|1. Political islamists maintain that, as far as Islam is concerned, religion and state are inseparable. In other words, Islam is both a religion and a state, din wa dawla. A sizeable group of islamic scholars ‘believes in the complete and holistic nature of revealed Islam so that, according to them, it encompasses’ religion, life and state. A well-known representative of this trend, Yusuf al-Qardwai, argues that ‘Islam is an integrated totality that offers a solution to all problems of life. It has to be accepted in its entirety, and to be applied to the family, to the economy and to politics. To him,|
furthermore, the realisation of an Islamic society is predicated on the establishment of an Islamic State, that is, an ‘ideological State’ based on the comprehensive precepts of Islam.’ (N. Ayubi, Political Islam, Religion and Politics in the Arab World 1991: 63-4).
There are others ‘who believe that modern politics and economics are more a civil domain for the ordinary citizen to ponder and improvise.’ They have argued the case of separation of church and state. They include Shaikh ‘A. ‘Abd al-Raziq (the 1920s) and Shaikh K. M. Khalid (the 1950s and the 1960s). Shaikh al-Raziq maintained that ‘Islam was a religion (din) and not a State (dawla). Shaikh Khalid had in the late forties arrived at a similar conclusion (in the 1970s he changed his position in favour of the salafi argument of the totality of Islam). They both had maintained that ‘there is very little of a purely political nature stipulated in the Quran, that the political formulas adopted by the Muslims later on, such as the khilafa (‘the institution of Islamic government after Muhammad [and its theory]’ - my note), were human improvisations, and that the insistence on merging religion with politics would threaten to harm both.’ Writing in the seventies Muhammad ‘Imara pointed out that ‘Islam as a religion has not specified a particular system of government.’ (1991: 64). He ‘argues that Islam is against imparting a religious character to politics and the State, or uniting the two authorities in one’ (1991: 203).
As Ayubi puts it, there was ‘a certain fusion between religion and politics throughout the history of the Islamic State’ (1991: 3). According to some Western and Muslim circles, Ayubi points out, there was a certain fusion between religion and politics throughout the history of the Islamic State because ‘Islam is by its very nature a ‘political’ religion’ (1991: 3). Ayubi does not agree with this view. He maintains that not even the term umma ‘neither in the Quran itself nor in subsequent writings by Muslim authors’ was given ‘an unequivocally religious connotation.’ ‘There is very little in the original Islamic sources on how to form states, run governments and manage organisations’ (1991: 4). Although the Quran and the Hadith have very little to say on the matters of government and the State, according to Ayubi, there was, however, a close link between religion and politics throughout the history of the Islamic State. In the past, religion was used to give a religious legitimacy to political power. ‘Religion and politics were thus brought together in the historical Islamic State by way of State appropriating religion’ (1991: 5).
Ayubi argues that the opinion that widely held among Muslims that ‘Islam is both ‘a religion and a State’ (din wa dawla) is a measure of the extraordinary intellectual influence of the modern fundamentalist thesis on mainstream Muslim opinion (...)’ (1991: 4). Domestically, the presupposition of the union of religion and politics or the concept of an Islamic state is ‘fairly recent, dating broadly to the end of the Ottoman Empire and more specifically to the teachings of Mawdudi and some Muslim Brothers. Internationally, its deliberately and specifically religious rendering of the term umma is also fairly recent (although it does, of course, have historical precedents).’ (1991: 123).
According to Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, the emergence of the concept din wa awla was related to the abolition of the caliphate in Turkey in 1924. He also pointed out in his lecture that the idea of Islam being a religion and state was spread after the defeat of the Arab armies in the war with Israel in 1967 that had a tremendous effect in the Arabic world. The defeat of 1967 was widely seen as punishment of God, for the Egyptians followed nationalism and socialism (read state capitalism).
Ruud Peters is of the opinion that Islam arose as state, i.e. the organisation of Islam is the state. In other words, although Islam is not a political organisation by nature, according to Peters, as soon as Islam began to organise itself it happened within the state structure. It could, thus, be said that Islam, at least in the period of Madina, was both religion and state.
