In the Shiite community, the memory of liberative suffering constitutes the theological basis of solidarity, resistance, and righteousness. Such memory of suffering, which may exist in other traditions as well, has a powerful potential not only to create solidarity within religious communities but also to forge connections among different religions. By memory, I refer to a remembrance that is simultaneously cognitive and emotional. As I use the term, memory is not only a cognitive issue stemming from "imagination," "recollection," and "repetition," but it is also an "affection" that arises from passions, such as suffering. Also, memory of suffering does not imply "resurrection" of past suffering in the present. Rather, it means recognizing, reconsidering, and sensing tangible aspects of past suffering, on the one hand, and experiencing its constructive and instructive dimensions, on the other. By "liberativity" of suffering, I refer to redemption from suffering, not from sin (as in the Christian context). By "suffering," I do not primarily mean everyday pain such as illness and disease. Rather, I refer to particular instances of quintessential, comprehensive, and collective suffering, both physical and emotional, that have fallen on specific historical figures and communities. Finally, by "solidarity," I refer to a type of integration and societal ties through which different peoples, even on a global scale, come together to prevent new suffering. Solidarity not only correlates with a type of society, as Durkheim says; it is also associated with a specific type of commonality within a particular community. In other words, solidarity that is based on shared joy differs from solidarity that is based on the memory of pain and suffering.
The memory of liberative sufferings can be an effective means to overcome internal and external disputes within and among various traditions. While I draw primarily upon instances of suffering in the Shiite Islamic tradition, I do so only to illustrate how solidarity can be founded upon the memory of suffering. I do not intend to suggest the exclusivity of Shiite suffering in the history of suffering but, rather, to put forth a model that can serve as a common logic between Muslims and others. I pose to my non-Muslim audience such questions as: Are there instances of suffering for (liberative suffering) in their own traditions? Could remembrance of suffering for help to create solidarity within their own contemporary contexts? Could such remembrance be employed as a bridge among different religions (or, at the very least, among Abrahamic religions) to bring them to a common purpose?
This essay introduces an interpretation of Shiite theology of "suffering and solidarity," which finds resonance in the Qur'an, as a contribution to contemporary approaches to altruism, self-sacrifice, and peace. The qur'anic exegesis of Mohammad Hussein Tabatabai (1) is used to search for specific references about the Shiite approach with regard to the subject of solidarity that could be achieved through the memory of suffering. Then follows a phenomenological study of the relationship between suffering and solidarity, on the one hand, and suffering and rising conflicts, on the other. Although this latter section draws upon Christian theological interpretations of suffering, it is not intended to be a comparative study. Rather, I refer to the Christian tradition in order to find a common language and to render Shiite theology and tradition comprehensible to Western theologians.
II. Liberative Suffering in the Islamic Scripture (The Qur'an)
Three types of meaningful suffering can be identified in the Qur'an: Nonliberative suffering, time-specific liberative suffering, and eschatological liberative suffering. Nonliberative suffering falls only upon individuals and does not impact others or society. In other words, this type of suffering, which can fall upon both prophets (such as Job, Jonah, or Zachariah) and nonprophets, is redemptive neither for self nor for others (Q. 21:83-84).
Liberative suffering in the Qur'an, by contrast, is freely chosen in order to redeem others from suffering. The first type of liberative suffering releases others from suffering, but only with regard to a specific time and place. Time-specific suffering can liberate others from either physical (disease and death) or spiritual suffering (injustice and unrighteousness). The Qur'an presents this form of suffering in terms of a self-sacrificing morality (Ithar) and charity undertaken to relieve others from pain. (2) The suffering of Ali (3) and his family, when they fasted three days and donated their food to the needy, the orphaned, and the captive ones (Q. 76:8-13), exemplifies the liberation of others from physical pain (starvation). The sufferings of some prophets serve as examples of time-specific liberative suffering that delivers others not only from physical but also from spiritual suffering, that is, pain that is caused by unrighteous and sinful living. According to the Qur'an, most prophets suffered willingly and voluntarily, in order to deliver their community from the spiritual affliction stemming from its unrighteous behavior. For instance, in the qur'anic account, Noah suffers in order to win a few to the path of righteousness (Q. 71:21 ; 11:36; 10:73). (4)
A. Liberative Eschatological Suffering in the Qur'an
The remembrance of both nonliberative suffering and time-specific liberative suffering can, to some extent, be a salve for present-day human tragedy by providing different lessons for the human community. However, because they apply only to individuals or to a specific time and place, they represent a more simple form of suffering. As such, their remembrance cannot fully address the complexities of late-modern suffering and violence.
In order to overcome the latter, we should seek out a form of past suffering that is simultaneously more emotional, rational, communal, and existential--not merely suffering from but suffering for. The remembrance of this type of suffering would be better able to harness violence, on the one hand, and to create solidarity, on the other. These four factors are characteristic of a type of suffering in Shiite tradition that I designate liberative eschatological suffering. "Eschatological suffering" (5) means the quintessential and all-inclusive suffering that specific characters--such as Jesus in Christianity and Mohammad or Hussein in Islam--endured for the sake of others.
In the case of Shiite theology of history, "eschaton" means the final phase of creation, which begins with the end prophet, because the finality of prophecy means theologically that the world is prepared to receive God's final grace and fulfilled redemption. (6)
Accordingly, the pain and suffering of the final prophet also marks a fulfillment and signifies the ultimate and comprehensive instance of human suffering, which should be considered with similar sufferings in other traditions. This suffering is considered eschatological suffering by virtue of the end time (end phase of creation) in which it occurs and the end purpose for which it is taken on. The concluding and comprehensive suffering occurs in the last era, through the consideration of God's ultimate goal in creation. Therefore, eschatological suffering is not suffering coming in the future (as it is in Christian terms); (7) rather, it is the suffering that has occurred in the past in order to assist people in the future (such as us, here and now) when they are deprived of a prophet or an imam.
