Full Sails Ahead

by Nadia Yassine

Translated from the French by Farouk Bouasse
Published in the USA – Copyright © 2006

fullSailsAheadCoverPageBack

fullSailsAheadCoverPageFron

Content

TRANSLATOR’S FOREWORD

EDITOR’S FOREWORD

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

I. WAVERINGS
1. A PARTICULAR THIRST
2. PHILOSOPHICAL VERTIGO
3. THE SOUL’S RUIN
4. CREATING THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
5. DISINFORMATION
II. TURBULENT COLLISIONS
1. SALUTARY CONTACT
2. AN ENEMY TO OVERTHROW
3. REROUTING HISTORY
III. NEW HORIZONS
1. HEAVEN AND EARTH REUNITED
2. A NOT SO SIMPLE PAST
3. IN THE LAND OF OUR BACKWASH
4. THE MESSAGE, THE COMPASS
5. THE MESSAGE AND KNOWLEDGE
EPILOG
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Translator’s Foreword

NADIA YASSINE is the eldest daughter of Imam Abdessalam Yassine, the renowned Muslim scholar and theorist whose thinking is gradually becoming known to the English-speaking audience now that two of his books (out of more than 30) have been translated into English: Winning the Modern World for Islam, translated from the French in 2000; and The Muslim Mind on Trial: Revelation versus Secular Rationalism, translated from the Arabic in 2003.

Nadia Yassine is a prominent figure of Islamic renascence not only in her native Morocco, but internationally as well. Through interviews with international news papers, magazines, and TV channels, she has expounded the views of the movement Jama’at al-‘Adl wa’l-Ihsan (Justice and Spirituality Association, hereafter JSA) regarding domestic and foreign issues of concern to the Muslim world.

In Full Sails Ahead Yassine invites her readers-Westerners in particular but Muslims as well-to set out on a voyage aboard a fictional boat towards Islam as originally revealed.

Two major concerns motivate the book. The first and main concern is to call to mind the meaning of our transient passage on earth what awaits us after death, and especially how we can win the eternal bliss of the other life, the true life. The second concern is to rectify an image of Islam heavily skewed by a multitude of misconceptions. Such misconceptions prevent the Western mind from appreciating the true nature of the Islamic Message, the last message destined for mankind from the God of mankind.

Dispelling firmly entrenched misconceptions is no easy task. Their powerful grip on the Western collective memory owes largely to the assiduous work of a particularly malevolent orientalism. To this has been coupled the singularly dishonorable image of Islam given by its official and unofficial representatives.

The author relies on her readers’ temerity and determination to know the secret of their existence, even as she relies on them to engage in this opened avenue of dialog. Only through such dialog can misgivings and apprehension toward the Other be relieved, and a foundation laid for a future relationship founded on mutual respect, solidarity, and altruistic work for the common good of humanity.

The book opens with a preface responding to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The introduction then sets the stage for the argument of the book and explains the author’s motivations in writing it.

Part I, Waverings, casts light on the environment that imprisons the Western mind. The first chapter diagnoses the evident evil of unbridled modernity and draws attention to its various manifestations. The chapters that follow discuss the powerful aspects of that world and the ways in which it weakens receptivity to the Message of a truly just society, and curbs the will to progress.

In Part II, Turbulent Collisions, Yassine takes on the obstacles to understanding erected by a Western tradition maintained out of fear or hatred of Islam. She examines certain attitudes and contests the arguments maintained by a particular line of thought.

In Part III, New Horizons, the author strives to present Islam as it originally was. Historical deviations are recalled, particularly as they have affected the development of Muslim societies. Yassine comments broadly on the roots of decadence and endeavors to rid Islam of the scars of Muslim history. Sustained self-criticism, she maintains, is called for: it is all too easy an evasion to cast responsibility upon others for maintaining the fog that envelops the Islamic Message and deceives the inquisitive mind.

The epilog is a re-invitation to read islam with new eyes and a new heart. In it we are reminded of the stations of islam (islam, iman, ihsan) and are urgently called to save the destiny of humankind through mutual cooperation and understanding, rather than conflicts and hostilities.

Clearly, Full Sails Ahead comes within the scope of the missionary work of the Justice and Spirituality Association, which proposes to Moroccan society and to the whole Muslim world a communitarian and humanitarian project. This project would direct the efforts of the Islamic renascence to reconstructing the shattered edifice of the Muslim nation.

According to the JSA, Muslims are living in a positively critical period. Throughout the Islamic world, the rebirth of Islam is the harbinger of a total awakening. The Islamic world is heading for the promise of the last of the Prophets. Muhammad (grace and peace upon him) informed Muslims that their dismembered Islamic world would be reunited. He gave the glad tidings of the coming, after centuries of despotic rule, of a second caliphate.

