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Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam (05 Nov 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Intellectual Suicide of the Muslim Mind: Recovery of Reason Is Imperative For the Muslim Mind to Be Successful

By Sabah Mushtaq

05-Nov-16 485

The roots of Western civilisation lie in the culture of Greece, the religion of Israel, and the law of Rome and the subsequent combination has prospered and decayed in a thousand ways amid the two centuries that have followed the death of Jesus Christ (PBUH). Whether venturing into new regions or retreating into urban communities, Western civilisation has consistently explored different avenues regarding new laws, new institutions and new forms of political order. And this tradition of experiment led, in time, to the Enlightenment, to democracy, and to forms of social order in which free opinion and freedom of religion are ensured by the state.

Why did not something comparable happen in the Islamic world? How can it be that this progress, which sprang up with such a plenitude of vitality in the seventh century of our time, and which spread across North Africa and the Middle East to create urban communities, colleges, libraries, and a prospering courtly culture that has left an unalterable stamp on the world, is currently in so many places mute?

Islamic civilisation, which led to the urbane princedoms of Andalusia in the West, and to the mystical laughter of the Sufis in the East, underwent a moral and intellectual crisis in the 9th to the 11th century of our era, when it turned its back on philosophy and took refuge in dogma. Many factors have been responsible for this sudden ossification, yet the important one was the ascent of the Ash’arite group in the 10th century and the thrashing of the opponent sect of the Mu’tazalites. The Mu’tazalites championed the idea of reason and rational morality. They adopted the belief that man must be free, because without freedom, he would be unable to know God’s justice. The Ash’arites found a powerful voice in the Imam al-Ghazali (d. 1111), a splendid theologian whose tormented soul discovered asylum at the end in a mystical oneness with God.

Human reason leads us to question things, to discover things, and to improve new laws for our better governance, whereas reason was, for al-Ghazali, the adversary of Islam, which requires outright and unquestioning submission to the will of Allah. In his commended treatise The Incoherence of the Philosophers, al-Ghazali set out to demonstrate that reason, as revered in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and their followers, prompts to nothing save obscurity and contradiction, and that the only light that sparkles in the brain of man is the light of revelation. Despite the fact that al-Ghazali's contentions are soundly disapproved by Ibn Rushd in his The Incoherence of the Incoherence, Muslims hurried to grasp the Ash’arite doctrine, which made so much better sense of the ruling idea of submission. Ibn Rushd was sent from Andalusia into exile, and the voice of reason was heard no more in the courts of Muslim sovereigns.

Were it not for al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd and rationalism might have won the battle for the Muslim mind. But it did not happen, and, as a result, the Muslim mind suffered the consequences and committed intellectual suicide.

Reformist thinker Tarek Heggy states: “Exalting a man who did not believe the human mind capable of grasping the Truth as ordained by God set into motion a process that continues to this day with devastating effects on the Arab mindset, which has become insular, regressive and unreceptive to new ideas.” With the supremacy of fiqh (jurisprudence) assured, this mentality turned in upon itself, and spun out ever more refined elucidations of the Shari’a until each application to each circumstance had been ruled upon and counted, and afterward even that ceased. The gates to Ijtihad (independent reasoning) closed. Taqlid (imitation) ruled. Rationality was dead; it was expelled from the syllabus at the al-Azhar until endeavours to restore it in the late 19th century.

Like Fazl ur Rahman, the Egyptian cultural historian Ahmad Amin (1886–1954) theorised: “If the Mu’tazili tradition had continued until the present time the position of the Muslim community in history would have been far different from what it is. Fatalism weakened the Islamic community, and drained its energy while Tawakkul [trust only in God] led to a static condition.”

Many ask why democracy did not develop indigenously in the Muslim world and ask whether it can in any case develop today. The primacy of power over the primacy of reason can be seen in a Muslim society. The supremacy of reason, religiously and rationally understood, is essential for democracy. Otherwise, what could serve as its legitimating source? Alongside it must come up with metaphysical support for natural law, which gives the foundations to modern science as well as for the development of constitutional government.

Therein lies the source for ‘the laws of nature and of nature’s God’ on which constitutional buildings are constructed. If man lives in a universe of which he can have neither rhyme nor reason — an irrational world without causality — he can pick just to surrender to fate or to lose hope. Reason and freedom get to be superfluous.

If man is not a political creature endowed with reason in a world accessible to his mind, why endeavour to arrange political life based upon deliberation and representation? In such conditions, constitutions would not be written by man, because constitutions imply a belief in a stable external order, in man’s responsibility, and in his capacity to figure and set up a discerning method of government, grounded in a rational creation. Law is reason, as John Courtney Murray said, and which is why we talk about reasons for laws.

If the Islamic medieval rationalism that acknowledged the universality of knowledge keeps on being proclaimed an apostasy, and if authenticity is limited down to a polarisation of the self and otherness, then Muslims of the 21st century will keep on being unsuccessful in embarking on modernity. That is why the recovery of reason is imperative for the Muslim mind to be successful.

Sabah Mushtaq is an M. Phil scholar at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/05-Nov-16/intellectual-suicide-of-the-muslim-mind

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/ijtihad,-rethinking-islam/sabah-mushtaq/intellectual-suicide-of-the-muslim-mind--recovery-of-reason-is-imperative-for-the-muslim-mind-to-be-successful/d/109020


  • Westerners when we're not called westerners and pagan they were good as well, than Abrahmic relgion come with it singularity approach first time matter of faith and all bloody wars started for any unseen God.

    West is going again to it pagan roots of relgious freedom, so it has come to peace.

    Relgious freedom is not new idea even Jews were good with multi relgious society, it started with Christianity and Islam had created biggest mess in the world.

    By Aayina - 11/5/2016 3:48:09 PM

  • An excellent "must-read" article! We took the wrong turn with al-Ghazali and the Ash’arites. We must go back to the Mu’tazalite tradition. The Mu'tazalites championed the idea of reason and rational morality. They adopted the belief that man must be free, because without freedom, he would be unable to know God’s justice.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/5/2016 3:04:49 PM

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