The world of Islam: the traditional structure and potentials...

CHAPTER 12. The World of Islam: The Traditional Structure and Potencies of Its Transformation

The commonality of the group of countries of the Middle and Middle East included in the third block is quite obvious and can be demonstrated in several important relationships for analysis. Firstly, it is a quite definite historical and geographical region, mainly with ancient cultural traditions. Secondly, it is the core of the Arab-Muslim world, enriched at the expense of neighboring Islamized peoples, primarily Iranians and Turks. Thirdly, for most of the countries in this group, what is important, was characteristic during the period of colonialism, only a greater or lesser dependence on the powers, while maintaining formal political independence and self-government. All these features, forming a commonality of destinies of a group of countries of interest to us, are organically linked. Moreover, they create a certain metatradition, densely colored in one very intense religious-civilizing color, in the green color of Islam. Of course, the world of Islam was by no means confined to a group of countries in the Middle and Near East included in the bloc in question. The strong influence of Islam was felt throughout many centuries and in those countries of South and South-East Asia, as well as Africa, of which much has been said above, when it was a question of the first blocks of countries colonized by Europeans. But there is a definite difference that needs to be noted again.

In India, as is known, Islam was opposed by Hinduism, which prevented it, despite political dominance, from gaining that all-encompassing power and creating such a structure that was the norm in the Muslim Middle East. In Indonesia or Malaya, especially in the south of the Philippines and in general, where in the southeast Asian region Islam eventually began to play a significant role and even absolutely predominate, it was still not so strong and comprehensive religion as in the places of settlement of the Arabs, Persians or Turks. Local religious and civilizational traditions in other regions to a large extent limited and weakened its impact, which is particularly evident in the case of Indonesia. The same is true of the Islamized regions and peoples of Tropical Africa, including its Sudanese belt. Perhaps, only for northern Arab Africa, for the countries of the Maghreb and especially Egypt, an exception should be made, precisely because these are countries with an Arab-Islamic population. The Islamic religious and civilizational foundation here, like in Western Asia, relied on powerful layers of ancient cultures (from the Nile Valley to Carthage), and, in addition, was flesh from the flesh of Arab Islam in its most ancient modification. With this in mind, there is every reason to include in the analysis of the world of Islam the Arab-Islamic countries of North Africa and to perceive them together with the third bloc of the Middle Eastern countries as one single and whole in the religious and cultural terms, including the specifics of the transformation of the region.

12.1. Islam: Religion and Society

So, before us is the world of Islam. What was the traditional Islamic structure and what impact did the Muslim religious and civilizational foundation have on its ability, capacity and potential for transformation? How did this affect the fate of the countries concerned during the period of colonialism?

About the conditions and circumstances that accompanied the emergence and spread of Islam among the Arabs, and then in all of the Near and Middle Asia, as well as in the North African territories (the Arab Caliphate and its northern periphery), we already discussed. Specific mention was made of certain general principles of Islam as a very unusual religion, with its intolerance of the gentiles, fanaticism and fatalism, social policies and forms of land holdings and taxation, the fusion of religion and political power, etc. It was also said about the specificity of Shiite Islam. Now the focus will be on consideration of the deeper signs and characteristics of Islam, which have been largely determined through the centuries (and continue to do so today) not only the beliefs and outlook of the Muslim population, but also, more significantly, the image and principles of life, the value system and the socio-moral attitudes of Muslims. In other words, it will deal with everything that could be called an Islamic way of life and the corresponding mentality.

So, what is Islam? Formed relatively late, and under very unusual circumstances, this monotheistic religion doctrinally goes back to Judaism and Christianity, to biblical ideas, images and legends. Enriched by the influence of Iranian Zoroastrianism, as well as absorbing much of the ancient traditions and cultural achievements of all the ancient Eastern civilizations and the Greek-ancient world of the Hellenistic era, Islam was in a certain sense very rich in spiritual and ideological terms, heir of many civilizations. But it was profitable and skillful, with the benefit for himself, to dispose of this rich heritage to a great extent prevented the real level of development of the people who, by the will of fate, turned out to be the creator and main bearer of the new religion, i.e. Arabs. As soon as the Arabs left the frontiers of the primitive (we are talking about their advanced tribal communities, the more backward Bedouin nomadic tribes remain at the semi-pre-eminent level in our days) were not able to actively master the entire highly intellectual potential of the religious and doctrinal heritage. That heritage, which was not so much inherited from the founder of the new religion of the Prophet Muhammad, was borrowed from the conquered peoples, who for the most part reached a much higher level of development. However, the Arabs themselves did not really need this. It is well known that the small part of them, who was involved in literacy and education, was often also forced, without going into the depths of intellectual research, to focus mainly on the rigid religious dogma of Islam, on the principles of life formulated by him.

