“‘The analogies are deadly’ had by now become one of his recurrent, decisive phrases.”
Thomas Bernhard, Gargoyles
As a child my first political memories date back to the Bosnian war. There was a mosque and a square, I was sitting on my father’s shoulders, chants calling for the end of Muslim suffering were grim. Growing up Islamist, I knew it was not the ‘first time’, indeed, the temporality of Muslims was one of emergencies and urgencies without someone to dial. From Syria to Burma, suffering is there and it has a name: Muslim. I was fifteen and irate when I read Qutb’s Milestones (1964). You cannot understand what that book means if you did not grow up in the desperation of a post-colonial Muslim society that is divided between what Sayyid calls Kemalists, on the one hand, and what Islamists call traditional ‘potato’ Muslims, on the other. Life itself was exhausted, and Qutb was the particle accelerator for us, for ‘carrions that live on’.(1) Above all, it was a DIY guidebook for the ‘truly new life’. In the Cold War lingo, Islamic Man was to emerge by getting free of both homo economicus and homo sovieticus. Both were corrupt, two faces of the same coin, there was nothing new. Like a state, Islam was to declare its New Man by coining anew.
Salman Sayyid’s book is indeed too familiar. I can think of a shelf of books and writings for each chapter in Turkish. I read A Fundamental Fear (1997) a decade ago with great awe. He represented back then a new way of speaking politics, a new style of enunciation: steeped in postmodernism, Sayyid was a sign that the language of social sciences can no longer censure ‘us’. I remember around the same time talking to a new philosophy professor, a brother. How lucky we were, for him, for we had now our own Feyerabends, paradigm shifts… Back in 80s, he said, it was impossible for us to be Muslim and speak the language of humanities for Science was too strong and everything was a monolith. Perhaps, Sayyid’s Critical Muslim Studies is a spadework for an Islamic Humanities to come that Islamists have been yearning for over a century. Recalling the Caliphate is, I argue, a resemanticization of Milestones in a post-Soviet world at the high time of American imperialism. Whether it will gain the same status as its predecessor is left to its readership. Continue reading “Can We Bring the Caliphate Down to Earth before the Recall? – Recalling the Caliphate Book Event”