A Contextual reading of the development of Islamic Intellectual Thought

By Yusuf Morales Foreword: This paper is a rendition of the presentation given at Al-Qalam's innauguration program. Introduction : The understanding of todays world is that the development of Islamic consciousness begins with the revelation of the first verses of the holy Quran. This however in the view of Islamic intellectuals to be a contrary persepective. Islam from the very start was a reformation movement which was a response to the context of Arab society which was enmenshed in Jahiliyyah (ignorance). It was in the view of the mutakalimun as an affirmation and finalization of previous revelations and prophecies in different faith traditions. Like any faith tradition Islam presents a much vibrant intellectual tradition that continues to share its civilizational contributions to the world This paper does not aim to present a linear presentation as in any linear presentation one may not be able to see parallel strands of constructs. This prepsentation aims to show a non-linear contextual narration to show how Islamic intellectual development development progressed. Although there may be several periods of intellectual development in the Hijirah millenia (in my count there are around 14 major periods), let us focus primarilly on seven periods which I have classified to allow us an easy understanding into system. Basically let us look into the following periods: • • • • • • • Nabawi Khulafa rashidoon Amawi Era Abbasi Era Post Abbasi Colonial Period Post Colonial and post modernitry

The Nabawi period is best charachterized as the stage where the crucial and pivotal points in Islamic thought were hammered. This was the period of Revelation of the Quran (Ayyame nuzoole Quran). The makkan period (the time wherein the prophet peace be upon him, was till in Makka), revelation of the Quran was primarilly focused elucidation on Man and his relationship with God. The Madina period coincided with the stablishment of the Madinatul Nabawi in Yathrib (the old name of Madina), wherein themes in revelation strongly stressed in relations and transactions of man as well as issues in law, governance and statehood.

A Contextual reading of the development of Islamic Intellectual Thought

This was also the period where this Quranic revelations were personified by the one who carries the message, Prophet Muhammad;s actions, words and approval constituted what was called as Ahdith (narrations) or Sunnah (traditions) which was the second primary text (nusus) from wherein Islamic law and other disciplines were derived from. Both the Makkiya and Madaniya (surahs) were immediately interpreted or explained by the Prophet (saw) either by actions, words or illustation of an event. This was the primal purpose of the prophetic hadith/ sunna – to render a clear and manifest understanding of Quranic revelations excemplified by what the prophet of Islam lived as a person. What is wonderful from the Islamic faith tradition that despite divergence and multiplicity in beliefs and philosophical formulations of the different schools of though is that all converge on the primal discourse of Quran and Sunna which shows that Islamic ethos is primarilly a mosaic than rather a monolithic structure. The Khulafa rashidoon era is the period wherein active expansion and proseletization made leaps and bounds that islam soon became a nation having many tongues and that the Quranic recitation and transmission of Sunnah required a sceintific process of transmission and that both the Family of the Prophet, affectionately known as the Ahlul bayt (as) and the Companions agreed on a set of principles that were to become the basis of transmission of these knowledge also known as Ijaza (permission), the first formulation of a diploma for authority to narrate knowledge. This was the period wherein the Quran was published as a standard format or text and sent to all corners of the islamic world. This was the period that laid forth the foundations of where the major centers of Intellectual learning would spring forth later, al-magreb that was occupied by the mawalid dynasty, Al-Misr that was occupied later by the Faitimids, Byzantium and Fars which were later occupied by the Seljuqs and the Safavids as well as other areas in transoxiana. Expansion in the eyes of the Companions was more of sharing the light of Islam as well as looking for places to settle and this was the primal vigour that each Companion (sahaba) had that led them even into the far corners of China. The Amawi period marked the start of the era of dynasties wherein Muawiyah seized the throne from Imam Hassan bn Ali. This marked the era where the politics of marginalization gave rise to varying strands of intellectual materielle. This period was quite significant in the sense that a huge chunk of intelletuals and scholars who didnt agree with the political dispensation at that time began the formation of their own intellectual circles outside the courts which led to the flowering fo different intellectual millieu. The Alawi branch of knowledge, especially led by Ali Ibn al-Hussain also known as Zainul Abideen, propagated the concept of tarbiyah bi dua (formation and intellectual instruction through the supplications) this created parallel strands of spiritual and intellectual masters who used the sufi (mystical) orders as a center for Islamic discourse. Tha Amawi period was a politically bloody period and many scholars rendered their traditions through the Batini (esoteric) methodologies. Tha Abbasi period is what we call a period of contradictions. It was a period that was led by those who pulled down the Amawi dynasty, initiated an intellectual period but at the same time. The Abbassid

