Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Modernism in Brief

In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

Modernism began in the late 1890 to the early 20th Century.  In 1900, there were a lot of new discoveries and technological achievement which created a sense of optimism in making a paradise on earth.  This new technology was looked at optimistically as the medium to reshape man into moral perfection.  And it became a new religion which transformed the very nature of man; since this technology has helped man to experience life faster, man could not be stopped....

Characteristics of Modernism
  • Rejection of religion, conservative values, tradition and moral principles as the only means of attaining social progress.  
  • It believes that codes of ethics or moral principles as limiting and restricting the human spirit, that is, human cannot achieve their highest potential if he is bounded by codes of conduct.  
  • Therefore, modernism concludes that the prerequisite to progress is freedom from moral principles and tradition.  
  • Consequently, man, because of he is technologically advanced, does not want to commit to any one system that would restrict or stifle creativity; and thus he annihilates the system by meddling against every doctrine that was accepted by the establishment.  
  • This means that they rejected religion and God -- A salient characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness
Main Tenet
  • Human reason (mind) armed with scientific method is the only reliable means of attaining knowledge about the universe.  Reality is very objective thus, exist independent of the mind and can be known.
  • Human mind is the final authority
From this brief description of modernism, lets stop and think what kind of life the modernists would live in? What is their purpose of life? What is their conceptions of man and the universe? From dawn to dusk, what would be their daily struggle? What would make them happy? What is their conception of success?  

Monday, May 30, 2011

Question 4

In the name of Allah The Most Gracious The Most Merciful

Assalamualaikum Dear Students,

Regarding Question 4, what you should do is you read the 30th Juzuk of the Qur'an and try to make a list of metaphysical things mentioned in the Surahs.  You should know the meaning of metaphysics and what are involved in the study of metaphysics.  Please refer to my post on worldview 2.  I have mentioned that the first thing that Allah commanded the Prophet to do is Read and after that Allah introduces HIMself as The Creator...He Created man and Teaches man that which he know not...from this verses...we understood the concept of God as Creator, Teacher, Source of Knowledge, and also a little bit on the concept of man...that is man has no knowledge (what kind of knowledge that man has no knowledge of?)

What you have to do is list things that we study in metaphysics and how the Qur'an explains the meanings of the things...another example...cosmology is part of metaphysics...from reading the Qur'anic verses, what does the Qur'an tell us about cosmology...

I hope I have given enough example for you to answer question 4.  Happy studying!!! :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

This brief note on the concept of secularism is as explained by Prof al-Attas in his book "Islam and Secularism".

The word 'secular' is from Latin word 'seaculum' which denotes time and place.  The time in now and the place is here in this world or worldly.  Al-Attas defines secular as the condition of the world at this particular time.

Secularization is a process of freeing man from religious and metaphysical control over his reason (thinking) and his language.  This means that the language used to understand meanings and concepts is no longer has religious influence (meaning is not coming from religion).  For example, happiness according to ad-din al-Islam is very much determined by our relationship with Allah.  If Allah is pleased with us, then we are happy even though we are facing with the most difficult challenges in life. Secularization has taken out religious understanding from the concept of happiness...and happiness is understood as, for example, achieving one's goal which has got nothing to do with relationship between man and God.

It is also a process of defatalization of history which means that events that had happened and will be happening in history has got nothing to do with God's planning.  In Islam, we believe that what ever happens in history or in the future is planned by God and has been written in the 'Sacred Tablet' (I don't know the right word for Lauh al-Mahfuz).  But this does not mean that man has no freedom of choice...  In the process of secularization, men discovers that they don't need God and they are left alone in this universe and therefore they can control the world.

Secularization includes the political, social and cultural aspects.  Society and culture are free from the guardianship of religious control and closed metaphysical views.  Closed metaphysics means the metaphysical truths are absolute and are not subjected to change.  The end product of secularization is historical relativism.

Relativism means an ideology which believe that there is no absolute truth.  This means that all views are considered as equally valid/true.  Knowledge and morality is mind dependent and exist in relation to context (culture, society, history).  Ethics and moral values are not absolute and relative to the persons holding the values.  This means that moral values differ from people to people; time to time; place to place--it tells us that my truth is as good as your truth, even though they may be contradictory.  The truth that prevails is the most popular or practical.  For example, abortion is illegal and immoral in year, say, 1800.  But now abortion become popular and it is not considered immoral anymore in some states in USA.

