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Islam and Humanism

Mamadiou Dia
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Articles and Essays

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Islam and Humanism

Mamadiou Dia


Mamadiou Dia (Senegal, born 1911) was a schoolteacher, a headmaster, and a journalist before turning to politics in the mid-1940s. He served as a senator of the French Republic, representing Senegal; then after independence, he was prime minister of Senegal for four years. Dia's long collaboration with President Léopold Sédar Senghor, a non-Muslim, symbolized the relative absence of religious strife in Senegal, where the population is more than four-fifths Muslim. Nonetheless, Dia broke with Senghor in 1962 and was jailed for a dozen years. During his incarceration, Dia turned from politics to religion, integrating his fervent socialism into a theory of “Islamic humanism.” 1 Kenneth Cragg, “Mamadou Dia of Senegal,” in The Pen and the Faith: Eight Modern Muslim Writers and the Qur'an (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1985), pp. 33–52; René Luc Moreau, Africains Musulmans (African Muslims) (Paris: Présence Africaine; Abidjan: Inades, 1982), pp. 275–279. In a series of books on Islam published after his release from prison, Dia argues that interpretation of Islam must respond positively to the modern world, as Christianity has. Dia refers frequently to recent French theology for inspiration and methodological guidance—the effect being an opacity somewhat different from the Qur'anic exegesis of other works in this book.

Theological Bases of Islamic Humanism

All projects of Islamic renovation, in order to survive, must be based on solidly established theoretical foundations that call for a reflection on [the original] sources. The Islamic humanism that is being sought cannot forget this lesson, which results from the history of modernist reformism itself. In order to face the problems of the day, Islam needs first to affirm itself as ethical and religious value as much as spiritual personality. To resolve its own problems and confront the modern ideologies, it requires an adequate ideological apparatus built on an authentic Islamic philosophy. Islamic authenticity requires a return to the sources, that is, to the Qur'an and to the [sunna], not to take shelter there, to drown current cares there, but to draw from thence elements for the renovation and revitalization of Islamic philosophy. It is thus to a confrontation with the sources which we must submit any reformism, in order to know if there exist or not, in Islam, the ideological bases of a humanism integrating reason, the person, history; and if so, to try to determine in what measure the ideology of Islam lends itself to an enlargement to the dimensions of a universal humanism. . . .

Islam and History

A correct exegesis of the Qur'an, as we have already indicated, leads to a consideration of Islam as both esoteric and exoteric, haqiqa [truth] and shari‘a [Islamic law], meta-history and history. Man, in accepting the burden of the amana [faith] on the day of the Covenant, has affirmed his Promethean character before God. It matters little that this event cannot be dated, since it is situated in pre-existence: the Muslim retains the symbol of it; he knows that he is the inheritor of this celestial being that had the crazy audacity to designate him for conquest. This spiritual filiation leaves him no doubt about his Promethean vocation and exempts him from asking God to descend to earth in order to make history. If he tried to forget this vocation, the shahada [acceptance of Islam] 2 [The shahada, which translates literally as witnessing, is repeated at all prayers.—Editor] and the shari‘a remind him of it at all times. First, the shahada—which, as we already know, is not pure contemplation, pure spiritualization, but Promethean effort to be faithful to the pact concluded with God. The history which was in virtuality in the celestial sojourn of man, begins, not with Islam, nor with Christianity or Judaism, but well before, with Adam descended to earth, less to expiate a sin than to accomplish the promise made to God: the promise to witness out of benevolence and out of his creative power through imitation of the creation, on a human scale. The continuity of destiny born of meta-history obliges the Muslim to adopt a conquering and creative attitude towards the world. In inviting him to meditate on the beauties of creation, on universal harmony, in exciting his curiosity, the Qur'an engages him—one cannot deny this—in the path of discovery and creativity which leads to salvation. But if the shahada appears thus as the source of the Islamic philosophy of history, as the ontological foundation of the Promethean vocation of Islam, if it is historic conscience, it is through the shari‘a that it becomes praxis, concrete history, lived experience, acted faith. Through the shari‘a the Muslim descends from the peaks of spirituality, installs himself in temporality, takes possession of the world, not to transform it into an eternal dwelling, but to set it up as a way station necessary for the pursuit of his transhistorical voyage. With the shari‘a are born the written event, dated, the countability of time passing from qualitative to quantitative, the organization of a living community, the edification of a culture of totality responding to the needs of the totality which is man. It is the Muslim response, on the temporal plane, to the appeal of the shahada which invites us to remain faithful to the totality, to reject any dualist worldview, and to realize the earthly vocation of man in a trans-historical perspective.

