Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Ibn Arabi and Other Religions

I think that the passage from the Futuhat al-Makkiyya being considered by Keller and Chittick is ambiguous and inconclusive even with the continuation provided by Keller. Both authors are translating the same passage in a similar manner and drawing vastly different conclusions by each applying his own preferred interpretation. Personally, I would lend more credence to Chittick's interpretation principally because Ibn Arabi's writings are a premier focus of his scholarship toward which he appears to have devoted a lifetime of investigation.

Later in his article, Keller stated, "In fact, one looks in vain in the works of Ibn al-`Arabi for the belief of the validity of currently existing non-Islamic religions, for this is kufr." On the contrary, there is a lengthy historical precedent of conflicting opinions among Islamic scholars regarding the attribution of heresy to Ibn Arabi precisely due to the articulation of perspectives that contradict normative elements of Islamic faith. Shaykh G.F. Haddad has catalogued numerous of these positions and even contributed the opinion that portions of the Fusus al-Hikam must have been foreign interpolations because they contradict the normative principles of Islam. He wrote, "The attribution of this work in its present form to Ibn 'Arabi is undoubtedly incorrect as the Fusus contradicts some of the most basic tenets of Islam ... such as ... the abrogation of all religious creeds other than Islam ..."

In The Exo-Esoteric Symbiosis, Frithjof Schuon expresses the opinion that the clearest testimony of Ibn Arabi regarding the perspective of universality may be gleaned from The Ringstone of the Wisdom of Unity in the Word of Hud as follows (according to the Dagli translation):

"At all events, it must be that each individual be possessed of a belief regarding his Lord, by means of which he returns to Him and within which he seeks after Him. The Real discloses Himself to him within it and acknowledges it. If He disclosed Himself to him as something else he would deny it and seek refuge from it, and would, in reality, be showing bad adab with Him, although in his own eyes he is conducting himself with adab with Him. One only believes in a divinity through what he has made within his own soul. The divinity of beliefs comes about through this making. They see naught but their own souls and what they have made therein. So contemplate the fact that the hierarchy of mankind in their knowledge of God is their very hierarchy in terms of their vision on the Day of Resurrection. I have taught you the reason that makes this necessary. Beware lest you bind yourself with a specific belief and reject others, for much good will escape you. Indeed, the knowledge of reality as it is will escape you. Be then, within yourself, a hyle for the forms of all belief, for God is too vast and too great to be confined to one belief to the exclusion of another, for indeed He says, Wheresoever ye turn, there is the Face of God."

Of course, even an explicit description such as this may be subject to different interpretations and nuances of translation. However, overall I believe that the proposed interpretation is consistent with Ibn Arabi's metaphysics with the caveat that he not only exclusively followed the religion of Islam but likewise considered it preeminent among the traditions.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Islam and "Perennialism"

One explanation concerning why perennialism might be included among a list of those things that cause one to doubt Islam is the acknowledgement that a common perspective among perennialists is to depreciate exclusive religious identity in favor of identity as a metaphysician following the religion of the heart. The notion that Islam was arbitrary and expedient in principle (even if providential) and that neither Guenon nor Schuon can be considered converts is an important point of explanation among some of their followers. In perennialism (considered as a movement with ideological tendencies) this indicates a shift of primacy from revelation toward intellection wherein gnosis supplants the religion of the Prophet Muhammad - May peace and blessings be upon him. Intra-traditionally, a similar confluence of ideas may be found in the interplay of nubuwwah and wilayah. The difference is that this interplay occurs within an Islamic context wherein the intellect is still viewed as a ray of the nur muhammadiyah rather than a star shining solitarily above a plethora of religious firmaments. I imagine that the initial encounter of such ideas can be somewhat confusing or disconcerting for those who principally or exclusively identify themselves as Muslims, particularly if they have a propensity toward esoterism as taught by these figures.

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Especially following the release of the Study Quran, many popular Islamic scholars (in the sense of addressing the populace rather than being in themselves well-known) are portraying the perennial philosophy in its ideological form (i.e. Perennialism) as a threat to the articles of Islamic faith determined by the majority of the community. Anyone who adopts a pluralistic perspective is considered by these scholars to have forfeited the correct view which may be interpreted as a crisis of faith even though it does not involve the introduction of doubt concerning God or Islam. I imagine that many Muslims, presented with a teaching that appeals to their intelligence but which contrasts to the teaching that appeals to their fear of God and desire for salvation will feel themselves deeply conflicted over the matter.

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I think that the issue is a little more complicated than Islam reigning among the religions or otherwise abrogating them, and so forth. Islam in fact identifies itself as the religio perennis (din al-fitrah, din al-hanif, and even din unqualified), the haqiqa muhammadiyah as the source of all legislative prophets, and the shahadah as the philosophia perennis or essence of all revealed messages. I wonder how many intellectually inclined Muslims upon being exposed to perennialism think to themselves, why the need for a secular perennial philosophy?