Integral (Essential or important) components of secularization
  • Disenchantment of nature -- it means freeing nature from religious implications and separating it from God.  Nature is believed as not divine thus man is free to conquer and control it.
  • Desacralization of politics -- it means legitimation of the sacred or the divine is abolished from political powers and authority.  This makes way for political change which in turns lead to social change.  
  • Deconsecration of moral values -- it means that every cultural creation and value system which include religion and religious value are deemed relatives.  This allows for change or evolution of values and the future value system may be the opposite of the present value system.  This conveys that man is free to create change and to be involved in evolutionary process.  
Secularization is the process of coming of age of maturation of man.  It considers the past as time when man began at the stage of infantile, as time goes, man's consciousness and reason become more mature -- in the process of maturing, religion is not needed anymore since secular man claim that he can find answer in justification for everything.  Therefore religion is removed along with the metaphysical support--this justifies man to be on his own without the help of intervention from God.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Islamic Ethics

In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

Ethics in Islam is the Qur’anic code of conducts which is fully epitomized in the perfect moral character of the Prophet Muhammad.  Islamic ethics is a framework, set by the Qur’an, within which all practical conducts are deemed permissible (Umaruddin, 1962).  Hence, religion or more accurately ‘din’ is the foundation of Islamic ethics.  “The purpose and end of ethics in Islam is ultimately for the individual; what the man of Islam does, he does in the way he believes to be good only because of God and His Messenger say so and he trusts that his actions will find favor with God” (al-Attas, 1993).  Therefore, what is good is what Allah does and commands.  Goodness is getting closer to Allah and to gain His favor.  Moreover, man is created with a purpose and the purpose of man is to worship Allah in totality (al-Qur’an, al-Zariyat: 56).  Goodness is the act that facilitates or fulfills one’s purpose as a servant and a vicegerent of God.  Further, all other creations are created with their own purposes as well (al-Qur’an, Ali Imran: 191).  Therefore, goodness is the act to ensure other beings are benefited according to their purposes.  We can conclude that evil is going away from Allah; not fulfilling the purpose of one’s life; and preventing other beings from fulfilling their purposes or using other beings not according to the purposes they are created for.    
God determines all values; hence values are independent of the human mind and absolute.  However, moral conducts is context dependent.  This means, for example, lying which is prohibited under normal circumstances is allowed for a worthy cause if other means are unattainable.  The prophet says that “those who lie for the purpose of reuniting two individuals in conflict is not considered a liar, he says good words and the result is good” (hadith 2232, Muslim, Sahih, 1987: 221).  This hadith conveys that one should understand the philosophy underlying a particular moral code.  This understanding permits judgment by the intellect whenever it is deemed necessary.   Since values are from God, the source of ethical values is the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is the interpretation of the Qur’an.  The archetype of the perfect moral character is Prophet Muhammad.  Even though the Qur’an and Sunnah have laid down the principles of moral conducts, there are still rooms for judgment by the intellect. 
The questions on moral responsibility started during the Umayyad dynasty when the caliphs explained that their immoral and tyrannical behaviors were predetermined by God.  This view was opposed by the Qadarites which was later refined by the Mu’tazilites.  The Mu’tazilite was the first group who made an attempt to define good and bad.  The good is not what God does or command but goodness is inherent in the good.  Thus, God command the good because of its goodness.  Similarly, evil is not what God dislike but because it is evil that God dislike it.  The Mu’tazilites took this stand to vindicate God from being responsible for the evil in the world since they believed that creating evil was against God’s wisdom and goodness (Fakhry, 1983).  They also believed that reason was capable of distinguishing good from evil, thus authority of shari’ah was not needed (Fakhry, 2000).  This view was disputed by the conservatists and the Ash’arites.  However, the Mu’tazilites, conservatists, and Ash’arites’ views were rooted in the Qur’an and hadith (Fakhry, 1998).
No exposition on ethics was done before the introduction of Greek philosophy.  The first Muslim philosopher who wrote on philosophical ethics was al-Kindi.  His treaties on ethics (Paving the Way to Virtue and On the Art of Dispelling Sorrow) were influenced by Socratic thought (Fakhry, 1998).  Al-Farabi was another contributor to the discussion on ethics. He wrote more systematic treaties on ethics which was nuanced by Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.  However, the most significant contributor to Islamic ethics was Miskawayh (1968).  His tahdhib al-akhlaq (Refinement of Character) influenced later Persian thinkers such as Nasir al-Din al-Tusi and Jalal al-Din al-Dawami (Fakhry, 1998).  An examination of Al-Ghazali’s theory of virtue revealed that it is quite similar to Miskawayh’s tahdhib al-akhlaq (Umaruddin, 1962).  Another great thinker who wrote on ethics was al-Isfahani (Mohamed, 2006).  The common thread between all of the above mentioned thinkers is that they explained that moral character is good habits of a person which can be developed through habituation and self-training.  Miskawayh, al-Isfahani, and al-Ghazali adopted Aristotle’s definition of virtue as the mean between two vices and classified virtue into four divisions which are wisdom, temperance, courage and justice (Umaruddin, 1962; Miskawayh, 1968; Mohamed, 2006).  Happiness in this world and in the hereafter is the end of acquiring these virtues.
Contemporary writing on ethics in Islam is lacking especially in applied ethics such as business ethics, medical ethics, mass communication ethics and environment ethics.  Even though the Qur’an has set a clear framework for moral conduct, ethics based on the Qur’an and hadith have to be developed for the practical needs of the modern people who are engaged in various social, political and economics activities.

