Monday, October 17, 2005

Who is Dr. Israr Ahmad?

Dr. Israr Ahmad
(Lecture at Khilafah Confrence 1994, Wembley Hall, London)

The Founder of Tanzeem-e-Islami Dr. Israr Ahmad is a well-known figure in Pakistan, the Middle East, and North America for his efforts in drawing the attention of Muslims in general and their educated classes in particular towards the teachings and wisdom of the Holy Qur'an. As against the detached, cool, and sterile academicism of many contemporary Muslim scholars, Dr. Israr Ahmad firmly believes in the methodology of “reflection-through-action” which he thinks is amply supported by a verse of the Holy Qur'an:

As for those who strive in Us, We surely guide them to Our paths (Al-Ankabut 29:69)

Dr. Israr Ahmad, was born on April 26, 1932 in Hisar (a district of East Punjab, now a part of Haryana State) in India. He graduated from King Edward Medical College (Lahore) in 1954 and later received his masters in Islamic Studies from the University of Karachi in 1965. He came under the influence of Allama Iqbal and Maulana Maududi as a young student, worked briefly for Muslim Student's Federation in the Independence Movement and, following the creation of Pakistan in 1947, for the Islami Jami`yat-e-Talaba and then for the Jama`at-e-Islami. Dr. Israr Ahmad resigned from the Jama`at in April 1957 because of its involvement in the electoral politics, which he believed was irreconcilable with the revolutionary methodology adopted by the Jama'at in the pre-1947 period.

While still a student and an activist of the Islami Jami`yat-e-Talaba, Dr. Israr Ahmad gained considerable fame and eminence as a Mudarris (or teacher) of the Holy Qur'an. Even after resigning from the Jama`at, he continued to give Qur'anic lectures in different cities of Pakistan, and especially after 1965 he has, according to his own disclosure, invested the better part of his physical and intellectual abilities in the learning and teaching of the Qur'anic wisdom.Dr. Israr Ahmad wrote an extremely significant tract in 1967 in which he explained his basic thought that an Islamic Renaissance is possible only by revitalizing the Iman (true faith and certitude) among the Muslims, particularly their intelligentsia. The revitalization of Iman, in turn, is possible only by the propagation of the Qur'anic teachings and presenting the everlasting wisdom of the Book of Allah (SWT) in contemporary idiom and at the highest level of scholarship. This undertaking is essential in order to remove the existing dichotomy between modern physical and social sciences on the one hand and the knowledge revealed by Almighty Allah (SWT) on the other. This tract is available in English as Islamic Renaissance: The Real Task Ahead.Dr. Israr Ahmad gave up his thriving medical practice in 1971 in order to launch a full-fledged and vigorous movement for the revival of Islam. As a result of his efforts, the Markazi Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur'an Lahore was established in 1972, Tanzeem-e-Islami was founded in 1975, and Tahreek-e-Khilafat Pakistan was launched in 1991.

Dr. Israr Ahmad first appeared on Pakistan Television in 1978 in a program called Al-Kitab; this was followed by other programs, known as Alif Lam Meem, Rasool-e-Kamil, Umm-ul-Kitab and the most popular of all religious programs in the history of Pakistan Television, the Al-Huda, which made him a household name throughout the country. Although he did not like to receive it personally, Dr. Israr Ahmad was awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 1981. He has to his credit over 60 Urdu books on topics related to Islam and Pakistan, 9 of which have been translated into English.

In the context of Qur'anic exegesis and understanding, Dr. Israr Ahmad is a firm traditionalist of the genre of Maulana Mehmood Hassan Deobandi and Allama Shabeer Ahmad Usmani; yet he presents Qur'anic teachings in a scientific and enlightened way, being also a disciple of Allama Iqbal and Dr. Muhammad Rafiuddin, and also because of his own background in science and medicine. Concerning the internal coherence of and the principles of deep reflection in the Qur'an, he has essentially followed the thinking of Maulana Hameed Uddin Farahi and Maulana Ameen Ahsan Islahi, though even here he has further developed their line of argument. Dr. Israr Ahmad believes in a dynamic and revolutionary conception of Islam, and in this regard he is a disciple of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Sayyid Abul A`la Maududi.

For the last forty years or so, Dr. Israr Ahmad has been actively engaged not only in reviving the Qur'an-centered Islamic perennial philosophy and world-view but also reforming the society in a practical way with the ultimate objective of establishing a true Islamic State, or the System of Khilafah. He has widely traveled abroad and the audio and video tapes of his Qur'anic discourses in Urdu and English languages have circulated in thousands throughout the world.

