Friday, January 1, 2010

Suffah Study Circle 1

Suffah Study Circle 1

Dated on the 19.12.2009

Studying text pg 1 to 5, Islam and Secularism

Prepared by Md Hazlami Bin Zawawi

Brief Introduction to the birth of Secularization

Secularization was viewed by Christian theologians in the early 19th Century as a crisis. Islam in the 9th Century brought about significant influences on the Western Culture and civilization, channeling the age of Reason as it leads to the European Enlightenment that stretches from the 17th Century till the 19th Century. It is in the dualism between Reason and Religion that spurred the birth of secularization. [1]

Before the introduction of Islam, the Europe world was shrouded by the darkness of the Church. Christian doctrines and theologies were determined by the Church, and thinkers that showed deviant behavior towards the established creed were decreed blasphemous which in turn usually resulting in their deaths. The coming of Islam, also known as Pax Islamica[2], paying particular attention to the city of Andalusia, gave rise to the exchange and the introduction of knowledge of science, philosophy, theology and more.

Western philosophers have anticipated the coming of reason where an age of ‘no God’ and ‘no religion’ is emancipated with such force. [3] When the European scholars were opened to the knowledge brought by Islam, the introduction of reason and advances in science caused the European scholars to reanalyze Christianity, trying in desperate to link reason with Christian doctrines and creed. Unfortunately, what they see was a religion that was flawed in many aspects, which is why Christianity is still unable to establish itself with science. They were baffled when they used reason to explain Christian theologies, and got confused over unexplained mysticism where orthodox Christians would simply rely on the ‘It is God’s will’- referring to God’s ultimate plan[4]. It is in these unexplained tragedies of events that created confusion among Christian philosophers, and thus, they were ascertained that secularization would take place very soon.

Henceforth, in the midst of such confusion and chaos of theology, epistemology and the uncertainty towards the reliability of the Bible as a Christian fundamental pillar of faith, the conflict between reason and Christianity gave rise to Secularism, or also known at present, as the Western Civilization.

Age Of Reason

The participation of Science of Reason- the epistemological process of thought through analytical observation and rationalism is known to stretch way back into ancient Greek, where Greek philosophy was introduced by Aristotle. Upon discovering that the relevance of Christianity is no longer felt amongst the people due to the advent of Secularism, and with the echoes of the Nietzschean cry that “God is Dead”- a direct interpretation that “Christianity is Dead”[5]spearheading secularism, Christianity reaches a breaking point. With that, Pope Paul VI(1963-1978) reformed Christianity, and therefore, Christianity as an entity begins to align itself with Secularism.[6] The Gospel was reinterpreted radically, and the image of Christianity is seen to be logical, appearing naturally into the picture of contemporary Western man. They began to include Christianity in Science, Medication, Governance etc, only emerging as a religion of mere belief[7]. Thus, Christianity becomes an impartial element to secularization and contemporary man, but also separated when it comes to governance and science etc.[8]

In view of such integration, Christian theologians accept the ‘ever-changing’ and ‘evolutionary’ grounds of thought. They visualize with regards to the tragedy they have experienced during the process of inducing rationalism with Christian doctrines back from the 17th century till 19th century a life that is consistently ever-changing. The process of change and constantly evolving became part of the evolutionary process of human history.[9] This idea of ‘change’ can be related to the story of Sisyphus.[10] With that, they reinterpret religion as ‘constantly changing’, imposing on Christian doctrines to ‘update and change’ in accordance to contemporary event, which is why we see the Bible constantly changing, having different versions of every era and event, to mark the reformation of Christianity as a religion aligned to the spirit of the times.[11]

Let us then study the components of the Western concept of Existence. As discussed in the Suffah circle, we have identified a few concepts that represents Western contemporary thought of existence. The concepts are:

Concept of God in the mind

They view themselves as an observer in this reality that is constantly changing. Being an observer, they view themselves, as individuals, as an existence too. When they observe a divine entity known as God, they describe God as a questionable existence. Thus, God becomes an imaginative belief[12]. Therefore, the term, ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ used by Rene Descartes, a French philosopher (1596-1650) which is translated as ‘I think therefore I am’ is a reflection of man being their own Gods where the disenchantments of nature[13] frees man from its religious overtones, enabling man to act upon as it pleases in accordance to his needs and plans.

