Saturday, 24 March 2012

Malik Ben Nabi


      Malik Bennabi (1905-1973 CE/ 1325-1393 IE) is one of the most important Muslim thinkers in the modern world. Even, regarding the concept of history and civilization, he is considered the greatest Muslim thinker since the time of Ibn Khaldun. Muhammad Tahir al-Mesawi regards him as one of the few original thinkers the Muslim umma has produced in the twentieth century.[1]
      Throughout his life, Bennabi had tried to search for the root of problem and backwardness faced by the Muslimumma. He observed and analyzed history to understand the law behind the rise and fall of civilizations. The failure of some leading figures in the contemporary Islamic world to solve the Muslim’s problems motivated him to hold the task and offer his own solution. Through this paper we will discuss his thought and concept on history and civilization.

Life of Bennabi

      Algeria had been occupied by French since 1830. It was begun by the landing of 3.700 French troops in the bay of Sidi-Ferruch on 14 June 1830.[2] The French occupation in Algeria was not cover the whole area in the beginning of its coming to this region. The French occupied the entire part of Algeria at least through four stages.[3] It had completed the conquest in 1907, when Bennabi was still in his early stage of his childhood.
      Malik Bennabi was born in Constantine, Algeria, in 1st November 1905. He has three sisters and was the only son in the family. He was adopted by his uncle during his childhood, but later brought back to his family in Tibissa after the death of the uncle. His father was an educated man. Later, he strongly encouraged Malik to study in France and sponsored him for this.
      Bennabi was closed to his grandmother who was a beloved narrator to her grandchildren. He used to listen fable stories from her. Fable played important role in transferring values, ideas and beliefs in the North Africa at that time. That was the first school, which had influenced, formed and developed his personality.
      Under French colonization, many Algerian families, including Bennabi’s family, lived in poverty. His father could not get job after he moved to his wife’s family in Tibissa and his wife had to work for the family. However difficult, they still paid attention to Bennabi’s education. They sent Bennabi to a Qur’anic school (Kuttab) in the town. Once, his mother had no money to paid his educational fees and he gave up her own wooden bed for a month’s payment of his tuition fee.
      The situation was worsened when the First World War happened. Because of this, Bennabi was taken to Constantine to live with his great uncle’s wife and to continue his study. In this town, Bennabi had an opportunity to communicate with his grandfather, who had returned from Tripoli after the Italian invasion. He used to hear his grandfather’s complain about the social and economical problem in Algeria. This might be his first interaction with the idea, which expressed the reality faced by theumma. Later, Bennabi’s recalled this memory while reflecting the contemporary problem of his people.
      During his elementary school, Bennabi achieved high scores on the final examination and also on the other tests held by the school, but he had never received the highest grade in his class. He believed this was a result of racial discrimination practiced by the French at that school and also in many other cases. This unfair treatment had motivated Bennabi to challenge the West intellectually and he planned to continue his education.
      In 1921, Bennabi was transferred to the Madrasa of Constantine. This madrasawas found to build up a class of bureaucrats and used French and Arabic as medium. He enjoyed the class of French language and literature and read novels of Jules Verne and other French writers. There were two books, which deeply influenced him during this period. Those were John Dewey’s How We Think? in French translation and Courtellemont’s L’Histoire sociale de l’humanite’. Bennabi also studied from ShaikhMaulud Ben Mawhub in this school. Ben Mawhub was a former mufti of Constantineand at the same time was an advocate for progress, modern science, and European ideas.
      While studying at school, Bennabi used his time to learn Arabic in the Great Mosque of Constantine. He joined the teaching circle in this mosque, which taught byShaikh Abdul Majid who was very critical to the sufi order and the abusive policies of the colonial government. This was another figure that influenced Bennabi in developing a critical approach to reality. By learning Arabic, Bennabi found himself attracted into the world of Arabic poetry. He became acquainted to classical poetry of the Jahiliyya, Umayyad, and ‘Abbasid period, as well as the modern one which written by Jibran, Hafiz Ibrahim, Rusafi and al-Manfaluti.
