A lecture organized by Tabah Foundation was given by Mr. Hassan Spiker, researcher in Islamic philosophy logic and mysticism, in Cairo on April 2017.
Tabah Foundation held a seminar entitled ‘The Rationality of Islamic Tradition within the Context of Contemporary Thought.’ The seminar took place during the semi-annual meeting of Tabah’s Senior Scholars Council. It shed light on a recently released research publication by Tabah on postmodern thinking by Dr. Karim Lahham, Senior Research Fellow at Tabah Foundation and Barrister-at-law of the Inner Temple, UK.
Featuring some of the most-renowned Islamic personalities, the participants were led by the former Grand Mufti of Egypt and member of Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars Dr. Ali Gomaa, Chief of the Board of Tabah Foundation Al-Habib Ali Al-Jifri, the Libyan Ambassador to UAE and chairman of Kalam Research and Media Dr. Aref Nayed, in addition to a number of professors from Zayed University and a distinguished group of academics and competent experts.
Al-Habib al-Jifri inaugurated the event by pointing out that the region is standing at a cultural juncture, the early introductions of which date back three or four hundred years ago. He asserted that during the current period we are witnessing fast-paced cultural transformation accompanied by a state of comatose blanketing attempts of renewal stemming from our scholarly tradition which are based on an accurate conception of changes in human reality. He added that the current Islamic discourse faces a problem with regard to the possibility of the continuation of its connectedness with its uninterrupted chain of transmission (whether in relation to narration, comprehension, or moral purification); and with regard to the scholarly gradualism which the Muslim community had grown accustomed to being tied to an established methodology, along with an ability to confront present-day challenges.
The seminar was facilitated by Sheikh Usamah al-Azhari, director of the Office of The Message of al-Azhar. Dr. Karim Lahham—the author of the research work in discussion—delivered a paper addressing the consequences of the concepts upon which modernists base their understanding of Islam. He criticized modernists’ raucous voice in their calls for reform, along with epistemological and philosophical poorness in terms of founding real intellectual reform.
Dr. Lahham’s paper concentrated on the extent of such modernists’ comprehension of philosophical principals, along with their accuracy in applying them to the Islamic tradition. He admonished the modernists and postmodernists for incarceration in an “ideological cave” of assumptions. This condition spawned a host of barriers separating Muslims from their own legacy—a legacy that is replete with discerning research methodologies. The gravity of this condition stems from its reduction of faith to religious rituals, and to the political domain through the imposition of epistemological barriers between man and religion. Dr. Lahham warned against the danger of the grave attempts by modernists resulting in the absence of a multitude of re-categorizing sciences, along with their modus operandi in terms of structuring concepts and philosophies based upon scientific rules. At the end of the paper, he called for a comprehensive reconsideration of the relational configuration between traditional sciences and for re-extracting the hidden gems lying latent in the Muslim intellect, including its catalog of sciences and disciplines.
Sheikh Saeed Fouda, a researcher in the discipline of kalam (scholastic theology), commented on Dr. Lahham’s lecture by commending the depth of its substance, objectives and outcomes, and its endeavor to deconstruct the intellectual, philosophical and epistemological foundations upon which the modernist intellectual school of thought depends. Sheikh Fouda also referred to features of contemporary philosophy that holistically addresses human beings—rather than human intellect—as a referential yardstick for understanding the world. This is a characteristic feature of postmodern thinking; a symptom that we have been suffering from particularly with respect to the postulation that the mind does not exist by itself, as argued by Nietzsche. The latter considered reason as one of the causes of humanity’s regress. Sheikh Fouda highlighted that postmodern thinking does not acknowledge the existence of a priori concepts and that its proponents describe reason, in their own words, as an idol that must be shattered.
Following Sheikh Fouda’s critique, the floor was opened for comments from the attendance. Dr. Ali Gomaa initiated the session by addressing the definitions of reason offered by Muslim in addition to the “four pillars of reason”: the Brain, sound senses, sensed reality and prior information. This quadrate explains the content and conditions and basis of taklif (moral and legal responsibility) in Islam. Dr. Gomaa confirmed the importance of the role of previous information, with its two sources being revelation and the world. For Muslim scholars, knowledge is taken from both books of revelation; the holy Quran, and the world. Through understanding both books of revelation Muslim scholars credited revelation as a source of knowledge. Muslims learn from both books knowing there is no contradiction between them. In case where a contradiction arises they know it is due to their understanding of the Qur’anic text not the sacred text itself. This is what drove Islamic scholars to divide the Qur’anic text—all of which is definitive in terms of its authenticity (qat‘i al-thubut)—into two categories: definitive in meaning (qat‘i al-dalalah), and speculative in meaning (dhanni al-dalalah). Revelation is therefore neither superior nor antithetical to reason, but rather it is one of its sources. The same applies to the universe: it is a source of reason and if a contradiction arises, the universe then takes precedence over speculative understanding of the scriptural text. Dr. Gomaa also dealt with the topic of the collective consciousness or mind (al-‘aql al-jam‘i), which is considered an essential and indispensible element in the structure of the intellect.
