After the Juggernaut of Modernity Rebirth of the Alternative Narratives of Philosophy, Tradition and Subjectivity
Philosophy and Law: Contributions to the Understanding of Maimonides and His Predecessors. By Leo Strauss. Translated by Eve Adler. State University of New York Press, Albany, 1995. Pp 157. ISBN 0-7914-1976-2.
Faith and Political Philosophy: The Correspondence Between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934-1964. Translated and edited by Peter Emberley and Barry Cooper. The Pennsylvania State University Press, Pennsylvania, 1993. Pp 368. ISBN 0-271-00883-0.
Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought. By Daniel Brown. Cambridge University Press, 1996. Pp 185. ISBN 0-521-57077-8.
Arguing Sainthood: Modernity, Psychoanalysis and Islam. By Katherine Pratt Ewing. Duke University Press, Durham and London, 1997. Pp 312. ISBN 0-8223-2024-X.
Modernism is the supreme doctrine of the Here-and-Now, a faith in the redemptive power of the temporal and a celebration of the death of the eternal. It is also, besides all this, the sacred myth (Heilsgeschichte) of the triumph of the West, the secular gospel of the inevitability of progress and the millennial ideology of the Cosmopolis of Science. Further, through its supreme incarnation as European imperialism, modernism has managed to transform the consciousness of our world to that of modernity. Every contemporary subject, no matter what his/her history or tradition, today experiences the world through modern consciousness; it gazes at the face of reality through the metaphysical and ideological lenses of immanence, secularity and utopianism.
And yet, for all its universality and global sway, the spell of modernity seems to be breaking. The western self can no longer ignore the reality that modernist forces have caused the devastation of the landscape of rationality and turned it into a wasteland of nihilism and contingency. The traditional subject, on the other hand, can no more condone the fact that the modernist divide between the dominant West and the non-Western 'other' has become more vicious and fundamental than ever before. All the works reported here attest to the presence of the anti-modern spirit that, so soon after the passing of the juggernaut of modernity, breathes over the intellectual heartland of the downtrodden traditionalist and the disillusioned modernist. The rebirth of a host of alternative discourses, both Western and non-Western, that all challenge the hegemony of the modern meta-narrative is a significant development of our times and even though it is impossible to hail every act of anti-modern insurgency as an emancipatory exploit, the dethroning of the regime of modernity can no longer be contested.
The linchpin of the ideology of modernism, without doubt, is the system of Hegelian philosophy which, by claiming the identity of the actual and the rational, seeks to reconcile the historical and the normative, the empirical and the theoretical. For all its autonomy and originality, however, Hegel's philosophy makes a common pact with theology and proffers a philosophical validation of the Christian doctrine of incarnation. Hegel is thus regarded as the great mediator, especially of all modern - religious and secular, Christian and post-Christian - things. With the 'collapse' of the Hegelian system (whatever the responsibility of 'the real' or 'the actual' in failing to authenticate it), the claim of the rehabilitation of (the possibility) of revelation within philosophy was seriously advanced by religious thinkers at the beginning of this century. The failure of the Hegelian attempt at mediation, it was argued, demonstrates the inability of both Enlightenment reason and revealed religion to submit to any higher authority and establishes the autonomy of their respective epistemological and moral claims. Reason and revelation, in other words, could not be assimilated to each other and the Enlightenment's claim to have philosophically refuted the 'truth' of revealed religion was, consequently, false.
One scholar who tenaciously held on to this insight and later elaborated it into a cogent critique of modernity's historicism and relativism was Leo Strauss, the émigré Jewish professor of political science at the University of Chicago (1949-68). Strauss, who was born in Germany in 1899 and died in the United States in 1973, is today regarded as one of the most formidable philosophical critic of modernity, an enigmatic and controversial figure whose thought is either ardently revered or vehemently reviled. Behind Strauss's conviction about the intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary philosophy, his radical doubt about modern rationalism and his recognition of its spiritual and moral crisis lurks the giant of medieval Jewish philosophy, Moses Maimonides and his Islamic predecessors. That Strauss himself studied Muslim philosophers, and through them discovered his 'mentor' Maimonides; that one major academic enterprise for the study of medieval Islamic philosophy, that of Professor Muhsin Mahdi and his students, has been directly influenced by Strauss's ideas; that his indictment of modernity for its 'theological-political' flaws fully coheres with the Islamic judgement in this regard, count, I believe, more than adequate reasons for the Muslim interest in the work of Leo Strauss.
