Iraq: Developing a Model Revolution for the Twenty-First Century

Dr. Robert D. Crane

Posted Jun 4, 2005      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Iraq: Developing a Model Revolution for the Twenty-First Century

by Dr. Robert D. Crane

Part One

The Challenge

Policy-makers may be divided into two categories, those who see everything outside themselves as a world of threats and those who see reality as a universe of opportunities.  The threat mentality fosters a paradigm of stability as the ultimate goal and regards military force as the essential means to achieve it.  The opportunity mentality fosters a paradigm of justice as the ultimate goal and recognizes fundamental change as the only solution to the problems of the world.

The two sets of policy-makers are like the captains of two ships passing in the night.  They each see the other ship in the distance but neither has the slightest idea where the other ship is coming from and where it is going. 

When fear makes the imposition of artificial stability the bottom line of policy, those who propagate this biased view of reality never mention justice as a factor in world affairs because it is not even in their vocabulary.  They may even fear the higher concept of transcendent justice within a broader paradigm of ultimate truth as an ontological threat.

Justice in both classical Islamic and classical American thought has been the ultimate framework for its revolutionary role in human history.  In the Muslim world, the conflict between justice and tyranny began when the third caliph, Othman, permitted his own Umayyad family to gain dominance.  This soon resulted in the establishment of the Umayyed dynasty, which perverted Islamic teachings, eliminated justice as a framework for public policy, and abolished the Islamic constitution inaugurated by the Prophet Muhammad, salla allahu ?alayhi wa salam.  Nevertheless, all the great scholars of Islam have maintained the tradition of justice, and most of them have been imprisoned for years or even decades for their courage in doing so.  In the classical Islamic thought of the third through sixth Islamic centuries, both Sunnis and Shi?a cooperated in developing Islamic jurisprudence, specifically the maqasid al shari?ah, as a universal code of human responsibilities and rights and as the very definition of justice.  But only the Shi?a enshrined justice as one of the five articles of faith.  In the Jafari fiqh the first article of faith is recognition of the existence and Oneness of God and the resulting coherence of a purposeful universe.  The second is the knowledge and practice of justice.  This comes even before the third article of faith, which is the recognition that God in His mercy provides guidance through prophets to fallible human beings.

The five usul al din or ?roots of the faith? in the Jafari School of Law, namely, tawhid, ?adl (justice), nubuwaat, imamat, and ma?ad, were first systematized by Shaykh Muhammad ibne Babawaih, known as Shaykh Saduq, who died in 381 A. H.  His 300 books consolidated the doctrine of ijtihad or intellectual creativity, which has characterized Shi?a thought ever since.

The importance of justice in classical American thought is shown by the priority of five goals in the Preamble to the American Constitution.  The first of the five purposes given for the creation of the Great American Experiment is justice.  Next come peace, stability, and prosperity.  And, finally, America?s founders listed freedom.  The elementary reason is that freedom means nothing without justice and cannot be implemented without institutions that facilitate both economic and political self-determination.

The history of all civilizations testifies that a commitment to justice is the greatest source of civilizational flowering, and that the abandonment of justice as a framework of thought causes every civilization to collapse into chaos.  The sad state of world affairs today is caused more than anything else by the fact that in ruling circles almost everywhere the concept of justice is dead.  It died in America about the time of the Civil War and it died in Sunni Islam six hundred years ago. 

The great issue of the new century is whether or not transcendent justice will inform the peoples of the world so that they will be led by enlightened leaders who recognize the snares and limitations of material power and therefore can be led through their own humility by God. 

For most of the world?s peoples the twentieth century was a “dark ages,” when literally hundreds of millions of persons perished from the extremes of secular utopianism.  The source of this chaos, in secular-humanist fundamentalism, continues into the third millennium, both among the superficial adherents of religion with political agendas of violence and among those who resort to escalation dominance as the most effective means to counter violence and “save civilization.”  Both hate-filled violence and unnecessary reliance on fear-engendered counter violence violate the traditionalist values of classical Islam and classical America.

What are these traditionalist values and what are the threats to them?  The two inexorably conflicting visions of both the past and the future are reliance on God and reliance on man as the source of truth and justice.  Does man create meaning and law for the universe and everything in it or does God?  Is there a transcendent law or is all meaning and law what the philosophers call positivist.  Is justice the purpose of law or is its purpose only the stability of continuity in the sense of order for its own sake? Can one succeed in promoting the traditionalists? tridium of order, justice, and freedom without a higher paradigm of coherence and mutual reinforcement among these three societal goals?  Do all three of them have a still higher purpose in truth? 

