Saturday, 1 September 2012

Centrality of Tawhid in Islamic Worldview

It is obvious almost to everybody who observes Islam its Tawhid principle in concept of God, followed by conceptual network centering in that principle. Even, when approached from secular point of view researchers cannot but agree that it is the most fundamental principle in Islam. This is the case when, for example, an Indonesian sociologist writes that “Muslim communities from all schools and traditions agree that Tawhid is the core of belief, tradition and practice of Islam.[1] Simply put, the meaning of Tawhid is formulated in the first part of shahadah (witnessing) through which a non-Muslim comes into Islamic brotherhood. This shahadah correctly understood is the universal statement brought by all the Prophets and the Messengers. It is Islam in the broadest meaning of the word, explaining “why everything in the heavens and the earth is submitted to God”.[2] It also means, in narrower sense, the religion of all the Prophets.[3] The importance of Tawhid as foundation from which all Islamic tenets are derived can be more discernible when it is seen within the context of worldview, since human activity, in its widest sense, is ultimately reducible to the latter. The role worldview plays in human activity is to be verified later in this article. The humble aim of this writing is merely to show the principle of Tawhid within the context of Islamic worldview to which all Muslim activities should aspire. To do this task, the concept of worldview in general will be concisely explained as a introduction to show its significance in human conduct. The meaning and elements of Islamic worldview will then be detailed with special emphasize on aspect related to human life. A more detailed account will be given to delineate Tawhid as a central concept in Islamic worldview especially when related to human life. On Generality of Worldview Human behavior is influenced by psychological, sociological and environmental factors. But the most essential among these factors is a worldview which shapes the way he thinks and, in turn, the way he acts. This is primarily true when understood from epistemological point of view. Since it is the only structure within which human intellect functions [4] and, thus, exerts effect upon his entire life. Generally worldview can be defined as “A perspective from which the individual views everything”.[5] The significance of a worldview is already implied in this definition, because every particular person’s doing is shaped by his view on that everything. As a result, all human being’s action is ultimately traceable to his worldview. A worldview can be broken down into structures, five of which is of primary importance. These five are life-structure, world-structure, knowledge-structure, value-structure and man-structure.[6] The first structure is generative of individual culture within social context which shapes and is shaped by that structure in a reciprocal manner. Out of this structure arise certain fundamental ideas and questions about the world. As these questions are solved satisfactorily or not, a more sophisticated conceptions rise as a result of answers given to the questions. These concepts are distinguishable from the first structure, thus can be termed as world-structure. After two structures are formed within one’s worldview, they function simultaneously in directing one’s deed. Other than the first two structures is not necessarily apparent in all worldviews. Only in those which are transparent [7] can entire five elements be found and analyzable. In a transparent worldview, knowledge-structure comes out world-structure. From three structures emerges a developed conception about morality which forms value-structure. The combination of these four finally brings into being man-structure. On Islamic Worldview Worldview in Islam is termed ru’yatul Islam lil wujud. The word ru’yah, encompasses all modes of vision, i.e., empirical, rational and spiritual, in the general sense of these words. It is not nazhrah, which connotes speculative-rational intellectual endeavor. Al-Wujud in this term is also significant in that it underlines the comprehensiveness and totality of being projected in Islamic worldview, unlike its counterpart, al-kawn, which meaning is confined within the boundary of observable world. Thus, Islamic worldview is “The Islamic vision of reality and truth, which is a metaphysical survey of the visible as well as the invisible worlds including the perspective of life as a whole”.[8] In the light of meaning of worldview in general, elements [9] of Islamic worldview will be further detailed into five structures accordingly. The first structure is the life-structure. Since it is the commonest shared element with all other worldviews, it is not so much different in that it represents cultural aspect of Islamic worldview, which regulates for Muslim the manner of eating, drinking and other socio-cultural aspects of his life. The world-structure is that aspect of Islamic worldview which consists of the concepts of God, prophethood, resurrection, religion and the hereafter. Like its general counterpart, knowledge-structure in Islamic worldview comes out of world-structure, which is signified by umbrella term ‘ilm under which there exist network of the key scientific Islamic terminology or Islamic scientific conceptual scheme. The value-structure consists of moral, ethical and legal practices, all of which cannot be separated from each other. The man-structure in Islamic worldview is in the concepts of khalifah and ummah. Concepts introduced in these structures are all traceable to the notion of Tawhid. Pervading Nature of Tawhid in Muslims’ Life Tawhid as understood in Islam is not a mere theoretical statement having no correspondence whatsoever with the daily life. On the contrary it is very much pervasive that even the minutest activities—spiritual, intellectual, emotional, social, cultural, political, and so on—of every Muslim must always be pregnant with values from that principle. Its formulation in testimony of faith is simple yet, if fully realized, contains everything Muslims need in their life. How Tawhid affects Muslims’ life is what will be explained hierarchically in what follows. The first principle arising out Tawhid is duality of being. This emphasizes the distinctness of the Creator and creature. Never will the former ontologically be the latter and vice versa in any means. This serves as a means for every Muslim to be aware of his ontological relationship [11] with his God as the Creator and, thus allow him to live in accordance with what He has commanded. Bond between both is available to human being through his cognitive faculty and, hence, manifests the second principle of ideationality. Cognitive power here is not reduced to ratio-speculative aspect of human cognition. It includes faculties through which human may gain knowledge in all order of existence. They may be “memory, imagination, reasoning, observation, intuition, apprehension, etc”[12]. From this second, a Muslim can know, through reading the open book (al-kitab al-manshur/the Nature) and the closed book (al-kitab al-mastur/the Revelation), the purposiveness of the cosmos including himself, from which then emerges the third principle, that is, the teleological principle of cosmos. Teleological principle provides him with a view which enables to act according to the purpose of the creation in general. This necessitates two prerequisites that are free will and free choice. This is so because, unlike other creations in which Divine Will is necessarily realized, human being is permitted to follow the opposite way. Human action is the only instance in which Divine Will is not automatically accomplished, but rather deliberately and consciously. In this respect, physical and psychological aspect of human being is submitted to God’s pattern in the same way as natural world is submitted. The difference between macrocosm (the natural realm) and microcosm (human being) lies in his spiritual substance comprising his moral comprehension and action which allow him to make moral decision freely. Moral decision he makes although in some particular point has utilitarian feature is characterized by freedom of choice and willingness. And this is what qualifies him as moral being, as distinguished from another creature. Freedom of choice and will brings him to the responsibility he is entrusted with known as amanah in the Quranic term. This brings about the fourth principle, capacity of man and malleability of nature. Capability of human to manage nature is a logical consequence of his being entrusted with responsibility, to carry out his task as khalifah. Realization of the Absolute is rasion d’etre of creation and hence must be possible for him as a moral agent to change himself, his society and his nature according to divine pattern. This responsibility requires the malleability of nature, meaning all historical circumstances where he strives to achieve his goal in space and time. Responsibility here means that all his doings will be judged fully in the Day of Judgment. This brings the fifth principle of responsibility and judgment. Judgment whether in this world or fully in the Hereafter is to ensure human attentive deed and to control him. The idea of reckoning human doings in the Hereafter may properly be grasped as the very basis of all moral teachings in Islam. The previous five principles are all self-evident in Islam. Some conclusions can be drawn from centrality of Tawhid in Islamic worldview. Concerning worldly life, Islamic attitude must be positive. It views that this current life is not something futile in which human has no purpose. His life is guided by Revelation which supplies him with values to hold onto. These ethical values are, by definition, divine ones that must be adhered to. To alternate or even merely to mix up these tenets with other humanistic doctrines would amount to some form of shirk (associating other gods with God) which is unforgivable sin. For a Muslim, his value contains truth, beauty and goodness, all of which is deeply rooted in his view of God’s oneness (Tawhid) and recognizable by his reason. Endnotes: [1] Yudi Latif, Dialektika Islam: Tafsir Sosiologis atas Sekularisasi dan Islamisasi di Indonesia, (Jogjakarta & Bandung: Jalasutra, 2007), p. 37. [2] Sachiko Murata and William C. Chittick, the Vision of Islam, (Lahore: Suhail Academy, 2005), p. 45-6. [3] Ibid., p. 46. [4] Alparslan Acikgenc, Islamic Science Towards a Definition, (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1996), p. 9. The author discusses worldview and scientific worldview epistemologically, the latter being a condition for emergence of Islamic science. [5] Ibid. p. 11. The process of how this perspective is formed within human mind and the impossibility of mind functioning without it are elaborated in ibid, pp. 8-20. [6] For detailed examination on these elements as general concepts, see ibid, pp. 21-3. [7] Transparent worldview here means that which emerges as a result of investigation and search for knowledge and contrasted to natural worldview which arises in a casual manner without deliberate effort to construct it. See ibid., pp. 15-6. [8] Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam: an Exposition of the Fundamental Elements of the Worldview of Islam, (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 2001), p. 2. [9] Alparslan Acikgenc, op. cit., p. 23-5. [10] This is based on Ismail Raji al-Faruqi, Al-Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life, (Virginia: IIIT, 1998), pp. 9-16. [11] Related to this relationship is the concept of debt (dayn) of human to his Creator, see Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, ibid., p. 45-53. [12] Ismail Raji al-Faruqi, ibid., p. 11.


Monday, 19 September 2011

What is Going Wrong with Us?

Actually question raised here is referring to specific matter. If put more frankly and directly, it will sound like: Why (some) santriwati {woman student in Islamic boarding school, pesantren} do remove their jilbabs after no longer living in pesantren? Obviously there is no simple answer, if any, to this complex and multi-layered situation.

The reader, if any, need to keep in his mind that this, written in warnet, might be a bit too subjective and kinda personal in some sense. Opinions are very hopefully waited to make me little bit know the actual map of this problem. I just list question I want to ask.

Underlying idea behind this question is if difference is expected between those educated in pesantren 24 hours and those who are not, then why the result of both educational systems are not really different in terms of norms that are strictly emphasized in all pesantren without a single exception. Jilbab is but a simple, yet visible, example of those norms. I mean by "visible" literally, for if we bring the discussion to another "invisible" matters, it will be, at least, not as easy as the topic already chosen. And again, it is a culmination point from which point of view the distinction between santri and non-santri is usually made.

When a santri lives in pesantren, she is required to observe norms which, seen from non-santri people in Indonesian context, might seem to be oppressive. To assure her doing her obligation, certain rules are applied, which, when violated, can mean punishment. Then we can the result of this, no santri can be seen unveiled publicly within pesantren environment.

The next question to answer is does it last when she is no longer living in pesantren, on holiday or after graduation? We see at campuses and boarding houses santri who no longer wear jilbab as usually they do in pesantren. Although, I guess, those who keeps wearing their jilbab are more in number compared to those who do not, the second group seem to be increasing, thanks to technology information advancement.

