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Islam’s Rejection of Reason and Rational Thought

Scott on February 8, 2006 at 2:26 pm

To be honest, I rarely find myself looking at the Los Angeles Times with a kind eye. Typically, I think it deserves about as much respect and veneration as the current New York Times, meaning somewhere between little and none.

BUT on February 4th, Tim Rutten put together a nice piece titled Drawn Into a Religious Conflict. It deals with, what else, the current cartoon controversy. What I found interesting was his brief allusion to the history of the world’s 3 great religions and how, historically, they traveled similar paths until a certain point in the High Middle Ages. In reference to the current extreme/excessive Muslim reaction to the printing and reprinting and re-reprinting of the offending cartoons, Rutten says:

“Whatever the religious sensitivities involved, reactions such as these may strike you as threateningly — even viciously — irrational. That’s because they are, and there’s a reason.

Back in the High Middle Ages, the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — reached one of those fundamental forks in the historical road. For centuries, a series of Islamic scholars had preserved the works of Aristotle that one day would lay the foundations for the secular logic and science that have made the modern world possible. Their “rediscovery” by medieval scholars provoked a crisis. They recognized that reason was a powerful tool, but were fearful that using it would undermine faith, which was the basis for authority in all three communities.

What to do — or, more precisely, how to think?

Three intellectual giants rose to the challenge. Two of them — the philosopher and jurist Abu al-Walid Ibn Rushd, known to the West as Averroes, and the great rabbi and physician Moses Maimonides — actually were contemporaries, both born in the Spanish city of Cordova. Tradition has it they even met and befriended each other while on the run from the Almohads, Islamic fundamentalists from the Maghreb, who had captured Andalusia and destroyed its storied culture of tolerance. The third was Thomas Aquinas — of whom his admiring coreligionists one day would say, “He led reason captive into the house of faith.” Recall that this was an age in which the literate West, not unlike today’s Islamists, still regarded theology as “the queen of the sciences.”

Averroes’ exposition of Aristotle was so widely admired and influential that when Aquinas took it up a century or so later at the University of Paris he referred to Aristotle simply as “the philosopher” and to Averroes as “the commentator.” But while Maimonides and, later, Aquinas — who also read and admired the philosopher rabbi — held that there exists a single truth and that faith, properly understood, never can conflict with reason, Averroes took the other fork. He held that there were two truths — that of revelation and that of the natural world. There was no need to reconcile them because they were separate and distinct.

It was a form of intellectual suicide and cut off much of the Islamic world from the centuries of scientific and political progress that followed.”

So, in short, Christianity and Judaism (in general) have embraced a more rational and even intellectual approach to the symbiotic relationship between Faith and Reason. One can flow from the other without sacrificing either, as countless writers, philosophers and theologians can attest to. Recently, this is evidenced by the ongoing debates (as chronicled in this very blog) connected to Intelligent Design or Gregory S. Paul’s assertions about the negative affects of religious faith on society.

In contrast, Islam has rejected the proposition that faith and reason can coexist and cohabitate within the heart and mind of a follower of Islam. There is only one thing of supreme importance FAITH. Anything that tries to attach itself to that faith or appears to comment negatively on that faith is seen as a threat which must be eliminated.

Since there is little room for reason in many sects of Islam, there is little room for discussion. Since there is little room for discussion, there is little room for debate. Since there is little room for debate, there is little room for questioning. Since there is little room for questioning, intellect atrophies and reasoning becomes weak. When reasoning is weak there is no discussion and the cycle repeats.

In the end, Islam has become a religion populated by large numbers of intellectually weak, rationally malnourished people who have been taught that violent reaction is the best/only reaction against a perceived threat aimed at their religion.

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Category: Islamic Jihad |

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