I was once asked in the class room , “What is death.” I had a million answers , “the moment of cessation of life.” I was smiling at a perfect answer. You imply an absolute end at an absolute frame of reference , my teacher asked me. ” Ideas exist of an “continuous existence beyond a frame of reference, the after life , the next life” i went on. “So absolute end in the existing Time, so there has to be a “beyond” and a “Next?”. He added. “Yep” i said. “What do you reckon about the livers of the dead they put in the living? if life ceases to exist at a moment , how dead livers, hearts and corneas work in the host? , When the spirit departs, and life ceases to exist at an “absolute moment”, why livers “without spirit” remain alive?“ he went on . i was awe struck!!
“Death is a process , so is life , continuing side by side, opposite yet united, A dead body has life in each and every corner and a living body has death every where, o you scratched your nose , how many cells you killed, a part of you is dead” his words echo in my ears. It was my introduction to the limitedness of language , logic and analysis. Certainty, logic , belief and reality are the first casualties when one reads Hegel.
While surfing the net i saw the news that Islamists have removed Pakistani flag from Police stations in Sawat, the Islamists for whom “death” is the weapon of choice. Tie a belt around you and bang , you are a martyr!! The tons of literature has now emerged in Europe on “Problem of Islam”.
“The cult of death” , the “glorification of death”, one piece caught my eye , that traced the ideas of death in works of foremost libertarian Islamic scholar , Ali Shariati. It was hard to digest Shariati being a product of the most radical and most libertarian of the French and continental traditions. Shariati built his libertarian political discourse on deconstruction of Hussein’s Martyrdom , to die but not to bow!. “Death” appears frequently in his writings, and he seems to preach death.
But this preaching is visible to only those who saw like me death as a logical end to life at an absolute moment. Unlike Shariati who was Marxist-Hegelian. When death is a process interwoven with life , it runs in a particular way! Not all deaths are same , how the process continues determines its character.
While those who cut heads of people in Sawat, Iraq and Kabul, do so because they see things in a linear way! Those who blow themselves up are motivated by the certainty of their belief and absoluteness of their action in time.
Now read what Ali Shariati prays about , a prayer that touches and criticizes every trend of European Philosophical tradition , you will know, what “death” he glorifies—
“My Lord, give me the capability to tolerate an opposing point of view. My Lord, keep me wise and aware, so that I may not judge someone or some idea right or wrong unless I have understood him/her or it correctly and completely.My Lord, free me from the four prisons of “nature”, “history”, “society”, and “self”, so that I may recreate myself in the form that You originally created me, not as an animal who adapts to the environment, but so that I may make my environment adapt to Me.My Lord, burn in me the sacred fire of doubt, so that it may burn away every certainty that others have imprinted on me. And then, from its ashes, raise the light of certainty, clear of any fog.My Lord, You teach me how to live; I shall learn how to die.
He knew , death is a process , like every process it has to be learned, Not all deaths, even those inspired by Religion are the same, One who prays for “doubt” cant preach to kill in name of certainty. “Islamism” is not same as “Critical Islamism” of Shariati and Iqbal. Only a libertarian of most profound degree could have inspired Jean Paul Sartre to say what he said:
” I have no religion, but if i were to choose one it would be of Shariati”
PS: prayer from “Philosophy of Supplication” A Prayer by Dr Ali Shariati.