Facebook is undoubtedly in forefront in this process of socializing private stuffs, if this term is accepted.

For now, it's enough. I have to go ... hopefully soon finished :) another unfinished writing... :D


Thursday, 28 May 2009

Debating Facebook: Facebook Viewed Traditionally

Facebook now has become new keyword in our Internet social networking. Recently some woman students from several traditional Islamic boarding schools (pondok pesantren) gathered to talk about Facebook—more precisely about its permissibility according to Islamic law, that is, past scholar opinions written in books known as kitab kuning (literally means yellow book, referring to paper usually used in printing those books). This gathering, which in Muslims’ traditional circle is known as bahth al-masa’il (literally investigating problems), has been a long handed-down tradition for generations to answer questions and solve problems asked to authority in traditional society in Indonesia.
Generally, there are some kinds of this meeting called bahth al-masa’il, such as its official form held by Nahdlatul Ulama. But, when done by students of pesantren, it is usually aimed primarily at improving their debate and problem-solving capabilities in order for them, when going home, to have such competences, rather than to officially state legal opinion (fatwa). It is a habit in it to have problems usually gathered from several pesantrens joining it. Questions raised in it reflect contemporary—usually popular—problems, which may be understood as everything which legal status is unknown before.
It is, then, not surprising at all that Facebook, seen as massive social phenomenon, draws attention to be discussed. As predicted, the conclusion of this assembly is that if Facebook is used in accordance with, or not violating, religious norms, then it should be legally allowed or even recommended in some cases, and if it is misused, e.g. used for pornography, it is forbidden.

Then, what is prohibited is not Facebook as is, rather its abuse. It is a fatwa based on maslahah (commonly rendered as public interest). Nothing is special in such legal opinion, moreover if we notice that many, if not most, problems, which has no clear prescription from Quran verses and Prophetic Traditions, has more often than not been dealt in terms of whether or not it has maslahah. Everybody who is familiar with that institution will admit this.
What is unusual, for me and perhaps for some other people acquainted with pesantren, is media attention. Mass medias seem to have blown up this topic over its proportion by exploitation—sounding a bit offensive ☺. This results in misunderstanding for, at least, two sides. First are those who strictly adhere to traditional authority, although it might be minority in comparison to other side. Second are people who see that pesantren has no longer ability to appropriately respond to contemporary issues.
Here I would like to provide you some links that may clarify this problem.
To make clear this read:

Here you find the complete result of bahth al-masa’il held by FMP3 which legal opinion concerning Facebook is only one topic, among many, discussed.


Friday, 17 April 2009

Al-Ghazali on Love: Reading Kitab Al-Mahabbah of Ihya’ Ulum Al-Din

It is needless to say that al-Ghazali is among the greatest Muslim scholars, if not the greatest. He, for Muslims, is the hujjah al-Islam (the proof of Islam) and for Westerners is comparable to figures such as Augustine, Maimonides, Pascal and Kierkegaard. This acknowledgment from opposite civilizations, so to say, illustrates to us how big his influence is in both worlds. It is interesting to note that even Montgomery Watt, one of eminent Orientalist, takes al-Ghazali as sample to show functionality of the intellectuals within society, i.e, their contribution to society. He names al-Ghazali as “... one of the greatest intellectuals of Islamic society”. Another orientalist, Samuel Zwemer, writes a book which subtitle reveals deep respect to al-Ghazali, A Moslem Seeker After God: Showing Islam at its Best in the Life and Teaching of Al-Ghazali, Mystic and Theologian of the Eleventh Century.
This writing merely aims at briefly describing al-Ghazali’s life, while underlining some important facts which have impact on his sufism; al-Ghazali’s works which have been skillfully listed by Abd al-Rahman Badawi in his book; discussing generally al-Ghazali’s magnum opus, Ihya’ Ulum al-Din; studying his concept of love as elaborated in his Kitab al-Mahabbah, being part of Ihya’ Ulum al-Din comparing with the concept of love according to other Sufis; and finally drawing conclusion from that, insha Allah.

His complete name is Muhammad son of Muhammad son of Muhammad son of Ta’us Ahmad al-Ghazali al-Tusi al-Shafi’i. Among his surnames are Abu Hamid, the proof of Islam (hujjah al-Islam), the ornament of religion (zayn al-din) and many other attributes attached to him by his admirers. He was born in 450/1058 at Tus. Later on, he got his early education in Islamic jurisprudence at Tus to al-Imam Ahmad al-Radhakani. Afterward he went to Jurjan where he became a disciple of al-Imam Abu Nashr al-Ismai’ili. Here he started writing primarily on Islamic jurisprudence, the result of which undoubtedly is al-Ta’liqah fi al-Furu’. He also studied with the Sufi master Ahmad Ali al-Farmadhi, once pupil of Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri, the latter is the author of al-Risalah which is a standard book in sufism. Another Sufi who had influenced al-Ghazali in this stage of his life is Yusuf al-Nassaj, about whom al-Ghazali say “At the beginning of my career, I knew nothing of the spiritual states of the righteous and the stations of the gnostics until I associated with my Shaykh Yusuf al-Nassaj in Tus ...”. These facts explain the early influence on al-Ghazali in matter of sufism.
Decisive time in his life came when he arrived in 419/1077 at Nishapur in which he studied with the eminent scholar Abu al-Ma’ali al-Juwayni, surnamed Imam al-Haramayn (the leader of two Holy cities), under whose supervision al-Ghazali studied multi-discipline knowledge. He learned Islamic jurisprudence of Shafi’ite school, principles of Islamic jurisprudence, dialectic, logic, theology, and read philosophy. He remained student of Imam al-Haramayn until Imam’s death in 478/1085.
After his master’s death, al-Ghazali went to Vizier Nizam al-Mulk who used to gather the great Muslim scholars and the Sufis to learn from. In 484/1091, Nizam al-Mulk appointed al-Ghazali, at 34, to teach in the famous al-Nizamiyah school. At this time, al-Ghazali’s fame become so widespread, that, it is said, four hundreds of great scholars of the time came to his lectures. This period of his life was also marked by productivity, in which he wrote many books in different disciplines and did not stop reading, especially books of the Sufi. This restless pursuit of knowledge sequentially will change his life dramatically and resulted in his pilgrimage to Mecca with intention not to go back to Baghdad.
The turning point of al-Ghazali’s life which changes entirely his life and then has deep influence on Muslim world started at 488/1095, in which he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and afterward went to Sham where he lived for ten years. In this era, he spent his time mostly in solitude and refining soul, as Sufi would call it. Resulting from this solitary life are many books, most notable of which is Ihya Ulum al-Din (revivification of religious sciences). After spending ten years in solitude, al-Ghazali went back to his native land, Tus. In 499/1106, after strong insistence from the Vizier and consultation with a number of Sufis, al-Ghazali taught again in Nizamiyah school.
Not long after having taught in Nizamiyah, he decided to go back to Tus where he established college for students and khanqah for Sufis. He died at fourteenth of Jumada al-Akhirah 505/1111, while learning two collections of Prophetic Traditions, that of al-Bukhari and Muslim. May Allah give him peace.

Al-Ghazali had, and still has, played manifold roles and significantly influences many parts of Muslim world. He is an Islamic jurist (faqih), a theologian, a philosopher—though he destructed philosophy—and a Sufi. It is as the late Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar Mustafa al-Maraghi said that “When al-Ghazali is remembered, it does not occur to our mind only one man (with specific ability), on the contrary, several men with particular capacity come come to mind. Come to mind, at once, al-Ghazali of expert in fundamental of Islamic jurisprudence (al-usuli al-hadziq), al-Ghazali of Islamic jurist (al-faqih al-hurr), al-Ghazali of theologian and the leader of (practice of) Prophetic tradition (al-mutakallim imam al-sunnah), al-Ghazali of sociologist who knows the world’s condition (al-ijtima’i al-khabir bi ahwal al-alam), al-Ghazali of philosopher who opposes philosophy and unveils within it falsity, al-Ghazali of educator, and al-Ghazali of Sufi and ascetic”. So far as testimony of al-Ghazali prolificacy is concerned, we will find not only that of Muslim but also from Western community. Eric Ormsby, commenting a period between 1094-5 within which al-Ghazali wrote no less than eight or nine works, writes “... I can think of no other example in intellectual history, East or West, of such intese and proliffic engagement over shorr so short a span of time, and with such fruitful results”.
His influence can be seen until now through his extensive works on various fields. Abd al-Rahman Badawi classifies al-Ghazali’s works into that which al-Ghazali’s authorship is certain; works which is not certainly written by him; works which is more probably not written by him; works which have different titles or have been separated; works ascribed to al-Ghazali which is in fact not his (manhulah); works which identity is not known (majhulah); and manuscripts which are attributed to him. Here, I will list only his books of which his authorship is certain, according to Badawi, in Islamic jurisprudence and its principles and works in sufism. The choice of mine which to display is somewhat arbitrary.
In Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) not only he writes books on Islamic jurisprudence but he writes several books on principles of Islamic jurisprudence (usul fiqh). As to the first, he writes al-Ta’liqah fi Furu’ al-Madhhab (probably being the first to be written as related in stories about his earliest study), al-Basith fi al-Furu’ which is said to have been a summarized version of his master’s book Nihayah al-Mathlab fi Dirayah al-Madhhab, al-Wasith, al-Wajiz, and Khulasah al-Mukhtasar wa Naqawah al-Mu’tasar. These books occupy important place in the chain of Islamic jurisprudence books of Shafi’ite school and mostly had been written during early part of his life. Concerning the second al-Ghazali writes—as listed by Abd al-Rahman Badawi in his Muallafat al-Ghazali—al-Mankhul fi al-Usul, Shifa’ al-Ghalil fi al-Qiyas wa al-Ta’lil, Kitab fi Mas’alah Kull Mujtahid Musib, Tahdzib al-Ushul, Kitab Asas al-Qiyas, and al-Mustasfa min Ilm al-Usul.
Among the first to be written by al-Ghazali concerning sufism, following Badawi’s list, is Mizan al-Amal which was written before his period of solitude. On this subject, after that, al-Ghazali wrote Ihya’ Ulum al-Din, al-Maqsad al-Asna fi Sharh Asma’ Allah al-Husna, Bidayah al-Hidayah, Kitab al-Arba’in fi Usul al-Din, Kitab al-Madlnun bih ala Ghayr Ahlih, al-Madlnun bih ala Ahlih, Kimiya’ al-Sa’adah (written in Persia), Ayyuha al-Walad (of Persian origin translated and given this name by another scholar), al-Risalah al-Wa’ziyyah, al-Risalah al-Ladunniyah, Mishkat al-Anwar, al-Kashf wa al-Tabyin fi Ghurur al-Khalq Ajma’in, Tablis Iblis or Tadlis Iblis, al-Munqidh min al-Dlalal wa al-Mufsih an al-Ahwal or wa al-Muwsil ila Dzi al-Izzah wa al-Jalal, al-Imla’ ala Mushkil al-Ihya, al-Istidraj, al-Durrah al-Fakhirah fi Kashf Ulum al-Akhirah, Sirr al-Alamayn wa Kashf ma fi al-Darayn, Asrar Mu’amalat al-Din, and Minhaj al-Abidin ila Jannah Rabb al-Alamin. Among these books, his masterpiece is undoubtedly Ihya’ Ulum al-Din.