The ordeals the Muslim world is now undergoing are divine tests intended to shake it out of its current torpor and prepare it to undertake once again the sublime mission of which it has been the depository. Victory and unity will surely come about, but Muslims must pay its price through their diligent work and boundless sacrifice.

That is why the book primarily enjoins Muslims to know the truths of Islam, their history, and the roots of the evils that have brought about their decline. The author urges them, once they know these evils and the means to combat them, to take part in the slow but sure effort of reconstruction. The details of the methods to be used, the phases to be covered, and the conditions to be met are elaborately expounded in the books of the author’s father, Imam Abdessalam Yassine.

The author appeals as well to the wise people of the West to learn the universal dimension of the Islamic Message and to take part in establishing justice and peace worldwide. The West, as evidenced, for instance, by demonstrations there (as indeed elsewhere around the world) against the unjust and ill-intentioned war on Iraq, deservedly boasts countless people of good will who desire to live in peace with their brothers and sisters in humanity, irrespective of their religious creeds, races, cultures, and civilizations.

The challenge ahead is for sincere people everywhere to work in unison to curb the evil intentions of fanatics and lunatics of all stripes-enemies of mankind who wreak mischief on earth and sow discord between peoples, warmongers animated by sentiments of hatred and rancor who thrive only in periods of unrest, self-centered people who sacrifice the peace of humanity and world stability on the altar of their parochial interests.

I wish to express my gratitude here to many friends in England and America whose assistance was invaluable. I wish to thank in particular my Muslim brothers: Ahmed Dallal, Hassan Elannani, and Muhammad Hjaoua. Special thanks as well to Imad Benjelloun, my Muslim brother and Justice and Spirituality Publishing President, for the interest and care he has commendably accorded to publishing this book. I am also indebted to the author, Nadia Yassine, for her remarkably precious counsels.

Finally, I address singular thanks to respected Professor Martin Jenni for his remarkable vetting of the translation.
To you, dear reader, I wish an agreeable voyage in the company of the author towards the original nature of Islam.

Review by Professor Martin Jenni

IT IS FITTING that the English-language version of a book inviting both Muslims and non-Muslims on a voyage toward new horizons should have engaged the labors of both a Muslim translator and a non-Muslim editor. My role as the latter was to prepare the text for an American readership.

The task, despite my colleague’s diligent translation, was a challenging one. As Nadia Yassine herself admits, the argument of the book was largely directed at a distinctly literate francophone readership, both in Europe and in the former French colonies of North Africa; and while the two groups differ in many ways-as colonizers and colonized, globalists and (all too frequently) the victims of globalization-they share in a common culture that on many fronts stands in marked contrast to the American experience, both before and after the decisive events of September 11, 2001. Thus, a good deal more than translation from one language to another (demanding enough in itself) is at stake here.

A language such as French or English (or our author’s native Arabic) brings with it an entire world of contexts and associations. Madame Yassine’s eloquent command of “the language of Voltaire” is everywhere evident in the original, not only in the amazing breadth of her sources, current and classical, but also, and particularly, in the nature of her argumentation, the omnivorous scope of her reading, by her very personal response to the (sometimes bitter) lessons of her distinctly French education.

While Yassine’s penetrating assessment of the West, especially as the purveyor of materialist and spiritually rootless modernity, speaks plainly and forcefully, her discussion of Western secularism is directed almost exclusively to the peculiarly French development of laïcité. Her statistical evidence for the radical decline in the West in the number of practicing Christians, while more broadly representative of much of Europe, stands in marked contrast with the American scene, where polls swing wildly in the opposite direction. The situation in the United States, particularly at present, is one of a broadly based and politically active population of Christian conservatives with unprecedented representation in public office.

Yassine’s comparative study of the Bible and the Qur’an is founded, with regard to the former, on well-established (chiefly Germanic) critical scholarship; still, its findings would offend the large number of American adherents of biblical inerrancy-though these are, alas, unlikely to be reading a book whose major thrust is to present, with conviction and remarkable candor, the serene Message of Islam.

More receptive non-Muslim readers will surely wish to explore the topic further; in this respect, the chapter titled “The Islamic View of Christianity” in Murad Hoffmann’s Islam: The Alternative (2nd enlarged ed., Amana Publications, 1999) will be of particular interest.

In presenting this Message Madame Yassine demonstrates that she has deeply absorbed the wisdom of her revered and erudite father, Imam Abdessalam Yassine, from whom especially she has acquired a profound understanding of the Qur’an as well as a passion for a just and spiritually reawakened Islamic community. But upon this solid foundation she has been able to erect a compelling and remarkably enlightening argument of her own. Her frank analysis of Islamic history and the bold lessons she draws from it will surely astonish and encourage both Muslim and non-Muslim readers alike.

