&^% the Negotiation of Modernity Through Tradition in Contemporary Muslim Intellectual Discourse the Neo Ghazlian Attasian Perspective

October 1, 2017 | Author: Icas Phils | Category: Muslim World, Sunni Islam, Metaphysics, Science, Expert
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THE NEGOTIATION OF MODERNITY THROUGH TRADITION IN CONTEMPORARY MUSLIM INTELLECTUAL DISCOURSE: The Neo-Ghazlian, Attasian Perspective M. Afifi al-Akiti and H. A. Hellyer Modernity is sometimes considered an exclusively Western phenomenon, and understandably so, for the foundations of Western sorts of modernity rose in very particularly Western soil: the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution. During these revolutionary epochs, philosophical events of awesome proportions took place. The Muslim world did not have the same history with classical Greek thought as that which defined the Renaissance. Islam never underwent, nor saw the need to undergo, a rebellion against a sacramental ecclesiastical authority, and indeed never had such an authority; and Muslims typically celebrated empirically based technological advances through expressions of gratitude to the Divine. Nevertheless, it cannot be assumed that Western modernity did not impinge on the Muslim world. On the contrary; there is no greater challenge to the traditional Muslim Weltanschauung than precisely this collection of modern forces. In every aspect—society, economy and politics—Islam stands questioned by its followers: ‘How do we Muslims react to these changes in our world? How does our tradition (turth) negotiate change?’ There have been a number of interesting trends produced by these questions: in parts of the world where Muslims have a demographic majority, but also, and generally more so, where they are a minority. Such movements have answered the questions with varying success and variable support from the broader Muslim population, which has historically been fairly cautious, it must be said, in responding to change. However, history records that the ummah of the Prophet Muammad have indeed responded to change, and often constructively. During his lifetime, the Prophet was the sole arbiter of belief and action for the Muslim community. In the succeeding generations, the most learned among his students, and the most learned among their students, and so on through the ages, took on the mantle of interpreting the religion of Islam with due consideration of changing circumstances (’dt) and events (waq’i‘). The consensus of the community (ijm‘) was clear on this point: the learned scholars (‘ulam’), following the Prophet’s explicit declaration, were ‘the inheritors of the Prophets’ (warathatu ’l-anbiy’).1 The scholars were the link between the first generations of Muslims (salaf) and successive generations (khalaf): they carried, transmitted and applied the knowledge that had been passed down. They were the embodiment of the Prophetic tradition, and in his corporeal absence, they collectively took on many of the duties first assigned to him in order to guide the community. The consensus, however, also lays down a key difference between the community of scholars on the one hand, and the Prophets on the other. The latter are protected from sin (ma‘m); the former could only claim that they would ‘never agree on an error’ (lan tajtami‘a...‘al ’l-allati abadan).2 Scholars could individually make errors; and individually, they often did. Nevertheless, the possibility of error did not prevent them from responding to the problems of each modern age. Day in, day out, they have continued to do so: now, they take advantage of the latest media revolutions at their disposal and preach about a whole range of subjects in order to guide Muslims on what their religion has to say on the latest change to their lives. And day in, day out, they also continue to make mistakes. Of course, such mistakes were not unheard of before the arrival of Western modernity, and this is, certainly, an ineradicable problem. As our theology reminds us, only the Prophets are protected from error. Recognizing Two Problems in Contemporary Scholarly Discourse: the Triumph of ‘Vocational’ Education and the Blinkeredness of Specialization Notwithstanding the fact that the laity now rely more and more on the rhetoric of persons of unqualified scholarship—people who claim to be scholars of Islam but have not actually

undergone systematic training in the traditional Islamic disciplines, for instance—there are also specific problems within the ranks of the religious establishment itself. That is something, which al-Ghazl (d. 505/1111) long ago warned about and successfully resolved, at least in principle. Today, some of the problems he raised are starting to resurface. If this continues, more mistakes will be made—ironically, not because of the rise as such of traditional madrasahs, but because the development of madrasah scholarship in some cases has become stunted. The usual high standards in these traditional madrasahs are dropping. The basic problem is in the disintegration of the traditional ethos of the madrasahs, championed heroically by al-Ghazl, as places where not only was religious knowledge imparted but where also intellectual capacities were developed so as to enable appropriate ‘negotiation’ between the scriptural disciplines and the forces of modernity. The vast majority of the madrasahs in the Muslim world today are inheritors of this Ghazlian scholastic tradition, which emphasizes the importance of the liberal arts for servicing the religious