Badawi lists 109 places in which Ihya’ manuscript is there. He also mentions books written in defending Ihya’, in refusing Ihya’, its commentary, its abdrigments, all of which are thirty nine. added to this list is a number of translations and studies mostly done in Western countries. Ormsby describes it as “A book like no other ”. The reason for this is because “It ranges from the most minute and mundane of details ... to the most lofty subject” and “It is simultaneously a compendium of law, sacred tradition, theology and philosophy, and Sufi lore and theory, as well as a vivid, if inadvertent, depiction of a world”.
This great book is divided into four quarters (rubu’), each of which is comprised of ten books. The number forty has significant meaning as as is repeatedly used in the Holy Qur’an to describe something merit, such as the story of Prophet Moses. In Sufi circle, the number forty means days in which the wayfarer (salik) must go through at the beginning of his Path. The first quarter is the matters of worship (ibadat), which consists of book of knowledge, book of pillars of faith (qawa’id al-aqa’id), book of secrets of ritual purity (asrar al-thaharah), of prayer and its importance (al-salah wa muhimmatiha), of almsgiving, of fasting, of pilgrimage, book of etiquette of reciting Qur’an (adab tilawah al-Qur’an), book of recollections of God name (adhkar) and free prayers (da’awat), and book of supererogatory and extracanonical devotions (tartib al-awrad wa tafsil ihya’ al-layl). The second quarter deals with customs (al-adat), which concerns with daily life’s matter. The books of this quarter are book of etiquette of eating (kitab adab al-akl), of marriage, of earning one’s living and engaging in business (al-kasb wa al-ma’ash), of the lawful and unlawful, of relation with friends and relatives (al-ulfah wa al-ukhuwwah wa al-suhbah), of seclusion (al-uzlah), of traveling (al-safar), and the use of music (al-sam’ wa al-wajd), of enjoining good and forbidding bad, and of daily life and ethics of Prophet Muhammad (al-ma‘ishah wa akhlaq al-nubuwwah).
After dealing with external aspects in two previous quarters, al-Ghazali elaborates internal aspects in two sequent quarters. In the third quarter, he explains things leading to destruction (al-muhlikat), which is made up of book of mysteries of the heart (kitab ‘ajaib al-qalb), of exercising soul and refining characters (riyadlah al-nafs wa tahdhib al-akhlaq), dangerousness of appetites for food and sexual intercourse (afat al-shahwatayn al-bathn wa al-farj), on the weaknesses of the tongue (afat al-lisan), on anger and envy (afat al-ghadb wa al-hiqd wa al-hasad), on censuring worldliness (dhamm al-dunya), on avarice (dhamm al-bukhl wa hubb al-mal), on hypocrisy and love of fame (dhamm al-jah wa al-riya’), on pride and vanity (dhamm al-kibr wa al-‘ujb), and on self-deception (al-ghurur). In the fourth quarter, al-Ghazali describes things leading to salvation (al-munjiyat), which is comprised of book of repentance (kitab al-tawbah), of patience and gratitude (al-sabr wa al-shukr), of fear and hope (al-khawf wa al-raja’), of poverty and asceticism (al-faqr wa al-zuhd), of asserting God's unity and trusting in Him (al-tawhid wa al-tawakkul), of love, longing, intimacy, and contentment (al-mahabbah wa al-shawq wa al-uns wa al-ridla), of intention, sincerity, and purity of intention (al-niyyah wa al-sidq wa al-ikhlas), of self-examination and contemplation (al-muraqabah wa al-muhasabah), of meditation (al-tafakkur), of death and the life to come (dhikr al-mawt wa ma ba’dah).
All these books are usually started, after opening section, with Qur’anic and prophetic quotations and sayings of pious people of the past giving ground for what is discussed. After giving enough basis on which to build, al-Ghazali starts to discuss what he want to do in each chapter. Taking such steps, he tries to set up three authorities, that is, of the Holy Qur’an, of Prophetic Tradition, and of Sufi masters. The order by which al-Ghazali arranges Ihya’ in progression manner from the humblest obligation to the loftiest one reveals that each new theme depends on the previous without having to neglect the first. It is, thus, hierarchical and circular at once.

The complete title of section in which al-Ghazali explores his theory of love is book of love and longing and intimacy and contentment (kitab al-mahabbah wa al-shawq wa al-uns wa al-ridla), being a sixth book of quarter of (explanation of) things leading to salvation (al-munjiyat). This book contains eighteenth following chapters: explanation of evidences from Shara’ for servant’s love to God; of real meaning of love, its causes, and to find real meaning of servant’s love to God; of that the only One who deserves love is God; of that the greatest and highest pleasure is knowing Him (ma’rifah), of cause of excellency of looking (nazar) in the hereafter’s pleasure over knowing (ma’rifah) in this world; of causes for strengthening love God; of cause of people gradation in love; of cause for people lack of knowledge of Him; of meaning of longing for Him; of His love to servant and its meaning; statement on signs of servant’s love to God; explanation of meaning of intimacy with God; of meaning of heart’s widening (inbisath) fruiting from prevailing intimacy; statement on meaning of contentment in God’s destiny, its real meaning, and its virtue; explanation of the real meaning of contentment and its possibility in things contrary to natural desire; that prayer does not negate contentment; of that escaping from places of sins does not negate contentment; and of stories about lovers, their statements, and their unveilings (mukashafat). From this long list chapters, relevant sections to be read are the first two sections and tenth section. The first is important for grasping Shari’ah and Sufi tradition basis on which al-Ghazali build his theory of love. The second part is elaboration of servant’s love according to al-Ghazali’s theory of love. The tenth section is to explore God’s love according to this theory.
For al-Ghazali love is the ultimate station toward which the previous stations, such as repentance and asceticism, is directed and from which the succeeding stations, like longing and intimacy, origin. He even goes further as to say that love to God and His Messenger is an obligation. In response to those people who deny the existence of love and interpret love, when occurs in the Holy Qur’an and Prophetic Tradition, to be the obedience, he says “How can it be obliged what does not exist and how can love be interpreted with obedience whereas, in fact, it follows from it and is its fruit. To prove this fact, he provides evidences, as he usually does Ihya’, from the Holy Qur’an, Prophetic Tradition, and sayings of the past pious.
Among the clear statement in the Holy Qur’an which convey to us the existence of Divine Love and servant’s love is “God loves them and they love Him”. Still, servant’s love has degrees as in “But those who believe love God more ardently”. The case is more clear when it comes to Prophetic Tradition, as the Prophet saw., in many Traditions, characterizes love as prerequisite for belief (iman). He saw. also commands his followers to love God, saying “Love God for blessings he has given you and love me for God loves me”. One of the Prophet’s prayer is “O God, give me your love, love of those who love you, love of things that make me closer to you. And make your love dearer to me than cold water”. After quoting verses of the Holy Qur’an and Prophetic Traditions, al-Ghazali proceeds with recording some sayings of Abu Bakar al-Siddiq, al-Hasan al-Basri, Abu Sulayman al-Darani, and even Prophet Isa as. Keeping in mind various citation made above, love is already plain thing (amr zahir), as al-Ghazali put it, and the obscurity only occurs in its real meaning, which will be the subject of al-Ghazali’s elaboration.
Al-Ghazali mentions four basic principles to understand love. The first is that love is impossible without knowing (ma’rifah) and perception (idrak) or, to put it differently, both are preconditions for love. Since without knowing and perceiving thing, one cannot love that thing. Therefore, animal’s love is inconceivable for it has no faculty for knowing and perceiving as human being has. The objects perceived (mudrakat) can be either compatible with one’s nature and, thus giving pleasure to him; or in conflict with one’s nature and paining him; or neither both. Thereby, everything giving pleasure to someone is his beloved (mahbub); what one perceives to be painful, he hates it; what is neither the first nor the second is neither beloved nor hated. Then, love is the inclination of one’s nature toward object which gives pleasure (mayl al-tab‘ ila al-shay’ al-mulidhdh).
The second is that since love follows knowledge and perception, then it is imperative that it is divided according to the faculties of knowledge and perception. Every faculty has its own pleasure in its different object. Eyes love beauty, ears love beautiful sounds, and so on. To support this, al-Ghazali reports Prophetic Tradition: “It was made dear (hubbiba) to me three worldly things of yours, i.e., perfume and women. And my spiritual pleasure (qurrah ‘ayni) is made within prayer”. And the strongest faculty to know and perceive is inner faculty which can be referred to as reason (al-aql), light (al-nur), or heart (al-qalb). It follows, from the fact that inner perception is the stronger compared to that of five senses (al-hawass al-khamsah), that one’s inclination toward what is perceived through internal faculty is more powerful and more perfect. It is only those who cannot use their inner sense to perceive divine things will deny the existence of divine love.
The third principle is about explanation of causes which bring about love. The first cause is human being’s natural inclination to love him self, which means his love to his continuous existence and his hate to his non-existence. It also means his love to his perfect existence. From this results love safety of one’s organ, son, family, property, and friends. This love is not for the sake of themselves (la li‘ayaniha), but because their connection with his own interest (lirtibathi hazzih). T The second cause of love is doing good (ihsan). Because it is natural character of human being to love, i.e., to be inclined to, someone who is doing good to him (muhsin). Love caused by doing good is closely related to the that of first kind, that is, to love one’s self. The third to give rise to love is love to people who do good to others although do not do good to the lover. The fourth factor for is love for a thing for virtue of itself (lidhatih), which is true love and guaranteed to be eternal. He gives example like one’s love for beauty, for every beauty is loved by one who perceives it and this love is for the sake of that beauty not for something external to that beauty. The fifth cause is hidden affinity (munasabah khafiyyah) between lover and beloved, for there might be two persons who love each other not because of beauty nor interest (hazz), as the Prophet said: “spirits are regimented battalions (junud mujannadah)”, those who know one another (ta’arafa) associate familiarity together (i’talafa), while those which do not know one another (tanakara) remain at variance (ikhtalafa). Finally, since the Prophet has said that “Indeed God is beauteous and loves beauty”, one to whom His beauty has been revealed will certainly love Him.
The fourth principle is about explanation of beauty. According to al-Ghazali beauty is everything that is perceived by any faculty of perception as beautiful, i.e., giving pleasure. Generally speaking, he defines beauty as “the presence of object’s possible and befitting perfection” (an yahdlura kamaluh al-la’iq bih al-mumkin lah). And everything, sensible or not, has its own specific definition of beauty which is suited for it. The horse beauty is not the same as human beauty and so is the case with other beauties. Closing this section, al-Ghazali says that if all these causes unite in one person, then, love will indeed be multiplied and since these causes are impossible to be united perfectly other than in God, it follows that God is the only One who really deserves love.
As to divine love to human being, al-Ghazali starts his elaboration by quoting Qur’anic verses and Prophetic Traditions which to justify the divine love. He cites “He loves them and they love Him”, “Indeed God loves those who fight for His sake in line”, and “God loves those who repent and those who cleanse themselves” and Prophetic Tradition, to cite the most important, “When my servant constantly draws near to me by works of supererogation, then do I love him, and once I started to love him, I become his eye by which he sees, his ear by which he hears, and his tongue by which he speaks”.
He insists that divine love is real (haqiqah) not metaphorical (majaz). However, love’s significance when attributed to Him is not the same as that attributed to creatures, that is, one’s inclination toward object that gives pleasure and conditioned by causes mentioned above. It is also the case with other God’s attributes. Divine love, then, must be interpreted (mua’wwal) to mean unveiling the veil (kashf al-hijab) from servant’s heart so that he may behold Him with his heart and to mean His strengthening (tamkinuh) for him to draw close to Him. Ultimately, it is His bringing near (taqribuH) from himself by erasing from his sin and purifying his self from worldly dirties and unveiling the veil from his heart so he may be able to contemplate Him (yushahiduH) as he sees Him by his heart. Therefore, this nearness should be understood not in terms of space and time but in good qualities.
If we compare al-Ghazali’s theory of love, we will find that it resembles that of Sufis before him. Al-Kalabadhi records many sayings of Sufis one of which is that of al-Junayd defining “Love is hearts’ inclination”, which al-Kalabadhi interprets as “when one’s heart is inclined to God and to what belongs to Him without pretension (takalluf)”. Al-Qushayri in his book interprets God’s love to his servant as “His will to have blessing upon him”. However, unlike al-Ghazali, he regards it as state (hal). Similar to al-Qushayri, al-Sarraj considers love as state rather than station. He defines condition of love as “When one looks at what God has given him, and sees with his heart to His proximity to him ... and contemplates with his faith and his real certitude (haqiqah yaqinih) to ... His eternal love to him, then he loves Him”.
As a conclusion we may say that al-Ghazali’s theory of love is based, more or less, on his predecessors’ theory. His definition of love as natural inclination can be traced back to al-Junayd definition. As to his conception of divine love, we can clearly discover resemblance with that of al-Qushayri. However, we can clearly see newness in his elaboration of love and of other mystical stations, thanks to his great expertise in explanation and his various readings. Wa Allah ‘Alam wa Huwa Muwaffiquna li ma Yuhibbuh wa Yardlah.


