The modern war against folk religion

26 02 2009

India Kashmir Festival

I see the stigmatization and destruction of traditions like the Last Wednesday as manifestations of a fundamental and (in my eyes) very sad shift in the history of Islam. This shift first of all came to be due to a process of defining Islam as a uniform, static and stagnant fixed (cultural-religious) “identity” which did not yet exist in the so called classical times and then, under political domination of exploiting powers, privileging the culture, traditions and interpretations of affluent Muslim social elites in close contact with colonial institutions over the culture, desires and perspectives of the “common people”… Stigmatizing Folk Islam, in my eyes, is not a natural outcome of our search for “the Truth”, be it Islamic or otherwise. It is not a natural outcome of a wish to establish better spiritual standards in the lives of human beings. It is… a voluntary and deliberate choice for a cultural/class based chauvinism and a step towards a methodology of pure destruction, and I deem both to be antithetical to any possible conception of better spiritual standards and a search for “the Truth”.

Leyla Jagiella

I have made this point at times on this blog, and from what I am told by Muslim acquaintances, it is the Salafi/Wahhabi trend in Islam (one of the tendencies that in its extreme form likes to declare jihad and blow up “infidels”) that pulled / is pulling a “Vatican II” in the Muslim world. These are the same people who tear down the shrines of the saints, condemn the use of talismans against the evil eye, and seek strict interpretations (which are in reality historically conditioned) of Islamic law in order to create a purer religion. It is driven by the paranoia of a reactionary ideology hemmed in by modernity which seeks to attack modernity with its own hermeneutic tools.
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On Christian Conscience

26 02 2009


As a seminarian, I first read the text of the trial of St. Maximus Confessor, and it always struck me as a very challenging text. As you may know, the context of the trial is that St. Maximus is being accused in the trial of treason since he refuses to sign on to the doctrine that there is only one will or energy in Christ. At one point, the saint is asked some very pointed questions. I here produce the relavent excerpts:

Will you [Maximus] be saved and all others be lost?” To which he replied, “The three young men who did not adore the idol when all others adored it did not condemn anyone. They did not attend to what belonged to others but attended to this, that they did not lapse from true worship. Likewise, Daniel, when thrown in the lion’s den, did not condemn anyone who did not pray to God in accordance with the decree of Darius, but attended to what was his own role, and he preferred to die and not offend God than to be afflicted by his own conscience over the transgression of the laws of nature. Thus it is with me as well; may God grant that I neither condemn anyone nor say that I alone am saved. But I prefer to die rather than to have on my conscience that I in any way at all have been deficient in what concerns faith in God.

I think we have to realize that in the end we will be responsible only for ourselves. Many times, our preoccupation with matters of ecclesiastical importance is a useless distraction: worrying about things that are not really our business anyway. I think this should be kept in mind first and foremost when discussing Church matters.