By Dr Nazir Ahmad Zargar
Arrogance is the deadliest enemy of knowledge; it is the worst kind of ignorance and falls in jahl-e murakkab (complex ignorance) category. It is arrogance which proved the biggest obstacle in the way of the disbelievers to believe in the Prophets of God. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) says that the word of wisdom is the lost property of a believer, wherever he finds it, he deserves the most to pick it up. And Hazrat Ali (radiallahu ‘anhu) says that you should not see who says, you should instead see what somebody says.
But when you present the word of wisdom to an arrogant fellow, he first questions your credentials, then looks at his own status and then finally finds it disgraceful to accept the truth. Reading a plethora of literature is not scholarship nor does it by any means mean that the person is knowledgeable unless and until he attains more and more tafaqquh (understanding) and humility with more and more reading. Sometimes I think it is useless to respond to Dr Maroof for his arrogance will never let him see the sincerity and genuineness between the lines of my write up. But honesty and true scholarship demands that one must clear doubts and confusions being created vis-a-vis his writings or aspersions being cast against him. Moreover let me clear one point that I am not writing just for the sake of writing as does Dr Maroof very often does. But since his writings create great confusions and contradictions, my conscience compels me to respond for saving his common readers from getting lost. The matter becomes more serious when Dr Maroof writes about Islam. The more he goes on explaining (confusing) Islamic issues, the more one feels that his knowledge of Islam is pitiable. Whenever Dr Maroof responded to my articles he always seemed bragging about his ‘scholarship’ giving a notion to his readers that none else but he is the master of things. His belittling the other view point by his boastful words which more than often points to his ignorance concealed in the speech of a ‘scholar’ prompts me to request that sir this is academics not wrestling with words; it needs sabr-i-jameel for digesting other points of view which only a genuine academician can do.
In my previous write up “What is Wrong with Perennial Philosophy” (Kashmir Reader, Aug 2, 2017), I first introduced ‘perennial philosophy’ as various scholars have defined it. By saying that it is just ‘a copy-paste’ what does Dr Maroof want to convey? Every genuine academician knows that when you quote and acknowledge, it is not plagiarism. Plagiarism is when you present others’ point in a way as if it is yours. What is wrong in quoting others, especially when it is the matter of presenting things as they are? Notwithstanding, Dr Maroof must know that there is a big methodological difference between writing a research paper and an article for a newspaper.
While in a research paper the scholar has to give references, notes and bibliography according to the established standards, a newspaper article does not have such references. What Dr Maroof was supposed to do instead was to show whether I had misquoted the scholars. Whatever I wrote about perennial philosophy, ascribing it to different scholars, was it right or wrong? I have quoted Frithjof Schuon, Dr Maroof’s favourite perennial philosopher, to define the contemporary perennialist viewpoint. Was I wrong in reproducing Schuon’s view point? The main thing which I have written about the perennial philosophy is that perennial philosophy is a belief that at the core of all the great religions and wisdom traditions is the same mystical experience of ultimate reality. Every religion has an esoteric and an exoteric dimension and, according to Schuon, the exoteric signifies the outwardly divergent theologies of religions, while the esoteric signifies the inward metaphysical and symbolic meanings of these contrasting theologies. Let Dr Maroof prove to his readers that what I wrote is wrong and not just beat about the bush by saying that I am not a scholar of perennialism.
I had written that “it has been argued that perennial philosophy, by being so universalist and essentialist, ends up doing violence to the traditions it tries to cohere. After all the religionists and the mystics as well, themselves, do not agree that all religions are talking about the same ultimate reality.” I had also asserted that unlike the perennialist view, Islam does not say that all religions are true. Dr Maroof believes that perennialism holds the concept of “wahdat-e-Din” (unity of religion) not of “wahdat-e-adyan” (unity of religions). But my point was what is that “only Din” which is the ultimate truth in perennial philosophy? Is that essentially Islam? Not necessarily. And this is the core problem with the perennial philosophy.
In fact, perennialism negates what Islam testifies and it sabotages the whole institution of Islamic da‘wah. There can be perennialists who happen to be Muslims at the same time but perennialism does not essentially lead to Islam—the Islam of the Qur’an, not the Islam which Dr Maroof has understood. Thank God! Dr Maroof has once again proved me right. I have claimed that perennial philosophy has a great problem and that is it does not lead us to believe that Islam with its Iman and aa‘mal-i-salihah (which includes nothing but the Shari‘ah Muhammadiyah) is the only way to felicity. Dr Maroof tells us the same thing when he writes that the Qur’an “links salvation (sic) to common timeless metaphysical/esoteric elements characterising Din and not to shari‘ah….” However, in the same breath, he claims that “not only do perennialists affirm the Sunnah but give the concept a metaphysical depth that answers major critiques of hadith/sunnah.” What a glaring contradiction!
Can Dr Maroof please tell us his definitions of the shari‘ah and the Sunnah keeping in view his perennialist denial of the former and acceptance of the later. I say this is the problem with him as a student of perennialism and this is where perennialism fails to convince us that it essentially leads to one particular religion. Can Dr Maroof substantiate his claim that the shari‘ah is not needed for gaining felicity in the Final Day of Judgement quoting any single verse from the Qur’an, any single hadith, any “Islamic scholar” who is not, like him, seeing to Islam through the lens of perennialism?
In his response , Dr Maroof has tried to explain Islam in light of the perennialist viewpoint or through a perennialist’s prism. I challenge him to quote any Muslim scholar to corroborate his peculiar understanding of Islam.
Dr Maroof must know that it has never been impossible to say as to what Islam says about this or that. He seems to be unable to understand that there are two aspects in Islam, Mansus and Ghayr mansus. Masus includes that which is unequivocal and explicit in the Qur’an and the hadith and for which one can, with certainty, say that Islam says this or that. Islamic ‘Aqidah (creed) and Ahkam (commandments of halaal and haraam) come under this category. In the realm of ghayr mansus the jurists exercise their ijtihad and in this sphere we often come across differences of opinion. Here, also all the genuine ijtihadic opinions represent Islam whereas rare individual opinions are not resorted to. Islam is not that any Tom, Dick and Hary can say any non-sense thing in its name.
Anyway, I had two ways to respond to Dr Maroof’s write up. One, to use the same kind of rhetoric and conceal my ignorance of many things in the jargon of a scholar and other, to write in an honest and simple way to present the truth as it is. And I have preferred the second one.
—The author is an Assistant Professor, Department of religious Studies at the Central University of Kashmir. He can be reached at: email@example.com