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A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master in Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Heritage in Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion

Abd. Hamid Abu Sulaymān Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences International Islamic University Malaysia FEBRUARY 2022


The academic and popular debates on science and religion have reached an impasse. Both sides seem to provide mutually exclusive claims. This research attempts to pave an alternative route in this debate. This research takes the field of Islamic spirituality—known as Tazkīyat Al-Nafs—and puts it in conversation with the scientific worldview. The conversation will highlight an original approach in which Islam can critically engage with the latest scientific-based ideologies. This study aims at investigating whether Tazkīyat Al-Nafs or the scientific worldview is better at providing practical solutions to practical life that is of concern to every individual. The study explores the origins, history, and current formulation to the scientific worldview. It also explores the unique features and characteristics of Islamic spirituality. Finally, it contrasts both the scientific worldview and Tazkīyat Al-Nafs and concludes that, at least in relation to practical living, Tazkīyat Al-Nafs is more useful than the scientific worldview. This study uses the comparative approach to studying different worldviews; it also uses critical reading of textual sources, alongside situating fresh interpretations of classical themes via the use of postmodern theology. The study’s primary conclusion is that both atheists and theists, non-Muslims and Muslims can benefit from the practical wisdom found in Tazkīyat Al-Nafs. A secondary conclusion is that there is no contradiction between Islam and science; rather, the contradiction only occurs between Islam and the scientific worldview. Science is not equal to the scientific worldview. The research hopes to have laid the theoretical foundation for further exploration of Islamic spirituality and its engagement with the modern world and postmodern concerns.


‫مُلخَّص البحث‬ ‫‪ABSTRACT IN ARABIC‬‬

‫وصلت املناقشات األكادميية والشعبية حول العلم والدين إىل طريق مسدود‪ .‬يبدو أن كال‬ ‫اجلانبني يقدمان مطالبات متبادلة‪ .‬يف هذا البحث‪ ،‬حناول متهيد طريق بديل يف هذا النقاش‪.‬‬ ‫يأخذ البحث جمال الروحانية اإلسالمية ‪ -‬املعروف بتزكية النفس ‪ -‬ويضعه يف حمادثة مع‬ ‫النظرة العلمية للعامل‪ .‬ستسلط احملادثة الضوء على النهج األصلي الذي ميكن لإلسالم من‬ ‫خالله التعامل بشكل نقدي مع أحدث األيديولوجيات العلمية‪ .‬هتدف هذه الدراسة إىل‬ ‫التحقق مما إذا كانت تزكية النفس أو النظرة العلمية للعامل أفضل يف تقدمي حلول عملية‬ ‫للحياة العملية اليت هتم كل فرد‪ .‬تستكشف الدراسة األصول والتاريخ والصياغة احلالية للرؤية‬ ‫العلمية للعامل‪ .‬كما يستكشف السمات واخلصائص الفريدة للروحانية اإلسالمية‪ .‬أخريًا‪،‬‬ ‫يتناقض مع كلٍّ من النظرة العلمية و تزكية النفس وخيلص إىل أنه‪ ،‬على األقل فيما يتعلق‬ ‫باحلياة العملية‪ ،‬تعترب تزكية النفس أكثر فائدة من النظرة العلمية للعامل‪ .‬تستخدم هذه الدراسة‬ ‫املنهج املقارن لدراسة وجهات نظر خمتلفة للعامل‪ .‬كما أنه يستخدم القراءة النقدية للمصادر‬ ‫النصية‪ ،‬جنبًا إىل جنب مع وضع تفسريات جديدة للموضوعات الكالسيكية عرب استخدام‬ ‫علم الالهوت ما بعد احلداثة‪ .‬االستنتاج األساسي للدراسة هو أن كالً من امللحدين واملؤمنني‬ ‫وغري املسلمني واملسلمني ميكنهم االستفادة من احلكمة العملية املوجودة يف تزكية النفس‪.‬‬ ‫االستنتاج الثانوي هو أنه ال يوجد تناقض بني اإلسالم والعلم بل إن التناقض حيدث فقط‬ ‫بني اإلسالم والنظرة العلمية للعامل‪ .‬العلم ال يساوي النظرة العلمية للعامل‪ .‬يأمل البحث أن‬ ‫يكون قد أرسى األساس النظري ملزيد من اكتشافات الروحانية اإلسالمية واخنراطها يف العامل‬ ‫احلديث واهتمامات ما بعد احلداثة‪.‬‬



I certify that I have supervised and read this study and that in my opinion, it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Master in Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Heritage in Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion. ………………………………….. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali Supervisor I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Master in Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Heritage in Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion. ………………………………….. Dr. Megawati Morris Examiner This dissertation was submitted to the Department of Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion and is accepted as a fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master in Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Heritage in Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion. ………………………………….. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Amilah Awang Abd. Rahman @ Jusoh Head, Department of Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion This dissertation was submitted to the Abd. Hamid Abu Sulaymān Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences and is accepted as a fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master in Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Heritage in Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion. ………………………………….. Prof. Dr. Shukran Abd. Rahman Dean, Abd. Hamid Abu Sulaymān Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences



I hereby declare that this dissertation is the result of my own investigations, except where otherwise stated. I also declare that it has not been previously or concurrently submitted as a whole for any other degrees at IIUM or other institutions.

Md Maruf Hasan

Signature ...........................................................


Date .........................................





THE SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW AND REJECTION OF SOUL: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS I declare that the copyright holders of this dissertation are jointly owned by the student and IIUM. Copyright © 2022 Md Maruf Hasan and International Islamic University Malaysia. All rights reserved.

No part of this unpublished research may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder except as provided below 1.

Any material contained in or derived from this unpublished research may be used by others in their writing with due acknowledgement.


IIUM or its library will have the right to make and transmit copies (print or electronic) for institutional and academic purposes.


The IIUM library will have the right to make, store in a retrieved system and supply copies of this unpublished research if requested by other universities and research libraries.

By signing this form, I acknowledged that I have read and understand the IIUM Intellectual Property Right and Commercialization policy.

Affirmed by Md Maruf Hasan ……..…………………….. Signature

……………………….. Date



This dissertation is dedicated to the Most Merciful and the Most Gracious Allah and His Messenger Muhammad (May peace be upon him)



Writing this MA thesis was not just research for me; it was a culmination of a life-long journey. For ten years I studied at Mungli Darus Sunnah Dakhil Madrasah and for two years I studied at Omargari Darul Khair Fadil Madrasah in Bangladesh. The teachers instilled in me a lasting appreciation for the Quran and Sunnah. I want to thank them for their patience in teaching teenagers. Only now do I recognize how difficult it must have been for them. I continued my studies in the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) doing a degree in English Literature and Language. This gave me a stronger grasp of the English language, which acted as the key for me to opening the wide-field of Western philosophy, literature, and culture. My school and high school science background also helped me to grasp this area of research. I want to give special thanks to both Dr. Tanja Jonid and Prof. Md. Mahmudul Hasan for their kindness, motivation, inspiration, and their openness. For my Masters, I chose Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion; I wanted to see if it was possible for me to fuse the two distinct areas of influence in my life: the Islamic studies from my madrassah days in Bangladesh, and the Western literature from my degree in Malaysia. The personal imperative behind this was my hope in finding harmony between the two different parts of my own life. I believed that such a harmony would have a lasting impact on how I see life and how I act in life. I am blessed to have as my supervisor Prof. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali to help and guide me through this process. Prof. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali is one of those rare supervisors who challenges their students to grow more both academically and spiritually. Time and again, Prof. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali would point out flaws or errors in my ideas, which propelled me to sharpen my arguments, improve my evidence. The MA thesis would not be what it is now without the rigorous debates and discussions that he engaged me in. This type of thorough attention is rare nowadays; since, most supervisors have limited time to give their students due to the immense workloads these supervisors have. I am especially grateful to Prof. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali for giving me his precious time. Part of this thesis was written during the pandemic of 2020-2021. Due to Covid19, life changed drastically for many students including myself. I faced immense difficulties, and at times, I contemplated stopping my MA program all together. Prof. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali’s support of me during this time gave me the hope and optimism to continue my research. For that, no words I can write will express my gratitude to him. I want to also thank IIUM, both the staff and students, for providing a calm atmosphere and peaceful environment that allowed me to focus on my research. IIUM is like a big family, which I enjoy being part of.


Thanks must be given to both my parents. Their patience with me lessened the burden I had to face when doing my Masters. Lastly, I want to thank Allah for His Mercy and Blessings on me. Most of the people who knew me dissuaded me from pursuing Masters, especially in Comparative Religion. They told me that such a postgraduate study won’t help me at all in terms of career. They also questioned whether I would have the focus to see the Masters till its completion. I took a leap into the unknown—with Tawakkul in Allah—and chose to do the Masters. It is only because of Allah’s help that I have now completed the MA thesis. In moments of doubt and weakness, remembrance of Allah helped strengthen my resolve. The best that can be said is what the Quran records the believers as saying: “All praise to Allah who guided us to this; we would never have been guided if Allah did not guide us” (7:43).



Abstract .................................................................................................................... ii Abstract in Arabic .................................................................................................... iii Approval Page .......................................................................................................... iv Declaration ............................................................................................................... v Copyright Page......................................................................................................... vi Dedication ................................................................................................................ vii Acknowledgements .................................................................................................. viii Table of Contents ..................................................................................................... x List of Diagrams ...................................................................................................... xii Transliteration Table……………………………………………………………….xii CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION .................................................................. 1 1.1 Background of Study .............................................................................. 1 1.2 Statement of the Problem........................................................................ 4 1.3 Research Questions ................................................................................. 5 1.4 Research Objectives................................................................................ 6 1.5 Significance of the Study ........................................................................ 6 1.6 Research Methodology ........................................................................... 8 1.7 Literature Review ................................................................................... 9 CHAPTER TWO: SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW: POTENTIALITIES AND LIMITATIONS ............................................................................................ 20 2.1 Definition of Scientific Worldview ........................................................ 20 2.2 History and Development of the Scientific Worldview ......................... 25 2.3 Current Established Form of the Scientific Worldview ......................... 30 2.4 Potentials and Limitations of Scientific Worldview............................... 34 CHAPTER THREE: COMPONENTS OF ISLAMIC SPIRITUALITY ......... 42 3.1 The Meaning of Soul .............................................................................. 42 3.2 Definition of Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫……………………………)تزكية النفس‬...52 3.3 Different Types of Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫………………………)تزكية النفس‬..58 3.4 Fresh Interpretation of Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬as Practical Living.67 3.5 Significance of Fresh Interpretation of Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫…)تزكية النفس‬...75 3.6 Concluding Remarks .............................................................................. 80 CHAPTER FOUR: COMPARING SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW AND TAZKĪYAT AL-NAFS (‫ )تزكية النفس‬....................................................................... 82 4.1 Comparing the Issue of Freedom and Choice in Living ......................... 82 4.2 Comparing the Issue of Accuracy in Depicting Practical Living ........... 89 4.3 Comparing the Issue of Human Development........................................ 94 4.4 Comparing the Issue of Existential Crisis .............................................. 99 CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSION ...................................................................... 103


5.1 What are the Problems of Living? .......................................................... .103 5.2 The Scientific Worldview: Lack of Answers for Problems of Living.... .107 5.3 Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬provides Answers for Practical Living……111 5.4 Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬is more Practical than Scientific Worldview in terms of Living………………………………………………………………………114 BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................. 118



Diagram 4.1 Healthy Diet Figure 1……………………………………………….. 91


Arabic Transliteration Scheme (According to IIUM Thesis Manual) Consonant Arabic Transliteration term ‫ﺀ‬ ’

Arabic term


Arabic term

























































Throughout the modern period, the ascendency of science as the most important field of knowledge has led to a depreciation of other fields of knowledge. In particular areas such as religion and spirituality have been summarily dismissed as unscientific enterprises that either suffer from lack of empirical evidence or are no different than mystical charlatanism. For this reason, the modern era is considered as the only era in history where science has become the de facto worldview in educated sectors of society. This research proposal hopes to reassess the scientific worldview by providing an Islamic analysis of the importance of spirituality and soul. It will be argued that any worldview that does not have a spiritual basis will be unable to provide a holistic way of life that provides people with tools to overcome existential crises.

1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY The scientific worldview did not arise from a vacuum. Like all intellectual structures, the scientific worldview had a rich heritage in growth and development. It was started by Descartes and Newton. Descartes pioneered mathematics as the main tool of understanding both the physical and conceptual world.1 Newton pioneered understanding reality via mechanistic terms. Freudenthal has shown how Newtonian mechanics led to a social revolution that made individuals conceive of themselves as

P. J David and R. Hersh, Descartes’ Dream: the world according to mathematics (London: Penguin, 1990), 1-14. 1


parts of a larger machine of society, whereas before Newton individuals conceived of themselves as free agents indebted to God.2 Weinert considers Darwin and Freud to have inaugurated the scientific worldview in terms of understanding humans.3 Darwin removed the concept of creation from humans and replaced it with animal evolution. Freud removed the concept of spirituality and replaced it with an overpowering sexuality. Becker has provided a very lucid description of how Einstein brought the concept of Relativity which demolished the traditional idea of Truth.4 Since everything is relative, there is no such thing as truth. Becker goes further to show how current Quantum Physics shows how there is no meaning at all in the world; since, the Quantum Field is purely random. With all these contributions to the scientific worldview, we currently have the status quo that views the entirety of reality through a very narrow spectrum of mathematics, mechanics, biology, sexuality, relativity, and pure randomness. It is such a scientific worldview that reasonable people may be skeptical over. The modern period was started by Descartes who introduced the radical disjunction of Soul and Matter.5 Descartes’ philosophy brought for the first time in history the ‘Mind-Body Problem’. The Mind-Body Problem has been the major issue that modernity has tried to grapple with.6 The Mind-Body Problem can be set out as this: if Soul and Matter are radically different such that neither affects the other, then how can we explain the obvious experience of our Mind coordinating our Body? The 2

G. Freudenthal, Atom and the Individual in the Age of Newton (Boston: Springer, 1986), 173-188. See F. Weinert, Copernicus, Darwin and Freud: Revolutions in the History and Philosophy of Science (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008). 4 See A. Becker, What is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics (New York: Hatchett US, 2018). 5 See U Thiel, The Early Modern Subject: Self-Consciousness and Personal Identity from Descartes to Hume (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). 6 See J Westphal, The Mind-Body Problem (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2016). 3


problem was answered in one of two ways. Either the Mind was denied to exist, or else the Mind was made a mere after-effect of the Body. This effectively banished the Mind (or Soul) from the realm of science. Even though Descartes’ philosophy emphasizes the Soul its conclusion erases it from the natural world.7 It is no surprise that in the 21st century the concept of the Soul is considered irrational and superstitious. With the erasure of this concept, the entire field of spirituality has been negated.8 To live your life while considering the state of your soul has become a non-existent or ludicrous lifestyle. While religion has been reduced to personal conviction, spirituality has been eviscerated even among the religious. The Islamic heritage contains a field of knowledge called Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫( )تزكية النفس‬Purification of the Soul). This field has received much veneration during Islamic history. For instance, Imam Al-Ghazali (d.1111CE) saw this field of knowledge as the basis for any revival of Islam.9 Even in contemporary times we find the same stress on Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬. Said Nursi (d.1960 CE) argued that the Quran could only be read properly through a spiritual perspective in the face of a globalized materialism.10 The scientific worldview and the Islamic Worldview are necessarily antagonistic. The former denies spirituality, whereas the later affirms it. Unfortunately, there has been very few attempts to reconsider the scientific worldview in light of Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬. The Science vs. Religion debate is currently centered on issues such as the existence of God11 or the resurrection of Christ12. Both these issues See S Gaukroger, Descartes’ System of Natural Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 8 See P Harrison, The Territories of Science and Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017). 9 See E. L Ormsby, Ghazali: the revival of Islam (Oxford: One World, 2008). 10 See C Turner, The Quran Revealed: a critical analysis of Said Nursi’s Epistles of Light (Berlin: Gerlach, 2013). 11 See A. McGrath. Science and Religion: A New Introduction (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). 12 See W. L Craig, Reasonable Faith (New York: Crossway USA, 2008). 7


can be seen as marginal if we consider that spirituality and Soul are universal to all humans.13 Even in the Islamic literature there has been an unfortunate limited awareness of this. For instance, the most prolific critique of the scientific worldview is done by a contemporary Islamic scholar Sayid Qutub (d. 1966)14 in his famous commentary on the Quran. Sayid Qutub’s critique was part of his larger reformation framework. Ahmed Bouzaid shows how Qutub’s appreciation for science and technology played a significant role in his reformation program.15 Despite this, Qutub’s critique may seem dated; since, the socio-economic context for his reformation aspirations is not the same today. Moreover, a more persuasive perspective on Islamic spirituality can only be fashioned by detaching it from any specific political paradigm; since, at least in Islam, it is understood that spirituality does not rise or fall with the changing winds of political struggle. It is hoped that this research will provide such a perspective that can be appreciated both by Muslims and non-Muslims.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM Any viable way of life will need to be practical. This entails that any viable way of life must contain within its mechanisms and tools that will help an individual to overcome the difficulties and hardships encountered in life. These difficulties and hardships come in many forms; however, their impact on the individual is not in dispute.


See A Adnan, Religious pluralism in Christian and Islamic philosophy: the thought of John Hick and Seyyed Hossein Nasr (London: Routledge, 1998). 14 S Qutub, In The Shade of the Quran (Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 2011), See for example, Qutub’s discussion of Quran 2:39, vol. 1, 45, and especially his section ‘Matching Science with the Quran’, vol. 9, 153-6. 15 A. Bouzaid, “Science and Technology in the Discourse of Sayyid Qutb” (Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy: Islamic Social Epistemology, 1996) Vol, 10, issue,3-4, 289-304.


The scientific worldview negates the field of spirituality and Soul. Does such a negation lead by necessity to the impossibility of any way of life? If so, then the scientific worldview should have its merits assessed in comparing it to the way of life that includes the area of spirituality and soul. In this case, this way of life is Islam. The problem is that the need and importance of Spirituality and Soul is not comparatively studied yet especially in the context of scientific worldview and Islam. In comparing Islam as a way of life and Science as a worldview, we have to consider what mechanisms and tools Islam and scientific worldview provide individuals to overcome the difficulties and hardships of life. If it is found that the scientific worldview by necessity erases all such mechanisms and tools, then the scientific worldview will be subject to further investigation especially its position on soul. In contrast to the scientific worldview the Islamic way of life seems to be capable to cater for the actual process of living which the scientific worldview does not. This issue requires a fresh investigation into the positions of Islam and the scientific world view on soul and its role.

1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS This research will attempt to answer the following questions: 1- What is the place and scope of the Soul in the scientific worldview? 2- How can soul and Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬be reinterpreted in a practical sense? 3- What are the differences between Islam and the scientific worldview on Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫?)تزكية النفس‬ 4- Is the soul and Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬suitable for practical living?


1.4 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES The objectives of the study can be listed as follows: 1- To see the place and scope of the SOUL in the scientific worldview. 2- To build an alternative view of soul and Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬based on the Islamic worldview. 3- To understand the differences between Islam and the scientific worldview on Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬. 4- To comprehend the importance of soul and Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬for actual process of living.

1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY This research will provide a new perspective with which to rejuvenate the issue of Soul in Science and Religion. For too long this debate in both the academic and popular literature has focused on issues of verification and validation. This research will give an alternative view where both verification and validation lose importance and the issue of soul and lifestyle viability become paramount. An Islamic formulation of soul and Tazkīyat Al-Nafs are explained that can help in resisting the contemporary urge to Perennialism. Houman who charts out Perennial Philosophy and how its inherent development led to a rejection of religion while it upheld spirituality.16 It is via the likes of Aldous Huxley that Perennialism has been seen as providing the most critical reassessment of the scientific worldview.17 By making this research focus on Islamic scholarship and on the field of Tazkīyat Al-Nafs


See S Houman, From the Philosophia Perennis to American Perennialism (Chicago: Kazi Publications, 2014). 17 See A Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy (New York: Harper, 2009).


(‫)تزكية النفس‬, an Islamic critical reassessment of the scientific worldview is provided without needing to rely on Perennialism’s denial of organized religion. A modified and more nuanced portrait of what Islam means is needed. Usually, Islam is defined as a religion; however, in this research focus will be on Islam as the way of life. This focus of emphasis allows for a radical critique of the scientific worldview: it will be investigated whether the scientific worldview by its own nature is suitable to be a way of life since it denies any room for soul and spirituality. This focus of emphasis will allow future researchers to formulate Islamic ideas as part of the way of life, which means the Islamic ideas have their application in real-life situations. Worldviews cannot be coherent and holistic while being totally devoid of any practicality in real-life situations. Lastly, there is a rise in apostasy among the young generation in Muslim societies. This apostasy was indicated by Ibn Warraq18 but became an established sociological fact when Pew Research centre found that 23% of American young Muslims who were born into the faith left it later on19. Hashemi argues that the major trend of atheism today is “pilgrim atheism” that consider the Science vs. Religion debate to be the basis for rejecting religion.20 This research will provide an Islamic response to “pilgrim atheism” which may help Muslim youth nurture an educated understanding and conviction in Islam.


See Ibn Warraq, Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out (New York: Prometheus Books, 2003). The share of Americans who leave Islam is offset by those who become Muslim. Pew Research Centre. JANUARY 26, 2018. , Accessed on 20 May 2020. 20 M Hashemi, “A new typology of modern atheisms: pilgrim atheism versus tourist atheism”, (An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2016), Vol, 17, issue,1,56-72. 19


1.6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY This research will primarily be based on qualitative method of content analysis: books and academic articles that will be obtained via library research and online research. The data will focus on two major areas: •

Literature on soul in the scientific worldview

Literature on Islam discussing the issue of Tazkiya Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬ All the data collected will be in the English language specifically to allow the

research to use sources in a language that Anglo-American empiricists will be able to access if they want to further their investigation into this issue. The research proposal will use several methodologies: 1. Conceptual reconstruction: this is important since the perspective this research hopes to establish is relatively new. This means any previous ideas and discussions that pertain to this issue must be reconstructed so that they can fit into the new perspective. 2. Interpretative strategies: due to verification being a strong trend in the scientific worldview, it is imperative that interpretative strategies be applied to the literature on Tazkiya An-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬in order to make the ideas in this research fall within the established parameters of meaningfulness that the scientific worldview has fixed. 3. Comparative analysis: the reassessment of the scientific worldview will be done in comparison to Islam as a way of life. For that reason, it is necessary not only to assess the scientific worldview, but also to assess Islam as a way of life but in a comparative manner.


