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7794899 Islamic Philosophy an Introduction by Syed Mohd Naquib AlAttas

7794899 Islamic Philosophy an Introduction by Syed Mohd Naquib AlAttas

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Journal of Islamic Philosophy 1 (2005):11–43© 2005 by the Journal of Islamic Philosophy. All rights reserved. 1536-4569/2005/001–001–002
 Islamic Philosophy: An Introduction
 
Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas
From the perspective of Islam, a‘worldview’ is not merely the mind’sview of the physical world and of man’s historical, social, political andcultural involvement in it as reflected,for example, in the current Arabicexpression of the idea formulated inthe phrase
na
 ẓ
rat al-islam li al-kawn
.It is incorrect to refer to theworldview of Islam as a
na
 ẓ
rat al-islam li al-kawn
. This is because,unlike what is conveyed by
na
 ẓ
rat,
the worldview of Islam is not basedupon philosophical speculation formulated mainly fromobservation of the data of sensible experience, of what isvisible to the eye; nor is it restricted to
kawn
, which is theworld of sensible experience, the world of created things. If such expressions are now in use in Arabic in contemporaryMuslim thought, it only demonstrates that we are already being unduly influenced by the modern, secular Westernscientific conception of the world that is restricted to the worldof sense and sensible experience. Islam does not concede tothe dichotomy of the sacred and the profane; the worldview of Islam encompasses both
al-duny
ā
and
al-
ā
khirah
 ,
in which the
duny
ā
-aspect
must 
 be related in a profound and inseparableway to the
ā
khirah-
aspect, and in which the
ā
khirah-
aspecthas ultimate and final significance. The
duny
ā
-aspect is seenas a
 preparation
for the
ā
khirah-
aspect. Everything in Islam isultimately focused on the
ā
khirah-
aspect without therebyimplying any attitude of neglect or being unmindful of the
duny
ā
-
aspect. Reality is not what is often ‘defined’ in modernArabic dictionaries as
w
ā
qi
c
ī 
 yyah
, whose use, particularly inits grammatical form
w
ā
qi
c
ī 
 y,
 
is now in vogue. Reality is
aq
ī 
qah,
which significantly is now seldom used due to the
The following paper is excerpted from the
 Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of  Islam
, with the generous permission of the author, Syed Naquib al-Attas.Originally published by ISTAC, Kuala Lumpur, 1995.
Dr. al-Attas isdirector of theInternationalInstitute of IslamicThought andCivilization inMalaysia.
 
Syed al-Attas
 preoccupation with
w
ā
qi
c
ī 
 yyah
 
which only points to factualoccurrences. A factual occurrence is only one aspect in manyof 
aq
ī 
qah,
whose ambit encompasses
all 
of reality.Moreover, a factual occurrence may be an actualization of something false (i.e.
b
āṭ 
il 
);
 
whereas reality is the actualizationalways of something true (i.e.
aqq
)
.
 
What is meant by‘worldview’, according to the perspective of Islam, is then the
vision of reality and truth
 
that appears before our mind’s eyerevealing what existence is all about; for it is the world of existence in its totality that Islam is projecting. Thus by‘worldview’ we must mean
ru
c
 yy
ā
t al-islam li al-wuj
ū
d.
The Islamic vision of reality and truth, which is ametaphysical survey of the visible as well as the invisibleworlds including the perspective of life as a whole, is not aworldview that is formed merely by the gathering together of various cultural objects, values and phenomena into artificialcoherence.
1
Nor is it one that is formed gradually through ahistorical and developmental process of philosophicalspeculation and scientific discovery, which must of necessity be left vague and open-ended for future change and alterationin line with paradigms that change in correspondence withchanging circumstances. It is not a worldview that undergoes adialectical process of transformation repeated through theages, from thesis to antithesis then synthesis, with elements of each of these stages in the process being assimilated into theother, such as a worldview based upon a system of thoughtthat was originally god centered, then gradually became god-world centered, and is now world centered and perhapsshifting again to form a new thesis in the dialectical process.Such a worldview changes in line with ideological agescharacterized by a predominance of the influence of particular and opposing systems of thought advocating differentinterpretations of worldview and value systems like that whichhave occurred and will continue to occur in the history of thecultural, religious and intellectual tradition of the West. Therehave not been in the history of the cultural, religious andintellectual tradition of Islam distinct ages characterized by a preponderance of a system of thought based upon materialismor idealism, supported by attendant methodologicalapproaches and positions like empiricism, rationalism,
1. I mean by ‘artificial coherence’, a coherence that is not natural in the sensewe mean as
 fi
ṭ 
rah
. Such coherence projected as a worldview must necessarily besubject to change with the change of circumstances.
 
 Journal of Islamic Philosophy / 2005
 
13
 
realism, nominalism, pragmatism, positivism, logical positivism, criticism, oscillating between centuries andemerging one after another right down to our time. Therepresentatives of Islamic thought—theologians, philosophers,metaphysicians—have all and individually applied variousmethods in their investigations without preponderating on anyone particular method. They combined in their investigations,and at the same time in their persons, the empirical and therational, the deductive and the inductive methods and affirmedno dichotomy between the subjective
2
and the objective, sothat they all affected what I would call the
taw
ḥī 
 
method of knowledge. Nor have there been in Islam historical periodsthat can be characterized as ‘classical’, then ‘medieval’, then‘modern’ and now purportedly shifting again to ‘post-modern’; nor critical events between the medieval and themodern experienced as a ‘renaissance’ and an‘enlightenment’. Proponents of shifts in systems of thoughtinvolving changes in the fundamental elements of theworldview and value system may say that all forms of culturesmust experience such shifts, otherwise in the process of interaction with changing circumstances they exhaustthemselves and become uncreative and petrified. But this istrue only in the experience and consciousness of civilizationswhose systems of thought and value have been derived fromcultural and philosophical elements aided by the science of their times. Islam is not a form of culture, and its system of thought projecting its vision of reality and truth and the systemof value derived from it are not merely derived from culturaland philosophical elements aided by science, but one whoseoriginal source is Revelation, confirmed by religion, affirmed by intellectual and intuitive principles. Islam ascribes to itself the truth of being a truly revealed religion, perfected from thevery beginning, requiring no historical explanation andevaluation in terms of the place it occupied and the role it played within a process of development. All the essentials of the religion: the name, the faith and practice, the rituals, thecreed and system of belief were given by Revelation andinterpreted and demonstrated by the Prophet in his words andmodel actions, not from cultural tradition which necessarily
2. By ‘subjective’ I mean not the popular understanding of the word. Thehuman soul is creative; by means of perception, imagination, and intelligence it participates in the ‘creation’ and interpretation of the worlds of sense andsensible experience, of images, and of intelligible forms. ‘Subjective’ here issomething not opposed to what is objective, but complementary to it.

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