In Philosophy and Law (A new translation of the Strauss's German text (Philosophie und Gesetz: Beitrage zin Verständnis Maimunis und Seiner Vorlaüfer, Berlin, Schocken Verlag, 1935) the Muslim reader may encounter the most relevant side of Strauss's challenging and idiosyncratic scholarship. The work consists of three essays entitled, 'The Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns in the Philosophy of Judaism', 'The Legal Foundation of Philosophy' and 'The Philosophic Foundation of the Law: Maimonides's doctrine of Prophecy and its Sources' together with a provocative 'Introduction' by the author and an equally readable one by the translator. Needless to say that this book is slim in volume but immensely rich in ideational fecundity and dialectical vigour.
Strauss's professed aim in writing this work is 'to awaken a prejudice' in favour of the 'true' rationalism of Maimonides and to issue a disclaimer against the modern assertion that there is no true and natural prototype of rationalism at all. Further, he insists that though the Enlightenment seems to have undermined the foundation of Jewish (every religious) tradition, there is no truth in its claim to have defeated orthodoxy once for all. For the Enlightenment cannot directly refute the foundational premise of orthodoxy that God is omnipotent and His will is unfathomable (or the doctrines of creation, revelation and miracles that derive from the acceptance of this fact), simply because this premise is irrefutable. Neither has the Enlightenment been able to refute the religious claim indirectly by the elaboration of a philosophical system that proves that the world and human life are perfectly intelligible without the 'hypothesis' of a mysterious and unfathomable God! Nor can the legitimacy of the Enlightenment be made dependent upon the testimony of the new natural science as the modern discovery of 'the radical historicity of man's condition' has reduced Science to one historically conditioned, and contingent, form of 'world-construction' among others.
However, though the Enlightenment's attack upon orthodoxy failed to prove the impossibility or unreality of revelation or miracles, it was able to demonstrate the unknowability of certain fundamental religious tenets. Through this quarrel, the incompatibility of the epistemologies of the two contenders became more apparent: it came to be recognised that the premises of orthodoxy - the reality of creation, revelation and miracles - are beyond the pale of empirical proof which stretches only to the realm of the known. The premises of religion, in other words, 'do not have the binding character peculiar to the known.' The outcome, however, according to Strauss, was not wholly salubrious. For it resulted in that fateful split between 'belief' and 'knowledge' that made any mediation between the unbelieving science and believing religion impossible; unlike in the Middle ages, the common ground of natural knowledge, on which any meaningful quarrels, or negotiations, between belief and unbelief could take place, did not exist. There was no epistemological or cognitive world that could contain the intuitive truth of transcendence. The ultimate weapon in the armoury of the Enlightenment, notes Strauss wryly, is 'defensive': it rests not on the 'impossibility' but 'unkowability' of the revelation!
The non-existence of transcendence, and the concomitant impossibility of revelation and miracles, then, is the premise on which the new natural science is based. Or, as Strauss rhetorically hammers in his point: 'Is it not, ultimately, the very intention of defending oneself radically against miracles which is the basis of the concept of science that guides modern natural science? Was not the 'unique' 'world-construction' of modern natural science, according to which miracles are of course unknowable, devised expressly for the very purpose that miracles be unknowable, and thus man be defended against the grip of the omnipotent God?' (pp 33-4). Similarly, Strauss believes, the assertion that modern natural science is 'value-free', 'that the "Is", understood in the sense of modern natural science, involves no reference at all to the "Ought"', becomes meaningful only when it is apprehended against the backdrop of the traditional view that right life is a life according to nature, for it renders the traditional quest for right life meaningless. It also leads to the conclusion that modern science does not justify modern ideal. But if so, and if there is nonetheless unmistakably a relation between the modern ideal and the modern natural science, Strauss is then forced to ask 'whether it is not, on the contrary, the modern ideal that is in truth the basis of modern natural science, and thus whether it is not precisely a new belief rather than knew knowledge that justifies the Enlightenment.' (p 34; italics added.)