It is thus a positive response to history that the sources prescribe, and in fact the Islamic response is marked by positivity. It appears in the dynamism of Islam which, scarcely 15 years after the death of the prophet, extends its influence over three continents, contributing thereafter to the origin of the modern international economy; in the glory of the experimental sciences of the ‘Abbasids [reigned 750–1258], which introduced “the foreign themes of Greek aesthetic statistics” with the utilization “of singular numbers, irrationals, trigonometry and algebra” (Louis Massignon). It is written in the vitality and liberalism of the political institutions that inspired democratic constitutions while remaining faithful to theocracy, giving birth sometimes to secular regimes such as the Socialist Republic of Lahsa [presumably al-Ahsa’, capital of the Qarmati state in eastern Arabia, tenth to eleventh centuries], whose revolutionary zeal bordered on heresy; [and the] the caliphate of Baghdad [762–1258], during the same epoch, whose caliphs remained content to be no more than “president of Islam,” renouncing theocratic privileges, including the Friday sermon. 3 Aly Mazahéri, La vie quotidienne des musulmans au Moyen Age [The Everyday Life of Muslims in the Middle Ages, 1951]. It bursts through “this gushing of creative power” (Wilfred Cantwell Smith) of medieval Islam, which not only built new empires, doubling by its conquest the geographic sphere of influence of classical Islam, but favored the blossoming of the cultures of the converted peoples: Persians, Turks, Indonesians. It is that Islam becomes very quickly—alas!—the faith and the raison d’être of a ruling class, overflowing with dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit. From a religion of adversity, of salvation in defeat, it transformed into a “religion of triumph in success, of salvation in victory, accomplishment, and power,” a religion of effectiveness, of the creation of the project whereby history confirms faith. During this conquering period . . . the “shahid, that is, the martyr who fights and dies in the path of God,” gives his life, “not against history but with it, for the historic and earthly success of Islam, for the triumph of its cause, for the expansion of its domination in the world.” 4 W[ilfred Cantwell] Smith, Islam in Modern [History, 1957]. It is significant that a pious theologian as classical as [‘Ali ibn Muhammad] al-Mawardi [Iraq, circa 974–1058] comes to construct an abad [eternity; here, utopia] of the world based on the fecundity of the soil as the source of ease and riches; on hope as a grace “placed in the heart of man,” so that civilization extends itself over the world, and to prefigure, even before [Henri de] Saint- Simon [French social theorist, 1760–1825], the common exploitation of the natural resources unequally distributed throughout the earth, on the basis of mutual aid. But for our purpose, the positive character of the response of Islam manifests itself above all in the idea of progress that Islamic thinkers and philosophers have brought to light. These are, above all, secular thinkers and philosophers. It is the physician [Abu Bakr Muhammad] Razi [Persia, 864– 925], whose philosophy is founded on the notions of “demiurge,” of “materia prima,” of “space and time,” who distinguishes between absolute time and limited time, who proclaims the mission of the philosophers “to awaken souls.” It is the mathematician [Abu Rayhan] Biruni [Persia, 973–circa 1050] who professes a philosophy of history based, in imitation of the yogas of India, on the cycles corresponding to the periods of universal cataclysms. It is [Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub] Al-Kindi [Arabia, circa 801–866] who, rallying to the idea of a creation ex nihilo, established the distinction between the divine world and the world of nature, the world of becoming and that of change, between the revealed truth and the philosophical truth. It is Averroes (Ibn Rushd) [Spain- Morocco, died 1198] who by his Aristotelian rationalism—that in reality never abandoned the dialectic of esoteric ta’wil [interpretation]—will give rise after the live curiosity of Middle Age Christianity, to the enthusiasm of Ernest Renan [French Orientalist, 1823–1892], who will make a free thinker out of him, when he was never anything but an Islamic free thinker. But, at least as much as secular thought, it is religious thought itself that is affected by the philosophical idea of progress. It is that which attests to the audacious enterprise of the Isma‘ili gnosis, which, after Al-Kindi, allows itself to calculate the cycle of the revelation, throws itself into the science of balance, “quantitative science,” who proposes to measure “the intelligence, the soul of the world, nature, forms, stars,” without forgetting “the animal, the vegetable, the mineral” and above all the letters (Henry Corbin, p. 186), which presents itself as an anticipation of “the energy of the soul,” manifesting even the ambition to “build robots, artificial humans” (Louis Massignon).

