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Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Toward a humane Islamic State
Arooj Alam has posted several essays to academia.edu. They are mainly essays which she’d been assigned to write for various classes. Lately she’s posted a pretty large one, which looks like a chapter on a work in progress about how Muslims might construct a (better) Islamic State. Sometimes when I see student work on Academia, I comment on it.
To get some disclosures done, I have posted here a number of replies to politically-minded essays that had come from perspectives with which I disagree. My replies haven’t always been temperate, although I do try to grant to them All Due Respect. Alam is one (rare) writer who, as a human being, is in fact due respect. She condemns the Armenian Genocide, which is more than what many Sunni Muslims will do. She also applies the term “Occidentalism” to Easterners who promote a caricature of the West, as mirror to the Said concept of “Orientalism”. I might disagree on points – e.g. if we deny that the real “Orientalists” did much wrong on balance, then “Occidentalism” looks trollish. But I can say that Alam has her heart in the right place.
Still, based on Arooj Alam’s opening title, I must ask her – and her advisor Dr Andrew Arlig – why she is submitting this chapter as a Philosophy paper. Philosophy is by nature a humanist enterprise. From what I see, Alam is bringing in evidence not subject to human critique. Straight off the bat she calls the Qur’an “Holy” and Muhammad “Prophet”. So what if we say that the Qur’an is not holy and that Muhammad was not a prophet? (I mean, apart from “die, infidel!” which Alam, herself, would never say.)
From my perspective Alam has two choices - and if she is doing philosophy, really only one choice. Either way as I read her chapter it is her book's second chapter, not its first.
If she is doing philosophy her new first chapter will discuss the proper ends of any human state. She then rewrites the chapter she’d posted: explaining (Sunni) Islamic orthodoxy, and picking out the best hadiths. Later chapters will – philosophically – show how Sunnism leads to the ideal state.
In its present form, which assumes the Sunni sira, she is writing an essay on Islamic politics as a Muslim. She could submit that paper to al-Azhar - which is fine! In that case her first chapter must define what Allah wants out of a human political state. The second chapter then defends the Sunni hadith and explains how it gets to Allah’s will, which Shi’a hadith and the “Qur’an-only” sect won’t.
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