Postcolonialism And Sociology

Postcolonialism And Sociology

Although sociology came late to the study of empire, it would be erroneous to think that sociologists have made no significant contribution to discussions pertaining to imperialism or colonialism. Close to a half of the sociologists working in Britain, France, and their numerous colonies during the 1950s were directly involved in some kind of colonial research or another (Steinmetz, 2014:78). They played an important role in the research on development and under-development that emerged at the height of the decolonization period. They were also among the first to produce comparative historical research on colonies. For those sociologists interested particularly in historical and transnational analyses, empires represented an interesting subject that could not be avoided or ignored. This explains the emergence of a “self-described postcolonial sociology” focused primarily on the topic of colonialism and empire (Steinmetz, 2014:78).

Unlike anthropology that engaged in an assessment of its participation in the Western colonial project, “sociologists’ amnesia about their discipline’s engagement in the colonial empires set in almost immediately at the end of the colonial era (…)” (Steinmetz, 2014:78). Any sociological analysis pertaining to colonialism focused almost exclusively on the economic aspects of imperialism. Sociology’s own involvement in the colonial project was, for the most part, completely overlooked. Lately however, an impressive body of work on postcolonialism is starting to emerge in the discipline. Breaking away from traditional anthropological approaches, sociology focuses instead on the study of colonies as historical formations (Steinmetz, 2014:77). Sociologists insist on examining the interactions between colonizers and colonized in order to understand how both parties are being transformed by this encounter. Recent discussions of postcolonial sociology “question the applicability of Western social scientific concepts and theories to the global South and ask how sociology itself has been shaped by empire” (Steinmetz, 2014:77). It is becoming quite an effervescent subfield that cooperates closely with many other disciplines. It continually generates an impressive array of new theoretical, empirical, and methodological insights. Some of the emerging topics in this research domain include: interactions among different European empires, imperial urbanism, gender and familial relations and ideologies in imperial settings, postcolonial culture and literature, imperial violence, and new technologies of geopolitical domination (Steinmetz, 2014:93).

Postcolonial theory has been gaining ground in sociology since the early 1990s. While initially postcolonialism was incorporated into existing sociological endeavors—such as the study of migration and multiculturalism—four distinct postcolonial approaches have since gained traction in sociology. The first one examines how European ethnography, racism, social ontologies, and other aspects of culture have shaped colonial empires. The different imperial strategies used to shape these empires resulted in hybrid political formations. Sociologists study the transition from one imperial configuration to another in order to disclose the process through which the political landscape is rearranged and reorganized to fit the newly established imperial pattern (Steinmetz, 2014:82).

“An example of predominantly colonial strategies evolving into more imperialist approaches is the nineteenth-century British shift to an imperialism of free trade. The 1880s then saw a movement back to formal colonialism by Britain and other European powers. Another imperial pattern involves chartered companies. Such companies were created by investors for trade, exploration, and exploitation throughout the medieval and modern eras” (Steinmetz, 2014:82).

The colonial state is organized like a field. Its internal dynamics ensure the production of a constant stream of ethnographic representations and projects meant to facilitate and regulate native governance. These idées–forces define, according to Bourdieu, “the performative ideas that both represent and divide the social world” (Steinmetz, 2008:607). The modern colonial state becomes the sphere of production of a new kind of “noblesse de robe” (Bourdieu, 1996:377). This new nobility however finds its legitimacy in scholarly titles rather than “pedigrees of noble birth” (Steinmetz, 2008:607). The state helps to validate this new nobility by acknowledging its credentials and endorsing its claims to dominate the state.

