Islamic Intellectualism

July 31, 2008 at 8:00 pm 6 comments

This was taken off Hasanul Arifin’s blog. If I have not mentioned it before, I highly recommend his blog. Bookmark it, favorite it, whatever you do, just read it. He’s exactly the type of intellectual we need in these times. May Allah bless him & aid him in his efforts. Dua for him too yea? :)

Islamic Intellectualism
by Murad Wilfried Hofmann
(Thursday, November 13, 2003)

:: Islamic intellectual history as guidance for Islam in the 21st century ::

It is risky enough to predict the future, never mind to do so without first looking at the past. It is from the patterns and lessons of history, that we can form assumptions about the future. This being so, several valuable deductions can be made from Islamic history.

First Thesis:

Islamic history has always had an intellectual component. In the Qur’an, Allah (subhanahu wa Ta‘ala) instructs people to observe, ponder, reflect, and use rationality to understand the world and their position in it. The Qur’an is the only “holy” script that makes such an appeal, and consequently, from its inception, Islam has been a rational religion par excellence.

Second Thesis:

Islam, from the beginning, encouraged and demanded intellectual activity and training. Islam is a religion, not a philosophy, and Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was a Messenger, not a theology professor.

Nevertheless, Islam demanded and demands intellectual activities. Early on, these activities mainly took the form of collecting, scrutinizing, and systematizing the Revelation and the prophetic tradition, the Sunnah. In this context, Hasan al Basri, Malik b. Anas, Ibn Ishaq, al-Bukhari, at-Tabari and others developed historiography, linguistics and jurisprudence to unprecedented levels.

In the Islamic civilizations of Damascus, Baghdad, Lahore, Cordoba, Seville, Granada, al-Fustat, Kairouan, and Fez, Muslims became the custodians of the Greek intellectual miracle. Furthermore, they developed and innovated the classical heritage, ultimately producing their own unique, intellectual tradition. The European intellectual exploits of the Renaissance would have been unthinkable without Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, al-Biruni, al-Khawarizmi, ar-Razi, lbn al-Haytham, Ibn Battuta and Ibn Khaldun.

It would be a mistake to claim that people like Ibn Hanbal, al-Ash‘ari, Ibn Hazm and Ibn Taymiyya were not intellectual because they arrived at orthodox conclusions and opinions. Ibn Hanbal did try to protect Muslim doctrine from Greek philosophy. Al-Ash‘ari, through his radical critic of epistemology, did deny the feasibility of metaphysical deductions. Ibn Hazm did reject the utility of qiyas and tafsir in certain situations. Ibn Tayrniyya did abhor that Neo-Platonism and Gnosticism had gained a foothold within Islam via Sufi circles. Nevertheless, they all employed intellectual analyses to arrive at their conclusions and opinions, thus perpetuating the intellectual tradition of Islam.

Western Orientalists are wrong to insinuate that Islam ever was monolithic. Rather, it was pluralistic in practice and intellectual thought. Except for tawhid and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad, almost everything, including the modalities of the other four pillars of faith, was open to discussion. Within Islamic Jurisprudence, half a dozen schools of law (madhahib) not only developed, but, also, as in Makkah, taught simultaneously, an intellectual feat unknown to any other system of law.

The notion of taqlid –in and of itself not at all irrational–did considerable damage by stifling innovation even outside of ‘aqida, ‘ibada and mu‘amalat . Nevertheless, during the reign of taqlid , the Muslim world never stopped developing intellectually as exemplified by Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Sirhindi, Shah Waliullah, and Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab.

In philosophy, intellectual battles were fierce. This is clear when one reads al-Ghazali’s devastating critique of philosophy (At-Tahafut al-Falsafiya ) and the equally opinionated reply by Ibn Rushd (At-Tahafut at-Tahafut ). How refreshing and how reassuring that diversity of opinion, as our Prophet put it, can be a blessing. Needless to say, if Ibn Rushd lived and wrote today, some contemporary Muslim fanatic would probably stifle his views in the name of Allah.

Third Thesis:

Lack of pluralism means decadence. Islam has always been pluralistic. The conflicts between A‘isha and ‘Ali, Mu‘awiyya and ‘Ali, and ‘Ali and the Kharijiyya were not only intense, but bloody. So were the conflicts between ‘Ummayds and ‘Abbasides, the Mutazila and Ash‘ariyya, Sunnis and Shi‘is, ‘Ibadi and ‘Alawi Muslims, not to mention the bloody suppression of Sufi extremism in the case of al-Hallaj. These attempts to make Islam monolithic resulted not only in the destruction of much intellectual pluralism; they, also, ushered in a phase of decadence from which we have only recently begun to awake.

