SeyyedHossein Nasr’s views on Modernism. An analysis of his Islamic thinking, and his suggested solutions. By JoudShafiq
Presentation outline: • A- Definition of Modernism. • B- Brief historic presentation on the development of theology, philosophy and science in the west. These developments resulted in the current state of modernism, and is the cause of the crisis that modern man is facing. • C-The gradual effect of these western developmental stages on eastern Muslim man, and how Muslims met these challenges. • D- Suggested solutions to modern western and Muslim man. • E-Summary.
MODERNISM • A great number of challenges that the world is facing today Are either a direst or indirect result of modernization. • According to Wikipedia, Modernism :” Is a trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology or practical experimentation. Modernism encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was 'holding back' progress, and replacing it with new, progressive and therefore better, ways of reaching the same end. “
Modernism as a trend, is the result of certain historical developments that took place in the western world , starting from The Middle Ages until modern times. These developments changed the western world view, with it’s practical implications as the cause of some of the major crisis that the whole world is facing today. • Observing the global effect of modernism, Nasr looked at both, western modern man ,and the modern Muslim man, in terms of the problems that both are facing and in terms of the suggested solutions. • In order to have a better understanding of Modernism and Nasr’s views on the issue, a brief introduction to some of the historical developments that contributed to modernism is due. We will start with a quick look at theology, philosophy and science from 1500AD-1900 AD with Nasr’s views on the current situation for the western modern man.
Development of Western GOD-man relationship Middle Ages 500AD St. Augustine helped lay down the foundation for secularism in his book ”The City of God”. Christianity in its Catholic form (with the pope being the supreme head) was prevailing During this phase of history. Theology was focus on the “mystery of God With St. Augustine. . Thomas Aquinas was affected by the Writing of Muslim philosophers such as IbnSina And Al-Ghazzali and focused on The relationship between faith and reason in contemplating nature and the existence of God. During this period the Christian lived a Life dedicated to their faith. 1500 AD During this stage in history, philosophy was closely allied to theology And used to explain the deeper meaning of religious teachings.
Development of Western GOD-man relationship Philosophy Renaissance Theology 1500AD Opposition to the church was evident in The development of a number of Philosophies in addition to attempts At reviving ancient ones. Opposition to the authority of religion, especially To Catholicism increased. . The opposition resulted in the rise of Protestantism and Reformation which Got divided into many schools Such as those associated with Martin Luther and Calvin. People turned to Humanism which focuses on Scholarship, but as well on the Independence Of man from the heavens. In Addition they also turned to rationalism And individualism. . 1600 AD During this stage in history, philosophy started to separate from religion.
Development of Western GOD-man relationship Philosophy Science Scientific Revolution 1600AD The invention of modern science as a method To investigate the natural world. This led to The development of scientific epistemology And the accumulation of scientific Knowledge. Rene Descartes was considered the founder of modern philosophy with his Method of Cartesian doubt, and his dualism of matter and thought which formed the basis of modern philosophical camps of Materialists and idealists. . Copernicus helped start the Scientific Revolution By stating that the earth revolved around the sun And with Newton explaining how the cosmos Worked there was no need for God to explain How things work. 1700 AD During this stage in history, philosophy and science were replacing theology.
Development of Western GOD-man relationship Enlightenment 1800AD 1900 AD Newtonian deistic philosophy “the world is a clock and God is The clockmaker” Newton and his laws More division in the protestant churches and fighting between catholic and protestant churches. Darwinism and the explanation For the origin of man. No need For God. Marxism propagated atheism Since religion is seen as a mean used by the rich to subjugate the poor. He explained The functioning of the society by socio- Economic forces, no need for God. Industrial Revolution Secularism and the spread Of agnosticism and atheism Challenging theology itself John Lock, Human behavior Is acquired and not inherited Theology Philosophy Science
Nasr’s view on western modern Theology and Philosophy • -Appearance of modern religious churches like Mormonism. • -Newly founded religions established by gurus. • -Practice of Magic. • -Revival of ancient religions. • -Turning to eastern religions. • -Dilution of Christianity and the spread of secularism and atheism. • While in philosophy, Nasr thinks that the philosophical trend is not so strong nowadays.
Nasr’s views on Science and modern man. • -The assumptions and philosophies that science was based on, and its use and impact on the environment. • -It is a quantification method, anything that could be mathematically defined and analyzed is important, anything that is a quality is secondary since it can’t be measured by mathematics (example :cosmos is a book of Devine wisdom). Using the scientific quantification method to study social sciences. • The Theory of Evolution and the destruction of the awareness to the continuous presence of God, alienating science from religion. Furthermore, its philosophy spread to all areas of life.
scientific reductionism: The ideal in physics of the 1700 AD was to able to explain all physical realities based on the movement of the atoms. This idea was applied to all areas of science, the human body, chemistry and so on. This theory combined with evolution lead to the reduction of the human soul to the psyche, and that to biological activity, reducing man to a bundle of Energy that can be measured. This trend of reducing everything higher to the lower is present in all aspect of modern life. • Instead of seeing the scientific method only as a method to explain some aspects of the universe, the scientific way of looking at life is now an ideology(scientism) which is being applied to looking at all things. If it is not scientific it is not accepted, hence revelation can’t be accepted as a source of knowledge, reducing revelation to ethics and personal choice. • As a result of scientism, Scientists now are revered more than and are replacing priests in middle ages as having the ultimate source of knowledge.
Governments support science (1700AD Bacon) because they can gain power over nature, hence, more economic and military power over others. Power with modern concepts and philosophies.
