The Closing of the Muslim Mind
What Went Wrong and What Can be Done?
While currently reading Robert Reilly’s The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis, a book I highly recommend, I received an email from a Qudosi Chronicles reader asking my opinion on a recent interview Reilly gave to InsideCatholic.com. I thought the response may also be of interest to other QC readers…
Discussing Islam’s exposure to philosophy, Reilly takes an accurate look at the historical context that opened the doorway to Islamic philosophy. However, what’s more important to note here is the underlying implication. The caliphate (a system that I’m strongly against) worked to keep themselves apart from the “other.” And even eventual exposure leads to a defensive approach to philosophy. The question then becomes “What in Islam or what in the psychology of Muslim successors justifies an exclusionary attitude?” There are several sources here that have formed this mindset. However this self-imposed alienation isn’t just a thing of the past. It endures today where too many migrant Muslims (particularly European Muslims) flock to Western nations but work to isolate themselves from their neighbors, refuse to assimilate, and then complain of alienation and demand special consideration.
Two Schools of Thought
As for the two schools of thought, the Mu’tazilites reflect that small minority at that point in history, as in other places throughout the Islamic timeline – but unfortunately if we compare both schools of thought to the Quran, which is believed to be the Word of God Himself, then based on the Quran’s overall tone, the Ash’arites are closer (yet erred) in their understanding of God in relation to Islamic theory.
Why then, despite several points in history where a more enlightened group would emerge within Islam, is that group stomped upon and stamped out? What is it in core Islamic beliefs that do not tolerate an outside point of view, even if that alternate perspective is from another Muslim? This goes back to the psychology Islam instills in followers.
Reilly also rightly points out the Muslim mindset when he says, “Fire does not burn cotton; God does. Gravity does not make the rock fall; God does it directly. There is no such thing as natural law. This denial of cause and effect is devastating. It helps explain the dysfunctional nature of much of the Islamic world today.“
This is a default belief held by Muslims, and challenged (as far as I see it) only by highly independent, Western-educated Muslims. This sort of perspective stems from the belief that the Quran was written in the heavens before even time itself, before even Adam’s creation – that everything was written and predestined. This sort of perspective forfeits the individual to the fatality of fate; it also confuses fate through action with immovable fate, which only fosters apathy and a lack of personal involvement and accountability in our own lives and the course of our nation and our faith as a collective. Think of the all-too-famous line, “God will’s it” and you begin to understand how deeply rooted this belief is and what devastating affects it’s capable of.
Islamic Mysticism Out of Touch with Reality?
Reilly also touches on mysticism out of Al-Ghazali’s teachings, and from there ties it to Sufism. Here I’d disagree. It’s the type of mysticism that can either be an accompanying asset to reason or it can be a crutch furthering oneself from the rational world. He is right in that not all Sufis believe in the rituals that come with Islam. To make a case for Sufis, I’d say that while it’s not without its own flaws, its spiritual nature and mystical leanings actually help us better understand the nature of reality.
Sufis are mostly frowned upon or not understood by mainstream Muslims, even though 1/3 of all Muslims are Sufis. It’s also worthwhile to note that major think tanks have begun recognizing Sufism ability to combat Wahhabism. Note Sufism and Wahhabism are irrelevant to Islam’s founding and early rise; however they’ve come to be great influencers relevant to Islam in the 21st century. On a tangent note, Wahhabism was founded in the early 20th century by an illiterate uneducated Arab and with the right conditions, an early merger between the Wahhabi tribe and Saudi royalty/wealth, gave rise to a theological powerhouse.
Redirecting the Muslim World
Getting back to the subject at hand, the interviewer asks Reilly: …the problems with Islam may be even more intractable than we think, and will only be eliminated through a wholesale shift in the Muslim worldview. How do you go about changing a rival religion’s understanding of reality?
To which Reilly replies, the problem is ultimately theological, and any solution needs to be at that level. That’s why economic and political approaches don’t work.
I couldn’t agree more and this is why the manuscript I’m currently working on targets Islam itself, it’s foundations, the Quran, and Muhammad. This is where it all began and this is what needs to be addressed audaciously. This is also why I founded the Qudosi Chronicles, since I noticed a black hole when it came to truly independent Muslim writers/thinkers that weren’t influenced by some warped blind loyalty to Islam.
Reilly also points to reopening these question: Who is God? When/Where was the Quran created?
However the interviewer notes “Philosophy and Greek thought are so plainly associated with the West in the Muslim mind, that that they carry a taboo. How do we overcome that?” Reilly replies that these things are a part of Muslim history…
But while they’re a part of Muslim history, they cannot be brought into the picture when getting into these extremely sensitive issues. Islam and all its associated divinity must tackled from within and without any outside references or influences in order to prevent resistant Muslims from jumping on tangents relating to a non-Muslim world, invoking claims, and citing references and transgression that will only sweep us away from the core issue…and the only issue that matters at this point.
The Role Government Has to Play
Reilly states the U.S. government does have a role in re-Hellenizing Islamic theology. I say, it would be in their best interest considering the uncountable trillions they’re spending in defense, offense, pr, and intelligence. However, and unfortunately, what Reilly discusses here, what I have proposed in the above link, are essentially outside-the-box ideas, albeit the RIGHT ideas. It is apparent that the government is not interested in creative effective solutions at this point, since the above linked document and what I’m discussing here was relayed in depth by me to officials in several sectors at various times.
It is disappointing to say the least – the wrong people are funded, the wrong associations given prominence, while the point blank answer that gets to the heart of the problem is passed up for imaginable reasons.
What Too Many Muslims Think and What That Says About Our Future
Reilly closes with an observation within the Muslim world, the clear understanding that something’s not right. And he’s right in that many Muslims believe it’s because they’ve strayed from God’s path. This is very dangerous thinking because not only does it reinforce a lack of rationality, a dangerous blind submission to divine will in which the character of the divinity is unknowable, but it also clearly forecasts that the Muslim community as a whole will continue shifting further toward extreme ends of the pendulum, which means that there will most certainly be greater East/West conflicts, more severe movements, more strict interpretations, and a greater demand for some deluded sense of equality within western nations, with sharia law being just the tip of the iceberg.
Does this justify Islamophobia?
Absolutely not. Islamophobia only fuels the Islamist cause in a way that no attack or movement from within could.
Does this mean that all Muslims can be clumped into one extremist category?
No. What we have now are only a few select handful of Muslims willing to speak truthfully and preemptively, before the obvious is made clear.
For example, you now have several top Muslims (1, 2, 3) speaking out against Ground Zero in the month of August. Yet where were these voices back in May when the issue was in its infancy? You have other Muslims who are either pro/neutral on Ground Zero. What this shows is you have..
1. Leaders who are not doing a good enough job of voicing the Muslim voice of dissent, even though they have every tool at their disposal to ensure their message is heard, and
2. You have non-Islamist, moderate Muslims who are doing more to preserve their Muslim identity than to look forward to forecast and anticipate consequences.
So more than a nation of Islamists, our worry is also that we have a nation of far too reserved Muslim intellectuals and short sighted liberal Muslims unable to identify that in doing little to nothing, they’re allowing Islamism to flourish. End of the day, this battle needs to be fought with Muslims at the front lines, and if they’re not willing to step forward when and how they need to, there’s very little to look forward to.
Image source: Rouf Bhat | AFP | Getty Images