebanese’s opposition demand for unity government or early elections, the West and the current Lebanese government argue that it is a coup against the democratic government. When considering the Lebanese “fine-tuned” election laws in effect since before the civil war, to claim that a government based on such laws is representative of the will of the majority of the people becomes highly doubtful.

The Western unprincipled meddling in the politics of the region is exactly the type of short-sighted measures that are the cause of many problems in the Muslim world. It has been the practice of US administrations to support the so-called “moderate” leaders and encourage them to consolidate power. Then when these men die or are removed through social uprising or military coups, the new regime (which may not be as friendly and as moderate) inherits considerable power that could be (and was) used to the detriment of national and international peace and stability.

Let’s assume for a minute that this plan of ‘supporting moderates” works in the short run and that the US is successful in giving more institutional power to the Palestinian President. In a true democratic system, it is likely that Hamas could win again (not necessarily in the next election but some day); and it could win not only the majority of the parliamentary seats, but also the presidency. If this scenario were to materialize, what other “great idea” should this administration suggest to solve this conundrum?

Ironically, the problems of the Palestinian authority are not different from those in Iraq. In fact, the common denominator is the tweaking of the election laws to predetermine the outcome in advance in order to please certain groups or ascertain that other groups don’t have too much power. To be sure, the laws that governed the elections in Iraq since the fall of Saddam were written down under the US supervision as the occupying force. The rules for elections and the rules of applying the results of such elections to appoint the president, vice-presidents, and prime minister are all done in a way that will lead to the sharing of power among all the ethnic and religious groups of Iraq (mainly Kurds, Arab Sunnis, and Shi`ites). In creating this formula, the office of the Prime Minister, the chief executive of the country, became dependent on the support of the various groups represented in the parliament. In other words, a prime minister answers to the parliamentarians who nominated him and who happen to be, at this point, divided along sectarian and ethnic lines. As such, neither the president nor the prime minister has actual power because their power is bestowed by another entity (the parliament). It will be more effective if true separation of powers was implemented instead of this attempt to please all on the expense of the security and safety of civilians who are dying by the hundreds every day. Iraq’s stability would have been better served by an elected president who answers to voters who elect him directly and under the oversight of a sovereign parliament whose members are also elected directly by the voters. A strong President, a sovereign Parliament, and a human rights-centered Constitution are the only way to save Iraq from disintegration if at all preventable at this point. By emphasizing the protection of human rights as universal principles, a president will work to protect the citizens or risk being tried for crimes against humanity that he allowed or failed to prevent.

Democracy does not work well when one man or one political party is in charge of all branches of government. More importantly, this fine-tuning of democracy to produce exactly the result we want is political “fraud.” The US and the West need to respect the will of the people and work on accepting the results of free and transparent election processes regardless of who the winners are. In the end, doing so will increase the political and moral capitals that this US administration has lost in Abu Graib and Guantanamo; and it will also place the West on the side of the people not on the side of rulers who come and go, one way or another. It is in the interest of peace in the long run that Islamist groups, such as Hamas, are brought into the political system; to prevent them is to strengthen the school of thought that relies on bullets instead of ballets for political participation.
A. E. SOUAIAIA is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Iowa.

Converging Interests

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007   No comments
Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Converging Interests: Iraq War as a Catalyst for Change

By A. E. SOUAIAIA* (08/2006)

