Friday, 4 April 2014

Why Muslims may Study Philosophy?

Who can deny Islam a Philosophy or Intellectual Content?

First a few general points regarding facebook post( ) by Dr Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi in which he responds to one of my articles, to be followed by point by point response to my article. (I think almost all the points raised by him stand conclusively treated in my “Philosophy and Religion: A Case for Happy Marriage” published recently in Greater Kashmir and in my “A Perennialist View of Comparative Philosophy,” a paper presented in First Asian Philosophy Congress.” However for the benefit of those who find something in his arguments I pen down a few points to further clarify.
Let us define terms and we can have a fruitful debate. Please define philosophy, reason, intellect, logic, Islam, Iman, Ihsan to resolve the controversy. And let Dr Rafiabdi enlighten us with his own definitions if he finds traditional understanding or academic definitions problematic. I have stated nothing that in any way contravenes real motive of Dr Rafiabadi viz. Islam’s self reference or “autonomy” or superiority to any merely human or profane rationalistic approach. My whole endeavour is simply Ghazzalian: to refute modern versions of unbelief by showing deeper intellectual or metaphysical content of Islam as equipped with  all the resources for satisfying requirements of intelligence and moving forward and critique secularizing discourses.
Fighting philosophy in the name of religion has been a lost battle. Philosophy can’t be rejected. Rationalism can be. Logic can’t be refuted. Deductive or inductive logic or Aristotelian version of it can be critiqued. Ghazzali used philosophical idiom or arguments to critique Greek philosophy. Ibn Taymiyyah too did the same ( used logical argument and not just fatwa) to refute Aristotelian logic.
Muslims need to study philosophy because they are rational creatures, because the Quran links salvation to right use of intelligence, because they have a great legacy of philosophers in their history, because they want to speak to modern educated minds that are influenced by philosophical orientation or questions, because they have to live today in the world that is shaped by philosophy and science, because the Prophet of Islam as a teacher of hikmah called for learning or knowledge and called for love of wisdom, for perfection of virtues, for preparation for death and what is philosophy in the traditional sense but these things.

