Where is the Arab world headed? - MAHMUD EROL KILIÇ

Where is the Arab world headed?

A wide ethnic geography that we call the Arab world has continued to be the main core of a wider world of faith called the Muslim world since the first days of Islam. There are a few reasons for this. Primarily, the prophet of this sacred religion was an Arab and the holy book that he brought was in Arabic. We know that instead of hallowing this ethnic belonging, he aimed for a higher category and stated that gaining prominence in the eyes of Allah could be achieved through some humanitarian virtues, for example taqwa (an Islamic term for being conscious of Allah). We also know that some of his best friends were Persian, Abyssinian, Greek and Hebrew who were not of Arab origin. In later stages of the expansion of Islam faith, a multinational faith community emerged with the inclusion of non-Arab tribes (those who are not Arab are called Acem [Persian]). The rules of the religion consisted of universal metaphysical elements being beyond ages and tribes but it was not very easy to differentiate between the universal and local in the beginning. Almost everybody was locally part of the Arab culture and, at the same time, believed in a universal faith system. However, the difference between universal and local could not be explained very clearly as this doctrine was transferred to new masses in later geographic expansions. In fact, it was very difficult to do so and it was not the fate of Islam only. This was the case faced in the history of all other religions and faiths. Some local manners and customs of a religion’s starting point were presented to newcomers as if they had been a part of a universal doctrine. But there was Substance and Form in religions. Others were added to the first periods of the universal substance of Islam which was in Arab form. History witnessed that the substance of Islam was presented in Persian form, Turkish form, Andalusian form, Indian form and Balkan form. In this way, it came out of a closed, narrow and local area, and civilizations with universal values were established. In the universalization process of Islam, which was going on in the following centuries, the Arab element remained mostly in the fields of language and linguistics. Even though some customs remaining from the period of jahiliyyah [ignorance] and Arabic elements looked down on non-Arabic elements in some other Islamic countries which were formed later such as Persia, Etrâk, Mameluke, Kolemen, Abyssinia, Nûbi and Muzarab, those elements did not wage a war against the Arabs. In fact, the achievements of the Muslims which would last for long years in science, philosophy and politics occurred thanks to this hybridization. People coming from every tribe found universal truths in this religion and made their own contributions. But they are the same in substance. They are different in form. Just like this. What Muḥyiddin Ibn Arabi, a true Arab, and who wrote in Arabic, and what Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, who wrote in Persian, and what Yunus Emre, who wrote in Turkish, said are the same in substance but different in language. Today when we do cross-translation for the writings of those three wisemen, with the help of modern communication technology and do their thematic comparisons, we will see that all three of them said the same thing in substance. This is a great wealth and has made Muslims successful in the eyes of others. A prophet saying that “Seek knowledge even if you have to go as far as China” is the one who opened the doors of universal synthesis to Muslims.

While the initial actions of the Arabs toward those who were not Arab was reflected through highlighting their tribes, they highlighted their Arabness in later periods. In each period, they attached some beliefs to this. Starting with the caliphate’s Quraishism we have come to today. When we come to today, the Arab world has identified Arab consciousness with the Salafism religion interpretation. When we add the Wahhabi uprisings to this, the discourse that “we will remove superstitions from the religion” has turned into the action that “we will remove non-Arab, foreign elements.” Today unfortunately Salafism has frozen the brain of the Arab Muslim world. It is difficult to find a non-salafi Muslim philosopher in the Arab world. What is the worst is the combination of Arab nationalism and Salafism. There is no philosophy. There is no wisdom. There is no aesthetic. There is only the transfer of some dogmas without any interpretation in the name of religion. Has the Arab world been like this the whole time? Certainly not. Wasn’t Junayd al-Baghdadi an Arab? Wasn’t Shaikh Ahmed er-Rifai an Arab? Wasn’t Ibn Arabi an Arab? There is a perception that the Arab Islam idea started with Ibn Taymiyyah and reached its peak with Abd al-Wahhab. In my opinion, they themselves froze the Arab world. From this perspective, I see the Arab world in a very serious intellectual depression. And it is essential for them to go back to Tradition. Shiism, which has reached its peak through their eternal enemies the Persians, is winning victories against Salafism. People in many places, primarily Africa, are joining Shiism.

After these elements came into play, first in Afghanistan, then later in Iraq and finally in Syria, the course of innocent Muslims  struggles has changed. Whatever they did, it served the enemy. It was as if those people had been fighting only to behead or to acquire female slaves. They cannot complain about the expansion of Shiism because this has happened thanks to them. It is necessary to think over the recent developments in Saudi Arabia which is the moral and material center of the thought of Salafi-Wahhabi. This thought, which once ruined the minds and lives of the Muslim youth of one generation, has turned back to themselves and is ruining the Hejaz now.

It will split the country. Since tradition has been demolished, it is difficult for them to revive. They do not know any masters of the tradition. I, personally, cannot even talk to imams and hodjas (teachers) from there. There is nothing they know apart from hadith hearsay. There is neither thought; nor aesthetic. From this perspective, I am afraid of the term “moderate Islam.”

They even don’t know what it is. Their previous mufti gave a fatwa saying “The world is flat” and the current one gave a fatwa (religious edict) that “It is not permissible to fight against Zionism.” We cannot know what will be said tomorrow. From this perspective, in general, I see the Arab world in a serious intellectual crisis. And they don’t know how to overcome this. They should stop humiliating non-Arabs like us so that they can benefit from our experiences. We are ready to teach them the tradition that they lost. We are ready to teach Ibn Arabi, who was an Arab. However, if they make friends with the British Lawrence, American Trump, Israeli Netanyahu instead of me, I advise them to read the “those who take to themselves peers other than Allah” leaflets, which they distribute to hajjis themselves first. May God protect the Arab!

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