Many meaningful milestones in the human history were in the form of existentialist struggles marked by violence and wars. Civilizations are built with the blood of warriors and the sweat of the laborers. History shows us that before stability is attained, countless innocent lives are lost and personal and public properties are destroyed. Arguably, war is the most dangerous of all catalysts for rapid change; it ignites civil conflicts and breaks communities. Nonetheless, even war could provide an opportunity for improvement, as long as such a community survives the catastrophic effects of violence. Iraq War is such an event that may determine the future, not only of Iraq, but of the entire Muslim world. When all is said and done, Iraq will be either broken down or will emerge as a model for progress.
It is not due to genius design nor is it due to reckless planning that Iraq succeeds or fails in rebuilding. Although the initial decision to go to war can be judged as right or wrong, the outcome of a war is difficult to predetermine. It is certain however that war produces an environment that is radically and fundamentally different from the one that was before the war. The difference manifests itself concretely and abstractly.
War, being the violent event that it generally is, can cause a country to break down into smaller communities. Many wars of the modern times have produced such an outcome. The European wars produced East and West Germany. American interventions in Asia produced North and South Korea. Western colonialism created North and South Yemen. More recently, the Balkan war fragmented the former Yugoslavia into tiny states demarcated by ethnic, religious, and cultural differences. The so-called World Wars (Western and European initiated wars) divided the globe between the emerging superpowers (the Soviet Union and the United States) and launched the Cold War that strangled developing nations for nearly three quarters of a century.
The same way military interventions can cause countries to breakdown, foreign occupation is also capable of solidifying national unity and creating stronger solidarities within the occupied countries. The American Revolutionary and Civil wars established the US as a Superpower. The Western colonial endeavors in Africa created strong nationalistic political movements in Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Sudan and Iraq; countries whose populations are mosaics of disparate ethnic, religious, and linguistic origins. In Algeria, Berbers and Arabs united to create the Algerian Popular Republic with a strong sense of nationalism that transcended ethnicity and religion. In Egypt, Syria, and Iraq; the Arabs, Copts, Christians, Kurds, Assyrians, Sunnis, and Shi`ites united under the banner of Arab nationalism to liberate their lands from the French and British occupation. Military control over what used to be known as Eastern Pakistan frustrated the natives and galvanized the population to free themselves and establish their Bangladeshi homeland and identity.
Although it is difficult to predict exactly the outcome of violent interventions, it is fairly easy to assume that once a violent intervention is identified as a colonial or occupying force; such an entity will be eventually defeated and expelled. Should an occupying force persist, it becomes very likely that occupied territories are broken into two or more regions. One region would represent the rejecters of occupation; the other would serve as an occupier-friendly entity.
Iraq, as part of the Muslim world, is faced with a complex set of circumstances. On the one hand, the justification for the US and British invasion of the country was discredited and that enflamed domestic and world public opposition to the war. Although the invading countries tried to re-justify their military intervention as an act of liberation, their presence is still seen by a large segment of the Iraqi population as occupation. The political maneuvering and the results of numerous elections in Iraq produced a second set of circumstances.
The December 2005 election was portrayed as the process that would transfer sovereignty back to the Iraqis. Although the political sovereignty may have been indeed regained, the weakness of the emerging government, the sectarian strife, and the failure of the executive branch to establish law and order over the entire country made it impossible for the US and the UK to withdraw. As a result, these countries are still seen as occupiers and the new Iraqi regime is transformed into an accomplice to occupation.
Should this situation continue for a year or two, Iraq will undoubtedly split into three countries. The Kurds will solidify their autonomy in the Northeastern portion of the country, the Shi`ites will establish a similar autonomous region in the south, and the rest of the country (the western and central portion) will fall in the hands of Sunni Arabs. This scenario is likely but it is not the only one. Another scenario hinges on Muslims’ willingness to and success in undertaking religious, legal, and political reform. The Sunni and Shi`ite divide is the driving force behind the Iraqi discord and only by addressing these issues can the unity of Iraq be preserved. Additionally, political and military events outside Iraq seem to contribute to the volatility of the Sunni-Shi`ite relations.
One of these events that happed outside Iraq is the 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel. As a Shi`ite movement, Hezbollah’s success in dealing with Israel has focused Muslims’ attention on its place as an “Islamic” group. Some Saudi scholars issued fatwas prohibiting public support for Hezbollah since they see it as “deviant” sect. Other Sunni scholars, including the influential Yousef al-Qaradawi, decreed that supporting Hezbollah is a “religious obligation” (wājib). This divergence of opinions is indicative of an emerging intellectual and political discussions of the differences between and the legacies of the Shi`ites and the Sunnis.
Meanwhile, the warm relationship between Hezbollah and Hamas, the latter being a Sunni group, and the probable role of Hezbollah in freeing Arab and Sunni prisoners would have a considerable impact on the Sunni-Shi`ite divide in Iraq. It is likely that Seyed Hussein Nasrullah will be asked to intervene. Should he do so successfully, the civil war in Iraq will become less likely, and more importantly, a serious discussion of the place and role of Shi`ite Islam will be underway.
For too long, many Sunni scholars treated Shi`ites as second class citizens. Some conservative Sunni scholars from Saudi Arabia have considered them deviant individuals. The debate about the status of the Shi`ites that may take place because of the sectarian tension in Iraq could rectify that position. Similarly, some Shi`ites consider Sunnis accomplices in the historical atrocities and murder of ahl al-bayt and the ongoing cover-ups. It is likely that this debate would lead to a substantive examination of the status and future of civil society and citizenship in Muslim countries. So far, the Arab nationalistic model has oppressed the religious conservatives and the religious conservatives have oppressed nationalists. In other words, it seems that all Muslim regimes see the rights of a citizen in a Muslim country as contingent on one’s identification with the dominant political platform of the ruling regime. For example, the rights of Iranian Sunni citizens are not equal to that of an Iranian Shi`ite citizen according to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Similarly, Shi`ite citizens in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and many other Arab and Muslim countries are marginalized and oppressed. In general, the Muslim world is yet to recognize fundamental rights of citizens irrespective of one’s religious, ethnic, and linguistic identity.
The aftermath of the invasion of Iraq should underscore the need for establishing civil society and for guaranteeing the rights of citizens without qualifications. For Iraq to retain its territorial and political integrity, the Sunnis and the Shi`ites of the Muslim world must resolve centuries old grievances and differences. When that happens, they would have achieved the first condition of peaceful coexistence. The breakup of Iraq will, however, signals the chronic nature of the problem and the incompetence of Muslim scholars and leaders. Should this be the end result, the military invasion of Iraq would be added to the West’s list of miscalculations and deadly interventions in the Muslim world. If the Iraqis and Muslims survive these challenges, their accomplishment will undoubtedly signal a new political and intellectual maturity worthy of its demographic, historical, and civilizational heritage.
There are emerging indications that many Muslim leaders are aware of this historical time and the responsibilities that come with it. Recently, the influential International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) has called for an international gathering of “religious authorities of different Muslim sects to probe means of closing the Muslim ranks and uprooting sectarianism.” Soon after the announcement, the Iranian religious supreme leader threw his weight behind the proposal. The IUMS was pleased and released a statement that said in part: “”Khamenei extolled the call by the Dublin-based IUMS and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to organize a conference bringing together religious authorities of the different Muslim sects with the aim of clarifying the religious stance on such practices and ending such malicious crimes.”
These developments offer Muslims and the West (especially the USA) a way out. The US needs to avert a total civil war in Iraq. Muslims want to pacify a region that is sliding towards extremism. These converging interests may be the only formula that will bring about stability to Iraq, offer a way out for the US from an ill-conceived and ill-executed unnecessary war, and initiate fundamental political transformation in the wider Muslim world. For that to happen, the US administration must drop its simplistic approach of looking at the world through a lens that reflects only black and white characterization of the reality. It must start meaningful and serious conversations with all parties involved. Dealing only with the so-called “moderate” regimes is seen by Muslim masses as a continued support for tyranny, corruption, and authoritarianism. It is more productive to respect the will of the people even if that may seem to bring about unfriendly regimes to power than to support non-representative figures. It is natural that people whose choices were respected will be more respectful of the choices of others. The West needs to adopt long-term policies and diplomacy that transcend friendly (moderate) personalities who are undoubtedly outlasted, one way or another, by the people.
A. E. SOUAIAIA is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Iowa.

Imperialism from Without and Despotism from Within

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007   No comments
Tuesday, April 25th, 2006
A glance at the question of polity in Contemporary Islam

By Kafkazli Seyed Javad

Imperialism: A Definition

This question could be approached dualistically, namely we need to give a semantic account what the term ‘Imperialism’ means and secondly formulate a conceptual account of this term as it is conceived within human and social sciences by critically add what our unique understanding is in regard to this concept in relation to Muslim Psyche.