Eickelman and Piscatori point out that in Islamic thought, with regard to the religious and political realms, ‘the frame of reference has been the indivisibility of the whole: din wa-dawla.’ They are of the opinion that ‘this view of indivisibility finds support in more than forty references in the Qur’an to the need to obey ‘God, his Prophet, and those of authority among you’ (...) It also builds on the example of the Prophet, at once a spiritual leader and the head of a political community. (...) the defense of the institution of the caliphate was also predicated on the belief that religious and political power needed to be combined in one office, thereby allowing the shari’a to be implemented and the community of Muslims protected.’ They add that ‘a careful reading of the historical record indicates that politics and religion became separable not long after the death of the Prophet andthe establishment of dynastic rule.’ (Dale F. Eickelman and James Piscatori, Muslim Politics, 1996: 46).
Eickelman and Piscatori write that ‘Muslims hold a variety of opinions on the relationship between religion and politics’, yet the indivisibility of the two realms persists in the study of Islam. ‘The view that Islam is indistinguishably religious and political is found in the writings’, among others, of Abu-l A’la al-Mawdudi and Hasan al-Turabi. Eickelman and Piscatori argue that ‘the presupposition of the union of religion and politics (...) is unhelpful for three reasons’:
‘(...) First, it exaggerates the uniqueness of Muslim politics (...) The criticism of the din wa dawla argument of Eickelman and Piscatori ‘is built on a view of politics as the contest over the interpretation of symbols and as the setting of and negotiation over boundaries between spheres of social activity and institutions.’ They maintain that ‘standard assumptions that religion and politics are inseparable or that religion and politics must be separated tell us little about how religious politics function. The key to understanding the intricate and intersecting relationships between religion and politics lies, rather, in the nature of authority,’ (1996: 57).
Second, the emphasis on din wa-dawla inadvertently perpetuates ‘Orientalist’ assumptions that Muslim politics, unlike other politics, are not guided by rational, interest-based calculations (...)
Third, the din wa-dawla assumption contributes to the view that Muslim politics is a seamless web, indistinguishable in its part because of the natural and mutual interpenetration of religion and politics. Because Islam is thought to incorporate all aspects of life and because everything is thus assumed to be political, political structures are underestimated (...)’ (1996: 55-6).
2 a. The striking similarities between the three forms of Islam (‘official’, ‘moderate’, and ‘extremist’ or ‘militant’), according to Nasr Abu Zayd are:
- On the deep level of discourse there is no difference between official, moderate and militant Islam. There is only political difference.
- All three forms of Islam claim to represent the holy writ. They all deny others a similar right to interpret the sacred texts. By doing so they polarize and subvert the political life of society (Eickelman and Piscatori 1996: 54).
- The distinction between the subject and object in their religious discourse does not exist. Islamic scholars never say ‘I think so’ etc., but ‘this is what Islam says’ etc.
- They convert the secondary texts into the primary ones, i.e. sacral texts.
- According to them what has been said is, it cannot be changed. Knowledge goes down (from God to human beings), not up (from human beings to God). In other words, history is conceived as sacred history.
2 b. Abu Zayd is of the opinion that the relationship between religio (i.e. Islam) and violence has its own evolutionary process. He distinguishes three periods with regard to the period after the so-called revolution in 1952: the First Republic under Nasser (1954-1970); the Second Republic under Sadat (1970-1981) and the Third Republic under Mubarak (1981- ). How has the relationship between religion and violence developed in each of these periods?
Abu Zayd also made mention of the secret militant organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of Hasan al-Banna in the forties. Let us first consider this period before the ‘revolution’. The 1940s could be taken as starting point regarding the relationship between Islam and violence in Egypt. Before the revolution of 1952 the Egyptian government had at its disposal a secret political police to persecute the political opponents, by which the Muslim Brotherhood justified the use of violence. There took place a transformation of the Muslim Brotherhood from a peaceful organisation to an organisation that justified the violence.