The conflict between Enlightenment and orthodoxy, then, cannot be reduced to a facile dichotomy of 'belief' and 'knowledge.' Nay, the Enlightenment's self-legitimacy also rested upon the cultivation of an ideal, the ideal of freedom that heralded a new conception of the right life for man. In accordance with the Jewish tradition, Strauss identifies the Enlightenment's ideal of freedom with the Epicurean urge to rebel against the constraints of the Law. Epicurus, he notes further, 'is truly the classic critique of religion. Like no other, his whole philosophy presupposes the fear of superhuman forces and of death as the danger threatening the happiness and repose of man; indeed this philosophy is hardly anything but the classical means of allaying the fear of divinity [Numen] and death by showing them to be "empty of content."' (p 35.) The Enlightenment rejects religious ideas, Strauss thinks, not because they are terrifying, but because they are comforting: religion is not a tool for making life difficult but it provides the easier way out of the terror of nothingness and meaninglessness of life. To carry out the burden of Enlightenment entails, accordingly, 'a new kind of fortitude', the kind that 'forbids itself every flight from the horror of life into comforting delusion and that accepts the eloquent misery of man without God as a proof of the goodness of its cause.'
The roots of the Enlightenment's ire against orthodoxy, Strauss is fully cognisant, are to be found in a new faith, the faith in the perfectibility and goodness of man: 'This new fortitude, being the willingness to look man's forsakenness in the face, being the courage to welcome the terrible truth, being toughness against the inclination of man to deceive himself about his situation', announces Strauss with ascetic calmness, 'is probity'. It is this probity, pre-eminently an intellectual probity, that compels him to reject all attempts to mediate between the Enlightenment and orthodoxy. At heart, this probity, 'which bids us to renounce the very word "God"', is 'atheism with a good conscience'. The bedrock of the Enlightenment faith is then a kind of atheism that stems from probity and the ultimate alternatives between itself and orthodoxy are then revealed to be between faith in a commanding God, whose will must be obeyed, and the rejection of that God on the grounds of man's freedom. It is in the face of this modern quandary, the impossible demand of choosing between revelation or reason, faith or knowledge, man or God, that Strauss turns to Maimonides and his Muslim predecessors for guidance.
What proves the superiority of medieval philosophy, 'medieval Enlightenment' in Strauss's parlance, is its leading idea, 'the idea that has been lost to the modern Enlightenment and its heirs': the idea of Law. For as the philosophers are human beings who are by nature in need of living under a law, the condition of the possibility of philosophy is the existence of a political community, which in turn is made possible by the law: 'philosophy', therefore, 'is not sovereign.' With this focus on law and political community, Strauss's philosophic vision inevitably shifts toward the medieval 'prophetology' and it is in recognising its role as the pivot of the medieval system, which linked theology with politics that Strauss analyses the various teaching of Muslim philosophers, Al-Farabi and Ibn-Sina, which were inherited by Maimonides.
What is missing in this stimulating discussion, however, is the towering giant of Al-Ghazali. And yet, no discussion of Avicennean (or Alfarabian) prophetology, or its adaptation by Maimonides, can ever be comprehensive and meaningful unless the critical perspective supplied by Al-Ghazali is taken into account. Not only does 'Ghazali's intellectual spirit stalk Maimonides's Guide for the Perplexed', as recognised by Oliver Leaman, but also the fact, dutifully acknowledged by the modern translator of the Guide, Shlomo Pines, 'that the antithesis established by Maimonides between the God of religion who possesses a free will, in the exercise of which He is not bound to act in accordance with the order of nature, and the God of the Aristotelian philosophers, who is hamstrung by the immutability of this order, owes a great deal to Al-Ghazali', demonstrates that a return to the 'true rationalism' and 'medieval Enlightenment' of Maimonides, as solicited by Strauss, is not possible without the aid of Al-Ghazali.
Needless to say that Leo Strauss's intense meditation on the interface of philosophy and law in the medieval Jewish and Islamic thought results in an eminently cogent and overpowering critique of modernity and its spiritual crisis. It is an extremely topical and pertinent text that is intellectually exhilarating and morally uplifting, that takes the reader along a formidable voyage of philosophical discovery and religious insight and brings him/her safely home to the shores of self-fulfilment and enrichment. And although it explicitly pleads only for the resuscitation of Jewish philosophy through a re-discovery of Maimonides, it also underscores the need for the Islamic tradition to re-appropriate the genius of Al-Ghazali, if it is to successfully negotiate the moral challenge of modern reason.
