Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Hagiographical Literature and Modernist Kashmiri Historians

Modern historiography is based on very different presuppositions or world-view as compared to traditional/medieval historiography. They are almost incomparable. Modern man is predisposed to believe in the autonomy of Nature and refuses on principle to see it as a symbol of something else, as ayat of God, as demanding an explanation in terms of hierarchy of existence, as having anything to do with teleology and he thus refuses to acknowledge any metaphysical significance of the universe. Even many modern theologians concede this. The medieval world view is condemned for its credulity towards the notions of miracles, fairies, djinns, spirits, magic, angels etc. Modern rationalism rejects suprasensible and suprarational phenomena on a priori grounds. Premodern man could not write history objectively according to these modernist rationalist historians because he believed in miracles, “myths” and “legends” connected with supernatural happenings or performances of saints or miracle workers. Their logic is simple. Since miracles are inadmissible on naturalist rationalist assumptions so they could not happen and if some one (like medieval  man and historian ) reported repeatedly about such things, and wrote whole chronicles and histories based on them or presented them as indubitable historical, facts, he is considered as deluded, subjectivist, credulous and na├»ve recorder of events who did not know how to doubt (evidence of the senses). Thus medieval historians are supposed to have universally succumbed to the temptation of writing exaggerated, fanciful, incredible stories and legends. They are supposed to be too pious and devoted believers to have perceived the objective, unadorned, unembellished historical facts or narratives. They are supposed to have let their imagination run wild and having no sense of the facts, down to earth realities. Thus almost all of our medieval historians are discredited on very spurious grounds, as will be argued later. Middle ages are considered to be dark not only in the Europe but everywhere by Post-enlightenment modernist rationalist historians (except a few important dissident figures) The light of Reason was yet to illumine the foggy, cloudy traditional atmosphere where myths, legends, mystery cults, the “mad” people and the occult sciences were important. The age of Faith, as Will Durant characterizes middle ages, was the age of gullible credulous and superstitious men who believed in the miracles and the like. The whole world was pir waer. And then the modern man was born and everything that smacked of the supernatural or supersensible, intuitive, the mad or irrational was banished. They only accepted miracle was science and the only praiseworthy miracle. worker was scientist. So good-bye to the age of miracles, spirits, djinns, fairies, angels, magic, the like and hurrah for the dawn of glorious age of reason. As miracles become incredible the whole edifice of Christianity got problematized by modern rationalist critique of history. Theology had to be reconstructed and reinterpreted and even transformed into its exact antithesis – secular theology. Modern man found it hard to believe in the literal truth of miracles of Jesus as modern scientistic rationalism became fashionable. And this transformed the whole Christian religious tradition. No history could be considered modern or timely that did not reject the literal truth of miracles. This forms the context of modern historiography and its treatment of hagiological literature. Modern Kashmiri historians, generally speaking, uncritically accepted this context and saw medieval Kashmir from this particular perspective. This results in gross distortion of traditional history and nothing short of crude caricature of traditional ethos. What becomes of the traditional history at the hands of our historians due to this rationalist modernist perspective will be discussed in this paper.
Traditional religions and civilizations are inconceivable without taking into consideration the notion of hierarchy of existence. And this can be understood or appreciated only when distinction between Nature and supernature, rational and prara-rational, scientific and mystical realms is no longer respected and one term privileged and the other silenced as in modernist humanist discourse Miracles form the important constituent of traditional religions, Islam included. Premodern pre-Renaissance world may be defined with respect to its credulity towards miracles. Kashmir and Persia are classic examples of traditional weltanschauung and Kashmir still retains that very unfashionable and anachronistic (to modernist sensibilities) ambience and identity as land of Pirs or land of miracle workers (two terms are almost synonymous for a traditional Kashmiri). It is only at the great cost of ruthless marginilization/suppression of the Realm of Unreason, the intuitive, the mystical, the “mad,” that modern scientific worldview has come to dominate. And it has penetrated very deep into historiography and our view of history. History has to be distorted to appropriate or append traditional world history in modern secular scientific paradigm. To make really objective study of history of traditional premodern world of which medieval Kashmir embodied important elements, miracles have to be reckoned with seriously and not to be explained away, demythologized, marginalized or just ignored as if they are nothing but fairy tales, legendry mythological accretions around some spiritual truth, having at best some social role and thus their cognitivity and objective validity is sacrificed or rejected. This is what some modern Kashmiri historians like Ishaq Khan,  A. Q. Rifiqi, G.M.D Sofi and have done to Kashmir history, especially its mystic pararational occult traditions, its cult of Pirs or its defining identity Pir-waer. If one is faithful to modern secular thought, as they are like most modern historians, one has to marginalize historical evidence of miracles and deny their literal historical truth and appropriate them in some functionalist perspective and that is what they have done. Popular belief in miracles/karamaat has been seen mostly as a problem and hardly approached with empathy. The terms miracles and legends are used interchangeably by many historians. This approach is here criticized on traditional religious, parapsychological and postmodern grounds.