In the beginning of the First Republic or rather in the beginning of the revolution there was cooperation between the Free Officers and the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of Sayyid Qutb. The Muslim Brotherhood was allowed to deliver five ministers, but after the attempted assassination on Nasser the organisation was regarded as an enemy by the state. Many members of the Muslim Brotherhood were jailed, including Sayyid Qutb. The prison became a breeding ground for the justification of violence against the political power. In 1966 was Sayyid Qutb executed. According to Abu Zayd the defeat of 1967 had a tremendous effect in Arabic world. The idea of Islam being both religion and state was spread. For example, Mustafa Shkrui, as Sayyid Qutb had done before him, called for jihad against the regime. Not only was religion politicised, but also violence was seen as a duty for every muslim.
After Nasser the policy of the state changed with regard to Muslim Brotherhood. Under Sadat the leaders of the organisation were released from prison. There was an implicit cooperation between Sadat and the Muslim Brotherhood. Sadat wanted to use the organisation to fight against left opponents. But after 1977 and especially after the Camp David accord between the Egyptian and the Israeli states the situation was changed. The idea of jihad against the closer enemy, i.e. the political system was regarded as the neglected duty. The idea to use violence in order to establish an islamic state became widespread. To achieve a Muslim state by whatever means available was regarded as a religious duty. Here it must be emphasized that not only the mainstream islamic fundamentalism, but also the neo-fundamentalism advocated the use of violence to achieve a religious society. The assassination of Sadat was the height of fundamentalist violence.
In the 1980s and 1990s advocating violence with the same arguments, especially by militant political islamists, continued unabated. But curious enough Abu Zayd made no specific mention of the relationship between religion and violence in the 1980s and 1990s. But he emphasized that political islamists want and advocate to fight against, what they regard as the enemy number one, the political regime in Egypt. They are of the opinion that the domestic political system must be islamised in order to fight Israel. Fighting against Israel is seen as a second duty.
3. Eickelman and Piscatori speak of the objectification of muslim consciousness or the objectification of the Islamic tradition. They point out that ‘tradition is a subtle and elastic concept. There exist different senses of tradition and ‘all these senses of tradition are subject to considerable flexibility as they are sustained and recreated in various social and historical contexts’. In other words, the view of tradition that they have presented ‘suggests that the substance and form of tradition are flexible and subject to reinvention.’ (1996:37). Objectification is a process wherein the practice of faithis questioned:
‘Objectification is the process by which basic questions come to the fore in the consciousness of large numbers of believers: ‘What is my religion?’ ‘Why is it important to my life?’ and ‘How do my beliefs guide my conduct?’ (...) These explicit, widely shared, and ‘objective’ questions are modern queries that increasingly shape the discourse and practice of Muslims in all social classes (...) Objectification is thus transclass, and religion has become aself-contained system that its believers can describe, characterize, and distinguish from other belief systems.’ (1996: 38) As far as Islam is concerned it is a ‘tendency to present Islam as an abstract system of ideas that can be distinguished from other such systems’ (1996: 38). It is a process of ‘the systematization and explicitness of religious tradition’ (1996: 39), whereby ‘the sense of thinking religious beliefs as an objective system becomes explicit’. ‘(...) The objectification of Islam means that religious beliefs and practices are increasingly seen as systems (minhaj) to be distinguished from nonreligious ones (...) (1996: 42). In the process of objectification, possession of ‘an intensified awareness of Islamic ideas and practices’ takes place (1996: 71). ‘Standardization of language and approach’ is a component of this process. And, it is not only a national and/or local phenomenon, but also a transnational one (1996: 144).
