Monday, March 14, 2011

Personal Matters: The Dialectical Theologian

Al Farabi writes in his Enumeration of the Sciences of Political Science, Jurisprudence, and for us, how the mastery of both are imperative for the practitioner of the Science of Dialectical Theology. He defines Political Science as the investigation of ‘the sorts of voluntary actions and ways of life; the dispositions, moral habits, inclinations, and states of character from which they are performed; how they ought to exist in a human being; how to order them in him according to the manner they ought to exist in him; and the way to preserve them for him. It distinguishes among the goals for the sake of which the actions are performed and the ways of life practiced’. In short, political science is the method by which the observer can differentiate between a just and oppressive regime, democracy from monarchy, timocracy from the vile rulership that seeks the acquisition of wealth. It is from Political Science by which rulership emanates, for it is only the ruler or group of rulers that hold power to institute policy and create laws.

Al Farabi states that rulership is of two kinds: (1) rulership that establishes the voluntary actions, ways of life, and dispositions such that by them one obtains what is truly happiness; it is virtuous rulership; and (2) rulership that establishes in cities and nations the actions and states of character by which one obtains what is presumed to be happiness without being such, namely, ignorant rulership. In this world, only two can determine between virtuous and ignorant rulership, and thus true and presumed happiness: the People of the respective nation and the Dialectical Theologian. Indeed the subjects of the Arab regimes currently in revolt know they are unhappy with the vile nature of their rulers and the injustice that dominates their lives. This is the most obvious marker by which rulership (hereafter termed Government), is deemed in accordance with Allah’s Social Justice. For the believer and the Islamic Nationalist, Allah’s Social Justice in The Ultimate End of Politics, which is forever sought and never finally achieved. Allah Has Promised all of mankind that Tests, Trials, Tribulations, Loss, Calamities will be Allowed; and with each, a Government has only two simple endeavors, seek Social Justice or expediency in this world.

For the Muslim, the Islamic Nationalist, and the believer The Universal Rule of Allah’s Social Justice lies in the study of Political Philosophy, also known as Political Theory. Al Farabi states that Political Theory is composed of two parts. The first ‘compromises bringing about cognizance of what happiness is; distinguishing voluntary actions, ways of life, moral habits, and states of character that are such as to be distinguished in cities and nations; and distinguishing the virtuous ones from the non-virtuous ones;’ and the second ‘comprises the way of ordering the virtuous states of character and ways of life in cities and nations; bringing about cognizance of the royal [philosopher-king] actions by which the virtuous ways of life and actions are established and ordered among the inhabitants of the cities and of the actions by which what has been ordered and established among them is preserved’. He then states that political theorists must study and master the non-virtuous types of Government and characters, in order to prevent them from arising within the State and amongst the body of citizens. It is only the creation of law that in turn engenders positive and negative liberty, by which virtue can be established and maintained, while simultaneously avoiding that which is ignoble and base. Thus, the science of jurisprudence is essential.

Al Farabi states that jurisprudence is ‘that which a human being is able to infer, from the things the lawgiver declared specifically and determinately, the determination of each of the things he did not specifically declare…he is able to aspire to a verification of that on the basis of the purpose of the lawgiver in the religion [and ethos] he legislated…therefore the science of jurisprudence has two parts: a part with respect to opinions and a part with respect to actions’.

In a prophetic tradition narrated by Abdullah and Abu Musa, who related:

The prophet (SAAW) said, ‘Near the establishment of The Hour there will be days during which religious ignorance will spread, knowledge will be taken away (vanish) and there will be much al-Harj, and al-Harj means killing’

