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The Genealogy of Islamic Terrorism

The Genealogy Of Islamic Terrorism

There are major differences between the way that the political impli­cations of Islam have been worked out historically and the political order of liberal, constitutional democracy. It is as important not to ignore those differences as it is to begin from the self-evident consideration that, although Islam broadly considered does not provide a threat to Western liberal democracy, militant jihadist Islam, what we have been calling Islamism, most certainly does. That, quite simply, was the mean­ing, the significance, and the message of September 11, 2001.9

Let us begin to consider this problem with the commonsense obser­vation of Max Weber: “Neither religions nor men are open books. They have been historical rather than logical or even psychological construc­tions without contradiction. Often they have borne within themselves a series of motives, each of which, if separately and consistently followed through, would have stood in the way of the others or run against them head-on. In religious matters consistency has been the exception and not the rule.”10 With respect to Islam, understood in as wide a sense as possible, we should not expect consistency between the pious traditional Muslim who seeks in his or her religion only to learn how to live in ac­cord with God’s will, and the fanatic who is clear that he knows God’s will and that God’s will demands that he attack the Great Satan by flying airplanes into buildings or by other murderous deeds.

Our concern, however, is not with the wide spectrum of Islam and even less with whether Osama bin Laden, for example, has a sound grasp of Islamic spirituality. We are concerned, rather, with the genealogy of Islamism, the Islam of suicidal murderers. To be more precise, we seek to under­stand the spiritual experience that is expressed in language symbols derived from, or affiliated with, Islam, and how it motivates individuals to commit terrorist acts.

In the first chapter of this book we began by considering the obvious and external aspects of turmoil in the contemporary world. There are sound empirical reasons for beginning with external events because they are visible to all but the willfully blind, regarding whom persua­sion is next to impossible. Moreover, as Voegelin observed in The New Science of Politics, the existence of a crisis has often been an occasion for “the fundamental problems of political existence in history” to come into focus.11 Voegelin mentioned the establishment of political science by Plato and Aristotle as marking the Hellenic crisis, the appearance of Augustine’s City of God as marking the crisis of Rome and Christianity, and Hegel’s philosophy of law and history as marking the beginning of the modern Western crisis. There are other crises in other civilizational contexts, including Islam, with equivalent efforts at restoring a sense of order and of principled understanding of the source of order, and we shall consider them below.

A second commonsensical assumption can also be made explicit. In the previous chapter we drew attention to the large number of “neo-new religions” filling the Japanese spiritual landscape and indicated that this spiritual outburst was also an indication of spiritual instability for which cults such as Aum Shinrikyo provided a repose. Looking to the problem of Islamist terrorism, therefore, a similar commonsensical assumption would be that it is one expression of a crisis in the spiritual order of the Islamic community, the umma.

In order to analyze this aspect of the problem of terrorism and modernity, it is necessary to make a further distinction, within Islam, between what may be called Islamic history, the paradigmatic story of God’s relationship to humanity as experienced within Islam, and the pragmatic history of the society and religious community formed by the Muslim religion. There is also the prob­lem of the historical origin of Islam and the transformation of the ordinary events into a paradigmatic history.

With respect to all of these matters, it may seem preposterous for a non-Muslim, especially one for whom the sacred texts of Islam are available only in translation, to say anything about paradigmatic Islamic history. We do so, indeed, with hesitation: Ajami is no doubt correct to say that “it has been the besetting sin — and poverty — of a good deal of writing on the Arab world that it is done by many who have no mastery of Arabic. This has always seemed odd to me: to presume so much without hearing a people through their own words.”12 On the other hand, because the distinction between pragmatic and paradigmatic history is central to political science, we proceed in spite of this philological defect.

For purposes of the present analysis, we assume that, for Muslims, Islam is the religion of God, as for Jews and Christians are Judaism and Christianity. To put it the other way around, we begin from the assump­tion that God reveals Himself, that the fact of revelation is its content, as Voegelin once put it, and that the great religions of the world, which include the “Abrahamic” religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are human responses to those appearances of the divine.13 Our interest, therefore, is in the human response, or, more precisely, in the experi­ence and its symbolization. In principle, the question of the reality of God independent of the experience and symbolization of God is, from the standpoint of political science, a non-issue.

As a merely human sci­ence, political science is capable of analyzing the origins and the struc­ture of the several paradigmatic religious stories and of examining the implications of them for pragmatic politics, and even of pointing to equivalent meanings, symbols, and experiences. That is a sufficiently large task so that a refusal to judge the validity or veracity of the many varieties of religious experience is not so much an evasion of responsi­bility as an impossibility. To be more precise: if the analysis of a reli­gious discourse is adequate to the experience expressed through it, the problem of judging does not arise. Religious experiences are not like swimsuit competitions in a beauty contest.

For a Muslim, then, to say that Islam is the religion of God means that Islamic history did not begin sometime in the seventh century of the common era but with the creation of the world or even before that event — and Muslim theologians, like other people, have debated the interesting question of “the beginning,” or of the sense of the message of the Koran being “eternal.” This is a question to which we shall return below because it has remained an issue in the history of the Muslim community. For the present, however, within the context of Islamic history, when God created the world, He prescribed both how natural events would take place and He declared there is a right way to live, even if humans disregard His message. Moreover, according to Islamic history, God has informed humanity on a number of occasions what that right way is, and starting with the first prophet or messenger from God, namely, Adam, humans have proved to be disobedient. Adam was followed by other prophets — Abraham, Moses, and Jesus in particular — and by other failures. According to Islamic history, then, Abraham was not a Jew and Jesus was not a Christian; both were Muslims.

Now, if Islamic history, the story of God’s message and God’s messen­gers, were simply a human story, that is, if it were simply a story of the human response to God, then the pattern of receiving and then aban­doning God’s message would have continued until the end of time. But God is also part of the story, and indeed is the center of the story. Be­cause His compassion and mercy are infinite, he delivered a final and clear message through the angel Gabriel, an ethereal messenger, to a human one, the prophet Muhammad. Gabriel spoke the message in the language of Muhammad, so there could be no ambiguity or misunder­standing, and the Prophet created a community that faithfully preserved it and carried it to humanity. “Thus,” writes Wilfred Cantwell Smith, “a new era in human history was born.”14 Moreover, year one of the Islamic era began not with the birthday of Muhammad, nor with his conversa­tion with Gabriel, but with the hijra, the flight or exodus from Mecca to Medina prior to the triumphant return of the new community from exile.

One may say, therefore, that the start of the paradigmatic Islamic era is marked by a pragmatic theo-political event. To be more precise, such is the traditional account of the origin of Islam. Muslim believers take it simply as truth; scholars of Islam take it as an account, a theolog­ical account, to be sure, but one that has a history. For political science, in other words, the beginning of what both conventional scholars and pious believers call a new era in human history is the point where the internal spiritual reality within which Muslims experience a personal relationship with God, which we have called paradigmatic Islamic his­tory, touches the generally accessible pragmatic history of Islam, and of the Muslim community, which is informed by Islamic history.

We will call this complex for simplicity, and without prejudice regarding its veracity, the Islamic vulgate.15 It can be summarized as follows: follow­ing the hijra, the Prophet defeated his own tribe in battle and there­by created the umma, humanity in statu nascendi obedient to God. The theological symbolism, both in terms of the Muslim vulgate and as a reworking of the exodus symbolism of the Bible, is therefore subtle and complex.

The most obvious characteristic of the early history of the Islamic community was its political success. Unlike Christianity, which pene­trated an already existing political order, imperial Rome, Islam com­bined temporal and spiritual activity in a single act of imperial-religious founding. As Smith observed: “The success was comprehensive as well as striking. As we have said, the enterprise gained not only power but greatness. In addition to quickly attaining political and economic mas­tery, Muslim society carried forward into new accomplishments both art and science. Its armies won battles, its decrees were obeyed, its letters of credit were honoured, its architecture was magnificent, its poetry charming, its scholarship imposing, its mathematics bold, its technol­ogy effective.”

Moreover, it proved difficult and perhaps impossible for one participating in Islamic history, that is, the pious Muslim, to dis­tinguish the political from the religious dimensions. As Fazlur Rahman put it, Muhammad “was duty-bound to succeed.”16 His success, for the community, was understood to be an intrinsic aspect of Islam, an ele­ment of Islamic history, proof, as it were, of God’s favor. The victories of the Prophet were understood to be the victories of God. The differ­ence between Islam and Christianity on this issue is fundamental. It is central as well for the present analysis.

According to both the pious and the traditional scholarly accounts, that is, according to the Islamic vulgate, Muhammad returned to Mecca to bring God’s message to the city and to bring the city to submit to God’s message. That was his “duty to succeed.” Mecca was a religious center and would be instrumental in spreading God’s message abroad. At the same time, however, there always existed the temptation of compromising God’s message. This option, however, was strongly rejected, not least of all because Gabriel warned Muhammad against it.

Was it not the time to go ahead? Who will say it was not? And yet it is exactly at this point that the Prophet has been most misunderstood, especially by Western critics. They say they fail to understand the Prophet at this juncture: how can a preacher become pugnacious? We must confess we fail to understand this failure, prejudice apart, except on the hypotheses that so addicted are these writers to pathetic tales of sorrow, failure, frustration and crucifixion that the very idea of success in this sphere seems to them abhorrent.17

Notwithstanding his somewhat aggressive language, Rahman made an important point. In contrast with Islam, in this respect, Christianity, to use Smith’s phrase, is “supremely a religion of adversity… at its best in times of distress.” Perhaps more to the point, at least for political sci­ence, because Christianity was not concerned initially with founding a political order, from the beginning the allegiance of Christians has been divided, as Jesus said, between the things that are Caesar’s and the things that are God’s (Matt. 22:21), a message Augustine symbolized in terms of a dual citizenship in the earthly and in the heavenly city. One implication is that the ordinary concerns of diet and hygiene or of politics are not, for Christians, of great spiritual significance. When Christians have acceded to seats of power, this has not typically been regarded as proof of the truth of Christianity, and the end of any particular earthly city—the sack of Rome in 410 by Alaric, for example — has not typically been understood as a religious catastrophe so much as a political disas­ter — in 410, a disaster for the Romans, not all of whom were Christians.