Nasr’s View on the causes of western modern man’s crisis: • We have seen from this historical presentation that man has replaced revelation with human knowledge, be it philosophical or scientific. Therefore man alienated himself from GOD, replacing GOD as the center of the universe. The result of which in the modern era is the new search for spirituality that Nasr uses later as an area to introduce through it some of his suggested solutions. • We can also see, that as a result of the Scientific Revolution, the epistemological methods of man had become totally dependant on the quantitative scientific methodology, and the use of this methodology in all aspects of life, whether physical or meta-physical.
Nasr’s view on the interaction of the west with the east 500AD Islamic theology has always encouraged The use of reason in contemplating The universe and the existence Of GOD Muslims were having a great civilization in Alandalus. Through which they affected The west. . Thomas Aquinas was affected by the Writing of Muslim philosophers such as IbnSina And Al-Ghazzali and focused on The relationship between faith and reason in contemplating nature and the existence of God. “What is usually called oriental philosophy is the doctrinal part of a total spiritual way, tied to a method of realization and inseparable from the revelation or tradition which has given birth to the way in question" 1500 AD
Nasr’s view on the interaction of the west with the east west Renaissance east 1600AD Opposition to the church was evident in The development of a number of Philosophies in addition to attempts At reviving ancient ones. The sea routes of the Indian ocean Were taken over by the Europeans. People turned to Humanism which focuses on Scholarship, but as well on the Independence Of man from the heavens. In Addition they also turned to rationalism And individualism. Colonization of parts of Africa India and Asia. . 1700 AD Tension started to build between east and west. However, the theological and philosophical changes of the west did not have a great impact on the east up To this time. .
Effect of western modernism on the east. Political effect Theological front enlightenment 1800AD A turning point was the colonization Of Egypt and other lands. Modernist movements like jamal Aldeenalafaghani. Rejection of philosophy and Science and a call to the return To the purity of the salaf. Wahabism. Maintaining resistance Against the europeans. Mahdiism and the appearance of Individuals claiming to be the Mahdi. Renovations in the sufi order Sufi orders were responsible For the Islamization Of west Africa. 1900 AD At this point western philosophies and ideologies were Starting to have there effect on the modernist group.
Modernism and Islamic world after the second world war. • The effect at this time was not political, since all countries gained political independence. • The threat at this time was through economical dependence and the penetration of the Islamic world through the adoption of modern technology, modern education and science, threatening the identity of Islam and the Islamic civilization.
The modernists group was fading and being replaced by Islamic thinkers who are living in the west attempting to generate new meaning for Islam . Also another group of Muslims whom Nasr added to this group became secularized in their approach to Islam and Nasr no longer considers them Islamic thinkers. • Revivalism (fundamentalism): This group became more politically active and presented its effect through the revolutionary movements like Ayatollah Khomeisim in Iran and Shi’ites in Lebanon, and Islamic movements in Algeria and Egypt. • The revivalist group’s solution to the threat of modernism was the rejection of anything new that is not related to faith maters, everything such as the adaptation of western technologies and the various western administrative institutions.Islamic art, and the intellectual traditions except that which is pertaining to faith.
The Mahdiism continued in their struggle against modernism, however, they took on a more revolutionary component. • Traditional Islamic thinkers who were more into spreading the proper Islamic tradition in their struggle against modernism.
Nasr’s suggested solutions to the plight of the western modern man. • Since man replacing GOD as the center of the universe resulted in the psychological and ecological crisis that modern man is having, Nasr’s suggestion is a holistic approach through Sufism and contemplation. • However, in Islam Sufism is not separated from the theology of Islam, nor is contemplation separated from action, thus by leading to a more holistic approach and view of the world that returns GOD to the center.
Nasr’s suggested solutions to the plight of modern Muslim man. • The current challenges of modernism to the Muslim world is through the realm of ideas (through administrative institutions and education) and imported technologies. Some of his suggestions were focused towards dealing with these two major challenges: • The Islamization of knowledge at all levels, whether in the educational systems or the reconstruction of a holistic vision of knowledge all across the Islamic world as it used to be. • educating the "ulama" and others about the modern world, the nIWV and all the problems that it is causing for modern man by bridging the gaps between traditional madrasa" and the modern educational institutions.
Revival of the Islamic sciences is very important. in order to bestows confidence in the Islamic heritage so that we no longer bend over forward and backward trying to fit Islam into all the "isms" that the west throws at us. We become the creators of knowledge and fulfill our destiny being God's vicegerents here on earth. • Learning from what happened in the west in terms of the negative effects of technologies, by looking for alternatives that are in harmony with the Islamic view of the world.
Summary: • Nasr must be considered an “Islamic thinker”. He is looking at the plight of all men, Muslims and non-Muslims , through the Islamic world view. • He is finding the cause of modern western man’s crisis, being the concept of GOD. When in the GOD-man-universe triangle, Man occupied the pivotal corner, explaining GOD and the universe through man’s reason or scientific knowledge, man became blind to anything but himself, thereby destroying that which is around him, and hence, himself. • Nasr approached the solution to western modern man’s problems, through an Islamic world view as well. Since man now , could only see himself, Nasr wanted man to look further into himself and get acquainted with the meta-physical part of his being, however, Nasr wanted this vision to be guided by the help of Sufism which has never been separated from the Islamic theology. As a result of adopting Sufism, man’s vision towards GOD can be restored, and with contemplation that is accompanied by action, man’s vision and balanced relationship with the universe can also be restored.
As for Modern Muslim man, he was never blind to the concept of GOD. However, the continuous challenges posed by modernism are trying to build another vision of the world within the Islamic vision. The intellectual process that pulled western modern man into modernism, is now seeping into the Islamic vision of the world, through the educational process and technological advancements. • Nasr’s suggested solutions is to take charge of our own intellectual process (as Muslims have in al-andalus), and use all these advancements as tools to further aid us in performing our destiny in this life, as GOD’s vicegerents on this earth.