‘Tawhidic-Singularity’ as a New Philosophy of Islam
For any change in Malaysia, a new understanding of living Islam must be generally accepted in society
This is another writing collaboration with Dr Azly Rahman
One of the realties about Islam as it is represented today is that very few understand its meaning in a contemporary social context, let alone be able to apply it to the world that is organic, emotionally unstable, and constantly evolving as patterned by organised chaos and complexity.
What is missing in the discourse of contemporary Islam is the idea of the fluidity of One-ness and the bounded-ness of Multiplicity as twin paradoxes of what philosophy in this age of cybernetics, terrorism, and ‘neo-frankensteinism’ means.
In other words, what Muslims of today need is not about debate, dialogue, and discourse in “what is the correct ideology that constitutes Islam”, but a radical rephrasing of the question itself: what is this notion of peace within the self, as it interacts with the outer boundaries of the self and how must the ‘self’ behaves in a world of complexity of beings without losing the fundamental believe in the holistic and philosophic-ness of the self itself.
This is the notion of ‘tawhid’ in traditional Islamic discourse we wish to explore.
The authors of this essay propose a reconstructed ‘Tawhidism’; one that is not exclusively about the Islamic concept of it, with the cultural baggage of Arabism; rather, it is about the interplay between contemporary idea of Singularity and Multiplicity we frame using some version of Complexity Theory.
In the foregoing discussions we will focus on the Islamic notion of the ‘knowledge of the One-ness of god’, from the philological and philosophical perspective and see how this idea can move nations, especially as we see the relevance to the Muslims in Malaysia.
We chose Malaysia as a case study because of its interesting evolution not only as a plural society but also one socio-psychologically impacted by contemporary advances in globalised and networked technologies and ideologies.
In our discussions we will also allude instances of the idea to existing religious traditions applicable the problems of this century. In doing so, we believe it would be more effective and logical not to craft another essay on the ‘glory of Islamic philosophy derived from the past’, but to write about the Oneness-Manyness, holistic-particularistic, and self-to-Self continuum and dichotomy; about the principle of Singularity which lives in all things cybernetic, as Chinese philosophers too would propose in the concept of the Yin and Yang of existence.
Death of Islamic philosophising
We begin our discussion on the death of philosophising in Islam, taking Malaysia as a case in point. In the Malaysian scenario, a ‘version’ of Islam began being imposed upon the rakyat (people) since the 1980s during a first phase of ‘Islamisation’. The reign of Mahathir Mohamad brought mega-changes such as the imposition of Malaysia Incorporated, a crony Privatisation Policy, and The Look East policy.
It also brought the push to ‘Islamise society’, through the work of Mahathir’s deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, now incarcerated on charges of sodomy. Educational, cultural, and governmental institutions were made to be more ‘Islamic’, and the nation was hegemonised by this idea of moral and intellectual leadership.
As this idea evolved and permeate through the system, this ‘Islamic version of Malaysia’s developmentalist paradigm’ became one that couldn’t be questioned as to its singularity, where any person even hinting of deviating from the official view would face authoritarian consequences through the ‘Sharia police’.
In this sense, ‘Islam’ in Malaysia today has been put above the constitution. Islam in Malaysia now restricts the basic rights and fundamental liberty of both individuals and communities to express themselves. Sharia authorities use the ‘precepts of Islam” as a vague term to define anything that suits in the ever growing stronger political Islam theology in Malaysia.
What was once Malaysia’s official religion is quickly becoming Malaysia’s only religion. Any deviating opinion is quashed. Malaysia is now under an Umno Caliphate for all intents and purposes.
The last decades saw the increase of Sharia vs Constitutional-related court cases ranging from the fight for custody of children in inter-faith marriage to the controversy over the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Malay-translated version Christian Bible or the ‘Al-Kitab’, used in East Malaysia.
We see a fight between singularities. The Islamic bureaucracy in Malaysia has been growing stronger and stamping and stomping its version as the ‘one and only’ Islam, where any deviation is savagely jumped upon and prosecuted. Any hope of plurality is fast going.
The Islamic bureaucracy has placed heavy ‘qualifications’ upon anybody who would dare speak out, against the prevailing form of Islam prescribed today. Malaysia has gone the path of a skewed literal understanding, with its hudud debate, and shut out the layered interpretations that were once diverse throughout the region.