The second approach explores the ambivalence inherent to the colonizer-colonized relationship and the forms of colonial hybridity that emanate from this rapport. In contemporary usage, the concept of colonialism refers to the conquest of a foreign territory and its native population, subsequently controlled and ruled over by members of the “conquering polity” (Steinmetz, 2014:79). The varying degrees of indirectness and informality, of said foreign rule, regulates the ramifications of the loss of sovereignty experienced by the indigenous population. An important characteristic of colonialism is the subservient position the natives are confined into. The conquered population is constituted as legally, administratively, socially, culturally, and biologically inferior to their occupiers. “All colonial states divide their subjects into different tribal or racial groups in an effort to enhance control, but at the same time the colonized are subsumed by the colonial state under a single, overarching category” (Steinmetz, 2014:80). All Western colonies practiced this rule of difference to maintain the status quo and prevent the colonized from ever attaining the same legal rights as their rulers. While some colonies haves shown a certain degree of flexibility in respect to the rule of difference, this tenet was generally more stringent during the nineteenth century than in previous eras.

“Even the supposedly assimilationist French Empire placed limits on genuine assimilation. In a historical study of the training of Algerian teachers in French Algeria inspired by Bourdieu’s sociology of education, Colonna (1975, pp.168-69) showed that the colonial power placed a specific limit on the path to acculturation one that defined the quality of scholarly excellence as being neither too close to the culture of origin nor too close to the culture of the West” (Steinmetz, 2014:80).

The third strand of postcolonial analysis in sociology criticizes Western knowledge as being inadequate for the task of understanding post-colonized non-Western cultures. Some even accuse Western thought of being antagonistic to the very existence of the non-Western world. This argument goes back to the German Romanticism of the eighteenth century, and was reclaimed a century later by certain schools in Central European anthropology (Steinmetz, 2014:93). “This critique of universal categories reached an apotheosis with interwar German neohistoricist sociologists (Steinmetz 2010), some of whom argued that all social scientific categories had to be unique to a single time and place (Freyer, 1926)” (Steinmetz, 2014:93). For some, this is the very reason why a Southern sociology focused on non-Western cultures is necessary. Others however, reject this line of thinking by arguing that a phenomenon like capitalism is “universalized and can be analyzed using the same concepts in the global South and the global North” (Steinmetz, 2014:93).

The fourth strand of postcolonial sociology focuses on the issue of imperial blowback, and Fanon’s observation pertaining to the reciprocal relationship between Europe and the Third World.  Eric de Dampierre (1968) argues for treating “the European, even metropolitan context, in counterpoint with the African context” (Steinmetz, 2014:94). This idea of cultural reciprocity between colony and metropole is a critical element in Said’s study of postcolonial methodology. While historians focused mainly on the impact of imperialism on the configuration of domestic cultures and politics, postcolonial critics such as Spivak, Said, and Gilroy concentrated instead on “metropolitan high culture” (Steinmetz, 2014:94). Sociologists on the other hand, choose to examine both the back flow of colonial culture in the metropoles, as well as the aftermath of colonialism in postcolonial societies.

An increasing number of sociologists are willing to engage in a self-critique of sociology as both a product of empire and an enabler of the colonial project. In fact, Alatas, Berque, Bourdieu, and Stavenhagen are amongst those who openly called for a decolonization of the discipline itself. Steinmetz however calls for caution against false generalizations and states that more empirical research is needed to truly ascertain and understand the role of sociologists in colonial empires. After all, many sociologists were ardent opponents of colonialism and were involved in the Anti-Imperialist League, which is often described as the precursor of the American Sociological Society.

“Bourdieu’s work on the relative autonomy of cultural field, which is inspiring some of the most interesting research in sociology today, is a key resource for preventing postcolonial sociology from failing back into reflectionist or one-sidedly ‘short circuit’ externalist approaches to the sociology of knowledge” (Steinmetz, 2014:94).

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  • Steinmetz, George (2008). The Colonial State as a Social Field: Ethnographic Capital and Native Policy in the German Overseas Empire before 1914, Sociological Review, Vol.73, No.4, pp. 589-612.
  • Steinmetz, George (2014). The Sociology of Empires, Colonies, and Postcolonialism, Sociological Review, Vol.40, pp. 77-103.

