Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Muslim Philosophers

The following is the draft English translation of a chapter from the masterpiece, 'Shaksiya Islamiya' (The Islamic Personality) volume 1 by Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabhani. For exact meanings please refer to the original Arabic.

When philosophical issues related to theology infiltrated the minds of the Muslims, certain scholars like al-Hasan al-Basri, Ghaylan al-Dimashqi and Jahm ibn Safwan during the end of the Ummayad reign and the beginning of Abbasid rule, began to deal with and address some miscellaneous scholastic/theological issues. Then, after them came Ulama who were acquainted with Aristotelian logic and familiarised themselves with some of the books of philosophy after they had been translated. The investigation of scholastic/theological issues expanded and they began to study the science known as Kalam. Such as Wasil ibn 'Ata, 'Amr ibn 'Ubayd, Abu Hudhayl al-'Allaf and al-Nazzam. However, the studies of those people were not complete philosophical studies but the expanding study of philosophical thoughts until they became well-versed with different views in philosophy, and that of the view of each group of philosophers in some issues by pursuing them and not all issues. In addition to confining themselves to some philosophical studies they restricted themselves to their belief in the Qur'an. That is why they did not leave the fold of Islam, rather they expanded in reasoning, and they gave themselves free reign in the proofs, but only to establish that which will strengthen imān and a desire to eliminate anthropomorphic elements from the belief in Allah (swt). As a result, no deviation occurred in the beliefs despite their different views. So all of them remained Muslims who were defending Islam.

Then after the Mutakallimūn came the individuals who did not reach to the stage of becoming groups and mazhabs, and even the Muslims did not follow them in mass although individuals preferred their studies. They are the ones who came after the Mutakallimūn from amongst the Muslims in the Muslim countries, they are the Muslim philosophers. It seems that what allowed them to exist amongst Muslims is the study of philosophical thoughts and the books of philosophy which made these studies attractive to the people in that age. So some persons took on the responsibility of widening the study of such thoughts. Thus, they studied these thoughts in a deep and extensive way, a study that was comprehensive and unrestricted in everything and every thought. They followed every line (of thought) in its entirety. They studied an appropriate amount of philosophy to qualify themselves to think philosophically and produce philosophical output. It was due to these deep and extensive studies in philosophy, especially a specific type of Greek philosophy that led to the presence of philosophers amongst Muslims. The first known Muslim philosopher was Ya'qub al-Kindi (d. 260 H). After him the Muslim philosophers emerged one after another. Thus, the philosophers did not emerge except after the presence of the Mutakallimūn, and after the methodology of those philosophers had become prevalent and had become the subject of study, debate and polemics. In the eyes of many Mutakallimūn and Ulama philosophy became intolerable. Before that, there were no philosophers amongst Muslims. Hence, there were mutakallamin and philosophers amongst the Ulama in the Muslim lands. However, there is a difference between Mutakallimūn and the philosophers. The Mutakallimūn were well versed with some philosophical thoughts. As for the philosophers, they were scholars of philosophy. That is why the philosophers used to look upon the Mutakalimun as ignorant. The philosophers thought the Mutakallimūn were people of sophistry and polemics. And they, that is, the philosophers, were the one who rationally studied, in the logical issues, the sound philosophical research.

All the Mutakallimūn and philosophers studied theology, although there is a difference between the method of the Mutakallimūn and that of the philosophers. The difference can be summarised as follows;

1. The Mutakallimūn had conviction in the principles of imān and they acknowledged their correctness and believed in them. Then they used their rational evidences to prove them. So they proved them rationally with logical proofs. They used the rational study through the style of logic as a means to prove their beliefs. Because they already believed in the basic principles of Islam and they came to form arguments and proofs to establish what they believed in.

2. The studies of the Mutakallimūn were restricted to issues relating to the defence of their creed and refutation of the arguments of their opponents whether they were Muslims - they disagreed with the understanding of the Mu'tazila, Murji'a, Shi'a, Khawarij and others - or whether they were non-muslims such as the Christians, Jews, Magians and others, although the most prominent aspect of their discussions was for the purpose of responding to the Mutakallimūn and philosophers amongst the Muslims.

