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Selective Honoring 29 June 2009

Posted by MOZAFFAR in Misc.

I do not quite understand the way we have been honoring our history.  We are so quick to honor the greatnesses of the Ottomans, the greatnesses of Andalusia, the greatnesses of the Mughals, the greatnesses even of the Seljuks and Mamluks.  But, when Muslims today speak of an Islamic politics or a political Islam, we shun them.  I do not understand that.  I do not see the consistency this selective practice.  Without the political, imperial aspect of the Ottomans, the Muslims in Spain, the Mughals and others, we would not have had their civilizational wonders. 

Indeed, it is understandable that when we appreciate a friend, we overlook the faults in favor of the merits.  And, indeed, in some cases, we even see the faults as merits.  So, it is understandable, by way of human nature, that we would selectively appreciate these civilizational empires.

And, indeed, my favorite spot on the planet — aside from anything in Mecca, Medina, or Chicago — is that spot in Istanbul where we find the Aya Sofia on one side of the street, and — one of the most astoundingly beautiful buidlings on the planet — the Sultan Ahmet (Blue) Mosque on the other side of the street.  Indeed, the reddish tiles of the Badshahi Mosque is exquisite.  Even the Dome of the Rock and al-Masjid al-Aqsa are feasts for the eyes and hearts.  But, these works are commissioned works:  commissioned not by merchants, but by kings, emperors and sultans.

Or, we can look at the scholarly legacies sponsored by the leaders of these empires, tracing all the way back at least to the Abbassids, if not the Umayyads.  Again, often sponsored by the patronage of kings, emperors, and sultans.

Indeed, there were numerous waqfs (endowments) that ran independently of (and sometimes in opposition to0 any sort of state sponsorship).  And, these waqfs for responsible for the patronage of many, many great accomplishments in Muslim history.

And, indeed, when we speak of the mixture of religion and politics, we are indeed speaking of a cautious, intoxicating mixture.  Religion is not the cause of so much bloodshed in the world, and religion often acts as a limiter for the violence.  But, for the crafty, devious, ambitious person, religion is the most potent tool to inspire conquest and destruction.  As a weapon, religion is more potent, devastating than the worst pieces of military equipment, for religion can be misused to rob people not only of their worldly lives, but their afterlives.

So, it does follow that many would not speak about, or would speak against an Islamic politics or against a political Islam.  Nevertheless, if we are to celebrate such great Muslim empires, we too must speak of their brutalities.  We too must speak of their gross violations of Islam, sometimes orchestrated in the name of Islam.

But, as religion resurfaces on the world stage, sometimes overtaking secularization, and sometimes acting as its costume, we are watching Islam return to world stage.  It is not going to go away.  We — Muslims — must define it, mold it, direct it and embrace it.   Anyone who knows a bit about the history of the world knows that whether or not we seize control of our own Islam, the imperialists will create their own version of Islam, that will be just as selective as our approach to these empires.

So, if the Prophet -p- himself offered you his sword, would you take it?  And, would you use it?  Or, would you put it in a museum?

And Allah knows best.



1. Specs - 30 June 2009

But, as religion resurfaces on the world stage, sometimes overtaking secularization, and sometimes acting as its costume

<– excellently put!

I love the way you ended the article. It was a thoroughly inspiring, eye-opening read.

2. Yursil - 17 July 2009



3. umm ahmed - 3 August 2009

Very well and rightly said.

Umm Ahmed.

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