Desktop version

Home arrow Philosophy arrow Integral polity, integrating nature, СЃulture, society and economy



The dysfunctional forces, that the Samatars cite, and which an awakened Islamic consciousness would need to fight against, are constituted of at least eight factors:

• globalization and its nefarious economic and social effects on Islamic communities around the world;

• the total crash of the national state attributed to destructive policies and corrosive personal leadership;

• the subsequent descent into unprecedented internecine wars;

• the spread of clannish war-lordism in pursuit of individual and sectarian interests;

• an evaporation of ethical values in public affairs;

• a paucity of a unifying civic action to successfully respond to the prevailing conditions (particularly safety, order, economic well-being);

• an absence of an attractive vision expressive of collective redemption and a regenerative future; and

• a glaring loss of national pride that ushered in new levels of dependence and submissiveness to external machinations.

The sharpening contest over the long-term future of Somalia by its people will be shaped by, among others for the Samatars, the presence of social and political Islamism. Such a development, in its generic necessity, seems unavoidable. Both historical identity and the pestilential nature of the present political climate press forth the relevance of a collective salvation informed by Islamic thought. If this is accurate, then, it seems appropriate and timely to start sorting out different orientations that might claim Islam as a source of inspiration. They proffer three broad scenarios.


In light of contemporary global affairs and the preoccupation with "terrorism", the reactionary scenario is the most common one that jumps immediately into the minds of the ill-informed, especially non-Muslims. Beyond such a stereotypical reflex, however, there are occasions when the label indeed fits.

Features associated with a reactionary Islamic perspective, which can be compared and contrasted with those adopted by both Ziauddin Sardar in theory (see Chapter 19) and one of us – Ibrahim Abouleish in the context of Sekem – in practice (see Chapter 22) include, for the Samatars:

• a counterfeit innocence and zeal;

• backward-looking, literal, and completely dogmatic interpretations of the great texts of the Qur'an and the Hadith;

• brute application of hackneyed positions to every aspect of human life;

• aprioristic hostility to other faiths;

• annihilation of basic civic freedoms;

• imposition of extreme patriarchal domination;

• intolerance toward secular learning, the play of reason in shaping human affairs, and scientific explorations and consequent ordering of relationships between humans and the natural world; and

• suppression of the autonomy of the aesthetic and the reduction of everyday life to an existence bereft of such creativity and joyous sensibilities as art, music and song, poetry, theatre, dance, and sport.


An immediate attribute of this conservative option (see Samir Amin below, Chapter 21), for the Samatars, is that it is at once more flexible than the reactionary mode and yet saddled with some similar problems. First, a conservative Islamist approach has a modicum of appreciation for the modern world, at least in the areas of administrative management, economic growth, technological adaptation, social welfare and, though highly filtered, a calculating engagement with the rest of the world. Among the deficits are resistance to innovative interpretations of the great texts, major constraints on basic personal freedoms and a limited participatory political order tightly woven into patriarchal preferences.

This perspective's potential liabilities in the long haul might be weighty enough to denude the assets. The Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia and some of the Gulf States, in their at times drastically different styles, manifest a basic mixture of these attributes. We now turn to a more democratic and developmental stance.


This third scenario integrates the best of Somali kinship, Islamic piety, and democracy and development. The Somali tradition of kinship (as distinct from clanism, beset with male dominance) emphasizes general fairness, generosity and obedience to God. At the heart of a worldly Islamic philosophy is the promotion of peace, justice and equality for all. "The basic élan of the Quran", writes Fazhur Rahman, is its "stress on socioeconomic justice and essential egalitarianism." On the other hand, democracy's chief characteristics include individual liberty, choice and constitutional accountability of power, while development underscores a perpetual but measured transformation of the cultural, environmental, scientific, economic and political spheres of the society.

Essential indices for gauging such a strategy are an accent on ethical competence and legitimate achievement; tolerance of, if not respect for, nuance and diversity through a normalization of ijtihad; and freedom of thinking in a non-coercive atmosphere. No Muslim country in the modern world has fully achieved this scenario. A few are slowly moving in that direction, for the Samatars however, such as Turkey and Malaysia.

Together, transition and synthesis are tantamount to a gearing up for a new ontology. That assignment and what is at stake are even more apparent today.


If Somalis make headway in their epochal project, then, they will have made a precious contribution to the struggle for an Islamic cosmopolitanism robust enough to simultaneously co-exist comfortably with the multi-civilizational modern world and to negotiate successfully the ambiguities of globalization. To be sure, this is the most daunting option – one whose pursuit will require all the intelligence, creativity, dexterity, discipline and patience that Somalis can muster. Despite the enormous difficulties, it is a journey pleasing to Allah, possible and most thrilling to begin against the humiliating political squalor of the present.


Somalis, for the Samatars in conclusion, are no different from other societies in that none could meet its basic collective needs (ranging from security to environmental and economic well-being, to education and scientific advancement) without an effective public power. As Adam Smith, the great sage of the Scottish Enlightenment, taught us centuries ago, "the authority and security of civil government is a necessary condition for the flourishing of liberty, reason, and happiness of humankind".

While this is uniform across the modern world, the imperative is greatest among late-developing societies. The state is not and cannot be everything but its absence is a form of acute social homelessness. Even the World Bank, contemporary apostle of market economics, made this landmark assertion in 1997, with regard to the indispensability of the state for a viable society:

Good government is not a luxury, it is a vital necessity for development ... an effective state is vital for the provision of goods and service, and the rules and institutions that allow markets to flourish, people to lead healthier, happier lives.

The condition of the past 16 years testifies to the supreme deficits that come with the destruction of national political structures. Another decade or more of the present situation is too horrible to contemplate. But, in order to construct a new national and effective state, Somalis will have to address this most difficult of issues: the resurrection of a vibrant people-hood.

In that regard, it is a fact that the nationalist spirit of collective belonging has been gravely damaged. The consequences include mutual suspicion, anger, pent-up revenge, outright hate and social pulverization. At the same time, Somalia cannot amount to much even in East Africa, let alone in the world, without a revival of that very national identity. Put another way, if Somalis are unable, at least at the present, to recreate an intimate political community, they still have no choice but to establish a workable civil association that will undergird a capable state. For us, moreover, and as will be demonstrated through this book, even more than a capable state, is indeed an integral polity, that combines natural and cultural, societal and economic functioning, with such an all-round integral polity. In the final section of this book, as we revisit the world's centre, that is the Middle East, we shall return to some of the themes introduced by the Samatars that have relevance for the world at large.

We now turn, in this introductory phase of our unfolding thesis on integral polity, to a more conventional outlook on the political order, still by way of introduction: that of the renowned political scientist, Francis Fukuyama.

Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >

Related topics