Dr. Aref Nayedh’s comment followed, shedding light on modernists’ incoherence, which he claimed to be no more than a new kind of sophistry and fallacy in their approach in interpretation of Quran. The so-called “Qur’anist school” _which considers Quran the only source of Tashree’_ subscribes to this approach. It is noticeable in this school’s literature—as well as in postmodern literature—that the scriptural text is analyzed through certain mechanisms such as metaphorical interpretation, semiotics, hermeneutics and structuralism. The interpretive approach of this school has slipped into error as a result of its examination of the relations between meanings without referring to the relevant circumstantial prerequisites, like the prerequisites of the historical condition (for example: on the issue of circumstances of revelation, or asbāb al-nuzul), prerequisites of the accumulative condition, or what is known as the collective mind. Extirpating Qur’anic text out of its historical context, from the Prophetic Sunnah which is its interpretative reference, and from the uninterrupted chains of narrations, has led them to falling into such fallacy during their attempt to interpret Qur’anic texts. In the concluding section of his comment, Dr. Nayedh stressed the dire need for the contribution of the discipline of kalam and to connecting this discipline with contemporary philosophies.
Dr. Ali El-Konaissi, Professor of Philosophy and Islamic Studies at Zayed University, followed by commenting that Muslim philosophers—led by al-Kindi—expanded in their engagement with theories of the mind. They interpreted, explained and extracted—not to mention corrected—all ideas on the mind derived from Greek philosophy after first translating Greek works into Arabic. He cited the example of the al-Kindi’s critique and amending Aristotle’s theory of hylomorphism in the work De Anima which was translated into Arabic under the title Fi maheyat al-‘aql (On the Essence of the Intellect). Aristotle asserts that the intellect is divided into two types: an active, and a passive type. In response, and based on his deep comprehension of the essence of religion, al-Kindi reclassified the intellect in a new way. He argued instead that there are four types of the intellect: (1) the primary (or First) intellect, which belongs to God; (2) the potential intellect, which is the human intellect and the tool of connection to primary intellect; (3) the acquired, and; (4) the demonstrative intellect.
The paper presented is part of the Tabah Papers series produced by Tabah Research. The objective of the paper is to probe the conceptual structures upon which the writings of postmodernist thinkers are founded. The work concludes that any thinker or writer is the heir of the gamut of concepts or conceptual orders which surface in his or her writings whether consciously or otherwise. Any given concept is neither an orphan nor has no origin. Thus, the validity of any concept largely relies on the origin of its genealogy. Consequently, the value of any idea is commensurate to the value of its origin. This is what the researcher has attempted to trace and evaluate in his work.
To read the presented paper, please click here
In an event featuring the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the Chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments, the Grand Mufti of Dubai, and al-Habib Ali al-Jifri, Tabah Foundation released its latest analytic paper “Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa”.
The new paper presents errors in the process of issuing fatwa and proposes solutions for reducing such errors and improving the accuracy of fatwas.
Tabah Foundation for Islamic Studies has released its newest research publication, titled Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa. The brief sheds light on the errors that may occur in the process of issuing fatwas which may result from employing heuristics, It also proposes solutions for reducing such errors and improving the accuracy of fatwas. The new publication was issued in both Arabic and English.
The event organized by Tabah to mark the release of the brief was attended by high profile Islamic figures, among them the Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gumaa,
H.E. Dr. Hamdan Musallam Al-Mazrouei, Chairman of the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments, Dr. Ahmed Abdul Aziz Al Haddad, Grand Mufti of Dubai and Managing Director of the Fatwa Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities, al-Habib Ali- al-Jifri, Chairman of Tabah Foundation, along with a number of muftis and academics. Sheikh Musa Furber, researcher at the Tabah Foundation, delivered a talk that shed light on a number of errors that petitioners commit when dealing with issues for which they need a fatwa. He also addressed the impact of such errors on the process on issuing fatwas when scholars deal with matters relating to the contemporary context or newly occurring issues. This study analyzes such mistakes.