sciences. It is embodied, for example, in the original curriculum of the Dars-i Nim of the Indian Subcontinent, as best illustrated in a present-day account of everyday life of the madrasah students there;3 or, indeed, proved by one contemporary madrasah graduate from the Malay Archipelago, the object of this Festschrift, Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas. However, there is also a growing minority of Muslim religious institutions that dilute the originally well-balanced Dars-i Nim curriculum by abandoning the old entente, or rather alliance, advocated by alGhazl—one that harmonized the rational (ma‘qlt) and scriptural (manqlt) disciplines, and whether by design or by circumstance, teach a far more exclusive curriculum that concentrates on the naqliyyt at the expense of the ‘aqliyyt. The result is, in some places, a narrower education for the new ‘ulam’, which results in a deep divide between their perception of the contemporary world and their traditional knowledge. Despite the naysayers, classically trained ‘ulam’ have consistently engaged in ijtihd through history—but it has been tempered by the paradigms of their respective madhhabs. Although these safeguard the authenticity of their own exercise of jurisprudence, there are cases where, with a growing misunderstanding of the nature of modernity, this can actually curb the dynamic disposition of those scholars. Thus the legal opinions (fatw) that come out of some Muslim institutions conceiving various activities of contemporary life betray premises that are already obsolete. That leads to the second problem, the corruption of knowledge among the ‘ulam’ caused by not putting things in their right category. Some scholars, for example, think they are equipped to speak with authority beyond their area of expertise, a situation which traditionally was extremely rare. Whereas most pre-modern experts in law were unwilling to judge where a legal issue overlapped with scientific principles (in recognition of their own area of expertise and their lack of training in other disciplines), some present-day scholars, such as (to give only one of many examples) experts in the field of Prophetic traditions, the muaddithn, feel empowered to go beyond their field of expertise, without having the requisite training or perspective in other fields. A case in point from our legal history is the great al-Nawaw (d. 676/1277), who deferred the question of defining the physical extent of the local sighting zone (m\l maall al-ru’ya) of the new crescent to astronomers.4 He plainly acknowledged that astronomy was not one of his areas of expertise, and deferred (i.e., made taqld)—on this particular argument—to the proper specialists, even though the judgement would affect a central chapter of ‘ibdah, i.e., the bb of fasting. On referring each problem to its rightful subject-area, al-Nawaw was following the advice first dispensed by al-Ghazl more than a century earlier. The latter, admirably, had shown the madrasah community that in some of the questions the ‘ulam’ treats, religious practice must be grounded in sound scientific principles, and those questions have to be recognised as such: “there can be no religion when there is no sound mind” (l dna li-man l ‘aqla lahu).5 Beyond the matters of fur’, the inability to recognize this necessity will become a stumbling block for the ‘ulam’ when they engage with contemporary ideas. As al-Ghazl forewarned, it can even lead to humiliating consequences for the community as a whole, if an unprepared muft speaks about science with the intention of refuting its religiously controversial findings. Unlike the repugnant consequences produced by the scientific tradition of the time

of al-Ghazl—Avicennian-Aristotelian science, for which he himself carried out the tedious task of analyzing each premiss, one by one, marking out ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ aspects of that rational synthesis—the most controversial scientific results confronting believers of our own time are the possible implications of the Darwinian theory of the origins of man. Therefore, today’s spokesperson for Islam who wishes to engage this secular challenge thrown at us by God, Who continually tests mankind’s faith in the Divine Plan, must take heed of the advice of al-Ghazl: “The harm inflicted on religion by those who defend it improperly is greater than the harm caused by those who attack it properly”.6 For, as al-Ghazl rightly asserts, the scientist would only laugh and mock at religion, given a half-baked response; therefore, at the very minimum, the religious critic will need to carry out the slow and tedious work of separating out objective science and empirical fact from subjective results and interpretative inferences. Recognizing the Salaf Arguments For and Against Intellectual Engagement: al-Musib and Ibn anbal The caution of the Muslim community when responding to change and the fallibility of those vested with authority to change are two potentially destabilizing problems that historically have faced the Muslim community, whether the early Muslims or the later ones. There are many examples that illustrate those two aspects of the dynamics of Islamic history; but one of the first examples recorded by the ’ulam’ themselves (who, to their credit, recognized that the Muslim civil society around them did face such problems) is on the disagreement between two theologians of the salaf, al-rith al-Musib (d. 243/857) and Amad Ibn anbal (d. 241/855), over intellectual engagement. In that debate, it is clear