Tuesday, May 02, 2006

natural islam

From the Anarchist People of Color site: In the article Natural Islam, Salim (a libertarian socialist Shia Muslim Sufi author) discusses the relation between activism and authority (both religious and political).


ana cinzenta said...

I read this wonerful piece on the site where it was originally posted, which now seems to have disappeared from cyberspace. If someone still has the full text it would be great to have it mounted elsewhere for more people to read. And what happened to the author - anyone know ?

Abdul-Halim V. said...

that's a good point.. sometimes links disappear... actually... sometimes if that happens you can still find pages cached... and fortunately that's the case here as well.

you can check:

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Natural Islam PDF Print E-mail
Written by Salim
Thursday, 23 December 2004

In the Name of the Divine, the Creator (bismillah al-khaliq)

We are all products produced and cultivated to have a value a commodity society has only one interest in each individual and that interest is commercial. Only the crazy one’s are defective and lose out on this commodification. The one’s that think differently are able to understand how society uses individuals for profit. The modern oppression is not solely economic; the modern oppression is sociological and pathological. It is not a question of the haves and the have nots anymore. A former luxury item like a television can now be bought at any thrift store. The modern cake is a $4 value meal at McDonalds or Burger King engineered to make the consumer fat. The modern idea is competing logos on super hero physiques between Adidas and Nike. Hercules is not simply a mythic typo today Hercules is a pitchman for a corporate body. The future of Aldus Huxley’s “Brave New World” is here. Except we are not birthed in factories but our minds are. The collective consciousness of our society is engineered solely for the purpose to produce and consume within a feudalistic system governed by rich corporations which may even have a revolving door in the board room where even the elites perform a temporary duty before being replaced by a apparatchik that is of the latest, fastest and smartest product line of CEOs.

Production and Consumption is the Yin and Yang of the modern society. The fatal flaw in the modern mantra is that only mass suffering will be next in line through ecological devastation, capitalism will collapse on itself there is no ethical endogeny built into the system a product is not more valuable because it produces a good or better social or ecological outcome. A product has more value because it is more desirable. We live in a system based on animalistic desires not on intellectual intelligibles. Our system in Christian eschatological terminology is a system based on the sign of the Beast, people are sociologically conditioned to now “choose” with their “freedom” such things as driving SUVs rather then ecologically sustainable alternatives. To choose to eat factory farmed animals rather then healthy alternatives. We are sociologically conditioned to choose comfort over sustainable living. Where freedom even includes choosing to destroy the natural offspring of human life in the name of “freedom” of the person to participate in this modern pathology of a culture of death and consumer “freedom” where capitalist want to give you the “choice” of consumerism.

This culture of production and consumption is not limited to what is known as the West. Even those that have cloaked themselves in holy garments like the Saudi Royal Family daily participate in the unbridled ecological destruction of the earth through it’s Oil exports. Likewise those that carry out life destroying terrorist attacks are just participating in another brand of oppression, control and consumption. Al-Qaeda has no mutually beneficial plan for sustainability rather they seek to replace one brand of oppression with another. Violence is just another aspect of the culture of death. War is a direct result of the need for control and competing elites engaged in competition for market share no matter what the market is, land, oil, shoes, televisions, peoples minds, etc.

The real question is, “Is change possible?” And there is no simple yes or no answer to this question. I would say there are only two routes possible for change to happen and those are:

A) Direct Action [see end note 1]

B) Autonomy [2]

Of course to most people what is really missing from this answer is Democratic Reform and to a small minority the other answer may be Armed Rebellion [3], differentiated from “self-defense” which is always a right. And I will answer the negative solutions before expounding on the positive solutions of Direct Action and Autonomy.

There are some, usually having no military training, that believe you can fight the system with arms this is pure foolishness and just another brand of social conditioning by the oppressive system that says violence is liberation. The system will always be able to raise a larger force; this system already possesses the means to destroy the entire earth with nuclear weapons. You cannot fight the system in armed combat head on.