 

Advertisements

Simulacrum

Simulacrum

Muslim Futurism

The Ottoman railway line built in 1760 during the reign of Sultan Mustafa III was not only a symbol of Ottoman ingenuity and progress. It also facilitated the flow of people and commerce throughout the Ottoman territories and the surrounding Muslim regions. There were plans of establishing connecting branch lines into Arabia, Africa, and the Mughal Empire. This was to become a titanic undertaking requiring funds, manpower, and the involvement of the best engineers in the Muslim world. In its present state however, it connected Sarajevo to Kars, an Ottoman city bordering the Caucasus. This region over the years had become the theatre of an ongoing bitter struggle between the Ottoman Porte and the Russian Empire.

Every city traversed by the railway built massive stations in a bid to stimulate their local economies. Izmir’s train station was always crowded. It was constantly animated with a continuous stream of human activity and filled…

View original post 5,568 more words

My Long Time Love Affair With Star Wars Has Finally Ended. And I’m Ok With That.

My Long Time Love Affair With Star Wars Has Finally Ended. And I’m Ok With That.

Unless you are a rabid Star Wars’ fan—or a connoisseur of all things science fiction—you probably only know Star Wars as a movie franchise, that seems to miraculously resurface every few decades. Seriously, zombies, vampires, and Star Wars are dang near impossible to kill at this point. However, Star Wars actually has a rather rich expanded universe (EU) outside of the movies that comes in the form of novels and comic books. Growing up in the 90s, when there weren’t nearly as many ways of distracting oneself as there are today, I spent much of my time lurking in the dark corners of my local library, hunting for good books. And oh, dear God! did these Star Wars’ novels and comics brought teenage Me endless hours of pleasure. Between reading anything I could get my grabby little hands on, watching science fiction shows, and playing Dungeon & Dragons, I was a happy camper. Throw in some chocolate, and I would gleefully sing the song of your people like a troubadour. 

t7lmz

Look, there is a whole narrative out there that tends to paint science fiction as a lesser literary genre. It is absolute nonsense of course, and I shall discuss it in an upcoming post. However, while the Star Wars novels are not exactly what one would call literary classics, they are nonetheless interesting and a lot of fun. Many iconic authors such as Timothy Zahn are featured in it, and the story is explored in a lot more details. Long before Beelzebub’s spawn (also known as JJ Abrams) and Disney hijacked the franchise, the expanded universe is what allowed us to find out that Han and Leia tied the knot, that Luke Skywalker had a kid with a kick ass warrior lady, and that the Jedi order rose from its ashes like the phoenix. Long before the prequels and the reboots (I basically consider The Force Awaken a reboot of A New Hope), we knew exactly what happened after the initial 3 movies. For some 20+ years, we kept up with all the novels and the comics.

But alas, every good thing must come to an end. In 2012, when Disney acquired Lucasfilm, they decided to pull a move worthy of a Sith Master by declaring the EU non-canonical to the franchise. I’ve long suspected that Disney is in fact located atop a hellmouth. So, the idea of having a newly resurrected Walt Disney dressed as Darth Vader walking around the place force chocking hapless employees (whose lack of faith he found disturbing) before deciding to scrap Star Wars’ Expanded Universe (to spice up his Sunday) didn’t seem like too much of a stretch to me.

i-find-your-lack-of-faith-disturbing-2
The Dark Lord of the Sith finds your lack of faith disturbing folks.

For the most part though, I think I’ve just outgrown the story. Unlike Star Trek which has always been a lot more cerebral in tackling the human condition and offering a mature and thoughtful sociopolitical commentary, Star Wars has always been about the characters: The Skywalkers, the Solos, the Jedi order, and the Sith. It has always been an epic story of good vs evil with all the trimmings of a swashbuckling adventure. It appealed to my desire to escape the disenchantment we all face as we straddle that weird phase between childhood and adulthood. Immersing oneself in a world where the good guys always win no matter how difficult the fight, a world were the lines between good and evil are clearly delineated, a world where love and friendship rule supreme and transcend class, race, or gender had a way of lessening the bitterness of reality.

