Friday, March 10, 2006

The Positive Side of Islam

Given that a recent poll showed an increase in negative sentiment against Muslims, I thought it would be worthwhile to point to a small sample of the more positive parts of the rich legacy of Islam, parts that tend to be lost to view in this day and age.

* Ibn Arabi's masterpiece of Sufi mystical poetry, The Bezels of Wisdom.

* Al Ghazali's philosophical-alchemical reflection on spiritual transformation, The Alchemy of Happiness.

* Averroes's brilliant philosophical work, The Incoherence of the Incoherence. In this work Averroes defends Aristotelian philosophy from Al Ghazali's skeptical criticisms in The Incoherence of the Philosophers (which you can also find online in PDF). A sample from the most famous section, the criticism of al Ghazali's occasionalism:

To deny the existence of efficient causes which are observed in sensible things is sophistry, and he who defends this doctrine either denies with his tongue what is present in his mind or is carried away by a sophistical doubt which occurs to him concerning this question. For he who denies this can no longer acknowledge that every act must have an agent. The question whether these causes by themselves are sufficient to perform the acts which proceed from them, or need an external cause for the perfection of their act, whether separate or not, is not self-evident and requires much investigation and research. And if the theologians had doubts about the efficient causes which are perceived to cause each other, because there are also effects whose cause is not perceived, this is illogical.

* Islam is very focused on text; and this has contributed to the development of some stunningly beautiful calligraphic arts, of which the most interesting is Kufic script. Through the architectural use of Kufic script, a building becomes a text.

* For Sunni jurisprudence, the Hanafi school, founded by Abu Hanifah is the largest of the four major Sunni schools of law (and, it should be noted, usually considered the least conservative). Ask the Imam analyzes Muslim law from the Hanafi perspective.

* The spiritual poems of Rabi'ah al-'Adawiyyah are masterpieces that deserve to be more widely known. You can read her biography at Poet Seers.

Browse around a bit. If you find anything you like, share it with others.

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