Saturday 1st of October 2022
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Imam Al-Mahdi (as) and opponents: The dialectic of complementarity and contradiction

Since ancient times, two forces have been struggling to gain control over the globe; the forces of good and evil. The struggle between these two poles will continue until the Day of Judgment. However, this point may appear controversial and should, therefore, be fully discussed and concretely established before delving into the details of the theoretical propositions of this paper.
The Establishment of Conflict and Complementarity
The conflict between evil and good may be traced back to ancient times. Some may presuppose that the struggle between these two poles cannot be tracked to the ancient epochs as it is based, for the main part, on the production tools of the industrial society, as espoused by the Marxist material dialectic; however, it would be more reasonably realistic to accept that it certainly has existed since the earliest days of the human species on this earth and shall continue until the Day of Judgment. It may assume different forms, represented by outwardly different figures, but what counts is the essence of these forces rather than their various external manifestations. Also, what we mean by evil is that party which opposes Divine will and the rightly guided party of Almighty God (swt). Some think this might be summarized in one characteristic, i.e. possession or otherwise of the fear of Allah.
The conflict between good and evil is established in the majority of sacred books, albeit with dissimilar references and terms. The Qur\'an has emphasized the existence of this distinction as well as the fight in the story of Adam\'s sons after the first division took place between them when Abel, the potential victim, upon hearing his brother\'s pronouncement of intention to kill him, strongly despising such an act – and despite being fully aware of the risk of being killed for doing so - declared:
“.لئن بسطت إلي يدك لتقتلني ما أنا بباسط يدي لأقتلك إني أخاف الله رب العالمين
“Even if you stretch forth your hand towards me in order to kill me, I will never stretch out a hand towards you to kill you. I fear God, Lord of the Universe!” Qur’an 5:28
By the end of this paper we shall refer to the Qur’anic verse which is both linked to the Imam Al-Mahdi (as) and his opponents and to the status of fearing Allah. The only difference is that the conflict was manifested here in individual representation, while our discussion topic goes beyond, extending the matter to communities, groups and, ultimately, various societies. However, the essence is contradiction between two totally different forces. This shall lead us to a thorough discussion of contradiction and its philosophical definition within the social arena.
Contradiction as a General Concept
One studies contradiction in Aristotelian formal logic in simple concepts, particularly in the propositional. The definition and the conditions are different compared to the social field and political philosophy. It is clearly obvious that the logical definition of contradiction – within Aristotelian frameworks - is not applicable to societies and the principles governing them, as both the concepts and compounds within the formal logic never claimed to apply such rules to the societal field. We, therefore, face two concepts with totally different connotations yet dissimilar meaning. As this discussion necessitates the study of contradiction and dialectic throughout the latest philosophical discussions, we are forced to discuss the Marxist and the Hegelian models of contradiction, paving the way for analyzing the recent brainchild of Huntington and his clash of civilizations.
Contradiction within Marxism in the Social Field
In dialectical materialism, contradiction, as derived by Karl Marx from Hegelianism, usually refers to an opposition of conflicting social forces. According to Marx, most prominent is the fact that capitalism promotes a social structure which has contradictions because the social classes have conflicting collective goals. These contradictions stem from the lethargic social function of the society\'s structure and inherently lead to class conflict, economic crisis, and eventually revolution, the existing order\'s overthrow and the formerly oppressed classes\' ascension to political power. Thus for formal societal approaches, the main predication of \'dialectical opposition or contradiction\' must be understood as \'some sense\' opposition between the objects involved in a directly associated context. \'Dialectical contradiction\' is not reducible to simple \'opposites\' or \'negation\'.
According to Marxist thinkers, dialectics is the science of the general and abstract laws of the development of nature and society. We are going to introduce their ideas based on Friedrich Engels. These principal features might be introduced as four, which are:
1. The universe, far from being a disconnected mixture of separate isolated entities, is an integral whole, with resultant universal interdependency. To sum it up: The law of unity and conflict of opposites.
The first of Engel\'s laws or expressions was seen by Hegel as the central feature of a dialectical understanding of things. Hegel wrote:
"It is in this dialectic as it is here understood, that is, in the grasping of oppositions in their unity, or of the positive in the negative, that speculative thought consists. It is the most important aspect of dialectic."
This principle may be easily acceptable as Muslim social philosophers have repeatedly emphasized this very point; however, astute thinkers may distinguish between various groups co-existing within a society, and reach different conclusions regarding each individual community. We cannot, therefore, accept this principle in its vague formulation.
2. Nature - the natural world or cosmos - is in a state of constant motion. Some have formulated these changes to occur either generally or in the particular form of quantitative into qualitative. Friedrich Engels, the German philosopher, wrote in his \'Dialectics of Nature\':
"All nature, from the smallest thing to the biggest, from a grain of sand to the sun, from the protista to man, is in a constant state of coming into being and going out of being, in a constant flux, in a ceaseless state of movement and change."
While the second principle is widely accepted within the milieu of Muslim philosophers - in particular the Sadrian (Al-Harakah Al-Jawhariyyah), it is nevertheless unclear how this could be applied within the social field. The exception is where it could be used to prove the need for Divine power and guidance, something which the materialistic dialectic has rejected since its establishment. We find ourselves forced to discuss the other part of this principle as a separate issue.
3. Development is a process whereby insignificant and imperceptible quantitative changes lead to fundamental, qualitative changes. The latter occur not gradually, but rapidly and abruptly, in the form of a leap from one state to another. A simple example from the physical world might be the heating of water: a one degree increase in temperature is a quantitive change, but at 100 degrees there is a qualitative change - water to steam.
