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dismayed by the insight that a world governed by reason is a pre-determined world where there is neither morality nor freedom for the human individual. The post-modern man who contends that the world of history is not a pre-determined world but is marked by contingency, chance and 'the mystery of the being' is equally disenchanted by the import of his claim, namely that there are no moral standards and that every kind of cognitive and moral judgement is ultimately arbitrary. Neither a world of reason, nor a world without reason, seems to provide any basis for a moral view of the world! This is the world of nihilism within which Muslim extremists secure their ideological moorings. Little wonder that they have become the scourge of humanity. The cruel paradox is that while modern culture may no longer have faith in a transcendent and universal reason, while it may despair of the possibility of a philosophical account of its workings, it may even repudiate its claim to moral authority, Modern civilization has found her own pathways to rationality. The ultimate authority for the modern man is neither God nor Man, neither faith nor culture, neither history nor anthropology, but Science. No human discourse, be it subjective or societal, public or personal, political or moral, may ignore its claims for the wellbeing of our race. For the all hermeneutic discontent of philosophy, for all the exegetical despair of theology, reason as enshrined in the method of natural sciences, continues to define the human condition. To ignore this reality is to confine oneself to the dustbin of history. Fundamentalist literalism is not the closure of the text, but that of interpretation, not an appeal to reflection and intellection ( )ﺗﻌﻘﻞas the Qur’an admonishes us, but an end to Man’s dialogue with revelation. To espouse transcendence but renounce reason, to profess faith but reject the law, to love the Umma but hate humanity, is not Islam. It is nihilism, a modern heresy that is born out of the despair of the Godless soul. Little wonder, that in even in political terms,
the alternative to reason is not faith but barbarity! Reason and humanism are like twins. To loose faith in reason is to loose hope in humanity. Contempt for humanity may foster either a triumphalist politics of Empire or a suicidal anti-politics of Terror. Both these alternatives represent an anathema to the moral conscience of a universal faith such as ours. For Muslims, a commitment to reason is therefore a declaration of faith in humanity. Such a declaration must also become our charter for reclaiming a legitimate role in history. In this issue, the problem of the growing anti-intellectualism of Muslim societies is brought into focus. Khaled Haroub laments that ‘the intellect of dead scholars now controls the living’. Muslim dialogue with the tradition, especially in the Arab world, he points out, is an exercise in necrophilia, a ritual in irrelevance, and a veritable flight from history. Najah Kadhim presents a sustained argument for the cultivation of a new discourse on reason, ‘Ulum al-’Aql, which should complement the more traditional sciences of jurisprudence (‘Ulum al-Fiqh). His is a professional scientist’s plea for giving due recognition to the role of science for the modern civilization Without an espousal of scientific reasoning (Usul-al-’Aql) Muslim societies will know neither freedom nor justice, is his timely warning. Through, personal, prosaic details of his life in a highly organized society, Mohammad Omar Farooq alludes to the ‘dogmatic trait of Muslim mentality’ and the aversion to rationality that is its necessary corollary. The remedy, according to him, is to re-discover the mind-building aspects the Prophetic legacy, a neglected dimension in the lives of modern Muslims. S Parvez Manzoor provides some guidelines for background reading in the current theme. Finally, the editorial underscores the paradox of reason in modernity: reviled in culture and philosophy but revered in society and science. —————————————————-
The Dead Weight of Tradition
A recurrent practice in our days is that criticism of the more ‘open-minded’ Muslims by their ‘close-minded’ counterparts inevitably entails endless references to traditional – ancient – texts, and the role that Naql (faithful transmission of tradition) is required to play in any conversation between the two. However, this role of Naql is not merely restricted to the proper citation of the original sources, the Qur’an and the Hadith, but also – quite disturbingly to my mind - to the interpretative writings of the scholars and jurists of early centuries. In the present day intra-Muslim debates, an impenetrable aura of sacredness surrounds our ancient writings and over all those who wrote them. Very seldom is it realized that neither any of the scholars nor their writings had the slightest claim to holiness in their own times. Yet, much of contemporary Islamist augmentation relies on these texts and effectively seeks to cripple any use of rational inquiry, the employment of the Aql (intellect) that was once central to our tradition. It is depressingly sad to be forced to go back centuries in history in order to dig out from the debris of tradition what we, the 21st century Muslims, should think, say and do about matters that concern us now, for example the women’s right to drive cars (denied to them in Saudi Arabia)! Or, whether Muslims in the West should respect the values of host societies and abide by law and order. What could a 7th or 8th century scholar, whose life was confined to a very limited geographical and demographical existence, inform us about the pressing issues of our highly sophisticated and truly globalized world? Yet, my feeling is that those dead scholars,
who have done their share in the past and have rested in peace for centuries, are alive and active amongst us. In fact, they lead us and have full control over our thinking and practice. The intellect of the distant scholars controls the lives of the present. We, the living ones, have to refer to them, the dead, and seek their ‘enlightening advice’ on, say, whether a Muslim female is allowed to surf on the internet without having a male companion next to her! On the other day I was shocked to read a very long online fatwa on whether the mother of the Prophet (S) should be considered as a believer or a non believer (mushrika). I wasted almost an hour just reading the ‘details and various aspects’ of the fatwa, trying to understand its relevance for contemporary Muslims and their Islamic way of life. The main aim of the ‘scholar’ who issued the fatwa, crucial and very important part for Muslim belief he claimed, was to warn Muslims against praying for the mother of the Prophet or asking for God’s mercy for her! Such praying for forgiveness for ‘non-believers’, the ‘scholar’ was anxious to tell us, is forbidden The online comments on the fatwa, from readers who were equally obsessed with the culture of the ancient texts and on matters of who said what and when, were even more devastating for me that the fatwa itself. Out of more than 60 comments, only a very few questioned the whole subject matter and the theme, and asked why one had to waste time and effort in discussing such meaningless and irrelevant matters. Even more shocking was for me to learn that the fatwa and the comments were posted on what is known as a ‘liberal’ Arabic website (Elaph.com), a site which is regularly reproached by many Islamists for
