From Clashing Civilizations to a Common Vision - Part I

PART I:  THE CHALLENGE


The Ring of Fire

The 911 terrorist attack on America?s symbols of economic and military power at the beginning of the 21st century was a hell-sent gift to the professional Islamophobes.  They proclaimed that the much-vaunted clash of civilizations had now begun and that the only real civilization, America, must win it decisively by any and every means. 

These Islamophobes, those who have a phobia against Islam, range from the scholarly Bernard Lewis, who claims that Islam is simply a failed religion, to the think-tanker, Daniel Pipes, who says that all Muslims are inherently violent, to the populist Franklyn Graham, who says that the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ?alayhi wa salam, was a pedophile and that Islam is the incarnation of evil. 

The reaction to 911 by all Muslims in America was shock that some Darth Vader had emerged from nowhere to attack America under the name of Islam.  The initial reaction by the vast majority of non-Muslims in the fall of 2001 was anger against the perpetrators, but this was accompanied by ecumenical outreach to protect innocent Muslims from an expected backlash. 

During the succeeding year, however, the Islamophobes, backed by a phalanx of think-tanks and media moguls influenced by secular Zionism, managed to start turning this initial sympathy into a generalized hatred of Muslims as the root of all problems and a threat to civilization.  This is shown strikingly by the Pew Research Center poll taken in late June, 2003, on whether Islam is more likely than other religions ?to encourage violence among its believers.?  The percentage of those who said yes rose from only 25% in March, 2002, to 44% in June, 2003.  This means that Islamophobia in America almost doubled in one year.

A few weeks after 911, I was interviewed live by BBC on worldwide TV to get my views on ?why they hate us.?  The BBC was interested because I had just personally advised British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Afghanistan and the causes of 911, and because I was not only a former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates but at the same time was personally appointed by President Reagan in 1981 as an informal ambassador at large to the Islamist movements in North Africa and Southwest Asia.  This bold initiative by President Reagan, incidentally, was no doubt a main reason why Secretary of State Alexander Haig, at the bidding of Henry Kissinger, fired me only three months after the appointment.

My answer to the BBC was that 911 was the desperate response by extremists who had been alienated by the repression of Muslims all over the world, especially in those areas that Daniel Pipes a decade earlier had dubbed the ?ring of fire? all around the Muslim world.  I explained that this ring of fire did not represent an attack by Muslims expanding outward to attack world civilization, but resulted naturally from national liberation movements in Muslim-majority nations seeking independence from disintegrating, secular empires.  Witness the Chechens? national liberation movement against the failed Soviet Empire, the battle by the Muslims of southeast Europe against the nationalist remains of the Communist empire there, the jihad for self-determination and independence for Kashmir against the unraveling Indian Empire in South Asia, the ambitious struggle by the Uighur of southwest China against the declining central power in the Chinese Empire, and the struggle across North Africa, and especially in Algeria, against the dictatorships that remained after the hesitant retreat of European empires. 

Then I started to add, ?But, the heart of the worldwide liberation movement against imperial hegemony is in the very center of the Muslim world against American oppression of ? ,? and those were my last words.  The interviewer in London cut me off in mid-sentence. This was embarrassing on a world-wide hookup with perhaps tens of millions of listeners, because everyone knew exactly what I was about to say.

Of course, I was referring to the Palestinians.  At the time, the world had not yet witnessed the invasion of Iraq ostensibly to find weapons of mass destruction and stop Saddam?s Hussain?s supposed alliance with Al Qa?ida, or even to manage world oil prices.  As explained in Chapter Three below, in a Washington Post op ed piece on August 12, 2002, Henry Kissinger stated that the real reason was to institute a new international law to support America?s ?new world order.?  This was the first time that Kissinger had ever used the term ?new world order,? because previously he had said that the time is not ripe for it, and this was one of the few times that any public figure ever mentioned Israel as a reason for imposing a new world order by unilateral preemption. 

