MARWAN MAJZOOB Asked:
(a) Q: The article states that there is not big gap between Western civilization and Muslim civilization. This statement or the crux of the Foreign Affairs 1997 article needs in depth analysis by TF USA affiliates.
A: —— I believe there is a yawning gap between Western and Islamic Civilizations. Seemingly the Western Civilization evolved from Christianity, but the sketchy blending of Greek philosophy with scriptural message of Jesus, was unsystematic until the time of Clement (150-219) and Origen (185-254). Clement helped to develop the compatibility of the philosophical views of Greek thinkers to the message of Christ. Origen, who held that there is nothing wholly incorporeal except God as three in one, Father, son, and Holy Ghost, based on Greco-Roman myths as well as Hellenistic conception of the universe. In other words, the Greco-Roman civilization had adopted Christianity as its religion. Soon after the European Renaissance, the revival of Greek philosophy of rationalism made it easy for the European to discard religion and stick to the original Greco-Roman civilization based on reason and rationalism.
Islam, appeared in Mecca where there was no civilization. It appeared amongst illiterate and uncultured, tribal society. Islam, linked itself with Abrahamic ideology of monotheism, connecting itself with the chain of Jewish prophets. The view that the Jews were Chosen People was offensive to the pride of the civilized Romans and Greeks who thus had sought their affinity with their own well known Platonic philosophy, and thus philosophy and the Christian religion were assimilated, instead of connecting it with Abrahamic philosophy of monotheism. When Islam spread, and its scholar came across with Greek philosophy and sciences, they inspired by Qur’anic appeal to reasoning—”Call [the mankind] into the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason (argue) with them in the better way”—and its Prophet’s instructions, “Search for knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslim male and Muslim female” so far so that “Search knowledge though it be in China” provided the impetus for knowledge. The origin of Islamic Civilization was based on Qur’anic teaching revealed as a deen or way of life not as a religion. Philosophical and scientific learning was adopted by them which was discarded when the Muslims thought it was no more needed. Therefore, as the Europeans separated religion from their generic civilization of Greco-Roman period and founded their future on rationalism, in the same way Muslims discarded adopted Greek philosophical works from their original foundation of civilization based on Qur’anic deen. It is well known the Qur’an and its teaching was the first book compiled in prose. The early Muslims of the Arabian Peninsula had no other literature (except poetry) based on moral and ethical teachings or any treatise presenting philosophy of life. It is impossible for the Muslim to separate Qur’anic teaching from their socio-political system as their civilization was born from it.
In a nutshell the yawning gap is clear that the Western Civilization today is based on scientific reasoning, and rationalism, while Islamic Civilization is based on Qur’anic teaching and Divine Spirituality. As they have done in their past, today, Muslims need to blend rationalism and scientific reasoning in their deen.
(b) Q: —— I disagree with Mirza Ashraf that discussion about God and no God is irrelevant. But God and no God discussion is also important for Muslim intellectuals. All others major groups have gone beyond God and no God discussion except Muslims.
A: —— It would be a repetition to mention that during the Golden Age of Muslim history, scholars believed in God and teachings of Islam and were great scientists, philosophers, and moralists. This means that belief in God had never been a hindrance in their philosophical, scientific and mathematical researches. If one is a true believer in the faith of Islam, or in any other Divinely revealed faith, discussion of God and no God is meaningless even for a MUSLIM intellectual. Muslim philosophers and scholars have discussed about Allah by believing in Him and then defining Him and His ways as: Panentheism meaning: Everything in God. It views the universe is a part of God. Pantheism meaning: God in everything and it views God in everything visible. Theism meaning: Belief in the existence of a God, (god or gods), specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe. Pan-theism meaning: The belief that God, (god or gods), is present in all things in the universe. It also displays in some beliefs worship or tolerance of many gods. Wahdat ul Shuhud: (Unity of Vision) Oneness of Perception. In other words the unity of consciousness that nature is the conscious reflection of God’s presence. Wahdat ul Wujud (Unity of Being) Oneness of Being that God and the world are identical, that everything emanates from one source or the first cause or the Absolute Being or God and is then joined with the Essence or the source from which everything emanated. There are other doctrines such as Wajib ul Wujud (Necessary Existent), Tashkik ul Wujud (Equivocality of Being), etc. The best explanation in the famous poet Hali’s words is: falsafi ko behs ke ander Khuda milta nahien.
تفکروافی اللہ و لا تفکروافی ذات اللہ The Prophet said: “Meditate (blessings of) Allah; Do not brood over the nature of Allah. زیں سبب فرمود ما را مصطفےٰ بحث کم جوئید در ذاتِ خدا Rumi said: “Hence Mustafa (Muhammad pbh) enjoined us saying, Do not seek to investigate the essence of Allah.”
I understand that these sayings are not acceptable to the atheistic minds. What I am presenting here is based on the teachings of Islam. Billions believe in these teachings, and few against these cannot change the minds of billions whose whole way of life is established on deen-e-Islam. Human beings change their way, only when a better system is presented to them. It is my firm belief that the artificial intelligence, if it is able to evolve a new system, a new social order and a new ideology, everything will be changed.
