Sunday, November 07, 2010
Islam and the Goal of Love By William C. Chittick (Huffington Post)
Islam and the Goal of Love
William C. Chittick, Ph.D..Professor of Religious Studies, State University of New York, Stony Brook
Huffington Post, November 6, 2010
Muslim scholars who claimed that Islam specifically and religion generally are based on love were not simply talking through their hats, as many readers of my previous post seem to think. They offered plenty of evidence. In order to see its logic, however, we need to remember the two axioms upon which all Islamic thought is built: the reality of God and the messengerhood of Muhammad.
The first axiom does not depend on the Quran. It needs to be accepted before there is any reason to consider Muhammad and the message. If God is not real, then God's "messages" will be even less real.
This first axiom states that there is only one true reality. Everything else -- the universe and all it contains -- derives from it. What we call "realities" are in fact non-realities dressed up in fancy clothes.
In the language of Islamic theology, this axiomatic notion is called tawhid (pronounced "toe-heed"), meaning "the assertion of unity," that is, the unity of the ultimate reality, which is commonly called "God." Any close reading of the Quran (and the works of practically any Muslim theologian, Sufi or philosopher) will show that tawhid is taken as self-evident to any healthy intelligence. If people miss it, the problem is "forgetfulness," the outstanding characteristic of the human race. According to the Quran, Adam did not "sin"; rather, "He forgot" (20:115).
The second axiom of the Islamic worldview is that Muhammad is God's messenger and the Quran God's message. No matter how important this axiom may appear, it hangs on the axiom of God's absolute unity.
Neither Muhammad nor the Quran is God. Both dwell in the realm of contingency and questions. Anyone who has delved into Islamic literature knows that every word of the Quran is open to interpretation. The very expressions used to designate the ultimate reality, God's "most beautiful names" -- such as Merciful, Knowing, Alive, Powerful, Forgiving, Majestic, Wise -- need to be explained. Explanation and understanding are human attributes, which is to say that they are riddled with forgetfulness.
Literally, the word tawhid means to say one, to make one, to assert one, to declare one. Theologically it means to declare that the ultimate reality, by whatever name it may be called, is one. In this bald form, the statement is unremarkable, not least because it is found in practically all religious traditions and most pre-modern philosophy.
For complete article, click here
The Meaning of Islam - Huffington Post, September 22, 2010
William Chittick’s life and work - World Wisdom
at 11:12 PM