One of these lessons in particular, namely the restoring of Islamic womanhood to its full and original role-“a generation of responsible and free women . . . the equal of men in the eyes of God and of his Messenger”-is breathtaking and inspiring.

It is a long-awaited restoration Yassine not only advocates but embodies. What is perhaps most remarkable about this book is that its author really has two distinct readerships in mind and that she has been able to reach both in ways that intersect to their mutual advantage. To the Muslim it is a clear call for pro found renewal of the Islamic vision and vocation; to the reflective Westerner it is an illuminating and engaging lesson. To both it extends an invitation to journey together in mutual understanding toward a singular goal.

Key issues

  • What is the secret behind the modern man’s thirst of “elsewhere?”
  • How can man’s heaven and earth be joined in Islam?
  • What glad tidings has Islam brought to mankind here below and in the Hereafter?
  • What differentiates the Qur’an from the other Scriptures?
  • Why is Descartes considered as the father of the modern ill-being?
  • Is Darwinism a scientific theory or an ideological revolt against the Church’s despotic spiritual power?
  • What kind of relationship did Islam have with the exact sciences?
  • How has communication transmuted into a dangerous tool of misinformation?
  • Are Islam and modernity antinomic? And are Islam and democracy antithetical?
  • Can Islam win globalization for its global message?
  • Why is Islam’s image so tarnished in the West?
  • How should the West deal with Islam as an ineluctable element in the making of the future world history?
  • Why was Islam eclipsed from the world scene?
  • Why is the mainstream of world history located in Europe?
  • What was the greatest ordeal in Islam’s tormented and eventful history?
  • How has the corruption of power brought about the Islamic world’s dismemberment?
  • Can Power be again at the service of the Message?
  • Where do the borders between ethics and politics lie in Islam?
  • What was the status of the Muslim woman in the lifetime of the Prophet (God bless him and grant him peace) and his four rightly guided successors? What change has such status undergone under the reign of the subsequent despotic rulers?

Introduction

Why the title Full Sails Ahead? Autosuggestion, certainly; self-encouragement in order to brave a stormy sea.

Why Full Sails Ahead? To invite you on a voyage of sincerity-perhaps also of severity. At a time when the media strive to make bloody lunatics of all on board, such an invitation will surely seem naïve. Yet they will be raising full sails all the same.

It will not be seen as pure coincidence if the word voiles appears in the title of a book written by a veiled woman. Freudians will not fail to sniff out in that title the metaphor for an abortive attempt. Let me defuse from the outset any such psychoanalytical sallies. My use of the word voile has nothing at all to do with repression! It is well and truly a clear allusion that I proclaim in all consciousness, one that I assume in my title as well as in my life.

But this book, I hasten to reassure my reader, is in no way intended as a panegyric to the scarf. Islam, whatever we may think of its enemies-or indeed of its supporters-is more than a square of fabric. If the former consider the veil an ostentatious and menacing sign, the latter all too often fall into an opaque vision of islam. For them, islam is reduced to a show of clothing, and the dress of the veiled woman becomes for them a veritable obsession.

Hoisting high my sails, I too can be provocative, for French, the language that I have borrowed to write in, has waged war on “three girls and a scarf.” I hoist them because I know that in a world where the image reigns, being provocative is the only way to hold people’s attention.

I will use and misuse what Colette once called the “tyranny of words” with the intention of attracting eyes that have become disillusioned by too much communication, and of shaking consciences made languid by too much conformity. Self-important minds will find my words insolent noise, but that may draw their attention. They may indeed wake up on the wrong foot-the words will perhaps have been a bit too acrid-yet an awakening, no matter how it comes about, is always more fitting than comatose lethargy.

The reader will not fail to notice my fury against France, more than any other Western country. The reason for this attitude should not be hard to understand; many parameters may be taken into account. The first of these is my education. Of all the western countries I know France the best, since I have been in steady con tact with its culture. Besides, there is always a tendency-indeed an interest-to take on what one knows full well.

The second parameter is that France has effectively played a primordial and central role in the formation of western culture. According to Anne-Marie Thiesse, the primary cause behind European nationalism was a desire to escape from French cultural hegemony. Speaking of the European struggle against the French cultural model that invaded European circles, she writes:

The struggle against conventionality merges indeed with an offensive against French cultural hegemony. In eighteenth-century Europe, French is not only the language of Versailles, but that of most European circles. French culture was able to assert itself as being the most accomplished expression of the literate, a model that could be imitated but never equaled. The brilliance of the French sun allows for mere reflections elsewhere.

