The Global Awakening: Developing a Consensus Paradigm through a Common Language of Normative and Compassionate Justice
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
During the last week of May, 2012, at the Ritz-Carlton in Doha, the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy convened the 9th annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum under the title, “New Voices – New Directions”. This was organized under the leadership of Martin Indyk, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997, and was sponsored by the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) representing the 57 Muslim-majority countries that make up the Muslim World League. The concern was primarily the extent to which the so-called Arab Spring might undermine stability during the coming year.
A closed, follow-on conference was held that same week at the Qatar Foundation in Doha sponsored by Oxford University’s St. Antony’s College and by the Center for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies, as part of the Qatar Foundation’s Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies. This mini-conference addressed the origins, current dynamics, and future possibilities of an awakening that started in Tunisia a year and a half ago and may continue to play a historic role in many countries all over the world for years to come.
This conference of experts at the QFIS examined the past, present, and future of transitional change in many individual countries as background for a possible long-range global awakening toward the vision of justice as a higher goal than stability. Of course, justice in an enlightened sense found in all the world religions, is the strongest force for stability.
As a professional long-range global forecaster, I distinguish between the short-range of weeks and months and the long-range of years and decades and even centuries. For the short-range it may be sufficiently reliable to use mere trend analysis and dozens of quantitative techniques to predict the future, though trend analysis did rather poorly in predicting the results of last week’s presidential elections in Egypt or indeed of the Arab Spring that led up to it.
Forecasting the future of the so-called Arab Spring, if any, and of the Arab world must go beyond trend analysis, because the only certain thing in long-range forecasting is that as one looks out further into the future the exogenous variables become increasingly important, namely, those that were not included in the forecast because they were not considered important or probable enough to consider or had not surfaced clearly enough to be recognized.
The only part of the Brookings mega-conference directly relevant to long-range forecasting and planning within a framework of justice, rather than merely of power, compassion, and civility, was a special town-hall session toward the end of the conference. This session focused on the following question: “Given the importance to many of religion and religious values as the fundamental basis for determining right from wrong, what are the respective roles of the state and religious institutions in shaping, implementing, and enforcing both religious norms and secular affairs”.
II. Short-Run Predictions
Over the short run, the most pressing question at the end of May, 2012, was whether Egypt is returning to the reliable extremes of the past, now that the initial forces behind the popular revolution seemed to have lost out in the battle for the presidency? A more fundamental question is what the election meant for the future of justice, not necessarily this year or next, but in the decades ahead and throughout the world.
The two winners in Egypt’s May presidential elections represent two competing paradigms of justice. In the first paradigm or frame of reference, justice is used as a synonym for imposing and enforcing stability through law. This is the secular paradigm common in the West, where the state creates law and where law exists only to the extent that it is enforced. The come-from-behind winner, the former prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, warns of chaos. He asserts, “The country has fallen”, and he concludes, “Egypt needs justice, and the safety for its citizens.” (NYT, May 26, 2012)
The second paradigm is voiced by the candidate of the Ikhwan al Muslimun or Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, who introduces and calls for norms or principles of human dignity, but within a narrow religiously ideological framework. In the more enlightened perspective represented by the breakaway candidate, Abdel Moneim Fotouh, who split the Muslim Brotherhood vote, law is meant primarily to educate. If it has to be enforced, the law has failed.
Shafik and Morsi each won a quarter of the votes. Shafik is moving to pick up the liberal vote, while Morsi is moving to pick up the conservative Salafi vote. Significantly, the 3rd and 4th place candidates also did well, each getting 20% of the vote, namely, the liberal Islamist, Abdel Moneim Fotouh, and the liberal socialist, Hamdeen Sabahi. The question now is whom will the losers support, who in combination won 40% of the vote, if they vote at all, or will the organizational power of the Ikhwan win the presidency in the run-off.
In hindsight, the immediate results of the May 2012 presidential election were perfectly predictable well over a year earlier, though few people predicted it. Power politics usually is easy to predict, but the larger question is whether power politics alone can determine the future of civilizations. Are there other forces that can work toward a middle-way consensus, a mizan and wasatiya, in the form of an awakening to a common language of compassionate justice, perhaps not immediately but through an Arab and universal awakening in the future.
One can argue that the intellectuals in Egypt blew it, because they were not ready to provide leadership to transform revolutionary reaction into proactive proposals for institutional and policy reform. One can further argue, as a Georgetown University conference did in Qatar on April 14, more than a month before the May presidential election, that the only hope is for a second Arab Spring ten years in the future.
