An Investigation of Creatio Ex Nihilo, Islam, Sociality and Inequality

An Investigation of Creatio Ex Nihilo, Islam, Sociality and Inequality

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9731-7.ch002
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Everyday life is abundant with interplay between ascribed and achieved statuses. Social structures are built upon those statuses and social behaviors are to great extent predictable based on those statuses. Socio-economic status (SES) is just one manifestation of this interplay. Indeed, sociality, the construction of all forms of stratifications and discourse on the relative significance of these attributes and their functions flows in various echelons and institutions of all societies; that is, from a granted ascribed status of a charismatic authority to those who routinize it, from a talented soothsayer to a learned magician, from a tribal medicine man to modern medical occupations. The old debate of nature versus nurture and a profusion of courses to develop leadership, occupational choices, psychological tests, arts and literatures all revolve around the demarcation of and interplay between granted and achieved statuses. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are prime examples of the implicit and explicit encompassing ascribed and achieved status in their theologies with social implications. Their problematic is to make the unknown knowable to us by using a variety of resources conceived to be true a priori. It is invariably in their nature, what they are, to bestow social and individual identity through that they nurture the believer. Contrary to other ascribed statuses such as gender, age and race, a believer, under free conditions, can flee from one religion to another pragmatically, agnostically, remain a theist outside of a specific religion's boundary, or leave it behind. Both the history of religious persecutions and the means by which, in the past, one believer recognized another, show the overriding power that ascribed status possesses to either keep the believer within their monopolistic bond of a religion or force them to convert. We have appropriated the Isma'ili Shi'ite understanding of dialectic reasoning, or aql and its manifestation in terms of rationality to make sense of the stratification systems that the human will creates and modifies in its pursuit of justice, and its conception of human agency in determination of one's destiny - an idea that resonates in Durkheim's assertion on creating something out of nothing, or creatio ex nihilo, in our view. Theologically, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all rely foundationally on creatio ex nihilo, or briefly, ex nihilo, according to which God created the world out of nothing. Given His attributes of omnipotence and omniscience, the question is to what extent the vocation of an individual is pre-elected, or willed by the individual's rational choices. This bewildering question appeared in classic Islam with the emergence of the Baghdad and Basra-based Mu'tazilite school of Islamic theology influenced by the Greeks and the traditionalist Ash'arite schools. This level of learning is achieved by the ‘ulama, combined with historical, political, and sociological discussions and contemporary findings on inequality and health is discussed.
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So long as scientific analysis has not yet taught him, man is well aware that he is acted upon but not by whom Thus he had to build out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) the idea of those powers with which he feels connected. From this we can perceive how he was led to imagine those powers in forms that are not their own and to transfigure them in thought (Durkheim, quoted by Lukes, 2012, emphasis added).



A discussion of the novel notion of creatio ex nihilo that is shared by Judaism and Christianity helps us to explore the complexity of its meaning in Islam and Islamic culture, and the sociological implications that rested upon this notion. Our multi-layered objectives in this chapter and the next are based on an analysis of structural functionalism synthesized with an interactionist perspective. This focus will shed light on a ‘status set’ composed of ascribed and achieved statuses as constructing blocks of social structure, stratification, social mobility as well as an interplay between those statuses in Sunni and Shi’ite Islam. Our investigative style is intended neither to propose the reconstruction of Islam nor to suggest the ‘Protestantization’ of Islam in response to the post-Reformation socio-economic implications of Protestantism, with its turn to individual achievements and dismantling of the Catholic Church’s representation of Jesus among other changes.

Although we have focused on the Islamic conception of sociality, and various constructions of ascribed and achieved statuses, a detailed comparative analysis shows that, regardless of their theologies, there are variations on the theme of inequality and reproduction of inequalities in all three monotheistic religions. Inequality is a structural component of all three. It starts with an assumption of chosen ethnicity through covenant, agreed-upon functional reciprocity between God and man, and formalized ascribed status of Jewish communal faith. We speak of inequality in terms of inter-religious cases, for example, between Jews, perceived as pariah, versus non-Jews. It seems plausible to argue that the contemporary division of orthodox, reformed and conservative branches, which encompasses individual freedom to choose while remaining within the boundaries of Judaism, can be traced back for centuries by absorption and interaction with the Hellenist legacy that granted high ascribed status to individualism.

As a derivative of Judaism, Christianity brought forth a new symmetric by which relations between God and man and the Law were replaced by granting the highest status to the Holy Spirit. This change turned Judaic reciprocity that was agreed upon by a covenant between God and the Jewish people into a concrete representative of God, that is, the historical Jesus. The Jewish boundary of race, ethnicity and religion thus became unbounded. All monotheistic religions have encountered inequality and devised mechanisms for reward and punishment to justify themselves and show concern for justice. The latter, that is, punishment was intended to keep the faithful within their boundary. Their claims for justice, to justify Jewish life by work, or Christianity’s dispensing of grace and salvation, rendered both pessimistic and optimistic views on life, and another-worldly conception of life in general. Jewish ethnic monopoly, as a chosen people with a ubiquitous ascribed status in relation to God, was modified by the central status of the Roman Catholic Jesus — especially with regard to his miraculous birth. Catholicism was then re-modified by the Protestant conception of separation of Church from the state returning it, in a sense, unto Caesar, and by retiring the organized and mediatory Church, returning charisma back to Jesus alone, with less hierarchical organizational construction. All of these changes, from the communal membership of Judaism reinforced by ethnicity and race superiority, to the non-ethnic organizational-spiritual and hierarchical Catholicism, to the least organizational sphere of Protestantism, granted renewed status to the believers. Experiencing a sense of integration, Jews even in diaspora kept their racial-ethnic significance and superiority.

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