1.7 LITERATURE REVIEW Meyer records the development of empiricism from Locke all the way to Quine.21 He presents the consensus view that Empiricism as a philosophy is a total rejection of religion and values. Instead of relying on religious ideas, empiricism extolled science as the only domain of truth. Bakhsar persuasively argued that empiricism has affected not only science but also social science.22 The natural world was seen as a mechanistic system with rigid natural laws which determined all events, while the social world was also seen as a mechanistic system with social laws which determined all events. Bakhsar grips with the issue of science erasing any concept of freedom in social world as it has erased the concept in the natural world. It is already apparent that after rejecting religion and values, science by necessity rejected freedom in the social domain. Both Meyers and Bakhsar do not consider the full repercussions of science. For instance, Meyers is happy to propound Hume’s idea that the Mind does not exist; however, he does not recognize that such an idea entails humans unable to act. That is why Diaye and Lapidus desperately try to include ‘Pleasure’ and ‘Beliefs’ into Hume’s decision-making process23, but they are aware that Hume himself never included them. If the Mind does not exist, then concepts such as Pleasure or Beliefs have no effect at all on actions. Russell argues that science inherently rejects religion on two points.24 Firstly, only scientific claims make sense whereas religious claims have no meaning. Secondly,


See R. G Meyer, Understanding Empiricism, (New York: Routledge, 2006). See R Bhaskar, Empiricism and the Metatheory of the Social Sciences, (New York: Routledge, 2018). 23 M Diaye and A. Lapidus , “Pleasure and beliefs in Hume’s Decision Process”, (The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought,2012), Vol, 9, issue ,3, 355-384. 24 See B. Russell, Religion and Science (New York: Oxford University Press, U.S.A, 1997). 22


only science has truth while religion has none. Russell urges people to live life according to science and to reject religion, God, and the Soul as ancient oddities that have no value in our modern time. Camus grapples with the problem of suicide.25 What reason should a person have to live if God does not exist, if there is no such thing as the soul, if all values are merely products of the mechanistic world? Famously Camus was not able to answer the problem that he set out. Camus paints a portrait of the modern existential crisis man faces. 26 His philosophical story is of the impossibility of anyone to do any good action, because all actions have become meaningless. Russell represents the peak of British philosophy in the late 20th century, while Camus represents the peak of French philosophy in the late 20th century. Both were ardent atheists who rejected all forms of religion, of God, of the soul. While Russell provides the rationale behind this rejection, Camus describes the natural consequences of it. The ascendance of the scientific worldview has led to the notions of freedom, of action, of right and wrong, or responsibility, of individuality to lose all meaning. This loss of meaning is offset by the argument that the scientific worldview is true based on the progress of science. While accepting that atheism provides no reason to live, Camus rejects to even consider any religious or spiritual reason to live. This is the existential crisis in the scientific worldview. The literature on this matter is missing nuanced views on religiosity. While Russell can provide reasons for

25 26

See A. Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus (London: Penguin, 2005). See A. Camus, The Fall (London: Penguin, 2006).


his rejection of religion, we do not find him dealing with sophisticated models of religion. The overall scientific worldview has this gap in its discussion of religiosity. The literature on Islam paints a different picture from that which the scientific worldview provides. Oman Bakar analyzed the classification of knowledge in the Islamic tradition and found that scientific inquiry was affirmed in tandem with religious sciences and spiritual discipline.27 He further argues that the concept of Tawhid is compatible with the scientific inquiry.28 Bakar’s position does not solve the issue of Science vs. Religion. The scientific worldview does not reject religion as a personal preference on par with a person’s choice of which takeaway food to order. When Science rejects religion and spirituality, it does so on the level of verification, empiricism, and truth. The scope of the literature must widen if any new perspective on the Science vs. Religion debate is to be established. Qutub has provided an extensive critique of the scientific worldview based on the dehumanizing character of such a worldview.29 He argues that when Humans are made subservient to Technology, then very soon Technology will corrode human values. Qutub does not reject Technology but asks for a reorganization of priorities. Technology is a tool for Humans and not Humans are a tool for Technology. Qutub’s critique is unfortunately overly politicized. For this reason, his critique can only reach its fullest potency if it is stripped of other questionable political issues that Qutub includes in it. Once stripped off these dubious points, Qutub’s critique can


See O Bakar, Classification of Knowledge in Islam, (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1998). See O Bakar, Tawhid and Science (Shah Alam: Arah Pendidikan, 2008). 29 See S Qutub, In The Shade of the Quran (Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 2011). 28


be defined in the following terms: only by connecting Humans to God can Technology be limited to a tool and not dominate all human values. Said Nursi’s work is voluminous. He argues that Nature is an effect and not a cause.30 This means that contrary to materialism, the spirit has a role to play in the material domain. He argues that social interaction can only be healthy maintained if concepts such as ‘brotherhood of souls’ are maintained.31 Without such concepts social relations will either be reduced to selfishness or to political radicalism. Though quite thought provoking, Nursi’s ideas on spirituality are not enough in themselves to provide a critique of the scientific worldview. This is because his ideas are couched in traditional jargon of Islamic mysticism. In order for his ideas to be able to contend with the scientific worldview they must be formulated in a new manner. There are suggestive ideas in Nursi. For instance, his critique of materialism can be easily reformulated as a defense of Freedom of Action which Hume famously denied. His theory on spiritual brotherhood can be converted to an argument for the necessity of a culture of spiritual equality that overshadows any class or race or political identities. Abu Hamid Al-Ghazzali’s corpus of work is extensive. The main theme through his later works is that superiority of the Spiritual over the Legal. 32 His critique of Legalism suggests parallels with a spiritual critique of the scientific worldview. Al-Ghazzali highlights that a person will face difficulties and hardships in life.33 These affect the soul more than anything else; hence, the empirical fact of two people facing the exact same situation but one is facing anxiety while the other is content. Al-


See S Nursi, Nature: Cause or Effect? (Cagalogul, Turkey: Sozler, 2011). See S Nursi, Gleams of truth: prescriptions for a healthy social life, (Clifton, N.J.: Tughra Books, 2010). 32 See A. H Ghazzali, Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship, (Kuala Lumpur: A. S. Noordeen, 2006). 33 See A. H Ghazzali, Wonders of the Heart (Petaling Jaya: Islamic Book Trust, 2007). 31


Ghazzali says that only by disciplining the soul one can go through life’s hardships relatively unscathed. Qutub, Nursi, Al-Ghazzali all provide suggestive themes for a possible spiritual critique of the scientific worldview; however, it is only suggestive. There has been very little, if none at all, attempts of using Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬as a framework to reconsider the scientific worldview. A serious gap in the above literature is very little work done to bridge these views into contemporary debates on spirituality and its relation to modernity. A more expansive reading into the relevant literature brings to light other dimensions of the discussion. There is a rich commentary of criticism against ‘Scientism’. Mikael Stenmark describes scientism as using scientific parameters to place limits on what can be known.34 Based on this, scientism is a matter of epistemology that affects the theory of knowledge more than anything else. J. P. Moreland considers scientism as secular ideology masquerading as science. 35 For Moreland, science is neutral when it comes to allegiance to any ideology. Scientism, on the other hand, is the conflating secularism with science, which is a political manoeuvre. In this perspective, scientism is the politicization of science, whereas science itself takes no political position. De Ridder, Peels, and Van Woudenberg show both sides of the debate.36 There are academics who regard scientism as legitimate. There are other academics who disagree. The overall sense that the debate gives is how a lack of consensus exists over the issue of scientism. At best, scientism can be seen as something


M. Stenmark, What is Scientism? (Religious Studies: Cambridge University Press,1997), Vol 33, issue,1, 15-32. 35 See J. P Moreland, Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology. (Illinois: Crossway Books, 2018). 36 See J. De Ridder, R. Peels, and Van Woudenberg (Eds.), Scientism: Prospects and Problems (USA: Oxford University Press, 2019).


that can be reasonably questioned. At worst, scientism has serious theoretical difficulties. It is wrong then for anyone to suggest that no debate exists on scientism, especially with the literature indicating otherwise. R. N. Williams emphasizes that scientism has turned into an orthodoxy that rivals the religious orthodoxy of the past.37 Orthodoxy is used here in the negative sense of a prejudice that is accepted unthinkingly among scientists. John Lennox, the famous mathematician, argues that science cannot explain everything. Instead of relying solely on science, Lennox says the best approach is to “mix” the scientific way of knowing with other ways of knowing, including the religious.38 While this commentary is overall persuasive, several contentions can be raised against it. Scientism is regarded in this commentary as an epistemic matter on the whole. While epistemology is indeed an important issue, it is not the only issue. The scientific worldview encompasses more than just epistemology. In the practical sphere, of personal action, epistemology is far less important than ideology. Only Moreland seems aware of the ideological aspect of scientism. Unfortunately, Moreland dismisses secular ideology as unscientific only to replace it with Christian ideology, which is even more unscientific, at least from the perspective of non-Christians. Again, ideology is not enough to constitute a worldview, otherwise people with similar ideological allegiances would have similar worldviews, but the reality is otherwise. As an example, two people can be Marxist but one is vegan and the other is not. The former is influenced by Buddhism whereas the latter rejects such an influence. Here we have the same ideology, but with different worldviews. What exactly constitutes the scientific worldview will be discussed in Chapter 2 of this research. For now, it suffices to point out that there is

37 38

R. N. Willaims (Eds.), Scientism: The New Orthodoxy, (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016). See J. Lennox, Can Science Explain Everything? (Surrey: The Good Book Company, 2019).


a serious lack in the literature on scientism, because the literature sees the issue as epistemic, when in fact it is wider than that. On the other hand, there has been a number of new research done on Islamic spirituality and its relation to science. A noteworthy research is Necati Aydin’s exploration of how Said Nursi dealt with science.39 Aydin understands Nursi to contrast two worldviews. There is the secular worldview and there is then the Tawhidī worldview. The secular worldview accepts science only, whereas the Tawhidī worldview accepts science within a holistic approach to life.40 This holistic approach is spiritualist in essence, because it gives spiritual meaning to our individual lives, whereas science is a matter of practical know-how in dealing with the world.41 Jan-Peter Hartung recognizes that Mawdudi (d. 1979) considered science to be a central issue in modernity.42 Hatrung sees Mawdudi as trying to incorporate the best of science within an ideological construct of a self-enclosed Islamic system. This system contains both spirituality and also politics. Shoaib Ahmad Malik has done pioneering work showing how Imam Ghazali’s position is in accord to the Neo-Darwinian paradigm of evolution.43 Malik shows how Asharī metaphysics and Sufi spirituality, both of which characterized Imam Ghazali’s view, can be aligned neatly with the latest advances in evolutionary theory without having to eliminate the metaphysical and spiritual basis of Islam.

See N. Aydin, Said Nursi and Science in Islam: Character Building Through Nuri’s Mana-I harfi. (New York: Routledge, 2019). 40 Ibid., 84-119. 41 Ibid., 120-154. 42 J. Hartung, A System of Life: Mawdudi and the Ideologisation of Islam, (Oxford University Press, 2014), 39-42. 43 See S. A. Malik, Islam and Evolution Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm, (New York: Routledge, 2021). 39


Alireza Doostdar has produced an in-depth historical and anthropological study of the relation between spirituality and science in Islamic Persia.44 Doostdar contends that the diversity of metaphysical views in Persia, which was the outcome of varying spiritual explorations, allowed for a full flourishing of both rationality and science. Since differences of metaphysics was tolerated, then scientific inquiry was not hindered by religious sanction. This is especially important, because it shows that despite the Shia orthodoxy in Persia, other alternative religious positions thrived. With this metaphysical pluralism came an open acceptance of scientific research. While Aydin’s research is informative, it is not exhaustive. Said Nursi is only one among the many scholars of Islam. Aydin gives an essential element in understanding spirituality and science in Islam, but more research can, and must, be done. Hartung’s emphasis on ideology lends itself to problematizing Islam. If Islam is fully ideological, then spiritual transcendence is impossible; since, it will still be confined within present day ideology. Malik’s work deals with evolution and not the wider field of spirituality. Doostdar’s study gives rich historical background to the discussion but does not deal with the specificity of modern and post-modern dilemmas. Gustavo Polit argues that perennial philosophy is the proper response to New Atheism. For Polit, New Atheism takes science as the limits of reality, whereas perennialism recognizes that spiritual horizons do exist.45 Bina and Ziarani argue that the philosophy of science, in contrast to science itself, is mistaken. Since the philosophy of science can only be formulated prior to science, then a person can reasonably challenge it without rejecting science. Bina and Ziarani propose perennial philosophy,


See A. Doostdar, The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny, (Princeton University Press, 2018). 45 See G. Polit, Breaking the New Atheist Spell in the Light of Perennial Wisdom, (London: Matheson Trust, 2017).


with its roots in Islam, as an alternative.46 Wolfgang Smith deftly demonstrates that science is not against spirituality; rather, only a biased interpretation of science is. Smith weaves scientific analysis with perennial wisdom to show how science and spirituality can be harmony and never contradict each other.47 Polit’s critique of New Atheism is correct, but lacks significance. New Atheism is merely a popularized version of academic atheism. It would do better to critique academic atheism than New Atheism, just as it would be better to critique, for instance, academic religiosity than popular religiosity. Bina and Ziarani’s argument, where correct, is inconclusive, because it assumes perennial philosophy beforehand. Wolfgang Smith’s scientific analysis can be doubted, as he tries to fit science into religion, which seems a doubtful task, at least to the majority of scientists. While some of the literature does bring interesting elements into the discussion, the literature as a whole is still woefully inadequate. It is hoped that this research will make an important contribution to expanding this literature even more in its scope. A source of untapped literature, at least in general, is the postgraduate thesis genre. A closer look at this genre will bring some important research related to the topic under discussion. A. Y. Alseheel has drawn a detailed map of happiness based on the Quran and the latest developments of psychology. Alseheel’s central idea is that Quranic happiness, embodied in specific psychological stratagems, allows for a greater depth of satisfaction than a purely materialist conception of happiness.48 Alsehee’s ideas can contribute to understanding how Islamic spirituality, translated into the terms of


See M. Bina, and A. K. Ziarani, Philosophy of Science in the Light of the Perennial Wisdom, (Indiana: World Wisdom, 2020). 47 See W. Smith, Ancient Wisdom and Modern Misconceptions: A Critique of Contemporary Scientism, (OH: Angelico Press, 2013). 48 See A. Y. Alseheel, Conceptualisation and operationalisation of happiness in Islam: a Qur`anic perspective (unpublished doctoral dissertation: IIUM, 2018).


modern psychology, can be a positive and uplifting force for individuals in a highly consumerist age. Z. Ullah discusses how Tariq Ramadan views Islam and modernity as compatible with each other.49 This discussion is pertinent, because relying upon it, one can bypass the need to constantly deal with the traditional vs. modern debate. The issue of Islam and spirituality can take place in the context that Islam is compatible with modernity. G. M. Dargan takes on the task of critically engaging with Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s rejection of evolution.50 Dargan recognizes that Nasr unequivocally holds that Islam and evolution are contradictory. In reply, Dargan develops a possible way of reconciling Islam and evolution. He fuses the ideas of Ibn Rushd, Fakhrudin Al-Razi, and Mir Damad to provide a framework that is both Islamic in nature and accepting of evolution. He also suggests that a fitra-based approach to man, where the body and soul are recognized as two parts of man, allow for a possible recognition of man’s spiritual origins in the Divine, and the biological development in nature. Dargan’s position is interesting because it strongly suggests that the issue of Islam and evolution being contradictory is a highly contested claim. As of yet, the claim cannot be said to be resolved favorably in one position or another. This contestation has its own flexibilities when trying to discuss spirituality and science. F. M. I. Muhammad Faris shows how Said Nursi’s work provides a rebuttal of New Atheism.51 Muhammad Faris rightly notes that New Atheism bases itself almost


See Z. Ullah, Tariq Ramadan`s view on islam and modernity: a critical analysis, (unpublished master thesis: IIUM, 2019). 50 See G. M. Dargan, Seyyed Hossein Nasr and the theory of evolution: a critical view, (unpublished doctoral dissertation: IIUM, 2019). 51 See F. M. I. Muhammad Faris, The relevance of Sa`id Nursi`s approach in dealing with New Atheism: an analysis, (unpublished master thesis: IIUM, 2019).


entirely on science in its critique of religion. The research explains how Said Nursi’s understanding of the link between religion and science can undermine the New Atheist claim of an inherent contradiction between the two. Khafizatunnisa binti Jaapar shows how the Prophet’s lifestyle is maximally beneficial when viewed from the lens of science. Her argument is that science has shown which lifestyle choices are beneficial to both physical and mental health. When we compare what science says on these issues, we find that the Prophet’s life embodies them already. Jaapar sophisticatedly uses the scientific paradigm to understand the traditional genre of Shamail Muhammadi (Description of the Prophet and his lifestyle).52 Jaapar’s work is suggestive of a way to combine the spiritual life of Muhammad with the scientific advances of today. M. J. Mughal has explicated in great detail how Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s philosophy engages fruitfully with the discourse of Western modern science.53 Such a comparison allows people to appreciate the Islamic philosophy can incorporate science while also advancing its own alternative of a spiritual worldview over that of a purely secular one. All the above studies contribute to the wealth of the existing literature on the issue of science and Islam and spirituality. While these studies add to the issue, there is still far more room for new studies. This research attempts to be such a new study.


See K. Jaapar, Prophet Muhammad`s daily lifestyle and its scientfic indications: an analytical study of Al-Shama`il Al- Muhammadiyyah, (unpublished master thesis: IIUM, 2010). 53 See M. J. Mughal, Philosophy of Islamic and Modern Western Science in the Discourse of Seyyed Hossein Nasr: An Analytic Study, (unpublished doctoral dissertation: IIUM, 2019).



2.1 DEFINITION OF SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW The definition of scientific worldview is of utmost importance to give clarity and focus to this research and to the discussion it contains. There has been, unfortunately, much confusion on this point; so, it is necessary for a thorough presentation of the definition that will be explored and analyzed. It is a common error to equate science with the scientific worldview. For instance, Dennett juxtaposes religion with science and explains the historical decay of religion in parallel with the technological advance of science.1 He concludes that in contemporary times, an educated person must break free from religion and embrace science. When Dennett asks people to embrace science, it is evident he is not asking them to accept scientific discoveries. Dennett is not telling people they should accept the experimental data in physics, biology, and chemistry. What he urges is that people accept the scientific worldview. This point is worth emphasizing upon. Dennett had previously argued that Darwin’s discovery of the theory of evolution undermined all non-biological perspectives of life.2 Dennett even said that an individual person has no meaning apart from being part of an evolutionary chain. Yet this is not the only option available.

1 2

See D. C. Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (London: Penguin, 2007). See D. C. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (London: Penguin,1996).


Wilson accepts the theory of evolution, but finds within it the validation of religiosity.3 Wilson points out that religiosity cannot be repudiated in the same way our evolutionary past cannot be rejected. As humans evolved, they gradually developed the ability to think, feel, and act religiously. It is was due to this newly acquired ability that humans were able to surpass other animals in building society and culture, which together were the components from which civilization emerged. McGrath accepts the theory of evolution while also accepting that God exists.4 He finds that there is very little incompatibility between the two notions. Humans developed via the theory of evolution, because this was the mechanism that God chose to create humans. A parallel would be in gravity. The law of gravity exists and its existence does not negate the existence of God. The law of gravity was one of the mechanisms that God used to create the universe. Both Wilson and McGrath cannot be accused of rejecting the findings of biology, physics, and chemistry. In terms of acceptance of experimental data and scientific research, both of them are in concord with Dennett. Yet their positions differ radically from Dennett’s position. Wilson values religion because of evolution. Dennett devalues religion because of evolution. McGrath finds no contradiction between evolution and God. Dennett finds a contradiction between evolution and God. It will be presumptuous here to conclude which of the positions are correct; since, only a careful comparison between the three positions can yield any worthwhile conclusions. What is evident, however, is the clear difference between scientific facts and the interpretation of those facts. Dennett, Wilson, and McGrath take evolution as a scientific fact; yet, their interpretation of evolution differ widely. Even Wilson and

3 4

See D. Wilson, Darwin’s Cathedral (Chicago: University of Chicago,2003). See A. E. McGrath, Darwinism and the Divine (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell,2011).


McGrath cannot fully be seen in concord; since, Wilson sees evolution as the validation of religion, whereas McGrath sees religion validated by one way, and evolution validated by a different way. Scientific facts are one thing; the interpretation of those facts is another thing. With these two distinctions made, the difference between science and the scientific worldview becomes clearer. Science is the corpus of established scientific facts. The scientific worldview is interpreting scientific facts to mean that nothing else except scientific facts has any value, and then using this interpretation to restrict what life means. Dennett interprets evolution to mean that everything else apart from evolution is useless. Wilson interprets evolution to mean religion is useful. McGrath interprets evolution to mean a non-contradictory view with religion. Dennett exhibits the scientific worldview. By this, it becomes clear that a necessary component of the scientific worldview is reductionism. It will not be helpful to delve into the reductionism and science debate here. The concern of this research is on other matters. What will be noted is that scientific reductionism is considered the mainstream view nowadays.5 A wide-spread awareness is that such reductionism problematizes central human concerns.6 Based on this, it can be maintained that the scientific worldview is conditional upon reductionism, which in turn narrows the scope of what matters below the boundaries of common human interests. The working definitions for this research will be as follows:


See C. Sache, Reductionism in the Philosophy of Science (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2007). M. A. Khalidi, Against Functional Reductionism in Cognitive Science, (International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 2005), Vol, 19, issue,3, 319-333. 6


Science: established scientific facts agreed upon by the majority of the current scientific community.

Scientific worldview: interpreting scientific facts to mean that the entirety of life has no value or interest or usefulness except as understood by scientific facts. It is necessary to keep a sharp focus here. Undoubtedly the scientific

community have their own views on what life is. Clearly, the majority of the scientific community hold onto a form or variant of the scientific worldview. It does not follow from this that the scientific facts themselves entail the scientific worldview. The banking community has expertise in banking transactions. It also has its own worldview which the majority of its members hold. No one, however, will claim that the facts of banking transactions entail the validity of the worldview which only bankers have. Their worldview, indeed, could easily be explained as a sort of specialization. Because bankers are specialized in banking, because all they think about is banking, they will view life as a matter of banking, whereas life, in fact, is more than just banking. What holds for the banking community holds true of the scientific community. In this research, the category of science will be accepted without any question. The theory of evolution will be accepted as true; since, despite the differences among biologists, an agreement over the broad outlines of evolution has been reached. Freud’s psychoanalysis will be accepted in so much that the scientific community regard it as an important contribution to the development of psychology. Issues of cosmology, of the origins of the universe, will be accepted as they stand in physics despite a great deal of differences arising in the scientific community. What is not in dispute, however, is that the universe is a physical entity, that it contains matter, it has natural laws, it started at some point in the past, and it will most probably end in some point in the future. This


research will not impute God as an explanatory factor into any of the established scientific theories. Having said this, this research will keep a deft eye on the distinction between science and the scientific worldview. Evolution is a scientific fact; understanding life as nothing but evolution is the scientific worldview. Freudian sexuality is a fact; understanding life as nothing but Freudian sexuality is the scientific worldview. The universe as nothing but matter is a fact; understanding life as nothing but matter is the scientific worldview. It is hoped that readers will appreciate the need to keep this distinction at all times during this research so that confusions do not arise. Lastly, as a means of bypassing the theism vs. atheism debate, the two central definitions will be understood on a background of agnosticism. By agnosticism, the view of Thomas Hobbes before 1651 is meant.7 Hobbes, at the time, noted how both theism and atheism, where held with conviction, always tend towards vacillation. A person would be convinced of Theism; however, he will momentarily question it. Another person would be convinced of atheism; the next day he wonders if it is correct. This vacillation, for Hobbes, was a sign that any stance taken on the issue of God would be essentially doubtful. When dealing with a doubtful issue, the most reasonable position is to acknowledge the doubt. Hobbes argued that agnosticism meant a person did not know whether or not God exists. Since a person does not know, he cannot be an atheist just as he cannot be a theist. An atheist knows God does not exist. An agnostic does not know if God does not exist. By using agnosticism as the background for the definitions of science and scientific worldview, this research will not presuppose God’s existence. Indeed, the

A. Abizadeh , “Hobbes’s agnostic theology before Leviathan”, ( Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 2017), Vol, 47, issue,5, 714-737. 7


entire onus of the research topic is to go beyond the never-ending discussion of ‘does God exist?’ A cautionary disclaimer must be stated here, lest further confusion arises. The agnostic background is not irreconcilable with belief in God. Firstly, Thomas Hobbes himself accepted theism in his later more famous works. Secondly, Adler used a similar background in investigating God despite him being vigorously religious.8 Thirdly, this research is meant to be a fair and even-handed study that scientists would read without them finding fault in any non-scientific presuppositions. Fourthly, many nominal Muslims, while espousing theism in public, privately hold onto agnosticism. By using an agnostic background, the research allows such nominal Muslims to engage in a sincere and serious discussion about spirituality. If a theistic background was used instead, this would alienate the nominal Muslims, and they would find little benefit in such research which only assumes what they have abandoned.