One may also say that it is this Islam which, with pan-divine Averroism, is at the root of the “scientism” that has contaminated the West through the mediation of medieval Christianity. The fact that Islamic orthodoxy does not repudiate Averroism, nor Averroes, nor even the Isma‘ili quantitatism, is the proof that in Islam, philosophical progress is not necessarily a heresy. On the contrary, through the richness of its philosophical culture, the result of a synthesis of diverse elements, autochthonous and foreign, Islam shows that it is open to crossfertilization, that it can make itself “woman” and become the matrix of a historic, progressive, original culture, which is something else than the product of syncretism. . . .

Islam Confronts Contemporary Humanism

Islam has not, truly, remained indifferent in the face of the problem of its adaptation to the modern world. Reformism represents a praiseworthy effort, both of secular elites and progressive ‘ulama’ [religious scholars], to elaborate a constructive and dynamic version of Islam. Unfortunately, the responses of reformism are false responses to the problems which it confronts. The effort of the ‘ulama’ is shackled by the vision of the past from which they do not succeed in detaching themselves; reform is conceived in relation to the past and not as a function of the present. It is the institutions of the past that are asked to respond to the needs of the present; it is the past which they wish to revive in the present, or, in other words, the present is viewed as past, as attested to by the attitude of modernist exegesis which exhausts itself demonstrating the Qur'anic origin of the most modern discoveries. The reformism of the ‘ulama’, far from situating itself in our world, cannot respond to its challenges.

The modernists of Western inspiration, in sacrificing the unitary character of Islam to a dualist point of view which is totally foreign to it, propose less a reform than a dissolution and, in the greatest of their hypotheses, a Christianization of Islam. They do not believe, nor renew; they destroy in servile imitation. This “reformism” poses more problems than it resolves. In its more moderate form, it puts fidelity to institutions before fidelity to faith. Its modernism is nothing more than a facade of modernism which pastes modern ideas on a foundation of archaism. The paradox of Islamic modernism is that it totally ignores modern problems, which are confused with ancient themes dressed up as modernity. Thus, traditional theology remains at the center of modernist thought, with the old debate on free will which has lost none of its formal character since the Mu‘tazilites, 5 [The Mu‘talizites were an early Islamic sect that helped to found Islamic philosophy on ancient Greek philosophical methods.—Editor] the old debate on power, on imamat [leadership], which is modernized by the name secularity. No doubt reformism has sensed the necessity of reopening ijtihad [Islamic interpretation] as preliminary to the development of all free thought and all philosophical progress. But the fact even of posing this demand that it must satisfy bears witness to a fidelity to established hierarchy and institutions, taking precedence over fidelity to God and to authentic Islam, which excludes all authority. What reformism lacks is the spirit of reform: the debate over ijtihad in a world where free discussion poses no theoretical problem is the clear proof of the subordination of modernism to the traditional. Modernist Islam is more attuned to the Ancients than to the Moderns, more attached to written and fixed witness than to the living word of God, more concerned about material identity than about creative originality. Its responses concern our world less than the world of the past: they are worth less for our history than for the history of previous Islamic generations.