publishing anti-religious material. One of the books of my friend Burhan Galiun was entitled “Assassination of the Mind” and was published back in the eighties. It was hoped then that by presenting the plight of the Arab societies in such stark terms, it would make a contribution towards defending the life of the mind which is constantly under siege in the modern Arab and Muslim world. However, what has happened since then is quite the opposite. The assault on the intellect in our Arab heartlands has been further exacerbated and on its corps has grown an distinctive culture filled with sloganeering, shallowness and high screams. The difficult lesson of history for us to stomach is that if backwardness engulfs a region or culture or age, it will not leave untouched any walk of life, be it social, cultural, political or else. It will leave its signature all over the human reality. Unfortunately, this is what seems to be happening to us. The first reaction of the backward intellect is its refusal to admit its backwardness! This applies eminently to us. Instead of beginning to question the reasons behind this backwardness, we find many ‘defenders of our honour’ who actually justify this retarded state by offering a number of soothing slogans, bogus explanations and false hopes. The paralysing rhetoric is further sustained by a popular mood which, in all its injured pride and narcissism, refuses to see the misery of its historical debacle in the eye. Unfortunately, doing this can only be the first step in the path of reform. The second consequence of this paralysis of the mind is our obsession with Naql, with past authorities and their immaculate texts. The living, it needs repeating, have ceased to be living, and the dead have come to life. The past is far more precious than the present, and the future does
not count. The predominance of this retrospective culture of ‘text-centeredness’, which amounts to an obsession’, is achieved at the expense of reasoning and free thought. Miserably, it is deeply rooted in the educational system of Arab and Muslim schools. A secondary school student, armed with rudimentary ‘texts’, has the delusion of authority. He or she has all the confidence and urge to challenge anybody who might have spent his entire life in studying. The latter is always open to the charge of relying on personal ‘opinion’ and unqualified ‘ijtihad’ rather than referring back to the authoritative ‘texts’. Maybe it has become tedious to reiterate that the change in Muslim mentality will start from early school years and will have to embrace the entire educational system - an education system that allows room for the critical thinking and free inquiry. But we must keep restating that! ————————————————— Khaled Hroub: Writer and Media consultant is based in England. He is also the presenter of “Book Review” in alJazeera TV Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Urgent Need to Establish a Science
Fundamentals of the Intellect (()اﺻﻮل اﻟﻌﻘﻞ
Najah Kadhim 1. Introduction There is an urgent need to allow the intellect to take its rightful place in the sciences, activities and lives of the Muslims. 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 man carries the stamp of history, that is, it is always situated in time. It is influenced by the circumstances prevailing at a specific 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 Salafi thought, where an emphasis on the faithful transmission of texts takes precedence over the intellectual effort of understanding them. In addition, both yearn for a return to the past, as represented by a 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 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, have provided ample justification for killing fellow human beings, whether Muslim or not. Thus, ignorance and misinterpretation, have continually reasserted themselves in Islamic history. Cloaking the work of men
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 of naql (transmission) as the ultimate tool for determining the original sources of Islam has become increasingly dominant. So much so that at present, in the twenty-first century, it 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, the lives and works of Muslims should be governed completely by the imitation of the past. 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, according to their claim, the most reliable method of reaching back to their practice (Sunna). The Salafi believe that their illustrious founders, such as Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al‑Wahab, were divinely inspired and timeless in their wisdom, therefore worthy of emulation. Some of them insist that these forefathers of Salafism had already found all answers to all the questions which the future generations have to deal with!
(Islamic scholars) with an aura of eternal truth has produced in general an extremely submissive attitude to intellectual and moral authority. It has paved the way for a collective imitation mentality among Muslims, who, having avoided the use of the intellect for so long, now appear to be unable to think creatively and expand the horizons of their reality. Their way of life, long deprived of the liberating influence of reasoning, is now quite remote from the spirit and original intention (maqsad) of the Holy Qur’an. 2. The Qur’anic View: 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. 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 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 farreaching 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” ( “ ,) أﻓﻼ ﺗﺘﻔﻜﺮونDo you not contemplate” ( .)أﻓﻼ ﺗﻌﻘﻠﻮنThe Holy Book indicates that thinking ( )ﺗﻔﻜﺮis the first stage of the cognitive appropriation of reality. Intellection ( )ﺗﻌﻘﻞis a higher level, where the mind ( )ﻋﻘﻞis employed to produce rationality and reasonableness through a deeper analysis. The tool of transmission is used by the Qur’an to analyze the past and produce principles and rules for humankind to learn (deductive logic), and the tool of the intellect to look into the future and apply the lessons that have been learnt (inductive logic). 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. 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, 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 the truth and denounce 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 and his name, The Wise (al-Hakim) is at the centre of gravity of the Muslim belief. 3. History and the Intellect Any study of Islamic history would confirm that the method of transmission by Naql has been the predominant focus of Muslim scholarship. The only exceptions are the era of the Mu‘tazilites, which lasted a short while during the early years of Islam, and the Middle Ages, which gave us 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, alMa’mūn (813 AC), there was widespread use of the intellect – as it was understood in those days – and many novel ideas were produced. The negative aspect of that period was the Mu‘tazilites’ imposition of their creed 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, alMutawakkil (247 AH/847 AC). It was the era that witnessed the consolidation of the methodology of transmission (Naql), which has remained a dominant element of the Muslim world to the present day. In response to the Mu‘tazilites, 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 AH, as is evident in ‘Abd al‑Qadir al‑Gilani’s book, al‑‘Itiqad [The Beliefs], which lays particular emphasis on creeds. By the end of the century, Abu Hamid alGhazali was preoccupied in waging a campaign against the philosophers, as described in his famous work, Tahafut alFalasifa [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 al‑Shatibi’s al‑I‘tişām. In his work, alShatibi 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 “the intellect is not to be speculative in vision unless its imaginaAs the originator of Salafi thought in the early eighth century AH, Ibn Taymiyyah rejected philosophy and logic, believing that both disciplines contaminated and debased Islam tion is supported by Naql”(4,5) 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 of Ibn Taymiyyah. In his book, Ţalbis Iblis, he condemned Sufis as “criminal infidels” and accused them of promoting unlawful practices. The period was dominated by the ideas of 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 AH, Ibn Taymiyyah rejected philosophy and logic,