      Among his first references about Islam were Ahmad Riza’s La Faillite morale de la politique occidentale en Orient, al-Kawakibi’s Umm al-Qura, Isabella Eberhardt’sL’Ambre Chaude de l-Islam and Muhammad ‘Abduh’s Risalat al-Tawhid. He interacted with Benbadi’s disciple in Ben Yamina’s coffeehouse and became more and more acquainted with the Islamic reformist ideas.
      This period was a very rich juncture in Bennabi’s life. He studied directly from some reformist scholars or independently through books. He attended formal studies in the classroom and in the mosque as well as informal discussion in the coffeehouse. These all shaped his intellectual development and he became aware about the social and cultural changes occurred in his country.
      Bennabi was twenty years old in 1925 when he graduated from high school and he still did not have clear plan about his future. He went to French, worked from one company to another until finally ended up in a beer company where he gave up and decided to go back to his homeland. He disgusted with the situation he observed directly where Algerian workers were exploited by French companies. In Algeria, he worked for court as an assistant and then as an official member. During this time, he also tried to spread the reformist ideas in the region.
      In 1930, Bennabi decided to go to French again, this time to continue his study.[4] He was financially supported by his modest family for this. He tried to join the School of Oriental Language (L’Ecole des Langues Orientales) in Paris, since it would serve his area of interest. He felt that the test was not difficult, but he failed. Then he realized that, since he was an Algerian Muslim, the reason behind this was more political, rather than intellectual. Having no opportunity to continue in this field, Bennabi enrolled in an institute of Engineering, which, of course, change his academic plan. However, that change had benefited him very much. Through the study of science, Bennabi received a good training of scientific reasoning. Through this study also, he became aware of the key role position of science in advancing Western civilization and it was effected his concern toward the backwardness of the Muslimumma. Then, he apparently inspired by the idea to be a savior of the umma.
      Soon after his coming to Paris, he joined the Parisian Chapter of the Christian Youth Organization for the cheap meal offered to its members. In fact, what he got in this Chapter was more than a cheap meal. Being a Muslim in a Christian organization was the first moral test for him. However, this environment enabled him to develop his spirituality and his ability in social analysis.
      Bennabi was against sufism and tended to the Wahhabism and the Islahmovement. He enthusiastically propagated the idea of Islah and Wahhabism in Paris. However, his writings show that he is more to be an Islahi, in the same line with al-Afghani and ‘Abduh, rather than a Wahhabi. He was very active concerning and discussing the problem of Algeria and the Muslim world with other North Africans. He joined the Maghrib Student Association. His first lecture in the association, which titled “Why We are Muslims?” and his other activities led him to many difficulties inFrance and his own country. He was suspiciously supervised by the authority since then. But, he kept maintaining his concern and developing his systematic thinking to search for the reason behind the backwardness of the umma and then to provide integrated and effective solution for it.
      In 1931, Bennabi married a French woman, Khadijah. She was an intelligent woman and help Bennabi to manage his moderate financial income and to feel comfort at home. She motivated her husband to understand and to study about French civilization. Bennabi didn’t get any children from her until she died in the early seventies.
      Bennabi, and his Arab student fellows were aware and influenced by Shakeeb Arslan’s idea of Pan-Arabism, through the later’s newspaper published from Geneva. It seems that for him Arabism was not more than Islamism. He joined a secret association of Arab students, which, according to Bennabi, was a precursor of the Arab League. He himself acted as Algerian’s representative in that secret organization, though not continued his involvement later when some of its members found and engaged in the League.
      He sympathized with the ideas and activities of Benbadis and his Jam’iyat al-Ulama. But he became disappointed with him for his strategy in 1936 to join the secular politicians in their trip to Paris as Algerian’s representative. Bennabi condemned the visit and he met directly Benbadis and some others ulama. He criticized them about their lodging in an expensive hotel to negotiate with the French and about their inferiority to the secular politicians in joining them to Paris.
      This event had affected Bennabi a lot and he lost his mood to study and writing for sometimes. Bennabi hoped to be, with his friend, Hammuda Ben Essai, the inheritors of Jam’iyat al-Ulama because of their ability to undertake political battle and maintain the Islahi tendency at the same time. He always wondered, why theulama and those who were formed by traditional education unable to perform great tasks?