Islam the creator is founded not on a God cut off from the world and from men, imposing His Law from outside, instituting His Justice externally, but on the contrary, on a living God, present in heaven and on earth. Islam is a gift of God, a guide-book, a light on behalf of man. It is God going towards His creature, responding to its anguish; it is word, message of benevolence directed towards all of humanity. Fidelity to Islam is thus, first of all, fidelity to the word of God, fidelity to the Messages which must be attested to by the institutions, the rules of life conforming to His directive. That is to say, by its temporal and spiritual manifestation on earth, Islam cannot be anything but the creation of the Muslims, both response to God, response to their own problems and to the problems of the world. It is, for the Muslims, the place where history is made, according to the designs of God, under His protective gaze and his benevolent guidance: “the straight path.” Institutional Islam—manifestation of the faith to the Message—is thus a human product, a product of successive generations of Muslims, carrying necessarily the imprint of the epochs, obeying the dynamics of evolution, in order to be a worthwhile response for the different ages of humanity. Faithfulness to God cannot be, therefore, a loyalism with regard to the institutions of the brilliant Islamic Middle Ages, which accomplished its mission with the means of its time, but the will to create for the Islam of the 20th century efficacious institutions in conformity with the spirit of the Message, that is, institutions introducing the Justice of God in a dehumanized universe, institutions endowed with the power to make heard the message of fraternity in a world where a mechanical and irresponsible human order tends to be substituted for a rational, fraternal human order. To witness God in such a world is to restore His living reality, to rediscover the sense of divine engagement, the sentiment of the divine presence among us, to respond to divine grace with an active piety which is the only thing we can offer of ourselves. We must restore the idea of a personal God, without anthropomorphism, in affirming as against modernism that in a desacralized world where God is banished, man cannot recognize man, but his shadow, and as against Mu‘tazilite rationalism and its survivors that transcendentalism well understood cannot suppress that which makes God a living reality for man in this world. The new humanism calls for a theology which, renewing the authentic spirit of Islam, which is a philosophy before being a juridical construct, defines God not as a given, but as a giver, “an absolute demand on the heart of the subject,” implying at all moments a liaison with God, reclaiming a continuous effort to invent a solution to the problem, to discover the truth. 6 To take up the admirable formulas of J. Lacroix in a different context. Only an Islamic theology that gives God the image of a modern Divinity, a theology which is founded on a God “nearby, progressive, universal” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin [French philosopheranthropologist, 1881–1955]), which humanizes faith, which aids us in discovering a supernatural accorded to our century, which makes Islam and human coincide, can become the source of a real renewal, capable of avoiding “the schism” which threatens us. The shock which the rise of the great modern myths of socialization, progress, alienation have provoked among the Muslim masses and in the consciences of the elites, tends to constitute, in the wise remark of Teilhard de Chardin, “a veritable religion not of joyous adoration but of disinterested conquest, undoubtedly generating high spiritual forces,” substituting in people's consciences “the sense of the world” for God, makes urgent the elaboration of a new signification of religion which incorporates in its perspectives the sense of progress, the sense of humanity, the sense of the earth. Contemporary Islam clearly has more need of theological purpose, of philosophical creation, than of juridical erudition.

