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.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Muslim Political Classics

Trying to Understand Shah-i-Hamdan (RA) in the Liberal Democratic World.
“Political Islam” and Muslim religious nationalism have been with us for quite some time achieving very little in political terms but continuing to be seen as an aspiration of majority of Muslims. Although these are essentially modern phenomena and ideologically complicit with otherwise tabo modernist ideological notions, influential medieval scholars are roped in to buttress the cases. How convincing are the arguments and how effective or relevant today needs to be seen. Mir Syed Ali Hamdani, also called Amir-i-Kabir, is one of the great but neglected Muslim political theologians who needs to be better known and carefully studied to help us develop contemporary Muslim political theology. A perusal of his writings, especially his Zakhiratul Malook and Letters that constitute key sources for exploring his political theology, today in the post-secular (and for many post-theological) world while taking note of newer voices in both political theology and philosophy, constitutes an important unfinished task for Muslim thought. This column series seeks to explore the problem of engaging with medieval Muslim political theology in light of modern Islamist ideologies appropriating it for their own purposes.
      Shahi Hamadan’s theologico-political writings including his Zakhiratul Malook and Letters may be cited as an inspiration for political Islam fighting for implementation of Islamic State. On the surface a very convincing case is formed by taking certain isolated pages and paragraphs or statements from it. One can cite statements calling for treating other religious communities as second class citizens, for moral policing, for exclusive ideological system that is fundamentally intolerant of religious and ideological other. One can find, according to critics, almost ISIS and Taliban ideologue here and there. The question is how do we today relate to our medieval authorities and contest their framing in currently fashionable violent mode of political Islam? Besides it will be argued that no medieval text may be taken unquestionably in the face of changed realities in the world that necessitate reconstruction of Islamic political thought in light of now largely neglected traditionalist political thought. This will also require taking cognizance of secularizing currents of political thought, however. Hamdani has to be read in light of traditional political thought which informs, partly, some of the best minds in modern political thought. The idea of traditionalization of political thought that I call for, partly building on Hamdani, is what neither so-called radical Islam nor reformist Islam nor revivalist Islam stand for in letter and spirit. This rather than embracing secular model of polity that vetoes the Sacred Order is what I call for and see Hamdani calling for.
      To engage with the “problematic” content – to modern sensibility including Sufi sensibility – of his writings, especially Zakhiratul Mulook on which I focus, I first delineate key elements of what is supposed to constitute this problematic content. This problematic content is first of all his what appears to be extreme “obsession” with Shariah implementation in general and then all the debatable inferences that raise eyebrows including such edicts as ban on music, institution of strict moral policing and most importantly his appropriation of Hazrat Omar’s precedent for a strict implementation of what is called by some modern critics, as manifesto for second class citizenship for other religious communities.
      In the beginning we need to emphasize the point that Hamdani is a Sufi through and through and has clearly stated his doctrine of unity of being that excludes any construction of a religious other in the sense that would warrant othering or marginalizing on religious grounds.
      The question of Shariah implementation that has been an object of heated debate between Isalmists and their religious and secular critics may be understood better if separated into two elements viz. invoking God’s sovereignty or final authority for everything in Revelation and pushing for certain legalistic opinions supposed to constitute Shariah. Let us note that all traditional authorities across cultures and religions agree on the first clause in their own way. Traditional political thought is more or less Platonic invoking the care of the self or soul as the chief end of politics and that to be achieved through attention to transcendental moorings and grounding of ethico-spiritual enterprize in supra-rational traditional founts that the notion of the Sacred books/Revelation connotes. There is no purely secular ideal envisaged in traditional political theory and thus there can’t be in Hamadani either. What is to be debated is not dispensability of God’s sovereignty or Sacred Law but what it exactly means to invoke God as Law giver and distinguishing between God’s laws and human interpretations of them. Let us note that the father of Western philosophy has also a book on the type of Zakhiratul Mulook  called Laws and we have highly respected political philosopher Voegelin arguing for it.
