The Mythmaking of Divine Violence: Revisiting Benjamin’s Critique in an Age of Apocryphal Caliphates

This essay examines the common identification of violence by taking Walter Benjamin’s critique as a keystone to understanding how it is used as a device for abstracting its casual nexus of social and political indignities. From the modern Muslim perspectives of Ali Shariati and Ayatollah Mutahhari, an attempt at uncoupling mythic from divine violence is made where the later, without the guarantees and protection of the totalizing juridical systems of the former, is experienced as a politics of tribulation. At today’s critical historical juncture of self-declared caliphates, mythic excesses point to a breaking out of the abstraction spell and a return to the “scalar” qualities of Islam. When effective, divine violence inheres with a potent quality of orientation that can be an effective mode in resisting the ideological edifices that sustain state repression, including those proclaimed as being Islamic
واژگان کلیدی
Violence, Walter Benjamin, Islamism, Jurisprudence, Abstraction, Evil, Caliphate

منابع و مآخذ مقاله

 Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies, American University of Beirut. I would like to thank Mahmoud Youness for discussions that made this paper possible.

Clifford Geertz (1974) The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, Inc.) 98.

Ibid., p. 97.

Walter Benjamin (2002) Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926 (Cambridge: Belknap Press).

Cf. Thomas Clifton (1976) “The Poetics of Musical Silence,” The Musical Quarterly, 62/2 (Apr., 1976), 163-181, Susan Sontag (2002) "The Aesthetics of Solitude," Studies of Radical Will (NY: Picador).

Clifton ibid., p.163.

Cf. Murtaza Mutahharī (1952)‘Adl illahī (Qom: Intishārāt-e Sadrā), Murtaza Mutahharī (1977) Harakat va zamān dar falsafah islāmī (Tehran: Intisharat Hikmat), and Murtaza Mutahharī (1979) Insān va sarnevesht (Qom: Intishārāt-e Sadrā).

Mutahharī, ‘Adl illahī, 129.

Benjamin, Selected Writings, 248.

Ibid., p. 247.

Ibid., p. 250.

Walter Benjamin (2007) Illuminations, trans., Harry Zohn (New York: Schoken Books) 220.

Ibid., p. 221.

Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, 59.

Ibid., p. 220.

Jürgen Moltmann (1993) The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press) 338.

Cf. Gustavo Gutierrez (1988) A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation (New York: Orbis Books) 121-141.

Naturally, the expected Ar-Ra`d āyah applies: “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Qur’ān, 13:11).

“Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you.” (Qur’ān, 102:1).

Abd al-Wahid ibn Muhammad Amidi (1993) Kitab mustatab ghurar al-hikam wa-durar al-kalim (Majmu 'at al-kalimat al-qisar li-'Ali ibn Abi Talib) (Qum: Mu'assasa Ali 'l-Bayt), 484.

Ali Shariati (1976) 'Ali tanhā est (Tehran: Husayniyah-i Irshād,).

Ali Shariati (n.d.) “Red Shi’ism vs. Black Shi’ism,”

“Wealth and children are [but] adornment of the worldly life. But the enduring good deeds are better to your Lord for reward and better for [one's] hope.” (Qur’ān, 18:46).

Mutahharī, Al-‘adl al-illāhī, 154.

Bihār al-Anwār, vol. 15, part one, p. 55, from al-Kāfī.

Mutahhari, Al-‘adl al-illāhī, 155.

Benjamin, Selected Writings, 249.

Alberto Toscano, “The Bourgeois and the Islamist, or, The Other Subjects of Politics,” Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 2, no. 1-2 (2006): 15-38.

“The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu offers some helpful theoretical insights for considering the development of the Salafist movement. Bourdieu’s theoretical framework is centered on fields, which are delimited structures of social relations between hierarchically defined positions. Within these fields, capital, a source of either material or symbolic character, defines the ability of actors to exercise power, while habitus, a set of socialized norms and predispositions, guide their behavior. The dynamics of capital and habitus are set within the structural limitations of the field, which Bourdieu conceptualized in the term doxa, which can be translated into the norms and rules governing the field”. Tore Hamming, Politicization of the Salafi Movement: The Emergence and Influence of Political Salafism in Egypt, INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS REVIEW, VOLUME XXII, NUMBER 1 , FALL 2013, p. 3.

Ibid., p. 28.

Allamah Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (2001) Bihār al-Anwār, Volume 52, trans., Sayyid Athar Husain S.H. Rizvi (Ja’fari Propagation Centre: Mumbai) 89.

Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, 104.

Mutahharī, ‘Adl illahī, 164.

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