To blame 911 even remotely on secular Zionism in the Holy Land, and even to add the American occupation of Iraq in defense of Israel as a cause of terrorism, was absolutely forbidden in public.  This is the one canon of political correctness that is never violated, except on the internet.  And Pipes? Campus Watch, initiated in 2003, was designed to close that last window of freedom, where objective observers can explain that America?s unilateral counter-terrorism threatens to become the cause of what it is supposed to cure.


The ?Clash of Civilizations?:
Distinguishing Between the Artificial and the Real

How can objective observers counter the Islamophobia that became so popular after September 11, 2001, and two years later was getting worse every day?  We can begin by showing that the whole concept of a clash between or among civilizations is an artificial construct.  This paradigm or framework of thought, as described below in Chapter Two, was designed by Samuel Huntington of Harvard to show the potential conflict, but not the inevitability, of a clash between the culture of Western civilization and the combined culture of a so-called Sino-Muslim civilizational alliance.  The Islamophobes, however, welcomed this paradigm because it invoked a primordial Western fear of the invasions by Ghenghiz Khan and of the Muslims into Europe centuries ago.

This theory has two major problems.  First, as indicated in Chapters Five and Six below, the battle between the West and the rest is not between a secular America and the Muslim world.  America is the least secular country on earth, despite the creeping secularization of its public institutions and foreign policy.  And, second, neither America nor the Muslim world is monolithic.  Therefore, if there is to be a clash, it must be between only one part of one civilization and one part of the other, between the reactionary extremism within the Muslim world and an equally reactionary extremism in America.

But, even this reactionary extremism within each civilization is not monolithic.  In the Bush Administration perhaps the most powerful political force was a cabal of extremist neo-cons who wanted to conquer the world under the guise of bringing to it freedom and democracy.  And they had forged an alliance of convenience with the radical Evangelical extremists who were willing to bring on a holocaust in the Holy Land in order to accelerate the return of Jesus, ?alayhi as-salaam.

The same dichotomy exists in the extremism within the Muslim umma.  We have the political extremists who want worldly power under the guise of seeking justice, or else want merely to destroy all power in a frenzy of nihilism and hatred.  And we have what we might call spiritual extremists who ask why we should bother to seek justice in the world when the world is about to end anyway. 

The real clash is not between civilizations, but within each of them.  Both within the Muslim world and within America the clash is between the extremists of all types and the so-called moderates.  And, increasingly a clash is developing among the moderates between secular modernists and spiritual traditionalists.  Among Muslims a clash is developing worldwide, but triggered especially by Muslims in America, between so-called liberal or progressive Islam and traditional or classical Islam.  The same conflict is raging among non-Muslims, especially in America, between liberal modernism and the classical traditionalism of America?s founders.  This century-old conflict in America is addressed particularly in Chapters Five and Six below.


The Threat of ?Liberal Islam?

Despite the alleged wisdom coming from the talking-heads in the mainstream American media, perhaps the most dangerous threat over the long run to civilization is extremism from the left, not from the right, from reactionary liberals, not from reactionary conservatives, however one wants to define these terms.  In my view, there is no such thing as liberal or progressive Islam, and those who think there is may be the most dangerous extremists.  Similarly, from the perspective of America?s deeply spiritual Founders, the materialism and moral relativism infecting America?s educational, political, and judicial institutions may be a more threatening form of extremism from within than is any threat from abroad. 

The past century and a half in America can be summarized as a titanic conflict between the movement of secular modernism and the revolutionary traditionalism that gave rise to the Great American Experiment and has sustained it, despite all opposition, ever since. 

The same conflict has been growing, especially since 911, among Muslims.  Modernism is an ideology, as distinct from modernity in the application of science and institutional reform to improve our material well-being.  Modernism is the worship of the secular world by denying the purposefulness and sacredness of what Allah has created.  It is the attempt to de-sacralize reality.  I use the term secular or secularism in defining modernists not in the sense used by most Muslims from the Indian sub-continent as neutrality toward religion, but in the sense, almost universal among Americans, of hostility to any role of religion in public life.