The authors consider the following three facets of objectification important:
a. The mass character of involvement in the religious discourse and debate about Muslim tradition. Eickelman and Piscatori emphasize that mass education and mass communication play very important role in all contemporary world religions. Mass involvement and mass education without printing would be impossible. ‘Like modern mass communications, mass higher education and publishing contribute to objectification by inculcating pervasive ‘habits of thought’ (Bourdieu 1988, 1989). They do so by transforming religious beliefs into a conscious system,
broadening the scope of religious authority, and redrawing the boundaries of political community. Eickelman and Piscatori consider ‘the growing popularity of catechisms among Muslims’ as another indication of, what they call, ‘the systematization of Islam’ (1996:
b. The monopoly of religious scholars to interpret sacred texts is broken. Direct and mass access to the printed word took the place of authoritative religious discourse. Here too mass education played and plays a very important role. As Eickelman and Piscatori point out ‘(...) Mass education opens the way to ‘democratized’ access to sacred texts and overcomes restrictions as to who is ‘authorized’ to interpret them. As a consequence, the monopolistic control by elites (...) is countered by the greater number of would-be interpreters from diverse backgrounds yet commonly possessing modern-style education.’ (1996:
c. The question of competition regarding the representation of an objectified Islam. ‘Objectification reconfigures the symbolic production of Muslim politics’. An objectified Islam is seen as a phenomenon and natural. Adding to this the significant impact of Islam on mass politics, the following question becomes central to Muslim politics: Who does speak for an objectified Islam? (1996: 43). The religious scholars, the state and the ‘new’ religious intellectuals ‘all compete to gain ascendancy as the arbiters of Islamic practice.’ (1996: 44).
4. I think that two of the most interesting themes that came up for discussion during the lectures are the relationships between ethnicity and Islam and between nationalism and Islam. Not only are these relationships interesting, but also relatively complex ones.
In order to understand these relationships properly let us first give brief definition of the concepts such as religion, ethnic group, ethnicity, nation and nationalism. I define religion as a specific form of social consciousness. It is perhaps the most fantastic reflection upon the human mind of the worldly powers that dominate the human beings in their daily life. It is a way of assimilation of this world. Ethnic group can be defined as a group people with own name, language, territory and common culture. Thijl Sunier defines ethnicity as a specific form of group consciousness an group identity. Nation, as I would define it, is a historically evolved community of people of mainly common language, territory, economic life, and common culture. It is a product of the epoch of rising capitalism. As to nationalism, Sunier defines it as a particular form of ethnicity. He argues that both ethnicity and nationalism are ideologies that refer to certain boundaries of perception. According to Sunier the distinction between two concepts is small and they overlap with each other and nationalism always goes hand in hand with a claim to a territory. To my mind, nationalism is in fact a form of bourgeois ideology that advocates the primacy of the interests of one’s own nation (read the interests of the capitalist bourgeoisie in a bourgeois society).
According to Sunier ethnicity, nationalism and religion (Islam) etc. were all created and were not the products of the daily life of ordinary people. They are not directly attached to common perceptible cultural characteristics. Rather, they are the products of a very specific selection from a large repertoire of characteristics. How to create certain ethnic, religious and national identities- that has been the question. Sunier argues that nationalization or giving ethnic character to religion (here Islam) is a part of nationalism. Sunier is of the opinion that where religion is strongly tied to an ethnic group it could be spoken of the religious nationalism, wherein religion and ethnicity overlap with each other. He gives the examples of the claim of the Jews to the so-called Promised Land and the conflict in Northern Ireland. Sunier points out that in cases such as these it has to do with political religiosity, not with individual religiosity. Ayubi regards the state of Israel as ‘a polity based entirely on a religiously-defined concept of national identity’ (1991: 227).
I agree with Sunier that all these concepts have one common aspect: they all to do with the question of identity. I also agree with him that Islam was and is still used, for example in Central Asia, to create a national ideology. There it has been tried to combine ethnic identity and religious identity. Ethnicity and nationalism have played an important role in the reconstitution of muslim identity in the region. In words of Sunier, in the Central Asian republics Islam is nationalized. Nevertheless, I find the concept of ‘religious nationalism’ problematic. It is true that religion plays an important role in justification of a claim to a territory and in search for a national identity. It has often been used as an instrument in order to give a nationalist movement a religious colour or provide a religious costume to justify it and in order to mobilize masses. But, religious ideology, however, as a form of social consciousness, cannot be the dominant component, but a subordinate one of a nationalist ideology or nationalism. Nationalism as an ideology plays and, from the bourgeois point of view, must play the role of cement in a bourgeois society that often consists of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
It should be emphasized that nationalism, like other forms of social consciousness, does not evolve spontaneously in the daily life of people. But, this is not to say that nationalism, and nation for that matter, is not a historical product. What I want to make clear that nationalism does not proceed outside and above perception and imagination, but is the result of the assimilation and transformation of perceptions and images into concepts.
