Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Taha Hussein

How current “modern” Islam radicalized into negative and oppressive precepts?

I’ll discuss three radical trends: The Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, the Wahhabi Islam brand in the Arabic Peninsula, and the Ben Laden (Al Qaeda) for international jihadists.

1. In 1929, Egypt was relatively the most modern State in the Arab World. The Al Azhar religious university was guided by an enlightened sheikh Abdel Razeq.  Author Taha Hussein had published a very controversial book on poetry during Jahiliya period (before Islam in the Arabic Peninsula), and the Egyptian court refused to ban it.

During that period, the monarchs Fouad and Farouk and their entourage went overboard emulating the western life-style and flaunting blatantly their unacceptable behaviors to the little people.

Hassan al Banna (founder of the Brotherhood in 1929) jumped at the occasion of life-styles that obfuscated the common people and blamed the modern interpretation of Islamic teachings as a cover to the to the ill-behavior of the ruling classes.

Consequently, a return to Chariaa and fundamental “bedouin” Islam: tribal ancient customs and rules were prescribed in order to overcome the current degenerate conditions that will weaken the Moslem spirit for Jihad against the infidels…

The presence of colonial Britain in Egypt was mainly opportunistic catalysts for every time the British governor harshly confronted street demonstrations and uprisings…

Colonial western life-style was added as a practical dimension to the reactions of the Brotherhood members. The Brotherhood was implicitly regarded anti-colonial and, as a logical result, a de facto national movement…

2. The Wahhabi brand of Islam.  This sect was initiated by Abd el Wahhab in the Najd region in the Arabic peninsula in the early 19th century, during the Ottoman Empire. This Hanafi sect was quickly supported by the emirs in Najd, particularly the Saud tribe, and is currently classified as the fourth admitted sect in Sunni Islam.

Mainly, the Wahhabi movement was opposed to the Ottoman Empire, which didn’t really administered directly the Arabic Peninsula, and was funded and supported with arms by the British Empire, which had plans to occupy strategic ports in Aden (Yemen) and the Arabic/Persian Gulf.

Mind you that Islam of the Ottoman Empire was pretty loose and accommodating since the foundation of the Empire, and the Chariaa was observed with wide latitude  All that the Sultan wanted was the title of Calif of all the Moslems.

It happened that in the early 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was wide open to western culture and life-style and some Constitutional reforms were underway, called “Tanzimat” (Regulations)

The British got wary of reforms starting in the Ottoman Empire, and worked on minorities to destabilize the already shaky and declining Ottoman Empire. And how best to rally the tribes around in the peninsula if not by adopting opposite theological and radical religious positions against the Calif?

And quick to a drastic shift to the “fundamentals” of Islam, as the Protestants acted against the Catholic Church in the 15th century. What are these fundamentals? Abolishing and destroying all icons, pictures of Imams and Holy men, prohibiting pilgrimage to Imam sites wide dispersed in all Islamic world, as substitute to the expensive pilgrimage to Mecca…And back to Bedouin customs, traditions, setting more constraints on women…: The modus operandi to rooting the movement within the dominant tribes.

The Ottoman Sultan kept harassing his Viceroy in Egypt, Muhammad Ali, to send an expeditionary military force to wipe out the spreading of the Wahhabi uprising.  Finally, Ali dispatched his young 19-year old second son who entered Mecca and liberated it from the Wahhabis after many difficulties. The elder son Ibrahim Pasha carried out an extensive campaign for years and managed to enter and destroy the main City-State of the Wahhabi inside the deep desert.

And for two decades, the Wahhabi movement subsided, until the Egyptian forces had to return home. The British resumed their funding and support for the Wahhabi movement and eventually conquered all of the Peninsula in 1923.

Since Sadat of Egypt acceded to power in 1970, the Saudi Arabia absolute monarchy had been building mosques all over Egypt and hiring clerics of Wahhabi  inclination, re-publishing their own Coran and distributing it for free…

3. The Ben Laden phenomena of international jihadist movement. Ben laden kept swinging between the Moslem Brotherhood and the Wahhabi sect, driven by the political opportunities opened to him and which captured his attention. Ben laden had no fundamental theological doctrine or dogma and with no definite long-term purpose for his movement.

In the early 1980, he was a CIA agent and was dispatched by Saudi Arabia to usurp the nascent movement of Arab Jihadist flocking to the city of Peshawar (Pakistan) to be trained and sent to fight the Soviet communists in Afghanistan. The CIA wanted to be in control of the “resistance movement” against the Soviet…

After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, no Arabic State wanted these fighters to return home. These jihadists were relocated to created Hot Spots around the world. The CIA took charge of that bounty of cheap recruits who are zealot and already trained and dispatched them to “containment regions” under the Soviet dominion…It was still the Cold War era.