Nevertheless, eschatological suffering, as it is used herein, is not bound to Shiite tradition; rather, it could be found, to some extent, in other traditions as well. Moreover, it is not limited to a specific religious confession but can address secular and atheist contexts as well. In other words, eschatological suffering as a comprehensive and quintessential suffering is not based solely on belief in the Qur'an as revelation or in Mohammad as a divine prophet. Rather, non-Muslims--both religious and unreligious--can also view that in the history of suffering as an exemplary instance that is worthy of remembrance.
This ultimate suffering is the beginning of the ultimate deliverance of the earth, as described in the following verse: "He who answers the constrained, when he calls unto Him, and removes the evil and appoints you to be successors in the earth. Is there a god with God[?] Little indeed do you remember" (Q. 27:62). Based on this verse, Shiite tradition asserts a parallel between eschatological suffering and eschatological hope and deliverance. (8) The degree of suffering corresponds to the degree of hope and the degree of liberation, and vice versa. Thus, without full and comprehensive suffering, it is impossible, theologically, to expect full and comprehensive deliverance in the world.
It is important that, in addition to the eschatological suffering itself, the memory of such suffering can also provide a path to eschatological redemption. Memory of suffering can draw one's attention to the causes of past suffering and can thereby help one avoid similar causes in the present. As such, the complexities of human suffering at the end of time, in which we now live, can be addressed by remembrance of such suffering in the past.
Another key verse that shows the correlation among eschatological suffering, final hope, and the last deliverance is the following verse about Moses and his people: "Yet We desired to be gracious to those that were abased in the land, and to make them leaders, and to make them the inheritors, and to establish them in the land, and to show Pharaoh and Haman, and their hosts, what they were dreading from them" (Q. 28:5-6). Although this verse most directly concerns Moses and his people, its point regarding the relationship between suffering and deliverance has a broader relevance. (9) According to Shiite tradition, the story of Moses and his followers is similar to that of Mohammad and his followers (ahlolbeit). (10) Also, there are similarities between Moses's followers who suffered and Mohammad's grandchildren (Hasan and Hussein) (11) who were abased and martyred after him. (12) Most Shiite theologians therefore understand this verse as indicating the process of suffering and deliverance in the end of time that includes the salvation of humankind.
The two previous citations promise that people who have suffered will be saved and will even become rulers of the earth. However, there is no historical evidence indicating that people who have suffered have "inherited" the earth and become "leaders" or "successors in the earth." (13) Therefore, this promise in the Qur'an should be viewed as an anticipation that points not to a specific time and place in the past but to the period in the future when salvation and pure goodness will overcome the highest levels of suffering and evil. (14) In this view, there is no interval between the past, the present, and the future. As the future results from the past, the past is also shaped by the future. (15) In other words, there is meaningful relationship between the past and the present so that the past (or the remembrance of the past) can pave the way for creation of the present. Thus, it is possible, on a historical scale, to expect deliverance in the future from suffering in the past. According to the notion that the "[r]emembrance of what has been endured summons the future," (16) remembrance of past eschatological suffering can connect the past with the present, while also making it possible to control present sufferings and to hope for future salvation.
B. Elements of Liberative Eschatological Suffering in Shiite Thought
There are three crucial characteristics of final and comprehensive prophecy in Shiite Islam: communality, (17) intelligibility, (18) and emotionality. (19) "Communality" of prophecy means a prophetic teaching that insists on community and commonality in its ritual and spirituality. "Intelligibility" refers to the rational (not necessarily in the sense of modern rationality) aspect of religion that should be intelligible to common human sense. "Emotionality" implies the affective aspect of religion. It would be difficult to create effective faith merely through rationality and communality. Emotionality serves as a powerful agent for internalizing knowledge in the mind.
These characteristics demonstrate, theologically, the requirements of those who live after the final prophet. Muslims believe that, because of the theological correlation between human needs and God's grace, the qualities of the final prophecy correspond to fundamental eschatological needs that are to be addressed by the final divine revelation.
Accordingly, I think these traits should be embodied in eschatological suffering as well: The complete and comprehensive suffering in the eschaton should be more communal, more intelligible, and more emotionally effective than previous sufferings. These three factors distinguish eschatological suffering from other types, such as time-specific liberative and nonliberative suffering. While eschatological suffering encompasses all the advantages of liberative and nonliberative sufferings that make us patient and full of hope with respect to our personal and social suffering, it simultaneously includes eschatological features that make it possible to control complex catastrophes and to create human solidarity.
In addition to the above-mentioned traits, eschatological suffering is existential (fourth feature) suffering as well. In order to explain the existentiality of suffering, we should distinguish between suffering for and suffering from. Suffering for (suffering to attain something) is an existential phenomenon that involves positive achievement. For instance, the suffering of a mother giving birth is a suffering for her beloved child, a fact that makes her suffering meritorious, meaningful, and even wondrous. Although the mother is deprived of something in her suffering for, her triumph over suffering is more significant than her loss. Though this pain and grief sap her physical ability, their fruitfulness results in a certain joy within suffering and strengthens the mother in loving and sacrificing for her child. (20) This type of suffering clearly differs from suffering from illness or destitution. (21)
By virtue of the distinction between suffering for and suffering from, we can likewise distinguish between meaningful and meaningless suffering. As Dorothee Soelle put it: "There is meaningless suffering on which people can no longer work, since it has destroyed all their essential powers. [Conversely, meaningful suffering] impels one to act and thereby produces change." (22) Accordingly, suffering for is "a form of change that a person experiences; it is a mode of becoming." (23) While asserting that suffering can potentially be instructive and constructive, I refuse to accord evil a positive status. Evil is evil and not good, but perfect people (like Job, Jesus, Mohammad, and others) can transform the evil that they suffer into an opportunity for the betterment of themselves and others. They thereby model, for those who come later, a successful approach for dealing with human evil and suffering.
