The Quran and Hadith as source inspiration of Islamic philosophy

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Viewed from the point of view of the Western intellectual tradition, Islamic philosophy appears as simply Graeco – Alexandrian philosophy in Arabic dress, a philosophy whose sole role was to transmit certain important elements of the heritage of antiquity to the medieval West. If seen, however, from its own perspective and in the light of the whole of the Islamic philosophy tradition which has had a twelve-century-long continuous history and is still alive today, it becomes abundantly clear that Islamic philosophy, like everything else Islamic, is deeply rooted in the Qur’an and Hadith. Islamic philosophy is Islamic not only by virtue of the fact that it was cultivated in the Islamic world and by Muslims but because it derives its principles, inspiration and many of the question with which it has been concerned from the sources of Islamic revelation despite the claims of its opponents to the contrary.(Within the Islamic world itself scholars of kalam and certain others who have opposed Islamic philosophy over the ages have claimed that it was merely Greek philosophy to which they opposed philosophy or wisdom derived from faith(al- hikmat al- yunaniyyah versus al-hikmat al-imaniyyah). Some contemporary Muslim scholars, writing in English, oppose Muslim to Islamic, considering Muslim to mean whatever is practiced or created by Muslim and Islamic that with is derived directly from the Islamic revelation. Many such scholars, who hail mostly from Pakistan and India, insist on calling Islamic philosophy Muslim philosophy, as can be seen in the title of the well- known work edited by M.M Sharif, A History of Muslim Philosophy. If one looks more deeply into the nature of Islamic philosophy from the traditional Islamic point of view and takes into consideration its whole history, however, one will see that this philosophy is at once Muslim and Islamic according to the above-given definitions of these terms.)

The effect of Islamic atmosphere on learning philosophy
All Islamic philosophers from al-Kindi to those of our own day such as Allamah Tabataba’I have lived and breathed in a universe dominated by the reality of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam. Nearly all of them have lived according to Islamic Law or the Shari’ah and have prayed in the direction of Makkah every dayof their adult life. The most famous among them, such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushed (Averros), were conscious in asserting their active attachment to Islam and reacted strongly to any attacks against their faith without their being simply fideists. Ibn Sina would go to a mosque and pray when confronted with a difficult problem, (When accused on a certain of infidelity, Ibn Sina responded in a famous Persian quatrain: “It is not easy and trifling to call me a heretic,/ No faith in religion is firmer than mine./ I am a unique person in the whole world and if I am a heretic,/ Then there is not a single Muslim anywhere in the world.” Trans, by S.H. Barani in his “Ibn Sina and Alberuni”, in Avicenna Commemoration Volume (Calcutta, 1956) :8( with certain modifications by S.H. Nasr).) And Ibn Rushd was the chief qadi or judge of Cordova (Spanish Cordoba) which means that he was himself the embodiment of the authority of Islamic Law even if he were to be seen later by many in Europe as the arch-rationalist and the very symbol of the rebellion of reason against faith. The very presence of the Qur’an and the advent of its revelation was to transform radically the universe in which and about which Islamic philosophers were to philosophize, leading to specific kind of philosophy which can be justly called “ prophetic philosophy.(This term was first used by H. Corbin and myself and appears in Corbin, with the collaboration of S.H. Nasr and O. Yahya, Histoire de la philosophie islamique (Paris, 1964))

An attempt to reach an agreement between “intellect” and “ revelation”
The very reality of the Qur’an, and the revelation which made it accessible to a human community, had to be central to the concerns of anyone who sought to philosophize in the Islamic world and led to a type of philosophy in which a revealed book is accepted as the supreme source of knowledge not only of religious law but of the very nature of existence and beyond existence of the very source of existence. The prophetic consciousness which is the recipient of revelation (al-wahy) had to remain of the utmost significance for those who sought to know the nature of things. How were the ordinary human means of knowing related to such an extraordinary manner of knowing? How was human reason related to that intellect which is illuminated by the light of revelation? To understand the pertinence of such issues, it is enough to cast even a cursory glance at the works of the Islamic philosophers who almost unanimously accepted revelation as a source of ultimate knowledge. (We say “almost” because there are one or two figures such Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al-Razi who rejected the necessity of prophecy. Even in his case, however, there is a rejection of the necessity of revelation in order to gain ultimate knowledge and not the negation of the existence of revelation) Such questions as hermeneutics of the Sacred Text and theories of the intellect which usually include the reality of prophetic consciousness remain, therefore, central to over a millennium of Islamic philosophical thought.

