[addressed to fyi]
I tried unsuccessfully to come up with a concise response to your position that Iran’s revolution and its aftermath, the current regime/ situation is a catastrophe (nekbat, I beleive was the word you used). The impetus driving my desire to respond to you is that while I agree that there are many errors that the Islamic Republic has made and continues to make, and consequently, so much room for improvement, many of these problems which are acutely felt on the individual level, in the big picture, on the societal level, if you will, these issues are inconsequential relative to the seismic shift which has taken place as a result of Imam Khomeini’s revolution, which was the creation of a whole new social order distinct from the order of the ancien regime, which was an appendage of the failed attempt by the universalist ethos of the En”light”enment project to create and maintain a global world order based on the absurd notion that European secular humanist values of the 18th century can and will inevitably obtain and triumph throughout the world. As absurd as this project sounds once viewed in this light, this is, nonetheless, precisely what has been happening since the revolutions of 1776 and 1789: because of the vast superiority of the West in terms not only of technological and hence military superiority, but also in terms of political, economic, and in a word, intellectual superiority – all of which was (and continues to be, to a lesser and lesser extent by the decade) an historical anomaly which was brought about by unique historical circumstances* and which, by its very nature, could not and cannot outlast the natural order of things, which historically at least, has been a technological relative parity.
* (1) The invention c. 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg of the modern printing press, (2) The Portuguese invention of the three-mast sail ship, necessitated by the fall of Constantinople in 1493 (? close enough) and the consequent cutting off of Rome and Europe from the Silk Road Trade, so that the then backwater civilization of Western Christianity had to find a way to go around ‘Islamdom’ (to use Marshall Hodgson’s awkward but inescapable neologism), leading to (3) the discovery of the Americas, and the boon provided Western Christendom by the injection of vast and unimaginable amounts of gold and even more importantly, land and slave labor, both local and imported, into its economy, as well as precious commodities such as the horse, the potato, maize, tobacco, etc. (4, 5 & 6) Guns, Germs & Steel (see jarred Diamond’s book of the same name), (7) Martin Luther’s reformation of the liturgical language from the mysterious to the vernacular, et cetera – for a more nuanced account, see Hodgson’s Venture of Islam, Volume 3.
But I digress. The important point to focus on is that this New World Order which the humanists maintain, was and remains based on the order it reacted against, namely that of the Holy Roman Empire, with its so-called conflation of Church and State, so-called, because it only becomes a conflation (and this is the crux of the biscuit) when that unified system of governance and cultural ethos (1) does not have a mechanism to accommodate minority rights puritanical inquisitions, the purging of Moslems and Jews from the Iberian peninsula in post-Andalusian Spain, and (2) Feels the need to impose its religion on others: the Crusades, Manifest Destiny & the White Man’s Burden, Colonialism, Neo-Colonialism (WTO/IMF/World Bank/ GATT/ NAFTA/ Trilateralism), etc.
So the secular humanist project took over this regime, if you will, with its monist (universalizing) axiology (ethical system), and simply replaced the head of this beast, which was the Catholic Church, with a human one – keeping its false conflation of (the humanist) Church and State by failing to jettison the dynamic of imposing its system on others and yes, failing to provide adequately for minority rights (to wit: the Supreme Court Decision in the last decade of the 19th C which split the Mormon Church by disallowing polygamy, the exigency (maslahat) of the state not being able to accommodate the use of the Peyote plant as a sacred native American ritual, or much more mundane matters as not allowing the call to prayer at, say, 5 AM, as it violates municipal noise ordinances, etc.)
Well, as you can see, the concept is complex and I am again failing to do justice to it. But the point is, Iran’s revolution is a force of nature, a symptom, if you will, of the natural tendency to repulse this immanentization, or to use a word you favor, “utopian” fantasy of a universal, monist world order based on a secular-humanist 18th century (Age of Reason) ideology.
In this – larger – context, where the heirophant has woken, has been rudely awakened by Imam Khomeini, from its millennial slumber and risen to dam the imposition of the tide of alien and godless culture, the grievances of a minority of the population, as legitimate and acute as they may be (and I believe that they are both, and my heart goes out to the desperation of these “greens” who have been marginalized), these grievances must by necessity be small potatoes as the tectonic plates of history shift and the seismic wheels grind up the monist fabric to a pulp, bringing forth a plurality of cultures and religions. The radicality of the Event of the Islamic Revolution and the concomitant changes to the landscape (be it cultural, political, aesthetic) and the need and indeed sacred duty to ensure its survival in a sea of unbelief, imposed wars both hot and cold, sanctions, internal sedition, intense Balkanization pressures, etc. – all these elements and the exigencies that necessarily must follow in their train, the lesser and otherwise excellent mind of Ayatollah Hosyan Ali Montazeri did not understand, and cooler minds who shared his concerns and values prevailed, alhamdulillah.
