Posts Tagged With: Islam

The Revival of Islamic Thought

Author: Murtada Mutahhari
Translator: Mansoor Limba
ASIN: B07BRM73YD
Price: US$3.99

Table of Contents:
About the Author
Preface
Chapter 1 – Iqbal and the Revival of Religous Thought
The absence of the Islamic spirit among Muslims
The logic of railway train
Solidarity as a sign of life

Chapter 2 – Past and Present Thought of Muslims on the Role of Action in Man’s Felicity
Pathology
The roots of distortion of our way of thinking about Islam
Action as the bedrock of Islamic training and education
The role of the Umayyads in the emergence of this distortion
Why the idea of holding action in contempt came into being
What is faith [īmān]?
The Murji’iyyah
Two accounts
Twisted way of thinking
The issue of sanctuary
Two Prophetic traditions

Chapter 3 – Dull vis-à-vis Vibrant Thinking
Physical and spiritual life
Fiṭrah or the essence of human life
Life means to have insight and ability
Life itself as not identical with its characteristics
Self-reliance
Reliance on Allah [tawakkul] as a vibrant and dynamic concept
Distorted and twisted tawakkul
Asceticism [zuhd] in Islam
Negative asceticism
The issue of guardianship [wilāyah] of a tyrant
Asceticism as a spiritual strength and not an economic weakness
Our ascetics as morally bankrupt as well as economically handicapped
The Imam and Productive works

Chapter 4 – Islamic Thought on Asceticism and Abandonment of the World
Asceticism and abandonment of the world
Is asceticism a natural disaffection?
Two types of asceticism unacceptable to Islam
Another misconception about asceticism
The real meaning of asceticism
Aims of Islamic asceticism
1. Self-sacrifice
2. Sympathy
Tradition on the philosophy of asceticism

Chapter 5 – The Philosophy of Asceticism (zuhd) in Islamic Thought
Story about sympathy
3. Freedom and liberty
Naturally essential conditions
Conditions within man’s freewill
Habit brings about attachment and attachment leads to captivity
Freemen always lead simple life
The philosophy of modesty and simplicity in the life of leaders
Pretensions, or limitations, restrictions and captivity
Asceticism of Gandhi
4. Consistency with the demand of time
5. Apprehension of spiritual pleasures
The enlightened ascetic according to Abu ‘Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna)

Categories: Translated Books, Translation | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

It Needs Much Editing!

Yesterday afternoon, out of the blue, I received a message via Telegram app:

“Salamun ‘alaykum. I’m _____ _____, one of the lecturers of _____ _____ University. I have a question for you.”

I replied, “‘Alaykumis-salam Shaykh. I’m at your service.”

“I teach using Shahid Mutahhari’s book ‘Islamic Training and Education’ which is translated into English. As I browsed online, I have learned that it’s your translation, and we’re provided a copy of it in our university.”

(Actually the book’s title is “Training and Education in Islam”.)

“Yes. it’s my translation. https://www.islamic-college.ac.uk/…/training-education-isl…/
Any problem with the translation?”

“Yes, professor. It needs much of edition!” (He then attached two photos of a text with his alleged corrections.)

      

“Is that the actual page of the book, or something retyped from the book? If it’s retyped, then typographical errors might have occurred. Kindly scan so that I can properly read it.

“Do you have your translation file? If yes, send it please to compare both.”

(As can be noticed, he refuses to answer my question, but instead asked for the softcopy of the book for FREE.)

“You can’t expect me to give you my copy because it’s violative of the contract I have signed with the publisher. I’m asking, is it the actual page of the book, or something retyped from the book?”

“I don’t have the book.”

“That’s what I was expecting: it’s something retyped from the book, not the actual book! I do suggest you to do two things: (1) to get your copy of the book, and then (2) compare the text of the actual book with the sheets in your hand. And if you discover that they are not exactly the same with the text in the book, then tell those who are responsible in typing the modules in your school to type the text
correctly!”

“What is the name and address of publisher?”

“It only shows that you have not checked the link I have given you. Please check my earlier messages.

“I checked but couldn’t download the file.”

“You are asking me about the name and address of the publisher. It’s mentioned there in the link. Or, are you really looking for the name of the publisher, or for the electronic copy of the book to download IN GRATIS?”

“This part (attaching again the photo) is the same in your link. Also there is (sic) some differences in some parts. You are somehow right, mistyped some parts, but as you saw again there is (sic) some to be edited.”

“It’s clear now that the text of the book is not exactly reflected in the sheets. We will talk about your claim that my translation requires editing once you have already a copy of the book.”

“Surely my professor. Is that publisher in London?”

“Please read again the link.”

“It was written that the publisher is in London; just to be sure my professor.”

“You are addressing me as ‘my professor’ and yet you are saying that my translation requires editing!”

“Some teachers have talented students than themselves. Humbly I am your student. Waiting [for] the right copy of your translation. I have heard of you here as a professional translator.”

“Wow! Then you have the audacity to say that you are ‘humble’ and at the same time saying that you are more talented than your teacher.”

“So finding that copy in your name shocked me. So I decided to make you aware of this. Thanks for beautiful chat.”

“Wow, you are saying that you are shocked [due to my poor translation], and yet you haven’t read my translation as a whole.”

“Bravery is our heritage… at same time being humble to the teachers. That was what I had in my hand and find it for your name. Anyway it was a good start for our relationship if you want.”

“Three things you can do: (1) Get your copy of the book, (2) and then enumerate the errors to the publisher and (3) to Dr. Muhammad Mutahhari, the author’s son who manages the Mutahhari Foundation (the repository of the author’s extensive works).

“How can I get the proper copy? Please give me a number or address to contact directly to (sic) the publisher. Thanks a million.”

“How to get a copy? Very simple, borrow from a library, or buy your own copy.”

“U mentioned that the same in the link has mistyped. So which library has the authentic copy?”

“The issue here is not which copy is authentic. The fact is that you have not yet read the whole book and yet you claim that it needs ‘much editing’.”

“Ok.”

—– 

I just hope my fellow interlocutor above would soon meet Dr. Muhammad Mutahhari, who himself had personally given his feedback to me some years ago on my translation of his late father’s two books, namely, “Training and Education in Islam” and “The Theory of Knowledge: An Islamic Perspective”.

Now, let me ask those who have read the whole book: Does it really need ‘much editing’?

This translator and the book’s editor, Dr. Amina Inloes, will surely be very grateful if you can let us know of the errors in the translation. As the Indonesian proverb goes, “Dimana gading yang tida retak,” which means “There’s no ivory without a crack.”

=====

Even after this post of mine, he did not stop notifying me of the alleged errors in my translation: “Here are some I noticed in your given link…” (Actually, I didn’t give any link to him.)