A master's thesis, entitled Dr. Israr Ahmad's Political Thought and Activities, was written by Ms. Shagufta Ahmad in the Islamic Studies department of Canada's Mac Gill University. This thesis is available from Markazi Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur'an Lahore.

Who is Sayyid Qutb?

Sayyid Qutb (9 October 1906 in Musha – executed on 29 August 1966) was an important theoretician of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Alternative spellings of his "first" and "last" names include Syed, Koteb (rather common), Qutub, etc. Arabic: سيد قطب

He first received a religious education; in 1920, he moved to Cairo, where he received a Western education between 1929 and 1933, before starting his career as a teacher in the Ministry of Public Instruction. During his early career, Qutb devoted himself to literature as an author and critic, writing such novels as Ashwak (Thorns) and even elevating Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz from obscurity. In 1939, he became a functionary in Egypt's Ministry of Education (wizarat al-ma'arif); from 1948 to 1950, he went to the United States on a scholarship to study the educational system, receiving a master's degree from the Colorado State College of Education (now the University of Northern Colorado). Qutb's first major theoretical work of religious social criticism, Al-'adala al-Ijtima'iyya fi-l-Islam (Social Justice in Islam), was published in 1949, during his time overseas.

The perceived racism, materialism, and 'loose' sexual conduct that he saw in the United States is believed by some to have been the impetus for his rejection of Western values and his move towards radicalism upon returning to Egypt. Resigning from the civil service he became perhaps the most persuasive publicist of the Muslim Brotherhood. The school of thought he inspired has become known as Qutbism.

The Muslim Brotherhood, and Qutb in particular, enjoyed a close relationship with the Free Officers Movement in the time leading up to and following the coup of June 1952. But their early cooperation soon soured over such issues as the Free Officers' refusal to hold elections, to ban alcohol, or to take a hard line against the British presence in Egypt.

After the attempted assassination of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954, the Egyptian government cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood, imprisoning Qutb along with many others. While in prison, Qutb wrote his two most important works: a commentary of the Qur'an Fi zilal al-Qur'an (In the Shade of the Quran), and a manifesto of political Islam called Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones).

His commentary on the Qur'an has been extremely influential; some see him as the central theorist of twentieth-century Islamism. There is anecdotal evidence that Sayyid Qutb and Shaykh Taqi-ud-deen an-Nabhani founder of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, influenced each other. According to Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, "In a century in which some of the most important writing came out of prisons, Qutb, for better or for worse, is the Islamic world's answer to Solzhenitsyn, Sartre, and Havel, and he easily ranks with all of them in influence. It was Sayyid Qutb who fused together the core elements of modern Islamism.... Qutb concluded that the unity of God and His sovereignty meant that human rule – government legislates its own behavior – is illegitimate. Muslims must answer to God alone." [Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam's War Against America (New York: Random House, 2002) p. 62] ISBN 0812969847. This point is central to most modern Islamists, in their assertion that all forms of governance over Muslims are illegitimate except the Islamic state Khilafah.

One of Qutb's main ideas was applying the term Jahiliyya, which originally referred to humanity's state of ignorance before the revelation of Islam, to modern-day Muslim societies. In his view, turning away from Islamic law and Islamic values under the influence of European imperialism had left the Muslim world in a condition of debased ignorance, similar to that of the pre-Islamic era (or Jahiliyya).

The conditions he experienced in prison, it has been argued, pushed Qutb to the conclusion that the Egyptian state was totally illegitimate. Violence against the inmates was commonplace. Sometimes this took the form of torture, but it once climaxed in the murder of 23 Muslim Brothers and the wounding of 46 after a protest in which they refused to perform hard labor. This incident, according to some, transformed Qutb’s view of the Nasser government, which he considered to be unparalleled in its cruelty. His radicalization culminated in a little book published in 1964 which was based on the ideas he had written in notes and letters during his time in prison. This is the famous Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq.

Qutb was let out of prison at the end of 1964 at the behest of the then Prime Minister of Iraq, Abdul Salam Arif, for only 8 months before being rearrested in August 1965. He was accused of plotting to overthrow the state and subjected to what some consider a show trial which culminated in a death sentence for him and six other members of the Muslim Brotherhood. On 29 August 1966, Sayyid Qutb was executed by hanging.

His brother, Muhammad Qutb, moved to Saudi Arabia where he became a Professor of Islamic Studies. One of Muhammad Qutb's students and ardent followers was Ayman Zawahiri, who was to become the mentor of Osama bin Laden.

