By Sarfaraz Amin:A comparative study of Dr.Ali Shariati and Karl Marx

wilayattimes (Jammu and Kashmir)

Here my purpose is not to discuss any particular religion but to have a very basic and brief description about religion and how Marx presented it, although Marx actually said very little about religion in all of his writings, he hardly ever addresses religion in a systematic fashion, even thought he touches on it frequently in books, speeches, and pamphlets. Karl Marx was a German philosopher who attempted to examine religion from an objective point of view based on scientific perspective.

By:- Sarfaraz Amin

18th June is the day, when one of noted historian and sociologist left for heavenly abode in 1977. The known and famous for his literary works and one of the famous and prominent writer throughout the globe namely Dr. Ali Shariati, some people label accusations against him that he was having a Marxist influence, in other words we can say that the ideology of Marxism influenced him a lot but he has just used the analogy while explaining and elaborating the Marxist ideas and had refuted them through Islamic perspective.

Introduction

18th June is the day, when one of noted historian and sociologist left for heavenly abode in 1977. The known and famous for his literary works and one of the famous and prominent writer throughout the globe namely Dr. Ali Shariati, some people label accusations against him that he was having a Marxist influence, in other words we can say that the ideology of Marxism influenced him a lot but he has just used the analogy while explaining and elaborating the Marxist ideas and had refuted them through Islamic perspective. Let me not discuss here the personal life of Karl Marx and Shariati but their ideas and thinking that were taken into account by both of these writers to discuss those subjects that remain burning topics and main areas of debate and discussion for Marx in his contextual time and how shariati has reacted to Marxist ideas.

However I don’t deny the fact and the truth that the ideology of Marxism, is not without faults and drawbacks and sometimes lacks practicability in real life and looking merely utopian but ignoring the ideology of Marxism altogether is not even justified the only reason not because it has influenced the people of different continents throughout globe or has innumerable followers but it was one of opposite ideology against capitalism. And it wouldn’t be also appropriate to accept Marx’s ideas uncritically, because Marx certainly has some important things to say about the nature of religion , society , economy , history , causes of oppression and poverty , exploitation of human labour etc although we know that Marx can’t be accepted as the last word on these subjects . Why I have chosen this topic to discuss the reason is well evident that Shariati has provide a very immense and insightful critique to the Marxist writing and literature especially the subjects and topics discussed by Marx like religion, society, history, nature of human beings and ideology, all these topics have been also well focussed by Dr, Ali shariati while taking into account of Marx’s ideas on these subjects .

Marxist and Shariati view point about religion:-Constructive criticism is necessary to understand the things in a more meaningful and insightful way ,even it is not logical any way to refute a thing without providing any alternative idea and choice and criticism must be for the sake of supplementation and for the advancement of knowledge not for the sake of dominance or for the purpose of getting upper hand and equally it is also not logical to accept and approve anything blindly because when we blindly adopt a religion a political system , a dogma or any literary ideas it wouldn’t work , because in this way we cease to grow our mental faculties and we became automatons as it is well sad by Allama Iqbal (ra) “ People who have no hold over the process of thinking are likely to be ruined by liberty of thought if liberty of thought is immature it can convert men into animals”

Marx has pessimist view of religion it may be because of socio-economic and political conditions of his society at that that time when he was living in that society, because society has greater relations with religion, in other words these two things are interwoven because it is religion that shapes the society directly and indirectly doesn’t matter whether people are conscious about it or not they will be influenced by it directly or indirectly.

Here my purpose is not to discuss any particular religion but to have a very basic and brief description about religion and how Marx presented it, although Marx actually said very little about religion in all of his writings, he hardly ever addresses religion in a systematic fashion, even thought he touches on it frequently in books, speeches, and pamphlets. Karl Marx was a German philosopher who attempted to examine religion from an objective point of view based on scientific perspective.