Like in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), peaceful coexistence of various interpretations are no longer allowed to exist. Any plurality is considered deviant, where total obedience to the ‘infallible’ ulama is now expected without question. Dissent became criminalised. Ideas of any potential Islamic reformism went away with the passing on the prime ministership from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to Najib Abdul Razak.
There is no agreed methodology on how to interpret the meaning within the Quran. Scholars have begun to acknowledge the fact that the text is ‘cultural-bound’ and speaks of the time and place unique to the people of the Middle East. The stories in the Quran are essentially about prophets and messengers of the land of Arabia.
There is then the problem of universalizing the experience of reading the text without ‘transferring the culture embedded in the language itself’. This has led to immense disagreement and conflict in how to approach the spiritual text of the Muslims without a culture subjecting itself to the process or even the onslaught of Arabisation.
In addition, centuries old Islam-predated cultural ideas such as animism in parts of South-East Asia included have been planted their roost in the psyche of the peoples, giving the unique identity such as those manifested in the idea of Javanese syncretism.
Especially in South-East Asia, Hindu-Buddhist philosophy was already in vogue in the early kingdoms such as those in Srivijaya, Mataram, Singahsari, Majapahit in Java and in the kingdoms in Champa and Siam. Islam came at a later stage through the work of Arab traders and also those deliberately trying to spread this new religion from Arabia. The triumph of Islam is clear today: the Muslim man is becoming the Arabian man.
Many read Islamic doctrine literally, Allah is merciful, and as a consequence fate should be merciful, i.e. Allah is watching over all Muslims. However this ignores a holistic interpretation where verses such as 13.11 clearly put destiny in ‘human’ hands.
A karmic superstitious dogma has developed dating back to animism, where there is a belief that one will pay for sins against Allah, i.e., esoteric cause and effect view of the world. This appears to be deeply embedded within the cultural ‘psyche’ of Malays today.
Yet within the Quran, our consciousness within the spectre of the Tawhid is part of a greater consciousness which links individuals with community, nature, and something much larger that the human imagination, the concept of a universal creator. The Quran sends out a challenge to humankind, a challenge to pursue life in quest of knowledge for the betterment of the spirit, mind, and community.
This is a humbling quest as the Tawhid overshadows any individual or community with something much greater, a universal creator.
There are a number of paradoxes within Islam that have laid the foundations of historical frictions:
1. The context of pre-Islamic tribal laws and customs and those practices today by ‘Arabic’ Muslims, and emulated by other Muslims across the world. What is Islam and what are residual tribal customs, i.e., on the status of women, hudud, and rituals such as female circumcision.
2. The shifting of the context of jihad, a Muslim’s duty to strive and struggle, from the inward struggle to discover the pure nature within oneself and the shift towards an external struggle against those who are perceived to threaten the faith. This is a human rather than divine reinterpretation, and has now come to mean not just war against infidels, but other Muslims who are seen to view Islam differently.
The contemporary use or hijacking of the concept of jihad makes no apology for ignoring the tenant within Islam that one should not kill another, i.e., committing suicide and going to heaven is a contradiction, irreconcilable within Islam. Is Jihad now a crime against the Tawhid?
3. Much of Islamic understanding today is made up of a collective understanding by Islamic scholars, i.e., hudud, not something that comes from the Tawhid within the Quran. Consequently, much of Islam today is manufactured like Judaism, Christianity, but portrayed as set, by political forces of Islam.
4. A paradox between the mystical and spiritual heritage of Islam and the political and destructive aspects of Islam.
Nowhere is the collective wisdom of the Quran used as a compass in public policy and decision-making, particularly in Malaysia where there has been an ongoing competition between the United Malays National Organisation, (Umno) and the Pan-Islamic Malayan Party (PAS) to boast the ‘best’ Islamic credentials.
Certainly there is no shura (collective) decision-making in any country within the Islamic world, where ironically the West has taken up this aspect of Islam. Malaysia tends to follow a model of dictatorship, while trying to put Islamic connotation upon this style of leadership.
We should push the point that the concept of Shura is Islam, it is inclusive and an alternative model west proves works, but paradoxically, Islam is repressive on minorities wherever it exists.
What the Islamic world has developed is a pseudo-legalistic and political Islam that is almost singularly used for the purpose of justifying an elite group to remaining unchallenged in power.
