SPEAKER 1: It gives me pleasure and the distinct honor to welcome, introduce Professor Sari Nusseibeh as he opens this week's series called public lectures. Sari Nusseibeh is a Professor of Philosophy at Al-Quds University, the only Arab speaking university in Jerusalem, with its main campus in Abu Dis, founded in 1984, where he held the office of university president from 1995 until December of 2014. Professor Nusseibeh studied philosophy at Christ Church at Oxford, and holds a PhD in Islamic philosophy from Harvard University.
After his studies in Britain and the US, he returned to the West Bank to teach at Birzeit University from 1978 through 1988, before joining the faculty and administration of Al-Quds University. Professor Nusseibeh's career stands out by his remarkable ability to combine his gifts as a prolific scholar, a devoted teacher, a courageous activist, in addition to being a skilled administrator, and a much respected public intellectual.
Through the early 1980s, he helped organize the teachers union at Birzeit, and served three terms as its president. He was also the cofounder of the federation of employees in the education sector for the entire West Bank. From 1988 through 1991, he was a strategist in the Unified National Command of the Intifada. And in the years thereafter, he was an essential figure in subsequent steering committees of Fatah's negotiation teams, a peace talk advisor, as well as a member of the Palestine National Council. Until 2002, he was the PLO's commissioner for Jerusalem, first appointed by Yasser Arafat, and then also by the Palestinian National Authority in East Jerusalem.
In all of these roles, from 1988 onwards, Professor Nusseibeh has been a staunch advocate of the two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a position he has recently modified. And he has been an avid defender, together with his wife, Lucy Nusseibeh, of a principled strategy of nonviolence as the sole means of beginning over and ending the occupation.
Professor Nusseibeh's autobiography, entitled Once Upon a Country-- a Palestinian Life, and published in 2007, documents many of these activities, and is in my view, one of the most elegant and moving, passionate yet deeply balanced accounts of the Middle East Israeli-Palestinian conflict in all of its historical, religious, moral, and political aspects.
It is also a profound analysis of this conflict's continuing, not to say increasing impasse, marked as it is by a long and traumatic history of intimidation and frustration, vested geopolitical interests, and delusional nationalist agendas, religious fanaticism, and global indifference.
The book, Once Upon a Country-- a Palestinian Life, received numerous positive reviews, and has been translated into many languages. It also recounts his family history in Jerusalem, which goes back some 1,300 years. Nusseibeh's ancestors were among the very first Muslims to come to the Holy City. Seems then, the family has been involved in the politics of the region, and, one must add, also in charge of the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City. Every day, a Nusseibeh opens and closes the church gate, thus securing a mode of coexistence that is emblematic of things that could just as well be.
In 2002, he joined forces with an unlikely ally, namely General Ami Ayalon, the former director of Israel's internal security service, the Shin Bet. And you may have seen them in the documentary quite recently called The Gatekeepers. He teamed up with Ayalon in what was called The People's Voice civil initiative, also rendered as The National Census, a binational public campaign for a two state solution based on a few agreed conditions that govern much of the debate, and still made, up until recently, yet whose modest terms seem increasingly illusive in the world of today. The People's Voice initiative, which collected some 160,000 and 251,000 Palestinian and Israeli signatures, called for Israel's retreat to the Green Line border of 1967, statehood for a demilitarized Palestine, with no right of return to former homes within Israel, by allowing for compensation for these losses. And finally, it advocated a divided Jerusalem serving as capital for both Palestine and Israel. It is a position and a situation he now thinks only, quote, a miracle, perhaps only a self-authored miracle, could still bring about.
In a highly topical recent book, under the title, What is a Palestinian State Worth?, published by Harvard University Press in 2011, Professor Nusseibeh now proposes a performative alternative type of arrangement by way of a thought experiment-- a though experiment of sorts. In it, he embraces a transitional one state solution, with full civil but no political rights for the Palestinians currently living in the West Bank's occupied territories, as well as in the Gaza Strip. Quote, "so long as a permanent settlement has not yet been reached," end of quote. The book's subtitle, and lucid wager, is to renegotiate the relationship between denied political and attainable civil rights, since on its basis, and I quote, "Palestinians would enjoy all rights except voting rights, and being voted in elections for the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and holding elected office," end quote. If only to get thus something by way of paradox out of a process that seems otherwise hopelessly stuck.
It is a solution whose very formulations and implementations, he ventures, might well serve as a, quote, "shock therapy," end of quote. And to judge from the reactions to the book, it is definitely perceived as such. But it would also have the distinct advantage of allowing Palestinians to move and relocate freely, while it would force Israelis to start rethinking the very nature and integrity of their democracy, putting its very assumption and pretension under further considerable international scrutiny and pressure, which may well be the only way forward.
In his forementioned book, [INAUDIBLE] and then recent Tanner Lectures held at Harvard who say that defense, a secular faith, and the possibilities of human agency and freedom, drawing not only on the variety of medieval Islamic philosophers and theologians, such as al-Qassam, Avicenna, and Averroes. But also on a host of contemporary philosophical figures, such as [INAUDIBLE], Isaiah Berlin, and [INAUDIBLE] among them. In fact, he raises, in these writings important questions concerning the ways in which we could imagine ways of out of the apparent innards and permanence of war, which is nothing less than a collective psychosis. In other words, he asks, is there a second miracle that we precisely as human agents could alter so as to enable new beginnings against all the odds, thus rejoining a more trajectory that characterizes our respective histories, including out religious legacies, just as much as the violence does.
Doing so, he continues, suggest principal and tactically oriented questions so as these. And I give only one quote. Here's Nusseibeh. "Can a devout Jew be a devote Jew and drop the belief in building the temple. Can a devout Muslim be a devout Muslim and drop the belief in the sacredness of the Rock? Can one right, the right of return, be given up for another, the right to live in peace? And can one claim Palestinian identity and still retain Israeli citizenship," end of quote.
Needless to say, the these are questions that touch upon a host of issues in political governance, as well as the important underlying principles of freedom, equality, and justice for all. Just as they indicate and intimate that we take leave from all the metaphysical, fictitious, and, quote, unquote, "metabiological entities" for which sovereign states, peoples, and communities tend to mistake themselves, mostly at their peril.
Questioning such premises then invites a decidedly humanist, or as Nusseibeh also says, existentialist, rather than naive idealist or blatantly cynical view, which is at once deeply pragmatic and steeped in the wisdom that the history of religion, not least of Islam, is clearly important.
In addition to the aforementioned books, Nusseibeh published Introductory Symbolic Logic in Jerusalem, 1982, a work on Absolute and Restricted Freedom in London, 1995, and a host of specialized articles on the history of medieval, early modern, and modern Islamic philosophy. He was the author of a French book entitled, [FRENCH], published in Paris by Flammarion in 2012. And he's currently publishing two books with Standford University Press, one on the concept of reason in Islamic thought, entitled Historic Reasoning in Islam, whose publication is anticipated for spring of 2016, and the author of an extensive collection of philosophical papers under the title, Why Philosophy Matters, aimed for the year thereafter.
His early book, called the two state solution, entitled No Trumpets, No Drums-- The Two-State Settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, coauthored with Mark Heller, was published in New York in 1991, and has been translated into German, Italian, Japanese, Hebrew, and French.
And with Moshe Ma'oz, he coauthored a book entitled Jerusalem-- Points of Friction and Beyond, published in the Hague and London in the year 2000. And finally also contributed to a volume of the archeology of Jerusalem's sacred esplanade, in a book edited by Oleg Graber and Benjamin Kedar, entitled Where Heaven and Earth Meet, published in 2009, with an article of Nusseibeh's hand on the Haram al-Sharif.
A regular visitor at American and European universities, Professor Nusseibeh has received many distinctions. He was selected to give the Tanner Lectures at Harvard University in 2008. He offered The Multatuli lectures in 2009 at Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium. And over the years, he has received an honorary doctorate from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, and also in 2009, the highly prestigious Siegfried Unseld Prize, received together with Amos Oz in Berlin in 2010, as well as an honorary degree as doctor of humane letters from Bard College in 2012.
He was twice elected in 2005 and in 2007 by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines as one of the hundred leading world leading public figures. In 1994-1995, he was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for international scholars in Washington. And in 2011, he was a visiting fellow at Balliol College in Oxford. In 2004 and '05, he was the Rita Hauser Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. And last but not least, in 2014, Professor Nusseibeh joined SAT's board of senior fellows, where he is now one of now one of my bosses.
This afternoon, his title will be "Islam-- Law Makers and Philosophers." Please join me in welcoming Professor Nusseibeh.
SARI NUSSEIBEH: Thank you, Hent. I do this? OK.
Good afternoon. And I'd like to thank Hent for a very-- what can I call it? It's an introduction that sort of brought back to mind many things that I wished to have washed away. Politics is not a very easy business, and certainly not as easy as spending six weeks here, and this seminar, which we know is very, very difficult.
Anyway, I'm not going to talk about politics in that sense today. But I chose the title "Islam-- Lawmakers and Philosophers," in which I want to look at the history of the interaction between those two, the scholars from those two disciplines.