Another thinker of similar spiritual and intellectual disposition, who has been no less articulate and outspoken in his renunciation of modernity's lack of transcendent moorings, was Eric Voegelin. Like Leo Strauss, Voegelin too left his motherland Germany for an academic career in the United States and like his Jewish contemporary, his impact on the study of political science in North America has been profound. Both Strauss and Voegelin developed comprehensive accounts of contemporary political disorders, especially of the calamity of National Socialism, which affected their personal lives and forced them to seek refuge in the US. However, it is in resisting this corruption through rational means that Voegelin discovered the calling of his political philosophy. He strove to retrieve to the original vision of politics as found in the political science of Plato and Aristotle. Voegelin's criticism of modernity thus originates in the transcendentalist vision of Platonic philosophy of which he was a consummate and astute exegete, though he went beyond the academic convention of replicating the thought of the Old Master, revealing himself to be an important speculative thinker in his own right.
Voegelin grounds the search for political order in human responsiveness to the order of being. To make sense of that order entails symbolising the experience of participation in it. A political society, he asserts, comes into being when it is able to 're-present' itself, when the fact of its participation in reality can be symbolically reproduced in a 'truth' that is both existential and transcendental. The task of philosophy is to comprehend this participatory ontology and the order of symbols through which man's position in the universe is understood. Voegelin's theory of order and history, then, is premised upon a concept of politics that reconciles the existential with the symbolic, that relates a historical society to its trans-historical ideals. His inquiry into the problem of order in history unfolds, as he himself recognises, into a 'history of order'. 'Voegelin's New Science of History', consequently, presents a new account of Heilsgeschichte and charts the trajectory of increasing symbolic differentiation from cosmic-divine order of ancient Oriental empires to the transcendent-divine order of medieval theocratic commonwealths to the immanent-human order of modern states.
Man's perennial enterprise to establish political order, premised on the unity of the cosmological, moral and existential truths, however, must always confront the threat of failure; creation and order are always under siege by the daemons of chaos and disorder. The quest for truth, then, 'is a movement of resistance to the prevailing disorder': it is an effort to attune the disordered existence of the polis to the transcendent truth of the soul, 'an attempt to create a new social field of existential order in competition with the fields whose claim to truth has become doubtful.' Not surprisingly, therefore, for Voegelin, 'the problems of transcendence are the decisive problems of philosophy' and his most enduring contribution to political science is his analysis of the modern crisis. Ever since the time of his earlier writings, he has tended to identify modernity with secularisation and the latter with a progressive immanentisation of worldviews. Voegelin's analyses show that the principal aspiration of modern man is to become 'terrestrial god' and not merely a 'dispassionate knower', on the basis of objectivity and rationalism, of the order of nature and society: Will-to-Power rather than will-to-Truth is what legitimises and sustains the project of modernity.
When transcendence is lost, when the truth of the soul is bartered for the peace of the city and the earthly supreme ruler (the secular state) acknowledges no moral legitimacy and submits to no higher authority, then, according to Voegelin, the transcendent God (of Christianity) has been decapitated and the political order (of the West) has degenerated into idolatry. As a historian of order, Voegelin bases this insight on the evidence of a political scientist. For, according to him, the eternal God, the infinite and absolute Creator, is the necessary ground of authority, the ultimate basis of good, the final judge by whom all are judged. Remove him and the ruler becomes, in his sovereign power over subjects, the absolute judge. Refusal to acknowledge any authority beyond the actual is hence a sure recipe for the perpetuation of tyranny. Modernity, then, far from being liberation from old ideas according to the claims of Enlightenment and Romanticism, is really enslavement. The modernist effort to develop a philosophy of history to replace previous theologies of history, and the move from natural to social science, fundamentally transforms the nature and purpose of knowledge. Niceties of method and claims of positivism take precedence over concerns for truth and the insights of theory.
Voegelin's analysis shows that modernity is not overwhelmingly 'secular' in the sense of being neutral to the truth of monotheism. On the contrary, it is rooted in the consciousness of Gnosticism according to which the world is an alien, hostile place, and man, abandoned by an absentee and incompetent God, must take upon himself the burden of salvation. He must, by his own efforts, redeem not only himself but also the world of which he is a part. Not surprisingly, on the basis of this fallacy, contends Voegelin, 'Gnostic thinkers, leaders, and their followers interpret a concrete society and its order as an eschaton [i.e. End]; and in so far as they apply their fallacious construction to concrete social problems, they misrepresent the structure of immanent reality.' The function of Gnosticism as 'the civil theology of the West', then is the destruction of the truth of the soul. For by collapsing the ideal and the real, the transcendent and the existential, the Gnostic fallacy destroys 'the oldest wisdom of mankind concerning the rhythm of growth and decay which is the fate of all things under the sun.' The political order of Gnosticism, whether it be legitimised in the name of Science and Anthropology or in the name of Theology, represents a totalitarian and repressive untruth.