A Contextual reading of the development of Islamic Intellectual Thought Period was marked with the following significant points : The period of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (as) and son Imam Jaafar as-Sadiq from the Ahlul Bayt (as) who built the first Islamic university in their houses wherein many respective teachers of many Sunni Mutakalimun, Muhadithun , mufassirun among others Imam Zuhri, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik can to study and learn. The period of the establishment of Baytul Hikma during the rule of Harun ar-Rasyid which led to the wholesale importation, translation, publication of all known books of knowledge from the known world as well as their dissimination into the known world. Works of Aristotle and other greek masters were retransmitted to the world through this route. The caliph employed many translators and lithographers for their masspread production of translations and books. Both points ushered the period of scholars where knowledge was systematically classified and organized and that this period allowed a level of discourse where both the marhginalized and trhe ones under state patrobage were able to deliver public discourses on the dissimenation of knowledge. The arrival of the Mughal horde led to the collapse of the Abbaside caliphate, which gave rise to several simultanoeus regional dynasties which we may call post abbasid period. The Collapse of the Abbassid dynasty led to the rise of several regional centers of power and knowledge where people flocked to see and learn , among them where the areas of magreeb which was controlled by the Mawalids represented by their legalist and formalist intellectual traditions, the Fatimids who were al atzhar representing the batini (esoteric traditions) as well as their counterparts in Yeman and central asia, who represented the more metaphysical intellectual discourse in islam only to be equaled by the scholars in safavi Persia who also carries a peripathetic and gnostic intellectual tradition. The Seljuqs became patrons of Sunni islam which culminated in the creation of the Uthmaniyyah Khilafah which was the patron of Muslims until its dissolution by Kemal Ataturk. The post Abbasid period also marks the period where intellectual exchanges with the world took place : at Andalus, at Byzantium and at Egypt wherein both traditions and civilizartions have immensely benefited from each other. Islamic civilization, seeing the need to critique and enhance its traditions while the west benefitting from the intellectual disciplines and traditions that Islam has brought with it. The colonialist period begins with the crusades and the beginning of colonialist expansion of europe. This led to the intellectual slowdown since state institutions were focused more on the defensive and Muslim states became colonial vassals of the west. The focus of intellectuals during this period was the attempt to return to the pristine purity and strength of Islam. The discourses of this period were primarilly either centered on Political and nationalist discourses as a response towards western colonialism, or theological critiques towards the west of christianity. The notable charachteristics of this period was that Key intellectual figures were also part of nationalist, islamist political movements. The Most recent is Postcolonial postmodernist period, charachterized by the establishment of Muslim states, some with democratic spaces other dictatorial which led to mass migration of Muslims to first world countries. Massive conversion to isla of leading intellectual figures as well as the rise of

A Contextual reading of the development of Islamic Intellectual Thought alternative discourses in islamic Studies , primarilly between orientalists, university based scholars, thinkers and classical scholars. Among the discourses famous in this period were the gharbzadegi (westoxification) discourse, which viewed western influence as a poison to Muslim intellectual development, the Clash of civilizations which manifested the western fear of non-western ideologies, the Dialogue of civilizations as well as Islamic pluralism. These and other discourses and the renewed interest of islam after 9-11, shows the immense need for the development of a rational and intellectual discourse that would be espoused and elucidated in a post modernist context, critical and yet never fprgetting the primal basis of Islam as elucidated in the primary textual sources: The Quran and the Prophetic hadith.