The elaboration even of this new theology calls for a renewed conceptual apparatus. Neither utilitarian and superficial rationalism, the Mu‘tazilite inspiration that the most liberal juridical schools have not managed to break free of, nor the modernist doctrines, so poor in the scheme of thought, can serve as a foundation for such an enterprise. It is a matter of forging a new conceptual apparatus. First, with properly Islamic elements, in making an appeal to the Islamic gnosis, particularly to Shi‘i gnosis. 7 I speak as a Sunni—a Sunni convinced that doctrinal pluralism cannot exclude fraternal exchange in the heart of the umma [Islamic community]. This school has given us the notion of Plénôme, “the mysterious synthesis of the Uncreated and the Created,” which Sunni prudence has put at the bottom of the barrel, a fertile development capable of constituting the base of a theology of the dynamic relations of God to the Universe, worthy of our times; the Ismaili notion of hadd [limitation], which expresses a metaphysical hierarchy, interpreted in the same sense as transcendence, allows one to understand, without heresy, how God can reveal Himself as a Person, with which becomes possible a relation of knowing and love.

But to be adaptable to the needs of a modern theology, the conceptual apparatus must borrow from outside. Only a vigorous Muslim thought, endowed with sophisticated conceptual tools, can respond to the questions that the modern conscience poses. Contemporary Islam cannot content itself with the science of hadith [traditions of the Prophet] and fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence]: it must add to the traditional knowledge the knowledge of the great modern philosophies: religious philosophies and secular philosophies. It must integrate modern knowledge into its ancestral knowledge. To this end, it must reserve a place of honor for the study of contemporary Christianity, instruct itself better in its dogmas, including that of Incarnation, study systematically its thinkers: first, its theologians whose thought is no less an enrichment of all humanity for being of the Church; next, its lay writers who are nourished at its maternal breast and whose works, so profoundly convergent, resound in our universe of violence like a veritable Gospel of new times. Modern Islamic humanism cannot ignore the philosophy of the new Church, for lack of a more complete knowledge of Christian philosophy: it cannot ignore Saint-Simonian thought, Teilhardian thought, Samaritan thought, that of Emmanuel Mounier [French social philosopher, 1905–1950], that of François Perroux [French economist, born 1903], the thoughts of visionaries who, in the Christian world, respond to the anguish and to the interrogations of a world that wishes to be total in order to survive. In particular, Islamic theology must lean on the recent aspects of Christian theology, on the sacralization and dynamization of dogmas such as the cult of the heart of Jesus, which, responding to the prayer of Teilhard de Chardin, seems to evolve from Christ the King, “external power that could not be but juridical and static,” to Christ the Universal, “Saving Mover, Master and End of evolution,” binding to the reality of his human nature “the personality of elements which it reunites, though without the danger of pantheism, without pagan naturalism leading to the materialist conquest of the Earth.” It is the living example of a theology which poses itself “as savior of the most current hopes of the Earth,” which associates “the spirit of detachment and the spirit of conquest; the spirit of tradition and the spirit of adventurous research; the spirit of the Earth and the spirit of God.” In this line of thought, the works of the last Council appear to carry elements of meditation richer for Islam than the declaration on the Jews.

Islamic theology must also be open to secular thought, to contemporary human sciences: philosophy, history, sociology, economics, even when they are of materialist and atheist inspiration. First, because to refute atheism and materialism, one must know them. Next, because atheist materialism—as we have just shown—is far from eliminating all spirituality and all cosmicity; on the contrary, it demands a positive humanism, a new religion, all the more formidable in that it responds concretely to the aspirations of man today. Its critique of traditional religions has more than a negative aspect: it has a purifying and methodological role that is not foreign to the progress of the observed doctrines, where one is sensitive to its influence. As Jean Lacroix notes, “The negative dialectic is an essential element of the knowledge of God.” But what makes atheism a force to contend with at this time is that it is no longer a critique, but constructive. It is no longer materialist, but spiritualist. It has become a place for the formation of universalizing human values which no modern religion can allow itself to ignore. Islamic humanism cannot ignore either the contribution of Marxism or the contribution of contemporary existentialisms, the new concepts with which they have enriched dialectical analysis and thought, the forces of humanization that they have worked up and which are far from contradicting their theoretical foundations. Without a doubt, it is often a matter of formulas that translate metaphysical intentions which the materialist language hardly seizes on for their communicative value, the propulsive force necessary for any modern theology. In insisting on the complex totality of being, on participation as a condition of existence, in refusing the Aristotelian dualism for a dialectic of unity that “reestablishes in its continuity the living tissue that an imprudent analysis has disjoined (Gabriel Marcel [French philosopher, 1889–1973]), the contemporary existential formulas open the path to a fertile meditation on ontological mystery and give a new foundation to a theory of metaphysical knowledge, which integrates Cartesian thought in order to surpass it, in reconstituting the destroyed totality, the link with existence, in correcting the discussion through love” (Jeanne Delhomme). Let us take care that it is not a matter of a syncretism, but of a re-creation demanding immense work, both critical and constructive, in order to reconcile all this with our specific experience. It is in speaking the language of the 20th century, in using the conceptual tools of modern man, in making theology an original synthesis of spiritual and intellectual elements equal to the needs of our time, emerging in a philosophy both of truth and of reality that is reconciled with objectivity and allows [us]—no longer to look at the world from outside as a spectacle, but to participate in the drama that is being played. By assuming both cosmic and new earthly responsibilities, Islam will have a real significance for the men of our world.