      Bennabi continued his study and activities in Paris. His study had familiarized him with Nietzsche’s idea and Einstein’s discovery. He was excited by some contemporary discoveries, such as the first experiment of TV broadcasting and the scientific experiment by George Claude who used sea’s heat to produce energy. He asked himself then, “If they used the sea’s heat, why do we not use the dessert’s heat?”
      In 1938, he worked as a teacher for the illiterate Algerian workers in Marseilles. He enjoyed it and learned the impact of his teaching on those workers. He observed some changes in the appearance of the workers during nine months of his teaching. Their wild looks became more human and their tendency to leave their mouths open diminished.[5] This would help him to develop his concept about the relation between ideas and culture. However, he was soon forbidden to teach by the authority. He was frustrated and decided returning to Tibissa, but also found difficulties.  He felt that he lost every hope, except that for a world war to break out and change everything.
      Desperately, he decided to go back to French in 1939 and not to return to his country until it gets its freedom. As the ship departed from the Algerian’s shore, he spoke to his land, “Oh undutiful land: you feed the foreigners and leave your children to hunger. I will never return to you if you do not become free.”
      One may be questions his attitude to leave his country and wait for its independence, not to fight together with his people for the freedom of his land. However, it does not seem that he was an irresponsible person. He might be disappointed with the attitude of his people for not using systematic strategy in their struggle and to change their society and culture from within. For Bennabi, independence is not a solution for the Algerians, if they still in the condition of “colonizability”.  Thus, he decided to make what he can do within his capacity as an intellectual.
      We do not know his activity during the First World War. But after the war, Bennabi began to record his thought in books. He published Le Phenomene Coraniquein 1946, Labbaik (novel) in 1947, Les Conditions de la Renaissance in 1948 and La Vocation de l’Islam in 1954. Through those books, he tried to state some theoretical rules for reviving the Islah movement. Unfortunately, for his writings, Bennabi received a blow of critics and accusation as a pro colonist by the ulama, the nationalist and the communist. He had been misunderstood by his fellow Algerians. He was frustrated, but also became more determined to express his views. He went to Algeria in 1948 and delivered two lectures, each in Arabic and French, to explain his equation of civilization.
      In 1956, 2 years after the beginning of the Algerian war,[6] Bennabi immigrated to Egypt as a way for him to be as close as possible to his country. He got support from Egyptian authorities and some of his books were published here. He never gave up his attachment to this country. Though, previously in his book he admired Hasan al-Banna and his al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood), he did not show his sympathy to the suppressed Ikhwan under the regime of Jamal Abd an-Naser. His financial support came from the Egyptian authority and his close relationship with Hasan Ahmad Baquri, an expelled member of al-Ikhwan, and with Mahmoud Shakir, a Muslim scholar who hated al-Ikhwan, were apparently the reason for his silent on Naser’s suppression on the organization.
      Algeria achieved its independence in 1962. Bennabi returned to his country in the following year. He was appointed Director of High Studies in 1965, but expelled from his position two years after that. Bennabi was not allowed to travel out of the country by the authority. But, he continued his intellectual activities in Algeria.
      In 1971, he was allowed to go for pilgrimage to Mecca with his wife and his three daughters. He traveled about seven months and visited his friends in Egypt, Syria,Lebanon, Libya, and Tunisia. He might be felt that it was his last opportunity to meet his fellows during his life. In Lebanon, through the Court of Tripoli, he registered a legal document in which he gave his friend, Omar Masqawi, total authority over his books in the event of his death. In Saudi Arabia, during the reception with King Faisal, he spoke about the lack of freedom in Algeria. He died in October 1973 at his home in Algiers only two years after coming back from his pilgrimage.

Bennabi’s Thought on Civilization

      Although his academic background was engineering, all of his books are relate to social science, culture, history or civilization. Therefore, it is more appropriate to consider him as a sociologist and a social scientist rather than as a natural scientist. He exercised his intellectual efforts during his life to search and to understand the rules that govern the social phenomena of civilization.
      In writing, he rarely uses quotations. He interacted with many thoughts, but produced his own original one. However, he was greatly influenced by Ibn Khaldun and Arnold Toynbee on the idea of civilization. We can see many similarities in their thoughts, but Bennabi got advantages from many scientific inventions in his era and he could develop the ideas into his own scheme.
