On Islam and Violence: Encountering the Crisis of Western Metaphysics – Ahmed Abdel Meguid

Değerlendiren;Kayhan ALİ


Western philosophy is dominated today by negative discourses and this is a mo­ment for the Islamic sciences to provide a new vision.

One task is to define the Islamic appro­ach to the question of violence. Much has already been written on the subject by the Frankfurt school and others, but Hannah Arendt is the starting point, to ultimately explain that the left has be­come an existential burden to the wes­tern world.

Arendt makes a distinction between vio­lence and power against background of the sixties. For her, power is the human ability to act in concert and belongs to a cohesive group. A person in power is a person empowered by others. As for violence, it has an instrumental cha­racter; used as a means to an end and to increase strength. Accordingly, only those in power can use violence and go­vernments lose power when they stop representing the theme of the group; they lose the capacity for violence and the means to suppress their people.

Western metaphysics is closely tied to the idea of sameness; being able to abst­ract from the particulars to conceive of the forms. Hence Plato’s advocating the philosopher king. Something similar in Aristotle exists, where metaphysics em­phasizes the study of universals. Power becomes a subject for metaphysics be­cause it gathers and acts as the basis of the ideal city.

But the problem emerges when the uni­versals are seen as the essence of things and are imposed on particulars: Chris­tian thinkers like Aquinas and Abelard based their ideas here on Muslim thin­kers, but it is importance to see how they misread the Muslim thinkers.

In Aquinas’ four-level analysis of law at the top is the divine law, which repre­sents the bible interpreted by the chur­ch. But all the levels are of a sacred and divine nature: they shape rather than respond to reality. Thus, the sacred ru­les over the profane in a way that infli­cts violence on the latter.

In this context, revolt is revolt of the particular against the universal. Carl Schmidt observes that the seventeen century saw a replacement of this sys­tem: The bible-king relation was traded for the constitution, which became sac­red in its place, despite being a secular document.

Kant’s first Critique gets rid of the classical metaphysics and with trans­cendental deduction makes the min­ds relation to the world function in a completely imminent way. Morally en­lightened subjects are those who realize freedom means being able to transcend the physical laws to reach laws that are logically correct and binding regardless of context. But this led to a complete disconnection of the universal and the particular. He never resolved the prob­lem. All German idealists try to find an entity through which the universal enforces itself on the particular. Kant used the human to overcome the dua­lity. In Hegel it was the universal spirit.

Hegel wrote that Judaism was materia­list and representative of the particular (which later becomes a major source for anti-Semitism). Hegel conceived of a fully-fledged rational spirit, leading to a rational culture, a rational society, and ultimately a nation state that has the right to rule the world. Here you have the original source for the Nazi’s Third Reich.

The ideal of the nation state collapsed after World War Two and postmoder­nism began, along with, for example, materialist feminism, because the con­cept of the universal makes women the particular in Western thought.

There is extensive literature that appro­aches politics in Islam through Kutub al-Nasaih, e.g. al-Ghazali, al-Mawardi, etc., but a deeper political reading is where politics revolves around power and metaphysics. In Islam, the foun­dation is not metaphysics but rather the interpretative moment; where the relation between the metaphysical and historical occurs with the human as an interpretive being.

This makes the Islamic view very diffe­rent from the one behind the constituti­onal state. For the constitution is only a sacralized version of the old Christian moment. Why did the Asharis and Ma­turidis fight with the Mutazilis? The lat­ter wanted the sıfat al-manawiyyah to be the basis of legal thinking and this meant building a closed metaphysical system that pushed away particulari­ties.

There are various traditions and orien­tations that seek to understand the rela­tion between the physical and metaphy­sical, for example, in the Islamic schools of law and sufi tariqat, compared to the top-down version of law found in the modern world. In Islam the concept of power is the constant attempt to relate the universal to a possible particular guided by the concept of God, which is the most basic, but also the most emp­ty, since God is the sum of all absolutes and all perfections.

Justification of violence in Islam comes with the idea of doing jihad to defend a society where the relation between the universal and the particular in all possible forms can be protected and safeguarded. Here, power is the basis against violence. This happened during the ‘highest’ periods of Muslim history, including the first century of Ottoman rule. Once that was lost, however, and power starts forcing itself in society, the Western design returns. There was no longer a knowledge based society and we lose the real thing that makes us Is­lamic.

Now we can see how non-Islamic the Islamist movements are with moder­nist and post-modernist accounts of the groups. The matter is decided with how the fatwa is given and reached not just what the content of the ruling is. Thus, the difference between Isis and al-Qaeda is like the difference between modernity and post-modernity. Al-Qae­da is all about the establishing an ideal Islamic state; to bring it to reality no matter what, whereas Isis interpret the sacred text with no knowledge, no logos or universal to bring cohesion.

Today, Turkey is a hope for the Mus­lim world to restore that system, which would represent a political revolution and revitalization of the concept of the ummah. For the notion of power this would involve cannot exist in nation state framework.

Some leftist thinkers understand the lef­tist project is intellectually and ideologi­cally bankrupt. It has become a burden on the West. Those dominating civil so­ciety movements around the world are funded by capitalists and yet claim to be open. This contradiction is an histo­rical inevitability that will permanently take away the friendly face of the left.

And because the left was defeated by the universalist liberal project, it has only one target left to attack: the me­taphysics of Islam. For the liberal rati­onalist metaphysics is at least a rational project and in that sense secular. So they are happier to take Hegel and dis­miss al-Ghazali.

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