There are also cases where religious identity assumes an ethnic identity. Pakistan and Bosnia are two examples of such cases. With arising nationalism in India before the partition there came the question of on which the identity and the history to be founded. Then, according to Peter van der Veer, there came the division between Hinduism and Islam in India. Religious identity was transformed into a ‘national’ identity or, in other words, religion was nationalized. From thenceforth there was talk of ‘Hindu nationalism’ and ‘Muslim nationalism’ as if religious identity (and language) could determine ‘national’ identity. There arose the idea of the establishment of a separate territorial or nation-state (Pakistan) for the Muslims in India, irrespective of geographical and other factors, such as ethnic differences. In other words, in Pakistan ethnic identity and religious
identity do not overlap with each other. We witnessed the same transformation of religious identity into an ethnic identity in Bosnia. Although Muslim Bosnians are ethnic Slavs, because of their religious identity, they are considered as a different ethnic group. ‘(...) The transformation of a Muslim identity in Bosnia into a Bosnian Muslim ethnicity was thus in large measure due to an ‘architecture’ of external groups and pressures (...)’ (Berman and Lonsdale cited in Eickelman and Piscatori 1996: 103).
Let us now consider the position of political islamists with regard to the relationship between religion, ethnicity and nationalism. Fundamentalist ideologues such as Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb forcefully maintain that patriotism; nationalism and suchlike are non-Islamic influences. According to their concept of the total sovereignty and rulership of God (al-hakimiyya) the jama’ should be purged of these influences (Eickelman and Piscatori 1996: 140). Mawdudi wanted ‘not a Muslim state but an Islamic state’, an ‘ideological state’ and was ‘against nationalism and democracy’. ‘Mawdudi further elaborated his ideas within a Pakistan in which the concept of ‘Muslim nationalism’ was obviously not working’ (Ayubi 1991: 128-9). According to the Mawdudi-Qutb thesis ‘the Muslim’s belonging and allegiance should be to his religion alone. Any patriotic or nationalist loyalty is therefore regarded as pagan’ (1991: 145). ‘ (...) The idea that Islam and ethnicity are antithetical and antagonistic also appears in the thinking of Islamists such as Egypt’s Sayyid Qutb, who consigns
ethnicity, tribalism, and nationalism to the category of the jahiliyya (...)’ (Eickelman and Piscatori: 100). Tablighi jama’at too emphasizes that it has nothing to do with states, but with the Muslim identity (P. Van der Veer). ‘Overpoliticization of the Islamic utopia- a yearning for the holistic implementation of the three pillars of Islam (...) (faith-religion, life-world, and state) - leads to totalizing conceptions of identity, religion, and state (...)’ (N. Gole 1996: 21).
But, there are also those Islamists who may be called, according to, among others, Ayubi, ‘the Islamic liberals’ who put a relative emphasis on ‘national independence’ (1991: 212). Eickelman and Piscatori argue that ‘Islam is neither especially religio-political, nor particularly hostile to ethnic and cultural variations. It is neither unprecedentedly revolutionary, nor abnormally resistant to nationalism’
As can be observed from differing views, the relationships between ethnicity and Islam and between nationalism and Islam are complex ones and they deserve to be treated as such.
5. In order to compare the role played by the religious establishment in the rise of political Islam in Turkey and Iran, let us first briefly consider the historical position of the religious establishment in both countries. In the Ottoman Empire the religious establishment was highly bureaucratised and incorporated into the administrative structure of the state. The religious scholars (ulama) did not enjoy any autonomy. In the Republic of Turkey the institutionalized Sunni Islam has been controlled by the state. The religious establishment in Iran preserved a strong independent position. The ulama in Iran were autonomous. Another important difference between the two religious establishments was that, although the ulama in Ottoman Empire too had enormous real estate, in Iran the ulema were and still are at the same time big landlords
In Turkey political Islam arose in opposition to the official religious establishment that is controlled by the state. I write official, for there exists an ‘underground’ Sunni religious establishment as well in the form of the Sufi movement that formed the basis of political Islam. (A significant percentage of the population in Turkey belongs to the branch of Islam called Alawi. But, political Islam in Turkey is a Sunni movement). As Erik Jan Zurcher pointed out tarikats were not allied to the state and they, especially the Naksibendi, organised opposition to the political system. A branch of this order emerged openly as political Islam at the end the 1960s in the form of a political party. Iran political Islam stemmed from the religious establishment self that was in opposition to the political regime of the late Shah. Political Islam did not take the form of a political
party. Through the Islamic Revolution of 1978 the religious establishment in Iran took over the state power. In other words, political Islam organized itself as state power.