This principle is probably taken by Hegel from Aristotle, and is equated with what scientists call "phase transitions". In each case, the phase transition of water is one of the main expositions of quantity into quality and vice versa. Karl Marx has also emphasized this law in his Capital.
"Merely quantitative differences, beyond a certain point, pass into qualitative changes."
As regards this principle, we may view the case from a specific angle as, within the social field, we found it difficult to adopt as a constant clear-cut rule where conditions supposedly bring about transformation from quantitative to qualitative, as societal factors are flexible and depend on many varying factors that can affect the destiny and future of the whole society. One is also able to defend an approach where contradiction may tend to affect the human societies within themselves, i.e. individuals whereby parts of the whole shall reach perfection towards elevated positive levels, and others may descend to ultimate lower levels.
4. All things contain within themselves internal dialectical contradictions, which are the primary cause of motion, change, and development in the world. This principle might be formulated as: The law of the negation of the negation.
The principle of the negation of the negation is Hegel\'s distinct expression. It was the expression through which, amongst others, Hegel\'s dialectic became fashionable during his life-time, notwithstanding his vague formulation; interpretation will be a difficult task. There is much related literature and many philosophical theories – amongst which one has, oneself, developed an innovative theory though we are not going to discuss it in this article. However, speaking critically and briefly – and interpreting solely from a materialistic context - one can straightforwardly reject the need for internal contradiction in order to perpetuate motion and to keep things changing and moving towards different levels. Further explanations might be needed in the next few paragraphs to elaborate upon this idea and to strengthen its depth.
Before concluding, there is a need, at this point, to emphasise that dialectical materialism is often defined by reference to two claims by Marx: first that he "put Hegel\'s dialectics back on its feet" and second, that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." See (The Communist Manifesto, 1848). Dialectical materialism is essentially characterized by the belief that history is the product of class struggle obeying the general Hegelian principle of philosophy of history that is the development of thesis into its antithesis which is sublated by the "Aufhebung" (~synthesis, a word that Hegel was loathe to use) - which conserves thesis and antithesis while simultaneously abolishing it. Thus the conflict of society\'s classes is a necessity for history\'s development, and adheres to the Hegelian principles of history.
In conclusion, within this dialectic, the process of modification through the conflict of opposing forces, whereby a given contradiction is characterized by a primary and a secondary aspect, the secondary succumbing to the primary is then transformed into an aspect of new contradiction.
Ayatollah S. M. B. As-Sadr differs from Marx regarding the origin of social contradiction. Marx relates contradiction to the growth of means of production. Although As-Sadr pictured the rise of contradiction in social relations due to the changing economic conditions of society, he regarded the real cause behind it not as consisting of external-environmental conditions, but rather as resting within man, himself. Man is not always the product of his environment, which itself is shaped by his mentality, thoughts and activities. The development of economic conditions is his doing, and social relationships are developed and organized to meet his needs. It was his intellectual and physical capabilities that made it possible for man to enhance his living conditions. Without these faculties, the external conditions would have remained the same since the dawn of history. The reason behind the rise of the social contradiction is that man deviated from the way of God. Changes in the conditions surrounding man would only serve as instigators of man\'s mental capabilities. They act as \'raw material\' for promoting and stimulating the appetite for the human brain to work. Change of environmental condition gives man the ability to develop new tools or means of production to counteract the effects of the changing conditions. He states:
‘...the natural forces of production do not, by themselves, reach their [state of] perfection and growth, or quicken their development and maturation, but rather they only instigate the senses and the thinking of man. Their natural development, thus, is not [the result of a] dialectical process, and the positive effect [i.e., the emancipation of life] does not emerge from this development. Rather, the forces of production are governed by an historical factor that is superior to them.’
That superior factor, according to Sadr, is the human ego of mankind, himself. Hence, the primary factor behind the contradictions that exist in society is, according to Sadr, not changing economical conditions (forces of productions) but rather the contradictions within man himself. The Holy Qur’an made it explicitly clear:
"كلا إن الإنسان ليطغى، أن رآه استغنى."
“However man acts so arrogant, for he considers he is self-sufficient.” Qur’an 96:7
"إن الله لا يغير ما بقوم حتى يغيروا ما بأنفسهم."
“God does not change what any people may have until they change whatever they themselves have.” Qur’an 13:11
Thus the historical process can be defined between two poles of political thinking; those who would like to protect their interests and retain the existing system of alienation indefinitely, and those who would like to revolt and replace the existing oppressive system of social relations with a just one.
The natural course of action for the deprived and weak has always been to lead a revolution against corrupt oppressive political regimes. The history of revolutions, according to Sadr, has taken two different routes to confront unjust social structures. The first is revolution that advocates the elimination of materialistic forms of societal oppression, considered as forms of alienation, encountered by the downtrodden on a daily basis. These feelings of exploitation by the masses lead them first to silent opposition. When oppression continues, they organize their effort in vocal political movements that give voice to their demands upon the system. These groups eventually resort to violent actions when all else fails. Revolutions of this type of movement mobilize masses on the basis that a new system would distribute wealth and resources to all members of society and eliminate privilege for the upper dominate class. However, such revolutions, while concerned about certain kinds of social needs, are short-sighted. The masses would continue to face other forms of alienation in the post-revolutionary system. The oppressed of yesterday would become the masters, and thus, the oppressor of today. The whole historical process would repeat itself with new players. Thus, "the revolution would only change the position of exploitation, but would not accomplish its elimination." That is probably why Marx considered the existence of a historical dialectic process whereby each rising class resorts to oppressive means and measures to protect its interests against other groups, i.e., every thesis gives rise to an antithesis.