The very title of Ishaq Khan’s eighth chapter in Kashmir’s Transition to Islam as “The Societal Dimensions of Miracles and Legends.” speaks of the author’s modernist intention. It is entitled  It emphasizes societal dimension and is either silent over or suppresses their literal historical cognitive phenomenological truth. It also brackets miracles with legends and negative connotations (in terms of cognitive validity) of the term legend are thus implicitly appended to miracles also. Khan seeks to “establish a purely historical view of the supposedly supernatural phenomena.”(1) However the author is cautious, unlike G.M.D Sofi in Kashir, not to dismiss the occurrence of miracles purely on the basis of reason to avoid committing “violence upon the forces of a strong tradition."(2)
To me it is not just committing violence upon tradition but also upon latest developments in sciences like parapsychology. In fact modern reason has been violent as postmodern critique of Enlightenment reason shows. Khan repeats modernist Muslim apologia regarding very unambiguous reference to miracles in Quran and Prophetic traditions. Taking recourse to the thesis of exaggeration in the narration of miraculous experience in hagiographical literature, as Khan does, will not solve the problem. The author wants to be agnostic with respect to historian’s onus to authenticate existence of miracles. He says, “It is outside the domain of history to determine which of the miracles that are said to have occurred is true or false.”(3)
So a historian, according to him, may be allowed to be non-committal with respect to this. Biographical work of Baba Dawood Khaki for instance, is, by this standard, not a work of history and modern historian can not allow it much historical value. Many modern biographers of contemporary saints have recorded inexplicable happenings. It is also sometimes possible to carefully weigh historical evidence in favour of supposed supernatural events narrated in biographies of saints. Thus it is within the domain of history to determine which of the miracles is true of false. Most of these miracles are as “natural”, as “ordinary” events as other natural events despite many secularist modernist historians assertion to the contrary, not only for believers in them but for many former hard core skeptics and scientists investigating paranormal phenomena. Most of the events dubbed as miracles or legends  are, as numerous works of parapsychologists show (especially in communist Russia which hired certain miracle workers for public services – thus taking miracles as given, as true, as fact to be interpreted) historically objective and literally true events and thus subject matter (data) of any historical work although author’s aim is “neither to establish nor cast doubts on the authenticity of miracles attributed to Nuruddin but to fathoms the meaning of or truth of an objective fact lost in the labyrinth of supra-mundane events.(4) He wants to “correct a myopic oversight concerning nature of miracle.”(5)He offers psychological explanation of the miracles performed by Nurudin on Nasrudin, a patient of dyspepsia. Any miraculous element smacking of supernatural  interference he seems to reject e.g. he remarks in connection with this story: “The hagiographical literature is replete with incredible stories of his breaking fast with ashes mixed with water”(6)(emphasis mine).
