There is arguably a lot to hate about Facebook. I am thinking of tracking people’s online activities for mere capitalist interests. I am thinking about the manipulation of people’s minds by feeding them with certain informations and by doing so having an influence on major elections—just think of the Brexit or the last presidential elections in the US.

But I have to confess, that to a certain degree I still like Facebook. In fact, I like Facebook, because I am constantly tracked. Call me crazy, but because of being tracked I sometimes get very interesting recommendations of groups and articles on Facebook. I wouldn’t be aware of their existence without being tracked. I don’t know in detail how those ingenious algorithms work, but I know that they often do. Today they worked. I discovered a Facebook group called חכמת נשים, literally “Wisdom of the Females.”

“Wisdom of the Females” posted the picture of a poster portraying “the Kotel Plaza.” The Kotel is the so-called Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City and the plaza is the relatively huge square in front of it. On this very poster, the females have been ‘eradicated’ by being painted over with a spray can. Surely, this can easily be understood as an act of misogyny. In certain branches of Judaism, the extreme or fundamentalist one’s, females should not be looked at, if it is not your own wife or female child—not even accidentally. Therefore, since the age of the Rabbinic sages, males and females have to be separated. According to the orthodox, in public transportation services males sit in front, while females sit in the back; in Synagogues females sit either on balconies, opposite to the direction of prayer, or they sit behind a mechitzah, a physical, mostly wooden partition of the room; males and females should not walk on the same sidewalks. Wherever men gather, especially in order to direct themselves towards the divine, the presence of the feminine has to disappear from the male perception.

Surely, this can easily be understood as misogyny, and if it isn’t misogyny, one at least has to find the answer to several deriving questions. Just to name a few: Why are men so easily distracted by females? Are women not also attracted by the physical appearance of men? If that’s the case, why are men all the time being literally on display, even while they are dancing in the Synagogue, which surely must have an arousing effect on some women?

Well, I do not intend to answer questions like these nor do I want to argue either for or against the interpretation of the separation of males and females as an act of misogyny. Instead I want to suggest an alternative reading of this phenomenon of the isolation of the feminine.

Whatever the female appearance might induce in man, the prohibition of looking into female face, the prohibition to encounter the female visage in a Levinassian sense, is not a singular one in the Ancient Israelite and Rabbinic-Jewish tradition. According to Ex 33:20, Moses, venerated by Jews until today as “our teacher” and the prophet in the Hebrew Bible who was as close to God as no other prophet, was not allowed to look upon the face or visage of God. “And he (God) said: ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’” (ויאמר לא תוכל לראת את־פני כי לא־יראני האדם וחי) And like Moses before, the High-Priest was prohibited of glancing at God’s appearance—that’s why he had to fill the Holy of Holies with smoke before addressing God on Yom Kippur. No human creature is allowed to see God’s face.

Hence, is it not surprising that the only other thing man is prohibited from looking at, or to be even more precise: males are prohibited from looking at, are females? Is it imaginable that the feminine visage has the same status as the divine? Could the feminine image be as sacred as the divine image? That might be the case. At least there is quite some effort taken to isolate the feminine face or feminine visage as much from ordinary everyday life as was taken to isolate the divine visage in ancient times or to isolate the Torah, the divine revelation written upon a scroll, having a divine status. In a strict sense you could say that you are not just prohibited from looking into the feminine face, but that you cannot simply look into the face of the sacred feminine and expecting to henceforth keep on living one more moment among your people without atonement. Or to put it differently: looking upon the sacred feminine means to die in front of the divine. Therefore, I would argue that the female face has the same status as other incarnations of the divine and that the archetype of the sacred feminine manifests itself in every (Jewish) female being.

So yes, there is a kind of gender inequality existing in certain branches of Rabbinic Judaism, there are (ordinary) men and women, the living embodiments of the sacred feminine.


Sometimes I wonder which times we live in? According to the Slovenian enfant terrible of modern-day philosophy, Slavoj Žižek, we are living in the end times. A rather reserved claim compared to American political scientist Francis Fukuyama, who declared already in 1992 “The End of History.”

To me time is strange. I mean, time not just as a philosophical or physical concept, but the actual time we are living in—our time, the here and now. So to be more correct: our time is strange. Well, I admit that “strange” is a strange word. Of course, I use the word “strange” in order to label something I have no words for or circumstances I can’t really explain. Adding the word “strange” to a phrase functions like an audible pause like a sigh, combined with a facial expression of consternation, infused with a pinch of indignation. Watching the news or following the media these days often leaves me like this.

You have probably heard of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who founded the initiative “Fridays For Future.” Greta Thunberg got pretty famous by now. Time magazine listed her among the 25 most influential teenagers of 2018. She and her followers, foremost pupils, are on protests every Friday, walking down city-centers and therefore are skipping school. Last Friday she was marching in Germany’s capital Berlin. The intention of those weekly demonstrations is widely known. The young generation wants the adults, especially the politicians to act worldwide.

Protesting in Germany, Ms. Thunberg could strike two flies with one stone. She not just defended her cause far from home, but also received a German award called “Goldene Kamera” or golden camera—the German version of the Golden Globe Award. Just to make this clear from the beginning: I am not one of those haters, who are spilling their disdain over the 16 year old activist. Since nearly every action, product or entertainment today is rewarded in one way or the other, so why not an activist with an ethically very valuable motive? Hence, from my point of view, neither Greta Thunberg nor what she’s doing or standing for is strange. But something rather strange happened after she received the award. A German actress, not much older than Greta Thunberg, who also won one award that night was given a SUV from Volkswagen.

“What?”, you might ask in doubt. “Is that true?” Yes, it is! In today’s Germany, in one and the same event, it is possible to award a climate activist for her effort to raise awareness of the necessity to intervene in any further polution of the environment by carbon dioxide emissions and to give away a huge car, which is obviously anything but environmentally friendly.

According to my understanding, the apperent hypocrisy is anything but a coincidence. So why do we do it. Of course, not everyone of the over 80 million German inhabitants voluntarily gave or would have given the award to Ms. Thunberg nor the SUV to the actress. Still the media event represents in a surprisingly crisp and crystal-clear way how we think and act.

Under the dictate of today’s moral tyranny we not just like to pamper our moral self by giving awards to teenage girls with serious agendas, but we are forced to do it—regardless of whether we want this by conviction or not. Being morally right on the surface is what is expected of us, but nothing we have achieved by intensive reflection on what is morally right or at least justifiable and what isn’t. Therefore, the moral surface doesn’t say anything about our actual or moral attitude, but it makes us unassailable, since ostensibly we are standing on the right side of the public moral code, which is in fact the previously mentioned moral tyranny of our age.

Part of today’s moral tyranny is the perception that the older generation did basically everything wrong. The youngsters claim that the old gamble away their future. The older you are the more wrong you must be. I might be exaggerating, but isn’t it strange that the protesters of “Fridays For Future” are not in general asking themselves how their actions cause carbon dioxide emissions, which obviously happens everyday by using smartphones, tablet PCs, Computers, gaming consoles, etc.? The truth is, we, the young and the old and those in between, are all part of the same game.

Isn’t it strange that “Fridays For Future” doesn’t mean ‘let us be different tomorrow or in the distant future than the old of today?’ This resembles a lot the generation of 1968, which according to the historian David Engels hated a thousand years culture and to a certain degree themselves, I would add. Back then, the young protesters stood up against the Fat Cats of their time. But did they knew back then, that they eventually will become the Fat Cats of tomorrow? In fact some of them did. Some of the activists of 1968 became those Fat Cats “Fridays For Future” is more or less directly protesting against today. Our times are strange.

The strangest thing about the strange is, that once you’ve noticed that there is something strange around you—though not necessarily close to you—, you’ll be stumbling over the strange everywhere. Yesterday I have read about an assistant medical director in a German hospital, coming from the Middle East, insisting on only operating with males. The outrage is huge—not really surprising, if you take into consideration the en vogue moral attitude of the public. “How can he be such a chauvinist?”, one might ask. True, it totally taste like gender inequality. But before burning him publicly at the stake, we should take a step back—at least for one moment. The strange part of modern moral tyranny, as I’ve called it before, is the of everyone expected unconditional respect towards every culture, which includes religions, and race, if you still think in this category—you better don’t, since all man are equal. Surely, all man are equal and there is no higher or lesser, no good or bad culture—cultures are equal as well (Oswald Spengler). But, and that’s the point, they are equal but not the same. The moral tyranny of today demands at least two unreconcilable requests, namely gender equality and unconditional tolerance towards every culture but one’s own. The former (gender equality) is unfortunately in most of the case being reduced to a quantitative level and not a qualitative one—this is often overlooked by activists and politicians, including feminists; while in the eyes of the advocates of moral tyranny the latter is only wonderful on the surface and as long as it works according to their, the modern-day moral tyrants demands. This is in fact nothing else but orientalism, disguised in new fashion.

Or to put it differently: “Everything about you—you in your otherness, you the foreigner, you with your different ‘background,’ you with your different culture—is wonderful, marvelous, but of course only as long as you are like us! Your difference has to match our identity.”

Our times are indeed strange.


The following text is some kind of experiment. There are philsophical reflections on basically everything, but there is still little compared to the size of the religion reflected here, namely Islam. Since I am not a representative of Islamic Theology (kalām), I neither present any school of Islamic thinking nor school (madhhab) of Islamic law (fiqh). By reflecting on Islam I hope not to hurt anyones feelings and I am fully aware of the fact that the following relatively short text is unable to do Islamic thinking any justice at all. Still, I hope to encourage people to reflect on all the fascinating aspects of the second largest religion in this world and share their ideas.

PART I – the Tawāf around the Ka‘bah

(Although I do not intend to write about the following topic from a scholarly perspective, I guess it is important to provide some information for the reader, since the reader might not be all too familiar with the topic and its context.)