The visions of ‘Ali Shari’ati and Khomeini cannot be conceived as traditional Shi’i visions. According to Eickelman and Piscatori, ‘Ali Shari’ati was an innovator, not a traditional thinker. He was against the idea of an official clergy. To his mind too priestly intermediaries between God and the believers are not required (1996: 156). In discussing the attempt by a few thinkers to create ‘a new radical Islamic theology’ since the seventies and the eighties, Ayubi notes in passing, although indirectly, that ‘Ali Shari’ati also attempted to create ‘a new radical Islamic theology’ (1991: 60).
Khomeini’s thinking made an extraordinary trip from the view that government should not necessarily be in the hands of the Islamic scholars to the view that Islam cannot be separated from government and politics. In his 1941 book, Kashf al-asrar, he pronounced, among other things, that ‘the institution of kingship is permissible’ and that government should not necessarily be in the hands of the faqih. He argued, however, that ‘ ‘government must be run in accordance with God’s law ...and it is not feasible except with the supervision of the religious leaders’ (cited in Fischer 1980: 152).’ (Eickelman and Piscatori 1996: 49). But, in the 1960s he began to formulate a theory of Islamic government that put the jurists at the center of power. In his theory, the ‘guardianship of the jurist (vilayat-i faqih) ‘becomes the imperative of Islamic government, and the obligation to obey it is essential.’ (1996: 49). Ayubi paraphrases Fischer: ‘(...) By 1960, Khomeini was claiming the legacy of the Iranian Constitution (of 1906) for the ulama, and by the seventies he was arguing that monarchy was altogether incompatible with Islam (...)’ (1991: 147). Towards the end of his life Khomeini even ‘declared that the [Islamic] regime is empowered to curtail provisions of the shari’a in order to
protect the regime’ (Eickelman and Piscatori 1996: 50). The ‘primacy of the ‘political’ in Khomeini’s concept of Islamic government’ became ‘crystal clear, with his issuing of the controversial proclamations of December 1987-January 1988 concerning the powers of the Islamic State’ (Ayubi 1991: 151). There took place ‘the transformation of Khomeini’s political theory from a conventional ‘advisory’ one to an innovative action-oriented one’ (1991: 147).
What is unconventional or unorthodox in the theories of Ali Shari’ati and of Khomeini? Before answering this question let us consider a historically very important fact in the Shi’i tradition. It must be emphasized that in the Shi’i tradition the Imamate occupies a central position. In the dominant Shi’i tradition (‘Twelver’) ‘hopes of Shi’i rule were decisively abandoned by the death of the eleventh Imam, al-Hasan al-’Askari (845-73), and his position accordingly acquired superhuman, divinely appointed qualities in the late ninth and tenth centuries’ (Eickelman and Piscatori 1996: 48). Matthijs van den Bos pointed out that following the death of the eleventh Imam there occurred confusion among the Shi’is. In 874 the twelfth Imam (Muhammad al-Mahdi) went into hiding. After the death of the fourth messenger every contact was broken between the twelfth Imam and the community. Thus, there arose a clergy in Iran. Eickelman and Piscatori write:
‘Following the occultation (ghayba) of the last Imam in 941, the question of who represents him intensely complicated the Shi’i theory of religio-political rule. The ‘ulama positioned themselves as the heirs and defenders of the Imamate, but political rule largely came to be viewed as illegitimate in the absence of the Imam. The state was thus essentially an invalid institution as long as the Imam was not himself present to rule. Not until the advent of the Islamic revolution, which (...) redefined the nature of the Islamic state, were the ‘ulama anything more than the guardians of the religious traditions, the moral critics of the regime, or, perhaps more often, the legitimizers of secular rule.’ (1996: 48) Nevertheless, the Shi’i ulama, as Ayubi points out, ‘often collaborated with those in political power, especially after Shi’ism had become the state religion of Persia in the sixteenth century’ (1991: 62).
