Tuesday, January 19, 2010

“One of the issues related to change that has exercised me for some time

is an observation that stems from my reading of classical Islamic texts, whether they be law, theology, history, mysticism, or philosophy. When studying the ancients, I am struck the epistemic openness and the liberty with which many thinkers and authors energetically engaged with a wide variety of knowledge traditions. They did so without allowing the provenance of knowledge be a decisive veto factor. Hence, a good portion of early Muslim intellectuals were open to the spirit of knowledge, whether it came from Greek, Indian, Biblical, or other philosophical traditions. Some strains of thought did resist this intellectual orientation, but they were hardly successful in dampening it.

This picture contrasts radically with many strains of contemporary Muslim intellectual thought, especially religious discourse. The provenance of an idea or a practice is more significant in contemporary thought than the substance of the idea. The prevalence of this condition has not only resulted in the atrophy of knowledge, but the process of knowledge production itself has suffocated. Knowledge related to religious discourse, such as ethics, law, theology, and philosophy, is quarantined from intercourse with ideas that have a non-Islamic genealogy. Only in the realm of science and technology is knowledge of a non-Islamic provenance tolerated, since these are viewed as secular discourses. This symptomatic response, of course, is partly explicable in the light of the harsh aftermath of colonialism and the consequent loss of self-confidence among Muslim societies…”

–pg. 25-26 of Ebrahim Moosa's Ghazali & the Poetics of Imagination

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