3. The studies of the Mutakallimūn were Islamic and they, despite their differences and contradiction, are considered as Islamic opinions. Any Muslim who is convinced of one of their opinions is considered to have had conviction in an Islamic opinion. And whatever he was convinced of was considered as the Islamic creed.

This is the methodology of the Mutakallimūn and this is how it is considered. As for the methodology of the philosophers, it can be summarised as follows:

1. The philosophers studied the issues for the sake of research. Their method of study and its fundamentals are the study of issues as indicated by the demonstrable proof. And their view of theology was the view concerning the Absolute Being and whatever its Essence necessitated. They begin their study by searching for what would lead to demonstratable proof; proceeding step by step until they arrive at the result whatever it may be and have conviction in it. This is the aim and the basis of philosophy. Their discussions are purely philosophical having no relationship to Islam in terms of the discussion even though one may witness that it has a connection to some subjects. They would frequently admit textual things in their discussions for which a rational proof cannot be established to prove it correctness or invalidity, subjects such as the Resurrection and the bodily Ressurection. And often they would take up certain ideas from the Greek philosophy issuing judgments on matters based on them albeit with the influence of their Islamic Aqeedah in them. And often they would attempt to reconcile certain issues of philosophy with Islamic issues, however this was an addition to, and a result of, them being Muslims effected by Islam. But the effect was not an intellectual one where they made Islam as the basis/postulate, as was the case with the Mutakallimūn. Rather, the effect is akin to a great extent to the effect of Christianity on the Christian philosophers, and the effect of Judaism on the Jewish philosophers, since the deep rooted concepts will greatly affect the study or have some effect on it. As for the basis on whch they proceeded, it is around the Absolute Being (al-wujud al-mutlaq) and what it necessitated for its Essence. Their true influence was the Greek philosophy. Their mentality had become formed according to Greek philosophy. So they wrote about the thoughts of philosopy after gaining maturity in the Greek philosophy. There was no relationship between Islam and their pholoshophy.

2. The Muslim philosophers did not stand in defence of Islam. They only stood to determine facts and furnish proofs for them. And nor did they enter into reporting opposing views and refuting them in Islam's defence even though they may have been influenced by Islam. Therefore, the rational discussion was the basis, it was the subject matter, and nothing else was present in their discussions.

3. The studies of the Muslim philosophers are non-islamic studies. Rather they are purely philosophical discussions and have no relationship to Islam. It has no place for Islam in its discussion. They are not considered Islamic opinions and they are not part of the Islamic culture.

This is the difference betwen the methodology of the mutakallimun and the methodology of the Muslim philosophers. And this is the reality of the Muslim philosophers. It is injustice, contradiction of the reality and fabrication of Islam to call the philosophy that the likes of al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and others from the Muslim philosophers were preoccupied with, as Islamic philosophy. Since it has no connection to Islam, rather it totally contradicts Islam whether in terms of the basis or in terms of many of its details. As for the contradiction it terms of the basis, this philosophy discusses that which is beyond the universe/creation, that is, regarding the Absolute existence (al-wujud al-mutlaq) which is contrary to Islam which discusses what is in the universe and things that can be sensed only. It prohibits discussion about the essence of Allah (swt) and that which is beyond the universe. It orders the Muslim to submit to it totally and stop at the limit of what imān enjoins without going further and without allowing the mind to attempt to discuss it. As for the details, there are many discussions in this philosophy which Islam considers as disbelief (kufr). Ther are discussions which hold the world to be eternally pre-existent (qadm al-'alam) and that it is eternal (azali). And there are discussions which assert that the pleasure of Paradise is spiritual and not corporeal. And discussions which mantain that Allah (swt) is ignorant of detailed aspects and other such notions which definitely manifest kufr in the view of Islam.

How can it be claimed that this philosophy is Islamic given this clear contradiction? In adition to the fact that there is abolutely no philosophy in Islam because it restricts the rational discussion to the sensible objects and prohibits the mind from discussing that what is beyond the universe, which makes all its discussions remote from philosophy, following a method different to it. There is no possibility given in it that there should be any philosophical studies. That is why there is nothing called Islamic philosophy. In Islam there is the study of the Qur'an and the prophetic Sunnah. They are the only basis of Islam in terms of the aqeeda and rules [ahkam], whether in terms of an order [amr], prohibition [nahi] or information [ikhbar].

Arabic Source

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