The End of History – III

The End of History
Part 3 –
By S. Reza

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Constructivism is a theory of knowledge which argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences.  This theory in politics, government and international relations negates the realist notion of fear and anarchy, and liberal views of economic cooperation.   Constructivists’ believe in the power of generating ideas, which in turn give birth to identities, which in turn gives birth to norms.  For instance, slavery or segregation which was acceptable a few decades ago was abolished by ideas of civil disobedience, non violent protests and marches till racial equality became the identity of people. Finally this identity became a norm and it was widely accepted that slavery and segregation are unacceptable. Similar examples cited by constructivists include anti colonialist movements, nuclear weapons treaties and rights of refugees.

The theory is interesting for it does not propose any governmental system but in fact believes that ideas will generate identities which in turn will generate more ideas till humans reach ultimate perfection. This theory does accept the power of experience, and knowledge but unfortunately people who are creating identities around the world, and generating ideas out of those identities are confused or have agendas of their own. The identity of secularism that France created after their revolution of ideas is generating ideas like ban on religious symbols in public. The ideas of Mao and empowerment of workers in China have transformed their identity to a communist republic and all their new ideas are geared towards harnessing labour.

Islam theologically has a strong identity of its own. It has established times of prayers, fasting, pilgrimage and religious dues. These are actions that Muslims believe are not the idea of any individual but an identity that Allah created for humans.  Politically, Islam has an identity that is based on these actions, but it has left it upon its followers to enhance upon that identity.

Without any doubt, the pillar of Islamic government is justice and through this identity ideas must be generated. The Sunni tradition of Islam initially points towards the power of ideas where sahabas (companions) built upon an idea of choosing amongst them and from there on after the Prophet (S), political Islam was a shura (consultation) style government. The shia tradition of Islam who believed in a continued political identity of the Prophet (S) wanted to tread another path for they believed that till an infallible and just person is alive, there is no need of generating any new ideas. The way of the sahabas slowly diminished from shura to monarchy and then it is today as we know: “nation states”. This is because; the identity was hijacked by certain individuals who were given a chance to implement their ideas during the Caliphate of Uthman bin Affan.

On the shia side, after the Imams were no more there with them, they had forgotten the power of ideas through identity. Shias had an identity of people who revered infallibility and saw nothing beyond that framework. In short, the power of intellectual ideas was abandoned by all traditions of Islam by the dawn of colonialism. Hence, when foreign powers instilled their own thinking and ideas to the Islamic nation, the Muslims went through an identity crisis. Till today, new nation states are viewing political Islam through the ideas of the west where Islam should be voted in and out as per voters demand or in large cases to the monarch’s Islamic taste.

But in the background, both in the shia and sunni traditions, some intellectual warriors were creating new ideas from the older identity of political Islam: the ways of the Prophet (S). They lived in a realm of foreign occupation but clung on to the pure identity of Islam and for this they were tortured and killed.  The end of history where it is suggested that one system of governance of liberal capitalism and globalization will spread over the world has a hurdle: “Ideas that spring from the Islam-e-naab (pure Islam)” (Imam Khomeini).

1 Comment

  1. I like how clearly you articulated the difference in the “power of ideas” between the sunni and shia traditions.

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