Inshallah, and Allahu Alim, The Final Day is not near, but the symptoms of the disease, in that the science of jurisprudence is underdeveloped in our contemporary time-the Dark Ages of Muslim history. Too few within the Ummah truly desire to understand and master the science of Islamic jurisprudence, or its impact on the human element of Shari ‘a. This is evidenced by the Salafi/Wahhabi movements, which denies the 1,432 years of scholarship by the greatest minds in our history, thereby leading to the misinterpreting and misleading of the Ummah into believing only in the most stringent, legalistic portions of Islamic sciences. We do not intend to deny here the vital importance of Islamic sciences, but for any Muslim to believe that its sole mastery will facilitate the completion of the Divine Project for an individual, and the Ummah collectively, in unadulterated idiocy. The Islamic sciences represent the foundation of one’s perspective in relation to the primary acts of ibadah, thus all Muslims must hold them as Sacred. We must never forget that prayer is the foundation of Islam, and with the prayer are Commands, which must be followed. The Islamic sciences deal with that by which the soul finds equilibrium, should it choose. Yet, for Muslims to err in the belief that the Islamic sciences are sufficient in constructing sound, viable Government is lazy, pseudo-intellectual thought devoid of the human capacity at reason and conceptualization. Moreover, this lazy, pseudo-intellectualism, coupled with the far-reaching cultural practices antithetical to Islam, have been wrapped in a false ‘Islamic’ understanding, in addition with the lack of knowledge of philosophy, economics, sociology, gender issues as they relate to the rights of the Muslim woman, and all other social sciences. The preference of one’s cultural practices, specific to one’s traditional Muslim/tribal/ethnic group, has caused the entire Ummah to descend into the Dark Ages of our history. Jurisprudence, its study, as conceptualized by the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) and the scholars of our Golden Age-the True, classical Comprehensive Teachings of Islam; it is this with this endeavor which will facilitate the first steps towards the Second Sahwah of our people. The knowledge of the four imams must be mastered by our greatest Muslim minds-by believers, who do so in service to our Lord (SWT). Jurisprudence must be extrapolated from the Principles of Islam towards a practical, meaningful application within the society, politics, and economy of traditionally Muslim homelands. As Dr. Selim Cafer Karatas writes in his article, ‘The Economic Theory of ibn Khaldun and the Rise and Fall of Nations’:

Ibn Khaldun was the first to systematically analyze the functioning of an economy, the importance of technology, specialization and foreign trade in economic surplus, and the role of government and its stabilization policies in the increase output and employment…the State has important functions in the social, political, and economic life of a nation, the role and the nature of the State has to be clarified for the well-being of society. For ibn Khaldun, the role of the State is to establish law and order conducive for economic activities. Moreover, the enforcement of property rights, the protection of trade routes, and the security of peace are necessary for any civilized society to engage in trade and production…Economic surplus would increase in a situation where governmental policies favor economic activities. Government should take a minimal amount of this surplus through taxation in order to provide a minimum of services and necessary public works.

For the Salafi/Wahhabi strict constructionist of The Holy Qur’an and the Sunna, we challenge you to find an Ayat or prophetic tradition that deals with the role of the State or its role in stabilizing the economy. For the liberal secularist of the Ummah, we challenge you to define a minimal amount and minimum services as understood by ibn Khaldun and all the other great scholars of Islam. It was our beloved prophet (SAAW) who said, ‘those of you who go to sleep fed well, while your neighbor goes to sleep hungry, are not true believers’. It is the Muslim jurist that creates practical law with the knowledge that it is Allah (SWT) Who is Sovereign. This is Islamic Jurisprudence.

Finally, of the Dialectical Theologian, who again for us, has mastered the art of Islamic Jurisprudence, al Farabi writes:

The art of dialectical theology is a disposition by which a human being is able to defend the specific opinions and actions of the founder of the religion and to refute by arguments whatever opposes it. This art is divided into two parts: a part with respect to opinions and a part with respect to actions. It is different from jurisprudence in that the jurist takes the opinions and actions declared by the founder of the religion as given and sets them down as fundamentals from which he infers the things that necessarily follow from them, whereas the dialectical theologian defends the things the jurist uses as fundamentals without inferring other things from them.

Inshallah, and Allahu Alim, this essay is an attempt at Dialectical Theology, in that we are defending the specific opinions inferred by al Farabi and ibn Khaldun in relation to Islamic Politics. This is a desperately required endeavor by men and women of the Ummah in our contemporary times, in order that the Truth can be seen and practically applied to the types of societies that exist now, in our time. We, as an Ummah, are adrift in a sea of confusion and perplexion about The Will of Allah and The Direction identified by the messenger of Allah (SAAW). The Algerian Civil War and the prior platform of the Front Islamique du Salat serve as prime examples of said confusion, perplexion, in that so often once Islamic political parties are democratically elected, there is such little knowledge about how to utilize State-power. In relation to Algeria, State-power turned into a inquisition of sorts by which the control women’s bodies and the private lives of fellow Muslim citizens became paramount via the rantings of a man like Belhadj, while the economic platform of al Madani precipitated the seizure of power by the French-supported, Algerian military. With the wave of revolution taking place all over the Middle East, the Ummah has another opportunity to support the political actions that will lead to creating better lives for Muslims in an environment of Islamic Liberty. Yet, there is so little idea of what it means to be an Islamic State, and the examples of the Taliban, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or even Shia Iran, are diametrically opposed to the concept of Islamic Liberty. Terms need to be defined and normative questions answered and propagated in order that minds can be enlightened. 

We will continue this discussion at a later time, Inshallah.

Isma'il ibn Bilal

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