A Summary of Islamic History Through the Lens of Spiral Dynamics

Islamic History on Spiral EDITED

Author’s note: This piece began as an answer to a post on a Spiral Dynamics online forum regarding the value systems history of Islam and a corresponding image depicting its evolutionary movement along the Spiral.  The image accompanying the narrative was from a PowerPoint presentation from a 4-hour workshop. The original slides were moved to Apple’s Keynote program and in the process, many of the lines, bars and text in the graph were distorted creating some confusion. The image above is from the original PPT which preserved much of the graph according to the findings. Also note that the timeline is not proportionately chronological. It is intended to pinpoint what Clare W. Graves called “the appearance of significant Existential Problems, NOT the clock! The purpose of this supplemental post, is to provide a more comparative East/West analysis and to address the dynamics of the last century that are at the heart of the Western conflict with Islam.

The image and the accompanying narrative account for less than 10% of the workshop which focuses primary on how to help Islam evolve from its current arrested stages of development, and more specifically the Middle East. The full whole-systems approach to that issue is detailed in Elza Maalouf’s book Emerge! The Rise of Functional Democracy and the Future of the Middle East.  While the post received many comments and was shared widely, the historic narrative is usually used as a background to inform the design of future systems based on the region’s current Life Conditions.

While many of my colleagues continue to question whether Islam was ever at Orange-Green, and insist on judging it based on the last 100 years, to me this is nothing more the furtherance of a centuries-old Western pattern of repression and the refusal to acknowledge that a more advanced culture might have existed prior to the European Renaissance. It started at least 5 centuries before Islam in 48 BC when Julius Caesar burned down the Library of Alexandria. Libraries are essential building blocks of the Blue system upon which Orange capacities are built.  In today’s standards, that library would be many times the size of the largest library in the world-the Library of Congress. Imagine where the region would be today had it not been for the brutality of the West.

I urge my European friends to stop using pop psychology to help them feel better about Europe’s own colonial past and its bloody battles within its own tribes over the centuries in order to process the trauma and blame what can’t be processed on “the other.” That other is made up of groups who don’t fall into the European worldview including the way Islam has manifested over the last 100 years. While Islam in parts of the MENA region might be going through a dark phase after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, it’s worth remembering that Europe’s own dark ages, according to most historians lasted for 10 centuries.

The workshop from which this information comes represents a summary of Elza’s 240-page book and her background as an attorney in Lebanon who studied the history of Islam, Sharia Law, the Quran, Al Hadith, and Nahjul Balagha. In addition, there is over a decade worth of research and applications at the Center for Human Emergence Middle East (CHE-ME) that shapes all that knowledge into a value systems-informed narrative.  A prerequisite for our activities at the CHE-ME is the full acknowledgment of our own shadow issues and that of Islam in the region. This is the elephant in the room that many leaders in the Middle East ignore, and many in the West project unfairly on Islam, while doing very little to address their own failures to design effective systems that ensure the proper assimilation of Muslim migrants.

It is important to acknowledge that with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the Arab rebellion against its rule, Islamic Renaissance effectively came to an end. The Arabs reclaimed Sunni Islam from the Turks, and brought it back to its original home, the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina.  This shift and the absence of Ottoman expansion is often overlooked from a developmental standpoint as the Arabian Peninsula had remained historically close to the tribalistic Purple values that existed since the days of Hijra. Ottoman expansion on the other hand, reached deep into Europe, evolving the religion into higher value systems in more inclusive ways that lasted beyond Al-Ghazali.  After the end of WWI, modern-day Turkey moved towards a secular form of governance under the Kamalists reforms, while Saudi Arabia remained under the influence of Wahhabism, an Islamic doctrine that has been described as ultraconservative and fundamental. Wahhabism, also known as Salafism, in a modern-day context, has a value systems profile that is centered in Red and a closed-system theocratic Blue that ruled over a predominantly Purple tribalistic landscape.  It sought to crush the “deviant sectarian movement of the religion” and emphasized the principle of Tawhid or monotheism, dismissing other offshoots of Islam as idolatries.

What the Wahhabis sought to do with Sunni Islam would be equivalent to the Church wanting to undo all the evolutionary stages of Christianity and bring it back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition.  The Wahhabis and the Saudi royal family have had a power-sharing arrangement since the 18th century. In the 20th century, revenues from oil in the kingdom were the catalyst that provided for the spread of firebrand Sunni teachings throughout the region and the world.  The Saudi royal family looking to self-preservation, looked the other way while allocating billions in their annual budgets to the building and staffing of Wahhabi and Salafi mosques around the world.

To demonstrate the larger context in which all this is being presented, in 2006 the CHE-ME set out to perform a detailed value-systems analysis of how Jordan was successfully addressing its Muslim extremism. We discovered that King Abdullah II, was a man whose life was shaped by both the East and the West. He was a direct descendent of the Prophet Mohamed, and was educated in the US and the UK from his early years. He was also commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the British Army before ascending to the throne.  His Western education combined with his tribal Indigenous Intelligence provided him with the needed pragmatism to implement religious reforms without bringing the ire of the Wahhabis. He had initiated a kingdom-wide program that essentially reversed the way in which the Wahhabis recruited Imams.  The king put in place a qualifying criterion that required all Imams to have post-secondary education and be in the top 5% of their class. This essentially moved the needle in the Muslim clergy community in Jordan from Red/arrested Blue that was out of touch with modern Life Conditions to an open Blue-Orange state that is commensurate with local Life Conditions and in harmony with the rest of the world.  These findings formed the foundation for a new way of thinking: If Imams could be taught to see the higher value systems in their scripture, the world will be a much better place for it. This became the basis for most of the presentations Dr. Beck, Elza and I made in the US and in Europe. From the 2011 Global Counter Terrorism conference in Paris, to meetings at the State Department. Dr. Beck sent Karl Rove, President Bush’s senior advisor many memos on our findings in the hopes that it becomes a new awareness for how we address the deeper layers of conflict and terrorism.

As we surveyed local Islamic outreach organizations in Europe and the US, we discovered that most of the Mosques that had the potential to foment hate speech and inspire terrorist activities were led by firebrand Salafi Imams who preached the Wahhabi doctrine of Tawhid that made infidels out of innocent next-door neighbors.  What we had advocated form in Paris and in Washington was a Spirally-informed approach inspired by what Jordan had done. We proposed a professional licensing system for Imams as a way to change the content of Islamic scripture from Red and closed Blue to an open Blue and Orange content right from the Quran, which contained sayings that spanned the entire spiral from Purple to Turquoise. We ultimately discovered that many leaders in the West don’t have the capacity to understand the Spiral. In addition, the West’s naïve understanding of freedom of speech, prevented many from accepting our advice which allowed for the hate speech that inspired terrorist actions to continue.

In 2008, the CHE-ME sought funding for a project with the goal of mapping out the Quran on the Spiral. Similar to what Dr. Beck had done in creating the Stratified Democracy model, we sought to stratify Islamic scripture according to keywords and phrases that correspond to each level of development. Our primary objective was to separate heavy doctrinaire Blue and destructive Red from the rest of the Quran and offer our findings to world leaders as basis for training new Imams who held the key to a new Islamic Renaissance. The stratification process would utilize the vMEME Bar Code system that Dr. Kevin Kells created at the center for the purpose of value-matching content to community or country profile. Unfortunately, those plans fell apart as the financial crisis dried up most of the funding we were counting on. I’m still hopeful that an academic institution takes on this ambitious project which I believe will have a profound impact on the future of Islam.