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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New book on Eurasianism in Turkey

A new book on Eurasianism in Turkey has just been published, The Foreign Policy of Modern Turkey: Power and the Ideology of Eurasianism, by Özgür Tüfekçi (London: I. B. Tauris, $95).

Tüfekçi understands “Eurasianism” broadly, as the idea that Turkey should turn towards Russia rather than the West. He starts off in the nineteenth century, moves on to the period of Turgut Özal (1983-1993) and then to the present day, to Doğu Perinçek and the İşçi Partisi (IP, Workers' Party) and Alexander Dugin, a relationship already mentioned on this blog.

I have not yet been able to look at the book itself. The chapter titles look a bit clunky. But the long view may be interesting.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Traditionalism in Indonesia

A new article covers the topic of Traditionalism in Indonesia, a topic that has been covered in one PhD dissertation in Indonesian (and briefly on this blog) but has otherwise been largely ignored, certainly in Western languages. The article is by Asfa Widiyanto, and is “The Reception of Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s Ideas within the Indonesian Intellectual Landscape,” Studia Islamika: Indonesian Journal for Islamic Studies 23, no. 2 (2016): 193-236, DOI: 10.15408/sdi.v23i2.3002.

Widiyanto dates Nasr’s influence in Indonesia to three lectures that he gave during a visit in 1993, which attracted much attention. Some Indonesian translations of his books were then already available, but more have been published since 1993. Nasr’s views have also been promoted in the journal Ulumul Qur’an, which has published many articles with a Traditionalist perspective, and may even in some sense be a Traditionalist journal.

Widiyanto identifies a number of Indonesian scholars who have been influenced by the work of Nasr and Schuon, and lists many of their publications. He pays special attention to Nurcholish Madjid (1939-2005), a prominent Muslim intellectual whose PhD thesis at the University of Chicago was supervised by Fazlur Rahman, and who became Indonesia’s leading exponent of Traditionalist ideas. It was Madjid who was credited with persuading President Suharto to resign in 1998. Madjid was more enthusiastic about perennialism’s pluralism, which he likened to the non-denominational theism of Pancasila, Indonesia’s official state philosophy, than about its anti-modernism, which he rejected. In Widiyanto’s view, this corresponds to Nasr’s general reception in Indonesia.

Widiyanto also singles out Komaruddin Hidayat (born 1953), a professor of philosophy with a PhD from the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, a former rector of the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta, and an active journalist. An editor of Ulumul Qur’an, Hidayat is evidently now Indonesia’s leading Traditionalist.

Both Madjid and Hidayat are evidently significant figures in Indonesia, more important than Traditionalists are in most countries. They seem, however, to be “soft” Traditionalists more than “hard” Traditionalists.

Widiyanto spends some time on the issue of whether Nasr can be considered a Shi'i, an issue that has not caused much concern elsewhere, and argues that he is more scholar than Shi'i. He does not explicitly ask to what extent Traditionalism is Western and to what extent it is Islamic, but addresses this question obliquely, referring to Nasr’s debt to Suhrawardi, and concluding that “Nasr’s popularity in Indonesia is not merely due to his Perennialist ideas but also due to the fact that he represents an advocate of living Islamic philosophy, which survives in the Persian world most notably in the form of the School of Illumination.”

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

JAAR review of The Study Quran

A review of The Study Quran, edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr and others and previously mentioned on this blog for its Maryami connections, has just been published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, possibly the world’s leading journal in the field. It is by Aisha Geissinger, a Quran specialist and assistant professor at Carleton University in Canada, and is careful and fair.

Geissinger welcomes The Study Quran as “a fascinating example of what could be termed the ‘next stage’ in the publication of confessional literature that reflects the reception of the Qur’an by believing Muslims writing in English” because, unlike other English translations, it really engages with the techniques and history of tafsir (exegesis) and “vividly conveys something of the Qur’an’s long and intellectually vibrant history of interpretation.”

She notes, however, that—like all other translations—The Study Quran presents one particular perspective. She characterizes this perspective as “broadly... neo-traditionalist” and sometimes perennialist. The selection of “traditional” material, she concludes, produces “a twenty-first century CE construction of an ostensibly timeless ‘tradition.’” And how, I wonder, could it not?

My thanks to OA for drawing this review to my attention.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Guénon and Iurii Mamleev

The impact of René Guénon on Iurii Mamleev is discussed in a new article by Oliver Ready, “'Questions to Which Reason has No Answer:' Iurii Mamleev’s Irrationalism in European Context” (in Facets of Russian Irrationalism Between Art and Life: Mystery Inside Enigma, edited by Olga Tabachnikova; Leiden: Brill Rodopi, 2016, pp. 496-518). Guénon, in fact, is the major part of the European context in which Ready seeks to place Mamleev; the other major part is the anti-psychiatry of R. D. Laing.

Mamleev (1931-2015) is of interest both as one of modern Russia’s most remarkable authors and as the owner of the flat in Iuzkinskii Lane, Moscow, where a group of dissident intellectuals gathered, later known as the Iuzkinskii Circle and, as Ready says, now much mythologized. Among the members of the Iuzkinskii Circle were the poet Evgenii Golovin (1938-2010), Geydar Dzhemal (1947-2016), and Alexander Dugin. It was through the Iuzkinskii Circle that Traditionalism really entered Russia.

Ready argues that Mamleev is heir both to the venerable Russian tradition of irrationalism and to Guénonian Traditionalism. He bases this argument on Mamleev’s references to Guénon is his non-fictional work and on a reading of Mamleev's fiction. It was Guénon, according to Ready, who provided Mamleev with the killer condemnation of modernity and of reason, with a powerful justification for the view that “if the world has gone mad, it is because of an excess, not a lack, of reason.” The Soviet Union was, of course, hyper-modern in its respect for reason.

Mamleev was far from the first Russian author to see reason not as the key to understanding reality but as an obstacle to understanding reality, nor the first Russian author for whom irrationalism and the grotesque could force readers to look beyond the human to the mystical unknown. But while the broad Russian tradition promotes values of humility that may be seen as Christian, Ready argues, Mamleev “affirms a hierarchy of spiritual knowledge and enlightenment” that he takes not from Dostoevsky but from Guénon.