At the center of Sunni Islam there exist five essential concepts one should follow, which are called pillars or arkān. Those pillars are no decrees you have to believe in, but things you are obliged to do. One, to be exact the fifth of those pillars of Islam is the seven days long pilgrimage, in Arabic hajj, in and close to Mecca—the other pillars are the confession (shahādah), the prayer (salāh) five times a day, the alms-giving (zakāh), and the fasting (sawm) during the month of Ramadān. This pilgrimage should be done once in a lifetime by every adult Muslim, no matter the age or gender, who is physically and financially capable of going on this journey to the harām ash-sharīf, the holiest place in Islam. Once you reach the harām, you will find in its center a nearly 50 feet (ca. 15 meters) high building, which looks like a cube and therefore is called “cube” or Ka‘bah. The Ka‘bah is made of volcanic stone and shrouded in a black veil, embroidered with passages from the Qur’ān in gold. Built into its structure on the Ka‘bahs eastern edge one finds a black stone, probably a meteorite—the meteorites frame is made of silver.

In pre-Islamic times, Muslims until today call this era pejoratively jahiliyya, the time of ignorance, the Ka‘bah was the house of many Arabian gods. After Muhammad along with his followers conquered Mecca in 630 CE, the year eight according to the inner-Islamic calculation of times, he emptied the Ka‘bah, which means that he removed all of the 300 pre-Islamic gods or from a Muslim perspective, idols. According to tradition, after the Ka‘bah was emptied and purified, only an icon of Maria (Maryam) with her baby boy Jesus (‘Isā) remained. From the Muslim perspective, the Ka‘bah was ever since the house of Allāh, the Arabic word for God.

Like in pre-Islamic times, the whole complex of hajj’s rituals, starts with the so-called tawāf, a seven times counter clockwise circling around the Ka‘bah, which is a kind physically expressed focus on something particular. If there is something like a local center of Islam—originally Jerusalem until the second half of the 620s—then it is the Ka‘bah and not just once in a lifetime, but in fact five times a day during prayer. This means where ever you as an observant Muslim are on planet earth, Antarctica or Europe, Asia or America, Africa or Oceania, you are directing yourself towards Mecca for prayer. The caput mundi for Muslims, the capital or center of the world, is neither Jerusalem nor Rome as each of them is for Jews and Christians, but the Ka‘bah in Mecca. Interestingly, the Ka‘bah does not loose its gravitational pull the moment the observant Muslim comes as close to the black veiled cube as to be able to touch it. What I mean by this is that the focus on the Ka‘bah remains while circling around it. But at the center of this center, there is nothing, the inside of the Ka‘bah is empty. Of course, according to Muslim tradition, the Ka‘bah is the house of God, but God is neither living inside the Ka‘bah in a literal sense nor condescending right in it. In a strict sense this means, that there is nothing. There is nothing inside, which does not mean that there is nothingness. Following Emmanuel Levinas (Dieu, la Mort et le Temps 1993), nothingness is inevitable bound to being: “All nothingness is the nothingness of something—and this something of which nothingness is nothing remains thought.”

As I said before, according to the Muslim tradition, the Ka‘bah is—and remains—the house of God, although God is neither living inside the Ka‘bah nor condescending inside of it. To put it simple: God is not there! Therefore, the Muslim, who is focusing him- or herself on the divine during prayer five times a day all year long or by doing the tawāf is doing so by directing him- or herself towards nothing, which is the void inside the Ka‘bah. Again, there is nothing, but there is not nothingness. Hence, by focusing on a locality, which is is fact a space for nothing objectifiable or if you like to personate it, no one objectifiable, one might to come the conclusion that the Muslim focuses on nothing. But since there is also not nothingness, in fact the Muslim directs his focus towards something, namely the Ka‘bah, so there is something, which is the veiled “cube” (Ka‘bah) and there is even more, which is the void of the inside of this unique cube. There is not nothingness, because in the moment of directing the focus towards this particular cube and its interior, the human intentionality is being carried away by something which is not there. This is only possible, if there is something to be inherent in the Ka‘bah, which is the trace of what is not there, or the trace of the one not being there. Or to put it differently, Allah—God—left a trace in a particular empty place, which he, according to tradition, had chosen. And the trace God left behind, leads the Muslim to search for God or to search for the trace of God, maybe not even consciously knowing that he or she is searching for it. Again, God is not being present, no matter what, apart from the trace he left.

Some might think, what kind of outrageous sacrilege is this, but it isn’t. In fact, by making it plain that the Ka‘bah is empty, that there is nothing inside, the Islamic religion immunize itself against every worldview, which assumes that God is a product of man or an object among objects. But in order to not just underline the otherness of God, but also in order to protect his sovereignty as creator, God cannot be a material part of the world he, according to tradition, created. And that is why it is impossible to encounter him somewhere in this world, which includes the most holy sanctuary of Islam—the Ka‘bah.

PART II – Sa’y

Following the tawâf around the Ka‘bah, the second main element of the hajj is called sa‘y, the seven times walk, rather a run, between the hills as-Safā and al-Marwa. It is said that Hājar,the biblical Hagar, the maiden of Sarah, Abrahams first wife, were out there in the desert, struggling to find water for her boy Ismael and herself after being forced to leave Abraham, with whom she had Ismael, and his tribe. Did Hājar walked seven times between those hills? Probably not! Seven is not a number, which should be taken literally—neither in the context of the Bible nor the Qur’ān. Things someone does seven times, or things lasting for an amount of seven aren’t meant to be taken literally. Rather “seven” means that something is to be done relentlessly, incessantly, ongoing, maybe even forever. Seven or a number made of seven, like seventy, means to be numerous.

Hence, the run between those two hills,u is not just a seven times run between two particular hills somewhere in the desert—it is not just to be taken literally, nothing to be done just seven times and then it’s done. The seven times running between those hills in a dry, life threatening, life rejecting environment, is teaching the one doing sa‘y what a huge part of life, especially in the desert, in the homeland of the Prophet, was and is about: Life is a relentless, ruthless and merciless struggle for survival and if you are persuaded that everything there is is governed and judged by the will of the divine creator, God or Allāh, the only way to survive is by the help of him. God either protects man and guides them out of their momentary misery to the well of life-sustaining water or ones life is forever forfeited.

But there is more to it. In a certain sense sa‘y could also be understood as the symbolic walk or rather the run fī sabīli llāh—on the path of God. According to Muslim tradition, there is only one right path in life to be taken, a straight path, given by God to man, so he won’t get astray as myriads of people before. Later this path will be codified, not in the literal sense of the word—there was no real codification. Therefore, we might call it an uncodified codification, which is widely known as the sharī‘ah, the divine law or the will of God for man to live on planet earth. Translating sharī‘ah literally into English is hardly possible. But you can try to convey the sense of it, which is the path to the water hole. Therefore, the Arabic root of the word, namely “sharaa” is to “penetrate into the water hole.” Not a momentary water hole, but a permanent one. Permanent water means to survive, means to live. Walking the straight path, given by God, is what it means to follow the sharī‘ah, following the sharî´ah means to walk the path to life. Walking on the right path, the path to the permanent water hole is meant to be ongoing, nothing to be done for a limited amount of time, but for as long as the time one is given to in dunya, the here and now. Running between as-Safā and al-Marwa is to remind the muhajjirûn, those who are on the pilgrimage, that life is an endless struggle and that following the path to the permanent water hole is a struggle as well, is struggle for ones whole life. But it also holds a promise to the one being on the right path, namely to be rewarded at the end and never be abandoned by God, who not just created man, but who is the only one who sustains man, keeps him alive, like he did for Hājar, and grants eternal life.

PART III – ‘Arafāt

As the nearly life-long struggle on the path to the permanent water hole is not the end of the human being, so isn’t sa‘y, the running between the hills as-Safā and al-Marwa, during the hajj. After someone passes away, a new path unfolds for him. According to Islam, death is not the end of everything related to the one, who passed away. Instead, the mu’min, the believer’s goal is to achieve jannatu llāh, the garden of God. But now he has to stand trial and is in dire need of God’s forgiveness. If divine judgement is in his favor, he will proceed to heaven, otherwise he has to endure punishment for earthly sins in jahannam—hell.

BThis passing from dunyā, the here and now, to al-‘âkhirah, the hereafter, is resembled by walking from Minā, nearly 5 miles in the east of Mecca, to a place called ‘Arafāt through the valley of Muzdalifah—another 9.3 miles away. The mu’minūn’s, the believer’s, goal is a particular mount called Jabal ar-Rahmah—the mount of mercy. On that very mount, the believers are standing, dwelling (wuqūf), waiting for the divine mercy to unfold. To enter paradise, the garden of God, one is in need of God’s forgiveness. The heavenly reflection of the longed for forgiveness of God in the hereafter is to be found on earth on the Jabal ar-Rahmah. Since every able Muslim should go on hajj once in life, every Muslim is at least once in life able to achieve God’s forgiveness. This is an important relict of a distant past. The entanglement of a pilgrimage and divine forgiveness was already existent in Ancient Israel, when the people traveled to the temple on a mountain in Jerusalem, spending the “Day of Atonement”, self-flagellating by fasting and praying for forgiveness, watching the high priest sacrificing animals, an element also being part of the hajj, and sprinkling its blood in the Holy of Holies—ritually atoning for the peoples’ transgressions. Achieving atonement or God’s forgiveness was the only possible option to get back into the order of life, once commanded by God in form of the Torah, in Arabic Tawrah, which was transgressed by man’s sins.

Once man intentionally or just by accident left the straight path to the permanent water hole, all he can do is to beg for God’s forgiveness. Hence, willingly dwelling in absolute passivity on the mount of mercy, waiting for God to grant forgiveness, reveals man’s absolute dependence on the divine and its judgement. Or in other words, it reveals man’s inability to buy himself a permanent residence permit for heaven. While waiting on the mount of mercy, for man time and space become meaningless. In that sense, the event on Jabal ar-Rahmah reveals the fundamental structure of the relation between the (human) creature, waiting for forgiveness and its creator, able to forgive because of his mercy. This structure is one of an ontological hostage-ness.