Criticizing France therefore amounts to criticizing the leader of Western culture and thus rends honor to whom honor is due.

Full Sails Ahead. I therefore hoist my sails in order to “speak up” following Pierre Bourdieu’s advice in his dialog with Günter Grass. I will bear this precious advice in mind, even though I may seem obnoxious to many because I belong to a category of persons whom some would not like to have a say at all.

Full Sails Ahead. In particular I hoist my sails for love of the high seas of the mind. I hoist them on the mast of an imaginary ship in order to offer a change of scene to those who have grown bored. I hoist them for those whose life resembles that of a draught animal endlessly pulling and turning the millstone.

I then write for those who no longer have the courage to go round in circles and have at last the audacity to gaze at themselves in the mirror, those who have the nerve to think differently. I write for albatrosses, those who feel to be in their element only in the heights of unknown skies.

I am writing for you, Sisyphus.

Is it not time to rid yourself of your burdens and the punishment no god inflicted upon you-one in fact, you imposed on yourself? Hasn’t the time come to free yourself of evil forces that hold you without holding you back, forces that bleed you white but do not kill you, that use you but do not exhaust you, that burn you but do not consume you?
Sisyphus of all nations, revolt! make the effort! You are dangerously draining yourself. Your wound is open and your truth is fleeing from you.

Full Sails Ahead. I am neither the fi rst nor the last to use the metaphor of a voyage. Many before me have done so, and many will surely do so after me. This is perhaps because no matter who we are, where we are, or which time we live in, we think of ourselves as voyagers by vocation.

Initiated by the Creator, the Prophet Muhammad (grace and peace be upon him) knew our profound nature and advised his disciples, “Live this life as voyagers.”
Supreme wisdom! Wisdom itself!

Writing in a most secular language in order to establish contact with a certain frame of mind, I will content myself for the moment with this saying of the Messenger. I am forcing myself for the same reasons by using references that are closer to the French-speaking subconscious. Aware of the fact that some minds will only respond to imagery drawn from Greek mythology, I will use it time and again while praying God to pardon me the blasphemy inherent in pagan mythologies. There is no god but God. Once having inhaled a breath of fresh air in this pure saying from the mouth of the Prophet, I dive with no breathing apparatus into the inanity of Greek “wisdom.”

One can scarcely speak of voyaging without evoking Ulysses. I cannot, on the other hand, remember the account of the episodes of this hero without thinking of what I read between the lines. While Homer retraced for me Ulysses’ steps, it was, strangely enough, the image of Penelope that made an impression on me. My regard for this woman came more from a profound existential feeling than from a quibbling feminist point of view. As I read further, I told myself that no matter what setbacks that hero faced, he was surely happier than his alter ego languishing in his absence. All the while he was collecting the trophies of wisdom, in the end, the only thing his wife cultivated and reaped was fidelity. The spirit of endurance and patience that Penelope symbolizes is much to her credit; still, forging ahead in life and changing will eternally remain an attitude more meritorious than suffering the assaults of time and suitors.

I firmly believe that the secret of life is progress. For while Ulysses’ poor wife sat at her loom weaving and undoing her weaving, he was braving, enduring, bearing, combating, transforming and being transformed, confronting, breathing the air of the open sea-in a word, he was living.

With the tale of these two spouses in mind, I invite my readers to journey with me with full sails ahead against wind and waters, against one-sided views and small-minded notions!

If you feel more like Penelope than Ulysses, read no further. Content yourself with weaving and undoing your weaving. Long for an alter ego who will never return. But if you feel more like Ulysses-then full sails ahead toward a new horizon!

I might have written instead, Lifting all veils, for I write not only from the desire to deal with objections and protests, but out of every Muslim’s duty to lift the obscuring veils that prevent the other from catching the message of the Qur’an, the ultimate Message intended and sent to all humankind by our Creator.

Thus chapter by chapter we shall progress step by step in a world where duplicities skew our sight and impoverish our being, so as to overcome them. How ever vehemently I may plead the case, it is out of love for all humankind that I write, love for all the citizens of the modern world whose accumulated misunderstandings threaten to deprive them of a ticket to a reenchanted world, a world reinhabited by humankind, the true humankind. One cannot help but sympathize deeply with the kind of person who has become a shadow of himself, a prisoner of his ego, deliberately oblivious to his essence and bereft of meaning.
My precise objective is to destroy the barriers that stand between this person and his primordial right to know the secret of his existence by recognizing God.

Before embarking, I must point out that this book has no academic pre tensions. I conceive of it first as a cry from the heart for which arguments serve as resonance chamber. It is no more and no less than a passionate invitation to a voyage toward meaning.