Islamic Epistemology

In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

Islamic epistemology is similar to Western epistemology in terms of the problems it investigates.  However, Islam recognizes that truth can be determined through a combination of methods including the empirical and the rational methods (Mumtaz Ali, 2009).  In addition to these, Islam considers true reports by authentic authorities as truth as well.  True reports include The Revelation which is the Qur’an, the authentic Hadith, and scientific reports of the authentic authorities.  Reports by authentic authorities have to be subjected to internal and external criticism and have to meet with the criteria of true report (al-Attas, 1996).  Hence, Islam establishes that knowledge of the nature of realities, the physical and the metaphysical, is possible and can be known with certainty.  The source of all knowledge is God and it is the obligation of man to discover knowledge so that he can fulfill his purpose as servant and vicegerent of God on earth. 
In the eighth century C.E., debates in Islamic epistemology were centered, among others, on reason and Revelation.  The conservatives and the Ash’arites believed that Revelation was superior to reason which was in opposition to the Mu’tazilites’ view (Qadir, 1991).  Qadir reports that the Mu’tazilites did not reject Revelation but believed that Revelation must be verified through reason.  Qur’anic verses and hadith which were against the dictate of reason must be interpreted allegorically to discover their true meanings.  In contrast to the above two views, several scholars such as al-Isfahani and al-Ghazali maintain that reason and Revelation are interdependent.  Al-Isfahani argues that without reason, Revelation cannot be understood and without Revelation, “reason will not be rightly guided” (Mohamed, 2006: 148).  Al-Ghazali describes the relationship between reason and Revelation is like the physical sight and the light ray (2007a).  The physical sight cannot see without the light ray and the light ray is useless if the physical sight does not function. 
            In addition to arguments on reason and Revelation, Muslim philosophers (for example al-Kindi, 1974; Ibnu Sina, 1952; Miskawayh, 1963; al-Isfahani, 1987; al-Ghazali, 2007a, 2007b; Ibnu Rushd, 1976; Ibnu Qayyim, 2006) dealt extensively on the questions of the intellect, its meaning and its functions in relation to knowledge.  The early Muslim philosophers also offered classifications of knowledge.  For example, Ibn Sina presented a classification which he called a ‘Classification of the Intellectual Sciences’ in The Book of Healing and Treaties; al-Farabi in Ihsa al-‘Ulum; Ikhwan as-Safa’ in their Epistles; al-Ghazali in Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din; Fakhr al-Din al-Razi in The Book of Sixty Sciences; and Ibnu Khaldun in his Muqaddimah (Qadir, 1991).
            Contemporary discourse in Islamic epistemology is on Islamicization of knowledge which prompted many intellectuals to study the Qur’an in order to establish theory and method of knowledge from the Islamic perspective (such as Wan Mohd Nor, 1989; al-Edrus, 1992; Mumtaz Ali, 2008).   Al-Edrus (1992) investigated the Qur’anic concepts pertaining to knowledge and produced an introduction to the theory of knowledge in the Qur’an.  He classified the Qur’anic concepts into six divisions which he further divided into two systems.  One is system of general epistemology and another is system of Qur’anic epistemology.  System of general epistemology consists of principle of normal stages of thought which begin with subhah (ambiguity), shakk (doubt), raib (fantasy), zann (conjecture), ‘ilm (knowledge) and end with yaqin (certainty).   
            There are three degrees of certainty in knowledge (Sharif, 1963; al-Edrus, 1992).  The first and the lowest degree of certainty is ‘ilm al yaqin; the second is ‘ain al yaqin; and the third and highest degree of certainty is haqq al yaqin.  Ilm al yaqin is certainty arises from sound reasoning and judgment which is the result of man’s application of his intellect.  The second degree of certainty, ‘ain al yaqin, is the certainty which is achieved from personal observation and investigation.  The highest degree of certainty, haqq al yaqin, is the absolute truth with no possibility of error (al-Edrus, 1992).  Haqq al yaqin is achieved from inner or personal experience.  Inner experience is direct knowledge given by God through revelation, intuition and inspiration (Sharif, 1963).
To better understand the degrees of certainty, consider the following illustration.  From a synthesis of data and information, a person makes a sound conclusion that philosophy really can enhance good thinking.  At this point, that person achieved ‘ilm al yaqin for the certainty is gained from using his thinking abilities to make judgment on the available data and information about doing philosophy.  To be more certain of his conclusion, he made an investigation to measure the effects of doing philosophy in promoting good thinking.  He now has the evidence from his own personal observation and investigation that philosophy do enhance good thinking.  At this juncture, he has achieved ‘ain al yaqin.  ‘Ain al yaqin is not certainty from seeing for vision is unreliable but certainty from having proven the truth through investigation.  Convinced on the result of doing philosophy to enhance good thinking, that person studies and applies philosophy.  He has personally experienced how doing philosophy has improved his thinking ability.  He is now totally convinced that philosophy could enhance good thinking, thus he has achieved haqq al yaqin.  Knowledge of a Muslim should progress from ‘ilm al yaqin to ‘ain al yaqin to haqq al yaqin.  It is not enough to know for certain but to confirm it by proving and applying it. 
Other principles of system of general epistemology are the principle of intellect as the tool of knowledge and the principle of truth as the goal of the intellect (al-Edrus, 1992).  Al-Edrus further explains that the system of Qur’anic epistemology comprises principles of The Revelation as the means of knowledge, conceptual framework of The Revelation [ayat (signs), amthal (examples), and asma’(names)], and the principle of the division of ayat into muhkamat (categorical) and mutashabihat (allegorical).  The relationship between the general and the Qur’anic epistemology is grounded on the relationship between the intellect and The Revelation.  Al-Edrus concludes that the Qur’an purifies the intellect from hawa (desires) and ghafala (unconsciousness) hence becomes a reliable source of knowledge through zikr (contemplation) and huda (guidance).  However, the intellect in its purified state is limited to know metaphysical truths thus The Revelation becomes the source of knowledge of metaphysics. 
The current movement in Islamic epistemology includes critical analysis and evaluation of the foundation and method of Western knowledge based on the criteria of knowledge from the Islamic perspective (such as al-Attas, 1993; Safi, 1996; Mumtaz Ali, 2008, 2009; Akdogan, 2008).  Mumtaz Ali (2008) argues that in order to produce knowledge from the Islamic perspective, the method used in producing knowledge should also come out of the Islamic worldview.  He examines the Qur’anic verses on the significance of using the faculty of the senses and observation.  He, therefore, produces method of knowledge which is based on the Qur’anic guidance.  Knowledge is produced through the method of observation by sense perception which is confirmed through experimentation and reflection.  This process is conducted under the guidance of the Revelation.  Further, contemporary Islamic epistemology also involves critical analysis and evaluation of Islamic turath to make judgment on its usefulness and relevancy for the present time (such as initiative by the International Institute of Islamic Thought).   

