By Dr Muhammad Maroof Shah
10 Aug 2017
Let us ask today what is our philosophy and thus begin real Muhasaba of ours, a self-audit.
We begin our day by rising early, offering Tahajjud and Fajr, or rising late and offering prayer rather late or not offering any prayer at all. We dress and groom distinctively (say, don Burqa/Hijab/unveil hair and sport a long beard/short beard/no beard) probably reflecting our divergent commitments to belief systems or our diverse hermeneutical choices. We keep commenting on others or judging them according to our interpreted value system. One may be vain, exclusivist; misogynist to various degrees (can you name even one who isn’t?). One may dream of Caliphate or universal democracy or an imminent apocalypse. One takes extreme care in avoiding corruption and another prays for opportunity to fleece new victims. One may be a pro-Pakistani, pro-Indian or Kashmiri nationalist. All these are part of one’s philosophy.
It rarely happens that we are really conscious of our philosophical choices or care to spell out consistent philosophy of ours. It means we are risking living with delusions, half baked opinions, borrowed unverified propositions and human interpretations of sacred texts assumed to be sacrosanct. Our theology, our Fiqh school, our political ideas, our personal and social choices we make daily impact our lives and lives of others and thus it is a moral question that we become more conscious of our choices and implied (unexamined) assumptions. “An unexamined life isn’t worth living,” so runs Socrates’ famous saying. And the science of examining one’s life is called philosophy. If we can’t master resources to examine our lives, we are nevertheless required to follow more trustworthy sources and resources.
We have chosen particular religions/no religion, political parties, heroes, sects or schools of thought in various disciplines and how sad to note that, generally speaking, we haven’t made our choices – our parents/immediate environment/teachers dictated our choices and we didn’t care to cross check. Philosophers ask us to cross check and we are all gifted with a level of intelligence – unless we are idiots – that we are capable of seeing/suspecting clear fallacies in certain positions (we may be quite smart in detecting them in others’ views). Hard, painful discipline to think, to consider pros and cons, to bear witness to truth in every instance, to post-mortem our dearly held opinions, to seek to apply the tests of hard common sense, senses and reason is what philosophy (and the Quran!) invite us to. But few care to reflect and most are heedless. Let us ask today what is our philosophy and thus begin real Muhasaba of ours.
Let us imagine we are standing in the court whose proceedings are watched by every person on the planet and God and then carefully begin to articulate what we hold dear giving reasons for the same. Do we have the courage and integrity to keenly examine every dearly held opinion which might be prejudice for others? Are we honest enough to acknowledge our doubts to ourselves at least?
Have we ever cared to examine, with all the requisite dispassionate objectivity and scholarly tools other sects/sacred texts/classics of other political positions? What moral right we have, for instance, for dismissing the West without having cared to read even one Western philosopher from Heraclitus to Heidegger seriously? Which of the world’s major traditions we have cared to read in the way they are read by their upholders traditionally? What right do we have to dismiss, say, perennialist philosophers, without caring to read their key works and without taking pains to develop better approaches or better solutions to the problems they raise in mainstream approaches to comparative religion, mysticism and philosophy? What gives us confidence to assume that God speaks through us, so to speak.
How come we continue to repeat ideas, and arguments that have been discredited hundreds of years back as if we are the deaf ridiculed for not having heard that Badshah (particular narrative/hermeneutic/argument) is dead (Zir Booz Beyh Wahyr Badshah mood). We are all answerable for using our intelligence correctly and what if we haven’t ever cared to use it in the most important matters or questions. What have we investigated till now and found by personal effort? It is a possibility that our sincere seeking would lead us to unquestioningly embrace the paradigm of Revelation and then our task is to listen and obey but the lamp that shall lead us to the sacred fount of Revelation that then lights up everything for us can’t be anything except reason and mind it one can’t afford holiday of reason even then as Revelation itself requires us to avoid slavish mindless attitude and keep thinking, questioning, investigating. Embracing Revelation is in truth embracing the sacred fount of intellect that grounds reason. Revelation is intuitive intelligence of a sort, not unintelligent irrational principle. Prophets don’t put minds on a holiday and it is characteristic of meditative or “thanking thinking” that it receives, contemplates (sages or mystics seek to develop this mode of intelligence). The Spirit is Intellect and development of spiritual dimension of life is ad development of theonomous intelligence. Gabriel is the Universal Intellect, angels are intelligences.
All of us have philosophies of our own, good or bad. If we assert we have none, it is itself a philosophical position. If we think that our philosophy is this or that religion, it is a philosophical position the moment we rationalize our choice of that belief and criticize rival beliefs. If we resolutely deny need to rationalize or interpret and affirm faith in literal meaning of the text in absolute terms, our position may be labelled fundamentalism which opposes mainstream and even traditional philosophies. So there is no escaping the demand to philosophize, to think. We think or we imitate. And we better follow an authority after we have verified its trustworthiness and then when conflicting views of the authority’s words arise, we are again called to use our minds. None can do thinking for me in absolute terms. We are fellow seekers, lighting up paths for one another. Sages are those who use Ilm and Deen as oil (as Sheikh Nuruddin has said) to illuminate the world. Prophets are lights and Ulema (sages) transmit/properly filter this light according to our needs and understanding. We can’t transplant or export our minds and let others think for us. Salvation/felicity is won by diligence, by right thinking.
So let us begin with such questions as “Who am I?” and what is the difference between/hierarchical relationship believing and seeing, knowledge and gnosis, reason and intellect, soul and spirit, God and Godhead, theology and metaphysics, Shariah and Deen, Fiqhi Akber, Fiqhi Awsat and Fiqhi Asger, Quran-i-Takweeni (cosmic Quran), and Quran-i-Tadweeni (textual Quran), Sulooki Nubuwwat (prophetic way) and Suloooki Wilayat, (way of the saints), Islam and other religions at metaphysical and esoteric plane from other Semitic and Non-Semitic religions, religion and philosophy and religion and ideology. Clarifying definition of these terms and difference and relationship between them would help us arrive at an intelligent answer or approach to key questions of philosophy and religion. And one could confidently say I too have a philosophy which is not slavishly borrowed or unverified in certain sense.