Below is a timeline of the history of Islam. Major events are in bold.

c. 570 CE c. 610 CE c. 610-22 CE 622 CE 624 CE 625 630 632 632-33 633 633-42 c. 650 656 657 659 661 680

Birth of Muhammad. Muhammad receives first vision in a cave near Mecca. Muhammad preaches in Mecca. Hijira - Muhammad and followers flee to Medina. Islamic calendar (AH, Anno Hegirae) begins. Muslims successfully attack Meccan caravans at Badr. Muslims are defeated by Meccans at Uhud. Muslims capture Mecca. Ka'ba is cleansed, pilgrimage rites are Islamicized, tribes of Arabia vow allegiance to Muhammad Death of Muhammad. Abu Bakr chosen as caliph. Wars of ridda (apostasy) restore allegiance to Islam Muslim conquests (Futuhat) begin. Muslim armies take the Fertile Crescent (Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia), North African coast, parts of Persian and Byzantine Empires Caliph Uthman has the Qur'an written down. Uthman is murdered; Ali becomes fourth caliph. Battle of Siffin. Mu'awiya, governor of Syria, claims the caliphate. Arbitration at Adruh is opposed by Ali's supporters. Ali is murdered; Mu'awiya becomes caliph. Beginning of Umayyad Caliphate (661-750). Death of Husayn marks beginning of the Shi'at Ali ("party of Ali") or Shi'a sect.

A Contextual reading of the development of Islamic Intellectual Thought

685-705 late 600s 700-800s 710 732 747 750 754 755 765 786-809 800s 813-33

Reign of Abd al-Malik. Centralization of administration - Arabic becomes official written language (instead of Greek and Persian) and Arab coinage is established. Ruling classes in East and West Africa convert to Islam. Groups of ascetics and mystics begin to form Arab armies enter Spain from North Africa. Muslim empire reaches its furthes extent. Battle of Tours prevents further advance northwards. Revolt defeats the Umayyads. Abu l'Abbas becomes caliph in Iraq Baghdad (Madinat al-Salam, "city of peace") becomes the new capital of the Abbasid empire. Abd ar-Rahman founds an Umayyad Dynasty in Cordoba, Spain. Division within Shi'ites - majority are the modern Imamiyya (Twelvers) who co-exist with Abbasid caliphs; minority are more extreme Isma'iliyaa (Seveners). Reign of Harun ar-Rashid, best known through the stories of The Thousand and One Nights. Written collections of Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) are compiled. Sicily comes under Muslim rule. Reign of Ma'mun. Theological controversy over whether the Qur'an is created or uncreated and eternal. Center for translation of texts from Greek to Arabic founded in Baghdad. Uprisings of black slaves (Zanj) are eventually defeated. First Fatimid caliph in Tunisia. Umayyad Abd ar-Rahman III declares himself caliph in Cordoba. Muhammad al-Mahdi, the twelfth imam, disappears. Twelvers still await the future return of the "Hidden Imam." The Buyids (Persian) invade Baghdad and take power from caliph. Fatimids gain power in Egypt and attack Palestine, Syria, and Arabia. Cairo (Al-Qahira, "the victorious city") is founded. Life of Avicenna, Iranian physician and Aristotelian philosopher. Reign of Fatimid al-Hakim. Hamza ibn Ali forms basis of esoteric Druze religion. West Africa begins to convert to Islam Umayyad caliphate in Cordoba defeated by the Christian Reconquista.

869-883 908 928 940 945 969 980-1037 996-1021 late 900s 1030

A Contextual reading of the development of Islamic Intellectual Thought

1055 1000s 1071 1090 1099 1100-1200s 1126-98 1171 1174 1193 1200s 1221 1241 1258 1281-1324 mid-1300s 1366 late 1300s 1400s 1453 1492 1501 1516 1517

Seljuk Turks take Baghdad; Abbasids now only nominal rulers. Reconquista takes more of Spain, Sicily falls to the Normans, Crusader kingdoms are briefly established in Palestine and Syria. Seljuk Turks defeat Byzantines at Battle of Manzikert. Hasan-i Sabbah takes Alamut in the Persian mountains, the Assassin sect forms around him. Christian Crusaders take Jerusalem. Sufi orders (turuq) are founded. Life of Averroës, Muslim philosopher from Cordoba who sought to integrate Islam with Greek thought. Fatimid power ends in Egypt with the conquests of Saladin. Saladin declares himself sultan of Egypt and Syria. Death of Saladin; most of Crusader states have returned to Islam. Assassins wipes out by the Mongols. Indian rulers in Delhi take title of Sultan. Spanish mystic Muhyi al-Din ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240) flourishes.
Genghis Khan

and the Mongols enter Persia.