During the event, the researcher presented the concept of fatwa and the significance of the role of the mufti in the process of issuing fatwas. He identified four stages in the process of issuing a fatwa: conception (the petitioner describes a specific case and the mufti asks for additional details); adoption (the mufti matches the relevant features of the case to the relevant legal subjects); evaluation (where the mufti checks whether the pre-conditions, essential elements and associated conditions for the issue that has been identified have been met in the petition’s specific case, and its ensuing legal consequences); and response (the mufti re-examines the petitioner’s circumstances to ensure that applying the ruling will realize the petitioner’s interests without violating the overall objectives of the Shari‘ah).
Then the researcher addressed a number of patterns that could be attributed to heuristic-related biases affecting the mufti, which he categorized into ten patterns: The anchoring effect (focusing on a past reference or a single trait or piece of information); the availability effect (estimating the likelihood of events based upon the ease with which they can be recalled from memory); the confirmation bias (seeking out or interpreting information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions); fundamental attribution error (over-emphasizing the role of personality traits when explaining one’s own behavior); the halo effect (allowing the observation of a positive trait in one area or aspect of an individual to influence a positive evaluation of other traits); the reverse-halo effect (allowing the observation of a negative trait in one area or aspect of an individual to influence a negative evaluation of other traits); the overconfidence effect (excessive confidence in one’s own ability and accuracy when answering questions); the primacy and recency effects (the tendency that items near the end of a list are the easiest to recall); the recency bias (recalling or giving greater weight to recent over earlier events); and the self-serving bias (the tendency to claim more responsibility for successes than for failures). The researcher briefly explained the impact of these patterns in the conception and adoption stages of fatwa.
After the talk, the floor was opened for a Q & A session. Dr. Ali Gomaa initiated the session with a comment on the use of the term “bias”, speaking of its accuracy in describing reality, its appropriateness resulting from its use in modern literature and from its established use in ordinary speech. He noted that bias is present in almost all disciplines, like engineering, medicine, astronomy and other sciences.
A practitioner of any of these sciences cannot separate himself from the opinions he or she holds. He also added that a mufti must pay attention to the triangle of fatwa: conception, adoption and response. Muftis must ensure that their conception resembles the reality of the case. They must be precise when listening to the case, because there could be a “miss-adoption” if they hear what they want to hear. Finally, they must be precise in using the established ruling by ensuring that it applies to the reality on which the fatwa is based.
H.E. Dr. Hamdan Al-Mazrouei focused in his commentary on the importance of the comprehension and conception of reality held by muftis, and how it reflects on his legal rulings in terms of prohibiting or permitting things to the individual or society. Dr. Ahmad al-Haddad’s speech revolved around research and its foundation in relation to two essential concepts: the fiqh of the self and the fiqh of reality. He also emphasized the significance of God-fearing as the most important attribute of the mufti in issuing fatwa. He also stressed the importance of considering the legitimate legal dispensation for the petitioner.
Al-Habib Ali al-Jifri stressed that this study demonstrated the importance of this subject matter. The real problem lies in the wide gap between a fast-paced, ever changing and complex reality, on the one hand, and the legal rulings appropriate to their historical realities that scholars and jurists have mastered, on the other. This understanding underscores the importance of muftis who have a deep understanding of our current reality. This will enforce the credibility of those in leadership positions in fatwa and Islamic discourse.
It is worth noting that the brief, Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa, recommends conducting an independent study that examines the impact of relying upon heuristics in Islamic disciplines. It also recommends that fatwa institutes educate their muftis about the influence of biases, and that the same instruction is included in mufti-training programs, since doing so will ensure that petitioners receive fatwas that are more accurate and more likely to improve the quality of their lives.
Tabah Foundation officially launched it’s latest publication, “Beyond Flak Attack: A New Engagement with the Newsroom”, in Abu Dhabi on May 3rd 2011. The author, Nazim Baksh, and Hassan Fattah, Editor-in-Chief of The National, were in attendance and presented their ideas on the dynamics of Muslim-media engagement. They both called for an appreciation of the role of media and how Muslims can change the story if the story is not reflective of Islam’s nature. They explored how this change can take place and offered some insightful suggestions on ways in which we can move beyond simple flak.
Also in attendance were Khairi Ramadan, a broadcast journalist and prominent news affairs commentator from Egypt, and Sohail Nakhooda of Kalam Research, Dubai. Both offered their remarks and reflections on the proceedings of the event.
Full proceedings of the event will be available on our website soon, please check back for updates.
Related Links: Flak Attack [Full Article]
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