The Islamization of science or the marginalization of Islam [Electronic resources] : The positions of Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Ziauddin Sardar نسخه متنی

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Conclusion




The Islamization of science or the marginalization of Islam: The positions of Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Ziauddin Sardar




In this paper, I will display the standpoints of two prominent Muslim
personalities in the debate on the Islamization of science. They are the Persian
scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr and the British-Pakistani Muslim Ziauddin Sardar.
Consequently, notable aims are to study statements, individuals behind
statements, and presuppositions which forms their standpoints in general.





The intellectual side of the debate centers around the question: "What role
can and should Islam play in science?" Another important question concerns the
function of European Muslims in the debate. However, it is clear that a sub-text
of the debate centers around the question: "What 'political' course should
Muslims pursue - a form of modernism, Islamism, or any other possible
alternative?".





In my thesis-project entitled "Four Muslim Voices. An analysis of a discourse
concerning the Islamization of science" I make an analysis of a contemporary
debate concerning the Islamization of science. Consequently, notable aims of the
project in general are to study statements, individuals behind statements, and
presuppositions which forms their standpoints. In order to follow the ritual of
scientific work I consider it appropriate to display a foundation for my own
outlook. Accordingly, one significant presuppositon for my outlook is linked to
a secular tradition of studying religion. In general, it implies to view
religion as a part of society and culture, i.e. religion as a social phenomenon,
and not society as a part of a transcendent religion, i.e. society as a
religious phenomenon.





In the European and North American Muslim context a group of Muslim
intellectuals has developed. Some of them are able to be active in both a Muslim
and a non-Muslim environment. One example is Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a
University professor in Islamic studies at the George Washington University in
Washington DC, and at the same time an active exponent of a specific
interpretation of the Islamic tradition. Another example is the
British-Pakistani Muslim Ziauddin Sardar who has a written extensively on
the relation between Islam and science for a Muslim audience, but who also takes
part in conferences concerning non-religious subjects. A general notion in the
works of Nasr and Sardar is their understanding of Islam as a comprehensive
order for the individual and society. Therefore, they strive to achieve a
foundation for the establishment of an Islamic science.





In general, the debate can be apprehended as part of a discussion where the
overall question concerns the function of the Islamic tradition encountering
modernity. Prominent participants are mainly from countries not belonging to the
Middle East. Muslims from Europe and North America play a crucial part. I have
studied four voices. The already mentioned Ziauddin Sardar and Seyyed Hossein
Nasr, and Ismail Raji al-Faruqi and the French convert to Islam, Maurice
Bucaille. There are of course other voices in the discourse, such as, for
example, the 1979 Nobel laureate in physics Abdus Salam, the German Muslim
Bassam Tibi and Fazlur Rahman.





It is possible to state that I make a strategic and, hopefully,
representative choice when I prefer to display the ideas of these four voices. A
reason to support my choices is that those chosen individuals, and their
perspectives, are well represented in most Muslim bookshops in Europe. Many
educated Muslims are familiar with the names of the four, especially if he or
she has any interest in questions concerning the function of the Islamic
tradition. They are also popular among educated Muslims on the Indian
subcontinent and in a South Asian milieu, especially in Malaysia. A recent trend
is also an increasing representation of ideas formulated by al-Faruqi, and the
International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), Sardar and Nasr in Muslim
countries. Maurice Bucaille is an authority in the Muslim world already.
Somewhat jokingly, the prominence of the persons I have chosen to investigate,
have made them a Muslim 'jet-set' travelling world-wide from conference to
conference discussing the interpretation, function and future of the Islamic
tradition.





In my understanding they constitute a set of Muslim individuals who belong to
a Muslim elite. That is to say that they are all well-to-do and they have
extensive influence among other Muslim intellectuals. The four voices are all at
the centre of, so to speak, new "schools". Today, it appears as their
interpretations of the Islamic tradition can strike out new paths in the
understanding of Islam among Muslims.





In the European context, well educated Muslim scholars have been a commodity
in short supply. In such a vacant space men and women of education, such as
engineers, teachers and medical doctors, have been the ones to fill the
minbars of Europe. In opposition to traditionally educated Muslim
scholars they often have a secular education. In capacity of education, social
position in general, and as lay preachers with an experience of the so called
western society they may also be able to answer the questions concerning how to
live an Islamic life in Europe. It is sometimes presumed that to the category of
people with a secular form of university training the traditional perception of
Islam has become somewhat problematic. Yet, those who advocate an Islamization
of science make use of Islamic models of categorization when they express their
views on social predicaments in the society. In statements like "the
Islamization of society will solve many of the problems in the Muslim community"
it is implied that Islamization is a quest of ideology. In their perspective the
concept of a specific 'Islamic' natural science is understood as a subsystem or
subculture promoted by the all-embracing Islamic order of society.





