FAITH AND REASON
By : Ahmad Y. Samantho
(Student of Islamic Philosophy Magister Program of ICAS Paramadina University)
Philosophical discussion of the relation between modern science and religion has tended to focus on Christianity, because of its dominance in the West. The relations between science and Christianity have been too complex to be described by the ‘warfare’ model popularized by A.D. White (1896) and J.W. Draper (1874). An adequate account of the past two centuries requires a distinction between conservative and liberal positions. Conservative Christians tend to see theology and science as partially intersecting bodies of knowledge. God is revealed in ‘two books’: the Bible and nature. Ideally, science and theology ought to present a single, consistent account of reality; but in fact there have been instances where the results of science have apparently) contradicted scripture, in particular with regard to the age of the universe and the origin of the human species
 Nancey Murphy, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, version 1, London
Liberals tend to see science and religion as complementary but non-interacting, as having concerns so different as to make conflict impossible. This approach can be traced to Immanuel Kant, who distinguished sharply between pure reason (science) and practical reason (morality). More recent versions contrast science, which deals with the what and how of the natural world, and religion, which deals with meaning, or contrast science and religion as employing distinct languages. However, since the 1960s a growing number of scholars with liberal theological leanings have taken an interest in science and have denied that the two disciplines can be isolated from one another. Topics within science that offer fruitful points for dialogue with theology include Big-Bang cosmology and its possible implications for the doctrine of creation, the ‘fine-tuning’ of the cosmological constants and the possible implications of this for design arguments, and evolution and genetics, with their implications for a new understanding of the human individual.
Perhaps of greater import are the indirect relations between science and theology. Newtonian physics fostered an understanding of the natural world as strictly determined by natural laws; this in turn had serious consequences for understanding divine action and human freedom. Twentieth-century developments such as quantum physics and chaos theory call for a revised view of causation. Advances in the philosophy of science in the second half of the twentieth century provide a much more sophisticated account of knowledge than was available earlier, and this has important implications for methods of argument in theology.
Faith and Reason in The Islamic World
Not precisely same with what occur in Western Civilization, In Islamic World, there is several mainstream or school of thought (mazhab) that flux influenced on Muslim Society concerning relation between faith and reason in Islam.
Their strict differences are in approach of methodological interpretation of the Holly Qur’an message.
But, realy, Islam is a rational religion. Its’ fundamental faith of God (Allah SWT) must be develop and relies on by intellectual consciousness, ilm (knowledge & sciences) and pure reason argumentation, not by doctrines and dogmatic beliefs (taqlid). So, faith and reason both are had closely and intimate relationships.
The first commandment in the first revealed verse of al Qur’an is the instruction to READ:
“Read in the name of your Lord Who Created. He created man from a clot. Read and your Lord is Most Honorable, Who taught (to write) with the pen, Taught man what he knew not.” (QS 96:1-5) .
It is a preliminary activity of intellectual reasoning towards knowing the Existence of God and true Faith of God.
In other verse, Allah say:
“We will soon show them Our sign in the Universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that He is a witness over all things?” (QS. Fushshilat, 41: 53)
“And he taught Adam all the names, then presented them to the angles; then He said: Tell me the names of those if you are right. They said: Glory be to Thee! We have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us; surely Thou art the Knowing, the Wise.” (QS Al Baqoroh, 2: 31-32)
“…Those of His servants only who are possessed of knowledge fear Allah; surely Allah is Mighty, Forgiving.” (QS. Al Father, 35 : 28)
“And (as for) these examples, We set them fort for men, and none understand them but the learned.” (QS Al Ankabut, 29: 43)
“What ! he who is obedient during hours of the night, postrating himself and standing, takes care of the hereafter and hopes for the mercy of his Lord! Say: Are those who know and those who do not know alike”? Only the men of understanding are mindful.” ( QS Az Zumar, 39: 9 )
Islamic Concept of Knowledge
Various epistemological issues have been discussed in Muslim philosophy with an orientation different from that of Western epistemology. Today attempts are being made to understand the basic epistemological issues in terms of that orientation..
With this view, an attempt is made in this paper to delineate the different shades and connotations of the term ‘ilm, i.e., knowledge, in the Islamic context. It is hoped that this brief attempt will serve as a step for future groundwork for the construction of a framework for an Islamic theory of knowledge.
