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islamic spirituality the forgotten revolution.doc

islamic spirituality the forgotten revolution.doc

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Published by: Alba on Feb 19, 2014
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Islamic Spirituality:
the forgotten revolution
'Blood is no argument', as Shakespeare observed. Sadly, Muslim ranks are today swollen with those who disagree. The World Trade Centre, yesterday's symbol of global finane, has today beome a monument to the failure of global !slam to ontrol those who believe that the West an be bullied into hanging its wayward ways towards the "ast. There is no real e#use to hand. !t is simply not enough to lamour, as many have done, about 'hikens oming home to roost', and to protest that Washington's a$uiesene in !sraeli poliies of ethni leansing is the inevitable generator of suh hate. !t is of ourse true % as Shabbir &khtar has noted % that powerlessness an orrupt as insistently as does power. But to omprehend is not to santion or even to empathie. To take innoent life to ahieve a goal is the hallmark of the most e#treme seular utilitarian ethi, and stands at the opposite pole of the absolute moral onstraints re$uired by religion. There was a time, not long ago, when the 'ultras' were few, forming only a tiny  wart on the fae of the worldwide attempt to revivify !slam. Sadly, we an no longer en(oy the lu#ury of ignoring them. The e#treme has broadened, and the middle ground, giving way, is everywhere disloated and onfused. &nd this enfeeblement of the middle ground, was what was en(oined by the )ropheti e#ample, is in turn aelerated by the opprobrium whih the e#tremists bring not simply upon themselves, but upon ommitted Muslims everywhere. *or here, as elsewhere, the preferenes of the media work firmly against us. +avid oresh ould broadast his fringe Biblial message from -anh &poalypse  without the image of Christianity, or even its &dventist wing, being in any way  besmirhed. But when a fringe !slami group bombs Swedish tourists in Cairo, the muk is instantly spread over 'militant Muslims' everywhere. !f these things go on, the !slami movement will ease to form an authenti summons to ultural and spiritual renewal, and will e#ist as little more than a splintered array of maniaal fations. The prospet of suh an appalling and humiliating end to the story of a religion whih one surpassed all others in its apaity for tolerating debate and dissent is now a real possibility. The entire e#periene of !slamiwork over the past fifteen years has been one of inreasing radialiation, driven by the pereived failure of the traditional !slami institutions and the older Muslim movements to lead the Muslim
peoples into the worthy but so far himerial promised land of the '!slami State.' !f this final atastrophe is to be averted, the mainstream will have to regain the initiative. But for this to happen, it must begin by onfessing that the radial riti$ue of moderation has its fore. The !slami movement has so far  been remarkably unsuessful. We must ask ourselves how it is that a man like asser, a buther, a failed soldier and a ynial demagogue, ould have taken over a ountry as pivotal as "gypt, despite the vauity of his beliefs,  while the Muslim Brotherhood, with its pullulating millions of members, should have failed, and failed ontinuously, for si# deades. The radial ausation of a failure in methodology annot fail to strike home in suh a onte#t of dismal and prolonged inade$uay. !t is in this onte#t % startlingly, perhaps, but inesapably % that we must present our ase for the revival of the spiritual life within !slam. !f it is ever to prosper, the '!slami revival' must be made to see that it is in risis, and that its mental resoures are proving insuffiient to meet ontemporary needs. The response to this must be grounded in an at of olletive
, of self%e#amination, in terms that transend the ideologised neo%!slam of the revivalists, and return to a more lassial and indigenously Muslim dialeti. Symptomati of the disease is the fat that among all the e#planations offered for the risis of the !slamimovement, the only authentially Muslim interpretation, namely, that /od should not be lending it 0is support, is onspiuously absent. !t is true that we fre$uently hear the 1urani verse  whih states that 2/od does not hange the ondition of a people until they hange the ondition of their own selves.2345 But never, it seems, is this priniple intelligently grasped. !t is assumed that the sared te#t is here doing no more than to en(oin individual moral reform as a preondition for olletive soietal suess. othing ould be more haardous, however, than to measure suh moral reform against the yardstik of the
 without giving onern to whether the virtues gained have been a$uired through onformity 6a relatively simple task7, or proeed spontaneously from a genuine realignment of the soul. The verse is speaking of a spiritual hange, speifially, a transformation of the
 of the believers % not a moral one.  &nd as the Blessed )rophet never tired of reminding us, there is little value in outward onformity to the rules unless this onformity is mirrored and engendered by an authentially righteous disposition of the heart. 'o%one shall enter the /arden by his works,' as he e#pressed it. Meanwhile, the profoundly (udgemental and works % oriented tenor of modern revivalist !slam 6we must shun the problemati bu%word 'fundamentalism'7, fi#ated on visible manifestations of morality, has failed to address the underlying $uestion of what revelation is for. *or it is theologial nonsense to suggest that /od's final onern is with our ability to onform to a omple# set of
rules. 0is onern is rather that we should be restored, through our labours and 0is grae, to that state of purity and e$uilibrium with whih we were  born. The rules are a vital means to that end, and are failitated by it. But they do not take its plae.The 0oly 1ur'an Sura 48944.To make this point, the 0oly 1uran deploys a striking metaphor. !n
 Sura  Ibrahim
, verses :; to :<, we read9 0ave you not seen how /od oineth a likeness9 a goodly word like a goodly tree, the root whereof is set firm, its branh in the heaven= !t bringeth forth its fruit at every time, by the leave of its >ord. Thus doth /od oin likenesses for men, that perhaps they may reflet. &nd the likeness of an evil word is that of an evil tree that hath been torn up by the root from upon the earth, possessed of no stability.  &ording to the sholars of
 6e#egesis7, the referene here is to the 'words' 6
7 of faith and unfaith. The former is illustrated as a natural growth, whose floresene of moral and intelletual ahievement is nourished  by firm roots, whih in turn denote the basis of faith9 the $uality of the proofs one has reeived, and the ertainty and sound awareness of /od whih alone signify that one is firmly grounded in the reality of e#istene. The fruits thus  yielded % the palpable benefits of the religious life % are permanent 6'at every time'7, and are not man's own aomplishment, for they only ome 'by the leave of its >ord'. Thus is the sound life of faith. The ontrast is then drawn  with the only alternative9
, whih is not grounded in reality but in illusion, and is hene 'possessed of no stability'.3:5 This passage, reminisent of some of the binary ategorisations of human types presented early on in
 Surat al-Baqara
, preisely enapsulates the relationship between faith and works, the hierarhy whih e#ists between them, and the sustainable balane between nourishment and frutition,  between taking and giving, whih true faith must maintain. !t is against this riterion that we must (udge the $uality of ontemporary 'ativist' styles of faith. !s the young 'ultra', with his intense rage whih an sometimes render him liable to nervous disorders, and his fi#ation on a relatively narrow range of issues and onerns, really firmly rooted, and fruitful, in the sense desribed by this 1urani image= >et me point to the answer with an e#ample drawn from my own e#periene. ! used to know, $uite well, a leader of the radial '!slami' group, the
 Jama'at  Islamiya
, at the "gyptian university of &ssiut. 0is name was 0amdi. 0e grew a lu#uriant beard, was onstantly srubbing his teeth with his miswak, and spent his time preahing hatred of the Copti Christians, a number of whom  were atually attaked and beaten up as a result of his
. 0e had hundreds of followers? in fat, &ssiut today remains a itadel of hardline,  Wahhabi%style ativism.

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