2.2 HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW The ascendency of science and the decline of religion is a well-recognized historical progression. Without a doubt, this historical progression has an intricate importance to the development of the scientific worldview. Given the limited space for this research, however, it is incumbent that focus be given to the scientific worldview in particular, as distinct from science. Borchardt notes how the scientific worldview is based on several assumptions.9 These assumptions have two common features: physics and mathematics. The world is viewed through the lens of physics. Analyzing the world is done through mathematics.

8 9

See M. Adler, How to Think About God (New York: Touchstone,1991). See G. Borchardt, The Ten Assumptions of Science (Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, Inc, 2004).


The result of this was the displacement of metaphysics in exchange for mechanics in terms of understanding reality. These two common features can be traced to the Newtonian Revolution in physics, and the Cartesian Revolution in mathematics. Both features found common ground in Einstein’s breakthroughs. Again, a strict focus on the difference between science and scientific worldview needs to be maintained here. Strong shows in great depth how Isaac Newton viewed his revolution in physics as an expression of God’s creative power.10 In his major books in physics, Newton writes quite candidly about God being the basis for the physical universe. Thus, the Newtonian Revolution in physics does nothing to exclude either God or religion. The same can be said of the Cartesian Revolution in mathematics done by Descartes. Indeed, Miller examines how Descartes argued that mathematics only has validity if God exists.11 In his mind, Descartes saw the rise of mathematics as an expression of how central God is to (mathematical) certainty. Thus, the Cartesian Revolution in mathematics does not exclude either God or religion. At this point, the science vs. religion narrative falls apart. The two central tenants of modern science have their origins in religious intellectuals. It may be said that both Newton and Descartes lived before modernity and technology changed the world; thus, their religious views were merely the cultural baggage necessary for a past that is now over. Einstein may be instructive here. In Einstein, the combined strength of the Newtonian and Cartesian Revolutions are united in his Theory of Relativity. Yet even in Einstein, the picture presented to us differs from the science vs. religion narrative. Jammer provides the most authoritative

E. W. Strong, “Newton and God”, (Journal of the History of Ideas, 1952), Vol 13, issue, 2,147-167. L. G. Miller, Descartes, “Mathematics, and God,” (The Philosophical Review, 1957), Vol, 66, issue,4, 451-465. 10 11


study of Einstein’s stance towards religion.12 Jammer shows that Einstein believed in God and also accepted religion. The most that can be said on Newton, Descartes, and Einstein is this: they rejected religious orthodoxy. Newton was a Christian but rejected the trinity and instead adopted the belief that Jesus was only a prophet and not God-Incarnate.13 This belief is known as Arianism and is considered a heresy in Christendom. Ebert has shown how Descartes died from poisoning due to Catholic priests afraid of his religious views.14 Einstein, as Jammer shows, rejected orthodox Judaism which was the faith he was brought up on. The three pioneers of science believed in God and religion while rejecting religious orthodoxy. So where exactly did the scientific worldview start? Hyman provides the clue.15 In his historical survey of atheism, Hyman shows that the scientific worldview emerged with one principle intellectual: Denis Diderot of the French Revolution. Diderot compiled and edited the first encyclopedia in history. He believed that such an encyclopedia would spread enlightenment in France and vanquish the Catholic Church. Hyman points out that Diderot accepted Newton’s physics, but rejected Newton’s notion of God. Diderot also accepted Descartes’s mathematics, but rejected Descartes’s notion of God.16 For Diderot, both Newton and Descartes betrayed their own methods. Newton found that the universe was physical. In Diderot’s opinion, Newton should have concluded that God does not exist; since, there is no place in a physical universe for a non-physical entity. Descartes too fell in error. Descartes said

See M. Jammer, Einstein and Religion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014). J. Rogers, “Newton's Arian Epistemology and the Cosmogony of Paradise Lost,” (EHL, 2019), Vol, 86, issue, 1, 77-106. 14 T. Ebert, “Did Descartes Die of Poisoning?” Early Science and Medicine, (BRILL, 2019), Vol, 24, issue, 2, 142-185. 15 G. Hyman, A Short History of Atheism, (New York: I. B. Tauris and Co, 2010). 16 Ibid., 6-7. 12 13


mathematics was certainty, but then said only God can make it a certainty. If mathematics was certain, then it does not need anything outside itself to validate it. Thus, it was Diderot who brought the origin of the scientific worldview. Curran also acknowledges this as he describes Diderot as the first person to think of science freed from either God or religion.17 It becomes obvious now that two parallel developments are happening next to each other. There is science developing. There is also the scientific worldview developing. Many times both science and the scientific worldview overlap; many times they are separate. The scientific worldview very quickly moved beyond the confines of science and began encompassing other non-scientific fields. Existentialism is the recognition of the central absurdity of life. Aho points out that existentialism has its origins in Kierkegaard, the famous Danish philosopher.18 Kierkegaard was a religious Christian. This view is further supported by how Kaufmann sees Dostoevsky, the Russian Christian novelist, as the co-founder of existentialism.19 This shows how in the 19th century existentialism had its basis in religion. In the 20th century, a major reversal occurred. Both Sartre and Camus became the symbols of existentialism; both of them championed atheism. Since Sartre’s time till the present, existentialism is viewed as an atheistic alternative to religious spirituality. The development of science cannot be said to have contributed to this radical reversal. After all, existentialism, even in its atheistic form, hardly ever refers to science at all. Both Sartre and Camus take God’s non-existence as a basic fact. Both their philosophies focused on what living without God entailed. It can be suggested that the scientific worldview caused this radical reversal. Diderot, the philosopher, originated 17

See A. S. Curran, Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely (New York: Other Press,2019). See K. Aho, Existentialism: An Introduction (New York: Polity Press, 2014). 19 See W. (Ed.) Kaufmann, Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre (London: Penguin, 1991). 18


the concept that scientific understanding rejects any religious notion. Sartre and Camus, both philosophers, internalized Diderot’s idea and dealt instead with the problem of living without any religious notions. The example of existentialism is given to indicate the dominating trend of the scientific worldview. One by one, subjects which have traditionally been outside the scope of science were reformulated along atheistic and non-religious lines. It would be too much for a detailed description of this trend to be given. Even a summary will threaten to shift this research paper’s goal. What can be given is some cursory clues. The area of psychology, traditionally, has been recognized as a personal area. Now under the sway of Freudian and Marxian theories, psychology has become an impersonal area. People are said to driven by unconscious sexual drives which they have no conscious control over. People are also seen as being determined by their economic position. The notion of personal choice has evaporated. While early existentialism (that is, religious) posited a personal solution to the absurdity of life (a personal God), late existentialism (that is, atheistic) posits the impossibility of any personal solution. Though brief, this sketch of the history and development of the scientific worldview will help the reader appreciate the original angle this research is aiming for. The latest discoveries in astrophysics are, undoubtedly, a welcome addition to human knowledge. Yet these scientific discoveries are being used (or abused) by a trend of thought that claims these discoveries have personal significance to our personal lives, while at the same time the trend stresses how impersonal scientific discoveries are. This is a contradiction. The label for this trend is the “scientific worldview.”


2.3 CURRENT ESTABLISHED FORM OF THE SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW The scientific worldview is a composite of many different philosophical stances. In its current form, the scientific worldview can be said to combine four different philosophical stances into one framework. These stances are: positivism, empiricism, materialism, and Freudianism. Positivism was initiated by A. J. Ayer. In his book, Ayer championed the notion of a positivistic understanding of language.20 Sentences have their meaning due to indication. The sentence “the white cup” has its meaning because it is possible for a person to point (to indicate) to an object that has the properties of “the white cup”. Even if there was no white cup next to you, the sentence “the white cup” still makes sense, because if you put effort, you can find a white cup. Thus, Ayer argued, meaning is conditional upon indication and finding. Based on this, Ayer said that any sentence which has neither indication nor finding lacks meaning. He famously argued this in regards the sentence, “There is a God”. You cannot point to (indicate to) God. No matter how much effort you put, you will never find God; since, God, by definition, cannot be found by humans. Since it is impossible to indicate to God, and since it is impossible to find God, the sentence “There is a God” has no meaning. Ayer was strictly coherent here. He did not say the sentence is false; rather, he said the sentence is meaningless. “There is a God” has as much meaning as “There is a […]”. The name ‘God’ cannot be understood at all. With this position, positivism turned the entirety of religion into a meaningless enterprise.


See A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic (London: Dover Publication,2002).


Nowadays empiricism is credited to David Hume. In his book, Hume launched a scathing critique of morality.21 Hume argued that ‘values’ do not exist. The only things that exist are empirical facts. Wherever you look, you will never see a value. All you see is facts. For Hume, ‘values’ were simply ‘opinions’. In relation to murder, the empirical fact is that one person killed another person. If we describe murder as evil, then we are saying we dislike the empirical fact. There is no need to posit that Evil exists or is a real feature of life. Based on this argument, Hume asked people to recognize that morality is not real in any way. Morality is merely opinions. The scientific worldview uses positivism to reject any religious notion outright. empiricism is used to reject any moral notions. The scientific worldview argues that the scientific method would not work except with positivism and empiricism. The scientific method would be rendered useless if microscopes were aimed at what could never be indicated, and if telescopes searched for what could never be found. If morality is admitted into scientific research, entire fields of biology and chemistry would be erased due to moral censoring. Since no one would deny that the scientific method reaches truth, the scientific worldview argues that finding truth entails positivism and empiricism. Sean Carroll, the famous scientist, considers morality to be against the scientific enterprise.22 The combination of positivism and empiricism make the Anglo-American Philosophical position of the scientific worldview. A good representative of this is John Searle. Searle argued that “social reality” including values, relationships, and meaning are all understood via empirical facts interpreted via positivism.23


See D. Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (London: Penguin, 2008). See S. Carrol, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself, (London: Oxford One World, 2017). 23 See J. Searle, The Construction of Social Reality (London: Penguin, 1996). 22


It is widely-acknowledged that contemporary philosophy is split into two main schools. There is Anglo-American Philosophy, of which positivism and empiricism is dominant. There is also Continental Philosophy of French-German heritage.24 The stress of continental philosophy differs from that of Anglo-American Philosophy; however, the scientific worldview still has a dominating role in it. Materialism is the term this research will use to refer to Continental Philosophy’s view of anti-spiritualism. Such materialism has its roots in the Marxist notion of dialectical materialism. Unlike positivism, materialism of this sort encompasses society without reducing it. The notion of society as a symbolic sphere lies within materialism of continental philosophy. Zizek is perhaps the best contemporary exponent of this.25 Like positivism, however, materialism strives to erase any religious significance in society. It is the program of expelling religiosity from the realm of the social. As such, materialism is the de facto view of most people today under the influence of the scientific worldview. Freudianism is the term this research will use to refer to Continental Philosophy’s view of anti-personalism. Freudianism is not limited to Freud alone. It can be seen as the near equivalent of Psychologism. Both Jacquette26 and Crane27 understand psychologism to be the psychological re-interpretation of values. Freudianism, as this research sees it, takes one step further than psychologism. Where psychologism sees values as personal psychology, Freudianism sees personal psychology as impersonal psychology. Schore describes how the unconscious

See D. West, Continental Philosophy (New York: Polity Press, 2010). See S. Zizek, Less Than Nothing (New York: Verso Books,2013). 26 See D. Jacquette, Philosophy, Psychology, and Psychologism (New York: Springer, 2003). 27 See Tim. Crane, Aspects of Psychologism (Harvard: Harvard University Press,2014). 24 25


determines all thought, and how the unconscious is a matter of neurology and not personality.28 Materialism and Freudianism combine to provide the continual philosophy’s form of the scientific worldview. A human is nothing more than inert matter being buffeted by impersonal forces inside him (such as sexuality) and impersonal forces outside him (such as economy). The anti-spirituality of materialism makes society the dominating factor over all human decisions. The anti-personalism of Freudianism makes human decisions impossible. When the Anglo-American and Continental Philosophy views are combined, the status quo of the scientific worldview is reached. Positivism, empiricism, materialism, and Freudianism represent the four points of the compass for the scientific worldview. This mapping that has been provided allows the reader to appreciate the diversity inherent in the scientific worldview, while also acknowledging the similarities. Freudianism is opposed to empiricism. In Freudianism, there is no such thing as empirical facts; since, empirical facts presuppose an objective observer. But, Freudianism contends, there is no such thing as an objective observer. Everyone is biased due to his unconscious. Despite the antagonism between empiricism and Freudianism, a common ground is agreed by them. Empiricism denies moral values are real. Freudianism denies moral choice is real. Thus, while both positions may differ on how they articulate themselves, but the conclusions they reach are identical. Before ending this section, it is pertinent to point to certain limitations of the mapping provided. Despite Ayer pioneering positivism, Ayer later rejected positivism. Wittgenstein famously defended positivism while also believing in spirituality.

See A. N. Schore, The Development of the Unconscious Mind (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2019). 28


Empiricism was founded by three British philosophers: John Locke, Bishop Berkley, and David Hume. Both Locke and Berkley were religious. Materialism, as understood in its Marxian sense, is not incompatible with religiosity, as seen with Walter Benjamin who fused materialism with Judaism. Freudianism can hardly be seen as atheistic if one were to read the works of C. G. Jung who fused psychoanalysis with religiosity. Otto Rank worked closely with Freud himself while also being a pious Christian. Rank saw no contradiction between Freud’s ideas and his own beliefs. Strictly speaking, it is possible to accept all four stances in the mapping provided while also accepting religiosity. This research, however, will not explore this possibility due to limited space. The mapping of the scientific worldview will be understood as the majority of the literature understands it. Minority positions in the scientific worldview, such as Idealism supported by Quantum Mechanics, will not be discussed. Positivism rejects religion as meaningless. Empiricism rejects morality. Materialism makes social forces dominate personal choices. Freudianism shows personal choices are an illusion. This view of life has its potentials and limitations, which will be explored and analyzed in the next section.

2.4 POTENTIALS AND LIMITATIONS OF SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW In recent times, there has been many books praising the positives of the scientific worldview. Steven Pinker, the famous scientist, claims that the scientific worldview has saved humanity from brutality.29 Yuval Noah Harari, the famous philosopher, has announced that the scientific worldview is the greatest achievement of man.30 Rutger


See S. Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity, (London: Penguin, 2012). 30 See Y. N Harari., Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, (New York: Vintage, 2019).


Bregman, the famous historian, says mankind’s hope is on the scientific worldview.31 It is beyond the scope of this research to deal in any depth with such views. But to bring clarity to the topic at hand, it will be useful to use the four directions of the compass, as it were, of the scientific worldview—positivism, empiricism, materialism, and Freudianism—and make a rough sketch of the essence of such views. Using these four parameters as an organizational tool will help bring conceptual clarity, especially since these views are often based on unidentified assumptions. The sketch that follows can be traced back to, but is not identical with, the views mentioned above. With positivism, it becomes obvious that religious sectarianism within one religion and religious rivalry between several religions are all nonsense. Europe had been plunged into never-ending wars between different Christian sects all claiming to have a monopoly on truth. Looking back at that period in Europe’s history, it is clear the never-ending wars were senseless violence. Because religious notions cannot be indicated or found, then religious wars are in principle the deaths of hundreds of thousands for no rational reason at all. Empiricism stresses that morality is not real; it is only opinion. This means when a person acts in one way opposed to people’s opinion, people cannot label him as evil. There is such a thing as difference of opinion. One woman wears certain clothing. Another woman wears different clothing. Both women wear clothes which appeals to them. If one woman were to condemn the other woman for wearing, say, immodestly, the condemnation would be empty. Such condemnation is premised on evil being a real factor in life. But since evil is only our opinion and distaste of things, then we cannot condemn others who think differently from us. It is no surprise then that Don Garrett


See R. Bregman, Humankind: A Hopeful History (New York: Bloomsburg, 2020).


regards David Hume as the “Woman’s Philosopher”.32 To its credit, Empiricism has been a central aide in allowing freedom of expression, individual liberty, and freedom of choice to flourish in the world. Materialism is closer to the truth than previous views on how society functions. The classic exposition of this was done by Nagel.33 An updated version of this, what is called ‘New Materialism’ in sociology, is presented by Fox and Alldred.34 Due to materialism, the façade of individual choice has been stripped, and people nowadays are aware of how powerful economic forces, political policies, social trends, and cultural indoctrination effect people in society. It is due to Materialism that the area of social criticism has occurred. Before materialism, a person could only criticize people. After materialism, a person can now criticize ideology, market, etc. The sense of delight people had in leading their own lives has been exposed for what it truly is: careerism, commodification, and consumerism. It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine the current awareness of the ills of careerism, commodification, and consumerism if materialism were not accepted. Freudianism has highlighted the extent, and damage, of sexual repression. Thanks to Freudianism a lot of inconvenient truths have now come to light for scientific -social analysis and discussion. The best example of this is the Kinsey Report.35 In the past, adultery was seen as a scandalous oddity. Now, it is a social fact that adultery is common. This is not due to a rise in adultery, but rather it is due to the honest and sincere discussion that Freudianism provided in the areas of sexuality and psychology. D. Garret, Hume as Man of Reason and Woman’s Philosopher, (In L. Alanen and C. Witt (Eds.), Feminist Reflections on the History of Philosophy, 2004), pp. 171-192, Springer Link. 33 See Chapter 13 and 14 of Nagel, E., The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation, (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1961). 34 See Fox., N. J., and Alldred, P. Sociology and the New Materialism: Theory, Research, Action, (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2016). 35 See Kinsey, C. A., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., Gebhard, P.H. and Bancroft, J. Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998). 32


In the past, hypocrisies often veiled the truth of how people acted in public. With Freudianism, the notion of unconscious drives perfectly describes the mechanisms where a person acts nobly in public while he really intends to act ignobly in private. The stigma that used to be attach to such unveiled hypocrisies has been removed by the objective and realistic discussions that Freudianism brought regarding them. Because this research aims to be academic, the pressure of polemics does exert itself in the appreciation shown towards the scientific worldview. Without a doubt, the scientific worldview has provided great discoveries and has solved many problems in society. Due to positivism, religious wars have ended. Due to empiricism, women are not attacked just because they wear different clothes. Due to materialism, the impact of market forces is recognized. Due to Freudianism, the reality that used to be hidden by a sense of social shame has now become a matter of objective study. It may be regarded, at this point, that the positives of the scientific worldview, whatever they might be, are antithetical to Islam. This is far from the truth. Islam is marked by a great flexibility, where any truth, any wisdom, any benefit, is regarded as useful for a Muslim to use. The Prophet said, “The word of wisdom is the lost property of the believer. Wherever he finds it, he is most deserving of it” (Tirmithdi, no: 2687). The Prophet told Abu Hurairah to accept the advice of Satan in the famous hadith on Āyāt al-Kursī (Bukhari, no: 4723). The Hud-hud rebuked Prophet Sulaymān due to the Hud-hud having knowledge which Prophet Sulaymān did not (Quran 27:22). This all shows the Islamic obligation for Muslims to accept the truth even if it is in the hands of others. In this respect, the great potentialities of the scientific worldview must be acknowledged and respected. This is only to show that the Islamic position does not stand or fall based on any perceived incapacity within it to accept anything outside its strict boundaries. Indeed, the porous nature of Islam’s boundaries, contrary to its alleged


strictness, can be seen in how the Prophet defended Medina in the Battle of Khandaq, by using the Persian Pagan strategy of building trenches. Having said that, the outline of the scientific worldview that was provided is not without its flaws. A descriptive list that only contains positives can hardly be said to be objective or balanced or even-handed. Such a bias can easily be recognized if a descriptive list of only negatives were made of the scientific worldview. Such a list can easily be compiled. The Nazis were the first to commit a holocaust in world history. The Nazis were atheists and also pioneers in scientific research, as Friedlander has shown.36 Wiekart has given a more up-to-date demonstration of Hitler’s reliance on science for the holocaust.37 Freedom of speech and freedom of choice are non-existent in current North Korea; it is an atheistic country. Chairman Mao had at least 700,000 people killed in order to establish a materialist paradigm shift in China. Meritocracy has made Japan have the lowest rate of sex in the entire world. It is hard to show how any of these events did not stem from the adoption of the scientific worldview. It is wrong, however, to judge the scientific worldview on such a list of negatives. This list of negatives represents a crude vision of the scientific worldview. In the same way, the list of positives of the scientific worldview is based on a crude vision of religiosity. Most religious people are against religious violence. Most religious people affirm individual liberty. Most religious people understand how harmful economic forces are. Most religious people acknowledge they have darker inner passions that affect them. An instructive case is Sazali’s research into incest in Indonesia. Sazali found a mixture of religious zeal alongside widespread incest and


See H. Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995). 37 See R. Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004).


rape. Indeed, Sazali concludes that religion plays no role in stopping people in Indonesia from committing incest and rape.38 Both crude scientific worldview and crude religiosity have no place in any academic discussion. The limitations of the scientific worldview become apparent once we stop comparing it to crude religiosity. Comparative judgements can easily fall into error. For instance, mild water will feel cold in comparison to hot water. This does not mean, however, that we can describe mild water as the equivalent of cold water. While the scientific worldview is superior in comparison to crude religiosity, the scientific worldview in itself contains limitations. If a person genuinely believed positivism, it means 90% of life is meaningless. For example, take this question: “What should I live for?” What entity does this question ask you to point to? What entity does this question ask you to find? The question is a central question to personal living. If a person cannot even think of this question, he cannot even live properly. Yet positivism asserts that the question is meaningless. Such problems with positivism have led to a rich literature of existentialist philosophers criticizing positivism and its lack of relation to life. Izenberg provides a helpful summary of this.39 Empiricism negates morality by equating it with opinion. If this true, it means there is no value in any opinion. If one opinion had more value than another, then that opinion would be better to act upon than another. This is what morality asserts. Since there is no morality, there is no value in any opinion so a problem arises: how can a person decide between two different opinions? Opinions, in this regard, are not facts;

H. Sazali, “Strengthening Communication within the family in anticipating incest behaviour in Tanjung Tiram Subdistrict”, (E-Bangi: Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 2021), Vol, 18, issue,1, 98107. 39 See Chp1 of Izenberg, G.N. The Existentialist Critique of Freud, (Princeton University Press, 2015). 38


rather, opinions are specific ways of acting. If you hold two opinions (that is, two views on how to act), you must choose one opinion in order to act. Yet if you choose one opinion, you will do so thinking this opinion has more value than the other opinion. If there was no value at all, no person could decide how to act at all. Materialism promotes a passive approach to society. It says that society dominates people; however, this can only be true if people are passive to it. For instance, advertising companies can never persuade anyone to buy anything unless that person passively accepts the false promises of the advertisements. If, however, a person had an active mind, he would be able to easily see through the false promises. After all, how can buying a new set of shoes make your life more pleasant? Yet materialism is firmly against the idea of active individuals. Freudianism claims that a person’s childhood experience affects him the most. This presupposes that humans lack the potential to go beyond their limited childhood. If this presupposition is correct, then there is no such thing as self-growth; there is only a perpetual childhood. Without the concept of self-growth, a person’s life will decay. To summarize, this chapter has shown how science and the scientific worldview are not the same. Science is the results of experimentation and discoveries. The scientific worldview is fixing the scientific understanding as the dominant, if not the only, way of dealing with all fields of knowledge, even those that are non-scientific. Science by itself is not sufficient to validate the scientific worldview. This is because the results of experiments rarely, if ever, touch on aspects of life outside the experiments. For the scientific worldview to be validated, non-scientific, i.e. philosophical, positions must be taken. The scientific worldview combines four distinct philosophical traditions: positivism, empiricism, materialism, and Freudianism. Science itself is silent on all


these philosophies. As such, a person can accept science while rejecting the scientific worldview by rejecting these four philosophies without contradicting himself. This research will deal exclusively with the scientific worldview and not with science at all. An objective assessment of the scientific worldview shows that it has many positives and also many negatives. Anyone who recognizes only the positives of the scientific worldview is biased; anyone who recognizes only the negatives is prejudiced. Going beyond positives and negatives, the rest of this research aims to provide a more comprehensive critique of the scientific worldview. The next chapter will map out an alternative way of looking at practical living that is in stark contrast to the scientific worldview.



