Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn Asadābādī Revisited: Reinvigorating the Emancipatory Potential of Post-Islamism
2. Reinvigorating the Emancipatory Potential of Post-Islamism
3. Revisiting Asadābādī/Afghani
3.1. Acknowledgement of Islamism’s Crisis of Legitimacy
“What we, Muslims, believe to be logical is full of superstitions and is indistinguishable from fallacies of common people. Our religious scholars know nothing about the most ordinary affairs. They do not question what we are, who we are and what we need […]. This ignorance has resulted in equating questioning with blasphemy. Our blasphemy is that we believe that all organizations and treasuries of the Islamic nation should provide prosperity for all, instead of being in the hands of thugs who are destroying the nation and religion. Our great betrayal is that we believe that the ship on which our government sails will certainly be destroyed by this storm of foolishness. It is imperative, by every rational and religious standard, that the clergy immediately convene a National Council and establish (ascertain), in accordance with the principles of sacred law, the rights of the nation and the conditions of survival of the State as it ought to be”.
I heard that an old and experienced man who explored the Western world and put a lot of effort to reform the Muslims’ affairs, has written his interpretation of the Qur’an. I said to myself, “here is what you needed!” as he has grasped both Eastern and Western thoughts. I thought that this interpreter, in order to reform his own people, has interpreted the essence and nature of religion as required by wisdom. […] when I read his interpretation, I realized that the interpreter has not discussed any of these issues. I was perplexed at what he intended with such an interpretation. If the interpreter’s intention, as he himself claims, is to reform his people, why is he trying to make Muslims lose faith in their religion?
3.2. Moving Beyond the Binary of Dogmatic Islamism and Strict Secularism9
“The Islamic civilization is mostly the result of Iranian thought and philosophy. Most of it is the result of Nastouri Christians, and idolatry Harrani as well as philosophers such as Al-Kindi, Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes, none of whom, except for Al-Kindi, was Arab. It is wrong to attribute science and philosophy and civilization to the Arabs. Islam is far from the origin of reason or science. As long as Islam was in the hands of the Arab race, that was to say, during the time of the Rashid Caliphs and during the Umayyad period, no intellectual movement appeared. But after the Iranians revolted to overthrow the Umayyad dynasty and empower the Abbasids, the center of Islam was moved to the Tigris and Euphrates region and became the center of one of the most brilliant civilizations in the East”.
“The Arab nation emerged from its savagery and was on the path to scientific and intellectual progress, and it progressed so rapidly that nothing like it could be found except in its political conquests. In fact, within a century, people absorbed almost all of the Greek and Iranian sciences, a science that progressed slowly over the centuries of their countries but expanded beyond the Arabian Peninsula to the Himalayas and the Pyrenees. It has to be said that the sciences expanded appreciably among the Arabs in all the countries under their control […]. The Arabs, though ignorant and primitive at first, again took over what had been abandoned by the previous civilized nations and again ignited the extinguished torch of science and expanded the disciplines unprecedentedly. Is not this a sign of their natural love for science? It is true that the Arabs took philosophy from Greece and adapted what led to the fame of the Iranians, but in addition to expanding the sciences which were in fact their wages of conquests, they made them perfect attentively and trustworthily”.
“Renan’s racial concept of a primitive nation could be used to justify European colonial domination, since the rulers of such states would be from a more tolerant and advanced culture, and thus could impart their scientific knowledge and liberalism in a more efficient manner. Afghani instead looked for outside support for a reinvigorated, independent, Islamic nation would be able to accomplish a science-based modern society by going back to the pre-Ottoman times.”
4. Conclusions: The Quest for the Plurality of Modernities
These gladiators say that, whether in a native or foreign language, the purpose of the sciences is their benefits and that most of the sciences are written in English. They say that the British have long ruled India and obedience to authority is always necessary in every situation. So, in order to benefit from the ruling nation, we Indians should abandon our national identity and teach the sciences in the ruling nation’s language, prioritize their language and use it instead of our own, and extend this to all other affairs as well. It must be said, first, that if this was the demand of the domineering power it would have been considered as oppression, arrogance, and departure from moderation. If the dominated party called for this, it would be nothing but flattery, and of course, this sort of cheap flattery would not even welcome by the domineering power.
