SO LET US duly make the comparison. At a time when the world speaks of the separation of powers, our shaykhs – God preserve them – speak of the complete integration of religions and worldly powers in a Muslim state.
At a time when the world speaks of freedom and the right to thought and creativity and the expression of opinion opposed to the tutelage of the state, our shaykhs talk of the Nation’s red lines and its ancient invariables.
At a time when the world speaks the language of science, civilisation and culture, we speak of the fiqh of the dead and the language of a time past we wish had never passed.
At a time when the world is removing all restrictions on freedoms, we are still talking of punishments for apostasy or going beyond the bounds of the faith, and the impossibility of new interpretations of the Text.
At a time when the world judges a thinker’s writings using the logic of reason and evidence and the extent of the benefit gained from this writing, our institutions judge thinkers and condemn them and proscribe their blood. I might mention here that the egregious institution [al-Azhar] had previously demanded the confiscation of some of my works, following which I was taken to court and acquitted of the charge of kufr (‘making light of religions’) and my book released. Now, if they insist on the soundness of the Prophetic hadith: Whoever says to his brother “you infidel!” – one of the two is destined for Hellfire, does that not mean that with my acquittal al-Azhar is then destined for Hellfire?
At a time when the world is making giant leaps in science and economy, our shaykhs call for us to stand still, and indeed turn backwards to the beginning, to the Prophet’s time, the ‘finest of all centuries’. This leads to the Muslim disdaining our own time and repudiating it and all of its civilisation and its achievements.
At a time when historiography has become an informative science founded upon the scrutiny of chemical apparatus, tools and compounds, aided by geology, topography, linguistics, palaeography and anthropology – so as to determine the veracity of documents one by one, and so that we can view history as far as possible as it actually was in its time – our shaykhs are banning such endeavour in the case of Islamic history, are refusing the scrutinization of it, and are criminalizing the description of things with their true names, after having distorted history in favour of their own ruling denomination and sect.
We remain outside geography just as we are outside of history
At a time when the world is opening up its doors to criticism in all its colours and stripes (since it is the door to the future and the skylight for continual reform of affairs for the better), and progresses precisely because of this – we base ourselves on the principle of concealing and embellishing Islamic history and defending it from all comers. One of these defense methods is to stop ‘letting the cat out of the bag’, on the grounds that any criticism will simply add to the stockpile of enmity against Islam.
At a time when the greatest theories of modern science have emancipated from the past to uncover new things, so that the entire world engages in this discovery of the new, our shaykhs see their understanding of Islam as valid for all times and places, and that they are the eternal authority in all things, from how one should relieve oneself to how to launch rockets.
At a time when nations study their errors so as to reform them wherever they are to be found, our shaykhs have created in Muslims a mindset that does not see any fault in themselves, as if the acknowledgement of a mistake itself constituted Disbelief, and what is worse, they see the entire world as in error, and that they are the only ones free of faults.
At a time when the individual is emancipating himself from all the restrictions of society, except for the law which applies to all of us equally, our shaykhs impose upon us the Sunna for every aspect of behaviour and impulse we show, or everything we say. They stick to us in our private lives, right from the morning until the time of our sexual congress, and they even enter with us into the WC and our bedrooms. And they have even added to the Sunna beloved of the Companions and their early Followers, so that the Muslim has become like an automaton muttering prayers and invocations the whole night long, driving him in the end in our Islamic street to a state of patent mental illness.
At a time when the world is moving beyond the concept of the nation with its borders, towards a universality of humanity and globalisation, as the natural choice of its time, we remain outside all of this. Indeed we have not even got to the previous stage, the stage of national citizenship, for our shaykhs do not consider that a Muslim has any other nation than his faith, and the little band of men from the land of Wāq al-Wāq and of Mau al-Mau. For Islam is ‘The Nation’, and the ‘People of Islam’ is any Muslim individual in the world. Muslim nations are thus destroyed, so that Muslims are left outside geography, after they have been left outside of history.
And while peoples make use of their losses and defeats in their cultural rivalries, for the purpose of self-reform and progress on the path of competition, we take refuge in our defeats and form ranks behind our shaykhs to declare wars in the mosques against the enemies through prayer and the assiduous performance of rituals. This is to confirm to the Lord that we are sincere, so that He will look upon us mercifully and be indulgent, so that His wonders may suddenly be made manifest in the world, and that America and Israel and maybe all the civilised nations will pass away, leaving us masters of the world. But in reality these prayers have achieved nothing other than more defeats and backwardness, for our shaykhs consider progress to be nothing other than the fruit of prayer and pious invocations. These might well atone for our sins, but they will never secure us any progress.
But if there is any role in progress to be played by righteousness, piety and sincere prayer, then our ‘righteous ancestors’ should have been the ones to invent rockets and antibodies and genetic engineering, and we would have been the ones to reach the moon through the blessing of our parents’ prayers. Invocation is for the purification of the soul, and prayer is to keep us from obscenity and forbidden things, it is not for discovering the nucleus or the foundations of culture, and never for a single day has prayer been the cause of any progress or victory.
Progress and civilisation are the business of mankind, of his potentialities, his will and abilities. Progress is scored by a mind absolutely free of any restrictions, one which has the capacity to refuse anything that is against the laws of the intellect and the universe. It is the only thing capable of maintaining civilisation. The mind tells us that grasping modernity and immersing oneself directly into it constitutes the path to civilisation and progress.
Our shaykhs tell us – God grant them mercy – that what the likes of people like me are aiming for is that we live as westerners, with all their ‘moral degeneracy’, so that our Nation and its traditions should collapse; as if we had made enough progress in the first place to fear a collapse, and as if the life of westerners has led to backwardness and collapse in them!
Given this perception of modernity as a deliberate cultural raid targeting our nation via its religion, (now that imperialism has ‘reconfigured itself to use new methods’), that is, that the Crusader West is waging a Crusade campaign, one thing remains difficult to decide: is the West a right-wing, religious, Crusader West extremist in its religiosity, or a place of debauchery, degeneracy and atheism?
So there is no connection between on the one hand religion or faith, and on the other hand progress or backwardness. Rather, behind every crime there is someone who benefits from it. This crime is the one committed by the professional clerics throughout history against the rights of the nation in toto. They are the ones who were responsible all this time for Islam and the Muslims; for ten centuries its ‘defenders’ have turned out to be its thieves.