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1 Nietzsche and the Last Pope: Changing the Paradigm, or the End of al-Millah (the Theologico-political Community)1 Fethi Meskini, Department of Philosophy, University of Tunis msknfth@yahoo.fr Translated by Ghazouane Arslane, Department of Comparative Literature, Queen Mary University of London g.arslane@qmul.ac.uk / ghazouane_arslane@yahoo.com O people save me from God, for He has snatched me away from myself, and would not return me to myself, and I cannot live up to His presence, and I fear His abandonment. al-Ḥallāj.2 These people would not be happy with a happy god. They know only the gods of their pain. Kahlil Gibran, Jesus the Son of Man (1928).3 And my jihad has today come to an end, and I have realized that the gods, if they collapsed, would not be resurrected. Mahmud Messadi, Ḥaddatha Abū Hurayrah Qāl [Thus Spoke Abū Hurayrah] (1973).4 In the fourth and last section of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche designated a section entitled “Ausser Dienst” [literally: off-duty] or “Retired,” which revolves around the following question: what is the destiny of “the last pope,”5 following the news that “the old god in whom all the world once believed no longer lives”6 ? Nietzsche did not say that “he has died,” here, but that he rather “no longer lives” (... dass der alte Gott nicht mehr lebt7 ), in that the issue does not so much pertain to god as such8 as to the believers’ consciousness of him. That is, it does not concern the being of the Christian god itself but, instead, “the feeling” that “god himself is dead.” This feeling means multiple things but, as Heidegger noted, it does not at all signify that “there is no god.”9 In a nutshell: it is a statement that poses an ethical problem, not a position of belief. And Nietzsche had already clarified its meaning in paragraph 343 of Gay Science, “that belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable,”10 2 because it stems less from a self-conscious atheistic stance than from the disappointment of a believer and the despair of a narrative hero. Nietzsche, of course, was not the one who invented this symbolic story, because someone else had preceded him in doing so, namely, Hegel, who used the expression “the feeling: God himself is dead”11 for the first time in his essay “Faith and Knowledge,” based on a quote from Pascal, although he remarked later in his lectures on the philosophy of religion that the expression goes back to a Lutheran hymn,12 which had arguably emerged the year 1628 in Wurzburg.13 Nietzsche for us: The last Pope and the Last Caliph We in the Islamic world14 – we the “non-Christian”15 readers – are in a similar spiritual situation, which nevertheless only repeats itself: we are on threshold of a new spiritual age dawning on us following a dreadful metaphysical acceleration, led by terrorism “in the name of” religion, towards the nightmare of “a postmodern Caliphate.”16 Which is why we ought to ask: what is the destiny of “the last Caliph” who has declared himself, in the horizon of the postmodern Muslims (after a speedy and hesitant modernity), a guardian over the future of their relationship with the old god? It should be reminded that “the last Caliph” is not an individual who can be arrested or killed: there is no meaning in killing an idea or a narrative persona, which is precisely the case with divinity or God. The bottom line vis-à-vis the destiny of the idea of God for us is that it has not yet become a “literary” problem in the profound sense of the term in Nietzsche. The peculiar novelty of Nietzsche lies in the fact that he treated life as though it were a sheer literary problem.17 It is in this sense that he posited the question of the death of God. We ought to be wary of any personification of an enemy whose concept exceeds every private life. Any Muslim who believes in terrorism is a “last Caliph” who awaits to be throned in the consciousness of the spiritual community to which...

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ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Launched on MUSE
2020-09-09
Open Access
No
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