            

Thereafter, I replied to him: “After bringing your list of the alleged errors in my translation to the attention of (1) the publisher and (2) Dr. Muhammad Mutahhari, the Director of Mutahhari Foundation, please let me know their reaction. Thanks 

Then he responded thus, “Don’t you feel that this is your own business and responsibility? A book is distributing worldwide via your given link in your name full of errors! You yourself referred me to that university site for your translated book, And in a little glance l encountered this mistakes again there! Just in some available parts there. I saw and feel some non religious and non Muslim scholars worldwide are more receptive to my comments and critics even for misprintings. While YOU evaluate that as ALLEGED! While they are of your link!! Instead of begin thankful. Again maybe I will hear it’s for mistyped copy:blush: No time for looking publisher or the man without address or phone.Or writing down the list which will be named ALLEGED! Nice chat Bye my professor:pray:”

(He’s lying in saying that I referred him a certain university site.)

Naturally, I was smiling while reading his message, and then I replied. “Salam. ” I hope that will be our parting message – salam. 

Categories: Education, Translated Books, Translation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Forthcoming Publication: “Philosophy of Ethics”

PhilosophyofEthics

Murtada Mutahhari, “PHILOSOPHY OF ETHICS,” trans. Mansoor Limba (London: MIU Press, forthcoming), 272 pages.

Table of Contents

Translator’s Foreword
About the Author
Preface

Part One
Chapter 1: What is Ethics?
Chapter 2: Natural Action and Moral Action
Chapter 3: Theory of Emotionalism and the Muslim Philosophers’ Theory
Chapter 4: Conscience Theory
Chapter 5: Theory of Beauty
Chapter 6: Theory on Worship
Chapter 7: Islamic Ethics and Morality
Chapter 8: Self and Non-self
Chapter 9: Knowledge of the Self
Chapter 10: Spiritual and Moral Crises in the Present Age

Part Two
Chapter 11: The Criterion for Moral Action
Chapter 12: Communist Morality and Russell’s School of Morality
Chapter 13: Question of the ‘Self’ in Ethics

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Eclectic Understanding of the Story of Habil and Qabil

habilnqabil

Around 30 years ago, one of those Marxist-leaning and eclectic individuals presented in his lecture a symbolic interpretation of the story of Habil and Qabil mentioned in the Qur’an. The story as narrated in the Qur’an is as follows:

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ ابْنَيْ آدَمَ بِالْحَقِّ إِذْ قَرَّبَا قُرْبَانًا فَتُقُبِّلَ مِن أَحَدِهِمَا وَلَمْ يُتَقَبَّلْ مِنَ الآخَرِ قَالَ لَأَقْتُلَنَّكَ قَالَ إِنَّمَا يَتَقَبَّلُ اللّهُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ

“Relate to them truly the account of Adam’s two sons. When the two of them offered an offering, it was accepted from one of them and not accepted from the other. [One of them] said, ‘Surely I will kill you.’ [The other one] said, ‘Allah accepts only from the God-wary’.”2

As can be deduced from traditions, the sons of Hadhrat Adam (‘a), Qabil (Cain) and Habil (Abel), were supposed to make an offering to God. Habil offered a sheep for sacrifice while Qabil offered some grain. The offering of the former was accepted by God but that of the latter was not accepted. As such, Qabil became jealous and envious of his brother Habil to the extent that he murdered him. But he regretted what he had done. As he did not know what to do with the corpse of his brother, God sent a crow to teach him how to bury the dead body:

فَبَعَثَ اللّهُ غُرَابًا يَبْحَثُ فِي الأَرْضِ لِيُرِيَهُ كَيْفَ يُوَارِي سَوْءةَ أَخِيهِ قَالَ يَا وَيْلَتَا أَعَجَزْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِثْلَ هَـذَا الْغُرَابِ فَأُوَارِيَ سَوْءةَ أَخِي فَأَصْبَحَ مِنَ النَّادِمِينَ

“Then Allah sent a crow, exploring in the ground, to show him how to bury the corpse of his brother. He said, ‘Woe to me! Am I unable to be [even] like this crow and bury my brother’s corpse?’ Thus he became regretful.”3

When a crow, sent by God, started digging the ground in search of food in front of Qabil, the eldest son of Hadhrat Adam (‘a) who did not realize till then how he could dig the soil and bury a corpse, learned it from a crow and buried his brother’s corpse.

In his symbolic interpretation of this story, the said writer and speaker said that Habil is the symbol of the hardworking class of workers and peasants, the product of whose unrelenting sweat and toil is insignificant. Since God supports and inclines toward this class, He accepted his humble pasture product offering. Meanwhile, Qabil is the symbol of capitalists and when he offered his produce, God rejected his offering because God is against capitalists.

The speaker concluded that Habil and Qabil and their respective offerings did not exist in reality as they only represent and symbolize the classes of proletariats and capitalists and the struggle between the two classes. (During the time of Hadhrat Adam (‘a) when there was no other person other than him, his wife and two sons, how could the classes of the proletariats and the capitalists have existed and what was the meaning of class-based interpretation at that time? In any case, due to the prevalence of Marxist thought 30 years ago and the multitude of supporters of atheistic schools of thought, these symbolic interpretations earned wide acceptance.)

The said speaker presented a symbolic interpretation of Habil and Qabil but he did not tell what the raven symbolized. One of his students discovered this secret and in his article, he introduced the black raven as the symbol of akhunds who are preoccupied with rawdhahkhani4 and lamentation, propagators of wickedness and misfortune from pulpits, busy supporting feudal lords and capitalists. By discovering this secret, he allegedly completed the so-called third side of the triad of gold [zar], force [zur] and deceit [tazwir]. Interestingly, in narrating this story, God says: “Relate to them truly the account of Adam’s two sons.” That is, “Relate to the people the truth of this real event.” It is as if God predicts that one day there will be an unrealistic and erroneous interpretation of this event in history, and emphasizes that no distortion be made and the truth related to the people.

Yes, during recent decades, especially nowadays, symbolic, allegorical and fictitious interpretations of the Qur’an have increased and been propagated to such an extent that some of those who have studied Islam and are even wearing clerical garbs are hymning such melodies and claim that the language of the Qur’an is not realistic and it is not true that the Qur’anic verses show us objective and immutable realities.

Accordingly, in interpreting Qur’anic verses, we do not have decisive and convincing bases, fixed frameworks, and scientifically accurate criteria with which we can claim that so-and-so verse can have only one interpretation and explanation and all other interpretations are wrong. Rather, everyone can have a symbolic and allegorical interpretation of Qur’anic verses according to his ideas, presumptions and thoughts even if his interpretation is totally incompatible with other interpretations!

The presentation of an ambiguous image of religion

In order to be familiar with the theory of symbolism of religious narratives including the Qur’anic narratives and to enhance our minds, let me tell you that displayed in modern arts museums are tabloids with ambiguous geometrical forms that do not clearly show images of certain things, and everyone has his own interpretation and perception of them according to his literary talent, and introduces them as symbols of certain things.