The second type of revolutionary process is one that tries to eliminate the source of alienation rather than merely emphasizing elimination of its materialistic contradictions. It is a revolution that would resort to the creation of new social values that would see an end to all sources of exploitation. The revolution that would advocate the values of justice, righteousness, and equality that stem from belief in God is the only revolution that would secure man from the domination and exploitation of other powers. It is the total surrender of man to God that would free him from surrendering to others. When the revolution advocates the equality of all people, it must be on the basis that all are equal before God and no single group has special rights with respect to others. When such revolutionaries try to eliminate the means of control of the dominate group, it is not because of a belief that they have no right to reign, but because all people have equal right to govern before God and act as His representative on earth. Sadr called the latter type of revolution the \'(Divine) real revolution\' and the former the \'(Taghuti) relative revolution.\'
These few sentences have been an attempt to establish a correction of the theoretical Marxist approach, and while touching on the theoretical version of social contradiction, they should suffice to lead us to profoundly study and extensively examine the new approach, including its relation to Real Practiced Life.
Examining the Authenticity of Dialectical Marxism in Practice:
The Role of Religion in Mobilizing the Masses towards Revolution
The last few decades of the last century witnessed a new phenomenon, namely the Islamic revolution of Iran, where religion demonstrably played a major role in mobilizing the masses for the purpose of a national cause, simultaneously inspiring aspirations of International proportions with regard to the oppressors happily hogging their way around the globe. However, there are some politically observant and strategic analysts who have tried to trivialise or belittle the role of religious ideology in forming and motivating the forces of the revolution.
In his book: \'Six theories of the Victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran\', Haghighat edited an article entitled: \'The Role of Ideology, Leadership and People in the Islamic Revolution\' by Manoochehr Mohammdi that states that religion was the main factor for the victory of the Islamic revolution. Analyzing the main ideologies that could and eventually did influence the destiny of the revolution, we read in the article by Mohammadi:
\'In Iran, since long ago and from the early years of the present century, three different eastern and western ideologies have attracted different social groups. These are Nationalism, Marxism-Leninism, and Islam. Their advocates have endeavoured to gather a following by painting their own picture of ideal society. Nationalism, in the minds race, incorporates historical background, language, culture and traditions of people, who have gathered inside a set of geographical boundaries as an undissociatable unit, and considering such, honour it as friendly and otherwise as alien and enemy. The Marxist movement, despite the extensive efforts made, was less successful than nationalism in Iran for two reasons:
The atheistic structure and materialistic nature of Marxism-Leninism contradicted the Iranian society\'s nature and their deep religious beliefs. Thus, it could not find popular acceptability.
The extensive affiliation of Marxists to Moscow resulted in their becoming regarded "as a result of the bitter experiences of Iranian-Russian relation",
or as a group of Russian puppets. However, Islam as a divine school of thought had historical roots in the minds of various classes of people. A society with 98% of its members being traditional Muslims, and most of them adhering to their divine book\'s commands, is well prepared to accept revolution.\'
Many have rejected the idea that religion, and in particular Islam could have played a strong role in the people\'s motivation towards revolting against the Shah. Mohammadi writes:
\'Among the main arguments against this ideology being used as the ideology of the revolution are:
Many years of western imperialist propaganda had inspired the notion that, "Religion should be separated from politics and have no relationship with socio-political problems". This program of insinuation had affected various classes of people and even some of the clergy and religious authorities.
The ideal society that Islam intended to establish belonged to 14 centuries in the past and many believed it impossible to establish its orders in the modern era. Doubts existed whether it could answer the present epoch\'s conundrums.
Reliance on some of the Islamic principles, such as dissimulation and waiting for the advent of the 12th Imam in Shi\'ah tradition and obeying the designated guardian among the Sunnis, had left no room, not even in the minds of some true Muslims, for the idea that Islam could be wielded as a revolutionary ideology for changing the prevailing values.\'
After discussing many of the abovementioned points he insists:
\'The evidence in all of these popular and mass movements proves that the essential accelerating factor in the revolution had a purely religious aspect and was related to the insulting article as follows:
From January 10, 1978 till the victory of the revolution, all of the demonstrations had a religious aspect and were performed using religious traditions, ceremonies and festivities, (like Ashura, the 40th day mourning ceremony, and religious festival), and had no other distinguishing traits.
The starting and ending points of the demonstrations were at mosques and the regime showed its enmity to religion by attacking the Great Mosque of Kerman, Habib Mosque in Shiraz, and Lonradeh Mosque in Tehran, trying to stop these gatherings.
Invitation for the gatherings for street marches and leadership of the demonstrations were accomplished by the scholars. Non-religious leaders never had any role in administering and leading the demonstrations. Even when the National Front, trying to test its power, declared a strike and street march on the 40th day of mourning for the martyrs of Black Friday, it was unsuccessful. These initiatives had no relationship with the more open political atmosphere or Carter\'s human rights, policy, but they were brutally and ruthlessly answered. Even American so-called human rights supporters encouraged and supported the Shah in these acts of brutality.
People\'s slogans and requests were religious and political, and were based on two axes: Firstly the Shah\'s leaving and the fall of the Pahlavi regime, and secondly, establishing an Islamic state. Non-religious groups had no choice but to join the Muslim masses and were thus forced to abandon their own slogans so as not to face popular objection.