In the Islamic theory of knowledge, the term used for knowledge in Arabic is ‘ilm, which, as Rosenthal has justifiably pointed out, has a much wider connotation than its synonyms in English and other Western languages. Knowledge in the Western world means information about something, divine or corporeal, while ‘ilm is an all-embracing term covering theory, action and education. Rosenthal, highlighting the importance of this term in Muslim civilization and Islam, says that it gives them a distinctive shape.
It may be said that Islam is the path of “knowledge.” No other religion or ideology has so much emphasized the importance of ‘ilm. In the Qur’an the word ‘alim has occurred in 140 places, while al-‘ilm in 27. In all, the total number of verses in which ‘ilm or its derivatives and associated words are used is 704. It is important to note that pen and book are essential to the acquisition of knowledge. The Islamic revelation started with the word iqra’ (‘read!’ or ‘recite!’).
According to the Qur’an, the first teaching class for Adam started soon after his creation and Adam was taught ‘all the Names’.
Allah is the first teacher and the absolute guide of humanity. This knowledge was not imparted to even the Angels. In Usul al-Kafi there is a tradition narrated by Imam Musa al-Kazim (‘a) that ‘ilm is of three types: ayatun muhkamah (irrefutable signs of God), faridatun ‘adilah (just obligations) and sunnat al-qa’imah (established traditions of the Prophet [s]). This implies that ‘ilm, attainment of which is obligatory upon all Muslims covers the sciences of theology, philosophy, law, ethics, politics and the wisdom imparted to the Ummah by the Prophets
‘Ilm is of three types: information (as opposed to ignorance), natural laws, and knowledge by conjecture. The first and second types of knowledge are considered useful and their acquisition is made obligatory. As for the third type, which refers to what is known through guesswork and conjecture, or is accompanied with doubt, we shall take that into consideration later, since conjecture or doubt are sometimes essential for knowledge as a means, but not as an end.
In the Islamic world, gnosis (ma’rifah) is differentiated from knowledge in the sense of acquisition of information through logical processes. In the non-Islamic world dominated by the Greek tradition, hikmah (wisdom) is considered higher than knowledge. But in Islam ‘ilm is not mere knowledge. It is synonymous with gnosis (ma’rifah). Knowledge is considered to be derived from two sources: ‘aql and ‘ilm huduri (in the sense of unmediated and direct knowledge acquired through mystic experience).
It is important to note that there is much emphasis on the exercise of the intellect in the Qur’an and the traditions, particularly in the matter of ijtihad.
Exercise of the intellect (‘aql) is of significance in the entire Islamic literature, which played an important role in the development of all kinds of knowledge, scientific or otherwise, in the Muslim world. In the twentieth century, the Indian Muslim thinker, Iqbal in his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, pointed out that ijtihad was a dynamic principle in the body of Islam. He claims that much before Francis Bacon the principles of scientific induction were emphasized by the Qur’an, which highlights the importance of observation and experimentation in arriving at certain conclusions. It may also be pointed out that Muslim fuqaha and mufassirun made use of the method of linguistic analysis in interpreting the Quranic injunctions and the sunnah of the Prophet (S). Al-Ghazalis Tahatut al-Falasifah is probably the first philosophical treatise that made use of the linguistic analytical method to clarify certain philosophical issues..
There was made a distinction between wisdom (hikmah) and knowledge in the pre-Islamic philosophy developed under the influence of Greek thought. In Islam there is no such distinction. Those who made such a distinction led Muslim thought towards un-Islamic thinking. The philosophers such as al-Kindi, al–Farabi and Ibn Sina are considered to be hakims (philosophers) and in this capacity superior to ‘ulama‘, and fuqaha this misconception resulted in al-Ghazali’s attack on the philosophers. Islam is a religion that invites its followers to exercise their intellect and make use of their knowledge to attain the ultimate truth (haqq). Muslim thinkers adopted different paths to attain this goal. Those who are called philosophers devoted themselves to logic and scientific method and the Sufis derogated them, though some of them, such as Ibn Sina, al–Farabi and al-Ghazali took recourse to the mystic path in their quest of the truth at some stage. ‘Ilm may not be translated as mere knowledge; it should be emphasized that it is also gnosis or ma’rifah. One may find elements of mystic experience in the writings of Muslim philosophers. In the Western philosophical tradition there is a distinction between the knowledge of the Divine Being and knowledge pertaining to the physical world. But in Islam there is no such distinction. Ma’rifah is ultimate knowledge and it springs from the knowledge of the self (Man ‘arafa nafsahu fa qad ‘arafa Rabbbahu, ‘One who realizes one’s own self realizes his Lord’). This process also includes the knowledge of the phenomenal world. Therefore, wisdom and knowledge, which are regarded as two different things in the non-Muslim world, are one and the same in the Islamic perspective.
