Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Quote of the day

From my perspective, the most important point Armstrong makes is that fundamentalism--taking sacred texts literally--is a quite recent development, and one that emerges out of a desire to hitch religion to scientific rationalism.

FLG hasn't read Armstrong's book, but he has been making a similar argument with regards to Jihadism. It's actually a thoroughly modern response, not a medieval one. Moreover, it was born out of Salafist tradition, which focuses on a literal reading of the Qur'an, which was, itself, result of an earlier attempt to identify modern influences on Islam, but manifests in a very modern way of empowering the individual to interpret the Qur'an on their own free from historical understandings. These historical understandings were viewed as tainted by Greek philosophy. Anyway, Salafism leads to Hassan al-Banna, Qutb, and the Muslim Brotherhood. And the Muslim Brotherhood is in many ways a precursor to al-Qaeda.

Now, some Salafis are against the jihadists, but Salafism was part of the development of the jihadist movements. A necessary, but not sufficient condition, if you will.

In any case, all of this is entirely modern, even as it calls toward the past. Interestingly, Harold Berman argues in Law and Revolution that revolution with the goal of returning to some mythical past is an idea intrinsic to Western civilization.

Therefore, somebody smart, learned, and ambitious could conceivably make a compelling case that Islamic jihadism, at its core, is the bastard child of Western scientific rationalist modernity. The intellectual toxic waste, if you will. FLG, being dumb, ignorant, and lazy will simply assert it.

And yes, dave.s. This post is entirely a Wikipedia-based pastiche.


George Pal said...

The trouble is all the contradictory verses in the Koran invited comment, speculation, and resolution – early on.

From the Koran, note on surah 2:190:

“Al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah’s Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands)...

my comment: the sixth pillar of Islam with number and weaponry


“...By abandoning Jihad (may Allah protect us from that) Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honour is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim...”

my comment: not a spiritual struggle but one based on honor, possessions, and power.

Any contradictory verses, usually of the kinder, gentler were long ago demoted in favor of the harsher – and no wonder – the Prophet had just taken Medina. For that, these harsher verses are sometimes referred to as Medinian. The method for the ordering of verses is known as naskh - the ordering of Allah’s revelations to the prophet and the latter always take precedence over the earlier.

Jihad has been with us for a long time and is not something out of neo-fundamentalism.

Withywindle said...

Not sure what Armstrong means by "recent." As I recollect Philip Benedict, The Social History of Calvinism (or some such title), fundamentalist Calvinism (for some definition of "fundamentalist") dates back to the seventeenth century.

Flavia said...

Withy: but the kind of biblical literalism that she's talking about is arguably more recent. Calvinists may have claimed that they took the Bible literally--and there's no question that they sought to ground their worship and their theology solely in the Bible--but that isn't the same kind of "biblical literalism" that we see today.

I actually think Armstrong fudges on the specifics a bit, but I take the general point. For example, there's a LOT of allegorical reading of the Bible still going on in the 16th and 17th C., even if it's not called that. My students are always surprised at what Calvinists do to biblical texts.

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