III. Forecasting and Planning for the Long Run
The question has arisen who can provide the vision, mission, and creativity to gain leverage over the future by thinking beyond current probabilities in order to plan for future possibilities. For example, there may be reason to place one’s hopes on Shaykha Mozah’s Qatar Foundation with its $500,000,000 annual operating budget designed to bring the best of all civilizations and religions together in order to universalize and return the plurality of their wisdom to the world as a means to promote the interfaith harmony of transcendent and compassionate justice as a key to global peace, prosperity, and freedom.
Furthermore, there is reason to think that Tunisia, under the leadership of Shaykh Rachid al Ghannouchi as the long-time enlightened head of the Muslim Brotherhood there, can provide a suggestive model for the rest of the Arab world and even for awakenings in Persia, Russia, and China. The unknown is whether anyone will follow it?
Having followed his career for some decades now, my view is that Shaykh Rachid al Ghannouchi is preparing a down-to-earth example of what can be. I was one of the two former ambassadors who, for reasons still unknown to me, were invited to attend the trial of the twenty leaders of the Nahda party in 1987, whom Bourguiba had already condemned to death. Fortunately, Bourguiba was overthrown by his own followers as a madman totally incompetent to run a country, and Shaykh al Ghannouchi was spared for his mission today, in sha’a Allah, to institute justice as a governing policy paradigm and model for the world.
Three issues will determine whether such optimistic hopes can be turned into reality. As I addressed them in detail in my 50-page monograph prepared last March for the QFIS’s closed mini-conference, the three controlling questions are: 1) is there a common essence of justice that all can understand; 2) can the broad middle in the spectrum of reformists agree on how to turn principle into practice; and 3) can they reach effective agreement before anarchy and oppression resume their role of civilizational destruction?
IV. The Metaphysics of Justice as a Common Denominator
More difficult than merely revolting against injustice, which is a negative phenomenon that can boomerang to devour its protagonists, is to develop or flesh out a paradigm of justice based on common understandings of its essence and practical applications. This is the architectonic task of translating higher purposes, goals, and objectives into programs of action.
This normative task of inducing higher norms or principles and then deducing from them the goals and objectives needed to implement the higher purposes requires development of what might be termed the metaphysics of a global ethics, as first proposed by the Christian theologian, Hans Kung, at the Second Parliament of the World Religions in 1993.
The major issue in this regard is whether there is such a thing as a higher essence of truth that must be perpetually sought. The alternative is for those with power to declare what is true as a means to acquire more power, together with all its attendant injustices.
If justice is to become a common denominator for a global reawakening, the revivers of classical wisdom must address three metaphysical challenges.
1) Transcending the Immanent
First, justice cannot be limited to contextual relativity. In other words, it must transcend the immanent in order to motivate the necessary commitment to put it into practice.
The basic commonality must be agreement on ultimate reality. Is there an essence in anything, or is everything relative to time and space? This issue has been the focus of philosophy, religion, and warfare since the days of the first caveman. Can one see and measure reality or is it beyond human understanding?
If one requires quantitative measurement to determine the limits of existence, then by definition nothing beyond the immanent can exist. If one is more open-minded, then the challenge becomes vastly greater, because man is not the master of the transcendent. He did not create it nor can he subjugate it to his own will.
The search for truth is a task of hermeneutics. It can be experiential as in the sometimes problematic case of mystics, but it often starts at the beginning of the intellectual process by asserting basic premises, which then must validate themselves.
Perhaps the most profound premise was expressed in a statement by the leader of Western traditionalists, Russell Kirk. He published a shelf of books during the last half of the 20th century reviving the profoundly spiritual understandings of the Scottish Enlightenment, which gave rise to the Great American Experiment in establishing and maintaining a republic as distinct from a democracy. In his book, Rights and Duties, he writes, “At the dawn of civilization, people unite in search of communion with a transcendent power, and from that religious community all the other aspects of a culture flow – including, and indeed especially, a civilization’s laws”.
The premise is that the first human community was formed not for the purposes of mere survival or to prosper by hunting animals more effectively but in response to the human spiritual impulse, which in Maslow’s revision of his original priorities of human drives comes before all the others.
This spiritual premise and perspective or paradigm, which raises human rights to the sacred level as ultimate ends of existence, necessarily implies also the opposite. Any perspective that raises an ideology of power to the practical level of an ultimate end and rejects justice as a concept in foreign and domestic policy, inevitably will lead from cosmos to chaos.