Such hostility was almost inconceivable during the early decades of the American republic.  The universal assumption was expressed by Thomas Jefferson, the framer of the American Declaration of Independence, who taught that no system of self-determination through representative government could succeed unless the people were properly educated; that education should consist primarily in teaching virtue; and that no people could long remain virtuous unless they acknowledged the source of truth in an absolute higher power and unless they applied in public life the wisdom that this higher power has imparted through all the world religions in divine revelation and natural law. 

The Founders condemned democracy because they associated it with the mobocracy of the French Revolution, which recognized no higher power than man himself.  Instead they said that they were establishing a republic, which by definition recognizes the higher sovereignty of God.

The Founders of America fought for freedom from oppression, as demonstrated in Patrick Henry?s stirring call, now on the automobile plates of every car licensed in New Hampshire: ?Give me freedom or give me death.?  Certainly many Palestinians share his commitment, as do most Muslims around the world almost as a condition for being a sincere Muslim.

Nevertheless, freedom was not an end in itself, but merely a means toward justice.  The watchword throughout the founding of America was justice based on the inherent nature of the individual person as an expression of the divine Creator, Who endowed every person with inherent responsibilities and inalienable rights.  The Founding was based equally on the value of community and public life as a means to carry out these responsibilities and protect these rights.  This is the meaning of the traditionalist movement that developed throughout the 18th century in England and eventually gave rise to America and the pledge of allegiance which calls for one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.

Several conferences have been held by Muslims to dismiss this traditionalist thought as harmful to progress or at best as irrelevant in the modern world.  The first such conference after 911 was sponsored by the influential think-tank, The Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and by the International Forum for Democratic Studies.  The title of this conference, held on September 25th, 2002, was simply ?Liberal Islam.?  The keynote address, later published in the April 2003 issue of the prestigious Journal of Democracy, and delivered by Abdou Filali-Ansary, was entitled ?What is Liberal Islam: the Sources of Enlightened Muslim Thought.?

As a self-described Muslim moderate or modernizing liberal, Dr. Ansary divides Muslims into two groups, the first being ?liberal,? ?reformist,? or ?modernizing,? and the second being ?traditional,? ?fundamentalist,? and ?radical.?  The criterion he uses for distinguishing the two is epistemology or the approach to knowledge.

From my experience with self-proclaimed Muslims, or at least with some of the extremists among them, the liberal group questions the accessibility or even the existence of absolute truth.  Speakers at well-known Muslim conferences on democracy have represented this position by insisting that Muslims stop talking about the ?sovereignty of God? or even of tawhid as the coherence of diversity in the universe deriving from the Oneness of God.  The basic tenet of the liberal Muslim is that the human mind creates truth and that it does not exist independently of man.  In philosophy this is known as ?positivism.?  This functionally atheist movement has given rise in recent decades to neo-conservatism, which is the opposite of American traditionalism.  One of the neo-conservatives highest priorities is to marginalize or eliminate their traditionalist opposites, known as paleo-conservatives.

The liberal or modernist mindset contrasts, according to Dr. Ansary?s deprecatory account, with the traditional or fundamentalist mindset which is mired in what he calls ?the pre-modern epistemology.?  This, he says, is not so much literalist, which is the most common American definition of fundamentalism, as it is absolutist in the sense of its insistence that the purpose of the human mind is to seek absolute truth.  He rightly condemns those who insist that they possess this truth, because such radical extremism would deny the search for knowledge that is incumbent on every human being as long as one lives.

Liberal Islam, in its oxymoronic manifestation, denies the validity of the search for truth.  This is the hallmark of relativism.  It is almost the same as saying that religion, all religion, is irrelevant at best, and that the modern Muslim must advance beyond the pre-modern mindset into the world of militant secularism.  In effect, this argument is a call for secular fundamentalism as the permanent enemy of traditional wisdom and a call for a permanent clash of civilizations until a so-called enlightened Islam can be assimilated into the victory of Pax America.