He concludes at the end of his article:
\'The greatest role in the victory of the revolution in Iran was played by religion and the school of martyrdom. Any attempt to relate it to issues such as Carter\'s human rights policy, the coalition of various forces, nationalistic movements, and so on, is distortion of reality and disagrees with documented historical facts.\'
This fact is also shared and confirmed by sharp and astute Western writers, such as Fred Halliday who, in an article titled: The Contradictory Legacies of Ayatollah Khomeini: The Iranian Revolution at Twenty presented in a London International Conference in 1999, wrote describing the above mentioned elements as follows:
“Khomeini had built a regime that combined religious and ideological authority with strong security system….The Iranian revolution claimed to be a novel kind of revolution, and many outside Iran agreed with this: this was a revolution made in the name of religion, and led by the clergy. This has never happen before in the history of modern revolutions. There were indeed other elements of novelty: this… Its ideological character was evident in the fact that it did not seek to invoke a long set of predecessors: Khomeini insisted…. The only model was that of the Prophet in the seventh century.
It is explicitly emphasizing that the Islamic revolution produced a new model for revolution in modern history that was both ideological and religious. Two factors combined to demonstrate in favour of Islam at the beginning of the third millennium.
The revolution faced many challenges and succeeded in stabilising and dynamically carrying out its functions. What was remarkable to observe was the domino effect collapse of the Communist states which had for so many years served as staunch rivals to the capitalist model. This has provided an extremely significant opportunity to revive the role of religion and the Divine values within the everyday life of the human being. The transformation or the influence of Divine values on the International arena was witnessed by politicians and strategists. Referring to this remarkable change, Shirin Hunter wrote the following in an article entitled: “The Post-Soviet International System and the Dialogue of civilizations”:
- “Between 1950s and 1970s, these efforts (referring to the United Nation Charter and the activities of other countries struggling to achieve independence within the International arena) were related mostly to issues of political and economic independence and to trying to [become part] of the International political system. In the 1980s, however, cultural and value-related issues acquired greater importance, and this trend was strengthened in the 1990s, following the Soviet Union collapse. Today, cultural and civilisational issues are key elements of the International discourse and inter and intra-state relations.”
While ideology and religion - especially Islam in the case of the Soviet failure in Afghanistan – provided an indispensable service in effecting the failure of communism, one could have possibly prognosticated the ideology, in general, and Islam in particular, to be central to the mind of strategists and theoreticians alike were it not for the number of remaining doctrinaires who were either not vigilantly engaged in scrutinizing the International arena, or who wilfully ignored this enormous ideological role, preferring to jettison the importance of religion. Some leading political figures espoused the idea of a "New World Order" with the existence of a single world Mega Power. However, they felt less at home with the resulting un-confrontational vacuum; having an adversary served well for uniting inner fronts in the face of a (real or imagined) major external enemy. In order to groom the everyday minds of leaders, minions and masses actively in the same direction, it was assumed that Islam could fill the void and become the perfect alternative bogeyman. Speaking about a \'New World Order\' was a politically motivated vague formulation and an attempt to present American Western hegemony over the rest of the world. It was not, however, shaped as an intellectual theory nor received as a well formulated theorem from a charismatic individual. The reason should be intrinsically clear as simply highlighting a fact is not an exceptional accomplishment, nor a great task entrusted to a magnificently charismatic global leadership.
Again, it was left to an American thinker to produce a theory to serve as Trojan Horse, saving ship, and dynamic vehicle within the \'New World Order\'. The theory of the \'Clash of Civilizations\' was introduced in a book by Samuel Huntington. He, a US political scientist, was "the director of security-planning for the National Security Council" in the White House regime of Jimmy Carter. Huntington has had access to a lot of very interesting behind-the-scenes data denied to lesser mortals. The ideas in this book were first presented in a lecture at the Washington "American Enterprise Institute." One of the crucial purposes and motivation for Huntington\'s brainchild lay in this factor, as, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some considered the world could finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief due to the death of the cold war. According to the ideas in Huntington\'s book, however, one should not take that breath of relief as humanity\'s destiny has been ensnared, once again, by a huge, profound and wider global Clash. As he put it, paving the way for presenting his brainchild, namely ‘The Clash of Civilization’: true friends require true enemies:
"For peoples seeking identity and reinventing ethnicity, enemies are essential, and the potentially most dangerous enmities occur across the fault lines between the world\'s major civilizations." (p. 20)
Within and between these lines one is able to discern a crucial insidious factor, i.e. a shift from emphasis on ideology to something rarely, if ever, discussed within the circles of strategists, due to its fluid character the very nature of which escapes clear definition based on solid background: civilization.
The Shift of Importance from Ideology-Religion into Civilization-Strategy
This shift from emphasis on religion to civilization was lucrative, provided a wonderful opportunity and unleashed great energy for the masterminds behind the so-called \'New World Order\'. Otherwise, no one would ever have implemented the civilisational factor within International affairs of state, as this term was nonexistent in the lexicon of International affairs. According to Shirin Hunter in her article, entitled: The Post-Soviet International System and the Dialogue of civilizations\':
‘Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 a new concept has been introduced into the lexicon of International affairs, namely that of ‘civilizations’ as actors on the International scene and, therefore, if not replacing, then competing with the nation state as the principal unit of the International system.
- The idea was first introduced by Samuel Huntington in the context of his ‘Clash of civilizations’ theory. According to this theory, civilisational incompatibility or affinity will be the main factor determining the nature of international and inter-state relations. Moreover, this theory implies that rather than individual states interacting with one another –albeit at different levels, bilateral, multilateral etc.- it will be a cluster of states bound together by certain common values within the framework of a particular civilization, that will become the main actor.’
