Neitzsche and Islam
Right, I am going to try and keep this as simple as possible. The main reason (which will become apparent soon enough) is that I am not a philosopher, although I do enjoy their readings a great deal. There was no intention in my daylog to get any sort of a response, it was just something that spontaneously burst forth after my little awakening and I felt that I should share it with someone, and the cold hard screen in front of me at the time seemed closest. But I am getting ahead of myself, beginnings are a time of great care that balances are observed, and this is no exception.
That Nietzsche is seen by the vast majority of his readers as a nihilist is true, however this is a rather sad state of affairs for someone who tried his very best to elevate the condition of man beyond nihilism, and as such his only connection with nihilism is that he uses it as a base from which to work upon. In this and in other places he shares a great deal with Islam. The tenets of Islam reject conventional definitions of truth and reason based upon cultural traits, and inherited mythos. This may seem difficult to reconcile with the rich and varied lessons in the Quran about the history of mankind and the nature of man and God, but we will come to that. For now I must focus attention on the fact that Neitzsche and Islam share the belief that culture and the 'morals' of society ultimately take a person away from an accurate assessment of themselves, others, and their environment. This is important, as without it, one cannot understand the intensity of either Islam or Nietzsche in dealing with the prevailing structures of authority and control exercised by those following blind ritual and sets of rules that they simply do not comprehend in their entirety.
My first experience of Islam in the sense to which I refer can be seen as one of the most liberating in my life, having followed up until then the rules and regulations left to me by my heritage, and keeping them out of loyalty to those I loved. The real test came, as it usually does on my own in the school environment, where many new ideas are thrown to challenge my own, and it was through this initial confusion at the challenge, and then alarm that I began to examine my own position as a muslim in a western society and realize that my ideology and beliefs weren't susceptible to the same attacks and perversions that terrorised my Christian companions. The reason for this intrigued me, and after much soul searching I realized that the underlying logic of Islam was based on a simple all pervading belief in God and his Will, implying that one's definition of Good was irrelevant in the face of the daily challenges that themselves defined and changed what it was to be human. This insight made me aware of my own moral self, and that the strict discipline and seemingly authoritarian regime I had felt subjected to as a child was in fact the basis of an intellectual immune system that would allow me to both absorb the good in other ideologies, while rejecting those principles that would lead to chaos and confusion. I suddenly had an identity independent of culture, ideology, or nation. I was free to define myself within the parameters of Quality. If you have read The Gay Science, and Beyond Good and Evil, then you will begin to see certain patterns emerge in this account, and they will be tied to the main idea later.
For the moment though lets shift focus to Islam again, and specifically the Quran. Anyone who has read the Quran will tell you (as I am about to do) that is quite non-linear, composed of independent chapters (or Suras) of incredible beauty which have complex interplays of themes and historical accounts that run through the entire book, and illuminate a topic, character, person, idea, or event in astonishing detail and clarity while preserving the wonder of the subject. Anyone reading a Nietzsche book will realize that there are some parallels between the format of his books and those of the Quran. The partitioning, the complex and intense treatment of subject matter, the multiple references across the text, and the independence of each unit are all striking similarities between these two texts that are separated by over a millenia.
And now enough of the shifting backward and forward, we come to the main piece. Islam teaches us to take society, and what we have learnt from it, and throw it away. Almost all value judgement that isn't discovered personally is useless, and surprisingly this includes religious experience. The major reason for the success of Islam is that it doesn't try to convince stupid people to join. We do not prey on the weak and myopic unlike other religions. If someone decides that Islam is the religion of their choice and they show comitment, then we welcome them, but we certainly don't go around evangelising. One is taught at an early age to question, to search, to inquire. To use the tools of one's fathers to break open the universe and extract the treasures therein, and if they are inadequate to throw them away and create new ones. This of course presupposes a base of nihilism from which one is expected to search both the external and internal universe for truth. Truth leads to a critical examination and understanding of knowledge, and subsequently belief. One is not expected to stop at blind faith however, and moves on swiftly to questions of personal identity, sociology, psychology, and history. This leads to an examination in turn of morality and the value structure of societies and the determinant of personal morality. The huge questions of the existence of man in the universe, and the nature and origin of Reality are also looked at quite closely. At some point one tries to see what sorts of systems others have used to answer all of these questions and this of course leads to philosophy and religion. In my personal journey I came to discover Islam long before Nietzsche, which is rather lucky for me. The systems are judged according to various perspectival criterion, for example consistency with observable reality, with itself, plausability, complexity, power, etc. In my case the journey led back to Islam, a form of which is very different from the sort my parents adopted, yet recognizeably orthodox. The processes of discovery, of independence from established dogma are important, as is the need to develop a re-evaluative process for the values one inherits and continues to inherit from society, all these things are paving stones in the bridge between Nietzsche and Islam. Common traits that describe an outlook on life, and more importantly, how to live. I find it unsurprising that the most challenging and insightful philosopher of recent times used a format for the delivery of his ideas that parallels the most sucessful holy book in the world, the Quran. Nor do I find it strange that the process of self-mastery, intense training, and mental activity, through development are mirrored both in Islamic childhoods and the concept of the Ubermensch. Can one imagine someone with the will to believe and act so strong that they are able to hijack a plane and crash it into a building to prove a point? The mindset of such an individual is beyond the comprehension of most people in the West, and the comittment to action is something rarely seen outside of the Islamic World. One must condemn the loss of innocent life in the most strenous manner, this is of course obvious. But the fact remains that to conventional morality the actions of the hijackers are a complete mystery, and somewhat terrifying in the profound vistas that they leave open to speculation. Were it possible to open those vistas up without the needless killing of those people who were doing their jobs, then it would obviously be preferable.
It is my belief that had Nietzsche been introduce to Islam at a young but mature age (say 24) that he would have converted to Islam without any hesitation. His extreme irritation with religion stems in the main with his views on Christianity, and the faiths idolistic view of God. The phrase "God is Dead" for example implies the animalistic qualities attributed to God by the Christian church. No such attributes exist in Islam, where the attributes of life or death are as relevent to the existence and nature of God as is the colour to the effectiveness of a wheel. It is also my belief that he would have advocated the strict discipline that Islam encourages, and been impressed by the critical analysis of society that Islam displays. His abortive attempts to find a place for himself in a culture that he quite obviously had a great distaste for might have found better ground in an Islamic country, where people of his intensity, if not analytical ability are comparatively common. It is almost a tautology that Islam is deeply misunderstood in the West, and will probably continue to be, but that is to be expected - not tolerated. We don't live by their rules, we choose our own, for our own good and the good of all mankind we follow our minds and hearts.
I think not just Nietzsche would identify with that.