Shah Rafi’ Uddin’s Risala fi Tatbiq al-Araa

tn_takmil_al-azhanwmShah Rafi’ Uddin, the son of Shah Waliullah, has developed a systematic approach in dealing with differences of opinion in his Risala fi Tatbiq al-Araa‘. He deals with differences of opinion per se – regardless of whether they are theological, educational, or practical – his method is philosophical and it attempts at understanding all differences. This is not to be confused with synthesism nor for that matter a triumphalist attempt at rebutting all opposing opinions but rather he defines it as:

معرفة قدر انطباق كل مذهب مع الواقع ، و قدر انحرافه عنه و معرفة سبب الانحراف

“knowing how much an opinion tallies with the ontological Truth and to know the causes why it does not correspond to it”.

A very ambitious endeavor! But despite the difficulty in reading Shah Rafi’ Uddin’s works – they are written in a very dense style; minimalist in his word usage and cramming multiple shades of meaning in a few words. It does, as the name of the collection of the three treatises suggests, offer a ‘Takmil al-‘Adhan’ (تكميل الأذهان) or refining/perfecting of the intellect. The whole purpose is to prompt the student, tutor or even the author-commentator for that matter, to engage in a synchronic philosophical dialectic. This particular work is an addition to what his father claimed to be an originator of: the science of tatbiq – defined as above. What his father only alluded to, he (Shah Rafi’ Uddin) presented in a systematic format. What he has done in his Takmil then is to deploy a refined and subtle method of stringing together some of the most vexed questions of philosophy and logic in a coherent work. In other words, the author systematically stakes his claims that give rise to prompts that invite reflection and controversy.

He takes his cue in the second ‘nuktah’ by presenting the ontological assumption he makes that is a theoretical underpinning to his whole enterprise in engaging with divergent viewpoints. The assumption is that Truth is an ontological reality – inasmuch as opinions (both true and false) are also realities, which by necessity implies that these opinions must have causes, as all finite and temporal things do.  Consequently, a false opinion must by necessity have a cause that is an ontological reality because otherwise it (the false opinion) could not exist. What follows therefore, is an attempt at arriving at how Truth is misinterpreted, or misapprehended in the consequential false opinion.

Shah Raf’ Uddin’s Tatbiq is much more than perspectivism but perhaps not in the sense that Nietzsche used it. Because of the difficulty of such a work, it has suffered much neglect and it remains for geeks like me to seek them out from library archives and then make an attempt at deciphering them.

More to come on this book.

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