As promised a few days ago, the second part of my journey into early Islamic history will be about its first inner-Islamic and until today most decisive schism. Both parties, if Sunnis and Shiites can be considered parties in the first place—both of them lack leadership or widely accepted representatives—, have neither reconciled with each other nor at least acknowledged the other parties narrative(s).

Part II
The Division of Islam or “the days, which won’t be future past”

Even with the death of Muhammad in 632 C.E., Islam as a religion was undoubtedly still in the process of becoming. Not even the Koran as scriptural corpus was written down, nor compiled, let alone canonized (cf. Aslan 2011: 113). (Note: The other uses of the term Koran or Quran (Arabic qurʾān) in the Koran (al-qurʾān) as scriptural body, namely, “a) the presentation of a revelatory text to Muhammad himself, b) the public presentation of this text by Muhammad, c) the text itself, which is presented,” (Bobzin 2015: 20) were known, however, need not be considered further.)

“The religious ideals that would become the foundation of Islamic theology existed only in the most rudimentary form. The questions of proper ritual activity or correct legal and moral behavior were, at this point, barely regulated; they did not have to be. Whatever questions one had—whatever issue was raised either through internal conflict or as a result of foreign contact—any confusion whatsoever could simply be brought before the Prophet for a solution. But without Muhammad around to elucidate the will of God, the Ummah was left with the nearly impossible task of figuring out what the Prophet would have said about an issue or a problem” (Aslan 2011: 113).

Here it is not necessary to get deeper into the debate back then between the ansar, the “helpers” after the hijrah, the Banu Hashim or Ahl al-Bayt, the closer family of the prophet and the Quraysh, in particular the muhajirun among them, those who in 622 moved from Mecca to Yathrib, present-day Medina. The individual groups had their own ideas of who should succeed Muhammad. While the ansar assumed that they had virtually earned the leadership for their former actions, the Quraysh sought, above all, for continuity, since they had ruled over Mecca for generations—Muhammad himself belonged to the tribe of the Quraysh. The conflict between the Quraysh and Muhammad, before the latter conquered Mecca in 630 C.E. and subjugated the Quraysh, may therefore also be considered as family quarrels (cf. Aslan 2011: 114).

According to Sunni understanding, the first of the four so-called “righteous caliphs” (al-khulafa ar-rashidun), thus the first of those who ruled Muhammad’s young and rapidly expanding empire, was Abu Bakr, who died in 634 C.E. Abu Bakr was chosen among a group of high-ranking followers of Muhammad, who formed a shura, a council of elders. Probably the only serious competitor for Abu Bakr was Ali bin Abi Talib. Born around 598 C.E., Ali ibn Abi Talib was the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet (Halm 2015: 13). But in fact he was not even invited to the shura.

“Muhammad’s clan, the Banu Hashim, fumed, claiming that without Ali, the shura was not representative of the entire Ummah. Likewise, the Ansar from Medina, who considered both Ali and Muhammad to be as much Medinan as Meccan—in other words, ‘one of their own’—complained bitterly about Ali’s exclusion. Both groups publicly refused to swear allegiance to the new Caliph” (Aslan 2011:117).

Even before his death, Abu Bakr decided that Umar ibn al-Khattab will be his successor and thus ignored the new meeting of the shura, which might had chosen Ali as caliph. Umar ibn al-Khattab ruled until 644 C.E. He was followed by the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan of the clan of the Banu Umayyah, the Umayyads, the former political establishment of Mecca. Although the first two caliphs tried to compile the Koran, it was probably first achieved not earlier than in the early 650s under the reign of Uthman ibn Affan (cf. Neuwirth 2013: 243ff.; Bobzin 2015: 110).

As the forth caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib follows on Uthman ibn Affan, who lost his life due to a power struggle in 656. According to later Shiite tradition Ali was also Imam, that is, chief of the umma. Finally, Ali had the position in the steadily expanding Islamic empire, which according to tradition should have been his since Muhammad’s death. According to this tradition, on his last pilgrimage on the way to Yathrib (Medina), close to a place called Khumm, Muhammad is said to have designated Ali as his successor: “To all, who I (i.e. Muhammad) command, Ali should also command” (Halm 2015: 11; Aslan 2011: 114). In fact, Ali’s rule was anything but uncontroversial and was characterized from the beginning by internal conflicts. In 660 C.E., during the lifetime of Ali, a schism within the umma took place, for Muawiyah, the son of Muhammad’s former main opponent Abu Sufyan, was “worshiped as caliph in Jerusalem” (Halm 2015: 14). In January 661, two days after an assassination attempt occurred in Kufa, Ali succumbs to his injuries. According to later Shiite interpretation, Ali is considered the first of a multitude of (Shiite) martyrs. While al-Hasan, the eldest son from the marriage of Ali with Muhammad’s daughter Fatima and according to Shiite understanding the second Imam, renounced the office of the caliph, Ali’s second son al-Husayn did not renounced it. Therefore, al-Husayn opposed the new caliph Yazid in 680, who was designated by his father Muawiyah to succeed him as caliph (Berger 2016: 242).

Husayn encamped in Karbala with his followers, the “Shiat Ali,” the party of Ali, on the 2nd Muharram, that is the 2nd day of the first month of the Islamic year, approximately 43.5 miles north of Kufa. There he waited in vain for the promised thousands of followers from Kufa. Shortly before Husayn’s arrival in Karbala, the governor of Basra, Kufa and Khurasan called Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad executed the rebels. Among them someone called Muslim, a cousin al-Husay’s.

Subsequently, according to Shiite tradition, a chain of martyrdoms is following, which the grandson of the prophet and his faithful ones are said to have suffered, and which are much later performed in the form of passion plays whose prototype dates back to the fifteenth century (Halm 2015: 45). Scenic elements were given as early as the 10th century to the rites related to ashura, the tenth day in the month of Muharram (cf. Halm 2015: 47). The following presentation gives an overview of the martyrdoms of the ten days of Muharram, which according to the Shiite tradition is to be solemnly commemorated (cf. Halm 2015: 46f.):

Days Events according to the Shiite tradition during the first ten days of Muharram
1st-3rd Husayns journey and arrival in Karbala and the fearless negotiation with the Yazid’s representative.
4th The celebration of the martyrdom of al-Hurr ibn Yazid at-Tamimi, who repented his sins and defected to from the enemies of al-Husayn to the latter.
5th The weeping of the martyrdoms of Awn and Muhammad, the children of al-Husayn’s sister Zaynab.
6th Ali al-Akbar (Ali the Older) dies in his fathers (i.e. al-Husayn) lap after being hit by arrows. The baby Ali al-Asghar (Ali the Younger) is killed by an arrow, which pierced his throat.
7th Husayn’s nephew al-Qasim ibn al-Hasan was killed on the day of his wedding with the former’s daughter.
8th Commemoration of the martyrdom of al-Abbas, the half-brother of al-Husayn. Both of al-Abbas’s arms are cut off, when he tries to get water from the Eurphrat for the thirsty martyrs.
9th (tashua) The siege of al-Husayn’s encampment.
10th (ashura) The escalade of al-Husayn’s encampment. Al-Husayn and most of his warriors are killed in the fighting, 72 men in total.

The events of the first ten days of Muharram, which found their gruesome climax with ashura, can hardly be overestimated for the religious history of Islam, at least for the Shiite part of it. With Halm it can be correctly stated that “before 680 a Shiite religiousness did not exist” (2015: 21). And “only the death of the third Imam and his companions,” continues Halm, “is the big bang that creates and sets in motion the rapidly expanding cosmos of Shiism. For the Shiites, Kerbelâ is the linchpin of their faith, the culmination of a divine plan of salvation whose promises are given to those who take sides with the martyred Imam” (Halm 2015: 21).

What happened in the following four years is hardly reconstructable and therefore remains in the realm of speculation. The only thing that is clear is the who, namely the Arabs and the where, the already mentioned city of Kufa. It was not until the 16th century that ancient Iranian religious traditions invaded the Shia. Whatever happened in the immediate aftermath of the Karbala massacre, the terminus a quo for the verifiable existence of a religious movement is the year 684 C.E. Those who put in promising Ali’s son al-Husayn to help him in the battle of Karbala or the intended conquering of Kufa, but in fact let him down, obviously regretted their behavior. “The catastrophe of the prophet’s grandson provoked a grave crisis of conscience among its Kufic partisans” (Halm 2015: 22). Because of an exegesis of sura 2:54 attributed to themselves as a group, they now understood themselves as tawwabun, the “repentants”, or more literally “those who turn back.” This verse explains the consequences of the production and worship of the Golden Calf cited in the Torah, namely the god-ordained killing of the fallen of the righteous or divinely ordained path. So it says in Ex 32,27:

ויאמר להם כה אמר יהוה אלהי ישראל שימו איש חרבו על ירכו עברו ושובו משער לשער במחנה
והרגו איש את אחיו ואיש את רעהו ואיש את קרבו

And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor (literally he, who is close).’”

The facts are clear. Some Israelites, more precisely some of the “sons of Levi” (see Ex 32,28) have created themselves an idol, worshiped it and were subsequently condemned with death sentence, which is to be executed by their own relatives, whether near or far. At the end of the day, according to the biblical account, the fallen ones lost their lives, three thousand men in total (שלשת אלפי איש).

The Koran interprets the consequences of the creation and worship of the Golden Calf in a pretty original way. Thus, not the faithful men among the Israelites or a specific tribe are charged with killing the apostates, but the apostates, according to sura 2:54 have to kill themselves: “So turn to your Maker, And slay yourself (literally: kill your souls, which are yours)” (fa-tūbū ʾilā bāriʾikum fa-qtulū ʾanfusakum ḏālikum). The reflexive construction resumes the frivolous or unlawful act of the Israelites, for the deed, as sura 2:54 (grammatically-semantically) points out, is directed against the apostate Israelites (cf. Schmitz 2009: 80).

The promised consequence of the repentance made by the apostates is, according to the Koranic account (see the end of 2:54), God’s turning back to them, because of his compassionate nature: “Then He turned towards you: For He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful” (fa-tāba ʿalaykum ʾinnahū huwa t-tawwābu r-raḥīmu).