Not so with Islam. In the words of Bernard Lewis, “In Islam there was no such painful choice [between God and Caesar]. In the universal Islamic polity, as conceived by Muslims, there is no Caesar but only God.”18 In principle the duty of success extended to the whole of humanity. At the center of the theological-political unity was the law, the Sharia, which unified an Islamic civilization that, again in principle, was ecumenic. At the same time, the law unified in the life of each individual Muslim what to a Christian would seem both the trivial and ordinary matters of daily life as well as the most profound aspects of faith.

The success in actually spreading God’s message to humanity seemed to confirm the meaning of Islamic history in the course of events, namely, the history of Islamic society and of the Muslim religion. That is, the gap between paradigmatic and pragmatic history or between Augustine’s two cities seemed to be closing and perhaps even to be closed. For Muslims, God had spoken and told human beings how to live; those who submitted to God’s will and lived the way God said were visibly blessed. The pragmatic triumphs of the Muslim armies were understood as the confirmation and triumph of paradigmatic Islamic history. Prag­matic events thus confirmed a symbolic meaning and then came to be understood as having themselves acquired a symbolic meaning. This is a fascinating story because, as Smith bluntly put the issue, “history, however, moves,” which is a very brief way of dealing with a highly complex issue in what is conventionally called philosophy of history.19

The political dimension of the problem that concerns us came into view early in the history of Islam for the most basic of reasons: there was no obvious and self-evident way to organize the community founded by the Prophet. All Muslims agreed that God had chosen Muhammad, but who would choose his successor? When the Prophet died in 632, prior to the major conquests, the issue remained outstanding. The Com­panions chose the first leader (imam) and deputy (caliph) from his tribe, the Quraysh. During the reign of the third successor, Uthman (646-656), an internal division developed over the appropriate share of the spoils of war; Uthman was assassinated and was succeeded by the cousin of Muhammad, Ali. The followers of Uthman and Ali fought the “bat­tle of the camel” in 656 near Basra, which Ali won; this was followed by the battle of Siffin the following year, after which one of Uthman’s gov­ernors, Muawiya, obtained a truce with Ali through negotiation.

Some of Ali’s followers objected to making an agreement with Mua­wiya on the grounds that human beings could not bargain over who would be caliph because the choice was for God, not humans, to make. These men, called Khariji, or “seceders,” by Ali loyalists, elected their own imam, and one of them succeeded in assassinating Ali. Ali’s son then acknowledged that Muawiya was caliph and the Umayyad Caliphate, and with it a kind of political unity, was established.20 From this first conflict over who should lead the community and how he should be chosen are derived, in the vulgate version, the main divisions of contemporary Islam, between Sunni and Shia, and several other minor sects.

The Sunnis, in particular, would later look back to the first four “rightly guided” (rashidun) caliphs as models of political rule; the Shiites, likewise, saw Ali as the sole legitimate successor to the Prophet, followed by his son Hussein and the successors to Hussein. Even more important for pres­ent purposes, the Umayyads effected a reconciliation so far as possible between the followers of Ali and the followers of Uthman and generally promoted tolerance and inclusiveness.21 In contrast, the Kharijites em­phasized the importance of religious purity, which they combined with an enhanced emphasis on jihad to be waged against all who disagreed with them. The combination of purity and military violence recurred in later Muslim thought — as, indeed, the combination is not unknown in other cultural orders.

Even before the expansion of Islam, therefore, there remained some important and unanswered political questions, along with additional issues about which we need only offer a few hints in order to indicate the outline of the problem. To see the full amplitude of the issue involved in undertaking what was provisionally termed closing the gap between the earthly city and the City of God, it would be necessary to begin with the original experience of what is currently termed history, namely, the Israelite covenant. It would then be necessary to summarize three mil­lennia of defections, returns, reforms, restorations, renaissances, revi­sions, insights, and losses because, as Voegelin said, “we are still living in the historical present of the covenant.”22 This is a tall order, indeed. Fortunately, to see the bearing of this question on Islamic history it may be sufficient to sketch the experiential dynamics, or the dramatic action of the Israelite covenant alone. Again we follow Voegelin’s account.

According to Voegelin, the experience expressed in Exodus told the story of the revelation of God from beyond the cosmos into the cosmos. This intrusion from a cosmic-transcendent beyond, and the response to it by Moses and then by the Israelites, constituted the Israelites as a people chosen by God to live according to his law presented to them as a covenant. The alternative, in the biblical narrative, was to remain in Egypt, which was understood by the Israelites to be a house of bondage and even of death, the Sheol. For the Egyptians, as for the other inhab­itants of the empires of the ancient Near East, social order was main­tained not by living in accord with a covenant but by living in accord with the rhythms of the cosmos — diurnal changes, seasonal changes, even the precession of the equinoxes were all understood to be expres­sions of cosmic rhythms to which society had to attune itself. Public rituals typically integrated the divine cosmic order with social order.

The experience of the covenant obviously does not abolish the cosmic order; the sun still rises in the east. Rather, there is a change in the self-understanding, or in what Voegelin occasionally calls the inner form, of the society that responds to the revelation. Thus did Voegelin describe Egyptian society as existing in Cosmological form and Israelite society as existing in historical form. The continued existence of Israel in histor­ical form entailed maintaining experiential continuity with the three elements that constituted the dramatic action of the covenant. First, God promised to Moses that he would make Israel his own (segullah) among the peoples, a kingdom of priests (mamlekheth kohanim), and a holy nation (goy qadosh), provided that the people hear his voice and abide by the covenant. Second, when the people accepted God’s mes­sage, they became “His people,” the people chosen by God (Exodus 19). Third, the terms of the covenant were set forth in the Decalogue, which thus became the fundamental law. The three moments constitute a sin­gle dramatic whole: the people who received the message from Moses could not disobey the Ten Commandments without at the same time breaking the covenant; the people could not break the covenant with­out repudiating their status as chosen by God; nor could they refuse to be a holy nation without rebelling against the will of God.

Of particular importance to the present analysis is that the response of the Israelites to the revelation to Moses led the Israelite historiogra­phers to interpret the past of the Israelite people as a series of successes and failures not with respect to the rhythms of the cosmos but with respect to their faithfulness to the covenant. Voegelin termed this change in consciousness differentiation. The aspect to be emphasized for our purposes, however, is its precariousness and uncertainty. The events of the Exodus from Egypt, the dwelling at Kadesh, and the conquest of Canaan, the Promised Land, became infused with mean­ing because they were animated by a new form of consciousness. Egypt became the spiritual House of the Dead, the Sheol, and Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt into the Desert. According to Voegelin’s interpretations of this well-known biblical story:

“Through the illumination by the spirit [i.e., the revelation to Moses] the house of institutional bondage became a house of spiritual death. Egypt was the realm of the dead, the Sheol, in more than one sense. From death and its cult man had to wrest the life of the spirit. And this adventure was hazardous, for the exodus from Sheol at first led nowhere but into the desert of indecision, between the equally un­palatable forms of nomad existence and life in a high civilization. Hence, to Sheol and Exodus must be added the Desert as the symbol of the historical impasse. It was not a specific but the eternal impasse of historical existence in the ‘world,’ that is, in the cosmos in which empires rise and fall with no more meaning than a tree growing and dying, as waves in the stream of eternal recurrence.”

“By attunement with cosmic order the fugitives from the house of bondage could not find the life that they sought. When the spirit bloweth, society in Cos­mological form becomes Sheol, the realm of death; but when we un­dertake the exodus and wander into the world, in order to found a new society elsewhere, we discover the world as the desert. The flight leads nowhere, until we stop in order to find our bearings beyond the world. When the world has become desert, man is at last in the soli­tude in which he can hear thunderingly the voice of the spirit that with its urgent whispering has already driven and rescued him from Sheol. In the desert God spoke to the leader and his tribes; in the desert, by listening to the voice, by accepting its offer, and by submit­ting to its command, they at last reached life and became the people chosen by God.”23

The precariousness of historical existence is suitably expressed by the uncertainty of life in the desert, the only place where to Israelite con­sciousness the voice of God was audible.

There is another kind of precariousness as well: even though they were a people chosen by God, a holy nation, and so on, the Israelites were, like every other people, compelled to live in the common world.24 Voegelin used the term derailment to describe the merging of the goal beyond the history with historically attainable goals. “It found its expres­sion,” he said:

“in the symbol of Canaan, the land of promise. The symbol was am­biguous because, in the spiritual sense, Israel had reached the prom­ised land when it had wandered from the Cosmological Sheol to the mamlakah, the royal domain, the Kingdom of God. Pragmatically, however, the exodus from bondage was continued into the conquest of Canaan by rather worldly means; further, to a Solomonic kingdom with the very institutional forms of Egypt or Babylon; and, finally, to political disaster and destruction that befell Israel like any other people in history . . . . The kingdom of God lives in men who live in the world, but it is not of this world. The ambiguity of Canaan has ever since affected the structure not of Israelite history only but of the course of history in general.”25

The complex of issues surrounding the revelation of God to Moses and the response to his message to the people, briefly sketched here, recurs in a recognizably equivalent way with the revelation of God to Muham­mad. It is repeated as well in the history of Islam as well as of Western Christianity, and indeed in “the course of history in general.”