Literary works:

  • Mahammat ash-Sha'ir fi-l-hayat wa-shi'r al-jil al-hadir, 1933
  • ash-Shati al-majhul, 1935
  • al-Taswir al-Fanni fi-l-Qu'ran (Artistic Representation in the Qur'an), 1944/45
  • Tifl min al-qarya (A Child from the Village -- an autobiographical work), 1946

Theoretical works:

  • Al-'adala al-Ijtima'iyya fi-l-Islam (Social Justice in Islam), 1949, his first theoretical work
  • Fi zilal al-Qur'an (In the Shade of the Qur'an), 1954, commentary of the Qur'an in 30 volumes, his most important theoretical work. In 1960, a revised edition started to appear which was to remain uncompleted; the last volume appeared in 1964. The commentary is interesting in so far as it is rather innovative in its methodical approach, borrowing heavily from the method of literary interpretation developed by Amin al-Khuli, while retaining some structural features of classical commentaries (for example, the principle of progressing from the first sura to the last).
  • Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq (Signposts on the Road, or Milestones), 1964, Qutb's best known work, regarded by some as "in many ways mark the beginnings of modern political Islam"

See also


  • Shepard, William E., Sayyid Qutb and Islamic Activism. A Translation and Critical Analysis of "Social Justice in Islam", Leiden 1996
  • Haddad, Yvonne Y., "Sayyid Qutb: ideologue of Islamic revival", in Esposito, J. (ed.), Voices of the Islamic Revolution, New York 1983

External links

  • Sayyid Qutb, Milestones (
  • Sayyid Qutb's America ( from NPR's All Things Considered (May 6, 2003).

Liberal movements within Islam

Reform, not schism

It should be noted that these are movements within Islam, rather than an attempt at schism. As such, they believe in the basic tenets of Islam, such as the Six Elements of Belief and the Five Pillars of Islam. They consider their views to be fully compatible with the teachings of Islam. Their main difference with more conservative Islamic opinion is in differences of interpretation of how to apply the core Islamic values to modern life.

It should be further noted that the liberal Muslim's focus on individual interpretation and ethics, rather than on the literal word of scripture, may have an antecedent in the Sufi tradition of Islamic mysticism.

Contemporary and controversial Issues

Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, in accordance with their increasingly modern societies and outlooks, liberal Muslims have tended to reinterpret many aspects of their religion. This is particularly true of Muslims who now find themselves living in non-Muslim countries. Such people may describe themselves variously as liberal, progressive or reformist; but rather than implying a specific agenda, these terms tend to incorporate a broad spectrum of views which contest medievalist and traditional interpretations of Islam in many different ways. Although there is no full consensus amongst liberal Muslims on their views, they tend to agree on some or all of the following beliefs:

  • Most liberal Muslims consider Islam's notion of absolute equality of all humanity to be one of its central concepts. Human rights is thus a major concern for most liberals. Many Muslim majority countries have signed international human rights treaties, but the impact of these largely remains to be seen in local legal systems. The Qur'anic story of Adam is sometimes interpreted to support human rights.
  • Feminism is likewise a major issue. For this reason, liberal Muslims are often critical of traditional Islamic laws which allow polygamy for men but not women. It is also accepted by most liberal Muslims that a woman may lead the state, and that women should not be segregated from men in society or in mosques. Many liberal Muslims accept that a woman may lead group prayers, despite the custom for women to pray behind or in a balcony, able to see men but not be seen themselves. However, this issue remains controversial; see Women as imams. Some Muslim feminists are also opposed to the traditional requirements of the veil (commonly called hijab), claiming that any modest clothing is sufficiently Islamic for both men and women.
  • Many liberal Muslims favor the idea of modern democracy with separation of church and state, and thus support secular governments. The existence or applicability of Islamic law is thus questioned by liberals. Their argument often involves variants of the Mu'tazili theory that the Qur'an is created by God for the particular circumstances of the early Muslim community, and reason must be used to apply it to new contexts.
  • This means that liberal Muslims often drop traditional interpretations of the Qur'an which they find too conservative, preferring instead readings which are more adaptable to modern society. Most liberal Muslims reject derivation of Islamic laws from literal readings of single Qur'anic verses. They generally claim that a holistic view which takes into account the 7th century Arabian cultural context negates such literal interpretations. For example, some liberals may tolerate homosexuality even though conservatives forbid it. However, this topic remains highly controversial even amongst Muslim liberals; see Islamic views of homosexuality.
  • The reliability and applicability of Hadith literature is questioned by liberals, as much of traditional Islamic law derives from it.
  • Most liberal Muslims consequently do not believe in the authority of traditional scholars to issue a fatwa, since they generally favour the individual's ability to interpret Islamic sacred texts on their own.
  • Tolerance is another major issue. Liberal Muslims are generally open to interfaith dialogue and differences, particularly in the case of the Ahmadi and other controversies with Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc.
  • Liberal Muslims also tend to oppose the idea of jihad as armed struggle, and tend to prefer ideals such as non-violence. The Qur'anic figure of Abel seems to support the idea that anyone who dies as a result of refusing to commit violence is forgiven of their sins.
  • Liberal Muslims tend to be skeptical about the validity of Islamization of knowledge (including Islamic economics, Islamic science and Islamic philosophy) as separate from mainstream fields of enquiry. This is usually due to the often secular outlook of Muslim liberals, which makes them more disposed to trust mainstream secular scholarship. They may also regard the propagation of these fields as merely a propaganda move by Muslim conservatives.
  • Liberals are also less likely to treat Qur'anic narratives of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jesus and other prophets of Islam as historical fact. Instead some liberals view these as moral stories meant to reinforce the ethical message of Islam. Such liberals tend to accept scientific ideas such as evolution and secular history, and are generally opposed to the idea of Islamic history.