To live in the world is to think and act together, it is to think in order to act, it is to act in thinking. 8 We are paraphrasing a formula of Eric Weil's. To be of this world, Islam must—at the same time that it elaborates a new theory of knowledge—construct a praxis based on the total renewal of historic reality.

History has proved [Islam's] capacity for adaptation to sociological and human realities, but here too, one should not be content with a reference to the past. In a world transformed by science and technology, such as never before, it must respond to new challenges with bold and constructive innovations such as never before. Let us repeat once more: the golden age of Islamic civilization that was the Middle Ages, knew how to confront its problems of the scientific and technological revolution. It knew how to generate economic and social institutions and structures adapted to its level, as demonstrated by its model of socialization founded on a structure of work which was not embarrassed to appeal to servile labor. Ancient Islam, of the age of economic and financial take-off, was able to pass from a primitive economy of plunder to a modern economy by resolving the problem of capital formation, contrary to Islamic law, through the official practice of shifting the sin of usury onto its Jewish and Christian compatriots. Contemporary Islam finds itself confronted with an economic and social structure that excludes the recourse to slavery, even for utilization towards collective ends, the recourse to the pernicious process of the shifting of sin onto the Other: the modern economy is an entirely different economy, with a new employment structure and a new capital structure that put [even] the best prepared secular organizations to a harsh test. To witness God in the 20th century is to make history with the tools and the organizational structures of our times. God is neither anachronistic nor archaic: He is eternal Life, the Life whose complexion is that of the times. To bear witness to His presence is to render possible the reading of His Signs in a universe of machines that strips away all signs. To bear witness with the means of the epoch, that is, to adopt modern science and technology, not as new divinities but as means of realization of an efficacious human praxis, as means of liberation and disalienation as much as instruments of conquest. It is to make the world of believers not a universe of pariahs, of the powerless and the resigned, but an efficacious world, dynamic, enterprising, responsive to the challenges of hunger, poverty, illness, and ignorance, which the promises of a better in the beyond cannot satisfy for so many of the human masses who suffer in the world, where the faith of the faithful, instead of confining [them] to hopelessness, gives the right to share in the hopes which science and technology bring. To make Islam significant in a world . . . whose rationality informs all men, which “judges others and judges itself according to quantifiable results in its struggle with external nature, according to their wealth in the means of production” (Eric Weil)—this forms a vital and concrete element of the new humanism by rendering it capable of making dams rise up from the ground, atomic energy plants, modern working cities, no longer of course with the rod of Moses or the sword of ‘Ali [son-in-law of the Prophet and fourth caliph, circa 596–661], but with this modern grace of God that is contemporary technology. It is no longer a matter of being assisted, but of being initiated, of being introduced to the sanctuary of the secrets of modernity, of becoming a demiurge both without idolatry and without perverse vanity, in drinking at the source of the new knowledges, in entering in direct relation with Prometheus, jeering the divinities but giving grace to God. It involves, in a word, inaugurating the era of true cooperation in rising to the level of scientific and technological creator, for “the inherited cultural objects that were not made by us, are not, strictly speaking, ever made by us: they only become ours in the form that we invent [them] and by the new meanings that we give them.” 9 F. Perroux, “Aliénation et création collective” [Alienation and Collective Creation], ISEA, June 1964, p. 40. A progressive Islam that moves deliberately and resolutely towards science, in the shadow of which it has grown, nourishing itself from its sap, armed with a renovated conceptual tool lofty enough to serve as an “animating revelation” for research. By incorporating science and technology, Islam gives itself the means to contribute to the restoration of the reign of the Spirit on earth, the means of maintaining theology at the side of anthropology, of making their meanings coincide, and of rescuing the Islamic world from the temptation of a new metaphysics. By incorporating modern science—which is essentially “open,” disinterested, relativist, endowed with a power of acceleration that communicates to spirits, to technologies and to industries—Islam binds itself to universal dialogue, ties itself to contacts and communications between men and their groups, enables itself to assure the extension and deepening of the “existence together” that is characteristic of our historic epoch, to favor “the opening of closed doctrines, closed institutions, and closed groups,” 10 F. Perroux, op. cit. to help to liberate itself from the excesses of subjectivism and of traditional dogmatisms. The accomplishment of the new responsibilities of Islam demands reconciliation with a science once again modest and comprehensive. . .