The term is composed of the idea of ‘emperor’ and the rule based on vast territorial control which do have many historical antecedents such as Persian Empire, Babylonian Empire, Summerian Empire, Akkadaian Empire, Ottoman Empire, Roman Empire, British Empire, Russian Empire, and many others modern or pre-modern empires. More literally it refers to the policy or practice of extending a state’s rule over other territories based on aggressive annexation of foe-reigned territory.

This system of governing was deeply related to the mythological understanding of universe where the emperor was conceived as the embodiment of ‘divine command’, hence the Latin term ‘Imperialis’ from ‘Imperium’ that translates as ‘command’. Within the traditional worldview the world of being was understood as the world of command vis a vis the world of phenomenon and the emperor was represented as the gate of these two worlds. Regardless of its ontological relevance or significance the emperor and the imperial rule were embedded within a particular philosophy of life and polity, where whatever that was not under the command of emperor was supposed to be considered as a ‘foe-reigned’ territory and a legitimate target for possible ‘commandibility’. The latter term was equivalent to bringing under the reign of Divine that emperor was its terrestrial representation. Although it is open to debate how some strata of ruling elite abused or misapplied and hijacked the religious understanding of life in order to satisfy their own political needs nevertheless it is beyond doubt that it was one of the most sufficient politico-military tools in the history of Mankind.

The technical use of this term within social and human sciences is not always similar to the semantic and mythological conceptualization. The concept of ‘Imperialism’ has had a very complex history within social theoretical discourse and there have been many arguments against its workability as a scientific concept and indeed there are many today that contend and criticize its in-and-out ideological character. Nevertheless, there are still many other, who, thanks to the advance of sociology of science and sociological approach to the problem of ‘scientificity’ and its deep-rooted relationship with current ideological modes in any human society cannot drop this concept based on aforementioned critiques. On the other hand they argue that the realm of science is neatly connected to the overall structure of societal setting and whatever enters to the public arena could not but be a discursive issue which has, in one way or another, an ideological character, namely to serve an interest. Although it is not impossible to detect the generality of interest and the fundamental bases of the ‘service’ which it aims to accomplish nevertheless one cannot fathom any social arena devoid of such concerns or apprehensions. The same argument do apply on the concept of ‘Imperialism’ and the its ‘field of application’, how fuzzy and how extensive that field might seem to many critics.

What does this concept stand for within philosophy, human and socio-political literature of modernity?

The vast literature on this subject both on the Left side and Right side of politics of modernity such as H. L. Wesseling (1997), Rupert Emerson & William L. Strauss (1942), Barbara Ward, Thomas P. Whitney, Robert Strausz-Hupe and Charles Malik (1960), Nathaniel Peffer (1927), V. I. Lenin (1939), Chronis Polychroniou (1991), William H. Meyer (1988), Berch Berberoglu (1987), James S. Olson, Robert Shadle, Ross Marlay, William G. Ratliff, and Joseph M. Rowe (1991), Lewis Feuer (1986), Cecilia A. Conrad (1998), David G. Becker, Richard L. Sklar, Simon Hakim, and G. Chaliand (1999), J. A. Hobson (1961), B. Warren (1980) and J. E. Goldthorpe (1975) could be pinned down along two major dominant perspectives.

One emphasizes the political dimension of domination and traces imperialism back to ancient civilizations based on expansion such as Persian Empire under the rule of Cyrus the Great. The other emphasizes the economic dimension and views imperialism as mainly a feature of modernity and of Capitalism. Although some writers would claim that colonial rule is a necessary part of the definition of imperialism, others would disagree and reject such juxtaposition and call it a-historical analysis. For example, they argue that the indirect political influence and economic dominance of US constitutes imperialism, even though historically its colonial possessions have been few. With the decline of colonialism since World War II, and the disappearance of the Western European Empires, other writers, such as Goldthorpe have naively claimed that imperialism no longer exists and it is of no practical and social scientific use to employ the very term either, let alone the concept or the reality it attempts to portray.

The emphasis on economic aspects is generally, though not exclusively, associated with Marxist-Leninism. This has been most influential in sociology in UK in the last few decades. The approach is based on the work of Lenin. Whilst Lenin saw imperialism as an inherent feature of economic development in advanced capitalist core states, recent writers have focused more on the effects of imperialism upon the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Deriving from the works of Marx as well as Lenin, imperialism is said to originate from the drive for profitability intrinsic to capitalism, and the ceaseless need to appropriate new avenues for both capital and commodities. Accordingly, territorial expansion is a necessity for capitalist societies. This involves using the Third World as a focus of investment and as a source of exponential profits, markets for goods and suppliers of raw materials and easy access to human energy (as poor immigrant workers). The effect on Third World countries is primarily seen as that of holding back internal development by focusing their economies on a limited and discordant range of activities, often owned by foreigners, and involving a transfer of resources to the advanced core states. However, it would be a mistake to assume that the Leftist approach to the question of imperialism is a homogenous one and in this camp there are no disagreements whatsoever. Warren, for instance, argues that colonialism and imperialism have assisted to promote capitalist development in the Third World rather than impeded its progress. He, despite of many critics, even goes as far as to contend that this is, in fact, closer to Marx’s original view. Needless to argue that this goes right to the opposite side of what Rosa Luxemburg (1870-1919) had in mind when she put forward her ‘Marxist Analysis’ of imperialism.