Unfortunately, to the authors’ knowledge, Islam has never been utilised as an ethically-based means to solve contemporary social, economic and political problems from an ethical moral and Tawhidic view.
The models are powerful alternative paradigms to social organization purposely ignored by ruling power elites of Islamic countries, because they are empowering. Instead, empowerment has been replaced with the repressive parts of the Syariah and in Malaysia the hudud card was dealt out instead.
As a consequence, too much emphasis is placed on rites and ritual within Malaysian society today. Rites and ritual have become Islam. Hence, we encounter a Fardu Ain/Kifayah paradox, where ritualism is all important at the expense of action in Islam today.
We now come to the paradox of static verses dynamism, where Islam has anchored societies to maintaining a state of static entropy rather than the dynamism of progression that Islam really seeks. Arabism is setting in, antagonism against non-Muslims and returning to middle age rule seem to be the tenant about how Islam is interpreted today.
The principles of Tawhid. or oneness of god and the idea of Singularity aforementioned; a principle central to the belief system of the Muslims regardless of school of thought or sect.
The building blocks of Tawhid are the concepts of al-iman (belief), al-ilm (knowledge) and al-amal (pious acts and efforts). Al-iman is the belief in the existence of one God and Creator, with a commitment to His teachings and revelations, revealed through the Al-Qur’an, and Prophets, through the Hadiths and Sunnah, i.e., What the Prophet Muhammad said, did, agreed or disagreed to.
Faith in Allah must be reflected in daily behavior, influenced by our moral system formed and contained within us. It is our inner self;
Faith is not expectations and not outward ornamentations, but implanted in the heart and Al-iman is deepened by al-ilm, which is the responsibility of all Muslims to seek in order to fulfill and perform al-amal. Knowledge (spiritual, wisdom and scientific) is the foundation of all acts of al-amal which would be futile and unproductive without the search for further knowledge to enhance the well-being of society.
Islam places great importance on scientific discovery, knowledge and wisdom to develop civilisation. Al-iman and al-ilm manifested through al-amal is the basis of the advancement of civilization for the benefit of humankind and the Ummah (Muslim community), in particular. This is undertaken under the principle of ad-din (relating humans to Allah through spiritual acts), which is referred to as ibadah.
In Islam a person, who of faith, knowledge and pious devotion, manifested in effort and acts, using reason and experience and adheres to the teachings of the Al-Qur’an and Prophets is a person of Taqwa, adhering to the philosophy of Tawhid. He or she is fulfilling their purpose on Earth to perform ibada to God, through obedience (ta’ah), which conforms to his or her true and essential nature (fitrah) of humanity.
This relates a person to God through everything an individual does, including spiritual duties, thoughts, actions, and deeds to other people.
As humans operate in a social environment, Islam prescribes a number of forms of business organisation, through which obligations can be fulfilled. A mushharakah (organization) can take a number of forms. Such business organizations are founded and operated on the principle of al-ta’awun (mutual assistance and cooperation) among members of a society for both their mutual benefit and that of a society as a whole realized through actions. (Ibn Najjar & Dailami)
Islamic business is governed by the rules of sharia, the path by which all Muslims should follow. The sharia is the divine law that establishes the standards of justice and human conduct, as well as what is permitted and prohibited in action.
The sharia is based on the Al-Qur’an, Sunnah and interpretations by Islamic scholars. Some Muslim scholars have stated that these standards are beyond human and are a goal or path of guidance, where others see these utopian ideals as mandatory for advancement of the community.
Central to the sharia are the concepts of Halal and Toyyibat, which govern all the economic activities of man in wealth production and consumption of wealth, where certain means of gaining a livelihood are declared unlawful.
Halal means lawful or permitted for Muslims, a concept that is much wider than just issues of food, concerning as to whether things are undertaken according to the sharia. Toyyibat is a much wider concept, meaning good, clean, wholesome, and ethical in the Islamic concept. In nutrition, toyyibat is much wider than halal, as food must also be clean, safe, nutritious, healthy and balanced.
Toyyibat would also mean that agriculture must be undertaken within sustainable practices, and in business all things must be undertaken with good intentions.
In Islam, the individual’s vision, mission and objectives in business is to achieve both success in this world and the hereafter. This is al-falah. Islam puts very little restriction upon the scale of worldly success, except specifying, it must be reasonable, provides the comforts of worldly life, with consideration to the poor and suffering, and within the balance of worldly and spiritual life. Human success must also serve the legitimate needs of the ummah.
