My replies will be in red in between yours – some incoherentcomments of my own perchance; the incoherence of the incoherence! ;-)
SS you mentioned how you preferred the spiritual path of Islam as expressed inal-Ghazali and Ghawth al-Azam etc., over the strictly "rational" orphilosophical but you also seem to objurgate Imam al-Ghazali's attack onphilosophy, that "hindered the progress of rational thought"? Youcan't have it both ways brother.
You misunderstood me my brother. What I said wasthat the spiritual aspect of Islam which produces saints is the main reason Iam still a Muslim and I gave examples of individual saints whose extraordinarylives are ‘proof’ for me in the truth of Islam - people such as Hallaj andGhazali and Ghawth al Azam etc. At the same time I think that the Ummah wouldhave been in a much better situation overall if we had followed the rationalismof people like Avicenna as I believe it would have led to Muslims having theirown Enlightenment and technological revolution and not left us in the technologicalbackwaters we find ourselves in. I do not think it is possible to sensibly argue that the Sunni orthodox position which was eventually adopted i.e. Ashari’sm is not anti-rational with the emphasis on naql (transmitted texts) rather than aql (intellect). Maturidism is slightly more rational but not enough to be termed a rational philosophical basis.
What seems to have happened is that Muslimsoverwhelmingly preferred and accepted the experiential-spiritual path over theHellenic-Greek influenced philosophical way.
You are right there and I think it was a mistake inthe intellectual history of our Ummah. I think that the experiential-spiritual path is abeautiful one but any spiritual experience is, by definition, purely personaland hence cannot benefit the Ummah as a whole; at the same time I am glad thatsome people have always followed this elite path as it has kept thespirituality alive without which any religion is just an empty shell of meaninglessrituals. However I have to confess that the Sufism we have now is just an emptyshell without the kernel and most of us if we are honest will admit that we nolonger have Sufis of the calibre of those I mentioned above. By taking theanti-rational path we have reached a situation where materially we are dependent on the West for any technology andspiritually we are bereft with a solidified and corrupt system of piri-muridiwhich makes a mockery of the essence of Sufism as you describe it and asfollowed by Ghazali for example. If we had followed the Hellenic-Greek influencedphilosophical way I am sure we would have ended up by developing our owndemocratic system with an Islamic flavour but which would have been secular.
It's no wonder why the name of these great Sufiswere celebrated all over the Muslim world while names such as Avicenna andAverroes became extremely popular in the Western world. The inverse is ofcourse true where the names of great Sufi sages were unheard of for centuriesin the Western world while the rational philosophers were forgotten in theMuslim world.
It's about preferred paths (or perhaps moreaccurately that the views of the philosophers were considered dangerous), andmost took the same one that you took.
Yes, they were dangerous for themullahs who wanted to control free thinking although it has to be added that what the IslamicPeripatetic philosophers were trying to do was to synthesise Islamic teachingswith rationalism and not to reject them. An important point we must not over look.
That's not to say Imam al-Ghazzali killed off all philosophical influence inIslam, far from it as firstly his own works are evident of a high mastery in philosophy(we know that he studied philosophy to great depths and before refuting thephilosophers in the Incoherence he wrote Maqasid al-Falasifawhich was an accurate exposition of the views of the philosophers) and the factthe Avicennian philosophical though forever changed the writing of Islamic ofscholastic theology (see Wisnovsky's writing on Avicenna for more on this).
Yes that is the irony. The man who first came upwith the argument of the Necessarily Existent (wajib al wujud) which was usedby subsequent Islamic thinkers is himself considered a kafir! That the argumentis itself flawed and circular is something mentioned below. It was, in effect,a pre-emption of the First Cause argument.
You must also note that as well as conceptually, philosophical enquirygeographically shifted towards the East and took shape in Ishraqi philosophy,with exponents such as as Suhrawardi and Sadra (please provide a reference fortakfir of Mulla Sadra). Not to mention the philosophical mystical reality expressed by Shaykh al-Akbar Ibn Arabi.
Yes, you’re right. Why is that? The ‘East’ here youmean is basically Persia and the Ishraqi philosophy and especially Suhrawardi(not to be confused with the founder of the Suhrawardia order) and Sadr al DinShirazi (Mullah Sadra) is essentially a Shi’ite philosophical tradition. Forhistorical reasons the Shia adopted a more rationalistic approach to theologythan the Sunnis. What I’ve read seems to indicate the Mullah Sadra might haveeven been an Ismaili or a Qarmatian and therefore, according to Sunniorthodoxy, outside the pale. Besides, how many of our ulema even study him and his works?
By the way there is nothing wrong in declaring people as heterodox or even apostates when it is justified (and deliberated with utmost caution), it'snecessary to have this in the religious system otherwise you have no way ofpreserving the Deen.