In North America

The launch of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America ( (PMUNA) in October 2004 exposed fissures within the liberal and progressive movements. One the one hand, PMUNA has come under fire from Muslims on the left; they tended to believe the organization failed to sufficiently distance itself from a U.S.-centric and neoconservative-inspired imperialist agenda, which seeks to define an "acceptable" Muslim as a liberal, pro-American and uncritical of Israel. On the other progressive Muslims with more traditional leanings criticize links between PMUNA and the controversial Muslim Wake Up! ( website, which supported the French hijab ban and carries articles hostile to the conservative Muslim perspective.

These differences came to head in March 2005, when PMUNA/MWU sponsored a mixed-gender Jummah led by a woman, Professor Amina Wadud of Victoria Commonwealth University. Opponents of this heavily publicised event argue that reform should be restricted to social matters, and that matters of worship (ibadah)are not open to reform.

Islam and Anarchism.

In the last few years, there has been talk knocking about on the idea of Islamic Anarchism, primarily from the US-based punk Muslim Michael Knight ( But there has been sparse evidence of any coherent online presence of Muslim Anarchists, until June 20th, 2005, when Yakoub Islam, a British-based Muslim, published his online Muslim Anarchist Charter (

The charter asserted a set of basic principles for Anarchist thought and action founded on a Muslim perspective. These reaffirm some of the core principles of Islam, including a belief in God, the Prophecy of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the human soul, but assert the possibility that a Muslim's spiritual path might be achieved by refusing to compromise with institutional power in any form, be it judicial, religious, social, corporate or political. Muslims are thus challenged to establish a society where spiritual growth is "uninhibited by tyranny, poverty and ignorance". It is in the fervent assertion of the principle of no compromise, driven by a utopian vision of humanity living in peace and co-operation, that the faith of Islam and the politics of Anarchism are said to meet.

Yakoub, formerly Julian Anderson, originally discovered Anarchism in the 1980s through the works of the punk band CRASS, but distanced himself from the anti-religious, drug-enfeebled British punk Muslim scene in the late 1980s to explore academic learning, eventually converting to Islam in 1991. A lack of commitment and understanding saw him retreat from religious practice during 1990s, returning to Islam only at the turn of the Millennium when he began working with Muslim children in inner city schools. Over the last 18 months, Yakoub has become an increasingly visible cyber activist at the same time as caring for his 12 year old son, who is profoundly autistic.

Almost from the beginning of his journey into the Muslim faith, Yakoub was disturbed by the authoritarianism dogging much Islamic thought and practice. After discovering the writings of the radical progressive Muslim Farid Esack (, Yakoub began to explore anti-authoritarian interpretations of Islam, and consequently initiated an online project based on Carolyn Ellis's ( concept of autoethnography called TGP (

Yakoub is cautious in describing himself as a Muslim Anarchist (or an Anarchist Muslim), rather than talking about Islamic Anarchism, because the evidence from social research points to a considerable diversity within the Muslim community or ummah, with some anthropologists reluctant to talk about a single 'Islam'. Neither is there, of course, a single 'Anarchism', and the publication of the Muslim Anarchist charter marks the beginning of an intellectual and political discussion, rather than the creation of a new political or religious ideology, insha Allah.

See also

External links


  • Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism by Omid Safi. ISBN 185168316X
  • Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World by Anouar Majid
  • Qur'an, Liberation and Pluralism by Farid Esack
  • The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought, by Mohammed Arkoun
  • Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook Edited by Charles Kurzman
  • Revival and Reform in Islam by Fazlur Rahman
  • American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom by M. A. Muqtedar Khan.

