Amid chaos of everyday life; good and bad things, talking over modernizing Da’wa discourse, known as religious discourse, became less and even no longer discussed. In my opinion, it is better to describe it as Da’wa discourse, since religious discourse is what God said in his divine books and messages, while Da’wa means the human interpretation of religion subject to being right or wrong. Being also subject to expire, it may turn into poisoning the minds and souls instead of nourishing them. Moreover, Da’wa discourse is subject to progress and modernization, for human life develops and changes.
I stopped long before what Saudi crown prince Muhammed bin Salman said during the conference in which he unveiled his new development-targeted project “Neom”, as his words were decisive in declaring that his country seeks an enlightened moderate version of religion interpretation and practices; a version that is open to the rest of religions without prejudice. He also added that his country will fight hardline ideologies and terrorism.
I believe all those interested in the issue of religion and religiosity – that is never inseparable of the cultural and civilization context of the social composition of our region – realized that such a qualitative shift in the Saudi society is considered an important and essential contribution to achieving the modernization we look for.
In other words, I mean by “those interested” all who belong to several orientations. The first of them is the one that have always imputed rigidity, extremism and terrorism to the deep roots that grew and spread all over the Arabian Peninsula like Madhhab or school of thought of Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, interpretations of Ahmed Ibn Taymmieya, Muhammed Abdel-Wahhab and those who followed them and were committed to their strict interpretations.
The second is the orientation connecting politics with the necessity to have an ethical and religious cover believing that the boom and predominance of such terrorist and extremist ideology in the region is not only due to those roots of Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Taymmieya and Ibn Abdel-Wahhab, but actually it gained its power from adopting its ideas as an ethical cover for the practices of some parties involved in the political conflict in the region, such parties that dispraise the Arabs, Persians, Turks, and also Zionists.
As to the third orientation, it is the one that cares, on the cultural and intellectual levels, to tackle the problem of conflict between the religious heritage component in the Egyptian social composition in specific, and the other cultural and civilization components extending from geography to history.
These three orientations will find support in what the royal Saudi official said in facing the fourth orientation which some call Salafi while others call it salafist… as this fourth orientation did not deny that its main support comes from its connection to Saudi Da’wa figures, and other figures having the financial capacity and who give some of its surplus to spend over “Da’wa in the name of God”.
I add nothing new when I confirm that what is happening in a certain Arab country, especially of those having influence and significance, cannot be considered an internal affair isolated from the regional area. Actually, it is an important factor affecting the reality and future of the whole region. Evidences confirming such fact are many and extend back in time to the ancient history; meaning before the divine religions and until now. Such fact really helps us understand what the domestic developments in the Saudi kingdom will lead to regarding qualitative shifts in the region which I do hope they turn to be progressing positive ones.
Back to the issue of Da’wa discourse in Egypt that is no longer discussed like before, I would like to say that people’s relation to religion and its institutions is the main carrier of “genes” –if one can use such term here –hindering the cultural and civilization development. In the same manner, such relation could carry the genes of progress if certain conditions were met.
In such regard, I know that recalling the Christian western and European model is wrong, as the historical evolution there is different to ours. However, what happened there still can be used as a general human indicator – as interpreted within its context – to understand how to achieve the progress we hope for, since we haven’t yet defined the relation connecting the religious doctrinal component with the rest of components constituting our cultural and civilization composition, and consequently, the relation connecting all those components with meeting the demands of our contemporary human existence now, tomorrow and after tomorrow; such demands that exceeded long time ago most of our inheritance on all levels.
Furthermore, events, facts and historical contexts in our region proved that if the cultural, intellectual and hence the political consistency primarily between Egypt and the Saudi kingdom was achieved, in addition to, in a way or another, the demographic and civilization significance of the rest of the Arab orient in Syria and Iraq, there is a great hope in accomplishing the required progress on many levels. On the other hand, if such consistency is missed, conflict and disagreement will prevail.
Modernizing Da’wa discourse and practices in the Saudi kingdom and fighting the deviation in Da’wa, economic, financial and behavioral levels is a backing support to modernization and fighting corruption in Egypt. This is not wishful thinking, but an interpretation of the recent history of the two countries’ interaction.
Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar
This article was published in Al Ahram newspaper on November 9, 2017.
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