Mongols take the Punjab. Mongols capture Baghdad; city is sacked and caliph is killed. End of Abbasid caliphate. Reign of Uthman (Osman), who founds the Ottoman Empire. Muslim merchants and missionary Sufis settle in SE Asia. Ottomans capture Bursa and Iznik and move into Europe. Capital of Ottoman Empire moved from Bursa to Adrianople. Ottomans take control of the Balkans. Islam reaches the Philippines. Mehmet Fatih (rules 1451-81) conquers Constantinople. The two halves of the Ottoman Empireare united and the sultan becomes Byzantine emperor. Castile and Aragon capture Granada. All Muslims (and Jews) expelled from Spain. Isma'il (1487-1524) claims to be the Hidden Imam and is proclaimed Shah (king) of Persia. Twelver Shi'ism becomes official religion of Persia. Ottomans conquer Syria and Egypt. Ottomans control Mecca and Medina.

A Contextual reading of the development of Islamic Intellectual Thought

1520-66 1526 1556 1600-1700s 1625 1699 1700s

Reign of Suleyman the Magnificent; Ottoman Empire reaches its zenith. Hungary and coastlands of Algeria and Tunisia come under Ottoman rule. Babur (Mongolian) seizes the Delhi sultanate and takes control of northern India. Akbar founds the Mughal dynasty in northern India. Venetians, Habsburgs, and Russians divide European Ottoman lands between them. Java comes under rule of Muslim kingdom of Mataram. Treaty of Karlowitz confirms first substantial losses of Ottoman Empire in Europe. Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab rejects Sufism and all innovation (bid'a). Founds what becomes the Saudi Arabian kingdom. Hindus regain power from Mughals in northern India.
Mughal empire

1738 1779 1798 1805 1807-76 1830 1850s 1858 1876-1908 1878 1882-1952 1908-18 1912 1918 1923 1927 1928

invaded by the Afghans.

Afghans ousted by Qajar dynasty, which rules Persia until 1925. Napoleon's expedition to Egypt. Muhammad Ali becomes governor of Egypt, which becomes independent of the Ottomans, gains control of western Arabia and extends into the Sudan. Tanzimat period. Ottoman Empire undergoes extensive program of modernization in government, law, and medicine. Greece regains independence from Ottomans. Non-Muslim Ottoman citizens granted equality with Muslims. Last Mughal in India is deposed and India comes under British rule. Reign of Abd al-Hamid II; autocratic and religiously conservative period in Ottoman rule. Congress of Berlin recognizes independence of Balkan states previously under Muslim rule. Egypt occupied by the British. Last decade of Ottoman rule. Rise of nationalistic "Young Turks." More liberal policies develop. Founding of Islamic Union (Sareket Islam), a modernizing movement in SE Asia. Fall of Ottoman Empire. League of Nations grants Britain mandatory status over Palestine and Iraq, and France over Lebanon and Syria. Republic of Turkey established. Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) is first president. Tablighi Jamaat reform movement founded in India. Ikhwan al-Muslimun (Muslim Brothers) founded in Egypt.

A Contextual reading of the development of Islamic Intellectual Thought

1941 1945 1945-60s 1947 1957 1960s 1979 late 1990s 2001

Jamaat-i Islami reform movement founded in Lahore, India. Indonesia becomes independent republic. Islam spreads to the West with mass migrations from Asia, Africa, and India. Pakistan founded as an Islamic nation. Islam becomes a minority religion in India. Independent Malayan state established with Islam as the official religion but guaranteed tolerance. Familes from SE Asia and North Africa emigrate to Europe and the Americas. Shah of Iran is overthrown by Ayatullah Ruhullah Khumayni, who establishes strict fundamentalist rule of Shi'a principles. Taliban come to power in Afghanistan. 9-11

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful