April June 2008Insight

The Cartoon’s Cartoon

Ismail Bardhi

“O you who have faith! If a profligate (person) should bring you some news, verify it, lest you should visit (harm) on some people out of ignorance, and then become regretful for what you have done”. (Qur’an, 49:6)

If you can’t explain something that you don’t understand – declare it as accidental: thus, you have said that the phenomenon which you are explaining is avoiding human reason and stands outside of laws known to it, but that in any case it is real. This way accident was invented as an explanation of the unintelligible, and this has been offered to us as a replacement for the faith in the sense of predestination. Hence, in this context even the latest events (latest, because we must not forget the beginning of the third millennium with September 11, invasion of Iraq and many other similar events) are not accidental. Such is the case with the publication of the humiliating cartoon with no meaningful or artistic value and “Muslims’” delay for mass protests.

While contemplating about the “Muslim life”, for so many time a question appears whether this kind of life has been predestined to us once and for all; is it something beyond time, without direct relation with the historical situation, regardless of the given life situation; or that it should be redefined in the light of the circumstances of the actual society, without leaving aside the personal biography? Or, expressed with our actual vocabulary: who are, how are and how should Muslims be, as well as what they want to do? Are these protests justifiable in the light of the tradition of our Prophet s.a.v.s., and are they indeed considered as a religious proof for the “level” of belief?

Towards self-criticism

The Muslim believer must have critical consciousness when facing the issue of his relation to the world, his spiritual life in today’s society. Without the critical distance from the world it is not possible to solve in a right way the problem of adjustment of the Muslim life to the present circumstances. To be more specific, first of all we should know clearly what “Muslim” means, what is Muslim way of life, so latter this could be a measure in the relation with the world. This is the foundation in judging the Muslim or anti-Muslim nature of today’s civilization, in making it a foundation for today’s Muslim way of life.

The democratic pluralistic society with its uncontrolled “freedom” of expression is a trap, which prevents man’s spiritual growth. Luckily, this erroneous theory is without deep foundation in man’s concrete life, the man who knows well that there is a distinction between good and evil, between true and false, between beautiful and ugly. We, the Muslims, and with us all open-minded people, are deeply convinced that the concept of life according to the Muslim spirit is the only right and exemplary one for the capabilities of man’s nature in fulfilling a successful and happy life. Modern society and modern state succeeded in creating a world of their own – the secondary world, the world of “democracy” and “freedom” – as the only reality in which there is no place for the supernatural reality, for the “Divine reality”. Because of this ideational horizon, our contemporaries are simply becoming incapable to open themselves to the “Divine reality”, to listen and understand the Divine Word and respect for God’s prophets. This is why the renowned philosopher Rene Guenon has called this time “the dark époque”, or time of “world’s pain”, because of God’s “death” (Nietzsche). We come across with such ideas among other lonesome intellectuals, who nevertheless know very well the time and world’s pain, like Oswald Spengler, who said: “Instead of people who are faithful to their tradition, born and raised in the world, today we have a new kind of nomads, who continuously coagulate in amorphous mater, without tradition, without religion, without ideals, with no imagination whatsoever, presumptuous and unproductive… All of this warns about the twilight of civilization”.

First of all, we must accept that our time and our civilization are not anymore an Islamic world – Dar al-Islam. Today’s world recognizes values and criteria, which are essentially different from that world in which Islam entered as “a new one”, and that they differ even more from the world created by Islam in its golden period. Our Muslims today are forced to live in a world of different cultures, religions and ideologies, in a society without an unique spiritual horizon, without an all-valid moral and all-accepted ethics, i.e. in a “democratic” society, in so-called countries with secular foundations which do not officially preach belief in God and do not accept God’s Law as a criteria and norm of public life. In the official vocabulary of the modern society words or notions of religious nature, like: revelation, prophethood, mercy, super-natural, sin, punishment, hereafter, salvation or man-creature do not appear as such.


Nevertheless, before entering into interpretation of the latest events, I would like to mention some cases, which have befallen on Muslim’s heads, and they still have not thought what are we doing?!? In Prophet’s s.a.v.s. time – continuous insults by Abu Lahab; the most contemptible fabrications and physical assault on him with stones (Taif). Or today: why and how did the Islamic “Revolution” in Iran took place? What it brought to the “Islamic World”? Than the Iran-Iraq war? The war Iraq-Kuwait? (Not to mention the wars between Israel and the entire Arab world). Recall the event of 1981 in Hama, Syria – the unforgettable massacre against the Muslims, for which nobody knows what exactly happened; continuous imprisonment and execution of “Muslim Brotherhood” members in Egypt; the appearance of “Mahdi” and armed entry into the Baitullah in Makkah. And, above all, what to say about the “freedom” of expression in the countries of the “Islamic World”? People in Libya and Iraq never had chance to speak freely; the same goes for Syria, Egypt and many other “Arab-Muslim” countries. But, on the other side, whenever something happens against Muslims outside of the “Islamic World”, the former attack foreign embassies and consulates (which, of course, will be reconstructed and rebuilt by the local governments?!?), and masked persons kidnap people and cut their heads off in front of cameras, with “La Ilahe il-lallah” on their heads. Unfortunately, many written and documented sources prove that more Palestinian Muslims have been killed by Arabs (which the West recognizes as “Muslims”), than by others, lest to say about the problem of their citizenship. Many countries of this Euro-Asiatic-African area still are not capable of understanding the need of their own citizens for freedom and free expression in mother language. Then, is it sufficient only to say that secret “Masonic” and other dark forces, as well as interests of world’s superpowers are doing all this and destroying the “Islamic World”, without looking into one’s self? At the end of the day, how to explain all traumas through which institutions of the Islamic Religious Community in our country passed, full of terror and fabrications. Who did all of this? Non-Muslims? Isn’t this an absurd?