The naturalist-rationalist’s doubts regarding such feats are no longer fashionable. Many yogis and other mystics have performed greater and more incredible karam’at in the presence of scientists. The author shows his narrow rationalism in his other remarks also. Commenting on the popular stories associated with Nurruddin he says: “one should take the extravagant statements of the hagiographers regarding Nasruddin’s unbelievable feats not literally but figuratively as part of complex psychohistorical process.” This is in lieu with modern demythologizing though. I argue that nothing prevents us to take them literally. Many of us are witnesses to some miracles of local saint and faith healers. Even Jungian approach to miracles to which Khan seems to subscribe without explicitly knowing or referring to him, is agnostic towards metaphysical or supernatural reality of miracles. Modern sensibility has so much conditioned us towards incredulity in higher realms of being, towards all too real world of angels, fairies (with whom Blake shook hands, as did some companions and saints. The battle of Badr shows angels intervening in the battle. This story could hardly be taken figuratively and has been taken literally by traditional Islam. Demythologizing modernist attitude is evident in Khan’s analysis of Nuruddin’s another miracle regarding Rishi’s transformation of into filth. He writes, “the story cited above is an example how an unadorned fact about Nuruddin’s social teaching blossomed into an elaborate legend or miracle within a short span of about 150years after his death.”(7)
The  author stresses embellishments put by hagiographers on simple facts. Many miracles, contends the author, “seem to have designed by the common people to place the Rishis at the Pinnacle of sanctity.”(8) This shows how one is forced to distort history by prior commitment to rationalist naturalist assumptions regarding the possibility of miracles.
Rifiqi also follows Khan in his treatment of “one of the major drawbacks of historical works has been their author’s conventional readiness to accept antimony between history and poetry and also between folklore and history what is of relevance here is also the historian’s utter disregard for legends.”(9) However, he himself is respectful towards legends only because of their historical value as seen by their affecting the consciousness of people on such a great scale that whether true or false in cognitive or empiricist terms, one must reckon with them at least for the reason that history has been affected by them. He is sceptical of their cognitive or truth claim in empirical terms. The term myth he uses mostly in negative sense, forgetting what psychology and anthropology may have to teach about its “factual” character.
Rifiqi is more credulous towards modernist rationalist myths that fantasizes that time honored “legends and myths” are nothing but fictions. One can only feel pity for modern rationalistic credulity towards belief in omniscience of enlightenment reason.
He writes in a typical rationalist modernist tone, for instance, “Biographers, who were only credulous believers, however, in the miracles and supernatural powers of the saints, reveled in describing fantastic legends and anecdotes about Sufis.”(10) The author, however, has himself acknowledged that many biographers were trained traditionalists and applied canons used in science of traditions to the tradition of various Sufis. Much of hagiographical literature produced in this connection is dismissed or explained away by him e.g., he seems to dismiss Haider’s account of Syed Ali with “its excursions in the realm of myths.”(11) He thinks that Haider wrote legends. He is incredulous towards Sayyid’s claim that the prophet had ordered him to visit Kashmir to convert people there to Islam.(12)He writes that these accretions of legends and myths (like there in Jafar Basakshah’s Khulasatul-Managib and Haider’s Masturat) were further elaborated by subsequent scholars such as Wahhab, Hassan and  Miskin who transformed Syed Ali into a legendry figure.(13) He criticizes Syed Ali’s Tarikh i Kashmir for giving legendary material about Hamdani and Rishis. Commenting about Rishi Nama of Baba Nasiruddin, Rifiqi writes: “Much of the Nasib’s account is legendary. The legends described by him are frequently colored with romantic touches. They generally ascribe all conversion such as that of Bamuddin and Payam-u-din to super natural power of Nuruddin.(14)
