Friday, August 22, 2008


Hari Murwanto


Kulyubi Ismangun said...


"Reflections of Humanity"
by: Dr. Ali Shariati

Debates on the definitions of culture versus barbarism, or on the question of who is civilized and who is modern are best discussed in the light of Islamic doctrine. Quite significantly, this point must be kept in mind, particularly as a matter of concern to individuals of the educated classes of Islamic societies upon whom lies the burden of responsibility and leadership of the Umma.

Modernity is one of the most delicate and vital issues confronting us, the people of non-European countries and Islamic societies. A more important issue is the relationship between an imposed modernization and genuine civilization. We must discover if modernity as is claimed is a synonym for being civilised, or if it is an altogether different issue and social phenomenon having no relation to civilisation at all. Unfortunately modernity has been imposed on us, the non-European nations, in the guise of civilization.
For the past 150 years, the West has undertaken the task of modernizing men with missionary zeal. All non-European nations were put in close contact with the West and western civilization and were to be changed to 'modern' nations. Under the guise of civilizing nations, aquainting them with culture, they presented us with this modernity, (when I say "us", I mean the non-European and third world nations), which they persisted in calling "ideal civilization". Our intellectuals should have understood years ago and made people realize the difference between civilization and modernity. But they failed to do so. Why did the educated not notice this issue during the 150 years of western modernization of their nations? I will discuss their failure in this paper later.
Before any further discussion I should like to define certain terms on which I intend to concentrate, which, if left ambiguous, should render the discussion vague. After explaining the terms, I shall address myself to the subject.
1. Intellectual: An everyday term frequently heard in Iranian society and in all societies, European or otherwise. What does it really mean? Whom do we name intellectual? Who are the intellectuals, and what is their role and responsibility in their own societies?
An intellectual is one who is conscious of his own "humanistic status" in a specific social and historical time and place. His self-awareness lays upon him the burden of responsibility. He responsibly, self-consciously leads his people in scientific, social and revolutionary action. (See also "From Where Shall We Begin" and "The Intellectual and his Social Responsibilities" by Dr. Shariati for further discussion on this).
2. Assimilation: This is at the root of all the troubles and constraints facing the non-Western and Muslim countries. Applies to the conduct of an individual who, intentionally or unintentionally, starts imitating the mannerisms of someone else. A person exhibiting this weakness forgets his own background, national character and culture or, if he remembers them at all, recalls them with contempt. Obsessively, and with no reservation, he denies himself in order to transform his identity. Hoping to attain the distinctions, and the grandeur, which he sees in another, the assimilator attempts to rid himself of perceived shameful associations with his original society and culture.
3. Alienation: The process of forgetting or becoming unfamiliar with or indifferent to one's self. That is, one loses the self and directs perceptions from within another person or thing. This grave social and spiritual illness manifests itself in many different shapes and forms and depends on many factors. One factor alienating a human being is the tools with which he works. Sociology and psychology report that a man, during his lifetime gradually tends to forget his real, independant identity as he increases his contact with a certain tool or profession more and more every day. He begins perceiving his tools in place of his selfhood.
For instance, in a person who deals with nuts and bolts every day from 8a.m. to 6 p.m. all feelings, thoughts, affections and personality will gradually become suspended. He must perform a certain mechanical task continually. Possibly an assembly belt runs in front of him and he is ordered to skip two nuts and twist the third nut once. This man, who has diverse emotions, aptitudes, thoughts, tastes, tensions, hatred, feeling and talent, becomes a body which skips two nuts and twists the third one once most of his time, during his working hours, which is also the time when he is most active and energetic. He becomes an instrument, simply a piece of equipment for production and his effort is confined to a monotonous job which he must do day after day, and in so doing, suspend all the characteristics which make up his personality.
The best among many examples of such situations was given by Charlie Chaplin in a famous film, "Modern Times", in which he plays a man originally free from any attachment or obligations, with all his desires, emotions, feelings, excitements and needs. He feels love for his sweetheart, respect for his parents and sympathy for his friends. He enjoys sitting and chatting with others, partaking of their normal customs, and exhibits a normal variety of fears, hopes, talents and responses. For instance, when he sees his mother, he displays feelings towards her as if he had not seen her for a long time. When he meets a friend from the past, he wants to spend some moments with him talking about what happened, about life and the good old days. He feels love and affection when he sees his sweetheart; he feels hatred and rancour boil when he sees his enemy. He wants to fight, attack him and gain revenge. He is a human being, with complex needs and expectations. He enjoys a good view and hates seeing a depressing one, just as a normal, free man might be expected to.
Then he goes to work in a huge and complicated factory whose functioning he cannot even conceive. He neither knows what the factory produces nor what synchronizes its many diverse elements. He applies in an office, fills out some forms and then is told to report to Mr so and so. Then, he is taken through a hall and into a room. A man comes along and tells him what to do. And just what is his job? Here is what his job is all about: there is a big hall used as a place for an assembly line where a huge metal belt constantly moves. The belt comes in from one side of the hall and goes out the other to other sections of the assembly line. He does not know where the belt comes from and where it goes and why it does so. Seven or eight workers are standing there beside each other. His job is to skip two nuts on the moving tape and twist a third nut once. And again he is to skip two and twist the third, and this he has to repeat over and over during his 10 hours of work. Then the bell rings and his day of work is over. He goes home without knowing what the nuts were and why he did what he was told to do, where they came from and where they went to and what they were used for. He cannot understand this job at all. Beside him stand the 7 or 8 other workers; they cannot even speak to each other because the belt is moving at such a speed that if he tries to find out about the worker next to him, and neglects the moving belt, he will miss the third nut, the whole factory will stop, and he will be punished or fired.
This man must be all eyes to watch the nuts. The work that he performs, this human being, is to twist the nuts once or twice and that is all. But a human being is a creature with certain characteristics. First of all, he must know the purpose of his work, and secondly, he must do a job in order to achieve a particular goal. He chooses the goal, and then, once chosen, he creates a job as a means toward that goal. He then begins during the job, to touch and feel the essence of his purpose. A certain goal and a chosen outcome limits one's work, and eventually one achieves the goal. Apart from seeking a goal while he works, being aware of the job, the man is a human with diverse feelings and urges.
Charlie Chaplin, in the role of this particular worker, sees his mother, fiancee and friend, who have come to see him in the factory. He is not yet accustomed to the rough and monotonous system of machinery; he is not broken in yet. While he is working, suddenly he sees his mother, fiancee or friend, and putting down his tools, leaves his job behind to go to say "Hello . . .. how are you?" "Where have you been?""It's been a long time since I've seen you. I missed you . . . sit down, let's have a cup of tea and. . . ."
Suddenly he sees policemen rushing in, red lights on, alarm bells ringing, inspectors coming in. What has happened? The factory control system has reported that one single nut has been skipped without being twisted, and everything has come to a standstill. "What have you done?!""How could you?!" He is arrested, blamed and punished for his negligence.
