Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dar al-Islam

In Bamyeh’s article, he argues that Dar al-Islam, or the Muslim world, could only function as a unit to the extent that it followed three fundamental principles: partial control, free movement, and cultural heteroglossia. These principles extend beyond the Muslim example to any global system with “maximal systematicity and minimal interruption.” Though attempts have been made to replace these principles, most notably through colonialism or the nation-state, these attempts were unsuccessful and not as efficient as older systems.

The first principle of partial control contrasts the European principle that the state is the ultimate organizational and governmental body. The Islamic state was only one of several sources of societal authority. The success of early Islam was in many ways attributed to the shared spiritual landscape that created consistencies across tribes. Thus, public institutions and religion were unified, and government was usually left open. When there was an attempt at forming a single state power, conflict was created because of the number of diverse groups that had their own organizational forms.

Despite these differences in organization of politics and institutions, free movement was prevalent within Dar al-Islam. This movement allowed for valuable communication and exchange of intellect, leading the development of a global society across several urban centers. It further contributed to the multicultural nature of these cities. In contrast to a sovereign state, this society did not define borders. Finally, free movement allowed for consistency in education and mannerism and a mix of social experience, leading to similar opportunities across the Muslim world. The combination of education and clear communication networks helped the development of a global society of many prominent urban centers.

Heteroglossia was originally used to describe a work of literature that had multiple voices representing several viewpoints. Its application in religion is its distinction from diversity. Heteroglossia does not imply the competition of voices, but rather the imposition of order on a society with several voices and viewpoints. Heteroglossia allows voices to be expressed to similar voices. Because of the inherent lack of competition, heteroglossia is inherently invisible. Because of this, it is better equipped than diversity to make advances toward universality. Within Islam, “a variety of social forces and interests imagined themselves to be the addressees of a single divine message.” This has an important implication in that opposing thoughts and voices do not destroy a society. Eventually, mutuality in religion and compromises amongst ideals lead toward unity. So, with heteroglossia in combination with the first two principles, a global society works best when there is no authoritarian government, a tenet of Islam.

In application of these principles, is it best to establish capitalism because of its free movement of goods and less than partial control on “invisible” forces? Is a global culture possible beyond Islam, or in other words, can unique nations still exist without competition? As the article asks, is imperialism or globalization our future, though the current trend seems to be toward globalization.

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