Perhaps, the drawers of those tabloids might be unaware of others’ interpretations and perceptions of those drawings. Similarly, in some psychological tests some ink are spread on a sheet of paper and every patient is asked what object he can see on the paper. After a bit of thinking and conceiving the specific shapes on the paper which he thinks is the form of a certain object, each of the patients offers his own interpretation, saying, for example, that a certain portion of the formed shape shows the hair of a woman and another portion shows her hands, and finally, he introduces the ambiguous form and image as a woman’s portrait.

This is in spite of the fact that the one who scattered the small pieces of paper in different shapes on a sheet of paper has not intended to make a specific form or image at all and he did not want to do so consciously and logically. He just spread some ink on a sheet of paper, and as a result, an ambiguous image which is subject to various interpretations is formed.

They claim that the language of the Qur’an is not realistic and its narratives are related so that anyone can understand and comprehend something from it according to his own discernment. One should not treat as absolute his understanding and perception of the Qur’an and say that his interpretation of the Qur’an is definitely correct and that of others is wrong.

Likewise, if a person happens to deal with modern arts and has an interpretation of them, he can not say that his interpretation is definitely correct and that of another is wrong because he has a specific interpretation and understanding of them according to his ideas and specific conditions. Others also have their distinct interpretation and understanding according to their respective ideas and specific social conditions. Some interpretations cannot be regarded as correct and others as wrong. In essence, correctness or incorrectness in such cases is not something real and fixed and it cannot be said that one person’s understanding is correct and another’s wrong!

Is the Qur’an—God forbid—like modern arts which anyone can interpret according to his understanding? Most of those who have such understanding of the heavenly scriptures do not believe in God and divine revelation, and if ever they talk about religion, it is only meant to deceive others. Then, the advocates of the theory of various interpretations and readings of heavenly scriptures say: Assuming that there is God who has sent divine revelation and His Apostle has heard it correctly—which is of course, debatable—yet, the Apostle is human and his understanding is not error free. So, he might not have understood the words of God correctly.

Besides, if we accept that the Apostle has not erred in receiving and understanding the verses of the Qur’an, one cannot present a definite way of interpreting Qur’anic verses on the basis of which an interpretation can be treated as correct and definite and other interpretations as wrong. Instead, anyone can have an interpretation and understanding of the Qur’an and this interpretation and understanding is credible and authentic for him and no one can reject it. In dealing with the Holy Scripture, we are exactly like those who have undergone psychological tests, shown an ambiguous image and asked to state their interpretation of it. Then, everyone can have his own interpretation according to his mental setup!

——-

Notes:

2. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:27. [Trans.]

3. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:31.

4. Rawdhahkhani refers to the systematic commemoration of the martyrs of Karbala’ through the professional narrators of the event in ‘Ashura’ so as to excite weeping and lamentation. [Trans.]

Image courtesy of ytimg.com

IslamicPoliticalTheoryV1An excerpt from Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi, ISLAMIC POLITICAL THEORY (STATECRAFT), Volume 2, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: ABWA, 2011), 233 pages.

Categories: History, Philosophy, Qur'anic Sciences, Translated Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Menace of Intellectual Eclecticism

eclecticism

The reason behind the emphasis on this subject and the discussion in this regard is the deviation among different levels of people as a result of intellectual eclecticism. To cite an example, if a scientist formulates a theory in the field of physics, only someone occupying a high station in the said field, like Albert Einstein, can express his opinion about the theory. However, the same scientist (Einstein) will not express his opinion on a theory in psychology.

If he ever wants to affirm or reject the said theory, he will refer to an authority in psychology because the field of science in question is beyond his expertise. Similarly, other scientists affirm and endorse a theory outside their expertise based on the affirmation of concerned authorities. There are times, however, when after studying the views of scientists in various fields a person accepts some views and inclines toward them without assessing them as being harmonious together or not.

Will his views and opinions constitute a coherent set of human values? He has neither thought about this approach nor has any intention of doing so. He merely says that in his opinion, so-and-so psychologist, sociologist, or lawyer has a better view, and this attitude leads to intellectual eclecticism.

The people of insight and research, however, collect all the views and analyze whether they are compatible or not. If they want to accept the theory of a certain psychologist, they compare it with another theory in sociology in order to know whether they are compatible or not. They also carry out the same comparison regarding other views in other fields and subjects.

The ground for eclecticism is more fertile in the lower academic levels where people study a book in any field without investigating the credibility of the author and the consistency of his ideas with other ideas and views in other subjects tend to be influenced by it. The result is intellectual eclecticism.

Intellectual eclecticism in realm of religious thought

Unfortunately, in our Islamic society, particularly during the last fifty years, many eclectic ideas have emerged. In a certain stage of their lives, people accept certain doctrines of Islam through their parents, environment and religious leaders. Then in the next stage, on entering high school and university they become acquainted with other views and beliefs from different sciences and subjects and also accept them without considering whether these views and beliefs are consistent or not; for example, whether a philosophical theory they have accepted is compatible with a certain religious theory or theory in biology, physics, or mathematics. When observed carefully, we find out that in some cases these views are incompatible and they do not constitute a coherent set. This form of thinking is called eclectic thinking.

Nowadays, many individuals in our religious society are afflicted with eclectic thinking because on the one hand, they have inherited family beliefs of the Islamic society which they do not want to abandon. On the other hand, ideas from different fields of social sciences are presented to them which they also accept and attach to the religious beliefs without knowing that these different ideas and views are incompatible with each other and that we have to accept either the religious beliefs or those ideas which are incompatible with religion.

Therefore, if we want to accept ideas and views in the fields of sociology, law, political science, and the like which are compatible with our religious beliefs, we have to set aside the schools of thought presented to us through the translation of foreign books and their propaganda, and advance new ideas in social sciences which are scientifically, foundationally and essentially compatible with our religious beliefs. Otherwise, we will either have to abandon our religious beliefs or set aside those ideas and views which are incompatible with our religious beliefs. The two cannot be combined together just as one cannot accept that it is day and night at the same time!

Without paying attention to the fundamental point we have mentioned, one cannot deal with all ideas and views and take something from each of them and adopt intellectual and religious eclecticism because in this case, the extremist idea of pluralism in knowledge and understanding will emerge in us which believes that whatever a person says is correct; nothing is absolutely false; every person tells a part of the truth; and every school of thought has part of the truth.

With the support of agnosticism in philosophy, which is also very popular today in the West, this approach ends up in skepticism. This approach asserts that the views of different sciences possess a portion of the truth. We cannot say that we have a definite and certain belief in something. So, it is better for us to have no definite and absolute belief in anything and only consider as probable the correctness and incorrectness of a theory. With regard to religion also, we have to accept religious pluralism, according to which we have to accept as correct the viewpoints of both the Muslims who believe in the Oneness of God and the beliefs of someone whom the Muslims regard deserves eternal damnation.

We have to equally accept as correct the faith of Christians who believe in the Trinity and the Zoroastrians who believe in the god of good and the god of evil, because none of these beliefs is definite and certain. Possibly, each of them is correct or incorrect and we are not supposed to confront any of them because all of them can be good and correct.

