Despite the recent chanting of the Hegelian anthem, Reason has not overcome politics. Despite the jubilant refrain of 'the End of History', we are still waiting for history to deliver itself. In spite of the resurrection of the Imami-state, the Mahdi has not come out of hiding. Notwithstanding the 'fundamentalist' charter of legitimate order, the rightly-guided Community has not found its way back to Medina. The citizen still toils under the crushing heels of a nameless 'Late Capitalism' and the believer still cries under the cracking whip of unnameable kings, generals, faqihs, presidents and other elected non-elects. Even the postmodernist rebel, notwithstanding the 'incredible lightness of his being', has not found an escape from the catacomb of history to the citadel of theory.
'The existence of man in political society', so observes the ever sensitive political philosopher, Eric Voegelin, 'is historical existence; and a theory of politics, if it penetrates to principles, must at the same time be a theory of history.' Hence, the political scientist, whether eternally Muslim or contingently postmodern, still falls between two stools. His is a discourse that straddles a discipline of history he dare not disown and a regime of theory he would not dethrone. Between the two, he must construct that ideational habitat which would shelter his ideals and realities both. Thus lies, between the earthly slopes of history and the heavenly horizons of theory, that promised land of politics which sustains nations and civilizations, communities and faiths, polities and states.
While the quarrel between theory and of history is as old as man's reflection on things political, it is with Machiavelli that political science becomes conscious of the irreconcilable moral dilemma it had previously only faintly suspected. However, it is also from Machiavelli that political theory receives its characteristically 'modern' bias towards history and acquires its uncompromisingly immanentist metaphysical posture. For, it was the Machiavellian claim about the temporal nature of political order - he believed that man inhabits a world which is ruled neither by himself, nor by gods, but by time; that ultimately man's miseries stem neither from a flaw in his nature, nor from constraints that are external to him, but from the finitude and temporality of his existence - that secularised political science and set western tradition on its long historicist trek to the ideological Shangri-La of Marxist eschatology. Without doubt, Machiavelli was, as Meinecke observed, the first of the historicists.
After Machiavelli, political theory
had to swear unswerving fidelity to 'historical realities' and demonstrate
the validity of its vision in the world of history hic et nunc.
However, once the metaphysical scale had been tipped in favour of immanence
and historicity, political philosophy had no option but to go through all
the motions of intellectualisation and humanisation, including the proclamation
of `end-of-history', in order to cling on to whatever little meaning that
a disenchanted historical world would yield. With each empirical advance,
with each encroachment of the transcendent by the immanent, political reflection
was left with a smaller and smaller chunk of meaningful reality to feed
on. The politics of temporal meaning commissioned the recasting of `eternity'
in the mould of `history', but it received, on the completion of the project,
nothing but an amorphous rubble of `contingency'! Rorty's postmodernist
trinity of `contingency, irony, and solidarity', a logical development
of Machiavellian historicism and loss of transcendence, thus, represents
the last, desperate, effort of empiricism at the creation of political
The Conquest of Politics. By Benjamin Barber, Princeton University Press, 1988. 220pp.
Contingency, irony, and solidarity. By Richard Rorty. Cambridge University Press, 1989. 201pp.
Reason, Revelation, and the Foundation of Political Philosophy. By James V Schall. Louisiana University Press, 1987. 254pp.
The Romantic idea that `truth was made rather than found', and the logic of utopian politics that sets aside questions about the Will of God and Nature of Man for the sake of creating a better society, have both, according to Rorty, achieved cultural hegemony. However, these ideational forces have also created a split within philosophy: some philosophers, remaining faithful to the ideals of Enlightenment, identify themselves with the cause of science and rationality; others, realizing that the world described by science offers no moral lesson and that science is no more than a handmaiden of technology, have no soap to sell. What is needed instead, Rorty believes, is a repudiation of the very idea that anything - mind or matter, self or world - has an intrinsic nature and may be `expressed' or `represented'.
`The world out there' - the classic divide of philosophy - may or may not exist, but `truth out there' cannot exist for Rorty. For he is adamant that truth is merely a property of language; that where there are no sentences, there is no truth; and that the idea that world decides which descriptions are true no longer makes sense. Nonetheless, he is cautious enough to add, `to say that we should drop the idea of truth as out there waiting to be discovered is not to say that we have discovered that, out there, there is no truth.' It is merely to suggest that "the nature of truth" is as unprofitable a topic as "the nature of God" and "the nature of man". Moreover, since only descriptions of the world can be true or false, only sentences can be true, truth is contingent upon the ability of human beings to make languages in which to phrase sentences. In short, `truth' cannot be capitalised, it is forever man-made and subject to historical and social vicissitudes.