The clearest answer is found in the Qur?an:  Wa tama?at kalimatu Rabbika sidqan wa ?adlan, ?And the Word of your Lord is fulfilled and perfected in truth and in justice.?

Forty years ago, I spent three years earning a doctorate at Harvard Law School in order to learn about justice.  In three years I never once even heard the word.  The reason is that Harvard has educated generations of Americans ever since the Civil War in the jurisprudence of positivism, which is known as “the command theory of law.”  Positivism is the root of polytheism.  It is the epitome of secular fundamentalism, and has destroyed every civilization in which it took root.  This basically amoral approach, which in fact denies the very existence of right and wrong, came to dominate during the early twentieth century throughout the Muslim world under the influence of European colonialism, as well as in every American institution, ranging from the local school to the highest court in the land. The denial of any transcendent source of law constitutes a denial of the very roots of Western civilization, including Islam, and, indeed, of any true culture.

The opposite of positivism is traditionalism, which sustains the roots of theocentric thought and society.  Traditionalism, as best developed in classical Islamic and classical American thought, is rooted in the self-evident truth that neither the individual person nor the collective of humankind is the ultimate sovereign in the universe, and in the corollary conviction that, without an objective right and wrong as the basis for law, cosmos must become chaos.  Traditionalism recognizes both classical natural law and classical religion in the sense of an apprehension of the Divine Presence and Will. 

Traditionalism teaches that there is a common law not only of America but of all humankind, and probably of all sentient beings everywhere in the universe.  There is also a common cult, in the sense of an   awareness of the transcendent and of the responsibilities that this awareness entails.  The greatest modern traditionalist, Russell Kirk, explains the origin of traditionalism in human societies as follows: “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.”

Our challenge, especially in Iraq today, is to revive the wisdom of classical Islamic and classical American thought. 

Part Two

The Response

After two years of clashing agendas in Iraq, three policy goals have emerged as the most critical issues in reaching consensus.  The first is the rule of law as a means to enforce stability.  The second is the set of policies that are needed to apply justice in economic, social, and political life.  The third is the nature of the law that is to rule as a means to define what is just. 

All three policy goals are equally important.  The first one, enforcing a minimum national order as part of a doctrine of world public order, is most urgent and is emphasized by those who want stability at any price.  The second focuses on building an institutional infrastructure best suited for broad-based prosperity.  The third of the three goals, defining justice, is the most important of the three and perhaps equally urgent because it is a key to the first two.

This third goal is to define the nature of the law that can best enlist the understanding and support of those who can shape a common agenda.  The first phase of this task is to draft an Iraqi constitution.  The key issue during discussions over the past two years is whether Islamic law should be the single guiding framework for Iraqi society or merely one of several sources without any articulated framework.  The answer to this question depends in part on whether one thinks that Islamic law, or indeed any faith-based paradigm of values, can be productive in the public square as an important factor in shaping a world of balanced order, justice, and freedom.

The real issue for both Iraqis and Americans should be whether the Iraqi constitution should reflect the universal wisdom embodied in the classical thought of both Islam and America.  The bedrock basis of this wisdom is the essential role of enlightened religion as the framework for the pursuit of truth and its expression in justice as the basis of a free society, because only from awareness of the ultimate source of justice in transcendent truth can any society remain free. 

Discussions on constitutional law in any Muslim country should address the universal responsibilities and rights that are recognized by every religion, and especially by Islam.  All discussions about democracy should focus equally on the governing principles of constitutional law and on the legal structures and procedures to translate them into practice.  The American Constitution starts with a preamble that prioritizes the purposes of human society.  The body of the Constitution then lists the structural elements that were preferred by America’s founders, most of which probably would be good in any Muslim country dedicated to peace, freedom, and democracy through justice.

Throughout the Muslim world opinion leaders, especially outside of government, have been addressing this need for civilizational revival as a means to avoid civilizational clash.  The most promising initiative at the theoretical level was perhaps the ecumenical movement of traditionalist Muslims and traditionalist Christians known as the Halaqa al Asala wa Taqadun, The Circle of Tradition and Progress, in which perhaps the leading personalities were Shaykh Rashid al Ghannouchi, head of the Nahda in Tunisia, and Professor Louis Cantori in America.  Although this has not survived as an organized movement, the ideas articulated by it are of perennial value.

