A little ‘asabiyya

Ibn Khaldun noted a historical pattern. A group arises because of what he called ‘asabiyya (esprit de corps being an unsatisfying translation that will do for now), that binding force comprising various elements such as kinship and religion. With their rise, they bring about royal power from within themselves. In the case of the Muslims we think of the al-Khulafa ar-Rashidun and the Umayyads. Royal should be thought of here in the sense of mon-archy – rule by one person, and for us counsel (shura) can never be far away. Another party within the first group seize power but must do so by recourse to others outside the group. A good example is the Abbasids who relied first of all on Persians and later on Turks. While this is a strategy, it has a serious defect. This party become dependent on others, and can in the end become simply nominal and ceremonial figures. The later Abbasids are a clear example, with exceptions.

Looking to our own time, something arose in Europe and in early WASP America. Unheeded, another party within emerged and assumed increasing importance: finance. Arguably this party have staged a coup within politics, the corporate world, media, academia, the military and intelligence agencies, who have all thus become junior partners in their scheme, so to speak. True to pattern they look to others outside of the original group: immigrants with whom they have flooded America and Europe (and who could not sympathise with those fleeing from war and strife across the world and even those fleeing poverty for economic betterment), people of colour (and I certainly do not argue against the fact that they have been the objects of injustice or argue that they ought to be denied their place in public life), women (and mine is not a reactionary ‘women’s place is in the kitchen not in the market or in public life’ stance), people with issues with their sexual identities and those who move on into differing sexual practices (and civilised people of all nations and cultures traditionally drew a veil over what people did within four walls, and most legal framings reject prying into these matters).

The finance elite’s elevation of these parties has become blatantly obvious in recent decades during which public discourse on these issues has changed beyond recognition.

However, since finance is an iniquitous party, it is not in the interests of the above to sustain their coup. In particular, when we realise that immigrants have a very strong presence of Muslims within them, then we have to see things very differently. Muslims, with all their failings, are people of the life-transaction of Islam. Even at their worst, they don’t lose sight of that. That life-transaction ought to pertain in their places of worship, their homes and in the market. Increasingly they are beginning to realise that it cannot be confined to the mosque. Moreover, by their very nature, Muslims are generous and want to share what they have with others, and to welcome in those who want more. Since, Muslims are in the parties mentioned above, this is the most important dynamic in the Western world today.

And there is good news for the immigrant outsider and hitherto oppressed in the above scenario, for the Persians who were availed of by the Abbasids were in turn to create a great flowering of Islam until overrun by Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes, and after them the Turks would bring about a civilisation that would last right up into the age of still and moving cameras which recorded them so movingly.

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Abdassamad Clarke is from Ulster and was formally educated at Edinburgh University in Mathematics and Physics. He accepted Islam at the hands of Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi in 1973, and, at his suggestion, studied Arabic and tajwid and other Islamic sciences in Cairo for a period. In the 80s he was secretary to the imam of the Dublin Mosque, and in the early 90s one of the imams khatib of the Norwich Mosque, and again from 2002-2016. He has translated, edited and typeset a number of classical texts. He currently resides with his wife in Denmark and occasionally teaches there. 14 May, 2023 0:03

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