Channel: Hamza Yusuf
Series: Hamza Yusuf – Vision Of Islam
So there is hostility. It's historical, but generally most western people are a historical like most Eastern people. They don't know much about history. But if you grew up in this country, you probably grew up with cartoons like Crusader rabbit, with ideas of the crusades, that Moore's in all those films, like El Cid, were always portrayed as dark, swarthy and violent. In some of the earliest films in this country, like the sheikh, which was with Rudolph Valentino, the Muslim is portrayed again, as he's quite romantic. But in the end, it turns out, he's not really an Arab, he's a European. So it was all right for him to take the European girl, the idea that there is antagonism
is serious. And it's one that Muslims have to look at very seriously. But it's also something that Western people need to challenge themselves and trying to look at Islam with less hostility. It's it's difficult so that this book is an attempt at presenting Islam to Muslims in a way that is going to satisfy them in a sense, and I think they do a reasonably good job of that. And I'm going to point out the things in the book that are problematic. There are a few things that I found that I thought were problematic, but generally, it's a very good book, I think it's very useful for understanding Islam. The reason that I'm interested when teaching this class and to and looking at
this is because one of the things that we forget about Islam, and they point out in this introduction, I think very beautifully, is that Islam is a holistic tradition. It's a totality. The Quran says it took me in order to be bothered to kitted out with a Corona be valve, you believe in a portion of the book and disbelieve in other parts. When you take Islam you submit to it. That's what it is. It's submission to a total worldview. It is a way of looking at the world. There are many people who are Muslim, that do not look at the world with the eyes of Muslims, they look at the world with the eyes of people that have been trained in western universities or in western
worldviews, and they don't realize how tainted their views are. There are many Muslims that are so disconnected from Allah, that they really don't experience anything of the Divine in their daily lives. And so they live lives that are very divorced from a deep, rich, spiritual tradition. The beauty of this book, I think, is it's an attempt to look at Islam in a holistic way. And it's based on the Hadeeth puberty. And one of the things also that's very interesting, I know that William chittick, studied in traditional madrasa, at least for some period of time. So he knows the, the tradition. And he's very, very adept at translating texts, because I've read his translations. And I
know the Arabic work he's translating. And I think he's very adept at what he does, and also his wife, Sachiko Murata, who co wrote the book with him. One of the things that they say is that classical texts as too much for the beginning readers, they were not written for people coming from another cultural menu. Rather, they were written for people who thought more or less the same way the authors did, and who shared the same worldview. It's very dangerous to read a book by a member of his family and not understand that EMA medical is that he is working in sixth century Eastern Islam. And if you attempt to apply your standards or your criterions, to the Imam, you're doing a
grave disservice, because it's simply not fair. On the other hand, his tradition, the mom's tradition definitely says something to us today, the moment of rosani is as relevant today for us, as he was when he was writing because he's writing about universals. On the other hand, there are going to be things in America, Zoe's book, that are not relevant today, because they relate to his time and place. Another thing that he says, As a general rule, they were written for those with advanced intellectual training, a type of training that is seldom offered in our graduate schools, much less on the undergraduate level. Now, anybody who's worked in traditional Islamic texts, one of
the things about, for instance, a moment ago is that he, he assumes in most of his works, not in all of them, because he wrote some of them as popular work. In most of his works, he is assuming that you have been trained in grammar in rhetoric and logic, dialectic, he's assuming that you've been trained in poetry. In porosity, he's assuming you've been trained in mathematics. He's making these assumptions when he writes his book. And so you will find things that even if you know, Arabic, if you don't know logic, you don't realize that he's actually using terms that don't mean what they mean to the average Arabic reader. They actually mean something. It's a technical word. It's a
technical term to study in classical text, one has to go through a classical training, and if you don't, you're just not able to do it. And that's why you will see gross Miss translations of classical texts, grossmith translations because people don't know the requisite knowledge is that are needed to examine the text. Now, one of the things they mentioned also is that the text
hex, were basically outlines of an argument. Anybody who studied any of our classes with any of these traditional texts, that's what you'll note, you're dealing with an outline. Text tended to be pegs upon which the teacher hung the meanings or the commentary. That was how the traditional Muslim world transmitted knowledge, when you learned the alfia, it wasn't enough just to know those lines of poetry, you had to know, the commentary, you had to know all of the examples in order for the rules to become meaningful. So another thing is that the students did not borrow the books from the library and then return them the following week. They didn't buy them at the local, they had to copy
them out by hand, and spend several months or years studying it word by word with a master and I personally did copy out some of the texts that I wrote, because they weren't published, they weren't available. And there's a great benefit in doing that. And I'm glad I had that opportunity. And then I would sit and word for word that she would comment on the text. Having an opportunity, having studied dozens of books like that with teachers, has been immense shift. Mohammed, on the other hand, has studied hundreds of books. He studied, I think, 400 books with his father, a lot of them were reading them, but many of them were word for word commentaries on these texts. Generally, if
you had a good training, you would have studied at least 30 or 40 books Well, before a teacher would let you move on your own and be able to study from the text.