Islamic Metaphysics

In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

Islamic metaphysics is the study of metaphysics within Islamic philosophy.  The problems inquired in Islamic metaphysics are the same as the problems investigated in the study of Western metaphysics.  Islamic metaphysics is concerned with finding the truth about the nature of God, the nature of truth, the nature of the universe, the nature of man, the purpose of all creations including man, life after death, and other such metaphysical problems.  The difference between Islamic metaphysics and Western metaphysics is Islamic metaphysics recognizes the existence of the spiritual or unseen realities.  What is real is not just a concept conjured up by the mind through synthesis of information but a concept or a word that represents a reality that exists external of the mind.  This means reality exists independent of the mind.  Truth is the ideas one has in his mind that corresponds to realities outside his mind.  Therefore, truth is part of reality and reality is greater than truth.  This implies that there are a multitude of realities exist in the universe which we do not even know they exist; and thus we have no truth about these realities.  According to Ibn Sina, the truth is “what corresponds in the mind to what is outside it” (Osman Amin, 2007). This applies to both material (seen) and spiritual (unseen) realities.  Hence the concept of God is not a postulation made by the mind but an objective Reality that exists not only independent of all existence but all existence is dependent on HIM. 
Truth can be determined through combinations of methods of investigation depending on the purpose of investigation.  Muslim scholars “…have all and individually applied various methods in their investigations without preponderating on any one particular method.  They combined the empirical and the rational, deductive and inductive method, and affirmed no dichotomy between the objective and the subjective” (al-Attas, 1996: 27) and “true reports transmitted by authentic authorities” (p. 36).  The truth about the unseen realities is not mere conjecture inferred by speculation and abstraction but the truth about metaphysical realities is known with certainty.  This does not mean that Islam recognizes the infallibility of the human intellect.  On the contrary Islam admits human intellect can only know data and information fed into it through the senses.  The invisible world does not give effect to the human senses, therefore cannot be known through the use of the intellect.  That is why questions about the unseen or spiritual entity (ruh) should be dealt with appropriately.  Allah says, “They ask thee concerning the spirit (ruh).  Say: ruh (cometh) by command of my Lord.  Of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you (o men!)” (al-Isra’: 85).
Islam claims the truth of metaphysical world can be known with certainty through Revelations conveyed to man via the Prophets.  However, the intellect is capable of making conclusion, through the study of natural phenomena, that the natural phenomena are signs which point towards the existence of God and indications of His beautiful Attributes (al-Edrus, 1992).
The philosophical speculations in Islamic metaphysics are centered on the debates regarding God’s attributes and His essence, allegorical interpretation of the Qur’anic verses that describe God anthropomorphically, human free will, the possibility of beatific vision, the createdness of the Qur’an, reason and Revelation, and the Mu’tazilites’ rejection on several doctrines which included reward and punishment in the grave, gog and magog, the weighing of actions in a balance on the Day of Judgment, the existence of angels who record good and bad deed of each human being, miracles performed by prophets, and the Prophet’s ascendant to heaven (Qadir, 1991). 
After the arrival of Greek philosophy, Muslim thinkers attempted to prove the existence of God through philosophical reasoning.  Al-Kindi adopted Aristotelian cosmological argument to demonstrate that God exist (1974).  It is the first-cause argument which claims that infinite regress in the chain of causes is impossible, thus conclude there must be the first-cause which is God.  This argument was rejected by al-Ghazali (1963) and Iqbal (2006).  Al-Ghazali argues that it is not the right of the philosopher to say that an infinite regress of cause is impossible.  He claims that philosophical speculation could never achieve its attempt to prove the existence of God.  Ibnu Sina argued that God is a Necessary Being.  All other existences are contingent upon Necessary Being for their existence. 
Ibnu Sina further argued that God’s essence is His existence and He has no other attributes therefore “God cannot be an object of thought since He is without cause, quality, position and time” (Fakhry, 1983: 153).  He also asserts that creation emanates from God’s creative ability necessarily, therefore the universe is eternal.  This belief was unacceptable to the conservatists and thus, al-Ghazali branded him as kufr.  Abduh (2004) adopted Ibnu Sina’s position on Necessary Being and contingent being but he disputed Ibnu Sina’s assertion that God has no other attribute.  Al-Attas (1995) refuted Ibnu Sina’s view that essence precedes existence.  In his perspective, “Existence (wujud) is the real essence of things; and what is mentally or conceptually posited as essences are in reality accidents of existence” (p. 182).  Islamic metaphysics also deals with questions such as on happiness (al-Attas, 1994; al-Ghazali, 2007b), human nature (al-Ghazali, 2007a; al-Attas, 1995; Mohamed, 1998a), cosmology (Nasr, 1964, 1975) and key concepts essential for the establishment of Islamic worldview (al-Attas, 1995).  