Given the identity of truth and language in the Rortian metaphysics, it is not too difficult to decipher what his project is all about, namely, `to drop the idea of languages as representations and to de-divinize the world', to get to the point where `we no longer worship anything, where we treat nothing as quasi-divinity, where we treat everything - our language, our conscience, our community - as a product of time and chance.' (italics supplied). And yet, inconsistently or consistently, Rorty's `iconoclastic' vision cherishes cultural hopes that are not so contingent, just as his secularist creed is not averse to indulging in a few crusading fantasies of its own: `For in its ideal form', Rorty describes his utopia, `the culture of liberalism would be one which was enlightened, secular, through and through. It would be one in which no trace of divinity remained, either in the form of a divinized world or a divinized self. Such a culture would have no room for the notion that there are nonhuman forces to which human being should be responsible. It would drop, or drastically reinterpret, not only the idea of holiness but those of "devotion to truth" and "fulfilment of the deepest needs of the spirit". The process of de-divinization.... would, ideally, culminate in our no longer being able to see any use for the notion that finite, mortal, contingently existing human beings might derive the meaning of their lives from anything except other finite, mortal, contingently existing human beings.'
Having unanchored the thinking self, its language and community from its telic moorings and having exiled it to the moral wasteland of contingency, the philosopher has no vocation left but to reign in a cognitive kingdom that is as much post-metaphysical as it is post-religious. However, if the discovery of the absolute contingency of self and history evokes nightmarish thoughts that absolutely nothing is haram, that no actions and attitudes may be perceived as naturally and inherently "inhuman", or that even at times like that of Auschwitz one may not demand a tribunal higher than that of `finite, mortal, contingently existing humans', the most edifying counsel that the philosopher of contingency proffers is `not to want something that stands beyond history and institutions.' (his italics). Far more problematical than this ineffective remedy, however, is the assertion that people, who are quite aware (and existentially convinced?) that they and their beliefs are the products of nothing deeper than contingent historical circumstances, would still find these beliefs worth dying for!
Despite its totally myopic view of human reality as `contingency', Rortian philosophy does possess a political vision. Indeed, it is by the adoption of a political strategy that Rorty manages to rescue his project from the suffocating embrace of world-nihilism and save it from crashing into its own moral vacuity. Renouncing the claim that philosophy, or any other theoretical discipline, may unify the private world of creativity and freedom with the public one of justice and order, the acclaimed deconstructionist, nonetheless, proposes a system of thought that tries to overspan, if not actually reconcile, the demands for self-creation and human solidarity. In a human world configured by the contingent forces of language, self and community, Rorty comes to the conclusion, only the private act of `irony' may overcome public suffering. Only an `ironist', he claims, may redeem us of the Original Sin of Contingency.
Rorty defines an "ironist" as someone who fulfills three conditions: `(1) She [!] has radical and continuing doubts about the final vocabulary she currently uses, because she has been impressed by other vocabularies...; (2) she realizes that arguments phrased in her present vocabulary can neither underwrite nor dissolve these doubts; (3) insofar as she philosophizes about her situation, she does not think that her vocabulary is closer to reality than others, that it is in touch with a power not herself.' (By `final vocabulary' he means a set of words, that we all carry about and which we employ to justify our actions, our beliefs and our lives. `These are the words in which we formulate praise of our friends and contempt of our enemies, our long-term projects, our deepest self-doubts and our highest hopes.') Not inconsistently, then, ironists, because they realize `that anything can be made to look good or bad by being redescribed', and because they renounce that `any criteria of choice between final vocabularies exist', are "meta-stable"; they are `never quite able to take themselves [as well as the world and the truth] seriously.` In a word, the Rortian ironist is a cognitive rolling stone which gathers no moral moss.
Within the post-metaphysical galaxy, that contains zillions of equally bright, equally hospitable stars, however, there is only one planet, called `cruelty', that liberal ironists wouldn't dream setting their foot on. For, they are the people who, despite their total surrender to the vagaries of the Supreme Idol Contingency still hope that `suffering will be diminished, that the humiliation of human beings by other human beings may cease.' Alas, even for liberal ironists `there is no answer to the question "Why not be cruel?" - no noncircular theoretical backup for the belief that cruelty is horrible.' Thus ends the Rortian discourse on `contingency', certainly not with a logical bang but perhaps with a moral whimper! With one moral straw in his philosophical armoury, Rorty is now able to announce the coming of his `liberal utopia’ as the reign of solidarity; `a goal to be achieved not by inquiry but by imagination, the imaginative ability to see strange people as fellow sufferers.’
