Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Attitude of the Scholars Towards Philosophy

By: Dr. Umar Al-ashqar
Taken from Belief in Allah (Islamic Creed Series Vol. 1), pp. 81-84.
Credit: Multaqa Ahl al-Hadeeth

Muslim scholars resisted the trend towards mixing matters of 'aqeedah - belief - with philosophy and 'ilm al-kalaam, which was started by those who were known as the "philosophers of Islam," such as Ibn Seena (Avicenna), and they fought those who were influenced by these philosophies.

The great scholars were of two types: one group was composed of those who noted the danger of this idea from the start and resisted this trend from the outset, such as Imam Ahmad and Imam ash-Shaafa'i (may Allah have mercy on him). Shaafa'i said: "My ruling concerning the scholars of 'ilm al-kalaam is that they should be beaten with palm-branches and shoes, and paraded before the tribes and clans, and it should be announced that this is the punishment of those who forsake the Qur'an and Sunnah and turn to 'ilm alkalaam. "

The other group is composed of scholars who followed in the footsteps of the philosophers and were exhausted by their methods, but they did not realize what was happening until the sunset of their years, when they were filled with regret at the time when it was too late. They were left with nothing but grief and sorrow, and could do no more than ask Allah for forgiveness and warn those who came after them against following the mistaken path that they trod.

Among this group was Muhammad ibn Umar ar-Raazi, who said in his book Aqsaam al-Ladhdhaat: 5O

"The most that reason can achieve is a dead end, and the ultimate result of people's striving is misguidance.

Our souls are alienated in our bodies, and all that we get from this world is harm and annoyance.

We have not gained anything from our lifelong search apart from collection of what the philosophers said.

How often have we seen men and nations, but they have all vanished quickly and disappeared.

How many mountains have men climbed, but the men have gone and the mountains remain."

Ar-Raazi said:

"I examined the various kalaami and philosophical schools of thought, and I realized that they have nothing to offer to one who is sick, and they cannot quench a man's thirst (for knowledge)." He came back to the Qur'anic methodology, and gave an example of the Qur'anic methodology concerning the Divine attributes: "I saw the best way is the way of the Qur'an. Read where it confirms the attributes of Allah:

~The Most Gracious [Allah] rose over [Istawaa] the [Mighty] Throne [in a manner that suits His Majesty].' (Qur 'an 20: 5)
~...To Him ascend [all] the goodly words...~ (Qur'an 35: 10)
And read where it denies things with regard to His attributes:
~...There is nothing like Him...~ (Qur'an 42: 11)
~...But they will never compass anything of His Knowledge.~ (Qur'an 20: 110)."

Then he said: "Whoever goes through the same experience as I have will know what I know." 51

Ash-Shahrastaani said the same thing, noting that after spending a long time studying with the philosophers and scholars of 'ilm al-kalaam, he found nothing but confusion and regret, as he says: 52

"All my life, I went around all the schools of philosophy, studying all of those schools. And I never saw anything but people resting their chins on their hands or gnashing their teeth in regret."

Al-Juwayni, one of the most prominent students of Islamic philosophy ('ilm al-kalaam), warned against studying this: "0' my friends, do not study 'ilm al-kalaam. Had I known what 'ilm al-kalaam would do to me, I would not have studied it."53

When he was dying, he said in regret and sorrow: "I threw myself into a vast ocean, and forsook the people of Islam and their knowledge. I indulged in that which they had warned me against, and now if Allah does not shower me with His mercy, then woe to Ibn al-Juwayni. 'Here I am, dying on the 'aqeedah of my mother,' or he said, 'on the 'aqeedah of old women (i.e., simple 'aqeedah).'"

Abu Haamid al-Ghazaali (may Allah have mercy on him) was one of those who spent a long time examining and studying 'ilm al-kalaam, moving from one group to another, until at the end of his life he was hesitant and confused about philosophical matters. He wrote a book, entitled Iljaam al- Awaam 'an 'Ilm al-Kalaam (Preventing the masses from studying 'Ilm al-Kalaam - Islamic philosophy i.e., Scholasticism). He regarded it as haraam to study philosophy except in certain circumstances: "The truth is that 'ilm al-kalaam is haraam except for two types of people. "

At the end of his life, he turned away from the study of 'ilm al-kalaam and turned to the ahaadeeth of the Messenger, and he died with a copy of Saheeh al-Bukhari on his chest.

Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari grew up as a Mu'tazili, and remained such for forty years, then he turned his back on that and stated clearly that the Mu'tazilah were misguided, and he refuted them in unequivocal terms. 54

Later there emerged a group, which followed the correct, methodology, but they studied the work of the philosophers in order to know its weak points and refute them according to the Qur'anic methodology. They fought them with their own weapon, pointing out what was wrong with it. The leader and standard-bearer of this group was Shaykh ai-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him).

50 Ibn al-Qayyim, As-Sawaa'iq al-Mursalah, Pp. 7; Ar-Raazi, I'tiqaadaat firaq Muslimeen, Pp. 23
51 Shaykh ai-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, Al-Fatwa al-lfamawiyah al-Kubra, Pp. 7.
52 Ash-Shahrastaani, Nihaayat al-Iqdaam fi '11m al-Kalaam, Pp. 3.
53 Majmoo' al-Fataawa Shaykh ai-Islam lbn Taymiyah; see Al-Fatwa allfamawiyah al-Kubra, Pp. 7.
54 See our book, Mu'taqad al-Imam Abi'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari wa Manhajuhu

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