Muslim decadence, also, resulted from other causes, including the cultural devastations wrought by the Mongol onslaught and the Catholic Reconquista in Spain. Political and economic insecurity drove Muslims underground intellectually. Religion was privatized, popularized, and made rigid in the most marginal details. In this way, Islam managed to survive both Western and Soviet colonization. This is the good news. The bad news, however, is that in this defensive mode Islam became politically irrelevant and almost Talmudic in its over-legalization. In the process, Sufism, too, degenerated into a folksy sort of Islam whose original spiritualism was ritualized.

Another contributing factor to Islamic decadence was political oppression. Despotism, and the suppression of religious critique by despotic rulers, became and remained the rule in the Islamic world. By developing their own administrative penal law (at ta’zir ), the rulers emancipated themselves, not only from their ‘ulama , but also from the shari’ah itself. Censorship turned into dependency until finally, in the 2Oth century, the ‘ulama were rejected by the Islamic movements of the youth.

This being the past what is the present?

For the first time ever, the contemporary world has been culturally colonized by a single civilization, the Occident. This process, under way since the late Renaissance, found its intellectual bearings in the European Enlightenment, also known as Project Modernity. Having origins in Europe and perpetuation in America, Occidental thought, technology, products and mores dominate the globe. The world has come to use one language, English. Neither Greek, Latin nor Arabic ever came close to this feat.

Since superior civilizations always spread, this is not wholly peculiar, except in scope. What is peculiar, devastatingly so, is that the Occidental ideology, the first ideology based primarily on atheistic assumptions, is becoming global as well. Kant’s critique of metaphysics and his dismantling of the proofs of God, Marx’s defamation of religion as “opiate for the people,” and the ruthless Social-Darwinism propagated by Nietzsche are now common currency, as has been proven by the disasters of WWI, Stalinism, the Holocaust, WWII, Maoism, and ethnic cleansing.

The modern scene is, however, also characterized by post-Newtonian Physics, ushered in by Planck, Einstein, Hahn, and Heisenberg; new mathematics, ushered in by Frege; new microbiology and medicine; and new communications technology.

This being the present, what is the future of Islam in the 21st century?

First Assumption:

Given the communications revolution, Islam, always intended to be universal, will become universal.

Second Assumption:

English will become Islam’s main language for da’wah .

Third Assumption:

Muslim scholarship will move west. Scientists always seek environments conducive to their research, and this gives an enormous advantage to places where academic freedom is guaranteed and where one is not persecuted for publishing unwelcome views. There has already been an exodus of qualified Muslim scientists to Europe, the U.S. and Canada. In 1999, the first Nobel Prize in natural sciences conferred on a Sunni Muslim, was given to an Egyptian working in Germany and the U.S.

Fourth Assumption:

Lay intellectuals will become increasingly important. In the past, the corruptibility of some ‘ulama and their marriage with governments lead to the prominence of lay reformers. Al-Afghani, Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Muhammad Asad, Allama Mohammad Iqbal, Abul-Ala Maududi, Abbas Madani and other leaders of Islamic movements were not products of traditional ‘ulama training. This trend is bound to grow, restoring to Islam the ideal of a religion free from sacramental clergy and an institutionalized “church.”

Fifth Assumption:

Muslims will produce “Occidentalists.” In the time of the Prophet, Muslims had access to Jews and Christians, and knowledge about other monotheistic religions was locally available. Later this changed, and the Occident and Orient grew apart. Christian Orientalists, ever since John of Damascus, started to defame Islam. Muslims lacked Christian specialists until the 20th century when Christians started to convert to Islam in large numbers.

Sixth Assumption:

Muslims will tackle the Sunnah issue. Muslims obviously don’t have a Qur’an problem, but they do have a Sunnah problem. Goldziher, Margoliuth and Schacht were not justified in being sweepingly skeptical, but they were, also, not entirely wrong in asserting that parts of the body of ahadith are questionable. Dr. Fazlur Rahman, in his book Islamic Methodology in History, identified a major cause of this when he pointed out that from the time of al-Shafi‘i, Muslims felt obliged to project the entire living Sunnah back to the Prophet. Equipped with new methodologies for historical critique, including computer-based linguistic analysis, 21st century Muslim intellectuals should be able to reestablish maximum authenticity for most of the Sunnah.