3.1 THE MEANING OF SOUL Since this research will focus exclusively on Islamic spirituality, it is important to point out that the soul in Islam differs from how it is viewed from other non-Islamic perspectives. There is no onus on proving whether the soul, as envisioned in Islam, is true or whether the soul, as envisioned from non-Islamic perspectives, is true. The research plans to compare and contrast the soul, as Islam sees it, with the scientific worldview. Before advancing on this topic, an important preamble must be taken into account. The scientific worldview, as outlined previously, is a modern phenomenon. The classical scholarship of Islam predates modernity by many centuries. When trying to discuss the scientific worldview and Islamic spirituality, how can one bridge the historical gap between these two areas? An example can be given to illustrate the point. Imam Ibn Qayim’s book Kitāb Al-Ruh contains the classic expression of the soul in Islam. A cursory look at the book’s index will show there is no mention of mechanisation, etc.1 Compare that to Heil’s introduction to the Philosophy of the Mind where there is not a single reference of the journey of the soul, etc. 2 This suggests, at the very least, that discussion of the soul in contemporary times is on a totally different level than that of classical times. The problem remains. How can two distinct fields that deal with the same topic but with a historical gap between them come into fruitful conversation? It may be

1 2

See Ibn Qayim, Kitab Al-Ruh, (Jeddah: Dar ‘Alim Al-Fuad, 2011). See J. Heil, The Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction, (New York: Routledge, 2019).


thought that contemporary Islam can act as a bridge between the two fields. Unfortunately, this is not without its own difficulty. A search on Index Islamicus for articles containing the title ‘scientific worldview’ and the keyword ‘soul’ brings no matches. There is a paucity of scholarly material on the subject matter. This problem is not specific to this research alone, but is a widely recognized matter in Islamic studies. Academics, scholars, and intellectuals today hotly debate and discuss just how the classical tradition of Islam can connect with the challenges of modernity. A diversity of views is on offer, from the likes of Fazlur Rahman, Ali Paya and others.3 Wading into this discussion is outside the scope of this research. Needless to say, some intimations on how to deal with this problem must be stated, so as to bring clarity to the discussion that follows in this chapter. William Stacey Johnson pinpoints Karl Barth, the famous Swiss theologian, as setting the foundation for a ‘postmodern theology’.4 This is because Barth went beyond re-stating theological doctrines and instead emphasized how the ‘mystery of God’ is so rich that different times and different places each have different aspects of the divine in them. With this basis, the birth of the field of postmodern theology occurred. Graham Ward provides a good overview of the field.5 This research situates itself in such a field. Postmodern theology allows this research to interpret classical scholarship in an original manner that answers the very real need for a communication with the scientific worldview. The notion of Ijtihad in Islamic jurisprudence allows for wide-scope rethinking on the soul and its relation to the world in light of the challenges of modernity.


See Fazlur Rahman, Islam and Modernity, (University of Chicago Press, 1984). Ali Paya, Islam, Modernity and a New Millennium, (New York: Routledge, 2019). 4 See W. S. Johnson, The Mystery of God: Karl Barth and the Postmodern Foundations of Theology, (Westminster: John Nox Press, 1997). 5 See Ward, G. (Ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology, (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2004).


When the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] sent Mu’adh to Yemen, the Prophet [pbuh] said, “How will you judge?” Mu’adh said, “I will judge according to the Quran.” The Prophet [pbuh] said, “What if it is not in the Quran?” Mu’adh said, “Then, with the Sunnah.” The Prophet [pbuh] said, “What if it is not in the Sunnah?” Mu’adh said, “Then, I will strive to do ijtihad.” The Prophet [pbuh] said, “All praise is due to Allah.”6 Since the scientific worldview is something not mentioned by classical Islam, due to history, then a proper approach is to deal with it based on ijtihad. Due to this, what follows will be an original position on the soul in Islam, drawn directly from classical Islamic sources, at the same time as relating it directly to the modern phenomenon of the scientific worldview. Such an original position will have one foot in each camp, as it were. To end the preamble, it is necessary to answer a potent question that the reader may be considering: by what authority is this original position justified? Postmodern theology accepts that interpretation is endless. As Hyman recognizes, theology can only hope to deal relevantly with contemporary issues by re-interpretation.7 To a nonMuslim query, it can be said that Muslims have the right to interpret Islam as they choose, based on how they understand Islam to interact with their lives. To a Muslim query, a double response must be given. Either the Muslim will support the classical position in Islam, or he won’t. If he won’t, then he cannot object to the use of ijtihad in this research. If he supports the classical position, then either he will see in it a response to the scientific worldview or not. If he doesn’t see in it a response, then he will have to admit that Islam is unable to defend itself against atheism in the form of the scientific worldview. Such a conclusion contradicts the very essence of the Quran, which is that


Tirmidthi, no: 1327. See G. Hyman, The Predicament of Postmodern Theology: Radical Orthodoxy or Nihilist Textualism? , (Westminster: John Nox Press, 2001). 7


Islam proves Tawhid in all times, and at all places. If he sees in the classical position a response, then he has to admit that some fresh-interpretation needs to be done; since, the classical position is totally silent on positivism, empiricism, materialism, and Freudianism. Once a Muslim acknowledges that some fresh-interpretation of the classical position is needed, then he or she cannot object, in principle, to the freshinterpretations used in this research. It is entirely possible, of course, for some freshinterpretations presented to be wrong. These, however, can only be rejected on a caseby-case basis, after both the classical scholarship and scientific worldview are considered jointly, rather than an evaluation done by only considering the classical scholarship out of the context of the modern challenge. It would help for the reader to keep all this into account as the discussion of the soul proceeds. The scientific worldview denies the soul’s existence via a three-step approach. Firstly, Descartes argued for the radical separateness of mind and body. Secondly, Ryle famously showed how Descartes’ argument is fallacious.8 Ryle said Descartes believed in a “ghost in the machine”. For Ryle, the mind was nothing more than a program that ran the machine of the body. There was no need to invoke non-material (and spiritualized) entities to understand the mind. Thirdly, the complexity of the mind is reduced to neuroscience. Thus, a physical explanation can be given for why two people act in the same situation differently. Following these three steps, the scientific worldview says the soul is an absurdity. The root cause for the denial of the soul is Descartes’s view of the radical separateness of the soul from the body. Aristotle argued the very opposite.9 For Aristotle, the soul and the body were necessarily interconnected. There could be no soul

8 9

See G. Ryle, The Concept of Mind, (London: Routledge, 2009). See Aristotle, On the Soul: and Other Psychological Works, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).


without a body. This view is based on Aristotelian logic applied in a speculative manner to the issue of the soul. It is hard to see how Ryle’s argument against Descartes undermines Aristotle’s position. The closest position to Descartes’s in the Islamic philosophical tradition is that of Ibn Sina’s notion of the “Floating Man”. Indeed, Yaldir considers both arguments to be similar in logic and identical in conclusion.10 Ibn Sina (d.1037CE) argued that if a man popped into existence in a room with no light, and if the man was floating in midair, the man would get no sensory data at all. Despite no sensory data, the floating man will still be aware of himself. Alwishah shows how Latin interpretations of Ibn Sina failed to appreciate the full force of Ibn Sina’s argument; he also showed how Ibn Sina’s argument differed from that of Descartes.11 The crucial distinction between Descartes’ Cogito and Ibn Sina’s Floating Man is this: Descartes concludes that existence is in the Soul, whereas Ibn Sina concludes awareness is in the Soul. Deborah L. Black rightly recognizes that Ibn Sina’s argument (which she calls the ‘Flying Man’) is primarily about awareness.12 For Descartes, the fact a person can notice himself while denying all sensory data proves the soul exists independently from the body. For Ibn Sina, the fact a person can notice himself even if he has no sensory data at all proves the soul has a primary awareness whereas the body has a secondary awareness. Ibn Sina never denied the codependency between soul and body as Descartes did.

H. Yaldir, “Ibn Sînâ (Avicenna) and René Descartes on the Faculty of Imagination”, (British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 2009), Vol 17, issue, 2, 247-278. 11 A. Alwishah, “Ibn Sina on the Floating Man Arguments”, (Journal of Islamic Philosophy, 2013), Vol, 9, 32-53. 12 D. L. Black, Avicenna on Self-Awareness and Knowing that One Knows. In S. Rahman, T. Street, and H. Tahiri. (Eds.), The Unity of Science in the Arabic Tradition: Science, Logic, Epistemology, and their Interactions (2008) ,63-87 Springer. 10


Ibn Sina’s position on the soul can be criticized from within the Islamic tradition. Michot noted how theologians, notably Ibn Taymiya (d.1328CE), had sustained criticisms of Ibn Sina because they viewed him as unorthodox.13 M. B. Wilson adroitly pointed out that the notion of orthodoxy is highly ambiguous, imprecise, and problematic in the context of Islamic studies.14 Due to this, this research will not uphold Islamic orthodoxy. Despite that, the theological orthodox criticism of Ibn Sina allows this research to go beyond the strictures of Ibn Sina’s view when trying to set forth the soul in Islam based on the Quran and Sunnah which contain basically knowledge that can be examined and even measured. In that sense, despite Ibn Sina’s ingenuity in his Floating Man argument, Ibn Sina’s position on the soul will be left aside on grounds that the Quran and Sunnah can provide a different position. The representative view of the soul in Islam was given by Imam Al-Biqa’i (d.1480). He wrote: “The majority of the scholars of Islam consider the soul to be a substance that is different from the physical body. It is an illuminating substance that has life and movement which flows throughout the parts of the physical body. The soul flows through the body just as water flows through a rose.”15 He further adds: “So long as the physical body is in a proper condition to accept this flowing substance, the physical body will gain from it (the soul) life, movement, and sensation. Whenever the physical body turns into a condition where it cannot accept this flowing substance, due to disease or damage, then the flowing substance will leave the physical body, and the person will die.”16

Y. J. Michot, “A MamlŪk Theologian’s Commentary on Avicenna’s RisĀla AḌḤ;awiyya”: Being a Translation of a Part of the Darʾ al-taʿĀruḌ of Ibn Taymiyya, with Introduction, Annotation, and Appendices (Part I. Journal of Islamic Studies, 2003), Vol 14 , issue, 2, 149-203. 14 M. Brett Wilson, The Failure of Nomenclature: The Concept of "Orthodoxy" in the Study of Islam, (Comparative Islamic Studies, 2007), Vol, 3, issue,2, 169-194. 15 Al-. Biqa’I, Kitab Sir Al-Ruh, (Cairo: Maktaba Turath Al-Islami, 1990), p. 4. 16 Ibid. 13


The following discussion will expand on Imam Al-Biqa’i’s ideas by showing supporting texts for them in the Quran and Sunnah, and also by providing an original logical proof for the coherence of such a conception of the soul. The Prophet [pbuh] said, “The devil flows in a human through his blood.”17 Islam emphasizes how the devil poisons the soul of a person; yet, the hadith mentions that the devil actually poisons the blood of a person. This is no contradiction; since, the soul in Islam is akin to a life force that flows through a person’s body. This is further reinforced by the hadith where the Prophet [pbuh] describes the soul leaving the body of the pious man as “Then it (the soul) comes out easily (of the body) as drops of water from the mouth of a waterskin.”18 Here the soul is described as water inside a person. This is also found in the Quran: Even after that, your hearts became as hard as rocks, or even harder, for there are rocks from which streams spring out, and some from which water comes when they split open, and others which fall down in awe of God: He is not unaware of what you do [2:74]. Here the Quran describes the living soul in reference to rivers and springs. This view of the soul differs radically from Descartes. In Descartes, the soul is an entity. In Islam, the soul is a substance. That is why, in Descartes, the soul is stationary whereas in Islam, the soul is moving. In Descartes, the soul does not touch the body. In Islam, the soul moves inside the body. Indeed, the difference between soul and body is not strictly maintained in Islam. The Prophet [pbuh] said: Whenever a man performs his ablution intending to pray and he washes his hands, the sins of his hands fall down with the first drop. When he rinses his mouth and nose, the sins of his tongue and lips fall down with the first drop. When he washes his face, the sins of his hearing and sight fall down with the first drop. When he washes his arms to his elbows and his feet to his ankles, he is purified from every sin and fault like the day he was born from his mother.19 17

Muslim, no: 2174 Abu Dawud, no: 4753 19 Ahmad, no: 21680 18


In this hadith, it is explicit that the water which touches the body is actually touching the soul. As the water cleanses the body, it actually cleanses the soul. Hadiths such as these are too numerous to cite, but the point is worth emphasizing. Due to Descartes, the question philosophers in modern times have been asking is “how does the soul and body interact?” In Islam, that question was never asked because the soul and body were seen to be intertwined with each other so essentially that what happens to the body happens to the soul, and what happens to the soul happens to the body. A logical proof for the coherence of such a conception of the soul is needed. An analogy would be helpful here. Suppose we are growing an apple tree. We water the apple tree and after a while the apple tree produces fruits. It would be irrational to think of the water as distinct from the apple tree. The water given to the apple tree has flowed into the tree and become part of the tree. The dichotomy of ‘water or apple tree’ is a false dichotomy, because the water constitutes the apple tree. Just because X constitutes Y does not mean X is identical with Y. Water constitutes an apple tree, but we cannot say that water is an apple tree. Obviously, the apple tree is more than just water. Thus, constitution does not equal identification. In the same way, in Islam, the soul constitutes the body, but the body is not identical with the soul. This is a logically strict position that allows for the Islamic conception of the soul to not be undermined by claims of absurdity. A person could perhaps argue as follows: if the soul constitutes the body, then since the body is material, then the soul is also material. If so, with the decay of the body comes the decay of the soul, but this contradicts Islamic teachings. In response, the distinction between ‘constitution’ and ‘identification’ needs to be emphasized. Once this distinction is recognized, then Islam’s position of the soul and body being intrinsically united, and the body being different from the soul, becomes coherent.


In the hadith of ablution, washing the body is washing the soul, because the soul constitutes the body. In the hadith on death, the soul leaves the body, because the body is not identical with the soul. This is how we reconcile all the evidences from the Quran and Sunnah. This is also what distinguishes Islam’s view of the soul from Aristotle’s view. Aristotle’s view of the soul has been interpreted in two ways. Fischer expounds St. Aquinas’s interpretation of hylomorphism.20 On this interpretation, the soul is the form while the body is the substance. In Aristotle, the substance is the material whereas the form is how the material is designed. This means, according to St. Aquinas, the soul is the design of the body. If hylomorphism is correct, it means the soul is identical with the body. Johnston mentions the second interpretation of Aristotle’s soul.21 According to her, the majority of commentators understood Aristotle to mean the soul is the capacities in the body. For instance, a person has the capacity to eat. This is the vegetative soul. A person has the capacity to think. This is the intellective soul. Even on this interpretation, the soul is identical with the body. Both interpretations of Aristotle are flawed. St. Aquinas is a Catholic who believes in the soul’s immortality. But if the soul is identical with the body, as hylomorphism argues, then when the body is destroyed so is the soul. Thus St. Aquinas’s view of the soul contradicts the basic tenant of Catholicism. The mainstream view of Aristotle can easily be reduced to absurdity. If the soul is the capacities in a body, then by such definitions, even inanimate objects have a soul. For instance, a car

K. A. Fisher, “Thomas Aquinas on hylomorphism and the in-act principle”, (British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 2017), Vol, 25, issue, 6, 1053-1072. 21 R. Johnston, “Aristotle's De Anima: On Why the Soul is Not a Set of Capacities”, (British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 2011), Vol 19, issue, 2, 185-200. 20


has capacities; yet, no one will venture to say the car has a soul. Islam’s view that the soul is constitutive of the body but not identical with the body bypasses the errors found in Aristotle’s view. Taking together Imam Al-Biqa’i’s position, and the logical proof provided above regarding the soul, a working definition for the soul can be made. Soul: a life-force that flows inside the body and constitutes the body but is not identical with it. The scientific worldview took a three-step approach to denying the soul. The first step is based on Descartes; however, Islam’s view of the soul is against that of Descartes. Ryle’s critique of the soul as a “ghost in the machine” cannot apply to Islam. The soul, in Islam, does not possess the body, but constitutes it. The notion of the soul possessing the body, as Ryle would have it, is as absurd as the notion of water possessing an apple tree. To call the body a “machine” as Ryle does is incoherent in Islam; since, who claims that machines are alive? Despite having machines now that are more advanced than anything, Ryle could have imagined at his time, no one would say these machines are alive. In Islam, the soul is the life-force that has to be in the body to keep it alive. As for neuroscience, then Islam has no problem with it. The Prophet said water touching the body is water touching the soul. In the same way, the neural pathways in our brain are also the neural pathways in our soul. Neuroscience only rejects the soul if the soul is imagined to be separate and distinct from the body, which is not Islam’s position. While nothing said has proved Islam’s view to be true, it does show that the scientific worldview’s refutation of the soul does not seem to be founded on logic; hence, it does not apply to Islam’s view.


3.2 DEFINITION OF TAZKĪYAT AL-NAFS (‫)تزكية النفس‬ Islamic spirituality is called Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬. Before we can understand Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬, however, it is important to differentiate Islamic spirituality from Christian spirituality. This is because, in modern times, spirituality, as an area of study, is based on the model of Christian spirituality, whereas historically, Christian spirituality was only one variant in world spirituality. Christian spirituality found expression in both Nietzsche, the German atheist, and Locke, the British Christian. In his book The Anti-Christ, Nietzsche gives a positive portrayal of Jesus while giving a negative portrayal of the Church.22 In his portrayal of Jesus, Nietzsche expresses the modern view of spirituality. Jesus denied this life (the Kingdom of the World) and embraced the Afterlife (the Kingdom of God). The crucifixion showed how Jesus embodied passivity in living. He did not fight against those who persecuted him. Waldron has shown how Locke’s view of equality of mankind and religious tolerance arose from Locke’s understanding of Christianity.23 Locke saw spirituality in terms of equality and tolerance. To be spiritual is to understand that people should be allowed to do whatever they want so long as it does not harm anyone else (tolerance), and to recognize that no matter what personal choices people make, they will always be human (equality). This view has come to be the status quo of Liberalism. Christian spirituality is understood to mean: world-denial and passivity (Nietzsche), tolerance and equality (Locke). Islamic spirituality does not fit into this.


See F. Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). 23 See J. Waldron, God, Locke, and Equality, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,2008).


