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Fundamentals of the Intellect )اصول العقل
There is an urgent need to allow the intellect to take its rightful place in the sciences, activities and lives of the Muslims. Historically – during the Middle Ages, to be precise – the intellect was allowed only a limited role, apart from the period of the Mu‘tazilite School and the brief period of the “Muslim Renaissance”, as termed by some modern Muslim researchers.1 This was in contrast to the role of the intellect and reason at the dawn of Islam. Since then, the status role of naql (transmission by a chain of reliable witnesses) as the ultimate tool for determining the original sources of Islam has become increasingly dominant. over the years up to So much so that at present, in the twenty-first century, when it now reigns supreme and exerts decisive influence over the lives and work of Muslims throughout the world. In the opinion of some Muslims, such as the Salafis, not a single letter of the heritage (turāth) should be altered in any way. Or, in plain words, that is, the lives and works of Muslims should be governed completely by imitation. The method of Naql - faithful transmission, without any interpretation and commentary, of the words and deeds of the early generation of pious and righteous predecessors – is the most reliable method of reaching back to their practice (Sunna). The Salafi believe that their illustrious founders, former leading lights, such as Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah
and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab, were next close to God and beyond time, and therefore worthy of emulation. Some of them insist that these forefathers of Salafism had already found all the future answers. The logical question here is: Can the word of humankind be equated to the Word of God? As Muslims, we believe that the Word of God in the Holy Book of the Qur’an is divine. We also believe that the authentic Sayings of the Prophet are also divine. Nevertheless, the world of humankind carries the stamp of history, that is, it is said, considered and applied at the always situated in time. It is influenced by the circumstances prevailing at the a historical time. In other words, the human world is always changing. Clearly, then, one must insist that the context of the social, political and historical factors of former times is different from that of today. Another important question can be posed here: Does the Salafi way of thinking, based on an obsession with a return to the past, represent only the extreme stance in the Muslims world, does it come from a vacuum, or is it in fact a manifestation of a general pattern, a central norm? The answer, in my opinion, is that there is a strong similarity between the official or traditional Islam and that of the Salafi thought, where an emphasis on the faithful tool of transmission of texts takes precedence over the use of the intellectual effort of understanding them. In addition, both yearn for a return to the past, as represented by a deep strong nostalgia for an earlier, pure and perfect age. The result today is that we have acquired a ‘culture of heritage’ that has even triumphed over the Qur’anic Text. This turāth culture however breeds points of difference contention, leading to division and conflict among Muslims. A fiqhi
discourse and a turāth culture, based as they are on narrow religious or sectarian perceptions and motives, and beliefs, have provided the justification for killing fellow human beings, whether Muslim or not. Thus, from out of ignorance and misreading of faith misinterpretation , Islamic history has continually repeated itself. Cloaking the work of men (or Islamic scholars) with an aura of eternity has produced an extremely suppressive submissive attitude to intellectual and moral authority. It has paved the way for a collective imitation mentality among by Muslims, who, unaccustomed to using their having avoided the use of the intellect for so long, are now appear to be unable to think creatively or laterally or stretch and expand the space span of their reality. Their way of life, long deprived of the liberating influence of the intellect reasoning, is now quite far from the spirit and original intention (maqsad) of the Holy Qur’an.
2. The Qur’anicView: Text and Intellect
The Qur’an takes an inter-connected and balanced view of the past, the present and the future. Its emphasis on the past is to enable the human mind to learn from the lessons of history. Indeed, during the twenty-two years of his mission, the Holy Prophet was educated with the tales of the earlier prophets so that he could apply their principles to his own historical mission. stage of history. The tool of transmitting these tales was used not only for consolidating the Divine values of truth ( )حقand justice ( ,)عدلbut also for learning from other people to form what could be called an “accumulation of experience and knowledge”. In some cases, this knowledge could be applied where the circumstances were appropriate. Where the circumstances were not appropriate, then this knowledge was to be put aside and another solution sought and applied.
More importantly, the intellect should be used in planning and preparing for the future. The Prophet was working not only for the present but also for the future. He referred to his future followers as brothers (and, in this context, sisters), in contrast to his contemporary followers, who were called Companions. Indeed, Islam came as a social revolution, bringing a new order that entailed looking into the future that is, understanding the past and using the present to link it to the future. Muslim society changed rapidly in the early days and established a very dynamic community. This policy validated the change of circumstances in the present and its bearing on the future, and confirmed that the current and future directions are just as important as those of the past. This policy breathed life into the religious rituals and gave them a meaning that was relevant to people’s daily lives. By so doing, a balance is maintained between tradition and social justice, and a kind of dynamism is activated with its far-reaching implications for both. The useful aspect of idealism, as implied in the Qur’an, is to set the best possible example as the standard towards which both society and individuals should aim. Achieving this objective entails looking into the future and having the necessary vision of motivation to activate the workings of the society. The implementation of this policy strengthens the relationship between Intellect and Text, between Reason and Revelation, and balances the dialectic nature of the two, that is, the balance of the absolute and relative terms, the source and the way to the source, and a comprehensive vision on one hand and the focus on a particular detail on the other. The Qur’an clearly promotes this policy, for on numerous occasions it uses phrases such as “Do you not think” ) )أفل تتفكرونand “Do you not contemplate”
?))أفل تعقلونThe Holy Book indicates that thinking ( )تفكككرis the first stage of considering a matter the cognitive appropriation of reality. Intellectualizing Intellection ( )تعقكلis a higher level, where the mind ( )عقكلis employed to produce rationality and reasonableness from through a deeper analysis. The tool of transmission is used by the Qur’an to analyse the past and produce principles and rules for humankind to learn, and the tool of the intellect to look into the future and apply the lessons that have been learnt. The essence of the Qur’an and the Day of Judgment is a future trend. The Holy Qur’an believes that the future is the real dynamo of human activity in every walk of life. For To take an example: Surah Yusuf (12) tells the tale of Prophet Yusuf, whose management planning for the future, to use a modern jargon, saved Egypt from an acute economics crisis. Another example is found in Surat al-Rūm which states:
Alif, Lam, Mim. The Romans have been defeated in a nearby land. However, although they have been defeated, they will be victorious in a few years’ time. Allah’s is the Command in the passt and in the future. On that day, the believers will rejoice. (30:1–4)
Here, the Qur’an is telling the Muslim community in Makkah, whose members were feeling depressed at the defeat of the Roman Christians by the Persian Zoroastrians unbelievers, that the Romans would defeat the Persians in a few years’ time, thus referring to the future with some good news. Of course, during the present stage, both tools (past and future) should interact and complement each other. There are over 300 Quranic verses that call people to think, intellectualize, and remember or to test prove the truth and denounce ing the falsehood on the grounds of reason. Also the first revealed verse in the holy Quran was to “read”, as reading is associated with thinking that necessitates the use of the intellect.
