The triumphant traditionalists demand that we wipe our memory clean, and forget the rebellion they enjoined at the turn of the decade, when answers were apparently easy and divine right on their side.
And now those same short-sighted scholars, who could not anticipate the anarchy that would unfold, tell us that they are the answer to all this madness. That they alone can deliver us from this nightmare, with their grand appeals to traditional Sunni Islam, which gave the world 1400 years of peace and security.
It is as if they dwell in cloud cuckoo land, oblivious to the impact of their own words on the world we live in, and yet still their disciples hang on their every word, celebrating their impenetrable insight and their indisputable appeals to truth. And the rest of us: we are to nod our heads unflinchingly, to sigh with relief, to celebrate our glorious inheritance, so perfect and fair and true, in the face of this momentary aberration in the space-time continuum.
So we are told with almost convincing certainty that Muslim societies have never faced a challenge as great as this, neither from the ravages of colonialism nor the forays of Umayyad rule, nor from the devastation wrought by the Mongol Empire or the plunder of the Crusades — and never have we witnessed the rise of such a heresy before, so profound and alien and unworthy of respect as the scourge of ISIS and its ideology.
Of course, here collective, communal amnesia is an absolute necessity. Ignorance is not just recommended, but a precondition for all that follows. You shall not ask about the witch-hunts of old, when Mutazila scholars were declared heretics, or of physical armed conflict between followers of the different schools, or of scholarly rulings in ancient tomes which stick out like a sore thumb. No, you shall numb all such questions, and turn away from them, and push them away, and deposit them in the dustbin of your mind, to be forgotten, ignored, erased — and instead you shall nod your head, and applaud the speaker for his irrefutable claims and wise words.
So go on: applaud. Forget about everything the scholars told you half a decade ago, with their call to arms against the cruel dictator, when the rebellion was supposed to be the harbinger of the promised one — a short-lived, temporary struggle that would usher in a new epoch of peace and justice. Obliterate from your minds their once-wise counsel, which accidentally opened doors that should forever have remained firmly closed. Overlook all that, and lend your ear once more!
Turn not to experts and authorities specialising in security, intelligence and education, or psychology and defence. Turn instead to venerable ulema: they alone can save these easily-brainwashed young minds. Only these noble sages can defeat the poisonous ideology of hate. It is for the ulema to decide how to defeat this ideology. And the panacea is clear: the revival of mainstream Sunni Islam is the miracle elixir, to be consumed like medicine, dispensed by eminent physicians of pure mind and erudite learning.
So let’s be Alice once more. Just because we found ourselves out of our depth and unable to unlock the doors before us when we sipped from the last bottle labelled ‘Drink Me’, it does not mean we should turn away from a piece of cake that begs us, ‘Eat me’. You never know what doors may open, if only you take your chance.
So listen to the wise one once more. Take heed of his remedy for all of our ills. It is the traditionalism of the four schools, though obviously not the parts of the schools which call us to replicate the behaviour of the ideologues we so condemn. It is the traditionalism of the state guided by the ulema, though obviously not the ulema who sanctioned the actions brought to life by the ideologues we condemn. It is that traditionalism of old, which has room for everyone to express his opinion in the most respectful way, so long as he is not a heretic or an apostate, or lay person. In short, it is the traditionalism of our imagination, which is everything our opposite is not.
So join us now, and come with us down our rabbit hole.