… On the top of this – the absurdity…

One of the main symptoms for the twilight of a certain culture is the disappearance of the knowledge about the meanings of the contents of that culture in the consciousness of its defenders. As it is proved in all periods of decadence of cultures, the signs, symbols and ideas, as a rule, continue due to the simple inertia and material transmission ; but the consciousness of the contemporaries of those periods becomes ever more distant from the possibility of recognizing the original meanings of the contents of transmission. Hence, for example, the majority of errors made by the stone carvers of the symbols and signs in the monuments of the last periods of “pre-Columbus” cultures, clearly prove that neither those poeple, or their employees, the clergy casts, didn’t know the meaning of what they transmitted.

This phenomenon of extinction of the meaning causes an unconscious counter-mass: periods of decadence are characterized by the extraordinary intellectual effort oriented towards the penetration into the contents of the culture. And all this in vain, because all discussions, oftenly very harsh, about the meanings, only accelerate the processes of estrangement from the given meanings. And, since in such cases the speculative capabilities tend to compensate the oblivion of the being, instead of recognizing the original meanings, the freedom of arbitrarity of soul leads towards infinity of phantastic and monstruous figures, which often are the very opposites of the truth.

This hermenutical passion contributes for the spread and acceleration of the process of decadence, because it exhausts all energies, even those that are necessary for creativity. Instead of rescuing the present, instead of preparing itself for its own future, the entire culture of decadence has turned towards discussions about the meanings of the contents of the past. Thus, the end of the “last” cultures of the great empires of the past is marked with plenty of gramatics, rhetorics, scribes, classifyers etc. Analogically speaking, even the modern culture is marked with prevalence of analytical and introspective disciplines. This shift of gravity of the culture towards these disciplines precisely responds to the threat, which is constitutive of the phenomenon of the loss of meanings, although the result is opposite to those unconscious efforts of last energies of the culture which is in its sunset. It is about the phenomenon defined as “world as a meaning in destruction” (Ernst Jünger). In such world of meanings in destruction, the main condition for existence is the absurdity (ex. the absurdity of Hallaj’s saying  “your god is under my feet”). In the world of absurdity man is a stranger, who doesn’t know even himself, he is a “consequence” of necessity and absurdity.

Unlike the contents of the modern world, which are often marked with unconscious absurdity, contents of the modern culture, thatnks to the extraordinary introspective capabilities, are characterized by the conscious determinatiom for affirmation of the absurdity. This culture of absurdity has also influenced the wide masses, which have already acepted the ideas and matters of absurdity as pillars of their existence, as objects of their daily surrounding.

This conviction is rather indicative of the function of absurdity in modern culture, because in some traditional disciplines, like in mysticism, use of absurdity has had a totally different purpose. In mysticism the absurd response of the teacher to the questions of his student, cause in the latter a strengthened mental activity, as a condition for breaking the limits of consciousness and cognition. Here, absurdity causes that embarrassment in which limitations are burnt, thus opening the way to the Absolute. In the modern culture, absurdity appeases every embarrassment before the illusions, thus contributing to the stability and continuance of such illusions. Here absurdity is a means to put to sleep any embarrassment of cognition, whose efficiency can be also found in the general conviction in the value of absurdity, although this value is being proved only tautologically. Hence, abrusdity unables the recogniition of great threats, by exhausting the energies that could avoid such threats. The irony of fate is that absurdity is precisely the first sign of danger, which the conscience oriented towards cognition of the universe of threats is facing. Then, how is it possible for the protests to be risen on this form of absurdity, except if themselves are not absurd in the name of belief?!?

… and the “democratic” society!