Although she might be attempting to present his ideas, one has to state that, despite being a complex, learned and thought provoking work, his book introducing the Clash of Civilizations should in no way change the way one regards the international social and political order. It is especially important to be wary of rushing into judgements while applying it to world events post-September 11th, 2001. The idea was indeed invented several years before this tragic so-called wake-up event. And the course and history for its background was meant to elaborate, or substitute the \'New World Order\' in the academic milieu.
Huntington’s book has been denounced by some Left-wings as being written by a right-winger and therefore, presumably, of no intellectual significance. On the other hand S. Sayed, from the sociology department of the University of East London, despite admitting the complications of defining a \'civilization\', enjoyed Huntington’s analysis that Muslim Nations are being replaced by quasi-primordial constructs such as civilizations. He also shares the same idea that these entities are the manifestation of a national logic and likes the idea and recognition of the relationship between the nation and the form that the political entity has taken. He refutes, however, the idea which has animated Huntington and upon which he bases his theory. After mentioning a couple of shared practices amongst Muslims he says:
‘It is difficult to conclude from these examples that that which constitutes the unity of the Muslim Ummah is its uniform way of life. (Of course, it is precisely this idea of a Muslim/ Islamic civilization that animates people such as Huntington; nevertheless, like all attempts which conceptualise civilization as an unity, these flounder since they rest upon an eclectic collection of observable and generalized features.’)
The negative affects of this book (Clash of Civilisations), which seem to be frequently encountered in post 2001 readings, lies in its unmerciful ramification and pessimistic prognostication for the future of humanity.
One could probably link the thesis with the fact that America was in a period of increasing tension, particularly from confronting Muslims in various locations across the globe. Huntington is neither a liberal nor a left winger. In his advice, he emphasises that the West must restrain the military power of Islamic and Sino countries in their attempt for technological/military superiority over other civilisations. Of course, his brainchild is not limited to the Islamic territories but rather extends to cover two civilizations: the Islamic and the Buddhist world (China and countries in close geographic orbit/influence). (p. 312)
During a London Conference on \'Muslims Identity in the 21st century\' organized in Oct. 1998, Dale F. Eickleman, declared that Huntington\'s rhyming "West versus Rest" is of little use for the modern understanding of Muslim societies. He states:
‘They obscure, or even distort, the immense spiritual and intellectual ferment that is taking place today among the world’s nearly one billion Muslims, reducing this innovation, in most cases, to a fanatical rejection of everything modern, liberal or progressive.’
As Huntington has suggested, the core of the challenge and his absolute obsession lies in the fear of being inferior - both economically and militarily- to the two civilizations. Thus our main concern should be to confront the superiority complex, and to resolve it in finding ways to let others think of themselves as equal to others, and to recognize that the others are very much alike - regardless of their various differences - and that they, too, possess the ability to add something to the Mega Powers; knowledge and purification.
" ولولا دفع الله الناس بعضهم ببعض لهدمت صوامع وبيع وصلوات ومساجد يذكر فيها اسم الله كثيرا."
“If it were not because God repels some men by means of others, cloisters, churches, synagogues and mosques where God\'s name is mentioned frequently would have been demolished." Qur\'an 22:40
"قال الإمام علي (ع): الناس صنفان، أما أخ لك في الدين، وأما نظير لك في الخلق." الإمام علي (ع)، نهج البلاغة، الكلمات القصار
Imam Ali (as) said: “People are of two categories: either brethren in faith, or peer in creation.” Nahj ul-Blaghah, short sayings of Imam Ali (as).
Introduction of the Dialogue of Civilizations:
Just as the pursuit of mono-cultural, single religion, territorial and oppositional states has proven problematic since the demise of the Middle Ages, so has the increasingly singular pursuit of the American example of democracy for the post-Cold War world in the twenty-first century. The American type of democracy may function within certain societies with special conditions, but it is not the only or exemplary way to achieve a peaceful, productive, pluralistic and culturally dynamic society. After the refutation of the Clash of civilizations, there was the introduction of a wiser theory from the Muslims by Sayyed M. Khatami. The call was made prominent by the Iranian President in his keynote address at the opening of the United Nation in 1999. This call for a grand dialogue at the demise of the 20th and the inauguration of the 21st century was timely. Cultures have already encountered each other on religious journeys, modern holidays and vacations, military conquests, business transactions and intellectual exchanges and excursions.
The idea of the Dialogue of Civilizations cannot be rejected by a humble civilized human being, nor disapproved by an astutely religious individual. One should get beyond the various forms of contemporary fundamentalism and extremism wherever possible. Muslims today should operate with epistemological modesty, as no one can deny that great civilizations have been built by wise non-fundamentalist leaders like the Greeks, Chinese, Persian and Muslims.
The Qur’anic principle supports such a civilized approach, and we may quote the following Qur’aic verses:
"إذ قال لصاحبه وهو يحاوره، أكفرت .... الآية."
“His companion said to him while disputing with him: Do you disbelieve in Him who created you from dust, then from a small seed, then He made you a perfect man?” Qur\'an 18:37
"أدع الى سبيل ربك بالحكمة والموعظة الحسنة وجادلهم بالتي هي أحسن."
“Invite to the Way of the Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching."
Qur\'an 16:125
Also in a narration we read:
"إن الحكمة ضالة المؤمن، فحيث وجدها ألتقطها، فهو أحق بها."
