Islam and Post Modernism

Ever since the commencement of the 19th century, Revivalism, Reformism and radicalism, and Nationalism and Islamic Socialism seem to be the most significant movements and inclinations of Islamic thinking in the contemporary Muslim world. Over the years, the restraining hegemony of the Western scientific way of thinking “applied to foreign cultures or concepts” not falling within the sphere of “Christian Europe a secular Western civilization.” has been expanded to the field of Islamic studies as well. Empiricism has always forced “its classifications, categories, definitions, distinctions, concepts, and theories on” other disciplines and philosophical ideas without apprehending any condemnation or negation. This excessive reliance on reason and senses as the only tools of learning or the logocentrism/logosphere, i.e., focusing solely on reason/aqal, ignores or neglects other sources of understanding and thinking,e.g., ethos {morals}, mythos {myths and legends/history} and pathos {emotions} along with a complete disregard of the divine sources of human guidance. On the other hand, the Muslim world is to develop its conceptual view of its history, culture, and religion to challenge the West’s hegemonic perspective to make them see the actual point of view.

The universal and sweeping nuances of scientific investigations make humanity the purpose and cause of investigation. At present, a rational interpretation supported by empirical, operational, and creative knowledge and motivated by financial reasons has attained a standing and supremacy equivalent to the “theological legal” rationale “of the Middle Ages or the Enlightenment the reason” due to the pressing stipulations of the industrialized countries. Modern-day political specialists are expressing the “threat” to “Western values” caused by Muslim “religious fanatics” rarely talk about the “economic mistake” of the “scientific experts.

Thus their investigations never inquire about the primary hegemonic mode of thinking that situate main concerns founded on scientific logic and falls short of endorsing research methods or plans embedded in the social sciences. As ignorance continues to increase in the supposedly politically sovereign nations of the Islamic world, the science of “man and society” in the West follow its mission of capricious partition of the world and disintegration of reality.

Certainly, hermeneutics realizes the central role history and language play in any understanding. As a language, along with its “content” of thought, it is not just a way of communication. Therefore a series of models of construing the natural world influenced the language of each era/episteme. Moreover, in turn, religious language manifested this alteration’s impact, ending up in the escalation of a secular mindset. Hence the language of Islamic theology has made an impact as well as―been affected by the expressions of other scholarly exercises, e.g., Greek philosophy, pre-Islamic Persian culture, ever changing Western trends during the history and present times depend upon the matter of Islamization and de-Islamization of the Muslim mindset.

In the conspicuous absence of a neutral or value-free science of the West, Islamic values with their obligatory sense of responsibility can be very relevant along the boundary between science and moral responsibility. The emphasis laid on knowing the main features of Islamic thinking and culture, viewpoints, and ways of living of the most influential religions and modern secular civilizations to inculcate authentically Islamic knowledge.

Contrary to this post-modern belief that words are worn-out and over and over again inverted from their original meaning, the perceptions and conceptual words are containers of ‘higher’ and more ‘original’ meanings to which man responds with the flexibility to an objective and higher truth. If meaning vanishes as manifested by the modern ‘diversification’ of meanings and various post-structural theories, this world is on the brink of yielding to purposelessness.

“The rudiments of the dîn- tradition or ‘religion’ are the channels through which man can restore his animal instincts, his ego (nafs), and eventually become the vice-regent of Allah(khalîfah) in this world to justify his being a human truth. In the other world (al-âkhirah) man created in a shape and form corresponding to his intentions and deeds in the life of the world (dunya) and the judgment would be Allah’s alone. This philosophy of the Real was compelling and legitimate in the old days of the ‘Golden Ages,’ and this teaching is valid today, be it termed modernism or postmodernism, the times we live in, and it is going to remain so till the end of time no matter what the ever-shifting human-made theories say. The primary issue today should be living to the best of one’s capacity and ability―as a true believer and as a Muslim in the (post-) the modern world, walking the course of uncontaminated religion (Islam), honest and truthful, seeking AllahAlmighty’s Good Pleasure (rada) only.