Expanding upon these four characteristics, it could be asserted, according to Shiite thought, that the suffering that falls upon Mohammad is not only liberative but also should (1) take a communal form, (2) be intelligible to humans, (3) have emotive power, and (4) be an existential and meaningful form of suffering. Thus, the more emotional the suffering is, the more power it has; the more rational it is, the more control it provides over the passions of suffering; the more communal it is, the more solidarity it creates; and the more existential (suffering for) it is, the more meaningful it will be.
According to Muslim scholars, the sufferings of Mohammad and his successors, especially Hussein's disasters in Karbala, (24) display communal, intelligible, and emotional dimensions and, therefore, represent an archetypal example of eschatological suffering. In addition to redeeming a community from unrighteousness, these sufferings are shaped in communal form as well: Mohammed's family (Ahlo al'qorba) suffered alongside him, and the suffering visited upon Hussein on Ashora day (25) also extended to his seventy-two disciples and his entire family. Moreover, not only did they all suffer at the same time, but they also shared in one another's suffering. (26)
Remarkably, the historical accounts of their suffering contain no mythical dimension that would inhibit us from remembering it in the present day. Everything that occurred on Ashora day was comprehensible to human reason. According to various Shiite traditions, Hussein refused to allow any miraculous or abnormal events during his suffering in Karbala, even though, according to the Shiite tradition, he had the ability to draw upon supernatural means in his fighting. Likewise, Hussein's body was not resurrected after his martyrdom. His tortured body was left unburied for several days, and he was then interred in the same place in which he suffered, in order to establish him as an example of suffering for all to remember. Today a shrine covers the area in Karbala, Iraq, which is visited by all Muslims.
The sufferings of Mohammad and Hussein were also highly emotional. Mohammad's sufferings during his mission in Mecca led him to declare that "no prophet suffered like I suffered." (27) Hussein's suffering, linked with Mohammad's suffering by virtue of the latter's statement that "Hussein is from me, and I am from Hussein," was the apex of suffering. Hussein suffered with his family and disciples for three days when they were deprived of water in the Karbala desert. On Ashora day, Hussein's disciples, his brother, his young son, and his infant child were all martyred tragically by violent mobs before his eyes. After witnessing the death of his followers, Hussein himself was martyred alone in an unbelievable manner.
Finally, the suffering of Mohammad and Hussein was also existential, or suffering for. Shiite thought views their sufferings as an embodiment and public attestation of the supreme human values of freedom, justice, resistance to evil, and the redemption of others from destruction and failure. This factor makes their suffering instructive, meaningful, and therefore worthy of remembrance. (28)
III. Rational Possibility of Negative Solidarity through the Remembrance of Liberative Suffering
How can the remembrance of suffering create solidarity when so many historical instances of suffering resulted not in solidarity but in dispute and violence? This is the key question that I attempt to address in this section. I will first describe how the remembrance of liberative suffering provides an effective way to bridge gaps among people who suffer, even while the same memory also has the potential to stoke the flames of violence and vengeance. I will then argue that violence and vengeance result specifically from the memory of suffering from, not suffering for. In contrast, the remembrance of suffering for makes it possible to harness the violent passions of suffering from.
A. Suffering and Solidarity
Suffering differs from happiness with regard to the self and to solidarity. When overwhelmed with joyful passion, people often disregard others. Happiness without memory of previous adversities and without consideration of potential future hardship can easily lead to selfishness and over-confidence, which tend to create conflicts between self and others. Thus, for instance, Pharaoh's self-exaltation directly resulted in the oppression and humiliation of others.
In contrast, suffering, as a consciousness of deprivation, is associated with need and limitation. (29) For example, suffering from disease deprives a person of health, and suffering from poverty entails the deprivation of property. The more that people suffer or remember suffering, the more they experience deprivation or need. The more they experience need and deprivation, the more they lose their sense of self-sufficiency and realize their need for others. (30)
In order to illustrate differences between happiness and suffering with regard to solidarity, let us imagine two groups: Group x, those who suffer, and Group y, those who happy. Group x is comprised of three people, all of whom have lost touch with their respective beloved one. Group y is comprised of three people, all of whom have their respective beloved one present in their lives. Now, suppose that the members of Group x still hope to find their missing beloved ones. Conversely, those in Group y have no expectation of losing their beloved ones in the future. The people in Group x have in common both the constant awareness of their own loss and deprivation and the constant hope of regaining their beloved. The members of Group y have in common their enjoyment and the absence of expectation that they will lose their beloved in the future.
Which of these groups has more solidarity? That is to say, which of these elements has greater potential to create solidarity: the constant awareness of loss and the constant hope of finding the beloved, or the present enjoyment of and nonexpectation of losing the beloved? I argue that Group x will have greater solidarity than Group y, because: (1) Real adversity and the constant awareness of loss in Group x make it impossible to ignore the commonality between selves and others. Conversely, there is no reason for those in Group y to notice their commonality when each one still enjoys his or her beloved one. (2) A situation of suffering does not involve a conflict of ego against others. Therefore, the awareness of loss and hope for future return in Group x do not provide a ground for conflict, even though the particular objects of loss and hope are not shared by the various members. This sort of solidarity, based on commonality in loss and deprivation, can be designated "negative solidarity." Such negative solidarity would not be present in Group y, whose commonality is based on individual enjoyment. (3) The most important factor in suffering involves the search for a higher power that could release the sufferer from his or her misery. This is an essential feature of human nature in times of grave affliction, which is common to both believers and unbelievers. (31) This hope for a higher power constitutes another commonality, one that can create "positive solidarity" among people in Group x, a feature that is absent in Group y.