A momentary manifestation of a simple and natural human sentiment in him causes the system of machinery to break down. This clearly illustrates that in the present system there is not the slightest room for expression of a human sentiment. However, they train and control this very man who once had feelings and emotions until he becomes like a machine, too, and after 20 years of work the phrases "a human is a rational being," and "a human is a worshipping animal" and "a human is self-conscious and creative animal" and similar phrases normally used to apply to a human, no longer apply to him.
What has this man, after all, become? He is now a "nut twister animal" who skips two and twists the third nut once. On the street when this man sees a policeman with buttons like nuts on his uniform, he immediately takes out his wrenches to tighten them. He sees a woman with decoration on her hat or coat: immediately it comes to his mind to go and twist it once or twice or whatever! For him the whole world is summarized in the phrase, "Skip two and twist the third." That is his philosophy, identity, reality and title to being a human. Why does he twist? In order to eat. Why does he eat? In order to twist! A circular man!
This man no longer perceives himself as the being who once had varied sentiments, desires, needs, weaknesses, sensibilities, memories and virtues. Those have tumbled down and he has become, in the words of Marcuse, a "one-dimensional man." But Shondel calls him a "circular man" who produces for the sake of production.
This man who once was a little world, a microcosm, like God and with the attributes of God, has now been reduced to an extension of a wrench; which is to say that the character of the machine, of the bolts and of the mechanical motion, has penetrated him. He no longer considers himself as such and such, the son of so and so, from such and such a family, such and such a race and background, with such and such peculiarities. Rather he perceives himself and his reality as nothing more than part of a machine.
Alienation may sometimes become a serious mental ailment requiring the attention of a psychoanalyst. At its highest degree of intensity, it may necessitate confinement in an asylum. Alienation, which affects men through mechanical and dehumanized discipline, may be caused by bureaucracy and technology as well. As one of the sociologists put it, either Max Weber or Marcel Moose, in a complicated bureaucracy where there are many booths, all numbered, the man who has been working in, say booth 345, for 20 or 30 years and has been doing the same job for that long, generally considers himself as booth 345, rather than one having any other name or title. People address him as "booth 345" and think of him as "booth 345." And the general feeling that he is not attached to anything except "booth 345" generates in him a feeling that he is "booth 345" not Mr so and so, the son of so and so, with such and such characteristics. Such is the alienation caused by bureaucracy.
Alienated, as a word, means being possessed by a 'spirit', or in persian, a "Jinn." People believed in such 'spirits' in the past, and when a person became insane, they believed that the 'spirit' had possessed him and affected his brain. They thought that the 'spirit' had ejected his intellect and taken its place, so that the possessed no longer felt himself human but was rather an evil being. The word today means a type of sickness described by psychologists and sociologists.
As men were possessed by 'spirits' in the old days, today a man is reduced to the position of a cog in a strict, monotonous and ruthless bureaucracy due to perpetual contact with a certain mechanical tool. He no longer feels and comprehends his individuality; he has "lost" himself. As they used to believe that a "jinn" possessed man's spirit and made him insane, so today, means of production, tools and his type of work, possess him and control his spirit. They gradually obliterate his true personality and fill it instead with the characteristics of machine tools, job routine, bureaucratic hierarchy, and eventually he begins to identify himself with these.
There is another kind of "control by jinns" which possesses humanity and alienates a person or an entire class from itself. This type of alienation is more real, more frightening, and more damaging, and it is this . . . omnipresent form of alienation which affects us, the Iranians, Muslims, the Asians, and Africans. It is not an alienation caused by technology - we have not been alienated by machines. No machine is involved, nor any bureaucracy. A few administrative departments with a limited personnel are in no position to alienate any one. Nor has the Bourgeoisie reached the stage from which it could alienate us. Rather, what we are at grips withis something extremely unpleasant and dangerous - "cultural alienation."
What does "cultural alienation" mean? As we have already mentioned, alienation, in any shape or form, indicates a condition in which one does not perceive himself as he is, but rather perceives something else in his place. A man in this condition is alienated. What he conceives himself as is not his real self at all, and whether it be as money or as machine or as booth 345, his conception makes no difference at all and depends only on luck or taste.
What is culture? I am not going to quote the differing definitions of culture here. However defined, culture includes a collection of intellectual, non-material artistic, historical, literary, religious and emotional expressions (in the form of signs, traditions, customs, relics, mores) of a nation which have accumulated in the course of its history and acquired unique form. They signify the pains, desires, temperaments, social characteristics, life patterns, social relations and economics structure of a nation.
When I feel my own religion, literature, emotion, needs and pains through my own culture, I feel my own self, the very social and historical self (not the individual self), the source from which this culture has originated. Therefore, culture is the expression and super-structure of the real being of my society, actually the whole history of my society. But certain artificial factors, probably of a dubious nature, creep into a society which has well defined social conditions or social relations, developed through a specific historical framework, and aquaint it with pains, sufferings, emotions and sentiments which have an alien spirit and are a product of a different past, a different society (different both socially and economically). These artificial factors wipe out any real culture and substitute a false culture suitable for different conditions and an altogether different historical stage, a different economy, and a different political and social setup. Then, when I wish to feel my own real self, I find myself conceiving another society's culture instead of my own and bemoaning troubles not mine at all. I groan about cynicism not pertinent to cultural, philosophical and social realities of my society. I then find myself harboring aspirations, ideals and anguishes legitimately belonging to social, economic and political conditions of societies other than mine. None the less, I treat these desires, ideals, and anguish as if they were my own.
Another culture has alienated me. The dark skinned man of Africa, the Berber of North Africa, the Persian and Indian in Asia, each has a particular past and unique present. However, they feel inside particular pain and concern which they regard as their own, but which are actually offshoots of problems of periods following the Middle Ages, the 16th Century renaissance, 17th Century liberalism, the scientific progress of the 18th century, and the ideologies of the 19th century and the capitalist societies that came into being after World Wars 1 and 2.
So, African, Asian people, how does it concern you? Which problem do you have that causes you so much concern regarding its existance, solution, feeling, and reaction? It is as if I had a foot pain and put it down to nerves! Why? Because I associated with people I think more intelligent, polished, respectable and wealthy than myself, and they have "nervous disorders." Rather than admitting that my foot aches, and seeking medication for, let's say, corns; I seek a psychiatrist for the "nervous disorder" to which I attribute my pain.
My conceptions of myself are not as I actually am in reality, but as "they" are; that is, I am alienated. Is it not ridiculous to have, in a society with so much starvation and general feelings, desires and behaviour resembling those of present day Americans, English or French? The latter is surfeited with an excess of delicacies and pleasures and lacks purpose and goals. He wants rest and seeks peace. He is sick of the strict discipline imposed on him by the machine. He groans and complains of the discipline and order which have caused him so much distress. But I, suffering from the lack of technology, am yet groaning and complaining of distresses caused by technology! It's as if we were run over by a car, had broken our arms and a leg, had blood all over our face and head; and yet, we empathize and feel for the person behind the wheel, who is fed up with having to drive and run over people!