Allah equipped humans with the faculties of understanding right and wrong, so they may obtain a bright destiny. Humans have a free choice in what they choose. Opposition and straying from his/her true nature (fitrah) will bring discord to the individual where negative attributes will distort his or her true nature, which could lead him into doing evil deeds.
The individual has his al-iman and al-ilm to keep him from this path of self-destruction (al-fasad), which would manifest itself through nepotism, favoritism, envy, greed, corruption, injustice and ignorance. This in Islam is the influence of satan, manifested in many different ways to humankind to lure one away from God’s chosen path. Humans can become unfocused through ignorance and lack of knowledge.
Achieving al-falah means that a human has lived up to God’s trust placed upon him or her, through performing ibadah, while obeying all the laws of the sharia. This is where humankind can overcome their general weaknesses in the service of Allah through righteous deeds (amal), in the obligation of fard kifayah. A human has reached the state of amanah, fulfilling the trust God has put in him or her.
Islam also specifies the way organisations should be operated and managed. An organisation must base all its work on al-amal and ibadah with the overall management objective of achieving al-falah for the organization as a whole and each individual within it.
This is based upon a foundation of al-iman and al-ilm, within a civilization based upon a tawhid philosophy, so that employees have the opportunity to achieve taqwa and avoid straying towards the state of al-fasad. Central to achieving this are the concepts of shura (participation in decision making and community learning) and adab (justice and rights).
Shura is total organisational community participation in decision making to ensure an organisation gets the best views, is creative, to develop employees understanding of decisions made, to achieve better implementation of decisions and strengthen the Islamic fraternity.
Shura is can also be seen as an organisational control mechanism to prevent management and individuals within the organisation from straying down the path of ignorance, greed and oppression, so that the organisation can continue to serve its members and the wider community and thus sustain itself. Shura creates a positive learning environment within and organisation, similar to the concepts of learning organisation proposed by the management guru Peter Senge in the 1990s.
The Al-Qur’an states that the concept of shura is mandatory upon an organisation.
An organisation should build its foundations upon the basic principles of human rights in its administration based on the concept of adab. Adab is based on the existence and recognition of Allah and recognition of his commands and laws (sharia).
Within an organisational context, adab persuades a person to do good and avoid evil (al-fasad), in accordance with the nature of man (fitrah) and nature of his action (al-amal). Adab comprises four major responsibilities, 1. responsibility to God, 2. responsibility to oneself, 3. responsibility to society and other human beings, and 4. responsibility to the universe and other creatures.
Over the last few decades Western management ideas and ethics have moved closer to Islamic principles and ethics. Stephen Covey, a devout practicing member of The Church of Latter-Day Saints, evangelistically preaches personal development, fulfillment and spirituality within the context of the organisation.
We see ‘Western non-Islamic’ societies that have embodied many principles within the Tawhid within their legal and juridistic codes, playing out a farm of ‘secular’ Islam based up knowledge, fairness, and compassion, that don’t exist within the contemporary Islamic world.
Complexity Theory and Islam
The world of today continues to evolve in all its complexity. Advanced digital communication technologies, high speed informational flow that instantaneously send images and ideas of change, the process of globalisation itself that alter and compress time and space and even decide the course of human and social events – all these continue to fragment the human self.
Religion, such as Islam which claims to be adaptable to changing times is also affected by the destruction of the ‘singularity of the selfhood of the Muslim’. New ideas and inventions challenge Islamic orthodoxy and open up new debates that demand new perspectives, or edicts, or “fatwas” to be written to safeguard the ‘fragmentation of Islam’.
In short, the Muslim of today lives in a spiritual world of deconstructionism; ideas bombard the self into multiplicity rather than hold it as a ‘Singularity’, as how promoters of Islam orthodoxy would demand.
Complex systems require a complex view of looking at phenomena. The idea of complexity brought about by the post-Industrial world and as it impacts the mind, body, and soul of the Muslim individually and collectively as an ‘ummah’ (a millinearistic supra-nation of Oneness before Allah,) has brought fragmentation amongst the believers of this religion.
