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July 09, 2012, Monday

Return to reason

Postmodernism is not a radical departure from modernism, but it is the next step beyond it. Therefore, postmodern criticism is not the solution to the world’s current crisis of modernity. Jürgen Habermas is trying to save modernity, but in vain.

Muslims who criticize modernity should not be trapped into ending up as its proponents when they make use of the opportunities provided by postmodernism. Marxists paved the way for postmodernism due to their progressive view of history and they somewhat unwittingly ended up as liberals by jettisoning the basic assumptions of their political and economic doctrines. The overwhelming majority of liberals in Turkey are, therefore, former Marxist/socialists. I think this should be a good lesson for Islamists as well.

Marxism and liberalism are the products of the same philosophical tradition. They nurture themselves with leftist traditions of Hegel and the center-right tradition, respectively. This is why Marxism was purely intra-system opposition, and unlike Islam it lacked the capabilities to adopt an external perspective on the paradigm. The past’s leftists, i.e., today’s liberals, criticize the Islamic criticism as follows:

1. Contrary to what Islamists frequently claim, Western modernism has not ended or collapsed. Rather, it maintains its continuity while reviewing itself and questioning its own fundamental assumptions. And this happens not because of any pressure from Islam, but completely on its own initiative. Therefore, Muslims can hardly deserve any credit in this.

2. In their quest for providing or justifying the collapse of modernism, they tend to rely heavily on Western authors; so their references are mainly Westerners.

3. “Political Islam” purges the spiritual aspects and rich historical heritage and traditional achievements of Islam and rationalizes the religion, recasting it as a soulless instrument.

4. Muslims should stop bickering with Western modernity and searching for which elements of Western modernity correspond to which values in Islam and they should discuss Islam directly and discover the interim and main points between individual and religion and contribute to the creation of a model of mentality.

It is true that Muslims should find a valid way out by relying on their principal references (the Quran and the Sunnah) in today’s conjuncture-based modern world dominated by an extremely complicated web of relations. They should do this for two reasons: First, they have a different claim about and ideal of the given world; second, in the modern world, unlike what many of our intellectuals deliriously parrot, not everything, or even nothing, is good. Behind this gorgeous but fake display of happiness is a vast expanse of horrific tragedies.

There is a continuity in the paradigms that form the codes of culture. However, historically speaking, no paradigm has been able to maintain its performance, appeal or motivation. One paradigm is exhausted while the other emerges to give the world a new and different order. This applies not only to the belief of tawhid, the oneness of God, the idea that signifies the transcendental unity of religions, but also to all paradigms, including humanist ones or those that rely on humanist interpretations of Islam.

Our basic assumption is that the beginning of the end of modernity has already started. If “rationalism” as the most important parameter of modernity is being replaced with a “farewell to reason” -- here reason refers to pure intelligence -- and if after the collapse of positivism the philosophy of science is being guided by the mentality of “anything goes,” then this means rationalism and materialism are being questioned. The following historical periods fall within the ambit of religion, in particular Islam. It follows that universal reason, the binding method and temple of modernity is self-refuted; now a return to reason may begin. Reason may establish our contact with the transcendent. An exit from modernity is the return from rationalism to reason.

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