Thursday, 25 February 2016

Debating the Canon of Shaikh-ul-Alam Studies

It could well be the most important book of the current century in research in Kashmiri literature.
G.N .Gowhar has already done so much for Sheikh-ul-Alam studies that no history of evolution of the discipline could bypass him. As he grows older his power and resolve to touch taboo areas has only increased. His magnum opus – gowhar- in this field was awaited by us from years and, despite his ill health, has come. Though bound to receive mixed and heated response, and generate debate both for and against some of his theses this Mu’taber Kulliyat-i-Shaikh-ul–Alam seems destined to reorient Sheikh ul Alam studies in a decisive way. It could well be the most important book of the current century in research in Kashmiri literature.
      So far proper historical criticism hasn’t been applied to Sheikh corpus. Even the laity and not to speak of many important scholars of the Sheikh has been uncomfortable with what goes popularly in his name. It is difficult to deny the charge of internal contradictions in the corpus and if we could attribute it to inauthentic ascriptions, we better serve the Sheikh. However I don’t think any case of seeming contradiction needs to be straightway admitted and I find many examples cited by Gowhar vulnerable to conciliatory thesis.
      Besides methodological tools of modern historiography that Kashmiri historians have yet to master or apply with courage and conviction, we ideally need to apply some key insights developed for Hadees criticism to the Sheikh corpus, especially for trying to accommodate or appropriate some seemingly problematic narratives traditionally attributed to him and reconciling seemingly divergent texts.
      Unavailability of original Shardha script and adaptation for Persian script for recording Sheikh’s poetry can’t be without costs with regard to fidelity to original Kashmiri language, especially some nuances that however make a big difference. Till date we have variant reading of certain shrukhs/vaakhs.
      Baba Nasib’s pioneering role must be appreciated and can’t be ignored or his work rashly edited but without forgetting that his style is ahistorical and allegorical. (P.13). Baba Nasib didn’t care to explicitly invoke or explain any criterion for choosing selections from the Sheikh corpus. He laments that he pigeonholed in certain preselected subjects of the whole corpus. (P.15). He has woven fictitious stories around Shaikh’s persona.
      Gowher finds all the previous compilations/selections wanting in certain important respects and one can’t but agree with his criticism part. Asrarul Abrar compiled after Rishi Nama of Nasibuddin by Baba Dawood Mishkati has unresearched narratives. Saqi receives just though somewhat harsh criticism on many accounts. Aafaqi, whom we can well call Tabari of Shaikh-al Alam studies (Tabari gathered whatever he could get from all sources without troubling himself too much about authenticity of the narratives thus transmitted and the costs of thus constructed history) receives the severest lashing, which is not underserved though it could have been, on certain points, more academic than polemical in style and more charitable. An example of less convincing criticism is Aafaqi’ s appropriation of the phrase mutafikun allaeh (agreed upon) traditionally used for common traditions of Bukhari and Muslim for what is common between Khalil Baba,  Kamal Baba, Baba Nasib and Mir Abdullah.
      Gowher pleads for rereading certain words or phrases that figure in Sheikh corpus, an endeavour he  brilliantly and incisively undertakes. He will receive more support on this account from both scholars and laity.
      While Gowher succeeds to convince almost all (except perhaps the exacting postmodern historian or myth/symbolism/metaphysics specialist) on the questions of principles and methodology he states as underlying his approach, one feels there is enough scope for debating his own application of those principles. For instance, his application of the principle that the Sheikh can’t contradict scriptural or received  Islamic lore to exclude such an expression regarding God’s seeming injustice  “na ieyes insaf na yiyes aar”  ( that figures in Hundred Shrukhs Gowher subjects to severe criticism and apparently humiliating or anti-tawhidic expression attributed to Mir Muhammad Hamdani “chi mangaan halem daerith.” Argument from  identifying unique style is more open ended than Gowher would have us believe. “Wavi meayni gravi  nitie Hazrates…” or the ghazal included in Aafaqi’s work as “Alishq sewallah ker ten saerae” have a style that doesn’t necessarily contain evidence of impossibility of attribution to the Shaikh – we find similar scholarly debates continuing for centuries in case of many ancient and medieval texts that don’t conclusively settle some contested  texts. We can point out  style of some authentic shrukhs being hardly distinguishable from 19th century mystic poetry.  While such central claims as there has been some admixture from other sources in key texts documenting Shaikh’s work is difficult to contest  though hard to digest for a traditional Kashmiri who has found reasons to be fond of seemingly most problematic legendary material including curses for certain regions  (like kouren doakh, noshen soakh) and lot of hagiographic material that appears scandalous to moral sense.
