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RELIGION, IDEOLOGY AND CIVILIZATION   –  [22.04.2011]

Prof.Dr. Salahaddin Khalilov 


RELIGION, IDEOLOGY AND CIVILIZATION

 

The role of religion in the stable Western states is definite: it does not interfere in state affairs; it refrains from actively influencing political and economic life, science, education, and culture. In this situation the state guarantees certain autonomy to religion. Social­political life has its own rules. Religion holds a position only in the individual and moral lives of people. Adherence is quite voluntary. Religious feeling has its specific place in the realm of human morality, which should not be mixed with political and legal consciousness, or with the scientific worldview. Sometimes in Western states also the religious worldview influences major politics, but this is an isolated problem. In general, religion not only remains beyond the legal and political spheres, but also does not carry out an ideological mission. In the Western states religion no longer plays any active ideological role and it does not actively interfere in politics and state affairs. However, we should pay attention to the lessons of history.

If the Western political scientists who commonly fear the transformation of Islam into ideology refer also to their own past history, when Christianity was actively involved in politics and state affairs, they will have to express concern or consternation over the general danger of the transformation of religion into ideology. It should be noted that Christianity is still interfering in political affairs (as in the case of Northern Ireland). The involvement of religious sects in political affairs in India, Japan etc. confirms this statement.

Religion is not for society. It is for the individual. It plays a unique role in the process of man’s acceptance of genuine moral value, as well as in the process of man’s moral improvement.

The social organization of religion, the establishment of religious institutions (social units), serves only to spread religious ideas and to develop religious knowledge among believers, their connection with Allah, their praying, the perfection of their morality, etc. Professional religious servants are trained to meet all these demands. In addition, religious schools granting different degrees are established.

Although religious social units have little place in the macrostructure of society, they still possess some kind of independence and autonomy. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, religion is separate from the state. However, the separation has force only within the legal framework. This separation should not be overestimated within the framework of politics and ideology. Politicians, officials involved in the formulation of ideology, members of parliament, may have different positions depending on their attitude toward religion. To put it another way, religion may influence politics not as an independent social participant, but as the world outlook of politicians.

This may cause the transformation of religion into ideology and its starting to play a leading role in policy. Recently this initiative has developed in Islam as well. As examples we can use the events in Iran and Afghanistan. Sometimes in Azerbaijan also Muslim propaganda has an ideological and political orientation. Different versions of the “Turkification, Islamization, Modernization” slogan elaborated by Turkish ideologists and Musavatists at the beginning of the 20th century are being taken up by the representatives of socio­philosophical thought and journalists. “Islamization” takes the central place in this thought. The idea of restoring the religious values which were violently suppressed by the Soviet authorities deserves respect. Islam was a source of our morals, traditions, values, and even mode of thinking. This explains why Heydar Aliev considers the increased role of religion in our morality as one of the essential strategies of development: “We will never lose our belief and religion, and we shall build our future using these morals basics” (1).

Some people are trying to re­evaluate the differences between religion and nation. It is well known that religion played a very important role in the formation and development of nations. Johann Gottfried von Herder, a great German philosopher of the 18th century, noted in his Ideas on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind that Islam promoted the growth of even the physiological beauty of the Turks (2). We believe that Islam played an important role in unifying the various peoples populating our territory into the Azerbaijani nation.

Islam holds an essential place in the national consciousness and social psychology of the Azerbaijanis. Why should we not then allow Islam to assume an active political and ideological position? First of all, everything, including the best, is beautiful in its own place.

Azerbaijan has already determined its orientation. It can escape from the danger of religion penetrating into state affairs. Why are we afraid of religious attacks on state policy? The danger may come from the replacement of genuine religion with false religious teachings and from ideology which leads to the loss of religion’s real mission. We fear therefore not only the ideological orientation of religion and its political interference, etc., but also losing religion. During the Soviet period of our history, the rejection of all religion created a significant vacuum in people’s morality. And one of the causes of the collapse of the Communist regime was that it failed to find any significant alternative that could play the role of religion. Therefore, now we must fill this vacuum with genuine religion. Otherwise, this vacuum will be filled by fanaticism and different false religions.

We would like to note again that the genuine purpose of religion is to enrich our morality with humane feelings. If a religion forgets about individual morality and is subordinated to social institutions, it is not a religion anymore. In this case, people have to be dependent on religion.

In the social situation, where a nation rejecting the Communist ideology tries to fill this vacuum, religion, nationalism, Westernism, and different brands of “market psychology” aim to take the central place in ideology. We should seriously analyze the essence of this problem.

Should religion be included in the structure of ideology? If so, what place should it take in this structure? We believe that ideology does not concern individual morality. It is a system of ideas about the political organization of society, the optimal political and economic structure, and the cultural and moral values in social life. Therefore, neither religion, nor national specifics can take the central place in an ideology.

