Mohammad Aburumman

“As You Are, You Shalt Be Governed”

تم نشره في Thu 18 February / Feb 2016. 11:15 PM

There are those who insist, among intellectuals and politicians, on the primacy of political change to reform of social, cultural, and belief structures of society, and that reforms atop begin reforms bellow; in the way Othman bin Affan puts it —"God through power rectifies what He does not through the Quran”. Contrarily there are others among intellectuals who insist on anopposite rule based on the weakly supported Hadith by the Prophet (PBUH) that basically means “As you are, you shalt be governed”; placing primacy to societal and cultural reform over political rectification.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a reformist school of thought rose emphasising on what we call in intellectual disciplines and literatures “the Question of Culture”.

This discipline of thought focused on the vitality of religious reformation in face of idiosyncratic deadlock and making waves to revitalise the motors of diligence and modernisation. This particular approach rendered changing society and culture through the development of its social, educational, and academic mechanisms paramount.

Accordingly, the two pioneering theoreticians and promoters of this school of thought were Mohammad Abduh and Rashid Rida (in his reasonable salafi version) through his book “Tafseer Al Manar” and magazine “Al Manar”; their approach was based on two key propositions: first is religious reformation, and the second was education. As for the schools greatest aspiration, disciples of this line of thought were haunted and driven by the idea of following into the age reason and enlightenment and industrial revolution in the Arab World.

And while many view occupation as the chief reason behind the various catastrophes of the Arab World (the objective external factor), the leaders of this movement insisted that colonialism is but an outcome of a bigger problem; exhibited in ignorance, backwardness, stillness and the civilisation gap between us and the west.

Notably, this idea was later summarised by known Algerian thinker Malik Bin Nabi as nations’ “Susceptibility for Colonisation”, which is similarly close to the slogan of the Muslim Scientists Association in Algeria; God shalt not change a people’s reality until they change themselves.

On the other side of this causation, stands Ibn Khaldoun, who says that “People follow the religion of their kings”, contrarily; reducing a people’s realities to mere reflections and results of political relations.

Notable of the “Arab Spring” is how it shook the pillars of many principles of the Cultural School of Thought. For while the historic mission has not been concluded; in terms of modernisation and religious diligence, as well as the desolation of idiosyncratic stillness, nor the bridging of the gap in education, technology, and civilisation —cultural change in short; people of the Arab World had already risen to topple their tyrants and make for liberty and liberation. Not only that, the people actually, and for the first time in their history, took down their dictators through peaceful revolution!

With time, however, the cultural approach reassembled with the downfall of the democratic aspiration and the surge of sectarian, religious, and ideological polarization. The return of totalitarianism and the rise of “Daesh” (ISIS) evoked the cultural question, again, of whether the Arab peoples are ready for democracy: yes or no?

To my estimation the answer is: neither; because you cannot separate the socio-cultural and the political, and there is no rule of primacy of one over the other. It is possible that a social and cultural reform may lead to an economic one, which may evolve into an internal political struggle leading us into democracy, the way it progressed in Europe over the last centuries. Oppositely, there is also the capacity for democratic reforms to induce change into the social and cultural structures of society. There are interrelated dynamics to the progress of nations tying all aspects of society together; economic, social, cultural, and political. And what may work for Tunisia may not be suitable for Egypt, for instance.

We need to review the Arab Revolutions in more depth, to order to understand what happened before and after they exploded. It is also vital that we be able to realize and make a clear distinction between the outcomes of these revolutions and the products of conter-revolutions led by Arab and regional states in accessory of Western collaboration.