From the historical conflicts of the major schools of thought, to the violent departure of ideological Islam in the Shia-Sunni schism, to the ‘crisis of identity’ plaguing Muslims of today especially post-9/11 – these characterise fragmentation that have led to never-ending violent conflicts in the Islamic world. Muslims are living in a world of Islamic chaos, so to speak.
If we take the idea of Chaos Theory as one that tries to explain small changes leading to larger systemic changes over a long period of time (the ‘Butterfly Effect’,) and apply it to the phenomena of Islam’s evolution as an institutionalised religious ideology, we could see that there is the need to look the core issue of the loss of ‘the principle of Singularity’ or ‘One-ness’ or ‘Unity’ brought about by Muhammad.
There is a loss of the sense of and the understanding of ‘Tawhid’ or the deep understanding of the knowledge and application of the principles of the one-ness of god or Allah that not only should unify the self but society.
Tawhidic knowledge can perhaps de-fragment the self, bring it to holism and create an understanding that man is the vicegerent of Allah on Earth, as how the early teachings of Islam and the ‘early Tawhidists’ at the time of Muhammad would enjoin.
Today’s Islam is a manifestation of deep-rooted fragmentation and even destruction of the self as can be seen in the conduct of nations calling themselves Islamic. Whether the blame is put on geopolitical, political-economic, or post-industrial complexities of a multipolar world of today, or even the power play amongst empires such as Russia or the United States, the issue in the world of Islam is chaos and the multitudinality of conflicts as opposed to unity and strength of the self and society as taught by Islam.
So how does Tawhidism interpret problems and offer solutions to major issues of today?
Praxis and the Islamic state
A need to rethink these puritanical teachings. Islam is about consciousness, not ritual. Islam has become totally intolerant of diverse views, even though there is a rich and diverse Ummah to contribute.
The task of Muslims of today is to re interpret Islam within contemporary contexts, rather than rely on the literal Arabic and tradition to craft discourses of action. The Arabic frame of interpretation is just as corrupting as any liberal interpretative frame. (i.e., rose coloured glasses phenomenon).
To date text has supported opinion. However, there must be a balance between text and opinion, particularly when it comes to Hadiths. The tenants of Islam should not change, only the contexts, (i.e., the scenes).
This requires relooking at Islam without any frames, be it Arabic or Liberal-Christianic. Liberal or tribal morals and traditions must not be allowed to skew the true meaning of Tawhid.
Islam was once seen as a magnificent and progressive religion which took civilisation to the forefront of advancement. However scholars today are forbidden and censored from taking any ‘unframed’ look at Islamic doctrine, the doctrine(s) held by todays’ Islamic elite(s).
The Islamic world of today has also suffered from the evolution of violent and chaos from the ideological and even philosophical conflict between the Sunnis and the Shiahs – conflict that began as a leadership succession crisis between the camp Muawiyyah and the family of Prophet Muhammad, led by the latter’s cousin, Ali’ ibn Abi Talib.
The former believe that the mantle of the prophet should be with the democratically elected leader in Muawiyyah, but some believe that instead of Abu Bakr’ as the first khalifah, the political and spiritual leadership should come from the Ahlul Bayt or the ‘family of the prophet’.
The famous claim that there is a hadiths/saying which goes “… if I am the treasure throve of knowledge, Ali (my cousin) is the holder of its key …” formed the basis of the claim to leadership by direct discordancy. The conflict culminated in the massacre of Ali and his children Hasan and Hussein, at Karbala (now in Iran.) The ‘massacre at Karbala’ became a historical foundation of what is now known as the Sunni-Shia schism and violent conflicts currently happening in the Middle East.
The Tawhidic view of Islam necessitates one to look at the religion outside the realm of the destructive and cognitively-debilitating Sunni-Shiah schism. It requires the mind to enter the realm of discussions on the idea that amidst chaos and complexity of the self and the outer world one inhabits lie a realm of totality of the self in which, as we allude in the first paragraph, the Singularity-Multiplicity Principle.
It emanates from the idea that one must first think of oneself from an existentialist point of view and move on to conceptualising the totality of the self as embodied by the sense of powerfulness, knowledge, and other qualities that makes up human nature. The poem below perhaps best allude to this idea of reconceptualization of oneself:
The philosophy of the self is the constant – the Absolute – from which the Changing Concepts emanate.
From the Absolute Springs existence,
and so on and so forth.