In order to explain away presence of so many of miraculous stories, our authors resort to various unwarranted hypotheses. We need not invoke all these fantastic hypothesis (which sometimes appear more fantastic than the supposedly fantastic legends which need to be explained away) if we abandon rationalist incredulity towards possibility of what are called supernatural occurrences, especially in connection with saints. Rafiqi imagines that “in order to show the supernatural powers of the Sufis for which the pious memory of later generations remembered them stories were invented” and “it seems that the stories (of miracles, like Lalla’s asking baby to take milk, weaver’s incident) were prepared to show Nuruddin’s piety and innocence. They were intended to serve as a background setting for some of his verses. It is common to stories of saints all over the world, to present them as moved by impulses of virtue even before the light of conversion draws upon them.”(15)
Ashraf Wani also tries to explain away the presence of hagiographical literature prior to advent of Islam on fashionable modernist rationalist grounds. He says: “The notion of supposed supernatural powers of gurus was considerably nourished by the medieval conditions marked by mass gullibility, abysmal lack of communication fuelling rumors … above all by injections of superstitions and cowardice, injected (through dreaded and fabricated tales and the motivated propaganda by the vested interests), into the masses who did not know doubting and questioning.”(16)
He also says that various kinds of environmental stresses or “evil days” breed superstitions and brings the authority of Kalhana for this. He writes “Of how evil days breed superstitions, we have information from Kalhana. He says, ‘When some Kayasthas were suspended from their services by Uccala (1101-1111) they turned to astrologers to examine their nativities, dreams, omens and auspicious marks’.”(17)
G.M.D Sofi explains some apparent miracles like the incident of Sayyid’s cap whose burial with dead body of Sultan Fath Shah marked the end of dynasty by recourse to notorious notion of coincidences. He also brings authority of C.E.M. Joad and some others  to explain away evidence for miracles through a reductionist strategy.(18)
Khan also resorts to same type of strategies, although a bit more sophisticated ones to explain away the evidence for miracles. Rifiqi also brings Islam’s denunciation of or indifference to miracle mongering and the fact that miracles are not evidence of one’s sanctity or divinity in Islam to dilute the otherwise highly concentrated mass of evidence favouring the fact of actual performance of miracles by  Hamdani and others. Referring to the miracle in Kali Mandir in which a Brahmin  is said to have been chased by shoes flown in sky, Rifiqi says that this miracle is similar to one which a Yogi is said to have performed in the court of Mohammad bin Tagluq-Sufi Malfuzaat of the fourteenth century also record similar encounters between Sufis and Yogis. But the performance of miracle was no part of activities of the Sufis. They rejected the supernatural power of Yogis with scorn. calling it istidraj (conferring of benefits by God on obstinate sinner). All the great Sufi scholars were trenchant critics of such tendencies. In fact Islam came to obliterate all such religious beliefs which were founded merely on miracles and lacked any rational basis. Therefore miracles are not and should not be accepted as the rationale of the spread of Islam.”(19)
The fact is that miracles have played a part in spread of almost every religion including Islam and they are playing this part even today. The Quran refers to this in its narrative of Prophets like Moses and Jesus, Shoaib and Hud. Biographies of many Muslim saints and some stories of conversion refer to the part played by miracles. Even such a hard core sceptic as Josh could see Prophet in a dream – nay almost in physical, form with wide eyes (at least he smelt the scent) Prophet’s continuing presence and his dimension as a sort of guide after his death forms a significant chapter of Muslim life and history. Sufis have displayed miracle for providing their superiority against rivals almost in the manner of Moses against magicians, as Prof. Wani argues in his Islam in Kashmir, quoting convincing wealth of evidence that Sufis did perform miracles, even if under compulsion (from opposite side). Our undying and strong tradition affirms this. Miracles or intersection or transaction between Supernature and Nature have always occurred and are occuring everyday. Miracles may have a rational basis as many spiritualists argue. So arguing about irrationality of miracles and thus their impossibility is unscientific and irrational. Great theosophist H.P.B who performed numerous ‘‘miracles” says there can be no miracles because what are miracles from one level of consciousness or existence appear perfectly normal or ordinary when looked from the higher level.(20)
Modernist rationalism only needs to correct its definition of reason and include hitherto marginalized part of intellect – Unreason as Foucault calls it.