There is a large majority of people that say you can change the system through democratic reform. They say that we live in a democracy and through the mechanisms of the state change can be brought. Although there is some instances where this is true and it varies from state to state depending on the structure of the government (i.e. US, Canada) in the US this is less true then in Canada, for instance Canada is moving toward proportional representation and has four major political parties from conservative , liberal, socialist and green. The problem is corruption [4] and bureaucratization of governments. The corruption has occurred with policy being decided by economic powers of large corporations and their conservative and neo-liberal benefactors. The bureaucratization has occurred with the increase in size of governments with the decision making occurring at higher and higher levels rather then locally where people live their lives. The combination of corruption and bureaucratization has made democracy vulnerable to undemocratic practices at hierarchical levels of government. With the governments corrupt the rule by the people is no longer a working reality so what we have is the word “democracy” but whose meaning is lost in corruption.

If democracy is no longer a valid source of change then the people are left with only a handful of options and chief among these options is Direct Action or what is also known as Civil Disobedience. When corporations are passing laws literally writing laws to put the commercial interests of a minority over those of the common peoples altering society to turn every citizen into a producer-consumer devoid of individuality then the individual citizen is obliged to disobey those laws through civil struggle like that of Martin Luther King until the laws reflect the will of the people informed by objective facts rather then commercial interests and their propaganda.

In tandem with Direct Action is the need for Autonomy from the culture of death and destruction. We must, by any means, first by legal means, construct alternatives to the culture of destruction such as sustainable development, cooperative enterprises, ecological manufacturing and the use of co-empowering technology. There are some of us that refuse to participate in the culture of destruction no matter what, many of us are labeled crusty punks, but we are not punks we are individuals that desire revolutionary change from the culture of destruction and oppression. But putting a label on something is just another means of branding of merchandise saying a set of people are “crusty punks” is just a matter of demarcating the good product, “producer-consumer” [5], form a bad product, a autonomous individual. This is the destructive, un-natural and de-humanizing effect of living in this system where packaging is more important then understanding the individual attributes of the member of a community.

Today in prison on the television news Msr. Dumat of the ADQ, the regional conservative party in Quebec, proposed that Quebec have its “autonomy” from the Canadian federation: Autonomy is not such a strange concept. The ADQ has been making gains electorally. Of course this in a way does prove how much more sophisticated the Canadian parliamentary system is from the US system—the fact a separatist party or parties can exist within the Canadian federation which would not be permitted in the US, this can be traced back to the different perspective Canada and the US have on citizenship, one is multi-ethnic and the US is uniformist and assimilationist. But what will this Autonomy be, will it allow Quebecois to live free of corporate control, provide sustainable and ecological alternatives or is it just the introduction of a new brand, a new flavor with the same old recipe: “Buy Quebec, 100% more French!”

Branding is everywhere in our society and all segments of society engage in it because of the sociology and pathology of our modern society even Anarcho-Punks are just another brand within our communities. The Anarcho-Punks, of which I am sometimes a member of, engage in the producer-consumer mentality. You have to have the right kind of packaging to belong, the right clothes, the right behavior (usually swearing and drinking 40ozers and knowledge of riding trains, hitch-hiking, petty crimes and squatting). And if you do not conform to this then you will be ostracized usually under a pretext of a being a “manarchist” a “infiltrator”, a “reformist”. Everyone in this society is being socially engineered to act in a competitive and destructive manner, checking out from the dominant brand does not change this behavior.

The means of fighting the sociology, this social engineering of individuals into producer-consumers is not political; every political ideology from religious fundamentalist to communist (did you buy your Che shirt for $15?) can be co-opted and turned into another brand. The means of fighting this socio-pathology is fundamentally a spiritual path—which is distinct from a religious ideology or organized institutional religion. It is not based on a materialism or socio-scientific praxis, it is based on seeking values and expressions which at their source are as non-material as the earliest shaman traditions which eventually transformed into prophetic traditions. It is based on transcendental praxis and motivations that which goes beyond the individual or what is within the individual. I am not saying that we should all be blindly obedient (taqlid) to prophets [6] and shaman, we need a thoughtful and disciplined, even scientific understanding of religious or shamanistic psychology, but the core values of naturalism are embodied in the spiritual psyche not the sociology of the producer-consumer. Some of these values are communal consultation (shura), stewardship of the Creator’s creation (istikhlaf), equality (`adl), non-aggression (salam), mutually beneficial economics [7] (mudarabat), sharing and giving (sadaqa wa zakat).

