Friday, 27 November 2015

Implementing Islam in the Secular States

All states today are both religious and secular and none is purely religious or secular. God has not been dethroned.

Today we seek to engage with Shah-i-Hamdan’s socio-political thought considering the fact that if he visited us today he would hardly recognize it, as the world has witnessed several frame shift mutations. He would be compelled to edit not only the sections invoking medieval knowledge of some sciences( that have been corrected thanks to progress of natural sciences) but also, in all probability, partly, some sections treating sociopolitical issues. Today the institution of kings he assumes or addresses is almost gone for good and there have already developed institutions that restrain rulers. He wound find much of his job done thanks to modernity that has made rulers accountable to theoretically independent judiciary. He would find neither slaves nor slave owners, neither feudal lords nor the land in the sense he had seen as primary wealth. He would encounter the monster of technology and other misadventures of instrumental rationality and capital besides newer colonizing ideologies like development discourse( Derrick Jensen defines development as colonialism applied to the natural world). It would be easy to guess if he can afford dismissive engagement with modern political theory. Likes of Carl Schmitt and other major voices in political theology and philosophy would be approached from the insights derived from Islamic resources. We need to identify thinkers in the world, especially the Muslim world, who engage with the similar problems, with similar background principles, that Hamdani engaged with many centuries ago. Some issues one might, at the risk of misconstruing and with due apology to the spirit of Amir- i- Kabir, seek to explain to oneself for readers to consider and better edit.
      I am inclined to think that deeper analysis of feared( by secularists) Shariah oriented political model will reveal far deeper correspondences with aspirations for so- called secular polity wedded to fundamentally sacred things or values like freedom and justice. Even secular political thinkers, in effect, recognize God’s sovereignty in almost all important matters when they seek to preserve values whose embodiment is precisely what divine sovereignty is all about. All states today are both religious and secular and none is purely religious or secular. God has not been dethroned. He is in control today and, as Maulana Azad recognized, some of the best things that religion embodies are realized in so- called secular states that are assumed to have said goodbye to religion. All genuine critical thought in politics is, in a certain sense, realizing the aspiration of implementing God’s Law.
      While calling for strict moral policing, Amir-i-Kabir is basically targeting public display of what is deemed to be illegal or immoral behaviour. You can’t be persecuted by the State if you do such things in secret, in the privacy of your home. There is no scope for jasoosi or institution of informers or secret intelligence agencies that report to moral police. Another point is that before implementing any code, one is entitled to determine legality or otherwise of a given practice. We have examples of practices once considered impermissible by ulama like taking pictures and using loud-speakers( and that could well thus invite State censure) now being taken out of the prohibited list.
      Non-Muslim citizens need not necessarily be seen in light of now contested notion of Dar- ul-Harb and Dar-ul-Islam that was invented when people and nations knew so little of each other including other’s beliefs and cultures. The notion of Jihad remains eternally relevant because the fight against injustice and oppression that proscribe freedom to live life according to the Divine Measure seems to be eternally warranted as people are not going to relinquish vested ideological/class/gender interests. We need to emphasize the scriptural resources that talk about common elements between certain traditions, the warrant for extending the notion of Ahl-e-Kitab to other than Jewish and Christian religions as we are discovering all traditional communities invoking some equivalent of scripture received by earlier generations( Zorastarians, for instance, have been treated as similar to Ahl-e-Kitab ), such documents as Meesaq-i-Medina that used the coexistence rather than confrontational/othering/marginalizing model, increased recognition of the possibility of demonstrating a unanimous Tradition preserved through oral and other cultural means. However the unique claim of Islamic tradition that its scripture is unsullied by historical forces and thus preserved in original purity coupled with the understandable warrant for preserving its distinctive contours including Ummah centrism of Islamic community that needn’t however be interpreted as implying political domineering or in expansionist terms as an equivalent of Pax Americana, needs to be recognized by all who wish to impose a homogenized secularized global world. Islam does reject the Sacred denying materialist/capitalist worldview and thus it does envisage a different political and social order that comes into conflict with the project of Americanization or corporatization or secularization of the world and as such one shouldn’t expect too smooth a relationship between traditional Islamic and anti-traditional( not only anti-Islamic but anti-traditional) worlds; or to put it differently, between tradition( represented in its clearly formulated and living manner by Islamic tradition as other communities have largely succumbed to forces of secularization and liquidated their identities in the sense that large scale challenge to secular model is not presented by them) and secularizing modernity. There has been going on a violent suppression of all that evokes the Sacred in the wake of modernity and if traditionalists of the world invoke the rights of the Sacred capitalism and other desacralizing ideologies are threatened. Fundamentalism, ironically, gets complicit with capitalism and its allies against tradition. We need to fight Jihad against such ideologies as war against environment ensuing from imposition of industrialism and development. War against idolatry is fought by all those forces which fight against individuation and imposed alienation.
      Rulers, for Syed Ali Hamadani( RA) are created by divine will to save weak from strong, institute justice and embody ‘shafqati riyaya’ which implies welfare state, and do ahsan. He clearly distinguishes satanic kings from deputies of God and denounces the former. All this would imply that there is a warrant for both left and right inspired critiques of status quo and one needn’t fall into the trap of binaries of secular vs. religious nation states or see Hamdani leading us to Muslim nationalism that maintains problematic relationship with Non-Muslim States.
      For Hamdani a ruler must secure basic needs of subjects. Isn’t this what modern secular political thought, especially the modern left, basically demands? Marx fundamentally said this thing – the rest is incidental or could be edited – that ‘there must be equality, fraternity and brotherhood for all instead of certain class or any ruling elite.’ Nothing expresses Islamic and especially Sufi view of social justice, equality and fraternity better.
      The clause that Hamdani adds by stating that anyone who follows any opinion by any mujtahid he trusts, can’t be prevented from following it, practically implies great flexibility when it comes to find room for ordinarily “deviant” behaviour. Thus if one follows some more liberal but authentic scholars on purdah, music etc. or parliament decides to follow alternative interpretations of treatment of Non-Muslims it can circumvent those inflexible models quite easily and Hamdani, to be consistent, can’t have a problem over this. However Hamdani reminds humans of our great dignity that is incompatible with trivializing consumer culture and indecency of any sort that advertises vanity. Anything against modesty is against human dignity, thus resisted by traditions. There is a metaphysic that grounds dress and we can differentiate between traditional people from moderns on the basis of dignified clothing that characterizes the former. There is a common dress “code” of traditional men as Schuon has shown that both religious and secular fundamentalists fail to properly honour.
      Hamdani sensitizes us regarding the rights of the Sacred for ensuring our own perfection as humans and thus joins all the thinkers who seek to implement the will of Heaven on earth as it is implemented in Heaven. All genuine political movements are ultimately rooted in theology if we understand later to be autology or science of the Self.

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