Man stepped into the sacred place holding a holy book from God and shining the path of perfection and purity to the crowd. The crowd chanted songs and whispered their prayers to their lord. The tenants of the temple heard the whisper and interfered: We heard your calls! Peace and love be upon you. Blessed are your souls…. Unknown
The differences in beliefs, motives and focuses marked largely the debate on man and god in Renaissance Europe. Values of logical reasoning and critical thinking were vital for breakthroughs in science and art and significantly advanced a new thinking of the world and the position of mankind in it. Within a medieval scholastic environment, a new discourse was introduced to the peoples of a dark and oppressive Europe and helped prepare the way for a modern scientific attitude. By reviving a forgotten textual and literary heritage and rebirthing the ancient Greek and Roman classics, a new culture was cultivated throughout a secular trend.
The suppression of the church and its excessive authority were the core focus held by Humanists. The instinct of curiosity grew at a larger scale and man started to look at things with greater precision. Man’s pursuit for satisfaction; once governed by the disfigured theocratic laws of church and triumphed over by its illusional repose; began to grow and gain more strength.
In Renaissance Europe, two schools of thought; scholasticism and secularism, began to build their own identity and defend their positions. Considerably, these two schools are still relevantly influencing our contemporary history. A scholastic school of thought that advances a theologically spiritual approach in thinking and reasoning and a secular school that positions man in the center and works, theoretically, for the advancement of his life. Unfortunately, we failed to sense this influence and promote it adequately in our discussions and debates. Contradictorily, both sides chose to tend towards extremity and refused to negotiate possible common grounds. The result is of course more chaos or stronger sense of loss.
Our best choice is to equally channel them into a more balanced approach. An approach that can allow us to live in a world of obedience and in a world of freedom as well. Obedience to Allah and devotion to the pure spirit of prophecy and also the freedom of choices and the advancement of man’s interest on earth. The Islamic world can not advance its influence and re-gain its privileges unless we are skeptical about the foundations and the philosophies of both schools of thought and we are willing to invest more in forwarding debate and compromise on our convictions.
Throughout the history, people always asked the same questions: who did create this world? Who does control it? What are its beginning and its ends? This community may consider this perspective and that community may prefer that explanation while others may combine more than one element. However, we always reach the same ends: Race, religion or culture have no privilege over man’s unique need for comfort and satisfaction. This is his nature and this is his destiny…
In his book, the Secrets of Religions and Gods, A.S. Migoliveski wrote:
People have always felt that there is a prevalent power. Something that is discrete. Our perceptions of this unique power vary from one culture to another, from one tribe to another and also vary in time. We have been walking gradually through the path and the road of reality so we can understand accurately the nature and structure of this world we all live in. In all cultures, man knew of this power and prevailed it over his own triumph. The position of god was always higher. However, man could not walk his way through the end. Has this road led man to a world of goodness and love, coexistence and tolerance? Despite the fundamental differences and disagreements and throughout the history, man always dreamed of justice and believed that this value should prevail in either worlds; the world as we know and we live in or in the afterlife.
The same obsessions and the same desires. Man has always been craving for justice and and strived throughout his long course to achieve it. There is no substantial variation among religions; if we to disregard the formalities, or to advance this conception, we should sink to the depths of religions. Then we would realize that whether we are Christians or Muslims or Buddhists…we all crave for that world of goodness, love, and we would also know that our love to god is our love to our neighbors, our relatives and our love to others.
In the 17th century, William Shakespeare said his most famous opening phrase of a soliloquy in his play Hamlet; “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” Today, I say: To be scholastic or secular, that is not the question and that is not the answer. Of course, neither choices would enable us of the right answers to the vast number of contradictions the Islamic world still hold. What is needed is basically an academic search in history and a cultural reflection on Islamic societies so we can determine more precisely what worked and what did not, so we can offer new alternatives and new possibilities for us to think of our past and present and so we can gain stronger confidence in our future…
From The Islamic World: Religion, Philosophy, Politics and History, a cross-cultural comparative study
This work was inspired by ‘ Al-Sona wa Al-Islah of the great Moroccan historian and philosopher Abdallah Al-Arwi