“Wisdom is the ultimate goal of the believer, and wherever he finds it, it is his prerogative to acquire it, as he deserves it more than anybody else.”
Many Muslims among the religious minorities seem to have succeeded in dealing with cultural contradictions presented by others, and in conceiving themselves in tolerant, complex and realistic terms. Also, religious minorities, such as Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, live in a number of Islamic countries, and for instance in I. R. Iran under the Wilayat Faqih regulations are a model of cosmopolitanism. Yet superiority is still not manifested in each and every different way. These religious minorities, for example, don\'t pay the jizyah (the religious taxation upon non-Muslims within an Islamic State), while maintaining the application of the Islamic Shari\'ah Law. Some of them are not so favoured in other Islamic countries.
On the other hand, some Muslim communities living in the Free-World do not share an elevated position within the society, and are deprived of certain rights in a smooth smart way. Some of them have, consequently, remained on the hard shoulder of the main highway. The reasons are many and varied; some stemming from psychological seclusion, stigmatization of faith and humiliation of their holy figures during the last few decades. Appropriateness of the society\'s popular faith, such as Christianity, is so excessively focused and extremely emphasized to possibly cause a number of civilisational conversions, despite being increasingly abhorrent to the Muslim community. These social limitations, which have caused a number of nominal conversions to Christianity or other faiths, have had a negative impact on the status of sociology of the Free-World, regardless and notwithstanding its positive attributes.
The exclusion, conversion and attempted elimination of Muslims sensibilities and devotion will not help any healthy society to flourish. Rather it contributes to the instability of free societies. It is, therefore, wise to promote the Dialogue of Civilizations in order to minimize tensions and decrease elevated levels of confusion and misunderstanding. However, this peaceful idea, despite its many advantages, has not appeared to have been welcomed by arrogant individuals and atheistic Mega Powers.
An intellectual thinker marked the idea with a presentation designed to show that we are in a transitional phase from the "Rise and Fall" model to the "Dialogue" model. According to him:
“The implications are far reaching, not the least, a new understanding of civil society, cultural achievements by human beings of different nationalities and cultural manifestations.”
He also rightfully insists that Gibbon’s study on the Rise and Fall of Civilizations contributes to the topic of our discussion. He, therefore, advises a further study of the theory of ‘Dialogue of Civilizations’, as it lacks much sense without further investigation of the various technical terms implemented:
‘We must, in a dialogue of civilizations, investigate exactly, if historical records and archaeological evidence permit, why and how civilizations constitute themselves and fall apart and transform themselves into another form of civilization, or simple drop dead and become another chapter in the book on world history….
‘Much interdisciplinary research must be done in the Dialogue of Civilizations to achieve a kind of sense, so as to come to terms why and how any type of form of civilization emerges, flourishes, and ultimately dies.’
While analyzing the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire – despite the fact that it had adopted the Christian religion - Gazo quoted Gibbons to blame the very same adopted religion as the main cause for its decline. He writes:
‘Gibbons, hitherto, is read for his literary style, for an example of the enlightenment attitude towards Rome and Christianity, and ultimately, for the Rise and Fall paradigm, inherent in his narrative. Of course, everyone somehow knowledgeable of a little historical reading knows Gibbons verdict: The basic reason for Rome’s fall and decline was Christianity.’
It seems, as he, himself, realized, there is a fault in generalizing the cause to be a ‘Religion’ or any religion, and he could not help adding, therefore, that even Gibbons, the very same theoretician, cannot put Islam under the same category. However, he presented it in the form of a smart political manoeuvre:
Gibbons, as a figure from the enlightenment, needs no apology for his version of Rome and the Christian subversion. The enlightenment thinkers themselves were, as is well known, not positively inclined toward the Roman Catholic Church. Again it is no surprise that Gibbons and his friends should be benignly inclined toward Islam.’
By these quotes we find ourselves not entrapped into rejecting the role of ideology or religion, especially Islam, as some previous American thinkers have, but rather encouraged to further study our theory as the workable alternative to the Marxist Material Contradiction, the New World Order and to both the Clash of Civilizations and the Dialogue of Civilizations.
The Ultimate Holistic Theory:
So far we have studied the Marxist theory of material dialectic and contradiction. Despite its intention to establish the laws of historical development, we have been unable to find them irrefutable. But the designers of the New World Order seem to highlight the conditions of the World only as they appear in their own eyes, without delving into theoretical principles. While the theoretician of the Clash of Civilizations merely added a theoretical flavour to the previous Western political leader’s idea, he, also, fails to present more than a prediction of the scenario of the World from his own eye. We have been unable, however, to uncover more than conflicting evidence in his formulation to present ‘the Clash’ and ‘civilization’. We consider that a reasonable and sensible thinker cannot tolerate or digest the image of a civilized individual initiating hostility and ‘clash’ with other so-called civilized individuals. Fighting and Clashes are not civilized phenomenon of human history. Observing Khatami’s idea from another angle, the Dialogue of Civilizations seems to introduce the best principle for a civilized individual; however, it lacks a holistic approach, as it is possibly detached from reality. A thorough all-inclusive theory needs to be introduced as a combination of the entire aforementioned discussion would have bitterly inevitable, albeit undesirable, consequences.
We, therefore, assume that regardless of the level of civilization, one develops a flavour of bitter conflict, despite the partly successful rounds of dialogue, which would ultimately be likely to succumb to clash and violence when one party seeks to enforce its agenda and claims through aggressive tactics. This is the case when each and every party begins their distinctive path, when one ascends to an elevated position, while the second descends to its highest level of ambitions.
