Secularism is the solution: a reading in the book of Contemporary Andalusian Tales


Nahed Zaqout  2021-09-25

  The title may seem strange or disturbing to some (Secularism Is The Solution) in contrast to the slogan of political Islam (Islam is the solution). This is what the writer, Abdel-Gabbar Adwan, sees as the salvation from all the evils that faced the Arab Islamic nation 1400 years ago: Religion remains in the church, and political life is run by the ruler, according to the aspirations of the people

Europe did not get rid of its tyranny, ignorance and backwardness, until it isolated religion from the state, without denying the right of individuals to religiosity and belief, but religion does not interfere in political affairs, religion should remain in the church, and politics should be run by the ruler according to the aspirations of the people

The Church, in the dark ages of Europe, was completely dominant over the king or the ruler, and thus over everything was related to the parish. The king could not take a step in the affairs of the servants without referring to the church, and Europe lived under this situation for long ages of darkness and backwardness. This era in Europe is the same today that the Arab and Islamic nations live in, because political Islam is imposing its vision and control over the affairs of politics, governance and  the matters of the people. The Arab ruler, or the Muslim, sees everyone who opposes his policy as outside the religion, as this situation tempts the Arab ruler to remain in power, and there are  always those who justify his policies, and his tyranny among the clerics who have been appointed to positions in order to issue fatwas against the right of anyone who tries to break the ruler, who is free from errors

The application methodology of political Islamic groups has proven to be a failure in governance, so we find from their experiences in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Palestine, and finally Morocco. After years of rule and managing people’s affairs in Morocco, the Justice and Development Party fell resoundingly in the elections, and thus there is no reliable model of Islamic governance. Not only recently, but the information that the researcher, Adwan, offers in his book on models of Islamic governance throughout history has also proven its failure

The Palestinian writer, Abdel-Gabbar Adwan, presents his book (Contemporary Andalusian Tales: A Comparative Historical, Political and Social Anatomy of the Continuing Arab-Western Conflict), published by Al-Jundi Publishing House, Jerusalem 2021. The writer, Abdel-Gabbar Adwan, is a graduate of postgraduate studies in political, social and Islamic sciences in Germany. He worked for nearly a quarter of a century in several media magazines during his stay in London. He has published many novels and literary and cultural works. His thought focuses on defending freedom of thought and belief, and, in his writings, he fights the superstitions, myths and legends that dominate Arab thought and action. He does not see secularism as hostile to religion, but rather sees that political religion has turned into a tool for backwardness

The writer says in the introduction about the book’s methodology: “This book compares between the yesterday of Andalusia and the Islamic State on the one hand, and our day in which we live, trying, at times, to clarify the similarities, and. at other times, the congruence between the two eras, as it is assumed to be in order to understand the details of what is going on around us; we are sure that today is similar to yesterday. In the end, we conclude that the results will also be similar, and therefore we must either change our reality for the better, or wait for the fate of Andalusia to be upon us

The writer believes that what happened in Andalusia is a stark model of what will happen to the Arab and Islamic world at the hands of Israel and the United States, with the help of Arab leaders who did not develop their countries to keep pace with modern developments, but rather remained prisoners of past experiences, and employ religion to serve their interests. He says that: “The decline of the Arab Islamic Andalusia was not based on the Christian religion, strength and perseverance in resistance  only, but, to a large extent, the disastrous results came from the policy and mentality of the Arab desert and Bedouins that prevailed in the pre-Islamic era, and which Islam was unable to adapt for the better, indeed, interpretations have often been adapted to fit that mentality that has placed its vision in the category of sacred things, and continues to cause disasters, and is indifferent to development and human, social and industrial productive development

Some may think when reading the title of the book that the writer writes tales from Andalusia, but when he dives into the pages of the narrative, he discovers that they are not tales in the conventional sense of the tale, but rather political articles in a narrative style, expressing the writer’s vision, as he adapts the story to conform to his political and ideological vision. He presents a tale that corresponds to this negative vision of Islamic history based on murder, betrayal and cooperation with enemies, and he tries to compare this ancient history with present Arab-Islamic history, in order to underline the continuity of history without change, due to the dominance of religion over the internal workings of Arab life in both government and society

This book combines thought and politics, and the thought highlights the writer’s vision of Arab reality, while politics occur in the writer’s mission to compare Arab reality in the past, with Arab reality in the present, due to the dominance of religion over Arab political, social and cultural life, and the writer tries to deepen his thought. In the pages of the narrative, this thought is based on advocating secularism and the separation of religion from the state, stressing that European society, where the church was in control for years, rose and changed, after separating the church from the affairs of government and society, and this is what the writer seeks in his Andalusian tales

The book, expressing his vision of smashing the cycles of ignorance contains 29 articles or stories, spread over 326 pages, and due to the momentum of the political material and the intellectual vision contained in each article of the book, we cannot discuss each article separately, but we read the entire content of the writer’s directions and his intellectual and political vision. What the writer has expressed is the reading of every intellectual who is aware of the Arab and Palestinian reality, but an intellectual residing in the Arab countries, or in the Palestinian territories, cannot speak with all the audacity with which the writer analysed and explained Arab and Palestinian reality: Falsehood and deception broadcast by the media associated with the Arab ruler, and the amount of deception and exploitation broadcast by religious institutions also associated with the Arab ruler