In any case, it should be clear by now that both camps agree that within modernity there is an ‘imperial dimension’ but what is at stake is that some argue it is a tale of the past and the other camp holds that as long as there is capitalist system and unworkable semi-capitalist economies in the world this imperial dimension would remain an indispensable part of modern system. The social theoretical reason for the latter argument which is more appealing and consistent with the geo-political realities of contemporary world is the ‘capitalistic ability to expand’ and semi-capitalistic economies inability to innovate and impede the encroachment of the former one. In addition, what makes this view more viable is its emphasis on the multi-layeredness nature of ‘expansion’ on behalf of capitalistic system, which does not confine itself to one level, namely economic. On the contrary, it does expand to all spheres of life and on the other side there is the inverted capitalism which is unable to expand in any socio-cultural sense and this inability is not only of economic nature. The most obvious of all inefficiencies is the political expansion in moving with the spirit of time and addressing the contemporary issues with original approach and solving old questions with sober mind.

Despotism: A Definition

The semantic meaning of despotism is not as negative as the technical connotations which moderners do ascribe to this concept. Both Greek and Latin roots of the term refers to the idea of ‘Custodianship’ and ‘Household’, namely despota, despotes and domus. Although the very nature and mechanism of taking into custody the household, which is the very prototype of political ruling has come under severe critique within modernity nevertheless there is one dimension which is totally absent within modernity unlike the ideal of Custodian ideology, namely the cordial relation between the Custodian and the household, regardless of its size and scope. Needless to argue that the absence of this relation is what distinguishes between modern political philosophy based on agnostic metaphysics and traditional religious philosophy based on gnostic metaphysics. This metaphysical distinction in relation to political life and public arena was excellently put by Immanuel Kant where the latter expressed the defining moment as man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. This ontological and political process of emancipation is what Kant considers as ‘Enlightenment’ in contrast to ‘Illumination’. By the disappearance of the illumination from the epistemological dimension and its subsequent relevance within the public arena the relation between common man and noble man based on the idea of spiritual hierarchy became redundant and reactionary indeed within the modern ideological parlance. Because what did distinguish between the modern conception of politics and traditional understanding was the idea of law and its sources both in a metaphysical and political sense. When the ‘mature man’, unlike the ‘tutelaged man’ is able to employ his understanding without ‘direction’, be it political or divine (as Revelation), from another then the hierarchical conception of knowledge which was the raison d’être of traditional metaphysics is redundant altogether. For, it is argued, modernity is all about the reign of reason as a sui generis category. Despotism is then an anathema within modernity and any resort to ‘First Principles’ in re-establishing it’s benevolent and humane or paternal and custodian dimensions are considered as reactionary ideological attempt. One of the significant reasons for this argument is the denial of what within traditional metaphysics is called as ‘realization’ and its absence from modern anthropology. By anthropology I don’t intend its disciplinary meaning but its generic sense. If there is nothing to be realized and there are no innate dispositions then there would be no need for a custodian, a despot or a monarch to realize the collective potentialities as well as individual ones. In other words, the differences between modern and traditional political philosophy is one of metaphysics and more importantly is related to the psychological dispositions of contemporary man, either in East or West.

However, the problem of despotism is not confined to the defining features of modern and traditional political philosophy. On the contrary, this issue has come to preoccupy the modern philosophers and social theorists as well as traditional philosophers and theologians of East or West. Political theorists have long pondered the formula for a successful governing system. In doing so, despotism and majoritarian rule have arisen as two possible forms of government. John Stuart Mill in On Liberty, and Alexi de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, both refute the idea of despotic rule, not of a single ruler, but of the majority. The “tyranny of the majority,” as Mill describes, is worse than straightforward dictatorship and should be avoided. Tocqueville concurs that unlimited power, in the hands of an absolute majority that is able to exercise both physical and moral control, is dangerous to the sovereignty of the individual. Although both theorists differ moderately in their approaches and definitions of despotism of the majority, they agree it hinders the liberty and individuality of the citizens and is tyrannical.

Mill and Tocqueville attempt to define the appropriate role of government with respect to the individual. The tyranny of the majority suppresses independence and coerces society into conformity to the will of the active majority. The majority excludes reason in its decision-making, and instead focuses on attracting or persuading society to accept its position. The soft despotism of the majority is more menacing than dictatorship or single figure despotism because it possesses not only physical control over the citizenry, but encompasses both the physical and mental abilities of the people.

Mill sternly asserts that in a civilized society the individual has complete sovereignty and may only be ordered against his will except to prevent harm to others. “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.” “[T]he only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” To Mill, the freedom of the individual from excessive command was an essential requirement of a civilized society. The protection of this right was important to opposing despotism and preserving the integrity of the individual’s liberty.

In contrast, Tocqueville objects to the individual’s right to exercise his will in any manner he chooses. “I hold it to be an impious and detestable maxim that politically speaking, the people have a right to do anything . . .” Tocqueville does, however, embrace the concept of independence of mind and the freedom of real discussion. He supports the freedom of speech and desires all citizens to actively partake in their rights. In a system where the majority exercises strict control over the people, fervent debate can not occur. Mill submits that: “[w]hatsoever crushes individuality is despotism.” Both theorists stress the importance of independence and sovereignty in a free and civilized society.

The intellectual exchange of ideas and open debate of differing opinions drives society. Mill and Tocqueville wanted to protect the right of individuals of discussion and freedom of opinion to stimulate philosophical and theoretical thought. In addition, thought is a powerful agent against tyranny: “[t]hought is an invisible and subtle power that mocks all the efforts of tyranny.” Tocqueville also viewed theoretical thought as an instrument against despotism. It helps to develop better judgment among the people and resist despotism. Thus, the constant discussion of one’s political ideology ensures that liberty is not infringed.

The basic principles of majoritarian rule are rooted in the belief of equality of man and a confidence in the capabilities of the collective society. Tocqueville found this true in America and observed: “The moral authority of the majority is partly based upon the notion that there is more intelligence and wisdom in a number of men united than in a single individual.” The assumption is that all men are equally competent to exercise governing. Mill disagreed and took a more elitist approach, thinking that only a very small percentage of the population was capable of governing. The small percentage would exercise its influence over the majority, who would remain apathetic to government because of their isolation from involvement. Mill astutely discovered that the ‘will of the majority’ did not necessarily constitute the true sentiments of an actual majority of the people. Instead, he found a small but vocal faction would take direction of the government: “the will of the people, moreover, practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people- the majority, of those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority.”
Mill asserts that a danger arises because government is not always conducted by the judgments of the people, but by the decisions of an outspoken minority able to manipulate the rest of society.