‘Ali Shari’ati was one of the Muslim intellectuals who criticized the role of the ulama in their societies. He considered them as allies of the existing authorities and questioned the role of the ulama. Shari’ati argued that there was no need for priestly intermediaries between God and man and he called the official clergy as ‘long-bearded demagogues’. He was of the opinion that ‘a clergy should not exist in Islam’. ‘In his view, Iran’s ‘ulama were ‘second-class scholars’ who have erroneously claimed hereditary and ‘monopolistic’ powers (1996: 70). He also attempted to create ‘a new radical Islamic theology’ that departed from the Shi’i tradition
‘While the idea that the faqih (jurisconsult) has a right to act as a political ruler is not entirely new to Shi’i political theory, Khomeini’s theory of the ‘guardianship of the jurisconsult’ (wilayat-i faqih) does, at the very least, ‘represent an unexpected revival of an old, dormant theme’ (Enayat paraphrased in Ayubi 1991: 146). What Khomeini did was to bring the concept of the ‘guardianship of the jurisconsult’ ‘to the fore as the form of Islamic government that should be applied without delay. What is particularly important is Khomeini’s call to the Shi’is to end their traditional wait for the hidden imam to appear and to involve themselves directly and
immediately in an Islamic government’ (Huwaidi paraphrased in Ayubi 1991:154). Thus, the concept of the ‘guardianship of the jurisconsult’ ‘legitimised for the Shi’is the act of bringing to an end their doctrinal boycott of government’ (1991: 155).
In Khomeini’s theory, all responsibilities and powers of the Prophet, ‘with the obvious exception of the privilege of receiving the divine revelation’ ‘have been devolved on the ulama after the disappearance of the Twelfth Imam’. His theory represents ‘a radical departure from the classical Shi’i view of government’ (1991: 147). Taking over power by the religious scholars is unconventional in the history of Shi’ism. In Khomeini’s theory the emphasis is shifted from the shari’a to the jurisconsult. As Ayubi points out Khomeini has carried his theory to its logical conclusion, ‘emphasising that his guardianship (now analogous to that of the Prophet) is absolute, even if it contradicts the stipulations of the shari’a. It is now the government that is supreme, not the shari’a, the State, not the ideology’ (1991: 151).
6. The book of N. Gole, ‘The Forbidden Modern, Civilization and Veiling’, explores the significance of the veiling movement in Turkey through a multilayered analysis of power relations (1996: 1).
Gole argues that veiling refers to the political reappropriation of Islamic religiosity and way of life. It reveals the centrality of the gender question and sexuality. Islamic veiling is a discursive symbol that is instrumental in conveying political meanings. It is the outcome of a new interpretation of Islamic religion by recently urbanized and educated social groups.
In Turkey modernization was defined by the emancipation of women. The women’s situation is not exclusively women’s situation but it is a political issue. In Turkish modernization women are the agents of modernity. The fundamental issue was the sexual identity and social position of women. With the onset of the republican era women became leading actors in the civilization change. The cost of women’s liberation may be witnessed in the repression of her femininity and individuality.
In the post-1980s period veiling has become the symbol of Islamization, and it is women who serve as the emblem of politicized Islam. Once again the female body has become a site for displaying societal preferences. Veiling as a political statement is mostly witnessed among female university students. They cover themselves by their own wills and seek opportunities in modernism. Behind the political Islamic movement women have opted for developing life strategies so as to claim their individuality. Militant in society and traditional in the private sphere is the idealized image of women as held by political Islamism. Nevertheless, women question this ideal image. The will of women to participate in social life, along with fulfilling their motherhood tasks, provides a ground for dispute between Muslim men and women.
