ISLAMISTS MAKE USE of a tendentious reading of history to justify their causes, for the putative ‘Islamic Nation,’ for the call for the Sharī‘a, for the Caliphate, or for the existence of a ‘perennial struggle’ against the forces of Disbelief. This pre-supposes a view of the universe which does not see history as a sequence of events each with their own conditioning factors. Instead, historical events separated by centuries can be linked up and used to explain a preordained thesis, a ‘metanarrative’ that determines all the contours of history, hermetically sealed from the effects of events that contradict this thesis.

History is unfolding according to a pre-determined logic. The Muslim is held to be part of a great historical enterprise unfolding. This history is constantly repeating itself. Or rather, it is a permanent constant – the past and the present are indissolubly merged. The same formula applies down through the centuries and this provides the correct basis on which to engage with current and future events, for it is essentially one and the same contest – the Primordial Struggle between the forces of Truth and Falsehood. It is a formula of conflict that enables Islamists ideologues to claim that:

the conflict of cultures and the hatred has been burning since long before our attacks and in fact before Huntington and Fukuyama with their books on the Clash of Civilizations. This war has been going on ever since the existence of Faith and Disbelief.                                                               [Abū Muhammad al-Maqdisī]

As a self-contained entity, the Islamist revision of history immunizes its user intellectually, in much the same way as a fundamentalist doctrine immunizes the believer from challenge. In both cases, the immunization is a key tool to enable the exponent to avoid the implications of contradictions to the system.

Left unchallenged the Islamist historical narrative is a radicalizing force. There is therefore a special responsibility placed on the shoulders of the historian to educate the reader to understand the complexities of actions, reactions, developments and evolutions, against the highly manipulable shorthand of the conspiratorial ‘connecting thread.’ The authors of the articles in this section are taking on this responsibility.

Riyadh Hammadi

Arab Islamic civilisation is, as Hāmid Abū Zayd put it: ‘a civilisation of the text’, or as Muhammad ‘Ābid al-Jābrī put it: ‘a civilisation of jurisprudence’. It is a civilisation of the word, in compensation for the absence of a civilisation of the deed. The difference between theory and application, between words and deeds, is a common justification for the backwardness of the Muslims, as a way of raising the perfection of Islam above it all, as opposed to any faulty application of it by its followers.

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Riyadh Hammadi

The thing that most distinguishes ‘primitive peoples’ or those dubbed ‘pre-historic’ is the relationship of the unconscious that binds them to their social habits and institutions. Oral societies, according to Levi Strauss, are distinguished by their unconscious infrastructure, and the thinking that these societies produce from this constitutes ‘collective thought’, while literate societies exercise critical thought.[1]

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Nabil al-Haidari

The story of the Isrā’ and the Miʽrāj[1] is one that frequently excites much debate due to the contradictory expressions, obscurities and considerable incoherences voiced by proponents from the various tendencies and schools. The story of the Isrā’ is referred to in the Qur’ān: Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant place of worship the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! [Qur’ān XVII,1]

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