Seventh Assumption:

If the Sunnah challenge is met, Muslim intellectuals will develop convincing models, ones that include human and women’s rights, for an Islamic State and economy. Since Prophet Muhammad dictated the Constitution of Madinah, Muslims rarely had to make an intellectual effort to cope with issues of state and government. Al-Mawardi and Nizam al-Mulk are cases in point. Today’s intellectuals face a different challenge. They must develop, from scratch, the theoretical bases of an Islamic “democracy,” i.e. a state that is neither a theocracy in the Shi‘i sense, a monarchy, or a community without shari’ah. They must tackle the challenge of integrating Western notions of human rights into the framework of Islamic jurisprudence. Part of this challenge involves restoration of women’s rights worldwide and reinterpretation of Qur’an 4:3, 4:34, and 2:228.

Eighth Assumption:

Muslim intellectuals will develop guidance for Muslim dhimmi. The presence of millions of Muslims in non-Muslim countries is a new problem in Islamic history. Only India, under British rule, experienced a problem of this magnitude. These Muslims need to know how to behave under non-Muslim law, especially on issues of marriage, divorce, inheritance, burial, halal slaughtering and riba . We need nothing less than a madhhab for dhimmi Muslims.

Ninth Assumption:

Western intellectual Muslims will develop new modes of da’wah. For 200 years, the Muslim world has experienced the military, industrial and commercial consequences of the Age of Reason, without understanding Western rationalism, scientism, and progressiveness. Today, due to colonial education and Muslim immigration to the West, we have a growing number of Muslim intellectuals who can understand Western ideology on its own ground and by its own rules. These intellectuals are equipped to dismantle the fundamental delusions of Enlightenment rationalism and its over-confidence in the rationality, maturity, and independence of man. In other words, through understanding the Western ideology, they can dethrone “sovereign” man and reinstall faith in God in full accordance with the foundational assumptions of modern philosophy and science. Muslim intellectuals must start from Descartes, Kant, Hume and Comte, but avoid arriving at Marx, Darwin, Freud and Nietzsche. Their task is to reground faith by pointing out the irrationality of atheism; the ambivalence of agnosticism; and the probability and plausibility of the existence of God, i.e. the rationality of faith.

Tenth Assumption:

Muslim intellectuals will stop acting apologetically. This necessarily presupposes the existence of, and in turn will produce, Muslim intellectuals who are assertive and proactive, rather than apologetic and reactive.

Eleventh Assumption:

Muslim intellectuals need to be intellectuals. Muslim intellectuals have a very special role to play, but this does not mean they all must become activists. On the contrary! It would be a major contribution toward the expansion of Islam if a Muslim intellectual did no more than quietly demonstrate that one can be a successful academic and, simultaneously, a convinced and practicing Muslim. The importance of this is witnessed by a common reaction that myself and other Muslim reverts receive: “How can one of us, obviously well educated and not stupid, opt for that religion!”

Twelfth Assumption:

Islam will become the dominant religion of the 21st century. If my first eleven assumptions are correct, my final assumption is that, Allah willing, thanks to the impact of Muslim intellectuals, Islam may well become the dominant religion of the 21st century, at least in North America and parts of Europe, with enormous repercussions for the rest of the globe.


Entry filed under: Islamic intellectualism, Posts.

Digression Approaching Allah

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ruqayyah  |  August 1, 2008 at 5:00 am

    yes he is truly :) may Allah bless him.

    ps: join apex and join our group nak?

  • 2. alfaqeer  |  August 1, 2008 at 5:46 am

    ruqayyah: Ada terpikir jugak. Tapi I can only make it on Sundays. Its on Saturdays right? Ada Sunday punye tak?

  • 3. ruqayyah  |  August 2, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    currently blum ada on sundays.

  • 4. dastakir  |  April 1, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    bismillahi alrahmani alraheem
    Volume 7, Book 71, Number 582:
    Narrated Abu Huraira:
    The Prophet said, “There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.”
    expectational psychology is the result of this hadith
    Definition: A social psychology phenomenon where people tend to ignore attributes in others that are viewed as atypical. People instead tend to search for evidence that confirms expectations and previously existing beliefs. This tendency helps simplify social experiences, but it also distorts our worldview by causing us to accept inconsistent information. Expectation confirmation often contributes to stereotypes about social groups, since people only look for information that confirms their attitudes about these social groups.
    A schema (pl. schemata), in psychology and cognitive science, is a mental structure that represents some aspect of the world. Schemata were initially introduced into psychology and education through the work of the British psychologist Sir Frederic Bartlett (1886–1969){{Bartlett, 1932[1]}}. This learning theory views organized knowledge as an elaborate network of abstract mental structures which represent one’s understanding of the world. Schema theory was developed by the educational psychologist R. C. Anderson. The term schema was used by Jean Piaget in 1926, so it was not an entirely new concept. Anderson, however, expanded the meaning[1].
    People use schemata to organize current knowledge and provide a framework for future understanding. Examples of schemata include Rubric (academic), stereotypes, social roles, scripts, worldviews, and archetypes. In Piaget’s theory of development, children adopt a series of schemata to understand the worldHistory of Schema Theory