Before proceeding with the analysis of the Islamic case, however, let us trace the Israelite issues one step further. When history is understood as the internal form of a society oriented toward the will of God, the actions of its members will be experienced as fulfillment or defection in a historical present. Moreover, the experience of existing in the pres­ent under God will tend to radiate into the past and over societies that did not understand themselves as “historical” in this sense, as well as into a future where the expectations of the present will be fulfilled. This means that history as a realm of meaning tends to expand to include the whole of humanity, from the creation of the world until the end of days. We noted this process as being already at work in Islamic history, which absorbed Moses and Jesus into the story as Muslim prophets.

The expansiveness of the internal historical form leads to a number of complex theoretical issues concerning the ontological status of the “humanity” that enacts this history (or to whom it happens): who is included? who is not? does humanity exist before it is conscious of itself as humanity? what is its origin? what is its end? what is the historically “moving” present between these two termini? Perhaps most interesting for the present analysis: what are the changes to the meaning of the term history when the original animating experience, symbolized as existence under God, is lost or forgotten or eclipsed? That is, like all symbols, the meaning initially conveyed can evaporate and may be replaced with experiences that have nothing to do with that mode of existence symbolized, for example, as existence under God.26 On the occasion of the revelation of God to Moses and the instructions given by God through Moses to His people, the political result was the creation of a specific community the self-understanding of which was radically unlike those of its neighbors, even though it was compelled to coexist with them. When the original meaning has been lost, the stage is set for a spiritual crisis, a search to recover the lost experiences or to restate or resymbolize them in a language more meaningful than currently is available to the community.

In particular, the implications of God’s revelation to Moses have reverberated into the present. On the one hand, the revelation of God to Moses altered the structure of the consciousness of the Israelites: they saw themselves as a people chosen by God, and not, for instance, as Pharaoh’s people. On the other hand, the traumatic stress of an unac­commodating pragmatic environment “sealed the meaning of the event ineluctably with its concrete, circumstantial features.”27 As a result, the universalist implications of the divine revelation tended to be over­whelmed by highly particularist and increasingly literalist notions. Thus the exodus from Egypt became identified with a final exodus from the Sheol, and the Kingdom of God was increasingly identified with the geo­graphic territory of Canaan.

Such a “derailment” carried with it another kind of uncertainty: the Israelite invasion of Canaan was not a smashing success, and the Phili­stines clearly were a serious threat to the continued existence of Israelite political power. By the time of King Saul, the better-organized Philistines had the upper hand and the loose coalition of the Israelite tribes was on the verge of being wiped out.28 The response to this challenge, namely, the creation of a kingdom in place of the tribal confederation, was an effective organizational response and led eventually to the suc­cessful conclusion of the Philistine wars. Thus the creation of the com­munity substance with God’s revelation to Moses was followed by the organization of the community as a victorious pragmatic historical actor, a power organization about which a conventional history could be written, at least so long as it continued to exist.

The continued existence of the kingdom, however, was itself a double-edged problem. On the one hand, as soon as it came into being, it was obvious that the social structure that sustained the kingdom had noth­ing to do with the meaning of the covenant, let alone with its fulfill­ment. It was clear to the prophets that the people no longer heard or even listened to the voice of God, and the Decalogue, likewise, had turned into a set of regulations requiring legal or cultic conformity, as if it were a commercial contract akin to a promise to purchase hog bellies at an agreed upon price at a specified future date. But if it were such a legal document, as it was understood more or less widely to be, and if the covenant was no longer kept by the people, the question was bound to arise as to whether God was still bound by His promise: was Israel still His chosen people? The absurdity of the question is obvious because the covenant was not a futures contract. The failure of the Israelites to keep the covenant did not mean that God had deceived the people. Even less had He deceived Himself regarding the ability of the Israelites to hold up their end of the deal. Rather the covenant remained a symbol expressing the insight that the cosmic-transcendent God was the source of order. That insight of “differentiated” consciousness remained true, which is to say, it accurately accounted for the structure of reality, whether or not human beings agreed or disagreed, attended to it or ig­nored it — or, in the language of the Bible, whether they kept the cove­nant or not.

The second edge of the problem was just as sharp: granted that Israel had badly misbehaved — because that is what motivated the prophetic recall of the Israelites to abide by the terms of the covenant — granted, that is, in the language of the Bible, that the Israelites ignored the reve­lation of God, that they did not wish to be chosen by God to be His priests or His “aides,”29 and at the same time that they were on the verge of being annihilated by an empire that was, if anything, even worse than they, what then? What did it mean that God would abandon or ignore His people and permit them to be destroyed by their enemies? The polit­ical answer to these poignant questions is that, by raising them and by formulating their resistance to the pragmatic kingdoms of Israel and Judea, the prophets gave expression, perhaps for the first time, to the brutal clash between the “divinely willed and humanly realized order of history.”

Eventually, when the Israelite kingdoms were destroyed, in 721 and 586, the gap between the pragmatic course of political life and the paradigmatic Israelite history, namely, faithfulness to God’s instructions revealed to Moses, could serve as an explanation for the pragmatic catas­trophe. On the one hand, “the present under God had become a suicidal impasse when it was conceived as the institution of a small people in opposition to empires.” But on the other, whatever happened pragmat­ically to the actual Israelites, it remained true that the divinely revealed order is unquestionably the order of history: human beings cannot undo what God wills. In short, what we have called the double-edged problem, and Voegelin described as “the relationship between the life of the spirit and life in the world,” remains “unresolved.” Moreover, it is unresolved in principle, because it expressed the meaning of God’s revelation to Moses.

Following the catastrophic blows to the collective existence of the Israelite community, the prophets recovered, or at least struggled with, the meaning of God’s message. They “knew” that God did not proceed through trial and error, so Israel must still be a holy nation chosen by Him. They also “knew” that the last kingdom of Israel was about to dis­appear from the face of the earth. Accordingly, the prophetic utterances evoked both the terrible day of the Lord, in order to induce a change of heart so as to avoid punishment, and the day of salvation that would follow the change of heart. The options were not to be understood as information about the future but as expressions of vividly existential options available in the present. The two kinds of prophecies were not historical alternatives so much as “the one symbolism by which the prophets articulated their experience of the conflict between divine order and human realization, of the mystery that God suffers human rebel­lion against his foreknown order in the distention of historical time.”

The issue of prophecy thus raises a central problem in philosophy of history. We quoted Voegelin above on the brutal clash between the “di­vinely willed and humanly realized order of history.” The distinction between the two is ontological: to begin with, there would be no chosen people, no defection from the Decalogue, no suspension between con­demnation and salvation without God who knows His people and the prophet who “knows” God’s purposes. Existence in historical form nec­essarily implies a cosmic-transcendent God who nevertheless undertook on a specific historical occasion to reveal Himself — to Moses, for exam­ple, or to one of the later prophets. As noted above, the people of Israel existed in historical continuity with the revelation of God to Moses, and even though the prophets could anticipate the historical catastrophe that would befall the empirical society around them, sustained by Israe­lite power and of which they were a part, there could be no doubting the meaning of the original message. “History,” Voegelin said, “once it has become ontologically real through revelation, carries with it the irre­versible direction from compact existence in Cosmological form toward the Kingdom of God.” That is to say, history meant the order of being or the structure of reality as it had become visible through revelation. Once the cosmic-transcendent God had revealed himself, there was sim­ply no return to the cosmic-divine order, notwithstanding the imaginary and pneumopathological efforts undertaken to reverse the insights of rev­elation or of “differentiated” consciousness.30

Again considered from the perspective of political science, the de­struction of the Israelite kingdoms presented a serious spiritual crisis with no obvious resolution. The victories of Cyrus and the exile to Baby­lon certainly presented difficulties to a people who understood they had been chosen by God and who expected that God’s choice entailed some kind of assurance, if not of prosperity, then at least of continued existence. One response can be found in the text of Isaiah 40-55, conven­tionally called “Deutero-Isaiah.” Here, to follow Voegelin’s formulation, one finds a further “differentiation” from the Mosaic historical con­sciousness that had become institutionalized as the kingdoms, which was itself a consequence of the “mortgage” of Canaan. Voegelin used the term Exodus of Israel from itself to conceptualize this experience.

The meaning of this new term refers to a specific complex of histor­ical experiences. So long as the Israelite kingdoms, or, beyond them, the great Cosmological empires of Assyria, Lydia, and Babylon, lasted, it was relatively easy to pay the spiritual aspect of the “mortgage” by interpret­ing the covenant as a legal document and interpreting the political his­tory of Israel as a reward or punishment for more or less faithfully keeping to the bargain. Even if the Israelite kingdoms ran into political troubles, the surrounding empires seemed stable enough. But when, during the course of a century, they had all disappeared, there emerged to the prophet the insight that, beyond the rise and fall of empire, only “the word of our God shall stand forever” (Is. 40:8).

Moreover, since the power of the Israelites had perished as thoroughly as the more militarily effective empires, the people chosen by God “has to emigrate from its own concrete order just as the empire peoples had to emigrate from theirs.”31 The “concrete order” of the Israelites had been, precisely, the people chosen by God; with Deutero-Isaiah, however, the new Israel has become the light to the nations (42:6) and the servant of God (49:6) — symbols with a much lighter worldly mortgage than that of the chosen people.