From the order to turn back, expressed in the construction fa-tūbū, which is formed from the root t-w-b, follows the very specific self-designation the followers of Ali are using until today, namely tawwabun (Hawting 2006: 174). Consequently, they identified themselves with the Israelites. Perhaps because of the severity of their guilt, namely because of their turning away from Ali, thus, ultimately deviated from the divine directive, since it was the messenger and prophet of God, Muhammad, who had designated Ali as his successor at Khumm.

The essential difference is obviously to be found in the way turning back. While according to sura 2:54, the apostate Israelites had to kill themselves, so that God in turn (mercifully) turns back to them, the in-the-end-repentant followers of Ali had not to commit a collective atoning suicide. Unlike for the Israelites, suicide was strictly forbidden to them; that’s what sura 4:29 is explicitly saying: “And do not kill yourselves (literally: souls); for verily, God is merciful to you” (wa-lā taqtulū ʾanfusakum ʾinna llāha kāna bikum raḥīman).

The severity of guilt is not to be compensated by a single act of repentance or in the form of an animal sacrifice. Only the surrender of one’s own life is able to do it, e.g. on the battlefield against the enemy. Thus, also the offspring, until today, inherited the order to bear this guilt and to compensate it “with their own blood” (Halm 2015: 23).

“The movement of the Tawwābūn, therefore, appears as a gigantic self-sacrifice performed in expiation of or atonement for what they saw as their great sin” (Hawting 2006: 174).

However, as Halm points out, the “‘sin’ of the Shiites is not an original sin, not an existential flaw, which clings to humanity from the beginning and makes it in need of salvation, but a historical failure of the entire ‘party’ in a concrete situation” (Halm 2015: 23). This inalienable debt can only be atoned year after year in the first ten days of the first month of the Islamic calendar, which finds its culmination on ashura, that is the Shiite form of the Jewish “Day of Atonement” Yom Kippur, the tenth day after New Year in the Jewish calendar.

The tawwabun had not invented ashura, but rather gave him back a part of its original coinage. According to a Hadith of Bukhari, Muhammad himself celebrated this day as a memorial or holiday:

“Ibn Abbas (ra) reports: When the Prophet (pbuh) came to Medina, he saw that the Jews were fasting on the day of ashura. He asked them, ‘Why are you fasting today?’ They said, ‘Today is an important memorial day for us! It is the day when God delivered the children of Israel from their enemy! Therefore Moses (Musa) fasted that day!’ The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘I have a greater right to Moses than you!’ Then he fasted on the day of ashura and also admonished the Muslims to do it” (Ferchl (ed.), Ṣaḥīḥ al-Buḫārī 2006: 241).

Goitein in turn, refers to Bukhari (30:69), who passed down a Hadith of Aisha, according to which Muḥammad and the Quraysh fasted already at the time of the jahiliyya, the so-called “time of ignorance.” Put in other words, according to this Hadith, Muhammad fasted long before he came to Yathrib/Medina with its strong Jewish community in 622 C.E. (Goitein 1966: 96; cf. Gil 1999: 145-166). The instruction to fast on the tenth day after the Israelite and later Rabbinic-Jewish New Year is found in Lev. 23:27.29 and Num. 29:7 (s.a. bT Taan 30b and bT BB 129a)—fasting must be understood as a form of self-humiliation and/or self-denial.

At some point in the 620s, most likely after the break with the Jewish tribes in Yathrib/Medina, via divine revelation, the fasting of ashura is transfered onto the entire month of Ramadan. Thus, ashura loses massively in importance within the Sunni form of Islam, but was never be completely forgotten (Hawting 2006: 173). The “party of Ali” (Shiat Ali), however, somehow rediscovered this Old Israelite and Jewish heritage of self-humiliation and/or self-denial as part of a highly complex atoning/reconciling rite between 680 and 684 C.E., because as the sole source for revitalizing the concept of atonement or reconciliation on the Old Israelite and Rabbinic-Jewish Day of Atonement, sura 2:54 is not enough.


FERCHL, Dieter (Hg.), Ṣaḥīḥ al-Buḫārī. Nachrichten von Taten und Aussprüchen des Propheten Muhammad, Stuttgart 2006.
GIL, Moshe, The Origin of the Jews of Yathrib, in: Frank E. Peters (Ed.), The Arabs and Arabia on the Eve of Islam, in: Lawrence I. Conrad (Ed.), The Formation of the Classical Islamic World, Vol. 3, Aldershot/Brookfield 1999, p. 145-166.
GOITEIN, Shlomo Dov, Studies in Islamic History and Institutions, Leiden 1966.
HALM, Heinz, Die Schiiten, 2. Aufl., München 2015.
HAWTING, Gerald R., The Tawwābūn, Atonement and ʿĀshūrāʾ, in: Gerald Hawting (Ed.), The Development of Islamic Ritual, in: Lawrence I. Conrad, The Formation of the Classical Islamic World, Vol. 26, Aldershot/Burlington 2006, p. 173-188.
NEUWIRTH, Angelika, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike. Ein europäischer Zugang, 3. Aufl., Berlin 2013.
SCHMITZ, Bertram, Der Koran: Sure 2 „Die Kuh“. Ein religionshistorischer Kommentar, Stuttgart 2009.

GOETHE, BÖRNE & DIE JUDEN – Restauration & Freiheitsstreben zwischen Aufklärung & Vormärz

Aufklärung und Freiheitsstreben. Die Situation der Juden am Übergang der frühen Neuzeit zur neueren Geschichte, genauer gesagt vom 18. ins 19. Jahrhundert, war so kontrastreich wie das Judentum jener Zeit. Das 18. Jahrhundert, oft auch als Jahrhundert der Aufklärung rezipiert, strebte nach einer Reform, in einigen Fällen auch nach der Revolution des Gesellschaftssystems – zu denken sei hier an den Unabhängigkeitskrieg der dreizehn Neuenglandstaaten gegen das Mutterland Großbritannien (1775-1783) und die Französische Revolution (1789-1799). Zeitlich zwischen diesen beiden politischen und gesellschaftlichen Großereignissen zu verorten, versuchten berühmte Philosophen wie Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) und Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) mit ihren Schriften die Frage zu beantworten, was Aufklärung sei und damit einhergehend die Vorlage zu schaffen für den Weg des Menschen zum aufgeklärten Bürger. Dazu musste dieser aus seiner – bei Kant selbstverschuldeten – Unmündigkeit befreit werden. Sie forderten eine Intellektualisierung des Individuums und ein politisches System bzw. einen aufgeklärten Staat, der dem Menschen gerecht wird. Zweifellos schienen sie einen Umsturz der überkommenen Weltordnung durchsetzen zu wollen. Nunmehr standen Termini wie Naturrecht, Gesellschaftsvertrag, Vernunft und Bildung im Zentrum intellektueller und politischer Diskurse. Die Forderung nach bürgerlicher Aufklärung wurde allerdings sehr unterschiedlich aufgefasst und in ihrer konkreten Anwendung verschiedentlich ausgedehnt. Sämtliche Positionen können in diesem Rahmen nicht erfasst und wiedergegeben werden, jedoch muss erwähnt werden, dass vor allem die bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden ein zentrales Thema jener Zeit war.

Antijudaismus, Streit um die wahre Religion und Emanzipation. Trotz aller Fortschrittlichkeit – diese mochte man sich selbst attestieren – war die Debatte um die wahre, richtige oder falsche Religion noch nicht vom Tisch. Interreligiöse Toleranz war kein Aushängeschild des 18. Jahrhunderts und antijüdische Hetze gehörte seit dem Mittelalter zum Bild Europas. Vor allem in der Neuzeit erlangten antijüdische Stereotype durch Johann Eisenmenger (1654-1704) und antijüdische Agitation eine Renaissance. Dies musste auch der eingangs erwähnte Mendelssohn, Vorreiter der jüdischen Aufklärung (Haskala) 1769 in der so genannten Lavater-Affäre erfahren. Er sah sich durch den reformierten Theologen Johann Casper Lavater (1741-1801) infolge seiner metaphysischen Schrift Phädon Oder von der Unsterblichkeit der Seele vor die Herausforderung gestellt, das Christentum zu widerlegen oder sich taufen zu lassen, also zur Religion Lavaters zu konvertieren. Allerdings stand der Jude Mendelssohn, der mit der Gewissensfrage für das Judentum argumentierte, nicht allein auf gegen Intoleranz, die seiner Religion entgegengebracht wurde. Auch nichtjüdische, sprich christliche Intellektuelle wie Christian Konrad Wilhelm von Dohm (1751-1820), der seine Hauptschrift mit dem Titel Ueber die bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden (1781) versah, setzten sich für die Juden ein bzw. verteidigten diese. Bereits Philipp Jacob Spener (1635-1705), quasi der neuzeitliche Vater des lutherischen Pietismus, forderte statt der Unterdrückung, wie sie allzu oft an der Tagesordnung war, die Achtung vor den Juden und die Gewissensfreiheit für jene. Christliche Gelehrte akzeptierten nicht einfach die Bedeutung des Judentums, sie verwiesen auf diese und sahen das Judentum als integralen Bestandteil der westlichen Tradition. Deshalb mussten das Judentum und die Juden, sprich die Menschen, die sich hinter jenem Volks- und Religionsbegriff verbargen, erforscht und durchdrungen werden – allerdings auch zum Zwecke ihrer Missionierung.

Wie erwähnt, mussten diverse Vertreter der jüdischen Emanzipation für diese kämpfen. Juden waren nahezu rechtlos, wie es sogar am Beispiel Moses Mendelssohns nachzuzeichnen ist. Er hatte das zweifelhafte Glück im Berlin Friedrich II., des für seine Aufgeklärtheit gerühmten preußischen Herrschers, zu leben. Trotz seines Grenzen überschreitenden Ruhmes konnte er kein festes Wohnrecht für sich und seine Familie erwirken. Ebenso war ihm das Recht zu studieren verwehrt und laut Glickel von Hameln waren Juden auf Universitäten in jenen Tagen ungern gesehen. Sie wohnten obendrein in engen schmutzigen Gassen bzw. Ghettos und hatten hohe Steuerabgaben zu leisten.

