This café was legendary in every sense of the word. Perhaps it was the most famous café in history. In 1913 – just one year before World War I – Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler were sitting in this café in Vienna. In Café Central – according to the BBC – a number of twentieth-century makers were sitting sipping coffee. At the same time, Sigmund Freud and Leon Trotsky as well as Josef Tito were also sitting in the aforementioned café.
Freud, at the time, was a famous psychoanalyst, Tito was a car engineer trying to make his way in life, while Hitler was a young man who was 24, living in students’ hostels and looking for work.
After one year, the world changed, for the world war broke out and the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed, as well as the Ottoman empire and the Russian empire. A new empire emerged, which was the Soviet Union, and the political geography of the 20th century arrived.
Stalin and Hitler, who met in this Viennese café in 1913, met once again 30 years later in the biggest war in history where Stalin was victorious and Hitler was defeated, and an extended Cold War between Washington and Moscow started and continued to this very day.
If that were the summary of 100 years of politics, there were others meeting in another café in Vienna for the purpose of shaping 100 hundred years of philosophy. They were the Vienna Circle, which included physicists, mathematicians and economists and the most famous among them was the philosopher Rudolf Carnap. They founded the school of Logical Positivism, which did away with metaphysics.
The new school didn’t acknowledge anything save physics and its laws. Nothing exists except logic, mathematics and physics and everything that can be perceived, verified, attested and developed, while the entirety of metaphysics, in their opinion, doesn’t exist and is worthless and shouldn’t be bothered with.
In the Arab world, Logical Positivism found a follower who added to it famous Egyptian philosopher Zaki Naguib Mahmoud. His book The Myth of Metaphysics was an extension of this school’s vision regarding the inevitability of putting an end to metaphysics and not believing in anything except the physical.
The Egyptian philosopher didn’t stay long in embracing Logical Positivism; soon he modified his book to A Standpoint Towards Metaphysics. Then, in the next decades, he directed his intellectual project towards studying Islam and Arabism and reconciling the soul with matter and Islam with modernity.
Logical Positivism is a nonreligious philosophy which believes that all religions are outside the realm of science and an expression of emotions and desires not of facts and beings. Thus, Logical Positivism considers mathematics and physics as the only sources of trustworthy and believable truth.
I’ve thought for a long time about the possibility of coining a new term such as Logical Islamism. I presented the term for the first time during a lecture I gave at the American University in Cairo in the summer of 2011. I’ve found that it was appropriate to return to it once again.
Logical Islamism can represent an intellectual approach in the 21st century like the Vienna Circle in the 20th century. The Vienna Circle founded Logical Positivism based on matter and abolishing the soul, accepting physics and negating what’s beyond it.
Here, Logical Islamism borrows the strict laws of science from Logical Positivism and also derives from it that lofty position in which it placed mathematics and physics, the pillars of modern civilisation. However, it differs from it in that it doesn’t put the soul in collision with science and it doesn’t create a mutually exclusive formula between religion and physics.
Rote-learning schools dominated the Islamic world in the period following the Golden Age and the period of Ottoman stagnation. Those schools made no contributions whatsoever. Scientific civilisation was changed into commentaries on original books and commentaries on the commentaries. Tens of years passed without a single step taken outside the circle of monotonous repetition and learning by rote.
The decline in the Islamic world’s intellectual hub in Egypt contributed to the overall deterioration of this world. The Ottoman invasion of Egypt led Cairo into its longest period of decline; it extended for three centuries from the 16th century until the 19th century.
Muhammad Ali’s period did forge contemporary Egyptian modernism and effectively ended the Ottoman degradation. Egypt moved towards the future in strong and steady steps and succeeded within few years in resuming its imperial glory.
However, the emergence of political Islam movements in the 20th century quickly confounded its steps and confused thought, politics and economics.
These movements’ role was similar to that of a counter-revolutionary to the Egyptian civilisational project. Accordingly, the agenda of societal discussions plunged from questions concerning renaissance and modernism to questions of years of decline and decay.
Egypt was about to escape from the civilisational rift which it stumbled into, until an alliance between colonialism and extremism cut short its stride towards ascension. The concepts of science and the homeland were swept aside. The consequences of this dilemma continued into the 21st century: in the first parliament following the January 2011 Revolution, a number of members of parliament refused to rise when the national anthem was played.
Moreover, the members of parliament’s education and scientific research committee welcomed Dr. Ahmed Zuwail with swearing and insults, and some of them demanded that he be expelled from parliament.
In my view, Logical Islamism is an intellectual approach that makes an evitable reconciliation between physics and Islam, between the mosque and modernism. It should also dismantle and abolish the idiotic cultural foundations of enemies of civilisation and prevent the stupid from ascending to power or have control over thought.
If our Islamic nation possessed the soul without matter it would be a virtual nation that doesn’t exist. If it owned matter without soul, it would be a nation made of stone without morals. If Logical Positivism was founded on science against religion, Logical Islamism is based on both science and religion. It will also be based on the values of tolerance and principles of international dialogue. The triangle upon which Logical Islamism will rise will consist of science, faith and peace.