If we take a closer look at two of the participants in the debate, Seyyed
Hossein Nasr and Ziauddin Sardar, we will find that they dislike each other. On
one hand, Nasr states that Sardar is uneducated. In his eyes Sardar does not
have the ability to make correct interpretations of the Islamic tradition. He
is, he says, a person who just add the word Islamic to various disciplines and
think that this is enough.





On the other hand, the approach towards Islamic science held by Nasr faces a
fierce criticism expressed by Sardar. In general, his 'attack' on the position
of Nasr is founded on a critique of his Sufi affiliation. Despite the criticism
of Nasr, many adherents to Sardar's position state that the works of Nasr have
lead to an increase on the issue of the Islamization of science in general. In
Explorations in Islamic science from 1989, Sardar describes the actors in
the discourse by means of lines in, or titles of, songs from the world of pop
and rock music. The headings of different sections are songtitles. In this way
the opinions of Seyyed Hossein Nasr are placed under the Beatles-inspired
heading 'Nowhere Man'. Nasr is, according to Sardar, taking us on a Magical
Mystery Tour, and the part where Sardar summerizes Nasr's views is called
'Ground Control to Major Tom' after the first line in David Bowie's song 'Space
Oddity' where Major Tom is an astronaut, lost in space in a technically defect
rocket without power to take measures to change his situation.





The fact that Nasr and Sardar express a criticism of each others' positions
does not mean that they do not share some presuppositions. Four of the shared
presuppositions are:





1. The Crisis: A general theme in both Sardar's and Nasr's texts are
the notion that science as it is performed in Europe is in a crisis. To
underline such a statement they make references to authors who are expressing a
critique of science and society like Illich and Schumacher. It appears as Sardar
tries to legitimize himself by displaying a knowledge of contemporary debates
within the fields of social science. In the case of Nasr he choses another
perspective and frequently makes references to a philosophical tradition where
personalities like Hegel, Heidegger and Kierkegaard are utilised.





2. The Neutrality of Science: Both Sardar and Nasr argue that science
is not neutral and that it is western in its character. Sardar's conclusion is
that science therefore is bound to a certain culture. Therfore, it is also
possible to create an Islamic science. "Western" is in their rhetoric a
stereotype for societies in Europe and North America. They are the opposite to a
sound and righteous society. That is, the Islamic society. Sardar and Nasr make
a comparison between the results of modern science and technology, like the
pollution of the environment, with a non-existing form of Islamic science - an
Islamic ideal, a utopia. In some sense the practice of science performed in
Europe is placed in opposition towards the norm of the ideological ideal. One
paradox is that statements of researchers from the scientific tradition they
criticise are used to support their own statements.





In Nasr's and Sardar's standpoint science is subordinated to the claims of
the Islamic tradition. Islam is an all-encompassing ideology, and, therefore, it
must formulate ideas about an Islam science.





3. History: In the usage of history there are some differences in
Nasr's and Sardar's apporach. In both perspectives the early Islamic history is
seen as a sacred and normative history. Muhammad, and the so-called Medina
state, are the models they return to in order to legitimate their ideas. The
models chosen can vary, and the choice of historical reference appears to be
determined by events in the present time.





Nasr's foundation in a Sufi, shi'a and Persian milieu makes him present a
different set of historical prototypes than Sardar. To Nasr personalities to
follow are Ibn 'Arabi and Suhrawardi, but also mystics of French origin like
Frithjof Schoun and Ren Gunoun. In the case of Sardar he choses al-Ghazzali
and unlike Nasr he does not discuss the history of ideas in his books at any
length. According to Nasr that is because he does not know it. However, Sardar
says, that it is not significant in his works.





However, significant in my presentation is that more or less legendary
material is formed to construct a history, and that the history has a meaning,
and that it is today's events that determines what moments in history which will
be interpreted.





4. Terminology: Sardar bases his position on a set of terms picked out
from the Islamic tradition. Terms from the Quran constitute the foundation for a
moral and an ethics. The Formation of an Islamic moral and ethics is the basis
for scientific work. Thus, Sardar never expresses any clear idea of an Islamic
science. He stats that he formulates the premises. That is to conceptualise
terms from the Islamic terminology. Nasr carries out a similar work. Although,
his terms comes from the Sufi tradition. Discussions on the correct
interpretations of various terms have a large space in the debate.





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