We are opening the issue with an essay by Rachid Boutayeb from Morocco entitled "The body of the other (towards a post-Islamic subjectivity)". Islam, he says, being religion, culture and history, has made an important contribution to civilization in all of these aspects. Those, who want to deny this - out of a sense of anger or prejudice or ignorance – will be laying the ground for racist discourse, which contradicts even the fundamental values of democracy. On the other hand, those, who speak about Islam as something absolute, are demanding nothing less than that Islam should enforce its authority. The author recalls that the Koran says that man - every man - is God’s successor (Caliph) on earth. Each of us bears responsibility for life in the world. However, what we see today with the tyrannical rule of the regime in light of the confederacy of religious orthodoxy is a great distortion of this concept and of religion.
Muhammad Baqi Mohammed from Syria deals with the issue of women's writing. Rulers have recognized the importance of using religion in ruling a nation, and so did men. The political exploitation of religion is not a new phenomenon of the Modern Age. Rather, we indeed find that the Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) – is a human interpretation of religious text from a masculine perspective. This also explains the abominable alliance between the ruler (Sultan) and the religious scholar (al-Faqih), as has already happened many times. In women's literature two tendencies can be observed: One in which a woman addresses a man to complain about the extent of injustice, oppression and tyranny, which she suffers because of him. And another one falls under the pursuit of happiness, for when man exerts his power over woman, he overlooks the question of love, and consequently both loose happiness. In a relationship that is based on obedience and not equality, you probably can achieve everything but happiness.
At a conference in Cairo entitled "The oral tradition in times of change: gender, documentation and the construction of the archive" (September 27, 2015) the critic Faiha Abdulhadi from Palestine/Jordan contributed with an explosive topic on "The cultural phenomena of "archives and power": and asks a number of questions: "Who writes history? Who makes history?" The vast majority of official authorities in the world tell history from their own point of view as they themselves see it in a specific time. This narrative ignores the many attempts to reconstruct – the obviously biased – ideological or colonial narrative, which would have been necessary for the nations, as Abdulhadi notes.
In "The Arab societies in confrontation with fundamentalism and Salafi currents" the Syrian author Habib Haddad writes: The roots of this spiritual movement goes back to Ibn Hanbal and other thinkers – up to Ibn Taymiyyah, whose teachings are described as stringent and rigid, and who is considered to have abolished ‘ijtihad’, which allows an individual to use his independent reasoning in the decision-making process in Islamic law, which was kept abolished up to our time, and continues to be so in the Wahabhism, in the teachings of Abu Aala al-Mawdudi, Sayyid Qutb and most of the political Islamic movements. Habib discussed the issue of religion from the historical perspective: Is religion state, he asks, or is it religion only, in conflict between enlightenment and spiritual return to the "ancients" (Salafism).
Hamid Fadlalla (Sudan/Germany) reviews two recently published books: the first, "The end of the Middle East, as we know it" by Volker Perthes, published 2015 by Suhrkamp publishing house, is dealing with the political events in the Arab world after 2011 and is looking for solutions taking into account the historical context. The second book, "The Arab World in the 20th century" by Prof. Udo Steinbach, 2015 published at Kohlhammer publishing house, is an analysis of the history of the Arab world in modern times.
As part of the Worldwide Reading organized by the International Literature Festival Berlin (ILB) for Ashraf Fayadh on 01.14.2016 the Ibn Rushd Fund organized a lecture in cooperation with the Lettrétage Berlin and another reading in Karlsruhe in cooperation with Amnesty International and the PEN Center Germany (Writers in Prison) at the ZKM (center for Art and media Karlsruhe). We publish the German translation of some poems by Ashraf Fayadh from his collection of poetry "Instructions within" which was published in 2007 in Beirut, and because of which he was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy in Saudi Arabia, before a court changed the judgment in early February 2016to an eight-year prison sentence and 800 lashes.
Dr. Abier Bushnaq
Editor in chief