Wisdom (hence the connotation to reason) is one of Allah’s attributes character and his name, The Wise (al-Hakim) names and to be is at the centre of gravity of the Muslim belief. believe.
3. History and the Intellect
In a Any study of Islamic history would confirm it is apparent that the tool method of transmission by Naql has been a very dominant the predominant element of Muslim scholars. The only exceptions are the era of the Mu‘tazilites, which lasted a short while period during the early years of Islam, and the Middle Ages, which gave us created Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Bajjah, Ibn Khaldum, Ibn Miskawayh and many others. In the brief era of the Mu‘tazilites, who were protected by the Abbasid Caliph, al-Ma’mūn (813 AC), there was widespread use of the intellect – as it was understood in those days – and many fresh novel ideas were produced. The negative aspect of that period was the Mu‘tazilites’ imposition of their creed ideas and approach on the general public. The intellect (or mind) and force are not compatible or go together. Further, this policy became an ideology, rather than culture, to be imposed on people. The policy resulted in an equally strong opposition to the Mu‘tazilites during the reign of the Abbasid Caliph, al-Mutawakkil (247
It was the era that
introduced witnessed the consolidation of the tool methodology of transmission (Naql), which has remained a dominant element of the Muslim world to the present day. In response to the Mu‘tazilites, Shaykh Ibn Hanbal ordered people not to investigate or discuss matters as he considered these things as controversial. Further
controversy, in his view, was equivalent to heresy. Thus, people submitted completely to the religious scholars and merely imitated them. After the early adoption of science and knowledge by Islamic civilization, especially during the Abbasid era of al-Mamūn, and the enormous amount of translation completed by Dar al-Hikmah, there appeared signs of degeneration in the Muslim Ummah. The collapse began in the early fifth century
as is evident in
Imam ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani’s book, al-‘Itiqad [The Beliefs], which lays particular emphasis on creeds. By the end of the century, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali was preoccupied in waging a campaign against the philosophers, as described in his famous work, Tahafut al- Falasifa [The Incoherence of Philosophy]. Nevertheless, it is significant that although al-Ghazali rejected philosophy, he still supported the relevant use of logic and its principles, considering it an admirable element of thought. Al-Ghazali’s student, Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi, on the other hand, rejected all the great literary works of al-Jadid, al-Mas‘udi and many others. These developments were the starting-point of the period of rejecting al- bid‘ah (innovation), during which Ibn al-‘Arabi encouraged Muslims to despise al-Jadid and others, calling them “the innovative deceivers”. Meanwhile, he asked Muslims to boycott the people of “religious ignorance”, who had no other task than “making sins appealing to the public”.2 Anything that did not conform to the views of the ‘ulama’ (Islamic scholars) or imams was considered bid‘ah, as described in Imam al-Shatibi’s al-I‘tişām. In his work, Imam al-Shatibi stated that bid‘ah was the assertion of the intellectuals:
for the intellect is not independent, of course, and cannot be formed without an established a priori, rather, it depends totally on a presupposed a priori and there cannot be any other presupposition without the fundamental acceptance of Revelation (wahy).3
He also said that” intellect is not to be imaginative in vision unless (it?) is to be imagined
According to the ‘ulama’, bid‘ah was “inventing on matters that have not been introduced before”. This could be in “manifest error” if it was unintentional, or as a result of “disbelief in Shari‘ah and those who implement Shari‘ah if it was intentional.6 Yet Bid’ah is derived from the Arabic word aba’adah, innovation. And Quranic verses state “Badi al Samawat wa al-Arad (2:17, 6:101) meaning Allah as the “innovator of heaven and Earth”. The era of rejecting bid‘ah was followed by that of denouncing Sufis as unbelievers. The leading figure in this campaign was Ibn al-Jawzi, an adherent to of Ibn Taymiyyah. In his book, Ţalbis Iblis, he condemned Sufis as “criminal infidels” and accused them of promoting forbidden unlawful practices. The period was dominated by the ideas of Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah, which resulted in lethargy of scholarship. During this stage of Islamic civilization, few important intellectual works and critical commentaries were produced. As the originator of Salafi thought in the early eighth century
Ibn Taymiyyah rejected philosophy and logic,
believing that both disciplines contaminated and debased Islam. His student, al-Suyuti, followed in his footsteps. Al-Suyuti was famous for his outright rejection of logic, eliminating in his turn the discipline of kalam (Islamic theology). Also he is the originator of the statement that became widespread afterwards “whoever uses logic is therefore a heretic”- ..من تمنطق فقد تزندق In Muslim Spain, Abu Ashaq al-Malaki of Granada (d. 790 al-Hanbali in Baghdad (d. 795
and Ibn Rajab
consolidated the attitude of the defective present
and the perfect past. 7 Ibn Rajab entitled his book فضل علم السلف على علم الخلف
[Preference Superiority of for the Science of the Predecessors over the Science of the Followers]. This work confirms the ideas of al-Shatabi as found in his book (Muwafaqat )ٺﺎﻗفاومwhich states that religious science ( )نﻳﺩلا ﻡولعis far more important than life secular sciences (8?( ﺎﻳنﺩلا ﻡولعHe also believed that the life secular sciences did not produce the same depth and consolidation of the knowledge as was handed down from earlier scholars.9 Abu Aşhaq al-Malaki reached a similar conclusion that useful science was limited by what had been passed down from the leaders (imams) of the Predecessors. This shows the prevalence of a culture, within among the Ummah, in which two scholars from two places who that were different in environment, culture, Islamic sect and geographical location and sectarian loyalties, were both guided mainly by the tool of Naql (transmission), while and downplayed the role of ‘Aql in human affairs. disregarding the intellect of the human being. This attitude was in sharp contrast with to the early period of the Prophet (pbuh) and the guided Sahaba (Companions). The encouragement to acquire knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, was not confined to the religious and theological sciences as scholars and jurisprudents later would have us believe. ‘Ilm It also included the acquisition of “earthly” knowledge, and the natural sciences that are relevant to situation of humankind human existence on this earth. The hadith of the Prophet (pbuh), for example, “Seek knowledge, even if it is in China”, underlines the importance of this fact. Of course, in those early times, there were no Muslims in China who could teach the Arab Muslims about Islam. However, what is clear from the Prophet’s hadith is that Muslims ought to learn from non-Muslim cultures by