What is Islamic Philosophy?

Islamic philosophy is the attempt to fuse the fields of philosophy with the religious teachings of Islam.

As with any fusion of religion and philosophy, the attempt is difficult because classical philosophers start with no preconditions for which conclusions they must reach in their investigation, while classical religious believers have a set of religious principles of faith that they hold one must believe. Indeed, due to these divergent goals and views, some hold that one cannot simultaneously be a philosopher and a true adherent of Islam, which is believed to be a revealed religion by its adherents. In this view, all attempts at synthesis ultimately must fail.

Others, however, hold that a synthesis between Islam and philosophy is possible. One way to find a synthesis is to use philosophical arguments to prove that one's preset religious principles are true. This is a common technique found in the writings of many religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but this is not generally accepted as true philosophy by philosophers. Another way to find a synthesis is to abstain from holding as true any religious principles of one's faith at all, unless one independently comes to those conclusions from a philosophical analysis. However, this is not generally accepted as being faithful to one's religion by adherents of that religion. A third, rarer and more difficult path is to apply analytical philosophy to one's own religion. In this case a religious person would also be a philosopher, by asking questions such as:

  • What is the nature of God? How do we know that God exists?
  • What is the nature of revelation? How do we know that God reveals his will to mankind?
  • Which of our religious traditions must be interpreted literally?
  • Which of our religious traditions must be interpreted allegorically?
  • What must one actually believe to be considered a true adherent of our religion?
  • How can one reconcile the findings of philosophy with religion?
  • How can one reconcile the findings of science with religion?

This is the task of Islamic philosophy.


This idea of Islamic philosophy dates from the appearance of dissenting sects in Islam. A century had hardly elapsed after the life of Muhammad (known as the sira) when religious schisms began to arise.

At this point readers may want to review early Muslim philosophy.

Formative influences

Islamic philosophy as the name implies refers to Philsopohical activity within the Islamic Mileau. The main sources of classical or early Islamic Philosophy are the religion of Islam itself, the Greek Philosophical heritage which the early Muslims inherited as a result of conquests when Alexandria, Syria and Jundishapur came under Muslim rule. Many of the early philosophical debates centered around reconciling religion and reason. The latter being exemplified by Greek Philosophy.

The Classical Period

Independent minds exploiting the methods of ijtihad sought to investigate the doctrines of the Qur'an, which until then had been accepted in blind faith on the authority of divine revelation. The first independent protest was that of the Kadar (Arabic: kadara, to have power), whose partisans affirmed the freedom of the will, in contrast with the Jabarites (jabar, force, constraint), who maintained the belief in fatalism.

In the second century of the Hegira, a schism arose in the theological schools of Basra. A pupil, Wasil ibn Atha, who was expelled from the school because his answers were contrary to then orthodox Islamic tradition, proclaimed himself leader of a new school, and systematized the radical opinions of preceding sects, particularly those of the Kadarites. This new school or sect was called Mutazilite or Motazilite (from itazala, to separate oneself, to dissent). Its principal dogmas were three:

  1. God is an absolute unity, and no attribute can be ascribed to Him.
  2. Man is a free agent. It is on account of these two principles that the Motazilites designate themselves the "Partisans of Justice and Unity".
  3. All knowledge necessary for the salvation of man emanates from his reason; humans could acquire knowledge before, as well as after, Revelation, by the sole light of reason. This fact makes knowledge obligatory upon all men, at all times, and in all places.

The Motazilites, compelled to defend their principles against the orthodox Islam of their day, looked for support in philosophy, and founded a rational theology called "'Ilm-al-Kalam" (Science of the Word); those professing it were called Motekallamin. This appellation, originally designating the Motazilites, soon became the common name for all seeking philosophical demonstration in confirmation of religious principles. The first Motekallamin had to combat both the orthodox and the infidel parties, between whom they occupied the middle ground; but the efforts of subsequent generations were entirely concentrated against the philosophers.

From the ninth century onward, owing to Calif al-Ma'mun and his successor, Greek philosophy was introduced among the Persians and Arabs, and the Peripatetic school began to find able representatives among them; such were Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina(Avicinna), and Ibn Rushd(Averroës), all of whose fundamental principles were considered as heresies by the Motekallamin.