One notable conclusion that Rorty draws from the failure of western philosophy to synthesize Nietzsche with Marx or Heideggar with Habermas, from its failure to achieve a theoretical vision incorporating the values of public and private morality both, is that it is literature rather than philosophy, narrative rather than theory, that provides a better perspective on the contingent nature of historical societies. Moreover, it is fiction like that of Nobokhov and Orwell (both receive proper attention in the book) that gives us the details about what sorts of cruelty we ourselves are capable of, just as it succeeds in awakening us to the humiliation of particular social practices. Consequently, Rorty contends, `the novel, the movie, the TV programme have, gradually but steadily, replaced the sermon and the treatise as the principal vehicles of moral change and progress.'
Rorty's book is part of the general postmodernistic turn against theory and towards narrative. It represents a revenge of mythos upon logos and a polytheistic attack on the notion of one single truth. Ideationally or morally, it is not a pathbreaker: whatever is of moral value in it has been expressed before with greater profundity and pathos (Buddhism anticipated the Rortian insight about the contingency of self and language by more than twenty centuries, just as its discourse on suffering and cruelty is paradigmatic on these themes); whatever is of purely philosophical interest also does not hold much promise for a Muslim. At best, Rorty's ironic perspective provides some ethical guidelines that may be valuable on a private level but which do not advance the cause of social and public morality. In other words, the Rortian vision, falling in between a public and a private domain, is not unambiguously and uncompromisingly political. Even his `de-divinization' project has its stakes, in the Protestant manner, in the realm of private conscience. In short, there is nothing exhilarating or disturbing about Rorty's philosophical vision. At least there is no reason why a Muslim may not ignore it, or be able to live with it.
Despite the moral inconsequentiality and political innoucuity of Rortian philosophy, it deserves a proper Muslim critique, not least because its postmodernistic fallacies - the fad of irony, the cult of polytheistic truth, the idolization of fiction - have already reaped a scandalous harvest for the Muslim umma. Even at a more profounder level, Rorty's claim about the contingency of selfhood, as well as his Promethean bid to de-divinize thought and empty it of all metaphysical consciousness, needs to be rebutted with full force, for, whatever its cultural orientations and political aspirations, it tries to becloud the Islamic vision of reality, and truth, as well. Moreover, any Muslim encounter with Rortian philosophy soon brings home the insight that the Islamic self- the Vicegerent of One True God (Khalifat Allah) entrusted with the moral ordering of the natural world - must perceive the contingent self, aspiring merely to the ironist deconstruction of the metaphysical discourse, as its very antithesis. Or, in the language of philosophy, there is no theoretical perspective which can unify the Islamic conception of Self with the one that claims its contingency. In terms of `final vocabulary', thus, there can be no dialogue between the two.
The Gospel of Contingency, with its sacrament of Irony and its church of Solidarity, proclaims a `truth' that is aggressively atheistic. Surely, Rorty is right: only a consciousness that has become de-divinized can perceive the human self as `contingent'; only a self that is not a soul is able to see itself as `a product of blind forces beyond human control'. Thus, it is not accidental that of all the multifarious moral traditions of mankind, Buddhism alone (a `deconstructionist' reinterpretation of Brahmanism and a profoundly atheistic soteriology) proclaims the contingency of selfhood! For Islam, the acme of monotheism, a self resigned to the contingency of existence in history is a dahri self; it has still not glimpsed the vision of Reality that lies beyond time, history and contingency. It is jahili, ignorant of the Revelation.
From a philosophical point of view, then, the monotheistic concept of Revelation represents a nemesis of contingency. Revelation is that propitious event in time when Truth itself enters history and redeems it of its contingency and meaninglessness. Through Revelation humanity rediscovers its original mission and recovers its lost mandate of Vicegerency. It is by experiencing a particular event as sacred - the event of Revelation - that the man of faith discovers his existential (bearings) mission and rids his cognition of the curse of contingency. Revelation, that unique, propitious and meaningful event, breaks the idol of contingency and pierces the veil of time. It discloses a vision of Reality which draws the contingent self to the bosom of eternity. Hence, a self committed to a future beyond the grave is a self that is contingent no longer.