making use of appropriate, beneficial knowledge and by integrating it into the Islamic way of life. The total decline in the thought of the Ummah and the consolidation of naql (transmission, immitation) over ‘aql (intellect reason) resulted in the disappearance absence of the intellectual effort in seeking answers to addressing the questions of everyday daily life, thus forcing people to accept only what had been transmitted from the distant remote past. Such a marked change had the effect of severing religion from all links to rationality. all rational links with religion. Intellectual effort was now to be confined to a literal reading of the Text. Indeed, the intellect itself was isolated from religion, which was “intellectually guarded” and could be activated only by those ‘ulama’ who possessed the right knowledge or who had the privilege of thinking on behalf of the rest of society10. Thus, the gates of ijtihād were closed, creating throughout Muslim society a mentality that took every word of the Text atits face value and followed its dictates without further reflection. This approach was applied, in particular, to the use of qiyās, in which contemporary matters were analysed with reference to past events. However, that it was where difficulties could arise, for although the current problem might be the same as one dealt with long ago, the circumstances of each were was likely to be very different. This is Thus, over the years, the Ummah developed the Fiqhi Mind but lost the philosophical mind. The Quranic verses that imply that the mind could play a middle had a mediating role to play between life and religion, philosophy and religion, divine and not so divine sacred and profane, past and future and finally between the Text and reality history have been distributed revealed forever. Further, the obsession with the text (in
reality, works of commentary and exegesis by past scholars) ( particular of former scholars work, rest in peace) have implies that all further research is superfluous. the fact or truth are already there in the text. The historical reality thus becomes
detached from the text and the thinking process has to comes to a stop since it is already there has already been accomplished before. The Holy Qur’an, on the other hand, urging one another for the truth. i.e. to search and seeking it urges common search for the truth and mutual strengthening of each other’s efforts(3:103). This necessitates thinking and reasoning. Also the holy book asks believers to always test the truth in their lives and souls which is mentioned in a number of verses such as (33: 8; etc)It exhorts us That is not only to seek, discover and deduce the truth but to be innovative as well, to innovate the truth. With the community’s loss of focus on this exhortation, Thus began the disastrous dissolution of the interrelationship between intellect and the Shari‘ah, that is, indeed between the intellect and life. Religion and culture were kept on moving apart, setting the scene for the withdrawal of Islam into isolation seclusion, where it would be practised as a defensive religion with a protective shield namely, provided by the threat of extremism. When practised in this way, fanatics al extremists started ranged themselves raging against the Other, whether the Other was Muslim or not, and were severe turned even against the Muslim “self”, criticizing its imaginary sins11 In addition, the cultural and intellectual lethargy and decline of Muslim society were exacerbated by serious political instability in the Eastern region of the Muslim world. During the fifth and sixth centuries
the region was occupied by the
Seljuqs, who waged relentless wars against the Buwayhids, resulting in the
devastation of their realm. Later, Then the Muslims were attacked by the Mongols and the Tatars, who razed Baghdad to the ground, destroying the centre of a great culture. This destruction was followed by the wars of the First Crusades. Finally, the rule ole played by of the Turkish of the Ottoman Empire delivered sounded the death knell to of the once intellectually investigative inquisitive and self-confident Islamic civilization. These historical events contributed to the following disasters, in fact natural outcomes consequences of Muslim: 1. The delicate balance that clearly existed in the Holy Qur’an between the Text and the intellect was disturbed, resulting in a distortion imbalance and lopsidedness which later that became the norm. 2. The Religious knowledge produced by humankind humans assumed was given a divine status and was regarded on the same level as at par with the revealed truth of the Holy Book. of the Qur’an. 3. Concepts such as bid‘ah (innovation), jabr (pre-determination fate), qadā’ (execution of the Divine decree) and qadar (free will) and their influence on the lives and intellect of Muslims were extended far beyond their proper limits. The imposition of this policy denied human beings the exercise of their free will and the ability to move forward and expand their horizons. More importantly, it prevented them from applying their mental faculties to for the advancement of sciences and for the acquisition of new experiences and knowledge. As a result, the focus was remained on the old earlier knowledge produced by human beings, leading to a lack of any development of new knowledge and the
harnessing of ideas that did not contribute to the dissemination of the “acquired knowledge” ( )المعرفككة المكتسككبةand the birth of the “generated knowledge” (المعرفككة .)المنبثقةThis was clearly the situation during the era of the great scholars, such as Ibn Rushd, al-Kindi, al-Farabi and many others. Although new ideas and forms of knowledge were emerging, the lack of a complete knowledge-system, unsupported by a socially competent professional section of the population, and a social professional layer to support them meant that they were unable to form the basis lay a solid foundation for future advancement. The huge technological transformation in the last quarter of the twentieth century has had a marked impact on the level of knowledge and enabled it to perform two functions11. One is the research and development activities that to produce the “generated knowledge” and new disciplines the clear relationship between, for example, such as genetics and cybernetics technology. The other function is to contribute to the spread of the “acquired knowledge.12 3.1 Overall Consequences This culture of “hibernation” had the following consequences. • Shaping the future along the lines of the past by not allowing new horizons or fields to emerge. It was an attempt to control future trends. • Sanctity of the past and nostalgia for it, in other words, a backward vision in the known direction, thus stripping the word “challenge” of any practical meaning or value. The past (that is, previous scholarship) becomes the absolute term of reference for the future by consolidating imitation. • Preference for traditions over values, for values is are transcendent, above and beyond time and place, whereas traditions are bound to time and society. This
attitude has led to the imposition casting of a dogmatic cover trend over the core values of Islam; or, perhaps, that of the rigidity of certain aspects of the Shari‘ah over the practicality of creeds (‘aqāq’id) • Most importantly, it has consolidated the general absence of intellectual effort and initiative in the Muslim civilization. This mentality has created the view among the Islamic schools that philosophy, logic and other sciences based on the intellect reasoning degrade belief and faith (Iman). Since the intellect Reason represents humankind and its existence what is characteristically human, the rejection of the intellect is the rejection of human beings, and their social societies intellectual and sciences. This projectionist attitude view has indeed created a lack of trust in the role capacity of human beings to act as God’s vicegerents on earth. , Yet, this role clearly indicated in is central to the Qur’anic perception of man. That only God’s role ultimate might is to be trusted disturbs the uniquely balanced relationship between God and man humankind, which as it is projected envisioned in the Holy Book. The Text and humankind its human reader refer to the Text and the intellect Revelation and Reason, where the Text manifests the Word of God and the intellect of human beings manifests the context human effort of understanding that Word. • Last but not least, history is seen as a decline at best, or slowing down to a complete halt, an unstoppable retardation in the eyes of the Salafis, at worst. In this scheme of things, there is no sign of room for progress, as professed by Islam in with its emphasis on the future bliss of man. trends. It History is not the dynamic vehicle of human beings, carrying them forward on their journey. through life. To put it another way, Rather, it has become a vertical movement
