Partisan Idolatry And Religious Feudalism
By Mohammed Hassan Al-Musawi
When young Abraham embarked on his mission to preach for one God, after his conviction in His existence following a long journey of self-struggle in an environment where belief in the physical rather than the supernatural was the norm, he felt that he was taking the first step on an arduous road of transforming his heathen society.
The holy Quran pictures Abraham's conflict and his struggle, both with himself and then with his society: "Lo! Abraham said to his father Azar: 'Takest thou idols for gods? For I see thee and thy people in manifest error.' So also did We show Abraham the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth, that he might (with understanding) have certitude. When the night covered him over, he saw a star, he said: 'This is my Lord.' But when it set, he said: 'I love not those that set.' When he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said: 'This is my Lord.' But when the moon set, he said: 'unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.' When he saw the sun rising in splendor, he said: 'This is my Lord; this is the greatest (of all).' But when the sun set, he said: 'O my people! I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah.'"
Abraham's gift was his ability, from the first sight, to diagnose his people's disease of idolatry, that chronic illness which eventually results in the breakdown of common sense and the paralysis of all rational thought by the mere suggestion that an idol possesses the physical and supernatural qualities to be worthy of worship or to be granted immunity from criticism and contemplation of its true nature, whether it be stone, as the case with the gods of Abraham's people and the gods of the tribe of Quraish such as Hubel, Al-Llat and Al-Uzza, or human as the case with Egypt's pharaoh who declared himself divine.
Abraham believed in God as the sole creator and designer of this huge universe; that His nature simply cannot be comprehended or cognized by mortals, whereas idols are physical entities created by human beings, dependent on them in order to exist. God exists and is in no need for others. Young Abraham decided to convey these beliefs to his people who were hypnotized by the opium of idolatry and heathenism. In order to do this, he first chose to destroy their idols to shock them so that they come face to face with the bitter truth which they were blinded to.
He picked an axe and hacked at the idols. He left it in the head of the largest one; "So he broke them to pieces, (all) but the biggest of them, that they might turn (and address themselves) to it." When his people learned of it they went insane with rage. They asked each other who could have done this; "They said: 'Who has done this to our gods? He must indeed be some man of impiety!' They said: 'We heard a youth talk of them: He is called Abraham.'"
It was then that Abraham's long journey of pain and suffering started. He meant to destroy the idolatry of his people which blinded their hearts before their eyes and enslaved them to the idols will.
Here in the East we are witnessing the same old new idolatry, this time in the shape of political parties and leaders. Our societies suffer from this grave phenomenon which can only be described as partisan idolatry. The political party or the leader has been turned into an idol figure worshipped, consciously or unconsciously, by party members, a characteristic shared by almost all parties, be they religious or secular. In fact, this phenomenon was born from totalitarian parties, as it can rarely be found in liberal, democratic political parties. We can take Iraq as a perfect example to study this serious trend.
Partisan idolatry flourished in Iraq during the fifties of the last century. Anyone who had lived that period can vividly remember how partisan affiliation divided the Iraqi family, when members of the same family were members of different political parties. One could be a Baathist, the other an Arab nationalist, and another a communist or an Islamist. The clash of political ideologies was brought home and it threatened to undermine the very foundations of our society. We were told horrific stories of brothers turning against each other and of people murdering and dragging their neighbors or relatives, of different partisan backgrounds, in the streets. If an opposition party staged a bloody coup and seized power, gallows and acid tanks would be awaiting the members of the ruling party and vice versa.
Such a situation rises when the individual idolizes his political party or his leader. He is filled with uncontrollable rage when he comes across someone who dares to criticize his infallible idol and he then starts gathering wood to burn his opponent at the stake, just as Abraham's people did when their stone idols were violated.
The gravity of partisan idolatry lies in the fact that it inevitably contributes to the rise of dictatorships. It contrasts with the principles of political and intellectual pluralism which God made inherent in human beings;
It would have been impossible for the West to arrive at its present advanced state of progress had it not totally destroyed the intellectual and partisan idolatry of the medieval Church, and also after it achieved victory over Hitler's Nazism, Mussolini's Fascism and Stalin's Communism.
If Iraqis ever wish to build their modern state, they should forever renounce partisan idolatry and they should believe in political parties as a means to serve and advance society, as practiced in the West, and not the other way around. We would also need to 'nationalize' our political parties so that leadership is open to all instead of being restricted to a handful of elite members of political and religious feudalities. The latter one being the most dangerous since it seeks to win both religious and political leadership in order to secure its narrow interests, usually at the expense of the simple-minded and the impoverished masses by exploiting their devotion and respect to clerics, as witnessed today in the south of Iraq.
Until the members of political parties, particularly those of religious nature, start to question their leaderships and until they reach a stage where criticism is not reacted to with threats and violence we will never be part of the civilized world.
What a great difference there is between Abraham and those members of religious parties who claim to be following his legacy!