Thursday, 3 December 2015

Who speaks for Hamadani today?

The basic problem I attempt to deal with is clarifying some aspects of debate on implementation of Islam in secular states, in light of key insights from Tradition (the Way of Salaf i Saliheen). For Islam the sacred-secular binary is ultimately transcended as is the division between West and East, ancient and modern (“Daleeli kem nazri qisayi qadeem-o-jadeed"). Islam appropriates all that is grand and noble and valuable (“Al-hikmatu zaalat-ul mumin”) in any thought current.
      I argue that we need to engage with modern political thought currents in light of traditional understanding of politics as grounded in metaphysics/Ad-Deen, and if some key motivations and insights from secular thinkers like Marx can be shown to concur with it, we shouldn’t fight shy of it. Since our dialogue is with secular Marxist or liberal democratic or other forms of modern political thought, one has to explore if we can talk in their idiom without distorting traditional understanding, or find common grounds for dialogue. Both totalitarian state capitalism, miscalled socialism, and free market capitalism are unsatisfactory or contradict basic ethos of Islam. Both need to be critically approached and placed in traditionalist perspective. And that is precisely what I have been doing in all my published work. If traditionalist interpretation is not the best or most comprehensive intellectually, spiritually, what else is?
      One need not argue the point that there is a sun shining when one basks in its light. One only needs to open one’s eyes to see and verify. I state some facts – facts and not interpretations (provided one can sustain fact-interpretation binary) that should clarify my position, or what I take to be Hamadani’s position and invite more comprehensive engagement, in academic style, with the problems I raise.
Fact of disagreements amongst Masters on sociopolitical, juristic and theological thought:

Almost all great names in Muslim history disagree with one another on many issues including juristic, scholastic, philosophical and reading of many sciences. Hamadani agrees and disagrees with his predecessor Masters and those following him agree and disagree with him. Great names in Islamic history, from Imam Malik to Shah Waliullah, disagree with him on certain juristic, theological and philosophical issues. All great names in Modern Islam, from Iqbal to Nasr, disagree with some aspect of his thought on socio-political issues. Disagreements imply health of a community, not disrespect. If I express preference for certain views, it is on the basis of giants of history and tradition and not in my personal capacity. And ultimately methodology is to analyze an argument on its own merits. Philosophy understood as love of wisdom, as respect for logic and as a dimension of Hikmah that Prophet (SAW) taught, passes no fatwas; it seeks deeper meanings or intentions or spirit behind linguistic signs. It seeks primarily neither to condemn nor to condone but to understand. If we differ in understanding, we can attempt to reach an agreement based on proper dialogue, say on the terms Habermas suggests.

Fact of refinement in scientific understanding:

Now isn’t it the fact that anatomy and physiology known to our forefathers has been drastically changed and no medieval writer could be read unedited today on these things? Compare modern scientific figures on the number of muscles, bones, nerves with those mentioned by Hamadani and one can see what is what. Hamadani’s endorsing of physiognomy, another “science” cultivated during medieval times, is today generally speaking, considered a pseudoscience or at best half baked science. If that science is implemented, the character of more than half of  our acquaintances will be suspected and many serving people will be thrown out of many sensitive departments. The point is that Masters like Hamadani are masters in spiritual sciences, not natural sciences which keep refining even within days, not to speak of centuries. Great masters from Aristotle to Ibn Sina to Ibn Arabi all have stated certain opinions according to then prevalent sciences. Symbolic value still intact, empirical content can be disputed. It must however be noted that getting some scientific facts wrong makes no difference to moral-spiritual arguments Hamadani makes while invoking them.
Fact of changed political realities in our world:

In medieval times there was no concept of nation states, no passports, no citizenship in current sense of the term, no subject who votes and holds rulers accountable to him/to judiciary/ constitution, no globalization, no large scale mixing of people or close association of people of different faiths in offices, in public places, in travel. Isn’t it the fact that Muslims seek to live in secular states if they are in minority (and vice versa also applies for other communities who think they are safer in secular states)? Isn’t it the fact that even Muslim factions, Shias and Sunnis, are not able to live amicably in major religious states we know? How can a book discussing socio-political issues (to be distinguished from metaphysical/spiritual/divine sciences that are timeless and are not to be edited in any age if we are to stay as believing community) that can be understood or appreciated best in medieval milieu assuming none of these things remain in its original shape without need of extensive footnotes and textual changes today? An author most often makes changes in second edition of book and even scriptures have to use the principle of nasikh and mansokh to take cognizance of changed situations in few years from their first revelation.
      Who says that the notions of Dar-al Islam and Dar-al-Harb aren’t uncontested in modern Muslim thought, not to speak of secular thought? Although we can still appreciate the spirit behind such categories as Dar-al-Islam and Dar-al-Harb in light of such notions as divine or virtuous and nonvirtuous cities of which great thinkers from Plato and Augustine to Farabi and today Voegelin speak about, they can’t be  literally read and imported today.
Democracy  as a condition and not a doctrine:
Democracy interpreted as rule for the people and by the consultation among people honouring Divine Measure that embodies in value orientation or comprehensive understanding of welfare is, in principle, acceptable to all believing communities and arguably to secular sensibility as well. Democracy understood more as a condition that is de facto the case today and not a particular doctrine that situates itself against divine sovereignty has to be faced and respectfully, though critically approached. Isn’t it the fact that almost all important names in recent history of Islam have used such terms as democracy (Iqbal, Shariati, Azad) or theodemocracy  (Maududi) or emphasized consultation as key virtue in Islamic politics and even tried to marry the notion of Walayati Faqeeh with democratic ideal (Khomeni)? Since the modern world has largely accepted certain form of democracy for reasons that we needn’t discuss, one must ask what precisely is the problematic element in its theory and practice and seek to appropriate it in light of traditional political thought which would embody the essence of the institution of philosopher king/khalifa.

The challenge before  Muslims who want Islam to be implemented is to argue how to make, for instance, Hamdani talk to the likes of Leo Strauss, Schmitt, Agamben, Voegelin, Zizek  on the one hand and to likes of Mulla Omar, Bagdadi, Zahravi, on the other hand. To the twin problems of desacralization through secularization, and violence or intolerance through fundamentalism, I see in traditionalization of political thought the best antidote, and our task is how we can express the Tradition in contemporary idiom. Seeing Syed Moududi, Iqbal, Khomeni, Shariati, Arkoun, Fazlur Rahman, Amin Ahsan Islahi and many other important contributors to this debate on Islamic political thought, one seeks to make an informed choice in the face of highly confusing and complex times today when we witness regimes being toppled, massive executions of political opponents, violent ideological appropriations of Islam from a lot of religio-political movements and conflicting interests of big powers in inciting violence or sponsoring wars.

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