There are other changes in Deutero-Isaiah as well. First, the empirical society of Israel has shrunken to the soul of the prophet. Second, the “exodus of Israel from itself” has already occurred, also in the soul of the prophet — for otherwise he never could have written what he did. And third, yet another impasse has come into the differentiated prophetic con­sciousness: if no empire or kingdom can institutionalize a life of right­eousness before the Lord, if, indeed, the task of the new Israel, namely, the prophet who has gained this insight, is to bring this message to the world, then what has become of political order? Is the heretofore auton­omous order of the world, that is, of kingdoms and powers and empires, reduced to hearing and then rejecting the prophetic word? Has it no more purpose than to inflict the suffering that somehow is related to the prophetic insight?

To these historically recurring questions, no simple answer can be given. A servant, indeed, a suffering servant (Isaiah 53) has a difficult missionary task ahead if even his fellow Israelites understand and hear his call to be a light to the nations. It may well be possible for an isolated individual or for a small community to enact the destiny of the servant of the Lord as being representative of Israel. But for those to whom the role of suffering servant held no appeal — as perhaps, on occasion, it was rejected by Isaiah himself — there seemed to be an alternative: God might decide to change the world, which was so recalcitrant and so reluctant to hear the word of God, all on His own. Voegelin introduced the term metastasis to describe this imaginary transfiguration of the structure of reality. “The constitution of being is what it is,” Voegelin wrote, “and can­not be affected by human fancies. Hence, the metastatic denial of the order of mundane existence is neither a true proposition in philosophy, nor a program of action that could be executed.” It was simply an act of imagination undertaken in response to the experience of a reality that had become unbearable. For the imagination, relief would come with the abolition of the structure of reality, or in commonsensical language, by a miracle.

In keeping with the centrality of the historical form of Israelite sym­bolization, Voegelin classified these metastatic activities in terms of whether the imaginary acts of divine grace that were compelled by hu­mans, or of the direct prophetic invocations of miracles, would take place in the future, the present, or the past. Less important than the choice of an eschatological, a mythical, or a historiographic fantasy is the common element of irrationality, or rather, of pneumopathology: the perversion of the experience of faith into an instrument of prag­matic political action. “This metastatic component,” Voegelin observed, “became so predominant in the complex phenomenon of prophetism that in late Judaism it created its specific symbolic form in the apoca­lyptic literature.” Finally, it is worth pointing out, the apocalyptic form was absorbed into Christianity and a host of gnostic and antinomian heresies, sectarian movements, and political ideologies.

Before returning to the question of Islamic history, there is one final issue about which it is important to be clear. There is a magical com­ponent to metastatic faith. More bluntly, demanding that God perform a miracle or alter the structure of reality does not work. The metastatic faith of the prophets cannot be fulfilled by any pragmatic organization, an insight made abundantly clear in Deutero-Isaiah. For metastatic pro­phets, the only thing to do is sit down and wait for the miracle to take place, from which experience arises the cry, “How long, O Lord? How long?” Prophets die waiting; generations of their disciples may die wait­ing as well.

One might anticipate that eventually, after several genera­tions died awaiting a metastatic transformation, someone would under­take a close and critical examination of what had become an article of faith. On the other hand, once the agency for the miracle is transferred from God to human beings, there is no reason to expect any end to it at all: futuristic dreams practically by definition have an indefinite shelf-life. We have undertaken this analysis of Israelite problems because many of the issues raised by this first “Abrahamic” religious experience recur in Christianity and in Islam. What we have called the precariousness of God’s revelation could hardly admit of any other outcome: the compromises of the Caliphate and the formular purity of the Kharijites look like two sides of the same coin.32

Returning, then, to the history of Islam, it is clear from the vulgate account that Muhammad fulfilled his duty to succeed, at least in the sense that expanding Islamic power in the hands of his successors was able to encroach successfully upon the neighboring Byzantine Empire and conquer the Sassanid entirely. Mod­eled on its neighbors, the new religion combined conquest and spiritual apostolate, church and empire, to use contemporary Western language. As noted above, Muhammad was the last messenger of God (Koran, 33:40) and the last apostle to the world (Koran, 7:157-58). Moreover, his mission was to enact the struggle between truth and falsehood through force of arms (Koran, 21:18, 9:29). If the nonbelievers refuse to abandon their ways, they will be dealt with appropriately until all the world sub­mits (Koran, 8:40-41).

We will have occasion to consider in detail the problem of jihad below; it should be clear from the outset, however, that the duty to succeed implied the duty to fight unbelievers and idol­aters throughout all the world. The mood, to say the least, is far removed from that of the suffering servant who brings the word of God to an unreceptive world, like a light into darkness. The reason seems to be as much cultural as historical. “The right to conquer and plunder,” observed Black, “was carried straight over from pre-Islamic nomadic tradition into Islam.”33 That is, from the outset, Islam was not simply a “re-compacting” of Israelite or Christian experience, notwithstanding the fact that it appeared to Christians, for example, as a heretical retrogression. It was, in addition, a “differentiation” in its own right, however Christians (or Jews or Buddhists, for that matter) might judge it from within their own experience.

Whatever the origin of the duty to succeed, the Prophet was not alone in having one. So, for example, did the Mongols, who in 1258 destroyed Baghdad and killed the last Abbasid Caliph, thus ending what is con­ventionally called the classic period in Islamic history.34 The rules of engagement for the Mongol armies were even more brutal than those of the Arabs: collective destruction was the consequence of resistance or insubordination, which on occasion might be literally enforced, and sometimes no living thing at all, no cat or dog, let alone human being, might be left to mark their passing or mourn the dead.

More specifically, Hulagu, nephew of Genghis Khan, destroyed the dikes and irrigation system surrounding Baghdad, destroyed the mosques and libraries, the palaces and academies of the great city and then put it to the torch. Even so, estimates of nearly a million dead are greatly exaggerated, since the population of the city was much below its former greatness, and the story of the ceremonial trampling of the caliph and his sons beneath the hooves of the Mongol ponies is probably a literary trope rather than an event.

One response to this first great crisis of the established Islamic world was greater emphasis on a more mystic interpretation of Islam, which by about 1200 had crystalized as the “orders” or “brotherhoods” of Sufism. The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote his poem Masnavi shortly after the Mongols destroyed Baghdad, much as Augustine wrote The City of God following Alaric’s conquest of Rome.35 A second, and equally important, response was to convert the conquerors, which in turn led to a renewal of conquest and eventually to the relative stability of empire. A third response, of great importance for later Islamic political thought and es­pecially for the Islamists of the twentieth century, and for them akin to a restoration of the Kharijites of the seventh, was formulated by Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328).36 Moreover, since Ibn Taymiyya lived in Mamluk Egypt-Syria, which defended itself successfully against the Mongols, his response also expressed a distinct Islamic alternative informed by a self-confidence that came from resistance to the Mongols.

The foundation of Islamic political thought was the religious juris­prudence based upon the Koran, collections of reported sayings and deeds of the Prophet and his Companions, and descriptions of his per­sonality, conventionally called the Hadith. Together they conditioned the development of the law, Sharia, and the tradition, Sunna. Initially the laws of Islam applied only to Muslims living within a given territory, and their chief purpose was to teach human beings how to live in harmony with God’s will. “Justice,” wrote Black, “was defined independently of the political rulers or state authority. . . . This undermined the project of monarchical authority and world government for the House of Islam.”37 It also provided those who studied the texts, the ulama, with their own networks of authority outside the imperial political organizations.

One of the intellectual and spiritual tensions in the West is con­ventionally described as between faith and reason. Voegelin’s contrast between noetic and pneumatic theophanies38 is theoretically a more precise but clearly an equivalent version of the Platonic distinction of mythos and logos, as well as the reconciliation of the two in the philos­opher’s myth. One can find an analogous reconciliation between phi­losophy and Christian mysticism in Saint Thomas Aquinas. Within the Islamic world a somewhat different intellectual path was taken. Between the eighth and eleventh centuries, practitioners of philoso­phy, the falasifa, introduced new political ideas, borrowed chiefly from Greek antiquity.

The significance of the faylasuf is disputed. According to Black, “Philosophy was not allowed to question seriously the tenets of Islam,” nor did Muslim philosophy entail the systematic investigation of nature or ethics. According to Leaman, the subject matter investigated in the West by philosophy had already been dealt with by theology and by jurisprudence. Likewise, Voegelin noted that philosophy in the Islamic world amounted to “a religion for an intellectual elite” informed by the high culture of the conquered societies of Syria, Persia, and Egypt, a culture that was alien to the “fundamentalism” of “Islamic orthodoxy, relying on a literal acceptance of the Koran.” By this account, the partial or perhaps more than partial incompatibility of the faylasuf with Islam did not at first become apparent “because the content of philosophy was on the whole beyond the range of an undeveloped creed that did not argue.”

Not until Averroes (1126-1198) was the issue treated system­atically with the argument that the philosopher should leave the doc­trines of popular religion to the people in the service of public order, though he need not himself accept those doctrines.39 In other words, it would be difficult to say that Islamic philosophy sought to reconcile faith and reason, however understood. Rather, it looked more like a juxtaposition with the assumption being that, in any apparent conflict, the religious teachings, and thus the religious teachers, the ulama, were correct, and the falasifa were wrong. There was, so to speak, no need for philosophical elaboration of ethics or politics; “rather, all humans should adhere to the one true moral Code, the Muslim Shari’a.”40

Intel­lectually and spiritually, as well as militarily, negotiation between the domain of Islam, the dar al-Islam, and the domain of impiety, the dar al-Kufr, which was also necessarily the dar al-Harb, the domain of warfare, looked highly doubtful. And in fact the justification for a dar al-Ahd, a domain of contractual peace, did not arise easily. Indeed, one of the most common compromises was to negotiate a treaty that might licitly be abrogated when the Muslim side was stronger.41 This may be a com­mon enough practice of Realpolitik, but it can hardly be said to inspire confidence in the reliability of a religious oath.