Rafiqi finds stories of miracles attributed to saints mostly fabrications. e.g. he says about supposedly miraculous cure of Zain ul Abideen’s boils by Nurudin Rishi that “the story bears the marks of fabrication and seems to have been concocted in order to glorify the miraculous powers of Zainudin.”(21) He refers to miraculous occurrences or anecdotes as legends. Prof. Wani in contrast uses very guarded language in describing miracles. He seems to believe in their literal truth as against Khan, Rafiqi, Sofi, Mohbibul Hassan and others. Khan is expert in sifting the grain of historical truth from the chaff of what he calls legendary accretions that has surrounded hagiological literature e.g., he writes about milk incident in the life of Nuruddin. “The popular tradition about Lal Ded’s influence on Nuruddin though enveloped in legendry materials – contains kernel of historical truth.”(22)
There is incontrovertible evidence showing occurrence of many seemingly supernatural events and miracles unearthed by parasychologists, theosophists etc and the only question is to give a rationale for them. Granting their truth or factual character from empiricist point of view mechanism of miracles may be debated but not their existence per se. Calling them legends and myths and then trying to make sense of history amounts to sheer distortion of facts and history. And one is then forced to invent rationalist mechanist myths to explain away their continued presence. Parapsychology, now a developing branch of science, takes apparently supernatural occurances for granted on pure empirical grounds and then proceeds to account for them. Our historians are compelled to reject medieval historians of Kashmir (indeed almost any historian before the 20th century) were unanimous in their attesting to the literal truth of miracles. They are duty bound to reject the numerous Sufi Malfuzaat, biographies and autobiographies of Sufis and their truthful disciples e.g. Khakhi’s biography of Makhdoom sahib, numerous contemporary sources that attested to their truth or factuality, and lastly the memory of countless people who have passed this fact of medieval culture from generation to generation. It is hardly a contested fact that on the eve of penetration of Islam in Kashmir the writ of Tantric gurus ran large in the valley. They performed mind boggling magical feats. Lalla says, disdaining miracle performance by Saddhus (thus granting their factual or empirical or literal truth, condemnation of certain practice follows only when it is already existing, Rifiqi reiterates that Sufis were trenchent critics of miracle performances, thus implying that miracle were performed and the Sufi’s criticism was not directed at literal fictions.)

To stop a flowing stream, to cool a raging fire
to walk on feet in the sky; to milk a wooden cow
All these in the end are but base jugglery

Kalhana mentions widespread use of witchcraft in Kashmir where Tantric gurus were revered because of fear.(24)
It is impossible to concede that these stories of miracles were invented because they occur in such biographies of saints as that have been attested by Masters themselves and most biographers were  not credulous fools but pious historians who did not reject empirical evidence at their hands. There is hardly any logical or scientific basis for calling the whole tradition of miracles a legend a myth, especially in case of Kashmir because it is identified as Pir waer.

Some supposed “myths” and “legends” about Syed Ali Hamdani are as follows:
1.That he was simultaneously present in 40 houses to dictate his famous Chahal Asrar. Now this is reported about Abdul Qadir Jeelani (R.A) and Rumi which have been seen in 72 and 17 houses by people at the same time. It is reported of many saints like Habibullah Nowsheri that they used to offer some prayers in Mecca – Now this “myth” is reported about many purely secular men in history also that they were simultaneously seen at two different places. Every one of us can perform this feat, including Rafiqi, provided we know how to delink consciously our astral bodies and send them anywhere in the Universe. HPB in her Isis Unveiled  quotes many such actual performance. Our spiritualist, occultist or general parapsychological literature is replete with such case histories. We just need to suspend our disbelief and concede that “There are more things in the heavens and the earth than your imagination has ever dreamt  of.”
2, That he defeated Brahman of Kali Mandir by what parapsychology would call levitating technique. Even a street magician can levitate shoes and hurl them on anyone. Why not the saint who does possess genuine knowledge of occult science?
3,That he was of and on guided by Prophet to do this or that. Although this could be critiqued on religious grounds. But there is no ground for criticizing it one scientific grounds. Parapsychology and even psychology offer numerous parallels to this kind  of guidance from both living and dead people to even ordinary people, not to speak of psychics or mediums.
4, That he was recognized by many saints without either of two parties having ever met. He says that Sheikh Burhan ud din Sagar ji, Jibril Karvi, Nizamudin Gauri, and Abu Bakr Tusi had seen him (his soul) in this world prior to his birth. Again this story is made credible in the light of Occultist and spiritualists evidence.
