Contemporary Islamic philosophy

Contemporary Islamic philosophy

Aziz Abbassi’s English translation found in the following pages was made from the French Introduction à la critique de la raison Arabe, translated from Arabic to French by Ahmed Mahfoud and Marc Geoffroy, published by La Découverte in 1994.The occasion of this French publication was an effort to provide an introduction to al-Jabri’s thought prior to publication of a translation of his three-volume Naqdd al-‘aql al-‘Arabi referred to earlier. The essays contained were selected from al-Jabri’s earlier work, especially his collection Nahnu wa-al-Tuath. The author helped and advised in the selection of the texts and revised the French edition, thus making it authoritative. And, although the present text was translated from the French, it was compared with the Arabic original.

During the past few years, al-Jabri has published essays and shorter monographs on issues ranging from democracy and human rights in the Arab World to further elaboration and discussions of his main theses in his previously published work. Because al-Jabri’s work is a direct and critical intervention in problems and issues that are central to modern and contemporary Arab thought, and because his interpretations and readings of modern and classical Arab thought in more than one instance challenge that thought, I will not only summarize some of his ideas but also discuss briefly the main trends that have dominated intellectual discussions in the Arab world during the past few decades

Also contemporary Islamic philosophy revives some of the trends of medieval Islamic philosophy, notably the tension between Mutazilite and Asharite views of ethics in science and law, and the duty of Muslims and role of Islam in the sociology of knowledge and in forming ethical codes and legal codes, especially the fiqh (or "jurisprudence") and rules of jihad (or "just war"). See list of Islamic terms in Arabic for a glossary of key terms used in Islam.[citation needed]


Key figures of modern Islamic philosophy

Key figures representing important trends include:

  • Fazlur Rahman was professor of Islamic thought at the University of Chicago and McGill University, and an expert in Islamic philosophy. Not as widely known as his scholar-activist contemporary Ismail Raji al-Faruqi, he is nonetheless considered an important figure for Islam in the 20th century. He argued that the basis of Islamic revival was the return to the intellectual dynamism that was the hallmark of the Islamic scholarly tradition (these ideas are outlined in Revival and Reform in Islam: A Study of Islamic Fundamentalism and his magnum opus, Islam). He sought to give philosophy free rein, and was keen on Muslims appreciating how the modern nation-state understood law, as opposed to ethics; his view being that the shari'ah was a mixture of both ethics and law. He was critical of historical Muslim theologies and philosophies for failing to create a moral and ethical worldview based on the values derived from the Qur'an: 'moral values', unlike socioeconomic values, 'are not exhausted at any point in history' but require constant interpretation. Rahman was driven to exile from his homeland, Pakistan, where he was part of a committee which sought to interpret Islam for the fledging modern state. Some of his ideas from English (which he claimed were from the Islamic tradition) were reprinted in Urdu and caused outrage among conservative Muslim scholars in Pakistan. These were quickly exploited by opponents of his political paymaster, General Ayyub Khan, and led to his eventual exile in the United States.[citation needed]
  • Muhammad Iqbal sought an Islamic revival based on social justice ideals and emphasized traditional rules, e.g. against usury. He argued strongly that dogma, territorial nationalism and outright racism, all of which were profoundly rejected in early Islam and especially by Muhammad himself, were splitting Muslims into warring factions, encouraging materialism and nihilism. His thought was influential in the emergence of a movement for independence of Pakistan, where he was revered as the national poet. Indirectly this strain of Islam also influenced Malcolm X and other figures who sought a global ethic through the Five Pillars of Islam. Iqbal can be credited with at least trying to reconstruct Islamic thought from the base, though some of his philosophical and scientific ideas would appear dated to us now. His basic ideas concentrated on free-will, which would allow Muslims to become active agents in their own history. His interest in Nietzsche (who he called 'the Wise Man of Europe') has led later Muslim scholars to criticise him for advocating dangerous ideals that, according to them, have eventually formed in certain strains of pan-Islamism. Some claim that the Four Pillars of the Green Party honor Iqbal and Islamic traditions.[citation needed]
  • Muhammad Hamidullah (9 February 1908 - 17 December 2002) belonged to a family of scholars, jurists, writers and sufis. He was a world-renowned scholar of Islam and International Law from India, who was known for contributions to the research of the history of Hadith, translations of the Qur'an, the advancement of Islamic learning, and to the dissemination of Islamic teachings in the Western world.[citation needed]
  • Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (March 1, 1935 – April 9, 1980) was an Iraqi Shi'a cleric, a philosopher, and ideological founder of Islamic Dawa Party born in al-Kazimiya, Iraq. Mohammad Baqir Al-Sadr's political philosophy, known as Wilayat Al-Umma (Governance of the people), set out his view of a modern day Islamic state. His most famous philosophical works include: Falsafatuna (Our Philosophy) in which he refutes modern philosophical schools and asserts an Islamic view, and Al-Usus al-Mantiqiyyah lil-Istiqra' (The Logical Basis of Induction) in which he develops a theory which allows one to reach certainty through inductive methods.
  • Morteza Motahhari was a lecturer at Tehran University. Motahhari is considered important for developing the ideologies of the Islamic Republic. He wrote on exegesis of the Qur'an, philosophy, ethics, sociology, history and many other subjects. In all his writings the real object he had in view was to give replies to the objections raised by others against Islam, to prove the shortcomings of other schools of thought and to manifest the greatness of Islam. He believed that in order to prove the falsity of Marxism and other ideologies like it, it was necessary not only to comment on them in a scholarly manner but also to present the real image of Islam.[citation needed]
  • Ali Shariati was a sociologist and a professor of Mashhad University. He was one of the most influential figures in the Islamic world in the 20th century. He attempted to explain and provide solutions for the problems faced by Muslim societies through traditional Islamic principles interwoven with and understood from the point of view of modern sociology and philosophy. Shariati was also deeply influenced by Mowlana and Muhammad Iqbal.
  • Musa al-Sadr was a prominent Muslim intellectual and one of the most influential Muslim philosophers of 20th century. He is most famous for his political role, but he was also a philosopher who had been trained by Allameh Tabatabaei. As Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr said: "his great political influence and fame was enough for people to not consider his philosophical attitude, although he was a well-trained follower of long living intellectual tradition of Islamic Philosophy". One of his famous writings is a long introduction for the Arabic translation of Henry Corbin's History of Islamic Philosophy.[citation needed]
  • Syed Zafarul Hasan was a prominent twentieth-century Muslim philosopher. From 1924 to 1945 he was professor of philosophy at the Muslim University, Aligarh - where he also served as Chairman of the Department of Philosophy and Dean of the Faculty of Arts. There, in 1939, he put forward the 'Aligarh Scheme'. From 1945 until the partition of the sub-continent, Dr Hasan was Emeritus Professor at Aligarh. Dr. Zafarul Hasan was born on February 14, 1885. He died on June 19, 1949.[citation needed]
  • Ismail al-Faruqi looked more closely at the ethics and sociology of knowledge, concluding that no scientific method or philosophy could exist that was wholly ignorant of a theory of conduct or the consequences a given path of inquiry and technology. His "Islamization of knowledge" program sought to converge early Muslim philosophy with modern sciences, resulting in, for example, Islamic economics and Islamic sociology.
  • Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a political ecologist, argues that khalifa in Islam is fundamentally compatible with ideals of the ecology movement and peace movement, more so than conventional interpretations of Islam. He argues for an ecology-based ecumenism that would seek unity among the faiths by concentrating on their common respect for life as a Creation, i.e. the Earth's biosphere, Gaia, or whatever name. Pope John Paul II has made similar suggestions that "mankind must be reconciled to the Creation", and there is a Parliament of World Religions seeking a "global ethic" on similar grounds.[citation needed]
  • M. A. Muqtedar Khan (1966 - present) is a Professor of Islam and International Relations at the University of Delaware. He is a prominent Muslim intellectual and philosopher and commentator on Islamic Thought and Global Politics. He organized the first contemporary Islamic Philosophers conference at Georgetown University in 1998. His work is on the subject of the philosophy of identity and rationality, Ijtihad, Islam and democracy and Islamic reform.
  • Akbar S. Ahmed is an anthropologist, filmmaker and an outstanding scholar on Islam, International Relations/Politics and Contemporary Islamic philosophy from Pakistan. He is Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at the American University in Washington DC and was the High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK. He has advised Prince Charles and met with President George W. Bush on Islam. His numerous books, films and documentaries have won awards. His books have been translated into many languages including Chinese and Indonesian. Ahmed is “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam” according to the BBC.[citation needed]
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is a well-known Pakistani Islamic scholar, exegete, and educator. A former member of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who extended the work of his tutor, Amin Ahsan Islahi. He is frequently labeled a modernist for his insistence on the historical contextualization of Muhammad's revelation in order to grasp its true moral import.[citation needed]
  • Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a well-known proponent of cultural reconciliation between the Muslim World and the West, basing his views on Classical Islamic governance's similarity to Western governance models in terms of religious freedoms and democratic inclination. Abdul Rauf is a highly-visible American-Egyptian Imam at New York's Masjid al-Farah in addition to being Founder and Chairman of Cordoba Initiative, a non-profit organization seeking to bridge the divide between the Muslim world and the West.[citation needed]
  • Mohammad Azadpur is an associate professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University. He teaches courses on Islamic philosophy, mysticism, and political philosophy. His research focuses on Alfarabi and Avicenna, and he does comparative work between Islamic and Heideggerian thought as well.

See also

External links

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