2016年11月7日星期一

Islamic Ethics and Friendship

Both scholars Talal Asad and Saba Mahmood have studied the Islamic Revival in Egypt and noted the pedagogical value of ritual.
Asad writes:
What Shaykh Usama was trying to describe was thus more interesting than the disapproval of my friends in Cairo. What he sought to convey was the idea of intention itself being constituted in the repeated acts of body-and-mind within a social context. In fact, like the mastery of all grammar, the ability to perform devotions well (to devote oneself) required not only repetition but also flexibility in different circumstances. It was not simply a matter of acting as in the past but of acquiring a capability for which the past was a beginning and by which the need to submit consciously to a rule would eventually disappear. When one mastered the capability, its exercise did not require a continuous monitoring of oneself (“Am I following the rule correctly?”).
According to Shaykh Usama there was always a social dimension to the disciplines of devotion, as in the traditional duty of every Muslim “to urge what is good and oppose what is reprehensible” (amr bi-l-ma‘rūf wa nahy ‘an al-munkar),[18] including advice (nasīha) and warning (tahdhīr). What I found intriguing about his discourse was the attempt to tie amr bi-l-ma‘rūf to the virtue of “friendship” (suhba, ikhwa), to present it as a matter of responsibility and concern for a friend rather than simply of policing.[19] The language and attitude in which one carried out that duty was integral to what amr bi-l-ma‘rūf was, because, “Every Muslim is a brother to every other Muslim.” What is known historically in Christian history as “pastoral care” is here diffused among all Muslims in relation to one another.
In Mahmood's book Politics of Piety, she makes a distinction between amr bi-l-ma‘rūf  and the practice of da'wa. The former emphasizes moral exhortation while the latter can also include violent interference. (p59-60; Mahmood also cites the commonly invoked hadith in explaining amr bi-l-ma‘rūf : "Whosoever among you sees a munkar must correct it by hand. And if not able to, then by tongue. And if unable to do even that, then by heart. And this is the weakest [manifestation] of faith.") Still, there are similarities in her text with Asad's. She a also notes how female practitioners discuss the relation between intent and practice. Having an ethical comport is sufficient in some cases, but by and large following the rules also have a value in itself that would enhance or strengthen the ethical comport. For example, one female preacher suggested that the rules for women to lower their gaze during private tutor sessions led by a male is not optional even when both parties harbor pure intents. Another example is about the earliest option prayer: when one practitioner expressed difficulty in waking up and washing for this prayer, the preacher suggests that she isn't thinking about God during the day, and perhaps there are other problems that prevent her from harboring purer intents. Women "pursued the process of honing and nurturing the desire to pray through the performance of seemingly unrelated deeds during the day (whether cooking, cleaning, or running an errand), until that desire became a part of their condition of being." (p124)

These practices also extend the meaning of self, which is a project Mahmood suggested to do from the book's first chapter (p13)--

Earlier critics have drawn attention to the masculinist assumptions underpinning the ideal of autonomy, later scholars faulted this idea for its emphasis on the atomistic, individualized, and bounded characteristics of the self at the expense of its rational qualities formed through social interactions within forms of human community. Consequently, there have been various attempts to redefine autonomy so as to capture the emotional, embodied, and socially embedded character of people, particularly of women. A more radical strain of poststructuralist theory has situated its critique of autonomy within a larger challenge posed to the illusory character of the rationalist, self-authorizing, transcendental subject presupposed by Enlightenment thought in general... 
Asad also emphasizes the role of others in creating the sense of self in invoking discussion on the collective effort of hisba (accountability):
Hussein Agrama contrasts hisba as a form of care of the self and also as a legal device: “While hisba, in its classical Shari‘a elaborations, was part of a form of reasoning and practice connected to the cultivation of selves, in the courts it became focused on the maintenance and defense of interests aimed at protecting the public order.”[24] His account demonstrates that when the shari‘a tradition of amr bi-l-ma‘rūf is incorporated into the judicial system of the state, it becomes part of the state’s coercive power and legalized suspicion in the interest of public order, and this makes friendship not merely impossible but also a distortion of the modern (impersonal) concept of justice.
These observations are also related to my reflections on friendship and how to relate to others. I really benefit from reading and thinking about these differences. I have not yet read the continental philosophers' works on friendship, but perhaps there could be some overlaps with what I have presented in this post