Any Islamic renovation worthy of the name must make Islamic culture more than a “culture-ornament,” but an operative culture which allies production and belief in being; more than a culture-affirmation, better than a culture-heritage, but a “culture-opening on the whole of the real of the becoming”; a culture which turns towards reconciliation, which becomes a place where each has the possibility of “meeting the man” in the other; a culture which would be in accord with a world in evolution where man knows how to live for something other than what he makes, for other beings who he is 11 Georges Guéron, Perspective no. 5. ; a culture, finally, which would have the will to center the new society on man and his double vocation, historic and transhistoric, which returns, in sum, to a theory of man as the inevitable philosophical immediacy.

To pose the problem of a culture of creation and of metaphysical fidelity, that is to say, the whole problem of humanism, in the face of classical humanism, is to pose the problem of means, the problem of new men, the emergence of new structures and mentalities, the reestablishment of equilibrium between the new culture and the new nature, between the historic conscience and the semantic conscience, the junction between “a certain modernity” and “a certain tradition”: it is the instrument, the technology of the awaited revolution. It presupposes a new pedagogy, a new spirit, appealing to innovation, generating curiosity and disagreement, developing the taste for research, drawing its themes from history and elaborating them; a pedagogy freed from criticism considered as an end in itself, freed from this sort of “hierotropism” that polarizes thought, invests it wholly in religious sciences, which disparages the natural world to exalt only the supernatural world; a pedagogy that puts an end to the dichotomy of Islamic culture in order to create a unified culture thanks to cultural values, unified, notably in the domain of language, of literature, and of art, where the two worlds coexist, ignoring one another. The new education—essentially unifying, formative, permanent, creative—will have as its home the school: the school open to all; the University: the University open to all; but also the workshop, the factory, the fields, the cooperatives; penetrating in all milieux, everywhere introducing progress, that is to say, the spirit of invention and the spirit of truth, thus rendering the entire society educational, pedagogical. It will be the education of the teacher as much as the student, education of the teacher himself, who must make for himself a new mentality in order to be in a position to renovate his teaching, to invent a new dialect of teacher to student, transforming this teaching in a “possibility of future teachings and diverse communications,” 12 The expression is J. Lacroix's. to accept, by means of inevitable ruptures, the innovations that permit survival while modifying the system. If it [education] remains committed to tolerance, it will not proclaim itself neutral for long, it will be openly normative in order to be faithful to the wager implied by the culture that it has a mission to dispense: it will teach, along with the sense of the historic, the sense of the technological, the living tradition, confronting it with life in order to make it bear fruit, the language of signs and symbols. When necessary, it will defend the social semantic, both against the excesses of contemporary formalist exegesis and against “the historicizing or idealist references of the traditional modes of thought” (Jacques Berque [1910–1995]). It will make Islamic culture a fertile and original synthesis in realizing the reconciliation of man's being and nature's being, that violated and disfigured nature which must become “the garden of causes and effects” but also grace, communion, “the proximity of the cosmic.” The new education, in order to be the instrument of a culture-opening on the world, will teach, finally, worldliness, universality, but not without attending to the creation of a distinct personality, to the affirmation of the specificity that makes sense of the response of Islamic society to history. Insofar as it is revealed as capable of accommodating all of human existence, of founding a personality that is flexible and available in a “mobile world,” the new education will accomplish its creative and universalizing mission.