[1] Eric Ormsby, Ghazali, Makers of Muslim World, p. ix.
[2] W. Montgomery Watt, Muslim Intellectual: A Study of al-Ghazali, p. 1.
[3] Margaret Smith, al-Ghazali the Mystic, p. 9.
[4] Salih Ahmad al-Shami, al-Imam al-Ghazali Hujjah al-Islam wa Mujaddid al-Mi’ah al-Khamisah, p. 20.
[5] Eric Ormsby, op. cit., p. 26.
[6] Margaret Smith, op. cit., p. 14.
[7] Salih Ahmad al-Shami, op. cit., pp. 20- 1. Cf. Margaret Smith, op. cit., pp. 15-8.
[8] Salih Ahmad al-Shami, ibid., pp. 21-5.
[9] To know the detailed process by which al-Ghazali’s life transformed see Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (a), al-Munqidh min al-Dlalal wa al-Musil ila Dhi al-Izzah wa al-Jalal, pp. 100-6.
[10] Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (a), ibid., p. 104.
[11] Salih Ahmad al-Shami, op. cit., p. 25-6.
[12] Margaret Smith, op. cit., p. 31.
[13] Salih Ahmad al-Shami, op. cit., p. 27-8.
[14] Quoted from Abdul Karim al-Uthman, Sirah al-Ghazali wa Aqwal al-Mutaqaddimin fih, p. 11.
[15] Eric Ormsby, op. cit., p. 90.
[16] Abd al-Rahman Badawi, Muallafat al-Ghazali, pp. 1-238.
[17] Ibid., pp. 239-76.
[18] Ibid., pp. 277-302.
[19] Ibid., pp. 303-52.
[20] Ibid., pp. 352-88.
[21] Ibid., pp. 389-426.
[22] Ibid., pp. 427-468.
[23] For detailed list see Abd al-Rahman Badawi, op. cit., pp. 2-238, which list books which authorship is certainly al-Ghazali’s.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Abd al-Rahman Badawi, op. cit., pp. 98-111.
[26] Ibid., pp.112-8.
[27] Ibid,. pp. 118-22.
[28] Eric Ormsby, op. cit., p. 111.
[29] Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, p. 94.
[30] Eric Ormsby, op. cit., p. 114.
[31] Ibid., p. 118.
[32] Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (b), Ihya’ Ulum al-Din, p. 257.
[33] The Holy Qur’an, V: 54.
[34] The Holy Qur’an, II: 165.
[35] Reported by al-Tirmidhi from Ibn Abbas as a good hadith, Zayn al-Din Abd al-Rahim al-Iraqi, al-Mughni ‘an Haml al-Asfar fi al-Asfar fi Takhrij ma fi al-Ihya’ min al-Akhbar, p. 258.
[36] Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (b), op. cit., pp. 258-9.
[37] Ibid., p. 259.
[38] Ibid. Cf. Binyamin Abrahamov, Divine Love in Islamic Mysticism, the Teachings of al-Ghazali and al-Dabbagh, p. 44.
[39] Reported by al-Nasa’i without word thalath (three), Zayn al-Din al-Iraqi, op. cit., pp. 259-60.
[40] Reported by Muslim, Zayn al-Din al-Iraqi, op. cit., p. 261.
[41] Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (b), op. cit., pp. 260-2.
[42] Ibid., pp. 261-2.
[43] Ibid.,
[44] The Holy Qur’an, V: 54.
[45] The Holy Qur’an, LXI: 4.
[46] The Holy Qur’an, II: 222.
[47] Reported by al-Bukhari, Zayn al-Din al-Iraqi, op. cit., p. 285.
[48] Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (b), op. cit., p. 285.
[49] Ibid., pp. 285-7.
[50 ] M. Umaruddin, The Ethical Philosophy of al-Ghazali, p. 180.
[51] Abu Bakar Muhammad al-Kalabadhi, al-Ta’arruf li Madhhab Ahl al-Tasawwuf, p. 128.
[52] Abu al-Qasim Abd al-Karim al-Qushayri, al-Risalah al-Qushayriyah fi ‘Ilm al-Tasawwuf, p. 318.
[53] Abu Nasr Abd Allah al-Sarraj, al-Luma‘ fi Tarikh al-Tasawwuf al-Islami, p. 61.


Abrahamov, Binyamin. Divine Love in Islamic Mysticism, the Teachings of al-Ghazali and al- Dabbagh. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon. 2003.
Badawi, Abd al-Rahman. Muallafat al-Ghazali. Al-Kuwayt: Wakalah al-Mathbu‘at. 1977.
Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad al-. al-Munqidh min al-Dlalal wa al-Musil ila Dhi al-Izzah wa al-Jalal. Beirut: Dar al-Andalus. 1967.
---. Ihya’ Ulum al-Din. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah. 1998.
Iraqi, Zayn al-Din Abd al-Rahim al-. al-Mughni ‘an Haml al-Asfar fi al-Asfar fi Takhrij ma fi al-Ihya’ min al-Akhbar (on the margin of Ihya’ Ulum al-Din). Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah. 1998.
Kalabadhi, Abu Bakar Muhammad al-. al-Ta’arruf li Madhhab Ahl al-Tasawwuf. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah. 1993.
Ormsby, Eric. Ghazali, Makers of Muslim World. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. 2007.
Qushayri, Abu al-Qasim Abd al-Karim al-. al-Risalah al-Qushayriyah fi ‘Ilm al-Tasawwuf. Beirut: al-Maktabah al-Asriyah. 2001.
Sarraj, Abu Nasr Abd Allah al-. al-Luma‘ fi Tarikh al-Tasawwuf al-Islami. Cairo: al-Tawfikia Bookshop.
Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. New Delhi: Yoda Press.
Shami, Salih Ahmad al-. al-Imam al-Ghazali Hujjah al-Islam wa Mujaddid al-Mi’ah al-Khamisah. Damascus: Dar al-Qalam. 1993.
Smith, Margaret. al-Ghazali the Mystic. Lahore: Hijra International Publishers. 1983.
Umaruddin, M. The Ethical Philosophy of al-Ghazali. Delhi: Adam Publishers and Distributers. 1996.
Uthman, Abdul Karim al-. Sirah al-Ghazali wa Aqwal al-Mutaqaddimin fih. Damascus: Dar al-Fikr.
Watt, W. Montgomery. Muslim Intellectual: A Study of al-Ghazali. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 1971.


Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Degress of Certitude in Islamic Mysticism

One of central concept within Islamic mysticism is that of yaqin which is translated as certitude or certainty. It is often considered for many as a goal toward which wayfarer (salik) has to head. In the Holy Quran from which the Sufis draw inspiration and terms they use, we find three things attributed to certitude, that are, ilm (knowledge), ‘ayn (eye or essence), haqq (real or reality). These attributes are used to mark degrees to which certitude belongs. The present paper will try to examine certitude in its connection with these three attributes.
According to al-Jurjani in his al-Ta’rifat, the word yaqin literally means unshakeable knowledge, and then is used to mean knowing thing as it really is and being convinced that this reality is not mutable. Other opinion says that it is heart’s tranquility on what really thing is. Ibn Manzhur explains yaqin as heart’s being filled with decisive faith accompanied with firmness of judgment. Yaqin, considering its meaning of verifying things (tathabbut min al-amr), has three opposites, that is, wahm (false impression), shakk (doubt), and zhann (conjecture). All these meanings can be traced in its root YQN, which signifies, when related to water, its steady and changeless. It also can originate from al-yaqnu, signifying piece of wood in the sailor’s hand used as a tool to run the boat. What is attempted here is first to collect various sayings of Sufis concerning this matter.
Talking about what theologians (mutakallimun) term, al-Ghazali explains that there are four things as to extents of soul inclination to belief. The first is shakk (doubt and uncertainty). It occurs when one does not prefer one possibility among two or more alternatives. The second is zhann (supposition while admitting that the contrary may be the case). It is the soul's inclination toward one of possible things. The third is i’tiqad (belief), that is, when soul believes in something and have no alternatives other than that thing, while there is no certain knowledge to support that belief. The fourth is yaqin (certainty). It is when soul knows something and does not doubt it at all, gained by demonstrative evidences and has no possibility to doubt it.