      Gowher does well not to impose titles to poems or vaakhs to avoid ideological framing or prejudices of the compiler. He doesn’t deem his work the last word but nevertheless titles it Muetber Kulliyat (Authentic Collection). He  acknowledge it requires a team work but did well to begin on his own. This will kick start attempts at more comprehensive attempts. Thank you Gowher Saheb for breaking the ice that has been gathering weight from centuries.
      Gowher doubts authenticity of often quoted texts attributed to the Shaikh including dialogue between the Shaikh and his mother. Although hagiographic part might be problematized on other grounds as well, the dialogue per se could probably be authentic. One finds somewhat corresponding examples in lives of Shaikh’s admired Buddha who leaves his wife so suddenly, and many Sufis. Moralistic arguments have limitations as pointed out by Guenon and others. It is ultimately metaphysic or esotericism that holds the key but which has received little attention from institutions devoted to editing texts of sages and saints or mystic poets.
      This path breaking book should generate debate on many accounts including how it engages with Lalla or her work. It seeks to draw radical conclusions from absence of historical documentation of her work and includes, against Lalla scholarship, such vaakhs as “Shiv chi thali thali rozan” in the current collection of Shaikh’s work.
      I wish a team of scholars who are well versed in Kashmir history and culture besides Persian language and mysticism and historiography debate this Kahvaett and move beyond it to help us have a better Criterion. It is easier to criticize Gowher but it is almost impossible to rival him by taking stock of all things that he has taken with such command.
      Although Gowher seems to be very particular about spelling his approach, he gives far less than deserved attention to hermeneutical issues that would have clarified some important problems including his own approach. He displays remarkable flexibility for interpreting or contextualizing such verses as “rindo henden henz kami travito” but doesn’t extend his charity  for ingenuously explaining some more seemingly problematic texts he excludes from the canon. Kahvyt deserves to be expanded into a book itself, like famous foreword of Ibn Khaldun to his history that constitutes a book length explanatory dissertation.
      Gowher is known for his analytical skills and linguistic virtuosity though one misses, on some important occasions, finer nuances of rigourously trained academic historian. Metahistorical-symbolic-archetypal-mythological notions aren’t to be subject to demythologizing historicist rationalist reading. Although Gowher does take care, generally speaking, while putting on trial big names and traditional reception and folk authority – he dedicates his work to Kamal Baba and Khalil Baba, he doesn’t explicitly spell out many of his assumptions that force him to drop some well known and well received  parts of the received Canon. As a Judge, he should demand more evidence to convict, at least, in few selected cases. Otherwise we have reasons to be believe in the claim of innocence and look askance at certain exclusions. For Kashmiris Shaikh-al-Alam is larger than history – almost metahistorical and symbolic figure – and lives in our collective unconscious, to use rather misleading term.
      To conclude, Gowher has, for the first time, exercized comprehensive ijtihad in Sheikh-al Alam studies and given us, though with imposed juridical slant, the book that will force us rethink the Rishi Canon. It is not a final Kahvyt but an important step towards preparing one. Although it makes some harsh and rather simplistic judgments but rightly points out the limitations of previous studies or canozing process. This is a book that will be impossible to ignore, for decades at least, until some better Kahvyt comes to be written. This book can only be improved; it can’t be wished away. And we Kashmiris owe to the author an immense gratitude and should pray for his long innings and health.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Religion of Mystery and Mystics

Science will die when it fails to wonder.

