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Dogma v philosophy in Islamic Philosophy


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These slides are the basis for my presentation on 5 November 2010 in Swindon Philosophy Meeting

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Dogma v philosophy in Islamic Philosophy

  1. 1. 1
  2. 2. Summary• Evolution of Ideas to Religion & then to Philosophy• Hotbeds of Philosophy• Overview of Greek Philosophy• The Rise of Islam• The Rise of Islamic Philosophy – A model: Theology + Shariat + Retrofitting – Ethnic Composition of Islamic Philosophers – Movements of philosophical ideas – Geopolitics of the time – The frictions between dogma and rationalism – The Aftermath• The Implications on Today 2
  3. 3. The Conduits of Ideas 3
  4. 4. Philosophical Heritage Prior to Islam• The Mesopotamia Cultures: – 3 (or 4) ethnic groups – foundation for philosophy and modern sciences – Torn itself out by wars and famines• The Seafaring Greek Culture: – Built on Mesopotamian, Egyptian & Hellenic roots – Homeric poetry created a conduit for ideas – Many rival city states but conductive of ideas – Thrived with generating diverse philosophical doctrines – Academia, peripatetic, Stoic, Neo-Platonism, sceptics ... 4
  5. 5. Collapse of Greek Philosophy• Greek Philosophy had “holes,” e.g.• Gorgias (485-380 BC): “there is no truth, only argument; the art of rhetoric”.• B. Russell states that: Greek Sceptics argued that “there could never be a rational ground for preferring one course of action over another”• Greek philosophy was good but not a panacea• Greek Philosophy injected an Aristotelian component to Christianity but then collapsed!• Christianity emerged by synthesising a new order: – The Aristotelian component from Greek philosophy – A Sacred component from the Jewish tradition – The Roman rule of law• The new order was a thoroughly dogmatic and this model was rolled out throughout the Roman world 5
  6. 6. The Rise of Islam• Islam brought revolutionary but fixated ideas• Proclaimed divinity and sanctity• Demanded submission and rejected challenge• Prophet Mohammad was a preacher and a ruler too• Many empires just melted before the fast advancing Islam• BUT Islam was not born with an institutional arrangement• The Quran: the “revealed words of God” overarching unrevealed words• Words: the substance of the Islamic thinking• Words and power drove plethora of sects• Arabic is rather superfluous and open to interpretation 6
  7. 7. The Rise of Islamic Philosophy• The Abbasid Empire (750- 1258) were open to any measure to expand their empire• Taxing the vast empire was facilitated by: – The arrival of paper from China – Alkhwarzmi’s maths, popularising Indian “0” – Simplifying Alphabet from Kufi to Naskh – Adopting Greek Philosophy against dissenting voices (e.g. the Khurramis in Azerbaijan) 7
  8. 8. A Model for Islamic Philosophy• The Model: Kalam + Shariat + Philosophy• In reality the model evolved as:• What is retrofitting?• Three examples• So Philosophy was employed to serve theology but some freethinkers emerged to condition theology!• Note the difference: Christianity turned away from freethinking right at the beginning! 8
  9. 9. Emergence of sectarianism before philosophy• Emerging sects transformed any elasticity in the Islamic culture into plasticity• The Sunni sect: – The Quran: interpreting literally Mohammad’s revelations – Sunna (tradition): Mohammad’s activities/words – Icma: the consensus of testimonies of the apostles – Ijtihad: beyond the above to deal with rogue issues – Shariat: the law without codes (regulates the individuals relating to god i.e. it is intrusive, and regulates the role of man in the society)• The Shii Sect:• Other smaller Sects also emerged 9
  10. 10. Philosophy with Wider Contexts• Ideas evolve and interact as bundles of movements • Movements of philosophical doctrines (Reason ) • Movements of Faith (religion) • Movements of Literature (poetry and prose) • Movements of Fine Arts • Movements of Architecture • Movement of knowledge (science) • Conduits for Movements 10