Roy Jackson argues that Islam embodies many of Nietzsche’s central themes.24 While Islam came before Nietzsche, the themes that Nietzsche propounded echoes the ideas Muhammad propounded. Jackson notes that Iqbal, the famous poet, considered Nietzsche and Muhammad to be similar thinkers.25 Indeed Iqbal himself praised Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity in his poem Piam-i-Mashriq (‘A Message from the East’).26 To quote Jackson: Like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, Iqbal sees Muhammad as the archetype for a politics of redemption: one who founded a new metaphysic of morals that consisted of courage and honesty; one who cast aside the false idols. Muhammad was the salve for the human predicament of the time: a state of Jahiliyya, of nihilism and decadence…Like Nietzsche, Iqbal saw Christianity as a religion of decadence; elevating the slave-virtues of meekness, humility, compassion, mercy and pity: both an unnatural and impossible moral system.27 In his latest work, Jackson finds a deep affinity between Nietzsche’s notion of the Uberman (‘Superman’) and the Islamic notion of Insān al-kāmil(‘Perfect Man’). Jackson himself uses the term ‘Supermuslim’ to refer to this similitude.28 Jackson’s idea can be further supported by references from the Quran and Sunnah. The Quran says that the Man’s goal is to cultivate life not abandon life: [Prophet], when your Lord told the angels, ‘I am putting a khalifa on earth [2:30]. In the Quran 2:30, the term ‘Khalifa’ means someone who will cultivate life on earth. Thus, the Quran depicts the goal of every person as the cultivation of life. The clearest contrast between Islam’s life-affirmation and Christianity’s life-denial is their views on women. The Prophet [pbuh] said, “Beloved to me in the world are women and


See R. Jackson, Nietzsche and Islam (New York: Routledge, 2007). Ibid., 57. 26 Ibid., 58. 27 Ibid., 57-8. 28 See R. Jackson, Muslim and Supermuslim: The Quest for the Perfect Being and Beyond, (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2020). 25


perfume, and the delight of my eyes is in prayer.”29 The Prophet [pbuh] enjoyed the pleasures of perfume and the company of women whereas Jesus lived and died a celibate. Sexual relations is emphasized and encouraged in Islam, such that an immense literature surrounding it has emerged, especially in classical scholarship. 30 In contrast, Christianity considered sexual relations to be evil and a stain against the soul, as evidenced by St. Jerome arguing that sexual passion must be eliminated totally.31 In the Bible, Jesus says: But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well (Matthew 5: 38-40). A man came to the Prophet [pbuh] and said: “O Prophet, what do you think if a man comes wanting to take my property?” The Prophet [pbuh] said: “Do not give him your property.” He said: “What if he fights me?” The Prophet [pbuh] said: “Fight him.” He said: “What if he kills me?” The Prophet [pbuh] said: “Then you will be a martyr.” He said: “What if I kill him?” The Prophet [pbuh] said: “He will be in Hell.” 32 The Prophet [pbuh] also said: “The one who is killed defending his wealth is a martyr, the one who is killed defending his family is a martyr.”33 In Islam, equality and tolerance are social not spiritual. The Prophet [pbuh] said, “Behold! Verily, you have no virtue over one with white skin or black skin, except by favour of righteousness.”34 As social entities, humans are equal. As spiritual entities, humans differ based on their efforts and actions. The Prophet [pbuh] said, “Verily, part of perfection in Islam is for a person to leave what does not concern him.”35 So long as Nisa’i, no: 3939. See A. Bouhdiba, Sexuality in Islam, (New York: Routledge,2012). 31 G. Viden, St. Jerome on female chastity: Subjugating the elements of desire, (Symbolae Osloenses, 1998), Vol, 73, issue,1,139-157. 32 Muslim, no: 140. 33 Abu Dawud, no: 4772 34 Ahmad, no: 20885 35 Tirmidthi, no: 2318 29 30


others are not harming you, you must tolerate what they do, because their actions are of no concern to you. This is tolerance as social behavior. The Prophet [pbuh] said, “Verily, Allah has sent me with the perfection of noble morals and completion of good deeds.”36 Spiritual perfection is aiming for completeness. Social perfection is tolerating other people’s incompleteness. The notion that spirituality is not equal in people is evident from the Quran. Three examples can be given: •

Or do those who commit evils think We will make them like those who have believed and done righteous deeds - [make them] equal in their life and their death? Evil is that which they judge [45:21]

Is the blind equivalent to the seeing? Then will you not give thought? [6:50]

Are those who know equal to those who do not know? Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding [39:9] In addition to this, the basic concepts of Paradise and Hell in the Quran, and the

different levels in both of them, point that people are not equal in spiritual terms. Based on this comparison, Islamic spirituality can be seen to cultivate life not abandon life, to reject harm not accept it, to recognize betterment not advocate homogenization, to aim for perfection and not accept the standard norm. These characteristics of Islamic spirituality are important to re-emphasize. The soul, in Islam, is not exclusively for the spiritual; rather, the soul is connected to the cultivation of the current life. This places Islamic spirituality in a unique position between two extremes. Christian self-denial says we should live for the Afterlife exclusively. Materialistic values say we should live for the current life exclusively.37 Islamic spirituality says the soul cultivates this life as means of attaining the Afterlife.

36 37

Tabarani, no: 7073 T. Kasser, Materialistic Values and Goals, (Annual Review of Psychology, 2016), Vol, 67, 489-514.


Thus, Islamic spirituality can accommodate the best of both extremes without succumbing to their pitfalls. Islamic spirituality enjoins an active attempt to rebuff any harm that may affect you. It is a common misunderstanding, arising due to Christian spirituality, that to be spiritual, a person must become passive and accept whatever happens to him even if it is of the utmost harm. It is commonly viewed that the spiritual struggle is internal to Man. This is the Christian spiritual position, on which the Marxist critique of religion was focused on. Indeed, Lenin himself noted that “it is quite natural for the exploiters to sympathize with a religion that teaches people to bear ‘uncomplainingly’ the hell on earth for the sake of an alleged celestial paradise.”38 It cannot be said that Lenin’s criticism applies to the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] who led a successful revolt against Makkah, the merchant elites of Arabia, in the name of religion. In Islam, the spiritual struggle is external to Man; it is Man struggling against Others. The passivity of Christian spirituality easily lends itself to Learned Helplessness, a pernicious type of psychology. This was pointed out by Freud who saw religion as “infantile helplessness”.39 Such a trait is absent from the religiosity embodied by what S. Sayyid calls “Imperial Islam” with its 100-year civilizational expansion.40 By rejecting spiritual equality, Islam endorses the notion of spiritual progress. If everyone is equal, then no one can progress at all. For progress to be possible, there must be a notion of ascendency. When taken seriously, spiritual equality devalues itself into an inferiority complex or into an excuse for laziness.41 Islamic spiritualty does not have these flaws.


D. B. McKown, The Classical Marxist Critiques of Religion, (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975),106. D. T. Kenny, God, Freud, and Religion, (New York: Routledge, 2015), 52. 40 S. Sayyid, Empire, Islam, and the Postcolonial. In G. Huggan (Eds.), (Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies: Oxford University Press, 2016), 131. 41 T. Stern, Nietzsche’s Ethics, (Cambridge University Press, 2020), 21. 39


Because tolerance in Islam is social, it is never personal. By that, it is meant that Islamic spirituality wants the personal to aim for perfection. The Prophet [pbuh] said, “Verily, Allah has prescribed excellence in everything. If you have to kill, kill in the best manner. If you have to slaughter, slaughter in the best manner. Let one of you sharpen his knife, so his animal is spared of suffering.”42 The word for ‘Ihsan’ in the hadith means both excellence and perfection. If Allah expects perfection in slaughtering an animal for food, then Allah also expects perfection in how we live our lives. Even if perfection is an Ideal that can never be reached, it can still be a potent end-goal for orienteering spiritual progress. Without an end-goal, spiritual progress will be confused wanderings, which is why Islam posits reaching Allah as an end-goal for spiritual progress. A person must tolerate the imperfections in Others but never tolerate his own personal imperfections. That is why Islam emphasizes Tawbah (repentance) for the individual, whereby a person’s imperfections can be improved upon. The notion of personal toleration, which Christian spirituality encourages, usually erases any critical stance a person will have towards himself. It rejects any need for Tawbah for the individual. The key terms for a definition of Islamic spirituality are now clear. There is ‘cultivation of life,’ ‘external struggle with others,’ ‘spiritual progress’, and ‘the endgoal of perfection’. A working definition for Islamic spirituality may be explained: Islamic Spirituality: the cultivation of life as both physical and spiritual progress while internally exerting and externally struggling with others in order to reach the endgoal of perfection.


Muslim, no. 1955.


Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬is the Arabic word given to Islamic Spirituality. Ordinarily, Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬is translated into English as “Purification of the Soul”. Such a translation is problematic on three counts. Firstly, translations are never definitions. Secondly, words in English have significances totally different from the same words in Arabic. For instance, “the Soul” in English refers to something totally different from the body whereas “Al-Nafs” (‫ )النفس‬in Arabic refers, many times, directly to the body. The Quran says: People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single Nafs(‫)النفس‬, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women far and wide; be mindful of God, in whose name you make requests of one another. Beware of severing the ties of kinship: God is always watching over you [4:1]. As is known, Eve was created from a rib of Adam in the Islamic narrative. Thus, by Nafs, (‫ )النفس‬in this ayah, the Quran refers to the body. Thirdly, any translation of the term Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬will ignore the context of modernity, and the prevalence of the Christian spiritual model on the study of spirituality. The nontranslated definition for Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬gives a clearer and more accurate picture of Islamic spirituality than the usual translated definition does.

3.3 DIFFERENT TYPES OF TAZKĪYAT AL-NAFS (‫)تزكية النفس‬ Islamic spirituality has many forms and types. To get a glimpse of the breadth and depth of Islamic spirituality, three different types will be discussed. After that, the main components of the different types of Islamic spirituality will be distilled. In order to shed more light on the uniqueness of these components, Islamic spirituality will be briefly compared to Self-Help, Popular Philosophy, and Business Management theories of action.


Ibn Al-Jawzi (d.1201CE) wrote a book called Tib Al-Ruhani.43 The word ‘Tib’ in Arabic means ‘Medicine’. In the book, Ibn Al-Jawzi discusses various ‘Diseases of the Soul’ and provides the ‘Spiritual Medicine’ for them. The foundation of his discussion is the difference between the Mind (‘Aql) and Impulses (Hawa). Ibn AlJawzi argues that the Mind carefully considers options, whereas Impulses are erratic and unstable. He says it is best to live according to the Mind rather than to live according to Impulses. The problem, as Ibn Al-Jawzi sees it, is how deeply people have got used to Impulses. These Impulses have become a Mentality. For instance, whenever a person has to make an important decision, he already has chosen an option even before thinking over the decision, because his Mentality makes him choose based on feelings rather than reasons. Ibn Al-Jawzi sees Islamic spirituality as the process of changing this Mentality. The list of diseases and cures are thorough. For instance, Ibn Al-Jawzi speaks of how anger distorts our ability to make the right choices. In many scenarios, people in anger resort to violent outbursts. The root cause of this is the notion that violent outbursts is a sign of strength, i.e., a positive trait. The Prophet [pbuh] said, “The strong is not the one who overcomes people by his strength; rather, the strong is the one who controls himself in anger.”44 Ibn Al-Jawzi notes how the Prophet [pbuh] attempted to change people’s Mentality. Instead of people thinking of strength as losing control violently, people should think of strength as keeping control calmly. Islamic spirituality, from Ibn Al-Jawzi’s perspective, is rectifying a Mentality based on Impulse and allowing the Mind to dictate how a person should live his life.


See Ibn Al-Jawzi, Disciplining the Soul, (Ayman Khalid, translator). (Birmingham, England: Dar AsSunnah,2012). 44 Bukhari, no: 5763


Technically speaking, Ibn Al-Jawzi does not deal exclusively with psychological issues. For instance, Ibn Al-Jawzi discusses Envy and how a person can cure himself from it. Envy, as is known, is no psychological illness. Thus by ‘Diseases of the Soul’ Ibn AlJawzi was not referring to ‘Psychological Aberrations’. Farid Attar (d.1221 CE), in his epic poem, describes Islamic spirituality.45 There are many varied interpretations of Attar, most notable that of Hellmut Ritter.46 Lewison and Shackle provide an insightful collection of different interpretations. 47 Despite that, a more original, and helpful, interpretation can be given. Attar’s vision of Islamic spirituality is that of a journey towards the Ideal King. When a person reaches the end of his journey and finds the Ideal King, he recognizes that the Ideal King is him and he is the Ideal King. In other words, the end-goal of Islamic spirituality is understanding that the Ideal is the real. This can be explained practically. The Ideal is what a person hopes for; the real is what a person has. For the Ideal, a person expects more. He wishes he can have more than he already has. For the real, a person feels let down. What he actually has is not good enough for him. This position is the basic stance any person would take. Farid Attar says spiritual perfection arises when a person recognizes that what he is in reality is the ideal he had always hoped for. In other words, the ideal (the more) and the real (the actual) are identical with each other. At such a stage, a person acquires the trait of Ridha (acceptance). The trait of Ridha is when a person happily accepts what he has and does not wish for more.


See F. Attar, The Conference of Birds, (London: Penguin, 1984). See H. Ritter, The Ocean of the Soul, (Leiden: Brill,2003). 47 See L. Lewisohn and C. Shackle (Eds.), Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition, (New York: Bloomsbury, 2019). 46


The difficulty, Farid Attar sees, is that Ridha cannot be automatically gained. If a person does not make a journey seeking the Ideal, he will never appreciate the real. To make the discussion more tangible, the analogy with geographical travel can be used. Only if a person travelled to a different country, other than his place of birth, will a person recognize how special his home town is. If he never left his home town, he will never appreciate what is so special about it. In a similar way, it can be understood that Farid Attar urges people to make the journey to seek the ideal even though the journey ends at its very beginning with the real. To expound on this by using copious citations from Attar is beyond the scope of this research; since, the aim is to give a brief glimpse of different spiritual systems in Islam, not to describe them in detail. Izutsu did a comparative study between Sufism and Taoism.48 In this study, Izutsu points to Ibn Arabi’s schema of Islamic spirituality that resembles Taoism. For Ibn Arabi (d.1240 CE), Islamic spirituality is a continuous chain of affirmation and negation. For instance, a person must affirm patience only to then negate patience. Affirming patience is called Sabr. Negating patience is called Shukr (gratitude). By affirming patience, a person resists what he dislikes. By negating patience, a person embraces what he dislikes. Ibn Arabi used this schema for the entirety of Islamic spirituality. As Izutsu pointed out, this schema resembles Taoism’s approach of paradoxical contradictions. Ibn Arabi’s schema of Islamic spirituality emphasizes continuous movement. Standard moral theories posit that goodness is when a person achieves virtue. This means there is a “cap” or limit to which a person can reach. Once he achieves virtue, there is nothing else apart from keeping that virtue. Ibn Arabi’s schema rejects this.


See T. Izutsu, Sufism and Taoism, (California: University of California,2016).


After virtue is affirmed, it must be negated. After goodness is gained, it must be negated. Negating virtue is when you recognize that the virtue you do is actually a vice in disguise. In Islamic spirituality this is called Riya, or showing off. A person can start the habit of giving charity once a week. This is affirming virtue. Later he recognizes that he gives charity because he likes how people see him giving charity. This is negating virtue. Doing good is the realization you are doing extra. You are doing what others do not do. Negating good is when you recognize that your extra acts are actually obligations on you. A person may start visiting his old mother once a month. Before he visited her only once every three years. As he visits her every month, he feels he is doing good. After a while, he recognizes how his mother was lonely and in pain by herself all the past years; so, he notices that visiting her every month is a duty upon him. He is not doing something extra. He is doing something necessary. Understanding Ibn Arabi’s schema allows us to differentiate Islamic spirituality from standard moral theories of action. Many commentators have interpreted Ibn Arabi. Henry Corbin provides a standard perspective on him.49 W. C. Chittick provides a different view.50 Ian Almond provides a fascinating comparison between Ibn Arabi’s affirmation-negation and Derrida’s Deconstructionism.51 Reza Shah-Kazemi sees in Ibn Arabi a view of transcendence similar to that of Shankara and Meister Eckhart.52 While all these diverse views have merit, the original interpretation provided above of Ibn Arabi fits more

See H. Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sūfism of Ibn 'Arabī, (Princeton University Press,1998). 50 See W. C. Chittick, Ibn Arabi: Heir To The Prophets, (London: Oneworld Publication, 2005). 51 See I. Almond, Sufism and Deconstruction: A Comparative Study of Derrida and Ibn 'Arabi, (New York: Routledge, 2009). 52 See R. Shah-Kazemi, Paths to Transcendence: According to Shankara, Ibn 'Arabi, and Meister Eckhart, (Indiana: World Wisdom Books, 2006). 49


closely to Chapters 74-189 of Futuhat Al-Makiya, as is clear from the content list Ibn Arabi provided.53 Ibn Al-Jawzi, Farid Attar, and Ibn Arabi all present different types of Islamic spirituality. Ibn Al-Jawzi presents Islamic spirituality as making decisions based on the Mind and not on Impulse. Farid Attar presents Islamic spirituality as a journey that ends with Ridha, Contentment. Ibn Arabi presents Islamic spirituality as a never-ending affirmation and negation. Despite the differences in these three types of Islamic spirituality, they all are based on similar components. The Soul is the centre for all these positions. God is important but not for the reasons modern people assume. In Ibn Al-Jawzi, God is the decisions made when the Mind is not distorted by Impulse. This is because in Islam, God is called Al-Haq (the Truth), and truth exists only where the Mind is not confused by Impulses. In Farid Attar, God is the Ideal. That is why people have infinite hope. A person hopes for a car. When he gets it, he finds the car is not enough for him; so, he hopes for a house. Once he gets a house, even that is not enough for him; so, he hopes for something more, etc. Even if every hope a person had was fulfilled, he would still hope for more. Thus, humans are naturally inclined to hope for the infinite. And this is why human hope points towards God, which is the Ideal. In Ibn Arabi, God is what exists beyond affirmation and negation. Due to God’s existence, the chain of affirmation and negation never ends, because God can never be encompassed by humans. As the Quran says {There is nothing liken unto Him} (42:11).


Ibn Arabi, Futuhat Al-Makiya, (Beirut: Dar Al-Kutub Al-Ilmiya, 2003), Vol, 1 ,29-33.


Without the concept of Soul (Individual Spirit) and God (Absolute Spirit), these three types of Islamic spirituality would not function at all. There are numerous types of Islamic spirituality; however, the examples of Ibn Al-Jawzi, Farid Attar, and Ibn Arabi suffice to give a sample of how wide the field is. To make the uniqueness of Islamic spirituality more clear, Islamic spirituality will be compared with three other areas that emphasize theories of action in living. Peterson wrote the most famous Self-Help book in contemporary times. He titled his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.54 Peterson provides twelve rules by which a person should organize his life around. By following these rules, Peterson says, a person will be able to solve the chaos in his personal life and find coherence and meaning and value in how he lives. On first glance, this looks similar to Islamic spirituality. On second glance, the differences become obvious. Self-Help tips on organizing your life can help improve your efficiency in living. Efficiency, however, is not enough to solve personal chaos. Take for instance a college student who does not know what career he should pursue. When he enters university, he randomly chooses a degree in economics. He does not study economics because he likes it; he studies it because he does not know what he likes or dislikes. Despite this, he achieves high grades, accolades, and even a scholarship. His efficiency in studies allowed him to get all this. Yet he is still confused. In this example, efficiency in living cannot solve the problem of indecision. That is, no matter how efficient you live, this efficiency will not give you the answer of what you should live for. Peterson’s twelve rules can help a person organize his life, but it cannot help a person find a solution to indecision. Islamic spirituality, on the other hand,


See J. B. Peterson, 12 Rules of Life: An Antidote to Chaos, (London: Penguin,2019).


can. Farid Attar’s journey for the Ideal King is a helpful answer to the problem of indecision. De Botton’s work is considered as one of the most famous popular philosophical books in modern times.55 In his book, De Botton tries to show how popularized philosophy can solve life’s problems. Unlike Peterson’s book which has a certain shallowness, De Botton’s book exhibits depth because his medium is philosophy and not Self-Help. Existential issues are discussed and solved by De Botton without needing to resort to any spiritualized concepts. Popular Philosophy, it seems, could hold the benefits of Islamic Spirituality without needing either the Soul or God. A closer look shows De Botton’s approach is different than that of Islamic spirituality. In Ibn Arabi, for instance, living is seen as a continuous movement of affirmation and negation. In De Botton, living is a matter of static problems that need fixed solutions. The view of life that Ibn Arabi provides is fluid, whereas the view of life that De Botton provides is solid. Abdul Haleem has examined the central feature of Iltifat (changing from one Arabic grammatical form to another abruptly) in the Quranic language.56 Iltifat is grammatical shifts in mid-verse. For instance, an ayah could discuss future events using the past tense. As Abdul Haleem showed, such grammatical shifts play an important role in the rhetorical power of the Quranic language. It can be added that Iltifat also allows readers of the Quran to phonetically (during recitation) experience the everchanging aspect of life. In life, there is no step-by-step progression. There are no clearcut distinct stages. There is only constant change. When the Quran describes future events using the past tense, the Quran captures how people usually have different parts


See A. De Botton, Consolation of Philosophy, (London: Penguin,2001). M. A. S. Abdul-Haleem, Grammatical Shift for Rhetorical Purposes: Iltifat and related features in the Quran, (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1992), Vol, 55, issue,3, 407-432. 56


of their life interposing onto them simultaneously rather than sequentially. This Quranic principle, of constant change, is what allows Ibn Arabi to see life as an unstable nonstop cycle of affirmation and negation. In contrast, De Botton explains life in a very sober and static manner. Peter Drucker, a pioneer in Business Management argues that theories in Business Management are effective for personal self-development.57 What can help a small company start-up become a multi-billion dollar company can surely help one man find satisfaction in life. From Ibn Al-Jawzi’s perspective, the problem with Drucker’s self-development scheme is obvious. Drucker argues that the Business Management Mentality should be adopted by a person in his daily life. Ibn Al-Jawzi recognized that Impulses often come from environmental stimulus, such as bad friends. He argued that the Mind could only work properly if these Impulses, with environmental origins, were erased. Taking a cue from Ibn Al-Jawzi, it can be said that Drucker’s theory fails because it does not affirm the independence of the Mind from the pressures of the board-room environment. In other words, Drucker asks people to make decisions based on the pressures of their environment rather than based on their independent thought. Such a decision-making view erases the function of the Mind. The areas of Self-Help, Popular Philosophy, and Business Management are mentioned because when most people think of improving their living, these three areas, in addition to Christian spirituality, is the main source that people consult. Having compared this source with Islamic spirituality, the uniqueness of Islamic spirituality will have been made clearer.


See P. F. Drucker, Managing Oneself, (Harvard: Harvard Business Review Press, 2008).


3.4 FRESH INTERPRETATION OF TAZKĪYAT AL-NAFS (‫ )تزكية النفس‬AS PRACTICAL LIVING There is a pressing need to gain a fresh understanding of Islamic spirituality. This is because Muslims living in the modern era need fresh thinking. They have also devalued traditional interpretations. To fully understand the context of this modern malaise, Mawdudi can be useful. Mawdudi argued that the central Quranic terminologies have, over time, lost their true meanings, and instead Muslims narrow these terminologies in such a way as to distort the basics of the Quranic message.58 Regarding the concept of ‘Ibadah (‘worship’), Mawdudi has this to say: …the restriction of the meaning of the term…amounts to placing a limitation on the d’awah of the Qur’an and the logical result of this would be that those who embrace the Islamic faith with such a restricted understanding of the Qur’anic d’awah will be able to achieve only a substandard compliance with its precepts and will remain defective in their Iman.59 To expand on this point, most Muslims nowadays think of worship in terms of the daily prayers. It seems self-evident, for such Muslims, that such things as entertainment is not worship in any serious sense. In contrast, the Prophet [pbuh] regarded entertainment and enjoyment to be an important form of worship. The Prophet [pbuh] said, “Has not Allah made for you ways to give charity? In every glorification of Allah is charity, in every declaration of his greatness is charity, in every praise of him is charity, in every declaration of his oneness is charity, enjoining good is charity and forbidding evil is charity, and in a man’s intimate relations with his wife is charity.” They said, “O Prophet, is there a reward for one who satisfies his

58 59

See A. A. Maududi, Four Key Concepts of the Quran, (Markfield: The Islamic Foundation,2006). Ibid., p. 26-27.


passions?” The Prophet [pbuh] said, “You see that if he were to satisfy his passions with the unlawful, it would be a burden of sin upon him? Likewise, if he were to satisfy himself with the lawful, he will have a reward.”60 Thus, fulfilling your passions is considered a type of worship. Due to Muslims restricting the notion of worship to such things as the daily prayers, they automatically exclude large areas of their lives from being ‘Ibadah. For instance, most Muslims would never consider travelling in the summer holiday as worship, even though the Quran mentions {travel across the land} fourteen different times.61 The summer holidays is usually the culmination of a person’s work throughout the year. Such a momentous annual occasion can easily be considered as worship if the Quran is followed; however, in the mentality of Muslims today, such an occasion is unrelated to Islam, because it is not worship, as they understand the term in its highly restrictive sense. The first element to consider in re-interpreting Islamic spirituality will be in establishing it outside the restrictiveness that the notion of worship entails among many Muslims. Ibn Jawzi, in his book Talbis Iblis, has an entire chapter titled: ‘The Devil’s Deception of the Masses’. The concept of ‘masses’ (‘awam) is important, because it refers to the majority of Muslims excluding the scholarly class. In the chapter, Ibn Jawzi makes a very subtle observation. Ibn Jawzi wrote: “From the devil’s deception of the masses is that they immerse themselves in sins, and when anyone rebukes them, they justify themselves using the words of apostates (zindiq).”62 Ibn Jawzi penned this while in the Islamic civilization where there were no viable alternative ideologies for an average Muslim to choose from, apart from Islam. Now in the 21st century, with the


Muslim, no. 1006. Quran 3:137, 6:11, 12:109, 16:36, 22:46, 27:69, 29:20, 30:9, 30:42, 34:18, 35:44, 40:21, 40:81, 47:10. 62 Ibn Al-Jawzi, Talbis Iblis, (Beirut: Dar Al-Qalam, 1982), 377. 61


neo-liberal hegemony, and the atheistic dogma universalized in the name of secularism, the problem of the masses, as Ibn Jawzi called it, is even more pronounced. The very concept of piety is nowadays rejected by many Muslims with arguments and disputations that resemble atheistic and agnostic skepticism. Based on this, using piety as an element in Islamic spirituality in the modern era will fail, at least where the majority of Muslims are concerned. Unfortunately, it is not possible to give precise documentation of the widespread depredations practiced amongst Muslims. This is because such issues are considered taboo and kept silent on, whereas most people in society are aware of what is going on. Whenever piety is mentioned in reference to such transgressions, most Muslims will either ignore it, or respond by way of atheistic or agnostic skeptical manners. While this problem existed in Ibn Jawzi’s time, it is more problematic now, given that diverse alternative lifestyles are on offer to every Muslim via the internet and social media. One way to support the above assertions about Muslims is to see the Poet Kabir’s scathing depiction of Muslims in his time. For Kabir, the way the majority of Muslims act is exactly the same way the majority of Hindus act, with no difference at all except in rituals and phrases. For instance, Kabir pointedly notes: Saints, I've seen both ways. Hindus and Muslims don't want discipline, they want tasty food. The Hindu keeps the eleventh-day fast eating chestnuts and milk. He curbs his grain but not his brain and breaks his fast with meat. The Turk prays daily, fasts once a year, and crows "God! God!" like a cock. What heaven is reserved for people who kill chickens in the dark? For kindness and compassion they've cast out all desire. One kills with a chop, one lets the blood drop, in both houses burns the same fire.


