Saturday, April 16, 2011

Final Post - Islam: A Short History

Finished the book. A couple of interesting bits, and then we're moving on.

"By the fourteenth century, the study and observance of the Shariah was the only type of piety to be accepted by all Muslims, Sunni and Shii, Sufi and Faylasuf alike. By this time, the ulama liked to believe that these laws had been in place from the very beginning of Islamic history. Thus while some Sufis, such as Rumi, were beginning to glimpse new horizons, many of the ulama believed that nothing ever changed. Hence they were content that the 'gates of ijtihad' were closed. After the loss of so much of the learning of the past, the destruction of manuscripts and the slaughter of scholars, it was more important to recover what had been lost than to inaugurate more change. Because the Mongol military code made no provision for civil society, the ulama continued to govern the lives of the faithful, and their influence tended to be conservative. Where Sufis such as Rumi believed that all religions were valid, by the fourteenth century the ulama had transformed the pluralism of the Qur'an into a hard communalism, which saw other traditions as irrelevant relics of the past. Non-Muslims were forbidden now to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and it became a capital offence to make insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. The trauma of the invasions had, not surprisingly, made Muslims feel insecure. Foreigners were not only suspect; they could be as lethal as the Mongols." - p. 103

"Politics had never been central to the Christian religious experience. Jesus had, after all, said that his Kingdom was not of this world. For centuries, the Jews of Europe had refrained from political involvement as a matter of principle. But politics was no secondary issue for Muslims. We have see that it had been the theatre of their religious quest. Salvation did not mean redemption from sin, but the creation of a just society in which the individual could more easily make that existential surrender of his or her whole being that would bring fulfilment. The polity was therefore a mater of supreme importance, and throughout the twentieth century there has been one attempt after another to create a truly Islamic state. This has always been difficult. It was an aspiration that required a jihad, a struggle that could find no simple outcome." - p. 157-158

"The fact that Muslims have not yet found an ideal polity for the twentieth century does not mean that Islam is incompatible with modernity. The struggle to enshrine the Islamic ideal in state structures and to find the right leader has preoccupied Muslims throughout their history. Because, like any religious value, the notion of the true Islamic state is transcendent, it can never be perfectly expressed in human form and always eludes the grasp of frail and flawed human beings. Religious life is difficult, and the secular rationalism of our modern culture poses special problems for people in all the major traditions. Christians, who are more preoccupied by doctrine than by politics, are currently wrestling with dogmatic questions in their effort to make their faith speak to the modern sensibility. They are debating their belief in the divinity of Christ, for example, some clinging to the older formulations of the dogma, others finding more radical solutions. Sometimes these discussions become anguished and even acrimonious, because the issues touch the nub of religiosity that lies at the heart of the Christian vision. The struggle for a modern Islamic state is the Muslim equivalent of this dilemma. All religious people in any age have to make their traditions address the challenge of their particular modernity, and the quest for an ideal form of Muslim government should not be viewed as aberrant but as an essentially and typically religious activity." - p. 163-164


  1. And where is your commentary on said passages? Hmm? Hmmm???

    I read them with great interest and this tidbit with the "I" word took my attention quite a lot. What do you think of it?

    "Salvation did not mean redemption from sin, but the creation of a just society in which the individual could more easily make that existential surrender of his or her whole being that would bring fulfilment."

    I being "individual," of course,since I just wrote a post about this topic relating to Indian society. Does this mean an individual would surrender himself to the whole (God?) who would bring fulfillment to his life?

    Lots of good stuff in those paragraphs! Much food for thought.

    Islam is so much like Judaism in the build-a-society-on-earth thing.

  2. Susanne,

    I didn't have any comments to make! :)

    I think so. I think the idea, of course, being submission in all aspects of ones life to God. So it's not entirely that you would lose your individualism, but rather than it would be expressed in a way that served God. And that the perfect Muslim society would enable the individuals to do that without interference.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...