The main reason Mill and Tocqueville oppose despotism of the majority as compared to a sole dictatorship is the majority obtains more influence and power than any one individual can. Mill observed that most people desire conformity and are often fearful as being viewed as an outsider. “[E]ven in what people do for pleasure, conformity is the first thing thought of.” The lack of strength to exercise one’s own thoughts and beliefs leads to the unconstrained domination by the majority. The people must exercise there right to individuality and create an intellectually open exchange and discussion of ideas. After studying European countries, Tocqueville noted that a King only has physical power, his subjects retain the freedom of their will. Under tyranny of the majority, the power distribution is unilaterally transferred to the majority, away from the individual. “But the majority possesses a power that is physical and moral at the same time.” The majority effectively enslaves the soul and allows the people no other recourse but conformity. According to Mill, society is dangerous when it interferes with the sovereignty of the individual because: “it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since . . . it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.”

The subjugation of the soul destroys one’s liberty and freedom. Both Mill and Tocqueville disfavor the tyranny of the majority due to its denial of individuality and liberty.

The tyranny of the majority is a flawed political system for several reasons, as delineated by Mill and Tocqueville. Government must determine the appropriate line from which to make laws and do so through the application of reason. Either law or the general consensus of the people creates rules of conduct. The key principle, however, is the utilization of reason. Mill thought that reason solved all political problems and was devoted to reason philosophically and politically. Rules grounded in opinion and custom are contained in a deeply embedded social code. The code of custom is very powerful as Tocqueville states: “Custom has done even more than law.” Mill views customs as deleterious to society because they don’t require sound thought and refute reasoning: “People are accustomed to believe . . . that their feelings on subjects of this nature are better than reasons and render reasons unnecessary.” Reason is a necessity in creating logical and philosophical laws.

The absence of reason appears in efforts to effect the governing by the majority. Attention is not paid to detail and reason, but instead to the mere act of persuading the majority to a certain viewpoint. Thus, the laws derived from such irrationality are irresolute. Furthermore, the majority’s concentration on an issue quickly diminishes once it is diverted from the issue. Tocqueville found this is particularly true in America:
“The omnipotence of the majority and the rapid as well as absolute manner in which its decisions are executed in the United States not only render the law unstable, but exercise the same influence upon the execution of the law and the conduct of administration. As the majority is the only power that it is important to court, all its projects are taken up with the greatest ardor; but no sooner is its attention distracted than all this ardor ceases.”

Reason is the main element of politics that creates effective and impartial laws. The danger of the majority results because of the attempt to conform. Debate only occurs during the pre-implementation of new law instead of a continual discussion, which does not allow a constant re-evaluation of law.

The concentration if power into a single entity leads to tyranny and abuse. Tocqueville flatly states: “Unlimited power is initself a bad and dangerous thing.” Both theorists also thought that the majority could nonetheless be seen reduced to an individual and reason implied against that. Tocqueville’s opposition to the absolutism of a majority is based in his desire to grant no person or faction unrestrained power. “A majority taken collectively is only an individual . . . the power to do everything, which I should refuse to one of my equals, I will never grant to any number of them.” Mill also saw the majority as neglecting reason and relying too much on personal beliefs. He used the same reasoning to relate the thoughts of the majority to an individual and thereby indicate what he would not grant to a single person; he would also not confer to a group. “[A rule] not supported by reasons, can only count as one person’s preferences; and if the reasons, when given, are a mere appeal to a similar preference felt by other people, it is still only many people’s liking instead of one.”

Regardless of the rule, both theorists recognize reason as necessary to provide legitimacy to a law. The irresponsible absolute power given to a majority impedes the implementation of proficient laws. John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty, and Alexi de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, both describe the effect of ‘soft despotism’ or the ‘tyranny of the majority’ in relationship to the sovereignty of the individual. Mill strongly thought that the independence of the individual should never be infringed unless the individual encroaches on the rights of another. Tocqueville also favored the sovereignty of the individual, but not to the same extent. The danger of the ‘tyranny of the majority’ is that it contains physical and moral power over the people. It enslaves the soul into conformity.

Mill and Tocqueville also disapproved of soft despotism because of its absence of reason in formulating law. Both theorists viewed reason as stimulating a philosophical and theoretical debate, which would result in fair laws and the protection of individuality. To counter man’s intrinsic proclivity towards conformity, the open discussion of different ideas is required. Tocqueville was fearful that unlimited power in the hands of an absolute group would be dangerous to the liberty of the people. Mill also thought that the majority could not be trusted to protect the freedoms of the people. Overall, tyranny of the majority is comprised of a lack of reason in conceiving law, the absence of a true majority in forming opinion, the harmful necessity of conformity, and most importantly, the enslavement of the body and soul into compulsory harmony with society. It also impedes the free and open discussion of independent thought, which leads to the deprival of liberty and individual rights. Tyranny of the majority is wrong because of its irrational attack against individuality.

Although both of them were aware of democratic flaws but their respective critique was not based on a traditional or religious political philosophy and surely did not intend to re-establish the ‘Custodian’ ideology of a Monarch or a Philosopher-King. What did they were very concerned about was the idea of ‘individual’ which was taken from religious metaphysics but it was not defended on religious bases within ‘revelatory frame of reference’. The most important aspect of despotism that is relevant for the current discussion is the absence of both criteria, namely the custodian cordial dimension of government and the respect of individual within modern Muslim culture. In other words, the Muslim political elite has inherited the worse of two worlds. Despotism, in the sense of tyrannical rule based on total disregard for sanctity of individuality, which, again, is based on a misconceived modern democratic philosophy, where the ‘majoritarian will’ should reign at the expense of individual liberty.
A brief history of Muslim Political Thought