5, That he could telepathically know of Burhan ud din Haqqani’s death. Now this is too commonplace a fact to be discussed.
6, That he guided Rupi Rishi through jismi-barozi. For a modern student of occult science this is very simple and  need not be dismissed as legend or myth.
7, That he had power of precognizance. Precognizance is well known capacity to foretell many details of future and many men, not only saints do possess this.
8, That he met in waking state Sheikh Najmudin Kubra who had died long before at that time.

Rumi has said:  “Water, air, earth and Fire and all the four elements of universe are put under the control of saint”. In light of this statement nothing is impossible for a Sufi. The literal truth or historical veracity of these incidents need not be doubted on purely rational or scientific grounds. Magicians, mediums and other evidences from parapsychology clearly suggest probability of such incidents. However it should not be implied to mean that Hamdani or saints are magicians or mediums or simply have developed ESP. I only point out that it is one’s ignorance of empirical facts that modern methods of research has helped to bring to our notice and even understand better that one is needlessly led to question literal truth of these stories. In all ages and climes and civilizations reports of inexplicable occurrences or events have come to us and it is absurd and inadmissible to refute all of them in order to fit our narrow rationalism and empiricism. In fact religions have not made much of these miraculous stories. Rather dabbling with them or actively seeking to miracles has been discouraged. Also a sharp distinction is made between the psychical and the spiritual. Most of these miraculous stories happen in the psychical realm and spirituality ios primarily concerned with the spiritual realm. All these points strengthen the contention of this paper that historians need not be embarrassed with hagiography or stories of miracles but they should broaden their explanatory framework in order to account for them and respectfully treat them. Miracles do happen and are happening now and then and the only thing to be considered is how to account for them. One may also remember that genuine miracles can’t be accounted for in terms of modern scientific theories. They point out inadequacy of purely secular account of reality. Any attempt to deny historical truth of miracles to save secular account is simply ignorance or antiempirical attitude. The possibility remains that we may not need to invoke supernatural actors to explain most such things that pass for miracles and about which historians are needlessly embarrassed or wish to hide.
Now there remains one important objection against many of such miracles is their supposed impossibility from Tawhidic point of view. Now if occurrence of such miracles which smack of ilm-al-gayb, defying of taqdir, assuming some attribute of God etc., are contrary to Tawhid then the Quran too is antitawhidic which is an absurd conclusion for it. Only problem is with those minds who unnecessarily see the conflict where there is none. Tawhid is not incompatible with any fact, any miracle or karamat and God’s omnipotence is not qualified thereby. the Quran is full of the accounts of miracles of earlier prophets and prophet Muhammad (SAW) himself. Sir Syed, whom our historians, especially Rifiqi follows, is definitely wrong in his view that the Quran does not support the happenings of events or occurrences that are against the law of nature or those that violate the usual course of things. In the Quranic worldview God is the first and the last, the Hidden and the Manifest, the Alpha and the Omega of being and as such there is no duality or opposition between the natural and the supernatural. The entire cosmos is a portent of God, pointing beyond to Divine activity. The Quran and for that matter, all revealed scriptures know nothing of nature as a closed self-regulating system of law. The divinely given autonomy and integrity of nature does not contradict the fact of God’s ceaseless activity and “interference” in nature. There is a continuum as one moves from the natural to the supernatural. The hierarchy of existence forms important postulate of traditional Islamic world view. For the Quran, all nature is a miracle which shows divine or supernatural imprint. When asked to show miracles, the Prophet referred to nature as miracle par excellence. However, these natural miracles are in a sense weak for most men and are called simply ayat, the historical (portents) miracles, the supernatural miracles are called ayyat-i-bayyinat – clear and indubitable signs. Such miracles do not admit of any apologetic reductionist attenuation or reinterpretation. From the religious point of view, all attempts at naturalist interpretation take away the rationale of belief in miracles.
We now need to examine more closely the rationalist disbelief in miracles to round off the discussion.