But I want to make sure, am I being sort of heard right at the very end? Is my accent being understood, because I can vouch for you if you can do both, hear me and understand my accent, you will certainly be able to understand what I have to say, because it's fairly straightforward.
So my purpose in this talk-- and I want to emphasize that it is a talk, although I'm reading it off paper. But it is a talk-- is to try to explain the unhappy relationship in Islamic history between lawmakers and philosophers. While there is no conceptual reason why there should have been or these should have been two different groups, I will try to explain why they were, and how this difference came to have a deleterious effect on the life of Muslims, one that we can sense even today. Whether this story can be seen to have any relevance to contemporary discourse on whether and in what way religion and secularism can felicitously coexist is something I will leave for you to think about, though I will add a note or two at the end expressing my views.
So let me start by explaining the first simple steps that came eventually to define an identity of gigantic proportions, that of being a Muslim. This is the story of the lawmakers. Their antigenesis in Islamic history is simple to trace. Right after the death of the prophet in the seventh century, the obvious need arose in the nascent Muslim community for coming up with answers to questions about what the right thing for a Muslim to do was in cases that seemed to have no ready made answers, but which needed on the spot decisions to be made.
To begin with, these were probably quite direct and straightforward questions, such as that inquired by a first time envoy to a foreign land wishing to know what he, now as a formal representative of new religion, should do if he was asked to accept a gift from his hosts. Such questions had to be answered by someone in authority.
In the first few years after the Prophet's death-- maybe two, maybe three, maybe five, maybe 10 years, 12 years, 15 years-- it was natural for Muslims to look to the prophet's successor, caliph, himself to seek answers for these questions. After all, such a person, as a successor to the prophet, was expected both to rule as the prophet had done as well as to be able to judge on what the right things for Muslims to do were in those matters that were not covered by what the prophet himself had said or done.
However, even from those early days, and where the caliph himself might have been too preoccupied with the more weighty matters of governing this new political entity that was quickly growing, other authorities were also sought for answers, now in the persons of those other companions of the prophet who are presumed to be as knowledgeable about the prophet's message as the caliph himself was. Those companions, after all, were considered to be just as knowledgeable about the Quran and the prophet's ways as the caliph was, besides the other fact that the caliph himself had been chosen by them.
Indeed such persons, not overweighed by governing burdens, had more time on their hands to think about what the prophet might have said or done and those matters in quotidian life that needed answers. This trend of seeking knowledgeable rather than political authorities for answers, for the right things to do, quickly transformed into a set course for Muslims, especially as controversies began to develop in the community over rightful succession, as well as over the practices of those different rulers.
It is worth recalling here that following the first successor, who ruled for only two years, the three caliphs who succeeded him ended up being killed by fellow Muslims. Clearly in the eyes of the community, politics and religious life, or political authority and religious authority, were parting ways from early on. For the latter, it must have felt safer and more reliable for the community to turn more and more to those nonpolitical figures who were regarded with respect for their piety and religious knowledge than to competing political rulers and figures. Religious credibility now lay clearly with them, and religious authority came to be vested in them by members of the community rather than by any official decree or formal event. It was more a case of growing public creed that to know what the right thing for a Muslim to do in cases where there was doubt, only pious religious scholars would have the right answer.
One cannot stress enough the significant circumstance in early Islamic history. There was no official separation of authorities here as you might find in democratic systems or constitutions. There was no wresting of political from religious authority, as had been the case in Christianity. It was a natural development and a bottom up process of swelling up of conviction by members of the community that religious authority must be independent and characterized by piety and knowledge rather through any official office or decree. Political rule, one might say, was seen for what it really was. And while Muslims could accept living under the political rule of the powers that be, the matter was entirely different for them to accept their religious identity being ordained or prescribed by these rulers. Being a political subject was one thing. Being a religious Muslim was another.
While the matter but first of speculating what the right answers were may have been straightforward, with only a few people being sought for guidance-- these being the prophet's companions-- it grew more complex over time, both as the questions increased and became more varied in kind, and as the religious authorities being sought for answers, or who were offering them, also increased in number and varied in dispositions. It was therefore felt over time that some kind of policy guideline must be agreed upon, a system to define how rules of or judgments on ethical conduct could be determined.
This did not happen overnight, nor again did it come about by political decree. Religious figures and legal scholars intent on studying the Quran the language, as well as the prophet's sayings and deeds felt the need for and managed to develop, during a crossgenerational discourse, the outlines of what might be called a legal system.
Four classical phases in the history of this development are usually identified, the first associated with the prophet's companions, and the last with the Andalusian scholar Al-Shatibi from the 14th century. I will turn back to him in due course.
Also, four different schools of law in Sunni Islam, and one main one in Shiite Islam are normally identified, all associated with prominent pious scholars and their followers. One could say that the different schools adhered to the same legal system, of which I shall have more to say in a minute, with what could be regarded as minor differences between them.
It is clear from the above history the two, one might say, elementary features, besides piety and honesty, characterized the religious authority being sought by believers for guidance-- in-depth knowledge of the sources of the Quran as well as of the prophet's sayings and deeds, as well as the ability to use this knowledge in order to elicit answers for newly arising situations. An arising situation could be one for which a general rule in the sources could be sought and found, such as the distribution of an inheritance after someone's death. Such rules in the Quran are quite definitive and not in need of working out what might have been a judgement concerning the case in question. But an arising situation could also not be covered by a general rule. In this case, the religious authority or legal scholar would have to work out, from specific references in the sources, whether any one or more of them could be used as an example for the case in question.
Clearly, using one case in the sources as an example to infer that another one now being considered falls in the same category, and should therefore be subject to the same treatment, would normally require more mental effort. Could a Jewish woman, for example, retain her religion if she became married to a Muslim? While there's no rule for such cases in the sources, a legal scholar could easily argue that since the prophet himself did not impose on the Christian wife he married to change her religion, this should be enough as a basis to infer that it is allowable for Muslims to marry from among the so-called people of the book, meaning Jews and Christians, without the need for them to change their religion.
And the logical reasoning, as this came to be called and employed, is distinct from inferential reasoning or induction, even though the mental move being made is from one instance to another via a hypothetical rule. But it is a single move, sufficient unto itself, for invoking that rule, rather than being considered a first step to be confirmed only after a reasonably sufficient number of other similar cases have been studied and found or determined, all to justify a conclusive judgement. All a scholar a scholar would need was one specific knowledge item from the sources he worked with-- for example, to know how the prophet behaved on seeing a dog once being badly treated-- to be able to pass the judgement that a Muslim ought to be kind to cats.
So this is a kind of jump from one plane to another. It's lateral rather than vertical. I'm invoking lateral vertical again, for those who remember it.
The reasoning behind the prophet's behavior is drawn upon to infer what the right thing is for a Muslim to do. Before closing off this first chapter of my talk, I just wish to highlight the emphasis I gave in the above account on acts or human behaviors in the context of what it was the right thing for a Muslim to do. As can be surmised, this covers a very wide and variegated range of social behavior.
Besides this, religious scholars would also converge on identifying both the ritualistic practices required of a Muslim, such as fasting or making a pilgrimage, praying, as well as Islam's articles of faith, such as the belief in monotheism or prophecies and the day of judgment.
Ritualistic practices clearly express visible or outward behavior, while the articles of faith express inner and private beliefs. But as can be seen, while both the articles and the practices add up to no more than 12 or so items, the range over which legal scholars could pass judgment on human behavior is unlimited, except by contingent circumstance. Whatever happens to arise, that is thought to have no precedent.
As I explained, two approaches were identified for making such judgements-- a deduction from a rule, and an inference by example. Were one to try to identify what is meant by a Muslim religious identity, a challenging task to be sure, one would clearly have to draw upon this vast range of beliefs and behaviors, one part of which can be argued to be already established, but another part that is, by necessity, open to contingent circumstances.
So much now for lawmaking. I shall come back to explain a bit more about what I earlier called the legal system that was developed. But it is important even at this stage for my purposes in this talk to underline two critical features that identify this discipline. The first is the scholars and disciplines direct importance to and impact on the quotidian life of the Muslim. And the second is its politically independent power or authority.
Now turning to philosophy, its early development is normally associated with that time in Baghdad in the ninth century when Greek and Syriac manuscripts in science and philosophy, and their Arabic translations, were beginning to fill up the countless paper shops spread throughout the Islamic capital, and with the interests scholars began to take in that literature, whether to satisfy their thirst for knowledge, or for the more practical purposes of finding better and new ways to solve technical problems, such as, for example, how to raise the water levels in the Euphrates in a dry season, or produce better color dyes, or prevent winds from blowing candle lit street lamps.
Al-Kindi, often cited as the Arab progenitor of this discipline in Islam, reportedly had a library containing manuscripts in every conceivable subject, from metaphysics to machineries. But right from the beginning, if philosophers were useful to rulers as astronomers or engineers or intellectual companions, or to these and to the general public as doctors, they were of little or no use, or relevance, to the overwhelming majority of Muslims as logicians or metaphysicians. In isolated cases, as in that of the famous astronomer, Nasir al-Din Tusi, who moved over from Baghdad to the assassin's fortress following the sacking of the Sunni capital in Baghdad in the 13th century, they wrote what may be regarded as ideological tracts in defense or exposition of the beliefs of their schismatic movements.