By denying the essence of classical American thought and the identical essence of classical Islamic thought, the modernist advocates of ?liberal Islam? or ?progressive Islam? are opposing the revival of the best of Islam and the best of America.  They are laying the groundwork for an ideological Armageddon between the forces of a paganizing America and the rest of the world, which can result only in the worldwide collapse of all civilization.

The Problematic of Liberal Islamists

Rivaling the advocates of ?progressive Islam? are intellectual activists who are trying to develop the school of thought initiated almost a century ago by Hassan al Banna in Egypt.  These are known as the ikhwan al muslimun or Muslim Brotherhood.  These Muslims differ from the Muslim ?progressives? in several important ways.  First, they are not secular.  They try to derive all their guidance from the two basic sources of Islam, the Qur?an and the sunnah or practice of the Prophet Muhammad, salah Allahu ?alayhi wa al salam.  They try to apply this creatively in the modern world.  Second they are not pragmatists in the sense of justifying whatever means are most utilitarian in achieving their vision of a desirable global future.  Instead they look to the wisdom of the past in order to revive the basic principles of the Islamic heritage and apply them to shape the future.  In this sense they may be known as ?constitutionalists? and even what is known as ?strict constructionalists? in American legal philosophy, the Islamic constitution being the Qur?an. 

This school of thought is neither positivist nor relativist and therefore can be accepted in principle by the vast majority of Muslims worldwide.  The Ikhwan or Muslim Brotherhood, are reformist, like the progressives, but also traditionalist in the sense of building on the best of the past.  They recognize that real change in any civilization can succeed only if it builds on the wisdom of tradition, because such change requires the support of the majority population who can understand new directions only within the framework of what they already know.

Perhaps the major intellectual drawback of the Ikhwan is their tendency to use Western secular thought, which many of their leaders learned in American graduate schools, as the base case.  They seek to show how compatible Islam is with this system of thought.  They seem unable to even conceive of using Islam as the base case in order to bring the wisdom of Islam to America as part of the functional Islamization of the West.  By focusing on Western thought as the base case, they run the danger of Westernizing Islam.
 
The Ikhwan are no more monolithic than any other movement, in part because they have internalized the paradigmatic conflicts of their secular mentors in the West.  Within this school of thought major differences have arisen between what at their extremes are known as socialists and libertarians. 

Since the entire movement of the ihkwan originated and developed in reaction to colonial hegemony, and since economic exploitation was a major cause of their discontent, they focused as much on economic injustice as on political oppression.  Their solution to the economic aspects of colonialism developed in academia during the mid-20th century largely under the influence of Karl Marx, though the original practitioners in Egypt during their short period of freedom under Nasser were staunch supporters of private property widely owned as the core principle of justice in the Islamic system of economic life.  Their very successful enterprises, owned primarily or entirely by the employees, posed a severe threat to the statist policies of both the Egyptian and American governments, so the entrepreneurs among the ikhwan were all either executed or exiled.  This failure to promote political freedom both nationally and worldwide through the development of shari?ah-based economic democracy was instrumental in directing the ikhwan to seek political power as the only road to justice.  Increasing frustration in accomplishing this led a minority of them along a path to armed resistance. 

The other trend in the ikhwan school of thought has been termed ?enlightened Islamism? or even ?liberal Islamism.?  The strategy of this movement of enlightened Islamism is to unite all the diverse politically-oriented groups of Muslims on behalf of freedom.  One of the most knowledgeable students of the ikhwan and an influential ikhwan activist, Professor Louis J. Cantori of the University of Maryland, calls for education of the citizen to ?create a new set of values and a new set of expectations,? so that ?all the diverse parties would be looking to adhere to the principle of freedom from domination.  We may be centralist, Marxist, etc., but the one thing we agree on is the dignity and equality of the citizen.?