We have seen in the analysis of the symbolism of God’s revelation to the Israelites how the destruction of the kingdoms evoked, broadly speaking, a metastatic hope that God would fix things along with a reinterpretation of the symbolism of Exodus in the direction of greater differentiation between the mundane affairs of the world, Augustine’s earthly city, and the existentially most significant problem for human beings, living in righteousness before the Lord, Augustine’s pilgrimage toward the heavenly city. In the work of several Islamic thinkers, begin­ning with Ibn Taymiyya, one finds a rather different pattern of response to external threats, starting with the Mongols, and to the internal crises created by these threats. Apart from the Sufis, the major pattern rein­forced the tendencies toward doctrinal and dogmatic expression already present in Muslim jurisprudence and the teachings of the falasifa.

Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyya was born in Harran, an ancient town a few miles north of the current Turkey-Syria border. It was conquered early in the Arab expansion and six hundred years later conquered again by the Mongols, forcing Ibn Taymiyya’s father to flee with his family to Damascus. By 1282, he had succeeded his father as a legal scholar at a local madrasa and as a preacher at the ancient Umayyad mosque in the city. Both men followed the Hanbali school of jurisprudence, named for Ahmad ibn Hanbal, who, during the ninth century, advanced highly literalist interpretations of the Koran, the Hadith, the tradition, and the Law. In addition, the Hanbali school emphasized the independence of religious authorities from the Caliphate and “brought the potential for militant opposition to the Caliphate into the very core of Sunni Islam.”42 Ibn Taymiyya developed Hanbal’s jurisprudence, particularly in opposition to the Mamluk government in Syria-Egypt. He was re­warded for his trouble with torture and several years in jail, where even­tually he died.43

The significance of the Mongol attacks was more than a personal inconvenience to Ibn Taymiyya. They were also understood to be both a punishment sent by God to chastise the faithful for their errant ways and evidence that the Mongols were not true Muslims. The clearest indi­cation of their true status was found in the continued adherence by the Mongols to the Yasa, the constitutional order formalized by Genghis Khan, and not to the true law, Sharia. Accordingly, the first thing to be done was to understand that the nominal Islam adopted by the Mon­gols was a sham. They were either apostates or infidels by this interpre­tation and so indistinguishable from the pagans of Mecca before the Prophet brought God’s message to them. This was the time of jahiliyya, of ignorance, but also of barbarism and cruelty.44 As we note below, the term has been reintroduced into Islamist discourse in the twentieth century.

Likewise, the appropriate response to God’s scourge, both then and now according to the Muslim vulgate, has been to recover the purity of the early companions of the Prophet, the “rightly guided” first Caliphs or the al-salaf al-salihin, the venerable or pious forefathers. Spiritually considered, the return to the origins is a common theme in Judaism and Christianity as well. Central to that recovery of original purity for Ibn Taymiyya was a restoration of the true meaning of the entire corpus of Muslim scripture: the Koran, the Sharia, the Hadith, and the Sunna. Central as well was the importance of jihad. We shall, accordingly, referto this position as “salafism” or as “jihadist salafism.” It was an impor­tant constituent element in the spiritual complex of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.45

Two significant implications followed. First, Ibn Taymiyya was drawn into a polemical debate with the conventional ulama, for whom the gates of independent interpretation of scripture (ijtihad) were closed: “For Ibn Taymiyya they were wide open.”46 Second, it bears reiterating that by Ibn Taymiyya’s reading of the sacred texts, as with the Kharijites, jihad became one of the “pillars of Islam,” equal to prayer, the declara­tion of faith, the pilgrimage, and so on. Even though this position con­tradicted that of the Hanbalis, his reasoning was simple enough: because jihad was so important to the Prophet and the venerable forefathers, and because they were the source, jihad necessarily remained essential to Islam—especially if directed against apostates or pagans.

Moreover, there was a domestic implication as well: because the goal of jihad was God’s victory, anyone who opposed this teaching thereby declared them­selves to be enemies of God. The dictum clearly applied to the Mon­gols, whether they were considered apostates or pagans. Either way, the penalty, as prescribed in the Koran, is death; the most important prac­tical consequence, however, was to ensure that “rightly guided” violence could be directed against Muslims with whom this particular interpreter happened to disagree. By the late twentieth century, claiming the man­tle of the venerable forefathers in order to evoke the piety of a salafist, jihad became no more than a euphemism for terrorism.47

However that may be, for Ibn Taymiyya, once the infidels and apos­tates had been defeated the next task was to apply the Sharia to the daily operations of government. The title of his book on this topic, al-Kitab al siyasa al-shar’iyya, has been variously translated as the Book on the Government of the Religious Law or the Book on Righteous Rule. The application of Sharia to government, rather than to the traditional sphere of personal conduct, was a significant expansion. Perhaps the most important aspect, for our present analysis, is that such an appli­cation proved to Muslims who followed Ibn Taymiyya the superiority of Islam over Christianity and Judaism because it prescribed “the conditions necessary for the existence of true religion: power, jihad, and wealth.”48 Indeed, it was as great an error to think it was possible to achieve power and wealth without piety — now including jihad — as it was to try to live piously and achieve spiritual purity without power, wealth, and jihad.49

Syntheses work miracles, and the result of this synthesis of power, wealth, and piety was bound to achieve what is indicated by the title of Ibn Taymiyya’s book, which for simplicity we shall call “righteous rule.” More simply still, the religious duty of “commanding good and forbid­ding evil” would become the law of the land. Naturally enough, a good deal of coercion will be required; or as Ibn Taymiyya put it, terror and love go together. So far as traditional Islamic institutions are concerned, Ibn Taymiyya was calling for an end to the offices of caliph and sultan. All good Muslims, which is to say, all followers of Ibn Taymiyya, can serve in the office of caliph and guide the affairs of the Muslim com­munity. It is plausible, as Black pointed out, that “the idea, now emerg­ing in [fourteenth century] Europe, of the state as a trans-personal entity is not far away, and was probably not inconceivable within Ibn Taymiyya’s mental universe.”50 Equally plausible was the interpretation of contem­porary, twenty-first-century Islamists: that righteous rule would be en­forced by a self-appointed elite using whatever power and wealth was available.

Laoust reports that Ibn Taymiyya was largely ignored for four hun­dred years. Rosenthal explained that the chief objection to the practi­cality of his views, which is to say, the reason why he was ignored, was that social conditions had changed from the days of the “venerable fore­fathers” except, perhaps, in the land of the Prophet himself — or rather, in the remote interior of Arabia, where Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1787) was born. The village of Uyaina, on the Najd plateau, was remote from the relatively cosmopolitan centers of the Hijaz, which included the two holy cities, Mecca and Medina, and from the ports of Jeddah on the Red Sea and al-Hasa on the Persian Gulf — to say nothing of the centers of power, civility, and religious life, Ottoman Istanbul.51 Moreover, by the mid-eighteenth century, administrative control from Istanbul had become more relaxed.

Al-Wahhab left Uyaina to study in Mecca, where he first encountered Hanbali jurisprudence and the writing of Ibn Taymiyya.52 He visited other centers of Islamic learning in what is now Iraq and Iran and for a time was even a teacher of Sufism. On his return to Arabia al-Wahhab had reached the conclusion that Islam as practiced in the cities of the Ottoman Empire and in Persia was corrupt. Moreover, he identified that corruption with the waning of the Islamic power. Indeed, generally speaking, the history of Islam prior to and during al-Wahhab’s lifetime [1703-1787] was one of spiritual decline and political humilia­tion. The large topic of the decline, or at least the decentralization, of the Ottoman Empire has been debated at great length both inside and outside the empire, starting in the sixteenth century. Much of the discus­sion has centered on the changing balance of power between the empire and the new states of the West, rather than between Istanbul and other Muslim states.

From the battle of Lepanto in 1571 until the time of al-Wahhab, Ottoman power was, if not in retreat, then certainly undergo­ing reconfiguration in the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Crimea, southern Ukraine, and Hungary. At the same time, British, Dutch, and Portuguese ships were trading into the gulf. In the Ottoman homeland, these de­velopments generated an extensive political literature dealing not just with themes of decline but also of religious reform.53 For al-Wahhab, as for many other less successful reformers, the answer to political decay was a salafist restoration of the virtue and piety of the pristine early days.54 As with all such movements, including those that have emerged from Judaism and Christianity, al-Wahhab’s salafism was defined more by what he sought to destroy than by what he sought to build.

The list of errors and opponents was long. Bedouin cultural prac­tices common to the Najd, such as sanctifying the dead or the practice of devotions at shrines, he said, was evidence of polytheism (shirk) and therefore was evil.55 In his struggle against shirk, al-Wahhab relied on the Koranic instruction (9:5): “Wherever you find them, kill those who ascribe partners to God,” which is to say, polytheists. By this interpretation, for example, the Christian mystery of the Holy Trinity was shirk. As part of his salafist program to recover the pristine ways of the pious ancestors, al-Wahhab restored the archaic punishments, such as execu­tion by stoning for female adulterers.56

As did Ibn Taymiyya [1263-1328], al-Wahhab criticized the traditional ulama for their prohibition of independent interpretation, ijtihad. He also argued in favor of strict and exclusive reliance on the Koran and the Sharia, to which he added strictly pre­scribed times for prayer that must be practiced according to equally strict and prescribed postures. Eventually he was such a nuisance to the ulama in Uyaina that he was expelled. He found refuge with Muhammad ibn Saud at Diriyah, near mod­ern Riyadh, and in 1744 formalized an agreement or covenant, mithaq, under the terms of which Ibn Saud established a political community the religious practices of which were determined by al-Wahhab. The new community was animated by “the call to the doctrine of the oneness of God” (al-da’wa ila al-tawhid), which subsequently was known sim­ply as Wahhabism.57 The mithaq was further solidified by the marriage of Ibn Saud to the daughter of al-Wahhab. The chief practical benefit of the mithaq was that the tradition of tribal raiding could be carried on in the name of jihad and booty could be sanctified as a charitable payment, Zakat, one of the “pillars of Islam.” So far as al-Wahhab was concerned, he was simply emulating the conquests of the salafis. Simi­larly on the hermeneutic front, al-Wahhab determined that those who refused to follow his version of Hanbali legal interpretation showed thereby their unbelief and so were no better than pagans and apostates.