Tolerance of all beliefs and different conflicting views is anchored in the foundation of skepticism, agnosticism and pluralism, which reject the absoluteness of any belief. Social indulgence and negligence gain strength in the absence of prejudice, partisanship and violence, and they say, it is better not to be prejudiced but assume whatever another person says as possibly correct. This approach successfully creates a sense of indifference to religious, philosophical and scientific beliefs in a person.

Today this agnosticism of the Western world is also offered to us. There is an endeavor to make our society negligent and insensitive to religious, philosophical and scientific beliefs, and become skeptical about every viewpoint and theory, and believe that it could possibly be correct and so could its contradiction. Sometimes, it is also said that we should not regard our understanding as absolute and say that it is totally correct and there is no correct but this. We should not have such certainty. We should have our own beliefs and hold them respectable. Others should have also their own beliefs.

This culture adopted by the Western world for itself today, is being promoted so that the whole world should come under the influence of this culture. This culture negates the certainty of beliefs, negates the religion of truth, negates the belief that the true madhhab and correct theory are one, and inculcates the idea that the correct theory may be multiple so no one should have certainty of belief in anything. There should be no fanaticism in discussion. Religious zeal and sectarian fanaticism should be eliminated.

The people’s inclination to one religion, one madhhab and one idea should be eliminated so that all could live together and have no conflict over religious issues because these very religious disputes are the source of wars and mass murder. All sects, religions and ideas should be considered correct and truthful in order to pave the ground for peace, security and happiness.

Concept of religious pluralism

We do not intend to deal with the issue of pluralism in particular, but let us clearly say that we actually believe that we should deal respectfully, calmly and properly with followers of different religions and authorities in different philosophies and sciences. They should be allowed to express and defend their views and participate in dialogues, discussions and investigations in various spheres.

In today’s world we can witness Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians living together in peace, there being no room for conflict, dispute, fratricide, and genocide in their midst. This is something which receives more attention in Islam than in any religious, sectarian or political group, and followers of religions have not been accorded as cordial a treatment as offered by Islam. In Islam the cornerstone of beliefs is monotheism [tawhid] and struggle against the Trinity and polytheism [shirk] is regarded necessary in propagating and fortifying tawhid, yet in Islam, Christianity and Judaism are officially recognized religions.

Followers of these religions are under the protection of Islam. Their lives, property and honor are protected, and no one has the right to commit the least act of harassment and aggression against them.

This kind of treatment and attitude toward the followers of other religions is inspired by the conduct of the awliya of religion including the Commander of the Faithful (‘a). In one of his sermons recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah, the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) says: “I have come to know that every one of them entered upon… women under the protection of Islam and took away ornaments from their legs, arms, necks, and ears… If any Muslim dies of grief after all this he is not to be blamed but rather there is justification for him before me.”1

This is because in the Islamic territory and under the protection of the Islamic state a non-Muslim woman has been oppressed. Such an attitude toward followers of other religions is among the merits and sources of pride of Islam and according to an explicit text of the Qur’an:

قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَى كَلَمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلاَّ نَعْبُدَ إِلاَّ اللّه َ…

“Say, ‘O People of the Book! Come to a word common between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah…2

Also, another verse invites us to the best manner of disputation:

وَلاَ تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ…

“Do not dispute with the People of the Book except in a manner which is best.”3

If that is the meaning of pluralism, then we have to say that it is one of Islam’s sources of pride. However, if pluralism means that we say to ourselves that Christianity is also like Islam; Judaism is also like Islam; there is no difference between being a Muslim and a Jew because each of them has a segment of the truth; neither Islam nor Judaism is the absolute truth; or both of them are the truth, like two ways that end up in a single point of destination whichever way one treads, undoubtedly, such a notion and understanding is inconsistent with the spirit of every religion and the dictates of reason. Can it be claimed that belief in tawhid is identical with the belief in Trinity? In other words, is there no difference between the belief in the Oneness of God and the belief in Trinity and many gods? The religion of Islam says:

وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ ثَلاَثَةٌ انتَهُواْ خَيْرًا لَكُمْ

“And do not say, ‘[God is] a trinity.’ Relinquish [such a creed]! That is better for you.”4

In dealing with the untoward attributes given to God such as His having a child, the Qur’an says:

تَكَادُ السَّمَاوَاتُ يَتَفَطَّرْنَ مِنْهُ وَتَنشَقُّ الْأَرْضُ وَتَخِرُّ الْجِبَالُ هَدًّا

“The heavens are about to be rent apart at it, the earth to split open, and the mountains to collapse into bits!”5

Now, when Islam has such a firm approach toward polytheistic beliefs, how can we say that if you like you can be a Muslim and if you don’t, then worship idols, and these two faiths have no differences and are among the “straight paths” leading to the same goal! I think it is improbable for a rational person to accept this. In any case, intellectual eclecticism is one of the plagues and predicaments of our age which must be given attention to and the ways of purging the mind and acquiring a pure and pristine mentality must be identified and acted upon.

——-

Notes:

1. Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 27. This refers to the attack of Sufyan ibn ‘Awf (a commander of Mu‘awiyah) on the city of Anbar that took place at the time of Imam ‘Ali’s (‘a) rule. One of the soldiers stopped two women, one a Muslim and the other a dhimmi and robbed them of their anklets, bracelets and earrings. [Trans.]

2. Surah Al ‘Imran 3:64.

3. Surah al-‘Ankabut 29:46.

4. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:171.

5. Surah Maryam 19:90.

6. Surah an-Nahl 16:36.

(Image courtesy of flickr.com)

IslamicPoliticalTheoryV1(An excerpt from Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi, ISLAMIC POLITICAL THEORY (LEGISLATION), Volume 1, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: ABWA, 2011), 278 pages.)

Categories: Philosophy, Translated Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Definitions of Religion Based on Metaphysical Foundation

Aston         Shariati         Geisler

Some of the philosophers of religion regard as religion any school of thought which has the following three principal elements of belief:

  1. There is a world beyond the world of tangibles;
  2. The world of nature has a purpose; and
  3. The world of being has a moral system.

The third element can be analyzed in two ways. One way is that the world of being is such that it perceives what is morally good or evil. The other way is that the world of being is such that it rewards moral goodness or wickedness.[1]

Assessment

Some supplementary and critical points to this definition are worth mentioning:

First, concerning the first belief, this point must be added that man is also a reality that is situated between the natural and supernatural worlds.

دو سر هر دو حلقة هستي   به حقيقت به هم تو پيوستي

Both two heads are of the axis of existence.

Indeed you are also attached to them.

Man’s religious, intellectual and political search in this domain is meant for the improvement of his supernatural asset. Acquisition of more knowledge about the dimensions and realities of the world of nature as well as its laws helps in his advancement in the supernatural realm.

Second, the world of nature’s purposefulness is connected to another principal belief, and that is the world of creation’s dependence on the All-wise and Absolute God who is devoid of any futile and vain act at all.

Third, in this definition the question of God is raised ambiguously. That there is a world beyond the world of nature and tangibles is an extremely general statement, for it is possible to refer to a world in which there is no mention of God, such as the world of myths and fables.

