The Islamic Declaration

It was a wonder that with all this – his job, his studies, and looking after his family – Izetbegović was also able to write extensively on matters Islamic.  In 1969 he produced a first draft of his Islamic Declaration, producing and publishing a final version in 1970.  This short work, some 40 pages, was to arouse keen interest only after the Sarajevo Trial of 1983, when Izetbegović was convicted for a second time, for “Islamic fundamentalism.”

Though written in Bosnia and Herzegovina, then part of Yugoslavia, the Declaration focused not on that country’s political circumstances but on the Islamic world, which the book treated as a coherent spiritual and even political entity.  To the apologists of the socialist system, the Declaration appeared “fundamentalist,” a “threat to the social system,” as indeed it was, in essence: it called for a return to authentic Islam.  To the communists, fundamentalist atheists, extolling the virtues of Islam and celebrating belief in God was heresy of the worst kind.  The Declaration was both acclaimed and challenged with equal passion.  The problem, however, was that those who took issue with it were mainly those who were in power, and the force of argument gave way to the argument of force.

The Islamic Declaration was later translated into seven languages, becoming one of the most widely-read political texts on its subject at that time.  Though he never said so explicitly, it would seem that as Izetbegović became more critical of Muslim countries, he came to see that the Declaration was too idealistic, and to realize that there was no such thing as a coherent Islamic world as he had viewed it; rather, that it consisted of many different entities, each of which had its own specific problems and context, which was particularly true of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Some passages in the Declaration were seen as a call for a polity structured on Islamic principles, which was maliciously interpreted as an appeal by Izetbegović to reorganize Yugoslavia, or at least Bosnia and Herzegovina, along Islamic lines.  Whatever those who advanced such views may have claimed, it is worth noting that in his later political activities, Alija Izetbegović opted for a secular state, based on the principles of modern western democracy, where religion has its place in society on an equal footing with other factors.

Another surprise is the fact that Izetbegović wrote another of his works, Islam Between East and West, even before going to prison in 1946.  When he was arrested, his sister Azra, who died in 1997, managed to hide the almost completed manuscript under the rafters of the family house.  By force of circumstance it remained there, in quite unsuitable conditions, and when Alija found it, it was, as he himself said, “a bundle of half-decayed paper.”  Even so, the bundle was in good enough condition for Izetbegović to transcribe the text, to which he then added some new passages, sending the whole thing to a friend in Canada.  The book was published there in 1984, by which time Izetbegović was already serving his second prison sentence, this time a fourteen-year term.

This book, translated into no fewer than nine languages, also dealt with Islam, and its place in the world of today.  In his view, Islam fell somewhere between eastern and western thought, just as the Muslim world lay geographically “between east and west,” hence the title of the book.  To put it in the briefest of terms, just as everything is created in pairs, so too each of us is a dual being, composed of body and soul, in which the body is the “abode” of the soul.  This abode is the product of evolution, with its own past, but the soul is not: it is breathed into us by the touch of God.  The abode or body is the object of science, but the soul is the object of religion, art and ethics.  In Izetbegović’s view, therefore, there are two narratives and two truths about humankind, symbolized in the West by Darwin and Michelangelo, whose truths are different, but not mutually exclusive.  Izetbegović sought to argue his views by developing the notion that these “truths” are presented as the clash between civilization and culture, in which science and technology are the domain of civilization and religion and art the province of culture.  The former is the expression of our existential needs (how we live), the latter of our human aspirations (why we live).  Civilization aspires to an “earthly kingdom,” religion to the “kingdom of heaven.”  In Islam Between East and West, Izetbegović sought to demonstrate that Islam is a synthesis between these two opposites, a “third way” between the “two poles that define all that is human.”

In his recension of the book, Predrag Matvejević wrote that “the book reveals [the author’s] passionate and thrilling reflections on Islam and its place between East and West, geographical terms taken both literally and metaphorically, with all the contradictions they entail in the Cold War period.”  More recently, Matvejević revised this, adding that from our current perspective, “it is a moderate book, free of any integralism or fundamentalism.”   He also observed that “These days, after the trials endured by Bosnia and Herzegovina, one could say that Izetbegović’s approach also included a kind of warning.  If only it could have been heeded at the right time,” adding that on re-reading Izetbegović’s manuscript, he seemed to see “the figure of a mild, wise man,” which is how he “always remembered him.”

MUSEUM EXHIBITION

The permanent museum exhibition is located in the towers Kapi-kula Ploča and Širokac. In the Ploča tower, the life of Alija Izetbegović as statesman and politician is displayed on chronologically arranged exhibition boards, accompanied by text and photographs. In the Širokac tower, the exhibition is dedicated to Izetbegović's role as the Supreme Commander in the defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Serbian agression.

 

SCIENTIFIC AND RESEARCH CENTER

Established in the recent times, the Museum „Alija Izetbegović“ offers modern answers to questions from the past, but also sets the foundation for the future. Through its objective scientific approach, it encourages young people, intellectuals and researchers to approach modern history with expertise and knowledge. 

 

EDUCATION

The Museum educational programs are designed for elementary and secondary school students. They include professional tours of the permanent museum exhibition, interactive school workshops, pedagogical and educational publications, lectures, special programmes observing important historical dates, etc.