I mean by early Sufis those who wrote book on sufism and those whose sayings are quoted before al-Ghazali. Here I will use representative works, such as al-Luma’ of al-Sarraj, al-Ta’aruf of al-Kalabadhi, and al-Risalah of al-Qushairi. In al-Luma’, al-Sarraj categorizes yaqin as one of the states (al-ahwal), contrasted to stations (al-maqamat). He defines al-ahwal as “something happening to the hearts”, furthermore, quoting al-Junaid, it is something descending to the hearts, therefore not lasting. The similar definition is given by al-Hujwiri, defining state as “something that descends from God into a man’s heart, without his being able to repel it when it comes, or to attract it when it goes, by his own effort”.
As to yaqin, al-Sarraj equates it to al-mukashafah (mystical vision), which is, according to him, divided into three kinds; direct vision by sights in the day of judgment, heart vision of the realities of faith (haqa’iq al-iman), and vision of signs by revealing divine sovereignty to the prophets with miracles and to the saints. In contrast to al-Sarraj, al-Qushairi classifies yaqin among spiritual stations (al-maqamat). It is nineteenth station. He identifies three things to indicate yaqin in oneself. They are seeing God in everything, returning to Him in every affair, and seeking His help in every condition.
Al-Kalabadhi collects several sayings of early Sufis concerning yaqin. Al-Junayd says “yaqin is the absence of doubt”, al-Nuri says “yaqin is vision”, and Dzu al-Nun says “what eyes see is related to knowledge, and what hearts see is related to yaqin”.

According to Ibn Arabi, yaqin is noble station between knowledge and tranquility (thuma’ninah). It is whatever one really knows of and soul already accepts, whether or not it already happens. The reason as to why it is divided into three stages is because something could be certitude without having to be knowledge, or vision, or real. It has four pillars, three of which has been widely known is to be found in the Holy Quran and one is reality of certitude. This last is based on Prophetic Tradition which says ”For every truth (haqq), there is reality (haqiqah)”, from which Ibn 'Arabi deduces that for haqq al-yaqin, there is too haqiqat al-yaqin (reality of certitude). Therefore, there are four pillars for yaqin, that is, ‘ilm, ‘ayn, haqq, and haqiqah.
He continues to say that since in the world of meanings (‘alam al-ma‘ani), yaqin is comprised of four things, so is the case with the world of words and expressions (‘alam al-alfazh wa al-‘ibarat), in which word yaqin is made up of four letters; sound al-ya', al-qaf, al-ya' al-mu'tallah and al-nun. Furthermore, Ibn ‘Arabi explores these letters and their correspondence with macrocosm (al-‘alam al-kabir), the world of bodies (‘alam al-abdan), and the world of spirits (‘alam al-abdan).
In the chapter 269 of his magnum opus, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah, Ibn ‘Arabi immediately expounds what these three stages of yaqin mean. He explains the first as “something given by evidence which accept no doubt”, the second as “something given by direct contemplation (al-mushahadah) and unveiling (al-kashf)”, and the third as “knowledge coming to the heart concerning the reason of that contemplation”.
Defining yaqin as heart’s steadfastness on something, Ibn ‘Arabi gives example the Ka’bah in Mecca. After knowing that the Ka’bah is in Mecca and there is no doubt about this, which is termed as ‘ilm al-yaqin, one may directly see it and, thus, gain ‘ayn al-yaqin, which is more that what he alrealy knows about the Ka’bah. This vision brings about in him taste (dhawq) of what he is seeing, relating to its form and condition. Haqq al-yaqin occurs when God opens his insight as to reason this Ka’bah has been chosen as His house around which pilgrims circumambulate.

He is not among the scholars known as Sufi, even some consider him in contrast position. Notwithstanding with this common opinion, he has, however, commentary commentary to al-Harawi’s Manazil al-Sa’irin. Ibn al-Qayyim treats Sufi Doctrines as explanation to the Holy Quran, as elucidated from the title of his work Madarij al-Salikin bayn Manazil Iyyaka Na‘budu wa Iyyaka Nasta‘in.
According to Ibn al-Qayyim, yaqin is the goal of the gnostics (al-arifin) and, when added to it patience (shabr), a man has qualification to be a leader, alluding to the Holy Quran. Yaqin is spirit of heart’s works which are spirits of bodies’ works. It is the reality of the (station of) purity (haqiqah al-shiddiqiyah). It is the axis around which tasawwuf centers. When a salik arrives at yaqin, it comes, then, love of God, fear of Him, gratitude to Him, trust in Him, and return to Him. Commenting whether it is God-giving (wahbi) or achievable (kasbi), Ibn al-Qayyim says that it is kasbi, viewing its causes, and wahbi, considering itself.
Concerning degrees of yaqin, al-Harawi, whose book Ibn al-Qayyim comments, says that it has three degrees, the first is ‘ilm al-yaqin, ‘ayn al-yaqin, and haqq al-yaqin. The first is accepting what appears from the Truth, accepting what disappears for the Truth, and being aware of His Names, Attributes, and Actions. As to the first thing to constitute yaqin, that is, accepting what appears from the Truth, Ibn al-Qayyim says that it is His commands, prohibitions, law, and religion which come through His messengers. We should accept and follow them. Concerning the second, which is accepting what disappears from the Truth, it is the faith in the Unseen (al-ghayb) about which the Truth has reported through His messenger tongues. The third is knowledge of tawhid (declaring God’s oneness), that is, knowing His beautiful Names, Attributes, and absolute perfectness.
The second level of certitude is that of ‘ayn al-yaqin (vision of certitude), i.e., direct vision sufficient from formal information and direct contemplation breaking the veil of knowledge. It is when one sees what he, before, firmly knows. To put it in other word, it is certitude gained through true information and, then, intensified by direct vision.
Haqq al-yaqin (real certitude), according to Ibn al-Qayyim, is not attainable in this worldly life with the exception of the messengers of God, such the Prophet’s ascension in which he saw with his eye heaven and hell; and prophet Moses experience of God's manifestation in Mount Sinai. He, however, does not reject possibility of our tasting of haqq al-yaqin, with regard to realities of faith relating with one's heart and its actions, for it really tastes them. With reference to the matters of the Hereafter, such as directly seeing God, really hearing His words without medium, the believers’ portion of them is faith and ‘ilm al-yaqin, and haqq al-yaqin would be attained in the Hereafter.


Abd al-Razzaq, Mahmud. Al-Mu’jam al-Shufi. Dar Majid Usayri: Jeddah. 2004
Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad bin Muhammad al-. Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din. Semarang: Karya Toha Putra.
Jurjani, Ali bin Muhammad al-. Kitab al-Ta'rifat. Al-Mathba'ah al-Khairiyah.
Ibn ‘Ajibah, Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad. Iqazh al-Himam. Dar Jawami‘ al-Kalim: Cairo.
Ibn ‘Arabi, Muhy al-Din. Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah. Dar Shadir: Beirut. 2004.
---. Kitab al-Yaqin. Dar Akhbar al-Yaum.
Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Abu Abd Allah Muhammad bin Abi Bakr. Madarij al-Salikin bayn Manazil Iyyaka Na’budu wa Iyyaka Nasta’in. Muassasah al-Mukhtar: Cairo. 2001.
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[1]Ali bin Muhammad Al-Jurjani, Kitab al-Ta’rifat, h. 113.
[2] Ibn Manzhur, Lisan al-Arab in Mahmud Abd al-Razzaq, al-Mu’jam al-Shufi, v 3, p. 1072.
[3] Mahmud Abd al-Razzaq, ibid., pp. 1073-4.
[4] Abu al-Abbas Ahmad bin ‘Ajibah al-Hasani, Iqazh al-Himam fi Syarh al-Hikam, p. 310.
[5] Muhy al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi (a), Kitab al-Yaqin, p. 52.
[6] Abu Hamid Muhammad bin Muhammad al-Ghazali, Ihya Ulum al-Din, v. I, p. 72.
[7] Abu Nashr Abd Allah bin Ali al-Sarraj, al-Luma’, p. 46.
[8] Quoted from Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimension of Islam, p. 99.
[9] Ibid., pp. 73-4.
[10] Abu al-Qasim Abd al-Karim al-Qushairi, al-Risalah al-Qushairiyah, p. 180.
[11] Abu Bakar Muhammad bin Ishaq al-Kalabadhi, al-Ta’aruf li Madhhab Ahli al-Tasawwuf, p. 121.
[12] Muhy al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi (a), op. cit., p. 52.
[13] Muhy al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi (b), al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah, v. III, p. 238.
[14] Muhy al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi (a), op. cit., p. 56.
[15] Ibid., pp. 66-78.
[16] Muhy al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi (b), op. cit., v. IV, p. 227.
[17] Ibid., p. 227-8.
[18] The Holy Quran chapter al-Sajdah verses 24.
[19] Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Madarij al-Salikin bayn Manazil Iyyaka Na’budu wa Iyyaka Nasta’in, pp. 124-5.
[20] Ibid., pp. 128-9.
[21] Ibid., p. 129.