During the Abbasid caliphate a number of thinkers and scientists, many of them non-Muslims or heretical Muslims, played a role in transmitting Greek, Hindu, and other pre-Islamic knowledge to the Christian West. They contributed to making Aristotle known in Christian Europe. Three speculative thinkers, the Persians, al-Farabi, and Avicenna, and Arab thinker, al-Kindi combined Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism with other ideas introduced through Islam. They were highly unorthodox and it is open to question whether they could be considered Islamic philosophers.

From Spain the Arabic philosophic literature was translated into Hebrew and Latin, contributing to the development of modern European philosophy. The Egyptian philosophers Moses Maimonides (who was Jewish) and Ibn Khaldun were also important.

Aristotle attempted to demonstrate the unity of God; but from the view which he maintained, that matter was eternal, it followed that God could not be the Creator of the world. To assert that God's knowledge extends only to the general laws of the universe, and not to individual and accidental things, is tantamount to denying prophecy. One other point shocked the faith of the Motekallamin — the theory of the intellect. The Peripatetics taught that the human soul was only an aptitude — a faculty capable of attaining every variety of passive perfection — and that through information and virtue it became qualified for union with the active intellect, which latter emanates from God. To admit this theory would be to deny the immortality of the soul.

Wherefore the Motekallamin had, before anything else, to establish a system of philosophy to demonstrate the creation of matter, and they adopted to that end the theory of atoms as enunciated by Democritus. They taught that atoms possess neither quantity nor extension. Originally atoms were created by God, and are created now as occasion seems to require. Bodies come into existence or die, through the aggregation or the sunderance of these atoms. But this theory did not remove the objections of philosophy to a creation of matter.

For, indeed, if it be supposed that God commenced His work at a certain definite time by His "will," and for a certain definite object, it must be admitted that He was imperfect before accomplishing His will, or before attaining His object. In order to obviate this difficulty, the Motekallamin extended their theory of the atoms to Time, and claimed that just as Space is constituted of atoms and vacuum, Time, likewise, is constituted of small indivisible moments. The creation of the world once established, it was an easy matter for them to demonstrate the existence of a Creator, and that God is unique, omnipotent, and omniscient.

The oldest religio-philosophical work preserved is that of the Jewish philosopher Saadia Gaon (892-942), Emunot ve-Deot, "The Book of Beliefs and Opinions". In this work Saadia treats the questions that interested the Motekallamim, such as the creation of matter, the unity of God, the divine attributes, the soul, etc. Saadia criticizes other philosophers severely. For Saadia there was no problem as to creation: God created the world ex nihilo, just as the Bible attests; and he contests the theory of the Motekallamin in reference to atoms, which theory, he declares, is just as contrary to reason and religion as the theory of the philosophers professing the eternity of matter.

To prove the unity of God, Saadia uses the demonstrations of the Motekallamin. Only the attributes of essence (sifat-al-datiat) can be ascribed to God, but not the attributes of action (sifat-al-af'aliyat). The soul is a substance more delicate even than that of the celestial spheres. Here Saadia controverts the Motekallamin, who considered the soul an "accident" (compare "Moreh," i. 74), and employs the following one of their premises to justify his position: "Only a substance can be the substratum of an accident" (that is, of a non-essential property of things). Saadia argues: "If the soul be an accident only, it can itself have no such accidents as wisdom, joy, love," etc. Saadia was thus in every way a supporter of the Kalam; and if at times he deviated from its doctrines, it was owing to his religious views; just as the Jewish and Moslem Peripatetics stopped short in their respective Aristotelianism whenever there was danger of wounding orthodox religion.

The twelfth century saw the apotheosis of pure philosophy and the decline of the Kalam, which latter, being attacked by both the philosophers and the orthodox, perished for lack of champions. This supreme exaltation of philosophy was due, in great measure, to Ghazali (1005-1111) among the Persians, and to Judah ha-Levi (1140) among the Jews. In fact, the attacks directed against the philosophers by Ghazali in his work, "Tuhfat al-Falasafa" (The Destruction of the Philosophers), not only produced, by reaction, a current favorable to philosophy, but induced the philosophers themselves to profit by his criticism, they thereafter making their theories clearer and their logic closer. The influence of this reaction brought forth the two greatest philosophers that the Islamic Peripatetic school ever produced, namely, Ibn Baja (Aven Pace) and Ibn Roshd (Averroes), both of whom undertook the defense of philosophy.

