On the Other: A Muslim View

On the Other: A Muslim View

Resmir Mahmutćehajić
Translated by Desmond Maurer
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    On the Other: A Muslim View
    Book Description:

    An exceptionally timely book by a leading European exponent of Muslim intellectual tradition, On the Other: A Muslim View is a concise and accessible exploration of the foundations of Islamic thought on human nature, our place in the cosmos, and our proper relationship to the divine, based on peace, knowledge, love, beauty, humility, and respect for and acceptance of others and difference. Applying sound linguistic and historical scholarship and a profound knowledge of the Qur'anic sources, the author analyzes the key Arabic terms to show that Islam is a religion of peace, rather than of irrational submission to some higher instance. Having demonstrated how poor cultural translation of core terms has contributed to a distorted picture of Islam in the West and among some Muslims, the author provides systematic explication of the most important concepts and beliefs of the Muslim tradition, as well as interpretation of the symbolism underlying its most important practices as one of the paths through which God calls us to Himself. In doing so, he tackles directly the claim that the Holy Qur'an enjoins hatred, violence, bigotry, and racism, particularly against the Jews. By clear exposition and contextualization of some of the most controversial and most frequently cited verses, he demonstrates how they have been misunderstood and misapplied, misrepresenting a message of profound respect for the multiple paths to God and the multitude of his prophets and for the variety and radical difference that is constitutive of humanity. The author shows that in reality these misunderstood verses represent a plea for the recognition of and respect for difference, one that is timelier now more than ever. On the Other: A Muslim View provides an excellent introduction to the Muslim intellectual tradition for those who wish to penetrate beyond the stereotypes put forward by ideologists on both sides of the East-West divide, an introduction that reveals the rational, tolerant, and fundamentally peaceful faith of the vast majority of practicing Muslims.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4823-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. 1. I, Thou, and He
    (pp. 1-6)

    Tolerance is a relationship between one human being and another or others.¹ We tolerate the other or others, who are, as a result, tolerated. This is an inevitable aspect of human being, which is finite being (that is, both with and within limits). These relationships are established either on the same levels or among different levels. The tolerating subject may be humble or arrogant vis-à-vis the tolerated. The reasons for taking one attitude or the other are crucially important for both parties. Any discussion of the relationship of tolerance from a muslim point-of-view must begin by noting that the word...

  5. 2. The One and the Many
    (pp. 7-12)

    Looking at how an individual relates to self or an environment made up of both similar and different people, we can distinguish certain behavior as clearly unacceptable and undermining of that individual’s or of other people’s dignity. If that person is a declared Jew, Christian, or Muslim, the unacceptability of his or her attitude toward others and the different may be examined from the point-of-view he or she claims to belong to and not just those they consider alien. Insofar as Jewish, Christian, or Muslim individuals all consider their affiliation total, unacceptable behavior can be interpreted as representing a degree...

  6. 3. The Stranger
    (pp. 13-19)

    As individuals, each of us is in relation with him-or herself, the countless multitude of other persons, and the world as a whole, which is made up of an indeterminable diversity of phenomena and levels of being. Both the individual and everyone together are, like the world as a whole, a revelation of Unity. He is their inner core. Each of us, however, is cut off from the One, both recollecting and forgetting Him through the countless multitude of signs in both outer and inner worlds.

    Our relationship to ourselves involves a split between body and Spirit, whose relations change...

  7. 4. Self-Knowledge
    (pp. 20-26)

    Our highest faculty is self-knowledge. This knowledge always meets its limit in the other or stranger. Knowing oneself entails knowledge of the other. But to know oneself also means to redeem oneself (through self-realization). This is possible only through transgression of that limit and redeeming the other (by bringing about this self-realization). The other cannot, however, be confined to the great chain of being. Preoccupied with ourselves, we are led to questions about the self, the body, and society. The question of the self cannot be answered by neglecting its corporeal expression. But, just like the self as a whole,...

  8. 5. The Sense-of-Self and the Debt
    (pp. 27-33)

    Islamis the key word in every muslim’s identity. It signifies a religious doctrine, its impact on history, and its potential future influence. That is how the term is used for the most part today, although its original (and authentic) meaning refers to our relationship with transcendent beginning and end.