Here it is necessary to make a reservation. Arab culture, famous by the names of al-Ghazali, Averroes, Avicenna and many others, has contributed a lot to the treasury of world civilization. But all this had little effect on the standard of living and the intellectual potential of Muslims, who for many centuries were brought up in the vein of officially recognized Arab-Islamic knowledge. It is weak because the basis of this standardized Islamic knowledge was not the tops of Arab medieval thought, but the holy book of the Muslims of the Koran, the hadith of the oral tradition of the Sunnah and the commandments of Islamic law, the Sharia. It is the Qur'an, the Sunnah and the Sharia that for centuries formed consciousness, behavior, way of life, a system of values, general attitudes of the average Muslim, a full member of the great Islamic community-umma (Dar-ul-Islam, ie, the world of Islam). It is therefore about Islam as a religion that has had a tremendous impact on society and has largely changed the face of those countries where Islam has been dominant, especially within the Middle East and the North African Mediterranean.

Religious tenets of Islam to primitiveness are simple and very rigidly fixed. The general attitude here is on the obedience of man to the will of Allah, his mediator-prophet and substitute for the prophet, from the caliph or imam to the possessors of power in the localities. Complete obedience to the power is due to the sacredly authorized principle of the divine source of supreme power ("there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet") with the already mentioned merger of the political administration with religion. The role of consciously cultivated fatalism ("on all the will of Allah") played with its role, with the depreciation of the person, this pathetic grain of sand compared to almighty Allah.

The degradation of the conformal personality, completely devoted to the will of Allah, fatalism and resignation to fate are the sources of religious fanaticism, which differed, and to this day many faithful warriors of Islam (fedai, fidai, fedayin) . It is humility and obedience that underlie the very universal slavery as the principle of the social structure, which Hegel and Marx wrote about at the time.

Islam is emphatically egalitarian. All are equal before Allah. This largely explains the fact that the Islamic civilization is not familiar with the hereditary aristocratic nobility, if one does not bear in mind the descendants of the prophet. And in general, participation in the true faith, towards the universal ummah of the co-religionists is immeasurably more important than dividing society into social strata, races, peoples, tribes and language groups. Therefore, the classical Arab-Islamic and, in general, Muslim tradition practically does not recognize the social isolation of estates, hereditary social inequality. On the contrary, religiously consecrated and almost always implemented the principle of social mobility . Strength, ability, opportunity open the door to the top in front of everyone, worthy of it. A slave could become an emir and a sultan, a poor peasant a respected expert on Islam, a high-ranking ulem, and a soldier as a military commander. It's not about equality of status and especially rights. In the society of universal slavery, on the contrary, the lower is defenseless before the superior and can easily become a victim of his arbitrariness. Speech about equal opportunities, lots, realization of which never hampered the submission or fatalism of a Muslim. The ambitious and energetic in his aspirations and claims always relied on that and on the other, and it was obedience to his will of Allah and allowed to realize the destiny he was prepared for.

But it is significant that the general attitude and real socially significant and prestigious aspirations of the Muslim have always been limited only by moving him up the ladder of power or religious knowledge. There were no other prestigious ways. Unless people of science and art, outstanding talents, were attracted to the court of the ruler and decorated it with their presence, but even under strict supervision. It is important that although there were always rich merchants in the world of Islam, conditions for active private-entrepreneurial activity were extremely unfavorable. The lack of reliable legal guarantees of the individual entrepreneur and, most importantly, the total arbitrariness of the authorities jealously watching the rich merchant significantly limited the possibilities of an individual who was not power-ridden (though, at times, the involvement in the government did not help either, as the larger sharks unhindered swallowed those , who is smaller).

In fact, all the above mentioned obstacles have shattered the private property of rich people, preventing them from turning their incomes into capital, which brings guaranteed interest, and without it the emergence of the bourgeoisie, as has been discussed more than once, was impossible.

Civic slavery and lack of rights are the back of Islamic egalitarianism. All are equal and all are equally disenfranchised. The right of those who have the power, and who seized power along with it acquires a sacred authority. The exception, and very significant, is the Shiites, who recognize the legitimate supreme authority only the reign of the direct descendants of Mohammed, the holy imams or their relatives along the side lines (alids, fatimids, seids, sheriffs), and the supreme authority is the hidden imam, the Mahdi. The weak social protection of the individual and even of the whole corporation (family, community, clan, shop, etc.) in Muslim societies only strengthened the power of power. Not surprisingly, Muslim states were usually very powerful. Their simple internal administrative structure was distinguished by simplicity and harmony. The effectiveness of the central government, which relied on the customary structure of power-property, the domination of a rigid, albeit small-size apparatus of power and the collection of the annuity-tax into the treasury, followed by its centralized redistribution, were reinforced, as was repeatedly mentioned, by the sacredness of the ruling upper classes and the obedience of subjects. At times, the major Islamic states disintegrated, giving way to smaller ones, but the world of Islam did not know the effect of feudal fragmentation, which fully corresponds to the peculiarities of the Islamic society. It is characteristic that the small Islamic states that came to replace the major ones, for example the sultanates and emirates of the disintegrated caliphate, were also strictly centralized states, albeit on a smaller scale. True, in dependent semi-autonomous countries (for example, Maghreb, subordinates of the Ottoman Empire), the situation became more complicated due to the fact that the rulers of these countries, having considerable autonomy and real power, were somewhat constrained in their actions. But at the same time everything was again decided, if we exclude the pressure of the colonial powers, by force. As the years of the reign of Muhammad Ali of Egypt show, this was the case.