One might say that the reality of the Islamic revelation and participation in this reality transformed the very instrument of philosophizing in the Islamic world. The theoretical intellect (al-aql al-nazari) of the Islamic philosophers is no longer that Aristotle although his very terminology is translated into Arabic. The theoretical intellect, which us the epistemological instrument of all philosophical activity, is Islamicized in a subtle way that is not always detectable through only the analysis of the technical vocabulary involved. The Islamicized understanding of the intellect, however, becomes evident when one reads the discussions of the meaning of aql’ or intellect in a major philosopher such as Mulla Sadra when he is commenting upon certain verses of the Qur’an containing this term or upom the section on aql’ from collection of Shi’ite Hadith of al- Kulayni entitled Usul al- kafi. The subtle change that took place from the Greek idea of the “intellect” (nous) to the Islamic view of the intellect (al-aql’) can also be seen much earlier in the works of even the Islamic Peripatetics such as Ibn Sina where the Active Intellect (al-aql’ al-fa’al) is equated with the Holy Spirit (al-ruh-qudus).

As is well known to students of the Islamic tradition, according to certain hadith and also the oral tradition which has been transmitted over the centuries, the Qur’an and all aspects of the Islamic tradition which are rooted in the have both an outward (zahir) and an inward (batin) dimension. Morover, certain verses of the Qur’an themselves allude to the inner and sumbolic significance of the revealed book and its message. As for the Hadith, a body of this collection relates directly to the inner or esoteric dimension of the Islamic revelation and certain sayings of the prophet refer directly to the esoteric levels of meaning of the Qur’an.

The relation of Islamic philosophy with outward and inward aspects of Islam
Islamic philosophy is related to both the external dimension of the Qur’anic revelation or the Shart’ah and the inner truth or Haqiqah which is the heart of all that is Islamic. Many of the doctors of the Divine Law or Shart’ah have stood opposed to Islamic philosophy while others have accepted it. In fact some of the outstanding Islamic philosophy such as Ibn Rushd, Mir Damad and Shah Waliullah of Delhi have also been authorities in the domain of the Sacred Law. The Shart’ah has, however, provided mostly the social and human conditions for the philosophical activity of the Islamic philosophers. It is to the Haqiqah that one has to turn for the inspiration and soucrce of knowledge for Islamic philosophy.

The very term al-haqiqah is of the greatest significance for the understanding of the relation between Islamic philosophy and the source of the Islamic revelation. (See Corbin, op. cit.: 26ff.) Al-haqiqah means both truth and reality. It is related to God Himself, one of whose names is al-Haqq or the Truth, and is that whose discovery is the goal of all Islamic philosophy. At the same time al-haqiqah constitutes the inner reality of the Qur’an and can be reached through a hermeneutic penetration of the meaning of the Sacred Text. Throughout history, many an Islamic philosopher has identified falsafah or hikmah, the two main terms used with somewhat different meaning for Islamic philosophy, with the Haqiqah lying at the heart of the Qur’an. Much of Islamic philosophy is in fact a hermeneutic unveiling of the two grand books of revelation, the Qur’an and the cosmos, and in the Islamic intellectual universe Islamic philosophy belongs, despite some differences, to the same family as that of ma’rifah or gnosis which issues directly from the inner teachings of Islam and which became crystallized in both Sufism and certain dimensions of Shi’ism. Without this affinity there would not have been a Suhrawardi or Mulla Sadra in Persia or an Ibn Sab’in in Andalusia.