believing that both disciplines contaminated and debased Islam. His student, al‑Suyuti, followed in his foot-steps. AlSuyuti 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 AH) and Ibn Rajab alHanbali in Baghdad (d. 795 AH) consolidated the attitude of the defective present and the perfect past(7). Ibn Rajab entitled his book ﻓﻀﻞ ﻋﻠﻢ اﻟﺴﻠﻒ ﻋﻠﻰ ﻋﻠﻢ اﻟﺨﻠﻒ [Superiority of the Science of the Predecessors over the Science of the Followers]. This work confirms the ideas of alShatabi as found in his book Muwafaqat which states that religious science (’Ulumad-Din) are far more important than ‘worldly’ sciences (’Ulum-ad-Dunya)(8).He also believed that the 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 the Ummah, in which two scholars, from two places who were different in environment, culture, geographical location and sectarian loyalties, were both guided mainly by the authority of Naql (transmission), and downplayed the role of ‘Aql in human affairs. This attitude was in sharp contrast 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 also included the acquisition of “earthly” knowledge, natural sciences that are relevant to 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 nonMuslim 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 (imitation) over ‘aql (reason) resulted in the disappearance of the intellectual effort in addressing the questions of everyday life, thus forcing people to accept only what had been transmitted from the remote past. Such a marked change had the effect of severing religion from all links to rationality. 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 society(10). Thus, the gates of ijtihād were closed, creating throughout Muslim society a mentality that took every word of the Text at its 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, 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 likely to be very different. Thus, over the years, the Ummah developed the Fiqhi Mind but lost the philosophical mind. The Qur’anic verses that imply that the mind had a mediating role to play between life and religion, philosophy and religion, sacred and profane, past and future and finally between the Text and history have
been disturbed forever. Further, the obsession with the text (in reality, works of commentary and exegesis by past scholars) implies that all further research is superfluous. For, all truth are already exists in the texts of the elders. The historical reality thus becomes detached from the text and the thinking process comes to a stop since it has already been accomplished before. The Holy Qur’an, on the other hand 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 (33: 8; etc). It exhorts us not only to seek, discover and deduce the truth but to be innovative as well. With the community’s loss of focus on this exhortation began the disastrous dissolution of the interrelationship between intellect and the Shari‘ah, indeed between the intellect and life. Religion and culture kept on moving apart, setting the scene for the withdrawal of Islam into seclusion, where it would be practised as a defensive 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... with a protective shield provided by extremism. When practised in this way, fanatics started raging against the Other, whether the Other was Muslim or not, and turned even against the Muslim “self”, criticizing its imaginary sins(11) 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 AH, the region was occupied by the Seljuqs, who waged relentless wars against the Buwayhids, resulting in the devastation of their realm. Later, 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 of the Turkish Ottoman Empire definitely silenced the inquisitive and self-confident voices of Islamic civilization, even if these earlier were heard for a brief span of time. These historical events contributed to the following disasters, in fact natural consequences of Muslim: The delicate balance that clearly existed in the Holy Qur’an between the Text and the intellect was disturbed, resulting in a imbalance and lopsidedness which later became the norm. Religious knowledge produced by humans was given a divine status and was regarded at par with the revealed truth of the Holy Book. Concepts such as bid‘ah (innovation), jabr (pre-determination), qadā’ (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 free will and the ability to move forward and expand their horizons. More importantly, it prevented them from applying their mental faculties for the advancement of sciences and for The delicate balance that clearly existed in the Holy Qur’an between the Text and the intellect was disturbed, resulting in a imbalance and lopsidedness which later became the norm the acquisition of new experiences and knowledge. As a result, the focus remained on the earlier knowledge produced by human beings, leading to a lack of development of new knowledge and the harnessing of ideas that did not contribute to the dissemination of the “acquired knowledge” ( اﻟﻤﻌﺮﻓﺔ )اﻟﻤﻜﺘﺴﺒﺔand the birth of the “generated knowledge” ( .( )اﻟﻤﻌﺮﻓﺔ اﻟﻤﻨﺒﺜﻘﺔThis was clearly the situation during the era of the great
scholars, such as Ibn Rushd, al‑Kindi, alFarabi and many others. Although new ideas and forms of knowledge were emerging, the lack of a complete knowledgesystem, unsupported by a socially competent professional section of the population, meant that they were unable to 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 functions(12). One is the research and development activities that produces “generated knowledge” and new disciplines, such as genetics and cybernetics technology. The other function is to contribute to the spread of the “acquired knowledge(13). 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 are transcendent, above and beyond time and place, whereas traditions are bound to time and society. This attitude has led to the casting of a dogmatic cover 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 Islamic schools that philosophy, logic and other sciences based on reasoning degrade belief and faith (Iman). Since Reason