In this way non-European societies become alienated by European societies: their intellectuals no longer feel Eastern, groan like an Eastern person or aspire to be Eastern people. The intellectual does not suffer because of his own social problems, rather he conceives of the pain, sufferings, feelings and needs of an European in the final stage of capitalistic and materialistic success and enjoyment. Thus, today the most painful disorder possible sweeps non-European countries, the psychological disorder of non-Europeans who possess a unique character and yet deny it. They hold in mind something alien. They conceive of someone else and imitate him blindly.
These non-European countries in the past were real and genuine. If you had visited these countries, say 200 years ago, they would have lacked today's Western Civilization, but each and every one of them had its own authentic and solid civilization. They were unique: their desires, their delicacies, their forms of worship and all their good and bad behaviour; their action, their beauties, their philosophy, their religion - everything belongs to them. For instance, if I had gone to a country like India or any African country, I would know that they had their own unique tastes and buildings.They composed their own unique poetry, pertinant to their culture, and relevant to their lives.They had their own unique social manner. They had their own unique colors, maladies, desires and religions. All they had was their own. In spite of the fact that they were far below the level of present day civilization and material enjoyment, still, what they had, however trifling, was their own. They were not sick, poor they were, but poverty is something different from sickness.
But today, western societies have been able to impose their philosophy, their way of thinking, their desires, their ideas, their tastes and their manners upon non-Europeans countries to the same extent that they have been able to force their symbols of civilization (technological innovations) into these countries which consume new products and gadgets; countries which can never adjust themselves to European manners, longing, tastes and ways of thinking.
As Alined Yope, one of the greatest black intellectuals, puts it: "societies have come into being outside the European civilization - like our societies - which are "mosaic societies." What does he mean by "mosaic societies"? A mosaic contains hundreds of colored tiles with different shapes and colors, all pressed in a mold. What shape do these tiles make? None! A mosaic has different colors and is composed of different pieces of gravel with different shapes, but in sum has no shape. Some civilizations, too, are mosaic civilizations. That is, civilizations which carry some leftover parts from the past, some deformed parts from Europe, and the combination of the two produces a half-civilized, half-modernized society. It is a mosaic also in that we did not choose the same materials as the Europeans to make a civilization for ourselves, because we did not know what a civilization was and how to form it. It is they who gave us the form, as well.
So without knowing what to make and without having any prior intention of how to form our society according to our own tastes and thoughts, and without knowing how to integrate different parts, or properly taking from here and there according to pre-planning, we started putting together different parts and elements to build a modern but formless society with no aim or goal. In the distorted result we find parts from everywhere, some native, some European, some old-fashioned and some modern - all piled up in shapeless, aimless confusion, and in result, creating a shapeless , aimless society as well. Such societies are non European societies which, during the last century, have been able to get their construction materials from the West, in the name of civilization.
What is the origin of the emergence of this mosaic civilisation (or what I would call cameleopard societies) in non-European countries which have no special shape and no fixed goal? It is not clear what kind of societies they are; their people and intellectuals cannot understand what they live for, what their goal is, what their future holds and what their ideology contains.
The machine emerged and developed during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Europe in the hands of the capitalists and the rich. The machine has the characteristic of the need for constant increase in production when it is working. This is the machine's coercion. If it does not increase its production with 10 or 11 years, it will die out, it cannot continue to function and cannot compete with other machines. Why? Because if it does not increase its production, other machines, producing the same merchandise on a larger scale, can sell it cheaper. Therefore, the production of the obsolete machine stagnates. The machine must produce more and more to be able to pay more to labor and to put products in the market more cheaply than its competitors. Science and technology have contributed to the development of the machine and improved its efficiency. This development has changed the face of humanity today. We should not consider it as one of the problems emerging in the world today; rather, strictly speaking, there is no other problem but this, which has been before us for the last two centuries. From it grow all the other problems facing the world today.
The machine must increase its production progressively each year. Therefore,to avoid stock-piling, it must also progressively create the necessity of continuous consumption. However people's consumption does not increase at the same rate as does production. A certain society may have 30% increase in its paper consumption in 10 years and 300%, or tripling, of its paper production. Ten years ago machines produced 5 kilometers of paper per hour andtoday produce 50 kilometers per hour, while paper consumption has not risen and cannot rise to that extent.
So what is to be done about excess production or surplus? What is to be done with the extra piles of paper? New fields of consumption must be provided. Each European country has a special and particular taste and a fixed consumption; their populations do not exceed 40 to 60 million.The frantic production rate, rising constantly, exceeds the desires of people to consume. They can't keep up! Thus since the machine has compulsively produced excess goods, it must step over it's national boundary and push goods into foreign markets. When the capitalists gained control of machinery, technology and science in the 18th century, humanity's destiny was determined. Every single human on the face of the earth would be coerced into becoming a consumer for the produced merchandise. European markets became saturated rapidly; consequently the surplus goods had to go to Asia and Africa. Asians and Africans had to consume the surplus European products.
Can these products actually be taken to the East, whose pattern of life does not require them, and force their consumption? Impossible! When you enter an Asian society you notice that the Asian's clothing is made by his wife or in a native workshop. They wear traditional garments. There is no demand here for the products of factories which make machines, or "high fashion" clothes, or the "modern" fabrics of Europe. In an African society we will notice that their desires, interests and joys are confined to horse-riding and appreciation of the grace of their horses. They lack highways, drivers, ideas of machines, and the need for any of these. In their style of life their production is equal to their consumption, which is consistent with their traditions, tastes and necessities. For them, therefore, an automobile, as any other European product, is entirely redundant.
European factories produced an ever-increasing quantity of luxury goods and sought for them a market in Asian and African countries. It was out of the question to expect Asian and African men and women to use these products in the 18th century or even the 19th even if the products had been furnished free. They had other enjoyments; they had their own special native adornments. An African or Asian woman had no need for European cosmetics and no need for trinkets to beautify herself and dress up. She already had her own cosmetics, her own materials and make-up. She would use them and all would admire her. Nor would she feel any need for a change.
As a result of her attitude, the capitalist's merchandise remained unsold. People with this way of thinking, with unique necessities and tastes, who have their own life style and produce their own necessities, were not the type of people who would consume the products of 18th century European capitalists. So what to do? The problem was to make people in Asia and Africa consumers of European products. Their societies must be structured so they would buy European products. That meant changing a nation literally. They had to change the nation, and they had to transform a man in order to change his clothing, his consumption pattern, his adornment, his abode and his city. What part of him to change first? His morale and his thinking. Who could change the spirit of a society, the morale of a society and the way of thinking of a nation? In this respect, there was little the European capitalist, engineer or producer could do. Rather, it was the business of the enlightened European intellectuals to plan a special method of perverting the mind, the taste and lifestyle of the non-European, not in a way that he himself chooses, - since the change he desires might not necessitate the consumption of European products - rather his desires, his choices, his suffering, his sorrow, his tastes, his ideals, his sense of beauty, his tradition, his social relations, his amusements - all must be changed so that he is coerced into becoming a consumer of European industrial products. So the big producers and big European capitalists of the 18th and 19th centuries let the intellectuals handle this project.
