Culture & Religion
August Fri 31, 2012
“At a certain point in its history, Islam abandoned reason in the belief that the human mind cannot know good and evil without divine revelation. Thus, the only people qualified to distinguish right from wrong are the experts who have studied the sacred texts their whole lives. This has infantilized the vast majority of Muslims.” This is the statement of Robert Reilly, an expert from the American Foreign Policy Council and author of the book The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist. Reilly’s thoughts reflect Benedict XVI’s speech in Regensburg, where he compares the Christian conception, according to which “not to act in a rational manner is contrary to the nature of God,” and the Muslim conception, in which God transcends concepts such as rationality.Mr. Reilly, what do you think of this distinction? What the Pope said is exactly the correct diagnosis, and I try to demonstrate that through the important example of the de-Hellenization of Islam of which the Pope spoke in the Regensburg Lecture. I refer to the medieval theologian Al-Ghazali, considered by Muslims the second most important person after Muhammad. Prior to Al-Ghazali, the rational school of theology called Mu’tazilite, held that it is obligatory to do what accords with reason because through it we can come to a knowledge of good and evil, and we have the freedom to choose that good. Otherwise God could not hold us accountable for something we could not know. This was the Hellenized Islam, the golden age, but it did not last long. Al-Ghazali, belonging to the Asharite movement, destroyed the integrity of reason in Islam through his book "The Incoherence of the Philosophers”. According to him, there is nothing that is obligatory by reason, but only by Sharia, divine law. Reason, instead, is incapable of coming to knowledge of good and evil, justice and injustice. Those who are not Muslim, and do not adhere to these sources of revelation, are lost because they have no mental capacity to come to moral knowledge. These views formed the culture of Sunni Islam, and this was a catastrophic change.What happens to reason in this conception?The denial of the integrity of reason and the ability to know good and evil outside of revelation was responsible for the closing of the Muslim mind. Al-Ghazali said, “Once you arrive at knowledge of the Quran, the mind must cease to act”. This is because there is no correspondence between your mind and God because he is not a rational truth. This opened a fissure the Islamic world, a bifurcation between the creator and the creation. There was no word for conscience in Arabic because they had no conception of freedom of conscience. That is why the concept of freedom of religion is alien.Then, those who do not use their reason can be easily influenced…
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