      Regarding the social condition of his people and the “superiority” of the West during his lifetime, Bennabi chooses his own independent attitude towards it. He criticizes the Muslims who tended to examine Western culture and civilization from two extreme viewpoints: either holy and pure, or profane and corrupt.[7] He himself neither feels superior nor inferior to the West. The rise of Western civilization and the decline of Muslims society are seen by him in their normal historical context. He is optimistic for the possibility of Muslims renaissance and tries to find the systematic way and means to achieve it.
      To explain his theory, Bennabi has created his own terms: such as post-Almohads man, rajul al-fitra, rajul kharij al-hadara, colinizability, and etc. These words or terms were not other than names he created to explain certain ideas. For him, the use of names is necessary to make clear conceptual explanations within their cultural context. Bennabi has his own explanation about the process of how a word or name emerges into its existence in the realm of human knowledge.
      “The name […] is the first definition of an object as it enters the sphere of our consciousness,” he explains. Our consciousness is like a lighthouse which light covers an area surrounding it. The dark area outside the scope of the light is our unconsciousness. Whatever object falls within the sphere of that light, it becomes an idea, which enters the sphere of our knowledge. When it enters this area of light, its presence becomes a real existence. Then its character is defined, and a name is ultimately given to that object. “Thus, the name is considered the first step towards knowledge. When you name an ‘object’, you extract a certain idea out of it.” It is within this context we need to understand the “superiority” of Adam over the angels when Allah requires him to call the objects by their names, as describes in the Qur’an (al-Baqara 31-32).[8] Here, we can see how Bennabi tried to exercise his capacity as human being by catching important “objects” which fall into the sphere of his consciousness in his examination of the civilizational problem of his society.
      For Bennabi, “the problem of any people is that of its civilization.” Therefore, any attempt to solve people’s problems should focus on its civilization. All current problems that burden the Muslim Umma had developed an historical contingency that caused a severe deficiency in their culture. It is not a mere chance, that snake charmers existed and surrounded themselves with children in Marrakich (Marocco) as well as Samarkan. It is an indication that the problem, in its social essence, is one, and that the common denominator in what was called the “Algerian problem” or “Javanese problem” is in fact an Islamic problem.[9]
      Abdul Hamid Ahmad Abu Sulayman divides the contemporary approaches to deal with the Muslim problems into three categories, which are “imitative historical solution”, “imitative foreign solution”, and “contemporary Islamic aÎÉlah”.[10]Relatively similar to this, though Bennabi does not make clear categorization, we can see that Bennabi also mentions three approaches, including his own approach. He criticizes the first two approaches that are ‘reformist’ and ‘modernist’ and offered his own approach as a solution for the Muslim’s problems. He does not give name for his own solution, but from his explanation in several parts of his books, in my opinion it could be named as ‘analytical civilizational approach’.
      Bennabi admires his reformist predecessors, such as al-Afghani and ‘Abduh, but they were failed, as well as the modernist, since they had never designated civilization as the target. The reformist and modernist movement are lack methodological and scientific thinking. Its intellectuals frequently criticize external enemies, but ignore the internal causes of disintegration. Their efforts are directed towards various political issues instead of examining the overall historical situation.
      Bennabi considers Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani as the true pioneer who awoke the Muslim community, since he had announced Islam, and not the tribe, as the starting point. Al-Afghani was the first to take risk of talking about the social function of the prophets in the fallen world of post-Almohads. However, al-Afghani’s idea had not developed from a sound methodological plan. He had been more political activist who aimed to cure his community through legal and institutional reform, without intent to change or reform the post-Almohads individuals.
      For Bennabi, Muhammad ‘Abduh is more appropriate to be considered as a reformist, rather than al-Afghani. However, he does not agree with his theological attempt to reform the umma through his lectures and book, Risala al-Tauhid. For Bennabi, even the post-Almohads Muslims has never abandoned their beliefs despite the fact that they have lost the power to be inspired by it. The real problem, then, is not in “how to teach the Muslim his faith”, but rather in “how to restore the effectiveness and the social impulse of that faith.” In other words, “the problem was not how to prove God’s existence to the Muslim, but rather how to make him sense that His existence fills up his soul as a source of energy.” Bennabi argues that theological argumentation developed by ‘Abduh only replaces the “psychological problem” with a “theological problem”, which not help to encounter the urgent issue of religion’s social function.