Smith drew attention to an addition al-Wahhab made to the doctri­nal strictness taught by Ibn Taymiyya. Like his predecessor, al-Wahhab said that Muslims owed their allegiance to the Koran as it was origi­nally and correctly implemented in practice. There was nothing nostal­gic or idealistic about the salafist approach, in the sense that it might be impractical. On the contrary, “the Wahhabis rejected the actual practice, but not the conception that Islam is a practice, is essentially a divine pattern in this-worldly, historical motion.” Or, as Haddad observed, for salafists, “the mission of Muslims is not to accommodate the guidance of the Qur’an to prevailing or borrowed social systems; rather, the rev­elation itself provides a revolutionary ideology that seeks to transform society and liberate people from bondage to human systems.”

Accord­ingly, they appealed to their own understanding of the Sharia but also to the necessity of establishing a society that would embody the decrees of God. That is, the Wahhabis recaptured the Prophet’s duty to succeed but directed it in a much more astringent direction. Resistance did not inspire anyone to reconsider because adversity was a test and compro­mise apostasy. Difficulties were simply reasons to simplify further and to try harder. As Meddeb observed, “The objective of all forms of Wah­habism is to make one forget body, object, space, beauty; these obscura­tions mean to impose a generalized amnesia, one of the symptoms of the sickness that has afflicted the disciple of Islam.”58

Because the Wahhabis began their work in a region geographically re­mote from Istanbul, they were able to proceed more or less unmolested. By the early nineteenth century the alliance between the Wahhabis and the Saudis had given them control of Mecca, from which pilgrims on the hajj would return home with news of the strict but exhilarating Islam they had encountered. At the same time Wahhabi armies con­ducted raids into Iraq and Syria, even though the region was at least nominally part of the Ottoman Empire.59 The Ottoman subjects, how­ever, were likely to see the Wahhabi victories as evidence of God’s will. In more conventional terms, the Wahhabis posed a religious as well as a political challenge to the sultan, who also claimed to be caliph and thus protector of Sunni Islam. But with the two holy cities in Wahhabi hands, he was no longer their custodian.

Accordingly, in 1811, the vigorous Egyptian governor Muhammad Ali entered the Hijaz at the head of an Ottoman army and, despite an initial defeat, restored the two cities to Ottoman hands by 1813. Five years later an Ottoman army under the command of the son of Muhammad Ali, Ibrahim, captured the Saudi leader, Abdullah, grandson of Ibn Saud, and removed him in chains to Istanbul for execution. The consequence was not the extinction of Wahhabism so much as a renewed radicalization and a gradual recovery and consolidation of Saudi power in the Najd.

The story of the declining power of the Ottomans, and the rising power of the British, and the skill with which Ibn Saud worked the seam between them to become the first king of Arabia is less important for our current concerns than the growth of yet another religious move­ment within the Wahhabi spiritual dominion. North of Riyadh a de­scendant of al-Wahhab, Abdulla bin abd al-Latif, reenacted the exodus of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina and established the first hijra agricultural communes, where settlers could live according to Wahhabi rules and avoid any polluting contact with outsiders.

Calling themselves the Brotherhood, Ikhwan, by 1920 more than fifty such hijra settlements had been founded. Most of these colonies failed because they were exposed to the danger of drought and could not become self-sufficient. Thus they were subsidized by Ibn Saud and eventually brought into his tents, where they subsequently became the religious, political, adminis­trative, and educational centers of Wahhabism. He also turned them into a formidable army that eventually destroyed Hashemite rule in the Hijaz.

At the same time, however, Ibn Saud was compelled to treat with the infidel British, which “put the Ikhwan and Ibn Saud on a collision course, for the latter had to practice realpolitik,” and the former did not.60 The collision took place in 1929, at the battle of Sibila, and the Saudis, with the assistance of the RAF, won. The British, exercising both their discretion as mandated by the League of Nations as well as their power, established the new borders between Iraq and Transjordan in such a way that they provided a common barrier to the northern spread of Wahhabism.61

The British strategy succeeded in reducing the raids by the Ikhwan north of what was now the border of a new Arabian state, but it was powerless to prevent the spread of sentiments of great approbation for Wahhabi achievements. Chief among them was the undeniable fact that Saudi Arabia was formally independent of foreign, and thus infidel, rule. Because Saudi Arabia had experienced neither Western colonization nor rule by a Westernized elite, the Saudi rulers could easily and genuinely believe that Islam was socially, morally, and religiously superior.

Moreover, the absence of Western imperial rule meant that the sense of Wahhabi superiority would not be diluted by nationalism or nationalist particularity. This is why the appeal of Wahhabism was equally strong across the Red Sea in Egypt, where the political balances were even more ambiguous and the sense of living at the center of a great but battered civilizational order was even more pronounced. It is also why, when Wahhabism is left alone in its religious superiority, it can become remarkably obscurantist.62 According to Meddeb, Wahhabism “extols a kind of Islam that is not even traditional but has gone through a series of reducing diets from which it emerges anemic and debilitated.”63

A verbal insistence on religious superiority, to say nothing of moral superiority, has precious little impact on political realities. “To many ob­servers,” wrote Rahman, “the history of Islam in modern times is essen­tially the history of the Western impact on Muslim society, especially since the 13/19th century.” The failure to meet economic, technological, military, or political challenges sustains the image of Islam as a “semi-inert mass receiving the destructive blows or the formative influences from the West.”64 It is no surprise, perhaps, that the impact of the West, far from opening the Muslim, and especially the Wahhabi, world to new influences, has appeared as a threat.

The asymmetries of political power have changed the terms of the Muslim response to crisis from an emphasis on a religious recovery of the pristine Islam, from which political success would follow, to direct political action. We noted above that the distinction between political action and religious practice was not as sharply drawn in Islam as in Christianity. This is why the arguments of Ibn Taymiyya or al-Wahhab could as easily appear to be legal and political as they appeared to be religious.

The post-Wahhabi response to Western domination was not only political, in the sense of unrest at the intrusions of foreigners and resistance to their rule, but also had a spiritual dimension to it. The reason was obvious enough: the West posed a spiritual as well as a polit­ical challenge or threat. In addition to the old religious challenge posed by Christian missionaries, there were new ones in the form of modern and secular political thought, and the study of Islam by Westerners,usually referred to as “Orientalism.” It made no difference whether the modern political notions were understood as liberating or not; neither did it matter whether the Orientalists were hostile or sympathetic: either way they were challenges that demanded a response simply because they came from outside the dar al-Islam. As we shall see, the series of responses increasingly mirrored the modernity of the West.

The first such response is conventionally called modernism.65 Mod­ernists typically held that the real sources of Western triumphs were Islamic and that the Muslim world can overtake and, indeed, outper­form the West once it understands both itself and the sources — the gen­uinely Islamic sources — of Western achievements. The modernists took from the premodern Islamic reformers such as Ibn Taymiyya the doc­trine of ijtihad, or original interpretation; and after criticizing the tra­ditional authority and teachings of the ulama, instead of arguing that the regeneration of Islam would result from a salafist recovery of the pristine ways of the forefathers, they proposed to replace the traditional teachings with “the intellectual products of modern civilization.”66

There are a number of theoretical issues involved in distinguishing between what is modern and what is Western. To begin with, both terms are ambiguous. However, because it is far from certain that, even if the terms could be clarified sufficiently, they might serve as concepts in political science, the results would hardly be worth the effort. Accord­ingly, for present purposes it is sufficient to illustrate rather than ana­lyze the problem: Bernard Lewis observed that a Muslim man in a suit embodied modernization, but a woman in a suit was an example of Westernization.67

More broadly speaking, modernism meant both what we now call technology and liberal constitutionalism. As certainly became true to­ward the end of the twentieth century, technology was understood chiefly in terms of hardware that could be bought either on the open or on the black market. It is probably fair to say that the link between sci­ence, technology, free enquiry, and secularism, which is to say, technol­ogy as a way of thinking, has not been well thought through by Muslim modernist thinkers. For Meddeb, Islamist ideologues have championed a “cohabitation of archaic regression and active participation in tech­nique and technology” that is simply incoherent.68

Additional obstacles made it difficult to persuade the Muslim com­munity that they should adopt modern political forms. The most obvi­ous is that, along with Christian missionary schools, modern social and political institutions were “experienced by the intellectual circles of Mus­lim countries as a result of colonial occupation.”69 Indeed, the very notion of the state, which emerged in the West as a compromise as well as a conclusion to the wars of religion, soon after claimed to be sovereign and eventually had to become secular. Secularism necessarily destroys the foundations of Islam by denying the sovereignty of God over the Muslim community and by turning Islam into a private creed and prac­tice existing between the individual and God.