  11. 11. Ethnicity in Islamic Philosophy• Three ethnic peoples and their mindsets: – The Arabs: superfluous language, old polytheism replaced by monotheism, rather autocratic and strong-minded, very negative on women but Islam was improved it a bit – The Turks: unequivocal language; fierce fighters and keen in ruling; rule by consensus and by pluralism, progressive on women issues with influential women – The Persians: a pidgin language (but poetic), past glory/ self-aggrandisement, autocratic, fundamentalism, very reactionary on women issues – No underrating of Assyrians and Jewish intellectual inputs 11
  12. 12. The Priming of the Greek Philosophy• Greek Philosophy was dead for 4-6 centuries• It had to be primed just like priming a pump!• The Great Al Kindi (?-872) translated the Enneads, thinking that it was Aristotle’s works. This is what priming means, i.e. no tradition? Well, invent one! 12
  13. 13. The Model – Brewing its substance• Islamic philosophy ripped open every issues, Discoursing on a variety of topics• A rich mixture of Aristotelian, Platonic, Stoic, Neo- Platonic and other ideas emerged rapidly• Conflicts were observed between faith & reason• Vibrant Islamic Philosophy gave rise to movements 13
  14. 14. The centres of learning• Baghdad and Basra, the centre for all ethnicities• Damascus, Halab (Aleppo), Najaf• Bukhara and Samarkand, Qashghar• Tus, Nishapur, Rey, Isfahan• Tebriz, Maragha, Berde, Genje and Hemedan• Konya, Harran, Istanbul• Cairo• Cordova in Andalusia (Spain) 14
  15. 15. Movements: The Qadarite & Jabarites • The Umayyad (661-750) were not chuffed with religion • They used Sectarianism to control challenges from Shi’a • Intellectual debate emerged on responsibility for deeds, reward / punishment, predestination, everything depends on His Will ... • The Qadarite (qadar = power, i.e. Power for action and responsibility: – A Qadarite lost his life for heresy: Ma‘bad al-Juhani in 699 A.D. Reward / Man needsDue to To take responsibility for their deeds Punishment Freewill God’s Reward /Thus To create Predestination To facilitate Absolute will Punishment • The Jabarites: – Used God’s absolute will to justify predestination &explain reward/punishment God has Predestination Reward /As And sets To facilitate Absolute Will Punishment Man needs Reward /Thus To perform Punishment To become responsible for the deeds 15 Freewill
  16. 16. Movements - The Mu’tazile-s• The Mu’tazile-s (the splinters) 8th-14th century – A rationalist movement against dogmatism; Basra and Baghdad schools – Founder: Wasil ibn Ataa, ?-748, (student of Hasan Basri) – Dissidence: punishment after death, indestructible soul; how can it turn to ashes by burning – No fate but we meet the outcomes of our actions – First to show signs of freethinking in Islamic cultures – Attributes of punishment/rewards are humanly; not godly – The Quran is the word of man and not God; there is no miracle – There is nothing outside our minds (hence their rationalism) – The Five Tenets: (1) the unity of God; (2) divine justice; (3) the promise and the threat; (4) the intermediate position; and (5) the commanding of good and forbidding of evil – (1) responsibility for action but no fate; (2) no to anthropomorphic God features (3) no to the great sin and repentance is good enough; (4) God cannot forgive on behalf of other but on his own behalf; (5) the commanding of good-deed and forbidding of ill-deeds 16
  17. 17. Movements – the Aristetelian schoolThe Peripatetic school – Meshaiyyun (with some Platonism)• Al Kindi (?-872): Islam & philosophy not inconsistent• Al Farabi (876-950) produced 1st authentic Aristotelian philosophy – Integrated Platonism + Aristotelianism + Shariat – Pluralism: excellent nations and excellent cities can coexist with different religions. – Subtle Scepticism in Farabi’s Mindset: Religion is the route to unsophisticated truth and to simple believer; philosophy is a version of it, albeit, of poorer conceptual quality Avicenna – God knows generality but not details; from 1271 – Seeds of Meme(!): matter: eternal; soul: mortal; but the soul lives as a contact between the generations• Inb Sina (980-1037) with tendency towards Sufism (Illuminism) – He sees a conflict in integrating matter with soul• Ibn Rushd, Averroes, (1126 – 1198) – Andalusia (Spain) – Seeds of Meme (!): Soul is a developed matter and mortal; Immortality is the humanity, which lives through generations• Repudiation by Alghazel proved problematic
