The Quran and Desire

The Quran teaches that Allah has no desire (cf., Surah 22, Section 8:64; ‘For verily Allah – He is free of all wants, worthy of all praise.’). The psychoanalytic definition of desire is very complicated but includes within it a notion of remainder and / or excess. So too is there a definition of desire as always being the desire of the Other (desire is the desire of the Other). I shall sort through each of these.

(1) The claim that man’s desire is the desire of the Other implies that man desires to be the object of the Other’s desire, most literally. This comes through in statements of love which often conceal the demand to be loved.  This, it seems to me, does not in anyway contradict the Quranic teachings – man essentially wants to be loved by others, Others, and Allah. We see this in his darkest moments, when, as the Quran continually illustrates, man is reduced to his pure desires, his pure being, his pure beliefs. The Quran asks: why do men only believe during these moments? These are the moments of truth, in a sense. It is easy to believe during those fleetings moments of intense anxiety – moments of judgment, moments of chaos, etc – which quickly relapse or move out into emotion, acting out, and so on. But what about moments when – to put it in popular terms – the ego has a firm grip on the id, and I want nothing to know about it?

These are the moments when one fails to go there where it was, to put it in classicaly Freudian terms.

However, we must be very clear: the statement man’s desire is the desire of the Other does not imply that man has simply inherited Allah’s desires. Indeed, according to the Quran, Allah has no desires. In some sense, this implies that Allah is not the same figure as the Other. This leads me to the second point below.

(2) Desire is hollowed out from the field of the Other. This claim was made most forcefully in Lacan’s tenth seminar on Anxiety. In other words, from the field of the symbolic there is something that remains as the objet petit a, the little object of desire. Desire pre-exists, in a sense, the subject. The subject is but a response to the desire which manifests itself before him as a foreign intruder. This also makes sense since the Quranic teachings in no way contradict the religions of the book which maintain that man (Adam) descended from heaven to earth. We see how the desire to transgress, for example, pre-existed man in Iblis, in jinn. However, it was precisely because of Adam’s eagerness to inherit the desire of Iblis that he became acutely aware of his own body, of the gaze and judgment of the Other, and of his reflexive subject position.

All of this leaves open the question of the possibility that Allah is the Other.


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