Thursday, January 21, 2010

Suffah Study Circle 4

Hasanul Arifin

Of Eurocentrism
As mentioned by Ibn Khaldun in his Mukaddimah, a civilization which considers itself superior with respect to another would dictate the ways in which man is supposed to think, believe, judge and act. This is often followed by the inferior civilization, whether consciously or unconsciously. Edward Said also wrote good responses towards Eurocentrism and Orientalism in his books. As mentioned by Prof Al-Attas, Western man is always inclined to regard his culture as man's cultural vanguard. Considering itself as the most 'advanced' it has appointed itself as the representative of the human race, telling others that they too would realize the experiences that they have gone through.

There is this story of a parrot in a pet shop, whose head was accidentely shaved bald due to the negligence of its owner. Because of this experience, every time a bald person passes by the shop, it would say "Your owner accidentely shaved you bald too, didn't he?"

This parrot is the Western man and its experiences with Christianity and its misapplication of Greek metaphysics. As Muslims, we reject the Western man's claim to truths and maintain that secularization is only unique to their experiences and we are not in need of it.

The Authorities of Christian Theology
Contemporary Christian theology and thought is largely based on the views of people who did not practise the religious life, who were skeptics, agnostics, atheists and doubters. These people are mainly secular philosophers, metaphysicians, scientists, paleontologists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychoanalysts, mathematicians and linguists.

An example would be the application of existentialism, which was originally formulated by agnostic Heidegger and subsequently the atheistic Sartre, which is then re-casted into the theistic Trinitarian mould by Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Marcel and Barth. A more extreme form of Christian theology is that which is propagated by Cupitt based on the atheistic Nietzsche. Because "God is Dead", it is thus necessary for Christians to reformulate their theology based on a more 'scientific' interpretation and even throw away the concept of God altogether. Metaphysics in religion to them is not important and what's most important is the moral teachings, hence the creation of a humanistic version of Christianity. Unfortunately, this seems to be echoed by some Muslims these days.

The Authorities of Islamic Theology
In Islam, knowledge about religion and religious experience is not obtained by purely rational speculation and reflection alone. Islamic metaphysics is firmly based on knowledge gained from practical and sincere devotion to Islam; true submission to the Being according to the Revealed Law. This is Tasawwuf or Sufism, where God reveals His Secrets to those whom He Trusts.

In Islam, we acknowledge 2 types of knowledge. The first is analagous to studying a person from the outside; observing from afar how he acts and behaves. The second is analagous to knowing the person personally, and he reveals to us his concerns and secrets as a friend or lover. Therefore knowledge on Islamic metaphysics is known not only through reason and reflection, but to sincere devotion and friendship with Allah. The masters of this knowledge are the Awliya' or Friends of Allah.

As mentioned by Al-Ghazali, the metaphysics of Islam is made known by the rational speculations of the Mutakallimun grounded in Revelation, as well as the spiritual visions of the People of Reality or the Sufis.

Religion according to the West
When the secular West speaks of religion, they usually define it as a part of culture and traditions; a system of beliefs, practices and values that are products out of history and confrontation of man and nature. Religion are products of historical evolutions and processes of development.

The Revealed Religion is Al-Islam
As Muslims, we believe that Christianity is originally based on religion, but is not a revealed religion in the sense that Islam is. Both the Qur'an and sources arising within Christianity itself cast doubt on the reliability and authenticity of the reporting, interpretation and conceptualization of the Gospel.

We believe that the Prophet Jesus was sent by God and given the Al-Injil to correct the deviations of the Children of Israel and to convey Glad Tidings of the coming of the Universal Religion (Islam) that would be established by the Great Teacher whose name is given as Ahmad (Muhammad).

Prophet Jesus was not charged with establishing a new religion called Christianity as claimed by other disciples and apostles such as Paul.

Even the name "Christianity" was given to them by their Roman enemies. Therefore it cannot be called a revealed religion because it does not even have an identity to begin with; its identity was developed historically (unlike Islam).

The fact that it had to assimilate Roman Laws (because it had no Revealed Law) and that it had to borrow from Graeco-Roman thought to formulate its own metaphysics demonstrates that it was created by man who" gradually developed its system of rituals by assimilation from other cultures and traditions as well as originating its own fabrications."

Our discussions on their festivals (Christmas, Easter etc.), their icons (Santa Claus, Easter Bunny) demonstrate this as well.

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