It is possible to formulate a certain regularity, the meaning of which would be reduced to the fact that the Islamic system of power in principle favors the existence of a strong centralized state.

Islam is intolerable. Its intolerance is not that the faithful seek to convert all infidels to Islam under the threat of their destruction. And it's not that the orthodox are always ready to start a holy war, jihad, against the infidels. Both things happened more than once in history, but the point is not this. The point is that the faithful always distinctly feel their superiority over the infidels, for this supremacy was fixed at the state level since the inception of Islam (the Muslim paid lighter taxes and was released from the poll tax, dzhizii). It is that the highest value is the person's belonging to the ummah, that the infidel is always considered in the Muslim state as not completely equal, and this is especially noticeable in the case of those judicial incidents when a Muslim and an unfaithful appear before the Muslim judge-kadi.

Imbued with centuries and relying on the entire thickness of religious and cultural traditions, this arrogant sense of superiority and intolerance towards the infidels is one of the most important and most significant characteristics of Islam.

This sense of perfection of a way of life combined with the universality and comprehensiveness of Islam, entangling society like a dense web, has always been a pledge of extreme conservatism and Muslim conformism, almost hourly (remember the obligatory daily fivefold prayer!) called to confirm their religious zeal. Naturally, all this could not but reflect not only on the norms of behavior and value orientations of all those who proudly always considered themselves to be the ummah, but ultimately on the psyche of people, or rather, on their sociopsychology.

Feeling himself a member of the most perfectly organized society, the subjects of an Islamic state headed by a sacred ruler, the Muslim was not only a reliable servant of Allah and a zealous believer, but also a force on which Allah was considered to be an intermediary between him and all the rest of the ruler can always rely on. Hence - the unheard-of inner strength and strength of Islam and Muslim states. Except for Iran, in the rest of the Islamic world, mass movements have never been directly directed against the authorities, the powers that be. They, as a rule, assumed the character of sectarian movements . This is understandable. The rebels did not oppose Islam and the Islamic ruler, but for that understanding of Islam, which seemed to them the most faithful and for which they were therefore ready to fight with all the inherent warriors of Islam fanaticism. The authority of the sacralized power as a principle remained unchanged, which, among other things, was the guarantor of the internal power of Islamic states, a pledge of their internal strength.

A special case is Shiite Iran . The sacredness of the ruler here was minimal precisely because, without being a descendant of the prophet, this ruler, at the strict rate of the Shi'ite doctrine, did not have the right to lead the faithful, to be their religious leader. Accordingly, a somewhat different structure of power has been formed in Iran. Spiritually-religious authority, represented by the group of the most respected Shiite theologians, the ulema (their highest category - the ayatollahs), was usually deliberately opposed to secular power. This opposition led to the fact that the Shiite clergy not only often acted as an opposition, but also often led those very popular performances, the abundance of which Iran sharply stood out among other Islamic countries. This significantly weakened the strength and effectiveness of the administration of the Iranian shahs, making shah's Iran - in comparison with, say, Sultan Turkey - easier prey for the colonial powers. However, this situation did not in any way weaken the internal structure of the country, which was cemented by Shiite Islam no less firmly than in other Muslim states, and in some respects, apparently, more strongly. In any case, the fanaticism of the Shi'a warriors of Islam has always been characterized by the most extreme forms, which is clearly seen in the example of the Ismaili sect.

And one more thing to keep in mind when it comes to the world of Islam, the universal ummah and its zealous representatives. A Muslim who is rigorously brought up in the strict line of a few but compulsory rules and principles of life seldom complains about his share. It's not that he is always satisfied with the state of his affairs or is generally indifferent to the social justice that he is well aware of. On the contrary, both of them cared for him, and often was the cause of mass movements, most often under religious sectarian slogans, for correcting the violated habitual norm of life. But, if the rule is observed, he is calm. In a leisurely rhythm he does his usual business and rarely seeks something bigger and even more so - to a new and unknown, alien habitual norm and threatening to destroy it. Of course, the peasant is conservative everywhere, especially in the East. However, in Islamic societies, it is doubly conservative, because the strict conservatism of the farmer is imposed on the conservatism of the farmer with his characteristic extreme intolerance to deviations.

Conservatism and conformism of Islam, the fatalism and fanaticism of its adherents, as well as the sacred status of rulers and the power of the power apparatus they are headed, internal power and huge resistance of the society, the Muslim ummah, are all really acting factors that can not be ignored analysis of the process of transformation of Islamic societies in the period of colonialism.

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