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Said Halim Pasha and orientalizing ...

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Category: Culture & Community
Forum Name: Islamic Personalties
Forum Discription: Shahabah, Scholars, Leaders
Printed Date: 22 May 2018 at 4:48am
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Topic: Said Halim Pasha and orientalizing ...
Posted By: Mustafaa
Subject: Said Halim Pasha and orientalizing ...
Date Posted: 02 April 2005 at 5:54am

As-salaamu alaykum,

First of all, let us learn a little regarding the identity of Said Halim Pasha, the Turkish statesman and thinker who wrote the original non-English version of the main excerpt of this text.

Said Halim Pasha was a grandson of the famous Muhammad Ali of Egypt. In 1911, he became foreign minister of the Ottoman State. When Mahmud Shevket Pasha was killed in 1913, he was appointed as prime minister. He was against the participation of the Ottoman State in the First World War; therefore, when the Ottoman State decided to join the war despite him, he resigned his position in the government. Exiled by the victorious British to Malta after the post-war treaty, he was later released and he went to Rome. In 1921, he was assassinated, or rather, 'martyred' by an Armenian militant in Rome. (Pay attention to the fact that he was not even in the government during the so-called Armenian genocide that took place during the First World War, in 1915.)

Now, let us learn about his intellectual identity.

A contemporary Ottoman author named Celal Nuri (the same as 'Jalaal Noori') wrote the following about him:

"Knowing Europe better than many westerners themselves, .... the Pasha is firstly a Muslim, secondly a Turk and thirdly an Ottoman. He produces his thought on his own; he does not like ready-made material in the least."

Regarding him, a Turkish author, the late Cemil Meric writes:

"A noteworthy contradiction of the post-Tanzimat [i.e. 19th century] Ottoman intellectuality: The Ottoman prime minister who waged a jihad against the cultural imperialism of Europe used to pen his texts in French."

Some people find it pathetic that we still argue about issues that Said Halim Pasha and others addressed very well almost a century ago.

Please keep in mind that the Pasha was a prominent man of a collapsing but splendid State, of a tired and wretched nation and of a mistreated and dishonoured ummah. Since he was also a statesman of one of the grandest states in history, he had to find effective and rational solutions to the problems of his civilization and people. With these in mind, we can now listen to him speaking. Thus spoke Said Halim Pasha in The Crisis of Our Thought, published in 1919 (the highlights are mine):

"Yes, imitation of the West has brought us into a complete failure. Nevertheless, we have to avail ourselves of this civilization on a vast scale. However, the way to do this is not foolish imitation. We have to learn lessons from the experiences of other nations. To avail ourselves of a foreign civilization is possible through making it fit our own civilization and making it closer to our own.

"We must orientalize the European [i.e. Western] civilization. Such a desire will develop our ability of researching and of reasoning and will stimulate our effort to learn. In this way, we will know both our own civilization and that of the West more closely.

"The superiority of the West stems from its scientific mentality and empirical method. If we examine ourselves by means of the same mentality and method, then we realize that our thought, our moral, political and social beliefs completely stem from our religion. Then, we have to respect it very much. We must concede all the rights of Religion regarding us. Irreligion is a deviation of the Latin mentality and not a sign of intellectual superiority.

"The traditions and laws of a nation constitute its spiritual motherland, which is more valuable than the land that it lives on . . . What a great unwariness is it that a nation like us that spills its own blood abundantly in order to protect its physical motherland shows this much lack of concern and lack of respect for its spiritual motherland!"

There is no deity but Allah. Muhammad is the (last) Messenger of Allah.

Posted By: Mustafaa
Date Posted: 02 April 2005 at 5:55am

At first, I was inclined to find Said Halim Pasha less ummatist (ummatist = believing in the unity of all the Muslim Ummah, not just a particular nation or country) and more patriotic than necessary. However, now I suppose that it would be pompous of us to think so. He was a good Muslim, and most likely he knew the importance of what I call 'ummatism' better than all of us.

The reason why he mentioned the notions of 'nation' and 'motherland' so frequently is that he wrote in a late Ottoman intellectual environment that was full of nationalists, westernizationists, fiery patriots, etc. This is how I see his approach: In order to respond to these people's claims about the direction that his state should take, he felt that there was a need to use language akin to theirs. In fact, he was what many people call an Islamist, and he was an ummatist and a true Muslim.

There is no deity but Allah. Muhammad is the (last) Messenger of Allah.

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