represents what is characteristically human, the rejection of the intellect is the rejection of human beings, of their societies and sciences. This projectionist attitude view has indeed created a lack of trust in the capacity of human beings to act as God’s vicegerents on earth. Yet, this role is central to the Qur’anic perception of man. That only God’s ultimate might is to be trusted disturbs the uniquely balanced relationship between God and man as it is envisioned in the Holy Book. The Text and its human reader refer to Revelation and Reason, where the Text manifests the Word of God and the intellect manifests the ever evolving 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 room for progress, as professed by Islam with its emphasis on the future bliss of man. History is not the dynamic vehicle of human beings, carrying them forward on their journey. Rather, it has become a vertical movement in reverse gear. Looking backwards into the past and imitating the work of known scholars have entailed devaluing the human mind and the role of the individual’s contribution; it is tantamount to the de-contextualizing the mind of the human beings and their ability to think and use their initiative. Further-more, it is impeding the creation of the horizontal structure that is paramount in twenty-firstcentury 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 feeble ideas is quite common in our societies, for, without the 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 emerges, it is marginalized or firmly suppressed. Extremism represents the defeat
of the mind and intellect, which produce rationality. Here are some of the factors responsible for the lack of a dynamic vision, which, in turn, fuels extremism: Salafism, traditional Muslim institutions and their retrograde theology, the lack of a humane political culture, and the absence of intellectual freedom in general. The first two factors confound the present malaise by demanding the introduction of the Shari‘ah in its most outmoded and ….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 room for progress... 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 proclaims allegiance to the norms of the past and a Salafi is the one who espouses this ideology. Its practical meaning, however, is the purification of Islam by returning Muslim society to what Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al‑Wahab, the founder of modern Salafi movement and the fountainhead of its puritanical thought, believed to be its original principles as exemplified by the practice of al‑Salaf alŞalihīn (earliest generation of Muslims).(14) According to the Salafis, the purification of Islam is a stepping back into history, a claim that 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 never allowed to be used to its full capacity. The context is renounced in favour of a
stable text, thus making human beings prisoners of the past, with no 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 AC. Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al‑Wahab came several centuries after Ibn al‑Qayyim al‑Jawziyyah (1292–1350), who had edited the works of his 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 un-believers and polytheists. Even more shocking was his view that all individuals who fell into these categories were worthy of extermination! Their lives deserved no sancitity, their wealth could be plundered and their famiThe increasing dominance of takfir in Salafi thought – together with other extremist practices is due mainly to the lack of modern Islamic ideas, 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. lies 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(15). In addition, the neo-Salafis do not believe in debate or the use of the intellect, or, as mentioned earlier, in the progress of history. This attitude was confirmed by my own futile attempt to discuss with a neoSalafi 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, whether the Qur’an had been revealed to Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah (the Prophet) or Muhammad ibn ‘Abd alWahab?! The increasing dominance of takfir in Salafi thought – together with other extremist practices is due mainly to the lack of modern Islamic ideas, 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 opinion has some public validity, it has been exploited by traditional Muslim institutions to prevent the emergence of new ideas that they have considered dangerous and un-Islamic. One could argue, that the issuing of fatwahs by Osama bin Laden, al‑Zarkawi and others, ’sentencing’ both Muslims and nonMuslims to death, has not come about 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 (16). It is not my intention to specifically target alAzhar. 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.” ‘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 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 Divine authority? What is the point of the Day of Judgment if people are forced to have a certain belief (iman). According to the Qur’an faith, or disbelief, cannot be based on coercion (ikrah) and the both will be judged in the Hereafter. The culture of takfir and tahrim not only prevents the emergence of new ideas and reinforces intellectual stagnation, it also promotes violence and counter-violence, creating tension and resulting in sectarian infighting and the physical destruction of Muslim society. Avoidance of new ideas, independent reasoning, humane interpretations as well as modern education at our classical theological institutions is bound to reinforce the extremist tahrim and takifer cultures. Although traditional institutions sincerely try to promote peaceful coexistence with the Other, their outdated interpretations and tools of thought do not produce ideas and practices that can sustain a modern social order. Therefore, theological reform, intellectual revivalism and a non-violent ap-
proach are necessary as a basis for social, economic and political reform. The oldfashioned structures, organizations and methodologies of traditional institutions have prevented the development of modern tools or the emergence of new 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-)اﻟﻘﻴﺎس as explained earlier, is a clear example. Nor has there has been any further development of al‑ijmā’ (consensus– )اﻻﺟﻤﺎع The culture of takfir and tahrim not only prevents the emergence of new ideas and reinforces intellectual stagnation, it also promotes violence and counter-violence, creating tension and resulting in sectarian infighting and the physical destruction of Muslim society. which 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 ruling. The third cause of extremism and violence is the absence of the humane 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 an appreciation of the march of humanity and the power of the intellect for a modern reading of the Text, that is, for the formulation of practical knowledge and ideas. All knowledge is relative and continues to evolve as part of the evolution of humankind, a process through 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 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 selfconfidence when dealing with other people Collective imitation means that the role for the individual is minimized. Innovation and creativity enhance interaction between the mind and reality, for reality produces problems arising from the social and cultural interrelationship of human beings. to the extent of wishing to imposing Islamic ideas and beliefs by force? Salafi or traditional Islam rejects the multi-faceted readings ()ﺗﺄوﻳﻞ ﻣﺘﻌﺪد اﻷﺑﻌﺎد hence, their ‘innovation’ of the concepts, such as the ‘fundamentals’ (integral components) of the Ummah’ ( )ﺛﻮاﺑﺖ اﻷﻣﺔwhich 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 interpretations of earlier scholars, which have become part of the Qur’anic authority and which modern scholars are not allowed to revisit or modify.