Again you are right in theory but youknow that the reality has been that people have been declaring each otherheretix and apostates whilst holding their own group or sect or point of viewto be the only correct one. So when people like Avicenna are considered kafirswhy do Muslims still roll them out whenever a discussion of Islamic scientiststakes place? In our own time we see mullahs apostasising each other and anyonewho doesn’t agree with them in toto and it is not a new phenomenon. A cursory glance at our theological history will show that each group considered others wrong!The Hanbalis blamed the Asharites; the Asharites blamed the Mutazilites; theMutazilites blamed the Hanbalites etc. etc. to our own time.
Regarding purely rational arguments for the existence of God, it was Muslim scholars that mainly developed the arguments in the Middle Ages and they wereappropriated by the mutakallimun.
Again partially correct. A lot of the arguments such as the one by IbnSina – which was original—was then used later byscholars who considered Ibn Sina himself non-Muslim!
Yes they have their criticisms but many have beenrefined since where in today's age they are proving to be quite forcefulagainst atheists. Others combine different proofs such as the cosmological andontological. My own view is that they have tremendous use and benefit but ourbelief in God does not ultimately rest on these rational proofs. They can,nevertheless, play a substantial role in our understanding of God.
The criticisms are such that they have rendered all of these alleged proofs invalid. Both the ontological and the cosmological arguments have beenshown to be wrong by later European philosophers as they either contradictthemselves or are circular and self-referential. It was not until the 19thcentury that logicians and mathematicians such as Bertrand Russell,Wittgenstein, Hardy, Hilbert and others and especially Kurt Goedel showed thatany completeny flawless self-referential logical system cannot exist (see hisIncompleteness Theorem). This however takes us into the realms of set theoryand mathematical (symbolic) logic which is different from Aristotelianlogic (much more robust). Herein liesanother gripe: our education system for training our mullahs doesn’t tacklethese latest philosophical developments and stops at the mediaeval times. Sincethen human philosophy has grown by leaps and bounds and yet our ulema are stuckwith Peripatetism and, at most, Ishraqi thinking. Here is Iqbal:
However I agree with you when you say that our belief in God does notrest on these proofs. As I will show presently these proofs are in effectflawed and that is all Hitchens too says. There IS no rational proof of God’sexistence (which is not to say we shouldn’t believe in Him but to argue it isrational is not true. As A.C, Clarke it is better to be irrational and happythan rational and unhappy but that is not what we are discussing here.)
Oh and Iqbal, a philosopher par excellence, was also critical of the influenceof Greek philosopher in Islam. This is what he says:
Yet the same Iqbal says,
On Iqbal and Ataturk (both died in the same year incidentally): he may haveadmired the modernisation which he saw in the early years of the revolutionarymovement but this is before the secularisation of society which is completelyantithetical to Iqbal's view of state and society with regards to which he sayson many occasions that Islam is a complete way of life and the shari'a lawcovers both the public and private realms of life, and knows no divide betweenthe spiritual and the temporal. Yes, Iqbal believed in ‘Shariah’ but notas you and I (the orthodox) see it. Brother, Iqbal wanted to go much furtherthan just admiring Ataturk. He had active plans to write a rational tafsir ofthe Koran and he wanted to reinterpret Sharia in light of modern learning andthat was what he was working towards. His Reconstruction was a first step towardsthat. This is not me talking. You can read any biography or academic on Iqbal.Anne-Marie Schimmel is one.
Your response to KTL about African scholarship for example is totally informedand seems to reflect a certain Western view of the Islamic intellectualtradition, perhaps even quite Orientalist in that sense. The works of Islamicscholars from all over the Muslim world were not mere imitation but were themost original and important works in many fields of knowledge. The Islamicworld produced the best jurists in the whole world, for example. Just becauseyou work within a framework it does not mean you are simply imitating.
Canyou or someone else give me examples of these original works? I admitted that within the framework of fiqh or ‘adab’ (belles lettres) they might well havebeen original but nothing in the hard sciences which are the philosophicalbasis for the West’s renaissance.
This brings me on to your point on taqlid, mentioned in another thread. Again,it's a very Western slant on taqlid reflected by Western scholars on Islamiclaw such as Schacht as well as modernists on the other side of the discussionwho believe that progress is only possible without taqlid. What they havefailed to understand is that there are different types of ijtihad and ijtihadcan and did take place within a mazhab (the categories of mujtahid fi'l mazhab,mujtahid fi'l masail and so on). Qiyas is completely ignored. Proof of thepudding is that muqallid fuqaha for centuries provided answers to many newproblems facing Muslims of the day.
Hogwash!Just because it is said by an Orientalist doesn’t mean it isn’t true though mybrother! We can see the evidence all around us. I am aware of the differenttypes of ijtihad you mention but once you set up boundaries within yoursolutions MUST lie you immediately limit human creativity and thought which isthe whole point of my argument. Thank you for, in effect, admitting it! Theanswers provided by the fuqaha are often detrimental and don’t serve thecommunity and they certainly prevent Muslims from innovating technologically. Ihave myself read fatwas which say that, for example, organ transplants areforbidden, television is forbidden, blood transfusion is forbidden and thescholars of yesteryear held within the limits of the founders of their madhhab(the mujtahid fil madhab) that, for example, that the printing press was haramtoo! See the problem brother? If even USING these is forbidden by their qiyaswhat of inventing these technologies? What is the ruling fornanotechnology, genetic engineering, cloning, artificial intelligence, virtualreality systems?