Faith and Political Philosophy is an unusual book: not only does it introduce the reader to the highly original and exciting world Leo Strauss's and Eric Voegelin's thought, the study of which, it is justly claimed, 'is one of the most expeditious ways to explore the core of political science', but it also provides an intimate glimpse into the personal side of their scholarship by making available for the first time their correspondence over a period of fifty years. More than that, it supplements the reader's own discovery of this scholarly terrain by a number of guided tours by eminent scholars. Extremely crisp and stimulating essays on such topical and seminal subjects such as, 'Reason and Revelation as Search and Response' (James L. Wiser), 'Politics or Transcendence? Responding to Historicism' (Stanley Rosen), 'Philosophy, Faith and the Question of Progress' (Timothy Fuller), and many others of equal urgency and intellectual perspicacity, are included in this most thrilling work. For the Muslim reader, who feels oppressed by the prevailing reign of secular positivism in political science, this volume makes a particularly refreshing reading.
The two remaining works discussed here, that take a direct look at the ideational matrix of contemporary Islam, also question the received wisdom of modernist discourses but they do so in different ways; one, Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought, by Daniel Brown, adopts a revisionist posture but remains firmly committed to the discursive tradition of modern rationalism and textual analysis, while the other, Arguing Sainthood, by Katherine Pratt Ewing, questions the concepts of rationality and subjectivity that are central to modernism. Brown's study, which summarises the modern debate about the position and the relevance of the Prophetic sunna for our times, comes to the further insight that with respect to the dialectics of tradition and modernity, he would like to 'suggest a reversal of the Enlightenment metaphor.' Rather than viewing modernity as a source of light, dispelling the darkness of tradition, Brown would instead imagine 'tradition as a beam of light, refracted by the prism of modernity as a multi-coloured spectrum of responses.'. Ewing, on her part, challenges the postcolonial claim that the native and the local has first been distanced 'as frozen tradition through the mediation of the Western gaze and then reclaimed as an identity rooted in difference from the West.' She further questions 'the assumption of the pre-modern consciousness as non-reflexive' and maintains that there is no fundamental transformation of consciousness that takes place with the rise of capitalism and Western domination.' The modernist notion of 'the unexamined life of the traditional subject' is, consequently, 'another rationalist fallacy.'
For Muslims, Brown justly notes, sunna acts as a symbol that links the believer with the Prophetic era, it is 'the representation of the Prophet in here and now, a concrete embodiment of the need that Muslims have felt in every generation for continuity with an ideal past.' During the twentieth century, however, the position of sunna has become the subject of an intense debate among Muslims: its role and legitimacy has been questioned in a variety of ways as Muslim thinkers have searched for a new basis for the revival of Islam. The problem of sunna has thus become the pivot of modern Islamic self-analysis and assumed the most crucial dimension of the current Muslim effort to re-formulate the nature of religious authority in Islam. It has come to occupy the centre stage of the Islamic discourse. The modern debate within Islam provides the author with a context to study the problem of change within a sacred tradition and allows him to explore the impact of modernity on attitudes towards authority, especially of the authority that legitimates itself by its affinity to an ideal past.
As an intellectual history, describing and analysing the full spectrum of Muslim debate on sunna during the current century, Brown's study is without precedent. Instead of concentrating on a few outstanding individuals, and then treating their contribution as paradigmatic, Brown chooses to emphasise general trends or "schools of thought." For, the problem of sunna, in his view, cannot be addressed by viewing a few outstanding writers in isolation. Individual thinkers, in his scheme of things, represent only 'broader trends or viewpoints'. Thus, he insists that 'we must heed who may be far from first-rate thinkers, but whose opinions are nevertheless important indicators of the spread of ideas.' (Significantly, Brown does not specify his criteria for the determination of 'first-rate thinkers'. The uninitiated Muslim reader is therefore free to assume that for Brown the yard-stick for the excellence of Muslim thought may be its fidelity to the modernist worldview, or its acceptance of the hegemonic western discourse!) Not inconsistently, however, Brown applies a supremely pragmatic test to his source-materials: he gauges 'the importance of work in proportion to the level of controversy it has elicited.' (Italics added.)
