Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Faith, tolerance and Kalam

An excellent article about Islamic Kalam and it's history and importance was sent to me this evening. (Thank you Faraz). Another interesting feature in it was the seedling views of an Islam in which Muslims are more tolerant of one another's difference. Here is an excerpt regarding science:

In short, attacks today on religion by scientism should be met by Muslims as Ash'ari and Maturidi met the Mu'tazilites and Jahmites in their times: with a dialectic critique of the premises and conclusions thoroughly grounded in their own terms. The names that come to mind in our day are not Ash'ari, Baqillani, and Razi, but rather those like Huston Smith in his Beyond the Post-Modern Mind, Charles Le Gai Eaton in his King of the Castle, Keith Ward in his God, Chance, and Necessity, and even non-religious writers like Paul Davies in The Mind of God and John Horgan in his The End of Science and The Undiscovered Mind. Answering reductionist attacks on religion is a communal obligation, which Muslims can only ignore at their peril. This too is of the legacy of kalam, or the "aptness of words to answer words."


Anonymous said...

I can't speak for everyone in that list but, as much as I love Eaton's work and have found Huston Smith enjoyable, I'm not sure they really are very effective at bridging the gap with scientism.

I think the traditionalist camp (exemplified by Eaton) is too hesitant to get its hands dirty actually interacting with modern and post-modern thought. In the particular book by Smith referenced here, you don't get the sense that he's ever really done the work to understand, say, Heidegger or Derrida. His criticisms are of strawmen, not of the actual intellectual traditions we have to critique. I haven't read the book by Eaton mentioned here. But, as impressed as I was with "Islam and the Destiny of Man" for its presentation of Islam, I got the sense that he shares the same traditionalist seemingly willful inability to really wrestle with contemporary thought. Instead, he just sort of turns his nose up at it.

I wholeheartedly agree with this part of the article you quoted: "Answering reductionist attacks on religion is a communal obligation, which Muslims can only ignore at their peril." But I think we have so far horribly neglected this obligation.

Maysaloon said...

Welcome MWS,
I have to say your comment is highly refreshing and I am really impressed that you have read the books mentioned, as well as expressing a familiarity with Derrida or Heidegger. My philosophical journey is in it's infancy, but your erudition is encouragement for me to join the ranks of those capable of carrying out such obligations as you mention! I am truly honoured that you count my blog in your reading list :)

PS. I hope you enjoyed Turkey!

ayman hakki said...

I enjoyed your essay and loved how you encourage debate, not shun it.

I just read a book called; "Jeel Salahudeen" and the retaking of Jerusalem, by Keilani. The author proposes a theory that the likes of Al-Shafii Al-Ghazali along with Abdul Kader Al-Keilani and Ibn-Taymieh formed the intellectual underpinning of Saladin's victory.

I see the rise of these dogmatic traditionalists (some would argue that the his list includes "closet sufis") as a turning point in Islamic history. A turning point that has placed us today in the midst of our depraved neo-jahiliah.

With no room for debate stagnation sets in, I applaud your effort.

Maysaloon said...

Welcome Ayman, I'm not sure I know what essay you are referring to, but I guess you are welcome?!?

I have not read the book, but I suspect that your view of neo-jahiliah is far off the mark. Firstly because the term Jahiliyah is a term coined for the pre-Islamic Arabic society which was rooted in ignorance. On that understanding, neo-jahiliyah would have the same meaning. We are now mostly a society where we are rooted in ignorance, materialism and a complete lack of understanding of Islam. The figures you mentioned, whilst all differing, were in fact all for strengthening Islam.

If you would really like to discuss the material reasons for the decline of the power of Muslim peoples in the world, I recommend you read a book called World Systems by Janet Abu-Lughod. She makes a convincing argument that the economic and financial systems of the world, which included Aleppo, Baghdad, Basra, Damascus, Alexandria - were severely disrupted by the plagues and by the Mongol invasions. It may disappoint you to find out that the problem is not pathological within the Arabs or their religion, but you will find the hope and clearer understanding a far worthier replacement which might change your views. I recommend it as a start.

qunfuz said...

A good rebuttal to atheistic neuroscience is The Spiritual Brain by Beauregard. Good on our contemporary problems id The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation.

ayman hakki said...

World Systems by Janet Abu-Lughod, done. I'm presently reading a book called; A Deadly Misunderstanding, written by a Christian-conservative house representative it explains the linguistic roots of Koranic and Biblical terms from an Aramaic language prespective... its is an eye opener. Ayman.

Maysaloon said...

I'm glad you are enjoying it, for myself I'm more concerned with books that open my heart.