that those two Muslim forefathers, both learned and pious scholars of Sunni orthodoxy, largely agreed on issues of common concern but disagreed fundamentally on how to engage with heterodox ideas and sects. This disagreement in the early Sunni community was effectively analyzed by al-Ghazl into (1) the basic objection to engaging in theological exercise as such, and rationally examining dogma (known traditionally as ‘dhamm ‘ilm al-kalm’); and (2) the more specific objection to engaging in academic polemics, e.g., by making assertions on controversial issues and giving accounts of the opponent’s arguments (known as the ‘dhamm taqrr al-shubah’). Although the disagreement had been a matter of longstanding controversy among early Sunni scholars, al-Ghazl managed to bring about an entente between the two attitudes, and to allow later Sunni scholars to develop arguments on either side without there being acrimony. Fundamentally, the tension between the two scholars is between the desire for systematic exposition to defend the faith, on the one hand, and, on the other, a feeling that such an exercise was futile and menaced the faith. On the one side are those like al-Musib who argue for such intellectual engagement. Their concern is to remove doubts suffered by the general educated public among the faithful. Whereas on the other side, the concern among scholars like Ibn anbal is to protect the simple faithful from falling into such confusions in the first place. Even though al-Ghazl takes sides overall with al-Musib’s camp in calling for constructive engagement to tackle bad theology (and bad science), arguing for what we might now call having an intelligent debate with one’s adversary, al-Ghazl is also quick to show his sympathy for Ibn anbal’s original objections: he is well aware of the pitfalls for such a risky undertaking for the public.7 Al-Ghazl’s defence of al-Muasib’s position is a plea for the expert scholars in his community to engage in academic debate with their opponents, because the circumstances of the day are such that this intellectual engagement has become a public necessity (arra) on behalf of the rest of the community. On the other hand, al-Ghazl’s sympathy with Ibn anbal’s position leads him to restrict the polemical exercise and the theologizing it entails to those qualified for it and to characterize it as a risky drug (daw’ khamr) that should only be resorted to on a need-to-use basis, tacitly indicating that it is not to be consumed like food.8 However, it goes without saying that it is futile for those opposed to such engagement to try to stop it, because changing circumstances have made it into a public necessity.

The challenges of Greek metaphysics, widespread then, like those of Darwinian biology now, were not issues that caused doubt or confusion in the minds of the laity (‘awmm) during the time of the Prophet. Engaging with heterodox ideas became a necessity and has remained so. There can be no pretence about this living reality. Anyone engaging in theological polemics with ‘the other side’ today, whether one belongs to the Ash‘ar, Mturd or anbal schools, is by default engaged in kalm of a sort objected to by the non-engagement camp in the early Sunni community. Clearly, the idealistic over-protectiveness of our early hero, Ibn anbal—something which one should still hold dear—and the romantic notion of the salaf’s non-engagement (which is expressed in theological terms as tafw and is opposed to ta’wl) suffered a coup de grâce from al-Ghazl and have become still less possible for those living in a modern and well-read society—let alone one which is critical. What Ibn anbal originally feared—that if the floodgates were opened, so to speak, they could not be closed—already happened a thousand years ago, whether one likes it or not. Although, as al-Ghazl was sensitive enough to recognize, both positions were justified in their different ways, changing realities have dictated that the preferable position (arja) for the Muslims of today, the khalaf, is that of al-Muasib. Al-Ghazl’s pragmatism won the day, and history has recorded that the idealism of Ibn anbal became unsustainable. His fears notwithstanding, the community was cursed (or blessed) to engagement from the moment the Muslims left the ijz. One could have tried to maintain ‘purity’ in the isolation of the desert, but the world has always been inter-connected—never more so than now in the 21st century, but throughout earlier times as well. The effort to maintain such purity could lead unwittingly to denying the ‘realities on the ground’. The waq’i‘, ‘dt, scientific premisses themselves, and indeed, our very world, undergo change (the proof of creation). Therefore, while Muslim Scripture (the proof of the Creator) has always been what is constant in this equation, the understanding and interpretation of it—whether in jurisprudence or, less so, in theology—will always need to reflect the changing circumstances created by God. In later centuries, there was a reaction against al-Ghazl’s entente, and in a futile effort to close the gates, Ibn Taymiyya again championed the ideals of Ibn anbal. Yet by that time, Ibn Taymiyya himself, even in the very method of his refutations, could not escape the rational exercise of theologizing, the “kalm” censured by the salaf, nor the writing of polemical works, the taqrr al-shubah, which in particular, Ibn anbal had censured. So the very example of Ibn Taymiyya demonstrates that the type of non-engagement Ibn anbal had advocated had become unsustainable. How many polemical