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Islam and Anarchism

category international | religion | feature author Wednesday July 20, 2005 18:58author by Anarkismo Editorial Group - Anarkismo Report this post to the editors

One of the better known stock anarchist phrases is 'No Gods, No Masters' but despite this there have been various attempts to invent religous forms of anarchist thought. In recent years there have been various attempts to blend Islam and anarchism - we are aware of examples from South Africa, the USA and Britain. The more traditional anarchist communist approach has been to extend the hostile analysis of other state religions like Christanity and Confucianism to Islam.

Here we present a range of anarchist communist writings on Islam as well as writings by Islamic 'anarchists' and background writings by socialists and others on Islam.

Islam and Anarchism

One of the better known stock anarchist phrases is 'No Gods, No Masters' but despite this there have been various attempts to invent religous forms of anarchist thought. In recent years there have been various attempts to blend Islam and anarchism - we are aware of examples from South Africa, the USA and Britain. The more traditional anarchist communist approach has been to extend the hostile analysis of other state religions like Christanity and Confucianism to Islam.

Here we present a range of anarchist communist writings on Islam as well as writings by Islamic 'anarchists' and background writings by socialists and others on Islam.

The basics

Diversity in Islam for Absolute Beginners
Roughly 1 in 5 of the world's population is muslim - that's over a billion people. Yet for all the talk about a global society with the telecommunication revolution bringing knowledge to the masses, what most westerners from christian backgrounds know about Islam can be written on the back of a small postage stamp

The trouble with Islam
Over 130 years ago the anarchist Micheal Bakunin wrote "I reverse the phrase of Voltaire, and say that, if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him." Writing of the Christian churches in Europe, he said "In talking to us of God they propose, they desire, to elevate us, emancipate us, ennoble us, and, on the contrary, they crush and degrade us. With the name of God they imagine that they can establish fraternity among men, and, on the contrary, they create pride, contempt; they sow discord, hatred, war; they establish slavery." These words today are applicable to Islam.

Turkish anarchist writings

Neither secular not theocratic state dictatorship!
In a free society without the state, neither the secular nor the religious ideology can govern. Because the people have destroyed the armed state and began to govern themselves. In this society believers live according to their beliefs and non-believers live as they want to

Fundamentalism, nationalism and Militarism in Turkey
Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) had founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923 upon six principles: republicanism, laicism , reformism, nationalism, populism, and statism. Under the Kemalist regime the State was set free from the dominance of religion and religion was put under the control of the State. Especially the ideas of Republicanism, Laicism, and Reformism were made good use of by the Kemalist élite to oppress people of Islamic faith. The relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed generally involves both oppression and resistance. But the relationship between Kemalists and Islamists in Turkey, as we will see, does not only consists in that: they also tend to exploit each other to achieve their ends.

The French Debate

Hijab: lifting the veil
Standing up to religious oppression or state racism?
Ultimately we believe that people should have the freedom to dress whatever way they like. This means freedom from state interference and freedom from religious interference in how one should dress. Anarchist reflections on the debate around the banning of the veil in French schools.

Detailed analysis

The modern schizophrenia of Islamic integralism
To understand the ideology of Islam it is critical to understand that the prophet-merchant Muhammad was beyond anything else the founding father of worldly empires. A Preface to 'Why the Reversion to Islamic Archaism?'

Why the Reversion to Islamic Archaism?
A Middle Eastern analysis from 1981
}We reproduce a key 1981 essay on Islamic fundamentalism by the Middle Eastern radical writer Lafif Lakhdar. This is a detailed materialist history of the development of Islamic archaism up to the Iranian revolution.

Islamic 'anarchist'material (off site)

Further reading (off site)

Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society
This web site is well worth looking at to get beyond Bush and Blairs defence of the Islamic religion rather then people who happen to be from a Muslim background. The articles opposite are a selection from the site.
Irshad Manji is the best-selling author of The Trouble with Islam Today. It has been published internationally, including in Pakistan. The Urdu as well as Arabic translations are posted on this website, and can be downloaded free of charge.

Iranian secular society
The Iranian secular society has been formed to publicise the destructive effects of the Islamic government in Iran and contribute to bring about a secular society

The Misery of Islam - Al-Djouhall
The challenge of our times -for us proletarians who live in countries where Islam is part and parcel of the status quo-, is to criticize this "religion of the desert

Fundamentalist Resurgence: Causes and Prospects
A rather dogmatic trotskyist article from 1994 but with some useful information as he is in Pakistan

The Menace of Islamic Fundamentalism and the Hypocrisy of Imperialism
Another essay by the same author from the same flawed perspective but useful as its from 2000 and has some more recent information

The Myth of Islamic Fundamentalism
"it is the Western rendition of Islam, and not an expression which Muslims have anything to do with. Apparently, it seems to imply that there is what you may call fundamentalist Islam as distinct from non-fundamentalist Islam"

author by Nilpublication date Sun Jul 31, 2005 23:50Report this post to the editors

This is just a story, not any kind of sophisticated analysis. A really old story in fact, one of my favorites to demonstrate at least some of the 'anarchist' tendencies in the long and diverse history of Muslims and Islam. It's got some really good parts, and some weird parts. (My favorite line is "There is no such thing as authority; If you enter by force, you know what you are doing.")