The person’s attitude toward religion and the nation appears at the next stage – in a shift from the social dimension to the individual dimension of life. There may be a certain organizational structure of society; but it is certain favorable social values that will prevent the contradictions between the individual and social interests, between morality and law, and will keep individual freedom from being restricted beyond necessity. Therefore, when state policy, legal norms, and codes of law are being prepared they should correspond to religious and national values. Particularly, because of the Islamic special legal system (Muslim law – Shari‘a), the principles and norms of law prepared in Azerbaijan on the basis of secularism should take into account some ideas of Shari‘a and prevent contradictions with it. The state strategy of development and the social ideal should be in a harmony with the moral ideal of the people. However, in this strategy only the deductive method is applicable. No model of society can obtain optimal unification of the will and dreams of individuals, individual interests, and religious and national feelings. Quite the contrary, the model of society should be determined at the initial stages by studying the universal social regularities of development and the political, economic and legal reforms which are necessary to achieve the social ideal. After this, the social impact of this model and reforms in individual life should be outlined. At this stage, the truthfulness of the choice of social ideal is defined. It is well known that practice is the only criterion of truthfulness in nature, as well as in society. The truthfulness and positive aspect of social theories are checked through practice. This explains because theory should be in accordance with the demands of social reality. Therefore, the dynamism of an ideological and political system is one of the most important conditions for development. Depending on the way that ideology influences individual life, it should be improved. If there is pluralism, the parliament and state should prefer that ideology which better serves the people.

Neither the science of religion (religious studies are included in science), nor a social structure formulated on religion reveal the individual’s relation to religion.

Religion cannot exist outside religious feelings. The social infrastructure of a religion is not yet religion.

Religion is a moral phenomenon.

The essence of religion is connected with religious feeling—with trust in Allah.

The way of strong belief in the absolute passes through relative beliefs.

The man who is dull and senseless and who has been deprived of his beliefs cannot trust in Allah.

The way of love in the absolute passes through affectionate and tender feelings. The man who is deprived of love cannot be religious.

Absolute sacredness cannot be accepted outside relative feelings of sacredness.

If man does not have any moral values or duties in his life, he cannot have sacred feelings of religion.

In fact religious feelings should not be formulated by religious schools and institutes and mosques, but by perfect education (family decencies, secular school education, the influence of science, art, and philosophy).

It is precisely the case that apart from the high moral platform offered by the latter, it would be very difficult to popularize religion with the help of religious feelings. Religion has to illuminate the road from man to Allah, and it should be a beacon in this direction.

Whenever religion ignores this mission and makes a claim on other things, it is no longer religion.

Nowadays there are a great number of pseudo­religions hiding under the veil of religion.

Very rarely do we meet a genuine religious manifestation. In fact, real religion occurs not under the veil of religion, but as a human quality.

When studying religion on the plateau of modern consciousness, through scientific cognition and methods, especially when considering religion as a multisided event and making distinctions between its social and moral sense, one can see the difference between the rituals performed in the name of “religion” and real religion.

The essence of religion cannot be seen through the social prism, and this explains why as a social event religion seems too indefinite.

Real religion, illuminating only individual moral life, appearing only when viewed through the moral prism, the religious essence with the sacred feelings inside, manifests itself in particular occurrences of life; unfortunately, more often than not these events, occurrences, ways of acting themselves are claimed to possess this religious essence instead.

It is most common to connect the fact of the scientific and technological development of the Western nations and the comparative backwardness of the Muslim nations to their respective religions of Christianity and Islam. In this we confront ideologized and pseudo­scientific judgments. However, to our surprise such outstanding sociologists of the 20th century as Talcott Parsons and Samuel Huntington support this idea.

Nowadays, one of the widespread approaches in the West is attempts to relate civilization to religion and language. There is no doubt that these two factors stand on the basis of moral culture. Because language and religion are basis and transmitter of national moral qualities, traditions and moral values. Especially oral literature being a product of social consciousness characterizes all the nations. Most of the moral values are formed by the religious impact or undergo this impact.

As this issue is obvious, I don’t want to elaborate extensively. The attempts to relate language and religion to civilization is surprising. For example, S. Huntington considers that the key elements of any culture or civilization are language and religion (3). But it is obvious that language and religion are elements of moral culture. So, civilization and moral culture are different phenomena. The basis of civilization is intellect which is considered to be universal. Not depending on their race, language and religion everyone thinks according to the same logical principals. Is civilization is a product of scientific and technological creativity the role of language and religion can not be principal.

S. Huntington tries to relate all universal elements to the West. He divides the civilization into the West and rest, not into West and East. This approach is relevant to the ideology of globalization. So all the world must gradually become like USA. His book ends in a question. He asks about the choice which the world has to make: Cosmopolitism or nationalism (4). But nationalism in its broad meaning also includes religious identity.

Clash of civilizations is sometimes introduced as clash of religions. However, essence of religions requires tolerance. The famous Islamic philosopher Ismail al Faruqi writes: “In religion – and there can be hardly be anything more important in human relations­tolerance transforms confrontation and reciprocal condemnations between the religions into a cooperative scholarly investigation of the genesis and development of the religions with a view to separating the historical accretions from the original given of revelation” (5). This opinion corresponds to Ameen Rihani’s ideas who is the representative of Christianity. But he supports the idea that the tolerance should be within some extent: “…tolerance, when it is induced by apathy, is not in the least a virtue” (6). Ismail al Faruqi also supports this idea: “As methodological principle, tolerance is the acceptance of the present until its falsehood has been established. Thus, it is relevant to epistemology. It is equally relevant to ethics as the principle of accepting the desired until its undesirableness has been established” (7).

