ISLAM BETWEEN EAST AND WEST – Book Sample
INTRODUCTION – ISLAM BETWEEN EAST AND WEST
The writer of this bok, ‘Alija ‘Ali Izetbegovic, a lawyer from Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, comes from South Slav which for more than 50 years belonged to Islam. He views his environment, therefore, with an Islamic frame of mind. Nevertheless, he charts his own course – daring but fascinating.
Closest to his heart appears to be a desire to offer the younger generation of Muslims of the world implements for orientation.
‘Ali lzetbegovic has meanwhile entered into the history of Islam in Bosnia. In August 1983, he , together with eleven Bosnian intellectuals (among them one poetess) was sentenced to fourteen years in jail for his “fundamentalist digressions” by a court in Sarajevo . Evidently, the communist rulers in Yugoslavia see in the philosophy of our writer a great threat to their current order.
As a Bosnian Muslim who has been struggling for several de cades to preserve Islamic faith under the strenuous conditions of secularized society, I accept with great pleasure this opportunity to point to an intensive concept of Islam in the hearts and minds of Bosnian Muslims.
Neither ‘Ali lzetbegovic nor any other of the defendants from the 1983 Sarajevo’s trial have any political goals or interest in politics in their life’s circle. None of them can be accused of any intentions against the state or against the people as was wrongfully stated by the court.
For the clarification of some key issues and possible criticism of the book’s content what follows are the views of a group of enlightened Muslims as these were expressed in the publication “Islam and West,” printed in Vienna. It should be noted that this publication is, in fact, the only organ of Bosnian Muslims in the free world. It is printed mainly in the German, Bosnian, and Serbo-Croatian languages.
These views are presented without any pretense to systematization or completeness:
In secularized Europe, the cry “back to our origins,” which is shaking the Islamic world in our days, can only be interpreted as a challenge to us to carefully examine our Islamic and cultural heritage and to jettison the accumulated historical ballast of centuries which is a hindrance to progress.
If undertaken in a realistic and independent way, this return to our origins is not likely to give rise to reactionary movements . On the contrary, it can be expected to lead to a purer understanding of Islam.
Islam cannot mean submission to the tyranny of history; on the contrary, it means a continuing obligation to order life in any given situation in accordance with the needs of the time and in total sub mission to God. This calls for a greater emphasis on the universal dimension of Islam which actually regards Judaism and Christianity as its earlier manifestations.
The innate propensity of Eastern people to cling to long-established thought patterns, a charge already brought against the Arabs by the Qur’an itself, is a hindrance to a modern Islamic education based on scientific knowledge – an essential element for Muslims in their witnessing to God.
A change has long been overdue here. Only if we grow out of blind submission to the doctrinal authority of our ancestors can new perspectives be opened up.
Even in secularized Europe, Islam will hardly let itself be persuaded to regard God as primarily the “Lord of History.” In the view of Islam, and thus not only of history but also of prehistory and “posthistory,” the restricted view of God from a human standpoint alone is obviously a source of anthropocentrism which has led in the end to a distorted view of humankind itself.
As a consequence, humankind is dangerously far from the order willed by God.
Islam offers its adherents many ways of coping with life in secularized society. Mention may be made, for example, of the absence of sacraments, of a priesthood, and of baptism;
the civil nature of marage; the natural approach to sexuality; the rejection of the idea of excommunication; the positive attitude to knowledge and scientific research; the relative toleration of mixed marages; and the long-standing readiness for dialogue with the monotheistic religions.
Blind progress that does not take its bearing on any firm valuational framework risks leading to decultivation and loss of personality. The effects of such dedication to the Zeitgeist manifests it self, for example, in the case of the Jews.
That is why Martin Buber has already warned: “If you become like other peoples, you no longer deserve to be.”‘
Taking into account the undeniably existing will of Islam toward improvement of the world, it becomes evident that it is a fallacy to attribute fatalism to Islam. Fatalism is more likely to be met in the view of life shaped by modem psychology and based on a fatal reductionism of all human dimensions to environmental influences.
This reductionism does not ask what the meaning of life is and does not encourage man to develop the will to give life meaning; it tells man that he is the victim of circumstances. “That is grist to the mill of mass neurosis because fatalism is part of the symptomatology of mass neurosis,” a reputed scholar holds.
As is known, the zenith and ultimate act of the spiritual side in Muhammad’s life was his visionary flight into the heavenly spheres mentioned in the Qur’an under the name of mi’raj.
This example of the spirituality of Muhammad (upon whom be peace) in dicates the direction in which the life of a Muslim should move. This direction clearly is vertical.
Religiousness that understands its culmination to be in the heavenly ascent – the mi ‘raj can be but bent toward God. It is dynamic, uplifting, and open-minded because it is not bound by tradition and custom.
In Islamic philosophy which flourished until the end of the thirteenth century and sporadically even later, the thought persisted that science had to be in accord with revelation – a view flfiy held by ibn-Rushd I Averroes (died in 1198). The course of Islamic cultural history shows convincingly that religion and science can in fact be in accord.
The writer of this book, who also wrote the Islamic Declaration – the subject of frequent publicity in the international media and the main argument against the defendants at the Sarajevo trial – ‘Martin Bubcr, Gesamelte Werke, ed. Richard Beer – Hofmann (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1 963). attempts to build on its inherited spiritual ground an alternative to capitalism and dialectical materialism. That is, however, nothing new for the Islamic world. ‘ Ali Izetbegovic brings a refereshingly new approach to this tradition.
The treatment as well as the methodology of problematics is the legitimate and rightful property of the writer. Within the framework of these two elements, approach and method, the author’s specific life philosophy has found its form. This specific philosophy appears also in the pages of this book.
Because of the sudden and unexpected arst of the author, the academic apparatus of the book (bibliography and references) have remained unfinished. The sources and sometimes even titles of the quoted books are incomplete … and it is not clear whether the authO£ quotes the original or the translation of some bok. These cases are indicated with the abbreviation “n.p.d.” (no publication data).
Considering the extraordinary circumstances under which this book is published, it is hoped that the reader will pardon these weaknesses. I am sure this will not detract from its immense appeal.
ABOUT THE THEME
The modern world is characterized by a sharp ideological encounter. All of us are involved in it, whether as its partakers or as its victims. What is the place of Islam in this gigantic confrontation? Does it have a part in the shaping of the pre sent world? This book tries in part to answer the question.
There are only three integral views of the world: the religious, the materialistic, and the Islamic.1 They reflect three elemental possibilities (conscience, nature, and man), each of them manifesting it self as Christianity, materialism, and Islam.
All variety of ideologies, philosophies, and teachings from the oldest time up to now can be reduced to one of these three basic world views. The first takes as its starting point the existence of the spirit, the second the existence of matter, and the third the simultaneous existence of spirit and matter.
If only matter exists, materialism would be the only consequent philosophy. On the contrary, if the spirit exists, then man also exists, and man’s life would be senseless without a kind of religion and morality. Islam is the name for the unity of spirit and matter, the highest form of which is man himself. The human life is complete only if it includes both the physical and the spiritual desires of the human being.
All man’s failures are either because of the religious denial of man’s biological needs or the materialistic denial of man’s spiritual desires. Our forefathers used to say that there existed two substances: mind and matter, under which they understood two elements, two orders, two worlds, with different origins and different natures, which
In this book, the ten religion has the meaning it has in Europe – that is, faith as an esoteric experience which does not go beyond a personal relationship with God and as such expresses itself only in dogmas and rituals. Accordingly, Islam cannot be classified as a religion. Islam is more than a religion for it embraces life.
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