These are man-made principles, which, if imposed will over time, prevent creativity and will result in the static societies and 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 the role for the individual is minimized. Innovation and creativity enhance the interaction between the mind and reality, for 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” ( .) اﻟﻐﺰواﻟﺜﻘﺎﻓﻲDialogue is not allowed, and so violence becomes the final arbiter. 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. Certain fresh reading of the past from the present angle is always needed in order to influence the future. 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 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 ongoing evolution of mankind, in which people can work
and effect constructive change as a result of a free environment 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 the cultivation of the collective intellect. However, the Qur’an also refers to the individual dimension of humans in numerous verses with the address: “O humans/ man” .( ) ﻳﺎ أﻳﻬﺎ ﻻﻧﺴﺎنfosters a sense of independence and individuality and the use of individual intellect. Increasing the responsibility of the individuals is in fact to empower them. This by default increases their freedom of manoeuvre and hence has its bearing on freedom in general. Therefore, it is important to possess not only collective but also individual awareness in order to develop a moral approach to 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 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 endowed 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 cannot expect prisoners to be responsible. This is exactly what Surah 37 (Surat al‑Safat) 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 Nevertheless, freedom also 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. 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 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 dynamic process of which intellectualization forms the engine. 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 reasoning is far more powerful than emotional or physical force. It is the intellectual challenge, rather than the physical confronta-
tion, which promotes and strengthens the interaction of the mind and freedom. As the former helps in the production of ideas, application of concepts and so, the second leads to the growth and expansion, while physical confrontation merely leads to destruction. Intellect and freedom are the two quantities that form a single pair, be it social, cultural, economical or political - thus achieving the real emancipation of the mind with its reflections on the freedom of the society. It is the intellect in a free environment that enables human beings to see the truth ….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 sanitize or limit power – it is power that sanitizes or limits human beings. Human beings cannot change or corrupt power …... in its numerous facets. One of the most difficult 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. The ability to use the mind in a free environment in search for the truth enables a fuller understanding of its meaning 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 closed environment present stumbling-blocks for thought and practice act as impediments to the free flow of new ideas. An expansive space thus is essential for the intellect to function effectively. Closed environment, in contrast, slows down the mobility process and blocks change so necessary for the expanding space. Dynamism as result of mobility and direction leads to change( positive or negative) which, as a notion and practice, remains the essence of life. An environment
which lacks new ideas and the use of the intellect, and blocks the necessary dynamism and mobility of human thought does not provide any haven for freedom. Instead, it prepares the ground for the use of force, thus suppressing the inherent free nature of the humankind. It constitutes merely 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 sanitize or limit power – it is power that sanitizes or 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 collusion of intellect (in this sense intellectuals) with power. This is what we see clearly in many parts of the Muslim world, namely, the amalgamation of power and irresponsibility, of state and religion, of politics and culture. The result is oppression and savagery. This is 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 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, overcome the weaknesses of humankind. It is stated clearly in the Holy Qur’an. What is basically meant is that the speech, argument, reasoning is always better than force. Once the non-violent approach takes root, 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.
ated over time with the idea of an abstract mathematical intellect, a claim which is no more accepted by later philosophers, as it is devoid of any possible imagination. Today, in the era of high technology, the manufactured products come with full instructions that require little efforts of thought and analysis when these are operated (17). However, there do exist some kind of scientific patterns and technical tools for thinking and analysis when one needs to operate these gadgets. Programmed rules and software steps in dealing with the problems of advanced equipment are therefore necessary for the workings of the modern society(18). Also, in the era of the multimedia, the image that has come to dominate the scene has little 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 industrial world the “productive” or “manufacturing” intellect which uses readymade tools or patterns of thinking. Although the above is important, what is really missing in this is any process of ‘critical thinking’ which is able to operate outside the programmed patterns or prearranged frameworks of the human mind. To do this is to put down primary fundamentals for new thinking(19), 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 ensure that thinking process does not become lazy or a routine process just like the laziness of the ordinary human behaviour. 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, namely, its way of formulating the question and its 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 linear, sequential mode of thinking the only logical way? In proving an equation or identities (in Maths for example) 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 the intellect and thinking we should always move the goal post. There is no final frontier. A dynamic, evolving and ascending intellect that evaluates itself every time reaches a specific frontier, forever deepening its experience and employing its main mechanism, thinking, to arrive at fresh and new understanding, perception and vision. Our mental faculties enable us to be aware of ourselves and others. Awareness is the characteristic 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(20). 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 physiology of the brain. The study of intellectual sciences ( ) ﻋﻠﻮم اﻟﻌﻘﻞsuch as philosophy, logic and, of course, mathematics. Keeping up to date with the latest theories of the definition and composition
Mind-Building: A Neglected Dimension of the Prophetic Heritage
