Negative Influence of History on Arabs

This study sheds light on two significant events in our history and our present time. These two events are still having an eminent effect on the mentality and culture of society and the way society deals with crises.

Sefeen [1]and the turmoil of creation of the Quran. Whilst the West benefited from positive events to establish its renaissance that we witness today, we, Arabs are still under the effect of negative events, such events still affect our way of thinking, culture and behavior.

This study tackles these two events in an analytical way through:

  • The positive Protestant event and its influence on Europe and the role of godfathers of American renaissance;
  • Failure of Arabic enlightenment projects during the 20th century.

The first event:

  • Sefeen Battle and its effect on the society with its four dispersions up to the present time;
  • Khawareji [2]pattern that was generated following Sefeen Battle and its effect on today’s society;
  • Umayyad political opportunism and its effect on our culture;
  • God’s divine right proclaimed to be granted for political and social rule to Ali Ben Abi Taleb and his Shia;
  • Political Mua’atazelah.

The second event:

  • Hanbalis’ victory over Mua’atazelah in the Creation of the Quran [3]Battle;
  • The emanation of Hanbali trend through Whabism and the movement towards religious militarization;
  • Victory of the Iranian revolution has drawn things back to the first square;
  • The effect of these two events on our culture and our societies in general;
  • Conclusion and solutions proposed. 

Introduction

Every nation on earth has got a positive event in its history that remains effective on its culture and constitutes a guidance for its sets of behavior. Religious reform movement in Europe in the 16th century, which was led by enlightenment religious figures like Martin Luther, had a significant influence on the European way of thinking that is still dominant up to the present day. This happened despite the fact that those who believed in protestant doctrine at that time were very few. They were exposed to horrible suppression by the religious institution. This was accompanied with a social   disreputation and scandalization campaign. Followers of Protestantism with its many doctrines are less that 30% of Christians in general.

Today, Protestants are no more than 13% of the population of Europe. Yet, what their reform movement produced in terms of structure of the European mentality towards the concept of religion and the role of religious figure has been of a special influence on that collective mentality. Their theory was developed into a more human approach as their thinkers and philosophers invested in the historical events so as to establish an intellectual system that changed the European way of thinking from a state of bloody conflict to human common values which later produced their contemporary civilization.

Likewise, in the United States of America, there was a big historic event that changed the lives of the Americans when pioneer founders, an elite of the American society, led the independence war and won it. They were only 56 persons. They signed the independence constitution that established the American strategy. This strategy is still adhered to by successive American administrations. The American personality was characterized with this intellectual pattern which has remained as an innovation of the pioneer founders since 1776 and up to the present day. It is an influential factor that affected the American way of thinking through their thinkers and philosophers. Through that big event, the United States of America later became the first country in the World as a political, military and economic power and above all its production of thought and knowledge.

Negative Historical Captivity

Sorrowfully, all historical reform stimulants, enlightenment and renovative movements, undertaken by pioneers throughout our history, have never succeeded in constituting a turning point for way of thinking in our societies. It is along journey that started with Mu’tazellah in the third century of the Islamic Calendar to distinctive thinkers like Iben Khaldoun, Iben Rushed, Refa’a Al Tahtawi, Muhammed Abdah, Malek Ben Nabi, Ali Ezat Becovitch, Ali Al Wardi, Ali Sharia’ati and others. All these thinkers couldn’t constitute a turning point that was able to take the nation away from its fixed route. On the contrary, negative events had a devastating effect on the thought and behavior of society, and that established a rebuffing culture that captured our minds and made them prisoners of that negative historical event with which our present time is cross matched.   

If any researcher studies our history which is saturated with bloody political conflicts, he will find out that there were two big historical events that influenced the Islamic mentality in terms of thought and sets of behavior to the extent that every political or cultural product in any geographical area of the region is inspired by one or both of these two events though different names are given to each.

