While the internal situation of the Muslim world was favorable in the early 1970s (regained independence from the colonizers, training of religious elites in the West, unity of opinions on a draft of a constitution for an Islamic state…), it was the internal divisions that dominated from the late 1970s and early 1980s (Iranian revolution, Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, capture of the Great Mosque of Mecca, assassination of Sadat…).
While it is clear that external factors partly explain the crisis in the Muslim world (Israeli occupation, successive Gulf wars…), it is also necessary to take into consideration the depth of internal divisions in the Muslim world. Three questions can illustrate these divisions: 1) the question of morals —should all Islamic laws be preserved, and if so, should they really be applied, or should we ignore preserving these laws and officially abandoning certain parts of them?; 2) the question of the ideal Islamic political regime (caliphate, royalty, republic?), and 3) the question of the relationship to the past (return to an ideal past, selection and reinterpretation?)
Louis Massignon (1883‒1962) was one of the famous orientalists during the first part of the 20th c. His PHD was based on the life of a mystic Muslim, Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj (c. 858‒922), who was prosecuted and executed. Three factors explain his influence. First, his erudition combined with an exceptional strength of work which insured him to stay at the top of the discipline. Second, his connexion with the diplomatic services, which warranted him a political support. Third, his capacity to create a new path within the Catholic Church in which he became as much famous as contested. Some of his publications are meaningful of a specific conception in religious sciences. As the example of the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus” will show, he rejected some results of exegesis or archaeological researches, in the name of a common word crossing religious traditions.
Dominique Avon, « Islam und Muslime im europäischen Kontext. Reden eines medienwirksamen Menschen (1993‒2013) : Tariq Ramadan », in: Sabine Schmitz et Tuba Isik (dir.), Muslimische Identitäten in Europa. Dispositive im gesellschaftlichen Wandel, Transcript, Bielefeld, 2015, p. 267‒297.
Dominique Avon & Anaїs-Trissa Khatchadourian, Hezbollah: A history of the “Party of God” (translated by Jane Mary Todd), Harvard University Press, Harvard, 2012, 256 pages.
For thirty years, Hezbollah has played a pivotal role in Lebanese and global politics. That visibility has invited Hezbollah’s lionization and vilification by outside observers, and at the same time has prevented a clear-eyed view of Hezbollah’s place in the history of the Middle East and its future course of action. Dominique Avon and Anaïs-Trissa Khatchadourian provide here a nonpartisan account which offers insights into Hezbollah that Western media have missed or misunderstood.
Now part of the Lebanese government, Hezbollah nevertheless remains in tension with both the transnational Shiite community and a religiously diverse Lebanon. Calling for an Islamic regime would risk losing critical allies at home, but at the same time Hezbollah’s leaders cannot say that a liberal regime is the solution for the future. Consequently, they use the ambiguous expression “civil but believer state.”
What happens when an organization founded as a voice of “revolution” and then “resistance” occupies a position of power, yet witnesses the collapse of its close ally, Syria? How will Hezbollah’s voice evolve as the party struggles to reconcile its regional obligations with its religious beliefs? The authors’ analyses of these key questions—buttressed by their clear English translations of foundational documents, including Hezbollah’s open letter of 1985 and its 2009 charter, and an in-depth glossary of key theological and political terms used by the party’s leaders—make Hezbollah an invaluable resource for all readers interested in the future of this volatile force.
Director of Studies in section 5 (Religious Sciences — Sunni Islam) of the École pratique des hautes études, Dominique Avon taught in Egypt (1992‒1994), in Lebanon (2004‒2005) and in the United States (2014).
He is member of the GSRLResearch Center (UMR 8582). His scientific field of research includes religious phenomena, scholars and the history of ideas.
Together with Professor John Tolan, Dominique Avon is co-director of the Institute of Religious Pluralism and Atheism (IPRA).
He is also the coordinator of the academic community named HEMED (Euro-Mediterranean History).