If Revelation announces the death of contingency, Islamic Revelation, which is but the `vocabulary' of God in the language of man, also pre-empts all philosophical stratagems to de-divinize human thought and empty it of metaphysical consciousness. For, if truth indeed is an attribute of sentences, then, by the descent of the Divine Word into the heart of the Prophet, by the availability of a linguistic revelation to all mankind, any human pretence to confuse the language of man with the language of God stands exposed before hand. Thus, the Muslim, whose selfhood and community are contingent upon the truth of the linguistic revelation of the Qur'an, and who measures the truth of human sentences by the utterances of the Revelation, cannot bow down before the false god of human language. Because his consciousness is forever tied to the linguistic moorings of the Divine Revelation, the Muslim is fully protected against the derelict tides of cognitive, and hence moral, relativism. Similarly, Divine providence, recognizing the dahri intellect's self-negating longing for an existence of pure temporality, has mercifully immunized Islamic consciousness against the virus of contingency. In short, the contingent self of Rortian philosophy is a jahili self, which, philosophically and morally, is pre-Islamic and unenlightened. The coming of Islam announces its annihilation.
Paradoxically, if there's anything to be learnt from Rorty's philosophy, it is the very opposite of what he himself sets out to teach. In fact, by demonstrating the ability of theoretical (jahili) intellect to break down human history, nay existence, into ever smaller chunks of meaningless `contingency', Rorty simply underscores the point that the Muslim, on his part, must remain inalienably committed to the externality, the absolute otherness, of the Revelation. In view of the irreducible identity of the intellect and language, it is only by holding fast to the linguistic fact of the Revelation, by remaining faithful to its letter as well as the spirit, that the Muslim defeats the nihilist deamons of his own contingency. Hence, any exegetical or hermeneutical project that would compromise the form of the Revelation for the sake of its meaning must be rejected out of hand. For, once the dam of form has been burst, there's no stopping the tidal wave of subjectivity and caprice that ends in the sea of nihilism. It is not for nothing that the Qur'an itself insists on its arabicity! (Incidentally, there is much in modern philosophy that interfaces with the earlier Muslim discussion on Revelation and indeed upholds the linguistic intuition of the Islamic civilization. However, these new insights haven't received much Muslim attention and hardly any Muslim critique.)
Whatever the significance, or insignificance, of Rortian insights about `the contingency of self, language and community' for our situation, his other claim, that there is no way in which philosophy, or any other theoretical discipline, will let us unite the values of social justice and political order with those of self-creation and personal freedom in a single vision, cannot be treated with equal lightness because it has the moral and intellectual weight of the entire western tradition behind it. In fact, Rorty merely restates in the language of contemporary philosophy what the western civilization has come to regard as its foremost insight about the human situation. The failure of enlightenment and modernity to provide a single theoretical alternative to Christian theodicy, to create its own secular anthropodicy so to speak, has reaffirmed the case against the unity of public and private, freedom and necessity, reason and belief, for the western man. By reopening an old controversy, Rorty joins the bandwagon of postmodernist rebels against Enlightenment.
The unity of the public and the private in Europe, as is well known, was ruptured once and for all by the Christian `discovery' that the true end of man cannot be attained within a temporal order, that politics did not provide a total explanation of reality and that no man owes absolute allegiance to any earthly society. For Islam, however, the Christian argument against a unified contemplative and practical order has always remained hidden behind a screen of civilizational polemics. In fact, it has been made specially inaccessible to the Muslim because at the societal level it projects itself as the separation of Church and State - a solution to the `political' problem that the Islamic tradition finds impossible to accept. In an admirable work by a contemporary Jesuit and professor of political philosophy, the Muslim may now obtain an excellent and highly initiated summary of the philosophical side of the Christian argument. In fact, a judicious reading of James Schall's provocatively entitled work, Reason, Revelation, and the Foundation of Political Philosophy, may introduce new arguments in the intra-Muslim debate about the nature of contemporary political order as well.