Fourth, in saying that the world of being is such that it gives reward or retribution to what is morally good or evil, does ‘the world of being’ refer to this world or include the otherworldly as well?

If it refers only to this world, then all good deeds of a person are not compensated well in this world. In the same manner, because of this world’s limited capacity [to compensate], the criminals cannot be duly punished for all their crimes in this world. Of course, we have the law of causation, or action and reaction in this world but the capacity of this world is not enough to duly compensate all human actions. Unless the eternal world is accepted, reward and punishment for what is morally good and bad cannot be considered.

Fifth, in some creeds, particularly the ascetic schools, the abovementioned three points can be seen, without them claiming to be forms of religion.

Sixth, not every moral system is religious. The moral system whose foundation is God in the sense that the criterion for good and evil in it is the Divine commands has religious dimension. The basic foundation of what is morally good and evil in religion is revelation which is immune from error and deviation.

If to say that the world of being perceives what is morally good and evil means that the world of being has the ability to perceive the good and evil, then it is acceptable from a religious perspective in view of the fact that all parts of the world of being are in a state of glorying, prostration and remembering God. And if it means that like human beings, the world of being also acquires knowledge of what is morally good and evil and the perception of the world of being is like the human knowledge about the abovementioned matters, then this meaning is not a religious necessity. That the world of being gives recompense to what is morally good or bad can be interpreted in two ways:

One is that the world of being’s giving of reward is like one of the laws which God has prescribed in the world of being. It is the same law of causation whose enactment and implementation are like those of other laws of God.

The other way is that as a warning to His creatures, God, the Glorious, has directly enacted and implemented the said law.

We must know that this causation is only for the awareness of human beings:

 كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ

“Every soul is hostage to what it has earned.”[2]

Otherwise, because of the lack of capacity of the world of matter and materiality to implement absolutely the law of divine justice for good and evil deeds, it can be implemented in the eternal world. It can be said that in this definition, three subjects which are acceptable and of immense importance for religion are mentioned. Yet, paying attention to the religious duties and rights and distinguishing them from moral cases are not yet done. On the other hand, there has been no categorical and decisive statement regarding the Sacred Being of God, His control over the creation, Attributes of Perfection, and the Resurrection.

Aston’s Definition

W.G. Aston, a contemporary philosopher of religion, presents the following as the common features of religions:

  1. Belief in metaphysical beings;
  2. Differentiation between the sacred and the worldly affair;
  3. Rites which are concentrated on certain things;
  4. A set of moral rules whose implementation is guaranteed by God or gods;
  5. Specific religious feelings (such as fear, reverence, sense of guilt, and gratitude) which are expressed before sacred things or in the performance of rites;
  6. Worship and other forms of connection with God or gods;
  7. A general viewpoint about the world as a unit and the station of man in it (worldview);
  8. Relatively comprehensive organization of human life based upon such viewpoint (ideology); and
  9. A united social group with the support of the abovementioned elements (community or church).

Assessment

  1. It is as if these thinkers have sensitivity to God as they talk about ‘metaphysical beings’. It must not be forgotten that the same sensitivity caused some Western countries to use the term ‘supreme being’ instead of the word ‘God’ in their constitutions!

Essential to religion is the belief in the existence of God, and not merely metaphysical creatures. Of course, belief in metaphysical creatures such as the angels and souls that have reached the lofty station of immateriality, eternity, and the truths pertaining to them is considered part of the religious beliefs.

  1. Differentiation of the sacred matter from the worldly matter is not true to all religions.
  2. Rites which are concentrated on certain things are related to primitive religions. Rites exist in religions with divine origins but not rites which are centered on certain things, but rites which are held as a form of worship, linking the most insignificant to the most significant. Be that as it may, rites of the primitive periods whether they are in the form of totem, taboo, or any other form have nothing to do with the world Abrahamic faith.
  3. In religions with divine origins, the criterion for the moral rules is God, and not that God merely guarantees the implementation of laws.
  4. To have certain religious sentiments is one of the effects of belief in God. The rites which exist in religion make a person experience particular spiritual states. It must also be noted that in some creeds which are known as religions rites with superstitious underpinning exist and they cannot be compared with real rites of religions with divine origins, as discussed above.
  5. Religion fosters unity among individuals. And this point is also one of the essentials and effects of religion and not the religion itself. Of course, the ‘single community’ (ummatan wāḥidah) which is attained through the religious conviction cannot be compared with organizations formed by groups, for the goal of religion is to let the human beings move as a single caravan to be sublime Origin. Unity of a religious community is not similar to a racial, geographical, or political organization formed for a particular purpose such as defense against an enemy. Rather, as stated in Islamic sources, faithful individuals are like a single body; if one part experiences pain, all parts will experience the same. The souls of faithful individuals are like a single soul, and the link of the soul of faithful person to God is stronger than the link between the sun and its rays.[3]
  6. There is no doubt that the affairs of the world of being have connection with sacred truths, and that sacred matters are sometimes distinct from worldly matters. In the religion of Islam, however, it can be said that as they are related to the world of creation—on account that all parts of the world of creation, whether they are inward or outward, are divine signs: “Soon We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in their own souls until it becomes clear to them that He is the Real”[4] and “So whichever way you turn, there is the face of Allah!”[5]—it follows then that in a sense the entire universe has a sacred dimension.
  7. Regarding the phrase “Rites which are concentrated on certain things” it must be explained whether or not it means the presence of a set of rites in every religion. It is correct but the taboo rites must be distinguished from rites which are performed in the form of worship and other rational inclinations to the metaphysical.
  8. The meaning of this statement, “The guarantor of the implementation of moral rules is God or gods” must be clarified. In this regard, there are some possibilities:

First possibility: It means that God helps the human beings so that their actions are consistent with the moral rules. Of course, one can infer from the sources of Abrahamic Faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) this meaning with utmost clarity, for the justice and grace of God necessitate that He guides His servants to the path of material and spiritual prosperity.

Second possibility: “The guarantor of the implementation of moral rules” means control and stimulation of the pure conscience and not attributing the actions to deterministic factors.

Third possibility: “Moral rules” refer to religious laws, duties and rights because of their association with God. That is, it is because God enacted them and He is cognizant of the interaction of people with one another. If it means this third possibility, then it is closer to the reality compared to the other two possibilities.

  1. Specific religious feelings (such as fear, reverence, sense of guilt, and gratitude) which are expressed before sacred things or in the performance of rites:

On one hand, such concepts are not exclusive to religion, for when a rational person sees himself in front of a Real Being higher than him and he experiences a sense of cautiousness coupled with hope, there is the sense of awe in such a person. When a rational and wary person with a sound mind learns of the majesty of the world of being and its vastness and orderliness, he will definitely experience a sense of astonishment (and not primitive bewilderment, doubt and skepticism). Definitely, anyone who does something against the law—provided he has a sound mind and personality—will feel ashamed and this feeling is the result of committing a sin, although he may not use the same terms. Similarly, gratitude or thanksgiving in times of joy caused by material and spiritual favors in life which are attributed to mere luck is a common phenomenon. All such phenomena can have religious underpinning when they connect man to God.

