Friday, December 8, 2006

7)Revelation and Reason

The whole basis of the divide is the age-old conflict that was created between revelation and reason in Islam. This conflict occured and is occuring within other traditions as well. Remember the punitive action taken by the Catholic Church against Galileo for promoting heliocentrism and against Giordano Bruno(burned alive at the stake) for daring to suggest an astronomical observation logically concluded by the instrument of his own reason and intellect-his mind. In the situation with the Catholic Church, reason won out in the end and western science was born. It then proceeded to come to an accomodation with the Church and today they exist side by side, never mingling but running parallel to each other nevertheless. Islam is now at that crossroads and the orthodox majority of every stripe-sunni, shia and miscellaneous- are truly feeling the heat from the rationalist-dominated, technologically advanced world around them. It must be a sinking feeling because they seem to be engaging in ever more depraved acts to try to counter and reverse it. In the first 4 centuries of Islam, revelation and reason co-existed in perfect harmony. There are numerous quranic, prophetic and imamic dictates encouraging the rational as well as the divine acquisition of knowledge and these directly inspired the burst of scientific and other activity that occured up to around the first millenium CE or so. Then the vicious intellectual conflict between the Hanbali-Ghazzalian orthodoxy and the Mutazila rationalists was resolved in favour of the former and, instead of trying to re-create the harmonious dance between revelation and reason, the orthodoxy proceeded to stamp out all rational activity in favour of a purely literal, petrified reading of the 7th century scripture, a situation that has persisted until today. Soon after this rout by the Islamic orthodoxy, the onset of the Renaissance began its own conflict between the Catholic orthodoxy and the proponents of the rational acquisition of knowledge. It almost seemed like the two big orthodoxies, Christianity and Islam, were colluding in this fight against the advancement of rational knowledge. In the case of Islam, it won and in the case of Christianity it, fortunately, lost. I think that young muslims of all stripes need to be reared and nurtured in an environment that re-creates this harmonious dance between revelation and reason that existed a thousand years ago in Islam. Success in this endeavour will go a long way towards marginalizing the extremist fringe that hangs like a heavy necklace around the neck of the world Islamic community.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4.
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3