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Sacred Concepts and Profane Anxieties - Fear of Individualism

The pre-Islamic Arabs of the jahiliyya resisted monotheism with an approach that was the opposite of that promoted by Islam: they were arrogant, they constantly judged their gods according to their own criteria. The individual was sovereign, instead of the god: this was the attitude of the taghiya.


Taghiya means “ tyrant”, a negative concept: he is a man who doesn’t submit to god. This widespread attitude (the main example of such arrogance is the Pharaoh who disobeyed to Moses when he urged him to believe in Allah and to stop considering himself as a God) was the main obstacle to the propagation of Muslim philosophy at the time of Muhammad. Bush senior often appeared as a Pharaoh in cartoons, especially during the Gulf War.
This archetype of Pharaoh-taghiya is at the basis of Muslim instable political system: leaders have always been easily challenged (and often attacked) in the tradition of the Kharijite revolt (at the end of the Omayyad caliphate). Many leaders who presented themselves as “prophets” died; however, a similar cult of personality is quite widespread in many modern capitals in the Middle East.

Even after the advent of Islam, many Arabs continued to claim o be prophets (or even divinities), especially if they were rebels against the caliphs. One of the main messages of Qur’an is the break between the divine and the human and the equality of all human races before God. For example, Sunni don’t believe in the infallibility of the imam (professed by shi’a) because infallibility belongs only to God. Humans can make mistakes, therefore it is possible to criticize those in power.

Islam is a long protest against arrogant individualism: Muhammad asked for an undivided submission of the faithful in order to build an egalitarian community
-> equality: one of the pillars of Islam. The target of Qur’an is to form an umma formed of equals, in which solidarity crosses borders and encompasses cultures, creating a sense of common belonging. Without considering the message of equality, it is not possible to understand the great circulation of Islam throughout the world, even in countries covered by other religions (e.g. Buddhism): in fact, I slam is extremely attractive for oppressed minorities.
During the Gulf War, many Muslims were on the side of Iraq, but this fact had nothing to do with the personality of Saddam Hussein. The problem was that the Kings of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia showed themselves as taghiya, thinking only about their own interests and forgetting the commitment to rahma: in fact they were depicted as pharaohs, like Bush senior.
di Luca Porcella
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