LifeSiteNews.com on avaldanud väga huvitava ja informatiivse intervjuu raamatu The Closing of the Muslim Mind autori Robert R Reilly’ga. Arutlusest nähtub, et islam vaevleb juba enam kui tuhande aastase ajalooga konfliktis, mille ühel poolel on need, kes näevad mõistust esmase vahendina Jumala tunnetamiseks, teisel pool aga need, kes eitavad seda täielikult. Sellest, kumb leer osutub islamimaailmas prevaleerivaks, sõltub paljuski ka Euroopa tsivilisatsiooni tulevik. Toon siinkohal ära ühe olulise lõigu nimetatud intervjuust.
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Brian Saint-Paul: Islam exploded out of Arabia as a kind of nomadic religion. In its earliest generations, it was less interested in philosophical issues than it was with general expansion and succession. But that changed. How?
Robert R. Reilly: The first four caliphs remained on the Arabian peninsula. At first, they kept their troops quarantined outside the cities they had conquered so that Muslims wouldn’t be contaminated by alien cultures and beliefs. After the founding of the Umayyad caliphate around 660, the center of the new empire moved to Damascus, and then later the Abbasids moved it to Baghdad. They couldn’t maintain the quarantine, and they encountered peoples for whom philosophy had been second nature, as it was infused in Christian apologetics at the time.
So in their conversations with Christians, they felt the need to develop philosophical tools to advance or defend the Muslim faith. They needed their own apologetics. The question then arose: Is it legitimate for us to use these tools, like logic and philosophy, and what is permitted for us to know through these means?
BSP: This transformation centered around a particular school of Islamic thought — the Mu’tazilites.
RRR: Yes. The Mu’tazilites asserted the primacy of reason, and that one’s first duty is to engage in reason and, through it, come to know God. They also thought it their duty to understand revelation in a way that comported with reason, so that if something in the Koran seemed inconsistent with reason, it should not be read literally. It should therefore be taken as metaphor or analogy.
The Mu’tazilites held that God Himself is Reason, and that man’s reason is a gift from Him so that he can come to know Him through the order of His creation. Abd al-Jabbar, one of the great theologians, made the statement, “It is obligatory for you to carry out what accords with reason.”
This was because the Mu’tazilites held that reason could come to know what is good and evil, just and unjust. This knowledge is available to all, not just to Muslims. Therefore, it is incumbent upon everyone to reason, come to know the good, and to behave according to it. Unless reason was capable of moral knowledge, how could God expect man to behave morally?
The Mu’tazilites were sponsored by the Caliph al-Ma’mun, who was the greatest supporter of Greek thought in Islamic history. He is said to have had a dream in which Aristotle appeared to him. He asked the philosopher, “What is the good?” and Aristotle answered, “It is what is rationally good.” And so al-Ma’mun embraced this rational school of theology — the Mu’tazilites — and also sponsored al-Kindi, the first Arab philosopher.
BSP: In its broad outline, this view of God is quite compatible with that of Christianity, isn’t it?
RRR: It sounds very familiar to us. And when reading Abd al-Jabbar, one is struck by how similar it is to Christian apologetics, or to what we might call Natural Theology. In fact, his arguments for the existence of God are very much the same as those we find in Christian Natural Theology. This should not surprise us, as they were influenced by the same Greek sources.
BSP: But this is entirely unlike what we would associate with modern Muslim theology. What happened?
RRR: Not all of this went over well with the more traditional Muslims. Out of this opposition arose another school of theology that came to be known as the Ash’arites, after its founder al-Ash’ari. They denied, point by point, everything the Mu’tazalites said. They claimed God isn’t reason but pure will and power. He can do anything He wants — He’s not restrained or constrained by anything, including His own word. There is no way one can know what is good or evil through reason, but only through revelation.
Al-Ghazali, the great Ash’arite theologian, said that “no obligations flow from reason, but from the Sharia.” So nothing you can know through your reason can guide you in your life as to what is good or just. There is no moral philosophy.
BSP: That has a heavy consequence when it comes to the objective morality of things.
RRR: The key here is that God does not forbid murder because it is bad; rather, it is bad because He forbids it. He could change His mind tomorrow and demand ritual murder, and no one could gainsay Him, because things are themselves neither good nor evil, but are only made so by God’s commands. Therefore, for salvation, you have to know His commands, and you cannot come to that knowledge through reason.
In interpreting God’s laws, there is a principle in Islamic jurisprudence which states, “Reason is not a legislator.” In other words, the only laws that apply to you are the ones God gave you. Reason has no authority or status in creating laws, or even in interpreting them.
The political consequences of such a view are easy to see: If reason is not a legislator, then why have legislatures at all? They have no standing, because reason has no standing.
BSP: Without reason, then, you cannot have representative democracy.
RRR: Right, you would simply see democracy as a cover for the rule of the stronger. It would simply be another exercise of the imposition of power through force — in this case, the force of the majority.
So the Ash’arite school rejects the primacy of reason in favor of the primacy of pure will and power, and this is why constitutional democratic rule did not develop indigenously in the Islamic world.
BSP: That’s a tremendous shift, because in separating reason from God, one undercuts causality, and with it, the knowable universe.
RRR: Yes, that’s one of the by-products of this loss of reason. God acts for no reasons. Therefore, what He does is unintelligible. One of the things He does is to create the universe, which itself then becomes unintelligible.
RRR: It’s hard to comprehend events in the natural world if they’re not tied together in a narrative of cause and effect. They are just a series of miracles. As such, they become incomprehensible. This is the consistent emphasis of the Ash’arite school, that there is no inherent order in nature, only the second-to-second manifestation of God’s will.
God is not teleologically ordered. God is unknowable. What He has done in the Koran is not to reveal Himself, but to set out rules which He expects us to obey. But do not presume to think that you can know Allah or interrogate Him as to the reasons for which He acts, because you can’t.
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