tracts and treatises that critiqued and criticised Muslim as well as non-Muslim philosophers did Ibn Taymiyya pen? By the standards of the salaf, he would be a mutakallim par excellence in anbal terms. Although his is arguably a purely negative engagement, it was engagement nonetheless. Many of the khalaf proponents of that salaf ideal today are unable to see things as they are: in rationally critiquing Darwinian scientific constructs, for example, they would also be engaging in “kalm”. At least Ibn Taymiyya himself was under no illusions about this. Much as some of us might wonder at (or even frown at) the way God has made His Plan such that the status quo for the khalaf in fiqh is the four madhhabs and the same also for the doctrinal schools. The dominant madhhab—the adopted method—of the khalaf is ta’wl while the dominant madhhab of the salaf was tafw—and yet, neither ta’wl nor tafw need be followed exclusively or, worse, become a ‘bad word’, if we are wise enough to follow the accommodating way of alGhazl. This is a fact of life that al-Laqn (d. 1041/1631) rendered into verse, in lines memorized today by almost all of the madrasa students in theology: Every scriptural text (na) that gives rise to anthropomorphization of God (tashbh), must either be interpreted (= ta’wl) or left alone (= tafw), intending its deanthropomorphization (tanzh).9 Commenting on this rapprochement, al-Bjr (d. 1277/1860) correctly says: “The path of the khalaf is more academic and accurate, since there is in it the utmost of explanation and the refutation of the adversary. It is the preferred position [arja], and that is why the author [of this poem] gives precedence to it. On the other hand, the path of the salaf is safer, since in it is

safety from specifying a meaning [to something] that might be other than what was intended by Him (Most High!).”10 Therefore, there is no need to be acrimonious about this longstanding controversy, and those who open up old wounds are neither safe nor wise. Developing the Ghazalian Adab However, just as this is an old pre-modern problem, there are old, pre-modern solutions. Both trends, as noted above, have time-honoured precedents. The key to reconciling the potentially healthy tension between them has always been through holding to a normative orthodoxy that has remained aware of the need for specialist expertise. Al-Ghazl mentioned that in his own time there were many trends that addressed change. He did not attack them indiscriminately, but placed himself within what he saw as the mainstream, according in some part with the idea of the mean (waa), while keeping in touch with and evaluating all the various trends that flowed beside that central current. The basic premiss of the Ghazlian approach is clear: one should allow the experts to do what each does best. If they focus on expanding and rejuvenating their own disciplines, in proficient ways that only they can do, using the experience only they possess, those who can do it competently will constantly update those disciplines. If that process becomes an ongoing process, and each discipline simultaneously interacts with the others through those experts, then a sustainable, comprehensive worldview would be a natural outcome. It is this approach that cannot only withstand the confrontations with any aspect of modernity but can take full advantage of the new globalized reality that Muslims now find around them. In the traditional Muslim world, the scholarly class had many individuals who had mastered several disciplines, although they were never all that common. With the advent of the colonial period in the Muslim world, they became even rarer. Today, this matter is perhaps at its worst point so far, but there is also an opportunity that did not exist before. The improvements in mass communication have allowed the deterioration of scholarship, where so many ‘experts’ are simply media-savvy; but it has provided, too, for new means of collaboration and of exchange of ideas. If previously the ‘lim was frequently the contemporary philosopher as well, today the ‘lim is rarely so, and may have little access to contemporary philosophers. But in the present world, the ‘lim can easily be in touch with philosophers, and vice versa: if—and this is the key matter—the will for such contact is there. A Neo-Ghazlian Project in the Modern World: The Asian Assessment of the Problems of Modernity There have been many different attempts to mediate between the turth and change in the present period, as we have noted. The Ghazlian approach places an obvious emphasis on building upon what has come before. Hence, in fiqh, the innovative legal theories are to come from a renewed understanding within a madhhab (and although al-Ghazl was Shfi‘, any muqallid of any school of law that has passed to the present day via tawtur may involve him/herself in such renewal). In Sunni theology, the renewal must come from inside the classical approaches of Mturdism, anbalism and particularly Ash‘arism, among which the last is perhaps the most significant—since, for historical reasons, it has been at the forefront of the engagement with contemporary science. It is clear from even a cursory reading of Islamic intellectual history that there are a plethora of fields where this ‘renewal’ process can take place. Most writers and scholars look mainly at law, which is at the heart of political efforts to ‘reform’ the Muslim world. The focus on law, however, has distracted scholars from looking at deeply important, if perhaps more abstract, aspects of the Islamic intellectual heritage. Philosophy serves as the basis of any worldview, and no less so for the Muslim one—but only a few have tried to renew an understanding of Islamic metaphysical constructs, let alone apply such an understanding to the problems of modernity. An inheritor of the Ghazlian legacy is the subject of the present volume, and his key contribution lies in this area of Islamic theoretical thought: the philosophy of the Muslim worldview. Al-Attas’ life-project has been to think seriously about the underpinning of the