From "Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya’ (Memorial of the Saints)"
by Farid al-Din Attar
Translated by A. J. Arberry

[Attar lived sometime around the early 13th century CE; Fozail is supposed to have lived in the 8th century CE, and to have been a former highwayman turned Sufi teacher.]

Fozail and Haran al-Rashid

One night Harun al-Rashid summoned Fazl the Barmecide, who was one of his favourite courtiers. “Take me to a man this night who will reveal me to myself,” he bade him. “My heart is grown weary of pomp and pride.”

Fazl brought Harun to the door of the house of Sofyan-e Oyaina. They knocked at the door.

“Who is it?” Sofyan asked.

“The Commander of the Faithful,” Fazl replied.

“Why did he trouble himself so?” Sofyan said. “I ought to have been informed, then I could have come myself to him.”

“This is not the man I am seeking,” Harun commented “He fawns upon me like the rest.”

Hearing of what had happened, Sofyan said, “Fozail-e Iyaz is such a man as you are seeking. You must go to him.” And he recited this verse: Or do those who commit evil deeds think that We shall make them as those who believe and do righteous deeds?

“If I am seeking good counsel, this is sufficient,” remarked Harun.

They knocked at Fozail’s door.

“Who is it?” Fozail asked.

“The Commander of the Faithful,” Fazl replied.

“What business has he with me, and what have I to do with him?” Fozail demanded.

“Is it not a duty to obey those in authority?” countered Fazl.

“Do not disturb me,” cried Fozail.

“Shall I enter with an authority or a command?” said Fazl.

“There is no such thing as authority,” replied Fozail. “If you enter by force, you know what you are doing.”

Harun entered. As he approached Fozail, the latter blew out the lamp so as not to see his face. Harun stretched out his hand, and Fozail’s hand met it.

“How smooth and soft this palm is, if only it could escape from Hell-fire!” Fozail remarked. So saying, he arose and stood in prayer. Harun was much affected and weeping overcame him. “Say something to me,” he begged.

Fozail saluted him and then spoke. “Your ancestor, the Prophet’s uncle, once demanded of the Prophet, ‘Make me commander over some people.’ The Prophet replied, ‘Uncle, for one moment I have made you commander over yourself.’ By this he meant, ‘For you to obey God for one moment is better than a thousand years of people obeying you.’ The Prophet added, ‘Command shall be a cause of regretting on the Day of Resurrection.’ “

“Say more,” Harun pleaded.

“When Omar ibn Abd al-Aziz was appointed caliph,” Fozail related, “he summoned Salem ibn Abd Allah, Raja’ ibn Hayat, and Mohammad ibn Ka’b. ‘I have been afflicted with this trial,’ he told them. ‘What am I to do? For I know this high office to be a trial, even though men count it for a blessing.’

One of the three said, ‘If you wish tomorrow to escape from God’s punishment, look upon aged Muslims as though each were your father, and regard youthful Muslims as your brothers, Muslim children as your own sons, treating them in all respects as one does one’s father, brother, and son.’ “

“Say more,” Harun repeated.

“The lands of Islam are as your own house, and their inhabitants your family,” Fozail said. “Visit your father, honour your brother, and be good to your son. I fear,” he added, “that your handsome face will be sorely tried by the fire of Hell. Fear God, and obey His command. And be watchful and prudent; for on the Resurrection Day God will question you concerning every single Muslim, and He will exact justice from you in respect of every one. If one night an old woman has gone to sleep in a house without provisions, she will pluck your skirt on that Day and will give evidence against you.”

Harun wept bitterly, so that his consciousness was like to fail.

“Enough! You have slain the Commander of the Faithful,” chided Fazl the vizier.

“Be silent, Haman,” cried Fozail. “It is you and your creatures who are destroying him, and then you tell me that I have killed him. Is this murder?”

At these words Harun wept even more copiously. “He calls you Haman,” he said, turning to Fazl, “because he equates me with Pharaoh.” Then, addressing Fozail, he asked, “Have you a debt outstanding?”

“Yes,” replied Fozail. “A debt of obedience to God. If He takes me to task over this, then woe is me!”

“I am speaking of debts owed to men, Fozail,” said Harun.

“Thanks be to God,” cried Fozail, “who has blessed me abundantly, so that I have no complaint to make to His servants.”

Then Harun placed a purse of a thousand dinars before him. “This is lawful coin, of my mother’s inheritance,” he said.

“Commander of the Faithful,” said Fozail, “the counsels I have spoken to you have yielded no profit. Even now you have recommenced wrongdoing and resumed injustice.”

“What wrongdoing?” demanded Harun.

“I call you to salvation, and you cast me into temptation. This is wrongdoing indeed,” said Fozail. “I tell you, give back what you possess to its proper owner. You for your part give it to another to whom it should not be given. It is useless for me to speak.” So saying, he rose up from the caliph’s presence and flung the gold out of the door. “Ah, what a man he is!” exclaimed Harun, leaving Fozail’s house. “Fozail is in truth a king of men. His arrogance is extreme, and the world is very contemptible in his eyes.”

author by Hecüc Mecücpublication date Mon Oct 24, 2005 04:54Report this post to the editors

It may not be bad to distinguish a living myth -a sort of spirit of the community- from its carcas or its recuperation called religion. And hence all religins in this sense would include such wisdoms. I can supply you with many examples from Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism & Budhism. But I like such stories in hoping that they may fire living imaginations.

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