Essentially, Schall's book is a persuasive philosophical censure of the progressive secularization of political philosophy since the time of Machiavelli. Indeed, the process of immanentization has gone so far that political philosophy today, presupposed to no standards from nature or revelation, assumes the role of ersatz metaphysics: it aims at a full explanation, in its own terms, of all that is. Or, in the Schall's own, Christian, perspective: it is not open to the possibility of revelation: `The "modern project" is itself undermining of revelation as a possibility and therefore.... of the possibility of a politics limited to this life.' Recognizing that political philosophy presents a series of questions to which there are no adequate political answers, Schall's plea is, for philosophers, not to make the city a real home for men, a home in which the full meaning of what is being human is exhausted, and for clerics, not to fall for the temptation to change the dimension of revelation into a programme for political order.
Prior to Machiavelli, it was theology which reflected on the questions of ultimate ends of man and the place of politics was limited in European culture. After Machiavelli, much of moral and speculative thought associated with doctrines of human perfection, salvation, original sin, knowledge and nature, fell to political philosophy. Man came to be regarded as `infinitely malleable' and historicism became an intrinsic part of political theory. Hegel accepted what had been implicit in political philosophy since Machiavelli, namely, the full identification of the rational with the actual, of what ought to be with what was in fact made in society by man. The intellectual history of political philosophy that Schall presents is an effort `to understand why politics has a limited - "moderate," to use Leo Strauss's phrase - role to play in human life' and to prevent "political metaphysics" from depriving man of real intellectual and spiritual life apart from the control of the polity.'
The reasons for the replacement of theology by politics, bartering a supernatural order for a temporal one so to speak, are obvious. For, `once the philosophic position had been established, namely, that there are no intelligible ends in reality save those implanted there by the exercise of the human will guiding its own intelligence to produce the "intelligible" forms in things, the highest exercise of human will acting outside itself will obviously be politics, not the directing of the intellect to contemplation or revelation.' Politics thus turns into "Gnosticism", as Eric Voegelin saw it, or into the "modern project", as Leo Strauss preferred to call it. Thus drawing on the theoretical insights of these two philosophers, Schall advances his notion of reformed political philosophy: a theoretical discipline that recognizes the limits of politics and is open to the influence of revelation. Schall's book is as much an indictment of the metaphysical conception of politics as it is a circumspect plea for the adoption of Christian perspective on the "fixed ends" of life.
An equally powerful case against theory, against turning politics into metaphysics, has been built by Benjamin Barber in The Conquest of Politics, except that his argument is pragmatic through and through and does not appeal to on any higher authority, be it reason or be it revelation, for its validation. `Politics,' contends Barber, `is what men do when metaphysics fails.' Negotiated settlements, thus, are preferable to philosophical rules, first principles or fixed ends. Or, under conditions of epistemological uncertainty, political solutions are necessarily `sovereign' over philosophical principles. Philosophy's appropriation of politics further entails, according to Barber, that questions of political practice (what shall we do? What is just?) are reduced to questions of adequate epistemology (What do I know? What is truth?) and one comes to believe that by manipulating theoretical categories one would change the world. That political theory, whose traditional aim was the creation of a genuine praxis in which to overcome the divide between theory and practice, is today in the hand of philosophers, Barber contends, is because the claim to know is the claim to rule! If there is really a non-political, or an antipolitical, character to truth, as Hannah Arendt suggested in her acclaimed essay, 'Truth and Politics'," then, insists Barber, ‘the philosophical pursuit of truth, or of clear epistemological criteria by which truth might be measured, will necessarily distort politics.’ Politics is a domain of action and as such needs to be characterised by the constraints of necessity as well the logic of necessity. However, politics is also characterised by its autonomy, an autonomy which Barber understands as the 'sovereignty' of the political over the epistemological. Naturally, this 'sovereignty' comes into play only when the cognitive consensus of a community has broken down: for where knowledge can prove itself certain, or where the absence of consensus has no impact on public action, the political domain may not claim any sovereignty. However, where scientists, savants, ulama or other men of cognitive authority, disagree on matters of public policy, or where theoretical inquiry raises issues of common import, Barber insists, 'the political realm necessarily becomes sovereign over the contested realms of science and taste and inquiry in which these disputes are ordinarily contested.' The sovereignty of the political then becomes the sovereignty of political knowledge over philosophical knowledge.