modern worldview (the philosophy of modernity), explore it, understand it, and then integrate it with the tradition of Islam. In so doing, he has built upon two assumptions: one, that the turth has the ability to relate to contemporary change (and this is the deeper meaning behind the commonly heard slogan ‘Islam is for every time and place’); and two, that in order for this to take place, one must understand contemporary change thoroughly. There is a further, corollary, assumption here: that the turth and contemporary change are best mediated by those who are most expertly trained to deal with them (the ‘ulam’ and those trained in modern philosophy and science). One might assume that these assumptions are logical, and self-evident—yet what is most obvious is that the level of sophistication that is clear in al-Attas’ works, particularly his Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islm and Islm and Secularism, is not at all common. Firmly rooted within the tradition of Islam, and gained a thorough understanding of the contemporary world, like al-Ghazl, he carries out in these works what he intends to be nothing less than a fulfilment of a communal obligation (far al-kifyah), something we characterise here as a NeoGhazlian, Attssian project. Al-Attas is atypical among modern Muslim thinkers and intellectuals in that he does not recognise modernity itself to be necessarily a positive phenomenon: the very philosophy of Western modernity itself had to be subjected to the eternal principles of the Islamic worldview, in order to assess its worth properly. In his assessment, Western modernity is deeply problematic. Unlike many of his peers, who derided certain aspects of the modern world but not the philosophy of modernisation itself, al-Attas deemed it to be based on premisses that needed to be examined thoroughly. In a world that barely allows for any counterbalance to the intellectual hegemony of the West, such a position is unpopular—but often a far, whether of the personal or the communal type, must be accomplished through hardship. There are a number of examples to draw on in order to illustrate this continual theme in his work, and several bear mention here. In ‘The Positive Aspects of Taawwf’, al-Attas inimitably draws on Islamic spirituality to form the basis of an Islamic philosophy of science.11 It is rare indeed that any alternative to the modern understanding of the nature and role of science is presented; that this is drawn from the depths of Sufi symbolism is particularly remarkable. Later on, he chose to develop these ideas in his Islm and the Philosophy of Science: this, while the rest of the Muslim world was persistently and stubbornly absorbing all that Western science had to offer without considering how it might conflict with the ethics of Islam. It is only now, when the ravages upon the environment can clearly be seen, that the world pauses to reflect on some of the excesses of modernity—and yet, the Muslim world continues to pursue ‘development’ at all cost. In The Nature of Man and the Psychology of the Human Soul, al-Attas draws on esoteric works such as the Ma‘rij al-quds by al-Ghazl and Ibn ‘Arab’s Fu al-ikam to develop a cogent framework for an Islamic psychology and epistemology.12 In The Intuition of Existence, he contrasts an intellectual and deeply metaphysical basis of the Islamic worldview with that of most twentieth-century philosophy; again, using classical exponents of Muslim thought such as al-Junayd (d. 297/910 ), Ibn Sn (d. 428/1037), al-Jl (d. 832/1428), Ibn ‘Arab (d. 638/1240) and many others. Around the same time as both of these works, in his On Quiddity and Essence, al-Attas uses the writings of classical metaphysicians such as al-Taftzn (d. 793/1390) to express, in a contemporary idiom relating to contemporary notions of metaphysics, an Islamic worldview. Once again, in a world where Western metaphysics (or the lack of one!) has achieved an intellectual hegemony that throughout the world most accept without question, how distinctive it is that a philosopher not only delivers an alternative, but does so using the same terminology that modern metaphysics understands and appreciates. The Implications of the Neo-Ghazlian, Attasian Approach for Other Matters Involving Islam and the West Of course, this is not to say that other philosophical approaches to modernity have no contribution to make—they do. The emphasis within the contemporary Islamist political project, for example, does not allow the contemporary Muslim to forget issues of social justice; nor do the current progressive movements in the Muslim world permit the option of