Sunday, 8 February 2009

Religion and Din

In welcoming newly-born baby, Farzan Esfandiar

Following Huntington’s theory, the core of any civilization is what is recognized as religion,[1] which, without referring to any definition given by scholars, is commonly understood as reference to the Divine. This gives an impression of its primary importance in shaping every aspect of human life. Nevertheless, its meaning is still blurry and this has been more so by globalization which undermines most of traditional values. For religion is determinant part of, broadly put, any social order, it is interesting to find out what religion is, understood within its Latin root and its derivational forms in the Western. As comparison, it will be tried also to examine the concept of din comprehended within Islamic understanding, which is commonly translated as ‘religion’, yet it has different meaning.
A number of difficulties has been felt by scholars who try to define the word religion. Anthony Thiselton identifies obstacles to be, at least, three facts. The first is diversity of what is to be called as religion. The second is the impossibility of value-neutral knowledge used in study of religion. The third is the usage of sociological or ‘ideological criticism’ approach in understaning religion rather than theological or philosophical approaches.[2] In explaining religion, many various definitons show presuppositions marked by background of the person who makes the definition. It is either academic or dogmatic.[3]

As starting point, it is proper to list some meanings offered by dictionary. Funk and Wagnall’s dictionary describe religion as “A belief in an invisible superhuman power” which brings to man responsible and dependent feeling and consciousness, morality and practices, resulting from that belief.[4] Starting from other direction, Nuttall’s Standard Dictionary of the English Language defines religion as “A habitual, all pervading sense of dependence on, reverence for, and responsibility to, a higher power; or a mode of thinking, feeling and acting, which respects, trusts in, and strives after, the Divine, or God, any system of faith and worship”.[5] From these two different definitions, we can understand that religion comprise of some elements, that is, a belief in Divine; from and toward which spring feelings, moralities, and, for some, modes of thinking; all these result in pratices and worships. Therefore, there are two dimensions of religion, namely, exoteric and esoteric. The first is visible and observable to other people; moralities, practices and worships, while the second is concealed; belief and feelings.
Dealing with formal aspect of religion, Kant defines it as “the sum of all duties as divine commands”.[6] From its psychological and anthropological aspect, Schleiermacher offers other explanation of religion as “the highest are unlocked”, and, furthermore, he differentiates between culture and art on one hand and religion on the other, saying that the former is produced by human creativity and the latter sense and taste for the Infinite. From psychological and ontological perspective, it is consciousness encouraging relationality between persons and between them and God. It is “neither a knowing or a doing, but a modification of feeling or of immediate . . . consciousness” and is “more, but not less, than a feeling and immediacy (Gefuhl) of absolute dependence on God”.[7]
As to term din, it has different meaning as its Western counterpart, that is, religion. Since Arabic, as other semitic language, has very structured root system, we have to trace its origin and diverse forms and meanings, from which, then, we can derive its full meaning. Its verb, dana, has three forms in relation to the object. It is self-transitive, which signifies judiciousness, power and its relating meanings. When the word dana is transitive with lam, it indicates submission and obedience. When it is transitive with ba’, it denotes confessing a belief and acting accordingly. These meanings can be summed up as submissiveness, that is, viewing the first meaning, compulsion of submission (ilzam al-inqiyad); considering the second, it is commitment to submission; and the third is the principle by which submission is done.[8]
Similar to the description of din given by Darraz is al-Attas’. He identifies four main significances of din, out of numerous meanings which although seemingly contrary to each other are nevertheless related, constituting one harmonious unity. They are indebtedness, submissiveness, judicious power, and natural inclination.[9] To understand these coherently, we have to go back to the doctrine of primordial covenant sealed by human being in its pre-existent condition elucidated in the Holy Quran.[10]
As a conclusion we may say that concept of religion understood in the West is based on inquiry of the so-called phenomenology of religions, and fails to give full explanation when it comes to speak about divine and metaphysics, since its methodology neither affirms belief in one particular metaphysical system nor regards it as reliable in ‘scientific’ investigation. Whereas the concept of din is grasped within Quranic framework, which can be scientifically proven by examing its semantical interconnection in Arabic language.

[1] Samuel P. Huntington, the Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 42.
[2] Anthony Thiselton, A Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion, pp. 255-6.
[3] Ibid., p. 185.
[4] Ron Hubbard, Scientology of Religion, p. 8
[5] Ibid., p. 9.
[6] Martin Moors, Kant on Religion in the Role of Moral Schematism, in Philosophy and Religion in German Idealism, p. 28.
[7] Anthony Thiselton, op. cit., pp. 257-8.
[8] Muhammad Abdullah Darraz, al-Din Buhuts Mumahhidah li Dirasah Tarikh al-Adyan, pp. 61-2.
[9] S.M.N. Al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam, pp. 41-2.
[10] Al-A’raf (7): 172. for extensive explanation on din within Islamic context, read S.M.N. Al-Attas, ibid., pp. 41-57.


Monday, 26 January 2009

Islamic Political Theory: a Preliminary Note

Islam is not merely a religion, in the Western sense of the word. The failure of comprehending the nature of Islam will bring about confusion of many concepts relating to it. One of the most misunderstood is the Islamic theory concerning political and govermental affair. To fully grasp it, we need to first understand Islam in general to capture to context within which we put the political theory. It is important by virtue of its unifying nature and pervasiveness extending to all aspect of human being, and public affair is one of human aspects regulated by Islam. Unlike Christianity, Islam does not ever recognize, both conceptually and historically, what is known in the West as separation between church and state. The Islamic teaching is all-pervading and this means that Islam has set principles to every aspect of human in relating with God, himself, society, and state. Some rules are clear, explicit, and unchangeable, such those relating with religious practice, while others only detemines general rules to follow, like those of social affair.
Through Quranic revelation and exemplary life of the Prophet saw., God Almighty has guided Muslims and provides them with creed, ritual and moral injunctions to direct Muslims’ life. The most central to Islamic teaching is the principle of tawhid, which originally means the oneness of God but has direct impact to the everything. It is this faith that makes up entire life of a Muslim as an individual as well as a part of community. This faith is also reflected in the whole principles of Islamic teaching known as shari’a, which no part of it can be comprehended or applied separately. It must be understood in its entirety and implemented totally. Therefore, it is not possible to conceptualize Islamic political idea and Islamic state apart from Islamic teaching as a whole.

There is no distinction in Islam between private and public affair, as experienced in Western history. All are connected each other and not to be differentiated. In contrast to what happen to Christian, to be a good Muslim does not mean to abstain from worldly concern; on the contrary it means to fully get involved in daily life and making good for human being.
In what follows, I will try to describe some aspect of Islamic political theory grounded on its two primary Sources, as other areas are. For the philosophical perspective, Islamic political theory is normative in the sense that it is essentially based on and aimed at ethical ends. Islamic ethical values, being the basis, the way, and the end, have shaped patterns in which Islamic govermental system have been built. The highest ethical ideal in Islam is to worship Him, for human being was created to do so. This means to be completely submissive to His will as revealed in the Holy Quran and exemplified by the Prophet saw. These Two Sources comprise the whole shari’a and later were, and still are, elaborated by the Muslim scholars. This ethical ideal is the foundation on which Muslim community builds its allegiance and emotional tie, unifying them into a single brotherhood sharing the same moral code which is ultimately established on the belief in one God, regardless of their tribal, ethnological, and geographical background.
Practically, Islam provides its adherents with certain laws and institutions in which to make sure the implementation of Islamic social order and moral development. These laws and institutions are largely influenced by the Islamic culture which is basically is inspired by Islamic ethical norms. Muslim society is closely related to religious ideal of Islam. Social order resulted from Muslim society then forms Islamic polity, which example are the Prophet and the first Islamic community. This social order is accomplished by contractual structure and, as in other Islamic aspect, built upon an ethical ideal.
As for as sovereignty in Islamic state, so to speak, is concerned, it is Almighty God who has the absolute and ultimate authority in every aspect of it. The faith in unity of God gives rise to the doctrine of the unity of human race, since all human beings belong to Him. And for Muslims is to act as His vicegerents and become leaders of the rest of humankind. For their guidance to do this task, they have been guided by the Quran, the verifier and guardian of previous scripture, and the Sunna of the Prophet saw. Teleogically speaking, the state of God is for the refinement of the world order and lifting humankind to the better condition in this world as well as in the hereafter. The shari’ah is the means by which Islamic state strives to reach this goal. This means that, in Islamic state, religion, i.e. Islam, plays central role touching all spheres of its citizens.
Since the real sovereignty is in God’s hand, no one in Islamic society, not the whole Community has right to assert sovereignty, unless under the sovereignty of God. This supreme sovereignty is granted to the consensus of the Community, which choose one of them to be their leader and have privilege to abolish him, since the leader is not excepted from being the subject of law to which all people have to obey. He is elected and adhered to as long as he perform what he should do according to the law of the shari’a, from which the Community and the leader are deprived. This kind of equal status and civil society is the characteristic of Islamic politics. Instead of making a set of law, the responsibility of the Community and the leader is to implement the Rule of God (the shari’a) according to the Book of God and the traditions of the Prophet. The terms of Islamic polity are taken from the Quran and the Sunna, and so are the management of doing affairs of the state. The leader must consult the Majlis Shura (consultative group of ulama) in running state affairs. The same is applied with regard to material wealth issue, which has to be circulated among all, not only among the rich.
The constitution in Islamic state can neither be amended nor modified, since it is the Quran and the Sunna. But, at the same time, it is adaptable to all conditions, by virtue of both Sources. To run this constitution, there must be people who have deep understanding of the Sources and, therefore, they must be Muslims. The non-Muslims in an Islamic state have the equal civil rights as their Muslim counterparts and enjoy the same protection from the state.
has right to make law in the name of God.


Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Defining Secularization and Secularism

To describe both terms, it is imperative upon us to first define their root, that is, secular. According to Al-Attas what is emphasized in this term is condition in this particular time seen as historical process [1]. According to Jose Casanova, it is a category by which we define the entirety of contemporary Western civilization, that is, from theologico-philosophical, legal-political, and cultural-anthropological aspect of it. And as Azzam Tamimi has rightly shown, this secular notion cannot be correctly comprehended outside the Western civilization context. Thus, to speak the concept of secular is first to understand it within the particular context of Western civilization. However, this humble writing is not intended to deeply discuss it; instead it merely tries to talk about several definitions concerning secularization and secularism offered by scholars. Both terms will be treated as something related and, many times, overlapping each other.

