Student Activities


Nihilism and Islam

Seminar & Lectures

Graduate School of Global Studies   Marie TAKETANI

Date: July 9 (Tue), 2013
Lecturer: Professor Mustapha Kamal Pasha
   (Professor at University of Aberdeen, Guest professor at Doshisha University)
Co-organizer: Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Monotheistic Religions (CISMOR)


"Nihilism and Islam" is the title of a lecture by Professor Mustapha Kamal Pasha, from the Department of Politics and International Relations at University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom. Professor Pasha is a visiting professor for the GRM program and taught in the spring semester of 2013. He used the opposite two ideas "Nihilism of transcendence" and "Nihilism of immanence" to understand the phenomenon of "Islamic" nihilism in this lecture.

Nihilism is the philosophy of meaninglessness. The two most important philosophers dealing with Nihilism are Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. The idea of Nietzsche for nihilism is the situation where there is nothing and the crisis of morality. Most of what Nietzsche wrote is related with Christianity; to complete the transmission of new values and Creation of new human beings and new values. Heidegger's idea is not moral crisis; it is the essence of the ontology and the existence. Nihilism is a step to be living nobly without god.

According to Professor Mustafa Kemal Pasha, there are two types of ideas in nihilism: the nihilism of transcendence and the nihilism of immanence. First, nihilism of transcendence is achieved by killing the human ego. The second idea is the nihilism of immanence. It is established with the advent of modernity. The idea is deeply connected with that human projects without transcendence take over human products under the modernity; the authority of the proletariat which construct the modern state itself.

Nihilism can be said to be a reconciliation between the sacred and the secular.

On the other hand, one of the western ideas about religion is that eventually religion will be losing power and people will be independent, so called secularized. In other words, it is to be modern. In that time, religion is considered as a pre-modern issue. There is no importance in religion if modernization is processed because the modern idea is that the human being is the one control the world. In other words, before the advent of modernism, the reality is the God so it can say it was annihilated. In this circumstance, God is central and the human being itself does not have meaning in the world. This can be applied to the Islamic world too.

Why is nihilism, especially the modern form of Nihilism, connected to international relations? One of the reasons is that the Nation States compete with each other for their own benefit. In other words, when we see the world where the reality is no old high value and it is replaced by happiness, economic development, state power, and self-centered development.

From the historical point of view, there is meaning behind violence like the French revolution, however the violence of Islamic world is meaningless because it is not a struggle for making better society, and without the aims; it is not for Islam. Therefore it is not appropriate to discuss the violence in the Islamic world with Islam in religious context. In other words, the object of the violence is the violence itself and revenge for violence. Moreover, according to prof. Pasha, the purification in religious activities and philosophies is one of violence because it deletes diversities of culture.

After the annihilation of the world, modern ideas like nihilism, were presented. As mentioned above, as all the creatures in the world are meaningless, and the violence, which was caused in the Islamic world by Jihadists, is the revenge for the violence by those who were damaged, it can be said that modern Jihad is nihilistic. Recent Jihadists justify their violence under the name of religion. It is the same with some dictators, the dictators and who got a power try to control people and under name of God and religion.

In conclusion, he stated that the impurity is an important essence in this world. The violence is conducted not by outsiders from different countries or communities; it is by people who are belonging to the same countries and communities when they try to purify the society into "their" culture or faith and so on. This purification is one of violence. Even dictators and those who have power in society die one day so it is meaningless and life is evanescent. His lecture provided to students a new way to understand the phenomena in this modern world with philosophical points of view dealing with international and political relations.

Detail of Lecture