The ikhwan movement appears to be splitting between those who support majoritarian democracy and those who call for the enlightened Islamism of republican democracy.  At the extremes, these two groups represent radical egalitarianism and radical elitism.  The dialogue between the two is led in America by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), and in the United Kingdom by the International Forum for Islamic Dialogue (IFID), which works with its sister organization in the UK, the Centre for the Study of Democracy.  Professor Cantori is a founding member of the CSID?s board and has sought to popularize what he terms republican Islamism through the IFID?s influential journal Islam 21: A Global Networking for Muslim Intellectuals and Activists. 

In the May 2003 issue of this journal, Professor Cantori presented this form of Islamism for counter-critique in his article, ?Democracy from within Islam: A Republican Theory.?  He says that this school of liberal or enlightened Islamism is superior to liberal Islam, because it is essentially conservative and therefore more appealing to most Muslims.  He writes, ?It is conservative for three reasons.  The first is that it reveres the past as possessing the traditions and religious values from which the virtue of the citizen is constructed (and not an imagined liberal utopian future).  The second is that it instructs the individual into the responsibilities that he/she has for family and society (and not the individualism of liberalism).  The third is that the ends of society are primarily moral purpose (and not individual happiness).?

Cantori claims that this view of ?republican democracy? is consistent with the thought that led up to the American Revolution as well as with Islam.  This would be true, except that it totally ignores even the very word ?justice.?  The entire May issue of Islam 21, as well as the accompanying report and verbatim dialogue from the IFID?s seminar on March 25th, 2003, entitled ?Democracy from Within: A Conservative Perspective,? does not refer even once to justice of any kind. 

This focus exclusively on political freedom perfectly mirrors the approach of President George W. Bush to world affairs, who has used the word ?justice? in reference to Iraq very sparingly, and then not in the sense of moral theology but only in the sense of ?revenge.?  This approach ignores the economic injustices that serve as a chronic and growing cause of terrorism worldwide, as discussed below in Chapter Four, entitled ?Economic Justice and Terrorism.?

This exclusively political focus on freedom without normative content also ignores the emphasis by the founding generation of Americans on justice as their ultimate goal, for which freedom from domination was merely a means.  For Muslims, this approach is fatally flawed because it ignores the rich tradition of Islamic law, which emphasizes the core principle of Qur?anic revelation, expressed in such verses as: ?The Word of your Lord is perfected in truth and justice,? and ?Among them We have created a community that is guided by truth and applies it in the practice of justice.?


PART TWO:  RESPONSE

Justice and the Rule of Law

      How do we move from clashes among and within civilizations to a common vision that can inspire a global civilization of pluralist cooperation?  This is possible only on the basis of ecumenical cooperation among the world religions.  The one element common to them all is recognition of a higher source of truth beyond the authority of any person or human community.  This recognition is the only rationale for recognizing justice as a possible goal in social life.  If human reason were the ultimate source of justice, then justice could not exist, because people would serve their own parochial interests by calling for different concepts of justice. 

I once remarked to a leading Zionist rabbi in Washington, D.C., Herzl Kranz, that what is needed in the Middle East is justice.  He replied immediately, ?Yes!  Justice! We can achieve peace only through justice, by removing all the Arabs from Israel.?  He gave me the ?bible? of radical Zionists, the book They Must Go, written by Meir Kahane not long before his assassination.

The most sophisticated concept of justice was developed over many centuries by the most brilliant minds in human history, by the great scholars of Islam.  They developed it as a code of human responsibilities and rights that has never been matched since it went into eclipse six hundred years ago.

What is justice according to Islam?  It is the legacy of Rasul Allah.
His legacy, like the legacy of all the Prophets of God, ?alayhi al salam, is the revival of the essence of all religion, which consists of four essentials.  The Prophet Muhammad revitalized personal awareness and loving awe of God, which Muslims call taqwa, and a resulting commitment to truth and justice.  These two essentials of faith in Islam and of every world religion reinforce each other.  The neglect of either one can result in extremism.  Without love and mercy, the pursuit of justice can result in cruelty and oppression.  And without a commitment to establish a just society wherever one lives, one?s love of God can not have real meaning in the world.