The term miracle covers a wide spectrum of application from odd, unusual to rare and in a weaker sense “miracle” connotes extraordinary coincidence of a beneficial nature. But the senses of miracle that are of philosophical and methodological interest are stronger and less subjectively oriented, consisting in the overriding of the order of nature. They are events which can not be explained in terms intelligible to the natural scientist or observer of the regular processes of nature. Aquinas gave a perfectly clear and unequivocal definition of miracles in Summa Contra Gentiles where he says “those things are properly called miracles which are done by divine agency beyond the order commonly observed in nature” .  A classical definition of miracles given in these terms also comes from Hume who wrote his famous critique of them in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. A miracle, says Hume, ‘may be accurately defined as a transgression of a law of nature by a particular violation of the deity or by the intervention of some invisible agents. Dr. Eric Mascal in his article in Chambers Encyclopaedia that the word “miracle” signifies in Christian theology a striking interposition of divine power by which the operations of the ordinary course of nature are overruled, suspended, or modified. According to the Quran miracles are not only overriding but also signs and portents for all those who ponder and reflect.
None of our critics of hagiographical literature take great care to explicate the term miracles. There are senses of the term miracle that allow us to call everything miraculous and see whole existence as a great miracle. Mystics and perennialist religionists see the whole realm of manifestation as miraculous, as perpetual miracle that displays unerring signs of divine interference. Bacon famously wrote that only fools ask for miracles or disbelieve in miracles. Being is miraculous par excellence. Why is there anything and nothing is the greatest mystery or miracle and a portent for God for most religionists. Osho emphasizes the mysterious and thus miraculous nature of existence, of life. Religion, in this sense, is nothing but accepting and living this mystery of existence, this miracle of life. Religion is essentially a celebration of this miracle. Miracle in this sense is undeniable. However, miracles as specifically defined by Hume and Aquinas are also undeniable as facts for historical and empirical reasons also. The only contestable question is how to explain them and whether orthodox naturalist explanation that denies the hierarchy of existence is tenable. Our historians seem to deny the fact that miracles have occurred.
Now we can still defend the belief in miracles rationally, logically, scientifically (empirically). There have been attempts recently made largely by analytical philosophers to show that there are circumstances in which it is not irrational to believe that some events are miraculous. Absar Ahmad in his article 'Miracles – A Philosophical Analysis (Al-Hikmat vol.23(2003) refers to Steve Clark’s article ‘Hume’s Definition of Miracle Revised’ and Paul Dietl’s article ‘On Miracles’ as admirable attempts in this direction. Clark has argued that we can construct a set of circumstances under which it would be rational to believe in miracles, more rational indeed than any alternative account of the anomalous occurrences, Hume’s probability objection not holding. Believing in miracles under such circumstances has also the advantage of putting the anomalous occurrences within a theological framework, thus, protecting the well established law of nature by securing its universality over naturally caused events. As Absar puts “Fallowing this strategy the defense of the belief in miracles is not bogged violation of the natural law or alternatively, no violation of a natural law as it applies to naturally occurred events.”  I  quote Absar again: “All the objections raised by Hume against the possibility of miracles are conjectural, hypothetical or at least tentative and based an whimsical opinion – As a matter of fact contained within the general idea of believing in miracle are many different ideas, such as the law of nature, the “transgression” of such a law by a supernatural agent or God. When it is rational to believe something, and, so on, each with its own logical structure. It is not surprising at all, rather it is quite conceivable that opportunities exist for adjusting the structures of the constituent ideas to render the belief in miracles rational – for instance, Richard Swinburne has argued that the notion of “transgression” can be understood in such a way that miracle is not a violation of any law of nature. Alternatively, laws of nature can be conceived in such a way as to allow for miraculous violation of them. Similarly Brain Davies, Antony Flew and J.C.A. Gaskin make strong and convincing criticisms against the Humean rejection of miracles. For example, Brain Davies presents an elaborate critical review thus: “Hume’s treatment of miracles is often echoed by modernist naturalist apologetic. Hume could not provide an adequate account of the logical character of a law of nature. Hence, he could not offer any sufficiently persuasive rationale for employing propositions which express, or which are believed to express, such natural laws. The way may thus seem to be open for a historian who holds different presuppositions, yet still remains, truly a historian to endorse as veridical stories of events which had they occurred, would have been truly miraculous. A historian need not commit himself to agnosticism in relation to belief in miracles. This is unpardonable especially for a Muslim historian who never questions his religious convictions and approaches history without suspending his commitment to his faith.