  1. With regards to “Worship and other forms of connection with God or gods,” it must be said that in Abrahamic monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), gods are not objects of worship and other religious connections. In the said religions, there are no such things as ‘gods’ at all.[6]
  2. A general viewpoint about the world as a unit and the station of man in it (worldview):

This viewpoint consists of the following:

  1. The world of being is a creation of God;
  2. The world of being is created based upon the governance and will God for a lofty purpose;

The station of man in this world is such that he is a very important being with various talents through which he can have interactive relationship with all levels and dimensions of the world in which he lives, and the magnitude and quality of his perfection depend on such relationship.

Man can have two types of honor:

The first type is intrinsic honor:

 وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُمْ مِنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَى كَثِيرٍ مِمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلا

“Certainly We have honored the Children of Adam, and carried them over land and sea, and provided them with all the good things, and given them an advantage over many of those We have created with a complete preference.”[7]

All human beings possess this honor, provided that they would not deprive themselves of it by committing treachery (khiyānah).

The second type is acquired honor:

 يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ

“O mankind! Indeed We created you from a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes that you may identify with one another. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-wary among you.”[8]

  1. Relatively comprehensive organization of human life based upon such viewpoint (ideology):

This is the same relationship of man with the world which is the third of the four relationships upon which all religions with divine origins are organized: (1) man’s relationship with himself; (2) man’s relationship with God; (3) man’s relationship with the world of being; and (4) man’s relationship with his fellow human beings.

Therefore, there will be no objection if we say, “Relatively comprehensive organization of human life based upon the abovementioned four relationships”.

  1. A united social group with the support of the abovementioned elements (community or church):

In this part of the definition of religion, two ambiguous issues must be examined:

  1. The social organization in itself is not a pillar of the essence of religion, for even if only one person or a few people believe in religion in this world, he or they will still constitute a community (ummah). As such, the Noble Qur’an introduces Prophet Ibrāhīm (Abraham) (‘a) alone as a community:

 إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ كَانَ أُمَّةً

“Indeed Abraham was a nation.”[9]

Of course, as the number of individuals and communities that follow the religion increases, the social organization of those who believe in the said religion (ummah) also becomes larger.

  1. Ummah refers to the group of people who believe in a particular religion, or if we really broaden its meaning, it refers to the group of people that cling to a given ideology, whether it is religious or not.

Like the mosque and other houses of worship which are built on earth as places of worship, the church means a center for collective worship and devotion, unless the original meaning of it is changed into another one.

Sharī‘atī’s Definition

Dr. ‘Alī Sharī‘atī[10] enumerates the common features of religions as follows:

  1. Religion declares existence as meaningful.
  2. It is correct provided that the meaning of the meaningfulness of the world is its association with God and the sublime wisdom and will of the Sacred Essence. Its purposefulness is also a requisite of its being associated with the wisdom and will of God. The requisite of the observance of this condition is the belief in the world as having an ultimate goal. Similarly, the said condition also necessitates the meaningfulness of man and history. Definitely, if the goal is not limited to the creation of the world, at least this can be regarded as one of its highest goals. Therefore, Sharī‘atī might have possibly stated the first two points as one.
  3. The duality of the human being in all religions:

If this ‘duality’ refers to the physical and spiritual, the dispositional and the behavioral, the outward and the inward, the intrinsic and the extrinsic, then this is correct.

  1. Sanctity in the world:

Sanctity or sacredness in the world can be considered from two perspectives. The first perspective is that the world relies upon the wisdom and will of God, and the notion of the world as a divine sign (āyah) (both within man and in the outside world) refers to this perspective:

 سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ

“Soon We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in their own souls until it becomes clear to them that He is the Real”[11]

According to the second perspective, the facility and potential of this world are meant to prepare man and push him to the sublime goal of perfection. The ardent desire for it exists in the hearts of all people who are immune from selfishness. In the speech of the Commander of the Faithful ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (‘a) in reply to someone who rebuked the world, this perspective is expressed in this manner:

O’ you who abuse the world, O’ you who have been deceived by its deceit and cheated by its wrongs. Do you accuse it or it should accuse you? When did it bewilder you or deceive you? … Certainly, this world is a house of truth for him who appreciates it; a place of safety for him who understands it; a house of riches for him who collects provision from it (for the next world); and a house of instructions for him who draws instruction from it. It is a place of worship for the lovers of Allah; the place of praying for the angels of Allah; the place where the revelation of Allah descends; and the marketing place for those devoted to Allah.”[12]

  1. The division of all things, affairs and realities into tangible and intangible:

This division is not a distinctive feature of religions although this is acceptable in religions on the basis of undeniable fact (the division of all things into tangible and intangible).

  1. Religion as the social spirit:

This point is also not a distinctive feature of religions, for collective life—whether motivated by the need for division of labor among people, kinship through sexual reproduction or racial unity, or the natural demand for their civility—is a salient feature of human life in the sphere of coexistence.

  1. The global nature of the distinctive features of religion:

This issue must also be examined more accurately, for all religions with divine origins can be generally grouped into two:

First group: It consists of national religions which are exclusive to limited groups in the history of religion. The prophets of these religions were not the preeminent ones in determination (ūlū ’l-‘azm) and were limited to their respective time or group.

Second group: It consists of the world religions like the ones associated with Prophet Ibrāhīm (‘a) and whose messengers were the ūlū ’l-‘azm, viz. Nūḥ (Noah), Ibrāhīm, Mūsā (Moses), ‘Īsā (Jesus), and Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh (‘a). If it is not so, then the phrase refers to the common features of all religions such as belief in God, eternity, religious duties and rights, and the like.

8 and 9. “The unity of man and nature” and “the unity of man, nature and the spirit of being”:

These two phrases have a very broad meaning and are not a salient feature of the phenomenon called ‘religion’. There are philosophers who philosophically acknowledge this unity. Sufis and mystics also believe in this unity and something even higher. That is, man, nature, the spirit of the entire universe, and even God are a single being (theory of the unity of being). The stoics and a group of Indian philosophers and mystics believe in this theory. Therefore, items 8 and nine are not exclusive to religion.

  1. Apprehension, struggle and desire for union (ittiṣāl):

This point is also not free from ambiguity. The possible meanings which can be conceived of in this regard are as follows:

  1. Ardent desire, struggle and aspiration of man to be in union with God are like the union of the drops of water to the sea. This possibility is not correct in monotheistic religions, for the Sacred Essence of the Lord is higher than that a creature that He created or originated be part of His Sacred Essence.
  2. Endeavor and desire for the change in humanity that has the potential to be God-like through the possession of divine attributes that exist within the said potential of man. If it means possession of those attributes within the limits of man, this is possible in monotheistic religions.
  3. Union means entry to the attraction to the Lordly Perfection. In this station, the person becomes an embodiment of the Divine Lights, but he will never reach the Sublime Lordly Station. This is the best possible meaning for the above item.