Socrates was declared the wisest Greek because he knew it is all Mystery and he knows nothing. Islam declared regarding the First Principle or Godhead – the Essence, the Truth or Zaat - that none knows it and we better acknowledge our bewilderment. Sufi’s journey ends in bewilderment – and therefore it never ends because one can’t cease experiencing revelations of Being, of which Heidegger, echoing mystics, talks. Love never ceases to entice, to devastate egos, to lead to greater and higher joys. Science will die when it fails to wonder or concludes it knows anything in all its depths and nuances. An artist keeps seeking more and more perfect embodiment of Infinite Beauty he elusively perceives or worships. Who can claim he knows infinite subtlety of dance of subatomic particles culminating in you and me who ask questions, zillions of possible neural connections, beauty and softness of moss on hard, dark rocks, healing power and otherworldly charm of child’s smile and mother’s kiss, organization of nucleic acids, proteins, organelles and cells  (and of anything in fact from lowly grass and ant to quasars) and Nothingness called consciousness?  A scientist unfolds, a poet celebrates, a philosopher contemplates, and a mystic becomes the part of the Mystery that is also joyful of which Messengers speak. The Mystery of subjectivity (who am I, of “I am that I am”), of intelligence that doubts  and asks why, of love that unites us and forces us to say goodbye to everything for its sake, of our certitude that is presupposed in every doubt of  the world, of the other.
      The world is so subtle, so charming, so beautiful, so wonderful, so elusive, so mysterious that if we ever care to see it without our ego/interests/ anxieties or thoughts intervening  we would fall in prostration and thank the One that grounds it all and that spirit of gratitude is what prayer or true religiosity is all about. For our deepest loves, obsessions, joys, there is no reason that reason can guess and we can say it is all sacred mystery. Fundamentalism, like Faustian scientism, seeks to demystify the world and ends by making it unliveable. It is the Question that keeps us fastened to life. When all our questions are answered in a manner that no more questions could be asked, we are in hell and will seek to commit suicide. Great wisdom is to live with “negative capability” or doubts or questions and not to be satisfied by answers popularly available from ideologies or populist preachers of all hues.
      Philosophy, art and religion have one meeting point and we can find almost all big minds in all these disciplines, in all ages, agreeing or understanding one another almost perfectly and this and that is reverence for wonder, for the mysterious or better the Mystery. Belief is in fact openness to the Al-Gayyib (the Unseen) which implies Mystery on the depths or essences of all things or phenomena. The interminable debate between theists and atheists is on certain important points merely linguistic and one can see all people declare the glory of God in their own ways, in the proportion their hearts and minds are capable of expanding. One prayer all humans need is “Rabbi Shrahli Sadri” (“O Lord, expand my breast”). The revelations of Being (what metaphysics calls Being, theology calls God and none disputes, in fundamental sense, the former but many, including many religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Chinese religions besides transtheistic mystics and atheists seem to dispute) are countless because “God is ever in new glory” and we see countless manifestations that constitute phenomena around (Aafaq) and within (Anfus) us inviting us to receive and contemplate them and wonder. “Keep wondering” is the first commandment if we are not to cease believing in the Real (Al-Haqq, the Real, the Truth, the Being – pure Being).
      The idea of God implies mystery and wonder. Speech, the “house of Being” could only have been received as a gift if Being is a gift. (God taught Bayan, says the Quran). Wittgenstein identified both ethics and aesthetics as transcendental or mysteriously grounded beyond self’s projections of space and time. All of Heidegger along with his powerful evoking of Holderlin is an invitation to be open to the Mystery called Being. Science solves problems but not the Mystery as Gabriel Marcel famously argued. Mystery involves us existentially; we participate in it. All things are holy or all is holy ground, exclaim Judaic and Islamic sources. And the holy is what fascinates and that is an aspect of Mystery. Art is grounded and leads to the mysterious. Philosophy not only begins in wonder but culminates in it as well if we see how philosophers from Plato to Levinas and Buber concluding with the note that the Other escapes our calculative rationality and we must die into the Thou.
