Hey everyone (if anyone’s left :p),
Sorry I haven’t been posting regularly. I’ve started a new Masters which takes up a lot of time but I also haven’t thought of anything to post about in a while. Like I said in my last post, the way I approach Islam is very different now, so I haven’t been struggling as much as I was before.
What contributed to this is what I’m studying now. Although the Masters is in Development, the type of thinking is just fantastic. Unveiling western hegemony, westernization, and the negative effects of globalization, rationality, and modernity has made me see Islam in a whole new light. Modernity is something quintessentially western, in the way we understand it today. When we think “I have to be more modern” – what kind of traits and values are we thinking of? In many cases it means becoming less traditional/cultural and becoming more global (i.e. western). So I believe modernity is mostly a process of westernization.
After reaching that conclusion, I realized that I didn’t need to hold Islam up to a bar (modernity) that was created by white men. Wasn’t I doing the same thing I accused the literalist/salafi Muslims of doing? That is, holding Islam up to a bar created by Arab men?
Can Islam be understood ONLY in terms of rationality? No. Is that a negative thing. Absolutely not! That was where I kept going wrong before: I kept trying to analyze Islam from a rational, purely scientific perspective. Until I began reading readings by post-colonial theorists (Escobar, Said, Benjamin) who show there are OTHER ways of understanding the world. You don’t have to have empirical evidence to prove something. You don’t have to understand the WHOLE world through science.
There are different types of knowledges.
For thousands of years people have understood the world in diverse ways. Suddenly all those knowledges got degraded and devalued for not being “scientific” or “rational.” There was a new knowledge in town: pure empirical, rational science. Sure, it couldn’t solve everything, and sure, it couldn’t explain everything. So whatever it couldn’t solve/explain was simply ignored or seen as an “irrational question.” Good example: the existence of God.
But those knowledges are still around. Of course there are Egyptians today who are more westernized than westerners themselves. But there are more who still possess that beautiful way of thinking that is uniquely Egyptian – that got trampled under decades of colonial rule and then decades of western imperialism in the shape of globalization and aid.
I’m not saying science is bad. After all, Muslims and Arabs were some of the greatest contributors to science and medicine. What I’m saying is that science has been turned into an authoritarian discourse: there is no other way to be or think. And if you dare to think otherwise, you are seen as “irrational” or “traditional.” (I can’t even imagine a time when ‘traditional’ meant something positive.)
I’m not saying modernity is bad. But the modernity I think of today is not my modernity. It’s the west’s. And that’s fine. But why is it being imposed on all of us?