Secularization is generally regarded as a process of differentiation between “religious” and “secular”. We can speak of it, utilizing categories made by Jose Casanova, through three perspectives; theologico-philosophical, cultural-anthropological, and legal-political. From the first angle, Al-Attas say that secularization is liberation of human reason and language from control of something religious and metaphysical; and turning human attention from the world beyond into this world. In somewhat different context, Tamimi, when talking about object of secularization within Arab society, characterize it as “to effect a complete break with the past”, i.e., to set apart Muslims’ consciousness from their past, the Islamic Tradition. Linked to this category also is description of modern secularism given by Barry Kosmin, which, according to him, is divided into two types; hard and soft secularism. The former considers religious propositions as epistemologically illegitimate, since not warranted by both religion itself and experience. The latter holds the impossibility of reaching absolute truth and, consequently, skepticism and tolerance should be standard by which we look at other’s opinion. According to Ikado Fujio, it is "the process whereby transcendental sources of value come to be expressed by the use of future-oriented symbol systems, such as `hope'.” Thus, secularization involves setting apart of human intellectually and individually from religious control, the Tradition, religious propositions, and religious consciousness.
Another approach to understand secularization is through cultural-anthropological perspective, which is, in many cases, more apparent. Culturally it means “the disappearance of religious determination of the symbols of cultural integration”. In Arab context, it is “the marginalization of Islam or its exclusion from the process of re-structuring society during both the colonial and post-independence periods”. This suggests that Islam is excluded as much as possible from shaping the society. It is also differentiation of things “secular”; like economy, science, art, entertainment, health, and welfare; from those “religious”; such as ecclesiastical institution and church’s activities. It also means “the transfer of activities from religious to secular institutions, such as a shift in provision of social services from churches to the government.” We may conclude that secularization culturally and socially is the disappearance of religious symbols, omission of religion’s role in shaping society, differentiation between what is secular, i.e., related to this world only and what is religious, i.e., related to the world beyond, and moving social activities from religious to secular institutions.
From legal-political perspective, secularization is “the taking over of church property by the state for secular purposes”. It also means separating government from religious institutions and is choosing man-made law as a state constitution instead of laws which are derived or inspired by religion. It is, thus, overtaking the governmental role of religion by the state governed solely by human reasoning.
With regard to secularism, many definitions have been suggested by scholar. Here I will employ


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Theological Debate Between the Mu'tazilites and the Ash'arites on the Relation of God to Time and Space

The Mu’tazilites said that God is above time and space. First part of this statement seems to have direct support from the Holy Quran. It says that “He is the First and the Last”, which means that He should not be construed in time-relating understanding. The second part, i.e. that God is above space, does not have the same degree of support from the Holy Quran.
Holding this in mind, the Mu’tazilites have to interpret some verses of the Holy Quran that is seemingly contradictory to what they hold. For example, they interpret istawa ‘ala al-Arsh (literally meaning ‘established on the Throne’), the famous phrase taken from surah Tha Ha, to mean istawla ‘ala al-Arsh which means to get mastery over the Throne which is understood as His Kingdom. If they do not do so, that is to explain the verse metaphorically, it will reduce the Deity to material being and, consequently, created being.
Since the Mu’tazilites insist to interpret istawa as istawla, it makes them involved in the problem of the whereabouts of God, which the Mu’tazilites themselves have different perspectives about this. Abu al-Hudhail al-Allaf and the majority of the Mu’tazilites hold that God is everywhere, that is, He is the Ruler of every place or His Rule governs eveery place. Another Mu’tazilites, such as Hisham al-Fuati and Abu Zufar, maintain that He is everywhere He is. In this two cases, the Mu’tazilites exhort to avoid physical, anthropological interpretation. The emphasize of the absoluteness of God is the central concern of Mu’tazilites.

This opinion that God is above space and metaphorical intrepretation of seemingly anthropomorphic verses contained in the Holy Quran are countered by al-Ash’ari. In the book which is said to have been written by him, al-Ibanah ‘an Ushul al-Diyanah*, istawa ‘ala al-arsh is interpreted as He has seated Himself on the Throne which is located above the seventh, i.e., in the highest place. To support this, he has utilized various proofs from the Holy Quran, the Prophet’s Tradition, the Ijma’ (Muslims consensus), philological proof, logical proof, and philosophical proof.
From surah Ghafir verses 36 and 37 “And Pharaoh said : O Haman! Build for me a tower that haply I may reach the roadx, the roads of the heavens, and may look upon the God of Moses though verily I think Him a liar”. Here, Pharaoh refutes that God is verily above the the heavens. From surah al-Mulk verse 16 “Have ye taken security from Him Who is in the heaven that He will not cause the earth to swallow you”. The heaven in this verse is interpreted to be the Throne of God which is above the seventh heaven.
Several Traditions is used to prove that God is on the throne which is above the heaven. Here are some of them: reported by Muslim that the Prophet has said: “God, may He be Exalted and High, descends every night to the lowest heaven, and then says: ‘Is there any body to seek favour from Me that I may give it and is there any body to beg pardon of me that I may pardon him’ and so on until the day dawns”; Abdullah son of al-Abbas is reported to have said: “Reflect on the creation of God and not on Him. For, there is between His Throne and the heaven a distance of one thousand years journey and God, may He be Exalted and High, is above that”; when a man came to the Prophet with a negress and said: “O Apostle of God! Verily I desire to liberate her by way of an atonement. Is it permissible for me to do so?” The Prophet of God said to her: “Where is God?”, she answered: “In the heaven”, the Prophet asked her again: “Who am I?”, she replied: “Thou art the apostle of God”. Then the Prophet of God said: “Set her free, for she is a believer”.
The consensus among Muslims that Jesus has been raised to the heaven and that it is allowed for them to raise their hands towards heaven while praying shows that God, the Exalted and the High, has seated Himself on the Throne which is above the seventh heaven. It is also a consensus among them to pray to God by saying “O! Dweller on the Throne”. And when they swear, they say: “By Him who screens Himself with the seven heavens”. From philological perspective, it is not acceptable to interpret istawa as to get mastery over the Throne. For, it will mean that He, the Exalted and the High, has also got mastery over the latrines insofar as He has got mastery over every thing, which no Muslim will consider it to be a valid statement. Istawa should not mean to get mastery, which can be used for anything, but must mean sitting, which is applied particularly to the Divine Throne.
Logically, if God is in every place, as held by the Mu’tazilites, then He, the Exalted and the High, will be in the womb of the Virgin Mary and the latrines, since both are places. But this, as it is clear, is no single Muslim would accept. Astronomically, by maintaining God’s transendence without seeing His imanence, the Mu’tazilites has reduced Him to mere an abstraction.
In response to these refutations, the Mu’tazilites said that God’s descending as quoted in some Prophet’s Tradition is not in conflict with what the Mu’tazilites hold. For, it is descending of the angels sent by God and not of God Himself. And so is the case with the fact that Jesus has been raised to the heaven, since for the Mu’tazilites the heaven is as much near to God as the earth or any other place. Concerning another Ijma’ of Muslims’ prayer, it is resulted from common notion to speak one greater in rank as one higher in place. Therefore, for Muslims, He has been metaphorically conceived as being in the highest place.
The followers of al-Ash’ari are not in agreement with so-called al-Ash’ari’s opinion explained above. One of the eminent Ash’arites, Imam al-Haramain, informed us as to al-Ash’ari’s thought concerning the meaning of istawa, saying that al-Ash’ari has said: “God was while there was no space. He then created the Throne and the Chair. And He was not in need of space. After the creation of space He remained exactly as He was before. And al-Istiwa’ is an attribute of God like His other attributes, and is also an action of His which He has done in relation to His Throne.”
Imam Haramain interpreted istawa as qahara wa ghalaba ‘ala meaning to get the upper hand or mastery over, not as istaqarra ‘ala meaning settling on. This second interpretation will reduce the Deity to the physical thing. To prove his statement, he has utilized several proofs. From the Holy Quran surah al-Hadid verse 4 “And He is with you wheresoever ye may be” and surah Ali Imran verse 33 “Is He Who is aware of the deserts of every soul?”, Imam Haramain inferred that God’s presence stated in the above verses can only understood as His knowledge and comprehension, for it is absurd to understand it as physical presence. Therefore, it is valid to interpret istawa as to get mastery over (al-qahru wa al-ghalabah). In Arabic literary, we can find word istawa which means to get mastery over the kingdom (ihtiwa’ ‘ala maqalid al-mulk and isti’la’ ‘ala al-riqab). All Muslims are united in belief that God is above direction, and the common conception that the Throne is the biggest thing in the realm of God is to emphasize God’s mastery over all things, big or small ones, by stating His control over the Biggest one. With regard to Prophet’s Traditions reporting God’s descending, it is His angels descending. For other Traditions which is ahad, i.e., not reported by many people, Imam Haramain considers those not sufficient in explaining the creed problems.
Another Ash’arites, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, insists that the anthropormist’s belief that God is sitting in His Throne is wrong according to reason and authority. Philosophically, God, the Exalted and the High, existed when there was no the Throne nor space, and He is independent of His creatures as He was. And also the sitter on the Throne necessitates two sides, suggesting that he is compound substance, and this is absolutely absurd with reference to the Deity.
The sitter on the Throne can move of cannot. If the first is the case, then He is like His creatures who have movements. If the latter, He becomes like a person with disability. Far be both from Him! God according to anthropomorphist either exists in every place of some particular places. If the former, then He will be also in the places of dirt, which is unacceptable. If the second alternative, there should be a reason in choosing one place to another. The settlers in a particular place cannot be god, for they must be subject to motion.
Al-Fakhr al-Razi also gives Quranic proofs to demonstrate the mistake of the anthropomorphist. Quoting the famous verse of God’s transendency “Naught is as His likeness”, he says that if sitting is excepted from this verse, it will mean that this verse is not absolute but relative and also sitting, which needs a body to sit, must be similar to that of His creature. Another verse which seems to justify anthropomorphic interpretation is “And eight will uphold the throne of their Lord that day above them”. If taken literally, this would that God needs His creatures, which the contrary is the truth, i.e., the creatures is in absolute need of Him. Prophet Abraham’s expression, as cited in the Holy Quran “He said: I love not things that set”, shows that He is not body. For, if He is so, what Abraham said will also be applcable to Him, since He is always invisible to our bare eyes.
Astronomically, considering globular nature of our earth, the above for us will be the beneath for those living in the antipode. And if He has direction, He will be above for some and beneath for others, which is not an acceptable statement. All Muslim is in one agreement that the verse “Say: He is Allah, the One” is the muhkamat (sound) verse, not the mutashabihat (ambivalent). Keeping this in mind, it is impossible to say that He has His own space, implying His bodiness. So based on the sound meaning of this verse, istiqrar (to rest at a place) for God is unreasonable.
So far as the ambivalent and ambiguous verses and Prophetic Traditions are concerned, there are two different opinions. The first hold that we should not try to interpret these verses. Instead, we have to be fully convinced that God is above time and space. As reported by al-Ghazali, al-Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, who has collected thousands of Traditions of the Prophet, has only interpreted three Traditions concerning this problem and nothing more. This passive position, to say so, toward the mutashabihat was criticized by al-Fakhr al-Razi, regarding this as weak for several arguments; if we hold that God is above space and time, we will have believe that by istiwa’ God does not mean sitting, and this is what the ta’wil is all about; if we are not convinced that God is above time and space, we betray our ignorance of Him except that we say that God seem to mean something other than signification of the Holy Quran. But we do not venture to express it in many words to avoid the risk of that we fall into error. This view is imperfect, since if we affirms that God has revealed His word in Arabic language, we must know that most part of revelation is understandable to the Arabs. Because the word istiwa’ contains two meanings, istiqrar (to settle) and isti’la’ (to get master), and the former is absurd attributive to God, the latter is the only alternative meaning last to interpret the word istiwa’. The second tendency is to explain away the mutashabihat by the mean of ta’wil, which is, according to al-Fakhr al-Razi, inevitable.
Based on two opposite positions, al-Fakhr al-Razi made four different point to consider. First, we shall act up to both views severally and individually. Second, the exact opposite of the first. Third, we should choose authority prior to reason. And fourth, we choose the contrary. The first is preposterous and so is the second. The third cannot defended since affirmation of the authority needs reason. The only remaining choice is the judgment of reason in explaining the authority, for this reason then istiwa’ here means to get mastery.
The point which to explore by al-Fakhr al-Razi is that God is above space. The view that God is above place and time is also the view of another Sunni school, i. e. the Maturidites, as conserved by al-Nasafi in his book.