The advent of Imam Khomeini and the adumbration of the Revolution in its many stages and phases, while inconvenient and even oppressive to many, is not a “nekbah”, is not a catastrophe. Indeed, it is a blessing most glorious from the One who stated in the Surat an-Nuh that it would be easy for Him to create a world with one religion if He so wished. But in His infinite Wisdom and Mercy, He create a world with a multiplicity of religions (a world where ethical values do not have universal application, a pluralist world order), so that different nations could compete and exceed each other (sebqat) in doing good. Ameen.
God knows the ‘ulama didn’t do much with the revelations of the last and greatest of His prophets. The Sunni’s bowed to the might-makes-right principle right at the very beginning, indeed while his bier was still wet and while ‘Ali and Fatimah were still tending to the ritual requirements of his burial, when Abu Bakr and ‘Umar rushed off to the Saqifa of the Banu Sa’ida, where the former was anointed by the latter in a “falta” (a “mistake”) – to use ‘Umar’s charitable choice of word. Hence, the Sunni umma laid the foundation of the separation of mosque and state less than a generation later with the forced abdication of the fifth (count them) ‘Rightly Guided’ Caliphs, and which was sealed by the murder of the Prophet’s grandson Husayn on that terrible day, ‘Ashura, as foretold by the Ancients.
An example of the squandering of their fiduciary responsibilities as the trustees and legatees of the Prophet’s project for the liberation of women can be seen in the closing of the door of ‘ijtihad by the early ulama, Ibn Malik, Abu Hanifa, Ash-Shafi’i and Ibn Hanbal. The Prophet, with whom be peace, put a stop to the practice of the burying alive of unwanted female babies (female infanticide). He put a stop to treating woman as so much chattel (a practice continued, by the way, in the en”light”ened West well into the 19th century in most parts of Europe, where women remained the properties of their husbands), giving their souls equal ontic status as that of the souls of men, giving their bodies legal personhood, and allowing them, to the disbelief and dismay (and some even say fury) of ‘Umar, to hold and even inherit property. This project was supposed to continue with the inauguration of ‘Ali as the Prophet’s wasi (legatee) at the Pond of Ghadir (Ghadir Khumm), where he made his final speech on his return journey from his final pilgrimage to the Ka’ba, where he appointed ‘Ali as his successor, and where ‘Umar was the first to go up and to congratulate him.
And the Shi’a ‘ulama didn’t fare much better. (Sitting on a fence for a thousand years (Greater Occultation circa 924 CE) is liable to drive a stake up your a$$.) Until Imam Khomeini came along and said enough is enough, bless his heart, and restarted the Project, inaugurating the Cycle of Wilaayat, after the Cycles of Nubuwwat (Prophethood) and Cycle of Imamat came to a close. And he made sure, bless is heart again, to insist that this wilaayat (guardianship) was motlaqeh (absolute), so that if, in his wisdom, the wali (who must be well versed in fiqh, Islamic Jurisprudence, a faqih) determined that, for example, that the covering of one’s hair by the female of the species is recommended but not mandatory, or that it can be done by means of a wig (as an example…), then he has the authority so to decide. And all of this has been inaugurated into a constitution which has been adopted by a vote of near unanimity. What a legacy that greatest of Moslem scholars, Imam Khomeini, rahmatullah alayhim, has left behind for us!
Had the antinomian Western branch of the Abrahamic Family of Man not rejected the teachings of Jesus, and not rejected the teachings of Muhammad (upon both of whom be the peace and blessings of God), then the issue of the legateeship of ‘Ali would no doubt have evolved in a different vein altogether, and the Cycle of Wilaayat may not even have been inaugurated, the Cycle of Imaamat still being extant and in force. But so it was written, and it was not to be. That said, it is incumbent on Christian believers of good faith, just as it is incumbent on our Sunni brethren to re-examine their past and come to terms with what should have been, so that at least we are all marching to the same tune.
Failure to do so puts Christians in an unenviable position, and that is that if Christians continue to deny the prophethood of Mohammad (peace be with him), then they open themselves to the charge that the final and greatest of the prophets of God, and the Final Testament that he brought with him, are nothing but a devilishly clever fraud that has ensnared millions upon millions of people and ensnares about 1500 million still. And which, incidentally, ushered in a civilization that was the leading light of the world for many centuries, while Europe lay in the Darkness of the Middle Ages. Unless her churches, starting most probably with the Unitarian, Presbyterian and Episcopal, start seriously to take stock of the situation and accept Mohammad and his Final Testament, at this late stage, as the Prophet of God and as the Word of God, respectively, the stain on Christendom’s sullied reputation will only grow darker and cover her entirely.
Posted by Arash Darya-Bandari