The first event:

It is the Sefeen historical battle. If we investigate the intellectual consequences, influential political trends and social dispersions, we will see how all these outcomes stick to the Sefeeni disunification even in our present time. Ever since that crucial battle, our society has been divided into four alignments:

The first alignment: Al Khawareji

This refers to a group that worked and is still working hard to fulfill its vision by coercion and violence. This was done in Sefeen by those who were traditionally called “Khawarej”. For centuries, Khawareji trend has been renovated wherever chaos prevails in the society. This pattern of thought and behavior, though it has taken different names and forms, has been dominant throughout our geography. It bears the same mentality, thought and behavior. Throughout the last three decades, this trend has taken many manifestations including, but not limited to Jihadi Salafism which spouted in the form of Daesh[4] phenomenon. The Khawareji pattern still comes up from time to time. It intensely reappears in time of crises and turmoil to introduce itself as a bloody savior versus absent rationalism that can save us all.

The second alignment: Political opportunism

Political opportunism was best manifested in Sefeen battle when the Omayyad advocates, using their cunningness, managed to take over and stay in power for about one hundred years. This political experience created a behavioristic pattern which was the most dangerous heresy in the history of Islamic nation when inheriting power was normalized. Those who introduced this heresy were responsible for its consequences up till today. Despite the clear Quranic theory of justice and the concept of piety, religious scholars and legislators took the side of power inheritance and legalized this heresy. This concept soon became part of the culture of the religious community and politicians. The new dictatorship has been inheriting societies and states as if these societies and states are parts of a private farm. Scholars who are affiliated with tyrannies have always justified the acceptance of this power inheritance with the fear of turmoil.  

Third alignment: Advocation of the Godly divine right to rule religion and society

This type of alignment was best represented by those who aligned with Ali Ben Abi Taleb and later with members of the prophet’s family. It restricted political and religious authority to one exclusive family. This theory produced the “sacred king” about whom legends, anecdotes, myths and heresies were fabricated. By process of time, these heresies became axioms. If anyone denies these axioms, he is considered a “Nasebi[5]”. Ever since Sefeen battle, our society has indulged in a political conflict in the form of a sectarian conflict through which society has been vertically divided. This conflict inflicted political opportunism and Godly divine right to rule by both parties. It implanted a persistent demagogy that makes the society ready to burst following periods of stability.      

The fourth alignment: Political Detachment

This refers to Mua’tazellah[6] who were represented by Sa’ad Ben Abi Wakas, Abi Sa’eed Al Khadri and their followers. It represented the rational group of Muslims who refused to participate in the fight in Sefeen battle as a political battle. They argued that swords could never distinguish the righteous from the unethical. Advocates of this trend kept away from any social or political enterprise. They are similar to contemporary abstract thinkers who stick to their written texts and theories without any involvement in any social enterprise to save their societies from the yoke of the three above-mentioned combatants.

The second historical event

The second event is the Hanbalis’ victory over rationalists, Mua’tazelah in the controversy about the Creation of the Quran. This victory constitutes a setback in the Islamic rationalism in favor of text absolutism which established a new era of intellect inertia and the lack of influence of reasoning. A new era of holiness of the human inheritance started with little exceptions of innovations and rationalism whose advocates were accused of heresy and apostasy. People like Al Kendi, Al Razi and Al Farabi and others were all killed.

The victory of Hanbalis made it a widespread school with advocates and symbols. Society was vertically divided, and attempts made by Abu Al Hasssan Al Asha’ari school to reach a compromise were all in vain as this school went to extremes of Sufi thoughts saturated with clairvoyance and strongly believed in sheikhs’ superstitions, and made the society abandon Asha’ari’s thoughts.

The Hanbali phenomenon managed to create a chronicled approach and overcome other trends by using the prophesy texts as a basis for their argumentation. Its pioneers worked hard to ideologize this school so as to resurrect it every time it started to fade away and lose its social momentum. Ibn Al Jawzi and Ibn Rajab Al Hanbali tried to rationalize Hanbalism, but their attempts were all gone with the wind.

