Responses to Deniers of Quran-based Humanities
The Public Relations Office of the Supreme Council of Islamic Humanities quoted Ikna news agency as saying that Hojatoleslam Ahmad Hossein Sharifi, the Secretary of the Supreme Council of Islamic Humanities on Monday, Farvardin 23, 1400, addressed the Scientific Conference of Quran and Humanities. Here is the script of his speech.
The Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei) stressed in 2009 that what our society needs and what is a service to the Islamic society and is an extension of the Holy Quran in human life and is also a service to humanity, that is the production of Quran-based humanities; humanities built on Quranic fundamentals. Since a century ago when we witnessed Muslims getting familiar with Western humanities, we have seen confrontations on various occasions. One confrontation was totally ignoring Western humanities. A small number of people, notably the defenders of the Salafi school of thought, followed that line, that is, they ignored Western humanities. So did some fanatics. They said “these things in the West are ignorance”. Others who were part of the intellectual current, that is, mostly academics of the Muslim world, these people blindly followed these sciences and said the solution to all problems is for us to accept the very thing the West has produced. They would say “science is science and no matter if it’s from the West or East” and “just as the West has made advancements suing these sciences, we will do the same”. There were some people who were in the minority but their logic was stronger and they found in their approach, saying “natural sciences must be separated the middle ground from humanities. Sciences, biology, and the like are the same no matter if they are from the West or East; but humanities are different as it deals with human being and is based on culture and needs”. In other words, humanities are not something that is independent of other fields. Hence, it is different depending on what it is tied to. These people who spoke of localizing humanities said humanities is dependent on culture and everyone acknowledges that the Iranian culture is different from the Chinese culture and their needs are also different. Humanities originate from needs as well. We cannot have in Iran the sociology that exists in France. Our sociology must be in line with our own culture and needs of our own society. In the early 70s, the debate was heated. And there was talk of localizing humanities, especially economics and sociology and some magazines were published and meetings were held in Qom. But the approach adopted by previous scholars since a hundred years ago like Iqbal Lahouri, etc. was raised which said “we should pursue Islamic humanities and religious studies”. And Arabs said an Islamization process must be put in place. They said these western sciences were polytheistic and if they entered the Muslim world, they would create polytheism. Therefore, they turned to Quran-based humanities and wanted the new sciences to be predicated on the Quran. Then the Islamic Revolution happened and we had the ideas of the late Imam Khomeini and the ideas of Allameh Tabatabaei and Shahid Motahari before Imam Khomeini. Then we have people who wrote books. Now Islamic or Quran-based humanities are an accurate idea and speak for themselves and various papers have been written on the topic and it is no longer on the defensive. Researchers are very hopeful and the society feels the need. All this have focused the attention on Quran-based humanities. In fact, it has become clear that we made progress in any field in which we moved and we made achievements in the field. In this atmosphere, that is, a range of interactions with humanities, there was another debate that asked: is it possible to have a science based on religion or religious sources? A number of opponents who imitate Western humanities began critiquing the notion and said “this is impossible and the Quran-based humanities is not true”. They have also given some reasons including the claim that science is capable of collecting data and judging.In collecting data, one can use Quranic verses, hadith and visions. Even a weak hadith can provide you with some data. But this become sciences when it can hold its head high in terms of judgment. Therefore, its identity comes to light after judgment and this identity depends on methodology, not on the credibility of the speaker or source. We cannot say this is science only because it was said by an infallible Imam or Prophet. Hence, it must be proved to be credible in judgment and through empirical and experimental methods. It must prove successful after experimental tests. Then the identity of science depends on methodology and methodology is empirical because this is the most general method. They said “if you talk of the Quran, this is your holy book, and not theirs” or “this is a statement from a person who is infallible for you, not for others” and therefore, this is not generally accepted and if a science is not generally accepted, then Quran-based humanities are not credible for non-Muslims. But science is credible when it can be introduced to all people and it can be tested. You can persuade someone that we have Quran-based humanities only when you make them convert to Islam. If they do not embrace Islam, then you cannot tell them this is science. If the