Since no idea and no literary or philosophical movement ever germinated on Persian or Arabian soil without leaving its impress on the Jews, the Persian Ghazali found an imitator in the person of Judah ha-Levi. This poet took upon himself to free his religion from what he saw as the shackles of speculative philosophy, and to this end wrote the "Kuzari," in which he sought to discredit all schools of philosophy alike. He passes severe censure upon the Motekallamin for seeking to support religion by philosophy. He says, "I consider him to have attained the highest degree of perfection who is convinced of religious truths without having scrutinized them and reasoned over them" ("Kuzari," v.). Then he reduced the chief propositions of the Motekallamin, to prove the unity of God, to ten in number, describing them at length, and concluding in these terms: "Does the Kalam give us more information concerning God and His attributes than the prophet did?" (Ib. iii. and iv.) Aristotelianism finds no favor in Judah ha-Levi's eyes, for it is no less given to details and criticism; Neoplatonism alone suited him somewhat, owing to its appeal to his poetic temperament.

Ibn Rushd (or Ibn Roshd or Averroës), the contemporary of Maimonides, closed the first great philosophical era of the Muslims. The boldness of this great commentator of Aristotle aroused the full fury of the orthodox, who, in their zeal, attacked all philosophers indiscriminately, and had all philosophical writings committed to the flames. The theories of Ibn Roshd do not differ fundamentally from those of Ibn Baja and Ibn Tufail, who only follow the teachings of Ibn Sina and Al-Farabi. Like all Islamic Peripatetics, Ibn Roshd admits the hypothesis of the intelligence of the spheres and the hypothesis of universal emanation, through which motion is communicated from place to place to all parts of the universe as far as the supreme world—hypotheses which, in the mind of the Arabic philosophers, did away with the dualism involved in Aristotle's doctrine of pure energy and eternal matter.

But while Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, and other Persian and Muslim philosophers hurried, so to speak, over subjects that trenched on religious dogmas, Ibn Roshd delighted in dwelling upon them with full particularity and stress. Thus he says, "Not only is matter eternal, but form is potentially inherent in matter; otherwise, it were a creation ex nihilo (Munk, "Mélanges," p. 444). According to this theory,therefore, the existence of this world is not only a possibility, as Ibn Sina declared—in order to make concessions to the orthodox—but also a necessity.

Driven from the Islamic schools, Islamic philosophy found a refuge with the Jews, to whom belongs the honor of having transmitted it to the Christian world. A series of eminent men—such as the Ibn Tibbons, Narboni, Gersonides—joined in translating the Arabic philosophical works into Hebrew and commenting upon them. The works of Ibn Roshd especially became the subject of their study, due in great measure to Maimonides, who, in a letter addressed to his pupil Joseph ibn Aknin, spoke in the highest terms of Ibn Roshd's commentary.

Later Muslim Philosophy

The death of Ibn Rushd effectively marks the end of the classical or early era of Islamic philosophy. Philosophical activity declined significantly in the Islamic lands in the West namely in Spain and North Africa though it held for much longer in the Eatsern lands like Iran. The most notable luminary of the later period is Ibn Khaldun who put forward one of the first systematic philosophies of history. Mulla Sadra (1571-1637) also known as Sadr al-Din Shirazi was the most significant in terms of influence on Islamic Philosophy in Persia in the later period. Mulla Sadr synthesized the Philosophies of Ibn Sina, Sehrawardi and Ibn Arabi. The Iraninan Philosopher Hadi Ibn Mahdi Sabzawari was also deeply influenced by Mulla Sadra.

Modern Muslim philosophy

Modern Islamic philosophy seeks in some respects to renew the dialogue between Mutazilite and Asharite views about ethics in knowledge. An example is the Islamization of knowledge, and the view of khalifa of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. There is a separate article on these new trends.

See also

Sociology of knowledge

The sociology of knowledge is the study of the social origins of ideas, and of the effects prevailing ideas have on societies. (Compare history of ideas.)

The term first came into widespread use in the 1920s, when a number of German-speaking sociologists wrote extensively on it, notably Max Scheler, and Karl Mannheim with Ideology and Utopia. With the dominance of functionalism through the middle years of the 20th century, the sociology of knowledge tended to remain on the periphery of mainstream sociological thought. It was largely reinvented and applied much more closely to everyday life in the 1960s, particularly by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann in The social construction of reality (1966) and is still central for methods dealing with qualitative understanding of human society. Compare socially constructed reality.

Although very influential within modern sociology, the sociology of knowledge can claim its most significant impact on science more generally through its contribution to debate and understanding of the nature of science itself, most notably through the work of Thomas Kuhn on The structure of scientific revolutions (see also: paradigm).


Karl Mannheim

The German political philosophers Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) argued in Die Deutsche Ideologie (1846, German Ideology) and elsewhere that people's ideologies, including their social and political beliefs and opinions, are rooted in their class interests, and more generally in the social and economic circumstances in which they live: "It is men, who in developing their material inter-course, change, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking. Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life" (Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe 1/5).