But on the whole, their involvement in public life was minimal, whether by choice, as in the case of Al-Farabi, the eighth century philosopher who was first dubbed the second master after Aristotle by Maimonides, or simply by nature of their esoteric pursuits. True, the writings may have been seen at some point as beginning to have a potential bad influence on growing educated circles, sufficient to prompt Al-Ghazali in the 11th century to write a scathing attack on them. But both this attack, and others later by religious scholars, while of interest to scholars belonging to this discipline or that, and of interest certainly to other philosophers, like Ibn Rushd or Averroes from the 13th century, who considered it important to respond to them, hardly concerned the masses or touched their quotidian lives. Compared with the lawmakers and the theologians, the philosophers were but a fleeting feature of the public landscape.
To be sure, they would sometimes be an object of hate and incitement for the crowds, as happened with Averroes at one point in his career when his enemies managed to concoct heresy charges against him, leading to his trial and to having his books burned and confiscated, and even to his becoming a favorite target of vilification in vulgar street poetry. But such contact points with the public would hardly be considered highlights of positive philosophical influences on quotidian life.
I mentioned Al-Farabi before, and now Averroes, both considered representative of the Aristotelian tradition in Islamic history by many scholars, and to whom I shall return below for a comparative assessment that's of relevance to the argument I'm trying to build up in this talk. For now, and to add a few more lines or strokes to these introductory remarks on the development of the philosophical discipline, I should perhaps just mention that historians tend to see it divided into different phases and schools, in light of the nature of the influence on it of earlier Greek philosophies. A budding phase is associated with Al-Kindi who is regarded by some as having been more influenced by the Neoplatonist tradition than by Aristotle. A second more established phase is associated with Al-Farabi and others in Baghdad, but also later with Averroes and others who are regarded as having brought Aristotle back into the discipline in a more vigorous manner.
A third phase, regarded as being somewhat indeterminate, but perhaps more Platonian, is associated with Ibn Sina or Avicenna. And the fourth illuminationist phase is associated with Suhrawardi, leading up to the so-called Shiraz school and to Mulla Sadra of the 17th century.
I would generally caution against this tendency, more characteristic of early Western scholars of the discipline, for either lumping people together or apart in terms of predefined categories or perspectives. These often rather blind students to what there is rather than help them see it.
Anyway finally, I should perhaps also add the relevant note here, relevant that is to this talk, that practitioners of this discipline during the set period may or may not have been Muslim, or to have considered themselves such. Some indeed were Christian, some polytheists, and some, like Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi, Jews who converted to Islam just before he died, more likely for practical reasons to do with inheritance laws than with a last minute religious epiphany.
Being a member of the club simply meant to engage in the studying and writing of philosophy, mostly in Arabic, this being the language of the empire of the time. This might of course explain a lot about their marginality to Islamic quotidian life.
Now having laid out the general landscape for this talk, which I'll remind you, seeks to identify the unfortunate circumstance of the mutual estrangement between philosophy and law making, I would like not to spell out why I think the circumstance was unfortunate, as well as to explain why I think the blame for it lies squarely or primarily on the philosophers. First then, while philosophers were immersed in explaining what the moral life consists in and how political governance should be or look like, all the time taking their cue from the relevant passages from Plato and Aristotle that they felt important, lawmakers engaged themselves in the practical affair of proscribing that life for the ordinary Muslim. At the end of the day, what being a Muslim meant in practical terms came to be defined wholly by the lawmakers, rather than by the philosophers.
Given what was said about law making, and therefore religious identity, having been chiseled by politically independent scholars as a sui generis authority, what we have been left with to face today, in spite of a circumstance I shall mention forthwith, is that same separation between political and religious legitimacy, where the former as a political authority is being challenged for not properly representing the letter, or for being secular, even heretical, instead of being religious. And where the latter, for all intents and purposes, has become captive to religionists upholding rigid, if not even a recessive or regressive understanding of the legal discipline, and who are therefore devoid of creative moral thinking.
This circumstance leads one to wonder whether, had religious identity been carved differently, that is with the active input of the philosophers, this harrowing gap which is unscrupulously being exploited today between politics and religious identity might not have existed, or not existed in the manner it is being exploited at present by extremists. It is telling, for example, that the Islamic State's use of terrorism as a means to an end cannot be countered by an established legal tradition that forbids the use of such means, however noble the ends may be viewed. It is even more telling that Muslims today seem divided between those who are repulsed and others who are enchanted by the Islamic State's vision and tactics, with a large sector of the population in between who have consciously disengaged themselves from the need to ponder how this vision might or might not constitute their own identity.
Now in a recent book, Islam and the Secular State, by legal scholar and historian Abdullahi An-Na'im, the relatively recent circumstance I just alluded to as a caveat in my account of lost development as an independent field is highlighted of when and how Islamic law finally came to be appropriated by political authority, this leading to a non-felicitous marriage between the two. The circumstance in question is marked by the so-called Ottoman capitulations of the 19th century, when expanding colonial power in the region and the colonial commercial interests and concerns led the caliphate, for the first time, to institute laws to govern public life in which items from the Islamic law were selectively included or excluded to address a newly forged relationship between the caliphate and those colonial powers.
To be sure, these capitulations had their own antigenesis in previous and side agreements. But they marked, all intents and purposes, the first time in Islamic history when law became the providence of the state-- that is, of political authority. At the risk of belaboring this point, judicial authority in Islam had up to this point been totally independent of state authority, the latter only being an executive arm. Islam's Supreme Court judges, so to speak, neither had to be appointed by caliph nor to be approved by some state legislature. The legitimacy derived directly from the people, and attested to by the piety and knowledge, as well as by the respect owed them by their peers.
The Ottoman capitulations, therefore, signalled a major sea change. While these capitulations were revoked when the Ottoman caliphate was finally defeated in the First World War, the emergence of the new European modeled and sometimes crafted nation states in the Arab world that emerged in the last century essentially followed the same rule of instituting laws, thereby relegating Islamic law and Muslim identity to the sphere of personal as opposed to public life. In effect, Muslim countries were cudgeled into adopting one form or another of the by then Western practice of distinguishing between state and canon law.
Na'im draws on this circumstance to explain why tension exists in the Muslim world, and why religious activists may seek to wrest control of political power from the state. Unlike the past, when politics was not the source of law, and therefore not an object of contention, it has now become a legal power source, he argues, that Islamicists either must take control of in order to regain, reclaim, and safeguard religious identity. To redress the problem and release the tension, Na'im suggests that the only way is for the state to retain that part of the law that would guarantee pluralism and basic human and civic rights, while releasing charge of the rest of the law, thereby returning this charge, and the charge more generally, of defining religious identity to religious scholars.
While such as a suggestion, in light of the historical circumstances explained, may now seem a logical way forward to release the aforesaid tension, my previous observation stands, that this tension might not have existed if philosophers had not stayed aloof from lawmaking in the first place. It continues to hold, I submit with respect to the present, where the seeds of conflict can only be contained not only if universal human values are set, so to speak, as a legal security belt encircling the boundaries of religious life, but if they more importantly come to identify that religious life . There is no enduring protection the state can make for itself, in other words, against its own public. Such a security can only be found if the public find its identity commensurate with that of the state.
I'll return to these melodramatic statements at the end of my talk. But it may be worth mentioning, meantime, that among the changes introduced alongside the Ottoman capitulations was the institution of what was called the millet system, a politicized articulation of a preexisting dhimma provision in Islamic law catering for minorities.
So now we should ask ourselves, why did philosophers on the whole-- and there's an exception to which I shall return-- remain aloof from lawmaking, and generally from those other indigenous or religious disciplines, like that of what is sometimes referred to as dialectical theology, "kalam" in Arabic, whose contact points with the general public were much more open and numerous. Why did the philosophers, in other words, sequester themselves rather than try to impact life around them, especially in view of the fact that a major part of their efforts were dedicated to political and moral theory, and to determining what the virtuous ends of human society were. Would they, in any case, have been able to make a positive impact on the work of the law makers, or would their discourse-- now to use an expression that's been in use in the last few weeks-- would their discourse, to use that expression-- but it's also one that's used by Habermas in this kind of context-- be untranslatable into religious language. I'm just provoking people here.
Indeed, given the mention of the latter, didn't the burden of seeking such a translation in any case, if it was needed, fall on the religious scholars rather than on them, the philosophers? Perhaps this raises in our minds the more general question concerning the role of philosophers, how connected or disconnected to real life they view their discipline and role to be.
Perhaps also and in relation to that particular phase of philosophy you are considering, one may look for the answer in the particular circumstances of the philosopher self definitions as Muslim or otherwise, and in terms of those same definitions as viewed by their communities. Perhaps, in other words, they did not on the whole feel they belonged to societies in which they lived anyway, that they were, as Al-Farabi or the Andalusian Ibn Bajja or Avempace would say, drawing on an image from Plato, that they felt more like independently growing weeds, therefore not a natural part of the ordered landscape around them.