The other two essentials are the basic philosophical principles known as tawhid and mizan.  Tawhid refers to the concept that everything in the universe is interrelated with everything else in a coherent whole, and that this unity is the inevitable result of the Oneness of the Ultimate, the Creator of all, whom the Muslims and Arab Christians refer to as Allah, the non-Arab Christians call God, and the Jews call Elohim or Jehovah.

The second philosophical principle, known as mizan, comes from the first one.  Mizan means balance.  Since God created the universe as a balanced whole, as expressed throughout the Qur?an, a task of every human is to help perfect this balance by avoiding extremism.  When one over-emphasizes any one pursuit or goal in life, one can become an extremist by neglecting the others.

A framework for maintaining balance in life is provided by Islamic law and is its very purpose.  This framework is a hierarchical system of human responsibilities and rights.  For example, one has a responsibility to defend one?s family and community, and one has an equal responsibility to respect individual human life.  Those who kill innocents in the alleged defense of their community clearly have lost balance.  This violates the design of Allah.  It is extremist and therefore immoral. 

The indignities of miserable poverty and cruel oppression can produce alienation, desperation, and extremism.  Unfortunately, Muslims have suffered more than their share of both these causes and effects in the world, but this is no excuse for the resulting extremism.  Regardless of how understandable it might be, extremism and the resulting violence are immoral and un-Islamic. 

Extremism does not have to result from indignities, but it will unless there is a source and framework for hope.  The source must be spiritual, based on taqwa.  The framework must be a coherent body of human responsibilities and rights, based on a mutually reinforcing combination of divine guidance through revelation, wahy, and natural law, which Muslims call the sunnatu Allahi or signs of divine order in the universe.  Without this intellectual framework, people wander in an intellectual void, and this, in turn, can produce a spiritual malaise.

Over the long run, the most productive initiative by the still largely silent majority of Muslims in marginalizing Muslim extremists is to fill the intellectual and spiritual void that serves as an ocean in which the extremists can swim.  This initiative must be undertaken at the grass-roots level, by such organizations as The Center for Understanding Islam, as well as by ecumenical think-tanks, and, as discussed in Chapter Seven, also in academia by the establishment of Muslim universities on a par with Oxford and Harvard.  This initiative can provide the favorable environment needed for Muslims to ally with like-minded Christians and Jews in order to show that classical Islam and classical America are similar, even though many people do not understand or live up to the ideals common to both. 

Teaching and emphasizing that the founders of America and the great scholars of Islam shared the same vision is the best way to convince the extremists that their confrontational approach to the ?other? is counter-productive. Recognizing this commonality of purpose in life is the only way to overcome the threat mentality of those who are obsessed with conspiracy theories and think only about their own survival.  Promoting an opportunity mentality of hope is the only way to convince the extremists that only those can truly prosper over the long run who can transcend their own self-centered interests in order to join with those who are no longer merely the ?other? but now are members of a single pluralist community.

Shifting from a threat mentality to an opportunity mentality requires hopeful commitment to peace through justice in reliance on God.  Justice is another word for the Will or Design of God, the mashiyat.  It is also considered to be another term for the body of Islamic normative law.  These norms or general principles, according to Islamic thought, provide the intellectual framework to understand and address all of reality. 

The entire purpose of the Qur?an is implied in the last verse of Surah Ibrahim:  ?Here is a message for humankind.  Let them take warning therefrom and let them know that He is (no other than) One God.  Let persons of understanding take heed.?  Yusuf Ali comments: ?Here is another aspect of the Truth of Unity.  God being One, all justice is of one standard, for Truth is one, and we see it as one as soon as the scales of phenomenal diversity fall from our eyes.  The one true Reality then emerges.?