Although suffering has more potential to create solidarity than does happiness, suffering also has a greater capacity for fostering violence and revenge. Nietzsche has called attention to this point:
Every sufferer, in fact, searches instinctively for a cause of his suffering; to put it more exactly, a doer,--to put it still more precisely, a sentient responsible doer,--in brier; something living, on which, either actually or in effigy, he can on any pretext vent his emotions .... It is in this phenomenon alone that is found, according to my judgment, the real physiological cause of resentment, revenge, and their family is to be found [sic]--that is, in a demand for the deadening of pain through emotion: this cause is generally, but in my view very erroneously, looked for in the defensive parry of a bare protective principle of reaction, of a "reflex movement" in the case of any sudden hurt and danger, after the manner that a decapitated frog still moves in order to get away from a corrosive acid. (32)
In other words, resentment is a triple achievement that "produces an affect (rage, righteousness) that overwhelms the hurt"; "a culprit responsible for the hurt;" and "a site of revenge to displace the hurt (a place to inflict hurt as the sufferer has been hurt)." (33)
Thus, in spite of the positive functions linked to suffering or memory of suffering, there are some dangers that can also result from Group x's suffering. These dangers can manifest themselves not only when Group x and Group y are combined into a single group that contains both sufferers and nonsufferers (hereafter, Group z), but also in a combination of different suffering Groups x (x1, x 2, x 3).
Disputes between Groups x and y arise particularly when people in Group x believe that their suffering has been created by people in Group y. This is the tipping point that results in the desire for vengeance. Similar disputes can arise among different Groups x themselves when they believe their suffering was created by another Group x or when they seek the same resources for relieving their respective sufferings. Accusing not only oneself (as Levinas indicates) but also others when I suffer is "undoubtedly the very turning back of the I to itself." This accusation can enable one to justify the other's pain, an act which is "the source of all immorality." (34)
Therefore, in spite of the common grounds for solidarity between different Groups x, the creation of solidarity between Groups x and y within Group z may be easier than creating solidarity between several Groups x. Although Group x cannot find commonality with Group y by sharing their happiness, the nonsuffering Group y can create a common ground of solidarity through empathy with Group x. (35) Empathy with the sufferer creates a communicative bridge between those who suffer and those who do not suffer. (36)
However, the most important and complex task is the reconciliation of several angry suffering groups within a single geographic area. Thus, the question arises of how to decrease conflict among different Groups x and how to remove their desires for revenge and violence. In order to answer this question, we must consider the violent passions that can both cause and result from suffering.
B. Passions of Suffering
Many thinkers have discussed "repressing and harnessing the passions"; some, such as Adam Smith and Blaise Pascal, emphasize harnessing, not repressing, the passions. (37) Likewise, Albert Hirschman has asked, "Is it not possible to discriminate among the passions and fight fire with fire--to utilize one set of comparatively innocuous passions to countervail another more dangerous and destructive set or, perhaps, to weaken and tame the passions by such internecine fights in divide et impera fashion?" (38)
In light of this background, we can ask: (1) Is passion limited to joy, or could it be embodied in suffering as well? What does it mean to experience conflict due to passions arising from suffering, which itself results from destitution and deprivation? (2) If "dangerous passions" of joy can result in friction and conflict and should thus be repressed, harnessed, or countervailed, is the same possible for passions of suffering? What would it mean to countervail destructive suffering-passions through productive or instructive suffering-passions or through constructive remembrance of suffering? What is the benign component in suffering (or the remembrance of suffering) that can transform malignant suffering-passions into tamer ones? Is it possible to conceive of constructive or productive suffering-passions? If not, which passions can restrain the misery and havoc that result from destructive suffering-passions? Can passion stemming from remembrance of past sufferings restrict passions of suffering in the present?
First, because passions of suffering share the quality of strong emotion with passions of joy, we can speak of them as different variations of the same basic genre, namely, the psychological force that people experience in either painful or pleasurable situations. While I agree with the Hegelian notion that persons, "following their passions, actually serve some higher world-historical purpose of which they are totally unaware," (39) I emphasize that this account of passion applies not only to joyful cases but also to instances of suffering. In other words, acting upon suffering-passions plays a significant role in the formation of history and civilization.
Thus, violence that occurs between different groups stems not only from lust for money, possession, and power, but often from suffering or the memory of suffering. We can imagine passion-inspired conflicts between two sufferers when both are angry; when both require the same object, at the same time, to alleviate their respective suffering; and when one or both of them believes that his or her past or present suffering has been created by the other. Such conflicts, which I call a "clash of sufferings," can, in turn, produce new and even greater sufferings.
Because the power of pain is stronger than the power of joy, the passion of suffering has greater capacity to create conflict than the passion of joy. The presence of pain creates more difficulties than the mere absence of joy, and the desire to be delivered from pain is more compelling than the desire to attain joy. Therefore, the type of friction that arises between two sufferers differs from frictions stemming from joy. The latter friction is due to the increase in passion for life, while the former derives from the desire to escape from death.
Furthermore, the positive and negative power of suffering passion, with its destructive and instructive capacities, is not limited to suffering itself, but it can also be a component of the memory of suffering. Remembrance of suffering is a reexperiencing of the suffering that is remembered and can result in new emotion and passion. For example, the remembrance of the suffering caused by the Holocaust, Hiroshima, or African-American slavery constitutes an essential element of the historic identity and current unity (40) of those who suffered. (41) Remembrance of these sufferings by immediate victims or their descendants can teach and empower them to stand against those who might create new suffering in the present. Nevertheless, although failure to remember the suffering of slavery can be risky for descendants of slaves, as they could be enslaved again if they forget the extent to which they suffered, the remembrance of the suffering of slavery also has the potential to foster racism and intolerance. (42)
In the face of the negative consequences that can result from remembrance of suffering I maintain that the remembrance of suffering for and its constructive aspects can be used to transform painful passions into a rational passion (interest) of suffering.