Like scores of Star Wars’ fans, it is with great excitement that I went to see the first two instalments of the new Star Wars movies: The force awaken and The last Jedi. While the universe seemed familiar, none of it appealed to me in the same fashion. The characters, the story, heck even the universe itself seemed rather simplistic. I was neither invested in their fate, nor particularly interested in the story unfolding in front of me. I realized then that my attachment to this franchise is fuelled by nothing more than my nostalgia. I am now an adult looking at the world through completely different lenses. I can no longer simply watch a movie without dissecting its narrative. I’m afraid the enchantment of childhood has given way to the cynicism of adulthood.

I’ve been hearing a great deal about the increasing toxicity of the Star Wars fandom lately. While fans should always be able to express their opinions, lines are definitely being crossed when actors are being threatened and bullied constantly. I believe the issue here is one of ownership. Older fans who have loved Star Wars since the beginning want the franchise to recapture that first enchantment that led them to fall in love with this story. However, as they look at it through their adult eyes, I believe they expect  from it far more then it was ever meant to be. I remember how disappointed I was in the prequels (with the exception of Revenge of the Sith) in my early twenties. But those who watched them as kids loved the prequels even more than the sequels. They were mesmerized by the world building and loved the humour, while those of us who were older were angered by what we saw as a dumbing down of the franchise. In the same way, the multitude of kids for whom The force awaken and The last Jedi are their very first experience of this universe will no doubt love them as passionately as we’ve loved the first 3 movies. Maybe, if there is anything to take from all of this is that we should allow new generations to experience not what we think Star Wars should be, but rather what it becomes as the franchise grows.

For my part, I’m grateful for all the good times, the amazing characters, and the beautiful storytelling. As and adult, I am more than ready to take a back seat and let younger generations experience their own enchantment.

Good luck young Padawans.

younglings-attack-of-the-clones

 

 

 

 

 

A strange tale of transmutation

A strange tale of transmutation

Muslim Futurism

He stirred from his sleep inconvenienced by the intense pain radiating from his neck to the middle of his back. He had the habit of sleeping in the most outrageously disagreeable postures known to man. His ever evolving twists and bends could probably give many professional contortionists a run for their money. Slowly rising from his sleep, he turned on his back, stretching his poor aching neck, and rolling his shoulders to get the kinks out. As he opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed was the light. Forgot to turn the lights off again, he thought still groggy from his sleep. All around his bed and nightstand an assortment of packages, each once containing a variety of sinfully delicious pastries, were strewn about. This is what his life had been reduced to; a continuous binge of equally bad food and entertainment.

His eyes travelled from his nightstand to a…

View original post 2,924 more words

MUSLIM FUTURISM: Science fiction with a Muslim flavour

MUSLIM FUTURISM: Science fiction with a Muslim flavour

When it comes to fiction, Muslims are often left with very little choice when they try to find stories where Muslim characters are at the heart of the action. When such stories are available, many end up either reiterating some of the prevailing stereotypes about Muslims, or they attempt to dilute the very elements of our religious identity that make us who we are. As I’ve mentioned in a prior post, narratives matter.

The power that narratives hold comes from their ability to shape our identities, define our perspectives, and give a unique voice to groups. Whether used in memoirs and documentaries to convey true stories, or made-up ones in books, movies, television shows, and video games, narratives give us access to experiences that otherwise elude us. They allow us to gain a better understanding of the world we live in by introducing us to the multitude of realities that make up the human condition. At almost every level—from the family unit to the highest instances of political power—narratives are used to create a core identity that distinguishes us from others, and helps us strengthen social cohesion through the establishment of specific sets of values and norms. To control a narrative gives one the opportunity to influence the very perception of reality itself. Thus, narratives become in this context a possible site of oppression. It is imperative that we take charge of our own narrative and control it.