More recent scholarship is now demonstrating this through a study of classical fatawa and fiqh works. Dynamism and progress can exist within the framework ofadhering to a mazhab. In any case, it is much more robust and even safer toremain within and build upon established schools instead of having afree-for-all in matters pertaining to law. Can you provide an example of a modernist ghayr muqallid faqih who can match the standard of a muqallid faqih?
See my above comments. At mostthis dynamism and progress will be severely curtailed. And can you point to anexample of this progress within the last 500 years? The problem is with fiqh asit currently stands today and not with ghair muqallid vs muqallid. As anexample of a deep thinker though I could mention Tariq Ramadan.
It does, unfortunately, seem to me that you have been inflicted by the projectof Oreintalism or at least that there is a certain type of Western thinking andliterature that has absorbed you; a kind of perception that the Muslim world isinherently inferior to the West.
Notinherently, but in practise. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We livein a world completely created by the West. This was the reason for my original rant.
As I mentioned, freedom is very subjective and it can be strongly argued thatpeople in Western-capitalist societies are least free.
Ihave not seen any convincing argument of that. Some freedoms are objectivelytrue or not. You either have the freedom to think and write what you want oryou don’t to take one example. Or to dress how you want or you don’t. Youcannot subjectify that.
You replied by citing the Taliban and other other examples. The first thing to noteis that the Taliban would not claim to be giving their subjects freedom anyway.Secondly, it's a fallacy to cite an adulterated and aberrant form of Islamicl egal practice and make that representative of every Muslim who aspires to livein an Islamic society, magnifying the 1% as the media loves to do is a simpleway to smear.
Ihear this from Muslims all the time but the reality is that all the Talibanwere in effect doing was applying Hanafi fiqh literally. Yes we might havetheological differences with them but in terms of fiqh their isn’t significantdifference between any of the schools including the Jafari and Zaydi. Can youplease give me an example from Islamic history which is ‘not adulterated’?Hitchens saw through this doublespeak because he was bright enough to read theoriginal fiqh books etc.
Thirdly(or perhaps linked to the second point), we are talking about ideals and youcan clearly see Western-secularist ideals being fulfilled in secularistsocieties, of which there is not much comparison in the Muslim world yet.
Whenwill we have the ideal Muslim society brother? Islam is also for this world andnot only for the next one! Don’t you see that in a secular society everyone isfree to practise their religion or not if they want whereas in a religion basedsociety all those not of that religion will be discriminated against. I also disagreethat Western society is yet ideal but we are certainly progressing towardsthat. Name any society in history of the Islamic world which has been ascivilised as, say, Sweden is today.
Yourpost seems to suggest everything is good in the West and bad in the Muslimworld, some points have already been mentioned by others but just one examplefrom an infinite number of others is the complete break down of the family inthe West (not just nuclear family).
I did not say that but I agree with you that the West also has its negatives –for example the hypercapitalism in places like the US which leads to 1% controllingmost of the wealth and in the East (not just in Muslim countries) the familysystem and structure is much more successful. China and India –both non Muslimmajority countries have a good family system too. Yet it is not completely true to say that inthe West the family system is completely broken. Many middle class and abovefamilies are still very much functional. Also economic liberation of women doesdo that to the ‘traditional family’; is it entirely a bad thing? Apart fromthis though what else does the East have as a virtue which the West does not orwhich vice does the West have which the Muslim world does NOT have? However people vote with their feet and you can see the traffic is only one way and itisn’t towards Dar al Islam!
Noticehow your message does not cite say Turkey, Malaysia or Indonesia as examples of Muslim countries.
Ipreviously mentioned Turkey as an example of a successful Muslim country butthe reason for that is it is officially a secular country and Shariah has no sayin the running of the country. They are very pious and practising Sunnis butthey keep religion a private thing. By quoting Turkey as an example you haveproven my point for me!
Atthe same time you could mention the Summer 2011 riots and looting that happenedacross the UK and the abhorrent behaviour that many (especially toffs) wereshocked to see. The behaviour probably shocked many in the Muslim world too.
If that is the best you can do brother I rest my case! Riots never happen in theMuslim world? Pakistan anyone? Bahrain?! Thecause for these was probably as David Starkey said and the Government is toblame for being a government for the rich by the rich and the bankers. I am abig critic of the Tories and would like to make Britain more socialist like Germany,Scandinavia et al. In those countries we don’t get these riots! It certainly wasn't because of the secularism of the West!
I better stop before I start boring people...
Thankyou for giving me the opportunity to air these views. You are also moreWesternised than you care to admit. In many Islamic countries I reckonyanabi.com might be banned!