    As is always the case with human identities and the associated terminology, this all-comprehensive name seems close to us because muslims use it as the keyword of their existence. It also seems remote because others often use it in a way entirely opposed to the feelings and beliefs of muslims....

  9. 6. Being-at-Peace
    (pp. 34-40)

    Each of us is, as such, life, consciousness, will, power, and speech. But not that alone. We are much more, but nevertheless remain between void and the Absolute. Our life, consciousness, will, power, and discourse are conditioned. In them, their opposites are also revealed—death, unconsciousness, the unwilled, impotence, and speechlessness. These attributes belong absolutely to God alone, so that there is no life but Life, no consciousness but Consciousness, no will but Will, no power but Power, no speech but Speech. Existence is the revelation of the One. It is an infinite multitude of signs which all speak of...

  10. 7. Faith
    (pp. 41-46)

    As aspects of human wholeness, fear and will shape our relationship toward what we encounter as otherness. Fear is a response to the unknown. We may flee from the unknown or oppose it. Either course may involve measured or unmeasured response. A measured response involves the will. Human voluntary action is always a choice between possibilities: “I will” or “I will not.” Judgment may be shaped by various forms of knowledge on the part of the individual deploying reason in the attempt to survive and be happy. But, as humans, we never have absolute knowledge. Our knowledge is always attained...

  11. 8. Beauty
    (pp. 47-52)

    Being-at-peace means willing acceptance, including acceptance of being separated from the apparent and passing for the sake of connection with the real and lasting. Being-at-peace is liberation from everything that is not God and subordination to Him alone. Whosoever is obedient to God, who is His servant, becomes His worldly vicegerent. Everything in existence is subordinate to this vicegerent and announces our true position to us. Unity appears as the Principle of all because everything is indebted to Him alone. Only through Unity do the things in existence and existence as a whole enjoy reality. Beingat-peace is therefore simultaneously liberation...

  12. 9. The Hour
    (pp. 53-58)

    Every self experiences the external world as an indisputable and clear reality. Insecurity in the self takes that externality for its object and expresses itself as the experience of mundane imperfection. The self undertakes to change the external world, seeking liberation from its imperfections and wildness. Attempts to change the world most commonly take place without any questioning of the subject which knows it and intends to fix it. This whole relationship to the external world, as incomplete, while taking the self to be complete, is flight from the Hour, which is the Real, and a search for security outside...

  13. 10. Humanity
    (pp. 59-65)

    All humanity was created of a single self or a single spirit in accordance with the Debt, as encapsulated in the tale of the meeting and conversation between the Angel Gabriel and the Prophet Muhammad.¹ The meaning of that creation was God’s love and desire to be known. God’s love revealed in creation has two important aspects in human being. The first is service, the second our station (as vicegerent) on earth. By realizing our nature as servant, we open ourselves to receive the attributes of our Creator. Taking on such attributes and displaying our nature as recipient, we are...

  14. 11. The Other and the Different
    (pp. 66-72)

    Humanity is an authentic whole. Its division into tribes, peoples, and races does not abrogate the original perfection of each individual or the possibility of our redemption in perfection. Each of us must present our own account and is responsible for every atom of good or evil done. Humanity as such is shaped by its innermost nature or consciousness of the Creator’s Unity. All of creation is an expression or utterance of the Creator. So is human being. Human speech, in its purity, is an expression of authentic human nature. That is the essence of all languages, whatever the differences...

  15. 12. Intolerance I
    (pp. 73-79)

    The presentation of the Debt given here, as our being indebted for our existence to God the Creator of everything, has two levels. The first is being-at-peace, the second faith. The first belongs to the sphere of will but is not exhausted by it. Each of the proofs of being-at-peace—witness, prayer, purificatory alms, fasting, and circumambulation of the House—must be carried out on the basis of voluntary decision. Faith transcends will, however. It has no decisive proofs. It is open to human freedom. Even when turned toward certainty, faith is always confirmed by free will. It is split...