C. Tamer Memory and Countervailing "Suffering For"
Suffering for (for the sake of others), instances of which can be found in the history of religions, constitutes a form of instructive suffering, and the memory of this suffering can be constructive for the human community. (43) In contrast, both purposeless suffering from without suffering for and suffering for one's own individual advantage and not for others are destructive of human relationships and do not build solidarity. (44)
Also, memory of suffering J or creates powers to resist those who want to give preference to their suffering over that of others and who use their own suffering as an excuse for vengefulness. In this way, memory of suffering can provoke a community to resist injustice. (45) In accord with Spinoza's idea that "[a]n affect cannot be restrained nor removed unless by an opposed and stronger affect," (46) the memory of suffering for results in strong emotion that can restrain the destructive passions of others, whether caused by joy and delight or by suffering from. (47)
In addition to this emotional role, the memory of suffering for has greater potential to make reason "open to learn." J. B. Metz, although he does not specifically address suffering for, has called attention to the relationship between suffering and reason:
Respect for "the suffering that has accumulated historically" makes reason "open to learn" in a way that cannot explicitly happen in the abstract counterpoising of "knowledge and authority," which is mostly bow the problem of reason's autonomy is discussed, and which is also what the understanding of emancipation as one of reason's a priori interests seems to be fixated on. In this "openness to learn," history--as a remembered history of suffering--wins the form of a "dangerous tradition," which cannot be silenced or "superseded" ..., either in a purely submissive attitude toward the past ... or in ideology critique's stance toward the past. (48)
Drawing upon Metz's insight, we can say that an openness to learn, derived from suffering for, can control the violent passions that result from suffering from and can transform them into rational passion (interests).
Importantly, I do not agree with Kitamori's assertion that "We can conquer [pain] only when we seek it within ourselves and long for it. We can strengthen ourselves when we earnestly seek and desire pain to be part of our nature." (49) Likewise, in contrast to Simone Weil, one should never love suffering itself, either because "it is useful" or "because it is." (50)
I emphasize remembrance of suffering. By emphasizing remembrance, one can appropriate the positive feature while avoiding its negative features. Without creating or justifying suffering, memory of suffering revives past suffering in order to offer instruction and power for the present. (51) This theory thus stands in contrast to those who insist on the passive acceptance of present suffering, saying, "In order to kill the self, we must be ready to endure all the wounds of life, exposing ourselves naked and defenseless to its fangs, we must accept emptiness, an unequal balance, we must never seek compensations and, above all, we must suspend the work of our imagination, which perpetually tends to stop up the cracks through which grace flows." (52) Consequently, the memory of comprehensive suffering for can both tame one's own joyful and painful passions and countervail the passions of others, thereby providing a means for addressing the suffering that gives rise to violence and conflicts. Notably, it does not matter whose suffering for is remembered; the essential point is that this suffering presents a valuable model of responsibility in relation to others.
Eschatological liberative suffering, specifically in the Shiite tradition, could stand as an example of this type of suffering for. As was mentioned above, this suffering manifests intelligibility, emotionality, communality, and existentiality. The emotional feature of this suffering empowers those who remember to resist new evil. Its intelligibility and rationality enable people to control themselves in the highly emotional context of suffering. The communality of this suffering causes people to maintain attention to community and others, even in the face of their own individual pain. Finally, the purposeful existentiality of this suffering helps rememberers to avoid negative or nihilistic aspects of suffering and to reflect upon its meaningful aspects.
Remembrance of such suffering establishes a common affective, intelligible, communal, and existential axis both among suffering communities (Groups x) and also among nonsuffering communities (Groups y), as well as within a community comprised of both sufferers and nonsufferers (Group z). In this way, Groups x can face their past sufferings, stand against new suffering, and identify with the suffering of others. Likewise, Group y is empowered to empathize with Group x and is thereby led both to share its abundance and plenitude with Group x and to enter into Group x's suffering.
IV. Rational Possibility of Positive Solidarity through the Remembrance of Liberative Suffering
Beyond solidarity for the purpose of avoiding new suffering, the memory of suffering can also create solidarity by means of a shared love for those who suffer for others. A full treatment of this issue lies beyond the scope of this essay; however, for the sake of a systematic theory of the relationship between memory of suffering and solidarity, I will briefly sketch some of the ways in which, according to Shiite theology, the remembrance of suffering can be a path to love and truth.
Different groups that, at first glance, seem not to share a common purpose of remembrance (for instance, Christians remember the sufferings of Jesus, while Muslims remember the sufferings of Hussein and Mohammad) can nevertheless be said to share a common way of remembrance of suffering for. However, this common way can in turn produce a degree of commonality in purpose as well, which provides the grounds for a positive solidarity based on love. To illustrate this point, we must examine the relationship among love, imitation, and suffering. How is it possible to create a common love and object of love (as a purpose) through the remembrance of suffering (as a way)?
A. Love and Truth
There is a relationship between suffering and love, on the one hand, and between love and truth, on the other. By remembering the suffering of perfect people who suffered for the sake of others, one can love their characteristics as a form of external truth. Through this love, one can intimately experience those characteristics and their spirit and thereby reduce the gap between who knows and what is known.
