By Dr Muhammad Maroof Shah
22 Jun 2017
How serious is Invitation to Debate Serious Matters?
Much of the Muslim world, especially the Sunni part of it, has been suffering from unwarranted fear of philosophy and now of mysticism as well. It fails to understand that philosophy, mysticism, poetry and religion have all been important parts of any living culture or tradition and unless these are integrated and given due recognition, decay occurs. One can’t give one’s soul to any one aspect and when religion claims to encompass every aspect of life, it should no longer be called religion but Ad-Deen that includes Hikmah (philosophy and mysticism, both of which have been connected with art/poetry as well).
The greatest minds of all traditions including the Islamic have, mostly, been integrating in themselves all of them and they are the sages that find universal appeal in human heart. Iqbal is the greatest example in recent history reminding us of great polymaths of the past. He was called Ali-guna (Ali like) by another great man, Ali Shariati.
One can’t live fully well or be true to one’s own self by excluding any of these aspects. It is wisdom that places everything where it should be and we have fear of this wisdom thinking it might endanger Islam. Islam is not in danger but one’s construction of it may be. Unfortunately, in Kashmir, a land of knowledge/gnosis/wisdom or of philosophy and mysticism, of diverse religions and cultures, of Lalla, Shaikh-al-Alam and Shah-i-Hamdan and great Sufi Poets all of whom may best be described as mystics-poets-sages, the fear of religious other and even mysticism besides philosophy and now even poetry and forgetting of their connection to the Sacred, has been staring at us.
Now this fear is based on either ignorance or misreading of diverse traditions of art, philosophy, mysticism and religion. How rampant is this misleading, misinformed, naïve and ultimately suicidal attitude for both religion and culture may be illustrated by analyzing a sample of statements in Dr Nazir Ahmed Zargar’s Debating Serious Matters (greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/debating-serious-matters/252261.html ) (GK, 15.06, 2017).
Zargar embodies anything but seriousness as is evident from the following:
Not even one question raised or charge levelled has been seriously thought in the whole piece. The first sentence targeting my work is an unsupported generalization. None of the examples cited constitute evidence of unfounded generalization imputed to me.
The first serious error is in the first paragraph when it is said that the term mysticism has been coined by secularists who deny it has any connection with organized religion. Anyone with even elementary knowledge of evolution and genealogy of the term and debate on relationship with organized religion would lament inaccuracy and false generalization in it.
Another weird and unfounded opinion is “while Sufism is rooted in Revelation, mysticism is not.” This betrays a dozen of confusions that serious scholars of mysticism, Sufism and Islam can’t be imagined to commit including ignorance of the definition of intellection that undergirds Revelation. Suffice to say, Sufism is best classified as Islamic mysticism or esoteric dimension of Islam and esotericism is linked with intellection that also grounds revelation and it is a category mistake to impose exoteric understanding of God and Revelation on what transcends and ground the same. What does Dr Nazir make of a great Sufi’s statement that he takes knowledge from the same fount from which prophets drink and of Shah Waliullah who categorically states that the paths of saints (Sufis) and prophets are different and both are valid. Revelation doesn’t contradict intellection but only extends its scope for the people or followers of the prophet.
Those who have read Nietzsche and Russell know that both of them have problems with ideological veneer in which religion is usually dressed but their ethic/philosophy has significant relationship with mysticism.
I champion metaphysical viewpoint because it corresponds to perennial dimension called Ad-Deen. Exoteric theological viewpoint, as distinguished from metaphysical viewpoint, is bound to contingencies of sentiment and individuality and a conception of God not the Absolute. Metaphysical perspective isn’t an alternative but a depth dimension of religious perspective. Dr Nazir hasn’t cared to check definition of terms metaphysics and theology and builds an artificial opposition between the two. To bring theological authorities legislate against Unitarian metaphysicians is an inexcusable category mistake that permeates the whole piece.
