"THE SYMBOLIC CALIPHATE"
20 December 2019
Dr. Abou El Fadl reminds that we are but guests in the existence, that accountability is the first principle of justice and that God will hold each individual accountable for what each has committed, intended or achieved in their lifetime.
Recently, there was a notable Islamic conference that took place in Malaysia. This conference – attended by Turkey, Iran and a few other Muslim countries; with the UAE excluded and Saudi Arabia and Egypt vigorously protesting alongside Saudi pressure on Pakistan not to attend – shed light on the often-ignored plight of Muslims worldwide.
The conference was a painful reminder of the facts of life – we have a propaganda machine that ignores the persecution of Muslims around the world; and we have a group of human rights organizations that, while bringing attention to this persecution, are not insiders to the Muslim voice, such that even when they support Muslims, their voices often come out detached and lacking in passion or a sense of a real cause, on behalf of Muslims.
In addition, the conference covered the persecution of Muslims around the world by the atheist persecutors, the Buddhist persecutors, the Hindu persecutors, the secular Westernized Muslim persecutors, and the Israeli persecutors. The picture is not complete without the reality of the systemic and endemic religious bigotry in the enlightened (and sometimes Christian) West, in the form of Islamophobia. Muslims have become the most targeted religious group in the world, but this reality is not realized because Muslims are not well represented in the mechanics of discourse on human rights and on religious minorities.
Saudi Arabia was absent from the conference for obvious reasons. Saudi Arabia's policies, like the policies of the UAE, have become thoroughly subservient to the strategic goals of the United States and Israel. Saudi Arabia has abandoned its even symbolic leadership role to the Muslim world. The Muslim world today is without even a symbolic leader, as Egypt and the Emirate have also failed to take on this role.
It is time that Muslims start learning from the historical realities of the world we live in. Muslims need to advocate, strategize and think about the rebirth of the Khilafah (caliphate), one with a UN status as a demilitarized political organ with a symbolic religious role; with a land, space, and time that is considered sanctified, something very close to the legal status of the Roman Papacy in international law. Without a symbolic lawyer or advocate on our behalf, that is speaking in terms of a Muslim polity in the UN and elsewhere – who is not interested in buying weapons from the West nor expanding territory or wealth – Muslims will remain lost in modernity. It is due time that our intellectuals stop dancing around the issue and call a spade a spade, because that is the reality we live in.
After discussing Jesus’ perceived whiteness in last week’s khutbah, a lot of responses of intrigue and scandal were received. Historically speaking, it is known that Jesus was a Palestinian from Galilee and was a Jew. There is nothing remotely white about Jesus, yet the earliest images of Jesus portray him as a white person. Furthermore, from the historical and Islamic points of view, Jesus was likely a Jewish reformer.
What allowed Christianity to spread to the point that it did was its adoption by the Roman Empire as its official religion, and their coercion of pagans to become Christian. Christianity did not Christianize Rome, but Rome Romanized Christianity. Christianity had a message that served those in power of Rome, as it preached obedience. Rome, facing huge rebellions by pagan religions, realized that if you control religion, you control people. A religion that tells you, “The ruler is God's will,” is a very convenient religion; this led to the centralization of religion, the birth of the Church, and the narrative and story of Christianity.
However, at that time, Rome could not conceive of a God that looked anything like the people that they subjugated and dominated, like a Jewish Jesus, so the earliest images we have is of a white Jesus. White Jesus was transplanted to even the Coptic Church in Egypt and all around the world. In the same way that many do not understand the difference between Imperial Islam and the Islamic faith, there are many that don’t understand that Christianity became interconnected with the issue of race and ethnicity from the beginning. So many of the colonized, like all defeated cultures in the world, solve an inferiority complex within by imitating – consciously or subconsciously – those one recognizes as superior. So many embraced Jesus as an image of the superior colonial culture. It is ideal that Christians adopt a critical attitude towards the racialization of images in their theology.
Language and translations make an enormous difference in understanding the meaning of the Bible when you consider the original Aramaic is translated to Hebrew, from Hebrew to Greek, from Greek to Latin, and from Latin to English. Each translation changes the message. For example, knowledgeable Christians will concede that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say, “I am God”; that is something the Church eventually deducted. On the idea of Jesus being the Son of God: in the Greek language, the word for ‘son’ can also mean ‘servant’. Multiple individuals throughout the Bible were called “sons of God”. The son of God is an expression that does not necessarily mean one’s actual son, but can mean, "I care a great deal about you." Multiple examples are presented to show the Greek word being translated to ‘son’ or ‘servant’ depending on the context and the individual that is being referred to. But the reasoning for which word is used is inconsistent and used to support the idea that Jesus is the Son of God, not a servant of God.
Furthermore, the Trinity itself does not appear in any early manuscripts of the Bible. Something that comes close to the eventual doctrine of the Trinity is Timothy 3:16, which seems to say that Jesus is Divine and could be interpreted to support the doctrine of the Trinity. But 3:16 does not appear in any manuscript of the Bible before the 16th century.
The Bible is a complex text that takes years of study just to know the layers of discourse that exist within. Muslims can memorize the Quran, but no one can memorize the Bible. Even if they wanted to, they would not know which version to memorize. There are hundreds of sects of Christianity, and hundreds of theological debates within, throughout Christian history, because of the complexity of the text.