Islamic women have begun to redefine the Muslim female identity by their entrance into the social sphere. Their definitive transition from the position of being ‘objects’ to that of being ‘subjects’ is taking place. The radical Islamist movement has enabled women to emerge as collective social actors.
The book of Gole has strong sides as well as weak ones. One of the strongest sides of her book is her ‘method of sociological intervention’ which, in her own words, ‘gives priority to the agency and relationality of social actors’. This method ‘seeks to produce knowledge from in-depth and continuous interactions between social actors and the sociologist’ (1996: 87-8). She incorporates ‘the interpretation of the religion and of the movement itself from the eyes of the Islamist actors into’ her analysis. She avoids taking a sort of black and white political stance with regard to the question in discussion. Without taking an open political position she employs a sociological approach. She tries to be as objective as possible.
One of the merits of her book is the historical approach to the question. On the basis of historical and contemporary facts regarding the struggles between traditionalism, Islamism, reformism, and Westernise she makes it very clear that the women question is mainly a political one.
She also investigates thoroughly the position of woman, especially the segregation of sexes in Islam. She makes it very clear that the veiling of women maintains the boundaries between the sexes as well as preserving order in the community. It could easily be observed from the book that isolation and veiling of women is a tool that strengthens the division of labour on the basis of sex.
It becomes crystal clear from her book that the so-called Islamic veiling is more than traditional covering of the woman body, but a far-reaching political symbol. Political Islam has made women as the bearer of Islamic ideology. Islamic veiling is not only a symbol against Westernism, modernism etc. and a way of crossing the boundaries of traditional Islam for the newly urbanized and educated islamic women, but also a weapon against male-dominated relations among the political islamists themselves.
There are also some problems with the book of Gole. I have to say that the book contains some ‘unhealthy’ generalizations and one-sided or exaggerated points. Annelies Moors was right when she criticised Gole that she stressed, in a one-sided manner, the free choice of Islamic women to cover themselves. Gole sketches a too big contrast between coercive and free choice. She neglects the religious and social factors that force women to cover themselves.
Without making any distinction between Islamic and leftist revolutionaries in general and between different leftist ideological and political currents in particular, Gole argues that, according to ‘the shared belief of all revolutionaries, whether Islamic or leftist’, ‘all problems will be solved after the revolution.’ (1996: 120). This kind of approaches in social or political life I consider a ‘wholesale’ approach that should be avoided. Besides, Gole contradicts herself when she maintains that Islamic ‘revolutionaries’ are of the opinion that ‘all problems will be solved after the revolution.’ She contradicts herself, because throughout her book it becomes clear that political islamists, who represent certain social forces, intervene in social and political life of Turkey in order to change the relationships that exist in the society. She writes that
‘The contemporary Islamist movement recreates the Muslim identity, erased in the collective memory by modernism, in a collective vein and turns it into a social actor. This process, which has accelerated since the 1980s, in fact began, along with the formation of civil society, in the 1950s. Behind the political rise of the Islamist movements lies the upward mobility of new social groups and their increasing social participation (...)’ (1996: 132). As can be seen political islamists have no intention to postpone their effort with regard to the solution of what they perceive as the problems of the society. They have been and are active in every aspect of the society: economical, social, ideological, political, and educational. They have been one of the most active social and political forces in Turkey.
Another ill-founded assertion of Gole is that ‘the Muslim identity’ was ‘erased in the collective memory by modernism’ (1996: 132). One could speak of the Muslim identity being pushed background by bourgeois economical, social, ideological and political development, but it cannot seriously be maintained that the Muslim identity was erased in the collective memory Turkey. It seems, among other things, Gole forgets the powerful underground organizations and connections and influence of the Sufi movement. You can well speak of the revival of Muslim identity, but not the recreation of it.
I also find the assertion of Gole problematic that Islamic women identify Muslim men ‘as the main source of oppression and domination of women’ (1996: 129). I think that she tends to generalise too easily and too much.
To my mind exaggeration and one-sidedness cause problems in the thinking of Gole.
* This paper is a result of a somewhat limited literature research on political Islam which was done eight years ago. It was not written to be published; but I think it is time to put it into the service of those who study political Islam. It could be helpful.