Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.
I have just started reading Wael Hallaq’s latest work, The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament (Columbia University Press: 2013). Interested readers can download a copy from here.
Thus far, I have read the first two chapters and it makes for compelling – I would go as far as saying essential – reading.
As readers of this blog may be aware, in a number of previous posts I have briefly commented on what I consider to be the problematic nature of the (modern) concept of ‘state’ vis-a-vis Islamic political organisation. In this connection, I refer interested readers to the following posts:
COMMENT: Islam, State, Democracy, Caliphate and The Islamic State
VIDEO: Mythology of The Islamic State
COMMENT: Legal Diversity and Political Unity – Law and State
White Supremacy (Racism) and The Destruction of Islamic Law
REFLECTIONS: Islam, WS/R and Political Liberalism
COMMENT: Islam, Anarchism and ‘Negative’ Government
COMMENT: God or The State?
VIDEO: Who needs a Caliphate?
COMMENT: Critique of The Islamic State – 1
COMMENT: Critique of The Islamic State – 2
According to Hallaq,
there are five form-properties possessed by the modern state without which it cannot, at this point in history, be properly conceived. These are: (1) its constitution as a historical experience that is fairly specific and local [i.e. European / Euro-American]; (2) its sovereignty and the metaphysics to which it has given rise; (3) its legislative monopoly and the related feature ofmonopoly over so-called legitimate violence; (4) its bureaucratic machinery; and (5) its cultural-hegemonic engagement in the social order, including its production of the national subject [emphasis added]. (p.23)
This conception of ‘state’ – and note that this is the paradigmatic formulation of the concept – is highly problematic since “as an abstraction, as a universal and timeless subject [that is, actor]” (p.24), and as an ‘entity’ / ‘agency’ claiming sovereignty, metaphysical – that is, ultimate / absolute transcendent – status, socio-cultural nurturing capacity and a monopoly over law and the exercise of force / power, the ‘state’, as ‘Leviathan’, assumes the role of fosterer (rabb), sovereign (malik) and god (ilaah). From an Islamic Counter-Racist perspective, this is deeply problematic since The Qur’an [=Final Proclamation of God/Allah to Humanity] in its last chapter / enclosure (surah) entitled The People (An-Naas), states the following:
(114:1-3) Say, “I seek refuge in the Lord (rabb) of mankind, the Sovereign (malik) of mankind, the God (ilaah) of humanity
Consider also that according to Hallaq,
the sovereign state is “conceived as the efficient agency of its own construction .. comparable to the divine Creation ex nihilo [from nothing]” and “capable of having or expressing such an act of will.” (p.27)
Now compare this with what The Qur’an states about “creation from nothing” and “self-creation”:
(52:35) Or were they created from nothing, or were they the creators (of themselves)?
Hallaq goes on to state that “in its full implications, [state] sovereignty has in common with monotheism a host of attributes [emphasis added]” (p.27) including the following:
First, it is omnipotent: all political forms are open to its choice. Second, it wholly fills time and space: it is equally present at every moment of the nation’s life and in every location within the nation’s
borders. Third, we know it only by its product. We do not first become aware of the popular sovereign and then ask what it has accomplished. We know that it must exist, because we perceive the state as an expression of its will. We deduce the fact of the subject from the experience of its created product. Finally, we cannot be aware of this sovereign without experiencing it as a normative claim that presents itself as an assertion of identity. We understand ourselves as a part, and as a product, of this sovereign. In it, we see ourselves [emphasis added]. (p.27)
Thus, the ‘state’ is said to be Omnipotent (All-Powerful / Al-Qaadir), Omniscient (All-Knowing, Al-‘Aleem), Omnipresent, Necessary, All-Creating (Al-Khaaliq) and deduced from its signs / indicators (ayaat). This clearly sounds like the God of monotheism. (As to whether one should equate tawheed / unicity with ‘monotheism’, that is another matter.) It is crucial to highlight the creative function of the ‘state’ – which must always be understood to mean ontologically (i.e. essentially) the Racist (White Supremacist) state, irrespective of how it manifests ontically (i.e. existentially) – since, as Sherman (Abdul-Hakim) Jackson points out in Islam and The Blackamerican, the globally operating system of White Supremacy (Racism) has assumed the role of a “second creator” masking / concealing the “first creator”, i.e. God/Allah.
On this basis, I would argue that (attempted) Muslims are faced with a situation in which the ‘state’ – and by this is meant essentially / necessarily the White Supremacist (Racist) state – presents itself as a ‘rival’ to God/Allah (andaad min doonillah), usurping (at least) three of the ‘attributes’ / roles (sifaat) that belong exclusively to God/Allah in their ultimate / absolute form. This, in turn, implies that as “state citizens”, (attempted) Muslims are “serving two masters” (39:29, 12:39, 16:51) – a condition described in Islam as shirk (that is, association with God/Allah).
Interestingly, Hallaq, who is a non-Muslim, comes to a very similar conclusion:
To be a citizen … means to live under a sovereign will that has its own metaphysics. It is to live with and under yet another god, one who can claim the believers’ lives. (… [T]his attribute alone, with its grave implications, would suffice to render the modern state an anathema to any form of Islamic governance.) [emphasis added] (p.28)