There is just no turning―back to the Middle Ages or changing both the Orient and the Occident into some conventionally leaning religious society. However, tracing the traditional tenets back to their metaphysical roots and then applying them once more with a new vigor examining every aspect of postmodernism separately in this light is the most needed thing now. Man has undoubtedly lost much more comparatively than what he has supposedly gained through the process of modernization. Liberty, independence, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of speech, and healthcare are the oft-quoted gains of humanity, although they accompany―harmful individualism and consumerism for the ‘fortunate few’ in this world.

Contemporary science or empiricism often estranged from religion, is portrayed―as one of the main instruments of the abandonment of time-honored religions in the current world. From the 17th century onwards, the sanctified and the spiritual surrendered to a self-sufficient worldview deprived of divine intervention. In particular, the German and French philosophers, psychologists, and scholars gradually forced religion to explain and rationalize itself both as a social tradition and a compilation of essential faith items about the world and its various functions. Consequently, as a philosophical agenda developed in the Western psyche, secularization led to the community’s secularization and detachment from its spiritual issues.

Related queries about integrity, harmony, psychology, politics also played an essential role in this dilemma. The materialization of modern mentality and the predicament of postmodernity, on the whole, is thus neither a local nor an isolated occurrence; it entails a complete theoretical modification. The excessive stress and reliance of postmodernism on intellect, reason, and sense has belittled the significance of morality and mysticism and disturbed the balance among the various aspects of the human body (physical, corporal, intellectual, psychological, mental, emotional, and spiritual)essential for the holistic growth and development of a man.

On the other hand, the royal rank of religion pledged to search for the deepest and the highest achievable perception level. The most intense human stimulus of the innate urge is to appreciate the experience, achieve a consistent and gratifying knowledge of the world, and connect science and theology both as attempts to discover and investigate distinct characteristics of everything tangible and unsubstantial. Both religion and science survey the world of experience from their particular point of view. Consequently, areas of contact are probable between the two. However, once we become conscious that we do not have to agree to the metaphysical view of the world often connected―with science, the communication between humans and the Divinely-revealed knowledge observed from a whole new perspective. This reciprocal interaction between the acquired and the revealed knowledge can be considered a prospective opening instead of a conflict. Besides, in any case, theology and science, though at different levels of achievement―in their awareness of the absolute reality and truth, are creatures of the same Creator. Therefore the most critical responsibility of religious thought is the analysis and critique of the metaphysical basis of modern human sciences.

From the Islamic point of view, the predicament appears to be even more complicated. The present-day Muslim world lacks self-confidence because of its weak socio-economic standing. The impact, tests, and trials created by the rise of postmodernity weaken Muslim intellectuals and put them at significant risk. Thus an appropriate rejoinder and a suitable approach towards such a challenge are imperative. “Isolationism” today is neither feasible nor desirable because the speed and frequency of modern ways of communication have practically left us no place to hide.

Moreover, Islam makes it an obligation for each of us to manage complete prudence, which contains everything at its suitable and appropriate place. The pursuit for a broader perspective of the world calls for taking into account every type of knowledge and fusing them into one particular splendid system. To make Islam an essential “part of social and intellectual activity and play the role it once did in world history,” then preparations must be made to the best of our abilities to face the ever-shifting circumstances of postmodern life and thought head-on.

Deconstruction

The analytical technique poststructuralists use to analyze a text is called deconstruction. “Deconstruction can perhaps best described as a reading theory that aims to undermine the logic of opposition within texts.” (David Macey, The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory (London: Penguin Books, 2000), 121) While deconstruction does not intend to discover the real meaning of a text, it does involve two things, which are;

1 A consideration of what is missing from the text, and

  1. Foregrounding in the text, the absent or the missing

The term ‘deconstruction’ means to see how the text’s essential message is betrayed or destabilized by the ‘accidental’ attributes of a text. As a philosophy of meanings, deconstruction deals with the ways writers, texts, and readers construct meaning.―In linguistics, philosophy, and literary theory, it means exposing and undermining metaphysical assumptions involved in systematic attempts to ground knowledge, especially in academic disciplines. (Hugh J. Silverman, Ed.Continental Philosophy II; Derrida and Deconstruction (New York, NY: Routledge,1989), 57). Deconstruction, a significant theory associated with structuralism, proposes that human logic has given some speculative and abstract opposites, set in order in a transcript. For example, ―the binary pairs ofEnlightenment/Romantic, male/female, speech/writing, rational/emotional (J. A. Cuddon, A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, 59.),signifier/signified, symbolic/imaginary, etc.