The spiritual challenge of modernity, even when unencumbered by Western dress, leaves the modernists in Islam vulnerable to criticism both from traditional religious leaders and later from jihadist and sala­fist revolutionaries on the grounds that their modernism was both inef­fective and “un-Islamic.” Thus a modernist such as Al-Afghani (1837-1897) or Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) whose views might be con­sidered unexceptionable and even mainstream in the salons of Mayfair or the cafés of Paris look in retrospect as if they were in a kind of lim­bo or halfway house on the way to radical, fundamentalist, or jihadist Islamism.70

Political institutions created after the destruction of the Ottoman Empire opened a number of political possibilities. In Turkey, the aboli­tion of the caliphate in 1924 by Mustafa Kemal, the hero of the defeat of the Allies at Gallipoli, laid the foundation for what is arguably the most successful state whose citizens are chiefly Muslim.71 In contrast, in Egypt the foundations were laid at about the same time for a renewal of salafist and jihadist Islam by Hasan al-Banna, who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brethren, the Jamiyyat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin, in direct emulation of the Ikhwan of Arabia.

The Egyptian Ikhwan may have adopted the name of the Arabian agriculturalists, but they were “a new type of Islamic community,” namely, “the first mass-supported and organized, essentially urban-oriented effort to cope with the plight of Islam in the modern world.”72 Al-Banna was distressed at the abolition of the caliphate in 1924 and angered at the declaration two years later by the ulamas at al-Azhar University in Cairo that, absent a true caliphate, Muslims could not live properly as Muslims. He also rejected the position of the Westernizers and argued in favor of what would later be called an Islamic state, as distinct from an Islamic society within a secular state, as provided by the example of Turkey. At the end of the day, this “magical and mil­lenarian attitude” would require “the intervention of a supernatural power, an apocalyptic upheaval” to come into being.73

Al-Banna’s position was similar to that of another intellectual and revolutionary, his older contemporary, Rashid Rita. Rita argued in sup­port of a familiar theme, that only a salifist Islam, purged of Western influences, could end Western colonialism and that it could be recov­ered by ijtihad, by exercising individual judgment in opposition to the traditions of the ulama. Rita also reintroduced the symbol jahiliyya. The Prophet used the term to refer to pre-Islamic Arabia; Ibn Taymiyya used it to refer to the Mongols. Rita was the first to apply the term to the Muslim lands of his own time.

Soon enough, as Haddad observed, jahiliyya came to mean “any system, order, world view or ideology that is considered un-Islamic” by the salafist interpreter.74 The chief differ­ence between Rita and al-Banna, apart from doctrinal issues, about which revolutionaries typically quarrel, was that Rita remained isolated and ineffective despite his ambitions and al-Banna led a social and polit­ical movement. Like their predecessor, the Egyptian Ikhwan exalted their leader, though al-Banna and his organization did not come to the attention of the British authorities in Egypt until 1936, “the year that witnessed the beginning of large-scale revolt in Palestine against British occupa­tion, Zionist policies, and Jewish immigration.”75 Opposition to British authorities about the same time in India took a similar and, it turned out, highly portable form.

Mawlana Mawdudi, a vigorous participant in the prewar debates in India regarding the future of the subcontinent, made a number of dog­matic assertions based on the arguments of Rita and on the traditions of Indian Wahhabism. He asserted once again the unity of religious and political life and wrote a lengthy comparison of Islam with capitalism, fascism, socialism, and communism — and notably not a comparison with Judaism or Christianity. Like the other revolutionaries, he endorsed itjihad against the ulama and asserted a literalist reading of an un­changing Sharia. His organization, the Jamaat-I Islami or Islamic Asso­ciation, was the “counterpart” of the Ikhwan in the Arab world.76 Like the Ikhwan, he sought an Islamic state. Following partition, this stance placed him in opposition to Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, who like Ataturk had established, at least in principle, a secu­lar state that might shelter an Islamic society, but also non-Muslims.

In Egypt, political events followed a more or less similar path. In 1948, one of al-Banna’s followers murdered the Egyptian prime minister, Mahamud al-Nuqrashi. As a consequence, the Ikhwan was dissolved and al-Banna was himself murdered within the year. The loss of their leader was a genuine decapitation, and his followers were unable to cre­ate any coherent political strategy.77 The 1952 coup by the Free Officers Association led by Gamal Nasser introduced something like a secular state, which has remained intact ever since. The Ikhwan did not share the Arab nationalism of the new regime, and eventually they made a highly incompetent attempt on Nasser’s life. The government then sup­pressed the Ikhwan by arresting its members, many of whom were sub­sequently tortured and executed.

The most intellectually important member of the Ikhwan, the “god­father to Muslim extremist movements around the globe,” was Sayyid Qutb.78 We will analyze his views in the following chapter. Let us con­clude this chapter by summarizing the argument. We noted at the out­set that the experiential dynamics of living in accord with the message of God are precarious and existentially demanding. The analysis of the Israelite experience indicated this clearly. Moreover, the same pattern emerged in the history of Christianity.

Historically, Christianity began as a Jewish messianic movement torn between the expectation of the Parousia that would usher in the King­dom of God as a historical event in the world and an awareness that the faith of the community of believers constituted the continuing revela­tion of Christ in history. That is, from its origin Christianity contained both an eschatological notion of community and the understanding that the Messiah has already appeared and that his presence is contin­ued in the community of the faithful. This new community, described in Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, is centered on faith, is unified by the Holy Spirit, and is guided by the Decalogue and the law of the heart.79

The transformation of an eschatological community into a Christian com­munity, the beginnings of which are recorded in Acts,80 had the effect of toning down the expectation that the existing order of the world would soon be transfigured into the Kingdom of God. Even so, during times of crisis—such as the persecutions of the Christians by Roman author­ities—expectation of the coming of the Kingdom of God could easily be restored, as, for example, in the contemporary Revelation of Saint John. The structure of the existential issue is notably similar to that of the Israelite prophetic communities and the issue of metastatic faith touched upon above. In Voegelin’s words:

If Christianity consisted in the burning desire for deliverance from the world, if Christians lived in expectation of the end of unredeemed his­tory, if their destiny could be fulfilled only by the realm in the sense of chapter 20 of Revelation, the church was reduced to an ephemeral community of men waiting for the great event and hoping that it would occur in their lifetime. On the theoretical level the problem could be solved only by the tour de force of interpretation that Saint Augustine performed in the Civitas Dei. There he roundly dismissed the literal belief in the millennium as “ridiculous fables” and then bold­ly declared the realm of the thousand years to be the reign of Christ in his church in the present saeculum that would continue until the Last Judgment and the advent of the eternal realm in the beyond.81

The Augustinian understanding of the Church, which remained intact until the end of medieval times in the West, simply declared the revo­lutionary expectations of a second coming to be ridiculous. And yet, human beings are perfectly at liberty to believe in ridicu­lous fables. Moreover, the temptation to do so is likely to be particu­larly strong, as we have indicated, during periods of crisis and change, when historical institutions are challenged and individuals long for relief from suffering, from evil, from the effects of the famous apoca­lyptic horsemen.82 Voegelin has called the experiential phenomenon the “fall from faith.” In the Christian world, the probability of such a fall increased with the spread of Christianity to ever-larger numbers of individuals who, at the same time, lacked the existential stamina to en­dure the uncertainties and precariousness of faith.

When such a fall is experienced on a socially widespread scale, the consequences will depend on the surrounding historical and, broadly speaking, religious culture into which the individuals are falling. “The fall could be caught,” Voe­gelin wrote, “only by experiential alternatives, sufficiently close to the experience of faith that only a discerning eye would see the difference, but receding far enough from it to remedy the uncertainty of faith in the strict sense.”83 The history of Islam, from the Kharijites to the Ikhwan, recapitulates a structurally similar fall from faith in response to a series of historical crises.

The original crisis in the Prophet’s “duty to succeed” was the exodus, the hijra from Mecca to Medina in 622. His triumphal return and the evocation of the umma was understood by his followers as the prelude to further triumphs — and especially the transformation of the umma from the potential of humanity living in submission to God to the actual establishment of an ecumenic Islamic world. The expansion of Islam was, of course, remarkable, but so too were the crises, most notably the Mongol depredations of the mid-thirteenth century.

The response of Ibn Taymiyya began a pattern that has not yet come to an end: if Mus­lims were unable to fulfill their duty to succeed, the reason lay in their having neglected the message of the Prophet. Only by recalling the pris­tine Islam of the pious forefathers, the salafa, could their triumphs be repeated. On the one hand, success required a new interpretation of the Koran, ijtihad, and thus a struggle with the existing interpretive author­ity of the ulama. On the other, it meant enacting the rule of God, the Sharia, by combining power, wealth, and jihad to command the good and forbid the evil.

Likewise the crisis of the “decline” of the Ottoman Empire motivated the restorative work of al-Wahhab. And again it was a salafist program of recovery that focused even more intently on puritanism, on political jihad, on dogmatic ijtihad in service to the Sharia. The setback of 1813, which ended with Abdullah’s head on a pike in Istanbul, was followed by redoubled efforts and the consolidation of Saudi-Wahhabist power. The help provided by the British introduced yet another layer of com­plexity: the modern experience of imperialism and Western domina­tion.

This time there was no mystic reappropriation of the Prophet’s message, such as may be found in the Sufism of Rumi. Nor, with the Saudi suppression of the Ikhwan (again with British help), was a gen­uine salafist response, namely, the formation of hijra communities in the desert, a serious possibility. Instead, with the increasing simplification of Islamic discourse with Mawdudi and al-Banna, and particularly with the reintroduction of jahiliyya as a means to stigmatize fellow Mus­lims who were political opponents, the response of Islamic thinkers was as modern as the Western intruders they found so objectionable.