Turks and Hindus have one way, the guru's made it clear. Don't say Ram, don't say Khuda. So, says Kabir.63 While being a literary reference, the truth of Kabir’s observation is even more true in contemporary times, when the distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim in behavior almost doesn’t exist, apart from such items as clothing and phrases spoken. This notion is further supported by another literary reference. The Poet Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938 CE) wrote: The word is out— the Muslims have all but gone. We ask— were they even there? Your lifestyles ape the Nazarenes, your ways are the ways of the Hindus, Muslims like you would put to shame the Jews. You call yourselves Sayyads and Mirzas and Afghans, you call yourselves everything, dare you call yourselves Musalman?64 The second element in fresh-interpreting Islamic spirituality will be to bypass the problem of piety among the majority of Muslims. It won’t do to say that piety must be enforced onto Muslims when such enforcement will only lead to a growing sense of zandaqa (apostasy). Another path must be found. So far, two elements of the fresh-interpretations have been mentioned. Islamic spirituality cannot be understood as worship; since, worship, nowadays, among Muslims, excludes the majority of daily life. Also, Islamic spirituality cannot be seen as a form of piety, because any evocation of piety causes a worse reaction among many Muslims, with them resorting to atheistic and agnostic reasoning to justify their lifestyle. The third element is demystification. The Quran says: And they ask you, [O Muhammad], about the soul. Say, "The soul is of the affair of my Lord. And mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little" [17:85] 63 64

L. Hess and S. Sing. (trans.), The Bijak of Kabir, (Oxford University Press, 2002), 46. M. Iqbal, Taking Issue and Allah’s Answer, (London: Penguin, 2012), 122.


The above ayah argues that it is not the jurisdiction of human reason to speculate about the nature of the soul. Here the Quran explicitly says that most discussions of the soul have no basis in truth. By this, the Quran refers to the mystification that entrap discussions of the soul. For instance, a person could spend his entire life searching for the true nature of the soul while he ignores that his own living is not moral let alone spiritual. For Islamic spirituality to be relevant, all mystifications must be rejected outright. A problem arises at this point. If very little about the soul can be known, then how can the soul be important to anyone’s life. The solution to this problem was found by Muhammad Asad.65 It is necessary to quote him at length: This fundamental position (of spirituality) is common to all great religions, whatever may be their specific doctrines; and equally common to all of them is the moral appeal to man to surrender himself to the manifest Will of God. But Islam, and Islam alone, goes beyond this theoretical explanation and exhortation. It not only teaches us that all life is essentially a unity - because it proceeds from the Divine Oneness - but it shows us also the practical way by which everyone of us can reproduce, within the limits of his individual, earthly life, the unity of Idea and Action both in his existence and in his consciousness. To attain that supreme goal of life man is, in Islam, not compelled to renounce the world; no austerities are required to open a secret door to spiritual purification: no pressure is exerted upon the mind to believe in incomprehensible dogmas in order that salvation be secured. Such demands are utterly foreign to Islam: for it is neither a mystical doctrine nor a philosophy. It is simply a program of life in accord with the "laws of nature" which God has decreed upon His creation; and its supreme achievement is a complete coordination of the spiritual and the material aspects of human existence. In the teachings of Islam, both these aspects are not only " reconciled" to each other in the sense of leaving no inherent conflict between the bodily and the moral existence of man, but the fact of their coexistence and -actual-inseparability is insisted upon as the natural basis of life (p.17-18).


See M. Asad, Islam at the Crossroads, (Gibraltar: Dar Al-Andalus,1990).


Asad sees the uniqueness of Islamic spirituality in it being a “practical way” and a “program of life” that brings together a “complete coordination of the spiritual and the material aspects of human existence.” In other words, the soul is important in Islam for practical living and not for mystification. This practical perspective on Islam is furthermore justified by the immense scholarly literature, both classical and modern, that highlight in copious details how the biography (Seerah) of the Prophet [pbuh] can be used as a blue-print for dealing with all aspects of life. There is Ibn Qayim’s majestic book Provisions of the Hereafter, where he discusses the prophetic advice on all things ranging from the best diets to the best marital etiquettes.66 There is also Al-Suyuti’s book on the Medicine of the Prophet.67 Both works are from the classical heritage. There is Muhammad Al-Ghazali’s book Fiqh Al-Seerah that considers the practical lessons to be learnt from the Prophet’s life.68 There is also Fazlur Rahman who found in the Sunnah resemblances to modern medicine.69 Both works are from the modern literature. The combined view these works provide is that the Prophet’s life was practical, and that by studying his life in-depth, readers will be able to learn practical solutions to their daily problems in life. For this reason, Assad’s view of Islam as a religion that emphasizes practicality is not an idiosyncratic view held only by him; rather, his view is supported by the mass of classical and modern literature regarding the biography of prophet [pbuh]. The three elements are now set to allow a fresh-interpretation of Islamic spirituality.


See Ibn Qayim, Provisions of the Hereafter, (Riyadh: Dar Al-Salam,2003). See Al-. Suyuti, Medicine of the Prophet, (London: Ta Ha Publishers, 1994). 68 See Al-. M Ghazali, Fiqh Al-Seerah, (Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House,1999). 69 See Fazlur Rahman, Health and Medicine in the Islamic Tradition, (New York: ABC International Group. ,1998). 67


For most Muslims nowadays, Islamic spirituality is a matter of worship, whereby most of life is excluded, that brings piety, that evokes skepticism among Muslims, based on mystification on the subject of the soul. Fresh-Interpretation: Islamic spirituality is practical living using reasoning in personal life. On the face of it, the fresh-interpretation does seem sparse. A person, for instance, could easily exchange the word ‘Islamic spirituality’ with ‘Stoic Philosophy’ and the fresh-interpretation will be unchanged. This proves that the fresh-interpretation is missing something. The solution to fixing this shortcoming is to combine this fresh-interpretation with the definition of Islamic spirituality given in section 3.2. In that definition, there was reference to ‘spiritual progress’ and ‘end-goal of perfection’. In the freshinterpretation, no such notions can be noticed. Therefore, an improved freshinterpretation would be: Fresh-Interpretation of Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬: practical living using reasoning in personal life with reference to spiritual categories. The “reference to spiritual categories” allows for the Soul and God to be included in the fresh-interpretation without undermining the practical and reasoning notions. Categories are not entities. Reasoning deals with categories. Practical actions can be done in accord with categories. At the same time, categories do not assert an independence from the practical and the reasoning. Thus, based on the freshinterpretation, it is not necessary for either the Soul or God to be proven true, for Islamic spirituality to function. An analogy is helpful here. In mathematics, there is the category of Irrational Numbers. This category includes numbers that cannot be written by any ratio or


fraction. In other words, these are numbers that cannot in any sense exist in real-life. Yet Irrational Numbers play an important role in mathematics as a means of solving complex mathematical problems. If a mathematician were to reject Irrational Numbers as non-existent, he would be unable to solve many mathematical equations, and he will be stuck. Another feature of mathematics is calculus. In calculus, the notion of ‘limits’ is essential. A limit in calculus is where the value of a function approaches, but never actually reaches. In other words, the limit in calculus is a number that can never be proven by the function itself. If a mathematician were to reject limits as unprovable, the entire calculus would become useless. Both Irrational Numbers and Limits in mathematics are strictly non-existent; yet, they are essential categories (or postulates) for mathematical reasoning to be smooth. In the same way, in the new fresh-interpretation of Islamic spirituality, the Soul and God are spiritual categories, among others, that are essential to reasoning on practical living. Whether or not the Soul or God actually exists is irrelevant. The approach taken here regarding spiritual concepts is similar to what has been termed ‘religious fictionalism’. This is the view, as Malcom and Scott explain, where religious propositions are taken as practically valuable even if they are fictional in content.70 Far from undermining religiosity, this approach can be used to support religiosity even more, as Alberta Oya shows.71 Fictionalism itself is not special-pleading on the part of religiosity. Mathematical fictionalism is the best explanation for the efficiency of mathematics alongside its lack of empirical existence. 72 Science itself is


F. Malcom and M. Scott, Faith, Belief, and Fictionalism, (Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 2017), Vol, 98, issue,1, 257-274. 71 See A. Oya, Unamuno's Religious Fictionalism, (New York: Palgrave MacMillan,2020). 72 O. Bueno, Mathematical Fictionalism. In O. Bueno, and Ø. Linnebo (Eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Mathematics (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,2009), 59-79.


based on many fictions in order for it to function at all.73 This position allows Islamic spirituality to deal with practicality without needing any justification for the truth, or lack of, in the spiritual categories it uses. Because the fresh interpretation of Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬is unique, the following section will attempt to explain the fresh-interpretation by giving concrete examples that embody this new approach to Islamic spirituality. This will allow the reader to better appreciate the originality of the new framework that this research is attempting to construct.

3.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF FRESH INTERPRETATION OF TAZKĪYAT ALNAFS (‫)تزكية النفس‬ To understand the significance of this original approach to Islamic spirituality the fresh interpretation will be contrasted with the more traditional view of Islamic spirituality. This contrast will show how unique the fresh interpretation is, while also highlighting the departure it has from the traditional view. Most Muslims are aware of the traditional view, because it is ubiquitous in contemporary Muslim societies. Most Muslims today are aware that the traditional view gives priority first and foremost to the halal/haram dichotomy. This can be seen in the common place utterances, such as, ‘is this halal?’ or ‘is this haram?’. A good example of this prioritization is Dr. Saalih ibn Ghaanim al-Sadlaan, the famous Saudi Arabian scholar. In the introduction to his book, its translator, Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo, wrote that: “It should be noted that this work was first written with the intention that it would be translated as a basic introductory work on fiqh for the Islamic republics that formerly


See M. Saurez (Eds.), Fictions in Science: Philosophical Essays on Modelling and Idealization, (New York: Routledge,2008).


formed part of the U.S.S.R.”74 A little later, Zarabozo writes: “it was decided to publish this book because it can be excellent as a textbook for workshops and schools, as well as a primer for new Muslims.”75 The book then discusses Fiqh including such things as business transactions, legally binding contracts, etc. Two observations can be made here. Firstly, countries formerly under the U.S.S.R. were steeped in decades long atheism, as is well-known from the Soviet Union. Secondly, new Muslims still carry the cultural values of their non-Muslim societies. In both cases, it can be seriously doubted if such people should emphasize Fiqh instead of Iman. Aisha (R) said: “Verily, the first verses to be revealed were from the shorter chapters at the end of the Quran. In them is mentioned Paradise and Hellfire, until people were firmly established upon Islam and verses of lawful and unlawful were revealed. If the first verse to be revealed was ‘do not drink wine,’ they would have said, ‘we will never stop drinking wine.’ And if the first verse to be revealed was ‘do not commit adultery,’ they would have said, ‘we will never stop committing adultery.’”76 Issues of Iman come first, while issues of Fiqh come later. This is the very structure of the Quran itself. It is the ethical and rational approach to the Quran that persuades the reader rather than imposes itself onto the reader. The basis for Al-Sadlaan and Zarabozo’s book is superfluous. In matters of business transactions, legally binding contracts, etc., the Fiqh rulings do not matter at all, because the only accepted law in any country is the law of the country itself. For instance, if a Muslim lives in America, then the entire section of business transaction in Fiqh is irrelevant. The only transactions he or she is allowed to do is the transactions authorized and codified by American law. It is no secret that most Muslim countries


Al-Sadlaan, S. G., Fiqh Made Easy, (Boulder: Co: Al-Basheer Publication, 1999), 1. Ibid., 3. 76 Bukhari, no: 4707. 75


have some form of secular law in place; so, the only law that must be abided by is the secular laws in these countries. Whatever Fiqh says about legally binding contracts has no relevance at all when the law in the Muslim country itself is different. The superfluity and irrelevance of such Fiqh prioritization can be seen clearly from Imam Nawawi’s book Al-Maqasid. In his book, Imam Nawawi (d.1277 CE) recorded the most fundamental knowledge that every Muslim needs to know. After quickly describing the five pillars of Islam, Imam Nawawi ends his short book with a chapter on Sufism.77 In other words, for Imam Nawawi, the only Fiqh the average Muslim needs to know is that of the five pillars of Islam. After that, a person must enter into Sufism with its exclusive emphasis on Islamic spirituality. This is contrary to AlSadlaan and Zarabozo’s view, especially given that Zarabozo is a ‘popular anti-Sufi preacher’.78 Based on this, the halal/haram dichotomy, with its ever-growing Fiqh dominance, when applied to the realities of contemporary Muslims, is contrary to the Quran’s very structure, according to Aisha (R), and to the Sunnah of the Prophet [pbuh], as Imam Nawawi suggests. The proper approach is to give priority to spirituality. This is where the fresh interpretation of Islamic spirituality has superiority over the traditional view. In the fresh interpretation, no mention of halal/haram is made, whereas in the traditional view, people’s conduct must be fixed into the halal/haram dichotomy. For the fresh interpretation, what is key is the question, ‘what practical ways do you use the spiritual categories, of God and soul, in your life?’ and not ‘do you adhere to the halal and avoid the haram?’


Nawawi, Al-Maqasid. (Aleppo: Maktab Al-Ghazali, 2001), 56-60. Sharify-Funk, M., Dickson, W. R., and Xavier, M. S., Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture, (New York: Routledge, 2001)53, footnote 2. 78


One of the most popular Islamic books today is Husn Al-Muslim by Sa’eed AlQahtani.79 Its English translation is famous too by the title Fortress of the Muslim.80 There is lots of anecdotal evidence to support the claim that this book is the most famous Islamic book in contemporary times. When most people go to Hajj, they or someone in their group will always carry a copy of this book. The book contains over 260 different invocations and supplications. The entire basis of the book is that in your daily life, and throughout the decades of your existence, the most important thing is to utter phrases derived from the Quran and Sunnah. Contrast such an approach to religion with that of Imam Dhiya Al-Din Al-Maqdisi (d. 643 A.H.) who wrote the book Fadhail Al- ‘Amal.81 In this book, Al-Maqdisi focuses primarily on the actions derived from the Quran and Sunnah. The book is filled with such practical suggestions, like the chapter dedicated to the virtues of earning money via business.82 A comparison between both books shows the stark contrast in their attitudes. Regarding if a person is having financial difficulty, Al-Qahtani’s book suggests a person make a specific invocation, whereas Al-Maqdisi’s book suggests a person wake up early in the morning and do more business so as to get the blessings of Allah from working in the early hours.83 What is at issue here is not the validity of invocations and supplications; rather, the issue is the skewered popularity of a book on utterances, and the total neglect by contemporary Muslims of a book focused on actions. This suggests strongly that Muslims nowadays regard religiosity as a matter of dua’ (supplication) and prayer, while ignoring any practical and realistic actions as being part of religiosity. Indeed, the idea that dua’ and prayer can solve all problems is an anathema to classical scholarship


See Al-Qahtani S., Husn Al-Muslim, (Riyadh: Maktab Malik Fahad,2000). See Al-Qahtani, S, Fortress of the Muslim, (Riyadh: Darussalam,2009). 81 See Al-Maqdisi, D. D, Fadhail Al- ‘Amal, (Beirut: Muassasat Al-Risalah, 1987). 82 Ibid., 490. 83 Ibid., 502. 80


in Islam. Imam Qarafi (d. 684 A. H.) prefaced his book on dua [prayer] with a long section on which dua’s are false;84 he also included a section on which dua’s are hated.85 More importantly, the Quran itself explicitly mentions that dua’ without action is not only useless, but cursed by Allah.86 The fixation contemporary Muslims have with supplication at the expense of actions is a perversion of the Prophet’s entire life and struggle; since, if supplication was sufficient, why would the Prophet have spent 23 years in non-stop action? The fresh interpretation of Islamic spirituality shifts the focus away from dua’ and prayer towards actions that are practical and realistic. The traditional view is that by dua’ and prayer, your problems will be eased. The fresh interpretation disagrees; your problems will only be eased if you put the effort and time into applying practical solutions to solve them. The two examples provided above show how the fresh interpretation of Islamic spirituality emphasizes spirituality and practicality more than the traditional view, which emphasizes Fiqh and supplication. It is wrong to think of the fresh interpretation as a right interpretation of Islam, and the traditional view as a wrong interpretation of Islam. This is because such dichotomies as right/wrong, when applied to interpretations, necessarily exclude the fluidity inherent in any interpretation, such as the ever-changing contexts, the historical realities, and cultural influences that consciously or unconsciously take part in any interpretive effort. What can be said, however, is that the fresh interpretation is superior to the traditional view, where both superiority and inferiority are relative and not absolute terms.


S. D. Qarafi, Al-Munjiyat Wa Al-Mubiqat fi Al-Adiyat, (Tunis: Dar Ibn Hazm, 2014), 131-196. Ibid., 202-211. 86 Quran 5:21-6. 85


3.6 CONCLUDING REMARKS To end, a brief summary must be given of the discussion so far. This chapter has covered lots of ground in explaining Islamic spirituality. To begin with, the chapter emphasized that the discussion will be done within the ambit of postmodern theology. This allows the research to bridge the gap between classical scholarship in Islam and modern discussions of the soul. The scientific worldview denies the soul via a three-step argument. Firstly, Descartes’ mind-body distinction is made. Secondly, Ryle’s notion of the ‘ghost within the machine’ is brought. Thirdly, neurology is given as a sufficient explanation for all soul-related phenomena. In response, the Islamic conception of the soul, as mentioned by Imam Al-Biqai, undermines Descartes’ view. Since the first step of the argument fails, then step two and three necessarily fail to. In Islam, the soul is a life force that permeates through the body, just as water runs through a rose. The distinction between mind-body is not held closely in Islam. It was important to deconstruct the scientific worldview’s denial of the soul so as to move beyond the usual polemics of empiricist denials. After that, the chapter discusses spirituality in general. The field of spiritualty, as understood in Western academia, is based on the Christian model of spirituality. This model has been amply described by both Nietzsche and Locke. It was shown that Islamic spirituality has opposite characteristics than Christian spirituality. A new definition of Islamic spirituality was provided that marks the difference between Islam and Christianity. Subsequent to this, the chapter examined the spiritual systems of Ibn Jawzi, Ibn Arabi, and Attar, as examples of Islamic spirituality. These were contrasted with SelfHelp, Popular Philosophy, and Business Management in terms of their theories of action. The contrast helps highlight the unique points of Islamic spirituality.


Next came a discussion on the need of re-interpreting Islamic spirituality. References to Mawdudi, Ibn Jawzi, the Poet Kabir, Muhammad Iqbal, Muhammad Assad were given as justification. A fresh interpretation of Islamic spirituality was highlighted along the lines of truthful and realistic religious fictionalism. Doing so bypasses any need to justify the existence of spiritual categories. Lastly, the chapter contrasted the fresh interpretation of Islamic spirituality with the traditional notion of Islamic spirituality. The contrast showed that the traditional notion was problematic, and that the fresh interpretation provides a better option that is more logical and furthering of life. With the groundwork covered for Islamic spirituality, it is now appropriate to make a comparison between the scientific worldview and Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬ in relation to practical living.