The writer doesn’t seem to have read, from primary sources and not even good or reliable secondary sources even a single philosopher he has commented upon and is clearly guilty of two grave failures castigated by the Quran – slander (Bohtan) and unfounded opinion (Zann) – against traditional philosophers and mystics. He doesn’t seem to have even read any key text by any perennialist on metaphysics and esotericism (such as Schuon’s Survey of Metaphysics and Esotericism) or even essays by Guenon explicating metaphysics or any standard works on mysticism and yet he feels he can question them.
Yes I find elements of Hikmah in world’s great traditions and there is an element of truth even in secular thought currents (that grounds their appeal for many) that needs to be searched or appreciated in line with the prophetic dictum that Hikmah is a lost treasure of a believer.
One can’t be more naïve about Nietzsche’s “Death of God” statement by confounding it with straightforward declaration of ordinary atheism. If one doesn’t appreciate Judaic and mystical connection in Marx’s critique of the idol of capitalism and unholy nexus of religion and ideology/power, one can’t help. Iqbal and Shariati have insightfully noted it.
The statement that Plato, Bradley, Levinas etc. have nothing to do with the Divine shows one hasn’t read even single text seriously by them or even on them. One can only request the writer to read any tertiary or secondary work on them if he can’t read primary texts of such philosophers as Levinas.
I have been accused of a category mistake and the illustration given shows he doesn’t seem to have understood what is category mistake. Anyway even the illustration he gives shows he fails to note a) historical tension between mysticism and institutional religion and b) Marx’s critique of/challenge to religion isn’t incompatible with his appropriation of mystical ethic in his social and political thought.
Blatant lies include my equating Rajneesh with Iqbal or mysticism with postmodernism or all kinds of thinking with reason. Dr Nazir has yet to read my book on Rajneesh or my research work on postmodern literature to be able to make such judgments. Greek philosophy encompasses so many things that only Dr Nazir can use it as a blanket term and then invent its equation with Quranic Hikmah. I simply say that Hikmah means wisdom (not Greek philosophy) and philosophy has been for the ancients love for wisdom.
I wonder how come sufistically oriented Dr Nazir who knows Unitarian metaphysics fails to transcend dualistic theistic-atheistic binary and seeks to judge metaphysicians and philosophers from a point of view they transcend as a matter of principle.
How come it is new Islam I am inventing if I refer to comparative studies exploring philosophical or metaphysical resources of Islam and their echoes in world traditions and modern thinkers?
Ghazali’s denunciation of Hellenized metaphysics can’t be an argument against demonstrable elements of Hikmah in ancient Greeks. Ghazali’s debt in epistemology, metaphysics and ethics to the Geeks is well known. His misreading of/misgivings about Greek thinkers and Muslim philosophers are evident to modern scholars. This needs separate treatment some day.
I wish to ask Dr Nazir to point out which of my views is based on secondary sources or Orientalists? I have been consulting the primary sources of Islam and can defend my views by directly referring to them and have achieved necessary familiarity with Arabic language for better accessing significant part of primary sources and I have been trying to improve my linguistic skills ever since 11th class when I read basics of Arabic grammar from a local teacher.
I don’t write for those lazy fellows who don’t take trouble to master the hermeneutical keys, terms and necessary sciences that inform writings of great sages. I have resisted impulse to simplify that wisdom for fear of distortion. If uninitiated readers get perplexed what can I do?
I wish Dr Nazir read at least only terms used by philosophers and mystics or perennialists (in Glossary of Terms used by Frithjof Schuon) and then write and I would be grateful to learn and correct myself if he unearths something worthwhile. Schuon is an ally of Sufi scholars like him. Opposite of philosophy is not theology but misosophy (hatred of wisdom). May God protect us from being misosophers in the name of theology which itself is philosophy of a sort, especially in Islamic scholastic tradition.
What is the need, for otherwise soft spoken, amiable respectable scholar and dayee and brilliant orator of angelic disposition Dr Nazir to hide behind masks, playing someone else’s innings (his piece seems to echo idiom, style and even words and ideas of Dr Rafiabadi expressed in his previous writings/communications to me
my response to the same
, mixing sermonizing with philosophizing, commenting with an aura of authority on philosophers and mystics he has never cared to read?