Mohammad Omar Farooq Allahu Akbar, Allahaaaahuu Akbar! ... Oh, the vibrating wake-up call to begin another day. It's somewhat different though, as in this age of modern technology and rapid change, this call is from a digital clock right by the bedside. It is not a substitute for the hearty adhan coming live from a minaret, but for a weak believer like me, I am so grateful to have this, instead of a regular alarm clock, in a small rural town in the USA. Offering the prayer, I head for the kitchen area. On the electric stove, an egg is being transformed into delicious omelet with the loving and mysterious touch of my beloved better half. (Somehow whenever I cook, even following her instructions, it doesn't taste so good!). In the microwave, a cup of water is brewing for tea - to be made the English way. Last night there was terrible headache, and some remnant was still there. My wife insists on checking if I have any temperature, and defying my "qawwamuna alan nisa" status, I listened to her. Alhamdulillah, the thermometer gave a favorable reading, but I reached out for some Tylenol. Expecting some guests this afternoon, I grabbed the convenient handle of vacuum cleaner. I already used the "miracle mop" last night before going to sleep. Hurriedly, I dressed up while I turned on the computer. Most annoyingly, yet helpfully, the computer reminds me that I have two bills to be paid and today is the scheduled date to be mailed out. Without being meticulous about my otherwise shapely handwriting, I write two checks, put it in an addressed envelope. Thanks God, I don't have to lick that rather awkwardtasting stamps, because I got those selfadhesive ones. Quickly, I check my email. My parents, halfway across the globe in Bangladesh, have written me an email that was sent just a few minutes ago. I remember twenty years ago when I came to this country, I had to endure weeks to receive a letter. No more time left. I hear a pleading reminder from downstairs, "Abbuji (daddy), it's time to go!" My two daughters are ready to go to school and I have to drop them off on my way to the university. There was no problem on the way. After two major car accidents last year, I have to be extra careful; of course, there is passionate and strict instruction from my beloved to drive most conservatively. In North America, this is generally not a big problem, as most drivers on the road are also obeying the basic traffic laws. After reaching office, I checked messages on my voice machine, prepared an exam on computer, quickly printed it out on a laser printer (sparing some time for me to work on this article), wrote a few things with a pen that did not spill any ink, and headed for my class room. The computer station in the classroom wasn't working properly, so I had to immediately call up the technical support and without any hassle or bribe, it was promptly taken care of. In the afternoon, there was a faculty meeting. I am one of the two international faculty here, and my participation at this meeting as a faculty is deeply appreciated, even though I had to publicly register my concerns about some of the recent steps taken by the administration. By now, I won't be surprised if the readers have become circumspect as to in detailing all these routine things that are so common in most others' life as well what do I really have in mind. Aha, the "mind"! This article is about "mind-building". As my life is not much different from most others', as my beloved's omelet is probably only as delicious as most others' (may be
not employ the faculty of reasoning may grab the very first candidate that claims to be the truth, and if that candidate is embraced without appropriate scrutiny, in all likelihood, whatever was embraced will be upheld regardless whether it was really the truth in the first place or not. That is why logic and reason are never unwanted or disposable for Muslims. Islam simply teaches, and expects from, us to use those adequately and properly. May I beg the readers' indulgence to read the following verse about Ibrahim (a), who even after attaining prophethood, asked Allah: "Behold! Abraham said: 'My Rabb! Show me, how you give life to the dead.' He said: 'Do you not then believe?' He said: 'Yes! but to satisfy my own understanding.' He said: 'Take four birds, tame the to turn to you; put a portion of them on every hill, and call to them; they will come to you (flying) with speed. Then know that God is Exalted in Power, Wise.'" [2:260] This is the foundation of Islamic spirit of inquiry, search for truth, pursuit of knowledge, and understanding. We are, of course, not prophets. Genuine search for truth does not begin by taking things for granted, but by our effort to learn and verify - the essence of scientific approach. In this process, occasional doubts are very natural. As far as Islamic validity of what I am suggesting, let no one tell you any differently, because this is what the Prophet (s) himself has said: "Allah's Apostle said, "We have more right to be in doubt than Abraham when he said, 'My Lord! Show me how you give life to the dead.' He said, 'Do you not believe?' He said, 'Yes (I believe) but to be stronger in Faith.' (2:260)" [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, No: 61] Thirdly, Muslims have lost their bond with nature. Yes, there are scientists - natural and social, but not reared through an educational system or environment that popularly (and inspired by Islam) internalizes and nurtures observational bond with nature. There are so many people chanting "subhanallah", but how many does one see
straying for a moment to observe how a bird flies, or caterpillar turns into butterfly, or a seed sprouts - and spontaneously without even being conscious - say once: "Subhanallah." The first type of subhanallah chanters of the ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (s) would be the users of all these gadgets invented or produced by the non-Muslims. Indeed, they would give louder Adhans with loudspeakers invented by the non-Muslims. The second kind of "Subhanallah" will produce the discoverers, explorers, inventors, and innovators. Muslims need to develop a keen interest in understanding and appreciating the nature - the world of creations of which we are a part. Muslims are ready to reject any evolutionary theory, but they do not have an adequately developed and articulated alternative explanation. Study closely the following verse: "Say: 'Travel through the earth and see how Allah did originate creation; so will Allah produce a later creation; for Allah has power over all things'" [29:20] While Allah invites and challenges us to study, understand, and appreciate how "Allah did originate creation," what have Muslims to offer on the part of the Ummah from the study during last fourteen centuries as an adequately detailed and developed account for the process of originating creation? Our explanation is simple, elegant and melodramatic! "Kun fayakun!" God said: "Be and there it was". All that there is to it! One reason that partly, but importantly, accounts for this failure is that the people we call scholars or Ulama over time have completely alienated themselves from nature. Nature is not merely to be contemplated upon, but to be experienced - to be touched, felt, smelt, and observed. Consider the following verses of Sura al-Mulk [3 -4]: "He who created the seven heavens one above another: No want of proportion will you see in the creation of the Most Gracious. So turn your vision again: Do you see any flaw? Again turn your vision a second time: (your) vision will come back to you dull and discomfited in a state of worn
out." The purpose of these verses is not that people would have such a gullibly, believing mind and attitude that they would not even bother to look for what Allah is referring to. These verses are invitation as well as challenge to humanity to study, understand, and appreciate the creation of Allah. However, the impact of these verses on our mind has been quite the opposite. Since we believe in Allah and Allah's creation is flawless, why do we need to turn our vision toward his creation? The sad lesson is that, regardless of the reason, whoever develops a keen attachment to nature studies, explores, probes into - has a different appreciation than those who simply believe in. Furthermore, our belief in the flawlessness of Allah's creation does not take us even one step closer to put nature to our use, as others are already doing. Technological progress and understanding of nature are inseparable. Fourthly, Muslims have a serious stumbling block to mind-building. The autonomous forces of modern changes in this society are driven by at least two factors. One is the problem-solving attitude and approach, which we lack due to our overwhelmingly dogmatic mind-set (and the so-called Islamic movements are absolutely no exceptions!). The other is innovation. While innovation is the key to incremental improvements in human society, Muslim mind-set psychologically is at odd with this very word. Why? The Arabic/Islamic word for this is "Bid'ah". While we are repeating every week in Jumuah prayers "All innovations are misguidance (dalala) and all misguidances are hell-bound", who says Muslims are not smart? Their mind-set, quite intelligently and aptly, is not set up for "innovations" leading to who knows where. While avoiding bid'ah, in appropriate contexts, has importance, we rarely even clarify that while one type of innovation may be hell-bound, the other is essential to our existence. It is important to emphasize the need for more and more bid'ah in another sense.