These explanations are of course all possible. But what helped actualize them was that unfortunate circumstance, primarily associated with philosophy's formalized second phase, and Al-Farabi, of actually believing that they are possessed, in the works of Aristotle, the key to reason and knowledge, a key which in most cases they should keep to themselves as this would only work for a door that opens up to an already emancipated society, a kind of imagined virtuous city, or a key to a special and scientific language, that if it were to be used at all, would do so only in the sense of simplifying it sufficiently for the lesser minds to understand. For otherwise, in the society as that in which they lived, discourse between them and the theologians and lawmakers would simply amount to speaking in two different and incommensurate languages, that of reason, and an inferior one of rhetoric or dialectics or poetics.
More importantly, they probably felt they themselves as philosophers were not called upon to engage in such a dialogue, nor indeed to engage in the second rate conversation taking place at the plebian level where laws were being enacted. And were they to dabble in such matters, they additionally thought, then that would be, in all likelihood, just something that would land them in trouble.
Al-Farabi may in addition have also had in mind that Aristotle himself, after all, had legitimated a second best life for the philosopher, or one were, either for lack of resources or friends or even disposition to the seeking of honors of status, the philosopher could still lead a fulsome and happy theoretical life, away, that is, from politics.
In all fairness, not all philosophers were of that bent of mind. Al-Farabi's predecessor, Al-Kindi for example, in his On First Philosophy, a commentary on Aristotle's metaphysics, like Ibn Rushd centuries later, would argue that Greek philosophy should be worked on side by side with the traditional disciplines. But it was Al-Farabi's outlook that in due course came to brand philosophy, especially insofar as its practitioners viewed their discipline to be dependent on pure reason as opposed to the indigenous disciplines of dialectics and jurisprudence, which they viewed as being a transmitted tradition dependent on faith.
However, it was not reason versus faith, that issue that mattered in my view, as it as it was the one kind of reason versus the other kind that prevented the emergence of a potentially useful discourse of-- I have to take my glasses off. I can't see you and see the thing at the same time. I have to make a choice here. So if I look this way, it doesn't mean I see anybody, all right?
So it wasn't the question of reason versus faith, in my view, as much as it was the one kind of reason versus the other kind that prevented the emergence of a potentially useful discourse. The counter position between Al-Farabi saw as the ultimate reason machine Aristotle had invented, and the inferior reasoning methods of dialectics and analogical syllogisms of the theologians and the law makers.
While that magical reason machine dealt with certainties and truths, it was only with opinions and inconclusive beliefs that the dialecticians and lawmakers, by virtue of their reasoning methods, worked. To be sure, Aristotle's magical machine could be used as Aristotle himself had explained by the practitioners of the more inferior sciences, such as the dialecticians or the rhetoricians. But it is best used, and for best results, by none other than the philosophers themselves, who only used certain truths to produce certain results, as they saw.
One could almost say that Al-Farabi viewed Aristotle's logical apparatus in the same way Turing saw his machine as the only means of reaching conclusive results from intelligence. Or, as you were given to believe at the beginning of this summer session, the digital humanities advocates are beginning to look upon their methodology for analyzing literatures.
Without otherwise undermining from Al-Farabi's and the other philosophers achievements, often anyway underrated by historians wearing Greek spectacles, one could see how the self-esteeming attitude for his discipline and profession would make him totally unconcerned with real life around him, and likewise, how irrelevant his views on moral philosophy would be to those opinion leaders who were engaged in the real life debates that were cumulatively carving Muslim identity.
His superior and condescending attitude to these other disciplines was shared by many other philosophers. Although some who shared his view, like Averroes, thought it necessary nonetheless, perhaps because of his appointment at one point as judge in Cordoba, to engage the discipline of lawmaking by actually writing on the subject himself in the hope of impacting it.
I said I would juxtapose Al-Farabi with Averroes. And perhaps this is an opportune time to do so. It is interesting to note that Al-Farabi's self-isolation, caused by his sense that philosophers had no purchase value in real life, meant that he only came to prominence in the wider intellectual landscape in the Muslim world more than a century after his death. A famous contemporaneous historiography mentions him in passing, in a few lines, three lines, as some student of philosophy came across in Baghdad poring over some manuscripts in one of their famous paper shops there. The guy who mentions him is a very sort of knowledgeable person. So if Al-Farabi had been known more, this particular guy would have known who this guy was and what he stood for. But he sort of says, he mentions in three lines, there's this guy I saw in one of the paper shops pouring over some manuscripts-- OK, Farabi. 100, 200 years later, my god, this is the important man.
Clearly, the man who later came to be known as the second master after Aristotle did not at the time warrant more than such a passing mention. In contrast, the Aristotelian commentator, as Ibn Rushd came to be known in the Latin West, as we saw, provoked a major public incident during his own lifetime. Clearly, Ibn Rushd's predicament lay precisely in his attempt to involve himself in public affairs. Whether to do so or not, when and how, essentially a S dilemma, was clearly on these philosophers' minds, from which each drew their different conclusions.
It is a secondary matter for us to inquire whether Ibn Rushd was predisposed to this engagement before his appointment as judge, but worth mentioning nonetheless that the philosopher mentor who introduced him to the court and paved the way for his appointment as judge was none other than Ibn Tufayl, the author of the famed allegorical tale [ARABIC], in which pointedly, the student of philosophy has no alternative in the end but to cut himself off public life. In this tale, politics and philosophy cannot have a felicitous relationship with one another.
Averroes, it seems, might have thought differently. And besides his famous decisive treaties where he attempted to bring philosophy and religion together, he in fact made the effort at writing on jurisprudence, as I said, himself. His impact on legal scholars, however, was unfortunately intangible.
Well, the Al-Farabi and Averroes stories perhaps prove the point in Ibn Tufayl's allegory. But returning to Socrates, the question for him we recall was not one if, but of when and how the philosopher should speak truth to power.
So now we should perhaps ask ourselves the question, how justified Al-Farabi was interrogating the reasoning methodology used by the law makers and dialecticians. And for those perhaps whose minds operate laterally, this question can be translated as, how justified is Habermas in second rating religious discourse to secular discourse.
This attitude, it must at once be said, was not mutual, by the way. Religious scholars, even Ibn Yaymiyyah among them from the 13th, 14th century, often flagged nowadays as the legal source for many Islamicists, thought that Aristotle's syllogistic methodology, given certain logical caveats he pointed out, was useful. And we know that classical Aristotelian logic in its tail form was and continues to be part of the core curriculum of studies at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the foremost religious educational institutions in the Muslim world.
But deductive reasoning, as I mentioned at the beginning, would simply not have worked for their lawmakers, as theirs was not primarily a matter of applying already existing rules. A major part of the work consisted in determining, with respect to a question they had to find an answer for, which of the Quran's or the prophet's particular statements or deeds to use as a guideline for answering that question. And in what manner should it be so used.
As already said, to make that kind of inference from one example rather than as one might through an inductive process that features sameness and repetition in several cases or examples, on the basis of which the inference can be drawn, is an effort that requires its own guidelines. Otherwise, the inference could be subject to haphazard as opposed to reasoned guess.
So while analogical reasoning was necessary as a tool for the lawmakers, they had to come up with an accepted guideline for the methodology of inference by example. In searching for such a guideline, that is for the reasoning that must be used by them to pronounce judgments, they hit upon the logical answer, that they could do this only if they first determined what the law was for.
If they clarified that to themselves, they believed, they would be better positioned to make the inference called for, they could then simply follow that very same reasoning for which the law was repealed in the first place. That is, they could be guided in their judgements by the general purpose of the law. Theirs would be rationally justified judgements.
I believe it was a significant measure of the rationally bold and creative work in answering that challenge that they converged on the decision, first of all, that there must be a purpose for the law. Granted, this was God's law, not positive law. But even so they decided that law without a purpose is not law. Having deciphered or uncovered that purpose, something which they believe they could do through their scholarly study of the sources. And having defined and clarified this to their consensual satisfaction, they could then use that purpose as a beacon to help them do the analogical work required of them.
I think it is unlikely that we shall find in other legal traditions a precedent for a discourse over law among legal scholars that would conclude with a consensus that law must have a purpose, and that law is not law simply by virtue of its enactment, that is its history, or of its progenitor. Even though this was God's law and had to be obeyed, still it must have a reason or a purpose, defining which would enable them to draw the right instances from it.
But having decided that law was purposive, their second, I believe, quite stunning conclusion was to define that purpose as being the welfare or the good of the individual Muslim. Of itself, and given Islam is thought to be the best religion for all, this definition of its purpose should not be understood to be exclusionary of all human beings. In other words, it should not be understood, in theory, to be a discriminatory rather than a comprehensive purpose. But what I take to be its stunning feature is the fact that it reduces God's law to being that whose whole purpose is to serve the Individual
One can imagine the purpose to have been defined in many other ways. The one most ready to mind, for example, that having to do with God himself, or that having to do with the Muslim community of believers. That is with the collective entity rather than with individual herself. Its focus on the individual is both significant, and to my mind, one of its most appealing and potentially resourceful features.
However, having defined the welfare or the good of the individual as law's purpose, the next step for the scholars was to try to identify what that welfare or these goods might consist in, and whether and in what way an order of priority between them could be identified. Over time, five major items came to be identified by general agreement, while other secondary items that have been proposed have not been excluded. The five major items listed in a priority ordering on which there is a general agreement are, the individual's religion, her life, her intellect, her progeny, and her material wealth, in that order.