Islamic Traditions Supporting the Holistic Approach
At this stage we feel the need to elaborate on the meaning of the complementarity of the two forces. It seems to be assumed that forces of evil and good, devil and Divine can never interact nor react forcing each other into complementarity. Speaking laconic formulation one emphasizes that what is meant by complementarity is the Qur’anic, philosophical and mystical definition where both ways of complementarity are both possible and plausible. The Holy Qur’an has described both forms of complementarity while distinguishing between two smart concepts: namely the ascending levels (Ad-Darajat) and descending steps (Ad-Darakat) where both parties would be qualified to reach their ultimate level of perfection, albeit in totally and completely opposite directions.
A historical record from the Prophetic era confirms these two examples. The first concerns the ascending levels (Ad-Darajat) which was confirmed when the Prophet (saws) relayed the news about Ja’afar bin Abi Talib having been removed of both of his hands, through chopping, before he was martyred; the Prophet (saws) informed the Muslims before Ja’afar’s death that the Divine Almighty God (swt) substituted his two hands with wings, both of which, would be used for his soul to ascend to Heaven.
The Holy Qur’an described the different levels for believers in paradise as follows:
"ولكل درجات مما عملوا."
“Each will have rank according to whatever they have done.”
Qur’an 46:19
And the Hadeeth related to Ja’afar bin Abi Taleb we read in the historical account as follows:
عن علي بن أبي طالب قال : ( بينما أنا مع النبي في خير أبي طالب التفت إلى جعفر فقال : أما أن الله قد وصلك بجناحين يطير بهما إلى الجنة كما وصلت بجناح ابن عمك )
The second - descending steps (Ad-Darakat) - is recorded by the fact that when the Prophet (saws) was present amongst a group of Muslims, they suddenly heard a voice emitted from very strong wind. The Muslims were surprised and urged the Prophet (saws) to explain what was happening, based on his Divine knowledge. The Prophet (saws), being a Divinely enlightened messenger, informed them that a huge stone had been thrown into the Hell fire 70 years previously, and had now reached the fiery Hellish depth. Another narration explains that the wind signalled the death of one of the most distinguished figures among the hypocrites. When the Muslims arrived at Madinah they heard loud mourning and lamentation from one of the hypocrites signifying that a member of the Muslim Madinan society had passed away. His name was Ben Zayd bin Tabut, who was an influential high-standing Jew who, despite being a hypocrite and a disbeliever had converted to Islam, at least in name.
"فلما نزل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بقباء من طريق عمق سرح الناس ظهره ، وأخذتهم ريح شديدة حتى أشفق، وقال الناس : يا رسول الله ما شأن هذه الريح؟ فزعموا أنه قال " مات اليوم منافق عظيم النفاق، ولذلك عصفت ، وليس عليكم منها بأس إن شاء الله " وكان موته غائظا للمنافقين - قال جابر بن عبد الله رضي الله عنهما : فرجعنا إلى المدينة فوجدنا منافقا عظيم النفاق مات يومئذ - وسكنت الريح آخر النهار فجمع الناس ظهرهم."
The Qur’an has also made the position of hypocrites explicitly clear with regards to the Hell fire:
"إن المنافقين في الدرك الأسفل من النار، ولن تجد لهم نصيرا."
“The hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the fire: no helper wilt thou find for them:” Qur’an 4:145
It reflects the very fact that this person, while being a member of the Muslim Society of Madinah, was able to reach his form of perfection, albeit in the totally negative and opposite direction. Both examples were confirmed and are the best proof of the fact that both forces were in conflict within the Muslim society of Madinah and that the contradiction and tussling between them reached ultimately complementarity, albeit in opposite direction.
Another Islamic tradition states the following:
"قال الباقر (ع) : " يا إبراهيم ! إن الله تبارك وتعالى لم يزل عالما قديما خلق الأشياء لا من شئ . ومن زعم أن الله - عز وجل - خلق الأشياء من شئ فقد كفر ، لأنه لو كان ذلك الشئ الذي خلق منه الأشياء قديما معه في أزليته وهويته كان ذلك أزليا . بل خلق الله - عز وجل - الأشياء كلها لا من شئ ، فكان مما خلق الله - عز وجل - أرضا طيبة ، ثم فجر منها ماء عذبا زلالا ، فعرض عليها ولايتنا أهل البيت ، فقبلتها . فأجرى ذلك الماء عليها سبعة أيام حتى طبقها وعمها ، ثم نضب ذلك الماء عنها وأخذ من صفوة ذلك الطين طينا ، فجعل طين الأئمة ( عليهم السلام ) ، ثم أخذ ثفل ذلك الطين فخلق منه شيعتنا ، ولو ترك طينتكم يا إبراهيم على حاله - كما ترك طينتنا - لكنتم ونحن شيئا واحدا " . قلت : يا بن رسول الله ما فعل بطينتنا ؟ قال : " أخبرك يا إبراهيم ، خلق الله - عز وجل - بعد ذلك أرضا سبخة خبيثة منتنة ، ثم فجر منها ماء أجاجا آسنا مالحا ، فعرض عليها ولايتنا أهل البيت ولم تقبلها . فأجرى ذلك الماء عليها سبعة أيام حتى طبقها وعمها ، ثم نضب ذلك الماء عنها ، ثم أخذ من ذلك الطين فخلق منه الطغاة وأئمتهم ، ثم مزجه بثفل طينتكم . ولو ترك طينتهم على حاله ولم يمزج بطينتكم لم يشهدوا الشهادتين ، ولا صلوا ولا صاموا ولا زكوا ولا حجوا ، ولا أدوا أمانة ولا أشبهوكم في الصور ، وليس شئ أكبر على المؤمن من أن يرى صورة عدوه مثل صورته " . قلت : يا بن رسول الله فما صنع بالطينتين ؟ قال : " مزج بينهما بالماء الأول والماء الثاني ، ثم عركها عرك الأديم ، ثم أخذ من ذلك قبضة فقال : هذه إلى الجنة ولا أبالي ، وأخذ قبضة أخرى وقال : هذه إلى النار ولا أبالي ."