From the Absolute Springs Creationism within the Inner Self that one must govern,
From the Absolute Emanates Good and Evil,
Heaven and Hell the opposites and the contradictions that one needs to mediate in one’s lifetime,
From the Absolute Emanates the knowledge of one’s Life,
and Resurrection one experiences daily,
From the Absolute one sees the history of the creation of the Universe within,
the Universe Outside, and the parallel universes that are being created outside of oneself,
From the Absolute one finds The Love that Reigns Supreme,
that conquers all,
that evolves from Hate to Love from the being trapped in the love of oneself to the love of humanity,
without boundaries From the Absolute,
one commands the Guardian Angles to bow down to oneself and not to Kings, Sultans,
Despots, Tuns, Datuk Seris,
or the State,
From the Absolutism of One’s Rulership in one’s kingdom,
one governs the armies of senses – Sight, Hearing, Speech, Thoughts…
From the Absolute one sees with the Inner Eye the daily battles within and decide who will be the winners and who will be the losers,
From the Throne of Absolutism,
one speaks with the ancient prophets and sages and instruct them to strengthen the authority and legitimation of this Inner Kingdom one constructed out of the realization of an end of a journey one is rewarded with,
The Absolute is Love,
always travelling with this self of flesh and bones and consciousness that one gets the chance to encounter
in one’s lifetime…
if one searches for love.
Love is the Absolute
This takes us to the higher level of Islamic thinking. We see Allah not as an agent of judgement and hellfire, based upon literal reading of the Quran but as a unifying, non-physical, and a present universal consciousness, that is all loving, all creating, all embracing, all merciful, and absolute; a quantum, which Islam calls ‘Allah’.
‘Shura-democratic’ principles of transcultural Islam
Borrowing a Socrates maxim, at the core of the issue is ignorance and the will to be stubborn to remain ignorant. There is a possible cure for this, a process philosophy framed from the tawhidic-singularity worldview.
Muslims of today need a multi-culturalist, multi-vocalic, multi-accepting, and multi-diverse brand of progressive thinking to save them. In Malaysia for example, they need to embrace a new perspective in conflict resolution and peace-building: a ‘shura-democratic’ principles based on the idea of transcultural-humanism.
By ‘shura’ we mean the practice of participatory and grassroots decision-making in which the leader will listen to the voices of dissent and consensus and turn them into artefacts of invention and social imagination in order to affect positive change.
This form of progressive and altruistic liberalism that hybridizes tawhid with transcultural philosophies may promise to remove the glass coconut shell that has become a comfort zone, especially for the Malays and particularly of the Malay Muslims.
‘Shura-democracy’ might be the long-awaited cure for this neo-feudalistic malady called ‘malaise-ness’ that hath plagued for example the Malays in Malaysia since they were enslaved first as ‘hamba sahaya’, by their own rulers of ancient times. At the macro-level as it pertains to the evolution of societies governed by Muslim leaders, it may be the best way to approach strategic designs for social change.
‘Shura-democracy’, which begin with the deep understanding of the personacratic self is consistent with the idea of ‘wisdom’ or ‘fatanah’ as the highest level of knowledge acquisition and application in Islam. In speaking of seeking knowledge and in trumpeting Islam as a religion of high learning, progressiveness, and democracy that upholds the principles of human rights, Muslims in Malaysia too often quote the words of the first revelation, ‘Iqra’, ‘Read’, or “read in the name of Thy Lord who created thee … who created thee from a clot” as a signature of religious advocacy par excellence.
In this case, he word ‘Rabb’ or ‘Creator’ or ‘the Lord’ is used in the translation and not the world ‘Allah’ in the first revelation ‘Iqra’. Maybe the concept of ‘Allah’ is a later formulation borne out of a philosophical quest to construct the meaning of god in Islam. Perhaps the idea of ‘Allah’ was already there in the texts of the Jews, Christians, and the Sabeans and the later Muslims had to invent a philosophically distinct one.
Islam as it has evolved is not only an institutionalized religion influenced by texts and subtexts of ideas and ideologies that are in conflict with one another but also have brought about deadly conflicts. It is a religion that has deep cultural roots and continue to impose its Arabist shackle onto the believers.
As such, a transcultural world view of this tawhid-driven belief system need to be brought to the center stage of the global movement of new ideas in Islamic philosophical reconstructionism. We believe that the believers need to help institutionalised and parochlised Islam evolve especially beyond the disabling realms of culture.