Put differently, we can imagine three different type of knowledge: mental knowledge or knowledge via the mind (ilm ol'yaqin), visual knowledge or knowledge via the eye (ein ol'yaqin), and existential (experiential) knowledge or knowledge via existence (Haqq ol'yaqin). For instance, I know what fire is; this knowledge comes through my mind. Sometimes, I see the fire; this knowledge comes through my eye. But, if I am being burned by fire, this is existential knowledge, with no gap between known and knower.
Love is the experience of a beloved one. By loving exemplary persons, one is able to experience and participate in their exemplary characteristics. The experience of such characteristics by different people--even if the particular bearer of the characteristics varies from one tradition to another--serves as a foundation for positive solidarity and for a common purpose among those who love.
B. Love and Remembrance of Suffering
Love is the fruit of remembrance of a beloved one; a deep remembrance is possible only through remembrance of the beloved one's suffering. However, contra Schelling, this does not mean that "Every being can be revealed only in its opposite, love only in hatred, unity only in conflict." (53) That is, the positivity of love is not always dependent on the negativity of suffering. Rather, spiritual love can also result from remembrance of joy and happiness. Nevertheless, the most powerful form of love is that which results from remembrance of suffering. According to several verses in the Qur'an, general remembrance (zikr), which takes place in one's mind, is distinguished from deep remembrance (ashaddo zikra), which occurs in one's heart via remembrance of a beloved one's suffering. (54) This depth of remembrance intensifies one's love for the beloved and creates a stronger experience of the beloved's characteristics. It thereby generates a powerful basis for commonality of purpose among those who engage in this common way of remembrance, even in an era in which there is no divine prophet or imam.
Sufferings for that have fallen upon "perfect" people, particularly in the history of religions, can serve as excellent "common word" models for building commonalities between different traditions. Constructive memory of instructive suffering can make it possible to bridge gaps not only among those different religious traditions containing similar sufferings for but also between religious and secular communities who see the sufferings of those perfect people as a part of the history of human suffering.
Fulfilled suffering that is suffering with the four factors described above (existentiality, communality, rationality, and emotionality) can pave the way for both negative and positive solidarity in a complex, fragmented world such as ours. In fact, this kind of solidarity in a common ground of suffering for in the past and in the necessity of avoiding suffering from in the present. Fulfilled suffering as a common language can pave a common way toward better understandings of one another and toward relations of calm and peace.
Memory of purposeful suffering for (in contrast to the nihilistic suffering from) enables us to base solidarity not only on suffering (negative solidarity) but also on hopes, desires, and love (positive solidarity). (55) Furthermore, emphasizing suffering for implies neither the justification of suffering nor the neglect of happiness in human society. However, while happiness and joyful passion do play important roles in enhancing human community, their power cannot compare with the power of suffering or of the memory of suffering--both in terms of creating violence and in terms of establishing solidarity.
To be sure, the full and perfect solidarity that is expected when the messiah returns is not achievable at this time, since there is no divine messenger to arbitrate authoritatively between right and wrong. Nonetheless, the creation of solidarity, albeit an imperfect one, is possible, through both the common remembrance of quintessential examples of suffering for and a common desire and effort to be delivered from suffering here and now. Additionally, such remembrance of the past and hope for the future can help different traditions and communities to be more patient with and sympathetic toward one another, even when they seem to share no other commonalities. Consequently, even if "God will turn his (and by implication our) sorrow into eternal joy at the consummation of history [in the future]," (56) the memory of suffering for, as a path, is able to offer not only hope but also temporal salvation from suffering--in the present world of the here and now.
* The author acknowledges with gratitude the feedback received from Professors Abdulaziz Sachedina, Peter Ochs, Larry Bouchard, Kevin Hart, James Davison Hunter, Charles Mathews, Paul Jones, Asher Biemann, Jennifer Geddes, and Josh Yates of the University of Virginia. He is also grateful to the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia for providing a doctoral fellowship for 2007-09.
(1) Mohammad Hussein Tabatabai, al'Mizan fi Tafsire al'Quran (Beirut: Moassese al'Aalami, 1973).
(2) See Q. 59:9.
(3) Ali ibn Abi Taleb was the cousin of the Prophet Mohammed. Shi'ah Muslims regard him as the first infallible imam and view his descendants as the rightful successors of Mohammad. Sunni Muslims consider Ali the fourth Rightly Guided Caliph (Rashidun).
(4) The story of other prophets' suffering--such as Hood's, Salih's, Abraham's, Lot's, and Shuaib's afflictions--all can be incorporated, as examples, in this sort of liberative suffering (Q. 11:50-95).
(5) Although "eschatological" refers to knowledge of the eschaton (the final phase of the world). "In recent theological writing, esp. as 'realized eschatology,' the sense of this word has been modified to connote the present 'realization' and significance of the 'last things' in the Christian life" (see "eschatology," Oxford Online Dictionary at http://dietionary.oed.com/egi/entry/50077867?query_type=word&queryword= eschatological&first=1&max_to_show=10&single=l&sort_type=alpha).
(6) In this view, God has revealed entirely all that is required for human life. "Today the unbelievers have despaired of your religion; therefore fear them not, but tear you Me. Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you" (Q. 5:3). See Tabatabei, al'Mizan, vol. 5, pp. 267-295. Despite the disputes between Shiite and Sunni interpreters about the audience of this verse (Muslims or Arabian unbelievers) and about the meaning of "Today," both agree that the revelation was completed that day. Fulfillment of revelation is also reiterated in Q. 6:115.