4.1 COMPARING THE ISSUE OF FREEDOM AND CHOICE IN LIVING The issue of freedom is tied to choice of living. If there is no freedom, there is no choice of living. If there is a choice of living, then there must be freedom. Before entering into a full discussion, it is important for a preliminary clarification to be made. Voltaire argues that freedom is illusory, because humans are limited by their natures.1 Every human can only act according to his nature; therefore, there is no point in asking if a human has freedom just as there is no point in asking if a rabbit has freedom. Both the human and rabbit act only in accord to their respective natures. Voltaire’s argument contains two logical errors. Firstly, he confuses between absolute freedom and limited freedom. Secondly, he confuses a condition for a determination. Absolute freedom is the ability to make any choice without having any restraints limiting your choice. Islamic spirituality accepts that it is impossible for humans to have absolute freedom; only God has absolute freedom: And your Lord creates what He wills and chooses; not for them was the choice. Exalted is Allah and high above what they associate with Him [28:68] Limited freedom is the ability to choose from several different options. These options are limited due to restraints both internal and external to a person. Take the case of the option of running a marathon on Monday morning. If a person has lung cancer, he cannot take the option due to his poor health; this is an internal restraint. If a person


See Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (London: Penguin, 1972).


has a business meeting on Monday morning, he cannot take the option; this is an external restraint. Yet the man with lung cancer has the option of watching the marathon live with the crowd in the street, and the man with the business meeting has the option of watching the recording of the marathon on television later on in the evening. They can choose to do so, or choose not to do so. This is the limited freedom that Islamic spirituality attributes to humans: And We have shown him the two ways [90:10] Voltaire rightly points out that human nature places limits on what a person can do (internal restraint). From this he wrongly concludes that freedom is impossible. The logical conclusion, however, is that absolute freedom is impossible for humans, while limited freedom is possible for humans. Voltaire’s second mistake is to confuse a condition with a determination. Human nature is a condition for human action. It is impossible for a rabbit nature to do a human action. Just because nature is a condition of action does not mean action is determined by nature. An analogy of driving a car is useful here. The engine of a car is the condition for driving the car. Without an engine, it is impossible for a car to be driven. This does not mean, however, that the engine of the car determines where the car is driven. On Saturday, a person has a choice of driving to the local market or driving to the shopping centre. Whatever option he chooses, he will not have chosen due to the influence of the car engine. His choice will be made due to extraneous considerations that have nothing to do with the car engine. In the same way, if a person is at a river, his nature limits how he can interact with the river. He cannot breathe underwater like a fish. Having said that the person has the choice of whether to swim in the river or not. The option he chooses will not be influenced by his nature at all. Human nature allows humans to act, but why a human


chooses to study philosophy instead of becoming a banker cannot be explained by reference to his nature. Islamic spirituality posits out that humans have freedom. This freedom is limited not absolute. The condition for a choice does not determine the choice. The Soul, thus, always can choose how a person responds to the world. Due to this, a person always has a choice between doing what is best and doing what is worst. The Quran says: Indeed, We guided him to the way, be he grateful or be he ungrateful [76:3] It is this view of freedom that the scientific worldview disagrees with. An impressive array of sophisticated arguments is used to reject freedom. A summary of them follows: Darwin established the notion of “survival of the fittest”.2 In every species, the members of the species are under the pressure caused by limited resources. Only the fittest members are able to survive, while the less fit die. The same applies to humans. For Darwin, the main motive that propels man is the survival imperative. Darwin further clarified his views on humans.3 He argued that human behavior is reducible to the preservation of the human species, and to the gradual evolution into higher-type animals. Darwin took this idea the farthest in his study of emotions. Darwin contends that morality and intellect are nothing more than increasingly complex forms of the survival imperative.4 In the same way, for instance, rabbits cannot be said to have freedom, humans too lack freedom. The only difference between rabbits and humans is the complexity-levels of their survival behavior. Apart from this complexity, rabbits

See C. Darwin, On the Origin of Species (London: Penguin, 2009a). See C. Darwin, The Descent of Man (London: Wordsworth, 2013). 4 See C. Darwin, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (London: Penguin,2009b). 2 3


and humans are no different in terms of freedom. This is the view that Darwin argued for, which, will shortly be shown to be inadequate. Freud paints a different picture of human action.5 For Freud, humans are driven by the pleasure-principle. They are pleasure-seekers. As a person goes through life, he recognizes that pleasure brings with it pain. For example, a teenager taking drugs would get pleasure, but then he will be caught by the police and face pain, both in prison and with his family. Once a person notices this, he shifts away from the pleasure-principle towards the safety-principle. He becomes a safety-seeker. Once this stage is reached, a person makes a compromise. He gets as much pleasure as possible without it endangering his safety. This, in a nutshell, is the human journey through life. The spectrum of pleasure-seeker and safety-seeker mirrors the usual trajectory of young rebel to middle-aged conformist. The variety found among people can be easily explained by the elasticity inherent in the notion of pleasure and safety. What Freud makes clear is that humans have no choice. Pleasure is their motivator. Safety is their coping-mechanism. Everything else is only a personalized variation on these two notions. Both Darwin’s and Freud’s position can be legitimately questioned from the scientific and rational perspective; however, since this research deals with Islamic spirituality, their positions will be critiqued from the perspective of Islamic spirituality. Making ‘survival’ the end-goal of human behavior is rejected by Islamic spirituality. Survival is defined as ‘staying alive despite the conditions.’ A beggar in the street who lived for twenty years begging will fit the definition of survival. Humans


See S. Freud, Civilization and its discontents (London: Penguin,2002).


have a tendency to want something better than survival. They want success. The Quran says: [Moses] said, "Would you exchange what is better for what is less? Go into [any] settlement and indeed, you will have what you have asked." And they were covered with humiliation and poverty and returned with anger from Allah [upon them] [2:60] The survival instinct always goes for the lower-denominator, whereas seeking success always goes for the higher-denominator. Islamic spirituality encourages people to go beyond survival. The Quran says: Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are not except like livestock. Rather, they are [even] more astray in [their] way [25;44] Living like livestock fits the definition of survival the best. Livestock has sufficient food, sufficient water, and sufficient place to live. All of life’s necessities are fulfilled for livestock. Yet the Quran emphasizes that such a life is not a human life. For a life to be human, a person must reach above survival and aim for success. The Body, as a notion, refers to survival whereas Soul, as a notion, refers to success. A person can have all of his biological needs fulfilled; however, he will remain unsatisfied. Another person can leave aside some of his biological needs; yet, he will be satisfied. An example of the former is a person who spends his nights asleep; his days in bed, while the example of the latter is a person who spends both nights and days awake in the excitement of making a scientific discovery. Darwin’s problem is that he took animal life and applied it to human life without being aware that human life differs drastically from animal life. A CEO of a multimillion-dollar company is not motivated by biological survival at all; he is motivated by success. Freud’s scheme only makes sense within the Victorian Morality which he tried to refute. The pleasure-principle is not contrary to Islamic notion of soul. There are


numerous ayahs in the Quran that describe the physical pleasures in Paradise. The Quran would never mention such ayahs, and in such a large number, except if the Quran recognized that people are motivated by pleasure. In Freud, the pleasure-principle is regarded as harmful; since, it is opposed to the safety-principle. In the Quran, the pleasure-principle is regarded as helpful (in some cases) and harmful (in other cases). Victorian Morality, with its roots in Christianity, saw pleasure as intrinsically harmful. Freud accepts this assumption, while Islamic spirituality rejects it. Islamic spirituality recognizes two types of pleasures: helpful pleasures and harmful pleasures. The same pleasure can be helpful or harmful depending on how the person utilizes it. Take for instance, the pleasure of playful relaxation. Imam Bukhari records: The companions of the Prophet would throw melons at each other for fun, but if matters became serious, they would be real men (Adab Al-Mufrad, no: 261). The companions of the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] enjoyed playful relaxation, while being able to balance it with serious effort when the need arises. For many people, the enjoyment of playful relaxation precludes the possibility of having serious effort. Thus, the same pleasure is helpful to some people, and harmful to others, due to how the pleasure is used. Using the notion of limited freedom, the following can be argued: While humans by nature seek pleasure, they have a choice between choosing helpful pleasure or harmful pleasure. If a person chose helpful pleasure, then his pleasure-seeking will not be destructive of his safety as Freud claims. If, however, a person chose harmful pleasure, then his pleasure-seeking will come in conflict with his safety.


Freud’s entire scheme ignores the choice between helpful pleasure and harmful pleasure. For that reason, it is impossible to find any outline in Freud of how a person can decide which pleasures are helpful and which are harmful. Islamic spirituality provides such an outline. It is impossible to discuss this outline in full given the nature of this work, but a mention of a few elements in the outline may be helpful. The Quranic guidelines on helpful/harmful pleasures: hastiness is harmful (21:37), long-term is better than short-term (93:4), knowledge of pleasure better than ignorance of it (39:9), pleasures of the ego are a barrier to the pleasures of the senses (40:35), pleasures done in a cyclical pattern rather than a continuous pattern are better (17:12), etc. The fact there can be guidelines to the selection of pleasures, and the usage of pleasures, show that a person has a choice in his pleasures. Freud’s deterministic and depressing schema of the pleasure-principle leading to self-destruction is challenged by Islamic spirituality’s emphasis on the distinction between helpful and harmful pleasure. Islamic spirituality’s view on freedom and choice of living is now clear. Humans have a choice between living on an animal basis (survival instinct) or on a human basis (success motivator). Humans also have a choice between helpful pleasures and harmful pleasures. Freedom is defined as the very choice of survival vs. success, and helpful vs. harmful pleasures. If humans choose success and helpful pleasures, then they will have chosen the best way to live. If humans choose survival and harmful pleasures, they will have chosen the worst way to live. If humans choose success and harmful pleasures, they will have chosen a self-refuting way of living, e.g. sooner or later their harmful pleasures will undermine their success. If humans choose survival and helpful pleasures, they will have chosen a self-limiting way of living, i.e. their helpful pleasures ordinarily


would have brought success, but due to an arbitrary self-imposed limit, the success never appears despite the potential being clearly there. To give an example of this schema, consider the average Muslim university student. He or she has chosen survival in the form of mediocrity, and harmful pleasures in the form of laziness. While the average Muslim university students may not avow to following Darwin and Freud, it is clear that in actuality, they follow herd-mentality (species mindset), and think of pleasure as only that which is hidden from everyone (psychotic fantasies). The Soul, for them, is only a word to be uttered, not a program to be lived.

4.2 COMPARING THE ISSUE OF ACCURACY IN DEPICTING PRACTICAL LIVING The scientific worldview sees practical living as a matter of social conditioning and class defining. How you live practically is based on what society says to you. How you use your resources, both financial and otherwise, is based on what class you belong to. The differences in practical living found among people in one society is reducible to whether they are in the lower, middle, or upper class. The differences in practical living found in the same class among different societies are reducible to social conditioning. In religious countries, the upper class is religious. In secular countries, the upper class is not religious. In how they function, both the religious upper class and non-religious upper class are exactly the same when it comes to business-orientation and luxurymindedness. Take the case of healthy diet. Darmon and Drewnowski showed how members of the upper-class more often choose a healthy diet than members of the lower-class.6

N. Darmon and A. Drewnowski , “Does social class predict diet quality?” (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008), Vol, 87, issue, 5, 1107-1117. 6


To explain this, Darmon and Drewnowski provide a social stratification explanation for the divergence in healthy diets. Healthy foods such as vegetables and fruit juice are more expensive than unhealthy foods such as sweets and fizzy drinks. Due to financial stability, the members of the upper-class can afford to buy their children healthy food. Due to financial instability, the members of the lower-class cannot afford this; so, they resort to buying cheap food which is unhealthy. For this reason, the major factor in the adoption of a healthy diet is not the beliefs of the individuals, but the social class they belong to. Such social stratification explanations are not uncommon; they are the norm. Pechey and Monsivais provide a more sophisticated analysis of healthy diets.7 They found that a major factor missed by previous studies was the supermarkets that people went to. In upper-class areas, there are more supermarkets that provide a wider range of food stuffs. In lower-class areas, there are fewer supermarkets, and what these supermarkets provide is limited. Thus, the upper-class has access to wider range of healthy foods whereas the lower-class donot have this access. Based on this, Pechey and Monsivais argue that increased health can only happen with increased access to foods. Thus, for a medical issue, the major factor is economic. They provide an insightful diagram to illustrate their point:


R. Pechey, and P. Monsivais, Socioeconomic inequalities in the healthiness of food choices: Exploring the contributions of food expenditures, (Preventative Medicine, 2016), Vol,88, 203-209.


Diagram 4.1 Healthy Diet Figure 1 Source: (Pechey, R. and Monsivais, P. Socioeconomic inequalities in the healthiness of food choices: Exploring the contributions of food expenditures, (Preventative Medicine, 2016), Vol, 88, 203-209)

The example of healthy diet is given to showcase the scientific worldview’s depiction of practical living. Many more examples can be given in almost every aspect of practical living. The theoretical basis for all these examples is the same. Practical living is depicted as a matter of social mechanisms and class. The position of Islamic spirituality would dispute the notion that healthy diet depends on how much money you have. Zuhd (minimalist lifestyle) is the concept that optimal living is reached by lessening attachments to wealth. Part of Zuhd is the practice of Sawm or fasting. The Prophet [pbuh] loved to fast twice a week on Monday and Thursday (Al-Tirmidthi, no: 745). Fasting twice a week is a matter of perfection in action. The Prophet said, “The deeds are presented on Monday and Thursday. Thus, I love for my deeds to be presented while I am fasting” (Al-Tirmidthi, no: 747). The best manner to spend Monday and Thursday is to spend them fasting. All the scientific literature acknowledges that fasting counters obesity, and provides for a healthy diet. Fasting is also free; it does not depend on your money. Let us assume two people called Adam and Ahmad. Both eat unhealthy foods. Due to this, both are obese. They are 80 kilograms. Adam wants to live a healthier


lifestyle; so, he reads in the scientific literature on the root causes of unhealthy diets. Adam realizes that the real root cause for his unhealthy diet is because he is a member of the lower-class. Knowing this, Adam does not bother with changing his diet because no individual can be free from class distinctions. After two years, Adam is still 80 kilograms. Ahmad looks at his obesity differently. He recognizes he has no money to buy healthy foods; so, he decides to counter his obesity by fasting every Monday and Thursday in emulation of the Prophet [pbuh]. After one year of fasting, he loses 15 kilograms. After a second year of fasting, he loses 30 kilograms in total. He still eats unhealthy foods, but his fasting helps purify his blood and body from the harmful sideeffects of his unhealthy food. Ahmad has a final weight of 50 kilograms. Let us imagine a third person called Akram. He is a member of the upper-class. He eats a very strict diet of healthy foods. His weight is 65 kilograms. Because Akram equates healthy diet with the money he spends on healthy foods, he will not go beyond his usual eating habits. After two years, he is still 65 kilograms. In comparison, Ahmad is far healthier than Akram even though Ahmad is from the lower-class and Akram is from the upper-class. No one can deny that fasting twice a week regularly will positively impact the diets of many people if adopted. But very rarely will anyone think of doing so, because the very limitations of the scientific worldview stop a person for doing so. There is no alternative to society within its framework. Using the scientific worldview, practical living is a matter of social stratification and class distinctions. This makes Society (general) and Class (specific) the two markers that practical living become subsumed under. The notion of Zuhd with its practical application of Sawm (fasting) can only be thought of as an alternative to


society and class. God is the marker in Islamic spirituality, where God is understood as an alternate way of living that counters Society and Class. The Quran says: And if you obey most of those upon the earth, they will mislead you from the way of Allah. They follow not except assumption, and they are not but falsifying [6:116] God provides a way of acting that runs differently than what the majority of people choose to. What the majority of people follow are merely social trends which they have no idea about them; so they blindly follow them. Society says to be healthy you need money. God says to be healthy you don’t need money. As an alternative way of living, the benefit of following Zuhd can be proven scientifically and without any doubt. But this alternative is rejected outright by the followers of the scientific worldview because it is not a trend in society or a habit of any specific class. The Quran says: And when it is said to them, "Follow what Allah has revealed," they say, "Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing." Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided? [2:170] The point needs to be re-emphasized. If a person does not foster an alternative view from society, he will always live practical life according to the artificial limitations of society and class. If, however, a person fosters an alternative view from society, he will be able to find practical solutions to practical problems that society never thinks of. It is socially impossible to imagine people regularly fasting on Monday and Thursday. Yet it is optimal practicality if you personally fasted twice a week as part of your healthy diet. In Islamic spirituality, God is not in “our image” because if He were, it would mean God is merely an ensemble of society’s views. God is the ‘alternative image,’ a different perspective to looking at familiar problems in practical living. What distinguishes Islamic spirituality’s view of God from that of literalists or conservatives


is the practical aspect? Literalists focus on the interpretation of God’s texts. Conservatives make God into a political flag. Islamic spirituality sees God as a more practical and successful way of living than what Society and Class offers. In practical living, the problems we face are personal and never social. The lower-classes have unhealthy diets, but it is only you who personally suffer from this. What other people face can never be your own suffering. While it may be nonsensical to claim that regular fasting will eradicate obesity in society, it nonetheless makes sense to say that this poor man can fast and will become even healthier than that rich man. The example of healthy diets illustrates deeper theoretical points that are the main aim of this research.

4.3 COMPARING THE ISSUE OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT Under the scientific worldview, human development has been replaced with boredom. Ciocan speaks of the ‘Problem of Boredom’ being a central concern in modern philosophy.8 Hoof and Hooft discuss how the workplace has created a culture of boredom, where success in career is disassociated from personal satisfaction and daily motivation.9 Mann and Robinson talk of how Academia has converted education into boredom.10 Knowledge itself has become the synonym to that which bores. Misk analyses how the cinema and entertainment industry is a symptom of, rather than a solution to, boredom.11 Gardiner links boredom to the ‘democratization of

C. Ciocan, “Heidegger and the Problem of Boredom”, (Journal of the British Society of Phenomenology, 2010), Vol,41, issue, 1, 64-77. 9 M. L. M. Van Hooff and E. A. J. Van Hooft, “Boredom at work: towards a dynamic spillover model of need satisfaction, work motivation, and work-related boredom”, (European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 2017), Vol, 26, issue, 1, 133-148. 10 S. Mann, and A. Robinson, “Boredom in the lecture theatre: an investigation into the contributors, moderators and outcomes of boredom amongst university students”, (British Education Research Journal, 2009), Vol,35, issue,2, 243-258. 11 R. Misk, Dead time: Cinema, Heidegger, and boredom, (Continuum, 2010), Vol, 24, issue,5, 777-785. 8


skepticism’.12 People are now skeptical of democracy’s promises; so, the people have fallen into an apolitical apathy that turned into a form of pure boredom. Zuo notes how even sex has become a matter of bored routine that cannot alleviate the disinterest people have with their surroundings.13 Sex does not make life more interesting; it merely amplifies how boring life is. Manning shows how boredom is so dominant, it has become the only form of objectivity that people in modern society know of.14 There are two links between the scientific worldview and boredom. Firstly, Empiricism leads to a form of epistemic boredom. Since the only priority in Empiricism is direct sensation, then all creative ways of looking at life are necessarily rejected. In practical living, epistemic boredom leads to the position of passivity. You live your life under direct control of your surroundings. All creative activity in regards to life holds no value within such a position. Secondly, due to Materialism, a person’s life is supposed to fit into specific material categories such as career or academia, etc. Since all of these material categories are defined by boredom, a person’s life will be bored in it. Islamic spirituality, on the other hand, rejects both epistemic boredom and material categories. In its place, Islamic spirituality emphasizes the centrality of selfdevelopment. To understand self-development, the notion of Asma Allah Al-Husna and Al-Insān al-kāmilneed to be explained. Asma Allah Al-Husna are the Sublime Names as well as the attributes of Allah [swt]. The Prophet [pbuh] said, “Allah has ninety-nine names and whoever preserves

M. E. Gardiner, Bakhtin, Boredom, and the ‘Democratization of Skepticism’ (The European Legacy, 2017), Vol, 22, issue, 2, 163-184. 13 M. Zuo, “Dull sex in a messy Square: traumatic boredom in Lou Ye’s Summer Palace”, (Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory, 2019), Vol, 29, issue, 2, 103-124. 14 N. Manning., ‘The uses of boredom’: affect, attention, and absorption in the fiction of Don DeLillo, (Textual Practice, 2019), Vol, 33, issue, 1, 155-173. 12


them will enter Paradise” (Bukhari, no: 6597). By preserving the names, the Prophet [pbuh] meant acting upon them. Ibn Qayim explains what this means.15 For Ibn Qayim, the ninety-nine names of Allah [swt] are a list of positive characteristics that a person should strive to embody. For instance, Allah [swt] is called Al-Shafī (The Curer) so a person should strive to cure any physical and mental sickness that weakens his body. Allah [swt] is also called Al-Khabīr (The All-Aware) so a person should strive to increase his awareness of all facts of life, society, and the world at large. Ibn Qayim deftly points out that the ninety-nine names of Allah [swt] can be doubled. For each name of Allah [swt], there is the opposite name which a person must get rid of in his character. While Allah [swt] is called The Curer, it also means Allah [swt] hates for someone to be The Sick. While Allah [swt] is called the All-Aware, it also means Allah [swt] hates for someone to be the Not-Aware. The Prophet made clear in a famous hadith the Allah has more than 99 names. In a famous dua’, the Prophet said: “I ask You by every name belonging to You which You have named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the Unseen with You”.16 In order to simply the following discussion, the names of Allah will be rounded up to 100. The aim of the discussion is to show Allah’s infinite attributes opens up potential for humans to have infinite responses to their lives, without needing to narrow the possible responses into a very thin margin of acceptability. In the beginning there was 100 names in total. Taking into consideration Ibn Qaymi’s doubling of the names in relation to human characteristics, there is now 200 names. For each of these names a person must act upon it in a specific way. Ibn Qayim’s


See Ibn Qayim,‘Uddat Al-Sabirin, (Cairo: Dar Al-Hadith, 2002)and Ibn Qayim, Al-Wabil Al-Sayyib, (Cairo: Maktabah Al-Quran, 2006). 16 Ahmad, hadith no: 3704.


approach can fruitfully be fused with Ibn Arabi’s own approach. If we add Ibn Arabi’s notion of affirmation-negation, then for each name that is affirmed, it must be negated, and for each name that is negated, it must be affirmed. That gives rise to 400 different individual ways of acting. All of these arise from the names of Allah [swt]. The Asma Allah Al-Husna is unique to Islamic spirituality’s view of God. The names of Allah (100 totally, 400 individually) allow a person a very broad and diverse scope of acting. In practical living, a person can either follow what is given to him (passivity) or utilize what he has (activity). In utilizing what he has, a person has 100 separate ideas he can follow, which branches off to 400 separate individual actions. Such a large scope allows a person to engage his creative energy in living. To live ceases to be a matter of merely accepting whatever you see; rather, living becomes a matter of choosing what type of idea (from the 100) and what type of action (from the 400) to use in any particular moment. This dazzling diversity is a clear rejection of the epistemic boredom that Empiricism fosters. Al-Jilli propounded the notion of Al-Insan Al-Kamil, which is the theory of the Perfect Man.17 Al-Jilli saw the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] as the Perfect Man, because the Prophet[pbuh] was able to combine all of the various aspects of living in himself. The Prophet[pbuh] lived a holistic life, whereas other wise men and saints lived very narrow lives. The Perfect Man theory of Al-Jilli posits that Holistic Living is the ultimate aim in practical living. Holistic Living does not reject the material categories such as career or academia. But while these material categories are supposed to define your life, Holistic Living sees the material categories as being only an element in your life. You definitely


See A. I. Al-Jilli, Al-Insan Al-Kamil, (Beirut: Mu’assasat Al-Tarikh Al-Arabi, 2000).


need a career to earn money, but a career in itself is not enough to bring satisfaction in your living. By following the notion of Al-Insan Al-Kamil, a person can integrate the material categories into his life instead of reducing his life to the material categories. The notion of Al-Insān al-kāmilis unique to Islamic spirituality; since, in Christianity, Jesus is famed for his sacrifice of life, whereas in Islam, the Prophet Muhammad[pbuh] is famed for his energetic and forward looking way of life. Both the Asma Allah Al-Husna and Al-Insān al-kāmilprovide the framework for self-development. Living is a matter of creatively engaging with your surroundings, not being passive towards them. Living is also a matter of holistic living not of sticking yourself into a narrow scope of living. The Asma Allah Al-Husna gives us a diverse array of ways a person can develop his character. Al-Insān al-kāmilprovides us with the total-picture that helps frame our development. An example here will help illustrate the issue. The average post-graduate student works part-time and studies part-time. His money is limited. Empiricism will make it obvious to a post-graduate student that his only frequented environment is the office and the classroom. The material category of ‘post-graduate’ student will define his life. Whatever he does that has no relation to either the office or the classroom becomes it is labeled as a ‘waste of time’. The end result of such living is utter exhaustion and boredom. At this stage, the usual response to boredom is either cinematic entertainment or sexual relations or a combination of both. Due to financial pressure, the average postgraduate student will have only a limited access to cinematic entertainment; so, he will never be satisfied. Due to time pressure, from both the work and academia, sexual relations will be a hasty and shallow affair, which will only cause disappointment. The boredom is not reduced; rather, it is increased even more now.