Worldview @ Weltanschauung ~ 3

In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

Besides epistemology and metaphysics, axiology is another constituent of worldview.  Axiology is the study of value--what things we consider as of value.  It attempts to explain what is good and what is bad; what is right and what is wrong; how are we going to live.  Axiology tries to inform people and give prescription on how we ought to live, that is, to advice them on ethics and morality.  How to determine the right and the wrong behavior is depended on our belief in metaphysics and epistemology.  This means that all components of worldview are inter-related or inter-dependent. 

Those who claim that only material things exist, would also argue that knowledge is those that can be verified through scientific investigation, would not of course believe in Revelation from God.  Therefore their practice on ethics and morality is depended on the mind.  They believe that the mind is capable of coming up with the right strategy of living.  This question may arise...whose mind are we going to follow?  Therefore, they believe that everybody is entitled to come up with their own understanding and their own way of living.  This means that what is true to me is not necessarily true to you; and we are both right.  This means that values and ethics are relative and can change from place to place, time to time, culture to culture--even in the same community, people may practice different ethics.

What is the problem with relativity in ethics, if any? (time for reflection). 

Thinkers and philosophers have come up with ways to determine what is right and what is wrong.

Consequentialist theories posit that morality is depended on the consequences of actions.  The right moral conduct is determined exclusively by the greatest beneficial consequences of an action.  An action is considered morally right if good consequences of the action outweigh bad consequences.   This theory seems simple enough if an action results in good consequences to both the doer of the action and the person affected by the action.  What if the consequences of an action are good only to either one party, the agent performing the action or the person affected by the action?  Three competing theories emerge to explain this problem.  First, Ethical Egoism theory posits that an action is morally right if its consequences are good to the doer of the action.  Second, Ethical Altruism theory explains that an action is morally right if its consequences are beneficial to everyone else except the doer of the action.  Third, Utilitarian theory asserts that an action is morally right if its consequences are good to everyone.  These competing theories give different conclusions to the same action.  For example according to ethical egoism theory lying is ethical if A can sell his products.  But that same act of lying is not ethical according to ethical altruism theory for the products A sold are not to the standard he claimed, thus the consequence for others are not good.
Deontological or duty theories explain that human beings are obligated to do certain duties regardless of their consequences; thus also known as nonconsequentialist theories.  Predominant duty theories are forwarded to explain and justify actions that are valued as human obligations.  First, Pufendorf (1964) asserts that every individual has obligation towards God, him/herself, and others.  Second theory of duty is rights theory which posits that rights of an individual entail duties of another person.  For example, a child has a right for a safe environment thus it is the parents and society’s duty to provide safe environment for the child.  In other words, rights give a person sound arguments against other person’s action.  Third duty theory is Kant morality theory.  Kant argues that one has commitment to act morally because it is one's duty. He declares that "Duty is the necessity to act out of reverence for the law”.  Fourth, Ross (2002) comes up with prima facie (apparent) theory.  He claims that man’s duties are “part of the fundamental nature of the universe”.  He listed fidelity, reparation, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, nonmaleficence as duties that ought to be performed by a morally upright person.                               
 Another theory is naturalistic ethical theories or virtue theories.  These theories posit that human nature ought to be the source of what is right and wrong.  This means that morality is the good characteristics or habits of a human being.  According to virtue theories, adults are not responsible to teach children to follow rules but to instill virtues in children so that the virtues become part of children’s characters by habituation; and equally important also to avoid acquiring bad habits or vices.  The first virtue theory was developed by Plato and Aristotle.  Plato accentuates four cardinal virtues which are wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice.  Aristotle asserts that virtues are the golden means between two extremes which are vices.  For example courage is the mean between cowardice and rashness.  Another virtue theory is theological virtue theory which views virtues as objective realities revealed to human by God. 
The fourth theory of normative ethics is feminist theories which assert that the most important moral obligation of an individual is to thwart injury to loved ones and other people and to assist the disadvantage.  In other words the primary feature of feminist ethical theories is caring ethics.  Other characteristics of feminist ethics are the emphasis of relationship vis-à-vis individualistic; personal meaning that it affects the performing agent personally; bias towards their loved; private; emphasis on feeling rather than rationality; compassionate; responsibility; and group solidarity. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Worldview @ Weltanschauung ~ 2