in reverse gear. Looking backwards into the past and imitating the work of known scholars have entailed de-activating devaluing the human mind and the role of the individual’s contribution; that is, it is tantamount to the decontextualizing the mind of the human beings and their ability to think and use their initiative. Furthermore, it is impeding the creation of the horizontal structure that is paramount in twenty-first-century society owing to changes in the global relationship and advances in telecommunications.
4. Violence and the Intellect
Feeble ideas can be easily defeated by fresh, stronger ideas. Hence, the use of force (especially violence) to defend the feeble ideas is quite common in our societies, for, without the support aid of violence, these ideas could not stand on their own. This policy of violence results in a lack of creative thought, since, wherever creative thinking manages to emerges, it is marginalized and or firmly suppressed.
Extremism is born of the neglect of represents the defeat of the mind and intellect, which produce rationality. These Here are some of the factors responsible for the lack of a dynamic vision, which, in turn, fuels extremism: Salafism, the traditional Muslim institutions and their retrograde theology, the lack of a humane political culture, and the absence of intellectual freedom. The first two factors confound the present situation malaise by demanding the introduction of the Shari‘ah in its most outmoded and political highly politicised form. The complication here is that the existing Shari‘ah is imbued with the thinking and attitudes of Salafism, which is the idéologue du jour, for it represents the intellectual framework as well as the over-legalization of the medieval Shari‘ah. The
term Salaf is derived from the Arabic word salif, meaning “former” or “previous”, so Salafism that which preceded the present era proclaims allegiance to the norms of the past and a Salafi is the one who espouses this ideology a Precedessor. Its practical meaning, however, is the purification of Islam by returning Muslim society to what Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab, the “Godfather” founder of modern Salafi movement and the fountainhead of its puritanical thought, believed to be its original principles as typified exemplified by the practice of al-Salaf al-Şalihīn (earliest generation of Muslims converts to Islam).13 According to the Salafis, the purification of Islam is a one-way trip stepping back into history, a claim that it provides them with the necessary support for the legitimization of their ideology. The Salafis believe that today should be a repetition of yesterday and tomorrow should be similar to today. This belief dehumanizes humankind, for the mind is not being never allowed to be used to its full capacity. The context is forced to become is renounced in favour of a stable text, thus making human beings prisoners of the past (or the text) with no connection access to the present or the will to shape the future. Salafism is an ideology that was established in the thirteenth century AC by Ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328), as mentioned earlier, and was then developed and enforced with a violent campaign by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab (1703–1791) in the eighteenth century
Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab came several centuries after
Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (1292–1350), who had edited the works of his shaykh, teacher Ibn Taymiyyah. However, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab went even further in his extremism by adopting doctrines that labelled people with differing views as unbelievers and polytheists. Even more shocking was his view that all those individuals who fell falling into these categories were worthy of nothing less than
extermination! Their lives deserved no sancitity, their wealth could be plundered and their families could be enslaved or killed. The legacy of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab has not only survived for two centuries, but has also acquired new international dimensions. Extremists are now distributed over the five continents and are threatening not only non-Muslims but also the very fabric of the Ummah, which is being destroyed in the rising sectarian discord by followers of the neo-Salafis.14 In addition, the neo-Salafis do not believe in debate or the use of the intellect, or, as mentioned earlier, the advance progress of history. This attitude was proved confirmed by my own futile attempt to discuss with a neo-Salafi his staunch defence of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab and his murderous actions that contravened what was written in the Qur’an. The neo-Salafi, who thought that Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab had been right all along, finally provoked my question, of whether the Qur’an had been revealed to Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah (the Prophet) or Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab?! The increasing dominance of takfir in Salafi thought – together with other extremist practices factors – is due mainly to the lack of modern Islamic ideas, as well as the curse of a culture that has not encouraged intellectual inquiry on the one hand, and has promoted the use of takfiri fatwahs on the other. Although the fatwah as an expert legal mechanism opinion is generally useful has some public validity, it has been overused or exploited by traditional Muslim institutions to prevent the emergence of new ideas that they have considered dangerous and un-Islamic. One could argue, in this respect, that the issuing of fatwahs by Osama bin Laden, al-Zarkawi and others, ’sentencing’ both Muslims and non-Muslims to death, has not come about from in a vacuum. An example is the declaration by al-Azhar
Institution in Egypt in 2004. In a statement to the Press, it accused the dozen scholars and researchers who participated in the workshop in 2004 on “Islam and Reform”, held at the Ibn Khaldun Institute for Developmental Studies in Cairo, of being “outsiders”, that is, outside the orbit of Islam and therefore verging on heresy (takfir). This declaration put the lives of these participants in danger, for anyone believing in the holiness of al-Azhar would consider it his religious duty to attack and, if possible, kill them. The head of al-Azhar made the statement to journalists because, in his view, although the papers and studies presented at the workshop supported the belief in Islam and the divinity of the Qur’an, etc., their content was outside the norm and tradition of the institution.15 It is not my intention to specifically target Al-Azhar. is not targeted specifically by this study. It is chosen only as an example to show that most of the Islamic religious institutions will employ the takfir or tahrim tool to suppress any challenging ideas. There arises the question: What is the difference between this kind of thinking, which labels the promoters of any new ideas as “outsiders”, and that of Osama bin Laden and his supporters? The answer is “Very little, if any.” Shaykh ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Razzak was condemned as a traitor in the early twentieth century by al-Azhar for writing a book in which he advocated the separation of religion and state. He was labelled a heretic and banned from the Institution. The taboo culture (tahrim) and takfir, which were responsible for the murder of Faraj Foda in the early 1990s, the attempt to assassinate the eminent writer and Nobel Laureate, the late Najib Mahfouz, and the expulsion from Egypt of Nasser Hamid Abu Zaid, are just a few examples of the takfiri tradition put into practice.