Barber's book, which punctuates, solemnly as well as jovially, the theoretical balloons of certain contemporary masters (Russell, Rawls, Nozick, Ackerman, Oakeshott and MacIntyre), is not meant to establish the voguish regime of the sociology of knowledge. Nor does it claim that 'truth is always a function of power'. Barber is concerned with 'legitimate power (hence, politics), and not brute force', and his argument implies that by arbitrating societal disputes, by judging among contending epistemologies, politics plays an eminently cognitive role. Indeed, politics is the queen of epistemologies in that it subjugates other philosophical, scientific, cultural - cognitive claims to its own, pragmatic, arbitration. Of course, it cannot arbitrate questions of truth or establish criteria of certain knowledge, but is forced to act as the epistemological referee in order to permit public judgement and action in the absence of cognitive certainty. Seen differently, it would also follow that all thought, since it is open to the epistemological arbitration of political action, can never be totally apolitical. It is an insight with which Islam fully agrees, as political thought is found at the heart of Islamic cognition itself.
Barber's strictures against the reign of theory in contemporary liberal philosophy also apply to post-classical Muslim thought. Recently, under the spell of the West but also in a heroic attempt to halt its encroachment of Muslim societies, a vision of Islamic politics has been advanced that is theoretical to the core. It conceives of Islam as State and transforms it from a totalistic worldview, capable of providing guidance under all circumstances, to a totalitarian order of theocracy in which every human situation is open to state-arbitration. Needless to say that such a `solution' to the problem of Muslim situation not only introduces the reign of theory in Islamic politics, it also debunks most of Muslim history as `un-Islamic.'. Thus, when such a vision rediscovers a `golden' past, it does so only in order to disdain the present and mock the future. Despite its desperate longing for power, all it achieves is a `legitimacy crisis' and a messianic chaos: politics, as the regime of action, is paralysed and piety as the quest for foundational truth takes over.
Politics without Truth, Metaphysics or Epistemology - the gospel of de-divinized postmodernistic consciousness - has no place in Islam. However, if there is any universal validity to the West's putatively unique insight about the incompatibility of public justice and private creativity, contemporary Islam can only discover it by returning to its own genius. While it cannot adopt the European-style Church-State solution to the problem of power, simply because it cannot reduce itself to a church and deny its political genius altogether, Islam does have the option of turning to the Sacred Law for guidance. Should we look at our history without the prejudicial eyes of modernism, we would discover that early jurists were on the way to acquiring this insight in their own right by differentiating individual ethic (Fard `Ain) from civic morality (Fard Kifaya). History and other calamities made them abandon this search and seek salvation in the bosom of the State. However, the totalitarian vision of Islam as State has also transformed our politics into metaphysics, i.e. a total explanation of `all that is', which, in our traditional metaphor, means `taking politics beyond the grave.'! Perhaps, what Islamic political thought needs today is an absolutely earnest, but thoroughly devastating, critique of theocracy in the manner of Spinoza.
Paradoxically, the theocratic conceptions of imama, which earlier had incited Muslim polity into fierce sectarian controversies, have re-entered the realm of the political in the guise of` Islamic State'. Indeed, both sunnism and shi`ism, which had earlier `solved the problem of theocracy' - God's direct rule under the Prophet or the Imam - by their respective doctrines of` Seal of Prophecy' (Khatm al-Nubuwwa) and `Occultation of the Imam' (Ghaybat al-Imam), have succumbed to the seductive immanentism of the Islamic state. Nonetheless, the nagging question, `whol’ll bell the cat?' - the problem of legitimacy and authority- persists because theocracy - the immanentist vision of Islam as state is not a mere regime of Law, as modern theorists would have it, but it also requires the presence of a living human authority, be it the rightful imam, be it the inerrant umma, for its functioning as a political order. For, all political authority is external and coercive; it adjudicates through institutions when law is not obeyed. Contemporary (Sunni) theocratic models of the state have not answered the question that in their model Islamic state, who, or which institution, will wield the final authority - even if this authority be restricted to the task of interpreting the Sacred Law. A half-baked theocracy, we may soon find out, is more indigestible than the one which is fully cooked by the clergy.
The perception of Islam as Law,
as Shari`a, is a unity of theory and practice that integrates the values
of self-creativity and political justice, private morality and social ethics,
in a single vision. It overspans the classic divide between public and
private, politics and ethics, freedom and justice. Indeed, it is able to
resolve the western dilemma concerning the moral unity of existence, because
it does not rely on the science of politics alone. However, inasmuch as
the rationale of the Shari`a is internal, persuasive and moral, whilst
the logic of public order is external, coercive and political, we would
do well to recognize the limits beyond which the coercive, be it political,
be it religious, may not go. Whereas the Islamic vision is certainly able
to demolish all political utopias, the conquest of politics by Islam must
not turn into a totalitarian nightmare.