  18. 18. Movements – the Dahriyyun (Atheists, materialists) •Progressive materialist/sensualist movement •Emerged and developed in the 10th century •Deny vehemently metaphysics and soul •Believe in the eternity of time durations (Mafatih al-ulum) •Believe in the eternity of the cosmos but not on creation •Everything is matter and composed of atoms •Proponents: Ibn Ravendi (827–911), Beshshar, Salih ibn Abdul Quds and later Sheykh Bedreddin (1359–1420) •Their ideas survived only through discussions by opponents. •These ungodly men said: There is nothing to save our life in this world; we live and we die, and only a period of time (or: the course of time, dahr) makes us perish‘ ( 18
  19. 19. Movements – the Asha’ri-s. theosophy• The early Asha’ri-s) – Founded by Abul Hasan Ash’ari (873-935) – A pupil of al-Jubbai, of the Basra-n Mutazila – Guided by revelation to present his vision – Used Kalam as the basis for his reasoning• The late Asha’ri-s – Algazel (1058-1111) similar to Kant in being forceful but in the service of dogma) – The Incoherence of the Philosophers Abū Ḥāmed – Mysticism with orthodoxy (theosophy) Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Ghazālī 19
  20. 20. Movements - clash of faith v. reason• Showdown on Muteziles – Dubbed as dualists: (i) having power over deeds interpreted as being a creator, (ii) almighty God – Blasphemy: man must do what is best for man – Undermining the doctrine of Revelation: evil is evil intrinsically but not because God says so.• Showdown on Peripatetic Philosophers – The incoherence of the philosophers by Alghazel – Appendix to The Revival of Religious Sciences – Remedying decay of faith in Islam caused by philosophers – After this rational philosophies declined 20
  21. 21. Movements - Stoicism• Stoic School – pantheism/materialism (Revaqiyyun) – Physics, ethics and logics – The soul is a tabula rasa; only sensations are true – God manifests & unify with nature in human forms – Manifestation is not through a single person but open to all• Hurufi-s founded by Neimi – The World was created by God and changes continually – God manifests: Humans resemble God : (i) as prophets, (ii) as guardian imams (vilayet), and (iii) as Neimi (both leader and God) Mystically as in voice, speech or Quranic words – A sense of Platonic realism: pre-existing word – A sense of Neo-Platonism by stepped view 21
  22. 22. Movements – Illuminism / Sufism • Illuminsim Founded by Shehabeddin Sovreverdi (1153-1191) – Integrated his conception of light with Neo-Platonism – As in esoteric, he searches for truth hidden in words – Knowledge-by-presence: the light of our, self, brings to our awareness of important aspects of the truth – Light manifests on its own; darkness is the absence of light but not another ontological being; we see immanence and transcendental light; immanent light is impure; matter obtains light from the immanent light; discontinuing this light give rise to darkness; Illuminism is all about the transcendental light. • Sufism – spectrum from monotheism to pantheism – heterogeneous doctrines all lacks ontology – (i) Theology: No god but (the) God,; (ii) some Sufis: there is no one but him; (iii) some : there is no me other than me, (iv) some: I am the righteous one. – The Sufi’s truth realised in four stages: (i) good Shariat observer, (ii) submit your will to God (Teriqet); (iii) submit your mind to God (Gnosis = merifet); (iv) unify with God through ecstasy• Asceticism (Zohd): • Gnosticism (irfan): – Theosophism: Asceticism + Sufism – Irfan + Sufism (e.g. Hallaj) – Pure Asceticism (Zohd) – Kalam + Irfan (Iranian existentialism) 22
  23. 23. Movements since the 14th century • After the showdown, development niches were open to: • Esoteric & exoteric practices (existed before)• The Sufis (existed before) • The Hurifi-s (pantheism) - Stoicism• Existentialism• Gnostics
  24. 24. Those who suffered execution• Ma‘bad al-Juhani (Qadarite) in 699 AD• Mansur al-Hallaj: Gnosticism (922)• EynulQuzat Miyaneji (Abu’l-maʿālī ʿabdallāh Abībakr Mohammad Bin Mayānejī) hanged in 1131• Shahabeddin Sohrevedi (1191) in Aleppo• Imadeddin Nesimi – a Hurufi (1417)• Sheykh Bedreddin – a Dahri (1420)• Fezlullah Neimi Astarabadi (1395)• The death of rationalism 24