(7) For the relationship between memory of the crucified Christ and "the promise of a freedom that will come for everyone" in Christianity, see Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God." The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, tr. R. A. Wilson and John Bowden (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993; 1st E.T.: London: SCM Press, and New York: Harper & Row, 1974 [from Der gekreuzigte Gott, 2nd ed. (Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 1973)]), pp. 1-31. Also see Johann Baptist Metz, Faith in History and Society: Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology, tr. and ed, J. Matthew Ashley, a Herder & Herder Book (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 2007 [based on 5th ed of Glaube in Geschichte und Gesellschaft: Studien zu einer praktischen Fundamentaltheologie (Mainz: Matthias-Grunewald, 1977)]), p. 107
(8) See Tabatabaei, al'Mizan, vol. 15, pp 381-384; Feiz ibn Hasan Tabarsei, al'Majma al'Bayan fi Tafsir al'Quran (Beirut: Moassese al'Aalami, 1995), vol. 7, p. 396; Seyyed Hashim Bahranei, al'Borhan fi Tafsire al'Quran (Qom: Ismaeeliyan, 1393 A.H.), vol. 3, p. 207-208; Hovaizei Abd Ali ibn Jom'eh Aroosei, Nooro al'Ssagalain (Qom: Elmeyyeh, 1966), vol. 4, p. 94.
(9) Seyyed Qotb, Fi Zelale al'Quran (Beirut: Ehya'a al'Torath al'Arabi, 1971), p. 324.
(10) See Tabarsie, al 'Majma al'Bayan fi Tafsir al'Quran, vol. 7, p. 375; Bahraanei, al'Borhan fi Tafsir e al'Quran, vol. 4, p. 265; Mohsen Faiz Kashanei, Tafsir Saafi (Beirut: al'Alamei, 1402 A.H.), vol. 4, p. 81.
(11) Hussein was the third imam of the Shiite people, the son of Ali (first imam), and the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad.
(12) See Bahraanei, al 'Borhan fi Tafsir e al'Quran, vol. 4, p. 249; and Kashanei, Tafsir Saafi, vol. 4, p. 80.
(13) See Mohammad Irbrahim Brojerdi, Tafsire Jaame'a (Mashhad, Iran: Nashre Jalil, 2004), vol. 5, p. 152.
(14) See Mohammad's words to Salmaan concerning "pure evil against pure goodness in the eschaton" in Bahraanei, al 'Borhan fi Tafsir e al'Qaran, vol. 4 p. 253.
(15) This is similar to Moltmann's idea concerning theology of history and the relationship between the past, the present, and the future of Christ. See Moltmann. The Crucified God, pp. 162-163; and Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope. On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology (New York: Harper & Row: Fortress Press ed., 1993 [orig.: Theologic der Hoffnung: Untersuchungen zur Begrundung und zu den Konsequenzen einer christlichen Eschatologie (Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 1966)]), p. 154.
(16) Dorothee Soelle, Suffering, tr. Everett R. Kalin (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975 [orig.: Leiden (Stuttgart: Kreuz Verlag, 1973)]), p. 124.
(17) See Q. 3:200, and see Tabatabaei, al'Mizan, vol. 4, p. 126.
(18) See Q. 4:82, and see Kashanei, Tafsir Saafi, vol. 1, pp. 75-76; and Tabatabaei, al'Mizan, vol. 3, p. 99.
(19) See Q. 42:24.
(20) As yon Balthasar declared, "The Passion is therefore the highest act of the Lord's love, just the birth pangs are for a woman giving birth" (Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. 5, The Last Act, tr. Graham Harrison (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1998 [orig.: Theodramatik; Die Endspiel (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1983)]), p. 253.
(21) Suffering for, in my usage, has similarities to (but is not identical with) Moltmann's notion of "active suffering": "There is a third form of suffering, active suffering, which involves the willingness to open oneself to be touched, moved, affected by others--and that means the suffering of passionate love.... God does not suffer, as we do, out of deficiency of being, but God does suffer from love for creation, which is the overflowing superabundance of God's divine being. In this sense, God can suffer, will suffer, and is suffering in the world" (Jurgen Moltmann, "The Crucified God Yesterday and Today: 1972-2002," tr. Margaret Kohl, in Jurgen Moltmann and Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel, Passion for God: Theology in Two Voices (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), pp. 74-75.
(22) Soelle, Suffering, p 107.
(23) Ibid., p. 98.
(24) Karbala is a city in Iraq, located about 100 km. southwest of Baghdad. Shi'a Muslims view Karbala as one of their holiest cities, because it was the site of the martyrdom of Hussein (third imam).
(25) Ushora day is the 10th day of Moharram, the first month of Islam's calendar.
(26) See Mahmoud Ayoub, Redemptive Suffering in Islam: A Study of the Devotional Aspects of 'Ashura' in Twelver Shi'ism, Religion and Society 10 (The Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1978).
(27) Mohammad Bager Majlessi, Behar o al'Anvar (Beirut: Moassese al'Vafa', 1983), vol. 39, p. 56.
(28) See Abdulaziz A. Sachedina, "Activist Shi'ism in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon," in Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Applebly, eds., Fundamentalisms Observed (Chicago and London: University of Chircago Press, 1991), pp. 403-456.
(29) See Emmanuel Levinas, "Useless Suffering," in his Entre Nous, On Thinking-of-the-Other, tr. Michael B. Smith and Barbara Harshav, European Perspectives (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998 [orig.: Entre Nous: Essais sur le penser-a-l'autre (Paris: Editions Grasset & Fasquelle, 1991)]), pp. 91-92.
(30) "Projects or ecstasies of pleasure that seek to escape the burden of being cannot lead to the limits of the self. It is only in suffering, Levinas insists in Time and the Other, that I have access to the other: 'only a being whose solitude has reached a crispation through suffering, and in relation with death, takes its place on a ground where the relationship with the other becomes possible'" (William Edelglass, "Levinas on Suffering and Compassion," Sophia 45 [October, 2006]: 45, quoting Emmanuel Levinas, Time and the Other, and Additional Essays, tr. Richard A. Cohen [Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1987], p. 76).
