Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dear Aqil

Dear Aqil,

The entire collection of Ali Shariati's speeches and writings have been published in over 30 volumes in the past years. They are all in Farsi. The publishers (mostly Shariati students) have done a good job in combining all materials related to a topic in a single volume. This should make it easier for a reader to find in one book what Shariati had said in many speeches over a decade. Therefore, this should help you as well.

In addition to your own list of research topics, I can suggest a few more:

1) What you refer to as 'eclecticism' in Shariati's thought has to do with his appreciation of what Islam entails. For Shariati, Islam encapsulates the 3 main trends in human history: a) Erfaan (Mystical / Spiritual quest of humanity; b) Equality (human struggle for social justice); c) Liberty (human struggle for freedom and liberty). In the Western context, 3 figures represent these 3 movements: Jesus Christ (Spirituality), Karl Marx (social justice and equality), Jean Paul Sartre (liberty and free choice). As such, we have 3 schools of thought: Christianity, Marxism and Existentialism.

According to Shariati, Islam recognizes all 3 quests at once. So we have a simple formula: Mohammad (PBUH) = Jesus (PBUH) + Marx + Sartre / Islam = Christianity + Socialism + Existentialism

The West has struggled for these 3; however, these have been 3 parallel struggles- never as a single unified struggle. Islam, on the other hand, has the capacity to synthesize the 3 into a unity.

I personally think Shariati was brilliant in recognizing the 3 fundamental requirements for a balanced and happy life: the need for spirituality, the need for equality and justice, and the need for freedom of choice and liberty.

2) Another important theme in Shariati's work is 'What Is To Be Done?'. This is a question still facing the Muslim world. As Shariati saw it, we have 3 choices: a) build huge walls to separate our societies from the non-Muslim world, so we can retain our Islamic identity (something Al-Qaeda and the Taliban advocate); b) surrender to the more advanced contemporary Western civilization and embrace their identity (something Mustafa Kemal Atatürk advocated in Turkey after WWI and still prevails there); c) identify what the essential Islamic identity is that should be preserved, and then borrow freely anything we need from the outside to rebuild our nations. He advocated the 3rd path. It involves saying no to stagnation and retreat to the past, it involves saying no to surrender and blind emulation from the West, it involves saying yes to new ideas and new thinking. This was an important project for Shariati.

3) Another important project for Shariati was 'Islamic Reformation'. He openly advocated Reformation along the same lines as the Christian Reformation led by Martin Luther and John Calvin. This put Shariati in sharp conflict with the clergy. I personally think Shariati was quite correct, and very courageous to publicly call for the need for Reformation. Reformation does not mean reforming Islam; rather it means: a) reforming our methodologies for the study of Islam; b) opposing the clergy's monopoly over interpretation of Islam and the Quran- God has not appointed any one person or group to be the 'guardian' of Islam; 3) defending the right of every Muslim to read the Quran and form a personal opinion of what God reveals to him through the verses (this obviously negates the clergy's claim that only they are uniquely qualified to form an opinion of what Islam actually says).

Without a Reformation, the Islamic world will continue in its current state of 'irrelevance', intellectual and scientific underdevelopment, and economic backwardness.

I know this is a very hasty and short treatment of ideas Shariati spent many many lectures to elaborate on. But I hope this email opens new possibilities for your research project. Let me know if you need more information.

God Bless,
Hamid Entezam


Aqil Fithri said...


saya ada berbalas parta-e dengan beberapa pemikir tentang kajian iranologi. hamid entezam salah satunya. dalam parta-e yang dikirimkannya, terkandung beberapa isi menarik yang boleh dikongsi bersama. justeru, saya kepilkan dalam kiriman di atas untuk bacaan khalayak.

terima kaseh.

Rausyanfikir said...

Salam Aqil,

Menarik. Since aku pun penggemar Ali Shariati, maka aku bleh faham apa yg ditulis tu.

Ali Shariati cuba sintesiskan dua benda yang agak mustahil: intellectualism + radical activism.

Dia berjaya jugaklah walaupun xsepenuhnya.

Dan aku bleh faham tentang reformation tu sbb dlm Syiah mmg imam dia ada autoriti yg cukup besar berbanding Sunni.

Dalam hal ni aku xnampak idea reformation tu relevan dlm masyarakat kita sbb dalam Sunni kita mmg ada autoriti. Cumanya apa yg berlaku skrg, mengikut prof al attas adalah loss of adab.

ini betul kalau kita kaji line of outhority ulama' skrg ni bnyk berbasiskan modernis Muhammad Abduh, Al-Afghani.

Sedangkan ulama' terdahulu mcm al-ghazali semua lebih tinggi maqamnya.

So dlm hal ni aku nmpk kita xleh follow islamic reformation because ianya akan membuka lebih bnyk pintu liberalis dlm islam.

ada betulnya apa yg ali shariati complain tu tp xleh la kita telan bulat2.kena sesuaikan dgn konteks kita.

so kesimpulan aku ialah kita follow activsm dia, dan contemporary intellectual dia dan kita gabung jalin ilmu ulama' silam yg berwibawa.