For the scholar, the best short introduction to this framework of Islamic thought may be found in the monograph, ?Usul al Fiqh al Islami: Source Methodology in Islamic Jurisprudence,? by Shaykh Taha Jabir al ?Alwani, who for more than fifteen years has been President of the Fiqh Council of North America, a member of the OIC Islamic Fiqh Academy in Jeddah, and a founding member of the Council of the Muslim World League in Makkah.  This monograph, published by The International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Virginia, in 1990 is a summation of his doctoral dissertation in 1972 at Al Azhar University in Egypt.  When a SWAT team invaded his house in the spring of 2002 as part of an investigation of the ultra-moderate International Institute of Islamic Thought, which he headed, his wife, Muna Abul Fadl, head of the Western Civilization Project at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and a former full professor of political science at Al Azhar, fled to Egypt and never returned.

For discussion among scholars, it is important to note that the art of Islamic normative law is part of the Islamic science of ?usul al fiqh or the roots of the shari?ah, and specifically was developed within the sub-context of maslaha mursala, which addresses the good of the community.  Within this discipline of maslaha, normative law was developed over the centuries by the use of three distinct methodologies.  The first is maslaha al mu?tabara, which is based exclusively on an explicit hukm or ruling in the Qur?an or Sunnah.  The second is based on istislah, which denotes restoration or reform, based on the root s-l-h, which means peace and prosperity through right order.  This methodology is based on the values of Islam revealed in the Qur?an and Sunnah through induction from the parts to the whole.  The third is based on istihsan.  This comes from hasana, which means simply to be good, and is the most free-wheeling of the three.  All reject ra?i or personal opinion in developing jurisprudential guidance and preserving the purity of divine revelation. These three can be mutually compatible and reinforcing, particularly in developing a framework not merely for law in a narrow sense but for public policy and for the development of Muslim think-tanks.

In order to fill the intellectual void both in the Muslim global community and in the minds of some Muslim intellectuals, Muslims need to emphasize the universal principles of Islamic normative law, known as the maqasid al shari?ah, especially as developed by the greatest master of the art, Al-Shatibi, using the methodology of istislah.  These principles spell out precisely the human rights that some skeptics have asserted do not exist in Islam.  These maqasid, following the methodology instituted by the Prophet Muhammad and perfected in the architectonics pioneered six centuries ago by Al-Shatibi, are considered to consist of seven responsibilities, the practice of which actualize the corresponding human rights. 

Al Shatibi taught that the number of maqasid is flexible, as are the subordinate levels and architectonics of purpose, the hajjiyat and tahsiniyat, because the entire field of Islamic normative law is a product of ijtihad or intellectual effort.  This commitment to ijtihad, which has been almost dead for six hundred years, is called for specifically in the Qur?an as the jihad al kabir, ?And strive with it [divine revelation] in a great jihad,? wa jihidhum bihi jihadan kabiran (Surah al Furqan 25:52).

The first maqsud, known as haqq al din, provides the framework for the next six in the form of respect for a transcendent source of truth to guide human thought and action.  Yusuf Ali notes in reference to Surah al Baqara 2:193 that din is one of the most comprehensive terms in the Qur?an and can be translated simply as justice but with associated meanings in English expressed as duty and faith, all of which for a Muslim constitute religion.  In his monumental translation and commentary (tafsir), Muhammad Asad translates din in this verse as ?worship? of the ultimate being, God.  Like many words in the Qur?an, the word haqq also contains many inherently associated meanings, including God, truth, and human rights.

God instructs us in the Qur?an, wa tamaat kalimatu Rabika sidqan wa ?adlan, ?and the word of your Lord is perfected in truth and justice.?  Recognition of this absolute source of truth and of the responsibility to apply it in practice are needed to counter the temptations toward relativism and the resulting chaos, injustice, and tyranny that may result from de-sacralization of public life.

Each of these seven universal principles is essential to understand the next and succeeding ones.  The first three operational principles, necessary to sustain existence, begin with haqq al nafs or haqq al ruh, which is the duty to respect the human person. 