I, personally, have found the best defense against the producer-consumer sociology in my personal interpretation of Islam. Many will doubt, given the modern gross depiction in the West from both Muslim [8] and non-Muslim, of what Islam is able to be an anti-oppression path. However, to me it is the basis of resistance to the consumer-producer ideology and sociology. I am not saying it is the only means of resistance to the culture of destruction but one that I have found that has inspired my resistance in what I have come to understand as Islam al-fitrah (natural Islam) [9]. I have received death threats from conservative Americans and I have received death threats from reactionary Muslims. What beliefs could generate such viciousness from people that are sworn enemies of each other? My understanding of Islam is what they view as threatening, I have even been called an apostate [10] and unbeliever (kafir) by other Muslims even though I observe the pillars of Islam, according to Jafari fiqh, in my personal life. Similarly, I have been called un-American even though I am a veteran of the US Navy and served on anti-terrorist missions in the Middle East.

I suppose first and foremost I should address the question of authority .[11] Traditionally speaking in Islam religious authority has been inter-twined with the state. First in the role of the Prophet [12], then in the role of the rightly guided Caliphs and for those of us that believe in rightly guided Imams in the Wiliyat of `Ali and his descendants (a.s.) This role became perverted in Sunni Islam with the introduction of the `Umayyad clans control over the state where innovations were introduced, innovations which have been fought by the guided Sunni reformers which have appeared from time to time. This same usage by rulers of states to use religion as a means of control also occurred in Shi’a Islam when the Ilkhanid Mongol rulers of Iran forced the populace to convert to Shi’ism and transformed the cleric class into the primary means of controlling the populace. In both Sunni and Shi’a Islam the state and the religious clerics have been intertwined as a means of control over the populace [13]. I am not saying all clerics are corrupt there have been many inspired laity. I am simply pointing out the traditional corruption of the role of religion and of rulers.

However, Allah [14] (the divinity) has not left the people without vision (kashf) specifically in Shi’a Islam is the conception of Hikmat (wisdom) which has been a guiding principle in such schools as the Illuminationist tradition, the school of Mulla Sadra [15], the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa`i [16]. I am an adherent of these teachings. Hikmat is another source of interpreting law aside from textual deduction. Roughly it is inspiration or unveiling. Mulla Sadra taught that to come to philosophical deductions as well as legal deductions via rationality (`aqli) was not enough rather one must confirm deductions with inspiration, which is a transcendent source. Also, such unveiling of truth can come in the form of dreams or visions. Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa`I had a vision of Imam al-Mahdi which he claimed to derive his authority to make judgments from. The point is that in Islam we can have continuing guidance aside from the textuality or usuli deductions as practiced by the clerical elite. I would argue that we all have the ability and responsibility to make intelligent reflections in concert with good intentions and form our own opinions on religious matters. Using shuratic principles we can come to common communal well being through our differing views.

My understanding of Islam is based in a mystical understanding it is based in gnosis (ma`rifat) not just fiqh (jurisprudence). Authority in Islam is not confined to the ruling clerics. Even in Shi`a Islam, guidance form the hidden Imam is open to all. Thus, in my understanding of Islam we are all equal and our affairs should be governed by communal consultation (shura) [17], there can be no hierarchy of the “righteous” no need for a Guardian Council as it exists in the Iranian political system. So what is the meaning of what I have termed Islam al-fitrah [18] (natural Islam)?

The Islamic belief in stewardship of the Creator’s creation is known as Istikhlaf. This is the concept that humanity has the obligation to uphold the natural order as created by the Creator (it is not necessarily anthropocentric), humanity must not alter this natural order as it is currently doing for example the global warming caused by mass industrialization. Additionally, this is seen in factory farming, the Prophet taught that you must not be brutal or over consume. In fact the Prophet taught it is better to eat vegetables with a minimum of animal consumption, today we have alternative protein sources to eating animals. At the base of Istikhlaf is the Prophetic hadith:

“I [al-lah] have forbidden oppression to Myself. Therefore it is forbidden to you.”

Plainly we can see how the current rulers of this world, the United States does engage in oppression, by continuing to pollute and destroy the natural ecology [19] and by waging aggressive warfare to further their global aspirations of economic dominance over all. According to Islam a Muslim is not permitted to engage in aggressive warfare, nor is a Muslim to live in a war state (dar al-harab) such as the US. A Muslim must immigrate to a land of peace (dar al-salam). Yet, how many Muslims continue to do business in the US pay the US government taxes and engage in non-Islamic economic practices.

