I do not agree with those people who criticise The Standard for having “too much of God” in the newspaper. Religion, which deals with the God question, is as important – if not more important – as anything else one can discuss in a newspaper. Therefore, I say, well done Standard and keep the fire burning.
If we look back into the history of all religions especially those that have their roots in Abrahamic monotheism, we will realise that in their flowering process, they have been at once vibrant and sincere in their quest for authentic identification, to be recognised as a distinct doctrinal and theological movement. And to do this, its scholars and luminaries always create an environment for the blossoming of ideas and methodologies to make the truth that they believe are supreme triumph. Islam being the last of these prophetically manifested religions is no exception. But over time as the religion grow and span ever away from the golden age of its founder and the luminosity of those great men and women who plunged into its depths and produced masterpieces that endured the test of time, the lethargy and degeneration then sets in and becomes a means for confusion and muddling of the main goal. And the impulse of every great religion is nothing less than achieving a transcendent faithfulness towards the Divine and striving to live by his laws and thereby being in harmony with all cosmic laws and acts instituted by God.
However, at the core of this laxity and wayward wandering from the promise and covenant of religion, is becoming alienated from the spiritual and intellectual ethos that defines the tradition that runs underneath any authentic faith. Islam has suffered this for the past centuries. Of course, being the religious dispensation of the end times, it will remain intact and the effects of that disease will only be at a certain level and will not really put off the true seeker of direction, purpose and meaning. But it’s a reality that Islam has seen the bitter fruits that grew from either excessive literalism or the abhorrence of the desert Arab for anything of art and beauty.
Islam produced one of the greatest intellectual traditions known to man. Some of the brightest minds to ever traverse this earth came from the sacred Islamic civilasation. Ibn Sina (Avicenna in the West), Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Fakhruddin ar-Razi, Ghazali, Raghib Ishafani etc are some of the names that have continued resonating and ringing across the world, from the orient to the occident. But these men were not isolated scholars who achieved what they had of knowledge and wisdom from somewhere else. They were the products of a religion that respected the usage of reason and the intellect. Islam gave the world a corpus of knowledge that is unparallel in its diversity and universality. It has especially influenced the western civilasation immensely, dating back to Islamic Spain, Andalus.
When Ghazali refuted the philosophers in his Incoherence of the philosophers, it was to become a masterpiece for not only the traditionalist and Sunni school’s stance on creedal formulation without going to excess in the usage of Hellenistic philosophy and rational speculation. But this book did go on to influence not only Immanuel Kant who did say everyone who wants to study philosophy should start with that book. It went on coupled with other works of Ghazali, to heavily influence St. Thomas Aquinas that erudite Christian theologian who wrote the Summa Theologica. These are just some instances that I can put down as I hurriedly write this, but if time and space would’ve allowed us I will share some very amazing accounts of how Islam influenced Western thought and practice.
This was what our tradition gave to the world. But where are we now? How low we have stooped that we have become prey to the modernistic secular ideologies of the western civilasation. Modernity has now bred insecurity and fear in the modern Muslim. To stop the tide of secularisation from gripping the Ummah, we must set up and recreate a new Islamic intellectual and creative renaissance. The Islamic intellectual tradition has a great potential in the restoration of not glory and dignity to the Muslims alone but to change the narrative of modernity for the better. For whereas modern secular thought have polarised between spirit and matter, form and content, the Islamic tradition continues to be etched in a worldview that doesn’t accept such a dichotomy. And to save humanity from going on such a frightening and nihilistic path, there must be a revival of the sacred paradigm of the human experience, to once more accept and honour the supremacy of spirit. Islam has these potential. However, it must first convince the world that it can and it can only do this by a revivification of the rational, intellectual, spiritual and artistic dimensions, with which it created a civilisation that lasted a millennium.