*It should be noted that what is contained within recent publication of this book should not always be attributed to al-Ash’ari, for it is reported that this book is fabricated under his name. For more proofs concerning this problem, see


Thursday, 20 November 2008

An Overview on Religious Pluralism*

For some people religious pluralism is a belief that conflicts existing between competing truth claims of religions can be overcome. It tries not to underestimate other religious traditions by finding common ground between one’s own tradition and others’, while neglecting the differences they consider to be not essential. This belief brings about an attitude that is the original objective of religious pluralism. However, in most cases this view have no theological basis within religious literal tradition.
The precondition for religious pluralism to exist is freedom of religion, that is, to equal rights of different religions within a society. Therefore, when this precondition is not fulfilled, by means of giving one religion more privilege or eliminating all religious activity, religious pluralism will soon disappear. Like what has happened to communist countries where religious activitiy is totally forbidden.
Many religion believers believe that religion pluralism means cooperation between religions and, hence, substituting rivalry spirit with more mutual understanding. For religious pluralism to happen there must be societal and theological modification within each religion.

The origin of this thought might be traced to European history after reformation and enlightment in which a movement to reform abuses of Roman Catholic Church emerged. Roman Catholic had suppressed other religions like Islam and Judaism to the extent that the people of these religions cannot practice their religions freely. The Reformation which marked the emergence of Protestantism did not fully eliminate discrimination against the minor sects within Christianity and other religions. Since, in places, such as England, Scotland, and Ireland, Protestant Churches did the same things as their Catholic counterpart. Even smaller Protestant denominations in these countries sought freedom to North America when their freedom was limited, and again when these groups become dominant they did the same restriction to those outside their circle.
Founding Fathers of the United States were influenced by Protestant and freethinking philosopher like John Locke and Thomas Paine who insisted on tolerance and moderation in religion. This brought equality and freedom to the American constitution. Different religions are supposed to be treated equally. This does not mean that each people there has to believe that every religion is equally true, on the contrary, there are many religious institutions which claim to have way of salvation exclusively.

Religious pluralism does not say that all religions and sects within a religion are completely and equally true, for it is impossible for diametrically different faiths to be true at the same time. Like the Christians’ belief of Jesus’ crucifixion which all Muslims are convinced that he is saved and ascended. Surely, one of these conflicting faith is true and other false.
However many modern religious pluralists believe that there is no religion which can legitimately claim to preach the absolute truth. They base their opinion on the what they assume to be true, i.e., that religion is not precisely the revealed word of God. It is merely a humanly creative interpretation to it. Assuming active role of man in revelation and his imperfect nature, no single scriptural text is considered to fully originate from God, and, hence, it cannot perfectly explain God and His will. The whole truth—to say so—cannot be apprehended through only one religion. All religions share the same effort to catch that truth using their cultural and historical factors.
The notion of cultural and historical text is because religious pluralists find that almost all religious texts cannot avoid from being influenced from human-historical factors, and, they infer that there is nothing of these religious texts to be considered fully divine origin. Therefore, disticntion needs to be made between what is transcendent, and therefore permanent, and what is changeable.
Recently, religious pluralism has developed into its maximal form, that is, the view that all religions are equally true. This trend is brought about by post-modern philosophies, particularly deconstructionism. Many criticisms to this thought underline its self-contradictory tendency.
For about a century ago, liberals within Judaism and Christianity reform some of their faiths to make them compatible with religious pluralism. They maintain that their convictions are not the only way to salvation, rather they only believe that their religion are the most perfect revelation to the human kind. It should be noted that comparison implied in “the most perfect” means that there are many alternative, however imperfect, ways of salvation together with theirs. This thought enable them to assume that there is a common ground underlying all religions and that some aspects of God may be captured by other religion while are neglected within their own religions. They call this as theological humility compared to intellectual humility that every scientist should have, that is, admitting the possibility of other’s finding the truth.
However, conservatives in Christianity refuse these thoughts and still hold that their way is the only way to God, while many of them admit the different religious expressions and the new one will give new understanding to the dogmas.
To develop religious pluralism within every one’s religion has now become an obligation for many people. It is since our view of humanity has changed and requires a new approach to our life. The advance of science, development of information technology, and questions raised by modern philosophers have forced people to rethink their view regarding this world.
Retrospective form of religious pluralism can be found in many religions. That is to accept religion prior to one’s religion and reject religion which after one’s own. Such as three Abrahamic faith, Christianity can accept Judaism as the valid religion but reject Islam and consider it as heretical sect out of Christianity, and so is the case with Islam and Christianity.
In Greek and Roman era in which religion is polytheistic, pluralism was easily done by absorbing other gods originating from other tradition, or rarely they add new god adopted from others, into their own religion.

Classical Christian view hold that Christianity is the only way through which God is reached, and if it is done, the result will be damnation. Christians believe that Jesus, God literally made flesh, was crucified to save human kind from such damnation and by accepting beliefs in Christianity a person could gain meaningful life and happines in the hereafter. All other people outside Christian are destined to damnation, this is what their doctrine, extra ecclesiam nulla salus, means.
For them the consequence of denying trinity is the eternal death. In spite of that some still regard Christianity as egalitarian, because it teaches that people potentially have the same opportunity to gain salvation through entering Christianity.
Traditional Christian will see religious pluralism in its maximal form as self-contradictory, because it is impossible for two competing claims of truth to be equally true. This view is also held by most Jews and Muslims. For Christians, Christianity is the most absolute revelation revealed to human kind, and other religions, although may have lesser revelation, are not equally true. So, to be pluralist means not to be Christian in full sense and vice versa.
Church is often identified as a hospital. The doctor will care a patient in the best-suited way according the condition of the patient, instead of following what a patient wants. And following what pluralist say will be similar to “pillow prophets” who prophesies what the king wanted to hear instead of sincerely telling God’s word. Thus, all Christians must invite human kind to Christianity which is the way to salvation.
To this view, it is a contradiction to acknowledge legitimacy of Christian’s practices while rejecting beliefs underlying them. If a person deny to believe that the Eucharist is Christ’s body and blood, it means that he rejects it as unifying medium to God.
Currently, some Christians change their view on their religion and others and start to accept religious pluralism. This socially leads to reconciliation with other faith especially Judaism but theologically requires adjustment to their faith they hold before. Reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity is done by viewing the New Testament as extended covenant to cover non-Jews. It implies that Judaism is still the valid religion. Furthermore it allows relationship between both sides to improve. It also stresses Chritians’ regret of anti-Jewish attitude and of theology of “Replacement”. Many Christian groups of this kind, including Catholic Church and several large Protestant Churches, declare not to convert Jews to Christianity. Yet, for most Christians, including most conservative Protestant, New Testament is not an extended covenant as understood above.
The Eastern Orthodox Church views that Orthodox Church is the only salvation but, at the same time, does not limit God’s will to save whomsoever He pleases. This seemingly contradictory position is explained by comparing it to Noah’s Ark. It says that while Noah’s Ark is the safest place to go through the flood, it is within God’s power to save people outside the Ark. Keeping this in mind, Orthodox Christian must encourage people to take the safer path by which they will gain salvation. For the Orthodox the one and only thing leading to perdition is blasphemy against Holy Spirit. However, the question on human kind salvation is only secondary for them, stressing that one should care of own salvation more than other’s.
Islam, as other monotheistic religions, affirms that it is the only salvation way and considers other monotheistic faiths as valid, for they constitute the single Truth revealed through human history. The most important creed of Islam is witnessing that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad PBUH is His messenger. Renouncing this would mean entering hell.
But this apparently very exclusive claim does not mean intolerance to other religious traditions. On the contrary, Muslim history, mainly in golden era, witnessed very tolerant relationship with other religions. The Muslims ruler guaranteed the freedom of practicing other religion, which this is the very preaching of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, with taxation, namely jizyah. Minor religions, such as Mandeans, Zoroasterians, and Hindu, can still perform freely their religious activities, an obvious contradiction to what happened to Muslim minorities in the Europe Renaissance.
Islam has never instructed its adherents to forcibly convert non-Muslim into Islam, notwithstanding the widespread allegation that Islam is spread by sword. What truly happened is Islam extends together with Muslims’ conquest. The so-called persecution in Islamic history is due to cruel ruler and economic hardship.
Religious debates lived in the time of Muslim govermennt and resulted in many works which are interesting for many people learning theology. When this debate spread to the unlearned masses, rulers interfere to pacify them. As far as sects within Islam, there are various patterns. In some places, different sects can live harmoniously, while in others, especially when one sect is in power, clash cannot be avoided.
Baha’ism discourages the intolerance between religions, saying that God is one and has sent messengers through history, therefore we have to be united and give our love, reflecting God’s love, to people of all religions. Baha’ism has the concept of “Progressive Revelation” underlining the different stages undergone by humanity. Its founder, Baha’ullah, claims that he is one of the messengers sent to human kind and says whatever is said by any prophet must be true.
Hinduism is by nature a pluralistic religion. It may willingly recognize other religions’ degree of truth. It will easily subsume deities of religions into its system. This, in turn, makes the relationship between between Hindus and adherents of all religions harmonious.
However, this is not always the case. In India where Hindus become majority, there is grave conflict. The source of this conflict is said to be Muslims’ view that Hindus are the worst infidels. As response, Hindus view Muslims as hostile to their religion. Muslims built masjids in the place of temples, causing riots, such as what happened in 1992 at the Babri masjid.

Before divided into sects, Christianity generally profess “one holy catholic and apostolic church”. It remains so until now in Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Episcopalians, and most Protestant Christian denominations. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox see each other as heterodox but still regard as Christian. Concerning Protestant, their view varies depend on Trinitarian in that Protestant.
Most fundamentalist Protestant Christian groups maintain that their churches is the only valid way to God and other churches are considered to be heretical, or even diabolic. This view is rejected by Neo-evangelical Protestant Christian Churches, regarding most Christianities as valid. They believe in unity of the Church.
In Islam there is no religious pluralism within different sects, for, there is no real difference between them.

*resumed from wikipedia free encyclopedia.