Any debates on Muslim political thought should start with the Sacred Book of Islam, namely the Koran. Having said that it should be added that any discussion about the political philosophy of Islam could not but commence with the two grand unit-ideas of ‘Imamate’ and ‘Khalifate’ based on the idea of ‘Inspired Leadership’. Muslim theologians and political philosophers of the past and social critics and religious dignitaries of the present have in one way or another been preoccupied with the relationship between the actual ruler and the Ideal Leader. There are, at least, two broad perspectives among Muslim political philosophers, which dominate the debates on the nature of political thought in Islam. One is the idealistic approach where the philosopher takes the idea of a virtuous leader as his or her point of departure, without any due consideration to the actual conditions of political rule, whether it is ruled by Attila or by a Pious Imam. What is of great significance in this approach is the ideal form of government, which is essentially unchangeable and permanent and more importantly Good. The impermanent cultural forms should comply with the ideal essences and the rulers should strive to be-come as the ideal types. Although these approach is very rich in terms of philosophical arguments nevertheless it lacks sociological understanding of the mechanisms of power and what is considered as ‘lack’ among actual rulers are more complicated than this approach renders. The main representatives of this approach are Avecinna, al-Farabi, Averros, al-Ghazzali, Rumi, Mulla Sadra. The other perspective is more sociologically informed but lacks the rigorous philosophical understanding of the former approach. This approach, in its classical form, is represented by Ibn Khaldun and have many modern and contemporary followers such as Naini, Kavakebi, Afghani, Kalim Siddiqui, Maududi, Iqbal, Shariati, Sorosh, Muttahari, Qutb, Arkoun, and many others, who take into consideration the substantial or cultural aspects of society in contrast to the essential and metaphysical ones. Despite many differences which may reign between these two broad perspectives among Muslim philosophers and social thinkers it is doubtless that each and everyone of them in their own particular approach has attempted to give an account of the idea of ‘Imamate’ or ‘Khalifate’. By the advent of modernity and the demise of political Islam as it was represented by Ottoman Khalifate and Persian Sultan (who represented in a very theologically subtle manner the Imam), the ideas of traditional Islam were absent amidst the modern forms of polity such as Nationalism, State-Modernization and Westernization or Russification. The modern polity thanks to both Tanzimat and Mashroteh brought ideas of constitutionalism in politics and nationalism in psychology of politics to Muslim political lexicon. There appeared many discourses to undermine the universal ideas of Man in Islam by replacing the ideas of Nation and Nationality as ‘Islamic’ ideals to strive for and in one word ‘national home’ replaced the ‘Ummatic Home’, without many dignitaries to realize it. As a matter of fact there were many great thinkers who, in the face of modern military assault did give in to the idea of nationalism and tried to find out passages here and there in Koran in order to support the idea of ‘Vatan’, ‘Mihan’, ‘Ana Yurt’ as Prophetic act (Hub al-Vatan men al-Iman).

The symbolic union of Muslim Ummah as well as the political unity of Islam did shatter and in their wake Muslims inherited imposed ideals of ‘territorial states’ designed on ad hoc boundaries as decided or imposed by Paris, London, Moscow, and finally Washington, which did not reflect any historical or traditional reality of Muslim life or religion.
Nation-State System as a means of Imperialism

The relation between national states and imperialism is not a new debate within social sciences and philosophy or critical libertarian discourses since the Enlightenment. Nevertheless what I intend by nation-state as a means of imperial policy at an international level have been less debated within social theory and social philosophy. The nub of the question of national state is the idea of ‘sovereignty’ in a legal sense within political lexicon of modernity. What is sovereignty? Is it a right given or taken? Is it a legal right endowed upon a territorial state by others or a claim made by state visavis other states in a warring state of affairs? The contemporary discourse, which is deeply involved with the institution of ‘civil society’ both in a national level and global arena, is portraying a very legalistic and hence a-historical account of the matter under investigation. It seems as though it is a right which every state currently accepted as such made such a claim at the outset of modernity in this legal fashion without any bloody battles fought or wars erupted. The very fact of the central idea of nation state, namely ‘sovereignty’ may have been a right claimed by triumphant core states of capitalist system but the same could not be applied to other entities. Although these lesser states did fought for their independence but what they become was not equivalent for what they were previously, namely cultural units rather than territorial constructions.

The modern process initiated by colonial powers did, in fact, cause a colonial race between Russia, England, and France and the end result of this race is what international body came to incorporate as the United Nations, namely fabricated units based on the idea of ‘nationality’ and endorsed by a political institution entitled as ‘sovereignty’. In this scheme, for instance, two Arabs who happened to live across the border of ‘Shatt al-Arab River’ one came to be called ‘Iranian’ and the other ‘Iraqi’; or two Azeris who happened to live across the border of ‘Araz River’ one came to be considered as an ‘Iranian’ and the other as ‘Russian’ (and finally in 1991 as Azeri); and the same applies to other ethnic groups such as Daqistanis, Chechens, Afghans, Beluchi, Kurds, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, and so on and so forth. Muslims who find themselves in a post-Cold War Era are heirs to a divided body which symbolically is united in the Idea of Hajj annually and the Idea of Salat daily but at the same time riddled with many factual antagonisms which are best illustrated whenever a Muslim wishes to pass through one so called ‘country’ to another. The introduction of passport, which might have had both political and symbolical significance for European nations which lost the unity of Christianity had, indeed, have a negative backlash against Muslim Ummah by re-inserting unnecessary divisive elements into the body of Ummah.