The ruh or spirit of every person was created by God before or outside of the creation of the physical universe, is constantly in the presence of God, and, according to the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ?alayhi wa salam, is made in the image of God.  This is the basis of the intimate relationship between God and the human person as expressed in the Qur?anic ayah, ?We are closer to him than is his own jugular vein.?  The human soul or nafs is the decision-making element of the human person, and it is free to follow or reject the promptings of the ruh.  When it uses the brain as part of the human person?s physical element, the jizm, to reject inspiration from God directly or through one?s own spirit, the soul is known as the nafs al ammara or the commanding soul.  The soul functions in ascending states of taqwa until it becomes the nafs al mutma?ina in complete harmony or ?oneness? with the divine.

This intimate relationship is also the basis of the prayer offered by the Prophet and by countless generations of Muslims for more than a thousand years: Allahumma, inna asaluka hubbaka wa hubba man yuhibbuka wa hubba kulli ?amali yuqaribuni ila hubika, ?O Allah!  I ask You for Your love and for the love of those who love You.  Grant that I may love every action that will bring me closer to Your love.?

At the secondary level of this principle, known as hajjiyat or requirements, lies the duty to respect life, haqq al haya.  This provides guidelines in the third-order tahsinniyat for what in modern parlance is called the doctrine of just war.

The next principle, haqq al nasl, the third of the seven, 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 principle teaches also that a community at the level of the nation, which shares a common sense of the past, common values in the present, and common hopes for the future, such as the Palestinians, Kurds, Chechens, Kashmiris, the Uighur in China, and the Anzanians in the Sudan, has legal existence and therefore legal rights in international law.  This is the opposite of the Western international law created by past empires, and perhaps only temporarily modified by the United Nations, which is based on the simple principle of ?might makes right.?

The third principle is haqq al mal, which is the duty to respect the rights of private property in the means of production.  This requires respect for institutions that broaden access to capital ownership as a universal human right and as an essential means to sustain respect for the human person and human community.  This principle requires the perfection of existing institutions, especially those that maintain a monopoly of access to credit, in order to remove the barriers to universal property ownership so that wealth will be distributed through the production process rather than by stealing from the rich by forced redistribution to the poor.  Such redistribution can never have more than a marginal effect in reducing the gap between the inordinately rich and the miserably poor, because the owners in a defective financial system need not and never will give up their economic and political power.

The next three universal principles in Islamic law concern primarily what we might call the quality of life.  The first is haqq al hurriya, which 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 democracy of representative government.

The secondary principles required to give meaning to the parent principle and carry it out in practice are khilafa, the ultimate responsibility of both the ruled and the ruler to God; shura, the responsiveness of the rulers to the ruled, which must be institutionalized in order to be meaningful; ijma, the duty of the opinion leaders to reach consensus on specific policy issues in order to participate in the process of shura; and an independent judiciary.

This universal principle of Islam was observed only in the breech throughout much of Muslim history, and especially in the modern era.  All of the great Islamic scholars were imprisoned, often for years and even decades, for teaching this requirement of political freedom.  This speaks well for those who have tried to preserve the purity of divine revelation, but poorly for those who pretended to practice it.

The second of these last three maqasid is haqq al karama or respect for human dignity.  The two most important hajjiyat for individual human dignity are religious freedom and gender equity.  These two second-order principles or norms are discussed below in Chapter Two, entitled ?Short Answers to Key Questions.?  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.

The last universal or essential purpose at the root of Islamic jurisprudence, which can be sustained only by observance of the first six principles and also is essential to each of them, is haqq al ?ilm or respect for knowledge.  Its second-order principles are freedom of thought, press, and assembly so that all persons can fulfill their purpose to seek knowledge wherever they can find it.

This framework for human rights is at the very core of Islam as a religion.  Fortunately, this paradigm of law in its broadest sense of moral theology is now being revived by what still is a minority of courageous Muslims determined to fill the intellectual gap that has weakened the Muslim umma for more than six hundred years, so that a spiritual renaissance in all faiths can transform the world.

 

 


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