      Muslims, generally speaking, can’t, as believing people, have issues with medieval political thought on either the notion of divine sovereignty or primacy of sacred law. Critics of the model of Islamization of State (in whom one can name not only leading modernist scholars but well known authorities from traditional ulama camp – we know  big names who separated from Jam'at-e-Islami disagreeing on Syed Moududi’s interpretation or model of Islamic State) don’t imply thereby any disrespect for the Sacred law or God’s ultimate sovereignty. There are theological and politico-philosophical critiques of essentially modern notion of Islamic State. One can cite philosophers such as Al-Farabi and modern scholars from Ali Abdel Razziq to Dabashi and the whole bunch of what identify themselves as Muslim feminists (to be distinguished from secular feminists) all targeting certain standard model of political Islam but none can be accused of inauthenticity though one might respectfully disagree with their position). One might also point out that If Shah-i-Hamdan is to be properly read he needs to be appreciated in light of modern Platonists and traditionalist political thinkers and such modern thinkers as Agamben and Zizek, all of whom target a certain understanding of democracy or liberal model in the name of something more foundational that is largely the concern of religion.  So far I don’t know if any study has been done in this respect. Let us not forget that almost all great names in political thought till recent times have spoken for a conception of politics that is sharply divergent from the secular liberal democratic model that today seems to be largely unquestionable. How far from unquestionable is this model may be gleaned from the contributors (most of which are highly regarded names, including Agamben, Zizek, Bodieu, Ranciere, Jean-Luc Nancy in their respective fields) of a recent text Democracy in What State? on the theme of democracy.  It means there is scope for questioning the hegemony of secular reason and secular polity and the need to engage with theonomous reason and the traditional/Islamic political thought for developing more humane and Spirit centric politics. However fundamentalist appropriation of traditional political thought needs to be questioned from within, as purely and exclusively secular critiques can’t be accepted by the community of believers in different traditions. Hamdani does help us in evolving such a model.
      The notion of forbidding what is wrong one sees rather narrowly interpreted or problematically theorized from medieval lenses may be interpreted in light of divergent scholarly discussions on the issue. We have great diversity in opinion on what it entails and one might cite those authorities if that is needed who side with least interventionist models. Brilliant summary of the whole debate on what constitutes forbidding munkaraat may be seen in Michael Cook’s Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought. The reader is referred to some dissenting opinions from traditional Islamic authorities on the notion of forbidding what is wrong as implying that brand of moral policing that appears reprehensible to modern sensibility wedded to the sacred idea of freedom.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Sermons from the Classics

Finding Grace in the Kafkaseque World 

Once sermons used to move a man to tears; some would even die listening to them as has been reported about Gousul Azam (RA). Now hearts seem to have hardened and preachers don’t seem to carry great conviction, although they may be eloquent and can quote chapter and verse from many books. Friday sermons used to be great education (occasionally they are still and we have some Friday imams or speakers in Kashmir whom certain people don’t ordinarily miss to attend); now most people avoid reaching mosques much before scheduled prayer time so that they are not “bombarded” by sermons. Although one can still get greatly moved by some classics of sermons like those of Gousul Azam and Eckhart and some pieces from such contemporaries as Zulfiqar Naqshbandi and Ahmed Javed.
      It is said that once a great Zen Master was going to deliver a sermon in presence of great gathering. The moment he arrived at the podium, a song bird was around singing. He along with his audience became all ears for it. And once the bird finished and moved off he also left the podium without delivering speech. When asked why, he replied that courtesy the bird’s song “the sermon stands delivered.” Thanks to the song. Great sermons call us to these sermons that nature is ceaselessly delivering. Great writers don’t sermonize but nevertheless open us to “sermons in the stones” besides “tongues in trees, books in the running brooks” and smiles and tears around us. Great sermons delivered by Life when its profound depths are given voice by great art are always needed and they are freely available if we care to heed.