Where is the role scope of free choice, which was granted to humankind by the Qur’an, in this? How can people be free to choose their beliefs in this world – although they will have to answer for their actions on the Day of Judgment and face the consequences in the Hereafter – if they are to be killed by those who arrogate to themselves assume the Divine authority and mantle of Allah? The individuals who implement these “fatwahs” must believe in their power and imagine that they can sit on the “Throne of Allah”, deciding who lives and who dies on this planet. What is the meaning point of the Day of Judgment if people are forced to have a certain belief (iman)? believe and are not given the choice or the freedom to decide of their own free will what to believe in. According to the Qur’an faith, or disbelief, cannot be based on coercion (ikrah) and the both will be judged refers to punishment in the Hereafter. The culture of takfir and tahrim not only prevents the emergence of new ideas and reinforces intellectual stagnation, but it also provokes promotes violence and counter-violence, creating tension and resulting in sectarian infighting and the physical destruction of Muslim society. The Lack of new ideas, reasoning, and a humane interpretations as well as modern education in the at our classical theological institutions will, in turn, is bound to reinforce the extremist tahrim and takifer cultures. Although the traditional institutions try to preach sincerely try to promote peaceful coexistence with the Other, their outdated interpretations and the tools of their thought do not go sufficiently deep to produce ideas and practices that can tolerate and sustain the a modern social order. Therefore, theological reform, intellectual revivalism and a non-violent approach are necessary as a basis for social,
economic and political reform. The old-fashioned structures, organizations and methodologies of the traditional institutions have prevented the development of the present modern tools or the emergence of new tools, terms and modern conceptual frameworks. Thus, the understanding and interpretation of medieval Islam, its worldview in general, has been consolidated in the modern civilisation. The use of syllogistic tools, such as al-qiyās (analogy – ,)القيﺎسas explained earlier, is a clear example. Nor has there has been any further development of al-ijmā’ (consensus – ,) الجمﺎعwhich continues to be used in the same manner, style and substance as in the Middle Ages. Clearly, a tool of this kind can be useful in some respects, though not in others. Since the nature of this tool means that its use requires intellectual agreement, it has led to the prevention of a culture of intellectual difference that produces new ideas or the pursuit of new horizons. Even in those Islamic schools where the intellect is used to deduce legal evidence in fiqh, it is limited to the actions of the Predecessors, that is, the use of consensus and its knowledge to arrive at new legal evidence ruling. The third cause of extremism and violence is the absence of the human dimension in Islamic thought and theology. This is due to the culture of a static understanding of the Text (as read and interpreted by the medieval scholars), which has prevented the emergence of the role of humankind an appreciation of the march of humanity and the power of the intellect in for a modern reading of the Text, that is, for the formulation of practical knowledge and ideas. All knowledge is relative and it continues to evolve as part of the evolution of humankind, in which a process though which people are able to work and bring about constructive change. In the
Qur’an, God says: “O man! Verily, you are toiling on towards your Lord, painfully toiling, but you shall meet Him” (84:6). Thoughts and ideas, as already pointed out, cannot be weakened or destroyed unless they are replaced with better alternatives, nor can they be imposed on other people. The notion that Islamic beliefs can be instilled imposed by force, because they are from Almighty God, is nothing other than the innovation of Muslims who have not only lost the comprehensive understanding of the dialectical movement of history but also their own confidence in Islam itself. On the other hand, however, we do believe that Islam is eternal and complete, because it is from God, as confirmed in the Holy Qur’an: “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message, and We will assuredly guard it [from corruption]” (15:9). If this is so, then why should we feel so insecure about the destiny of Islam and lose our self-confidence when dealing with other people to the extent of wishing to imposing Islamic ideas and beliefs by force? Salafi or traditional Islam rejects the multi-faceted readings (,)تأوﻳكل متعدﺩ البعﺎﺩ hence, the development their ‘innovation’ of the concepts, such as the ‘fundamentals (integrity/safeguard?PM) of the Ummah’ ( ,)ثوابككت المككةwhich are not traditionally Islamic or Qur’anic. We are not referring here to the Qur’anic or Islamic fundamentals, in which we, as Muslims, all believe, such as the Shahadah ( )شهﺎﺩةand the divinity of the Qur’an. We are referring to the fundamentals (or rather, sayings) interpretations of earlier scholars, which have become part of the Qur’anic authority and Sunni fundmentals and which modern scholars are not allowed to revisit or modify. These are human-made man-made principals, fundamentals, which, if imposed will over time , naturally prevent creativity innovation and will result in the static
societies and the role played by individuals, not to mention the further spreading of senseless violence. Innovation is a human condition that reflects the power of the mind – given by God – to manage His affairs on earth. Collective imitation means that there is no the role for the individual is minimised. Innovation and creativity enhance the interaction between the mind and reality, for the reality produces problems arising from the social and cultural interrelationship of human beings, to which the mind responds with solutions. However, the followers of creativity (‘aql, intellect) are on a collision course with the followers of imitation (naql, tool of transmission). As a result, the balance is disturbed, leading to extremism of one sort or another, such as “cultural invasion” ( .)الثقﺎفكي الغزوDialogue is not allowed, and so violence becomes the supreme stance final arbiter. The efforts of human beings and their intellect can Human intellect and effort enable us to move forward and expand the horizon of experienced reality. This is not to ask Muslims to reject their terms of reference or the past, but to avoid imposing certain aspects of the past on our modern human society. We are not asking for the denial of the past or its achievements, but that it be put in its proper perspective. No human being or nation can live without reference to the past, yet it is not logical to put the cart before the horse. If we do so, then it is a feeble would be a vain attempt to escape the reality of the present and travel backwards to the past, thus removing our natural responsibility for future generations. As the great Chinese saying goes: “We did not inherit the earth from our parents, but we borrowed it from our children.” The fourth cause of extremism is the lack of a free environment, which is discussed in the next section.