Muslim Futurism is one such attempt. This website is dedicated to exploring the world of Muslim fiction through a series of science fiction short stories with a dash of Muslim flavour. The aim being to craft a brand of storytelling placing Muslim characters, experiences, and narratives at the very heart of the story. Instead of trying to change the depiction of Muslims and Islam in the works of others, let us create our own creative outlets. There is not much we can do to stop the ongoing onslaught of vehement bigoted rhetoric, but there is much that we can do in creating a counter narrative that showcases the true nature of Islam, and the experiences of Muslims through our creative works.

 

Political Islam and social movements

Political Islam and social movements

The prevailing image of Islam in Western media and intellectual circles is one that reiterates the political nature of this religion. Islam is said to embody an authoritarian polity in which concepts such as freedom, democracy, and openness, have very little place (Bayat, 2007:4). Political Islam especially is perceived as the main vehicle of this brand of politics predicated on a revival of an authentic Islamic political tradition. This sociopolitical phenomenon embodies for many Westerners what they fear most about Islam.

By the early twentieth century, the autonomy of Muslim societies was greatly diminished due to the consolidation of colonial power in the Muslim world. Strong central governments, answerable to foreign imperial regimes, had replaced the old political system. In this new reality, “the traditional forms of Muslim religious organization were often suppressed” (Lapidus, 1988:7). Massive economic changes, unprecedented migration to the cities, and the emergence of new social strata accompanied the collapse of the old sociopolitical system. “The new era was marked by efforts to define new modes of political action as well as new modes of Islamic religious belief” (Lapidus, 1988:7).

Although there is a general consensus in Western academia that the historical roots and the development of this Islamic revival should be studied, the overwhelming majority of these studies tend to focus only on certain aspects of it, at the detriment of all others (Burke, 1988: 18). While the diverse political projects of Islamist groups is often discussed at length, almost nothing is said about their underlining social agendas. The capacity of these groups to mobilize consensus by addressing social grievances, while redefining the political spectrum, makes them at once political and social reform movements.

“As one engages this issue, one notes important differences over even so basic a matter as the definition of the subject. Is it Islamicpolitical movements? Or socialmovements in Islamic societies? These contracting questions frame a basic difference in the field” (Burke, 1988: 18).

The emergence, development, and diversification of Islamism correspond to the trajectories of state formation and socio-economic development in the Middle East. The popularity of modernization theory, and class analysis in the 1960s and 1970s, eclipsed any possible focus on Islamism in the political analyses of the Middle East and other Muslim majority countries. “When it was considered, it tended to be dismissed as rear-guard battle from traditional social forces heading for the dustbin of history” (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 278). In the wake of the Iranian revolution, Islamism was defined primarily as a political phenomenon concerned mainly with “the establishment of an Islamic state” (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 278). Often compared to movements from the left and the right, it was described as a nationalist and revolutionary movement implementing a top-down approach to seize the institutions of the state in order to establish a new social order (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 278).

Statist Islamism and political activism

“In its high degree of generality, Islamism emerged as the language of self-assertion to mobilize those (…) who felt marginalized by the dominant economic, political, and cultural processes in their societies (…)” (Bayat, 2007:6). For these individuals neither capitalist modernity, nor socialist utopia offered concrete answers to the political and economic woes of their nations. It was not however the working class that brought Islamism to the center-stage of Muslim politics; it was rather the Muslim middle-class that sought to find within Islamist discourse a viable dissident narrative. It was a way for them of rejecting the increasingly rigid control of the elite, while proposing an alternative to their western-centric political, economic, and social project. “In a quest to operate within an authentic nativist ideology, Islamists tried to articulate a version of Islam that could respond to their political, economic, and cultural deficit” (Bayat, 2007:7). Therefore, Islamism was conceptualized as a system with a distinctive political project, a religiously inspired cultural code, and a strong populist language.