      Great literature is the best antidote to fanaticism. Whenever one encounters a fanatic, most probably, he is illiterate in classics. One must read classics from as many cultures as one can to see how humans believe and feel essentially in a similar manner. Tears and smiles, sighs and ecstasies, love and desperation for being loved, are everywhere of almost identical hue. It has been noted by one of the great writers that when we weep, love, express joy, sleep, care and suffer loneliness, we can’t be distinguished in terms of creed or ideology or status. We all share one limbic system. Our story of exile from the homeland of Spirit/Heaven is essentially similar. Kafka tells us, as does Beckett, our sordid tale of exile made almost unbearable in absence of grace/love. Reading them is to suffer in purgatory and live all the horror of the dark night of soul which is necessary preparation for entry into heaven. Thus read modern classics constitute a wazeefa for most of modern educated people too intelligent to digest popular narratives that appeal to other class. Great writers help us to identify the Master to whom one may wholeheartedly surrender.
      Today we read Kafka on the most fundamental thing we all seek – joy – and in light of the statement from one of the our greatest “sermonizers”, the philosopher and theologian Peter Kreeft “Read a great book to better meet and know and glorify God.” Kreeft also says: “Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure. Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and feelings. Joy is deep in the heart, the spirit, the center of the self.”  One can read seemingly sceptical or God abandoned Kafka to better know about God. Kafka devastates us as he explores our loneliness. He post-mortems, like Beckett, mortal connection of pleasure and happiness while desperately seeking joy that God is, exposes how heartless is the world – bureaucratic managed corporate controlled world – where we no longer are loved but used, dodged, passed over in neglect. He helps us to live and love even in such a world as our hearts that can be uplifted and other humans who need us and God’s creation to which we turn for blessings can’t be snatched by any force. For Kafka “ a book should serve as the axe for the frozen sea within us.” He is indeed such an axe and few can afford to be sawed by him. For Kafka the secret of youth is ability to see beauty. One can thereby fight old age. Kafka was not a saint and although he advises us for finding all gestures holy and against despair and says the beginning of wisdom lies in readiness to die, he exhibits saintly concentration in squarely facing horror of life lived without consciousness of terrible reality of guilt and life ‘s ironies.

      Responding to the statement of Charles Juliet that “I believe an artist's work is inconceivable without a strict ethical sense.” Becket, another “artist of failure” said: "What you say is true. But moral values are inaccessible. And they cannot be defined. In order to define them, you would have to pass judgement, which is impossible. … You cannot even speak about truth. That's what's so distressful. Paradoxically, it is through form that the artist may find some kind of a way out. By giving form to formlesssness. It is only in that way, perhaps, that some underlying affirmation may be found.” Becket also seeks, like other great writers misperceived as pessimistic, as Juliet remarks, “an underlying affirmation – why else would he continue? – while all around him hacks and inattentive culture-vultures chatter about "the absurd"; a value judgement to speed their fiercely middlebrow lives beyond anything distressing like the inaccessible.”

Post Script:
       Kafka is, like many other big names in world literature, not a good model to emulate in life. He failed to live up to his own vision and was a “problematic rebel.” He had such an overwhelming sense of guilt that he ordered destruction of his great writings and thanks to a friend that was prevented. Let us note, however, that great writers as great writers and because of the art they serve and most often not because they embody greatness in personal lives. The models worthy of emulation are prophets and saints and not writers who have notorious things to their credit.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Has God Any Advocates?