Let me make a few observations on this list of goods for the individual that the law is supposed to nurture and protect. The first item on the list, the individual's religion as a Muslim, essentially refers to the Muslim's freedom to live her religious life undeterred or proscribed by political authority. Today, a conservative scholar might claim that the call here is for the protection and nurturing of the religion itself, Islam, rather than for the protection and nurturing of the Muslim individual's religious beliefs.
But this claim would be circuitous. Religious purpose couldn't be its own self-protection. Besides, it was already explained that the said purposes of the law were defined as those pertaining to the individual herself. Furthermore, one must take into account the circumstances surrounding the identification of this particular item as a purpose.
As was said, the fathers of Islamic religious law, respected and followed long after they were dead, were often at odds with rulers. And it may be worth noting that at least two of the fathers of the legal schools I mentioned were harassed by the rulers, imprisoned, interrogated, tortured, with one of them ending dead in jail. In both cases, the rulers sought to impose on them their renunciation of their religious convictions they held.
Above all therefore, it was the freedom to hold on to their religious beliefs or convictions that was uppermost in these legalists' minds as they identified this item first on the purposes list. It was, in modern parlance, their freedom of conscience.
True, the beliefs in question can be argued to be Muslim indexed, as they could only be given the context. But the right of the individual to have that freedom without fear of repercussion or intimidation is one that recognizes the primacy of the spiritual life, the creed that a human being's primary value consists in that dimension of their existence, in their freedom of conscience, and their right to hold and express their convictions freely. Significantly, I want to add here, neither of the two views these legal founders were imprisoned for touched on either the articles of faith or the ritual practices that are associated with what being a Muslim, what the creeds, the articles-- it wasn't those two issues that were touched. They had nothing to do with this faith as Muslims or their faith as a Muslims.
One was over the disputation whether the Quran was created or eternal, while the other was over whether it was legitimate to rebel against the ruler, a theme we find in many non-Muslim contexts, with different points of view-- Hobbes, Locke.
This understanding of what the first purpose of the law is about in a way explains why life itself was considered by them only to come second on the list, imagine. As if to say that a life deprived of that spiritual freedom or the freedom of conscience is not a life worth living. Or to say that a life without a spiritual or moral value is without value.
It is no surprise then that the individual's intellect comes only in third place on the list. That it is there among the primary goods is very significant, as is its order of priority. It is as if to say that what essentially defines a human being in the first place is the spiritual or moral rather than their intellectual dimension. Even so, that it is placed above the individual's egocentric concerns, such as those having to do with progeny and material wealth, gives prominence to the value of the intellect, making the need for its nurture and protection as closely associated with life as possible, without, however, undermining from that life's spiritual or moral purpose.
Placing material possessions and progeny at the bottom of the list at once recognizes their value for the individual, but points to the appropriate balance that needs to be kept between these and the moral life, ensuring that practices such as nepotism or corruption are kept at bay. If one were today seeking to extrapolate a policy from the significance of the intellect's place on this list, one would underline the value of universal education across gender, ages, and academic levels, and the value, likewise, of the freedom of opinion and the freedom of speech. Much can be made of, but is not in contemporary Muslim societies, of this listing of the intellect as one of Islam's five major purposes.
In addition to defining what constitutes law's purpose, legal scholars went on to develop what then can be called rules for education, aimed primarily at helping the scholar decide in cases where two goods might seem to conflict with one another. Many such rules were developed. Among them, for example, the rule that preventing harm outweighs the imperative for realizing the good, or the presumption of innocence, or assessing the meaning of a word in an affidavit by recourse to its meaning in ordinary rather than in technical speech.
As can be surmised, all these and similar rules were developed by scholars through an open and rational intergenerational discourse, aimed at fine tuning the realization of law's purpose. Western historians of Islam and of Islamic law will often mention the Cordoban Ibn Hazm of the 11th century as evidence of the discipline's conservative nature, or of the conservative trajectory it took given his critique of the analogical method and his insistence to keep to a literalist reading and understanding of the Quran. Fewer Western historians, however, will cite the Andalusian Al-Shatibi from the 14th century, who is regarded as the representative of the fourth resurgent phase of Islamic law. If his predecessors had tried to define the above mentioned rules for the use of analogical reasoning and regarded as the sources only the Quran, the prophet's sayings and deeds, as well as the consensus of his companions, Al-Shatibi pushed up the reasoning methodology employed to become a fourth source. So instead of three sources, he pushed the methodology and made it into a fourth source.
No longer was a method-- no longer was it therefore a method. As an expression of human reason, it became a principle alongside the other main sources of law. Al-Shatibi, I must add, belongs to one of the major Sunni schools of law.
I've taken a long time, right? I haven't finished. But I can stop if you like. I'll go, OK. I was having-- I'm not sure if it's an argument, a discussion with my wife, about earlier how long it takes me to read through a page. And she claimed it takes me about three, four minutes I think, whereas it takes her much less. So I told her, my pages are wide. So it must take me also-- but I think she came out to be right. It's taking too long.
In some then, while not strict adherence of Aristotelian figures and moods so revered by Al-Farabi, it is hard in retrospect not to look upon those scholars as practicing precursors of what has come to be known in the field as the philosophy of law, a respectable philosophical field I presume. Of course, historical counterfactuals only help to excite the imagination. But lessons can surely be learned from them. One cannot help but speculate how far more open Muslim religious identity would have become had philosophers deigned to work hand in hand with the lawmakers, putting their own moral ideas in the service of public life.
I thus try to imagine a discourse that might have taken place between one of the jurists, and purposely for the example, the polytheist Al-Razi, from the 9th century, a famed scientist and philosopher who reportedly even denied prophecy altogether. Besides his acclaimed works in medicine, he also authored a treatise called The Moral Life of a Philosopher, where he addresses among other things a belief in an afterlife and its accompanying doctrine of reward and punishment. In the context of this treatise, Razi formulates what he takes to be a primary ethical code, a rule for felicitously conducting one's life.
The first part of it-- by the way, I'll read it in a minute-- could have almost been taken out of a letter by Hippocrates. It's very much like that. In the imaginary discourse I'm proposing, it is this rule that is up for discussion, rather than anything seemingly more substantial, like for example the moral claim that the properties of good and evil are intrinsic to acts and events rather than being accidental to them. So I'm here sort of separating between moral claims and ethical codes.
Here I wish to remind us of the great value to identity formation of the ethical rules of conduct developed by the religious scholars. By this stage in the talk, we can identify two kinds of rules, those which the jurists would simply pick up from the sources, such as the rule on inheritance, and those which I call adjudication rules, which are rules set up by the legalists themselves to help them draw the right analogical inferences.
Concerning the first type, the legalist would obviously use the sources. In the language of an Aristotelian, deliberative syllogism, the universal premise they would use would be the general rule from the Quran, while the particular premise would be that relating to the case before them. Al-Farabi, after Aristotle of course, would, as I said, admit that legalists might have recourse to deductive reasoning, as here explained, but would claim correctly that when they do, it would be by relying on premises as truths are uncertain, or which express beliefs only, rather than those truths reached through theoretical philosophy. He would therefore, like Aristotle, not consider this practical kind of deliberation as one reflecting what he called practical wisdom. Contrariwise, jurists would not have considered the premises he held dear as being reliable either. So it was a two way kind of attitude.
These being over moral matters that may be difficult, if not impossible, to reach a common understanding about, in my imaginary discourse, Razi would not get anywhere by proposing any one of them for debate. Indeed, in real life he was engaging in polemics with religious scholars anyway over Islam's articles of faith, such as prophecy or monotheism, sufficiently to make Al-Farabi speak scolding of him, and possibly to explain the near disappearance of all of his works.
But as I already indicated, besides moral or metaphysical claims, the jurists would open mindedly entertain and decide upon adjudication rules, all of which are entirely reason based. Thus in this peaceful conversation with the legal scholars about ethical conduct and the afterlife, Razi would just put up the following rule, namely that quote, "We should neither pursue a pleasure whose attainment precludes us from that afterlife, or one that will impose on us, in this life, a pain which in quality or quantity is greater than that of the pleasure chosen." Acting this way, Razi suggests in another work, his book of spiritual medicine, we would be guaranteed a just reward, given that the original source-- he calls him [ARABIC], his ambivalence reference to God-- is absolutely knowledgeable, just, and merciful.
There are two parts to this proscriptive rule, one relating to this life and the other to an afterlife, which significantly are combined together, that this life part can arguably stand on its own as a reason based rule that simply claims it is unreasonable for us to pursue a pleasure for this life whose realization would bring about more pain to us whether measured in qualitative or quantitative terms. This is a rational claim, if anything. It could be denied rationally only by a philosophical masochist. Indeed, it fits well with the jurists' own adjudication rule that the avoidance of prevention of a harm is preferable to the realization of a good. It would therefore go well with them, even as it stands so far.