      The reform movement in general, which supported also by intellectual leaders like Arslan, al-Kawakibi and Ahmad Riza, is mainly concerned with providing the Muslims with means of self-defense and self-justification, instead of merely transforming the immediate social condition of the umma. They fail to cure themselves of the negative characteristics of the post-Almohads and they never look inward intellectually, culturally and psychologically to investigate the real causes of their community’s decay. Moreover, they are also more interest in theories than practices, more in words than in actions. However, this last criticism should also be addressed to Bennabi himself.
      In dealing with the crisis of society, the reformers had spent decades treating the various symptoms instead of the real sickness. Then, to heal their problem, the Muslims had taken a pill for ignorance, a drug for poverty, and a medicine for colonization. They built a school here, demanded independence there, and established a factory in a third place. The result was indeed, far from curing the illness or establishing civilization.[11]
      Regarding the modernist movement, Bennabi analyzes it in general without discussing its leaders’ views one by one. However, he puts the name of Taha Husein and Sayyid Ahmad Khan into this category.[12] Bennabi criticizes the modernist as wanting the Muslims to be imitators or customers of a civilization that open the doors of stores more than of its schools. He also criticizes their tendency to follow the West and unselectively borrow its inventions to modernize the society.
      For Bennabi, the Europeans do not come to the East as modernizers, but rather as colonizers. Western imperialism never intends to disperse elements of European culture, but rather to export its own material “discards” in order to make the colonized a slave of the European economy. Thus, he rejects the idea of westernization. Acquiring civilization never means a blind imitation of the Western model, or sacrificing the unique identity, legacy and history of the Muslim umma.
      Indeed, he admits that proper development can well be inspired and encouraged by proper borrowing from the West. He believes that civilization could not be created in isolation from other human experiences. Christian civilization has benefited from Islamic civilization which itself had been nourished from interaction with other cultures such as those of the Greeks and Indians. However, this is not the starting point to cure the Muslim problems.
      Ones should remember that the social problems have historical aspects. What may suit a given society in a given stage of its history may prove unsuitable for it in another. Therefore, it is risky to adopt an American or a Marxist solution, for example, to solve the problem in the Muslim world, because the societies are at different stages of development and of different attitudes and objectives.[13] The effectiveness of a solution cannot be separated from the historical and cultural context of a given society. It is dependent upon psychological and social conditions, which vary with time and place.[14] Thus, simply borrowing the means and views of the developed countries to improve the backwardness of Muslim society is a careless policy and will not be able to work properly.
      Another problem observed by Bennabi is Muslim interaction with the West. The Muslim should have used this interaction to find out the spirit of Western civilization. Unfortunately, Muslim student has not experienced Europe, but has been content to read it, in other words, to learn rather than to understand. He sees the peak stage of Western society, but does not aware of its evolution. He thus remains ignorant of the history of its civilization. He goes to Europe only to obtain a university degree or to satisfy a superficial curiosity, not to discover the Western spirit.[15]
      So far, we have discussed Bennabi’s critics to some approaches in improving theumma’s condition. What is his own solution? As we know, civilization has a very significant place in Bennabi’s system of thinking. It is important to know first his definition of civilization. Civilization, according to Bennabi, is a result of a living dynamic idea, which mobilizes a pre-civilized society to enter history and construct a system of ideas according to its archetypes. So the society thereafter, develops an authentic cultural milieu, which in return controls all the characteristics that distinguished that society from other cultures and civilization.