      It is mysticism in religion that has affirmed the rights of the Mystery and our essential groundedness in the Mystery – we being only a clearing for Being as Heidegger would put it and warns us against reason as the greatest enemy of  what he calls thinking. We find  appropriation of the Mystery or mystical element in all great modern thinkers from Nietzsche to Heidegger to Derrida to Levinas. Name any great name in literature – one may easily recall figures such as Khalil Gibran, Tagore, Iqbal, Hesse, Kazanzakis, Camus, Beckett, Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch, Pamuk and Saramagov and one can find mystical element quite easily. Even the most famous amongst rationalist philosophers Russell has acknowledged complementarily of logic and mysticism in integral view of life. Wittgenstein read Tagore’s poetry in a convention of positivists. Absurdists also resort to mysticism to move beyond the absurd. The death of God theology and most post-Christian theologies and postmodern theologies are appropriations of ‘mystical.’ Mysticism, rightly understood, is the one thing needful towards which modern man gropes. Modern criticisms of religion are not rejection of the mystical. Mysticism, understood rightly, has not been deposed by modern thought. The world today is ready to learn from Rumi and Hafiz and Khayyam. It has intellectually and largely politically as well defeated fundamentalism that is arrogant and persecutes mysticism. Atheism can’t but respect mystics who have perfected the art of attention. Bugbie like atheist mystics almost converge with theistic mystics like Rumi and Iqbal when it comes to affirming love and selfless action. A critique of New atheists by Karen Armstrong is so persuasive it is grounded in mysticism. The last word is given to mystics by all great theologians including Aquinas and Ghazzali. When attention is perfected we see only God or through God’s eyes and it is all a perfection, a paradise, a feast of sense and intellect. Juristic cum theological critiques of Sufism as esotericism (and gnosis) constitute a category mistake and though once influential (when Hegel has not said God is dead) today fall flat when it is the likes of Heidegger or Derrida or Beckett that have to be addressed. In the war against disbelief and nihilism, Sufism or mysticism is the panacea or key armour. Take Mansoor Hallaj seriously, Derrida is reported to have said in his last years. In the age of Nietzsche and Derrida, old literalist theologies don’t work. It is Eckharts and Ibn Arabis that are, and need to be rediscovered. It is neo-Sufis like Guenons and Schuons and Lings that are heard and need to be heard. The best minds have always been converted through mystics primarily. It is what Arnold’s Preaching of Islam documents. Let us not forget, after postmodern turn, it is either the age of mystics or mystically tinged philosophy.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Laughter as Holy Obligation

Have a feast of humour with Mujtuba Hussain, because taking affairs of life too seriously is a disease according to Plato.
Despite the traditional recommendation of blessing anyone who laughs – “May God ever keep you laughing”  – there are few zinda dil people (who laugh and make others laugh without hurting the other or compromising truth) around and fewer zinda dil writers (writers often are either found as if weeping or bragging or envying or at least complaining about other writers) and still fewer zinda dil preachers (how many can you name?).
      Taking affairs of life too seriously is a disease according to Plato. Laughter is a great wazeefa that  modern Pirs need to suggest to disciples.  For Rumi laughter reaches the deepest depths of Godhead. Mujtuba Hussain is almost perfect example of zinda dil writer. He, better than psychoanalysts, scans his contemporaries with fun and insight leaving no bitterness nor selling any falsehoods. This great art of portrait writing has few masters. And Mujtaba is the greatest Master of humorous portraiture in Urdu, so argues Irshad Aafaqi’s Mujtuba Hussain Bihasyati Mazaheaa Khaka Nigaar. Today something about the passion of this king of Urdu humour.

      With some other great Urdu and Kashmiri writers, Mujtuba shares influence of Nietzsche and seeks to convert life into art and calls laughter world’s greatest adventure and holy obligation or what we may put as farzi ayn. The last or deepest message of some of the greatest thinkers and writers is: Let us laugh and laugh away this “sorry state of affairs”  that life appears to be as “child’s play.” God, we will forgive your bigger jokes you have played on us if you forgive our smaller one, quipped a great poet. Beckett’s defense against life’s jokes played on us is big though bitter laughter.  Josh thought that he will make God’s chastisement laugh by reading an ode to divine mercy. The best thing is to make life into Zafran Zar by taking all things as occasions for laughter. Here Mujtuba will help us better as he has no bitterness, no demands from the universe.