Umbruch und Restauration. Erst mit den Wirren der napoleonischen Kriege und deren Folgen, dazu gehört auch der 1806 in Kraft getretene Code Napoléon, änderte sich die Lage der Juden innerhalb der deutschen Lande – wenigstens teilweise – zum Positiven, es gab allerdings große regionale Unterschiede. Juden die sich zuvor in ihren Gemeinden und Ghettos als übergeordnete Instanzen verwalteten und organisierten sowie verwaltet und organisiert wurden, erlangten nun Freiheiten, die sie wie am Beispiel des preußischen Emanzipationsedikts von 1812 zu sehen ist, nahezu mit der nichtjüdischen Bevölkerung gleichstellte. In den Vorjahren der Hep-Hep-Krawalle von 1819, der ersten überregionalen antijüdischen Pogrome seit dem Mittelalter, waren es vor allem die deutschen Intellektuellen, die mit antisemitischen Stereotypen gegen die neue gesellschaftliche und politische Stellung der Juden polarisierten. Die postnapoleonische Ära schien die Errungenschaften der Aufklärung, wie Vernunft (raison), Freiheit (liberté), Gleichheit (égalité) und Brüderlichkeit (fraternité) nicht mehr auf jene Weise zu würdigen, wie es kaum mehr als eine Generation zuvor noch der Fall gewesen war. Deutscher Idealismus und vor allem Nationalismus bestimmten die politische Gesinnung vieler Intellektueller. Auch wenn die alten absolutistischen Reiche – das Heilige Römische Reich Deutscher Nation und das Französische – ein Ende fanden, so schien die Aufklärung nach dem Scheitern der französischen Revolution, denn nur etwa zehn Jahre nach deren blutigem Höhepunkt wurde Frankreich wieder monokratisch geführt, als der falsche Weg in die Zukunft verstanden worden zu sein. Der intellektuelle Blick jener Jahre war also ein rückwärtsgewandter und dies schloss freilich die Rückführung der Juden in ihre alte geknechtete Gesellschaftsposition mit ein.

In jene wechselvolle Epoche gehört auch der 1749 in Frankfurt am Main geborene Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Aus wohlsituiertem Hause stammend erhielt er eine elitäre Ausbildung, welche alle relevanten Wissenschaften jener Zeit abdeckte – er studierte Sprach- und Naturwissenschaften sowie Religionen. Bereits in seinen jungen Jahren macht er als Literat durch Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774) und dann am Weimarer Hof, diverse Ämter bekleidend, Karriere. Sein Wirken sowie seine Bedeutung damals wie heute nachzuzeichnen, soll freilich nicht Gegenstand dieser Betrachtung sein. Vielmehr soll uns in groben Zügen seine Position zu den Juden mit den eingangs gemachten Vorbemerkungen im Hinterkopf interessieren.

Wie viele seiner Zeitgenossen, war auch Goethe nicht frei von Vorurteilen gegenüber der jüdischen Minderheit, pflegte sogar rassische, sprich antisemitische und religiöse, sprich antijüdische Stereotype, wenn es beispielsweise um Mischehen ging, oder implementierte antijüdische Elemente direkt in seine Werke, wie im Roman Wilhelm Meister. Goethe wuchs ohne eigenes Zutun mit antijüdischer und antisemitischer Hetze, wie zum Beispiel der Ritualmordlegende und angeblich jüdischen Eigenheiten wie dem Schachern und Feilschen, auf. Juden waren für den „Dichterfürsten“ jedoch nicht einfach ein Abstraktum ohne Realitätsgehalt, denn in Frankfurt aufwachsend kam er mit der dort lebenden jüdischen Gemeinde in Kontakt. Gemäß seinen Bemerkungen in Dichtung und Wahrheit wird klar, dass die Judengasse eine gewisse Wirkung sowie Anziehung auf den jungen Goethe ausgeübt haben muss, und dass gerade trotz deren abstoßender Erscheinung, denn sie war verschmutzt, eng und völlig überlaufen. Auch der Dialekt des Frankfurter Ghettos schien keine Musik in seinen Ohren gewesen zu sein. Trotz all der von ihm aufgenommenen und negativ bewerteten äußerlichen Erscheinungen und trotz der an ihn getragenen Vorurteile, sah er in den Juden Menschen, die von Gott erwählt waren. Nicht allein die Mädchen wirkten auf ihn anziehend, auch die jüdischen Riten regten ein genaues Studium seinerseits an. Das Bild der Juden in Dichtung und Wahrheit ist vorwiegend ein positives. Dieses, also des gastfreundlichen Juden, der zuallererst Mensch ist und eine erhabene Position unter den Völkern innehat, ist allerdings nur eine Position des Literaten zu jener Minderheit. Goethes Verhältnis zu den Juden ist wohl unbestreitbar ambivalent.

Noch zu seinen Lebenszeiten begann eine regelrechte Mythisierung Goethes, welche hier nicht nachgezeichnet werden soll, jedoch insofern interessant ist, als dass der Journalist und Literaturkritiker Juda Löw Baruch (1786-1837), besser bekannt als Ludwig Börne, ein im Frankfurter Ghetto geborener Jude, die Figur Goethe im Speziellen anders aufgriff. Börne, der revolutionäre Züge aufwies, was ihn vom „Dichterfürsten“ Goethe – welcher der alten Ordnung verhaftet schien – völlig abgrenzte, erlangte zu seiner Zeit keinerlei Akzeptanz. Ihm wurde vielmehr Wahnsinn und Verlogenheit attestiert, was wohl zu seiner Isolierung als Literat beitrug. Man kann ihm unterstellen, dass er sich selbst ebenfalls isolierte, betrachtete er doch sein Jüdischsein als Schmach, kehrte seinen Wurzeln letztlich den Rücken zu und ließ sich 1818 taufen. Dies hatte – wie auch im Falle Heines (1797-1856), eines anderen berühmten deutsch-jüdischen Literaten jener Zeit, der sich ebenfalls taufen ließ (1825) – nicht zuletzt mit dem Wunsch nach gleichberechtigter gesellschaftlicher Akzeptanz zu tun, die beiden Männern verwehrt zu sein schien. Börne, der übrigens wie Heine fast zwei Dekaden später in Paris verstarb und nicht etwa auf deutschem Boden, änderte dazu sogar seinen Namen – zu jüdisch klang dieser.

Goethe und Börne. Letzterer verachtete den „zahnlosen Genius“, wie er Goethe nannte. Börne verachtete jedoch nicht Goethes schöpferische Leistung. Ganz im Gegenteil, denn das Studium Goethes schien er vielmehr als eine Notwendigkeit erachtet zu haben. Börne verachtete vielmehr wofür Goethe stand, was Goethe repräsentierte. Börne, der Revolutionär, mit dem Blick auf die Zukunft gerichtet, lässt sich wohl als politisch-intellektuelles Gegenstück zu Goethe verorten, da nämlich beide so gegensätzlich in ihren Haltungen waren, dass sie als Zeitgenossen fremder Epochen gelten könnten.

Der unterprivilegierte Jude in Börne strebte nach Freiheit, so hat auch die Kunst als Werkzeug nach dieser zu streben und zwar zum Wohle des Lebens sowie zum Fortschritt der Geschichte selbst. Goethe ist hingegen, zumindest aus der Perspektive Börnes, eine Archaisierung der Geschichte, die nicht progressiv motiviert sei. Börne wirft Goethe vor, seine Position als herausstechende Größe unter den deutschen Intellektuellen jener Epoche nicht für den Progress Deutschlands bzw. des gesamten deutschen Volkes genutzt, sondern vielmehr diesen aufgehalten und seine Fähigkeiten nicht dem Menschen selbst zur Seite gestellt zu haben.

Goethe und Börne sind zusammengenommen, obwohl sie nicht zusammen zu bekommen sind, der Spiegel deutsch-intellektueller Identität zwischen Aufklärung und Vormärz. Gemeinsam sind sie das Sinnbild des in sich sprachlich, kulturell und religiös hin und her gerissenen deutschen Volkes und zwar in all seinen Facetten. Sie verkörpern den Wunsch nach einer besseren Zukunft durch eine neue Gesellschafts-, sowie Herrschaftsordnung durch die Figur Börne auf der einen und die Restauration der alten Ordnung durch Goethe auf der anderen Seite. In ihnen zeigt sich die Suche nach Identität und der problematische Umgang mit der eigenen. Goethe, der privilegierte Nichtjude außerhalb des Ghettos und Börne, der unterprivilegierte Jude, stets verhaftet innerhalb des Ghettos, auch wenn er dort nicht sein ganzes Leben verbringt und sich sogar taufen lässt, muten wie zwei diametral zueinanderstehende Welten an. Beide Welten sind letztlich eine einzige, da sie nicht ohne einander gedacht werden können und die Zeit weder bereit schien konservierte sowie fremdenfeindliche Vorurteile zu verwerfen, noch die (eigene) Vergangenheit aufzuarbeiten und nicht unversöhnt vor dieser in die Zukunft zu fliehen.

Zusammen sind Goethe und Börne aber auch ein Sinnbild für die vielleicht notwendige Spannung zwischen der Bestrebung nach politischer und gesellschaftlicher Restauration, dem politischen und gesellschaftlichen Fortschritt und menschlichem, oft individuellem, aber auch kollektivem Freiheitsstreben. Diese Spannung gilt es nicht einseitig – koste es was es wolle – in jeweils eine Richtung aufzulösen oder zu überkommen, vielmehr muss jene manchmal ausgehalten werden, auch wenn es schmerzt und Tränen kostet.


