Rethinking Islamic Intellectualism Mohsin Al-Mulk's Analysis of Islamic Epistemology

By Aboya, Dr Abdul Khaliq | Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, July-December 2018 | Go to article overview

Rethinking Islamic Intellectualism Mohsin Al-Mulk's Analysis of Islamic Epistemology


Aboya, Dr Abdul Khaliq, Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society


Introduction

Mohsin al-Mulk is among those Muslim intellectuals of the subcontinent who have shown keen interest in reviving the intellectual tradition of Islam by exploring the intellectual dimensions in the context of the epistemic framework of Islam. In this connection he stresses upon the need to draw compatibility between maqul (rational) and manquél (tradition) in the perspective of Islamic theology. He tends to suggest that in order to attain the said objective one should develop an interpretive approach which may help one to represent those meanings of various concepts/terms which the revealed text intends to convey. He is of the view that such a stance will provide an impetus to develop one's understanding in accord with the will of God and help one bridge the gulf between reason and tradition, the two essential sources of Islamic epistemology. Mohsin al-Mulk tends to counter all such prevalent views which attempt to show incompatibility between the rational and traditional which may compel the Muslims to accept the traditional knowledge uncritically. He further laments that some scholars undermine the significance of interpretive/rational understanding in matters pertaining to religion on the pretext that it may distract one from the truth embedded in tradition.1 He attributes such a misinterpretation to the ill-conceived relation between rational and religious sciences by the so-called traditionalists.

Significance of Traditional and Rational Sciences

In order to defuse controversy between rational and religious sciences Mohsin al-Mulk aptly refers to al-Ghazali's pioneering work Revival of Religious Learning in which the author highlights the said issue in this way:

"Some think that science is opposed to religion. This is not at all correct. Such a man sets up one learning of Shariat against another. The reason is his failure to co-ordinate the two. As a result such people go out of religion. Such a man is just like a blind man who stumbles down against the furniture's of a house and says: Why has this furniture's been kept in the path way? The house owner says: They are in their proper places. It is your blindness which is responsible for your stumbling. This is also the case with the one who thinks that science is opposed to religion".2

To substantiate his claim further Mohsin al-Mulk refers to the Holy Qur'an which emphasizes at so many places, God's encouraging remarks for those who are eager to develop profound understanding of Qur'an as well as other worldly affairs with the help of reason instead of being swayed with false assumptions based upon profanity and the like. Given this fact in light, this rational attitude also helps one to explore the meanings of the revealed text in accord to one's ontological position which supersedes all other human capacities. In other words, the nature of revealed knowledge is such that it can be grasped and shared by different individuals in similar ways which reflects its objectivity and justifies the existence of a faculty called 'aql (reason) and its significance in the discernment of truth and falsehood.3 To elaborate his point further he refers to the verse 4 of Surah al-Mulk:

"Again turn thy vision a second time: (thy) vision will come back to the dull and discomfited, in a state worn out."

According to Mohsin al-Mulk and some other commentators of the Qur'an, the said verse manifests God's assurance for those who observe and experience the minutest details of the external world in the best possible way. This may lead one to penetrate beyond the veil of appearance and one is likely to acknowledge and appreciate its perfection, beauty and order. As the region of inquiry is so vast and stretches beyond one's knowledge that one's eyes, aided with the most powerful telescope, will confess oneself defeated in trying to make a way into the ultimate mysteries. One shall find no defect in Allah's creation: it is one's own powers that shall fail to go beyond a certain extent. …

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