Muslims cannot ignore the fact that those who have overwhelming technological superiority over us, they also dominate our lives in every possible way, often negatively. Technology as an autonomous force of change would continue to shape and reshape the world around us, unless we are in the driving seat of history. And, toward that end we also need to rebuild our mindset based on a better and different understanding of the Qur'an and the Prophetic heritage. Muslims once led the world because of their strength in building both our character and mind. They can still reach their potential and serve the humanity in the path of God by putting balanced emphasis on both aspects of our development. ——————————————————-
Dr Mohammad Omar Farooq is an associate professor of economics and finance at Upper Iowa University. homepage: http:// www.globalwebpost.com/farooqm; email: email@example.com]
www.Islam21.net bridge, 1954, 78, 87 etc. Fazlur Rahman: Prophecy in Islam: Philosophy and orthodoxy. London, Allen and Unwin, 1958. Reprint, Chicago, 1979. Mohammed Arkoun: Islam : To Reform or to Subvert? London, Saqi Books, 2006. Mohammed Arkoun: Humaisme et islam: Combats et propositions. Paris, J Vrin, 2005. Arberry, A.J.: Revelation and Reason in Islam. London, Georg Allen & Unwin, 1957 (Re-print 1971). Joseph von Ess: The Flowering of Muslim Theology. Harvard University Press, 2006. Leo Strauss: Philosophy and Law. State University of New York Press, New York, 1995. Heinrich Meyer: Leo-Strauss and the TheologicalPolitical Problem. Cambridge University press, 2006. Daniel Tanguay: Leo Strauss: An Intellectual Biography. Yale University Press, 2007. Shadia Drury: Terror and Civilization. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004..
Reason and Sociology and Philosophy One consequence of the inability of theoretical intellect to explain itself was that the philosophical problem of 'reason' was supplanted by the sociological one of 'rationality'. And it is here that Weber made his significant contribution. For Weber, the transition to modernity is just through greater rationalization. However, he also posits a fateful distinction between Zweckrationalität (formal rationality) and Wertrationalität (substantive rationality) and by so doing bequeaths to the European tradition its unresolved tensions and ideological pessimism. Modernity, in accordance with his typology, is a reversal of traditional relationship between formal and substantive rationalities: instrumental calculations of efficiency and consistency are no longer limited by the overall set of ultimate values; rather substantive norms themselves come under the judgement of instrumental reasoning. The problem with the appropriation of reason as rationality is that it becomes wholly procedural; it does not justify ends or warrants universal norms. It is in meeting the Weberian challenge that Habermas advances his theory of rationality as communicative action and proposes universal criteria of reason - at a time when antimodernist movements of postmodernism,
post-structuralism and relativism have declared war on the ideals of Enlightenment. As against Habermas' earlier attempt to ground knowledge in human interests, the theory of communicative action takes a more direct route by embedding reason in language. It may nonetheless be described as a 'sociological' theory of consensus: communicative rationality is the means by which 'a fallibilistic critical community' acts in order to achieve mutual understanding and agreement. Undoubtedly, Habermas' theory of rationality as communicative action displays uncanny resemblance with the Sunni theory of authority (Ijma‘)! Ijma‘ as a paradigm of consensus by communicative action may be understood, in the Islamic framework as a theory of reason after revelation. And this also brings to light the main function of reason in Islam: it is exegetical. It creates no text, but uses its resources in understanding and explicating pre-given texts. (In Shi‘ism, where the Imam guarantees the infallibility of scriptural exegesis, the principle of Ijma‘ remains inoperative as long as the Imam manifests himself in history. With the coming of the ghayba, however, exegetical reason comes out in the open and initiates its communicative discourse.) In short, it is in the nature of revelation to create a genuine interface of reason and faith. Absolute reason, on the other hand, is not open to the possibility of revelation. Even a traditional believer knows that the 'truth' of philosophy is contingent upon the possibility of a priori knowledge, on the claim that 'reason' without the aid of experience, can unravel the structure of the universe and the nature of reality. Hence, like all arguments for authority, the claim of philosophy to be an apology of truth is circular and tautological: Reason discovers truth and truth is that which reason discovers! It is hardly surprising that today, after two millennia of philosophical debate, no philosopher is prepared to make any claim more venturesome than that 'truth is merely a property of language' (Rorty)! If so, the believer's method, which sanctions the use of
reason in the decipherment of the linguistic truth of the revelation, is as 'rational' as any and it certainly stretches the resources of reason to the limit! One of the foremost protagonists of modern rationalism that replaces transcendent God with immanent Nature, is Spinoza. Any insight into the modern commitment to rationality, whether through empirical study of Nature or through philosophical reflection, presupposes some familiarity with Spinoza’s thought.