Following years of regression, Hanbalism was resurrected again in the 18th century by Ibn Taymeyah and his students including but not limited to Ibn Al Kayem and Al Zahabi. Ibn Tymeyah reinvigorated Hanbalism with many books with new theses that became references for this school despite all oppression he was exposed to. His views became sacred for advocates of Salafi school and are still sacred until today. Every time Hanbalism relapses, his concepts resuscitate it all over again.

Ibn Taymeyah benefited from his social stature to overcome other trends that contradicted with his chronicled approach. He depended on his scientific and textual knowledge of religion and his full awareness of the weaknesses of his rivals. This was clear in books like “Sunnah Approach”, “Slavery” and “Preventing contradiction between the intellect and the inherited”.  

Salafi Whabism and the resurrection of configurable Hanbalism

Despite the dominance of Asha’ari Hanbalis with the help of the Ayoubyan State and later by the Othman empire for centuries, bullying Sufism reached unacceptable levels in terms of doctrine. Instead of looking for new concepts as the form of state started to change worldwide, the new resurrected Hanbalism reappeared through Muhammed Ben Abdul Wahab [7]who allied with the Saudi royal family. This new trend combined both Khawareji schools with all their violence with phenomenal Hanbalism. It created a new approach to understanding and implementation of religion and suppressing the society. 

It was noted that Muhammed Ben Abdul Wahab did something that constituted a historical turning point by incorporating two historical events. He combined both Khawareji violence and phenomenal textualism which distinguished radical Hanbalis. This was done through the alliance with Muahmmed Ben Sa’ud. A military wing emerged with Khawareji behavior of phenomenal radicalism of Muahmmed Ben Abdul Wahab which never tolerated any compromise.

As Wahabi phenomenon, which basically depended on the Hanbali trend as it was scientifically inspired by Ibn Taymeyah, Ben Abdul Wahab constituted the ten faith annihilators[8]. These ten rules became a gauge to measure apostasy and the exclusion of others from Islam. Later on, the Islamic Group, Jihadi Salafists and finally the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham ISIS were all inspired by the ten rules of Whabism.

By mixing these two historical events, Whabi Hanbalism changed from intellectual troubleshooting to militarized religion to control Arabic Peninsula and move northwards to Levant with military campaigns. This went on until Muhammed Ali, ruler of Egypt confronted them and terminated their rule in 1818, and by this the first episode of Sa’ud family rule was overthrown. 

The congruity between Khawareji thought and Hanbali trend founded by Ibn Abdul Wahab diminished because of its military approach. As usual, no rational trend appeared, and society retreated towards Sufi clairvoyance.  

However, the political situation that the region was going through helped in the resurrection of Hanbali phenomenon without militarizing and mixing it with Khawareji thought. It started to flourish again in Egypt and Levant. In Damascus, Muhei El-Deen Al Khatib and his followers took the lead before Naser Al Deen Al Albani became the scientific inspirator and godfather of new Salafism with all its schools including Jihadi Salafism. In Egypt, Muhammed Rasheed Redha’s coup and his defection from the rationalistic school which was established by Muhammed Abdah, pushed for Salafi trend, and therefore, rationalistic school started to die away.

Between the 1920s and 1980s, there were some impotent Hanbali-Salafi pockets. However, secularists’ attempts to prompt a turning point in the structure of the Arabic mind all failed despite serious efforts that were made. This failure could have been attributed to their stern attitude towards piety in general. The situation continued until the Iranian Revolution came over by the end of 1979. Immediately, Hanbalism, with its modern Salafism, emanated al over again. It could have been encouraged by some international powers as it was a choice for confronting Iranian theory of “Exporting the Revolution”. At this point the, American interests and interests of the Gulf States came to a common point to resist the export of Iranian Revolution which took the form of Shia expansion in the Arabic states. This was a real political and sectarian threat with strategic dimensions facing the region as a whole.   