The world is today suffering not from supposed absence or hiddenness of God, but the noise of warring advocates of God. God seems to resemble a Prime Minister never speaking in the Parliament, while a commotion in his name, for him and against him, has been there throughout recorded history, especially in later times and most prominently during recent history when Godliness seems to have largely disappeared leaving place for God mongers. Advocates of Him are in plenty charging fees in His name. The funniest part of the story is that advocates are fighting amongst themselves for getting recognized as the best advocates. God is not tempted to speak, thus giving us a clue to His real nature. Despite executing a magnificent universe teeming with life, beauty, intelligence and countless examples declaring His glory for those who care to see, He doesn’t seem interested in explicitly showing off Himself or writing His name on any billboard or having a political party or forced conversion to belief or recognition of Him by sinning ungrateful mankind. So many slangs have been thrown against Him, so many times accused of being deaf or impotent or even dead, He is not tempted to clarify, to refute, to silence the accusers. God chooses to live, silently, in the hearts of saints, artists, prayerful hearts or tears and joys of believers, in the passion for truth in scientists, in the love that binds us all, in the beauty that attracts us all, in the joy that all seek, in innocence of children and in whatever is holy, grand, noble, sublime and wonderful. Mute yet eloquent beyond words are His words in flesh. The secret to the “gorakh danda” of which Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sings appears to lie in patiently waiting, in seeing deeply, in witnessing without judging, in radical innocence, in openness to experience. No discourse, no fatwa, no narrative, no commentary on sacred scriptures, no sectarian textbook convinces us fully or ultimately, especially in these postmodern times. The Silence that scripture give voice to and lead into, drives us, like intoxicated lovers in search of the beloved, to the Heart of Reality that is God. The adage that “all advocates are liars” applies surely in the case of self-appointed advocates of God who are today fighting for the hearts and minds of youth.
      Today we are surrounded by politicians, by clergy and by ideologues of various hues invoking God’s authority or name to claim our allegiance. The question is who indeed speaks for the God who chooses to live in the broken hearts? What a joke that God’s sovereignty is said to be in danger and it has been left on the shoulders of  poor fellows (who think deenuk themb chum seenes paeth…) to guard it against the whole erring world.
      For traditional cultures, God has spoken in many languages and what he has spoken is not disputed, thanks to oral transmission and preservation. Written narratives and interpretations might be interminably debated or disputed but not what has passed as a practice of community at large (sunnah) or from the presence of the Teacher. No advocates needed to plead or interpret.
      For the seers God rules with absolute power but with such subtlety that His signatures on orders or events – including on our tears and smiles – are not ordinarily decipherable. The State, the family, the civil society  and countless nongovernmental agencies even if not constituting the mind of God as Hegel attempted to show has been great instruments, by every account, in realizing the project that God has in mind if we believe God is in full control every moment and not a fly’s wing is clipped without providence taking note. Let us note that in God’s world even Satan is ultimately in the service of some deeper design or plan of God. There has, in sense, always been “a state of Islam” or state of submission to the Real or orientation towards the Good of collective humanity though never a fully realized Islamic State or Hindu State or Puritan State. God’s Mercy is said to be writ large on the face of the universe. God is equal to his task and does arrange that all things return to Him as the Quran declares. God is not to be fooled or foiled, even if all the forces of Tagoot unite. “…Innal Batila Kana zahooqa.” The earth indeed belongs to God as does sovereignty belong to Him. This is indeed an existential, an ontological truth. Even a political truth if we can grasp larger divine scheme as embodied in history and how God dealt with erring communities. It needs profound understanding of doctrine of predestination and philosophy of history and a peep into the secret kingdom of angels and other forces that ultimately direct everything to see the point that God’s rule has always been there and what is called establishing his rule on earth by certain political or religious party is neither de facto a possibility nor de jure called for. All things evolve through certain deeper logic of history or destiny in Godward direction if we believe in the project of justifying God’s ways to men – theodicy. Isn’t God the real Agent of action as the Quran asserts and other scriptures concur? What on earth has been God doing if He has only been defeated by forces of Satan? Had God succeeded only briefly for few years in some classical or golden period in establishing his rule as projected or conceived according to one’s belief or He has always been somehow in control directing all things, from behind the screen if not in broad daylight? All religions believe the latter possibility. Ideologues of this or that brand of religious state in the former.
      Is there a way of clarifying the problem of identifying true or God’s “interpretation” of His word so that all those who speak in His name are better identified? Not that we need to identify his real advocates as He has appointed none according to the Quran. God needs no advocates as He has appointed more convincing and powerful signs for all to see or contemplate. And what is blindingly clear by contemplating these signs is something of the following.