‘Summery: When Almighty God created human beings from clay, He mixed the pure with the impure and then declared that this one is going to the Hell fire, and I am not concerned, and this is going to Paradise, and I don’t care. He then mixed them, without distinction, among creation.’
This tradition is likely to contribute to our discussion as it confirms that these two pieces – which in this context refer to two parties of humans, before they finally divide, were mixed and brought together after the primary distinction. It may metaphorically refer to the case that, despite the clear cut distinction between those two forces of good and evil, there will still be the overlapping of both principles and actors. It also confirms that, despite dialogue, mixture and interaction between the two parties, the final distinction between them was made in favour of total perfection, albeit towards completely opposite directions.
While both narrations support our holistic approach, there is one slight difference: The first was related to internal complementarity between conflicting parties manifesting a domestic peaceful and undeclared contradiction, while the second refers to the external complementarity occurring between two foreign parties manifesting contradiction in the International arena. Although both parties, politically and socially, in the case of internal and external contradiction, totally despise and feign reciprocal contradictory and absolute exclusiveness against the other, the natural dialectic of this action-reaction process is, however, consciously or unwittingly, forcing them towards interacting within the contradiction then ultimately reaching complementarity. After studying the theoretical aspects of our approach, it now becomes appropriate to examine Imam Al-Mahdi’s (as) relationship to his opponents in the light of the abovementioned holistic method.
Imam Al-Mahdi (as) and Opponents
Adopting the Qur’anic principle of Imamah, one is naturally positioned to face criticism that one is inclined towards promoting a One-Party government. Imam Al-Mahdi (as) being the representative of good, his opponents may be defined as representing the evil forces. One of the most commonly observed features is the accusation levelled at the Divine party as being dictatorial and a one-party rule.
Conversely, the accusers indirectly manipulate the concept that the distinctive qualities of their party, i.e. the opponents of Imam Al-Mahdi’s (as) Divine revolution are totally free, declaring the ‘Free World’. His opponents claim to protect - at least - elementary human rights such as extreme tolerance, opening the space for diversity, tolerance, and freedom of belief and expression. The logical accusation of human rights promoters to the Mahdis (as) would be negligence of basic rights of peace, security, and freedom.
From the abovementioned elaboration and information, we understand that those opinions are not identical with the actual given facts, either theoretically, or practically. Also, the contradiction was not formed according to Marxist definition, nor is society expected to be formed following Hegelian principles.
The institution (Sunnan At-Ta’rikh) of this dialectical struggle between positive and evil forces reflects a totally different image and a completely different application. A closer realistic scenario to the abovementioned dialectic is that these accusations reflect a self-egoistic Eurocentric nature leading to contradiction followed by complementarity, but towards totally opposite directions.
"وقال الذين كفروا لرسلهم لنخرجنكم من ارضنا او لتعودن في ملتنا فاوحى اليهم ربهم لنهلكن الظالمين، وَلَنُسْكِنَنَّكُمُ الأَرْضَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ ذَلِكَ لِمَنْ خَافَ مَقَامِي وَخَافَ وَعِيدِ "
"Those who disbelieved told their messengers: "We\'ll run you out of our land unless you return to our sect!" Their Lord [however] inspired them [as follows]: "We shall wipe out wrongdoers and settle you on the land to succeed them." That is [in store] for anyone who fears My position and fears My threat." Qur’an 14:13-14
- Human history is overwhelmed with examples of the contradiction between the good and the evil forces; however this contradiction should be grasped in its natural and human context. The Marxist material dialectic is not irrefutable. Most of the Hegel-Engels concepts were studied and critically discussed. Contradictions within social fields are facts, while any attempt to reject them is detached from reality. The main point is to try to grasp an all-inclusive and thorough model. The ideas of Muslim philosophers such as S. M. B. As-Sadr were analyzed as an alternative to the suggested Models and principles.
- The theoretical study was then supplemented by discussing reality using the most significant phenomenon of the last century, i.e. the Islamic Revolution of Iran, in the light of which, after studying different examples of both Western and Islamic thinkers, the prevailing opinion was presented.
- The effect of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the contemporary world was analyzed, and the introduction of the New World Order, followed by both the Clash and the Dialogue of Civilizations were introduced with their positive and negative elements.
- The ultimate and final holistic solution to fill the vacuum within the intellectual milieu was then presented. A holistic approach capable of being applied to the stark reality of life, presenting a civilized and moral alternative was introduced.
The alternative to the abovementioned theories was established while paving the way for complementarity for each and every active party within the socio-political and economic spheres for both internal and external contradiction, when both parties – evil or good - consciously or unwittingly, will be forced towards interacting within the inevitable social contradiction, then ultimately reaching complementarity, albeit towards opposite directions.
- The holistic approach was presented along with supporting evidence from Qur’anic verses as well as narrations from the Sunnah, and in the light of this theory, we have attempted to understand the relationship between Imam Al-Mahdi (as) and his opponents.


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