2) Prioritizing Purpose
The Founders of America recognized the different levels of reality and priority in the interdependence of the immanent and the transcendent by their use of Edmund Burke’s tripartite emphasis on the interdependent pursuit of order, justice, and freedom as the highest level purposes of good governance.
There can be no order without justice, and no justice without freedom, just as there can be no freedom without justice and no justice without order. They immortalized their mentor’s system of thought in the Preamble to the American Constitution, which reflected the traditionalism of the minority Whig Party in the English Parliament. This was based on the spiritually informed Scottish enlightenment, which was the absolute opposite of the secularist French revolution and its twentieth-century progeny.
The Preamble reads as follows: “We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”. First comes justice as a universal goal of divine revelation and the highest priority of natural law, then order, then prosperity, and finally, as a product of the first purposes, liberty.
3) Respecting the Characteristics of Normative Jurisprudence
Beyond concurrence on the metaphysical premises or foundation of thought is the equally metaphysical requirement that justice be developed as a system designed for application in accordance with its own essence. Whether justice is developed as a system of global ethics inherent in all civilizations or as a system derived specifically from the scriptures of a distinct civilization, any normative system has three fundamental characteristics or aspects. These are the general characteristics, the general norms, and the specifics of implementation through management by objectives.
The first characteristic is its holistic ontology. In Islam, this is embodied in the term tawhid, according to which the entire created order exists in unitary harmony. The things and forces we can observe are real, but their existence comes from God. They do not exist independently of His purpose.
The second characteristic is esthetic. The nature of transcendent reality, and of all being, is Beauty, which precedes and is independent of cognition. The flower in the desert is beautiful even if no person sees it. Beauty, and necessarily therefore Islamic jurisprudence, consists of unity, symmetry, harmony, depth of meaning, and breadth of applicability.
The greatest beauty is the unitive principle of tawhid itself, because without it there could be no science and no human thought at all. This is of controlling importance in the shari’ah, because it means that the ideal system of law should be simple, symmetrical, deep, and comprehensive.
The third characteristic and premise is epistemological. All knowledge is merely a derivative and an affirmation of the unitary harmony inherent in everything that comes from God. The world religions agree, each in its own way, that all creation worships God because He is One and because He alone is worthy of worship. Every person is created with a need and a corresponding intuitive capability to seek and to know transcendent reality and to respond lovingly in both thought and action to the love originating from the Ultimate. This epistemological premise reinforces the first two, because it indicates that enlightened jurisprudence serves to give meaning to everything man can observe. And meaning comes from God, Who gives purpose to everything He has created.
The fourth and most easily understood characteristic of Islamic law is its normative or purposive, goal-oriented nature. In developing the universal principles of human responsibilities and human rights, Islamic scholars over the centuries have identified several irreducibly highest principles. These are known as the maqasid or purposes, as the kulliyat or universals, and as the dururiyat or essentials of justice.
The higher guidance for the understanding and applicability of normative jurisprudence was spelled out by two of the greatest Islamic scholars, Shamsuddin ibn al Qayyim, who died in 748 A.H., 1347 A.C., and his mentor Imam Ahmad ibn Taymiyah, who died a generation earlier in 728 A.H. and whose teachings have been so egregiously distorted in recent centuries. Ibn Qayyim wrote, “The Islamic law is all about wisdom and achieving people’s welfare in this life and the afterlife. It is all about justice, mercy, wisdom, and good. Thus anything that replaces justice with injustice, mercy with its opposite, common good with mischief, or wisdom with nonsense, is a ruling that does not belong to Islamic law”.
V. The Architectonics of Justice
One premise for developing a global vision for the future is that religion must be rehabilitated as a cure rather than as a cause of chaos. If justice is to develop into a common language for the pursuit of peace, prosperity, and freedom it must facilitate this process as part of interfaith harmony in delineating and applying specific norms or principles.
One first cut at this task is to use the norms developed by the greatest Muslim scholars from the 4th through the 8th Islamic centuries. My almost completed book on the subject, lacking only a 70-page chapter on economic justice, identifies eight such irreducible norms, with a chapter on each one, though the greatest scholars taught that the maqasid as a product of human reason may be understood as requiring either less or more. Both the higher architectonics and the lower ones are flexible. Their only limits are the extent to which they reflect all of the principles of human responsibilities and the corresponding human rights. These eight norms are the following:
1) Respect for Divine Revelation
The first principle, known as haqq al din, is the duty to respect divine revelation. Classical Islamic scholars interpret this to require freedom of religion, which means that each human has the right freely to seek truth. This primary belief in divine revelation provides the framework for the following additional principles of human rights in Islam.