By the mid-twentieth century, something like the following doctri­nal complex informed the salafist enterprise. First, Islam is a complete and all-encompassing way of life both for the individual and for the community; its chief antagonists are communism, capitalism, and fas­cism. Second, the Koran, rightly interpreted according to the salafist ijtihad, is a complete guide to individual and communal action. Third, the Sharia, the law of God, is a detailed guide to the right order of human life. Fourth, abandonment of the pristine ways of the ancestors and reliance on the West has caused the decline of Islamic power, wealth, culture, and righteousness; only a return to the old ways can change this. Fifth, science and technology are available from the West but must be appropriated without Westernization. And, last, jihad is central to the revival of Islam and the final conquest of the world for God and against Satan.84 In the following chapter we examine the further trans­formation of salafism into an ideology fueled less by love of one’s own than by hatred of the other.



9. See Pipes, Daniel. Militant Islam Reaches America. New York: Norton, 2002, 3, 245; Hiro, Dilip. War without End: The Rise of Islamist Terrorism and Global Response. London: Routledge, 2002, xxx.

10. Weber, Max. “The Social Psychology of the World Religions,” in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, edited by H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946, 291.

11. Voegelin, Eric. The New Science of Politics, in Modernity without Restraint, Edited by Manfred Henningsen. Vol 5 of The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000. 88.

12. Ajami, Fouad. The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey. New York: Pantheon, 1998, xix.

13. Voegelin, The New Science of Politics, op. cit., 151. See also Niebuhr, H. Richard.The Meaning of Revelation, New York: Macmillan, 1962, esp. chaps. 3 and 4.

14. Smith,  Wilfred Cantwell. Islam in Modern History, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957, 15. See also Hodgson, Marshall G.S. The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. 3 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974; Cook, Michael. Muhammad. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983; Rippin, Andrew. Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2001.

15. The contemporary scholarship concerned with the historical origins of the Islamic vulgate is discussed briefly in the appendix to this study.

16. Smith, Islam in Modern History, op. cit., 28; Rahman,Fazlur. Islam. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979., 16.

17. Rahman, Islam, ibid., 19.

18. Smith, Islam in Modern History, 31; Lewis, Bernard. The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror. New York: Modern library, 2003., 6-7.

19. Smith, Islam in Modern History, ibid., 32.

20. See Madelung, Wilfred. The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

21. See Black, Antony. History of Islamic Political Thought: from the Prophet to the Present. New York: Routledge, 2001, 18 ff.

22. Voegelin, Eric. Israel and Revelation, Vol 14 of The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Edited with an Introduction by Maurice P. Hogan, Columbia: University of Missouri Press,  2001, 207. (Originally published as Order and History, Vol I, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1956.

23. Ibid., 153.

24. It should, perhaps, be reiterated that this account of Israelite self-inter­pretation, like the Muslim vulgate discussed above, is based on scripture, on a sacred story, and not on, say, archaeology.

25. Voegelin, Israel and Revelation, 154.

26. Voegelin analyzed many of these problems in his later work. See in particu­lar Voegelin, Eric. The Ecumenic Age. Vol.17 of The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. Edited by Michael Franz. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000 (Originally published as Order and History, Vol IV, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1956.

27. Voegelin, Israel and Revelation, 207-8.

28. Malamat, A.  “The Struggle against the Philistines,” and Tadmor, H. “The United Monarchy.”  In  A History of the Jewish People, edited by H.H.Ben-Sasson. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976.

29. Buber, Martin. Moses: The Revelation and the Covenant. New York: Harper Torch Books, 1946, 182 ff.

30. Voegelin, Israel and Revelation, 514,406, 227,516-18. Voegelin referred to the structure of consciousness prior to “differentiation” as existing in a “compact” mode. There are degrees of compactness and differentiation, of course, but the direction of articulation goes in one direction only: from compactness to differentiation. The effort of a “re-compacting” consciousness is invariably accompanied by indices of irrationality. This becomes a major problem in developing a compre­hensive account of modernity.

31. Ibid., 545 ff., 561,506-8.

32. Voegelin has discussed the Christian version of this issue in The New Science of Politics, chap. 4, esp. 187 ff., and in “The People of God,” 131-214.

33. Black, History of Islamic Political Thought, 12; see also Crone, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, 245.

34. See Voegelin’s analysis of Mongol constitutional law, “The Mongol Orders of Submission to European Powers, 1245-1255,” 76-125, and the analysis in Cooper, Eric Voegelin and the Foundations of Modem Political Science, 252-84.

35. Rumi, Tales from the Masnavi.

36. In his testimony regarding the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa, Jamal Ahmad al-Fadl, a former Al Qaeda member turned FBI informant, recounted how Abu Hajer, a senior member of Al Qaeda, instructed al-Fadl’s group on ibn Taymiyya’s teaching. See Benjamin and Simon, Age of Sacred Terror, 41-42.

37. See Rauf, “Hadith Literature,” 271; Schacht, Origins of Muhammedan Juris­prudence, 58-59; Black, History of Islamic Political Thought, 33.

38. Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, 305-8.

39. Black, The History of Islamic Political Thought, 58; Leaman, Introduction to Medieval Islamic Philosophy, 13; Voegelin, The Middle Ages to Aquinas, 185, 186; Averroes, “The Decisive Treatise,” 164-86. See also the qualifications of von Sivers in Voegelin, The Middle Ages to Aquinas, 187-89n14.

40. Black, The History of Islamic Political Thought, 59.

41. See Esposito, Unholy War, 35 ff.; Bull, The Anarchical Society, 41-44.

42. Lapidus, “Separation of State and Religion,” 383.

43. See Laoust, Essai; Rosenthal, Political Thought in Medieval Islam, 51-61; Black, History of Islamic Political Thought, chap. 16. Hanbali jurisprudence is not merely of historical interest. It was a major element in the Abu Zaid affair at Cairo Uni­versity in the 1990s. See Abu Zaid, “Divine Attributes of the Qur’an,” 144; and Ruthven, A Fury for God, 39-42.

44. See Goldhizer, Muslim Studies, 219 ff.

45. Armstrong, “War: Is It Inevitable?” 64.

46. Benjamin and Simon, Age of Sacred Terror, 45.

47. See Kepel, Jihad, 219-21.

48. Laoust, Essai, 178.

49. Rosenthal, Political Thought in Medieval Islam, 54.

50. Laoust, Essai, 70, 14-16, 53; Black, History of Islamic Political Thought, 157.

51. Laoust, Essai, 477 ff.; Rosenthal, Political Thought in Medieval Islam, 60-61.

52. According to one account he found Ibn Taymiyya so compelling he copied the Book on Righteous Rule by hand. See Nicholson, Literary History of the Arabs, 466.

53. See Black, History of Islamic Political Thought, chap. 24. See also Lewis, What Went Wrong?

54. Rahman, Islam, 196.

55. Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 37.56. Brockelmann, History of the Islamic Peoples, 352.

57. See al Rasheed, History of Saudi Arabia, 17.

58. Smith, Islam in Modern History, 43; Haddad, “Qur’anic justification for the Islamic Revolution,” 17; Meddeb, Malady of Islam, 121.

59. Hitti, History of the Arabs, 741.

60. Gold, Hatred’s Kingdom, 50. Gold’s book, as the book by Schwartz, The Two Faces of Islam, are highly critical analyses of the Saudi regime. They do, however, direct attention to aspects of Saudi history that are understated or ignored by most other accounts.

61. Lewis, British Empire in the Middle East, 176.

62. The locus classicus is probably the fatwa issued by a Wahhabi imam, Abdul-Aziz bin Baz, in 1969 that declared the earth was a flat disk around which the sun moves. It was not until he was informed by Prince Sultan, who had witnessed the roundness of the earth from the space shuttle in 1985, that he withdrew the fatwa. See also the problem that Wahhabi ulama had in making sense of the radio in Hiro, War without End, 127.

63. Meddeb, Malady of Islam, 39.

64. Rahman, Islam, 212.

65. See Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age; Enayat, Modern Islamic Political Thought; Black, History of Islamic Political Thought, chap. 25.

66. Rahman, Islam, 215.

67. Lewis, What Went Wrong? 75.

68. Meddeb, Malady of Islam, 40.

69. Haddad, “Qur’anic Justification for an Islamic Revolution,” 15.

70. See Keddie, Sayyid Jamal ad-Din “Al-Afghani”; Kerr, Islamic Reform; Rah-man, Islam, 222-35.

71. See Lewis, Emergence of Modern Turkey.

72. Black, History of Islamic Political Thought, 318; Mitchell, Society of Muslim Brothers, 326-27.

73. Meddeb, Malady of Islam, 40.

74. Haddad, “Qur’anic Justification for an Islamic Revolution,” 27. See also Sivan, Radical Islam, 101; Kerr, Islamic Reform.

75. Choueiri, Islamic Fundamentalism, 39.

76. Smith, Islam in Modern History, 234.

77. Choueiri, Islamic Fundamentalism, 42.

78. Esposito, Unholy War, 56.

79. See Heb. 6:4-5; 11:1; Eph. 4:4-7; Rom. 13:9-10. See also Voegelin’s account in Hellenism, Rome, and Early Christianity, 163—72.

80. See Acts 2:22-36.

81. Voegelin, The New Science of Politics, 176. The quotation is from The City of God, xx, 7.

82. See Voegelin, The New Science of Politics, 187 ff, for an analysis of the prob­lem in the Christian context. See also his more detailed treatment of the post-medieval reintroduction of eschatology into politics in “The People of God,” 131—214.

83. Voegelin, The New Science of Politics, 188.

84. Esposito, Unholy War, 52-53.


This chapter is from New Political Religions, or An Analysis of Modern Terrorism (University of Missouri, 2005) with our review of his book here; also see History and the Holy Korean.”

Barry CooperBarry Cooper

Barry Cooper

Barry Cooper is a Board Member of VoegelinView and Professor of Political Science at the University of Calgary. He is the author, editor, or translator of more than thirty books and has published over one hundred and fifty papers and book chapters. He writes a regular column in the Calgary Herald.

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