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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

July 8, 2002

roots of islamo-fascism: prune the right tree.

Is Bin Laden dead? I personally think so. It's been nine months and we haven't heard a peep from him. Systematically, America has exposed his distortions, destroyed his infrastructure, and dethroned the Taliban, OBL's planned nucleus of his new empire. More tellingly, the Islamic givernments which were as much a focus of OBL's rage as America itself, have now all rallied to America's side on the public stage. OBL has not taken advantage of this, though it plays directly into his hands regarding the need for tearing down the Arab givernments and replacing them with a unified Caliphate based on his own visions.

An article in Arab News goes further in the analysis, noting that even if OBL is alive physically. he is dead, politically. :

Bin Laden is the known face of a particular brand of politics that committed suicide in New York and Washington on Sept.11, 2001, killing thousands of innocent people in the process.
What were the key elements in that system?
The first was a cynical misinterpretation of Islam that began decades ago by such romantic-idealists as the Pakistani Abul-Ala Maudoodi and the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb. Although Maudoodi and Qutb were not serious thinkers, they could, at least offer a coherent ideology based on a narrow reading of the Islamic texts. Their ideas, distilled down to Bin Laden, became mere slogans designed to incite zealots to murder.
People like Maudoodi and Qutb could catch the ball and run largely because most Muslim intellectuals did not deem it necessary to continue the work of Muslim philosophers. Modern Muslim intellectuals, seduced by fashionable Western ideologies, left the new urban masses of Islam’s teeming cities exposed to the half-baked ideas that Maudoodi and Qutb peddled. In time, Maudoodo-Qutbism provided the ideological topos in which Bin Ladenism could grow.
Now, however, many Muslim intellectuals are returning home, so to speak. They are rediscovering Islam’s philosophical heritage and beginning to continue the work started by pioneers of Islamic political thought over 1,000 years ago. Paradoxically, it is Maudoodo-Qutbism that is now being exposed as a pseudo-Islamic version of Western totalitarian ideologies.

As a practicing Shi'a myself, I am hardly unbiased, but I do have the opinion that extreme literalist fundamentalism is a disease unique to Sunni Islam. The tyranny imposed upon Iranians is actually Sunni-flavored, since it depends on ruling councils of ulema to interpret religious dogma. Iran's theocracy is not a true Shi'a hierarchy of Imamate because if the Ayatollah tomorrow decreed democracy to prevail, he would simply be replaced by the mullahs.

Taheri fails to note that Maudoodi and Qutb are both inheritors of the Wahabi school of thought. founded by Abdul Wahab and which now dominates Saudi Arabia. M/Q are just the recent incarnations of the fundamentalist reading. It stretches back to the Hanbali school of thought as well.

However, Shi'a theology allows - even demands - symbolic readings of the Qur'an. The great Shi'a jurist Imam Jafa al-Sadiq - who actually mentored the Sunni founders of the dominant Sunni schools of thought - laid the foundation for Islamic rationalist philosophy, emphasising the importance of al-Aql (Reason) as the primary faculty of mankind. The great works of Ikhwan us-Safa and Dai'm al-Islam are completely unknown to Western armchair analysts of Islam, but are central to the core of true Islamic theologic philosophy (the very word philosophy comes from eth Arabic word, "falsafat"). A more accessible work, translated into English, is the great Nahjul Balagha (Peak of Eloquence), the sayings of Amirul Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was the chosen successor of the prophet Muhammad SAW and who all Shi'a revere as the only person of the Prophet's SAW companions who had the authority to interpret the Qur'an. Muhammad SAW himself said that "I am the city of Knowledge, and Ali is the Gate.

Nahul Balagha is also available online.

Dinesh D'Souza has a pair of articles on National Review and The Weekly Standard that discuss Qutb's influence on OBL. Ideofact has some further analysis on Qutb here, here, and here.

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Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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