Why I am not a Perennialist?
Based on Plagiarism, Ibn Warraq has written his book Why I am not a Muslim that too from the Orientalists sources about Islam. He himself says: “In a conversation with Eckermann, Goethe advised an author accused of plagiarism to say “what is there is mine, and whether I got it from a book or from life is of no consequence. The only point is, whether I have made a right use of it.” Dr. Maroof Shah is advising us to read Why I am not a Muslim by Ibn Waraq and Why I am not a Christian by Bertrand Russell. I will not talk about Russell in this write up today. He calls Nietzsche a Sufi and Marx a mystic, Heidegger and post modernists Sufis in orientation. He extols Ibn Arabi on Ibn Taimiyah and even Sirhindi and supports Wahdat al-Wujud over Wahdat al-Shuhud. He laments that the theological approach has brought us to this impasse in religious matters so we all need to resort to Sufi approach and that too which has been endorsed by William Chitick ,Nasr and all others who all are not any scholars of Islamic religion though they may be students of Islamic studies, in most cases students of Muslim philosophy, which does not qualify them to be considered as authorities on Islam.
In perception of Dr Maroof, these all “authorities” have for all times to come decided on the fate of theology against Philosophy. I am happy that I had met William Chitick at Indian Institute of Islamic Studies now a part of Hamdard University during late eighties when he was pursuing research on Ibn Arabi at our Institute and he presented several lectures there on Ibn Arabi. I used to meet him in leisure and have posed many questions to him after his “well-researched lectures” on Sufism and Ibn Arabi there. Alhamdulillah I had correspondence with Nasr and he was eager to take me under his tutelage during early eighties when I had applied for admission in USA Temple University where he was Professor for a long spell before shifting to Washington University.
About Ibn Waraq I just want to quote his first lines with which he starts his book:
“As soon as I was able to think for myself, and I discarded all the religious dogmas that had been foisted on me. I now consider myself a secular humanist who believes that all religions are sick men’s dreams, false—demonstrably false—and pernicious.”
He calls his book as his ” war effort” and blames Islam for ” new murders in the name of God and Islam committed in Algeria or Iran or Turkey or the Sudan” without contextualising them in the background of their multiple causes other than religion . He takes refuge in “the words of the great John Stuart Mill, and those of his greatest modern admirer, Von Hayek” for writing an offensive book on Islam under the false pretention : “.. . . . To deprecate the value of intellectual freedom because it will never mean for everybody the same possibility of independent thought is completely to miss the reasons which give intellectual freedom its value. What is essential to make it serve its function as the prime mover of intellectual progress is not that everybody may be able to think or write anything, but that any cause or idea may be argued by somebody”.
Maroof Shah can add hundreds of other books on Islam by Orientalists which form basis of his knowledge about Islam but how many Tafasir, Hadith Commentaries and great classical books on Islam he has gone through before pronouncing on Islam and advising the Madrasa people what to read and what not to read.
Thus the source of all knowledge possessed by Ibn Warraq is western and he had relied on Orientalists to criticise Islam. He has become self imposed judge to decide against Islam because of his scanty knowledge based on western sources which are already biased to the core about Islam. He acknowledged his indebtedness to the western thought: “And so to the present work. This book is all about a journey: a journey from the certainties of childhood in a Muslim family (but they could be any childhood certainties) through a process of doubt and, finally, negation, as a result of exposure to what some might dismiss as a “Western” way of thinking about revealed religion.”
So is Dr Maroof Sahib who has always relied on western sources, mostly philosophy to talk about Islam and has brought the polytheistic Perennialism to fore by advocating Guenon, Shaun, Goruswamy, Nasr and even Osho Rajneesh, on whom he has authored a full-fledged book. But Alhamdulillah against all the venom spewed by Ibn Warraq under the influence of Salman Rushdie, he has brought his ignorance to fore by acknowledging that he is not a scholar but just a copier from the Orientalists rubbish on Islam. He says: “I am not a scholar or a specialist. I certainly do not lay claim to originality; I lean heavily on the works of real scholars [Orientalists]. I present to the reader in a more digestible form what I have culled from their works.”