To win the combat of the new humanism, that is, the real combat of history, contemporary Islam definitely has nothing to lose at the level of fundamentals: at the level of the infrastructure which in this dialectic is nothing but metaphysics. But if words have meaning, if to restore is something other than adding block to block, superimposing superstructures, but making anew that which is at the same time authentic, then, it will have to resolve to replace the ancient edifice by a new, reconstructed elaboration on the fundamentals. It is more than a reform, it is a revolution in the structures of the Islamic world that the triumph of humanism, and the pursuit by Islam of its earthly responsibilities, demand. After the revolution against the Other, which was nothing but a revolt, a negation, the revolution against the Self, the real revolution: that of the positivity of the second birth, which has a constructive mission. To design itself less for desacralization than for demanding that the sacred integrate the human and the new; to renounce the transformation of Islam into a fundamentalist (intégrée) religion in favor of re-making an integrating religion, companion of man and world;to propose to Islam, mobilizing the creative power of the Qur'an, a new finality on the scale of our universe, instead of absolving it of its temporal mission, which is inseparable from its spiritual mission. To make of the world of Islam (dar al-Islam) an immense people and a vast chorus, a Temple where each servant of the Cult is also a creator, a Promethean hero; to make a world of objectification and adoration at the same time, a land of having and being where each act of production is an act of surpassing which returns to a dialect of verticality, significance, and creativity—such is the profound sense of the new challenge that Islam must face in order to respond to the hopes of 400 million men and women. Through the boiling that is agitating the Islamic world, through the proliferation of experiences and attempts, even aborted ones, something is giving a sign that, though it be still a stammer, is unmistakable in its meaning: a “yes,” poorly articulated, but absolute and definitive.


1. Kenneth Cragg, “Mamadou Dia of Senegal,” in The Pen and the Faith: Eight Modern Muslim Writers and the Qur'an (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1985), pp. 33–52; René Luc Moreau, Africains Musulmans (African Muslims) (Paris: Présence Africaine; Abidjan: Inades, 1982), pp. 275–279.

2. [The shahada, which translates literally as witnessing, is repeated at all prayers.—Editor]

3. Aly Mazahéri, La vie quotidienne des musulmans au Moyen Age [The Everyday Life of Muslims in the Middle Ages, 1951].

4. W[ilfred Cantwell] Smith, Islam in Modern [History, 1957].

5. [The Mu‘talizites were an early Islamic sect that helped to found Islamic philosophy on ancient Greek philosophical methods.—Editor]

6. To take up the admirable formulas of J. Lacroix in a different context.

7. I speak as a Sunni—a Sunni convinced that doctrinal pluralism cannot exclude fraternal exchange in the heart of the umma [Islamic community].

8. We are paraphrasing a formula of Eric Weil's.

9. F. Perroux, “Aliénation et création collective” [Alienation and Collective Creation], ISEA, June 1964, p. 40.

10. F. Perroux, op. cit.

11. Georges Guéron, Perspective no. 5.

12. The expression is J. Lacroix's.

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