    This section requires expansion.
    Plato elaborates the Greek doctrine of ideal types – such as the perfect circle that exists in the mind but which no one has ever seen. Immanuel Kant further developed the notion and introduced the word “schema.” For example, he describes the “dog” schema: a mental pattern which “can delineate the figure of a four-footed animal in a general manner, without limitation to any single determinate figure as experience, or any possible image that I can represent in concreto” (Kant 1781). Since that time, many other terms have been used as well, including “frame,” “scene,” “scenario,” “script,” and even “model” and “theory”[vague].
    Key theoretical development of schema theory was made in several fields, including communications, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and artificial intelligence. The heyday of schema theory was probably in the 1970s (although of course in OB it has barely arrived). One of the main engines was artificial intelligence, which was engaged in getting computers to read natural text. It was quickly discovered that most of what is communicated in a newspaper article cannot be understood without reference to a great deal of information that is not included in the article itself.
    Major contributions to schema theory were made by American psychologist George Kelly. His personal construct psychology carefully delineated the ways in which people form and modify schemata that determine their experience of reality.

    [edit] Thought using schemata
    Schemata are an effective tool for understanding the world. Through the use of schemata, most everyday situations do not require effortful thought— automatic thought is all that is required. People can quickly organize new perceptions into schemata and act effectively without effort. For example, most people have a stairway schema and can apply it to climb staircases they’ve never seen before.
    However, schemata can influence and hamper the uptake of new information (proactive interference), such as when existing stereotypes, giving rise to limited or biased discourses and expectations (prejudices), may lead an individual to ‘see’ or ‘remember’ something that has not happened because it is more believable in terms of his/her schema. For example, if a well-dressed businessman draws a knife on a vagrant, the schemata of onlookers may (and often do) lead them to ‘remember’ the vagrant pulling the knife. Such distortion of memory has been demonstrated. (See Background research below.)
    Schemata are interrelated and multiple conflicting schemata can be applied to the same pickle information. Schemata are generally thought to have a level of activation, which can spread among related schemata. Which schema is selected can depend on factors such as current activation, accessibility, and priming.
    Accessibility is how easily a schema comes to mind, and is determined by personal experience and expertise. This can be used as a cognitive shortcut; it allows the most common explanation to be chosen for new information.
    With priming, a brief imperceptible stimulus temporarily provides enough activation to a schema so that it is used for subsequent ambiguous information. Although this may suggest the possibility of subliminal messages, the effect of priming is so fleeting that it is difficult to detect outside laboratory conditions. Furthermore, the mere exposure effect —which requires consciousness of the stimuli— is far more effective than priming.

    [edit] Background research
    Sufferers of Korsakov’s syndrome are unable to form new memories, and must approach every situation as if they had just seen it for the first time. Many sufferers adapt by continually forcing their world into barely-applicable schemata, often to the point of incoherence and self-contradiction.[citation needed]
    The original concept of schemata is linked with that of reconstructive memory as proposed and demonstrated in a series of experiments by Bartlett (1932). By presenting participants with information that was unfamiliar to their cultural backgrounds and expectations and then monitoring how they recalled these different items of information (stories, etc.), Bartlett was able to establish that individuals’ existing schemata and stereotypes influence not only how they interpret ‘schema-foreign’ new information but also how they recall the information over time. One of his most famous investigations involved asking participants to read a Native American folk tale, “The War of the Ghosts,” and recall it several times up to a year later. All the participants transformed the details of the story in such a way that it reflected their cultural norms and expectations, i.e. in line with their schemata. The factors that influenced their recall were:
    Omission of information that was considered irrelevant to a participant;
    Transformation of some of the detail, or of the order in which events etc were recalled; a shift of focus and emphasis in terms of what was considered the most important aspects of the tale;
    Rationalisation: details and aspects of the tale that would not make sense would be ‘padded out’ and explained in an attempt to render them comprehensible to the individual in question;
    Cultural shifts: The content and the style of the story were altered in order to appear more coherent and appropriate in terms of the cultural background of the participant.
    Bartlett’s work was crucially important in demonstrating that long-term memories are neither fixed nor immutable but are constantly being adjusted as our schemata evolve with experience. In a sense it supports the existentialist view that we construct our past and present in a constant process of narrative/discursive adjustment, and that much of what we ‘remember’ is actually confabulated (adjusted and rationalised) narrative that allows us to think of our past as a continuous and coherent string of events, even though it is probable that large sections of our memory (both episodic and semantic) are irretrievable to our conscious memory at any given time.
    Further work on the concept of schemas was conducted by Brewer and Treyens (1981) who demonstrated that the schema-driven expectation of the presence of an object was sometimes sufficient to trigger its erroneous recollection. An experiment was conducted where participants were requested to wait in a room identified as an academic’s study and were later asked about the room’s contents. A number of the participants recalled having seen books in the study whereas none were present. Brewer and Treyens concluded that the participants’ expectations that books are present in academics’ studies were enough to prevent their accurate recollection of the scenes.

