Intellectual cohesion in the Thought of Sayyid Kamal al-Haydari

Intellectual cohesion in the Thought of Sayyid Kamal al-Haydari

04) Intellectual cohesion in the Thought of Sayyid  KamÁl al-ÍaydarÐ

Dr. MuÞayyid al-ÍusaynÐ al-ÝÀbid[1]



In every time and place, knowledge has the power to cause much grief when it sheds a critical light on many ideas that have taken on a false appearance of holiness. Many people with confused beliefs of their own try to sell us their ideas from here and there. Eventually one begins to worry whether or not he is casting his bucket into the well of truth. But when he studies the pages of history, he will hear thunderclaps that return to him his senses!

How shall we grasp the way of life of people who lived at the time of the Prophet, let alone dare to challenge the righteous prophet from the heavens? If you ever have doubts, someone will tell you to keep your ideas to yourself and not tell the ordinary people! Even if you want to delve further and read – no doubt hoping to hear the thunder as I did! – you go to the authentic books, the books of Ibn Taymiyyah which no scholar or thinker mentions save that he spent a long time studying his description and explanation of verses of the QurÞÁn about the attributes and names of Allah! And other such verses.

Who are we talking about?

Many people speak about the situation in Iraq between politics, policies and the groups who benefit from politicians; they take centres and positions within the state. These positions were and still are a burden upon them and upon all Iraqis, to the extent that they have given up their fundamental ethical and educational duties! They are supported indirectly from London by persons (who call themselves men of religion) who claim [authority over] JaÝfarÐ jurisprudence and that they are the most-learned people! But they stay silent except for a whisper which they think is a religiously obligatory criticism of the disgraceful situation of Iraq and Iraqis. Religious authorities have borne and continue to bear the greatest responsibility in explaining what is right, shedding light upon it, giving it to people, making clear errors (whatever they are and whoever is making them), disclosing them, dispelling them and fighting them with all their strength.

One of the many attacks directed against our religious authorities is that they have fallen short in their duty to make known the truth and reveal those persons who cover themselves (or rather, mock) the slogans of the people and their lives, to the extent that they [i.e. the religious authorities] become like a proof against the school of thought. They are simply unable to solve people’s problems and not fit even to put letters in their proper place.

I respond by saying that a number of events have caused a bold sayyid of great intellect to appear; he renews Islam with his words and does not shy away from saying what is necessary in those matters of knowledge related to religion and life. He has pointed out many errors and offered solution upon solution for many religious and secular matters. He scrutinizes history, joins it to the present and offers a careful reading of the future that awaits this Ummah – a future containing successive changes occurring at a great pace. He serves the truth with his voice and calls out without fear.

Sayyid KamÁl al-ÍaydarÐ has laid down an intellectual approach that rests upon many rational, philosophical, legal, mystical, theological, logical and even political criteria (refer to his lectures and writings). In his articles, he affirms that the gate of ijtihÁd is open not only in the branches of religion, but even in its roots; even in the immutable truths of the religion, let alone its changeable elements. He insists that this includes many matters, whether general or particular; even those taken to be axiomatic (musallamÁt) are within its scope. This deprives many matters their sense of immutability, such as prayer and fasting, even if it had previously been possible for people to disagree about the way in which they were performed. When he said: ‘Pray as you see me [pray]’ i.e. the matter is clearly understood. But religion does not end with the aforementioned axioms, rather religion (al-dÐn) in its entirety includes worship, transactions, thought, politics, ethics, philosophy and other such things.

If the Ummah which contains many religious and sectarian variations, numerous schools of thought and various dimensions is not limited to a particular group of people, then how can the Islamic religion be limited to a few constants and not budge from them? When the Prophet (saaw) guided the Ummah through his ideas and his movement, then how can we expect the religion and its adherents to be so limited? How many of the marÁjaÝ think of the average Iraqi citizen, or have heard, spoke of, or solved problems his problems. How many have them stood side-by-side with the citizens of Iraq from the beginning of the changes that have taken place in Iraq to this present day? How many of them?

They all work from behind a curtain! Out of offices from which we cannot hear their voices, until the citizens of Iraq begin to doubt everything! If someone says: ‘The marjaÝ so-and-so says X’ a person would respond: ‘Who said this? The marjaÝ or his office?’ Because sometimes the office of a marjaÝ has a different opinion to the marjaÝ himself!

Perhaps this view will upset some elements of the scholars and jurists! But this is something grave indeed; we must make these matters known to the people because our religion is one of thinking and ijtihÁd, the religion of truth and right conduct in the way of Allah. And the religious scholars must assist us in this journey, not complicate things and place us on a path narrowed by technical terms that no one can understand unless they spend all their days studying fiqh!

A bright star has appeared to revive the ways of knowledge, development and serenity in religion, without ignorance or obstinacy! This does not mean that we know the ideas and deeds of every marjaÝ that we may judge between them, because perhaps there are other marÁjaÝ who are working out of sight, humbly benefiting the Ummah; this has great merit in reviving the right manner of conduct which is far from deceit and self-promotion! Yes, there are marÁjaÝ who are working to bring about a positive change, but we want to highlight the major difficulties racking our society which cannot be solved by the usual means.

Iraqi society in particular has suffered the woes of corruption – pedagogical, ethical, scientific, intellectual and even political! Going back to the fallen regime of Saddam, which did everything it could to ruin society and left it in the throes of this ruin. So how will it be with one who plays with people’s slogans and claims he is following the way of Allah while he take bribes, embezzles funds and lies – he goes on Íajj every year and circumambulates the Sacred House, making pilgrimage with the pilgrims, believing himself to be a pious and righteous person who fears Allah, while allowing himself to engage in such corruption! No one would consider him an upholder of the law or of the Divine Religion!

Sayyid al-ÍaydarÐ has stressed in many aspects of his thought on the solution to many of these problems. He has focused on the ethical dimensions to this as well as the legal ones and joined the two together. Just as he treats intellectual and historical problems, without trying to take the faith from the believers heart, whatever the latter’s orientation might be, by shedding light on history and a scholarly reading of it without infringing the fundamental human freedom of belief, or allowing anyone to declare someone else an infidel in any way, shape or form.

The phenomenon of Sayyid al-ÍaydarÐ is that of a necessary renewal which does not take the path of anarchy ( as many of those who claim ‘renewal’ (tajdÐd) often do), which quickly burns out or is extinguished because it produces many ideas that are inimical to rational and traditional analyses. On the other hand, we see that Sayyid al-ÍaydarÐ takes a path with two fields of inquiry, each of which completes the other. These are – first – an exhaustive and detailed analytical study of everything that has happened in Islamic history in its entirety, and – secondly – bringing the rational and philosophical disciplines to bear on every situation which he examines, relying on clear unambiguous criteria. For this reason, we believe he is a holistic and encyclopaedic marjaÝ who is active in Iraqi, Arab and Islamic societies, who has a clear and comprehensive vision and goal which he is working towards.

A marjaÝ who possesses such qualities is worthy of estimation, and we must work with him and under his guidance without doubt or fear.


[1] A doctor of science (nuclear physics), university professor and academic researcher. He has a number of studies published in his field of specialty and other publications, as well as a number of books. He has worked in his specialty since 1985.