Now we have the results of some research announced in 2007, a new thesis on someone who may be one of the most colorful Traditionalists ever, Khozh-Akhmed Noukhaev, the founder of so-called "Hanifi Traditionalism." For those who know their Islam, "Hanifi" refers here not to the Hanifi madhhab but to the conception of the hanif, those such as Abraham who came before Islam but practiced a perfect monotheism.
Noukhaev is a Chechen, famous in Russia as a former mafia boss who played a leading role in the Chechen wars and in all manner of other murky events. He is of interest to this blog because his Hanifi Traditionalism was promoted in Russia by Alexander Dugin, and at first sight looked pretty Traditionalist.
Eduard ten Houten, the author of the new thesis, started off seeing Noukhaev as a Traditionalist, but his research led him to a different conclusion. Ten Houten’s thesis, “Blood, Power, Islam: The Life and Opinions of the Exemplary Chechen Khozh-Akhmed Noukhaev,” (University of Amsterdam, 2009) is a beautifully written and exhaustively researched biography of Noukhaev that shows the origins, uses, and fate of his doctrine of Hanifi Traditionalism, developed in cooperation with Mansur-Machiej Jachimczyk, a Polish convert to Islam.
Wondering whether Noukhaev might be what I call a “soft” Traditionalist, ten Houten asks whether Hanifi Traditionalism could have come into being without Guénonian Traditionalism. This is a good question, and a good additional test of what is and is not Traditionalist.
And in ten Houten’s view, Hanifi Traditionalism fails the test. Noukhaev hardly needed metaphysics to tell him that something was wrong with the modern world: the appalling bloodshed and destruction in Chechnya certainly indicated a problem. Engels is a possible source for Noukhaev’s replacement of the standard two-part division into tradition and modernity with a three-part division into barbarism, tradition and modernity. Note that for both Engels and Noukhaev, barbarism is a positive, not a negative, concept. While Traditionalists commonly find their tradition in books and apply it in fairly abstract ways, Noukhaev found his barbarism in his own experience and applied it to a very concrete end: finding a basis for a possible settlement between the Russian state and the Chechen people that could be equally acceptable to both sides.
I am not so sure. Kazakh Eurasianism, in contrast to Hanifi Traditionalism, fits well enough with Dugin's ideas for an alliance, but without any Traditionalist elements. So there is no need to add the Traditionalist themes of decline, anti-modernism and religion to Eurasianism to get Dugin's support.
First finding something wrong with the modern world on a basis other than metaphysics does not stop someone being a Traditionalist. For nearly all Traditionalists, it is not Traditionalism that draws attention to the fact that there is a problem with the modern world, but Traditionalism that makes sense of that problem. Using other sources in a synthesis is also quite common: consider Dugin's use of Eurasianism, Schuon's use of Native American religion, and Evola's use of Nietzsche. And as for concrete ends, consider Evola, and Dugin himself.
If ten Houten is right and Noukhaev developed independently a doctrine which just happened to fit extremely neatly into Dugin’s Traditionalist conceptions, then we would need to rethink Traditionalism. Instead of a more or less unique philosophy developed by Guénon, Traditionalism would be one instance of something pretty widespread.
Even though I have just been challenging ten Houten's conclusions, I am still a fan of the thesis. Almost every available piece of the jigsaw seems to be there. It will, I hope, soon be published.