The Ash’arite Dogma: The Root of the Arab/Muslim Absolutism

Written By Dinda Revolusi on Kamis, 07 April 2011 | 17.41

Absolutism is the real substance of the Arab (or perhaps Muslim) politics in the modern era.  It is the very root that feeds all despotic and authoritarian practices, which prevail in the political domains of the Arabs and Muslims.  The serious dilemma is that, the Arabs/Muslims are now under the tremendous pressure from the outside world –notably from the superpower- to rehabilitate their political order through the implementation of democracy and respect for human rights.  The driving reason behind this demand is the urgent need to drain the sources of what some have –mistakenly or rightly- called Islamic terrorism.  Apart from the true intention of this demand, reformation and change in the Arab/Muslim world become nonetheless the interests of the outside power.    

At this juncture, the Arab/Muslim world is trapped between two things; between the pressure for change and reform, and between the incapability to overcome its inherent predicament that hinders its aspiration for political shift.  Thus, it is awkwardly suffering from falling between the horns of the two dilemmas.

Attempts have been made to get away from the Arab/Muslim decadence, but these have come to a meaningless outcome.  This failure might be caused by the fact that these attempts followed the strategy of replacing an old practice with a modern one, without considering the discourse that stands behind this practice and dictates it.  The suggested Western recipe of reformation for the Middle East adopts this strategy.  It looks at the impasse of the Arab reality merely in its outward political representation, and ignores its deep cultural root, which found its most flashy projection in absolutism.  Absolutism of this kind however, cannot be uplifted by means of the Western recipes only.  Delving into a classical Muslim legacy is necessary; a legacy that still strongly dominates people’s consciousness –ruling and ruled- with its evasive systems and hidden roots that perpetuate absolutism.  Applying a Western democratic recipe without looking at this classical legacy is destined to another failure because this will merely replace an old practice with a new one, holding the absolutist discourse constantly alive.  This new practice will surely be absorbed –as past events witnessed- within the structure of the dominant discourse to the extent that it will become a decorative mask through which this discourse extends its life.
The intention of this essay is to initiate a serious step towards a critical investigation of the discourse of absolutism.  The essay suggests that this discourse finds its most profound roots in the dogmatic system of the Ash’arites.  Taking for granted that this system is not only theological, the thesis argues that it was vulnerably usable for ideological and political purposes.  The analysis particularly focuses on tracing the deep structure of the Ash’arite system that regulates some specific issues in a hope to touch some of its ideological functions.

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