(c) Q: —— Hindus never killed any human being in the name of God. Buddhism and Jainism are atheistic religions. They believe in moral code but not necessarily in God. In Buddhism belief in God is optional.
A: — Please go through the pre-Islamic era of Indian History. India A History by John Keay and the recently banned book, The Hindus, An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger. The Hindu period is full of bloody wars and killings and Ramayan Bharat is a chronicle of warfare. They killed Buddhists for not believing in Brahma and for refusing to accept transmigration of atman or soul. A monotheistic deity has no place in Buddhism, and Hindu believers in Brahma as one god and supreme authenticity of the Vedic canon, made their best to convert the Buddhist back to Hinduism by persuasion as well by power. India, the birth place of Buddhism, is the first in Buddhism where the Buddhist population decreased. They could not kill Muslims for believing God, because Muslims entered India as powerful invaders. Rather Muslims killed them for not believing in One God.
(d) Q: —— Because of the religious frenzy Muslims are killing Muslims at present, right in front of our eyes. Why Muslims are doing it?
A: —— It is still authentic that war is politics by other means. At the end of Abbasid period Islam’s call of Jihad for War came to end. After that Muslims fought many wars amongst themselves as well as with European Christians, but those were political wars. Even the first civil war after the murder of Hz Uthman and then between Hz Ali and Muawiyya were political wars. Even during the Crusades, Salah uddin Ayubi had to fight with some groups or tribes of Muslims. Neither the Caliph at Baghdad supported him nor the Caliphs of Arab Spain, believing that Crusades are not Jihad for War as the Christians are people of book. What we have seen before in history and what we are seeing today, is all politics and a lot more.
(e) Q: —— Masses always need dogma to survive.
A: —— First of all we have to understand what dogma is. Its original meaning in Greek is ‘opinion.’ But according to Oxford Dictionary, ‘dogma means a principle or a set of principles laid down by an authority and intended to be accepted without question.’ At the age of nineteen I read Qur’an thoroughly and understood it according to my own imagination. At that time I wasn’t familiar with Western philosophy, while I had full knowledge of Islamic and Classical Greek philosophies. I understood each and every verse of the Qur’an without taking it as a sacred book; I rather studied it as a text book of theology. I was impressed by the depth of many verses of the Qur’an for example its appeal to reasoning—”Call [the mankind] into the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason (argue) with them in the better way” and studied it with my knowledge of mantaq or logic which I had acquired by reading Aristotle’s translations in Persian. I started studying Western philosophy when I was 23 and the first book I bought was Russell’s History of Western philosophy for 25s or Rs.11.00. I know there are many believers who read Qur’an without understanding it and follow it blindly. One of my best friend, who memorized Qur’an and on the night of 27th of Ramazan being his final reciting or say first graduation, he wished me to attend his final traveeh. It was my first experience to enter a mosque–at the age of 14 years. Next day I asked him if he understood what he was reading: he said that he has just memorized it. I myself had not read the Qur’an, but languages of English, Arabic and Persian being my subjects, I could easily understand the meanings of Arabic verses he was reciting. I explained him all what he was reciting, which not only astonished him, but also interested him to take Arabic classes. He did his Arabi-Fazal, and then earned a scholarship from Medina University. In my case, I first understood Qur’an with reason and logic and then started believing in it. Blindly following a religion or a scripture is very dangerous and I would emphasize that a dogmatic approach is a blunder which is unforgivable.
(f) Q: —— Muslims need some extra dosage of logic, in my view.
A: — Although it is very difficult to teach logic to every Muslim, but it is a must for the teachers of Islamic Studies. Every Imam of a mosque must have full knowledge of logic. Muslim scholars and teachers in the early period and even until the end of Ottoman and Mughal rule, were taught logic as a compulsory subject. My grand uncle and his son educated in a Nadvi school knew ‘mantaq.’ In fact these mullahs who teach Qur’an without explaining its content to the students, forcing them to memorize and then recite during Ramadan without explaining the logic of the revelation of each and every verse, are making Islam a dogma instead of a religion based on reason. Though in the Qur’an there are events related to ancient prophets, which may not have a historic proof, but logically their ways and their actions make a lot of sense. The Qur’an does not present an education of logic, rather its content emphasizes reason. Muslims of the Arabian Peninsula were not familiar with logic, except few of Prophet’s companions and some learned Christian and Jewish scholars in Mecca and Medina. But in debate and interpret Qur’an, Muslims had to learn logic. Basically it was lack of logic in Islamic knowledge that forced Muslims to study Aristotle and Plato and many other Greek thinkers.
(g) Q: —— Orthodoxy in Islam is in majority.
A: —— It is unfortunate that Muhammad Abd al Wahhab’s interpretation of Islam has been exploited by the Saudis for their political gains. With oil money in their hands, they are promoting orthodox ideologies and today throughout the Middle East, we see all chaos. This is a very well known and many times debated issue. We all know how thousands of Madrasahs financed by the Saudis are promoting orthodox-teachings. The Qur’an clearly says, “Do not throw yourself in self killing” but these and many other verses are being ignored. ====