A sectarian conflict started with Iran which was apparently a Shiite project, but deep inside it was a Persian one. This conflict took a sectarian form with political implicit objectives. After Hanbalism was reformulated in a Salafi form, and Khawareji phenomenon was mixed with Hanbali mentality to produce Jihadi Salafism, it continued its progression into a violent movement until it produced the Islamic States phenomenon (Daesh).

These two big events, Sefeen and the Hanbali phenomenon are still affecting the cognitive fabrics and cultural and religious construction of our societies. With the advent of Arabic Spring, Arab societies came round with a big question: Are we going to be bound to these two big events forever? Reform and resurrection are triggered all over again to start working on enlightening reform away from these two effects, and take society to a new renaissance with human tendencies, partnership mentality and democratic behavior.   

The effect of these two events on society and its culture

These two big historical events have had a negative effect on the production of knowledge, civic renaissance and awareness. We can briefly present the effects of these two big events as an impediment to renaissance by focusing on the following remarks:

  • The society stopped producing knowledge and scientific innovations.
  • Society dropped out from the international civilization trace.
  • Continuous conflict over transcendental issues and disregard of the factual ones.
  • We are still clinging to the individual savior which is an outdated concept as the World today clings to institutions. 
  • Scholars of philosophy, medicine and physics have been all accused of apostasy and heresy together with all those who break the traditional norms.
  • Islam was intended to be a comprehensive solution to problems of the World, while Muslims and their conflicts have become the first problem of the World.
  • Dominance of repetitive narrators over the Islamic mentality has made it difficult to apprehend digest the changes that are inspired by modernity.
  • Re-production of tyranny and dictatorship and the liable emergence of sectarian and doctrinal violence.
  • Exclusive thinking has obliterated the other without the least human inclination.
  • Genital approach to the production of culture related to the two big events at the time of any crisis.

In brief, we can say that the first event – Sefeen Battle established the jurisprudence to produce political tyranny, whereas the second event – Hanbalis’ victory over Mua’atazelah established the ordeal jurisprudence to produce intellectual tyranny. That is why enlightenment task is very exhausting. It is just like heavy industry in a primitive society that is left behind in production and progress. The war launched against enlightenment trends is very fierce as these enlightenment trends have wrecked axioms that are deeply-rooted in the Islamic mentality. Removing these residues and purifying minds is not an easy process at all.

Precedence of traditional culture is still an obstacle facing any reformative enlightenment efforts. This culture dominates any approach to problem-solving strategy for contemporary crises. Therefore, there is a need to isolate inherited traditions from solving our current problems and start thinking in a modern way. 

We need to know that the criteria of modern civilization lie in the respect for humanity and its values and the provision of all that can serve it, not by killing it through apostasy, explosions and destruction. This the real intension of religions.

Thus, the reconciliation between Islamists and secularists has become a necessity for creating a nationalistic theology that can stop this Don Quixote’s conflict between combatant brothers. This can be done through a code of conduct that can establish a new social contract. Serious revision should be done by secular trends to help them reconcile with their religion-oriented society which can help them stop attacking religion, scorning its rituals and underestimating the effect of religion on the sentiment of society.    

Before doing this or that, there is a need for radical change in education syllabuses or introducing new carefully-structured ones that are based on purposes rather than new exclusive ideological ones.   

There is also a need for setting agreed definitions of terminologies that are used in political, intellectual and cultural discourses which never bear more than one interpretation. This will anticipate any demagogical tactics while using these terminologies for attracting wide social slices. Scientific research centers should be established so as to be the compass that is used for making strategic decisions.

