ISIS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE IN ISLAM part 1 of 2

sword of justice statueAs we have seen in recent posts, for Sayyid Qutb the core problem of the world’s many and diverse societies is their secular / scared dichotomy, or the hideous schizophrenia. He sees this as a deep spiritual disorder within the trajectory of human history. It has prevented all societies, with rare and short-lived exceptions, from implementing God’s rule over all of life. The solution, as Qutb writes in Islam: The Religion of the Future, is to implement “the religion of God,” by which he means “the Islamic way of life.” “Only then will the hideous schizophrenia come to an end…. The religion of Islam is the Savior.”

As we saw here, Qutb wrote prolifically in 1940s-1960s Egypt and called for a new breed of Muslim leadership – a purified, or cleansed, vanguard movement – that would implement the religion of God. In a major work titled Social Justice in Islam (SJI), first published in 1949, Qutb expounded the “features and properties” of what his view of the Islamic way of life would look like in a society. The book, which expounds his theory of social justice and the public policies of that theory, is much too densely detailed to discuss in a short blog post, so all I want to do here is summarize its basic idea.

Qutb writes that his theory of social justice is based on “the general lines of Islamic theory on the subject of the universe, life, and mankind,” and that the authoritative source for this is “the Qur’an and the Traditions,” which provide a “general scheme” that must be grasped before one can begin to implement social justice (of the kind that Qutb promotes). Early in the book he lays out this general scheme, which I summarize here in six points:

1.    Allah (God) is, a priori, an absolute unity.
2.    “The Active Will” of Allah, from which “all creation” is “issuing,” or “emanating,” and is sustained and ordered, implies an “all-embracing unity” in nature and in the world of man.
3.    The Creator gives “direct care and constant attention” to nature and the world of man, and because of that all “aspects [of life] are interconnected [politics, economics, faith, history, conduct, work, jurisprudence, etc.] so that one cannot possibly be separated from another.”
4.    Mankind, however, had “lived through long ages without arriving at any comprehensive theory” by which to unite himself and the aspects of life to the essential unity, having developed and followed human creeds that militate against life’s “fundamental solidarity.”
5.    This produced a perennial struggle in which individuals and societies have differentiated between “spiritual and material powers” and either “denied one of these in order to strengthen the other, or … admitted the existence of both in a state of opposition and antagonism”; thus “the struggle between the two types of power continued, with men continually uncertain and perplexed and without any definite assurance as to the true solution.”
6.    Then “came Islam, bringing with it a new, comprehensive, and coherent theory in which there was neither this tension nor this opposition, neither hostility nor antagonism. Islam gave a unity to all powers and abilities, it integrated all desires and inclinations and leanings, it gave a coherence to men’s efforts. In all these Islam saw one embracing unity which took in the universe, the soul, and all human life. Its aim was to unite earth and Heaven into one world; to join the present world and the world to come in one faith; to link spirit and body in one humanity; to correlate worship and work in one life. It sought to bring all these into one path – the path which leads to Allah.”

Legislating justice. Having set out this theoretical backdrop, which Qutb invariably calls “this universal theory, or “Islamic philosophy,” or simply “the Islamic concept,” he then states three principles that “are the foundations on which Islam establishes justice”:

1.    “Absolute freedom of conscience” [he means conscience in submission to Allah alone].
2.    “The complete equality of all men” [women are equal to men not in a liberal Western sense but in a qualified sense he develops called “difference in responsibility”].
3.    “The firm mutual responsibility of society” [everyone, but everyone, is responsible for the welfare, or lack of it, of a community].

In the remainder of the book, beginning with chapter three, Qutb articulates his policies for legislating social justice in Islam. These policies are not possible without the public establishment of Islam in a society. And he ties the policies to long discussions about political theory and economic theory in Islam, while throughout the book interpreting many dozens of surahs in ways that he believes lend support to his views.

SJI covers many areas of legislating justice, including specific public policies for human rights, taxation, banking, debt, inheritance, charity, hunger prevention, theft, murder, property ownership, and courtroom testimony. And some of his policy prescriptions intrude into areas of overt moral conduct – places where Western jurisprudence dares not go publicly – such as adultery, fornication, mocking, flogging, drinking alcohol, hoarding, frivolous spending, overindulgence, and wastefulness.

Continued in the next post.

©2014 by Charles Strohmer

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