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Seyyed Hossein Nasr - The Role and Meaning of Philosophy in Islam

Seyyed Hossein Nasr - The Role and Meaning of Philosophy in Islam

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The Meaning and Role of "Philosophy" in IslamAuthor(s): Seyyed Hossein NasrSource:
Studia Islamica,
No. 37, (1973), pp. 57-80Published by: Maisonneuve & LaroseStable URL:
Accessed: 22/07/2008 16:26
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THEMEANINGANDROLEOF"PHILOSOPHY"IN ISLAM
IndiscussingthemeaningandroleofphilosophyinIslamwemust turnbeforeeverythingelse tothe exactmeaningofthe term"philosophy"andalsotothestructureof Islaminitsessenceand historicaldeployment.Islamishierarchicin itsessentialstructureandalsointhewayit has manifesteditselfinhistory.
(1)
TheIslamicrevelationpossesseswithinitselfseveral dimensionsand has been manifestedtomankindon thebasiclevelsofal-isldm,al-imdnand al-ihsanandfrom anotherperspectiveasShar,'ah,TariqahandHaqlqah.(2)Whenwespeakofthe roleofphilosophyinIslamwemustfirstof all askwhichaspectof Islam we aredealingwith.Inanycase wemust avoid the mistake madeonlytoooftenbymanyOrienta-listsduringthepastcenturyofidentifyingIslamwithonlytheShari'ahorkalamandthenstudyingtherelationshipof"philo-sophy"ormetaphysicswiththatparticulardimensionofIslam.Rather,in order to understandtherealroleof"philo-sophy"in Islamwemust considerIslamin all itsamplitudeanddepth,includingespeciallythe dimensionofal-HaqTqah,wherepreciselyonewill find thepointof intersectionbetween"traditionalphilosophy"andmetaphysicsand thataspectof
(1)SeeS. H.Nasr,An Introductionto IslamicCosmologicalDoctrines,Cambridge(U.S.A.),1964,pp.18if.(2)SeeF.Schuon,L'(Eilducceur,Paris,1950,pp.150ff.;andSchuon,Understanding Islam,trans.byD.M.Matheson,London,1963.
 
SEYYEDHOSSEIN NASR
the Islamicperspectiveinto whichsapientiain all its formshasbeenintegrated throughoutIslamichistory.(1)Likewise,thewhole ofIslamic civilization mustbe consideredin itswidth andbreadth,notonlyasinglepartof daral-islam,for itisoneofthecharacteristicsofIslamic civilizationthat thetotalityofitslifeandthe richnessof its artsand sciences canonlybegauged bystudyingall of itsparts.Onlyinunisondo thesepartsreveal thecomplete unitythatlieswithinallthegenuinemanifestationsofIslam. Onecannot understandtheroleof"philosophy"oranyotherintellectualdisciplineinIslambyselectingonlyonedimension of Islamor oneparticulargeographicalarea,no matterhowimportantthatdimension orthat areamaybeinitself.Asfor"philosophy",thesensein whichwe intendto useitinthisdiscussionmust bedefinedwithprecision,for here wearedealingwithaquestionofsomecomplexity.First ofall itmustberemembered that terms haveaprecisemeaninginthesciencesof traditional civilizations suchastheIslamic. Wecan use the term"philosophy"asthetranslationoftheArabical-falsafahandinquireinto themeaningofthe latterterminIslam andits civilization.Orwecanseekto discoverhowthe term"philosophy"asusedtodaymustbeunderstoodwithinthecontext of Islamic civilization.Oragainwe canseekto find all those Islamic sciences and intellectualdisciplineswhichpossessa"philosophical"aspectinthesenseofdealingwiththegeneralworldview of manand hispositionintheUniverse.Forourownpart,wemustbeginby makingthebasicaffirmation thatifbyphilosophywe meanprofane philo-sophyascurrentlyunderstoodintheWest,thatis,theattemptof manto reachultimateknowledgeofthings throughthe useofhis ownrationalandsensuous facultiesand cut offcompletelyfrom both theeffusionofgraceand thelightoftheDivineIntellect,thensuch anactivityis alientotheIslamicperspective.Itis afruitof a humanism whichdid notmanifestitselfin
(3)On therapportbetweenal-Haqlqahand traditionalphilosophyseeH.Corbin(withthecollaborationof S.H.NasrandO.Yahya),Histoirede laphilosophicislamique,vol.I,Paris, 1964,pp.14ff.

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