Note: The word ‘apprehension’ which implies agitation along the way to perfection is not correct. Instead, ardent desire, serious endeavor and persistence are which called kadaḥ (كدح) in Arabic are more accurate than the terms ‘apprehension’ and mere ‘desire’.

  1. Belief in dominance, progress, exaltation, and movement:

In this phrase, the word ‘dominance’ requires explanation. If ‘dominance’ means attainment of power for the organization of the four types of relationship (man’s relationship with himself, God, the universe, and fellow human beings), then it is perfectly correct, and it can be said that the attainment of the lofty goal of religion is to acquire such power. Acquisition of power for the organization of relationship with the self means control and mastership over the self. Through this power a person could set himself along the path of God-wariness (taqwā) which means maintenance of self-perfection. And through this taqwā he can proceed to the height of attraction to the Sublime Perfection. It also means acquisition of power for the organization of relationship with God. Through this power one could control himself from sin, selfishness and self-centeredness and undertake his ideal movement. By acquiring power for the organization of intellectual, perceptive and interactive relationship with the world of being, he will succeed in self-building.

  1. Emancipation from what exists means emancipation from captivity:

If it means disconnection from whatever exists and severance of relationship with whatever is, then this point is forbidden in religion, for detachment from the world connection to which is one of the fundamental relationships a person has in his subsistence is actually detachment or disconnection from the self. Obviously, negation of the self is not the same with the pursuance of one’s perfection which emanates from God’s boundless wisdom and favor. The world of being is the passageway for its progress and the Beatific Vision (liqā’ Allāh) in eternity is its ultimate goal and objective. It must be borne in mind that to be in the world which in the words of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) is the great place of worship for the wary people is not the same with negation and disconnection from it which can be considerably seen in Buddhism.

  1. The concept of protection and preservation of man, life and society:

No meaning for this item (13) can be conceived of except protection of man, life and society from pollution, degradation, fall, and backwardness. This point is perfectly correct in religion but the word ‘concept’ must be omitted from the above phrase, for that which is part of the salient features of religion is the protection and preservation and not its concept.

  1. and 15. Acquaintance, curiosity and engagement in curiosity:

Acquaintance, inquiry and research to increase knowledge about the self, God, the world, and fellow human beings, and the use of knowledge and learning along the path of searching for perfection are part of the essentials of religion.

  1. Beauty and art:

The meaning of the desire for tangible and intelligible beauties which, in addition to the resultant purification of the soul and preparation of the self to soar from this very high platform to the Absolute Beauty which is something incomparable, must be shown in the world and shorten for the people the distance of realizing God. Moreover, the meaning of ‘art’ is supposedly to undertake artistic intellectual or psychological activities and setting purely constructive artistic works at the service of spiritual growth and enhancement of the human talents, and not the beauty and art which always exist for all people in various cultures of human society.

  1. Love and worship:

Definitely, ‘ishq refers to the highest degree of love, passion and craving for Sublime Perfection which is the totality of beauty and glory, and it is correct to regard this love as one of the salient features of religion. However, what is called ‘metaphorical love’ or mere love without its attachment to the Sublime Perfection (which is definitely what Sharī‘atī intended to mean) is not only not part of the salient features of religion, but religion is even inimical to it. A person’s expression of ‘virtual love’ will cost and leads to the wastage of all his life’s assets and capitals, for

عشقهايي كز پي رنگي بود                                    عشق نبود عاقبت ننگي بود

Those loves which are for the sake of a color (outward beauty) are not love: in the end they are a disgrace.[13]

هرچه جز عشق خداي احسن است          گر شكر خوارﻱﺳﺖ آن جان كندن است

Except love of the most beauteous God, everything, though (outwardly) it is (pleasant like) eating sugar, is (in truth) agony of spirit.[14]

عاشقان از درد زان ناليدﻩﺍند                      كه نظر تا جايگاه ماليدﻩاند

The cause why lovers have moaned in grief is that they have rubbed their eyes malapropos.[15]

Meanwhile, worship of God, the Glorious, after knowing him, is the purest essential feature, nay pillar, of religion.

  1. The ideal, ideal man and utopian city:

This point can be analyzed under two headings: (1) The ideal means that religion is ideal goal of the human beings, or the ideal goal of the human beings is in religion. (2) It is religion which molds the ideal man. Both propositions are correct. Meanwhile, the ‘utopian city’ (madīneh-ye fāḍileh) which means the use of the individuals and groups of society of all their positive potentials in social life is obviously the purest features of religion in the dimension of people’s social life. This point can also be inferred from item 13.

  1. Awaiting as protest against the status quo and moving toward the ideal:

Taking into account the fundamentals of Sharī‘atī’s school of thought, awaiting (intiẓār) means wishing for the emergence of the best society and struggle for its realization whose most perfect form will be possible with the advent of the Master of the Age (‘atfs).[16] Of course, it must be borne in mind that intiẓār is not identical with protest (i‘tirāḍ) against the status quo. It rather stems from the feeling of disgust and anguish for the undesirable condition which stands in the way of perfection of collective human life.

Meanwhile, protest against the status quo can be interpreted in two ways:

  1. Protest against the status quo stems from the lack of the divine pleasure in every condition which is contrary to the ideal human felicity. In view of the high and reformative potentials of the human beings, it is a common phenomenon that exists in all communities and nations with rational cultures. It is even said that the lack of divine satisfaction for the status quo is one of the strongest elements of forward movement in history.
  2. Protest means the lack of divine pleasure for anything that causes degradation and engrossment of mankind in ignorance, poverty and human rights violations. Through the efforts for changing the direction of life’s movement toward its lofty goals and means.
  1. Nature’s self-consciousness:

This item can be inferred from item 9 (“the unity of man, nature and the spirit of being”). Given this, it is possible that this point can be separately inferred from the Qur’anic verses that indicate glorification (tasbīḥ) and prostration (sajdah) of the creatures in the world. Of course, in proving the self-consciousness of nature, some thinkers have cited the law of causation.

 اين جهان كوه است و فعل ما ندا         سوي ما آين نداها را صدا

This world is the mountain, and our action the shout:

The echo of the shouts comes (back) to us.[17]

Sharī‘atī has not mentioned three very important salient features of religion:

  1. The religious laws, rights, duties, and manners as well as worship of the Sublime Origin (God) and belief in the Resurrection (ma‘ād) must be stated more clearly and elaborately to some extent. Most probably, he contented himself with items 1, 4, 10, 13, 16, and 23. However, as demanded by the law on definitions, it would be better to state more clearly and elaborately the above points.
  2. The ultimate reply to the six fundamental questions on life (1. Who am I? 2. From where I have come? 3. With which I have come? 4. With whom am I? 5. To where shall I go? 6. For which I have come?) which only religion can give.
  3. The real felicity, virtue and sacrifices in the way of lofty human values such as faithfulness to promise and covenant, defense of the truth, responsible freedom, justice, and the like, for without religion, the world is a place for play, jumping, beating, and eating in which if a person would use all his facilities and potentials in the way of selfishness and self-interests, he will miserably lose.