In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

Another important constituent of worldview is metaphysics.  Metaphysics refers to the study of things which are beyond physics, that is, things unseen.  Metaphysics concerns with investigating things that exist or real.  It tries to conclude what things exist, and what things do not exist.  Some people say that the things exist if they can give effect to the 5 senses and they can be verified through scientific experimentation.  Things that cannot be proven through scientific method is considered as not real...do not exist.  

For some other people, they claim that things that logically connected with other things, exist or real; even though we may not be able to see them. For example, we can conclude that a person named Zaid exists because we have seen a birth certificate that has the name Zaid written on it, we have seen a photograph of Zaid, we have seen a house with the name Zaid written on the gate...therefore, it is logical to say that Zaid exists because we have seen other information that is connected to Zaid, even though we have not seen the person named Zaid personally.  

Others think that things that exist are things that are functional, that is, they work and facilitate in the achievement of some specific goals.  For example, if a thing that looks like a car but does not function as a car, that thing is not real...it may be just a piece of junk.  

People who adopt a materialistic worlview, do not believe in the existence of the unseen things; people who believe in rational thinking argue that it is logical to conclude that the unseen things exist through speculation but they also claim that they cannot say that the unseen exists with certainty.  The believe in what is real/exist and what is not real and does not exist, has implications on a person's life.  Those who believe that only material things exist, of course do not believe in the existence of supernatural beings or the unseen things such as God, heaven and hell, etc.  This, of course, affect the way a person lives his/her life.  If he/she does not believe in God, then, say for example, his/her ethics and morality is from the creation of human mind which may differ from person to person, place to place, time to time, or culture to culture.

In metaphysics, we learn about cosmology, that is we attempt to investigate about the universe, whether it is created or exist by chance, or it has a beginning and an ending, whether the universe has a beginning but eternal, whether there is life after death (another universe or world) and etc.  Why does the study of cosmology fall into metaphysics?  It is because we try to find answers on questions such as 'is the universe created?'  We cannot answer this question by scientific experimentation, so people use speculation which is the method for answering metaphysical questions. For Muslims, we can know metaphysical truth with certainty through Revelation because we admit that the mind has limitation to think of the unseen reality, therefore we need other sources of knowledge.  

Besides cosmology, we also study anthropology, that is the study of man.  We try to find out whether man is created or evolved from other much much inferior beings... ( Is it logical for a superior being to evolve from a much much much inferior being?), to find out the nature of man, that is, what is man made of? Is he body, or mind and body, or mind, body and soul? what is the function or mind and soul? where is he coming from and where is his destination? why is here on earth? etc.  We also investigate about teleology in metaphysics.  Teleology seeks to find out about purpose of existence such as purpose of life, purpose of human being, purpose of the universe, purpose of everything.  

A person's belief whether metaphysics is real or not affect his/her strategy of living.  Those who claim that metaphysics is a pseudo-science, or course would argue that there is no life after death, no heaven and hell, the universe is eternal, death means the end of life and nothing will happen just that human body will become soil.  The logical consequences of this proposition is that people will try to seek worldly happiness in the form of material things such as nice house, own lots of property because they believe they have to create heaven on earth, etc.