Now see the sources of Ibn Warraq: The first and second edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, The Dictionary of Islam. A glance at the notes and bibliography is alone sufficient to indicate my indebtedness to the works of two modern scholars in particular: Bernard Lewis and Montgomery Watt. Bernard Lewis, a series of articles in the New Humanist by Ibn al-Rawandi, chap. 1. D. Pipes, chap. 2. W. Tisdall, M. Boyce, S. Zwemer, C. C. Torrey, and A. Geiger chap. 3. S. Hurgronje, I. Goldziher, J. Schacht, M. Cook, and P. Crone chap. 4. A. Jeffrey and W. Muir chap. 5. R. Bell/W. M. Watt, and A. Dashti chap. 6. G. H. Bousquet and J. Schacht chap. 7. A. E. Mayer xv, xvi, chap. 8. I. Goldziher chap. 9. B. Ye’or; the whole of this chapter has been almost entirely constructed out of her three books. chap. 10. G. Vadja, R. Walzer, and I. Goldziher chap. 11. M. Plessner, Pines, R. A. Nicholson, and A. J. Arberry chap. 12. A. J. Arberry,chap. 13. R. A. Nicholson and A. Rihani,chap. 14. G. Ascha; everything of value in this chapter comes from him and Bousquet. chap. 15. Articles Khamriyya, Ghidha, Liwat in EI2, and E J. Simoons chap. 16. W. M. Watt, D. S. Margoliouth, and W. Muir chap. 17. M. Hiskett.
Maroof Shah can add hundreds of other books on Islam by Orientalists which form basis of his knowledge about Islam but how many Tafasir, Hadith Commentaries and great classical books on Islam he has gone through before pronouncing on Islam and advising the Madrasa people what to read and what not to read. Why does not he remain confined to his field of specialisation and leave ulama’ and Muslims on their own to decide what to read and what not to read.
I was shocked during my recent visit to Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi where I met several young Kashmiri Muslim students who were discussing perennial philosophy, Wahdat al-Wujud and Wahdat al-Shuhud in the campus and they were referring to Greater Kashmir and the contents of its op-ed pages. I felt the significance of GK and the quantum of responsibility that falls on the shoulders of its editorial staff. The editors have to be very serious before publishing such matter and they must understand that the life of young Muslim boys and girls is ruined because of these futile issues and polytheistic philosophies. What we have to do with these very intricate and very complicated subjects when we have such a clear conception of Tawhid already enshrined in the Quran and the Hadith. Why to impose a particular shade of Tasawwuf that too on the authority of non Muslim writers on Muslim intelligentsia in the name of perennialism, which is virtually a form of shirk and polytheism in all its respects, advocated by the disgruntled westernised personages who had no face saving for their libertine outlook than this archaic set of obsolete subjects which have long been discredited by the devastated rebuttals of Ibn Taimiyah and Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi.
Otherwise if such rhetoric of the ignorant writers will continue uninterrupted like this, one day people will echo the following vies of Ibn Warraq, whom Dr Maroof recommends his gullible readers to read for “guidance” or [mis]guidance: “Had the poets adhered to Islam….., we certainly would not have had the poems of Abu Nuwas singing the praises of wine and the beautiful buttocks of young boys, or any of the other wine poems for which Arabic literature is justly famous.”
As Ibn Warraq locates every good thing in Science or art or philosophy in external influences on Islam so Dr Maroof sahib wants us to believe in a Sufism propounded by the non-Muslim or half Muslim writers who have presented Sufism as an alternative to Islam in other words. See how his favourite writer Ibn Warraq discredits all the Islamic contribution to knowledge unashamedly and with what a mediocrity: “Thus, the creative impulse underlying Islamic art, Islamic philosophy, Islamic science, and Islamic literature came from outside Islam…., from contact with older civilizations with a richer heritage. Artistic, philosophical, and scientific traditions were totally lacking in Arabia. Only poetry emerged from the Arab past, and its continued creativity owed little to specifically Islamic inspiration. Without Byzantine art and Sassanian art there would have been no Islamic art; Islam…..[Being] hostile to its development. Similarly, without the influence of Greek philosophy and Greek science there would not have been Islamic philosophy or Islamic science, for Islam [was ]… certainly ill-disposed to these “foreign sciences.” For the orthodox, Islamic philosophy was a contradiction in terms, and Islamic science futile.
He further speaks nonsense in nonsensical stance and Dr. Maroof Sahib tells us to read him: “Theoretically Islam ……, the Koran, and Islamic law condemn wine chinking and homosexuality; in reality, Islamic civilization tolerates both. However, the sharia still does govern the practices in certain areas of human life, for example, the family (marriage, divorce, etc.).”
Why I have chosen Ibn Warraq this time is to tell Dr. Maroof Sahib and his ilk that all his readers are not ignorant about his sources of inspiration and let him confine these inspirational sources to himself and not mislead our innocent youngsters any further. His every write-up can provoke even worst reactions from the academic perspective. Sometimes it seems that newspapers encourage these deviant trends to prevail. The standing philosophy of life is that we have to be accountable what we speak or write in this world. What we preach is more dangerous than what we believe in. There can be dozens of reservations about ones’ belief but we must not allow any Tom, Dick and Harry to preach anything in media without understanding its ill impact on our fragile society.
(Author is Dean School of Social Sciences & Head Dept. of Religious Studies, Central University of Kashmir)
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