Reform.. Between Historical Residue & Rational Conceptions

By : Dr. AbdelHak Azzouzi

Moroccan Writer and Thinker


When we talk about reform in the Arab world and the need to implement radical changes, based on contribution from other experiences including those in Europe, we are not striving to copy this experience. We are not also motivating the public to abandon religion or declare the death of God, as what Nietzsche did.

We are not, also, driving people to adopt the same religious, social or political trajectories. On the contrary, the very conception of Islam, as a religion, is very different from the conception of Christianity adopted by churches in the middle ages, when they were regarding themselves as deputies of God on earth and their authorities were derived directly from God.

The church was keen to possess power and fortunes, to the extent that attacking feudalism was equal to attacking the church, for they were part of an exclusivist economic system.

They regarded any attack against their convictions as sort of disbelief.

When Copernicus (1473 -1543)  tackled the movement of earth as a planet around the sun as a center, he was declared an unbeliever along with anyone who reads it.  Galilei (1564-1642) met the same fate, when he tried to defend the earlier thesis and the circular movement of earth: he was declared an unbeliever and sent to jail where he met his death.

The result of dealing with clerics was not humane at that time which constitutes the dark ages in the western society. They encompassed the financial, economic, social, and political aspects at their ecclesiastical dress. Those who criticized them were conspiring against God and the sanctity of revelation. That is what, eventually, led all thinkers to abandon and deny the religion, but also to consider it as a trick and synonymous with slavery and tyranny in the name of religion and divine power. Later, it became common for the public and the elite to abandon religion. This was well summed up by Machiavelli who said: “We owe our atheism to the Church.”

I think that equating the religious and the political aspects in the western experience as well as the tyranny of religious superstition, was due to the position which the clerics had assumed themselves in. that is, being the intermediary between an individual and God.

In Islam, however, there is no hierarchy. The relation between an individual and God is direct and in no need for any extra contribution or support from anyone.

And there is no way to compare between the two situations, there is no room for religious mandatories or what I call the “mediate worship” as it does exist in the western conceptions.

What we can deduce from these historical incidents, is certainly not abandoning religion and inciting atheism, but, instead, utilizing wisdom and reason at present and future.

In addition, we should preserve our religion and convictions and hold strongly to them, by protecting it from politics. That is, not to get the religion into politics or let the politics to interfere and has its word in religion. But this is based upon our religious reality and not aping or reproducing the western experience that was based on the hard position of the Church.

The conditions of this mental reform have been defined in a book I published few years ago, in which I called for comprehensive reform and a new vision based on critical, wise and rational enlightenment. The crisis is comprehensive beyond the concepts of authenticity and contemporary, ancient and modern or methodology, epistemology or ideology. It’s the illness of the Arab rational which can only be treated through a comprehensive cure based on perfect diagnosis. The diagnosis should put into consideration political and cultural aspects as well as religious and social awareness, but also heritage, civilization and institutions.

The treatment also should be done within what doctors use in treating diseases: combining both sweet and acidic substances. We need to combine ideology, knowledge with heritage and modernity and past and future. We need a brainstorming process driven by the spirit of criticism, rationalism and rational enlightenment that transcends conflicts and irrelevant questions. This one strikes balance between static and dynamic visions, which influence individual through analysis, synthesis, criticism and reform. We are in need of an approach and vision to build a new Arab enlightenment rational system that inspires life in the Arab mind. This brainstorming strategy that we need now will instill discipline and purge remains of irrationality, strengthen the conception of reason in any individual.

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