We believe that and those using this system as a guide in life need to embrace a ‘transcultural worldview’ of this religion and strip Islam out of its exclusionary Arabist cultural entrapment. We believe that the idea of ‘shura-democratic principles’ of Islam as seen from the transculturalist worldview need to be the new playground of this new Islamic renaissance.
Again, as we assert throughout this essay, the centrepiece of this vision of a new philosophical outlook lie in the idea of tawhidic-singularity of things. Muslims need to bring back multiple worldviews and diverse philosophies of human progress and intellectual freedom into the process of reconsctructing this new ‘tawhidic-singularity’ mode of organic thinking.
In the foregoing discussions, we have proposed a reconstruction of ‘Tawhid’, by framing it through the language of contemporary social transformation and social cybernetics. At the centre of this Arabic word, ‘Tawhid’, which means one-ness and unity as a weltanscauung of the cognition and consciousness of the Muslim, we propose conceptual-constellations such as complexity theory, praxis, cybernetics, and futurism to denote and connoted the notion of Singularity to be applied to the behaviors of the Muslim as he/she is located in the State.
We believe that the idea of ‘shura-democratic principles’ of Islam, framed from a transcultural worldview is needed by today’s Muslims. Today’s believer of this religion seem to be lost in this precarious world of globalisation affecting the discursive evolution of Islam. We believe the principles of Tawhid are central to the functions of the State such as the economy, entrepreneurship education, and the relationship amongst nations.
We propose that only when the self is governed as whole and the principle of One-ness exists in the realm of the One-ness of god, or the Tawhid and that Man knows why he/she exists, and when ethics, epistemology, and ontological vocation of Man as vicegerent of God is understood as a principle of living, the state of peace can be arrived at – beginning from the construction the peaceful self to the building and maintaining of peace in the family, community, and society, and finally moving on to the designing of peaceful solutions to world conflicts, in our dream of building that ‘peaceful world order’.
The Islamic world of today, as a microcosm of the world in general, is not only fragmented but also an organic and metastasizing ground of violence is they visible, hidden, and structural.
We believe that at least at the conceptual and theoretical level we must begin to re-conceive the Tawhidic idea of one-ness and to explore its potential as an organic and ‘praxical’ (or unity of theory and practice) philosophy so that the continuing fragmentation can be arrested.
As the title of our essay suggests, we believe this is a philosophy of personal and social progress and transformation that will be searching for today’s Muslims in particular and for others in general. Tawhid is a philosophy of cybernetic-existentialism that can be appealing to the global citizen of today’s world: a world of materialistic Multiplicities in search of the metaphysical Singularity.
Copernicus once argued that the earth was not at the centre of the universe, which threw the Christian view of the world into chaos. Muslims must accommodate that Allah rabb al-àlamin is the Lord of the Worlds, and thus there are potentially multiple and parallel realities within Islam.
This is the true Islamic revolution in developing a Tawhidic wisdom that is waiting.
The literal Islamic worldview is just but one layer in meaning that needs to be peeled away so we can see the deeper meanings within Islam.
The literal view is not the centre of Islam. This has covered and hidden much deeper meanings of the Quran. Islam accepts that there are a multiplicity of worlds in existence, but Muslims to date have chosen to live within only one of them. Yet the Quran speaks of Allah al-ghaib, or concealed dimensions of reality.
New understandings of Islam are necessary.
We invite readers to contribute to the enriching of this idea we are proposing.
Originally published in the Eurasia Review 5th November 2015
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Dr. Azly Rahman is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of eight books, namely: Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present, Future (2009), Thesis on Cyberjaya: Hegemony and Utopianism in a Southeast Asian State (2012), The Allah Controversy and Other Essays on Malaysian Hypermodernity (2013), Dark Spring: Essays on the Ideological Roots of Malaysia's General Elections-13 (2013), Kalimah Allah Milik Siapa?: Renungan dan Nukilan Tentang Malaysia di Era Pancaroba (2014), Controlled Chaos: Essays on Mahathirism, Multimedia Super Corridor and Malaysia's 'New Politics' (2014), One Malaysia under God, Bipolar (2015), and From High Hopes to Shattered Dreams: Second Mahathirist Revolution (2020).
Dr Azly Rahman’s Substack can be accessed here