The writer, Abdel-Gabbar Adwan, presents the dark side of Andalusia, an aspect that is silent in the books of Islamic history and Arab heritage, that paint a bright and prosperous history of Andalusia, and overlook the negative aspects of governance and the ruling authority in Andalusia, such as betrayals, murders and assassinations of some of the, and brother killing brother for power. The rulers of the sects cooperated with the enemy against each other in order to stay in power, and their end was the exodus of Andalusia from history. On the other hand, he presents his view of the Arab situation, with which some may agree, and others differ, but it is a vision worthy of respect and appreciation that came after a deep reading of Arab Islamic history since the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and the differences that were based on the appointment of the Caliph, and the differences  that continued in the establishment of the Umayyad and Abbasid state, the metaphors and massacres that accompanied this among the Muslims, the fall of Andalusia as a result of the alliances of Muslim rulers with the Christians against each other, the invasion of the Mongols  of the capital of the Caliphate, Baghdad, and the killing of the Caliph after the failure of his supporters. And, Adwan was not satisfied with that, but he considered that history and reality are still continuing in current Arab Islamic policies, where he presents a criticism of all Arab policies, and raises all the issues that revolve around the Arab world with all their negative effects on the Arab peoples, and he strives to dismember Arab reality, and present its dark and tragic image, and the tragedy of peoples under the rulers, which prompts young people to migrate towards secular Europe after they lose hope in the future of their Arab countries

In his comparison between the past and the present, the writer seeks to warn, not as a matter of demolition, but of self-criticism, so that the modern Arab world does not end like Andalusia, because their current reality is not much different from the reality of Andalusia in the past. This is why one of the tales carries the title: ”The Arabs will perish”. He believes that the Arabs can become extinct if they continue with their current policies, support Israel in establishing Greater Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates, and opening their countries to the Israelis, in all aspects of life, in the hope that Israel will protect them from the coming Iranian threat, which means that over the years, Israel will dominate the Arab region, under the pretext of protecting the Arab thrones from collapse, but it will become the possessor of the first and last word on the Arab future

Therefore, he harshly criticizes Arab behaviour, and compares Arabs to other peoples. He sees that these peoples have advanced a lot in science, civilization and culture, while the Arabs still handle their affairs with the mentality of ignorance and the tribe. Although they have more money than other civilized peoples, they have not used this money to build a civilization, but rather to buy followers and supporters, fight opponents, and consume what other peoples produce

We do not disagree with the writer that there are disadvantages in the rule of the Muslim caliphs from the rule of the Umayyads to the Abbasids to the Andalusians to the Ottoman Caliphate, but this does not mean that all their history was one of disadvantages, killing, torture, sabotage and destruction, but rather there were bright aspects of science and culture, and this is evidenced by the Baghdad Library alone, which the Mongols drowned in the Euphrates until its waters turned the colour of ink, and the large number of scientists, writers, poets and thinkers, who planted thought in Europe and taught them the meaning of culture and civilization when they were immersed in the darkness of ignorance and backwardness, up to King Charlemagne, who when he received  an hourglass as the gift of Harun al-Rashid, the king, the churchmen, and those close to him considered it to contain a moving demon, or a touch of magic. The books of Ibn Rushd, Ibn Sina, Al-Farabi, Ibn Al-Nafis, and many others are still being studied in the universities of Europe as the pinnacle of Arab civilization. We should not forget the translations made by the ‘House of Wisdom’ in Baghdad at the time of al-Ma’mun from Greek and Persian literature

Many Western scholars themselves admit that, at a time when Europe was mired in darkness and backwardness, Muslims were living in the Ages of Light. Therefore, Europe is afraid of the return of these eras together with the possession of power, so the colonial West tries to implant rulers loyal to them, and works with all force to keep them away from their peoples, in order to stifle the popular incubator, and then the people resort to the West to protect them, and this is what is happening in the Arab world today

The book was successful, with intellectual merit and a deep analytical reading of Arab history in its past and present, to present a view of Arab reality in all its tragic nature, and to put forward many future visions in order for the Arab world to rise from its intellectual and political crisis. It is caused by normalization with the eternal enemy of the Arab nation, which has a colonial project that derives its roots from a religious heritage based on domination and control. Therefore, the Arabs must confront this project with new visions and ideas removed from the past, which lacks a model from which we can derive the vision or the way to correct our path. The idea of ​​returning to the early beginnings of Islam is nothing but a utopian, nihilistic idea far from reality. Adwan says: “When you return yourself and your entire community to that time, you will not be able to bring the rest of the world back, to attack them with swords and camels, cut their necks, enslave their harems, and seize their property

We do not demand a return to the past, but rather we seek to develop the present in line with the aspirations of the world, and we see how the world has developed and follow its guidance, in a manner that does not contradict our beliefs. Those who demand the adoption of secularism in the Arab world are not enemies of religion and believers; they are supporters of growth, prosperity, freedom, stability and democracy… Secularists, in general, want the progress and growth of society, and, in the European experience, they see a viable example where there are churches and mosques, and believers have freedom of worship as others have freedom of belief. All are governed by civil law that is developed and capable of keeping pace with life, and they accept democracy as a system of governance, accountability, and change

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