The practical implications of such an interpretation are reflected in the progression of interfaith relations as proposed by the International Institute of Islamic Thought (known as the IIIT), which was established thirty years ago in a different era as the brain behind the Islamist movement in North America.
The interfaith movement generally has progressed from one box to another, but participants usually think that they are one level or one box higher than they in fact are. The most absurd box, at least in America, is known as “tolerance”, which means, “I won’t kill you yet”. Occasionally one encounters reference to “diversity”, which means, “I’ll have to accept you, but only because you won’t go home where you belong”. Rarely is there any concept of individual “pluralism”, which means, “We welcome you because we each have so much to offer each other”.
On June 8th, 2012, the IIIT, under the new-generation leadership of its new Executive Director, Abubaker Shinqieti, is held its regular monthly “round table” under the title, “Beyond Dialogue to Interfaith Communion”.
The participants as breakers of paradigmatic boundaries invite participation in developing interfaith dialogue and cooperation to its perhaps highest level, namely, “interfaith communion”. They define this as meaning ”to commune with each other’s religion – and any other religion – as an authentic, permanent, prized religious state of affairs embodying commitment to hospitable life together in a community without coercion, while expressing, struggling with, and learning from each other”.
2) Respect for the Human Person and Life
The second principle, necessary to sustain existence, is the duty to respect the human person and the duty to respect life. This principle provides guidelines for a set of second-order principles perhaps originated by Saint Augustine but further developed a thousand years ago by Islamic scholars and now known as the doctrine of just war.
3) Respect for Family and Community
The next principle is the duty to respect the nuclear family and the community at every level all the way to the community of humankind as an important expression of the person. This principle teaches that the sovereignty of the person, subject to the ultimate sovereignty of God, comes prior to and is superior to any alleged ultimate sovereignty of the secular invention known as the State. This is the opposite of the Western international law created by past empires, which is based on the simple principle of “might makes right.”
4) Respect for the Environment
This principle of the Sunnat Allah is known as haqq al mahid (from wahada) or respect for the physical environment. The issue of balance in the maqsad of haqq al mahid concerns the relative priorities in protecting the environment versus protecting the other essential purposes of human life. This is part of the broader problem of relating the spiritual and the social as foci in a single paradigm of tawhid.
5) Respect for Economic Justice
This requires respect for the rights of private property in the means of production, which is a universal human right of every human being, particularly in the modern capital intensive world. This requires reform of financial institutions to base credit on future profits of investment rather than on past wealth accumulations, so that these institutions will narrow rather than expand the wealth gap within and among nations. This is part of harmonic justice, which provides balance between input and output and thereby prevents the booms and busts that result from discrepancies between investment and consumption.
6) Respect for Political Justice
This principle requires respect for self-determination of both persons and communities through political freedom, including the concept that economic democracy is a precondition for the political technique of representative government, known as democracy, within the higher framework of a republic as designed by America’s founders but based on the traditional wisdom of the ages.
The essence of a republic was spelled out by Thomas Jefferson in his profound wisdom that, “A people can remain free only if they are properly educated. Proper education consists of teaching virtue. And no people can remain virtuous unless both the public and private lives of individuals are infused with awareness and love of Divine Providence”, by which he meant God.
7) Respect for Human Dignity
This principle states that the most important requirement for individual human dignity is gender equity. In traditional Islamic thought, freedom and equality are not ultimate ends but essential means to pursue the higher purposes inherent in the divine design of the Creator for every person.
8) Respect for Knowledge
The last universal or essential purpose at the root of global ethics and perhaps best spelled out in classical Islamic jurisprudence is respect for knowledge. This can be sustained only by observance of the first seven principles and also is essential to each of them. The second-order principles, known as hajjiyat, of this maqsad are freedom of thought, press, and assembly so that all persons can fulfill their purpose to seek beneficial knowledge wherever they can find it.
This framework of Islamic principles for human rights is at the very core of Islam as a religion, though for the past half millennium in most of the Muslim world this concept of normative and compassionate justice has been moribund if not outright dead. Fortunately, this paradigm of law in its broadest sense of moral theology is now being revived by courageous Muslims determined to fill the intellectual gap that has weakened the Muslim ummah for more than six hundred years.
This renewed effort for a spiritual renaissance in all faiths can transform the world for the good of all humankind. It can lead to a global awakening by providing a consensus paradigm through a common language of normative and compassionate justice as the key to peace, prosperity, and freedom.
End of Part One