The three founding principles and the Founding Statement of this Halaqa, published in my position paper, The Grand Strategy of Justice, Policy Paper No. 3, Islamic Institute for Strategic Studies, April 2000, pages 79-81, have given rise to position papers on policies to promote justice in Iraq and other places and to definitional guidance in the form of a draft preamble for the Iraqi constitution.  This general movement for peace through justice is supported by both Iraqis and Americans and most recently by the Free Republicans Party in Iraq, which is calling for the specific policy of privatizing Iraqi oil to every Iraqi citizen in equal and inalienable shares of voting stock.

The essence of this approach, linking freedom to a higher order of justice, was presented in Iran last December at a workshop sponsored by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.  In a paper, presented at this workshop, Ayatollah Jannati stated simply, “Freedom is the sum of rights recognized for human beings, who are free to accept them.  Human freedom, however, having private and public dimensions, should not be exercised in a way that causes harm to others or threatens other people?s moral values.  In Islam freedom is not absolute; it is delimited by the law that regulates freedom in the context of mutual rights and duties to one another.”

The key to this statement why freedom can never be absolute lies in the universal teaching of all the world religions that a just society must be governed by awareness of a higher sovereignty than that of any individual person or any state.  According to the traditionalist teachings of the Abrahamic religions, the just society should be governed by leaders who are governed by God.

This traditionalist approach to all public policy is perhaps best stated in the founding documents of the Circle of Tradition and Progress.  Professor Al Ghannouchi states that the first principle of this movement is tahqiq, the ascertainment of reality.  The root word, haqq, also has the meaning of transcendent truth eminating from the divine and the related meaning of human rights.  The second principle is masawad, which refers to equality in dignity and opportunity.  And the third principle is khadm, or servant, which is the designation that he gives to governmental power.

  The founding statement of the Halaqa al Asala wa Taqadun, which I am in the process of expanding into five volumes of 500-pages each, in sha’a Allah, succinctly summarizes the key to global leadership in the Twenty-first Century:

“The modern project, derived substantially from the European Enlightenment, can rightly claim achievement in the technical and socio-political realms.  Many people throughout the world, however, have come to realize the destructive consequences occasioned by modernity: the triumph of materialism, the decline of morality, unequal global economic development, the collapse of family and community, and the erosion of religious belief.

“Implicit in the modernist project is an arrogant and naive insistence that human fulfillment can be achieved solely on materialistic bases, and a belief in the absolute autonomy of human reason and in man’s presumed ability to create his moral and cultural systems in isolation from any belief in transcendence.  The modernist project, issuing from a shallow, utilitarian claim of value-free rationality, has come to pose a threat to life itself.

“The Circle of Tradition and Progress has been established to promote and enhance dialogue, discussion, and scholarly research among academics and public figures committed to the preservation of religious and traditional values and the achievement of progress in the Muslim world, the West, and elsewhere.  Special emphasis will be placed on counteracting the excesses of modernity, with particular attention to a critique of the contemporary materialistic, behavioralist, and radically secular experiment.  All the activities of the Circle will be scholarly and intellectual in nature.  The Circle will not engage in the advocacy of any specific public policies.

“Among much else, this effort will include an encouragement of holism in both the individual and society.  The societal holism we seek will incorporate accountable and democratic government, basic individual liberty and human rights, and an economic system that is both free and humane.  What we propose is to reestablish an equilibrium between the spiritual and the material, and reclaim for our time what have been called the ‘permanent things.’  Most broadly, the intention of the Circle is to foster intellectual activities designed to rectify the modern rupture between economics and ethics, reason and religion, and man and God.  Above all, we hope to encourage greater understanding among religions and to contribute to reconciliation of peoples and to international cooperation.

“We believe in values that are not alterable and have been manifested in the teaching of all the prophets (peace be upon them) and great civilizations throughout the ages.  We believe further in the transcendence of God, the need of man for divine guidance, and the continuing relevance of the prophetic faiths of Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

“A commitment to reform has always been at the heart of the Islamic project as articulated in the work of such ulama and scholars as al-Ghazali, Ibn Taymiyya, al-Afghani, Abduh, Rida, Igbal, Baqr al Sadr, and Malik ben Nabi.  Each of these great reformers attempted to address the problems occasioned by the recurring imbalance caused by man’s quest for earthly fulfillment and material prosperity on the one hand, and the reality of God and the ultimate primacy of matters spiritual on the other.  We regard the Circle of Tradition and Progress as a new initiative in this long and unending enterprise of reform.

