Reason & Revelation: Ibn Taymiyyah vs. Asharites


The decisive difference between Ibn Taymiyya and opponents such as al-Ghazali and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi is not about whether reason is a foundation (asl) of revelation –
they all agree that it indeed is – but what claims follow from that. Ibn Taymiyya clarifies this only late in his work, namely at the beginning of the 34th viewpoint (wajh) of his Dar’ T’aarud al-‘aql Wa al-Naql:
“Those who oppose revelation and prioritize their opinion over what the Messenger conveys, they [also] say: “Reason is the foundation (asl ) of revelation. If we prioritized revelation over reason, this would mean the dismissal of the foundation of revelation.” This statement is indeed correct on their part (sahih) if they acknowledge the truth (sihhat) of revelation without objecting [to it].” Continue reading →


Shah Rafi Uddin’s Metaphysics

blind men

John Godfrey Saxe’s (1816-1887) version of Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

Continue reading →

Islamic Tradition of Books

The visitor to an Islamic bookstore is struck by the orderly rows of
Arabic sets, usually handsomely bound in rich colours with calligraphic
titles framed in arabesque and stamped in gold or silver. Nowadays, the
title commonly runs boldly across the spines of all the volumes.


A well run
bookstore will have these works sorted by discipline: commentaries
on the Qur’an; collections of the reported words and deeds of the Prophet
and his Companions, with their commentaries; Islamic law, both rulings
and studies of the principles to be followed in deducing law; theology;
large biographical dictionaries of individuals of various classes, most
commonly scholars; histories and geographies; and Arabic grammars
and dictionaries. Continue reading →

Shah Waliullah’s Hujjatullah al-Baligha

Shazad at Shah Waliullah's grave

At Shah Waliullah’s grave

Shah Waliullah’s project in his magnum opus, Hujjatullah al-Baligha, represents not only an intellectual synthesis of morality, law, theology, mysticism and philosophy but also an anthropological foray into capturing the intellectual, socio-communal, and psychological forces that shape Islam’s paradigm. Continue reading →

Hadith vs. ‘Amal

mosqueImam Malik wrote a letter to Layth b. Sa’d saying:

“It has come to my notice that you give decisions on religious matters which go against   the position of the scholars of this city of ours. You are a leading scholar, a man of position and eminence in your area. People need you and trust you in your decisions. Because of this you must fear for yourself and tread the path that is likely to take you to safety. Continue reading →

Tradition & Change: To Reform or not to Reform?


Tradition is here defined as an intellectual tendency or social perspective of continuing the preservation of values, statements, norms and the like from one generation to the next. In contrast, modernity is the social outlook on life which is inclined to break with tradition. It is driven by the force to repudiate traditional values, customs and beliefs in favour of more radical ideas. A delineating feature of modernity is constant change whilst tradition is identified by continuation. Where do we stand regarding these two polarities as religious people?

Continue reading →

Ibn Taymiyyah’s Personal Account Of His Damascus Trial (Part 2)

The amir signalled that I not read the written creed myself, the better to avoid suspicion. He gave it, instead, to his secretary, Shaykh Kamal al-Din [al-Zamlakanl]. The latter read it aloud to those in attendance, word for word, while everyone listened. Those who had objections would stop him at various points to voice their objections. The amir would also inquire about a point from time to time. Everyone knew of the antagonism and undisciplined passions harboured by a party among those in attendance, some of which was widely known among the people. Some of this [antagonism] was due to theological differences, and some of it was based on other things. Continue reading →