In conclusion, we learned in an intensive perspective, the historical process of Christianity, from a divine revelation brought by Jesus (Nabi Isa A.S), to the alteration of the divine revelation that made Jesus divine in the Congregation of Nicaea led by Roman Emperor Constantine, to the Dark age of Europe, and the introduction of the light of Islam that spurred the European Renaissance in the 12thcentury, the rise of the Age of Reason that created uncertainty among the Christians which led to Secularization, to the reformed Christianity to align themselves with secularism stretching from the 17th century till 19th century, and how Christianity evolves itself to be the universal religion in contemporary times. May Allah guide us in our quest for siratul mustaqim. Amin.

[1] Refer to footnote 4 of Islam and Secularism

[2] Also known as Astro-Asiatic Age of Discovery, whereby explorers such as Ibn Sina gave rise to the earliest global trading network that spreads from the East of Europe all the way to the Southeast Asia. See John M. Hobson (2004),The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation, p. 29-30.

[3] Islam and Secularism p.2

[4] An example of such confusion would be explaining Jesus as a man and a manifestation of God. While some Christian intellectuals may argue that God has the power to manifest as a man as an interpretation for mankind to understand God’s religion so that mankind can connect themselves to something that they can observe and commune, it is also God’s attributes to not do so, for God has the attributes as written in “Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam” by Prof Naquib ‘To acknowledge God as Lord (rabb) means to acknowledge Him as Absolute King (malik), Possessor and Owner (sahib), Ruler, Governer, Master, Creator, Cherisher, Sustainer” (p.63) In view of this, how can God be represented by a living man when God is the Creator? How can Jesus be Divine when Jesus is a form of creation (makhluk) whereas God is the Creator?

[5] Refer to Islam and Secularism p.2

[6] Referring to Islam and Secularism p.3 “They went so far as to assert events in the West, that secularization has its roots in biblical faith and is the fruit of the Gospel and, therefore, rather than oppose the secularizing process, Christianity must realistically welcome it as a process congenial to its true nature and purpose

[7] A representation of love, tranquil, freedom, peace, fairness and equality.

[8] To be more detailed, it is also known that while Christians preserve religion as an entity of peace and virtue, technology and governance is also carried out based on contemporary events. Meaning to say, Christianity is seen as just a belief and not a way of life (concept of Ad-Din) which differs with Islam, where governance, science and technology are based on the divine revelations of the Quran and Hadith, and the knowledge of the ulamas. When it comes to beliefs and virtue, they refer to the Church. But when it comes to science and governance, they refer to contemporary ideas. It is in this synchronization of two absolutely conflicting ideas that greatly attributes to the confusion in liberal Muslims.

[9] Islam and Secularism, p.4 states “ part of the irreversible process of ‘coming of age’, of ‘growing up’ to ‘maturity’ when they will have to ‘put away childish things’ and learn to have ‘the courage to be’”.

[10] Greek mythology, son of Aeolus and founder and king of Corinth. Renowned for his cunning, he was said to have outwitted even Death. For his disrespect to Zeus, he was condemned to eternal punishment in Tartarus. There he eternally pushed a heavy rock to the top of a steep hill, where it would always roll down again. The process of ‘pushing the rock up the hill and the rock falls, and pushing it back up’ depicts the ever constant changes that a man must face. Hence, a man sees ‘change’ as an act of nature.

[11] Refer to written assignments of Dr Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad, IKIM, under the subject ‘Islam and the Challenges of Secularism and Westernisation’ p4-6

[12] It is like describing a pink ponytail as a ‘horse that has wings, pink in colour and has a horn.’ But the question is, is it real? Is it in existence?

[13] Refer to Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam, p.25. This term is used by German Sociologist Max Weber and is described as Prof Naquib as ‘one of the components of secularisation’.

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