By Dr. Robert D. Crane
Mar 15, 2015
In the field of counter-terrorism the biggest issue is or should be whether the most effective strategy is to focus primarily on countering the “bad guys” or on supporting the “good guys”.
The second biggest issue is paradigmatic. People talk past each other because they proceed from different frameworks of thought. Cicero said, “Before you discuss anything whatsoever, first agree on definitions”.
The six biggest conflicts among paradigms are the following:
1) Is there such a thing as an Umma and what is a Caliphate?
In classical Islamic thought the Umma and the Caliphate are the same, though one could argue that most Muslims do not belong to either one, whereas sincere followers of other world religions can.
Ibn Taymiyah died in prison for teaching that the caliphate is not a military or political organization, though it is an Umma. It is consensus of the wise persons and scholars on the meaning of justice, originating from divine revelation, natural law, and human reason to understand the first two sources. This is possible, he said, only in a cosmopolis of autonomous persons and peoples .
2) What is asabia?
Ibn Khaldun taught that there are two different kinds of asabia or nationalism. Bad asabia is religious tribalism, which establishes identity by looking down on others. Good asabia refers to a nation that looks to other nations for cooperation in bringing out the best of them all.
3) What is a nation?
A nation is a large group of people with a common sense of their own history, common values in the present, and common hopes for the future.
4) What is a state?
A sovereign state, as invented at the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 to end the Thirty Years War between Catholics and Protestants, refers to whoever can impose one’s will on more than 50% of a given territory. This means that state sovereignty by definition rejects all higher sources of authority and thereby excludes religion as relevant to human affairs, as well as the resulting natural law, contextual ethics, and both personal and public virtue.
5) What is democracy?
Democracy is the worst form of government, because majoritarian democracy rejects all higher sources of truth and justice, as illustrated by the French Revolution, which gave rise to Communism, Nazism, and Secular Zionism.
The opposite of democracy is a republic, which was defined by Thomas Jefferson in his statement: “No nation can be free unless the people are properly educated. Proper education consists of teaching and learning virtue. And no people can remain virtuous unless both the personal and public lives of the individual are infused with awareness and love of Divine Providence”, by which he meant God.
In a republic the responsibility of the legislature is to determine what is true and just, based on divine revelation, natural law, and human reason, in order to reform both institutions and policies to address injustices, such as systems of money and credit that lead to a civilization-destroying wealth gap. The task of the executive is to do what it is told by the legislature. The task of the judiciary is to make sure that both do their duties.
6) What is the source of freedom?
The Preamble to the American Constitution advances five purposes of political union. The first is justice and the last is freedom, because the other four derive from the first.
From these paradigmatic principles follow three immediately important conclusions:
1) First, an Islamic State is an abominable oxymoron that perverts the higher wisdom found equally in classical Islamic and classical American thought.
2) Freedom and democracy are byproducts of justice, not ultimate purposes in the traditionally hierarchical paradigm of normative jurisprudence found in all the world’s religions in the form of natural law (the Sunnat Allah) and in the basis of human nature expressed by the Islamic term infaq, which is the inclination to give rather than to take in life.
3) The key to all of the above is holistic education, in which the primary purpose is awareness of the interdependency of the transcendent and the immanent, from which comes the Prophet Muhammad’s favorite prayer: “Oh Allah, I ask you for Your love, and for the love of all who love You, and for the love of everything that will bring me closer to Your love”.
Dr. Crane is Emeritus Professor in the Qatar Foundation’s Faculty of Islamic Studies. From January 1, 2012, to January 1, 2014, he was Director of its Center for the Study of Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies, charged with studying the origins, state of the art, and possible futures of the Arab Spring.