The Ottomans and Egyptians established institutions for teaching modern sciences sixty years ago, but have not benefited from those sciences to this day. The reason is that they don’t teach philosophy in those institutions and the spirit of philosophy is absent in them. Undoubtedly, if the spirit of philosophy was harnessed in those schools, they would have become independent of foreign countries in these sixty years and would have reformed their own countries using their knowledge. They would not have sent their children to study abroad and would not have hired professors for their schools from abroad. I can say that if the spirit of philosophy prevails in a nation it would invite that nation to learn all the sciences, including the ones absent in that nation. It is philosophy that helps humans understand each other and speaks of human honour. […] Every nation that has declined has first and foremost witnessed a damage to its spirit of philosophy, which has then spread to its other sciences and its people’s way of life.
“pretending to be a man of science and wisdom, he hides his corrupt intentions under the guise of religion. He sits with wise men and scholars and pretends to be insightful and as such gains the trust of naive people. He started teaching and giving talks and gathered the lovers of knowledge around himself within a short time. Drunk by fame […] he did heresy, rejecting the Prophet and his holy invitation”.
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Abul A’la Maududi of Pakistan, Hassan al Banna and Sayyid Qutb of Egypt and Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran are among the classic examples of Islamism in the modern and contemporary era, whose Islamist alternatives respond to modern problems (Mahdavi 2013, p. 61).
Mojtaba Mahdavi, for instance, argues that “the historical roots of post- Islamism can be traced back to the nineteenth century. Ali Abd al-Raziq (1888–1966), in his classic book Islam and the Foundations of Power (1925), argued that the Quran does not offer any system of government and that Muslims may choose any form of government. Prophet Muhammad’s authority was only spiritual and social in nature. Post-Prophet political systems had no basis in Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence); they were expedient tyrannical structures adopted by the Arabs. However, Abd al- Raziq’s ideas were lost in the midst of revolutionary Islamist trends, including those of Hasan al- Banna and others” (Mahdavi 2011, p. 94).
On Sayyid Jamāl al-Din Asadābādī’s life and works, the researcher pays special attention to six works: 1. Zendegi va Mobarezat-i Sayyid Jamāl al-Dīn Asadābādī (Jamali et al. 2000); 2. Sayyid Jamāl al-Dīn Asadābādī va Bidari-i Mashriq zamin (Muhit Tabataba’i 2000); 3. Complete Majmoeh-yi Kamel-i Asnad Vezarat-i Omour-i kharejeh-yi Engelis darbareh-Yi Sayyid Jamal al-Din. Asadābādī (Khosrowshahi 2000); 4. Tarikh-i bidari-yi Iranian (Nazim al-Islam Kirmani 1988); 5. Sayyid Jamāl al-Dīn Asadābādī Bonyangozar-i Nehzat-i ehya-i Tafakor-i Dini (Sahebi 1996); and 6. Iranian Constitutional Revolution, Mehri Qazvin (Trans.) (Browne 1997). It is intended that this bibliography will demonstrate that there is no consensus on the life of Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn Asadābādī. Other resources also narrate Asadābādī/Afghani’s life differently.
With regard to the ambiguity of Asadābādī/Afghani’s hometown, he is probably the most to blame for this, as—on different occasions—he considered himself a citizen of Kabul, Afghanistan, Istanbul and Assad Abad. Being a political activist, he probably intended to remain anonymous. In light of today’s published documents, reports and memories, as well as the research done by historians and scholars, Asadābādī/Afghani should be considered an Iranian from Assad Abad, Hamadan. Among those who have done extensive research on Asadābādī/Afghani’s nationality is Mohit Tabatabai. He argues that Asadābādī could not have come from Asad Abad in Herat or Kunar. It was inferred from Sayyid Jamāl’s signature in a letter to Muhammad Abduh and Adib Ishaq and Jurji Zaydan that he was from Assad Abad. Successive investigations over the past 50 years, however, did not find a place known as Assad Abad in Kunar. However, when Asadābādī lived in Egypt, he sometimes signed his letters as al-Assad Abadi. Assad Abad does appear in some of the writings of scholars from Hamadan. According to research done by high school history and geography teachers in Hamadan, Assad Abad is pronounced “Sa’adawa” and “Sudawa” in the local dialect. Saadabad is the local and ancient name of Assad Abad. Both pronunciations are probably related to an older name, Soudabeh, with a passive /uː/. See (Muhit Tabataba’i 2000, pp. 333–34). Mirza Lotfollah Khan Assad Abadi, Sayyid Jamāl’s nephew, also identifies him as a citizen of Hamadan when mentioning his family tree (Asadābādī 2000a, pp. 23–25; Taghizadeh 2000, pp. 181–82).
