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Almost Final

Almost Final

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Published by Saad Ismail

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Published by: Saad Ismail on Mar 20, 2013
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Firstly, let me start by offering to redefine (rather than „re -interpret‟): I would argue that the term „Intelligence‟, the central point of concern here, has been used inappropriately. Doesn't the Qur'an insist that it contains signs for those who are "wise" (2:269), "knowledgeable" (29:42-43), "endowed with insight" (39:9), and "reflective" (45:13). Its persistent complaint against its rejecters is that they refuse to make use of their intellectual faculties and that they close their minds to learning. I don‟t think anyone would disagree, I just mean to point out that pure intelligence and a sound intellect can never lead to Kufr. Quite the contrary, Kufr is simply unreasonable, unintelligent. It seems that the Qur'an "is not far from considering unbelief as an infirmity of the human mind". Not to say that there are no people who „cross the boundaries‟ of reason. But I would argue that to do so would be patently unreasonable. I might have gone to another extreme there by disregarding the unmistakable „spiritual‟ element involved in the process of disbelief. I‟m also not entirely sure whether this has much bearing on my point above to be able to undercut it. 2. Abubakr(ra) made a comprehensive remark: “My incomprehension of God is my comprehension of him” When people like Abu Musa al Ash'ari, Abu Hamid al Ghazali were countering what they saw as 'rationalists' or 'philosophers' going beyond their rational limits, this wasn't an irrational/unreasonable response, but rather as the 'Incoherence of the Philosophers' (by Imam Ghazali) demonstrates, it was the use of 'sound philosophy' to counter other philosophers' incoherencies. With their doctrine of 'Bila Kayf' (Without asking 'How') they were offering not a 'counter-philosophy' (they did not want to), but rather a radical theory of epistemology, "leading, via a rational agnosticism qualified by the Quran, to an intellectual humility which today - 1000 years later - seems uncommonly modern. It was not Ludwig Wittgenstein in the 20th century, but al Ash'ari in the 9th century who heralded the 'end of philosophy'. It was not David Hume and modern scientific theory, but the Ash'arites who first recognized the undemonstrability of the law of causality. It was not Immanuel Kant (Critique of Pure Reason, 1781) and the modern theorists of linguistic philosophy (philosophy as a 'language game') who first developed a radical epistemology, but the Muslim philosophers of the ninth century." (Murad Hofmann, 'Islam the Alternative'; pg. 36)
3. The article talks about „submitting‟ the “intellect („Aql) to the divine text (Naql)” (of the Kitab and

Sunnah). I cannot imagine how a Muslim could be „faithful‟ to the Naql without the active use of his intellect in deciphering, interpreting, contextualizing and understanding the application of the text. This might appear slightly off track, but I would like to quote a passage from Tariq Ramadan‟s „The Quest for Meaning‟: “Faith and reason are clearly distinct faculties, as are religion and philosophy on the one hand and science on the other, but convergences are possible and ultimately necessary: we must never forget meaning when we observe the facts scientifically, and we must use the facts to ask rational questions about the meaning of faith. We find in Maimonides the question that runs through the work of alGhazali (1058-1111), who had such an influence on him: the distinction between the two realms is a fact. Faith (which means trust and conviction) and reason (which means observation and analyses) should therefore not be contrasted when it comes to authoritative knowledge, but should complement one another as terms of reference for action. This is the primary focus of al-Ghazali‟s aptly named „The Balance of Action‟ (Mizan-al-„Amal). Even before philosophical questions are asked about the nature of the relationship between faith and reason, we find in the Islamic legal tradition a methodological difference between the spheres of creed („aqida) and ritual practices („ibadat) on the one hand, and social affairs (mu‟amalat) on the other. A distinction is made, within the very reading of revelation, between what is revealed, which is clear and immutable, and injunctions of general