Part 3 in another post :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

© Khalid Belrhouzi - Who Am I *NEW*

My other favorite song...enjoy :)

When the night falls, with curtains of darkness 
When the heart beats with sighs and pain I recite the Qur'an, I remember The Most Merciful
And so my chests burden is alleviated, and the sound of white doves fills the air
Oh You Who sees me, and whom I see not
Oh Great One, most Glorified
Be merciful to my parents
Be the Companion of my parents
Be the One who helps my parents
Be the Most Generous to my parents
And for us all, be the Most Forgiving. Most
Who am I in time but an insignificant second that passes by
What am I on this earth but a grain of sand
lost in the vastness of creation
I roam, and loose my way, and forget my
Had it not been for the mercy of God
I would have been but an illusion in the foam
of a running river

Worldview @ Weltanschauung

In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

Worldview is a system of answers or “structure of meanings” (term used by Yedullah Kazmi, 2000) that exists in the mind that one refers, to make sense of the world which influences one’s perception, thinking, and behavior.  It is a set of beliefs that one considers as true knowledge about the essential aspects of Reality that becomes the foundation of one’s action.  The sets of beliefs that form one’s worldview comprise one’s beliefs or knowledge about the ultimate Reality; nature and sources of knowledge; the origin and nature of the universe, life and man; the purpose all existence and life; nature and existence of God; and nature of good and bad, right and wrong.  These fundamental beliefs and knowledge are the foundation of one’s thinking and doing.  Precisely, “a worldview is an environment within which the mind operates” (Açikgenç, 1996a: 10) thus shapes one’s perspective on everything. 

Therefore, the constituents of worldview are epistemology, metaphysics, and axiology.  The word epistemology is originated from the Greek word episteme which is ‘knowledge’ and logos which is ‘science’.  Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that deals with questions concerning the nature, scope, sources, and limit of knowledge.  It inquires into what knowledge is, what can be known, what is beyond our understanding and how to obtain knowledge.  Epistemologist attempts to find out what account as knowledge by clarifying the differences between opinion, belief, and knowledge or by distinguishing good reasoning from bad reasoning.  Epistemology not only seeks to enlighten people by describing what it is to really know and reasonably believe but also to propose what people ought to believe.

Some people believe that things that can be known through 5 senses and scientific experimentations as the only true knowledge.  This means that only material things can be known and can be considered as knowledge.  The unseen things are just opinions or conjectures or beliefs without strong foundation from scientific investigation.  Some other people only believe that knowledge is depended on the mind.  If things are logical and consistent with other knowledge, then the things are considered true knowledge.  For example, our mind told us that a person cannot be in two places at the same time, the rationalist considers this knowledge as true knowledge because it is logical.  Therefore, for these people, knowledge can be verified through correct reasoning and logic.  In contrast, some yet other people believe that things are considered as knowledge if they are functional, that is, they can serve some purpose or can facilitate the achievement of some stated goals.  For example, if the art of lying can sell our merchandise, then the art of lying is considered as knowledge because it serves a purpose of selling.

However, Islam recognizes that truth can be determined through a combination of methods including the empirical and the rational methods.  In addition to these, Islam considers true reports by authentic authorities as truth as well.  True reports include The Revelation which is the Qur’an, the authentic Hadith, and scientific reports of the authentic authorities.  Reports by authentic authorities have to be subjected to internal and external criticism and have to meet with the criteria of true report.  Hence, Islam establishes that knowledge of the nature of realities, the physical and the metaphysical, is possible and can be known with certainty.  The source of all knowledge is God and it is the obligation of man to discover knowledge so that he can fulfill his purpose as servant and vicegerent of God on earth. 

Our belief about what can be known and the method to verify validity of knowledge has consequences on our  actions.  If we considered true knowledge is only knowledge about things that can be known through our 5 senses and can be verified through scientific investigation, then we do not believe in the existence of supernatural beings which cannot be seen and cannot give effect to our senses.  Thus we believe in only material things, which means we also do not believe man has a soul (spiritual things) because we cannot verify knowledge about soul through our senses or scientific experimentations.  This gives effect to our, say for example, education system that we plan and implemented...our education system would not, of course, aim for the development of the soul (spirituality) because we think that there is no soul.  

to be continued .... :)

burdah - khalid belrhouzi - with translation

Lets take a break from heavy stuff and listen to this beautiful song.  This is my favorite...makes me cry... Enjoy :) 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Configuration of Meaning

In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

When we encounter with new information, we search in our mind to find words or concepts that are related to the new information in order to understand it.  Therefore, the content of our mind is the frame of reference that we refer to each time when we try to understand or when we want to make judgment.  The function of the frame of reference is to configure the meaning of a new information that we want to understand.  

For example, to understand the word 'epistemology', we refer to all the ideas and concepts in our mind (which is also called our frame of reference or our configuration of meaning) which are related to the word 'epistemology'. If we were able to relate the word 'epistemology' with the words 'study', 'theories', 'and', 'sources', 'knowledge' in our mind, then we can understand that epistemology means the study of theories and sources of knowledge.  If in our mind, there is no such word as 'theory' or 'source', we still cannot understand the meaning of epistemology.  We have to search for the meaning of 'theory' or 'source' first before we can understand the word epistemology.  

Therefore, understanding is depended very much on the content of our mind which we use to configure (understand) meanings...that is because the content of our mind is used for configuration of meaning. 

This also means that the more ideas, concepts and knowledge you have in  your mind, the deeper and the broader your understanding will be.  That is why some people can write books about a 'concept of knowledge'.