Now point by point clarifications:
Asking such a question means one has not read any book by Corbin or considered his impact on Islamic Studies and on such important scholars as Nasr. Persons are not important, not least the so-called Orientalists of course. But arguments are. The merit of arguments put by anyone needs consideration. Also let me ask if we can ask the same question to Ghazzali who used the advice of Aristotle for taking note of logic and to Farabi and Ibn Rushd who didn’t object to foreign origin of Plato or Aristotle in considering their method of reaching reality or interpreting revelation.
We can and must suggest syllabi for seminaries because their objective is teaching Islam in contemporary idiom. If Aristotelian Logic has been part of curriculum why veto new developments in logic? As theology has been under enormous criticism, it is philosophy that to rescue kalam today if Muslim seminaries want to remain irrelevant. There are lessons to be learnt from Iranians who never boycotted philosophy in the name of religion. Assuming Law as the exhaustive expression of Islam is to forget both iman and ihsan as part of Islamic Tradition or Ad-Deen. Exhaustive expression is full development of intellectual, spiritual, artistic and other aspects of Revelation. Revelation speaks to the whole man, not just to will. It speaks to the heart and the mind, to cognitive and aesthetic faculties, not just to volitive and the Law pertains primarily to volitive faculty. No thinker in Islam has so far claimed that Law is an exhaustive expression. If it were there would be neither Junaid nor Mulla Sadra nor Ibn Arabi nor Farabi nor Ghazzali nor Ibn Sina nor Rumi nor Khusru nor Shah Waliullah nor Iqbal like figures in Islamic history. There would be no Taj Mahal or Mosque of Cordova or even calligraphy or Islamic sciences.
Today Dawah work needs philosophical training, at least in certain parts of the world or certain sections of addressees. If one doubts this it means one is living in middle ages and has not heard of Nietzsche or Heidegger or Freud or Derrida.
If philosophy or love of wisdom or preparation for death or perfection of virtues ( these are synonymous for traditionalist historians of philosophy and for those who have cared to read ancient philosophers of any tradition with any seriousness) how come you deny it is part of Islam? If Islam endorses hikmah and even if we grant its moral-spiritual aspect only and not the intellectual one as usually understood in terms of philosophy one opens the room for philosophy in the sense I define the term.
If Dr Rafiabadi cares to check definition of logic he can’t imagine refuting it. Ibn Taymiyyah refuted particular version of it and not logic per se. He used logic – of course what would be called Quranic logic – to refute other versions of it. No thinker in history has or can refute logic as such. It is like refuting aql. Only limitations of logic or certain version of it have been under discussion amongst philosophers. Sanity and communication are only possible if logic holds. In facts laws of logic are laws of thought. If one fails to note even this elementary point one better argue with shouts or cries than with communicable language in logical format.
Who denies that Islam appeals more through the channel of heart than the mind. But to ask how many people have converted by getting replies to philosophical questions is to ignore history of all religions including Islam. In the sense I use philosophy in my articles one can cite all Muslim philosophers, Sufi metaphysicians, Sufi poets, great many modern educated people have embraced Islam because it better satisfied certain requirements of intelligence. Abraham too asked what can be called philosophical questions when he concluded that the god who doesn’t change alone deserves to be called God. In Islam one is converted by proper use of intelligence. Proper use of aql leads to tawhid and salvation is linked to right use of intelligence. So every thinking person is converted by using philosophical acumen in the broad sense of the term. Only ulama fear God, the Quran declares. Who are ulama? What is knowledge in Islam? Isn’t inclusive of what goes by the name of intellectual or what I call philosophical disciplines as well? Are not the greatest names in Muslim history largely classifiable as philosophers or philosophical theologians?
One may ask conversely: How many modern educated people haven’t turned away from religion or Islam due to philosophical questions they asked? Isn’t it necessary to speak to them as dawah workers?
Modern  age   is   an   age   characterized   by   change   in   orientation   towards transcendence.  In theological terms it is inclined towards atheism or agnosticism and when it is theistic it is not metaphysically grounded but associated with religion and that too often with its exoteric dimension which  in itself is a limited and relative plane of reality and quite susceptible to error/ deviation when looked from the broader perspective of metaphysics.  We can hardly name any great figure in modern literature that could be called  religious  in  strictly  orthodox  integral  sense  of  the  term. One may note here the problem of unbelief shared by many Muslim writers and thinkers due to perceived unsatisfactory treatment of certain issues such as the problem of evil. Traditional theistic answers to the problem are increasingly felt to be inadequate and unconvincing.  Rational credentials of theistic thesis are thus strongly questioned. Many important names of modern literature, philosophy and science cite this as one of the major reasons for their negative attitude towards theistic thesis e.g., Hume, Mill, Schopenhauer, Darwin, Freud, Jung, Mctaggert, Joad, William James, John Wisdom, Conrad, Faulkner, Hemingway, Kafka, Camus, Samuel Beckett, William Golding, Simon de Beavoire, Will Durant, Steven Weinberg, Stephen. J.Gould, Maugham, Mann, Kazantiskis, Andre Gide, Sartre – to name but a few.  Pessimist and nihilist tendency of much of modern thought which has a negative bearing on religion is attributable to the problem of evil.  Lucky’s speech in Waiting for Godot on divine aphasia and athambia is a representative viewpoint of these critics of theistic thesis. It has generated what is called unwilling  disbelief amongst many. Western philosophical and Christian scholastical understanding of evil and theodicy has been not quite satisfactory and that justifies the assertion of one of the perennialist authors that “The Western theodicy has failed to vindicate divine providence in view of the existence of evil.” It becomes, in the face of all this, imperative to state, in modern idiom, Islam’s doctrinal content so that people are not alienated from it. And that is why we can’t wish away philosophy. Modern age is post-theological and best understands the the language of philosophy. You have to address problem of atheism of addressees. I know score of people in Kashmir who got alienated from religion for perceived failure of Muslim scholarship to provide satisfactory answers to their philosophically oriented questions.
To claim hikmah as understood by Muslim hukama is ratiocination or not conformable to Divine Book is to state a big lie. Philosophers have not coined this word. Sages have. Sages have always been illumined by Divine Revelation/Intellection. To confuse reason (ratiocination) and intellection is such a monstrous blunder that one better keep silent if one sees someone committing it.
Ibn Salah’s fatwa applies to rationalists and not to those who love wisdom or are true philosophers. Rationalist logic chopping is not philosophy.