      In other place he explains that, in its simple definition, civilization is not a pile of different kinds of objects. Rather, it is a harmonious whole of things and ideas in their various relationships, uses, peculiar means, and circumscribed places. He also defines civilization as “the sum-total of the moral as well as material conditions which allow a given society to provide each one of its members with all the social guarantees necessary for his development.”[16]
      From this crucial position of civilization, it is vital that Muslims define their position according to their own historical cycle and relate their problems to the sequence of their particular history and that of the world to be able to move in the right direction. Mentioning about the cycle of history, as Ibn Khaldun and Toynbee, Bennabi also believes in the lifespan of civilization. Human societies, like the human individuals, have a certain lifespan and they are subjected to the same law of birth, growth and decay.[17] Not only repeating this idea, Bennabi also developed his own concept of three stages schematization. He believes that every civilization has three stages to be undergone, which are Spiritual Stage, Rational Stage and Instinctive Stage.
      The spiritual stage occurs when a spiritual idea or religion emerges, and then it subjugates and suppresses human instinct. This instinct will be disciplined into a relationship functional to the religion. As a result, the spiritual potency control individual’s life. Bennabi considers that the spiritual stage of Islamic history have started from the massage of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) to the battle of Siffin. During this period, the society’s frame of mind and attitude toward life was mainly spiritual. He maintains that only the spirit gives humanity the opportunity to rise and progress, to form civilization. When the spirit loses, the civilization falls.
      As the society continues to practice its religious principles and integrated its internal bonds, the religion will spread globally. Islamic civilization departed, as a driving force, from the depth of souls, to spread horizontally on earth, from the Atlantic shore to the Chinese borders. However, at this point, newly created needs and challenges stimulated a society’s capacity and creativity. As science and art flourish, reason became the controlling force, and society ascended toward the peak of its cycle of civilization. But, reason would not be able to discipline the instinct as effectively as the spirit did in the first stage. Therefore, instinct started gradually to gain freedom and the society’s influence over the individual decreased.
      The third stage is the instinctive stage. This stage is marked by weakness and corruption. This is inevitable because the instinct is released. Reason has lost its social function as the human beings lose the tension of their faith. Thus, society enters the darkness of history as the cycle of its civilization ends. For Bennabi, the time of Ibn Khaldun was a turning point from the rational stage to the instinctive stage of the Islamic history. Muslim society has been declining from that time until now. Bennabi names the Muslim who lives in this period as the post-Almohads man (insan ma ba’da al-Muwahhidin).[18]

The Rational Stage
Time of Ibn Khaldun
Year 38 H. (Siffin)
Bennabi’s Cycle of Islamic Civilization
      The Muslim of Bennabi’s era, and also now, lives in the third stage. They are the post-Amohads man whose society has been declining and decaying. However, Bennabi believes that Muslims can repeat their historical cycle and rise again. For this, the decayed characteristic of the post-Almohads man should be studied scientifically and then to be avoided. To focus on external factors is not a solution for him. In explaining the problem of colonization in the Muslim world, for example, Bennabi believes that independence is not the answer of it, as long as the “colonizability” in the Muslim world is still exists. Moreover, to solve the problem of the umma, the Islamic spirit should be utilized again to discipline and to control the instinct of the individuals in the Muslim society. In implementing this, ones should always be aware to direct their efforts to civilization.
      Civilization has a central position in Bennabi’s system of thought. He creates his own equation for civilization:

Man (Insan) + Soil (Turab) + Time (Waqt) = Civilization (Hadarah) 

      Bennabi is quite careful in choosing terminology. For example, he chooses the term soil (turab) rather than substance or matter (madda). He avoids the term matter (madda) because in ethics it opposes the spirit; in science it contrasts with energy; and in philosophy it is against idealism. Besides that, it has materialistic tendency.[19] However, what is the meaning of soil here?
      The word soil (turab) could be interpreted from an Islamic point of view as the earth, the globe or the universe that God has created for mankind to discover, utilize and develop. It emphasizes the concept of vicegerency (istikhlaf) that involves man’s responsibility to utilize this world and develop it within the limitation of his lifetime.[20]
      The word soil means in its broader sense all raw materials. It includes land, the main resource of man’s food and nourishment. All human civilization started with agriculture and utilization of natural resources is essential to human existence. It also has socio-political meaning, which implies ownership, requires technical control and provides social guarantees and security (al-damanat al-ijtima’iyya). It means also love of homeland and hope for its prosperity.
