By Wan Ahmad Fayhsal
The world of 21st century is moving very fast and very much interconnected. Countries flourished more than ever – unprecedented in mankind’s history. Resultant of this, the reordering of international system is getting more rapid by each day, spurred by economic development and new flush of capitals.
China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa – or what we called BRICS – is now getting traction. It is a new force to be reckoned with especially as a formidable international pact in counterweighing and reshaping the Anglo-Saxon dominated international system of post-War Europe.
On top of this development, the Muslim world or to borrow Marshall G.S. Hodgson’s ‘Islamicate’ is still languishing and subordinated under the aegis and influence of traditional superpowers of yesterday and tomorrow.
Debates and discourses on international relations have always been viewed from modern lenses of Eurocentricism or non-Islamic frameworks that view the Muslim polities as mere appendages to the international system.
We have been subjected to various colonialisms – especially at present resource colonialism and our polities are being turned into the ‘theatre of war’ for the Great Game of superpowers in the course of maintaining their hegemony.
How best should we Muslims react to this development? For how long we need to be regarded as mere supporting actors to the dynamics of modern world history? Are we fated to be like this, condemned by God?
This is where to really give meaning to the chaotic situations that we are currently in, like it or not Muslims must return to the basics on what the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ said, as narrated by Thawbān:
“The people will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their dish.
Someone asked: Will that be because of our small numbers at that time?
He replied: No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent and Allah will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and placed enervation into your hearts.
Someone asked: What is wahn ?
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ): He replied: Love of the world and dislike of death.
This ḥadīth is sufficed to diagnose both the external and internal state of the ummah. The disease called “al-wahn” can be understood as described by lexicographer like Ibn Manẓūr is a state in which the person feels weak, feeble and languid whether of its body, will power, work and affair. In short it’s a sign of total weakness, enervated; broken inside-out.
The state of the ummah today befits the prophetic vision of "al-wahn" - like scum, and froth in the water (source pic: scottyjordan.uk)
Due to this we are susceptible to what Malek Ben Nabi called colonisabilité – a manifestation of weakening structural feebleness and social dynamics of a society. Although we have moved out from the colonial yoke, we are still very much dependent and subjected to a greater cultural and political force of the present time.
Thus first wave of colonialism is followed by the second wave of neo-colonialism where despite of our wealth due to oil and natural resources we are nothing but a periphery to the core of world-system.
The allusion that Prophet made on the state of Ummah in the ḥadīth earlier is a realized predicament. We are being contained economically, politically and worse culturally by external forces due to our internal brittleness.
The Prophet himself (ﷺ) gave a clear interpretation of which we as the one who lived throughout these years of decline must able to see through the thick fog that engulfed us for so long since the colonial era.
Write we must.
Lamentation is never the solution. We must rekindle the same spirit of those who came before us in commentating the development of the world from the view and standpoint of Muslim, guided by the supreme sources which Prophet (ﷺ) guaranteed will not lead us astray forever as long as we hold unto them firmly which are the Holy Qurʾān and Prophetic sunnah.
Development of geopolitics in its fullest should be a great concern to us Muslims. We could not afford to remain as spectators and passive recipients to every motions and propositions put forth by other civilizations. We must reclaim our leadership as commanded by God to His prophets who are made leaders by virtue of them fulfilling the commands laid by God – [al-Anbiyāʾ: 73].
For that we must have our set of unique framework and tools that are distinct to the normal framework discussed in geopolitics, international relations, and political economy in order to diagnose the realities that enveloped us all.
Our situational assessments must be made with the Worldview of Islām at the back of our mind, guiding our analytical mind in apprehending not only the causal realities but also the underlying dynamics as well as implicate order which are part and parcel of God’s law for mankind at civilizational level - as what the great Muslim historian and social scientist Ibn Khaldūn and many others have observed and scientifically analyzed.
The New Islamicate
To help us with a more holistic and sturdier framework of analysis, we believe the conceptual device called “Islamicate” bequeathed by the late Quaker historian of Islamic History – Marshall Goodwin Simss Hodgson (d.1968) is very much pertinent for international relations, geopolitics and political economy of Muslim world vis-à-vis other civilizations. Islamicate is a central unit of analysis of world history which Hodgson’s skillfully applied in his attempt to situate Islam and Muslim in the course of World History.
Hodgson was a very meticulous scholar. He carefully distinguished and analyzed salient adjectival concepts that tried to describe Islam and its socio-cultural influence from the outside.
The three-volume work written by the late Marshal G. S. Hodgson where he first articulated the concept of "Islamicate"
Adjectives such as ‘Islamic’, ‘Islamdom’ could not do justice in framing his queries on Islamic civlizations and its impact not only to Muslim but also non-Muslims and world at large. For this he creatively conjured a new concept of ‘Islamicate’ which seek to capture:
“a culture, centred on a lettered tradition, which has been historically distinctive of Islamdom the society, and which has been naturally shared in by both Muslims and non-Muslims who participate at a fully in the society of Islamdom.”
“ ‘Islamicate’ would refer not directly to the religion, Islam, itself but to social and cultural complex historically associated with Islam and the Muslims, both among Muslims themselves and even when found among non-Muslims.” (Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, p.58-59)
In light of this inclusive and expansive concept, we seek to reposition and reclaim the Islamicate discourse from the marginalia of international relations, political economy as well as geopolitics of today.
Muslim writers must narrate and commentate events and occurrences using sound framework as the above that fits the architectonic framework of Worldview of Islām as exemplified by luminous scholars of the past and present in addressing the concerns of the age in the area of geopolitics, international relations and political economy.
For the small efforts that we can contribute in generating greater good for the Ummah and mankind at large in evidencing raison d'être of Islām in geopolitics, international relations and political economy is nothing less than the Prophetic spirit of “And We did not send you (Muhammad) except as a Mercy to the worlds” [al-ʾAnbiyāʾ:107]).
The article was first published by The Malaysian Reserve, 3rd July 2015.