    [edit] Modification of schemata
    New information that falls within an individual’s schema is easily remembered and incorporated into their worldview. However, when new information is perceived that does not fit a schema, many things can happen. The most common reaction is to simply ignore or quickly forget the new information.[citation needed] This can happen on a deep level—frequently an individual does not become conscious of or even perceive the new information. However, when the new information cannot be ignored, existing schemata must be changed.
    Assimilation is the reuse of schemata to fit the new information. For example, when an unfamiliar dog is seen, a person will probably just assimilate it into their dog schema. However, if the dog behaves strangely, and in ways that don’t seem dog-like, there will be accommodation as a new schema is formed for that particular dog.
    Schemata about one’s self are considered to be grounded in the present and based on past experiences. Memories, as mentioned, are framed in the light of one’s self-conception. There are three major implications of self-schemata. Firstly, information about oneself is processed faster and more efficiently, especially consistent information. Second, one retrieves and remembers information that is relevant to one’s self-schema. Third, one will tend to resist information in the environment that is contradictory to one’s self-schema. This is also related to self-verification
    ^ Bartlett, F. C. 1932. Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press
    Bartlett, F.C. (1932), Remembering: An Experimental and Social Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
    Brewer, W. F., & Treyens, J. C. (1981). Role of schemata in memory for places. Cognitive Psychology, 13, pp207-2
    thus we can study as a modernised comparative study with euro psychology but, there are many limitations in europsychology and there are lot of perfections in islamicpsychology named raja’u nnafs

    The purposes of this HADITH are to summarize the prophet’s expectancy model of fear, review the recent studies evaluating this model, and suggest directions for future research. Reiss’ expectancy model holds.
    there are three fundamental fears (called sensitivities): the fear of injury, the fear of anxiety, and the fear of negative evaluation. Thus far, research on this model has focused on the fear of anxiety (anxiety sensitivity). The major research findings are as follows: simple phobias sometimes are motivated by expectations of panic attacks; the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI) is a valid and unique measure of individual differences in the fear of anxiety sensations; the ASI is superior to measures of trait anxiety in the assessment of panic disorder; anxiety sensitivity is associated with agoraphobia, simple phobia, panic disorder, and substance abuse; and anxiety sensitivity is strongly associated with fearfulness. There is some preliminary support for the hypothesis that anxiety sensitivity is a risk factor for panic disorder. It is suggested that future researchers evaluate the hypotheses that anxiety and fear are distinct phenomena; that panic attacks are intense states of fear (not intense states

  • 5. dastakir  |  April 1, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    haead line of my send comment

  • 6. shafi  |  April 28, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Mind is an organ for the communication of feelings. It is the immaterial internal level of hart. Imam Gassali explains that the creation in man takes place after man in born. Imam Razi in his ‘Kithabunnafs’ has talked about it in detail. Mind is created for the good feelings such as love, compassion, obedience, patience etc. It is called ‘nafsussubhaani’. Really, this is the nature of mind. But diabolical influence may come on the mind under many circumstances. Family and society become externally diabolic; there comes the presence of fire in the body –owing to these things mind may be diverted to ‘nafsushaithwani’. Then there comes mental feelings, mental disease and even madness. Even without any diabolic influence, mental disease can be affected.

    Mind itself is situated in various levels in different stages of life. For this purpose mind works in many sections. Then instead of ‘mind’ it becomes ‘minds’. Regarding this we can study the usages* nufoos, anfus* from Qur’an. When we make this a subject of study, it becomes Islamic psychology or*Ilmunnafas.

    When we make medical treatment on that basis it becomes Islamic psychotherapy.

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