(31) See Q. 29:65: "When they embark in the ships, they call on God, making their religion sincerely His; but when He has delivered them to the land, they associate others with Him." According to this verse, which has been addressed to nonbelievers, it is human nature to look for a higher power in response to suffering
(32) Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, tr. Horace B. Samuel (New York: The Modern Library [Boni & Liveright, Inc.], 1918 [orig.: Zur Genealogie der Moral (Leipsiz, 1887)], p. 134; emphasis in original.
(33) Wendy Brown, States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), p. 68.
(34) Levinas, "Useless Suffering," p. 99.
(35) Several verses in the Qur'an exhort people to sympathize and empathize, through financial and nonfinancial means, with those who suffer and are in need. For instance, see 65:7, which encourages those who have abundance to donate to those who are deprived.
(36) See Soelle, Suffering, p. 178. Likewise, Charles Taylor has asserted: "We live in an extraordinary moral culture, measured against the norm of human history, in which suffering and death through famine, flood, earthquake, pestilence, or war, can awaken worldwide movements of sympathy and practical solidarity" (Charles Tayler, A Catholic Modernity? ed. James L. Heft (New York and Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 25.
(37) Albert. O. Hirschman. The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph (Princeton, N J: Princeton University Press, 1977), p. 19.
(38) Ibid., p. 20.
(39) Ibid., p. 19.
(40) E.g., Holocaust commemoration "has served to impose a certain unity on the Jewish community in the United States" (Charles. S. Maier, "A Surfeit of Memory? Reflections on History, Melancholy, and Denial," History and Memory 5 [Fall/Winter, 1993]: 146).
(41) Concerning the necessity of memory of Jews' suffering, Levinas wrote: "if God was absent in the extermination camps, the devil was very obviously present. Hence, in Emil Fachenheim's view, the obligation for Jews to live and to remain Jews, in order not to be made accomplices of a diabolical project. Jews, after Auschwitz, are pledged to their faithfulness to Judaism and to the material and even political conditions of its existence" (Levinas, "Useless Suffering," p. 99).
(42) Maier has called attention to this possibility by observing, "Jewish and German memories, or perhaps white and Afro-American, might lead to inevitable and continual conflict" (Maier, "A Surfeit of Memory?" pp. 136-137).
(43) The sacrifice of self-nourishment for the other, can, according to Levinas, be a base of ethics: "Ethics, for Levinas, is not simply the gift of bread to the hungry, not only the nourishment of the other, but the painful loss of my own satisfaction: it is "an offering oneself that is a suffering'" (Edelglass, "Levinas on Suffering and Compassion," p. 52).
(44) See Soelle, Suffering, pp. 69 and 75.
(45) Wendy Farley, Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion: A Contemporary Theodicy (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990), p. 59.
(46) Cited in Hirschman, The Passions and Interests, p. 23, quoting Benedict Spinoza, Ethics, Pt. 4, Prop. 7, tr. W. H. White, rev. tr. A. H. Stirling (London: Oxford University Press, 1927).
(47) See Brown, State of Injury, p. xiii.
(48) Metz, Faith in History and Society, p. 180.
(49) Kazoh Kitamori, Theology of the Pain of God (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1965; London: SCM Press, 1966 [from 5th ed. of Kami No Itami No Shingaku (Tokyo: Shinkyo Shuppansha, 1958)]), pp. 80-81.
(50) See Simone Well, Gravity and Grace (London: Ark Paperbacks, 1987), p. 72.
(51) Maier, "A Surfeit of Memory?" p. 150.
(52) Gustave Thibon, "Introduction," in Well, Gravity and Grace, p. xxii.
(53) F. W. J. Schelling, Uber das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit (1809), as quoted in Moltmann, The Crucified God, p. 37.
(54) The Qur'an recommends this type of deep remembrance in remembering God: "'And when you have performed your holy rites remember God, as you remember your fathers or yet more devoutly" (2: 200).
(55) In order to distinguish between solidarity that is based on desire and belief and solidarity that is based on suffering and pain, see Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 198.
(56) Kenneth Surin, Theology and the Problem of Evil, Signposts in Theology (Oxford, U.K., and New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986), p. 129.
Habibollah Babaei is on the faculty of the Academy of Islamic Sciences and Culture (AISC), Qom, Iran, where he has been director of the "Islam and West" group since 2004. During 2007-09, he was a Doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture (IASC) at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, where he participated in several university courses and institute seminars, as well as a hermeneutical conference on "Scriptural Reasoning" in July, 2008. At the conclusion of his first year he presented a paper, "Foundation of Practical Theology," which laid the groundwork for his larger (life) project during his second year at IASC. His work focused on two main themes: the idea of the unity of God and the plurality of the world, and the tradition of redemptive suffering in the Abrahamic religions. The culmination of his work came in the form of a scholarly paper presented at an IASC seminar to fellows and scholars. From the foregoing list of academic accomplishments, he was named a "gifted and dedicated scholar" in the IASC. Also, he taught Occidentalism at the Center of Women Studies, Qom Howze (2005-07), and Islamic theology and Arabic literature, Qom Howze, 1998-99 and 2005. He has an official diploma in Calligraphy Art; an MA. in Islamic Studies, Howze, Qom; and an M.A. in Theology and Islamic Studies from the Academy of Emam Khomeinei (2003), where his thesis was on the foundations and principles of the Qur'an's mystical interpretation. His book Nazariyye-ye Tamaddon (Theory of Civilization) was published by the AISC in 2008. His articles and reviews have appeared in several Iranian journals, and he has lectured in Iran and the U.S. and presented radio and television programs in Iran. His current work involves destructive and constructive diversity in Islamic thought and civilization, Islamic practical theology, and the fate of the self in sacrifice in the case of Islamic martyrdom.…