neglecting the serious inadequacies facing women. Yet, so far, none of these movements or trends has adequately formulated a philosophically based holistic worldview that would properly direct attention to various aspects of human existence—it is here that the NeoGhazlian, Attasian project may be most useful, and there are other examples of its uniqueness, to three of which we might draw attention here. In speaking of Sa‘d Nurs (d. 1960), the Ottoman revivalist, and al-Attas, Wan Daud contends that unlike other Muslim reformers in the modern era, only Nurs and al-Attas seem more concerned “about challenging the Westernized version of modernity itself without any apology, than about not merely adopting Western sciences, or adapting the Islamic doctrines to the requirements of modernity”. He further points out that unlike many other educational reformers, Nurs and al-Attas are rare in that they see the “grave spiritual dangers that the Western spirit is posing for Islamic religious worldview and institutions”.13 We must bring a related matter into this discussion, and that is the tension between the Islamic world and the West. Wan Daud reminds his readers that “many a time” in unpublished lectures since 1991, al-Attas argued that “modern Western civilization needs to resume the dialogues that it used to have with Islam, because only Islamic civilization can be a true and useful mirror for the West, that it may have an insight into its errors, and perhaps climb out of the quicksand of tragedy, meaninglessness and utter unhappiness”.14 Such a claim is a natural outcome of al-Attas’ insistence that Islamic civilization is built on a unique and particular set of values and principles, which are valuable in and of themselves. Other authors, too, have pointed out that not only is Islam capable of this type of dialogue, but in all likelihood, it is the most capable candidate, as it helped to sow the seeds of the medieval Western intellectual tradition, and is thus philosophically related to the more contemporary West. In his address announcing that al-Attas would be the first holder of the Ghazl Chair of Islamic Thought, the then Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, noted that among al-Attas’ major contributions was to “have persuasively argued on philosophical grounds that knowledge is not neutral; that contemporary knowledge is infused with the worldview and values of the civilization that produced it; that there is urgent need for Muslims to isolate such elements from the content of knowledge and from the process of knowing.”15 The potential effects of such a realization on the contemporary educational systems of Muslims around the world cannot be over-emphasised, particularly when one considers that for the past two centuries, those systems of education have been systematically stripped of their philosophical Islamic content, and de facto accepted alternative worldviews derived from the colonial projects. Even in the rejection of “secularism” as a socio-political attitude for the Muslim world, religious militants and anti-colonialists have accepted much of the philosophy behind secularism without realising it—whereas al-Attas’ work on Islm and Secularism would be sufficient in itself to advance his project and establish him as an outstanding, if unconventional, contemporary thinker. As far as al-Attas is concerned, the “Islamic vision of the nature of reality and truth” must find correspondence and coherence in all Muslim knowledge and Islamic sciences.16 Concluding Remarks The problems of the contemporary Muslim intellectual edifice, impeccably described by alAttas as a “crisis of adab”, will likely continue for a long time. The ‘ulam’, the inheritors of Prophetic ‘ilm and the natural guardians against the forces of jhiliyya, are not on the verge of renewing their educational systems to answer the challenges of modernity on a philosophical and empirical basis. Likewise, the intellectuals and ‘movers and shakers’ in Muslim civil society will not suddenly escape their education to recognise that they have not sufficiently understood the Islamic worldview at a deep philosophical level. In other words, the modern world remains an intellectual battleground for the contemporary individual Muslim and the Muslim world at large. Nevertheless, there is a difference between the twenty-first century and the twentieth. Modernity in the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries was noticed in the Muslim world in a

political fashion; coming as it did from the Western (including the Communist) world, it was accompanied by imperialism, colonialism and post-colonialism. Resistance to these projects were not absent from the Muslim world; the colonised rejected the colonizers. Yet even in the independence movements in the Muslim world, the philosophical basis of the Western worldview was seldom in question: independence was fought for on the basis of expressed Western concepts. The engagement with the West did not include a comprehensively philosophical dimension that restored the worldview of Sunni Islam to the political, economic and social systems of the nation-state. The Neo-Ghazlian, Attasian project in the late twentieth-century, however long the Muslim world might have taken in producing it, represents a blueprint for a philosophical dimension of not only tahfut—deconstruction, but also tajdd—renaissance. This renaissance does not surrender to ‘modernity’ or reject it utterly; but understands it, confirms its positive aspects and rejects its excesses—just as al-Ghazl did in his engagement with the philosophical foundations of the Avicennian/Aristotelian worldview. With that paradigm well and truly established, change in the Muslim world need not be negotiated by means of Western notions of modernity—but in a way that ultimately transcends them. For this, the ummah should be grateful to Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas.