Liquid modernity is the modernity of uncertainty (regarding ethics and our belief in expert systems), flexible forms of work and organization, informational war, and de-territorialized politics and economy. Unlike the intellectuals of the Third Way (such as Anthony Giddens), the writer of Liquid Modernity is still involved with the political struggles articulated by Marx. See (Bauman 2000).
Distinguishing between original and later versions of modernity in the first place may seem to run parallel to the modernization theory. However, this paper does not start from the premise that original Western modernity provided a model for the rest of the world.
In his introduction to a Special Issue of Dædalus, entitled “Multiple Modernities”, the editor of the issue, S. N. Eisenstadt, writes that the idea of multiple modernities “goes against the views long prevalent in scholarly and general discourse […]. The actual developments in modernizing societies have refuted the homogenizing and hegemonic assumptions of this Western program of modernity” (Eisenstadt 2000, p. 1).
An excerpt of the Petition in Qanoun newspaper Issue. 20, this issue of Qanoon was devoted to Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn Asadābādī’s publications after his expulsion from Iran, and following the Rezhi uprising. See (Qanoun Undated n.d., pp. 1–2; Keddie 1966, p. 132).
This section is a summary of several pages of a doctoral dissertation by Homa Nategh: “Sayyid Jamal ad-Dīn Asadābādī, known also as Afghani: His Residence, Activities, and Influences on Iran Based on Persian Sources, with a French translation of excerpts from his Persian writings”. I am indebted to Sara Shariati for translating parts of Ms. Nateq’s dissertation.
Sayyid Jamāl Asadābādī’s response to Renan was very moderate and unexpected. In a note he published, he wrote that the remarks made by the French philosopher were “very much based on historical evidence”. He added that Renan “has respected and observed civilized manners and customs”. Consequently, in its later response to Renan published in Debats newspaper May 18, 1883, Asadābādī/Afghani identifys the attribution of intolerance to Islam only as unfair, a criticism that Renan latter accepted.
In this vein, one can also refer to Albert Hourani’s account of Sayyid Jamāl Asadābādī/Afghani’s encounter with Western sciences: “If al-Afghani says nothing of the industrial and technical revolution, that does not mean he was not aware of it. He knew that the successes of Europe were due to knowledge and its proper application, and the weakness of the Muslim States to ignorance and he knew also that the orient must learn the useful arts of Europe. But for him the urgent question was, how could they be learnt? They could not be acquired simply by imitation; behind them lay a whole way of thought and-more important still-a system of social morality. The Muslim countries were weak because Muslim society was in decay” (Hourani 1983, p. 114).
For instance Dieter Misgeld criticizes the Eurocentric perspective of thinkers such as his own mentor, Hans George Gadamer: “I shall refer to representative critical views, views which express reservations about the “distinctiveness” of Europe as Gadamer perceives it and conclude by suggesting that the subtle “eurocentrism” of Gadamers’ reflections on Europe has to be put aside, in order to open the way for a questioning European traditions on the basis of experiences made in the third world” (Mesbahian and Norris 2017, p. 234).
For a very distinctive interpretation on Iran’s intellectual encounter with modernity during the Constitutional Movement see: (Gheissari 1998). For a historiographical account on Iran in 20th century see: (Atabaki 2009).
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Fasihi, S. Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn Asadābādī Revisited: Reinvigorating the Emancipatory Potential of Post-Islamism. Religions 2021, 12, 41. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12010041
Fasihi S. Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn Asadābādī Revisited: Reinvigorating the Emancipatory Potential of Post-Islamism. Religions. 2021; 12(1):41. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12010041Chicago/Turabian Style
Fasihi, Simin. 2021. "Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn Asadābādī Revisited: Reinvigorating the Emancipatory Potential of Post-Islamism" Religions 12, no. 1: 41. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12010041