As a well-established but still controversial philosophical theory, deconstruction is aimedat the (re)reading of all theoretical works. In accepted practice, deconstruction depicts analytical taking apart of conventions and conventional approaches of thinking. Deconstruction considers every written work as ―a complex, historical and cultural process rooted in texts‘ relations to one another as well as in the institutions and conventions of writing. (Jacques Derrida,Specters of Marx(London: Routledge, 1994), 49).Broadly speaking, deconstruction is a sequence of strategies and a deposit of theoretical statements about words, their connotations, and reading texts.The verb “to deconstruct” is frequently employed as a synonym to criticize or show the discrepancy of a point in a text.

As a school of philosophy Deconstruction made an enormous impact on Anglo-Americancriticism of literature, psychology and philosophy. It overturns the Western metaphysical traditionand represents a complex response to a variety of theoretical and philosophical movements of the20th century, e.g. Husserlian phenomenology, Saussurean and French structuralism, and Freudianand Lacanian psychoanalysis”. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993), 329

Jacques Derrida coined the term deconstruction in the 1960s by building upon Ferdinand de Saussure’s claim of the arbitrariness of verbal signs’. In his book of Grammatology (1967), he applied ―Martin Heidegger’s concept of Destruktion or Abbau to textual reading(Jacques Derrida, Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass. (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983), 1)referring to ―a process of exploring the categories and concepts that tradition has imposed on a word, and the history behind them. (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, Introduction, Part II. 5.)

Deconstructive arguments and techniques related to other theories like pragmatism, feminism or critical theory, an offshoot of poststructuralism, and deconstruction are a meta-language itself and an exposer of all languages discourses. The only way to correctly understand meanings requires deconstructing the hypotheses and systems of information, which create the misapprehension of an odd meaning. This deconstructive operation can turn a male into a female, change speech to writing, and convert rational into emotional.

Deconstruction investigates the basics of Western thought but neither to eliminate theirinconsistencies and paradoxes nor to break away from the demands of the traditional norto set up its own system. Derrida described deconstruction as “an unclosed, unenclosable,not wholly formalizable ensemble of rules for reading, interpretation and writing.”Jacques Derrida,Writing and Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 40

Criticism of the Enlightenment, literature, and metaphysics, especially the original writings of Plato, Rousseau, and Husserl, is the central concern of deconstruction without making any of these works pointless. To a certain extent, deconstruction shows these classics to be teeming with manifold and, at times, incompatible connotations. Furthermore, deconstruction does not assert that conceptions are limitless; only states interpret concepts in diverse ways by putting them into innovative perspectives. Deconstructive analyses confirm that certain peculiarities and disagreements do not have any normative consistency opening conceptual oppositions to reinterpretation in which the two terms have at the same time ―conceptual dependence or similarity and conceptual difference distinction-Jack M. Balkin, “Deconstruction”, A Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory, ed. DennisPatterson 2nd. Ed. (UK: Wiley- Blackwell, 2010), 117

Deconstructive argument explores the ways ‘this similarity or difference’ is concealed or disregarded, and lays emphasis on the significance of the situation in pronouncing a decision besides studying the ideological effects of the use of conceptual oppositions. It sees whether their disguised or suppressed instability lends unnecessary plausibility to legal, philosophical, religious and literary arguments and doctrines.―Rarely has a critical theory attracted the sort of dread and hysteria that deconstruction has incited since its inception in 1967.David Macey,The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory, 464

 As a special type of exercise in reading, a technique of analysis and a form of criticalinvestigation, Barbara Johnson explains the term in her book,The Critical Difference (1981): ―Deconstruction is not synonymous with “destruction”, however. It is in factmuch closer to the original meaning of the word ‘analysis’ itself, which etymologicallymeans “to undo” — a virtual synonym for “to de-construct.”―

“If anything is destroyed in a deconstructive reading, it is not the text, but the claim to unequivocaldomination of one mode of signifying over another. It is a reading which analyses the specificity ofa text’s critical difference from itself ” – Barbara Johnson,The Critical Difference (USA: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), 121.