Now, this also I think, is very interesting. We are perfectly aware that many contemporary Muslims are tired of what they consider outdated material, they would like to discard their intellectual heritage and replace it with truly scientific endeavors such as sociology, by claiming that the Islamic intellectual heritage is superfluous, and that the Quran is sufficient, such people have surrendered to the spirit of the times, those who ignore the interpretations of the past are forced to interpret their text in the light of the prevailing worldview of the present. This is a far different enterprise than that pursued by the great authorities, who interpreted their present in
the light of grand tradition, and who never fell prey to up to date, the most obsolescent of all abstractions. So one of the beauties of the ancient tradition, a writer writing in the 12th century, is writing from the same worldview as a writer in the third century, or the fourth century, really. And that's why there's a continuity of interpretation. They did not succumb to the temptations of the time. And one of the things that the moderns do is they interpret everything in light of their time. And then people later will look back and realize how ridiculous much of what they came up with sounds. And that is why if you look at the 19th century, phrenology was considered to be the most up
to date way of understanding personality. And that was like feeling bumps on people's heads to determine their character types. This was considered deeply scientific in the 19th century. And likewise, there will be things today, that 50 years or 100 years from now, people will wonder and marvel at how people could fall for that type of nonsense. This is one of the dangers of that. And then he says, another thing that we find often in short histories of Islamic thought, intellectuals appear a bit foolish for apparently spending a great amount of time discussing irrelevant details, Muslim scholars would go into great detail about certain things. And there's kind of an idea that
they were really irrelevant issues. What he says, in fact, much of what they were discussing is being discussed in the contemporary world, but just in different terms. So we have semantic analysis going on. Now, we have people that are deeply involved in the analysis of language, you will find that amongst the Muslims, historically, some of the most extraordinary scholars of grammar emerged out of the third, fourth, fifth century of Iraq. In fact, there's been a PhD thesis that was done by one scholar showing how a great deal of modern linguistic theory is actually comes out of third and fourth century Iraq, from linguists that read that material, and basically used it to present their
own ideas. And that's something Mark Twain said, The ancients stole all of their best ideas from us. So that's an old game, reading ancients. And coming up, if you look at some of the most popular authors out there, and if you've read the classics, you know exactly where they're getting their material, but they make it sound like it's update new because if you said it was Epictetus, who was saying those things in a self help book, it would sound a little trite, how will I be helped by a slave who lived almost 2000 years ago in Rome? And then finally, he says that we as authors have our own lenses. Some people may criticize us for trying to find Islam's vision of itself.
Within the Islamic intellectual tradition in general and the Sufi tradition in particular, but it is precisely these perspectives within Islam that provide the most self conscious reflections on the nature of the tradition. So they're definitely working from an intellectual tradition. And it is a classical tradition. The Sufi tradition is not the Sufi tradition that many people now speak ill of. But rather, most of the scholars of the past, our greatest scholars did have a perspective that was rooted in their own spirituality, and in an interpretation and explanation of Islam based on that that was, in fact part of the science of the soul of what is called the soul. So that is not an
innovation. It's, in fact, part of the tradition and, and that's what they show. Now, in the introduction. Basically, they say that the religion was established by the Quran through the prophet Mohammed Salatu. Salam, a Muslim is one who submitted to God's will, or one who follows the religion of Islam. The Quran is a book that God revealed to the Prophet Mohammed Salah is and and by means of the angel Gabriel. And this is the basic story. That's the story. And now to flesh that out, over 1400 years ago on a mount outside of Mecca, in which a man was meditating. And an angel came to him and told him to read. And this was the beginning of the revelation, which is called why the Koran,
and from that everything comes, that's the foundation. So the Koran sets this whole thing in motion. And now we're on a planet in which one out of every five people believes in the Koran as a revelation from God. So this began with one man given this revelation from an angel. Now the Quran, they say that the Muslim view is that the Quran unlike the Christian view, the Quran is only an Arabic. A Christian will generally say when they speak about the Bible, they'll say, well, it says in the Bible, a Muslim would never say that about use values commentary. If they understand Islam, they'll say, well, the translation says they will never say the Quran says you should not say that,
because a translation is ultimately an interpretation, and therefore, no Muslim accepts any translation of the Koran as definitive. There is no definitive translation of Quran because of the nature of the Arabic language and the nature of language in general, every language has the possibility of multiple interpretations.