Real support should be provided to enlightenment trend to make it able to work in two directions. The first is religious reform so as to create a new discourse that can reconcile with modern age, but doesn’t deform the Islamic personality and never denies the intentions of Islam. The second direction is the political reform. This can be done through the real faith in democratic culture before democracy itself with all its requirements like modern concept of citizenship and the admission of state neutrality. This project can ‘t be implemented without institutional framework than can incubate all those true believers in enlightenment with its two directions without having a custodian for this institution.


[1] Sefeen Battle:  This battle was fought by two armies, one led by Ali Ben Abi Taleb and the other by Mua’awiah Ben Abi Sufian. This battle which happened one year after Al Jamal Battle, took place on the border between Syria and Iraq. It was ended with arbitration in Ramadan in 37 Islamic Calendar. When Ali ben Abi Taleb was nominated a s the fourth Rashedi Caliphate, Mua’awiah Ben Abi Sufian and his followers in Levant refused to pledge allegiance to Ali unless he prosecuted killers of Othman Ben Affan, the third Caliphate. Ali, on his part, insisted that Mua’wiah and his followers should pledge allegiance first.  

[2] Khawarej is the name of a group that appeared at the end of time of the fourth Rashidi Caliph, Othman Ben Affan. They deviated from Ali Ben Abi Taleb and they were fought by him in many locations. They considered that killing Ali Ben Abi Taleb as a sublimation to God. They consider any sin to be enough for estranging a person. Anyone who doesn’t agree with them should be killed. They are strong believers in estrangement of Muslims for any sin committed.

[3]  The creation of Quran: Some call it the dilemma of creation of Quran. This concept spread at the time of the Abbasi Caliphate, Al Ma’moun. This concept considered that the Quran was not the speech of Allah. It was created rather than inspired by Allah. Al Ma’moun was convinced with this concept and advocated it. But it was opposed on a large scale especially by Imam Ahmad Ben Hanbal who was imprisoned and tortured. Al Ma’moun Caliphate finally set him free to solve the problem and put an end to that ordeal.   

[4] Daesh refers to the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham which was declared in 2014 in Al Rakkah, Syria over some Iraqi and Syrian territories.

[5]Nasebi” is someone who objects to or oppose Ali Ben Abi Taleb and denies his ascendancy whether by words or by deeds. This name is used by Shia to describe Sunnis in general.

[6]Mua’tazellah” refers to a group of Muslims who believed in logic and discourse analysis. They believed in the free will of human beings to choose. They considered Quran to be a creature of God. For them, any Muslim who commits a sin will be in hell unless s/he repents before death. A sinful Muslim is neither a Muslim nor a Non-Muslim.

[7] Muhammed Ben Abdul Wahab (1703-1791) is a Sunni Sheikh who followed Hanbali doctrine. He was considered as a reformist who wanted to purify Islam from heresies and superstitions. Some researchers consider him to be the founder of the fanatic concepts of Islam and that he paved the way for exclusion and apostasy. His followers magnified minor issues at the expense of main ones. They were very stern and fanatic with all those who opposed them.

[8] Ten faith annihilators: The ten annihilators of Islam:

  1. Infidelity can be associated with offering sacrifices to graves or jinn;
  2. Those who ask anyone or entity for Allah’s mercy instead of appealing Allah are closer to apostasy;
  3. He who doesn’t consider misbelievers to infidels or even doubt this is an apostate himself;
  4. Those who consider that there a guidance rather than the guidance of Prophet Muhammed are apostates especially if they think that some legislations are better for rule will be favoring tyrants and consequently be considered apostates;
  5. Those who abhor what was recommended by Prophet Muhammed are considered apostates;
  6. Those who contempt any of the guidance of Prophet Muhammed or the blessing of this guidance and punishment for abandoning this guidance will be considered apostates;
  7. Those who believe in, agree or sympathize with magic or magicians are considered apostate;
  8. Helping, sympathizing or allying with misbelievers is a form of apostasy;
  9. Those who believe that some can deny the religion of prophet Muhammed are considered apostates;
  10. Those who abandon religion, neither learn nor teach religion will be considered apostates.

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