But it leaves an obvious loophole for the incontinent and others common to us in real life, and which can only be countered by extraneous means, including the force of law and the fear of social reprobation. Even, however, if the realization of such pleasure can be argued to be realizable by stealthy stratagem, without therefore the risk of incurring earthly pain, one who believes in the afterlife would still regard this formula valid. In fact to be consistent with the priority order of the goods defining the welfare of the individuals as formulated by traditional law, that the pursuit of material pleasures has be moderated by the pursuit of spiritual intellectual enrichment. I think I have four pages left so you can--
In my imagination experiment then, such a negotiation between Al-Razi and the legal scholars would have been constructive. And this prescriptive rule could well than have been added to the list of education adjudication rules defining ultimately Muslim identity. As already said, Razi seems to have been quite happy and willing to engage his contemporary legal and religious scholars in open debates, quite unlike Farabi.
But also unlike Avicenna or Averroes-- but also unlike Avicenna or Averroes, Al-Farabi as we said seems to prefer to live the second best life of the philosopher, that of self-sequestration. Averroes on the contrary took the view that public life must be engaged in. But that for this to happen felicitously, it was necessary for the philosopher to develop the skill of living a double life.
From another angle, unlike the polemicist Al-Razi, the reclusive Al-Farabi, or the Janus-faced Averroes-- I'm being nasty about Averroes-- Avicenna's medicament was different and entirely revolutionary. It was to philosophize society. Put in other words, it was to philosophize the language of the scholars and intellectuals. Was he here playing the role of a translator, creating as it were a common language? We have to ask. Centuries later he would be accused by Ibn Taymiyyah to have kalam-ized philosophy, kalam being the discipline of religious scholars. And later still, by Ibn Khaldun that his efforts was so successful that kalam itself had become philosophized.
So should philosophers have kept their ideas to themselves? In a way, Averroes argued they should. Na'im also intimates in proposing a dual existence for religious and political lives they now both can and must. Why mix between metaphysics and ethics, we can almost hear Averroes and Na'im saying, when they can felicitously kept apart.
Well, the reason they cannot be surgically separated is because, given the dual imminence in Muslim life, neither of them can guarantee for itself a healthy development independently of the possible negative influence on it from the other. As we have been made to see recently, even if the state lets go of religion by leaving its affairs to the scholars, hoping by this to hide its corruption and incompetence behind the religious cloak of religious legitimization given by these, there's no guarantee that religion, so left on its own, will let go of the state. The state cannot hope to endure propped up by a security belt constituted with laws that are foreign to its own public. Its Muslim public, on the other hand, cannot be made to subscribe to those laws for as long as they appear to be foreign, not indigenously grown.
To naturalize such laws, which as we saw through my imagination experiment was something eminently possible, the public at large and the religious scholars in particular have, in some sense of the word or the other, to be philosophized. That is to be educated, and therefore empowered to continue developing Islamic law in the fashion conceived right from the beginning.
Am I here then committing the Habermas sin of assuming that philosophical discourse is superior to that of religion, and that it is this that must be the standard for a felicitous conversation between the two? In fact, and particularly in the context of the Islamic world, what I'm suggesting is precisely the opposite.
But I need to clarify one or two points before laying out my argument. Firstly as I explained it, Islamic law consists of two complementary spheres, one of a certain set of articles of faith and practices, and the other of prescriptive rules. While the former has a fixed boundary, the latter is an open field where identity construction is both necessary and possible. Necessary because of the continued contingencies, and possible because the law allows for it.
Secondly, Islamic law, both for the reason explained as well as for its genealogy, has a public construction, authority as it were coming to be vested in the scholars by the public, is by its nature public sensitive. Therefore, in a super mediatic information context, where the public is enabled to generate and participate in an echoing debate of Islamic values, what the right thing is for a Muslim to do, the effect of this on Islamic law cannot then be avoided, whether through further debates in the established legal corridors, or out of them. In both cases, the Muslim public has the power to frame its religious identity.
This is why or where public philosophy-- that is ethical deliberation by and before the public at large-- is vital. And why, in consequence, education deserves the highest attention. The wonderful gift Muslims have in their possession is that education has been defined already as their lost purpose. It is therefore by drawing on Islam's own foundations that Muslim society can in fact move forward in choosing out the frame of a future regime which would safeguard those values secularists believe are metaphysically or rationally sacrosanct, while at the same time allowing for that sufficiency of public space required for the lives of religious community.
In any case, Islam's articles of faith and its ritualistic practices in no way prevent the continued development of Muslim identity by means mainly of Islam system of jurisprudence, if the public allows it, or if it allows itself to be built upon its own legacy.
In ending, I'll just add that so essential is its public, one might say even Socratic role for it, for philosophy, in the sense I just explain, that if it were to limit itself to an ivory tower exclusively theoretical existence, as Farabi for example would have for it, that not only would it inevitably find itself panting far behind social tsunamis sparked by nothing more than a matchstick lit by one of the ashes of the Earth, even the official religious establishment itself will also discover it has been totally swamped over by a religious tsunami gushing forth from the underworld in the bloodshed waves of butchered victims. Such situations cannot be avoided by establishing security belts for the states in the form of top down imposed rules, or by requiring philosophers to wear burqas-- burqas-- as soon as they step outside their front doors. Only by raising the level of public awareness and participation in the law facilitating moral debate, in making, in a sense, of each of the members of the public a moral philosopher of a sort, can such situations be avoided, forgoing the need both for security and for false modesty. And I finished. Thank you.
So I'm for questions or some of them, but I don't see what the time is. What was it? I know I'm looking to my right, but-- OK. Easy.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. [INAUDIBLE]. I want to defend-- and this will be the philosophers-- by asking the following question. Were they any way already marginalized, even by their very name, instead of trying any type of translation of reason, they had this Greek name, [GREEK]. It was a characterization of the sophia in the first place.
And second, did they have any of the choice-- I mean, trying to influence the political affairs. If we go to Spain, Andalusia, in the time of Ibn Tufayl [INAUDIBLE] or the time of Anwas, [INAUDIBLE] anything happened in this questioning, in the discussion, and so on, so forth. So how can we have been possible for them to somehow influence the political discourse of [INAUDIBLE] too. And [INAUDIBLE] actually has, as you know well, at the one school, at one point, asked the political power to go after Averroes. So that was one general question.
But I think you're absolutely right also that they sort of questioned themselves in the-- paradoxically, out of fear again I have seen to mislead the people. Sufis and philosophers are the ones who most often wrote the prophetic saying, saying that you should be talking to people just according to their dissent. Don't try to travel them in their relief, et cetera.
And even Ibn Rushd, who [INAUDIBLE] affairs, did write that the political power should be aware of the danger of their own books, their own philosophers, and make sure that the books do not fall into the hands of the public. So the complexity of the situation have been often described, make me ask that question. Was it really a matter of choice for these philosophers to sort of invite law makers that retreat the way the [INAUDIBLE].
Because you mention Plato. After Athens had killed for him, in the eyes of Plato, the best man on Earth, he could not really take seriously politics. I mean, do you write in public, but say you can't exist anywhere. And the philosopher is the one who maybe consists by leaving [INAUDIBLE] laws [INAUDIBLE] these laws are never able to be realized on earth, in the word of the coming and corruption. So somehow they can have to choose somehow.
But fortunately, since 19th century I believe, philosophers have now, like yourself, they've been engaged in shaping the course of human history.
SARI NUSSEIBEH: I haven't been able to change anything. I mean first, of course you may be right. I mean, that's how I begin. I may be wrong. And I can understand that even if they hadn't wanted to-- if they had wanted to, they might not have been given the chance. They were not a welcome kind of group. And as you say, they went by a foreign name. They had funny views. And some of them misbehaved in public. And some of them openly denied the prophesy, and all kinds of things like this.
So it's quite possible that because of all of this, they had no choice. But one can come at it from the opposite way, which is how I look upon it, which is that in spite of anything and everything, each person had a choice. And they did have a choice. Maybe they preferred to think they did not have a choice in order to save themselves. They wouldn't have been the first in history to have done that.
Maybe it's because I feel personally that it is incumbent on philosophers to be public intellectuals, in spite of the circumstances, that I am so angry with them that they did not do more. And angry because, as I was saying, there they were, sitting in the room so to speak, reading Plato and The Republic, nice things. And right next door, out there, something real was happening, and they were not part of it. But at least they could have tried. Averroes tried, right? I mean, he tried. He sort of stepped in and tried to do something. It wasn't very successful maybe.
But I think it's also to do with the fact that they-- I mean, you could have that kind of self-respect and that kind of self-esteem about your mental capacities and your language , your special technical language-- you can be a great physicist and still, going by what the Quran says, can talk to people in a language that they understand. But they did not.
I mean, I picked up an example that Razi chose, because it's a very straightforward, elementary kind of rule. And it seems to me that it's just like the rules they were actually working with. It wasn't different. It was the same. You know, why couldn't they? What's preventing seeing somebody who's a legalist or a theologian over coffee or nargili or something in the cafe, and telling them look, you know, I've come up with this idea. What do you think? Not impose on them. What do you think-- modestly. And I think they were not very modest, the philosophers, unfortunately.
But they had a difficult time, certainly. I don't put the blame on the other side because I take it that they were-- it wasn't required of them to do more than they were doing. I somehow give the philosopher more status, so to speak, more weight. That the philosopher, what else is he doing on earth? What is he doing? He should be there. He should be in the public square.