“Two simultaneous but contradictory processes pushed Islamism toward its hegemonic position: opportunity and suppression” (Bayat, 2007:7). In the 1950s and 1960s throughout the Muslim world massive educational growth, economic expansion, increase in wealth, and social mobility co-existed with “continuous political repression, marginalization, a sense of humiliation, and growing inequality” (Bayat, 2007:7). The members of this highly educated middle-class increasingly became aware of their marginalization in their societies where a small but affluent elite held all the political and economic power. Often allied with Western powers, these elites enjoyed the protection and the support of these nations. Political repression and social control were widely used by these regimes in order to quell any attempt at political dissidence. Political Islam became widely popular amongst those searching for an alternative to what they perceived as the rapid decay of their societies. Through its populist rhetoric and religious sociopolitical project Islamism quickly gained traction.

The term statist Islamism refers to the brand of Islamism that implies an “institutionalized participation in the politics of the nation state” (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 281). In this category, one can find groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood who seek to reconcile Islamic doctrine with liberal forms of democracy. Their variant of Islamism evolved over time to become a reformist discourse. It appealed equally to members of the middle class and the working class eager to find a “broader popular constituency” to challenge the assertions of the more affluent, more secularized establishment claiming to speak for the nation (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 281). The model of political action and the ideological program detailed by the Muslim Brotherhood served as an example to follow for a wide range of organizations throughout the Muslim world. Groups such as Ennahda in Tunisia, the Salwa movement of Saudi Arabia, and Islah in Yemen, have “Brotherhood roots or links” (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 281). Socially, these movements have often emerged within the middle class and are fundamentally linked to the spread of education and urbanization in their respective societies.

Statist Islamism sought to improve rather than destroy the existing system. Their narrative was not so much predicated on challenging social hierarchies and the economic model, but rather on attacking corruption and moral laxity seen as the very cause of the socio-economic ills plaguing the community. “The economic problems were to be solved not by a drastically new system of governance or redistribution of wealth but by elites recognizing and acting upon their obligations to Islam and sharia” (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 281). What explains the resilience of statist Islamism is its capacity to adapt its aim and strategies to the shifts in models of governance and forms of social activism.

Non-statist Islamism and grassroots activism

The major models theorizing collective action never really focus on how collective action can transform into a revolution. They mainly explain the causes of social discontent without however pondering on how these same causes trigger revolutionary crises. James Davies claims that when prolonged periods of economic and social development are followed by a period of sharp decline, revolutions are more likely to occur (Bayat, 2007:18). According to Ted Gurr’s relative deprivation thesis “what seems to mediate between these objective processes and the occurrence of revolution is the psychological mood of the people, their expectations, and frustrations” (Bayat, 2007:18). Resource mobilization theorists have stressed out however that the people’s mood and their frustrations may not be enough to trigger action “unless they are able to mobilize the necessary resources by creating appropriate opportunities” (Bayat, 2007:18).

Popular frustration can give rise to two types of mobilization. One type seeks to dismantle the existing order and replace it with an alternative structure. This was the case in Iran where shortly after the revolution a process of massive Islamization of the nation was undertaken. Through a top-down process driven by the state a concerted effort was made to “Islamize the nation, state apparatus, public space, and individual behavior” (Bayat, 2007:50). The second type of mobilization seeks to revamp and amend the dominant order through the action of social movements. These movements are attempting to create “alternative institutions and value systems before a total change” (Bayat, 2007:18). Whereas in Iran Islamization spread through a top-down process, in Egypt the Islamic revival was born of a bottom-up social movement that first appeared in the 1920s (Bayat, 2007:33).