The Quran has its own rationality or logic. Yes. Who denies it? We only ask to understand it.  And think the tools discovered by ancients may be helpful. The Quran itself appropriates previous traditions or wisdom in it. It quotes liberally from previous prophets and wisdom traditions. Luqman, Khizr, Zulkhiffil are all testifying to wisdom of sages.
Before writing on the issue of need of philosophy education I have consulted writings of  world recognized experts of traditional philosophy like Abdul Wahid Yaha, Isa Nuruddin, Corbin, Nasr etc. I don’t think any expert of traditional philosophy exists in Kashmir. Islamic studies departments have only a tangential engagement with hard core philosophy. They are respectfully consulted with regard to juristic or certain doctrinal matters and some other issues in Islamic studies but not with philosophy proper. It would be great news if we have experts of Greek or Western philosophy around and one would cherish learning from them. There are not even experts of such seminal Muslim philosophers s such as Ibn Sina, Mulla Sadra or such metaphysicians as Ibn Arabi in Kashmir. I wish they come up soon or if there are they let us know so that we could learn regarding subtleties of great Muslim Masters through their help. I wish there were someone to help me negotiate difficult passages in Afsaar or Futuhaat or Tahafatut Tahafa.
Such a serious scholar of Muslim intellectual tradition as Shahzad Qaisar calls Hazrat Ali a metaphysician. Metaphysician means, in perennilaist dictionary, master of intuitive illumined since or scientia sacra, the science of the supraphenomenal. Please note meaning of the term Metaphysics in Guenon or Schuon before calling it a category mistake to call Hazrat Ali a metaphysician. 
Philosophy, logic, reason – the terms of reference I use are neither Greek nor Western but universal terms that every religion, every thinking person or rational creature necessarily employ while arguing, giving messages or stating their point. There is nothing Greek or Western about the terms Perennialists have used. One must not oppose anything in vacuum or against plain facts or points common sense testifies. Are we to abandon our rationality, our thinking power, our language ( that presupposes logic and thought)? I can’t do so. The Quran asks for  using intelligence and doesn’t call it Greek or Western heresy. I have been advocated philosophy not Greek or Western  philosophy, logic, not Aristotelian logic.
How can one claim to have delved deep into Greek or Western philosophy if one is careless regarding such key terms as philosophy, logic, reason, ratiocination as evidenced in the response? When people like Heidegger inform us they  needed to devote so much time and approach with much humility the Greeks and masters like Farabi had to read several times Aristotle and there is still debate on key terms like Being and intellect and Socratic method and such counsels as Simone Weril’s regarding taking years to learn how to read Plato how can one claim to delve deeply into Greek philosophy? Even Heidegger after spending decades on this enterprise didn’t claim it. He asked Gadamer to write a book on Plato to correct his own misreading. How can one claim to have deeply delved into Western philosophy if one has not mastered ( even read from cover to cover) a single book by any of the great masters of modern Western  thought such as Kant or Hegel or Whitehead or Heidegger or Husserl or Morly Ponty or Rorty or Derrida or Focault or Adorno or Barthes?

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