I'm not talking about you. I don't know. But I may be wrong actually. I'm just speculating here. And it is an expression of my anger because, at the end of the day, I look around me, and I see a system I go by that defines my identity that's actually been left only to one sector of intellectuals to work on. And I think if the philosophers had stepped in right from the beginning, it would have been better.
Nowadays they have, I heard, for instance in Saudi Arabia, the Council of Islamic States has established a forum where jurists-- scholars, religious scholars, jurists-- would come and meet on a continuous basis to discuss, together, new issues that arise-- for instance, in medicine. I don't know what comes up in medicine. I'm not into that. But anything that comes.
And they invite to their forums the medical experts. And there are two good things about this. One is that they actually invite the expert to join them in the discussions before they make a judgment. But the other thing is-- which is excellent-- that it is being done by all of them. So there's a group of about 40 or 50 jurists. It's not one person being financed by one country, by a ruler of a rich state who's sitting on a throne producing fatwas. It's a group of people, and they're discussing things together. So that's, I think, a good sign. And maybe tomorrow they'll start inviting philosophers, if we behave well.
AUDIENCE: It is still banned there. I believe. Even your panel is banned in Saudi Arabia.
SARI NUSSEIBEH: I mean, you know, I have-- yeah. I mean, we have-- it's a side issue. But in my university, I was teaching some students from the religious school wanted to come and take my classes. And you know, I was trying to tell them that it was a good thing. Philosophy is all kinds of things. [ARABIC] is good.
And the religious school, the faculty-- I was president at the time by the way. The faculty of the religious school actually, for two hours or three hours, stopped everything in their faculty to debate or to talk about why [ARABIC] is antireligion and why all of this is heretical, and so on. So yeah, I mean, it's a problem. But it's a problem that has to be faced. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Considering it's grassrooting that you're describing on a much grander and longer scale than with a much larger cast of characters, something that is analogous to the episodes in medieval Jewish intellectual history when some of Maimonides texts were considered heretical. And I to think some extent, there was an economy session of a sort between the northern European Ashkenazi sphere and the Jewish sphere in precisely in the Islamic world.
But the much more contemporary analogue that I was thinking of is oddly enough the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Very much devoted, and in some ways perhaps somewhat pretentiously devoted, but certainly overall worthless efforts aimed at not marginalizing religion and not remaining frozen, and having religion and the state kind of public, or somehow serve each other. And certainly also very much within a nationalistic framework. Although there I think, and perhaps necessarily in a Jewish context, with greater reference to the not specifically Jewish, but Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment, and particularly Kantian philosophical tradition.
SARI NUSSEIBEH: Well, you brought up a very good example. But here, what you have is an example where, if you like, the first step is being taken by or from the direction of the religious. So it's an attempt at opening up, say, religious study to secular or to ideas that are varied. And trying to, in doing this, to develop its own tradition. And I think the Hartman Institute actually has done wonders in that respect, as far as I know.
I mean, it is one institute. And the fuel for it was one person, right? And it's still sort of running on that fuel. And you know what, we hope-- I mean, I hope it will become institutionalized to grow. And it is actually an example of what needs to be done, whether from the religious direction, or from the secular or philosophical direction. It's what needs to be done to create that kind of outward gesture to the other side, to try and create a common language, to try and break the barrier, the barrier that's psychological mostly, that seems to exist between the two.
What distinguishes between Maimonides' reception and what I was talking about is maybe-- and you are welcome to correct me-- that with the Islamic situation, what you had was a state. So you had a state, and you had the religious authorities. Now Maimonides was a religious authority, and probably still is. But he was a religious authority in a non-Jewish state, right?
What is peculiar about this circumstance-- it really is very, very peculiar-- is you create, more or less at the same time, two heads. You create two heads. As soon as a prophet dies, there are two heads. One is a political head, and one is a religious head, which has grown in time. And this is really what makes the problem within the Islamic context, I think, special, and having to be dealt with in a special way, unlike within the Jewish tradition or Christian tradition.
Anyway, it has to be studied, I think, seriously, deeply. Very often one tends to sort of just super impose traditions. Not just ages, but traditions, and assume that we're talking the same language when describing totally different contexts.
AUDIENCE: So [INAUDIBLE] history described [INAUDIBLE]. I guess my question was about the way you conceived of involvement of philosophy, not necessary the philosopher. So essentially you present a picture in which law making develops out of certain methods of drawing not quite logical implications, but drawing connections between examples and the cases you need to apply them to, or some part of the scripture that it's transformation into something that bears a decision. Was never conceived exclusively to follow the scriptures. And that somehow philosophy or the [INAUDIBLE] would not seem to fit this kind of reasoning. And then the question is, how do you make some peace between those two ways of conceiving how things work.
And it seems like one possibility would be to say we can maybe reconstruct something like the process of law making into more rational consequences, or involved the philosopher in the process of law making, thereby bringing in the power of logic. So my question is, whether you could conceive of yet others in philosophy. So for instance I mean, isn't there a tradition, some kind of interesting and important reflection out of paradigms rather than deduction, which could be connection with this way of using a set of examples to draw some very broad consequences. Or, it just seems, to me at least, to fit maybe the situation of the Jewish tradition. Maybe some way in which philosophy could argue that this kind of extreme complexity and seeming arbitrariness and conventionality of kind of connection with our maiden, would say we listen to interpretation. There is something like coherence of the whole [INAUDIBLE] identify simple mechanisms, [INAUDIBLE] towards which I think we converges. But then understanding that something like conventionality and [INAUDIBLE] to a higher authority can [INAUDIBLE]. Is that some option that seems--
SARI NUSSEIBEH: I think that you are right that had, for instance, had somebody like Al-Farabi wished to, I think he could have, drawing on Aristotle, and a little bit on himself a bit more, and finding it for practical purposes, could have, yes, initiated a discussion in which he would say yes, we have this-- or using these methods which are not just deduction-- deductive. But the problem is there was a major, I think, there was a major kind of conflict or opposition between-- or contrast. I don't know how you call it. We're talking about three things here. Because we have the philosopher of course on the one hand. We have the law makers, secondly, which I have talked about. And then the third tradition, which is that of theology or [ARABIC], or it is sometimes called theology.
Now the theology mostly what they call dialectics. So you had three methodologies at work. And as the philosopher looked at these methods of reasoning, he would sort of consider that those two, dialectics and analogies, are inferior, and that only this-- although, actually, as far as I know-- maybe somebody can help us here. I don't believe that in logic he made any major advances, personally, as far as I know.
But he took over this thing that Aristotle had done it. There's nothing else to study. He has created the superb machine. There's nothing beyond it. All we have to do is just input, you know, this, and that's it. And he assumed that the other things were not useful. But he could have, yeah. I mean, he could have. I mean, had he intended, had he had an interest, he would have been able to.
I'm not sure if I, going along, picked up exactly the stuff that you wanted me to respond to, to tell you the truth. Sometimes when one speaks, one sort of begins to-- I tend to do this-- I begin to fly away. So I'm not sure. Did I fly away far from what you are--
SARI NUSSEIBEH: Ah, OK. But only after I have my cigarette. Yeah? Omar has to apologize, so that's why he looks at you. He's a colleague of mine from Jerusalem, and he teaches at the same university. He is an architect.
AUDIENCE: So that's why I don't understand much in this area. We can do it, that somebody else thinks. Thank you for this introduction. Thank you, however.
SARI NUSSEIBEH: Which you are ignorant about.
SARI NUSSEIBEH: Which you are ignorant of.
AUDIENCE: He went for [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah, but to be frank, if anybody was admitted longer than a half an hour discussion, I just say. Even half an hour is too long.
But at least I'm concerned in the general development. And I have two questions. And I'll try to make them short. First of all, what did we gain, or what did we lose by the nonparticipation of the philosophers? And you said the kamal is practically-- they are the the theologic.
SARI NUSSEIBEH: Sort of.
AUDIENCE: I mean, I [INAUDIBLE].
SARI NUSSEIBEH: A lot of the jurists would be also theologians.
AUDIENCE: How can we describe us as a result of that. This is one. And the other one, because you mentioned something, the two heads that you are-- I once heard an analysis that there has been no serious reformation like the Lutheran Reformation in Islam because in Islam, you have worthy ruler and the religious ruler in one person, because he's the calipha. That was the analysis. So there is nobody to revolt or to rebel against the other, unlike Europe where the kings or the lords and the pope. So there has been some two modes with that explanation, that at a certain time, had to interact or had a conflict that produced a movement that produced a system of [INAUDIBLE]. What do you think about this?
SARI NUSSEIBEH: So as to what we won or lost, or what one wins or loses, I sort of presented the story of the law makers and the philosophers really as a paradigm itself. I want people to look at it as a paradigm or as an example. Because you look today, for instance, and you ask yourself to what extent should the one side or the other work independently. To what extent the one side and the other must work together. And my idea is that, as a result of the fact they did not manage to work well together-- I mean the philosophers of the past, maybe or the secularists like you of today.
The fact that they did not manage to work together in the past has meant that today, we have this enormous gap between, on the one hand, how politics is regarded, especially secular politics, and especially political authority on the one hand, and religious identity on the other, as if the two need to be in conflict. Which I'm saying, they need not have been. And which I am saying now, they need not be. All right?