In the discussion of knowledge, an important question arises as to how one can overcome his doubts regarding certain doctrines about God, the universe, and man. It is generally believed that in Islam, as far as belief is concerned, there is no place for doubting and questioning the existence of God, the prophet hood Muhammad and the Divine injunctions, that Islam requires unequivocal submission to its dictates. This general belief is a misconception in the light of Islam’s emphasis on ‘aql.
‘Ilm is referred to in many Quranic verses as ‘light’ (nur), and Allah is also described as the ultimate nur. It means that ‘ilm in the general sense is synonymous with the ‘light’ of Allah. This light does not shine forever for all the believers. If is hidden sometimes by the clouds of doubt arising from the human mind. Doubt is sometimes interpreted in the Quran as darkness, and ignorance also is depicted as darkness in a number of its verses. Allah is depicted as nur, and knowledge is also symbolized as nur. Ignorance is darkness and ma’rifah is light. In the ayat al-kursi Allah says: (Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth … Allah is the Master of the believers and He guides them out of the darkness into light). Usually darkness is interpreted as unbelief and light as faith in God. There are so many those who struggle against darkness may attain verses in the Quran as well as the traditions of the Prophets that emphasize that light.
In Islam ‘ilm is not confined to the acquisition of knowledge only, but also embraces socio-political and moral aspects. Knowledge is not mere information; it requires the believers to act upon their beliefs and commit themselves to the goals, which Islam aims at attaining.
Islam never maintained that only theology was useful and the empirical sciences useless or harmful. This concept was made common by semi-literate clerics or by the timeservers among them who wanted to keep common Muslims in the darkness of ignorance and blind faith so that they would not be able to oppose unjust rulers and resist clerics attached to the courts of tyrants. This attitude resulted in the condemnation of not only empirical science but also ‘ilm al-kalam and metaphysics, which resulted in the decline of Muslims in politics and economy. Even today large segments of Muslim society, both the common man and many clerics suffer from this malady. This unhealthy and anti-knowledge attitude gave birth to some movements, which considered elementary books of theology as sufficient for a Muslim, and discouraged the assimilation or dissemination of empirical knowledge as leading to the weakening of faith.
After the decline of philosophical and scientific inquiry in the Muslim east, philosophy and sciences flourished in the Muslim west due to endeavours of the thinkers of Arab origin like Ibn Rushd, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Bajja, and Ibn Khaldun, the father of sociology and philosophy of history. Ibn Khaldun’s philosophy of history and society is the flowering of early work by Muslim thinkers in the spheres of ethics and political science such as those of Miskawayh, al-Dawwani, and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. The credit for giving serious attention to socio–political philosophy goes to al-Farabi, who wrote books on these issues under the titles of Madinat al-Fadilah, Ara’ ahl al-Madinat al-Fadilah, al-Millah al-Fadilah, Fusul al-Madang, Sirah Fadilah, K. al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah, etc.
Muslims never ignored socio-political economic and other problems pertaining to the physical as well as social reality. They contributed richly to human civilization and thought by their bold and free inquiry in various areas of knowledge even at the risk of being condemned as heretics or rather unbelievers. True and firm believers in Islamic creed, like al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Bajja, al-Haytham, Ibn ‘Arabi and Mulla Sadra, and in recent times Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Iqbal and al-Mawdudi were not spared fatwas of kufr by the partisans of blind imitation who were hostile to the principle of ijtihad, research and critical thought.
Along with the Muslim astronomers, mathematicians, natural scientists and physicians like Ibn Sina, Zakariyya al–Razi, and others who were instrumental in the development of human knowledge and civilization, it would be unjust not to mention the significant contribution of Ikhwan al–Safa (The Brethren Purity) a group of Shi’i-Ismaili scholars and thinkers who wrote original treatises on various philosophical and scientific subjects, an effort which signifies the first attempt to compile an encyclopaedia in the civilized world.
In brief, it may be justifiably claimed that the Islamic theory of knowledge was responsible for blossoming of a culture of free inquiry and rational scientific thinking that also encompassed the spheres of both theory and practice.***
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