The economic restructuring of the 1970s diminished tremendously the state’s capacity to care for the marginalized and vulnerable groups within many Muslim societies. To compensate for this exclusion at the state level, vast sections of these societies relied increasingly on “self-help strategies, kinship networks, and other informal mechanisms” (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 283). This created an environment conducive to the rise of a type of Islamism rejecting any institutionalized participation in politics in favor of changes in lifestyles and individual behaviours.“Non-statist Islamismis not so much apolitical as it is infra political: local-level organizational, preaching and charitable activity” (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 282). Grassroots activism is central to their brand of Islamism. While groups like the Muslim Brotherhood have also centered their activism on charity work and preaching, non-statist grassroots Islamism tends toward a more conservative interpretation of the Islamic doctrine. Salafism, which over the past decades became the most popular movement in the grassroots Islamist phenomenon, encourages its adherents to focus on the community rather than the state. “Salafis tend to promote an ascetic lifestyle and consider consumerism to be a distraction from religious duties” (Volpi and Stein, 2015:283).

The Salafi’s eschewing of all forms of political engagement has worked in their favor at the grassroots level. Unlike statist Islamists and Jihadists who often attract the ire of the state, Salafis are generally tolerated by these regimes. The post 9/11 crackdowns on Islamic organizations in the Middle East were mainly targeted toward politicized, and armed Islamists. “In allowing or facilitating the expansion of Islamist grassroots infrastructure, regimes signalled their limited capacity to govern peripheral, rural or informal urban areas” (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 283). This has allowed Salafis to have a greater control over the social field. Governments have actively encouraged members of politically active Islamists groups to join instead the less overtly militant Salafi movement. The contemporary Salafi movement arose from the student movements of the 1970s in Egypt. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Salafism was often promoted as the safer alternative to the more militant Islamist movements. “Yet, even if many grassroots activist, for principled or pragmatic reasons, eschew politics, their activism has played a role as part of a broader Islamist movement in building constituencies for Islamist parties” (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 283).

Jihadi movements differ form both statist Islamists and non-statist groups like the Salafis by their endorsement of violence as a mean of establishing an Islamic state. Some of these groups call for violent tactics in their attempt to further the cause of an idealized form of Islamic community. Many more however are not motivated by a desire to promote armed struggle as a meaningful strategy, but are rather forced to adopt violent actions as a response to state repression; as it was the case in the Algerian civil conflict of the 1990s (Volpi and Stein, 2015: 284). These types of movements tend to find a fertile ground in areas where the state power is greatly diminished, and communities are marginalized. They usually emerge in places where the legitimacy of the state is widely contested, and its presence is all but absent or greatly undermined (Volpi and Stein, 2015:284).

 

ISLAMIC HISTORIOGRAPHY

ISLAMIC HISTORIOGRAPHY

One of the greatest blessings Allah ‘aza wajal bestowed upon our Ummah is our scholars. Muslim scholars dedicated their entire lives mastering several fields of knowledge and advancing those disciplines to new heights. Contrary to many nations whose history was primarily written by Westerners, the history of Islam (and Muslims by extension) was already written centuries ago by our very own scholars: Urwah ibn Zubayr, Ali ibn al-Madini,Muhammad al-Bukhari,Ibn Wahshiyya, Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, Ibn Khaldun,Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, etc…)

The problem however is the existing divide between the contemporary Muslim populations and the vast and rich historiography left by these scholars. For a multitude of reasons (Westernized education systems, language barriers, illiteracy, political agendas) most Muslims know either very little or nothing at all about their own history. This of course leaves them vulnerable to just about any attempt made to re-write Muslim history by folks whose sole desire is to tarnish and destroy the legacy of previous Muslim generations.

One such attempt was spearheaded by a notorious Egyptian “Academic” called Youssef Zeidan who specializes on Arabic and Islamic studies. He stirred controversy when he called one of the most beloved historical figure of Islam, Salahadin Ayyubi, “one of the most despicable figures in human history.” His statements ignited a heated debate on social media and in Egyptian newspapers.

We live in times of confusion, manipulation, and propaganda. Knowledge is the best possible protection against this. Get to know your history folks, read the multitude of books left behind as a legacy by the scholars of Islam. The best remedy against lies is the truth. Let us not become people who simply fall for the latest trend, let us instead be people of substance with a firm Iman.

May Allah ‘aza wajal rescue us from the perdition of ignorance.