From strictly scientific view point (as represented by Einstein, Bohr, Plank and Heisenberg) there is room in a rational universe for incomprehensible wonders although dogmatic rationalism that many scientists and science inspired world view is axiomatically closed to the supersensory dimensions of the real. Frithjof Schuon’s remarks in this connection apply to this dogmatic rationalism that also seems to colour modernist historiography… He writes: “modern science axiomatically closed to the suprasensory dimensions of the Real, has endowed man with a cross ignorance and thereby warped his imagination. The modernist mentality is bent on reducing angels, devils, miracles – in a word all non-material phenomena which are inexplicable in material terms – to the domain of the “subjective” and the “psychological,” when there is not the slightest connection between the two, except that the psychic itself is also made but objectively – of substance which lies beyond matter.”  Modernist scientific rationalism is invalidated by the monotonous and besetting ignorance of the suprasensible degrees of reality, or of the five Divine presences. Schuon’s explanation of miracles and their “natural” character is highly relevant and a corrective for modernist scientism that finds it difficult to believe in miracles on account of their fidelity to certain modern prejudices. He writes “The denial of the five degrees of reality (Nasut, Malkut, Lahut and Huhut) precludes an understanding, not simply of magic, but also of miracles; and it is not for nothing that the church declares anathema whosoever rejects the one or the other. The first argument which one must set against or animisitic state exists, it can not but irrupt – when certain more or less exceptional conditions are fulfilled, into the realm of material or sensory phenomena and since the supra-formal world the world of essences and incorruptibility, also exists (and does so even before the formal world), it can not but intervene ‘vertically’ and contrary to the so called, natural laws- in the world of forms and matter. To avoid every possibility of misunderstanding, it is necessary to be quite clear about the meaning of word ‘Natural’; what transcends’ nature is no wise ‘irrational’ or ‘absurd’, but simply that of which the causality escapes the measures and laws of the world of matter and sensations. If the natural coincided with the whole realm of the ‘logical’ or of the ‘possible’, one would have to say that God too was ‘natural’, and a miracle, likewise, but this would be an abuse of language which would take away every means of distinguishing verbally between causality in a horizontal sense and causality in a ‘vertical’ sense. Be that as it may, when scientists have the ‘supernatural’ spoken of they imagine that basically what is involved is a belief in phenomena which have no cause, or more precisely, which have no real and possible cause. 24

1          Khan, Ishaq, Kashmir’s Transition to Islam: The Role of Rishis, Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 1994,   Ch. 8.
2.         Ibid
3          Ibid
4          Ibid
5          Ibid
6          Ibid
7          Ibid
8.         Ibid
9.         Ibid
10.          Rafiqi A.Q.,  Sufism in Kashmir, Goodward Media, Sydney, 2003
11          Ibid LXXI
12           Ibid LXXI
13            Ibid LXX
14            Ibid LXXIV
15            Khan, op.cit., p.164.
16            Wani, M. Ashraf,  Islam in Kashmir,.Oriental Publishing House, Srinagar, 2005, p.140
17            Ibid., p.140, fn28.
18          Sofi, G.M.D., Kashir: Being a History of Kashmir from the Earliest Times to Our Own: Capital Publishing House, New Delhi, 1996.  Vol.1., p.95.
19             Rafiqi, A.Q. op. cit.
20             See H.P.B’s  Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine
21             Rafiqi, op,cit., p.199
22            Khan.  op.cit.
23      Schuon, Frithjof, Dimensions of Islam, trans. P.N. Townsend, George Allen & Unwin Ltd.London,1969, p.53.
24              Schuon, Frithjof, Ibid., pp.155-156.

No comments:

Post a Comment