روزگار و چرخ و انجم سر بسر بازيستي           گرنه اين روز دراز دهر را فرداستي

The world, fate and stars are all your playthings

Otherwise this long day of fortune is your tomorrow.[18]

Geisler’s Definition

Geisler[19] defines religion in its most general sense, thereby encompassing every supposed religion. He regards religion as having two basic characteristics: (1) awareness of something sublime, and (2) total devotion and utmost attachment. So, in his general definition of religion, any consciousness of something sublime coupled with total devotion and utmost attachment is called ‘religion’. The elements of this definition are mentioned as follows:

  1. Awareness: a person considers himself professing religion when he is aware or acquainted with something other than himself.
  2. Something sublime: a thing is sublime when it transcends and goes beyond direct awareness of a person. Given this, even in unconsciousness, ‘I’ and others apart from ‘me’ are deemed sublime. Moreover, that which is sublime is beyond the experienced ones (mujarrabāt).
  3. It pertains to total devotion. Religion comprises something which is beyond mere manifestation; something not stipulated and ultimate; something to which people want to be devoted with utmost sincerity. In other words, it includes not only awareness to anything sublime. In fact, it includes whatever is treated final and whatever requires utmost devotion. Of course, in the words of Ian Ramsey,[20] this devotion most also be total as well as widespread. So, this devotion must be final and universal

Assessment

Some important points in the definition of Geisler must be examined:

  1. It is true that from the totality of terms used by Geisler, it can be deduced that “that which is sublime” which is the object of awareness, total devotion and ultimate affection and yearning is no other than God, the Perfect and Absolute, that all religions have mentioned whether explicitly or as something essential to the ideological text. However, in view of the crucial importance of the thing being defined (mu‘arraf), its name must be specified. If it is argued that not all religions call it ‘God’, the reply is that an ambiguous reality, even if it is described as ‘something sublime’, cannot be considered the basic foundation of religion because “awareness of the existence of God” and “total devotion and attachment to Him” require that He must be the Creator of all beings and created them according to His sublime wisdom and will.

From this analysis, it is clear that the line “a person considers himself professing religion when he is aware or acquainted with something other than himself” is somewhat inaccurately stated because the concept of God, Exalted is His Station, who is Perfect and Absolute in all aspects, is not clear in the above expression (“something other than himself”). Similarly, the expression “a thing is sublime when it transcends” is not free from ambiguity because it is a common concept, and it must be said instead, “a thing is sublime when it transcends all things”.

  1. “…and goes beyond direct awareness of a person”:

This is an excellent point which is discussed in various expressions in the religion of Islam; for example, Prophet Mūsā (‘a) is reported to have said God, “How can I reach You?” In reply, God said:

قَصْدَكَ لِي وَصْلَكَ إِلَيّ.

“As you have aimed Me, you have reached Me.”

Of course, this understanding is not direct or without mediation. Even in intuitive knowledge (self-consciousness), the “I” perceives his self directly, for the perception of the “I” in intuitive knowledge is not possible without negation of “other than I” even quickly, generally or briefly. This is while the perception of God only needs intention. This is the meaning of what Geisler said, “That which is sublime is beyond the experienced ones (mujarrabāt).” And in the jargon of Western philosophers, it is a priori upon which the philosophy of Kant, in particular, relies.

  1. He said, “Religion comprises something which is beyond mere manifestation; something not stipulated and ultimate; something to which people want to be devoted with utmost sincerity.” This point is also very fine because in religion familiarity, information and acquaintance with God is not sufficient. Instead, as the very knowledge about that Sacred Being is attained, ardent desire for ‘searching’ in order to obtain His Lordly attraction begins.
  2. In the expression of Ian Ramsey, there is a line which must definitely be modified and that is, this devotion most also be total as well as widespread. It is because delight and pleasure from knowing the world is different from devotion to it. That which exists in religion is the former and not the latter. That is, it is delight caused by the fact that the universe has been created according to the lofty wisdom and will of God and witnessing the celestial splendor of the universe impels a person to pay ultimate devotion to God, and not that a person just submits to the universe and surrenders himself to it. A majestic element of the universe or one of the lofty aspects of this universe gives rise to devotion to the Creator. Man is not supposed to surrender to the universe. Instead, with utmost cheer and confidence, he must consider it a springboard for his own spiritual flight.

به جهان خرم از آنم که جهان خرم ازوست

عاشقم بر همه عالم که همه عالم ازوست

I belong to the pleasant world as the pleasant world is from Him.

I am in love with the entire world as the entire world is from Him.[21]

——-

Notes:

[1] Ḥawzeh wa Dāneshgāh Magazine, issue 3, p. 68.

[2] Sūrat al-Muddaththir 74:38. [Trans.]

[3] Al-Uṣūl min al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 166.

[4] Sūrat Fuṣṣilat 41:53. [Trans.]

[5] Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:115. [Trans.]

[6] For further information, see Tafsīr wa Naqd wa Taḥlīl az Mathnawī, vol. 10, pp. 63-73.

[7] Sūrat al-Isrā’ (or Banī Isrā’īl) 17:70.

[8] Sūrat al-Ḥujurāt 49:13.

[9] Sūrat al-Naḥl 16:120.

[10] ‘Alī Sharī‘atī (1933-77): an Iranian revolutionary and sociologist who focused on the sociology of religion and considered one of the most influential Iranian intellectuals of the 20th century. [Trans.]

[11] Sūrat Fuṣṣilat 41:53. [Trans.]

[12] Nahj al-Balāghah, Maxim 131.

[13] The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 1, line 205, p. 27. [Trans.]

[14] The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 1, line 3686, p. 397. [Trans.]

[15] That is, they have not purged their inward eye of sensual impressions and therefore have taken a false view. The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 4, line 229, p. 31. [Trans.]

[16] Walī al-‘Aṣr, literally, “Master of the Age” is one the titles of the 12th Imām Muḥammad al-Mahdī (‘a), the others being Walī al-Amr (Master of the Affair), Imām al-Zamān (Imām of the Time), etc. The abbreviation, “‘atfs” stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, ‘ajjalallāhu ta‘ālā farajahu ’sh-sharīf (may Allah, the Exalted, expedite his glorious advent), which is invoked after mentioning the name of Imām al-Mahdī (‘atfs). [Trans.]

[17] The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 1, line 215, p. 27. [Trans.]

[18] Nāṣir Khusrū, Dīwān-e Ash‘ār, Elegy 241.

[19] Norman L. Geisler (born 1932): a Christian apologist and philosopher noted for his philosophical approach to theology. [Trans.]

[20] Ian Ramsey (): [Trans.]

[21] Sa‘dī, Mawā‘iẓ, ghazal 13.

(Images courtesy of wikipedia.com and normgeisler.com)

FalsafehDin(Excerpt from Muhammad Taqi Ja’fari, PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: ABWA, 2014), p. 26-42.)

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