Marx has said, “Religion is the opium of the masses “(“Die religion ist das opium das volkesis”) is perhaps one of most famous and most commonly quoted by theist and atheist alike. Now the question is, was Marx wrong, when he quoted such a phrase, the answer is “no” because of multiple reasons. Religion was always used and even it is used as a tool and an instrument of oppression that is absolutely correct what Marx has said in keeping view the context of his time and now this time as well it fits aptly, like the struggle for power between church and state, two swords theory and killing of innocent people in the name of religion, suicide bombing in religious places etc like that things paved a way for such thoughts. According to Marx, “Religion is an expression of material realities and economic injustice .Thus problems in religion are ultimately problems in society, as I already mentioned before that religion and society is interwoven and society has no escape from religion that is why Marx has said, that religion is used as tool by oppressors to make people feel better about the distress they experience due to being poor and exploited .This is the origin of his comment that religion is the “Opium of the masses” . It is also evident than, in past the religion was widely misused by the religious institutions like church, pope etc to use the religion to oppress the people and exploit them that is obviously true by this fact many thinkers have been executed by the institution of church who presented various scientific views about the nature and its system of operating like about solar system and about many other things. Religion was off course widely used as a tool of oppression, but the problem lies also within the people who used to be die-conscious about these things when they were exploited in the name of religion.

Now coming to the Shariati view point of religion in his book namely ‘Religion Vs Religion” he draws a line between two religions, a “religion of revolution” and a “religion of legitimation” The” religion of legitimation” is similar to religion of Karl Marx as “opium of masses” that works for oppression, class division , oppression to people , based on discrimination and exploitation of people and perpetuating and legitimizing such difference while as the “religion of revolution” working to overcome differences in class and economic status like we follow in Islamic religion the concepts of “zakaat , Khumus , Charity “ in real and practical sense and even obligatory on Muslims to overcome difference and to alleviate the people from distress and poverty through these ways suggested by Islamic system for establishing a egalitarian society without any discrimination and difference , this is where the religion of Marx differs with religion of Shairaiti.

Shariati has provided alternative and logical reasoning to the religion of opium discussed by Marx which is based on discrimination and the religion of revolution like Islam ,(Islame NabeMuhammadi) that stands against oppression, discrimination and exploitation. Oppression is one of the biggest evil amongst all evils and any sort of oppression is evil. So here Shariati as opposed to some socialist who draws the line between religion as supporter of class division and based on exploitation and oppression and non-religion which overcomes these divisions , he places the dividing line within religion itself , from this perspective , it is thus not religion itself that needs to be rejected as the “Opium of the people” but only one type of religion , the “religion of legitimation” which true religion unscathed .

So, here Shairaiti demarcates a line now between the two religions “religion of opium or religion of legitimation” and “religion of revolution” that I will summarize in my words like this , “the religion of revolution” stands against oppression through the movement of Ashura , that stand against injustice , mixing of truth with wrong and wrong with truth , hiding of truth and spreading of wrong and dogmatic ideas through wrong propaganda the religion of revolution was against building of palaces for which the stones were carried on the bones of slavery and distressed people. The religion of revolution carried out by Ashura movement was against enriching of few and depriving society from rights and pushing people towards poverty .

‘The struggle within Islam between the kind of religion calling for revolution and the kind of religion legitimatiting oppression is evident even through the Islamic history of the opulent lives led by the Baghdad caliphs described in the “Arabian Nights” while the common people groaned in poverty of wars of conquest in the name of Allah of peoples dragged off into slavery , than man slaughtered or put to forced labour , the women thrown into harems of oppression in terms of race and of class division , all justified in their day by those who claimed to be Muslim mullahs .” (Religion Vs religion by Shairaiti) These all things were justified in the name of Allah and religion, such religion was “religion of opium or religion of legitimation” which need a religion of revolution to stand against such oppression like the movement of Ashura was seeking for religion of revolution to stand against building of palaces and changing of caliphate into empire so that the resources, labour and rights of people will not be exploited in the name of religion and state , this is well explained by Abul Ala Madudi in his book “Khilafat wa Malukeyat” where caliphate was changed into empire.

Differences of opinion about society and man between Karl Marx and Ali Shariati:-Man is complex being, before understanding the society , you need to understand man his nature and character in the society through all aspects whether physically ,mentally ,morally, intellectually ,sociologically ,theologically and psychologically the only reason is that human being is a complex being and they are no way apart to each other society influences a man and man in reverse influence the society as one of the writer has said, “No man is an island of an itself” refers to that man is asocial animal . As it is well said by Allama Iqbal (ra) “Man is existing because of its relation with society, outsides it he is nothing just like the tide has power in ocean, when it separates’ from ocean it lose a strength”.So these sentences highlight well the relationship between society and man and more eloquently Aristotle has put it in these words “He who lives outside the society is either a beast or a God.”