This was the project: all the people of the world must become uniform. They must live alike.They must think alike. Practically, it is impossible for all the nations to think in the same way. What structural elements go into the personality and spirit of a man and nation? Religion, history, culture, past civilization, education and tradition. All of these mentioned are the structural elements of a man's personality and spirit and, in its general term, of a nation. These elements differ from one society to another. They result in one form in Europe, another in Asia and in Africa. They all have to become the same. The differences in thinking and spirits of the nations of the world must be destroyed in order for men to become uniform.They must conform, wherever they are, to a single pattern. What is this pattern? The pattern is provided by Europe: it shows all Easterners, Asians, Africans, how to think, how to dress, how to desire, how to grieve, how to build their houses, how to establish their social relations, how to consume, how to express their view, and finally how to like and what to like. Soon it is realized that a new culture called "modernization" was presented to the whole world.
Modernity was the best method of diverting the non-European world, from whatever form and mould of thinking, from their own mould, thought and personality. It became the sole task of Europeans to place the temptation of "modernization" before the non-European societies of any complexion. The Europeans realized that by tempting the inhabitant of the East with a compulsive desire for "modernization", he would cooperate with them to deny his own past and desecrate and destroy with his own hands the constituents of his own unique culture, religion and personality. So the temptation and longing for "modernization" prevailed all across the Far East, Middle East, Near East and in Islamic and Black countries - and to become modernized was regarded as becoming like the Europeans.
Strictly speaking, "modernized" means modernized in consumption. One who becomes modernized is one whose tastes now desire "modern" items to satisfy his wants. In other words, he imports from Europe new forms of living and modern products, and he does not use new types of products and a lifestyle developed from his own original and national past. Non-Europeans are modernized for the sake of consumption. Westerners, however, could not just tell others they were going to reshape their intellect, mind and personality for fear of awakening resistance. Therefore, the Europeans had to make non-Europeans equate "modernization" with "civilization" to impose the new consumption pattern upon them, since everyone has a desire for civilization. "Modernization" was defined as "civilization" and thus people cooperated with the European plans to modernize. Even more than the bourgeois and capitalist, the non-European intellectual labored mightily to change consumption patterns and lifestyles in their societies. Since the non-Europeans could not produce the new products, they became automatically dependant upon the technology which produces for them and expects them to buy whatever it produces.
While studyingin Europe, I heard of an automobile factory that advertised high-paying jobs for sociologists and psychologists. I was looking for a job, and besides I became very interested in knowing why a car factory needed sociologists and psychologists. So I went there for a job interview with the man in the public relations department. He asked me, "Perhaps you are wondering why we are recruiting sociologists while we usually hire mechanical engineers and the like?" I said yes. He brought out a map of all of Asia and Africa and pointed to some cities, telling me that in some there was a great demand for the cars and many customers but that in others there was no demand. He continued:"We can't find out why there is no demand from engineers. It is the sociologists' task to find out what these people like and why they don't buy cars, so we can change the color or design of the cars, if possible, and if not, make them change their taste." Then he gave me an example of European sociologists' success in modernizing a certain tribe.
He showed me a wooded and mountainous area on the bank of the Chad River in Africa where many long-nomadic tribes lived. People there did not wear clothes and kept cattle for a living. He pointed out some areas where a group of people lived around the tribal chief's castle. They had no schools, no roads or highways, no clothes and no houses. They lived in tents. Then he told me that the chief of this semi-wild village had parked two modern Renaults with gold trim in front of his palace.
"These natives were only interested in horses originally. The person who possessed the best horse was the most well-known and envied. Everyone tried to raise the best horse as a means of self-glorification and achieving dominance. As long as this kind of consciousness predominated in the tribe," the car employer told me, "no-one would buy a car. Rather, all of them would continue to buy horses, and we do not produce any horses. So we tried to think of a way to make the natives buy the automobiles we produce in Europe."
"The women of the tribe make themselves up attractively with preparations made of gum and sap from the forest, and everyone likes their style. Happy with their local culture, folk dance and native food, it is obvious that no women in the tribe will buy Christian Dior cosmetics nor would the men buy Renaults. Europeans never even tried to sell them anything. But eventually a development allowed the European sociologists an opportunity to change the taste of the natives. The chief of the tribe used to tie two beautiful horses with his best hunting dog in front of his headquarters, and now we have changed his taste. We have modernized him: instead of tying up his horses in front of his place, now, he takes pride in parking there the two Renaults with golden trim."
I asked him with surprise: " But they don't have any roads?" "They have built a temporary 8 kilometer road," he said.
"When the chief of the tribe first bought the car, every morning he would take a ride and all the people of the tribe would gather and watch the car. He did not know how to drive, so he hired one from here. The driver worked for him eight months and received a handsome salary. There were no gas stations near the tribe, so the gas was bought from far distances by boat."
So the goal of the capitalist was not really to civilize this tribe but to modernize it. The chief who was proud of his horse and was a horse rider is now proud of his car and enjoys driving it. The chief of the tribe, like many other Asians or non-Europeans, has become modernized but one must really be naive to judge superficially that he has become civilised as well.
Modernization is changing traditions, mode of consumption and material life from old to new. People made the old ways; machines produce the new. To make all the non-Europeans modernized, they first had to overcome the influence of religion, since religion causes any society to feel a distinctive individuality. Religion postulates an exalted intellectuality to which everyone relates intellectually. If this intellect is crushed and humiliated, the one who identifies himself with it feels also crushed and humiliated. So native intellectuals began a movement against "fanaticism". As Franz Fanon says: "Europe intended to captivate the non-European by the machine. Can a human or society be enslaved by a machine or certain European product without taking away or depriving him of his personality?" No, it can not. The personality must be wiped out first.
Since religion, history, culture, as a totality of intellect, thought, amassed art and literature give personality to a society, they all have to be destroyed, too. In the 19th century I would feel as an Iranian that I was attached to a great civilization of the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th centuries of Islam which was unparallelled in the world and had the whole world under its influence. I would feel that I was attached to a culture, more than 2000 years old, which in various forms and shapes, had created new intellectualism, new art and literature in the world of humanity. I would feel that I was attached to the Islam that was the newest, the most sublime and the most universal religion, creating all those intellectualities and dissolving all those different civilizations in itself to create a greater civilization. I would feel attached to the Islam which created the most beautiful spirit and the most sublime face of humanity, and I could also feel, as a human, that I had a unique personality in the eyes of the world and every person in it. So how could they convert such an "I" into a gadget whose only function is to consume new products?