      One factor in Farooq Abdullah’s charisma is ability to give audience the sauce of humour. One important difference between NC and PDP is better humour in the former and that has enabled Farooq to fight ill health and explains why Mufti Sayeed left earlier. Omar Abdullah, I fear, resembles Mufti Sayyed rather than his father in being too serious. Seriousness is often connected with slavery to ego. I propose starting every day, after prayers, with a joke. A joke in the form of a passage from a classic of humour should be part of every morning assembly in schools. All office work should have 5 minutes break – joke break. Those who are able to crack jokes should be specially honoured by society – we might divert minuscule of salary or fees of doctors or health budget to create and run the Department of Humour to prevent so many diseases. Often we don’t need a doctor but visit to a friend or relative or philosopher who can immunize us and neutralize the poison away with a joke. If you have none of the great calibre in this field in your list of acquaintances, read Mujtaba, read Yusufi and of course Patras and Rashid Ahmed Siddiqi whom one doesn’t fail to love. If you can’t read Mujtabi, read at least few extracts from Irshad Aafaqi’s book, from which some are reproduced here and some from elsewhere.
      Slightly modifying and paraphrasing Mujtaba on collecting calendars: I have seen such people who buy lots of clothes to cover their bodies but while buying a calendar select only that one who has beauties (bollywood heroines) that are too poor to afford clothes. See Mujtaba against despair:"Hansana hi Insan ki shaan-i-kaj kulahi hae, yehi uska turra imtiyaz hae aur yehi is ki kismet bhi. Jis din insane hensi ki taqdees aur pakeezgi ko samjlaega aur jis din her insaan ko uskae hisae kae qahqahae mil jayee gae, us din yeh dunya jannat ben jayae gi.”
      Regarding craze to buy a new calendar "jis qoam nae tazeei awqaat kae liyae cultural prograamu sae lae ker mushairuu tek hazaroo tareeqae iejaad ker rekhae hu us kae liaye nayey our puranaey saal ki tekhsees kuch achi maloom nahi hoti."  The husband’s reply to a wife complaining to husband for not providing her a good house: “ I love you so much that I think it is better to save all money and prepare for Taj Mahal like building after your death.” “A poor poet he has been consumed by fikri gazal O if he had some fikri ma’aash.”   About disappearing culture of Hyderabad: “He finds no Hyderabad in Hyderabad.” On mother tongue his one liner is “Today mother tongue is what mother can speak but her son can’t."  "I congratulate those writers who don’t get any award. It is indeed honourable and deserves congrats that one can escape from awards without losing integrity I don’t know why after getting Academy award the book appears awarded but the author punished ( kitab to inam yafta lagti hae leikin adeeb zaroor saza yafta lagta hae.) His own self portrait is indeed a classic of confessional writing that washed away all his sins as Mekhmoor Sayeedi remarked.  All poets and would be poets should read his “Ghazal Supplying and Manufacturing Company” (along with Mushfiq Khawja’s “Shayri ya azab-i-Illahi.” How much of a nuisance second rate poets are he shows so humourously that we should thank poets for being nuisance and giving us opportunity to laugh. Regarding inability to read books after marriage: “After marriage my life itself has become a big book. My wife adds a new chapter every year and today every leaf of the book is scattered.” Those who pretend reading books in train: “Books on their bosoms and they are sleeping.  It is books that are reading them.”
      The feast that is Mujtaba is presented for our easy digestion and assimilation by various Urdu scholars. Irshad Aafaqi is an addition to this select band of writers. His elegant prose and dexterous quotations indicate that Bandipore is rediscovering its heritage of focus on ilm and adab.
      Irshad Aafaqi has, however, inherited a classical vice in Urdu researchers writing desertations: they write mainly around the topic in the bulk of the thesis reserving generally only one chapter for proper topic. Why write typology and history and grammar and minidictionary of humour in the first place in a thesis devoted to Mujtaba as we can find all these things in dozen other works? The thesis could have been written in 30 pages only: we are already short of paper. But these 30 or so pages do reflect our author’s command over the material he handles. The rest of the book is nevertheless useful for general readers as an introduction to humour writing in Urdu.