Configuration of meaning is worldview.  It is our perspective of the world around us.  We understand things according to our worldview.  It is the environment in the mind within which our mind function.  Our worldview is the foundation of our actions.  Our behavior is determined by our understanding which is based on our worldview.  What is the components of worldview?  Can everything in our mind be considered as our worldview?

There are millions of concepts and ideas in your mind--e.g. names of your friends, things you own, games, TV programs that you like and hate, your belief, your fear, etc.  There are also information about things that you believe as false--e.g. you think that communism is wrong, unicorn does not exit, ultraman is only imagination of people's mind, atheist is wrong, etc.  But these ideas, concepts and information do not make up your worldview.

The constituents of worldview are of ideas, concepts and knowledge in your mind that you consider as the truth.  If, for example, a young boy was taught that ghost exists and ghost lives in dark, wooded and secluded areas, he may think that he stumbled upon a ghost when he discovered an ugly creature in a dark, wooded and secluded area.  This is because he wanted to know the thing that he just bumped into...in his mind (through his learning from his parents) that thing might refer to a ghost which his parents warned him about.  This happens because the boy considers that ghost exists and the information from his parents is the truth.  If a person was taught that ghost does not exist, then the ugly thing he stumbled onto was not a ghost but other creature; thus the information about ghost in his mind is not a truth and it will not be the make up of his worldview.  Therefore, our worldview might consists of truths or it might consist of just opinions and conjectures or falsehood.

Our worldview is like our looking glass; if our looking glass is dirty,then we cannot see clearly; if is is colored, say blue, then we see yellow things as green; if our looking glass is crystal clear, then we can see everything very clearly.  Therefore, to understand and to perceive the truth, we should have clear worldview, that is, worldview that is based on true knowledge, true and clear concepts.  For instance, your friend invites you to go to a rock concert to relieve your stress.  If you are not clear on the concept of happiness and nature of man because in your mind you do not have that knowledge and understanding (meaning that this is not part of your worldview), you might not think twice and accepted the invitation.  But if you understand that stress is caused by soul's deprivation of it's needs, then you should know that soul can only be relieved from stress if you give it spiritual boosters, like for example, by listening to songs that glorify Allah's attributes.  Rock concert might give you short term pleasure and you will experience stress again after the rock concert.  Short term pleasure is not happiness...happiness is long term gratification.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How Do We Understand

In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

We are endowed with the potential to conceptualize meanings.  Words are the basic units which the intellect organizes and connects them to each other in order to form meaningful information which informs us in our quest for understanding and making judgment.  

Our mind cannot work in a vacuum, there should be some deposits of information and knowledge in our mind so that we can use them to understand new experiences.  Through our interactions, beginning right after we were born, we uploaded data and information into our mind via our five external senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch).  The contents of our mind depended very much on our parents, our culture, our community, our education, our belief, our psychology, and our environment.  As we grew older, words, concepts and information in our mind increase, therefore, we become more able to understand with more depth and breadth.  

These concepts and information in our mind become our reference when we try to understand new experience or to make judgment.  For example, to understand the meaning of a word 'axiology', we try to find words and concepts in our mind which are related to axiology.  If we cannot find words or concepts in our mind which we can relate to 'axiology', then we cannot understand the meaning of axiology.

In other words, the Intellect has a potential for understanding meaning of and attaining knowledge from the data fed into it through sense perception.  The data perceived and gathered through the senses is transferred to the intellect where it is retained and stored in memory.  Sense perception is like input devices of a computer through which data is loaded into the computer’s memory ready to be processed by the computer’s central processing unit.  Data perceived by the senses is retained in the retentive imagination.  Thinking process started when the perceived sets of data is matched to the sets of related data stored in memory in order to recognize it.  This set of related data is called information.  Thinking process involved in order to recognize information perceived by the senses is recalling which not necessarily involves understanding.  Information is useless until it is put into context and processed by thinking faculty. Knowledge is a result of interpreting and understanding a body of information. Understanding meaning of and attaining knowledge from the information perceived by the senses requires thinking.

Concisely, understanding involves making relationships or connections between ideas and concepts in our mind so that we can make judgment on the proper place of the object understood in the system of things.


In the Name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

Dear Students,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude be to Allah, the Producer, the Omniscient, the Creator who created the magnificent intellect and endowed it to human thus elevates him to the highest position in the hierarchy of creations given that he purifies his intellect through contemplation and guidance from Allah.  

I have created this blog to share relevant information which may be related directly or indirectly to our course in Islamic Worldview.  Worldview is an important configuration of meaning which inform our perception on life experiences.  It is the non-observable foundation of our thought and action.  Therefore, it is pertinent that we must understand the function of worldview so that our worldview is made up of the truth which in turn provides us with the true picture of reality to facilitate our correct judgment on life experiences so that justice will prevail.

May this class benefit you and I so that we can progress in our journey to become 'abd and khalifah of Allah.