Whatever the advantages or discontents of such a methodology, which favours the 'vulgar' and the populist over the traditional and the normative, the survey itself is first-rate. Not only does it competently relate the present controversy to the classical (perhaps unresolved and ambiguous if not actually aporetic) theory of the Prophet's authority, his account of the modern reprise of the central debate within Islam is also distinguished by its judiciousness, erudition and humanity. Further, though Brown restricts the scope of his inquiry to the intellectual currents of South Asia and the Arab World, he truly achieves a panoramic vision in this exceptionally rich survey of a host of original sources in Arabic and Urdu. His classification and systematisation of the protean discourse on sunna into a number of sub-debates on the 'Boundaries of revelation', 'The nature of Prophetic authority', 'The authenticity of hadith' and 'Sunna and Islamic revivalism' is also intellectually lucid and theoretically meaningful. Included in this vast perspective are all the renowned and renounced thinkers of modern Islam: Muhammad 'Abduh and Syed Ahmad Khan, Abu al-A'la Mawdudi and Ghulam Ahmad Parwez, Muhammad al-Ghazali and Fazlur Rahman, Ahl-i-Qur'an and Ahl-I-Hadith, not to mention a host of others, receive the full measure of Brown's critical gaze. In sum, as an academic work, Rethinking tradition in modern Islamic thought is likely to establish itself as a standard text which no student of Modern Islam can afford to ignore.
Needless to say that Brown's survey does not end with a bang: it fails to provide any logical-theoretical or practical-historical ending to the modern narrative. This, however, is hardly surprising, as there is no institutional authority in Islam that can bring the internal debate on the sunna of the Prophet to a closure. But ultimately, the issue boils down to the antinomy of norm and history. As the norm of Islam, the Prophet's sunna, like the revealed text of the Qur'an, transcends the context of modernity, which is merely a historical epoch that, for some, has already come to an end.
Arguing Sainthood is another intellectually highly original and significant contribution to the study of contemporary Islam, though its perspective and method are 'postmodernist' through and through. Ostensibly, Katherine Pratt Ewing's study is an examination of 'Sufi religious meanings and practices in Pakistan and their relation to the Westernising influences of modernity and the shaping of postcolonial self'. However, in keeping with the tradition and ambition of the postmodernist discourse, her work may also be construed as a polemical tract against modernity and what is considered to be its ally, namely 'reformist Islam'. For all her commitment to the cult of ambiguity, however, Ewing has produced a highly intriguing text; an intellectually exhilarating adventure that leaves even the initiated and accustomed reader bedazzled and gasping for breath. Reconciling a number of disparate visions, those of psychoanalysis (Freud but even Deleuze, Guattari and Lacan), anthropology (Geertz, Clifford, Asad), post-colonial theory (Bhabha, Spivak, Dirlik), Orientalism (Massignon, Hodson, Fritz Meier), classical sufism (Ghazali, Attar, Hujwiri), postmodernism (every one of repute), philosophy (Hegel, Nietzsche, Foucault) and much else (an army of polymaths), Arguing Sainthood presents itself as a highly idiosyncratic text that defies its classification into various genres: it is part scholarship, part fieldwork, but also part autobiography and part literature. A unique blend of theory and narrative and written in a highly lucid style, this is a fascinating book that reveals not only the incoherent and enchanted world of traditional mysticism, but also the hegemonic and exploitative empire of modern rationality. It needs to be read, enjoyed and mused upon.
What is missing in this enchanted world, however, is the categorical imperative, the command of God that is the sine qua non of Islam. The distressing fact of Ewing's constructed reality is not its claim that existence is ambiguous, or that human experience can be assigned more than one meaning, that sainthood is not rationally comprehensible, or that subjectivity and identity are contingent and fluid. Even a Muslim may learn to live with the impenetrable truth of being and the baffling order of existence. The Muslim cannot, however, extend this reign of ambiguity to the realm of the moral. For Islam's ultimate stake is with morality and an ambiguous morality is no morality at all. The most authoritative argument against the cultivation of mystical sainthood, according to orthodox Islam, is therefore the sunna of the Prophet (S).
S Parvez Manzoor Stockholm