Under the influence of this doctrine, and of Phenomenology, the Hungarian-born German sociologist Karl Mannheim (1893–1947) gave impetus to the growth of the sociology of knowledge with his Ideologie und Utopie (1929, translated and extended in 1936 as Ideology and Utopia), although the term had been introduced five years earlier by the co-founder of the movement, the German philosopher and social theorist Max Scheler (1874–1928), in Versuche zu einer Soziologie des Wissens (1924, Attempts at a Sociology of Knowledge). A strong interpretation claims that all knowledge and beliefs are the products of socio-political forces, but this version is self-defeating, because if it is true, then it too is merely a product of socio-political forces and has no claim to truth and no persuasive force. Mannheim sought to escape this paradox by exempting free-floating intellectuals, whom he claimed were only loosely anchored in social traditions, relatively detached from the class system, and capable of avoiding the pitfalls of total ideologies and of forging a "dynamic synthesis" of the ideologies of other groups.

See also: epistemology, sociology.

Phenomenological sociology

to be written

Michel Foucault

A particularly important strain of the sociology of knowledge is the criticism by Michel Foucault. In Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, 1961, he argued that conceptions of madness and what was considered "reason" or "knowledge" was itself subject to major culture bias - in this respect mirroring similar criticisms by Thomas Szasz, at the time the foremost critic of psychiatry, and himself now an eminent psychiatrist. A point where Foucault and Szasz agreed was that sociological processes played the major role in defining "madness" as an "illness" and prescribing "cures".

In The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception, 1963, Foucault extended his critique to all of modern scientific medicine, arguing for the central conceptual metaphor of "The Gaze", which had implications for medical education, prison design, and the carceral state as understood today. Concepts of criminal justice and its intersection with medicine were better developed in this work than in Szasz and others, who confined their critique to current psychiatric practice.

Finally, in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, 1966, and The Archaeology of Knowledge, 1969, Foucault introduced the abstract notions of mathesis and taxonomia. These, he claimed, had transformed 17th and 18th century studies of "general grammar" into modern "linguistics", "natural history" into modern "biology", and "analysis of wealth" into modern "economics". Not, claimed Foucault, without loss of meaning. The 19th century had transformed what knowledge was.

Perhaps Foucault's best-known and most controversial claim was that before the 18th century, "Man did not exist". The notions of humanity and of humanism were inventions or creations of this 19th century transformation. Accordingly, a cognitive bias had been introduced unwittingly into science, by over-trusting the individual doctor or scientist's ability to see and state things objectively. This study still guides the sociology of knowledge and has been claimed to have sparked single-handedly much of postmodernism.

Bruno Latour

Bruno Latour is a French sociologist of science best known for his books We Have Never Been Modern, Laboratory Life, and Science in Action, describing the process of scientific research from the perspective of social construction based on field observations of working scientists.

The sociology of mathematical knowledge

Studies of mathematical practice and quasi-empiricism in mathematics are also rightly part of the sociology of knowledge, since they focus on the community of those who practice mathematics and their common assumptions. Since Eugene Wigner raised the issue in 1960 and Hilary Putnam made it more rigorous in 1975, the question of why fields such as physics and mathematics should agree so well has been in question. Proposed solutions point out that the fundamental constituents of mathematical thought, space, form-structure, and number-proportion are also the fundamental constituents of physics. It is also worthwhile to note that physics is nothing but a modeling of reality, and seeing causal relationships governing repeatable observed phenomena, and much of mathematics has been developed precisely for the goal of developing these models in a rigorous fashion. Another approach is to suggest that there is no deep problem, that the division of human scientific thinking through using words such as 'mathematics' and 'physics' is only useful in their practical everyday function to categorify and distinguish.

Fundamental contributions to the sociology of mathematical knowledge have been made by Sal Restivo and David Bloor. Restivo draws upon the work of scholars such as Oswald Spengler (The Decline of the West, 1926), Raymond L. Wilder and Lesley A. White, as well as contemporary sociologists of knowledge and science studies scholars. David Bloor draws upon Ludwig Wittgenstein and other contemporary thinkers. They both claim that mathematical knowledge is socially constructed and has irreducible contingent and historical factors woven into it. More recently Paul Ernest has proposed a social constructivist account of mathematical knowledge, drawing on the works of both of these sociologists.

An interesting artifact in the sociology of knowledge is the Erdős number (the length of the smallest path in the network of all mathematicians to Paul Erdős).

See also