M. Afifi al-Akiti is a Junior Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. Trained originally in classical madrasas of the Far East, he has recently completed his doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford on a new set of works in philosophical theology by al-Ghazali. [[email protected]] H.A. Hellyer is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick and a Member of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. A former Visiting Professor of Law at the American University in Cairo, Dr. Hellyer continues to research Islamic law, and is a noted commentator on West-Muslim World affairs. [[email protected]; www.hahellyer.com] _________________ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12


14 15 16

Related by Amad, al-Drim, Ibn Mja, al-Tirmidh, Ab Dwd, Ibn ibbn, al-abarn, al-Bayhaq, and al-Baghaw. Related by al-abarn and al-kim, with variants. See the enlightening diary of Shaykh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, Madrasah Life: A Student’s Day at Nadwat al‘Ulam’ (London: Turath Publishing, 2007). Ibn ajar, Tufat al-mutj bi-shar al-Minhj al-Nawaw, ed. Muammad ‘Abd al-‘Azz al-Khlid (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub al‘Ilmiyya, 1996), 4:506. Al-Ghazl, Kitb mzn al-‘amal, ed. Muyi ’l-Dn abr al-Kurd, et al. (Cairo: Maba‘at Kurdistn al-‘Ilmiyya), 140 (bayn XXIV). Al-Ghazl, Tahfut al-falsifa, ed. Maurice Bouyges (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1927), 11 (intr. 2). Al-Ghazl, al-Munqidh min al-all, ed. Jaml alb and Kmil ‘Ayyd (Beirut: Dr al-Andalus, 1981), 118−9 (qawl V). Al-Ghazl, Iy’ ‘ulm al-dn, ed. Badaw abnah (Cairo: Dr Iy’ al-Kutub al-‘Arabiyya, 1952), 1:97 (kitb II, fal 2, mas’ala 2). Al-Bjr, shiya al-musamm bi-Tufat al-murd ‘al Jawharat al-tawd (Singapore: al-aramayn, 1930), 53 (verse no. 40). Ibid., 54. Al-Attas, ‘The Positive Aspects of Taawwf’, Kuala Lumpur: ASASI (1981), originally delivered at the ‘Festival of Zarruq’ in Libya, commemorating the Quincentenary of the great Sufi, Ahmad Zarruq. The Ma‘rij is a work whose traditional attribution to al-Ghazl has been subject to doubt by various scholars. One of the authors has established it as definitively written by him but belonging to his esoteric philosophical corpus, the Mann works. See Chapter 5 of his DPhil thesis: M. Afifi al-Akiti, The Mann of al-Ghazl: A Critical Edition of the Unpublished Major Mann with Discussion of His Restricted, Philosophical Corpus, D.Phil. thesis, 3 vols., Univ. of Oxford (2008). ‘Extending the Mutawatir, Strengthtening the Ijma’: A Comparison between Bediuzzaman and al-Attas on Knowledge and Education; by Wan Mohd Nor Wan Daud; see http://www.nursistudies.com/englishh/teblig.php?tno=392 Ibid. Commemorative Volume on the Conferment of the Al-Ghazl Chair of Islamic Thought (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1994), 21. Ibid., 22

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