Dohm, Christian Konrad Wilhelm, Ueber die bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden, in: Friedrich Licolai (Hg.), Berlin 1781.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, Aus meinem Leben. Dichtung und Wahrheit, 3 Bde., Cotta/Stuttgart/Tübingen 1811-1814.
Jasper, Willi, Keinem Vaterland geboren. Ludwig Börne – Eine Biographie, Hamburg 1989.
Kant, Immanuel, Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?, in: Ehrhard Bahr (Hg.), Was ist Aufklärung? Thesen und Definitionen. Von Kant, Erhard, Hamann, Herder, Lessing, Mendelssohn, Riem, Schiller, Wieland, Ditzingen 1986 [Erstdruck: Berlinische Monatsschrift, Dezember 1784].
Mendelssohn, Moses, Ueber die Frage: was heißt aufklären?, in: Christoph Schulte/Andreas Kennecke/Grażyna Jurewicz (Hgg.), Moses Mendelssohn. Ausgewählte Werke, Bd. 2, Darmstadt 2009 [Erstdruck: Berlinische Monatsschrift, September 1784].


If you write today the history of tomorrow, let’s say for the future in 1400 years, then it would be pretty difficult to explain plausibly why we should look for the starting point in 21st century’s US and not perhaps in Europe, Russia, China, Africa, etc. The future historians will have the difficulty, but also the freedom to decide for themselves what from their point of view was the most important place on earth for later historical developments. But if we have to look back approximately 1400 Years, so to speak pretend to be past’s future historians, the 7th century reveals itself not just as a highly fascinating time for historians. It is, especially with regard to the emergence of Islam, crucial to understand the 7th century in order to understand plenty of later world history and especially plenty of present day politics and S.P. Huntington’s so-called “Clash of Civilizations,” which for some is nothing but nonsense. Hence it is pretty easy, if you ask where to start. Of course I cannot and therefore, will not give a total overview of 7th century history. But an introduction into the emergence of Islam (Part I), more precisely in the difficulty to define when Islam actually came into being and the first decisive schism of Islam, which in itself holds not just a lot of potential for reconciliation with oneself and the other monotheistic world religions, especially Judaism, but to understand a little more about the schism might help to bring Sunni and Shiite Muslims closer together.

Part I
The Becoming of Islam: When Did the Second Largest World Religion Begin?

Determining the beginning of the history of Islam as religion (din) in a broad sense is not an easy endeavor. Having a closer look upon the topic, three points in time come to mind. Those are the following: 570, 610 and 622 C.E. All three are in one way or the other problematic.

Let’s start with 570 C.E. According to the classic and inner-Islamic understanding, the nabi, prophet, Muhammad, for some the founder for others just the messenger of Islam, was born in 570 C.E. Should the history of the religion of Islam begin along with the birth of the prophet of Islam, then automatically with or because of his birth a change in world history is assumed. The Islamic tradition connects the birth of Muhammad with a historically important event on the Arabian peninsula, namely the so-called “year of the elephant.” The Christian-Axumite king Ella Asbeha is said to have invaded and conquered the Hymarite kingdom, in the area of today’s Yemen, in 525 C.E. In place of the former ruler of Hymar, the Axumite king put the vassal king Sumyafa Ashwa and ended the existence of the first South-Arabian, monotheistic, presumably Jewish kingdom. Abreha, one of the king’s commanders, revolted around 535 C.E. against the vassal king and made himself king in the end (cf. Bobzin 2011: 40). A rock inscription, which is to be dated into the year 547 or rather likely into the year 552, is witnessing a campaign of Abreha in the northern region of Arabia, possibly to Mecca (cf. Bobzin 2011: 40). It is not unlikely that such an event remained in the collective memory and therefore, sura 105, surat al-fil, is to be understood as an innuendo to this event.

If Muhammad is born in the “year of the elefant,” by the time of the first revelation in 610 C.E., he would have been an old man. That’s why the famous Islamic scholar Ibn al-Kalbi, born 819 C.E., dated Muhammad’s birth 23 years after the “year of the elefant” (Bobzin 2011: 41). According to this, Muhammad was born either in 570 or in 575, thus at the time of the first revelation he was 35 or 40 years old. As in the case of Ibn al-Kalbi’s dating, besides late Islamic sources, e.g. from the prophet’s biography (sira) Muhammad ibn Ishaq (704-767 C.E.), which Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, who died in 834 C.E., revised and later even non-Islamic sources, such as the chronicle (Tarikh mukhtasar ad-duwal) of the Syrian bishop Gregorius Abu l-Faraj ibn al-Ibri or Bar-Hebraeus, died in 1286 (Bobzin 2011: 33, 35f.), no sources in the sense of eyewitnesses for the postulated year of Muhammad’s birth are citable.

Although it cannot be proven that the Islamic tradition regarding the dating of Muhammad’s year of birth is historically completely unreliable, it seems that these statements are more likely to be theological constructs. If Muhammad was born in 570, he was forty years old at the time of the first revelation in 610. The number “forty” is associated with important events both in the Ancient Israelite and in the Christian tradition. According to Ex 24:18, Moses was forty days and nights up on Mount Sinai, when he received the Torah. And the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness (cf. Num 31:13) before they could enter the promised land. Jesus in turn spent forty days and nights fasting in the wilderness (cf. Mt 4:1f.) before he became a preacher, prophet or messiah to some. Allegedly, the 23 years, which are according to Ibn al-Kalbi between the “year of the elephant” and the Muhammad’s birth, reflect the 23 years of the revelation, that is the time between 610 and 632 C.E.:
547-570 C.E. the negative of the revelation period;
570-610 C.E. ripening/becoming of the prophet;
610-632 C.E. period of revelation.

If the birth of the Islamic prophet is emphasized so much, one could justifiably question his role in Islam, that is whether Muhammad is the center of Islamic religion and not just its found. If Muhammad himself were the central object of Islam, then it would be obvious to start Islamic history with his birth. This could be compared to late antique Christian theology, which saw in the birth of Jesus an event of world historical significance. Henceforth, people no longer dated years according to the reign of senators and kings, as it was customary in antiquity, but after the birth of its redeemer, the God incarnate on earth. Although the Islamic tradition constructed a rich mythical-legendary substructure for Muhammad’s birth and childhood—take the names of his parents, Abdullah and Amina, the narrative of his procreation (Aslan 2011: 19), the prophesy of the monk Bahira, the “seal of prophethood” (khatam an-nubuwa)—and in some folkloristic excrescence Muhammad truly seemed to be the center of Islam, even attained divine status, but Islam remained largely resistent to such developments. Thus, if the Islamic religion does not begin with his birth and is not even inextricably linked to his existence, it does not seem very plausible to let Islamic history begin in 570 C.E.

Our second option is the before mentioned 610 C.E. From a religious studies perspective it seems quite plausible to let Islamic religion begin in 610 C.E. After all, this year, more precisely on one of the last odd-numbered days of the month of Ramadan in 610, in the so-called “laylat al-qadr,” the night of destiny, Muhammad received his first revelation while in a cave on Mount Hira. According to Islamic tradition, these are the first five verses of the 96th sura: “Read! In the name of the Lord, who created. Created man, out of a leech-like clot of congealed blood. Read! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful. He Who taught (The us of) the Pen. Taught man that which he knew not” (cf. Abdullah Yusuf Ali 2009: 1672f.). It should be mentioned that modern historical-critical research on the Koran differs from this postulate of Islamic tradition. But whatever sura or aya, the verse of a sura, was the first, a period of reoccurring revelations begins in form of either tanzil, which is what comes as a message from above and wahy (cf. Neuwirth 2013: 120-130), inspiration, so to speak what is put into Muhammad’s mind until his death in 632 C.E. To let Islamic religion begin in 610 seems to be problematic precisely because the sudden existence of a new religion is postulated. But this is exactly what precludes a continuous process of revelation, insofar as it is not be postulated that the first revelation essentially defines Islam as religion. Which it obviously does not! Neither the traditional nor the historical-critical perspective offers even the slightest possibility of determining Islam as a religion. The Koran, not the whole scripture of course, but the Koran as speech, that is a spoken verse or a few, can be ascribed exclusively to the “night of destiny,” similar to the Christian conviction that God revealed himself in one particular night, namely Christmas Eve (Tworuschka 2008: 17).

It should also be noted that the content of the Koran cannot possibly be equated with religion of Islam insofar as one disregards certain manifestations of modern Islam like the Quraniya. The abandonment of the sunna, the so-called prophetic tradition, which in turn is based on the ahadith, the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, would, in effect, make Islamic law as an integral part of Islam impossible. “Fiqh is the result of human efforts to fathom the sharia” (Lohlker 2012: 15). The sharia, the “path to the (permanent) watering place,” the quasi-normative way (to go), must again be understood as “the totality of the divine judgments of human actions” (Lohlker 2012: 101). It goes without saying that the sharia, that is, the judgment of man by God, must at least partially dispossess itself from man. Thus, the Koran, as it has materialized on earth, that is, in its popular textual form, can not be congruent with the sharia. The (inner-Islamic) connection between sunna, fiqh and sharia shows that Islam, as a religion in its classical form, cannot simply be reduced to the Koran.

Last but not least, we should have a look upon the year 622 C.E. Linking the beginning of Islamic history with the year 622 is quite plausible. After more than a decade of suppression and persecution of the followers of Muhammad by the Quraysh in their hometown Mecca, Muhammad decided to emigrate (hijrah) to Yathrib, an oasis approximately 211 miles North-West, later only referred to as Medina, the city of the prophet (madinat an-nabi). The hijrah “represents, according to the conviction of the Muslim tradition as well as modern research, the decisive turning point in the fate of his community. So far he and his followers had been fully integrated into the society of his native city and its norms. They had tried to change them from the inside. This was now over. Muhammad had de facto given up membership of his tribe. […] He created […] a new community, which in the following years became the decisive power factor first in the Arabian Peninsula and then in the entire Old World west of China” (Berger 2016: 120) If the followers of this new umma, Arabic for ‘community,’ can be described already as Muslims in the sense of a distinctive religious movement, is disputed controversially among researchers (cf. Aslan 2011: 57). After 625, the term umma is replaced by the term qawm. Literally, qawm means those who are able to stand up or rise, that is to say people. But in the time of Muhammad, qawm also designates the tribe (cf. Aslan 2011: 57). Although structurally based on the ancient Arabian tribal system, the umma or qawm has undergone radical changes, and has therefore been called “neo-tribe” by researchers (Aslan 2011: 59). It is not surprising that a new, as it were newly constructed community is in need of an ‘order of life’ or a directive for everyday life. In the Medinan period, unlike in the Meccan period, i.e. the time until the hijrah of the prophet and his followers in 622 C.E., Muhammad is given instructions, so to speak a third law, a new Torah for being within the community and on earth as well as for the survival of the umma itself (cf. Schmitz 2009: 341).