  16. 13. Intolerance II
    (pp. 80-86)

    It may be recognized that God’s addresses in the Recitation were directed to those who have accepted it as the call. They mention Jews, Christians, Sabaeans, Magians, and Arabs. These communities or peoples are definitively distinguished on the grounds of their members’ adherence to God and righteousness. This adherence is defined as their being amongst those who are at peace (muslims) with regard to God as Peace (al-Salām) in a relationship of being-at-peace (islam). The person-of-peace/being-at-peace/Peace nexus cannot be restricted to one people per se. The history of each one of these peoples is full of examples of distinctions between...

  17. 14. The Muslim
    (pp. 87-93)

    During the last two centuries of the second Christian millennium, that part of humanity which calls itself and others call “Muslim” has frequently found itself the subject of major suffering. The killing and persecution of Muslims and the destruction of their property have taken place from the Balkans in the west to the foothills of the Himalayas in the east, from the Central Asian steppes in the north to the equatorial jungles of Africa in the south. Nor is there much hope that this suffering will soon stop. It has been the subject of much investigation and interpretation.¹ There is,...

  18. 15. The Universality of Prophecy
    (pp. 94-100)

    No aspect of the Jewish, Christian, or Islamic traditions can be discussed without recognizing the crucial role of prophecy for the viewpoint as a whole. All statements from the Recitation considered in this text as binding effective utterances interact with sense-of-self. Their very presence in the sense-of-self is interpretation. No sense-of-self can be frozen and unchanging with regard to itself. It simply cannot. That does not mean that the sense-of-self is not susceptible to the allure of such a possibility. The question arises: What importance do, or should, the verses of the Recitation have for change in the sense-of-self?


  19. 16. The Nation of the Just
    (pp. 101-106)

    God is One. The revelation of Unity in creation is possible only in the many, which neither determines nor supplements that Unity. All existence—heaven, earth, and everything between—is an inexhaustible inscription of that Unity. It appears from absolute nearness to infinite remoteness. Everything that appears in this way in the external world is a revelation of Unity and is so through the unlimited multiplicity of division and dispersion. Thus, the One is manifest in multiplicity, showing Himself in every individual, while also remaining outside.

    The whole of existence is revelation of fullness in relation to the void. Existence...

  20. 17. Dialogue
    (pp. 107-113)

    Our intentions toward and dialogue with the other shape our consciousness of our Debt to God. We have nothing we have not received. Consciousness of that transforms all our property into debt and us into God’s debtors. That Debt, according to this tradition, consists of four things—being-at-peace (islam), faith (iman), doing good and beautiful things (ihsan), and recognizing the fullness of the Hour (sa’a). These are the relations of human being as such to God as Such:

    The person-of-peace (muslim)—being-at-peace (islam)—Peace (al-Salām);

    The person-of-faith (mu’min)—faith (iman)—the Faithful (al-Mu’min);

    The doer of good and beauty (muhsin)...

  21. 18. Finding Fault with Others and the Self
    (pp. 114-119)

    We always have the choice of right or wrong, good or evil, beauty or ugliness, and so onad infinitum. This possibility is part of our nature as beings with free will. Given that our knowledge is limited, we cannot make final judgment regarding any of our choices. Whatever we do becomes part of our knowledge, but with some difference or conditioned in some way. God says of this:

    Yet it may happen that you will hate a thing which is better for you; and it may happen that you will love a thing which is worse for you; God...

  22. 19. Free Will and the Covenant
    (pp. 120-126)

    Our encounter with God is different from the relations of all other things in existence with their Creator, both jointly and individually, on the one hand, and with the Transcendental, on the other. As creatures, we are at both the very end of everything that is in existence and the very beginning. We gather in ourselves all the names that were at the beginning of creation in the One and that are at the end of creation dispersed in the particularity of each existent. By being at the end, we gather in ourselves all this diversity. With all our potential,...

  23. Afterword: The Text and Its Power
    (pp. 127-134)

    Every human question unfolds in the world and language. If we accept that the world is an expression and revelation of the One, then we should accept that different languages can show the One in the many and the many in the One. Divine speech cannot be limited by language. That is why Revelation is in principle possible in every language: so that every human individual and group partakes of the dignity of origin and return. According to traditional wisdom, God is the Creator of both humanity and what we do. From this, it follows that He created the different...

  24. Notes
    (pp. 135-160)
  25. Bibliography
    (pp. 161-164)
  26. Conceptual Glossary
    (pp. 165-180)
  27. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-182)