5. Freedom and the Intellect
Human knowledge is relative and it continues to evolve as part of the fruitful ongoing evolution of humankind, in which people can work and effect constructive change as a result of a free environment space and constant stream of ideas; in other words, they can expand the horizon of reality. The mind matures when it works with others as a collective effort in an environment where the producers of ideas can interact freely and their contributions grow to maturity. This is the importance of the group in which awareness is collective. Hence, the need for i.e. developing the collective intellect. However, the Qur’an also refers to the individual dimension of humans in numerous verses with the address: “O human/man” ( .)النسكﺎن أﻳهكﺎ ﻳكﺎThis shapes the character fosters a sense of independence and individuality that develops individual awareness (and thus the and individual intellect). Therefore, it is important to have possess not only collective but also individual awareness in order to develop a moral approach to stance on life. It is the guarantee of truth and freedom. By definition, if it becomes a bulwark against violence, it will lead to the use of the intellect in allowing a dynamic dialogue to pursue its full course and strengthen the concept of freedom, for dialogue is the master of all stances in a free and expansive space. Nevertheless, freedom also means entails responsibility, for the alternative would be anarchy. It is the mind that controls or stipulates the level of responsibility that is necessary for freedom to exist. The Holy Qur’an assigns leadership and responsibility to human beings, as described in the following verse: “Stop them, for they must be asked [for they are responsible]” (37:24). Another verse states that God has granted human beings the stewardship (khilāfah) of this earth (2:30). He has en-
dowed them with the freedom to use their intellect and judgement in interpreting changing situations, thus allowing them much room for manoeuvre and tactful negotiation. This endowment clearly implies responsibility, which, in turn, requires the existence of freedom. Indeed, irresponsibility is the characteristic of an individual who is not free. We will not cannot expect prisoners to be responsible. ? This is exactly what Surah 37 (Surat al- Safat) is referring refers to when it states that human beings are responsible for their actions, for which they will bear the full consequences on the Day of Judgment. Therefore, if we reject the stewardship granted to humankind, then there can be no freedom of choice. If we deny the existence of the freedom of choice, then how can we consider human beings to be responsible for their actions? The mind provides the mental space, and freedom, by definition, refers to the physical space. Where freedom exists, the mental space can use the physical space and interact with it i.e. the mental space being projected in the actual space and supplying the necessary conditions for mobility and direction. In other words,
freedom is dynamic, as dynamism represents movement freedom and direction. Just as static means immobility and directionlessness. Thinking in essence is the shift or mobility, mentally, from the known to the unknown or from the introduction to the conclusion…etc. Without this shift or mobility the thinking process will not take place. It is a mobility dynamic process that of which intellectualization forms the engine of it. Here, creativity and lateral thinking are encouraged. In other words, people are free to meet to analyse and discuss ideas, exchange information, publish their findings and make decisions without being suppressed by the government or religious
institutions. Persuasion based on the intellect reasoning is far more powerful than emotional or physical force. It is the intellectual challenge, rather than the physical confrontation, which promotes and strengthens the interaction of the mind and freedom. As the first former helps in the production of ideas, application of concepts and so, ..etc to couple the second to leads to the growth and expansion, whereas while physical confrontation merely leads destruction. Intellect and freedom are the two quantities that form a single pair an important equation, be it social, cultural, economical or political equations. It is the intellect in a free environment that enables human beings to see the truth in all its numerous facets. One of the most difficult elements tasks of philosophy is to define what is meant by “truth”, for it is viewed and understood in so many different and contradictory ways. It is these differences that give truth its multi-faceted reality. status. The ability to use the mind in a free space environment in a search for the truth enables a fuller understanding of its meaning or and a better appreciation of its various facets. It is the diversity of mental faculties that allows dynamism in thinking and thus defines truth (or any facet of it) as it is perceived. The old, static ideas and practices of human beings in any space closed environment resemble present stumbling-blocks for thought or and act as impediments to the free flow of new ideas. in An expansive space that thus is essential for the intellect to function effectively. i.e. Closed environment, in contrast, slows down the mobility process and blocks change so necessary for the expanding space. An environment which lacks lacking new ideas and the use of the intellect, and blocks ing the necessary dynamism and mobility of human thought does not constitute provide any haven for freedom. Instead, it prepares the ground is
being prepared for the use of force, and imposition to thus suppressing the inherent free nature of the humankind. It is constitutes merely that is, a naked display of power. However, if history has taught us anything, it is that human beings can never control power – it is power that controls human beings. Human beings can never purify sanitize or define limit power – it is power that purifies sanitizes or defines limits human beings. Human beings cannot change or corrupt power – it is power that changes or corrupts human beings. Nor can human beings ascend to new heights without the use of power. These are the weaknesses of humankind. Further the absence of freedom paves the way for the combination collusion of intellect (in these sense intellectuals) and with power. This is what we see clearly in many parts of the Muslim world, i.e. namely, the combination between amalgamation of power and irresponsibility its remorse check out, between of state and religion its moral compass, between of politics and culture. The result is oppression the persecution and savagery. of man to his fellow man. This is what happens today in the state of the Muslim world today. In the past, this kind of unity was displayed in the
amalgamation of the state and church, and in the distant past, in the fusion of God (or religion) and power that was the distinguishing trait of as were in the kingdoms of the Babylonians, Egyptians, and so on. It is the combination of freedom and the use of the intellect which can, given transparency and application of values and not simply the existence of tradition and intellectual moral compass, overcome the weaknesses of humankind. It is stated clearly in the Holy Qur’n. What is basically meant is that the “word is the best”, in contrast to the use of speech, argument, reasoning is always better than force. Once the non-violent approach takes root is consolidated, then the need for force will gradually disappear. When the Qur’an