But to let Islamic history begin with the hijrah, the emigration of the prophet and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E., negates the multitude of revelations made in Mecca, which are i.a. for the Islamic concept(s) of ἔσχατον, the end time, are crucial—an undoubtedly important complex for Islamic theology and for the Muslims in the past 1400 years. It should be also obvious that the emigration in 622 was not more than the beginning of a development. Consequently, in 622 Islam as a religion is anything but complete.

All three dates as possible beginnings of Islamic history adheres the flaw that they suggest a kind of creatio ex nihilo, the creation out of nothing of Islam and thus not only negate the genesis of Islam, but also the desolve of Islam’s genesis from its historical context. Of course, such a position is completely unscientific, but at the same time the consideration of the religious-historical context seems to make it impossible to establish a temporally tangible moment as the beginning of the Islamic religion.

(To be continued…)


ALI, Abdullah Yusuf, The Meaning of The Holy Qur’ân/Tarjamatu Ma´ânî al-Qur’âni l-Karîm, 11th edition, Beltsville 2009.
ASLAN, Reza, No god but God. The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, New York 2011.
BERGER, Lutz, Die Entstehung des Islam. Die ersten Jahre – Von Mohammed bis zum Weltreich der Kalifen, München 2016.
BOBZIN, Mohammed, 4. Aufl., München 2011.
LOHLKER, Rüdiger, Islamisches Recht, Wien 2012.
NEUWIRTH, Angelika, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike. Ein europäischer Zugang, 3. Aufl., Berlin 2013.
SCHMITZ, Bertram, Der Koran: Sure 2 „Die Kuh“. Ein religionshistorischer Kommentar, Stuttgart 2009.
TWORUSCHKA, Udo, Vom Umgang mit Heiligen Schriften, in: Udo Tworuschka (Hg.), Heilige Schriften. Eine Einführung, Frankfurt a.M. 2008, S. 11-49.


Reformation related to Islam is a term strongly despised by many. While non-Muslims sometimes demand a reformation of Islam and some liberal Muslims strongly reflect on how such a reformation could look like. Others, non-Muslims and also rather conservative Muslims, reject this idea totally. Those non-Muslims consider Islam irreformable, while conservative Muslims consider Islam as the final and therefore immaculate revealed religion by God, Allah. Therefore, a reformation of Islam is understood as a human approach to better something which is already perfect—a sign of human ignorance and hubris. In the following I want to argue for the rehabilitation of the term reformation in the context of Islam.

The fundamental problem in the relation of reformation and Islam is twofold. First of all, reformation is seen as a Christian—in a certain sense western—concept being forced upon Islam as a neo-colonial and orientalist attempt not just to reign Muslim land, politics and economy, but also their hearts and minds. Secondly, what is understood by reformation applied to Islam? It is mostly understood as to correct or improve and ultimately change Islam, which also means to change the perception of Islam’s fundamental scripture—the Koran. Let’s start directly there, with the Koran. Reformation from within a religion does not change its text, rather reformation from within changes the approach of the people towards the text. But why talking about the Koran as a text in the first place? If the Koran is a text, then it is an ancient one, namely from the early 7th century and will basically remain there. Why not approaching the Koran as what it is, namely a “dialogue” like Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (1943-2010) had convincingly argued for?

From Abu Zayd’s point of view living with the Koran in the 21st century is possible as it was or could have been in any century without following the orthodox or fundamentalist literal reading of the Koran. From the orthodox or fundamentalist point of view, the Koran is a fixed text, which they consider perfect, while at the same time invented and applied theological concepts like „abrogation“ on the Koran – the so to speak written dialogue – in order to choose one passage of it over the other, if those two contradict each other. Taking the divinely-human origin of the Koran serious, Abu Zayd’s approach doesn’t need such an arrogant approach to the Koran, because he was able to see the Koran as what it always was and what it is for the faithful Muslims, even if those Muslims aren’t totally aware of it, namely a dialogue on different levels. Its most important of course the dialogue between God and man, but also between men. Dialogue and the ability to get into one, to lay down your arguments, to respectfully dissent and being able to let yourself being persuaded by reasonable arguments, is a core asset not just in modern-day life.

Connecting Abu Zayd’s approach directly to Islamic law, Islamic philosophy and Islamic culture, has surely the potential to once again lead Islam into a ‘golden age’. Scholars of today wouldn’t speak about this age as a golden one, if back then everything would have been like a solid hard rock, without any internal, relational movement or motion, which is in fact what dialogue is all about. Therefore, only a status quo as constant dynamism in the man-oneself, man-man and God-man relationship is required. The so-called ‘golden age of Islam’ was possible because of the dialogical essence of the Koran which shaped the thinking and approach to the world of early Muslim scholars and lay-persons until the Middle Ages.

Everywhere where else, where the Koran was understood as eternally fixed by the divine, being therefore unchangeable like a solid hard rock, hence, from being understood from the literary perspective “just” as a text and totally reduced to its letter, the dialogical essence of the Koran vanished. The Koran became a mere shell of its original self. Consequently, the richness of Islamic law, Islamic philosophy and Islamic culture was reduced to one or just a few positions, which were not rarely connected to violence, led finally to the breakdown of those amazing achievements Islam stood for and for some still stands for. Those achievements aren’t lost. They are preserved by scholars of today, also by Muslim people who are aware of their heritage and cherish every bit of it and also by historical evidence found here and there. A lot of Islamic intellectual and cultural achievements were destroyed or not preserved, thus, is unfortunately lost today. But luckily not everything. Therefore, it is not too late to revive this culture. If Muslims once again realize what a treasure they possess, actually the essence of their religion, sitting and waiting to be rediscovered, they could revive a ‘golden age of Islam’ in our time and our ancestors time. Islam once again will be understood as a gift to mankind.

Thus, reformation mustn’t mean a change of Islam being forced on it by western non-Muslim people. Reformation is not a Christian invention. In general, being in a (constant) dialogue with (living) subjects and objects means to constantly reform yourself and others peacefully. Hence, reformation is a necessity every people and every culture need in every age. In order to rediscover the dialogical essence of Islam, namely the Koran, Muslims and non-Muslims alike have to reread the transmitted text we call today Koran and other written Muslim sources, and we also have to rethink and reinterpret its message and meaning in every age. According to my understanding, the necessary reformation of Islam is therefore not an intended recreation of Islam based on a Christian model, but to become aware of the fundamental structure of early Islam, especially the Koran as its primary source and the Sunna, the traditions attributed to the prophet Muhammad. An inner-Muslim reformation is therefore a rediscovery of what was always there. Reforming Islam by Muslims is to come to terms with Islam’s and their own essence. Reforming Islam is nothing else than reconciling themselves with themselves, with their fellows, with non-Muslims and foreigners and ultimately with the divine—Allah.

„UNTERM STRICH ZÄHL“… ICH? Über Sprache und Konvention, über Ich und den Anderen

Verehrter Leser, ich habe nicht selten das Gefühl, dass wir nicht nur in einer Zeit des Sprachwandels leben, zumindest was bestimmte Konventionen anbelangt, sondern damit einhergehend auch in einer Zeit der Sprachverwirrung. Nach einer wirklich kurzen Reise in das Land chaotischer Sprache, soll es vor allem um die Frage gehen, ob, und wenn ja wie, der Mensch Konventionen in der Sprache entkommen kann. Diese Reise beginnt ganz genau so wie es alle Reisen tun, nämlich bei uns selbst.

Am Anfang – nein, es folgt nicht die Auslegung eines biblischen Textes – und dies meint zuallererst unseren biologischen Anfang, kennen (und können) wir noch keine Sprache. Oder vielleicht doch? Immerhin befindet sich der Körper des Wirtes, sprich der Körper der Mutter und der des Begünstigten, diese sich unablässig rapide teilende und damit einhergehend wachsende Zellfusion – fünfzig Prozent vom Doppel-X-Chromosenträger, die sprachliche Konvention begreift diesen als „Frau“, die anderen fünfzig kommen von ihrem chromosomalen Gegenstück, dem XY-Chromosomenträger, gemeinhin betitelt als „Mann“ – in einem unablässigen Akt des Sprechens. Sicherlich ein nonverbales Sprechen, aber es scheint mir doch ein Sprechen zu sein, auch wenn viele vielleicht lieber von Kommunikation oder Austausch sprechen würden als von einem Sprechen. Und so wirklich nonverbal ist zumindest der Doppel-X-Chromosomenträger, oder die Doppel-X-Chromosomenträgerin (?), nicht. (Ojemine…) Es gibt zumindest Anfragen von Seiten beider Chromosomenträger sowie Responsen und Gegenfragen von Seiten der Zellfusion(en), die wir alle sind – nicht nur, aber auch. Auf letztere reagieren für gewöhnlich auch wieder die Chromosomenträger, und zwar immerzu während dieser gefühlten Endlosigkeit, welche konventionell als Schwangerschaft bezeichnet wird und sich letztlich als ganz und gar nicht unendlich erweist, und natürlich darüber hinaus.

Dieser Text holpert mehr als das er fließt, nicht zuletzt aufgrund seines ironischen Untertons. Eigentlich soll diese zugegebenermaßen stilistisch arg konstruierte Passage nur eines vermitteln, nämlich die sprachliche Vermeidung von Konventionen. Die Sprache dieser kurzen Passage versucht zumindest den Konventionen auszuweichen und donnert, sobald sie sich in Sicherheit wähnt, kaum gebremst frontal in die nächste. So scheint sie zu sein, die Sprache, ein Wald voller Konventionen.

Sprache ohne Konvention – eine angestrebte Utopie für die einen, eine weltfremde Absurdität für die anderen. Gibt es das oder kann es das geben, eine Sprache ohne Konvention, eine konventionslose Sprache oder muss dieser Wunsch nicht vielmehr im Land der Träume verharren? Sind sprachliche Eigenheiten lediglich Konventionen und lassen sich diese nach Jahrhunderten oder gar nach Jahrtausenden noch vorsätzlich verändern? Können wir eine neue Sprache erschaffen und fruchtbar gebrauchen? Und wird nicht wiederum jede so genutzte Sprache selbst zur Konvention?

Halten wir besser inne, denn diese Fragen lassen sich endlos erweitern und führen nirgendwohin, maximal zu einem kognitiven Schwindelgefühl. Aber der Tenor bleibt und dieser lautet: Die konventionelle Sprache muss weg! Sicherlich nicht die gesamte Sprache, nicht der gesamte Bestand, sprich Grammatik und der Wortschatz der jeweiligen Sprache. Wie sollte auch noch eine Verständigung gelingen, wenn die Sprache vollkommen ihrer Form und ihres Inhaltes beraubt wurde? Verschwinden soll selbstverständlich, und zwar auf Nimmerwiedersehen, der alltägliche, vom Patriarchat verseuchte, logophonozentristische Jargon, der die gebrauchte Sprache einem Parasiten gleich infiziert und missbraucht.

Aber können wir die „alte“, von Konventionen beherrschte Ursprache tatsächlich auseinandernehmen? Können wir sie zerstören, sie destruieren, um sie daraufhin wieder, aber anders, zusammenzusetzen? Können wir Sprache folglich dekonstruieren? Und was noch viel wichtiger ist: Könnten wir einander verstehen, wenn wir uns zwangsläufig, wenn auch willentlich, in einem Regress des Dekonstruierens der Sprache ad infinitum befinden? Da Sprache aber ohnehin nicht einfach nur eine eins-zu-eins Übermittlung von Informationen darstellt, sondern in der Transmission ihrer Informationen bereits davon bedroht ist einzelne Informationen zu verlieren, ist die unablässige Dekonstruktion, zumindest wenn sie keine Grenzen mehr kennt und at the end of the day das Normative aus der Sprachwelt – beispielsweise eines Landes – verschwunden ist, wenig ratsam.

Meines Erachtens muss der Übergang vom alltäglichen, logophonozentristischen Jargon zu einer entpatriarchalisierten Sprache kein gewalttätiger Akt sein. Mehr noch sollte das Dekonstruieren unserer Alltagssprache um der Dekonstruktion willen vermieden werden – Zerstörung und Neuschaffung darf kein Selbstzweck werden. Und vielleicht braucht es für den Übergang nicht mehr als ein gewisses Maß an alltäglicher Wachsamkeit um eine jede zu überkommende Konvention als solche auch zu entlarven. Folgerichtig ließe sie sich dann dekonstruieren, sprich in ihre Teile zerlegen und zu etwas anderem, neuem zusammensetzen.

Aber wie mag die Ära der „gesunden Dekonstruktion“ gelingen? Wie kann es gelingen alle wünschenswerterweise zu überkommenden Sprachkonventionen auch tatsächlich zu überkommen? Das Herrschaftliche in den betroffenen Sprachen beginnt mit einem ‚ursprünglichen Subjekt‘, vielleicht auch mit mehreren, die sich darin glichen, dass sie eine währende Führer- oder Autoritätsfunktion inne hatten. Die einzelnen Führer gingen, das Prinzip der Autorität blieb. Da ließe sich ansetzen, nämlich wo die Sprache des autoritären Subjekts in den Mikro- und Makrokosmos des sozialen Miteinanders drang. Das Subjekt gebietet sich selbst. Beginnt es im Anderen jemanden seines gleichen zu sehen, wird der Andere zu einem anderen Ich, einem Alter-Ego. Und was für mich, das herrschende Subjekt, der pater familias, der Stammesführer oder der primus inter pares, gilt und das, was ich entscheide, sowie das was und wie ich spreche, das gilt auch für alle anderen, denn sie sind alle wie ich. Diese Vereinnahmung ist es, was als Totalitarismus bezeichnet wird – das Aufgehen des Einzelnen, des Individuellen im Ganzen in der Totalität und damit sein Verschwinden. Die auf ein Alter-Ego reduzierten Subjekte, die mit dieser Herrschaftsstruktur aufwachsen, eine Struktur übrigens, die sich selbstverständlich in der Sprache niederschlägt, kennen nichts anderes. Folglich werden sie die Struktur gesellschaftlichen Miteinanders sowie den patriarchalen Jargon aufnehmen, er wird ihrer Sprache inhärent sein und viele werden für einen großen Teil ihres Lebens nicht einmal wissen, dass sie in einem totalitären System gefangen sind – ein Gefängnis nicht zuletzt für den Verstand.

Sicherlich, das Patriarchat, der Totalitarismus in seiner vielleicht ursprünglichsten Form – auch ein Matriarchat wäre denkbar, aber nicht unbedingt besser –, ist vielen Sprachen inhärent. Aber Sprachen sind keineswegs dazu verdammt ausschließlich totalitär zu sein oder zu bleiben. Wenn sich der tradierte Totalitarismus in der Sprache ausdrückt, wenn somit die totalitäre Sprache mit dem patriarchalen, logophonozentristischen Subjekt, dem Ich anhebt, warum also immer wieder beim Subjekt anfangen?

Demjenigen, der bis hierher gelesen hat, ist nicht entgangen, dass ich eine Vielzahl an Fragen in den Raum stelle, aber diese mag die wichtigste sein: Warum beginne ich, das Subjekt, eigentlich bei mir? Denn seien wir einmal ganz offen und ehrlich, die chronologisch gesehen fundamentalste Erfahrung des Ichs ist nicht das Ich, sondern der Andere. Lange bevor das Ich ein solches geworden ist, lange bevor das Ich von sich als Ich weiß, hat es den Anderen schon erfahren, sich von Anderen gebären, stillen, wickeln, bespaßen, füttern und vielleicht auch anschreien lassen. Anders ausgedrückt, hat der Andere oder haben die Anderen das Ich bereits adressiert, bevor das Ich um seiner selbst wusste. Das Ich wird zum Ich nicht weil es sich autonom setzt, sondern weil es sich – reflexiv – vom Anderen her erfährt.

Die fundamentale Erfahrung des Anderen, die der Erfahrung meiner selbst, der Erfahrung das ich ein Ich bin, primordial vorausgeht, gewährt mir eine Sprache des Sich. Der Andere spricht mich an, es ergeht ein Appell an mich, dem ich mich nicht entziehen kann. Hierbei handelt es sich um eine Sprache, die mehr ist als ein einfaches Sprechen. Hierbei handelt sich nicht (mehr) um eine Sprache der Konvention, es geht bzw. kommt kein Ich mit einem anderen Ich (Alter-Ego) zusammen, das ist es nämlich was Konvention seinem Lateinischen Ursprung nach meint (cum + venire: conventio), ein zusammenkommen von welchen, die so sind wie ich. Hierbei, dies sollte nunmehr deutlich geworden sein, handelt es sich folglich auch nicht (mehr) um eine Sprache des Nominativs, nicht um eine Sprache des vom Totalitarismus in Versuchung gebrachten Ich, sondern um eine Sprache des Akkusativs (mich) – mich gibt es nur, weil es den Anderen gibt. Es handelt sich hierbei somit um eine Sprache, die an mich ergeht, ganz ohne mein Zutun. Das Ich ist irgendwo, wenn es überhaupt ist, aber wo es ist, spielt keine Rolle. Da ist einfach nur diese Anklage (accusare), dieser Appell, dieses Sprechen des Anderen – der in seiner Andersartigkeit nicht einfach ein anderes Ich, kein Alter-Ego ist –, gerichtet an mich. Das Sprechen des Anderen richtet sich an mich, es betrifft mich. Es ist nicht mein Sprechen und nicht mein Sprache, die ich dem Anderen aufoktroyiere. Nicht ich habe sie im Sinne eines Besitzes. Über die Sprache des Anderen, die an mich ergeht verfüge ich nicht. Ich kann sie dem Anderen nicht vorschreiben, weil sie, insofern ich offen für den Appell des Anderen bin an mich ergeht und nicht von mir an ihn. Was mir folglich bleibt ist zu antworten auf das, was an mich gerichtet wird. Wenn ich akzeptiere, dass ich angesprochen werde, und zwar in einer Sprache, die ich verstehe, die aber nicht die meine ist, dann spreche ich ohne Konvention. Dann spreche ich eine Sprache ohne ein Zusammenkommen, ohne Konvention, deren Bedingung ich stelle.

Hier schließt sich der Kreis. Wir müssen nicht festlegen ob der Andere „Frau“, „Mann“ oder „divers“ ist. Dies entscheiden nicht wir. Dies entscheidet der Andere. Wir brauchen keine Labels, wenn überhaupt, im exklusiven, sondern im inklusiven Sinne. Es sollte mich nicht stören, ob im Toilettenabteil neben mir eine „Frau“, ein „Mann“, oder eine Person sitzt, die sich weder das eine noch das andere Label zuschreibt. Was zählt ist, ob ich mich meiner machtinfundierten Sprache entledigen kann und meine Verantwortung gegenüber dieser Person übernehme, so dass ich sie weder beschäme, noch in irgendeiner Weise verletze. Wenn ich diese Person adressieren möchte, warum nicht mit ihrem Namen, den sie sich vielleicht sogar selbst gegeben hat. Wenn ich den Anderen in seiner Andersartigkeit zulasse, mache ich mir kein Bild von dieser Person, ich lasse nicht zu, dass sie in der Totalität verschwindet. Vielmehr höre ich zu und trete für diese Person ein, ich übernehme Verantwortung und werde Mensch.