Actually, the relation of Christianity and Islam to science is well known. Christianity from its very origin has been in opposition to the free mind and science. Particularly after the formation of Christianity as a social phenomenon, the clergy, in order to defend their position in society, began to outlaw and forbid everything which contradicted their interests. The Inquisition was a product of Christianity.

But Islam from its very beginning not only did not prohibit science, but even directed scientific activity. The Muslim religion defined the scope of its influence more concretely. In trying to define the moral world and mode of life of the people, Islam did not aim directly at defining people’s professions and specialties. This explains why in the first centuries of the origin and spread of Islam, science developed significantly. The level of the development of science, at first in the Arab state and later in all the Muslim world, was the most advanced in the world. At the same time, eminent religious scholars made great scientific discoveries and developed various fields of science. Al­Kindi, Farabi, Biruni, Omar Khayyam, Ibn Sina, Nasraddin Toussi, Ibn Rushd, Ulug Bey, and others made great contributions to the development of mathematics, astronomy, mechanics, physiology, medicine, physics, and chemistry and became the founders of modern science in some fields. After the acceptance of Christianity in the Roman Empire, there was a pause of a thousand years in the development of science, art, and technology. The Arabs inherited and developed the science and art of the Ancients.

However, 1,400 years after the origin of Christianity and 700 years after the origin of Islam, a transformation in the development of science, technology, and civilization occurred. This was the period of the Renaissance. In the 15th­16th centuries, Europe acquired a new mode of thinking, one which contradicted Christian dogmas. The crude struggle over two to three centuries between the Inquisition and the free mind ultimately resulted in the separation of science from religion as well as in the formation of a new mode of thinking and a new Europe. Francis Bacon, a founder of the new Europe, was no longer a Christian ideologist. In Europe a quite independent sphere of life began, outside the field of influence of Christian dogmas. As for Christianity, it became more symbolic, reduced to the belief of individuals, and was removed from state affairs and social progress.

The formation of science as a social phenomenon independent of religion, the bifurcation of man, and then the unification of two different types of relations – to science and to religion—by man, all promoted the independent development of science.

In the East at that time religion did not impede the development of science. Therefore, they developed together. The loyal, tolerant, and liberal relation of Islam to science made it possible to stay under the influence of religion for many centuries. This explains because science did not regard religion as an enemy and did not try to go beyond its boundaries.

It sounds paradoxical, but the favorable and amicable relation of Islam to science impeded the progress of science. This relation did not lead to the separation of science from religion, and hence to the acceleration of science.

Yes, in its essence, science is different from religion. It is not in opposition to religion, but it is a different phenomenon. Actually, they must not be in opposition to each other, because their ways do intersect and clash.

The contradiction between science and religion may appear in a situation when science goes beyond its scope and pretends to be a substitute for belief: for example, when science wants to prove the existence or non­existence of Allah. On the other hand, religion contradicts science when it tries to demonstrate itself as a phenomenon of cognition or when it tries to explain the processes taking place in the world.

Therefore, belief and cognition should take their own places. When one of them takes the other’s place they become aggressive phenomena.

We believe that if science and religion were based on their own essences, they would not clash. But after the transformation of science and religion into social phenomena, the positions and interests of the people representing those social organizations cause confrontation between science and religion.

It is not difficult to analyze those processes both in their social and in their gnoseological aspects. However, unfortunately in Muslim states some ideologists still try to replace all spheres of life with the religion. They take religion away from the individual morality of the people and make it a social, political, and ideological phenomenon. In brief, they transform religion into a means serving their own interests. Some Western ideologists try to attribute their progress to their religion and the backwardness of others likewise to their religion. However, these attempts are far from any scientific approach. They have an ideological orientation.

We believe that in the contemporary period it is inadmissible to use religion as a tool for ideological and political purposes.

 

References

1.       H. Aliyev. Quotations. Baku, “Azerbaijan University” Press1997, pp.28­29.

2.       J. G. Herder. This Too a Philosophy of History for the Formation of Humanity. // Is cited in: I.G.Gerder. Idei k filosofii istorii chelovechestva. Moskva. 1977, p. 494.

3.       J. G. Herder. This Too a Philosophy of History for the Formation of Humanity. // Is cited in: I.G.Gerder. Idei k filosofii istorii chelovechestva. Moskva. 1977, p. 494.

4.       S. P. Huntington. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996 // Is cited in: S. Xantington, Stolknovenie Sivilizasiy, Moskva: “ACT” 2003, p. 80.

5.       S. P. Huntington. Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004, p.572.

6.       R. al Faruqi and L. L. al Faruqi. The Cultural Atlas of Islam, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986, p. 79.

7.       F. Rihani. The Path of Vision, Washington, D. C.: Platform International, 2008, p. 15.

8.       R. al Faruqi, ibid, p.79.

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