To make a long story short, (extensively developed in a previous article) the US became an ideal target for the Al Qaeda movement which resulted in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the reactions in conducting frequent drone attacks killing potential Al Qaeda “leaders”…

Note 1: The US has got to understand that the Arab peoples feel that an entire century was wasted, for nothing, and worse than going back to point one in 1918, where the Arab people hoped and demanded independence, and the colonial mandated powers replaced the Ottoman and created the Zionist state of Israel. More on that in a follow-up article.

Note 2: How to win war on terrorism https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/how-can-i-win-the-war-on-%E2%80%9Cterrorism%E2%80%9D-part-two/

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Reactions to “Why the Arab World is not free?” (July 10, 2009)

I decided to post a reply to my book review “Why the Arab World is not free?” by Moustapha Safouan

“I am the son of two civilizations that have formed a happy marriage. The first civilization is 7 thousand years old of Pharaonic Egypt; the second is Islamic of one thousand four hundred years old.  One day the great Pyramids will disappear but Truth and Justice will remain for as long as Mankind has a reflective mind and a living conscience.

A Moslim Caliph returned prisoners of war to the Byzantium Empire in exchange of ancient Greek manuscripts in philosophy, medicine and mathematics. This is a testimony of value for the human spirit in its demand for knowledge; the believer in One God demanded the fruits of a pagan civilization.

It was my fate to be born in the lap of these two civilizations and to feed on their literature and art. The truth of the matter is that Evil is a loud and boisterous debaucherer, and that Man remembers what hurts more than what gives pleasure. Our great poet Abul-‘Alaa’ Ma’ari was right when he said: “A grief at the hour of death is more than a hundred-fold Joy at the hour of birth.”

When the Moslem’s Armies extended their territories from Spain to current Pakistan, they took possession of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and other Greek thinkers.

One of the prime reasons attributed to Moslims’ intellectual enhancement in the Middle Ages is the considerable influence of Greek philosophy to a rational new religion.

Up to the nineth century Muslim intellectuals valued reason in their interpretation of the Koran and Hadith.  Our present day Moslem heroes associate with the rational past.

In early Islam there was a philosophical debate that started with al-Ghazali and resumed by Ibn Rushd that led the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II (1451-1481), the conqueror of the Capital Byzantium, to order two of the Empire’ scholars to compile books to summarize the debate between Ghazali and Ibn Rushd.

The philosophy of al-Ghazali was attacking the ideas of Avicenna or Ibn Sina (980-1037) and Farabi who were inspired by Aristotle, Plato, and Plotinus.

Avicenna is known as al-Sheikh Rais (Leader among the wise men); in the west, he is also known as the “Prince of Physicians” for his famous medical text Qanun “Canon”. In Latin translations, his works influenced many Christian philosophers, most notably Thomas Aquinas.

The spread of Hellenistic philosophy in the Moslim world was expounded by the first Arabic philosopher Kindi (800-865) who wrote many works on Greek science and philosophy. As a mathematician Kindi realized the importance of Aristotelian logic. Farabi’s ideal rulers would be chosen for their intelligence and educated in science, philosophy, and religion.

According to Farabi, the best ruler for this Muslim state would be a “philosopher-king“, a concept described in Plato’s Republic. One of the most important contributions of Farabi, beyond his political views and scientific philosophies, was to make the study of logic easier by dividing it into two categories – Takhayyul (idea) and Thubut (proof). He wrote several sociological books, including his famous work – Al-Madina al-Fadila (The Model City). 

In Andalusia (Spain) Ibn Rushd commented on Al Ghazali, argument by argument, defending the power of rational and investigative thinking; his work became the foundation for Europe Renaissance in understanding Aristotle.

This part of history needs to be written; there are no takers yet. Orthodoxy in Islam rarely allows the treatise of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037), Kindi (800-865) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) to become the syllabus of mainstream thought process.  A Moslem student might revere Avicenna and Averroes but he is not offered the opportunity to read their works.

If Avicenna and Averroes’s thinking were part of the dialogue within Islam then the sun of the golden era would have never set. We cannot cite Khayyam as an example of a great poet and completely forget the message he gave. We may disagree with Khayyam, but introducing his thinking will help us to determine what pluralism is all about.

The works of our thinkers need to be revisited and their books should form an integral part of our academia. Khayyam is described as an atheist, philosopher, and naturalist.

The constant themes of Khayyam’s poetry are the certainty of death, the pointlessness of asking unanswerable questions, the mysteriousness of the universe, and the necessity of living joyfully the present. This is clearly reflected in the verses taken from Rubaiyat: “…How much more of the mosque, of prayer and fasting? Better go drunk and begging round the taverns. Khayyam, drinks wine, for soon this clay of yours will make a cup, bowl, one day a jar….”