Philosophers living as far apart as Nasir-i Khusraw (fifth/ eleventh century) and Mulla Sadra (tenth/ sixteenth century) have identified falsafah or hikmah explicitly with the Haqiqah lying at the heart of the Qur’an whose comprehension implies the spiritual hermeneutics (ta’wil) of the Sacred Text. The thirteenth/nineteenth –century Persian philosopher Ja’far Kashifi goes even further and identifies the various methods for the interpretation of the Qur’an with the different schools of philosophy, correlating tafsir (the literal interpretation of the Qur’an) with the Peripatetic, (mashsha’i) school, tawil ( its symbolic interpretation ) with the Stoic (riwaqi), (The term riwaqi used by later Islamic philosophers must not, however, be confused with the Roman Stoics, although it means literally stoic (riwaq in Arabic coming from Pahlavi and meaning stoa.)) and tafhim ( in-depth comprehension of the Sacred Text) with the Illuminationst (ishraqi). (Corbin, op. cit.: 24.) For the main tradition of Islamic philosophy, especially as it developed in later centuries, philosophical activity was inseparable from interiorization of oneself and penetration into the inner meaning of the Qur’an and Hadith which those philosophers who were of a Shi’ite bent considered to be made possible through the power issuing from the cycle of initiation (da’irat- al- walayah) that follows the closing of the cycle of prophecy (da’irat al- nubuwwah) with the death of the Prophet of Islam.

The Qur’an and Hadith, along with saying of the Imams, which are in senses the extension of Hadith in the Shit’ite world, have provided over the centuries the framework and matrix for Islamic philosophy and created the intellectual and social climate within which Islamic philosophers have philosophized. Moreover, they have presented a knowledge of the origin, the nature of the things, humanity and its final ends and history upon which the Islamic philosophers have meditated and from which they have drawn over the ages. They have also provided a language of discourse which Islamic philosophers have shared with the rest of the Islamic community. ( The Qur’an and Hadith have also influenced directly and deeply the formation of the Islamic philosophical vocabulary in Arabic, an issue with which we have not been able to deal in this chapter) Without the Qur’anic revelation, there would of course have been no Islamic civilization, but it is important to realize that there would also have been no Islamic philosophy. Philosophical activity in the Islamic world is not simply a regurgitation of Graeco Alexandrian philosophy in Arabic, as claimed by many Western scholars along with some of their Islamic followers, a philosophy which grew despite the presence of the Qur’an and Hadith. On the contrary, Islamic philosophy is what it is precisely because it flowered in a universe whose contours are determined by the Qur’anic revelation.

As asserted at the beginning of the chapter, Islamic philosophy is essentially “prophetic philosophy” based on the hermeneutics of a Sacred Text which is the result of a revelation that is inalienably linked to be microcosmic intellect and which alone is able to actualize the dormant possibilities of the intellect within us. Islamic philosophy, as understood from within that tradition, is also an unveiling of the inner meaning of the Sacred Text, a means of access to the Haqiqah which lies hidden within the inner dimension of the Qur’an. Islamic philosophy deals with the One or Pure Being, and universal existence and all the grades of the universal hierarchy. It deals with man and his entelechy, with the cosmos and the final return of all things to God. This interpretation of existence is none other than penetration into the meaning of the Qur’an which “is” existence itself, the Book whose meditation provides the key for the understanding of those objective and subjective orders of existence with which the Islamic philosopher has been concerned over the ages.

A deeper study of Islamic philosophy over its twelve-hundred –year history will reveal the role of the Qur’an and Hadith in the formulation, exposition and problematics of this major philosophical tradition, In the same way that all of the Islamic philosophers from al- Kindi onwards knew the Qur’an and Hadith and lived them, Islamic philosophy has manifested over the centuries its inner with the revealed sources of Islam, a link whichhas become even more manifest as the centuries have unfolded, for Islamic philosophy is essentially a philosophical hermeneutics of the Sacred Text while making use of the rich philosophical heritage of antiquity. That is way, far from being a transitory and foreign phase in the history of Islamic philosophy has remained over the centuries and to this day one of the major intellectual perspectives in Islam civilization with its roots sunk deeply, like everything else Islamic, in the Qur’an and Hadith.


History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:27to30and36


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