Now as to the-- what was the second one? Oh yes, the two heads, your two headed creature. So no, it's quite the contrary. I think the guy speaking to you was an agent for some authority, a political authority--
--who wanted to impress upon you the fact, you know, it is one. It is not one. It's always been two. Because as soon as the prophet died-- as soon as he died-- so it was out in the open. And this is very, very, I think, very important for us to draw the lesson from. Because how it developed was, as I was trying to explain, is that religious authority just grew up by public support and consensus. It was a bottom up process. There was never an occasion where the caliph would say-- like today for instance, I appoint the sheikh of al-Azhar. OK, he appoints the sheikh of al-Azhar. Who listens to Sheikh al-Azhar, right? Nobody, because he is-- what do you call it-- a crony. Respectable one. I like him, but a crony of the president of the country.
So historically what happened in Islam was that, on the contrary, our schools of law, so to speak, grew up independently. And they grew in spite of politics, in spite of the political rulers. And they grew through an open discourse-- that's very important-- and an intergenerational discourse. So people were not just speaking to each other at the same time. They sort of reflect on each other's texts even after a time. And there, somehow, that is how the whole thing, the whole field developed, which is really amazing.
And it's remained separate. It sort of started coming under pressure, I think, in the 16th century, in Egypt. But then later, the sea change was the Ottoman capitulation, so-called the Tanzimat. And there it started.
And then we come into the 20th century. And with the introduction of the nation states-- that now is in the process of being thrown out of the window, as you know. With that, this has become established, that the state is in charge of the law. And since the state is looked upon as secular, and since the state has proven itself to be, over the past-- since its inception to be corrupt and ineffective and inefficient, you name it, and has proven itself to rule by force or by the force of the gun, so to speak. So you've created this disparity between the public and the political authority. I mean, it's a great gap. I mean the people, on the one hand.
And this is something that's actually a sign of sickness in our society, a sign of major-- and this is why we have the kinds of things that we have today going on, and why a lot of Muslims are not actually worried about what's going on. I mean, they maybe if you ask them, they tell you of course I'm worried. But actually they're not worried about what's going on. And you know, it's constitutive of one's identity.
So the point is, this paradigm of the partitioning between two spheres, two languages, this paradigm failed. And I think people should work, like we just heard in the case of the Hartman Institute, for instance, should work on the Muslim side, yes for some kind of-- and Islam allows for constant reformation. That was one of the points I made. That the articles of faith are, how many, five? We'll asked Professor [INAUDIBLE] how many are they, five. And the practices, and the ritualistic practices, are-- so altogether, you are talking about five or six or 10 things, 12 things.
But when you come to talk about law, which is what defines what you do in life, you're talking about countless things. And they are infinite. And they can go on and on. That's why I'm saying, it's something with which you can reconstruct constantly, your identity-- constantly. It's open. The law allows you to.
And by specifying that the-- I mean, imagine by specifying that the law's purposes are, as I mentioned, the first being how I look upon it as the freedom of conscience. You have something really incredible there to work with. To have intellect, to have it as one of the five purposes-- I mean, there are so many things they could have picked up, like grapes for instance. I don't know. But intellect, to have chosen that is really something incredible I think.
And then place the other things at the bottom is also very interesting. I mean with the intellect, the world is in your hands. You can do whatever your form you want. With the freedom of conscience, you are free to do what you want. So all it needs is people to actually do it.
AUDIENCE: Do we need our religion to [INAUDIBLE] benefit, or if it calls for it, but we are not [INAUDIBLE].
SARI NUSSEIBEH: Absolutely. You see, what is really amazing is that our religious authority is not one which gets its legitimacy from anywhere but us. This is very important. I mean, we don't have a pope. Nobody can appoint a pope. And if the president of whatever Arab country appoints whoever sheikh and tells us, the people, from now on this is your sheikh, we can tell him--
SARI NUSSEIBEH: --that right. And since the genesis of the whole thing tells us that the authority comes from the public, from people-- it comes from the people. The authority that's in the religious authority, the power that's in the religious authority, the legitemacy--
AUDIENCE: Tell us [INAUDIBLE].
SARI NUSSEIBEH: We will discuss it tomorrow. But you know, it comes through the investment in it by the public of trust. This is how it comes. You know, Ibn Hanbal, Abu Halifa, were not appointed by anyone. They were tortured. They were interrogated. They died, one of them, because they would not accept being imposed upon by the political ruler to change their mind about something which was not an article of faith. It was part of a creed, a conviction, what their conscious told them.
And still, they are the rulers of Muslim society. And if you try to remember who the sheikh was at the time of the ruler or the caliph, you know, who are they? But these are the people who stay and that all Muslims remember. Unfortunately not. OK?
AUDIENCE: I really appreciate your point about jurists and teaching and philosophy of law, and asking what the law is for, and that those five purposes, in their particular order-- religion, blood, [INAUDIBLE], progeny, and [INAUDIBLE] conditions. Seems to me that that sort of an endeavor has come to a halt or some sort of a decline for reasons that might be internal to the tradition of the jurists so that maybe less philosophically inclined jurists got the upper hand somehow so that they consider consensus or that of a particular contents of [INAUDIBLE] now so that we will no longer need to see precedents. And we will no longer need to see sort of new agreements, basically, new consensus of things. So that the contemporary world, say schools of law in Egypt or in Iran don't seem to be engaging in philosophical endeavor, right? And so why do you think that might be for-- [INAUDIBLE] is to blame totally on what the secular state did or what the state did in the Middle East, or [INAUDIBLE]?
SARI NUSSEIBEH: It's a very good point. And who knows. I mean again, like I was saying earlier, you may well be right. And I'm only looking at maybe one thread. And there are so many. And I did not go into all of them. And it may, in the end, be more important to analyze what happened by looking at specific developments within the nature, as you said, of the legalists themselves, the different stages for instance. It's quite possible.
But at the end of the day, it is the case that the jurists we have ended up with are very unimaginative. And states we ended up with have actually not been helpful either in the sense that they have relied on the fact that we have some turbans over there can lead the public in prayer. And as long as the public sees that we allow them so the public will accept us, that we are OK, good as Muslims, and so things will-- but things need to change.
And maybe, again, to go back to education, one of the things, for instance, that are probably important is to try, once again, to integrate the study of religion and religious disciplines like [ARABIC] and like jurisprudence with, for instance, philosophy, which isn't done. I know that that's how we teach some form of philosophy. But I mean open philosophy on the one hand, and move it. Make the two disciplines interact, maybe, openly. I don't know, maybe something like this. It's difficult to speak about these things because it's something to do with the future. And I get it sometimes with the future, but not [INAUDIBLE]. Yes please? Yes, [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: Just quickly, I was getting to that one interesting thing introduced by this technique of inference by example, which is not a problem that induction or deduction maybe has to deal with, is the problem of relevance, that you have to fight for the relevance of the old to the present case, and that that is not [INAUDIBLE] when it comes to deduction or induction. And maybe I'm wrong about that. But if that's the case, I think that problem of relevance might actually be pointing to a kind of [INAUDIBLE]. I think [INAUDIBLE] who are already poetry and [INAUDIBLE] this and this kind of thing. [INAUDIBLE] This vocation maybe one way in which logic and poetry are a little bit closer. That's the other logical theory there.
SARI NUSSEIBEH: Actually I can't respond except to say thank you for pointing to me something that, obviously, I need to look into, because it sounds very interesting, the connection between the two poetry disciplines and jurisprudence. But with the question of relevance, I think what you said is important. Normally the jurists would use the very same terms. For instance in this case, [ARABIC] in Arabic, which is cause. And then we'd use a cause of course to actually try and create the relevance that they see between one example and another.
The point is this, that if you can look at an example and not only see what it is, but see what was the context, as you said just now, that made it come about or made it to be such that it can be judged on in this way. If you saw what was behind it-- which in a sense is invoking a hypothetical rule, which is what I mentioned here. But what you're doing here is invoking such a rule through the use of one example. So you're jumping up from the example, the particular instance, to a hypothetical rule without stating it, and then coming down again and saying, and this applies. That's what you're doing.
And it's an OK system, I think. There's no reason to look down on it. And actually most of our thinking, if you think practical, is like that. Most of it is thinking, rational thinking, for ordinary people like us, is done like that. We don't go to the three figures and see what mood and so. We jump, laterally. We think it's dangerous, for instance, a bicycle to go down the road in one way. And we see a child walking. And we tell the child that it's dangerous to walk that way.
Now we didn't get that from all sorts of bicycles who go down that road. It's dangerous for them, whatever. So we jump from bicycles to children. And this is what we do all the time, much more than we do deductive thinking in our ordinary practices of the application of our logic. Each is respectable, and they should have respected it. Lateral thinking is good.
My students have spared me my early questions, it seems, on purpose. And this is a sixth purpose of the law. OK, so we'll see you tomorrow for more real questions, feel like. Thank you.
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Sari Nusseibeh, professor of philosophy and former president of Al-Quds University, spoke at Cornell on July 13, 2015, as part of the School of Criticism and Theory public lecture series.