The Iranian Shirin Ebadi (Abadi) is another Nobel laureate suffering at the hands of the radicals. Shirin Abadi, Islam’s most famous civil rights activists and a Nobel Prize winner, said in her acceptance speech:

“Allow me to say a little about my country, region, culture and faith. I am an Iranian. A descendent of Cyrus The Great. The Charter of Cyrus the Great is one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights. I am a Muslim. In the Koran the Prophet of Islam has been cited as saying: “Thou shalt believe in thine faith and I in my religion”. That same divine book sees the mission of all prophets as that of inviting all human beings to uphold justice. Since the advent of Islam, Iran’s civilization and culture has become imbued and infused with humanitarianism, respect for the life, belief and faith of others, propagation of tolerance and compromise and avoidance of violence, bloodshed and war. The luminaries of Iranian literature, in particular our Gnostic literature, from Hafiz, Mowlavi [better known in the West as Rumi] and Attar to Saadi, Sanaei, Naser Khosrow and Nezami, are emissaries of this humanitarian culture.”

The dark ages within any civilization is characterized with dogmatic extremism that denies civil liberties, including freedom of religion and justice or the right to a fair trial. ‘Golden age’ on the other hand should be about the freedom of expression and availability of justice for the downtrodden. A society is judged not by its standards of the richest but by the way the under privileged and the poorest live.

A minor renaissance within the regions under the influence of Islam can be traced, but the conditions that help ‘seeds of reason’ to take roots that are essential for freethinking were just not allowed to be nurtured.

Unfortunately, in the current Arab world, the true values are rarely ever discussed freely. During the ‘Golden Age’ periods there was particularly strong tradition of rationalism known as the Mu3tazalah. They stressed that man is inherently free and were skeptic on the predestination concept that everything was foreordained. The Mutazilites carefully cultivated an ‘enlightened moderation’ and allowed for the growth of knowledge and actively promulgated the Sciences as a part of the religion doctrine.

Muslim countries supply 70% of the world’s energy requirements and 40% of its raw material exports. With all of their oil wealth, two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in Muslim countries.

This state of misery is unparalleled; Islam’s inability to translate its economic prowess into general good has baffled the intelligentsia of the world. In the last 20 years over one million people died in conflicts involving intra Muslim wars.

Why are democracy and the rule of law nonexistent in most Moslim states?

Why are most of the worst acts of terrorism carried out in the name of Islam?

Whenever wicked fundamentalists have taken over reins of affairs they have gone for the jugular. Extremists have a single point agenda whereby ‘worldly decadence’ needs to be abolished for blessings and rewards in the after world.

No devotion can gratify the extremists; every strain of deviancy over times has its own brand of virtuous approach; these anarchists at one point have inflicted devastation on embryonic societies of Islam.

            Renaissance cannot be tainted with colour of ideology, it cannot be ‘Islamic or Christian,’ it is collective effort of minds to seek freedom from dogma and seek answers to complex questions of purpose of existence on this planet. Free thinking, logic and rationalism have to be the corner stone of any serious attempt to induce renaissance in the Islamic world. Pluralism of ideas and the prosperity of any land are intertwined. Freedom of minds and skill to ‘think the unthinkable’ is how humanity has progressed; when minds are incarcerated nothing endures.

Renaissance within all three monolithic religions was built around norms of free mind; Renaissance was about literature, architecture, arts and chiseling of marble to exquisite forms. The statue of David could only be created by the love of the free labor of Michelangelo: an enslaved mind could never be an artist or a creator. Physically enslaved men with free minds led revolutions and changed the world: they were ready to accept death instead of compromise with totalitarian or dogmatic despotism.

The first and foremost challenge that Islam has to face is freedom of intellectual enquiry, ability to ask the unthinkable and still be able to live in peace within a society.

Prof. Ahmad Zewail‘s use of the fast laser technique can be likened to Galilei’s use of his telescope that he directed towards everything that lit up the vault of heaven. Zewail tried his femtosecond laser on literally everything that moved in the world of molecules. He turned his telescope towards the frontiers of science. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry because he was the first to conduct experiments that clearly show the decisive moments in the life of a molecule – the breaking and formation of chemical bonds. He has been able to see the reality behind Arrhenius’ theory.