debates the various aspects of the freedom of choice, it includes the use of the intellect and responsibility. Human freedom enables human beings to choose how they will act, and therefore, it determines their fate. It is the intellect that provides the meaning of responsibility in those actions that shape the fate of human beings. It is the provision of a free space and the use of the intellect which allows human thought to escape from the cage of ideological stagnation and range travel further afield to seek new horizons. An independent and open space enables selfevaluation and helps produce fresh answers to old questions. It will poses at the same time pose new questions and beg elicits new answers, that is, freedom will be projected comes from the intellectual challenge. The Intellect evaluates itself at new frontiers with the all the reflection of that on freedom and vice versa that is its main function. It is the use of the rationale reasoning that maintains assures the march of intellectual progress without the presence of traditionalist obstacles. It is the use of the intellect that projects demonstrates one’s humanity and independence. As ‘Aql intellect distinguishes man from animals, so does and independence which manifests itself in the ability of individual intellects to be different from each another. It is the intellect that provides the strength framework for dialogue, a human characteristic that can add to for creativity but which functions only in an environment of freedom space where one can move freely. The combination of all these factors will enable the contextualization of the senses, as in the Qur’anic verse: “…every act of hearing, seeing or feeling [in the heart] will be investigated” (17:36). In other words, it is contextualization that leads to the conceptualization of the intellectual, social and cultural aspects of humankind in order to derive a new meaning and understanding of the Text.
It is the mind which, and in its ability to understand events in their context, that prevents mental stagnation and the intellectual dormancy of the intellect and initiative, a phenomenon which can be clearly seen today in the Muslim world, resulting in where the death of freedom in is the final outcome. analysis.
6. Fundamentals of the Intellect (Principles of a Science of Reasoning?) () العقل اصول
The conflict in the Muslim world between those demanding the liberation of the intellect and those demanding the domination of transmission is very old. It was always an unequal conflict and was settled in the Middle Ages in favour of those who preferred imitation and the total use reign of transmission. The emergence of uşūl al-fiqh ( )الفقﻪ اصولwas a necessary and creative step by the Muslim Predecessors in interpreting and transmitting the works of earlier scholars so as to understand new situations from the position vantage-point of the Shari‘ah. However, the limitations of the medieval exegesis interpretation and the stagnation of its methodology and tools stemmed from the neglect of the use of the intellect. To date, the Islamic scholars have not matched the uşūl al-fiqh with the introduction of an equivalent science, a science of reasoning or ‘the principles or fundamentals of the intellect’ ( .)العقل اصول Fiqh became the centre main stage of Islamic civilization, with the consequence that, for most of the time, the intellect was pushed to the sidelines. Fiqh also became static, since the interpretations and studies by the scholars were very often detached from reality, out of context, and based totally mainly on the transmission of past knowledge. Fiqh, both as a science (theory) and in as practice, was based on this backward-looking mode of understanding and interpretation. There
was an absence of the any organic bond between fiqhi reasoning intellect and social reality, or between intellect and Text, or between human agents beings and their lifeworld. environment. What wee have today in the form of a Muslim intellect of is what the has been shaped by many centuries of adherence to naql (transmission) has shaped(the rigid picture) centuries ago and by the claim of its superiority over ‘Aql (Reason or Intellect). In the West, on the other hand, Descartes’ theory of mind-body duality has become given rise to with time, the idea of an abstract and mathematical intellect, as it is well established accepted even by new philosophers, which is devoid of any possible imagination. Today, in the era of high technology, the manufactured products has come with full instructions that require little efforts for thinking of thought and or analysis when these are operated16. In other word, However, there do exist are somewhat deep some kind of scientific patterns and technical tools for the use of intellect, for thinking and analysis to use when one needs to operating these gadgets.
Programmed rules and software steps in dealing with the problems of advanced equipment are therefore necessary of for the workings of the modern society.17 Also, in the era of the multimedia, the image that has come to dominate the scene with has a little share room for the role of the word and the reflection or imagination that is associated with the reading process. This has produced in the advanced and
manufactured industrial world the “productive” or “manufacturing” intellect that which uses ready-made tools or patterns of thinking. Although the above is important, but what is really missing in this is the any process of a deep ‘critical thinking’ which is able to operate outside the programmed
patterns or pre-arranged frameworks of the human mind. To do this is to hat is putting put down primary fundamentals for new thinking,18 in addition to the provision of frameworks and essential format for the new approach. This should be the basis of what we call the ‘fundamentals of intellect’ (usul al-‘Aql) in order to make sure ensure that thinking process does not become lazy or a routine process just like the laziness of the ordinary human behaviour. i.e. to One must train students to go outside these ready-made thinking tools and programmed arrangements and fathom the contents subjectively; to explore further the huge capacity (an established fact) of the human mind, i.e. namely, its way of formulating the question and its the way of approaching the answer. What governs a debate to produce the required and useful dialogue that is based on exchange of ideas and cross-fertilization of experiences and not the dialogue of deaf which produces nothing at the end, needs to be inquired. A fresh look at the language that reflects the process of thinking and formulates the mind set is also needed. Is the consecutive manner of linear,
sequential mode of thinking the only logical way? In proving an equation or identities do we always begin from the start or can we start from the end and work our way up? There are many other steps or practices to stretch the intellect to its fullest capacity. When it comes to with the intellect and thinking we should always move the goal post. There is no final frontier. It is a A dynamic, evolving and ascending intellect that evaluates itself every time reaches a specific frontier, ever deeping its experience and employing its main mechanism, thinking, to arrive at fresh and new understanding, perception and vision.