If these observations are taken into consideration and the very idea of capitalist system, which was aforementioned in terms of the need of system to expand itself and incorporate new markets into its surplus value-system then the real nature of imperialism towards Muslim Nation, which, in essence, is one could be more discernible. The imperialistic economic system is efficient as long as the union between Muslim Community is absent and confined to an ailing ‘ritual dimension’, which is cut off the reality of politics of Islam, which, is one of the pillars of political philosophy of Islam as epitomized in the idea and ideal of ‘Imamate’ and ‘Khalifate’. The entrance of Muslim states to the league of nations as individual nation state is a permanent threat to the idea of Muslim Community, which is the quintessential of political philosophy in Islam. Without the actual realization of this aspect of politics of Islam the question of Polity in Islamic term is, to say the least, a shambolic gesture without any substance related to social reality of people lived within these modern boundaries. Either these states inhabited by Muslim majority should take a complete route based on ‘national interest variable’ as they do as a matter of fact visavis each other due to their secularity of politics and put up with the sporadic eruptions of dissident Muslims who still cling on the idea of Ummah or set on a substantially different path, which on the surface could be similar to the idea of European Union. It should be mentioned that imperialism is not only confined to the economic forces but it is endorsed and at some occasions initiated by militarism, which would surely oppose the idea of Umma in a political sense and certainly there are many internal and external obstacles towards the realization of Ummatic polity too. In other words, as long as there are among Muslims any essential reliance on the ideas of nationalism, racial factors such as Turk versus Arab, Kurd versus Arab, Persian versus Turk, Malay versus Indonesian, and Pakistani versus Afghani and so on and so forth the ‘imagined community’ based on the idea of Nation backed up by the institution of State and recognized by the legal authority of Sovereignty, there would be no exit for Muslims to be self-reliant and agents of historical magnitude but divisive forces malleable by market forces leashed by imperial states.
Nationalism and Islam

The contemporary political thought of Islam is inflicted by ideas of Nationalism in ways which would have surely abhorred traditional philosophers of Islamic Ummah, who considered issues such as race, nation and ethnicity as ‘Hijab’ or veil of truth. There have been many political writers of great caliber within contemporary era that argued that Nationalism is endorsed by the ethos of Islam and there is no contradiction by being a Muslim and a nationalist and one factor in such a grave misunderstanding has been the Realpolitik of Modernity. It is a very well-known fact that many parts of Muslim land was colonized by foreign forces and when the battle for de-colonization started the best unifying flag, which could unite all forces in one part of these vast territories run by either Russia, or England and France was the idea of Nationalism. At least this is what the Muslim nationalists such as Shariati, Maududi, Iqbal, and Qutb argued and downplayed the political significance of Pan-Islamism due to the fact that it was propagated by Ottoman rulers and was not congruent by Arab Christian sentiment which was ignited by Europeans among Muslims and non-Muslims of Arab background. Another factor in downplaying this progressive idea, which could have paved the way for an umbrella political institution was the denominational friction between Muslims, which gave an apt tool for despotic rulers to stave off any attempt towards Ummatic Union. Unfortunately Muslim political analysts did succumb to this de facto situation and instead of penetrating beyond the historical absurdities and imperial games of ‘nationalism’, ‘tribalism’ and ‘racialism’ stop and start where the rationale of modern nation-state road-mapped. This approach institutionalized nationalist discourses within Muslim countries and gave birth to a new genre where the essential ideas are modern and nationalistic but the façade is Islamic and rhetorically revolutionary. The very idea of revolution came to be associated by regime change and one came to miss the point that within the Islamic paradigm the change is not only a matter of form but an issue of content too. In addition the content is not only confined to the realm of regime or institution of power but the heart and mind of those who aspire to make change. In other words, the ideals of Islam were essentially gone and the cultural realities (‘urf) of Turks, Arabs, Chechens, Persians, Kosovos, Albans, Bosninas, Kurds, … came to be considered as the ideas of Islam and revolutionary movements came to replace one interpretation of culture with another without any normative reference to the Prophetic Tradition. Many ideologies were born and new regimes did emerge which set each Muslim State on a new course of secular pursuit but adding the adjective of ‘Islam’ to anything they did. Pakistan, for instance, was created and it was called an Islamic Republic but the course of the ideology of Pakistan does resemble anything but political philosophy of Islam. The same could apply to Iran, and many others which settle with rhetorical claims and downplayed the real task of reconstructing the politics of Islam and working towards a Muslim polity based on a Koranic policy. Other states such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Irak, and many other that set up a secular policy as their goal created another kind of hurdles for Muslim Ummah, which are not less problematic than the former ones.

If modern idea of Nationalism as a frame of reference is understood to incorporate the whole ethnic groups of Muslims, then in this sense Islam could be reconciled with Nationalism otherwise there is no congruity between the idea of Nationalism as understood within modern philosophy and political thought and Islam. In addition, if the idea of nationalism needs to be so greatly stretched then what it yields to is not anymore what one understands as Nationalism in the analytical sense of the term. So, to put it differently, it would be more to the point to choose a Native-Islamic term to render the Muslim situation in political sense that is both a result of Islamic political philosophy and a reflection of de facto realities of religion of Islam as daily and annually practiced in a symbolic manner by Muslims all over the world. Additionally this would pave the way for the emergence of Muslim Union as Europeans have already embarked on this road without any reliance on religion that could be of a great symbolic assistance to bring fraternal associations and deprive the foe-reign and the advance of Imperialism.
Imperialism from without and Despotism from within

Aren’t the pictures I depicted earlier utopian and unrealistic? It could be if by utopian one intends to convey a message that the union of Muslims is a day-dreamery rumination and by reality to understand whatever one sees and faces de facto. However there is more to Utopia than day-dreamery and the scope of reality is vaster than what one sees. The realm of possibilities is what real is all about and what is called Utopia is where is pleasant to be. There could be no argument that where Muslims are now is not where they wish as collective to be and to find an outlet to be rescued from this dystopia is the dream of any committed Muslim intellectual. However it should be borne in mind that there are many obstacles both external and internal. In this section we would look at Despotism as a huge impediment to the realization of Ummatic Union and its relation to Imperialism as its sustainer.

The question of despotism cannot be dealt with properly without significant reference to the cultural politics of each individual Muslim nation-state and to do this it would require a complete book, which is beyond the scope of this article. What I have in mind is the widespread culture of despotism which has come to be wrongly associated with Islamic thought and in this fashion replace the spirit of Islamic polity in a reactionary manner unprecedented since the establishment of Medina.