“Just as there has always been a Muslim imperative to reform, there has also always been a Western search for God and for the modalities of cultural conservation.  Belief in a religiously-rooted natural law and an acknowledgement of the importance of the claims of the past have been a hallmark of Western thought at least since Thomas Aquinas.  In more recent times, this Western religious imperative and traditionalism has manifested itself in the work of such thinkers as Edmund Burke, Eric Vogelin, Russell Kirk, and Gerhart Niemeyer.  Together, we believe that the Islamic impulse to reform and the Western quest for religious understanding provide a solid foundation for our joint endeavors.

“We favor the conduct of international relations on a basis of respect for all the world’s civilizations.  We oppose all attempts to export or impose cultural systems, to support dictatorial regimes, or to obstruct democratic transformation.  It is our conviction that attempts to reinvent the Cold War with Muslims as enemies of the West, or the West designated as an incorrigible enemy of Islam, are deplorable and should be avoided.  We are united in our bdlief that all such Manichaean formulations will impede cooperation between Muslims and the West and are likely over time to have a dramatically negative impact on both international stability and world peace.”

What does this traditionalist manifesto have to do with Iraq?  It certainly never occurred to its drafters that this manifesto could provide source material for drafting a constitution in the Year 2005 in a free Iraq.  Subsequent scholars both in Iraq and America, however, who share its basic message have suggested the following preamble for the Iraqi constitution to reflect its wisdom. 


  The ultimate sovereignty of the Divine Creator and Sustainer bestows inalienable rights in the individual person.  All other levels of sovereignty derive from and are subordinate to that of the human person.  This inalienable sovereignty of the person confers on every man, woman, and child basic responsibilities to respect and advance universal justice in the form of inalienable human rights for all others.
  These responsibilities, enshrined in the universal principles of natural law and in the transcendent law of every world religion, require freedom of association for the common good in order to secure respect for religion (haqq al din); life (haqq al haya); family and community (haqq al nasl); private property rights in society’s wealth-producing assets (haqq al mal); self-determination through political freedom (haqq al hurriya); gender equity (haqq al karama); and the pursuit of knowledge (haqq al ‘ilm).
  Respect for religion requires respect for true pluralism, not mere tolerance of diverse beliefs and spiritual paths.  Such pluralism acknowledges the legitimacy of different faith traditions in the plan of God so that members can benefit from each other’s wisdom in order to advance everyone’s spiritual life, moral development, and fullest creative potential.
  Respect for life requires the pursuit of peace through justice.
  Respect for the family requires respect for the nuclear family as the bedrock of society and respect for the communities that derive their value from the families that compose them.
  Respect for individual private ownership requires institutional means to promote economic justice and material well-being by: 1) enforcing contracts, protecting property, and expanding to all persons and families equal opportunity to participate both as workers and as owners in the creation of wealth, sharing of profits, and in the control over technology and productive enterprises; 2) encouraging a freely competitive marketplace for determining just prices, just wages, and just profits; 3) maintaining a just monetary system for creating interest-free money for expanding ownership of productive property, a fair tax system that encourages productive activity, and inheritance laws that discourage private monopolies of power, privilege, and wealth; and 4) restraining government from ownership of natural resources or in the means of production where such property could be owned broadly by the people, or from abusing its otherwise legitimate monopoly of coercive powers in violation of fundamental economic and social rights.
  Respect for self-determination of persons, of communities, and of the nation requires political institutions to secure representative government (shura), community self-governance (ijma), and an independent judiciary.
  Respect for gender equity requires freedom for women to fulfill their unique responsibilities and to enjoy equal rights with men in all walks of life.
  Respect for knowledge requires freedom of thought, speech, and association, subject to the other human rights outlined in this preamble.
We, the People of Iraq, do hereby proclaim these human responsibilities and rights as the fundamental framework and guidance for this Constitution as the Supreme Law of the land.

The challenges in Iraq appear to be nearly insurmountable, but challenge has been decreed by our Creator as a purpose of life on earth.  Allah reveals ma? al usri yusra, ?With every difficulty comes ease.?  This can also be translated as, ?With every challenge comes the opportunity for a constructive response.?

The Iraqis have the opportunity now to create a model constitution for the entire Muslim world and to establish the needed institutions and policies to carry it out in practice.  This could inaugurate the greatest revolution since the revelation of the Qur?an almost a millennium and a half ago.  This, in turn, could help Americans launch what President Ronald Reagan called the Second American Revolution to complete the first one.  We all have gone far off course, and the threats to global civilization are indeed mounting.  But, the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ?alayhi wa salam, said, ?Even if you would know that the world will end tomorrow, you should go out and plant a tree.?