By Lenn E. Goodman
This ebook is an try and clarify how, within the face of accelerating spiritual authoritarianism in medieval Islamic civilization, a few Muslim thinkers persevered to pursue primarily humanistic, rational, and clinical discourses within the quest for wisdom, that means, and values. Drawing on quite a lot of Islamic writings, from love poetry to historical past to philosophical theology, Goodman exhibits that medieval Islam used to be open to individualism, occasional secularism, skepticism, even liberalism.
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All religions look with awe upon some thing, event, or pattern. They differ in their varieties of response, in allocating that awe and seeking to preserve and transmit it without loss. The worshiper rocks to and fro, as one midrash puts it, drawn to the warmth and light of the flame but scorched if drawn too close. Secularity poses special problems for monotheists. They press the idea that religious awe belongs only to the highest. 3 The central monotheist theme is this: that being, goodness, life, insight, and inspiration—all things of real worth—stem from God, although no mere thing exhausts divine perfection.
Historically, it has often been suppressed. But over the centuries its spirit has inspired marvels of art and literature, philosophy and law. It has been a leaven to institutions that have allowed and encouraged human beings and their communities to flourish. This other Islam is not purist and xenophobic. Like any civilizational phenomenon, it has been nourished in part by practices and ideas that sprang up elsewhere and that took on new and creative forms in their interactions with the ancient and familiar.
Still, creaturely goods are not gods. If only God is Absolute, no mere intent or aspiration holds absolute worth or merit. The idea of human rights may be anchored or smashed and wrecked upon that rock. 32 ISLAMIC HUMANISM By denying the absolute value of natural objects, experiences, and desires, monotheism constantly risks emptying them of all value. Zen, by contrast, the most secular and aesthetic of religious traditions, finds a kind of absolute in the idea of emptiness. It builds an ethic and an ethos on the discipline of emptying the mind to house its daily lodgers while curbing attachment to any of them.
Islamic Humanism by Lenn E. Goodman