The US is an oppressor it uses military means to acquire it’s goals not the power of ideas. Oppression is forbidden to a Muslim, including oppressing the earth, the animals, the natural order (fitrah al-nazm) as created by al-Lah. Ecological devastation is no different from any other form of oppression, yet the US, the largest polluter and consumer of natural resources [20] continues to deny that global warming is real, that human industrialization is the single greatest source of this ecological oppression.

There are many forms of oppression, Islam is a natural religion, it is organic and can adapt to new circumstances and conditions. Islam is a source of universal empowerment to all that are oppressed regardless of what that oppression is natural Islam is opposed to racism, sexism [22], classism and all forms of oppression, even anthropocentrism.

The United States has demonstrated its opposition through its actions to universally recognized standards of basic rights. How can any Muslim say I am a Muslim and ally themselves with such a government? The US is a racist state [22], a military belligerent, an ecological devastator, a supporter of global feudalism through economic institutions it controls and directs such as the World Bank and IMF. The US seeks not to work in cooperation with other governments and peoples but to dominate. The United States government has systematically eliminated any meaningful dissent by Americans with COINTELPRO [23], the PATRIOT Act [24] and superfluous criminalization of dissent and free speech-- with the criminalization of dissent and it’s subsequent ability to imprison the opposition, the US Government uses non-violent tactics to accomplish the same ends as the European Fascists did in the 1930s. With the criminalization of free speech such as at the Miami, Boston and NYC protests Americans have lost all meaningful instruments of dissent. More and more activists are being branded as terrorists with FBI security bulletins labeling non-violent educational gatherings as terrorist threats [25]. The elimination of all national opposition parties has also led to a further devolution of dissent in the US. Only capitalist inspired political parties and unions are able to function in the US. The corporate dominance of the US political system is total and complete any opposition to this is eliminated even to the point of assassinating ecological activists.

It is for some of these reasons I am sitting in a Canadian prison today. I committed no acts of violence. I walked through a field seeking freedom in Canada and was hunted by the US Border Patrol on Canadian soil. My non-violent political activities were branded as a terrorist threat [26] and openly associated with terrorist groups on no grounds whatsoever by the US government. My friends and loved ones systematically arrested and taken off the streets, their homes raided, their cars broken into and tracking devices installed on them, not for what they were doing but for what they were saying. I have watched Muslim institutions, some of whom I organized with, labeled with no evidence, terrorist fronts, religious gathering raided, innocent people wrongly imprisoned, systematically destroyed by neo-Conservatives abusing their new found unbridled powers, even charities which are the sole life line for suffering Muslims living under ruthless military aggression eliminated. For these and other reasons I have sought refuge in Canada. I urge all people to take a stand for freedom, for true peace, for liberation. Their jails cannot contain the truth anymore then their institutions can contain the Creator.

About the Author:

Salim is a libertarian socialist. He is a member of the Shi’a Muslim Sufi Community. His academic papers on Islamic Philosophy have been published in the United States and Iran.



[1] On the theory and background of direct action see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_action

[2] Autonomy is directly related to being Autonomous, which is self-organized, see http://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Self-organization On Autonomy see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomy

[3] Many Muslims claim that jihad is armed rebellion, such as espoused by al-Qaeda. However, what is ignored is that the Prophet himself (s.a.s.) engaged in Direct Action passive resistance tactics in the early days of Islam. This resistance involved non-violent tactics as well as self-defense. The need for armed struggle only came later after the Hejira when the Muslims were part of a city-state and only under limited conditions. Passive Resistance, to me, is part of the greater Jihad (jihad al-akbar) that every Muslim engages in on a daily basis in her life against a globalized neo-liberal world with non-Islamic economic systems dictating it’s terms to the rest of the world.

[4] For a major industrialized western democratized nation the United States finished only 18th in terms of least corrupt governments, see report at http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/corruptreport.pdf

[5] Some may say that “consumer-producer” is another brand, however there is a difference between branding and naming.

