I am currently reading al-Attas’ book, Islam and Secularism, and I’m trying hard to understand and to agree with his thesis. It is not an easy read, seriously. The book is riddled with philosophical terms, lots of metaphors and names you haven’t heard of.
As a supporter of liberal values (it’s a secular Western thing), it is necessary for me here to display my loss of adab, as the chapter the Muslim Dilemma demands me so. It is however somewhat difficult to demonstrate the lack of adab by means of putting knowledge in all the wrong order, sequence and methodological hierarchy, therefore, it ought to be shown literally. Literally, like an alien intellectual bearing false knowledge usually does. Also , I am a cynic that wishes to be taken seriously, so please do so.
I am also currently in deep distress for a whole lot of things after reading a part of this book, and I’m currently contemplating whether to continue my reading, because the realization that this revelation had brought me so far is too cruel to accept. The skies feel heavy and overbearing, like they would fall upon me and destroy myself because of my apparent pretentiousness. Currently , it is not a preposterous thought to imagine that my life so far had been nothing but mistakes and nothing but a show of insolence to our ancient masters.
How could it be not distressing to discover that after going thousands of miles around the world to study, that it had been worthless after all? I had been studying Economics, under the tutelage of secular Western capitalists who have no idea what the heck is Fardu Ain, at the centre of secular civilization, without any proper islamicization. Judging from al-Attas’ hierarchy of knowledge, the course with which I am about to ply my trade to the world is nothing but a danger to Islam and Muslims; a mere afterthought of the secular world.
It can’t be helped that after hundreds of years of research and intellectual discourse , in which Muslim scholars themselves had played their important roles, that my lessons until today had been nothing but false knowledge. I wonder what would my Spanish maths lecturer would think if I tell him about the inevitable fact that he is not a shining light , nor a flickering candle, but just a piece of shiny candy wrapper that merely reflects false electronic light in the darkness of the secular world!
Compared to al-Attas , all my teachers so far are located far down the intellectual food chain, because, well, al-Attas knows the shit. He knows the distinction between the real intellectuals and the inferior others, and between great leader and scammers. That is why , under his guidance, our nation had been gloriously blessed with esteemed leaders with superior knowledge and attributes. Al-Attas does what an al-Attas can.
I can’t help wondering about the fact that he himself studied in the western world and for a time he gave lectures at universities there. Shouldn’t he like explode or something as soon as he arrived there, due to the extreme disagreements between his being and the very essence of the western civilization; their intellectuals being his arch nemesis and all? How could he even breathe the air in that part of the world?
Reading al-Attas is really a glorious experience , because it made me realize the sanctity of knowledge and the apparent falsity of my wretched ideals. Something like my essence and my thought going against each other, my intellect going against my rational- imagine yin and yang fighting each other over dominance. This book is a must-read for those seeking to torture the mind with inner fighting; those with the audacity to paint others as false and inferior, and those people who fell in love with the past, the dead and unreachable past.
I can be wrong wrong, and I can always be. Not like al-Attas , because superior beings like him with merits far beyond his faults couldn’t possibly be wrong. I am also currently writing with the arrogance which is inherent with secular intellectuals, also with the youthful skepticism that defies almost everything that ancient people write in their ancient books. I can also be wrong because there had been nothing in my writing but rhetoric written with inferior journalistic form, compared to al-Attas’ strength of spiritual conviction. Perhaps I haven’t been able to realize that old scholars are immune of being wrong, because they have much more spiritual strength and that they are legendary and all, but still I couldn't bring myself to agree.
Edward Said in his Culture and Imperialism used a beautiful word ; counterpoint; to illustrate how people from different civilization had been working together. Counterpoint means a combination of two or more melodies that are played together-it’s a musical term. It means that in a musical ensemble, the addition of another melody to the music makes it better, retaining its harmony. It is the addition of something else different in a pleasing way.
That’s how the esteemed teacher pictured how people from different continents, of different colours worked together in order to produce the world that it is now. He stressed that the process is not all the time beautiful, with the horrors of imperialism, subjugation of others for the benefit of the winners-in fact most of the time it isn’t. But one couldn’t possibly deny the fact how huge is the contribution of a civilization to the growth of the other, although sometimes the rise of one imperial power is upon the ashes of the imperialized.
Amartya Sen in his Identity and Violence rejected the thesis of clash between civilizations. He refused to accept that people are categorized and judged based upon their ideologies only, put into small boxes, instead of being viewed with their supposed actualities. He said that people shouldn't be judged upon their different ideologies only, but because people have so many other different identities, they couldn’t possibly be seen in black and white.
I am a Muslim, a supporter of some liberal values , an Arsenal supporter, an avid gamer, a horrible doodler, a Malaysian, a fan of boring books, and a man who refuses to see in black and white. I've said it countless times, and I would do so again and again. How is it conceivable to reduce the world into Islam and the Secular West, and to rank their intellectuals against each other in hierarchical superiority?
Their views could always be wrong, because they aren’t Muslims. Also because Edward Said wrote in his Representations of the Intellectual that an intellectual should always be a secular being. That man, he fulfills the criteria of being al-Attas’ arch nemesis.
-currently trying to resume my reading. Sorry for any apparent loss of adab.