Which basically is the belief that the path of the development of science is predetermined by the natural world. minds that are developed and conditioned by human society. and 2. But. Some accounts of the history of science. It's a process and a (human) activity. science is also a human activity. Science is out there and we just have to go out and collect it. Science has to confront what exits in the natural world. Averroes. they stepped upon much smaller bases and foundations of accumulated information. Avicenna. And it very easily leads to an arrogant and selfserving view that somehow we‟re just smarter than those silly ancestors of ours‟ who couldn‟t see what we see so clearly. St. Yohannes Kepler and countless others whose names we don‟t even know were just as intelligent as anyone alive today.orientation. because the world is seen through human eyes and processed through human minds. is still a human presumption/presupposed approach – with as much scriptural vindication (if any). Ptolemy. particularly the older and popularized ones have downplayed the human context and envisioned a gradual emergence of humanity from the darkness of ignorance into the light of science. most agreeable definition of „Science‟ would be that "Science is the study of the natural world" So. and harmony between the two is essential. The natural world does not write our science text books for us. 35) 4. The following „case study‟ can help us better understand „our case‟: I quote Professor Lawrence Principe (Johns Hopkins University) who teaches the history of science: “Science today. Now. The External reality of the natural world (the interpreted). The Societal context of the scientist/Human culture. I would take offence if the author is trying to undermine „non literal‟ approaches by considering it as „interpreting texts and the religion according to your own standards‟. Let me clarify that my object here is not to undermine the literalist approach. However. our descriptions and perceptions of it have to be. and right down to contemporary scholars. while the natural world is not a human creation. where the truths of science were progressively unveiled. Now the tone of this story is heroic and triumphal and as such it is sometimes called „triumphalism‟ . isn't just a body of knowledge (/understanding . from the Sunnis to the Shias. And it assumes that past figures had our questions and our interests and our outlooks. I would say that a „literalist‟ presumption in interpretation (which seems to be the dominant thread throughout the whole article). But Triumphalism does not take into account the human agency. people write them. I know of no evidence that the average intelligence of humanity has increased during the past three millennia. Thomas Aquinas. but only to point out that to say that it doesn‟t share the common element of human subjectivity („interpreting according t o your own standards‟) would be inconsistent. they were not deluded or stupid or foolish. (the interpreter). which must be interpreted and contextualized in rational terms. there are indeed two realms within the practice of law. Aristotle.” (pg. Therefore. The article has not been much explicit about them either. the broadest. Now it‟s true. From Abu Hanifa (699767) to Ja‟far as-Sadiq (702-765) and Ibn Hanbal (780-855). However. Science in fact was earlier regarded as a philosophy – „Natural Philosophy‟ (Philosophy of Nature) to be precise – up until the end of the 19th century. All the above might not points of disagreement for the author. as a non-literalist approach (if not less).scientia). by definition science is dependent on both: 1. They were . The realm of faith cannot do without the critical exercise of reason if it is to remain true to its own teaching: the union of the two is imperative. if anything it might be the opposite.

Just as the triumphalism view has been favoured by those trying to build up the modern mystique of science. At the other end of the spectrum. we may infer that in the formulation of an interpretation or understanding (Fiqh) there are two elements involved. we are not dealing with the ‘texts alone’ (hence the redundancy of the refrain ‘only Quran and Sunnah’). And unlike what a ‘literalist’ might say. the social constructivist view tends to be favoured by those who wish to question or tear down this mystique of science. There were a few other points but. its content is not dependent ultimately upon an external reality of the natural world. I guess I better wait till I get the green light from you to proceed. At least no more than anyone today is. This view is known as „socialconstructivism‟. is a more recent trend which in its strongest form sees science as an entirely human invention. Jazakallah for your patience. I wouldn't mind if you'd choose to delay reading it or skip it altogether. This is too much to read.not sleep-walkers or somehow blind to what was before their eyes.” Here's a pictograph of the basic formula. say as „sleep walkers‟ but as the manipulators and the manipulated of the society. From the above discussion. Where we look at science as the body of constantly developing descriptions of the natural world made by human beings directed by the context within human society. The problem is of course that it fails to recognize the existence of a natural reality that commands the attention of the natural philosopher and the modern scientist.The virtuous middle is the place to stand. It tends to view unfortunately. . such figures. and my application of it: I think you get the picture. And it doesn‟t recognize the real desire of these people as human agents to arrive at an understanding of that external world. but is instead an artefact of human society. not. My advice would be to eschew both extremes.

i.e. it depends on the subject (the one approaching the object/text) Even when interpreting the Quran and Sunnah. is our understanding thereof. And understanding/perception subjective is subjective.We have to recognize that ‘Islam’ is not an entirely objective thing. What we call ‘Islam’. we need t .

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