      Readers and critics would have better appreciated if Aafaqi, in his widely reviewed work,  had not forgotten pointing out any limitation of Mujtaba or refreshing comparison with world class humourists across traditions and cultures. l was unable to find any portrait of Mujtaba by the author in the style echoing Mujtaba. Instead he has been dealt with seriously! Afaqi does meticulously bring good number of relevant quotations although “forgets” to give source of certain views he pleads for. Much has been written on Mujtaba’s homour including humour in his portraits and one wonders how come anything really original could be said in a new book. Aafaqi hasn’t said new things and perhaps couldn’t invent a new way of laughing with Mujtaba but he has sifted and commented upon previous material in a way that we indeed have a new book that sums up and anthologizes some of the best in Mujtaba and although it deals with humour, is free from authorial humour.
      I conclude on a political note from Mujtaba on leader’s giving new year message and shubkamnaye: “We know that until these leaders are in politics till then no year will be the year of joys.”

Friday, 5 February 2016

Ummah! Revisiting Raji al-Faruqi

The conception of Ummah seems to be a connecting link to the host of ideas he advocated with great force.
Living in a world that appears to be decisively shaped by Enlightenment ideals, how do we theorize the conception of Islamic international community/world order or Ummah, especially in terms that modern political thought would be compelled to take a serious note of? How is it possible to teach to a world wedded to notions of democracy, nation-state, international bodies, like UN, that there is a possible ideal or an alternative to the whole trajectory that has been taken? Today, when political philosophy is exploring afresh once abandoned thinkers or notions to help us manoeuvre the problems and contradictions that have been bequeathed us by Enlightenment thinkers, we discuss a philosopher-martyr, first rate scholar and theorist of Islam and comparative religion and brilliant postcolonial intellectual, Ismail Raji Al-Faruqi who also theorized alternative political approach based on his appropriation of traditional Islamic sources. His institutionalisation of the project of Islamization of knowledge, understood as one of the attempts by postcolonial critics to write back to the Empire, has been an idea that inspired diverse scholars to come up with alternative histories and even epistemologies of history of sciences, and one can see it resonating or echoing in many thought currents that question hegemony of Eurocentrism and Scientism. The conception of Ummah seems to be a connecting link to the host of ideas he advocated with great force. I don’t know of any important Muslim thinker who has deliberated on the idea of Ummah in modern history and has excelled him in comprehensiveness, erudition and mastery of a host of modern disciplines from comparative religion to comparative theology to philosophy of natural and human sciences, that one needs to effectively articulate a much ignored and misunderstood concept.  He has been called a modern Mujtahid and I would like to explore the possibility of dialogue between him, Falzur Rahman (who brought him to Pakistan), Nasr (who was also greatly interested in Islamization or more precisely Traditionalization of Knowledge project) and Ziauddin Sardar (who has insightfully written on Muslim predicament in the postmodern world, but is critical of Nasr and revivalist camp, though  has been active contributor to Islamization of knowledge project). Muslim world needs all of them and many more to add to what Sardar calls a critical mass of public intellectuals who would help articulate an authentic and informed Muslim response to modernity, especially its politics.
      I think methodologically Faruqi is simply brilliant and one might concede his key terms of debate or accept his framing of the issue. Imagine a huge voluntary organization with over a billion members committed to giving witness to truth, reason, tolerance, dialogue and fighting oppression anywhere in the world even at the cost of their lives. It constitutes a community with great resources at its command. This “organization” is funded wholly from internal resources and members are motivated by religious vision they all share. Wouldn’t all well-meaning people push for such a state of affairs and volunteer to serve it or facilitate it? And this is how al-Faruqi has presented the idea of Ummah in modern (though not in postmodern) idiom.
      I briefly mention some basic ideas and principles of the concept of ummah formulated in Faruqi’s work that are relevant to the debate on secularization, Khilafah or Islamic State. To quote him:
  • “The ummah is an order of humans consisting of a tripartite consensus of mind, heart, and arm… In its purview, all men are one, measurable only in terms of piety. There is hence no Tawhid without the Ummah.”
