Islamic Integralism: A Subtle Difference

In Christian political integralism the idea of order has great importance. The primary intrinsic common good of the political community is, I have argued, the good of the order of peace. This comes from a view of creation according to which that which God primarily intends in creation is the good of the order of the whole, as the most perfect reflection of the divine beauty. So I was interested to read in Remi Brague’s book The Wisdom of the World that the Islamic idea of creation lacks this emphasis on the order of the whole. Brague notes that while there are parallels between the Islamic idea of “He who excelled in the creation of all things” and the first creation account in Genesis, there is also “an essential, though subtle, difference:”

the totality in the Bible is additive, and here it is distributive; according to the Bible the object of admiration is the entirety of creatures, in the connection that gives them their consistency; according to the Koran it is every creature viewed individually, without any connection to the rest of creation, indeed, without any link other than that with Allah. (p.57)

One can readily imagine that this difference could lead to all kinds of other differences in between Christian and Islamic politics. I don’t now enough about Islam to be able to tell to what extent actual differences between Islamic and Christian societies are connected to this difference, but I should like to look into it more.

I am hoping to visit Iran soon for a conference for a Muslim-Christian conference at the Al-Mustafa International University in Qom. I shall propose this question of the order of the whole of creation as a presentation topic.

6 thoughts on “Islamic Integralism: A Subtle Difference

  1. Interesting as always. I also wonder if there may be variations depending upon on what sect of Islam one is looking at. As I understand it the Shia tradition has a much more intricate clerical hierarchy as opposed to other forms of Islam. I wonder if this maybe a reason for the friendly relations between Iran, and the Holy See?

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    • I have also read somewhere that the Shia share more things with us than do the Sunni.

      Pater Edmund, when you make the obligatory visit to one or more of the mosques in Qum, you may want to ask your guide, as I did at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul (still Constantinople to me), whether the faithful think the Imam is turning his back on them when he leads them in prayer, all facing the same way. The answer I received in Istanbul showed that the guide thought I was unhinged.

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    • You’re probably right. A friend of mine wrote me to take issue with Brague here: “Brague always overreaches in discussing Islam, though his basic points in “Eccentric Culture” are correct. Here he is making a point which is very difficult to sustain. The Qur’an is hardly atomistic in its treatment of creatures, and the hadith literature on this topic is even less construable in that direction. It is true that the Qur’anic discourse is more eschatological than creational, and this gives it an individualizing accent with regard to mankind since men are judged singly, but Brague really tries too hard sometimes to overplay differences between Christian and Muslims just as he downplays them between Christianity and Judaism (whereas, eg, Maimonides thought Muslims perfectly monotheistic by Jewish standards, but Christians to be polytheist).”

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  2. Pingback: Shiite Catholic | Sancrucensis

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