Within modern social science discourses the question of despotism has come to occupy a very significant place in the writings of Karl Wittfogel and known as the question of ‘Oriental Despotism’. The main idea of this Wittfogel’s thesis was related to the nineteenth-century social philosophy of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, J. S. Mill’s which claimed a specific route to production called ‘Asiatic Mode of Production’. In Wittfogel’s view that gave birth to a kind of particular society that is best termed as ‘Asiatic Society’ and characterized by ‘despotic’ state power. This resulted from a necessity for public works to provide irrigation and flood control. This, he termed, ‘Hydraulic Society’. Oriental despotism was contrasted with Western European forms of constitutional, ultimately liberal constitutional, government. This hydraulistic approach to the Oriental question did not win many hearts and even lesser minds. Nevertheless in Wittfogel there is a sociological antecedent to the question of despotism. This question was also debated by Muslim thinkers in 19th century, namely Abdul Rahman Kavakebi and Naiini, who considered despotism as a second nature within contemporary Islamic mentality and a prominent feature of Muslim polity that altogether contributed to what is today considered as ‘social regressivism’ by social theorists. Naiini and Kavakebi, who were contemporaneous, tried to find some solutions for the problems of their society and to present some updated opinion. Generally, Kavakebi thought about despotism and the ways for its removal and Naiini thought about the denial of despotism and approval of the necessity of constitution and its consistency with Islam.

Which did the collapse of Muslim Empires in India, Persia, Ottoman Lands there, instead emerged tyrannical principles of governmentality assisted by the Colonial policy in introducing modernization from above. What was considered as a social and cultural progress in Europe came to be imposed by political means on Muslims and one is tempted to call the entire modern period in Muslim Land as an era of civil violence and political coercion in meeting the demands of imperial market. The distance between the governor and governed widened ever deeper and there were no traditional bonds to explain the role of these modern dignitaries on the power and the modern democratic inter-state agencies did not develop either due to the autocratic character of modern Muslim despots such as Ata Turk, Reza Khan, and many others. This dual process of violence gave birth to a new breed of Muslims, who are best considered as ‘hybrid individuals’, who are neither the residents of Dar al-Islam nor citizens of Modern National State. Because the discrepancies between the world they are exposed to at home and privately is profoundly different than the world modernity pulled them towards and the relation between the center and periphery was one of brute force and regime survival, that was backed up by imperial powers as long as the King or the Leader secured the international interests of Grand States at the expense of Muslim Ummah. Muslims Ummah is posed by an inherent threat which is despotism from within and in order to overcome this the task is not only a political and organizational one but it needs, what M. Naquib al-Attas calls, adab. Within this century Muslim political thought has been undermined by Leftism and Liberalism and sadly none of this movement did penetrate into the mind and heart of political leaders either but a specter of each was flirted with for demagogical reasons without any deep understanding. Despotism from within has inflicted much anomical dis-ease among Muslim population and there are not many debates how to approach, investigate, and overcome these issues within all sectors of social life and arenas of cultural significance. To add to this complex socio-political reality of Muslim Ummah another external dimension which is in dire need of chaotic situation in order to increase the surplus values of its own unit, namely imperialism from without then one can realize the gigantic task ahead of Muslim intellectuals who aspire to think about the predicament of Muslim Nation, both as an ideal and an ailing fact.
The roadmap to Ummatic Union: What Shall We Do?

The first thing Muslim intellectuals should not do is to write any manifesto or call to revolutionary organizational-political actions. This should not be done for the simple, important though, reason that the intellectual ground is very shaky and foundations of Islamic political philosophy far from the ideals and ideas of ‘Imamate’, ‘Khalifate’, and ‘Inspired Leadership’. The task is intellectual and the forces in need to accomplish the very first steps are of educational character. Another very important task is to institutionalize the tradition of Ibn Batuta and traveling Muslim intellectuals who went land by land and spend time among all parts of Muslim Nation and learned the main languages and customs of each particular people. Since the collapse of political unity of Muslims and the imposition of imperial state-system there have been many Muslim philosophers, social critics, religious leaders and intellectuals who have written in favor or disfavor of modernity and Islam and how to graft these two or separate them surgically without causing any great damage and so on and so forth. Some of these ideas such as the importance of Nationalism or state-system have become like the very essential nature of people who inhabit Muslim lands and a powerful tool in the hands of corrupt leaders to manipulate the masses in order to enhance the despotic situation from within and do immense service to imperialistic trends from without. The roadmap is to break these idols by scrutinizing them all and allowing the unifying ideas and ideals of sacred tradition come to the public arena and take intellectual measure to rectify these misconceived, mis-cultivated understanding, which have penetrated the entire universe of Muslim Psyche, despite of many Koranic injunctions that disallow the growth of these sentiments as signs of ‘Endarkenment’ or Jahiliyet. Is there any hope that Muslim Ummah can regenerate her prophetic spirit? Allah Knows Best!

The main focus of this article was to explicate the implicit and explicit factors, which have contributed to paralyzation of Ummatic body in terms of policy and its realization both culturally and physically. The main argument has been to pinpoint to a dual impairment process, which has inflicted the body of Ummah both from within and without. To illustrate this dual impairing mechanism the attention was focused on two aspects of contemporary Muslim culture which has been shaped by despotism from within and imperialism from without. To overcome these impairing forces, it has been suggested that educational and intellectual forces of Muslim Ummah should be collectively united beyond the current patterns of politics and due attention be paid to the idea of Pan-Islamism and the union of Ummah based on the symbols of Hajj and Salat or ‘Pilgrimage’ and ‘Prayer’ in erecting the new vision of communal life for Muslim Ummah, which goes beyond the contemporary state-system based on ‘Nationalism’. This, it has been argued, would usher into a new era of politics and lay the necessary foundations of ‘Muslim Polity’ based on sacred tradition and the banner of this union should be Ka’aba and the symbolism it stands for.

Dr. Kafkazli Seyed Javad is a Professor of Human Sciences and Philosophy, Department of Human and Social Sciences, Harbin Engineering University, China


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