Prof. Ahmad Zewail acceptance speech, like Ebadi’s, referred to his richness of twin civilisations that of Islam and Egypt. He said:

Let me begin with a reflection on a personal story, that of a voyage through time. The medal I received from his Majesty this evening was designed by Erik Lindberg in 1902 to represent Nature in the form of the Goddess Isis – or eesis – the Egyptian Goddess of Motherhood. She emerges from the clouds, holding a cornucopia in her arms and the veil which covers her cold and austere face is held up by the Genius of Science. Indeed, it is the genius of science which pushed forward the race against time, from the beginning of astronomical calendars six millennia ago in the land of Isis to the femtosecond regime honoured tonight for the ultimate achievement in the microcosmos. I began life and education in the same Land of Isis, Egypt, made the scientific unveiling in America, and tonight, I receive this honor in Sweden, with a Nobel Medal which takes me right back to the beginning. This internationalization by the Genius of Science is precisely what Mr. Nobel wished for more than a century ago.”

Professor Ahmed H. Zewail, the only Arab to ever win a Nobel Prize for science and, since the death of the Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, the only one among the 1.2 billion Muslims with that honor.

Dr. Taha Hussein in his Nobel acceptance speech said: “The end will begin when seekers of knowledge become satisfied with their own achievements.

Unfortunately the embryonic renaissance in the late 700’s to 1300 of Islam was not extinguished by the satisfaction of its scientist’s queries; rather it was killed on the altar of dogma.

Abdus Salam once wrote:

“The Holy Koran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah’s created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart.”

Sad and tragic is the reality that this scion of Pakistan was not allowed to be buried in his homeland; an orphaned son of a nation thanked the luminaries on behalf of a nation who had disowned him. In his acceptance speech Abdus Salam said: “… I thank the Nobel Foundation and the Royal Academy of Sciences for the great honor and the courtesies extended to us, including the courtesy to me of being addressed in my language Urdu. Pakistan is deeply indebted to you for this. The creation of Physics is the shared heritage of all mankind. East and West, North and South have equally participated in it.

In the Holy Book of Islam, Allah says: ‘Thou seest not, in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection, Return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure. Then Return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze, Comes back to thee dazzled and aweary.”

On the global stage, it is these “heretical” scientists who are disowned by the Moslem orthodox clergy who have earned the greatest respect for Islam. Historically, we have distorted our real heroes into heretics, and the witch-hunt still continues. Dr. Abdus Salam is not the only one treated as heretic; we have the modern rationalist, Naguib Mahfouz – Nobel laureate in literature. Citation of his work, ‘Awlad Haratina,’ in the Swedish Academy’s declaration of award of the Nobel Prize to Mahfouz in 1988 greatly angered the Islamicists.

His novel appeared in English under the title, “The Children of Gebelawi.” Shortly after the eruption of the Rushdie affair, the leading fundamentalist, Omar Abd al-Rahman currently imprisoned in the US for his role in the attack on the World Trade Centre—declared that if they had killed Mahfouz in 1959 for writing ‘The Children of Our Alley,’ Rushdie would never have dared write his novel. This was taken as a fresh fatwa to kill Mahfouz.

In 1994 a failed attempt on his life leaft Mahfouz paralysed in his right arm. The crime of association of present day heroes of Islam with their past intellectual ancestors has marginalised them. It was the same Mahfouz who presented the case of his twin civilisations so adequately in the forum of ‘Swedish academy of sciences’ and quoted the great Muslim rationalist poet Abul-‘Alaa’ Ma’ari who asserted everywhere “the rights of reason against the claims of custom, tradition and authority.”

The world cannot remain hostage to medieval concepts; this modern fight has to be seen in its intellectual, historical and geographical context.  The Islamic world today is trying to re-ignite its lost “renaissance” but is led by demented people with medieval minds; they are supposed to cure our ills but are out in the open to slaughter and maim thousands. Respect of life is the first sign of an educated mind.

The Arabic language was synonymous with learning and science for 500 hundred years; a golden age that can count among its credits the precursors to modern universities, algebra, and the names of the stars and even the notion of science as an empirical inquiry. Science flourished in the Golden Age of Islam because there was within Islam a strong rational tradition of inquiry.

This tradition stressed human free will.  Under the Mut3azalah (enlightened moderation) knowledge grew. Moslim conventional Puritanism, led by Ghazali, reawakened in the twelfth century.  The Moslem puritans championed revelation over reason, predestination over free will. The Imam Ghazali described mathematics and medicine as (Fard-E-Kefaya) placing these knowledge secondary to religious knowledge.

A few Islamic clergies are trying to introduce elements of bigotry and fanaticism in mainstream Islamic thought. Our modern day laureates depict equally a sense of great connectivity to the rich past and that has to become a standard. Most likely the Islamic Renaissance that was about to be born 1000 years ago did not. We shall never know the extent of the harm that some celebrated religious zealots caused to mankind and civilization.

We are once again at the crossroads; the only ways forward is to connect with the world and help make ours a true charitable society, the only way prosperity of mind can be ensured is through pluralism of ideas.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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