Derrida‘s philosophy criticizes structuralism also. Therefore Derrida states that:― “the motif of deconstruction has been associated with poststructuralism although it was a wordunknownin France until its ―return‖ from the United States”.Jacques Derrida, Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation With Jacques Derrida Ed. John D. Caputo(New York: Fordham University Press, 1997), 3.

In fact, Derrida is in favor of the corruption of the unpolluted ―origins by the structures oflanguage and temporality. Manfred Frank has even referred to Derrida’s work as Neostructuralism. M. Frank,What is Neostructuralism?trans. S. Wilke& R. Gray. (Minneapolis: Universityof Minnesota Press,1989), 211., which contained his initial apprehensions about the structure of thetexts. Indeed, deconstruction is tied up with both structuralism and antistructuralism,something which Derrida terms “structural problematic.” He considers his first use of theword deconstruction during the peak of “structuralism an “antistructuralist gesture” because ―Structures were to be undone, decomposed, desedimented.‖ He thinks that bothGenesis and Structure are necessary forms of explanation and the difficulty to reconcilethe two is the tension of the structural problematic. Therefore:―

some objects need to be described in terms of structure while others in genesis,(Jacques Derrida, Deconstruction in a Nutshell, 19) structural problematic is that ―beneath the serene use of these concepts [genesis and structure] is to be found adebate that…makes new reductions and explications indefinitely necessary.-(Jacques Derrida, Deconstruction in a Nutshell, 53)

In the Western philosophical tradition, deconstruction identifies and targets a:―metaphysics of presence”, logocentrism or phallogocentrism which holds that speech-thought (thelogos) is a privileged, ideal, and self-present entity, through which all discourse and meaning arederived.-(Jacques Derrida, Deconstruction in a Nutshell, 57)

Martin Heidegger on philosophy as the mission of destroying ontological conceptionsincluding commonplace implications of terms like time, history, being, theory, death,mind, body, matter, logic, etc.:―When tradition becomes master it ‘transmits’ is made so inaccessible, proximally and for the most part, that it rather becomes concealed. Tradition takes what has come down to us and delivers itover to self-evidence; it blocks our access to those primordial ‘sources’ from which the categoriesand concepts handed down to us have been in part quite genuinely drawn. Indeed it makes us forgetthat they have had such an origin, and makes us suppose that the necessity of going back to thesesources is something which we need not even understand – (Martin Heidegger,Being and Time, Introduction, Part II . 43)

Heidegger believes that custom can become calcified:―If the question of Being is to have its own history made transparent, then this hardened traditionmust be loosened up, and the concealments which it has brought about dissolved. We understandthis task as one in which by taking the question of Being as our clue we are to destroy thetraditional content of ancient ontology until we arrive at those primordial experiences in which weachieved our first ways of determining the nature of Being — the ways which have guided us eversince – (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, Introduction, Part II . 44)  

In Europe, deconstruction is a reaction to structuralism, considered a poststructuralist philosophy. Deemphasizing the subjects‘ autonomy in determining cultural meanings, and structuralists claimed that linguistic structures shaped personal thinking, thus breaking up the subject matter into superior civilization powers. Deconstruction hits at the so-called unwavering, universal, or ahistorical assumptions about structures of meaning. Like other communal philosophies, which try to diminish individual contemplation and achievement to enrich constructs, deconstruction, thought to be an antihumanist theory, especially in the United States where its thoroughly subjectivist assertion makes transcripts signify anything an individual desires them to represent.

Journal of Islamic Thought and Civilization Spring 2013, Volume 3, Issue 1 – Dr. Usman Khalil / Ms Abida Khan



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