As it is well said by Allama Iqba (ra) “Man is existing because of its relation with society, outsides it he is nothing just like the tide has power in ocean, when it separates’ from ocean it lose a strength”.

The Marxist concept of human nature and society is based on material aspects and we can’t even deny this fact that means and relations of these material products also influence the whole the society and the nature of man .In Other words we can say it is society that shapes human character and it is man who decides the base and structure of society , like take the example of capitalist society which decides the capitalist structure of society and capitalist nature of human beings where there is cut throat competition ,it is now secondary question how we can justify the one thing and refute the other things , but here is a point that how different types of society influence the human beings in different ways and how it put them in pressure mode to react back .The merits and demerits of different societies ,the advantages and disadvantages of their systems needs to be taken into account accurately and precisely like while criticising capitalist society and the capitalist system Robert Jensin in one of his essay “All my bones shake” has said, “ Capitalism creates a world defined by greed and attempts to reduce us to crass maximizers of self-interest not exactly a recipe for living a decent life consistent with our moral and theological principles .Empire allows the extraction of wealth of the many to enrich an ever smaller number of people, not exactly a morally and theologically defensible model”

Now coming to the Marxist nature of human being , he has provided diverse view of socialist type of society ,where all things are controlled by state but he himself was favoring classes society through proletarian class where he said after successful revolution the state will wither away but for bringing a revolution he was calling that Proletariat or working class should bring revolution or what he called “Workers have nothing to lose except their chains” What are the chains , chains are the forcefully legitimized exploitation of labour through unjust laws based on injustice and inequality in capitalist society.

Man’s potential, for Marx, is a given potential; man is, as it were, the human raw material which, as such, can’t be changed like human brain structure has remained the same since the dawn of human civilization. Yet man can change the history and change the society as he has well said “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point is however to change it” In fact the Marx wants to convey the message that it is a time to change the structure and institutions of the society but which way, will the ways and lanes suggested by Marx liberate the human beings from exploitation and oppression no, it is now the authoritarian rule again of few who want to take control of resources and forcing human being that you are liberate in the name of freedom and justice. While suggesting changes through revolution in the society Marx was unaware that he is himself creating a class .However, it is undeniable fact that Marxism is a still a tool of investigation and it has still relevance till the human exploitation is existing and the western fallacies based structure is working who are exploiting the human beings and Marxism itself is no exception to it without the fallacies.

When it comes to Dr.Ali Shariati, He has not only criticized the capitalism and Marxism in vacuum but has also provided alternative routes how to avoid both extreme ideologies and adopt a golden mean , like in his book , “Man, Marxism and Islam” , “Today in opposition to Marx who believes that the negation of God is the condition for mans salvation and in material satisfaction of human being lies the success” are the well consented manufactured lies, yes we need a system , we need an ideology to live ,but what kind of ideology and system will provide you good and decent living” Now what is the alternative route to avoid these two extreme end routes who reduce human beings in separate apartments and divide them into different dimensions while reviving human beings and to infuse them a true spirit of ,what does it mean to be a human being Islam and religion of revolution has a great reputation in this regard how to avoid utopian and the life based on fallacies and extreme ends. Islam doesn’t limit man to just a moral being but has provided him a complete system to analyse man in multiple directions to alleviate the man from distress and extremism, poverty, alienation from being what really a man is and what his role is in the society and towards a system and what society and system in return has a role towards a human beings individually as well as collectively .

Conclusion:-

In it is the role of system and ideologies to work for the human beings not in partial ways , like what is beneficial for him he should take that and what is harmful for him he should leave that rather he should work to remove the harmful things in the system ,just like Imam Ali (as) in one of the sermon of Nahjul-Balaghah elucidates, this point in the fallowing manner “ O people .actually that which brings together a community and a society and human beings and imparts unity in thought and action and to a common fate to it for living a complete life in all dimensions is the common feeling of approval of good things working for equality, justice ,marinating law and order and furnishing human beings is the common feelings of approval and disapproval for establishing an egalitarian society”

Leave Your Feedback