      The element of time is inevitable, since every civilization grows in a certain period of time. According to Bennabi, we should not use time only to perform a task, but we should perform the task in the shortest possible time to enhance the progress. Then, the only absolute currency that never loses its value would be “hours for work” (sa‘at ‘amal), not the meaningless “hours that pass” (sa‘at tamur) (178-179).[21]
      Among the tree elements, man is the most significant one. He is the major factor of civilization, the primary society device. If he moves, society and history move, but if he pauses, society and history pause. Man has a reciprocal relationship with his civilization. Man is the constructor of civilization, but man is also a product of civilization, since he is indebted to it for the ideas and objects at its disposal.[22]Thus, the great challenge faces by the Muslims now is to create people who would be capable of utilizing soil, time and their own creativity to reach their great goals in history.[23]
      Individual and society develop its history through the interaction of three social categories: the realm of things or objects (‘alam al-ashya‘), the realm of persons (‘alam al-ashkhas) and the realm of ideas (‘alam al-afkar).[24] To develop culture and civilization, we need to move from realm of things to the realm of ideas. Ideas are the most important aspect in creating culture and civilization. The post-Almohads Muslim society has been failed because it has the tendency to control people’s life to a “thingness” or materialism.
      Bennabi notices that the dilemma of the underdeveloped countries is not their lack of things, but their poverty of ideas. They promote a “thingness civilization” (hadara shahiyya) based on accumulation (takdis) of products and material things. This will not be able to raise their civilization, since products can never create a civilization. In fact, Bennabi maintains, it is the civilization that gives birth to its products,[25] and idea has a central position in developing civilization.
      He gives an example about the destruction of Germany during the Second World War and how it lost “the realm of things” for a while. But, Germany could develop its “realm of things” soon after that, because its civilization develops in the realm of ideas.[26] This is one of the evidences how ideas help in developing civilization and creating products.
      The absence and stagnation of ideas seriously affects the realm of things, but if the material realm is for any reason destroyed, the ideas, the real national wealth, will not suffer destruction. Any attempt for the reconstruction of Muslim culture must, then, begin with examining and filtering the Muslim’s stock of ideas. This process will lead to rediscovering Islamic civilization.
      Bennabi detects two types of Muslim’s stock of ideas: “natural ideas” (al-afkar al-matbu‘a) and “invented ideas” (al-afkar al-maudu‘a). The first represents the culture’s authenticity and its original moral system. In Muslim historical development, it stemmed from Islam in the early Islamic era. The second were apparently emerged after Siffin, during the cultural and material flourishing of Damascus, Baghdad andCairo. They represented ideas intentionally borrowed by the culture. Both types of ideas are assimilated by the culture and integrated into it.
      At one time, these “invented ideas” could have been ‘deadly ideas” (afkar qatila), which damaging because they are separated from their cultural and historical context. These ideas are randomly copied from other culture without consideration of their contradiction with the “natural ideas”. The “dead ideas” are those inherited from the era of decadence and are never purified or oriented. Thus, as each society has a graveyard for its dead people, Bennabi explains, so too it has another for its dead ideas – the ideas that no longer have a social role. Ideas as such are not a source of culture, that is to say, an element capable of specifying certain behavior and a way of life.[27]
      Bennabi also believes that ideas could be sound and true but ineffective, such as Islam as a true religion in the contemporary Muslim world. Contemporary Muslims become less affected and inspired by its message. On the other side, ideas could be greatly effective but false. Some ideas are proved wrong by history, such as the legend that earth is supported by two horns of a bull, but have a great influence on people’s mind.
      One may be objects the equation made by Bennabi that Man plus Soil plus Time equals to civilization. Every man and its society must live in a certain place and time, but they are not always produce civilization. Man always interacts with its soil and time, but this not always results in a civilization, why?
      According to Bennabi, Man, Soil and Time cannot by themselves creating civilization. They need religion, or spiritual ideas, as a catalyst to make the equation functions properly. Religion stimulates the spirit to elevate society above its stagnant condition. Religion was a prerequisite for all civilizations, an element assimilated by society before any civilizational cycle could begin.[28] And again, in addressing the decline world of post-Almohads man, he maintains that the situation will remain unless a total and profound change occurred in the spirit of Muslims. Such a change, which will focus mainly in the realm of ideas, was the only way to restore the individual’s ability to create civilization.

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