Quran says blessings will come to you if you are pious, this must be put to test. In response, you should say “why in the first place do you think that anything that can be put to a test is science? Where did this come from? When did this come about? Did humanities exist in ancient Greece? Did humanities exist right after Islam’s advent and before the Renaissance and the empirical atmosphere that ensued? What was Aristotle’s political science? What was Plato’s Republic? What were Farabi’s political books? On the whole, what will practical wisdom including ethics, household management, and civil policy be like? These concepts were not empirical and Neither Farabi nor Plato was empirical scholars. From when did they say empiricism is the criterion? They did so since positivism came into being and since they thought of knowledge as being limited to experience. Of course, empirical methods have been to some extent efficient and some people like Auguste Comte spoke of social physics. Some people have got stuck in this empirical approach in our country as well. However, the book The Dominance of Quantity that critiques the quantitative and empirical methods was written at a time when positivists were prevalent. The empirical method was a result of the positivist school of thought and just as these humanities regarded human being as an advanced form of monkey, they extended rules that applied to monkeys to humans. But this view of human being is flawed. We do not nix the empirical method. We only oppose exclusivist methods. Meanwhile, methodology is a coercive approach, that is, it imposes an issue. If my question is about the multiple interpretations of a Quranic verse, can I answer to this question using the rational method? Can I solve it with the innate method? No. Mysticism does not serve that purpose. Now Can I solve it using the experimental method? No. The only solution is to use the esoteric method. We need to search history books and the question tells us what the method should be. But when the question is: does piety have an impact on economic progress?, can we find the answer using empirical methods? No. We can make a rational argument in this regard. Then, the method depends on the question. And if we need multiple methods, why should we use only one method? It is good to be content in everything except knowledge of truth. Humanities depend on needs, culture, epistemology and anthropology, but the monotheistic and the Darwinist anthropology are poles apart. There are two views about human being, epistemology and the universe, and humanities depend on them. Therefore, one cannot assert that theories of humanities must be universal. They must be rational, research-oriented and rule-bound and must be substantiated by tenacious fundamentals. This is the key issue. Basically, theories, be they Islamic or non-Islamic, are not only non-universal at first, but they are also rejected. But the second reason they give for their assertion that humanities cannot be Quran-based is that humanities are a scientific field and scientific fields are meant to produce knowledge, not values, while the Quran does not intend to give us knowledge and this is too heavy a burden you put on the Quran. The Quran does not want to teach us chemistry, mathematics, economics and jurisprudence. However, they do now know how the Quran offers a jurisprudent and legal system. But how does the political and economic system differ? They do not talk about this. They only say the Quran has nothing to do with explaining knowledge and that it is only for explaining values and recommends values. Recently, they said the Quran gives spiritual lessons and said the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a spiritual leader. Late Mr. Bazargan also said the Prophet Muhammad’s mission was only aimed at God and the Judgment Day and it has nothing to do with this world. They also claim things other than God and the Judgment Day or the afterlife are accidents. That means if they say do this or that regarding politics and the likes, this is an accident, while the essence of religion is God and the afterlife. They say the Quran makes some legal, social and educational recommendations but you cannot derive economics and a legal system from the Quran. In response, I should say, first of all, most verses of the Quran are descriptive and do not make recommendations. Our jurisprudents say at most 600 verses are about jurisprudence. From this angle, most Quranic verses describe. I would be wrong to think that the Quran is just for explaining values. They are both for explaining values and for creating knowledge. Meanwhile, values themselves are descriptive and this depends on the principles of a value-based philosophy and these gentlemen are under the influence of Hume’s views and are falsifying what something is and what it should be like. They say we have something that exists and how it should be like, that is, values. They assert that the Quran explains values and these values and the realities are poles apart. This was rejected after Hume’s death and we also say that values are in fact a reality. God is a reality. But is it tangible? No. It is proved by wisdom and reasoning and it is felt using knowledge by presence. Or we have causality which is a reality. But this is philosophical truth. Some realities have tangible presence and many others do not have tangible presence.