The Our mental faculties enable human beings us to be aware of ourselves themselves and others. Awareness is the charactistic of the mind and its essential function is to draw conclusions based on former knowledge and present experience – or vice versa. Intellectual awareness that develops into creativity emerges from within the mind to reveal what it contains and what surrounds it. This faculty deepens the meaning of perception. The mind also has the ability to analyse and understand concepts such as logic, which need not be confined to the formal aspect, that is, concerned only with form and not the matter of reasoning.19 Finally, the mind has the ability to function as an intermediary, for it can view the way in which both the past and the present are received so as to debate questions such as cause and effect, metaphysics and so on. In my view, the new ‘principles of the intellect’ should comprise the following: • • The understanding of the biology of the brain. The study of the intellectual sciences ( ,) العقل علوﻡsuch as philosophy, logic and, of course, mathematics. • Keeping up to date with the latest theories of the definition and composition of the mind, and continuing research in that area. • An emphasis on science and technology, which, combined with the above components, can generate knowledge and refine acquired knowledge. • The need to study the time as a concept and a quantity, and its importance as factors for the context of the mind. • The study of astronomy and cosmology to access the most up-to-date view of the universe. • The study of the language and its relation to the thinking process.
The study of the future and the attempt to draw the various possible probable scenarios.
The absence of a vision of the future is the real symptom of the crisis in of the intellect of Reason in the Muslim society. The future begins with the present, just as the role of the present connects to the past. Future trends are simply a collection of scenarios to be imagined and possibly achieved. Travelling to the future begins with the present and the knowledge that we are coming from the past. The future is frequently shaped by our current actions, just as the present was the future for those who preceded us. Indeed, the present is the result or accumulation of the past. For example, the earth is inherited with its changes in condition, and the nature and content of the context is changed according to the Word of God as the Text. We can lay the foundations for the future as we see it today, using our accumulated experience and expertise, to avoid practices that lead to our present miserable situation. Future trends should be one of the main components of the uşūl al-‘aql or the fundamentals of the intellect.
Ibrahim al-Haidari, “Islam and Modernity”, Friday Note (12 January 2007), IFID Publications. 2 George Tarabishi, From Revelation to Relapse (Beirut: Dar al-Saqi, 2000), p.89. 3 Ibid. 4 al-Shatibi-Mawafcat-Dar Iha’a al-kuttb al-Arabi, Cairo, Egypt part1 , page 35-65, no history 5 al-Itisam, investigation of Mohammed Rasheed Ridha, New Riadh Bookshop, Riadh, Saudi Arabia, part 1, page 74-76, no history 6 George Tarabishi, From Revelation to Relapse (Beirut: Dar al-Saqi, 2000), p.89 7 Jabar Asfoor, “Nazat Taqdees al Madhi-Trend of Divinity for the Past”, al-‘Arabi, no.565 (December 2005). 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid 10 Najah Kadhim, “Between Text and History: Re-establishing the Intellectual Link”, Islam 21, no.38 (2005). 11 Ibid 11 Najah Kadhim, al-‘Arab wa Aşr al-‘Awlama [Arabs and the Era of Globalization] (Beirut/Casablanca: al-Dar al-Bayda’: Tawzi‘ al-Markaz al-Thaqafi al-‘Arabi, 2002), p.24. 12 Ibid. 13 Saeed Shehabi, “Destruction of the Islamic Architectural Heritage in Saudi Arabia: A Wake-up Call”, Friday Note (19 May 2006), IFID Publications. 14 Ibid. 15 “Islamic and Reform” (Arabic). Workshop held at the Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies (ICDS), Cairo, 5–6 October 2004, Press Release; al-Watan al-Saudia, no.1471 (9 October 2004); al-Usbu‘ al-Masry, Egypt (10 October 2004); and many Internet sites. 16. N.kadhim, al Taleem wadd al-Bhath al al-Almi (Education and Scientific Research), Beirut/Casablanca) Arab Cultural Centre, 2005, P59. 17. Ibid, p60 18.ibid, p61 19 Yahia Mahmoud, “Jadaleet al-Khtab wa al-Waqak- Controversy of the discourse and Reality”, Azzaman, no.895 (20 April 2001), p.13. Salaams Br. Corrections as follows: Page 5, first column 5th line from the bottom, delete the ) Page 7, first column 9th line from the bottom, there should be just one hyphen at the end of the line after al Second column 6th line from the top Consolidation should read as one word 12th line from the top investigate should read as one word 22th line from the top translation should read as one word 29th line from the top, there should be just one hyphen at the end of the line after al 32th line from the top, there should be just one hyphen at the end of the line after al 5th line from the bottom innovation should read as one word Page 8, Column 1 4th line from the top, there should be just one hyphen at the end of the line after al 2nd line from the bottom commentaries should read as one word Second column 5th line from the top, there should be just one hyphen at the end of the line after al 14th line from the top, there should be just one hyphen at the end of the line after al 21st line from the top, there should be just one hyphen at the end of the line after al 24th line immediately after reference(8) thee should be a full stop
4 lines after the above, it should read al-Malaki Page 9, first column 19th line from the top forcing should read as one word 13th line from the bottom reference should read as one word Page 10, first column 25th line from the top intellect should read as one word The very last line delete extra ( and need full stop (f you can) Second column 17th line from the top cybernetics should read as one word 8th line from the bottom practicality should read as one word Page 11 8th line from the top, there is an extra coma just before Yet 5th line of the second paragraph the no should not be underlined Second column 3rd line from the bottom, morrow should read one word Page 12, second column 3rd line from the bottom of second parag, emergence should read as one word 1st line of 3rd paragraph there should be one coma after the word argue 14th line from the bottom declaration should read as one word 12h line from the bottom holiness should read as one word 5th line from the bottom, ref 15 should be of the same font as the rest. Page 14, second column 21th line from top and inside the bracket transmission should read as one word Page 15, first column 10th line of second paragraph the full stop(after the word general) should not be underlined Page 16, first column 9th line from the top, it should read as” leads to..the growth...”. 10th line from the top should read “merely leads to de-...” 7th line from the bottom, a missing word, “for thought and practice act as...” Second column 24th line from the top and inside the bracket should read as “(in this sense..).” Page 17, column 1 12 or 13th line from the bottom, intellectual, should read as one word Second column 3rd line from the top, demanding should read as one word
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