They would deprive him of his personality. He must be dispossessed of all the "I's" he feels within. He must be forced to believe himself related to a humbler civilization, a humbler social order, and accept that European civilization, Western civilization and the Western race are superior. Africa must believe that an African is a savage, so that he is tempted to become "civilized" and put himself readily into the hands of the Europeans who will determine his fate. The poor man does not realise that he is being modernized instead of being civilized. That is why we see that all of a sudden in the 18th and 19th centuries the Africans were described as savages and cannibals. Those Africans who had dealt with the Islamic civilisation for centuries were never known as cannibals. Suddenly the Black African becomes a cannibal, has a special smell, has a special race. The grey part of his brain does not work, and the forepart of his brain, like the Asian's, is shorter compared to the Westerner's!
Even their doctors and biologists have 'proven' (!) that the Westerner's brain has an extra gray peel, which Easterners and Blacks lack!! They also have 'proven' that the Westerner's brain has an additional length to the genes in the brain cells which allows him to think better than a non-Westerner! Then we see that a new culture was built on a basis of "Western superiority" and "the superiority of its civilization and its people". They made us and the world believe that the European was exceptionally talented mentally and technically, whereas the Easterner had strange emotional and gnostic talents and the Negro was only good for dancing, singing, painting and sculpture.
Consequently, the world was divided into three distinct races: one which can think, that is, the European(!) (right from the days of ancient Greece up to now!) and the one which can only feel or make poetry, the Easterner, who has only mystical and gnostic feelings, and the Black, who can dance, sing and play good jazz.
Then this very way of thinking, which was introduced to the world to justify the need for modernizing the non-European nations, became the basis of thought for the non-European elites as well. We see how they created a conflict between the "modernized" and the "old-fashioned" in non-European societies for 100 years; a conflict which was, and still is, the most senseless fight one has ever seen.
Modernization in what? In consumption, not in mind. Old fashioned in what? In the form of consumption. It was natural that the fight ended in favor of modernization, and even if it had ended otherwise, it would not have been to the benefit of the masses. In this fight, the fight between the modernized and civilized, the European was the leader. In the name of civilization, the campaign for modernization was carried on, and then for 100 years, for more than 100 years, the non-European societies themselves strove to become modernized under the leadership of their sophisticated intellectuals.
Let us consider the genesis and composition of this class of intellectuals. Jean Paul Sartre in the preface to "The Wretched of the Earth" points out: "We would bring a group of African or Asian youth to Amsterdam, Paris, London......for a few months, take them around, change their clothes and adornments, teach them etiquette and social manners as well as some fragment of language. In short, we would empty them of their own cultural values and then send them back to their own countries. They would no longer be the kind of person to speak their own mind; rather they would be our mouthpieces. We would cry the slogans of humanity and equality and then they would echo our voice in Africa and Asia, "-manity","-quality."
These were the persons who convinced people to lay aside their orthodoxy, discard their religion, get rid of native culture (as these had kept them behind the modern European societies) and become westernized from the tip of the toe to the top of the head!
How is it possible to become Europeanized through export and exchange? Is civilization a product that one can export and import from one place to another? Of course not ; but modernity is the collection of modern products which can be imported by a society within a period of 1,2 or 5 years. A certain society can be completely modernized within a few years. Likewise an individual could also become throughly modernized, even more modernized than the European himself. You can change his mode of consumption and he becomes modernized. That is exactly what the Europeans were expecting.
But it is not so simple to civilise a nation or a society. Civilization and culture are not European-made products whose ownership makes anyone civilized. But they made us believe that all modernization nonsense was a manifestation of civilization! And we eagerly threw away everything we had, even our social prestige, morality and intellect, to become thirsty suckers of what Europe was eager to trickle into our mouths. This is what modernity really means.
Thus a being was created devoid of any background, alienated from his history and religion, and a stranger to whatever his race, his history and his forefathers had built in this world; alienated from his own human characteristics, a second-hand personality whose mode of consumption had been changed, whose mind has been changed, who had lost his old precious thoughts, his glorious past and intellectual qualities and has now become empty within. As Jean Paul Sartre puts it: "In these societies an "assimilae"- meaning a quasi-thinker and quasi-educated person - was created, not a real thinker or intellectual."
A real intellectual is one who knows his society, is aware of it's problems, can determine its fate, is knowledgeable about its past and who can decide for himself. These quasi-intellectuals, however, succeeded in influencing the people. Who were these quasi-intellectuals in non-European societies? They were intermediaries between those who had the products and those who had to consume the products. A mediator who, aquainted both with the Europeans and with his own people, eased the way of colonization and exploitation.
That was why they created native intellectuals who did not dare to choose for themselves, who don't have the courage to maintain their own opinions and who cannot decide for themselves. Such persons came to be deemed mean and inferior to the extent that when asked about the flavor of their food, the music they listen to, the clothes they wear, they do not have the conviction to say whether they like or dislike them. This is because it is no longer they who decide. They have to be told that such and such a dress is worn in Europe, and so they can like it. They are told that a particularly bitter food, which to them tastes like poison, is eaten in Europe and, therefore, they can eat it, even if it does not suit their taste. They eat it anyway because the Europeans eat it; they lack the courage and assurance to say they dislike it.
In Europe and America, when people go to a place where jazz is being played and they don't like it, they just say so bluntly, and loudly. But in Eastern countries no one can be brave enough to say "Jazz is bad and I do not like it." Why? Because they have not left him enough personality and human value to let him choose the color of his dress and the flavor of his food. As Fanon says: "In order for Eastern countries to be the followers of Europe and imitate her like a monkey, they should have proven to the non-Europeans that they do not possess the same quality of human values as the Europeans do. They should have belittled their history, literature, religion and art to make them alienated from all of it. We can see that the Europeans did just that."
They have created a people who do not know their own culture, but still are ready to despise it. They know nothing about Islam but say bad things about it. They cannot understand a simple poem but criticize it with poorly chosen words. They do not understand their history but are ready to condemn it. On the other hand, without reservation they admire all that is imported from Europe. Consequently, a being was created who, first became alienated from his religion, culture, history and background, and then came to despise them. He was convinced he was inferior to the European. And when such a belief took root in him, he tried and wished to refute himself, to sever his connections with all the objects attached to him and somehow make himself like a European, who was not despised and looked down upon, and at least be able to say, "Thank God I am not an Easterner since I modernized myself sufficiently to reach the level of a European."
And while the non-European is happy with the idea that he has been modernized, the European capitalist and bourgeois laugh at their success in converting him into a consumer of their surplus production.

Kulyubi Ismangun said...

Selection and/or Election
by: Dr. Ali Shariati

The Prophet Mohammad, (pbuh), upon his last
pilgrimage, appointed Hazrat Ali as his successor.
Why was he not elected later on?

In my opinion, this is a very fundamental question.
The whole of Shi'ism can be found in the answer. In other words, it
is a very delicate issue and one should not give a brief reply. I will
try, as far as is possible, within the limitation of time and place, to
clarify the point. I just want to emphasize that this is my own
personal point of view. When we are dealing with the reality and the
Truth of religion, we must reflect more and give them careful
consideration .
This problem is really a fundamental one. When we look at the
collection of reasons which our Sunni brothers present in confirming
their point of view after the Prophet of Islam, we find many reasons
which seem true and are True. On the other hand, if we look
through the eyes of an objective scholar and take into account the
reasonings the Shi'ites give to confirm their ideas, we will conclude
that the majority of Shi'ite reasonings also seem correct, deep and
firm. Therefore, how is it possible that two groups who think in
opposite and contradictory terms which conflict with each other both
seem to be right in the arguments they use?
In general terms, the main argument of our Sunni brothers is this:
If anyone should have been appointed after the Prophet of Islam by
God, just as the Prophet was obliged to announce and teach the
verses of the Qoran clearly, carefully and in a way so that they could
not be denied, he also had a duty to show the same care and clarity in
announcing the successor who had been appointed by God in order
to prevent any plot, rejection, explanation or interpretation which
may occur in the future.

But we see that circumstances were such that, after the Prophet,
not only did the Emigrants [the people who migrated with the
Prophet from Mecca to Medina and who cast their votes for other
Caliphs as well] but also the Helpers, that is, the citizens of Medina,
gathered in Saqifoh [area belonging to the Sa'ebah tribe] to them-
selves elect the Caliph.
It becomes clear, then, that all of the Moslems in Medina felt that
they should elect the leader among themselves. That is, they should
select the Prophet's successor.
Our Sunni brothers, in order to prove their argument, also
mention the point that the Prophet, in the last moments of his life,
intended to write out a statement clarifying the matter of succession,
but because of the protests, he abandoned his intention to write such
a statement. Therefore, if he had had the mission to write such an
official decree from God, he could not have overlooked it just because
this or that person protested or argued against it and so he did not
announce that Hazrat Ali had been appointed by God as the
Prophet's successor.
Our Sunni brothers also say that although Ali did protest the
election of the Caliph and even a few months later did not officially
approve the decision, later on he did confirm it and for whatever
reason, officially accepted them.
Therefore, if the position of Ali, like that of prophecy, came from
God, in no way, form or terms could Ali give his approval to anyone
else. Thus he could not officially approve of another person as his
own successor.
But the argument of Shi'ism goes like this: The succession to the
Prophet differs from a political successor. The Prophet did not just
hold a political position, as to lead us to claim to say that he did not
have the right to appoint his successor and people should elect the
one who is to govern them, one after another. But the Prophet, as a
thinker, master, and teacher was not appointed by the people so that
his successor should also be selected by them.
The Prophet was appointed by God. Therefore, even if all of the
people do not accept that he is the Prophet and even if not one person
gave the Prophet of Islam his vote. still the Prophet of Islam ;R the
Prophet of Islam and even if all people were to give their vote to him,
his position would not be strengthened in the least way. The fact of
the matter is that the station of prophethood is not a popularly,
elective office. It is not a power which people give to a person. Thus a
Prophet is not an elected individual. It is for this reason that his
mission and the continuity of his movement must be put into the
hands of a successor who is qualified for the same type of leadership
and mission as that of the Prophet himself.
For example, in a city, the mayor of that city takes his power from
the people and is elected by them. When he dies or his term ends, the
people choose another mayor to replace him. But when a teacher has
brought a new school of thought into being where he gives a special
class, and no one else can teach that class the way he can, and he has
initiated that particular approach, when a group of his students
gather around him and have found faith in him, it is the teacher who
recognizes which of his students or friends is most worthy to continue
his teaching. A teacher or a professor is not selected from the votes of
the people. It is a teacher who selects another teacher and this is a
method that all people accept.
If an expert cardiologist is going on a trip, the people cannot hold
a referendum to choose another person as a cardiologist. People
cannot decide who is an expert in this area and they may select
someone who knows nothing about the heart. It is the cardiologist
who knows who can perform his job in his absence. It is for this
reason that the majority of people, not all of them, listen to his
recommendation and approve the person he appoints. This is true all
over the world.
Therefore, if the Prophet of Islam had only been a political power,
others could select someone as his successor. But he was a moral
power and an expert, who was not selected by the people and who
had a very special divine mission and had the right to tell the people
and appoint for them a person who is most worthy to continue his
mission and people have to obey him.
Now, taking these two arguments into consideration, which one
should you choose?
In general, Shi'ism believes that after the Prophet, the leadership
of the community should be appointed by the Prophet himself. As the
Prophet announced his mission without the permission of the people,
built his society and trained individuals, so that after him, his school
should be continued by one who is most similar to him, one carefully
trained by him, one most familiar with his thoughts and teachings.
But our Sunni brothers believe that the Prophet formed an Islamic
society, revealed the Qoran, the book of Islam, and ended his
mission. The principles and directives of the Islamic community
were fixed. Therefore, after the Prophet, we only need a political
and social leader to rule and defend the community and we will
select him according to our own discernment.
Which one of these arguments is incorrect and should be rejected?
In my opinion, neither. Both of them are logical and correct.
What a Shitite says complies with wisdom and logic. Even today it
is in accordance with social circumstances and with the Traditions of
the Prophet.
The Prophet, from the beginning of his mission up until his death,
always relied on Ali. Hundreds of cases, occasions and clear exam-
ples exist to show that the final opinion and hope of the Prophet was
with Ali and his family to continue his mission.
On the other hand, Islam provides for decision making by council.
We see that the Prophet himself in his life-time held councils and
even, at times, preferred another's opinion over his own and he did
not impose himself upon them.
We saw with the battle of Ohod, the Prophet intended to remain
in Medina while the younger people wanted to leave Medina and
fight. After a vote, the young people won. The Prophet was in the
minority. The Prophet immediately went out and returned armed
for battle.

At the battle of Badr there were seven wells. The Prophet camped
by the first one. A soldier came and asked him, 'Did you receive a
revelation and camp here or was it your own decision ?'

The Prophet answered, 'It was my own decision.'

The soldier then said, 'It would be better for you to camp by the
seventh well so that all of the other six wells would be behind the
The Prophet immediately said, 'You are right,' and he ordered the
camp to move to the seventh well so that the enemy would not have
tactical access to them.
In the battle of Muteh, the Prophet appointed three commanders,
Jaffar, Zeid ibn Haritha and Abdullah ibn Ravaheh so that if one
were killed, the others could take over in succession. When it turned
out that all of them were killed and the Prophet had not chosen a
fourth leader, the people chose Khaled as their commander. The
Prophet accepted the elected.
We see that even knowing the position of the Prophet, he
permitted the people to vote and express their opinions. He valued
the vote of the majority in social affairs. Thus counsel by council
(showra) in Islam is the most important principle in running society,
while leadership of a social group is a universal principle. The
Traditions (sunnah) of the Prophet show how much importance
Mohammad placed in his personal actions on counsel and on
yielding to public opinion and the votes of the majority.
On the other hand, the issue of selection by appointment (vesayat),
and the Prophet's stress upon particular persons for the continuation
of his mission, is one which cannot be denied by either side. People
may try to explain it away but no one can deny the essential fact of
How can the two contradictory opinions be resolved? On the one
hand, we have the principles of the Qoran, the Traditions of the
Prophet and the spirit of Islam, reliance on people, public council
and majority votes. On the other hand, we have the person of the
Prophet himself, who with respect to the Caliphate and its successor-
ship, specified selection by appointment.
How can we explain why the Prophet, at his last battle, Tabuk,
leaves the brave warrior Ali behind in Medina and takes an old
Sheykh and the elders, who can no longer fight, with him to battle.
During the last days of his life, confined to his bed, he sent an
army beyond the north frontier, that is, the second front. He sent all
the most important Islamic figures together with his army and put
an eighteen year old youth, Osameh, the son of Zeid ibn Harithah,
as its head. This was the army and they were sent to the border. Now
it is obvious what he was saving Ali for.
The Prophet sends 65 year old men from the elders of Medina and
from amongst the Qoraish, under the command of the youth,
Osameh, while Ali, who is the greatest of officers, is kept in Medina.
What did he have in mind for Ali? What was he keeping him for?
Ali was a man of the battlefield, not of the house.
In the Prophet's last moments with all the fervour to press his
cause, he sends this army out while aware that he is dying and
knowing that Medina will be defenseless without his army. Yet, in
spite of all of this, he takes the risk. Why? For Ali to remain alive
For the battle of Tabuk, the Prophet himself, then being 62 years
old, accompanied the army. He had to go through hundreds of miles
of the most terrible desert to reach there for the second battle. All the
Emigrants and his Companions accompanied him except Ali. Ali
was kept at home.
A few days later, Ali could stand it no longer. He caught up with
the Prophet on the way and asked him, 'Why have you kept me in
Medina? People criticize me. They taunt me.
The Prophet turned to him and with particular emphasis said, 'I
have left you for what I have left. I have kept you for what I have left
behind me.' It becomes clear that Mohammad wanted Ali to remain
On the other hand, it is not logical or acceptable to think that
people who had given all they had to the Prophet, people who had
sacrificed their whole beings, wealth and prestige in the way of the
Prophet and all the Emigrants and Helpers who made so many
self-sacrifices and were devoted to the Prophet, should, then, take as
their fundamental and absolute principle, the idea of selection by
That they would take a false principle, which does not exist and
with this false principle, destroy the clear right of another and that
all Moslems would confirm this innovation, such a thing is not
possible. Then what happened?
That which occurred and generally continued after the Prophet
consists of a universal principle that if all of this sentence be
completely understood and be made clear, my answer will be
finished. (It is something which is the same in all intellectual and
social processes.) And that is this that: in order to do away with a
right, another right will be cited.
It is always so that in order to do away with a principle in a school
of thought, another principle which is also a part of that school of
thought will be brought forward. It is not possible to turn believing
Moslems away from performing a principle of their religion.
Then how can this be done ? By directing them to another
principle which is also part of their religion. For example, if a
religious group wants to perform a social action and another group
wants to prevent them from doing so, they cannot distract the
faithful, whose whole lives have been spent in worship and pilgrim-
age with, for instance, some jazz music. They will pay absolutely no
attention to it.
What do they do? They rely on another principle which exists in
their religion and by doing so take their attention away from the first

Is this point clear or not?

It is possible to prevent spiritual struggle ( jihad ) through stress
upon the ritual prayer but not by dance. The faithful mojahed [one
engaged in spiritual struggle], will not leave his or her jihad to go off
dancing. But it is possible that they neglect the jihad in order to
perform the ritual prayer as a believer may not be aware of
neglecting one principle because of devoting too much attention to

In order to prevent a social religious action, stress on an individual
religious action may stand in the way of performing that social
religious action. This is why religious people may deviate by means
of a principle which is part of their religion. This is why the
principle of selection by appointment or the right to appoint the
precise successors, after the Prophet of Islam, who should have been
appointed by the Prophet himself and were, in fact, was contradicted
by another principle which is the principle of allegiance through
popular consensus in public council. This latter principle also exists
in Islam, is present in the Qoran, can be found in the Traditions of
the Prophet and is not against the spirit of Islam but rather is
completely compatible with it.
If the principle of allegiance, counsel and election by the people
was false and forged, only five, ten or twenty charlatans would have
accepted it, only they would have sought it out, and such a principle
would never have been accepted by Islamic society and the great
Companions of the Prophet. Then why did the majority of the
people not object? Why did they accept it so easily? Because it is an
Islamic principle. How can it be then that one Islamic principle
contradicts another one? How indeed?

In law, in legal philosophy and in social issues, a principle exists
and that is this: Often one principle overrides another one. This also
holds in religious precepts. Once when the Prophet had gone on
jihad, he instructed his army in the middle of the day to break the
fast. Isn't fasting a principle and jihad a principle, as well?

At the battle of Tabuk, against the Romans, the Prophet
instructed all of his forces to be saddled up. A trickster, who used the
pretext of religion, who sensed a way of getting out of work (it seems
that this type of person has increased in Islam these days), went to
the Prophet and said, 'I have a weak point which does not allow me
to participate in this battle.'
The Prophet asked, 'What is that weak point?'
He said, 'My problem is that my sensibilities are very delicate and
I lose myself in the face of beauty. I am afraid that if I were to go off
with you to Tabuk, I would lose myself in front of all those beautiful
Roman girls and the devil might tempt me and I would lose my faith.
This is why, with your permission, I will not accompany you.'
The Prophet, angered, said, 'Get out of here. Die!' So much did
Mohammad despise those who sought to deceive the Prophet by
means of Islam.
We see that when that person wanted to get out from under a
religious duty, he tried to avoid performance of the first duty by
using another religious duty as an excuse. It is not as if he had said, 'I
can't go with you because I want to go gambling tonight.' He would
hardly have said that.
Therefore, there is always a principle which overrides another
one. This is why they show preference for a higher principle in order
to be able to adhere to a lower one, both of which are part of this
But here there is another point and that is this that the principle of
appointment by selection is the appointment of a successor by means
of a leader, in other words, the Prophet. The principle of allegiance
and a governing council is the election of a successor by means of the
people. Could these two contrary principles really stem from the
same religion? I believe they can. How? What can I cite to prove my
point ?
I must explain that Shi'ites, without any doubt, believe that the
successors to the Prophet of Islam, who were appointed by the
Prophet, are 12 people. We do not believe that there are any more
than these. But we know that the Prophet of Islam knew his religion
to be the last religion, that is, a religion which humanity would
follow forever. How is it that the Prophet first says, 'Islam is an
eternal religion' and then, when he wants to appoint a leader for his
society, he only chooses 12 people for his society? And this, not
forever? He did not say that my progeny, whoever they are and
wherever they are, would lead my society forever. He never said such
a thing. Imamate is not an endowment for his children. It is only
these 12 people in particular, successors who have been marked out
and specified by the Prophet.
Now the question arises. Let us suppose that the words and
opinions of the Prophet were realized and after the Prophet, 12
successors followed him and led and governed and guided society and
history as the Prophet wished. But then what would have happened
if no one had been designated? He speaks of no one else. Thus it
becomes clear that after the rule of the specified individuals, who
believe that their religion and leadership is eternal, we would have to
accept the second principle, that is, the principle of councilor election
and allegiance.
Thus, the issue looks like this. There are two historic phases after
the Prophet. One is a temporary phase of the 12 leaders of Islamic
society. They guide Islamic history in order to foster Islamic society.
This is organized by means of 12 particular individuals chosen by
the Prophet.
The Prophet remained silent about the second phase. Religion and
society continue. Therefore, again we should adhere to the second
principle which is also an Islamic principle, the principle of council
and allegiance.
This is the principle which today all of the intellectuals of the
third world, Latin America, Africa, Asia and especially the countries
which have most recently become independent are basing their
societies upon. They believe in this principle.
That is, they have a revolution. Through the help of their
intellectuals and thinkers, they get rid of the colonizers and they free
their society. Later, when they want to build their society, they see
that if they act according to the votes of the people and rely upon
them, these people are people who sell their vote for a nickel. They
get together a hundred votes by offering them hot soup.
In a tribe of five or ten thousand people, where all ten thousand
people have one vote, that vote belongs to the chief. If you buy out the
Khan (he can usually be bought out with a coat or a bangle), you
have 10,000 votes. Thus when the enemy is strong and a society has
not yet been shaped and it has a tribal or group pattern, someone has
influence and he fixes the votes, and in that society, there are people
with power, respect, force, wealth and influence. The individuals in
the mass of society still do not have the freedom of vote or have not
developed a political awareness. In such a society, the revolutionary
leader has done away with the colonizers and has freed society. But
the society has still not been shaped. The prior factors still exist in
addition to external enemies who encourage them. Therefore, if we
want to elect a leader by public vote, the person who is elected will
only serve the enemy.
This is why in these societies, they do not give the leadership into
the hands of the people who know nothing about leading. They keep
the revolutionary group who began the revolution. For a time, a
stage exists which is called 'revolutionary,' or 'democracy engaged in
social action,' which is ruled by the revolutionary group and the
generation after the revolutionary group chosen by the revolutionary
leader. They rule the people even without the vote of the people.
Until when? Until the time when the votes of the people are equal
to the real number of people in the population. Democracy means
leadership by means of allegiance and council by election. This is one
principle of Islam but only in societies where the leaders each have
one vote as well. But if 10,000 people watch and see what so and so
says or so and so does, these 10,000 people are not 10,000 votes.
Thus, in the society at the time of the Prophet, which had been
built in a period of 10 years, the aristocrats were still alive, the elders
were more respected than the younger men. We saw that the Prophet
promoted Zeid ibn Osameh and his martyred father. They were as
dear to him as his own eyes. He was so full of admiration for this
father and son that the Prophet did not yield under the protest of the
elders who said, 'he is only 18 years old and too young.'
This habit is still present in the 20th century and in our societies.
They say, 'It is true he is more worthy and virtuous, more willing,
more realistic, more brave and more aware, but he is too young and
does not have enough experience.
They prefer an old, weak, sick-man who can hardly move and has
to be picked up and carried over a younger man. We today still think
in the same way.
The society of Medina, at that time, was similar to the present
societies of Africa, Latin America and Asia, which are beginning
to come out of the pressure of decline, colonialism, and lack of
awareness. They have a revolutionary period during which
time a revolutionary leadership exists, not a democratic leader-
ship based on public votes.
During this temporary period, they try to arm society from the
inside and develop the society's political awareness to such an extent
as to make the members of that society independent. Political,
intellectual and ideological characteristics are in the process of being
developed in order to be able to eliminate the external enemy and
remove the internal and external agents.
After that, a progressive society is formed where each person has
an independent vote and the ability to make political distinctions.
Such a society has arrived at the stage of allegiance and council by
election. This society has reached a stage where people gather
around each other, everyone consulting with the other one, and by
recognizing the best person, not because of influence, wealth or
power of this or that one, gives an independent vote.
But a society which is still not developed, where the votes are still
tribal, clan or family, consisting of Emigrants and Companions, to
rely on such a social grouping is to rely on the enemy controlled
public vote and public life because society has not had time for
political, intellectual, social or religious development. They sell
themselves, their destiny and their future cheaply. That's the way it
Thus we must accept the fact that a society, shaped within a ten
year period, cannot, from a cultural and individual point of view, be
fully formed in such a short period of time.
The Islamic society is an established community in which every
individual is an independent person, with the ability to make
distinctions and is the controller of his or her vote.
Thus after the Prophet of Islam, the ten years of his work should
have been extended to 100 years more, 150 years, 200 years. It
should have continued until Islamic society became a society where
each individual, without influence or pressure from others, could
vote and vote correctly. This is why (and certainly it is logical) that
after the Prophet, instead of the Umayyad Caliphate and the
Abbasid Caliphate, instead of Yazid, Hosein would have come.
Instead of Mo'awiyeh, Hasan would have been the successor and
would have ruled instead of Soffah, Imam Baqer, instead of Marwan,
Imam Jaffar Sadeq.
If it had taken this form, after 250 years, under their leadership,
Islamic society would have been governed by people like this. We
would have had elections. People could have chosen the most suitable
person because they would have had social growth and then the
public vote and public allegiance could not have been played with
and mocked after 30 years of Mo'awiyeh by appointing Yazid as his
hereditary Caliph.
Thus my objection is not allegiance and council by election (this is
my personal opinion), not to the principle of appointment by
selection. The principle of appointment by selection, according to
Shi'ites, is a reality which exists in history, it is a logical and rational
truth which was necessary and it should have been this way.
And allegiance and council by election, which our brothers
emphasize, from the point of view of sociology, humanity and the
seeking of freedom, is a progressive principle which exists in Islam
and in the Traditions of the Prophet.
But here I only want to say that the elections which were held
immediately after the death of the Prophet in Saqifeh, should
have taken place 250 years later.


WE SEE that the problem of Imamate is not only a belief in 12
pious men, but it is a belief in a human, lasting regime as
opposed to other kinds of regimes. It is not a belief in something that
merely happened and as some say, can now be discarded. We are not
looking to go back to the past and old hostilities because this would
be a betrayal of Islam, the Sunnis, the Shi'ites and to all humanity.
We are not looking to create disunity. We do not want to re-create
the spitefulness of the past, ever.
Not only do we seek to avoid creating disunity, but more impor-
tantly we are striving to establish a powerful unity so that our Sunni
brothers no longer make us out to be forgerers nor do we condemn
them as apostates.
This factor exists which gives truth to Shi'ism, but it does not exist
in a corner of Islam but rather it itself is a part of understanding the
whole of Islam and it also provides an understanding of the present
as well.