  25. 25. Post-mortem Analysis• Islamic philosophy was closer than the Greek Philosophy to stumble into science• Both collapsed under their own weights• European philosophy was saved from the same fate by science• Islamic philosophy has now been transmuted into theosophy• The image of self-righteousness and the culture of curse: The Fiqh Concerning those who Insult the Messenger of Allah: “As for those who abuse Allah and His Messenger, Allah’s curse is on them in the dunya and the akhira. He has prepared a humiliating punishment for them.”• Modern culture mistakes reason (philosophy) with faith (theology), e.g. analysis of Wikipedia• Home-grown debate and movements yet to emerge• Freethinking now: what should be its vehicle? Religion, Atheism or Science or a Combination? 25
  26. 26. A Reminder on Movements Asharis Theosophy Asceticism Mind Existentialism Sufism Stoicism 1 Rationalism Dehriyyun Peripatetic (Meshaiyyun) Muteziles and Asharis Qadarites and Jabarites 2 The emergence of sects 2000 1300 1400 1200 661 750 661622 Timeline 26
  27. 27. Conclusions• Fight fundamentalism OR nurture freethinking?• Dialogue between religions OR dialogue among communities?• Superiority of western culture (implying the others no good) OR sustainable global culture?• Core Problem: Conduits of movements for ideas• Pluralise NOT Perish; diversify NOT dwindle• Muslim feminism NOT Muslim Human Rights• Open up channels of movements for ideas NOT Quietism 27
  28. 28. Virtue (erdem):fazilet, hassa, hassasiyyet, maziyyet, Mukteza, Hokm,Hobbu intizam, kudret kuvvetPurpose (erek):Gaye, gayet, nihayet, akibet, murad, ummiye, hedef,matlub, maksatWisdom (bilge):himket, rushtu kiyaset, ilmu merifet, basiret, akil,ilim, felsefeConscience (bilinc):shuur, istishar, zamir, hatir, idrak, ilim, vukuf, vicdanbatin, hissi nefs, akide, itikad, insaf
  29. 29. • The Abul Hasan Ash’ari-s doctrines ( God has eternal attributes such as knowledge, sight, speech, and owing to these attributes he is knowing, seeing, speaking; whereas the Mutaziles assign no attributes to God, distinct from His essence.2. God sits on the throne and his anthropomorphic features (hand and face) are real but their precise nature is unknown; whereas the Mutaziles deny anthropomorphic features of God and interpret these Quranic expressions, as grace, essence and so on.3. Quran is Gods speech, an eternal attribute, and therefore uncreated; whereas the the Mutaziles hold that the Quran to have been created.4. The vision of God is real but we cannot understand its manner; whereas the Mutaziles do not take God in a literal sense.5. God is omnipotent and everything, good or evil, is willed by him; he creates the acts of men by creating in men the power to do each act – the doctrine of acquisition or kasb; whereas, the Mutaziles insist on the reality of choice in human activity6. A Muslim committed a wrong deed remains a Muslim but liable to punishment in the Fire; whereas the Mutaziles hold that wrong-doing is not a matter of religion (the doctrine of al- manzila bayn al-manzilatayn)7. Eschatological features, such as the Basin, the Bridge, the Balance and intercession by Muhammad, are real; but these are denied by the Mutaziles. 30
  30. 30. The Basis of Shahabbedin’s Illuminism• You do not fit words for describing the reality but amplify the idea through exploration/contemplation• Philosophy is to sense for inspiration, revelation, guess• To do philosophy is to act like a prophet but man gathers light step-by-step and enhances towards it• One step of revelation takes towards another step• The world of meaning cannot be reached simply by words, but man can only reach it on his own, where philosophy just is just helpful in showing the way.• There is no, body or soul, and the body like all matter is dark but as this body journeys towards light, it enhances and then becomes illuminated 31
  31. 31. Post-mortem AnalysisList of Muslim philosophers ( 20, Sufis (20), Theosophists +Theologians (40) 32
  32. 32. 33
  33. 33. God hasAs Absolute And sets Predestination To facilitate Reward / Will PunishmentThus Man needs Reward / Freewill To perform To become responsible for the deeds PunishmentDue to Reward / Man needs To take responsibility for their deeds Punishment Freewill God’s Reward /Thus Absolute To create Predestination To facilitate Punishment Will