Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Part XIX: Islam is a Civilization, not a Religion

Part XIX: Islam is a Civilization, not a religion
by Abu Daoud

The word religion is spectacularly Western. It comes from the Latin meaning “to re-connect” or to form a link that has been severed. It is popular in the USA, and perhaps in the UK, to say that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship. Neither is entirely correct though: Christianity is indeed a religion, but it is relational as well. Christianity does indeed seek to re-connect (or reconcile, to use a more biblical word) two warring parties: God and man. And it does this through the cross of the God-man, Jesus Christ, God incarnate.

But what of Islam? Is it a religion? Does it seek to reconnect two estranged parties?

The word normally used in Arabic to translate the English-Latin word religion is “diin.” But if we look at that word we find a very different understanding of the relation between humanity and God/Allah than we would via the other word, religion.

The Arabic word diin is a gerund, and it is based on the verb daan, which means, in its root form, (he) judged. In fact we find this confirmed in no less a prayer than the opening chapter of the Quran (al fatiha—the opening), wherein we read that “your is the day of diin” or “yours is the day of judgment.” So in Arabic Islam (which, make no mistake, is the true Islam) diin is nothing less than judgment.

This moves us towards the true understand that the English word ‘religion’ quite simply has no translation in Arabic. If wish to translate the word ‘reconciliation’ we may use the fairly accurate word tasalluh, which does indeed mean to reconcile two inimical parties. But for the word ‘religion’ we would have to resort to fairly exotic contrivances like ‘ta3alluq’ or something along those lines.

I mention this all simply because I have noticed the very pernicious effect of mistranslations. Words have a great deal of power. I bring up the topic because one hears often among Western politicians the idea of “secularism” among Arab or Persian Muslim peoples, wherein one separates religion from civil rule. When we understand that the truly Islamic-Arabic understanding does not, and can not, separate religious rule from civil rule, we have moved a step towards being able to intelligently grapple in a realistic way with the sundry challenges faced by people in the diverse countries of Southwest Asia and North Africa. Religion involves judgment (diin). Civil rule involves judgment (diin) as well. There is no separation, and within an Islamic civilization separation of the two is neither desirable nor possible.

12 comments:

Duffy said...

Fascinating. I never thought of that and since I don't know Arabic I never would have thought of it. I always wondered why Islamic societies had such a tight interweave of the temporal and religious spheres. Thanks!

Abu Daoud said...

My pleasure. Please feel free to post a link on your blog if it is appropriate.

Jeff said...

Can I throw a monkey wrench into the works?

Is Pharisaic (Modern) Judaism a religion in your book?

robertpaxton said...

Wow.

I always felt that there was a difference between the way Islam was perceived by Wetserners and by Muslims, but I couldn't find words for what I thought. I think you hit it right on the head.

Thanks.

Abu Daoud said...

Hi Jeff,

Well, by modern standards it is a religion, though not really a world religion as it is so closely tied to an ethnic identity.

RE the atheistic forms of Judaism, I'm not sure what to do. That probably is part of a Jewish culture, even if it is not a religion by definition above. That is the difficulty with words like Judaism, it can refer to an ethnicity, a religion, or a culture or some combination of all those.

John Stringer said...

Is that not exactly the problem with Islam? Because of its original ties to Arabs, is it not also a combination of religio and ethnicity?

Indeed, there is a trend to arabization in Islam, but to not call it a world religion seems a bit far fetched to me. People can become muslim where-ever they are and from whatever nation they are.

Abu Daoud said...

Hi John, I would say that Islam is indeed universal AND Arabizing. Judaism is not undiversal and does not Judaize. Christianity is universal AND can sink roots in any culture (as Paul VI said in EN).

Anonymous said...

well as islam, as a way of life instead of just a religion, only allows for militant dictatorships...can we really wonder why so many islamic countries aren't too fond of US-bred democracy?

Anonymous said...

^^^wow that sounded a lot less condescending and viscious in my head.

Anonymous said...

DUAL IDENTITY OF ISLAM: Politics hidden by religion.

Islam: politics or religion? Why can't it be both???

Imho, Islam is both a political utopia and a revelation that justifies its imperial supremacism.

Your use of "civilization", I suppose, refers to imitating everything about Mohammed. This is merely Arabization, which is the eradication of any culture that is not derived from 7th century Arabia.

We saw this remarkably clearly in the example of the Taliban leader who dynamited the 1700 year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan. He was aping Mohammed's first act upon entering the Ka'ba, which was to destroy a carved dove, symbol of the Holy Trinity, thus reducing the Trinity to the duality of Islam: Allah & Mohammed, his perfect messenger, for whom he created the entire universe! Moslems do not "worship" Mohammed, but they do idolize him!

Political and cultural Islam are one: they are Arab supremacism. If you want to call that civilization, you are free to do so. Pluralism is not a possibility for Islam. It must destroy "the other" either quickly or slowly. It could take hundreds of years.

This is the perfect pattern for Islam: reduce all issues to Islamic dualisms and dynamite everything else. Pluralism is the problem that Islam was sent to solve!

I recommend you get some of the books offered by the Center for the Study of Political Islam and learn about duality. There are about 3 dozen dualities in Islam. They make Islam almost impenetrable until you see it.

To answer the point of your post:
Islam is dual...a political supremacist philosophy and a religion with rites and rituals. Those rituals were invented after the first 150 years. The caliphs did not know what they were (e.g. Hajj). They had to be invented.

Islamic polity is well hidden by the veil of secrecy provided by the Islamic religion. That is no accident.

Anonymous said...

DUAL IDENTITY OF ISLAM: Politics hidden by religion.

Islam: politics or religion? Why can't it be both???

Imho, Islam is both a political utopia and a revelation that justifies its imperial supremacism.

Your use of "civilization", I suppose, refers to imitating everything about Mohammed. This is merely Arabization, which is the eradication of any culture that is not derived from 7th century Arabia.

We saw this remarkably clearly in the example of the Taliban leader who dynamited the 1700 year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan. He was aping Mohammed's first act upon entering the Ka'ba, which was to destroy a carved dove, symbol of the Holy Ghost, thus reducing the Trinity to the duality of Islam: Allah & Mohammed, his perfect messenger, for whom he created the entire universe! Moslems do not "worship" Mohammed, but they do idolize him!

Political and cultural Islam are one: they are Arab supremacism. If you want to call that civilization, you are free to do so. Pluralism is not a possibility for Islam. It must destroy "the other" either quickly or slowly. It could take hundreds of years.

This is the perfect pattern for Islam: reduce all issues to Islamic dualisms and dynamite everything else. Pluralism is the problem that Islam was sent to solve!

I recommend you get some of the books offered by the Center for the Study of Political Islam and learn about duality. There are about 3 dozen dualities in Islam. They make Islam almost impenetrable until you see it.

To answer the point of your post:
Islam is dual...a political supremacist philosophy and a religion with rites and rituals. Those rituals were invented after the first 150 years. The caliphs did not know what they were (e.g. Hajj). They had to be invented.

Islamic polity is well hidden by the veil of secrecy provided by the Islamic religion. That is no accident.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... thats the first time i heard that 'diin' means jugement.. if you ask any Arab Muslim as well as nan Arab or the various books written on islam, 'diin' means 'A WAY OF LIFE' , a complete way of life...