Reading List: Georg Stauch: Islam und weslicher Rationalismus. Campus, Frankfurt, 1993. Whimster, S & Lash, S: Max Weber, Rationality and Modernity. London, Allen and Unwin, 1987. Toby E. Huff & Wolfgang Schulster (ed.): Max Weber and Islam. London, Transaction Publishers, 1999. Jurgen Habermas:Theory of Communicative Action (2 vols.) Cambridge, Polity Press, 1984-7. Jurgen Habermas: The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Cambridge, Polity Press, 1987. Jurgen Habermas: Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity. Cambridge, Polity press, 2002. Nicholas Adams: Habermas and Theology. Cambridge, 2006. Leo Strauss: Spinoza’s Critique of Religion. Schocken Books, New York, 1965. Etienne Balibar: Spinoza and Politics. London, Verso, 1998. Antonio Negri: The Savage Anomaly. University of Minnesota press, 1991. Antonio Negri: Subversive Spinoza. Manchester University Press, 2004. Mathew Stewart: The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza and the fate of God in the Modern World. Norton, Ney York, 2006.
Reason and Science The paradoxes of reason are also apparent within the theory of modern science, which in its own way has been forced to recognize the fact of human finitude. And this has happened despite its insistence on the rejection of all anthropocentric imagery and metaphors; its denial of man being a measure of nature. The putative objectivity of the scientific method, its independence from the limitation of the scientific, human, subject, is no longer a tenant of scientific faith. A cursory look at some of the discoveries of modern physics and mathematics,
the hardest of natural sciences, is sufficient to dispel any naïve assumption about the ‘transcendence’ of scientific knowledge. Heisenberg’s principle of indeterminacy shows for instance that there are essential limits to our ability to know and predict physical state of affairs. To this may be added, Bohr’s complementarity principle which implies that phenomena on the atomic and subatomic scale may behave either as particles or as waves—a proposition which appears to contradict the language of Aristotelian, syllogistic, logic. Then, we also have in Heisenberg’s model what is known as the ‘observer effect’, namely that changes that the act of observing will affect the phenomenon being observed. In other words, the subject-object duality is not part of nature and scientific enterprise does not produce objective knowledge! Gödel's proof, which states that ‘within any rigidly logical mathematical system there are propositions (or questions) that cannot be proved or disproved on the basis of the axioms within that system’ has even far more radical consequences for the rationalist tradition. Mathematics, according to all devotees of reason, is the very bastion of intelligibility. Now it turns out that even in this most precise science man cannot escape the essential limit of his existence, his finitude! Goedel’s proof shows that even mathematic contains insoluble problems, and hence cannot be formalized in any complete system. Or, expressing it in the language of our times, mathematics can never be turned over to any giant computer: it will always be unfinished! The least we may say in response to this is that Man is irreducible even in the discourse of science, and that he is a mystery greater than reason.
Reading List: Paul Bckley and F.D. Peat: A Question of Physics. London, 1979. Brian Green: The Fabric of Cosmos. Penguin Books, 2004. Kurt Hubner: Critique of Scientific Reason. Chicago, 1987.
Activities of IFID
MCP Course in Basra, Iraq (6-7 April, 2007)
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IFID was established in 1994 as a UK based non-profit organization. It is an independent voice calling for an enlightened and modern understanding of Islam. We believe that Muslim democrats can potentially become a stabilizing and a constructive force in developing institutions, modernizing Muslim societies and playing their full role in world peace. The key to a better future for Muslim nations lies in developing interpretations of Islam, Muslim thought and attitudes that are compatible with the contemporary world. IFID was founded by Dr Laith Kubba, who served as it’s first executive director (1994 to 1998). He was succeeded by Dr Mansoor Al-Jamri. IFID’s current director is Dr Najah Kadhim. IFID aims to: 1. Identify, encourage and introduce new, enlightened Muslim writers to engage in debate and discussion on key Islamic issues and establish a network for the sharing of ideas and experiences on the challenges faced by Muslims today. 2. Initiate innovative ideas that provoke contemporary Islamic thought and generate much needed debate and dialogue. 3. Assist and strengthen the efforts of enlightened and liberal Muslim democrats in propagating a modern understanding of Islam and it’s values, focusing on human rights, democracy, pluralism, non-violence, civil rights, modern institutions and in identifying future trends and strategies. IFID Objectives: 1. The "Friday Note" - whereby, concise articles, by known Muslim writers from a number of countries, address contemporary Muslims concerns. These are emailed on Fridays, to our online community. Each year a collection of these articles are published in book form. 2. T o i m p r o v e a n d u p d a t e "Islam21.net" Web site. 3. To produce an "educational guide", catering to the needs of Muslims, that is modern, scientific, and flexible - to be used by teachers of religion and by Imams. 4. To publish the quarterly "Islam21" journal, focusing on specific themes. 5. To host Seminars, addressing specific topics relevant to current Muslim reality and to publish and circulate them to individuals and organizations. 6. To publish the quarterly Islam21 Youth, focusing on Muslim Identity from a youth perspective.
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Reasoning and Experimentation in Classical Islam