  • “Ummah is necessarily universal, intended to cover humanity. Islam countenances no color, no race, no chosen people complex, no nationalism, no relativism in anything that matters.”
  • “… the Ummah is responsible for mankind. The highest standard is justice. The Muslim is obliged to realize it in his person, his family, his country, the world, or on the other side of the moon. Likewise, he is obliged to redress the balance of justice whenever and wherever it is upset by anyone, be he commoner of king.”
  • “The Ummah is a universal order comprehending even those who are not believers. It is an order of peace, a Pax Islamica, forever open to all those individuals and groups who accept the principle of the freedom to convince and to be convinced of the truth, who seek a world order in which ideas, goods, wealth, or human bodies are free to move. The Pax Islamica is an international order far surpassing the United Nations, that child of yesteryear, aborted and warped by the principles of the nation state and the dominion of the “big powers,”…  and ultimately based on axiological and ethical relativism.”
       Given mystical undercurrent of (post)modern and traditionalist scholarship and sensibility that emphasizes metaphysical-esotericist hermeneutics of Sufis, it might find al-Faruqi’s key ideas regarding the religious other and binary of Islamization vs. Tradiionalization, or his over-stretching of ummatism vs. nation-state binary somewhat problematic, his compelling presentation is needed to be appropriated for better understanding of traditional Muslim theological viewpoint. Al-Faruqi himself is, methodologically, quite open to debate anything under the sun as would appear from his following statements: 
  • “Islamic da’wah is…an invitation to think, to debate and argue. The right to think is innate and belongs to all men. No man may preemptively deny it to any human. … da’wah must be the end product of a critical process of intellection. Da’wah is directed to Muslims as well as non-Muslims.” Da’wah is anamnesis. Da’wah is the call of man to return to himself.”
  • “God, in Islam, is the truth. His unity is the unity of the sources of truth.” “As methodological principle, rationalism is constitutive of the essence of Islamic civilization. It consists of three rules or laws: first, rejection of all that does not correspond with reality; second, denial of ultimate contradictories; third, openness to new and/or contrary evidence. The Muslim is definable as the person who claims nothing but the truth…The third rule, openness to new or contrary evidence, protects the Muslim against literalism, fanaticism, and stagnation causing conservatism. It inclines him to intellectual humility.” 
      Although most of the questions that immediately arise in the modern mind regarding the notion of Ummah are also addressed by him, however, some question that intrigue us receive less attention. For instance, given effective idea of Ummah in force for centuries, would this world have any serious problems still left and would there be need for other people from different organizations without any religious motivation, or motivated by purely secular factors, to be even better known or more zealously involved in similar work than the members of such a community/organization? What would one think if such a huge organization has not been able to even state clearly what it is for and most of its own members are confused regarding its basic mandate and other people fear it and wish this didn’t exist? 
      What is needed is a critical engagement with al-Faruqi, not what he espouses in details but how strictly or consistently he is able to stick to the principles he so insightfully articulates. We need to emphasize open ended nature of rationality, wisdom, intellection, dialogue, tolerance that al-Faruqi emphasizes himself as methodological and hermeneutical principles. It appears to me that there are attempts to foreclose certain possibilities in Faruqi himself and we need to resist. The most surprising is his critique of Sufi understanding of Tawhid. If ever there has been an open, intellectual, objective approach it is Sufi one. Explorations of ideas of justice in Rawls, in Sen and Derrida, for instance, should  not be irrelevant in theorizing the strategies tackled to face challenges humanity – Ummah’s horizon – collectively suffers.  If the fruit of dawah is wisdom, and we can acknowledge that humankind is agreed on pursuit of wisdom, we can, with Al-Faruqi, critique all exclusivist ideological notions that have divided us or have been hegemonic. I wonder if any significant difference would be made if we substitute the word Transcendence centric for Islamic (which Faruqi himself primarily defines in terms that emphasize Transcendence of Divine Principle) but how much would be gained in terms of communicative dialogue with secular and religious fundamentalist. Al-Faruqi’s legacy is relevant in critiquing both ISIS and other ideologies appropriating Islam minus its methodological universalism and secularism ignorant of the First Principles.