Modern man’s dependence from the mass communication media in “democratic” societies, as well as in “others”, has increased in critical proportions. Often such man is not capable to think and act without the suggestions by the mass media: his very existence depends on those elementary orders (commands), so the introduction of any conscious “ambiguity”, of any suggestion for delay of the decision of introspection and analysis for an indefinite period of time – could have disastrous consequences. To the modern man, the mass media are those that offer the reality and safety in existence within that reality, so introduction of any principle of doubt in the mass communication media could destroy even that last illusion, thus causing that very dissolution of communications, as a cause for ruination of the entire system, to which the “humanist” though as an internal illusory antithesis belongs. This is the essence of resistance, which the massive public has against all “cultural” programs of the mass media: in such programs the man of the masses, the man of the “lonely crowd”, unconsciously feels the dangers and threats against his last illusory fulcrums of his very existence. To have a complete picture for modern man’s sorrow, a picture suggested by the “apocalyptical” potentials of the mass media, to the former we should add the fact that the mass media condition not only his psychic structure, but his physical behavior as well. A classical example in this direction is Orson Walles’ program about the “invasion” from Mars, which caused panic and massive escape from New York, so policemen for months searched for those who escaped in the surrounding woods, trying to convince them for the contrary and to return them into the civilization.

As realists, we must accept that for the mass democratic society it is of essential importance to function to a certain degree and not to indulge in chaos. The warranty for such “functionality” is often possible only under condition of the disrespect of God’s law. Today an unavoidable interdependence between production and consumption exists, to which all citizens are subject, each one in his way and his place. This content doesn’t consider every particular religious or ethical concept of life. The society as an “above-authority”, or the state as “a mortal god”, are tolerating only those who contribute in functioning of the social processes. The state will prevent anything that it considers as wise and secure for the common living, even if they are revealed truths. So, we are all under the obligation of participation and cooperation in the social-economic process. Not to cooperate for the majority would mean to endanger the personal life, and even the common good. Hence, it is reasonable to ask: Are we free to such extent so as to “abandon everything and follow the Qur’an and Sunnah”, and do this without any guilt of conscience? By its nature the democratic society doesn’t prevent us forcefully from following the right path, although it is also true that it neither enables us positive freedom to do that without major negative consequences for our lives. We know that during communism the consequence for following any religion for believers automatically meant degradation in the field of human and civil rights. In the democratic society there are more subtle social-economic mechanisms that act in the same sense. Whoever lives his life as a Muslim, very soon will face and feel the essential “beat” of the life of such society, be it in the field of economy, science, culture or politics. This means that most of the believers are continuously finding themselves in situations of forceful attainment of compromise with the way of life of the society, which in its essence is incompatible with the Muslim ethos. From here results the necessity for only a single partial identification with the Muslim life. It is difficult to consider such way of life as following the Qur’an/Sunnah. Here also the same rule about friendship and love is valid as being half friend or partially in love – which is absurd. The same would apply to being half Muslim and half “modern secular man”.

In conclusion

The freedom of thought and belief guaranteed by law has as its consequence that one can use the word “God” as one likes; that he can consider his personal conscience as a supreme judge in determining what is god and what is evil; that according to the circumstances one may love God, and latter hate Him, because of being afraid of Him. This and similar ones may occur in a democratic society without any intellectual damage, without any danger for the individual personality, forgetting about the responsibility of the religious and cultural identity. And all this is being done in the light of individual freedom, which makes any individual master of himself and of his surrounding. In such horizon people very easy reach the conviction that it doesn’t matter ho one lives, or in what one believes, because everything is permitted in hence somehow officially proved that everything has the same value, that there is no One single Truth, that the single right moral doesn’t exist. These can be only “believers” of the rock-and-roll “religiosity, who are being kept in the state of continuous trance and passiveness, with an infinite chain of degenerative consequences, which is most clearly manifested with the very “surface” of the phenomenon, the devirilizing and dehumanizing behavior, where long hair is not only expression of style changes, but of the essential changes as well. This is being propagated by the pluralism as an ideology of the democratic society, which we, as believers, unfortunately are (un)consciously accepting. But, regardless of the complexity of the democracy, which is fading as time goes by, we Muslims must do our utmost to implement our relation with the Revelation and Prophetic tradition in the realm of thought and living.

Main codes for being a Muslim in the general literature of Islam are: to be free, sound-minded and mature. This is the basis for reading the messages of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.v.s. in his Farewell Pilgrimage: “engage yourselves with great deeds”, or “a good Muslim is the one from whose mouth and hand others are safe”, or of the Qur’anic imperative from the beginning of this article “verify the news coming from a profligate person…” and “the servants of All-beneficent are those who walk humbly on the earth, and when the ignorant address them, say, ‘Peace!’” (Qur’an, 25:63), or “don’t offend the god’s of others”.

Then, where lay the foundations of these self-protestors, who due to their carelessness and “irresponsibility” only create insecurity, hatred and cause the damn fitnah. To whom the prophetic words “God forgive them because they don’t know” apply?!? We must be realistic and not ask for the impossible: with “violence”, “terror” and “floods” towards embassies Islam cannot be defended, lest the Muslims

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