      God, according to the Quran, has spoken so unambiguously and indisputably in anfus – in conscience, in our orientation towards the Good – in aafaaq – in breathtaking beauty and sublime majesty of nature. The scripture of the self (manich sipar) is for you and me to read. Few can claim to have read or realized it while so many fight that they have the right to interpret, even impose their reading of this scripture. He has spoken and prophets-seers have heard Him speak and we have some recording of His various recordings thanks to oral culture in almost all traditional cultures.
      God is not tempted to speak now. And previously when He is believed to have spoken, He kept silence on many issues on which we find His advocates breaking heads. He didn’t divide the world into two warring or antagonistic zones – the zone of the Holy and Not so Holy (distant equivalents of narrow politicized understanding of the Abode of Peace (Darul-Islam) and Abode of War (Darul-Harb). He left the choice of political systems largely to the wisdom of people. He appointed no advocates to clarify His position later. He spoke most unambiguously against exploitation or injustice and in matters of niceties of theology and sha’ria, He is tirelessly reminding us not to dispute over its content. We are given the impression that God has a constituency, a political party and seeks power. ISIS and RSS – to name only two of the most political and least religious of them – claim to be God’s people calling us to God’s Kingdom. A religious class who wears piety on the sleeve thinks God is in the image of their leader. They don’t invite us to the depths of our own selves/being or God as the Ground of being or “our ultimate concern” or “our ideality” or the ever expanding horizon of our love for the other but to themselves, to the States where they will rule in the name of God. The scriptures in the name of which we are silenced are all silent regarding any earthly kingdom of God or God’s State; their chief interest lies in inviting us to the Kingdom of God that is within us and which is best contemplated in silence and requires humility or consent to be nothing.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Hussain (AS) and Socrates

The world respects Socrates as the greatest moral teacher in philosophy, and has never stopped mourning his execution at the hands of the rulers of Athens. What was the charge against Socrates? That he corrupted the morals of the young, and defied the gods. What a charge against a man whom all agreed was the most just, one who cared above all for ethics, for improving people’s character.
      A similar charge was made against Hussain (AS): that he defied the authority of earthly gods in the name of justice or God. Socrates gladly accepted his execution, but defended himself during the trial, a defense – Apology – that needs to be read by all, especially those who think that Yazid’s authority shouldn’t have been challenged. Imam Hussain (AS)’s “apology” for refusing to pay allegiance to Yazid is well-known. Its essential spirit is the same as that of great moral thinkers.
      Since some scholars have sought to dilute the importance and sublimity of Hussain’s point of view in the name of political exigency, or pragmatic political wisdom as they conceive it, we need to revisit the moral argument against status quo that Socrates offered to the jury that condemned him to death.
      Socrates was condemned to death because he asked people embarrassing questions on issues such as justice, truth and wisdom. Anyone with any pretension to wisdom, to righteousness was cut to size. He asked people to honour divine matters above everything. He was the gadfly that disturbed the State which, therefore, wanted to remove him.
      Let us read excerpts from Socrates’ Apology to see how Hussain(AS) embodied not only the best in the Abrahamic tradition but also in the Hellenic one:
  • “And now I depart hence condemned by you to suffer the penalty of death, and they, too, go their ways condemned by the truth to suffer the penalty of villainy and wrong; and I must abide by my award - let them abide by theirs.. And I prophesy to you who are my murderers, that immediately after my death, punishment far heavier than you have inflicted on me will surely await you. Me you have killed because you wanted to escape the accuser, and not to give an account of your lives. But that will not be as you suppose: far otherwise. For I say that there will be more accusers of you than there are now; accusers whom hitherto I have restrained: and as they are younger they will be more severe with you, and you will be more offended at them. For if you think that by killing men you can avoid the accuser censuring your lives, you are mistaken; that is not a way of escape which is either possible or honorable. The easiest and noblest way is not to be crushing others, but to be improving yourselves. 
  • "....Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth - that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly that to die and be released was better for me… For which reason also, I am not angry with my accusers, or my condemners; they have done me no harm, although neither of them meant to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them. Still I have a favor to ask of them. When my sons are grown up, I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing, - then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are something when they are really nothing. And if you do this, I and my sons will have received justice at your hands. The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways - I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.”