[6] In Islam the Prophet is not absolute ruler, the Prophet is a spiritual guide and in matters concerning the community, in political matters, all members have equal say in the matter. See Qur`an 3:159

[7] In Islamic economics the concept of collective ownership is know as mudarabat, see http://www.failaka.com/Library/Articles/Usmani%20-%20Modes%20of%20Finance.pdf Obviously for anarchists this concept is a loose analogy for our views on collectivism and can be a basis for a new interpretation of Islamic economic laws. One attempt at modernizing Islamic economics is by Prof. Choudhury, see http://faculty.uccb.ns.ca/mchoudhu/ipe.htm whose work is secularised under the heading of “humanomics”.

[8] A new politically more correct brand of Muslim is now forming, with progressive values,

[9] On Naturalism and Islam see an orthodox interpretation from a jurisprudential perspective, http://www.islamonline.net/fatwa/english/FatwaDisplay.asp?hFatwaID=64315

[10] see a study of the political use of the term apostate in Islam at http://www.exorthodoxforchrist.com/islam_-_apostasy.htm

[11] for an interesting discussion of authority from a Muslim feminist perspective see http://www.crescentlife.com/spirituality/religious_authority_in_islam.htm For a more comprehensive discussion of authority In Islam see http://www.csss-isla.com/IIS/archive/2001/july.htm

[12] For a Muslim essay on the political legacy of the Prophet, including his pluralism, see http://www.ispi-usa.org/muhammad/muhammad10.html

[13] Priests are condemned in the Qur’an see 9:30-31.

[14] In Islam, the divinity, usually translated as God, has no sex and any anthropomorphic characteristics associated with the Divinity is to be avoided, the attribution of calling the Divinity “He” is not correct, what is more correct is to call the Divinity is “It”.

[15] Mulla Sadra was an Islamic existentialist (wujudi), more info at http://www.mullasadra.org. He is recognized as the greatest Shi’a philosopher of all time by the orthodox Mullahs of Iran.

[16] Information on Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa`I can be seen at http://www.alahsai.net/ the site is in Arabic.

[17] Shura is akin to the consensus process used by many anti-capitalist groups.

[18] For a reading on “deep ecology” in Islam see http://www.islamonline.net/english/Contemporary/2003/02/Article02.shtml or http://www.islamonline.net/english/Contemporary/2002/08/Article02.shtml or http://www.islamonline.net/fatwa/english/FatwaDisplay.asp?hFatwaID=60686

[19] One must recognize that the US is deliberately destroying the environment to maximize capitalization. The Muslim majority state of Bangladesh will loose 44% of it’s territory due to global sea levels rising directly from global warming caused, in most part, by US pollution. It is hard to predict how many will be displaced and how many thousand will die as a direct result from this US oppression of the natural creation. See related story http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/04/0420_040420_earthday.html

[20] For a story on the US impact on the global environment see http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0109-02.htm for academic discussion of human impact on global warming see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attribution_of_recent_climate_change

[21] I include queer liberation under the heading of sexism. There are Muslim based queer liberation groups, like Al-Fatiha, http://www.al-fatiha.net. I disagree with many of the interpretations being espoused by people to justify homosexuality. I believe a Muslim can be queer and be Muslim because the textual arguments are based on a bad analogy: that ancient homosexual rape used as a political tool or the practice of temple prostitution (http://www.worldpolicy.org/globalrights/sexorient/bible-gay.html) is not the same as a modern same sex partnership based on mutual attraction or love. Marriage Laws in Islam primarily were concerned with protecting the rights of the children brought forth between heterosexual coupling. I believe these laws need re-interpreting in the context of the modern needs of our pluralistic society. For a discussion of Islamic Feminism see http://www.geocities.com/pmndc/ExploringIslamicFeminism.htm. I think it should be noted you cannot determine a persons beliefs based on whether they wear a hijab or beard or not.

[22] One example: the 13th Amendment only conditionally eliminated slavery, slavery is still valid as a penalty for committing a crime. A vast disproportionality exists between white and black prisoners in the US.

[23] for information on COINTELPRO see http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/cointel.htm

[24] For information on how the PATRIOT Act takes away civil liberties see http://www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=12126&c=207

[25] The FBI released a terrorist alert regarding educational workshops relateing to Jeff Luers (see http://www.freefreenow.org), a corporate media report on the alert is here, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,122290,00.html

[26] see this report on FBI intimidation of activist groups, http://www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=17098&c=207 and this report http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/081704V.shtml also see “Save Our Civil Liberties” http://www.saveourcivilliberties.org/en/2004/12/830.shtml