The Main Thread of the Islamic Worlds

In light of the tragedy that is the murder of Benazir Bhutto (leader of People’s Party of Pakistan), some perspective/wide-angle view of the greater forces at play.

The Islamic world went through a period of wild, creative philosophical, theological, and scientific ferment (aided by ancient Greek learning) from 8th-10th/11th centuries, when Western Europe was in the so-called “Dark Ages”.

Later however a period of traditionalist orthodoxy set in. The ulema (the clerical class) created a strict (often overly literalist) orthodox reading of the Quran and Sunnah. The Sufi movements (e.g. Naqshbandi) converted large number of the masses who previously had not converted to Islam (though ruled by Muslim emperors). The Sufi gave a devotional side but via al-Ghazali and al-Ashari, a devotional side largely wedded to the traditionalist interpretation (particularly after the murder of Sufi mystics like al-Hallaj).

In light of colonialism, modernization, the introduction of secular Western thought and technology/culture, that Sufi-ulema traditionalist synthesis is in breakdown mode. It is unable to withstand the complexity of the life conditions now arising. Too inflexible as a theological and religious venture.

This is a simplification, to be sure, but not an incorrect one.

The neo-traditionalist groups fighting in the Pakistani tribal regions is part of a resurgence of the traditional (but no longer traditionalism) but in light of the fight against secularity. Fundamentalism, in this case Islamism, is a modern phenomenon. They fight more viciously (and non-traditionally) because they are working against the Kosmic grain, against the Erotic push of the Universe. The Will of God if you like. Sinners in the old language. Rebels against the divine command, wrapped in a cloak of religious legitimation.

This fight–the Islamic Reformation, the Islamic Counter-Reformation, the “30 Years War” between Shia and Sunni–all these are the playing out of this basic issue. The breakdown of the old synthesis. It was good and appropriate for its time, but it is now regressive relative to the further revelations of God.

The ferment of thought and physical violence arise therefore from Spirit seeking through this line of revelation to come to its new manifestation. It is the pain of emergence (and emergencies).

No US Presidential Candidate or Foreign Policy Thinker has taken this understanding deeply (to the heart of) a coherent, narrative of Western international and foreign policy. If the person doesn’t accept the Spirit language, the description of the breakdown of the traditional clerical order and the fight for the new legitimacy suffices.

Sadly, more violence is the short/medium term prognosis, not less I fear. It needs to deeply be asked whether 100,000+ troops occupying a country in the heart of the Arab and Middle Eastern world is shifting the balance in this intra-Islamic cauldron in the wrong direction.

Published in: on December 27, 2007 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

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