At this stage, the scientific worldview has no solution to offer the post-graduate student except in saying, ‘get used to it’. In contrast, Islamic spirituality provides the Asma Allah Al-Husna and Al-Insān al-kāmilas two concepts that can help a person find a creative alternative to living. Without continuous self-development, a person lives a passive and uncreative life that narrowly limits his human potential. With continuous self-development, a person lives an engaged and creative life that widens his human potential.

4.4 COMPARING THE ISSUE OF EXISTENTIAL CRISIS Whenever a calamity, disaster, and intense suffering occur, a human individual’s natural response is to ask himself: “Why did this happen to me?” This question is so naturally recurrent, it occurs to people no matter their professed beliefs. An atheist and theist will ask the same question even though their worldviews are contradictory. Albert Camus is a perfect example of this.18 Camus discusses whether life has any meaning. The question itself is absurd in the scientific worldview, and Camus acknowledges that it is absurd. Despite that, Camus is still impelled to try to provide some answer to the question. Here we see the distinction between the scientific worldview and Lived Experience. In the scientific worldview, the notion of meaning in life is non-existent. In Lived Experience, even those who deny any meaning in life must try to investigate the meaning of life. An existential crisis is when a person asks, “Why did this happen to me?” and finds no answer. Let us suppose a father had a car-crash, no fault of his own, where his baby son dies. When he asks, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ he is not asking for an engineering


See A. Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, (New York: Vintage International, 2018).


answer. He fully understands that when two cars crash, an accident will occur. So, if he is not asking a physical causal question, then what is he asking about? For the position of Positivism, he is asking about what does not exist at all. The only Why in reality is the Why of physical causality. Yet without answering the question a person’s suffering increases. This is most obvious in the field of clinical therapy. Altmaier shows how clinical therapy has established that meaning-making is a necessary step for people to overcome their traumas.19 Meaning-making allows a person to accept the shocking reality that his mind had initially tried to deny. Because the mind is in denial, the shocking reality can never be assimilated directly into the mind without facing resistance. To overcome this, meaning-making provides the shocking reality with a cloak and cover that allows it to bypass the denial mechanism in the mind. Once bypassed, the shocking reality is then accepted into the mind while still retaining the meaning attributed to it. Any attempt to strip the meaning away will only lead to the mind forcibly ejecting the shocking reality from the mind, which leads to mental breakdowns. Park and Al provide empirical justification for the success of meaningmaking in clinical therapy with trauma victims.20 The scientific worldview argues that the success of meaning-making in trauma is not equivalent to the truth. For instance, parents tell their children many things which are not true in order to help their children develop themselves. The success of such myths on children does not make the myths true. Such a contention misses the point. Practical living is not about truth; it is about practicality. If a scientist were to criticize primary school textbooks with being simplistic, his criticism would be rejected as being


E. M. Altmaier, Through a glass darkly: Personal reflections on the role of meaning in response to trauma, (Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 2013), Vol,26, issue, 1, 106-113. 20 C. L. Park, and A. L. Al, “Meaning Making and Growth: New Directions for Research on Survivors of Trauma”, (Journal of Loss and Trauma, 2006), Vol, 11, issue,5, 389-407.


out of place. You cannot practically tell a child of ten all the details of quantum mechanics. Islamic spirituality has the notions of Soul and Spirituality to help meaningmaking. The scientific worldview has no mechanisms at all for meaning-making. No one can guarantee that your life will not have traumatic instances; there is sufficient evidence to suggest that everyone faces some sort of trauma in their life. Thus, Islamic Spirituality has a solution to Existential Crisis whereas the scientific worldview does not. It can be argued that religious notions are an obstacle to overcoming difficulties in life. Most of life’s difficulties are technical. The difficulties have several solutions and a person must choose the appropriate solution and apply it. The solution and the application are technical. For instance, the father who lost his baby son will probably find respite if he goes overseas and works for two years in a new country as a means of distracting his painful memories. The scientific worldview may contend that religious notions blind a person to the technical solutions to difficulties by positing a spiritual solution instead. This criticism is fair in some instances. Without a doubt, among religious people, the usage of religious notions has become the equivalent of blindness. Technical problems are reduced to issues of personal piety. Structural difficulties are explained by individual intentions. This does not mean that religious notion in itself is flawed. For instance, having a strict diet is a positive characteristic; however, many people dedicated to strict diets end up having eating disorders with a resultant mental disorder. Anorexia is one, monomania is another. This does not mean that a strict diet in itself is flawed. All it means is that a strict diet can be misapplied to harmful effect. The same applies to religious notions and difficulties in living.


The benefit of Islamic spirituality is that it does not reject science and scientific technicality. Islamic spirituality can work in parallel with other perspectives too. Islamic spirituality is never totalizing. The Prophet [pbuh] said, “When it comes to a matter of this world, you know best what to do, and when it comes to a matter of your worldview, I know best what to do” (Muslim, no: 2363). Here the Prophet [pbuh] explicitly mentions that a person must have a parallel view on living. He must look at living from the matter of technicality (as is the case in the hadith with reference to fertilizing palm trees), while also looking at living from the perspective of Islamic spirituality. For this reason, Islamic spirituality can perfectly accommodate a technical perspective on overcoming difficulties on life. In contrast, the scientific worldview allows for no parallel perspectives to be held. The scientific worldview is dominating in its very theoretical structure. Positivism rejects any meaning apart from pure physicality. Empiricism rejects any intrinsic worth to value judgments even though Existential Crisis is defined by value judgments. (E.g. the farther defines the death of his baby son as something bad.) Due to this, the scientific worldview cannot easily collaborate with meaning-making in overcoming trauma, whereas Islamic spirituality can collaborate with the technicalities of dealing with difficulties. Some arguments have been covered so far regarding both the scientific worldview and Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬. To bring greater clarity and focus, it is incumbent to provide a succinct summary of the points mentioned, that will allow for the preceding discussion to be seen in its proper full perspective. The next, and final, chapter of this research hopes to provide this.



5.1 WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS OF LIVING? So, for we have served the position of Islam and the scientific world view on soul and Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬. It was observed that the approach of the scientific world view fails to provide alternatives to life difficulties whereas we found Islam not only suggest alternatives but also overcomes difficulties by following various options at home and guarantee the forward movement of life. This research, in fact, has taken as its foundation the issue of practical living. Practical living and moving forward to continue life with new hopes is more important from the perspective of Islamic spirituality. Islamic view of Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬ plays a positive and dynamic role. Whatever a person’s view, whatever his position, he cannot change the very concrete issue of how to live practically life. For instance, in a job environment, both the theist and atheist will face the same issue of how to deal with a massive workload. The debate and discussion surrounding whether or not God exists is irrelevant in this job environment. This irrelevancy can be extended to almost all other environments that people find themselves in a regular basis. The irrelevancy of the Theism vs. Atheism debate suggests that whatever side a person chooses, no major difference will arise in his practical life. Observation has shown this to be true. A Muslim and an atheist will face the same issue of massive workload in their job environment. In most cases, both the Muslim and Atheist will react in exactly the same way: working through increasing exhaustion. The central issue, therefore, in modern life is not what you believe but how you live. Practicality comes first; personal beliefs come later, if at all. When practical life is


focused on, the problems in practical living becomes clearer. These problems are faced by anyone, no matter their beliefs, so the problems have a greater claim to universality than almost any belief. An unfortunate aspect of contemporary discussions on religion is the prevailing influence of New Atheism. Under New Atheism, Islam has been framed in terms of violence and intolerance.1 Such a representation of Islam should not be underestimated. Bradley and Tate show how New Atheism caused a major paradigm shift in how novelists understood themselves. Due to New Atheism, novelists considered their role as a bastion of freedom against the encroachment of religion, especially Islam.2 Cotter, Quadrio, and Tuckett consider New Atheism to be the most up-to-date expression of the contemporary world’s grappling with the issue of religion.3 While this debate has raged on, very few academics have noticed the lack of pragmatism in the debate. The one exception is Aaron Pratt Shepherd who highlighted that the entire debate ignored pragmatism and how religion could be formulated in a pragmatic manner.4 While Shepherd’s position is noteworthy, he did not go into any depth in how any specific religious tradition can be constituted along pragmatic and practical lines. This research, on the other hand, does just that for Islam. Where the New Atheism fails is in its utter disregard for how religiosity, if understood and practiced correctly, can positively benefit a person’s life. In regards to Islam, this research has articulated an overall scheme in framing Islam’s practicality under the higher-purpose of Tazkīyat Al-Nafs.


See M. H. Khalil, Jihad, Radicalism, and the New Atheism, (Cambridge University Press,2017). See A. Bradley, and A. Tate, The New Atheist Novel: Fiction, Philosophy and Polemic After 9/11, (London: Continuum,2010). 3 See C. Cotter, P. Quadrio, and J. Tuckett (Eds.), New Atheism: Critical Perspectives and Contemporary Debates, (New York: Springer,2017). 4 See A. P. Shepherd, Challenging the New Atheism: Pragmatic Confrontations in the Philosophy of Religion, (New York: Routledge, 2020). 2


Through this research many problems of living have been mentioned, either explicitly or by allusion. In concluding this research, it would do well if these problems of living are scrutinized again. In chapter one, the following problems of living are mentioned. These problems are only a few of those mentioned in the chapter: •

Are you an individual human or are you merely a tool in the machinery of society?

Is sexuality the limits of human satisfaction or can humans aspire to something more?

Can lifestyles from the past have any beneficial application to the present?

Since hardship is inevitable, what is the best way to deal with hardship?

Can we find a reason for living that is true, or are all reasons for living merely our imagination?

In chapter two, some of these problems of living were mentioned: •

Can any single field of expertise (say, science) be enough to elucidate all aspects of life?

Are the notions in modern times an accurate depiction of the historical process?

In an impersonal world, does personality have value or not?

Can a person make an informed decision based on crude conceptions?

Does comparison bring clarity or confusion?

In chapter three, some of the problems of living mentioned are: •

Can one notion have opposite meanings depending on context?


Is an active life better than a passive life?

Can physical sensation have depth or is depth found in the non-physical only?

Do emotions provide justification for choices?

Is the trend among people what define how a notion is to be understood?

In chapter four, some of the problems of living mentioned are: •

Is pleasure harmful or can it be helpful?

Can you act differently from your biological promptings?

Is there any alternative to social habits?

Does wealth determine your scope of action?

How can you overcome trauma? These are some of the problems that underlay a person’s responses to the

decisions he makes in practical living. While these problems cannot be answered by any beliefs, they are affected by worldviews. A worldview is more than a belief. For instance, two people can be atheists whereas one of them has a voodoo worldview and the other a scientific worldview. The atheist with a voodoo worldview believes God does not exist, and that the Church, for instance, demonized spirits by calling them devils. This atheist has not contradicted his atheism by holding onto voodoo magic. A worldview is how you view the entirety of life in all its aspects. Usually, any worldview will be a composite of different ideas patched together to make a patchwork vision of reality. Due to this, a worldview is the way most people reply to the problems of living. Science in itself has very little to say about the problems of living. Scientific discoveries about quantum field theory have no relevance to the problems of dealing with a massive workload at work. But the scientific worldview, in contrast, will allow


a person to frame the problems of living and understand them in a certain way. This understanding will entail a response to such problems. Richard DeWitt has rightly noted that science, as commonly understood, is actually a worldview that restrains how a person can view life as a whole.5 Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬is a central component of Islamic spirituality, which is the way of practical living that Islam enjoins. By analyzing and understanding both the scientific worldview and Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫)تزكية النفس‬, a person can see which of the two perspectives provide better answers to the problems of living.






In itself, the scientific worldview is unable to answer many problems of living. Science is the knowledge in one field. The scientific worldview takes this knowledge and applies it to all other fields. This can be reasonably seen as a misapplication of science. While studies in biology allow scientists to better understand animal organization, the result of these studies can do nothing for helping a society organize itself more efficiently. Animals, after all, live in the wild, whereas humans live in urbanization. The key difficulty in the scientific worldview is its exclusionary view. The scientific worldview claims that anything that does not correspond to what Science says must be false or lacks value. This is not something established fact based on scientific criteria but mere an opinion. For example, Andrew Clark argues that “happiness” is a scientific goal that can be reached by scientific criterion.6 In other words, the scientific worldview has taken the most subjective of matters and re-made it into a pseudo-


See R. DeWitt, Worldviews: An Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science, (Oxford: WileyBlackwell, 2018). 6 See A. Clark, The Origins of Happiness: The Science of Well-Being over the Life Course, (Princeton University Press, 2019).


objective veneer. When seen in terms of practical living, the exclusionary view of the scientific worldview seems to be obviously doubtful. Time Management is an important part of practical living. The concept of Time Management is based on the notion of ‘wasting time’. However, in science, it is recognized that Time cannot be wasted, because Time is not anything real. If a person were to apply the Science of Time onto practical living, he would self-destruct. The scientific worldview rejects Individuality. In Science, there is the same atom in different variations. In Science, there is uniformity in submitting to natural laws. If these notions were interpolated into practical living, individuality would be impossible. But without individuality, there is no personal choice. And without personal choice, there is nothing that separates you from anyone else. And if there is nothing that separates you from anyone else, there is no sense at all in the notion of selfdevelopment. And if there is no sense at all in the notion of self-development, then from when you are born till when you die, there is nothing you can do at all. This is the very anti-thesis of practical living. If a person were to accept Science and at the same time allow for other perspectives of looking at practical living, he would not be following the scientific worldview. It is perfectly reasonable for a person to accept, for instance, Darwinian Theory while also accepting that life must be lived without recourse to ‘biological survival’. The scientific worldview, however, does not allow for parallel positions to be maintained. The easiest example of this is in regards to God. It is perfectly reasonable for a person to accept that the universe is comprised of atoms and empty space only, while also accepting the notion of God as an alternative to social habits. If, for instance, a person were to hold such parallel views, people will point out that he is contradicting


himself. There is no contradiction, except from the perspective of the scientific worldview. Many of life’s problems can only be solved by a lot of imaginary thinking. Indeed Isaksen, Dorval, and Treffinger consider imagination the primary tool for creative solutions to difficult problems.7 There is a difference between wishful thinking and imaginary thinking. Wishful thinking is expressing your desire fancifully, whereas imaginary thinking is the exploration of new ideas without constricting yourself to your current situation. Without imaginary thinking, many problems of life cannot be solved simply due to the limitations that the current situation poses. With its reliance on Empiricism, the scientific worldview rejects all thinking not based on immediate sensations. This means, in any given situation, only the details furnished to you directly by the situation can be taken seriously. Yet, in many instances, it is only by thinking of details that the situation does not provide you, can a proper solution be found. If Positivism is taken seriously, then almost all of life’s problems can never be solved. For instance, the question of what to do with your life does not adhere to the rigorous criteria of meaning that Positivism expects. Life, as opposed to career, is so ambiguous that no clear and concrete definition can be given of it. Positivism will have us believe that the ambiguity in the word ‘life’ renders it meaningless. In reality, the question is obviously meaningful; since, without thinking of it, it will be impossible for anyone to live practically. Positivism, of course, argues that usability does not equal to truth. A notion can have important usages but it is nonetheless false. This is correct but also irrelevant. A truth which is totally useless in practical living has no value at all in anyone’s actual


See S. G. Isaksen, K. B. Dorval, and D. J. Treffinger, Creative Approaches to Problem Solving: A Framework for Innovation and Change, (New Delhi: SAGE Publication, 2010).


life. In our lives, everyone recognizes that they have to deal with notions that are not directly related to factual entities. For instance, Ideology is not a factual entity; yet, it is definitely important for everyone to be aware of ideological brainwashing. Materialism espouses the total passivity of a person towards social pressure. The scientific worldview, repeatedly, affirms the impossibility of individuality distinct from social pressure. If social pressure determines all actions, then practical living becomes a form of ‘herd mentality,’ where any form of original thinking is regarded as futile and fantastical. Practical living does not ignore social pressure. What practical living does do, however, is recognize that despite social pressure, a person can always have the ability to react to social pressure in a different way than society asks of him. Freudianism paints human life as a necessary tragedy where pleasure gives way to safety. It also emphasizes a form of infantilism, where a person can never be free from his childhood experiences. In practical living, there is the notion of optimal living. By definition, optimal living can never be found in the masses; only a few people can live optimally. The progression from mediocre living to optimal living entails a person moves away from his childhood experiences. It also entails that life need not necessarily be a tragedy. When the scientific worldview is taken as a whole, it becomes clear it is inadequate for solving the problems of living. In practice, most people who adopt the scientific worldview are not coherent in accepting it. For instance, they will deny that non-physical things are real, but they will seek emotional closure. Despite this, the scientific worldview has narrowed their approach to living. If emotional closure can be gained by accepting some sort of transcendental wisdom, those who adopt the scientific worldview will not accept it.


Science does not necessarily aim at improving man’s life. Its central aim is in improving man’s understanding of the universe. But even if people understand the universe in all its scientific aspects, this understanding will be limited to the universe and not to practical living. A person could understand world economy to the best level; yet, this understanding will have nothing to say on how he can find satisfaction in his own life. If this is understood, a person can respectfully separate Science from Practical Living, while accepting both wholeheartedly. The scientific worldview only sees Science and nothing else; thus, Practical Living becomes erased.







Tazkīyat Al-Nafs (‫ )تزكية النفس‬is an integral part of Islamic spirituality in its uniqueness in contrast to universalized spirituality, especially Christian spirituality. Islamic Spirituality uses the notions of God and the Soul in a practical framework that allows people to answer the Problems of Living. It is essential that a distinction is made between Modern Muslims and Islamic spirituality here. Modern Muslims do have the belief in God and the Soul, whereas Islamic spirituality uses the notions of God and the Soul. Beliefs have no practical value whatsoever, while application of notions does have practical value. God and the Soul mean different things depending on which position you take. For Modern Muslims, God is an expression of social conditioning. For Islamic spirituality, God is the alternative to social conditioning. For Modern Muslims, the Soul is the uncritical praise that a person gives to himself. For Islamic spirituality, the Soul is recognizing that you are not enough, but that you can become more than what you currently are.


The versatility of the meanings that God and Soul take on within Islamic spirituality contrasts with the strictures of Positivism. In Positivism, every word has a bounded meaning. In Islamic spirituality, God and the Soul has unbounded meanings. For instance, when God is seen as the alternative to social conditioning, the content given for ‘God’ depends on the social context. Change the social context and the content of ‘God’ changes. In an Islamic society, God will be the alternative to insular fanaticism. In a secular society, God will be the alternative to heedless hedonism. A person may live in a religious society and then move to a secular society. With his move comes a change in what God means to him. Because it is impossible for Positivism to have this flexibility, the scientific worldview lacks the adaptability and expansiveness needed to solve the Problems of Living. The notion of the Soul emphasizes self-development in Islamic spirituality. Many of life’s problems can be solved if a person were to change himself. The Quran says: Verily, Allah will not change the condition of a people as long as they do not change their state themselves [13:11]. Due to Materialism, the scientific worldview makes people expect society to change in order for their problems to be solved. Yet society will not change, or at the very best, it will change in such a slow manner that your own personal problems will have lost relevance at all. The Soul gives a person the motive to develop him in various ways to overcome his problems. Nowadays people think their betterment is necessarily connected with their resources. But in thinking this, people understand resources as only financial. Their own inner resource, the human potential inherent in them, is either ignored or regarded as worthless. This devaluing of the inner resource, which


Materialism does, is rejected by Islamic spirituality. In Islamic spirituality, the emphasis is placed on the inner resource more than the financial resource. God is also seen as the third-person omniscient perspective in Islamic spirituality. Based on Empiricism, people only think based on what they see. But many times, in order to really know the truth of any situation, you will have to look at the situation from an objective perspective. With Empiricism, this cannot be done; since, there is no sense in thinking you can think from outside your situation. With the notion of God, a person can imaginatively posit himself outside his situation and look on the entire context from a perspective that approximates, even if it does not reach, objectivity. Again, it is essential to differentiate Islamic spirituality from Modern Muslims. For Modern Muslims, God becomes moral condemnation. When a situation needs to be judged, Modern Muslims invoke God so they can condemn aspects of the situation no matter if the situation itself does not call for condemnation. This Modern Muslim habit has no relation to the Quran; since, the Quran says: So, whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it. And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it [99:7-8]. The Quran asks people to scrutinize every situation until they can account for every single detail (atom) of the situation. The Quran does not ask people to provide blanket judgments while ignoring the details of the situation. Also, the Quran asks for both the good and the bad details of a situation to be recognized, whereas Modern Muslims prefer to ignore the good and focus on the bad. As for the details themselves, the Quran asks us to verify they are indeed true. Most of what Modern Muslims condemn is bad details that are unverified, out-of-context, distorted, exaggerated, and understood contrary to how the situation itself dictates.


Islamic spirituality rejects the Modern Muslim trend towards moral condemnation and instead fosters in people the notion of observing their situations from a third-person omniscient perspective. You may be in a situation where some harm affects you, but overall, if you look at the situation from the bird’s eye perspective, your situation is helpful. Thus, you recognize that the situation is good despite the empirical fact of the bad you face. Islamic spirituality aims to integrate sexuality into a holistic character rather than either excluding sexuality all together (conservatism) or making sexuality the exclusive character of a person (Freudianism). The argument presented does not claim that Islamic spirituality is the only way to solve practical problems in living. The argument, in fact, makes a more modest claim. Islamic spirituality can be usefully used to solve problems of practical living that the scientific worldview cannot. Even if a person were to reject Islamic spirituality, he must at least be open to the suggestion that Islamic spirituality is a viable option for practical living.

5.4 TAZKĪYAT AL-NAFS (‫ )تزكية النفس‬IS MORE PRACTICAL THAN SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW IN TERMS OF LIVING At first glance, it seems preposterous that spirituality of any sorts, whether Islamic or otherwise, would be more practical than the scientific worldview in terms of living. This is due to the readily accepted assumption that spirituality is superstition while science is realism. This readily accepted assumption is based on another assumption that spirituality can never be about practical living. While the first assumption may seem obvious, the second does not. As has been shown, the Prophet[pbuh] and his companions focused most of their efforts on the practical, and only spent the least


amount of time on what is not practical at all. Indeed, the Quran mentions, in the case of the Prophet Musa’s followers, how spirituality without any practicality is not spirituality at all but an insult to God. The assumption that spirituality can never be about practical living derives from Europe’s experience with Christian spirituality. It would be logically absurd to equate Christian spirituality with Islamic spirituality. They are different, not the same. Once the assumption is shown to be inapplicable to Islamic spirituality, the readily accepted assumption of spirituality being superstition, and science being realism, collapses. Spirituality is practicality. Science is the knowledge of the mechanism of the material phenomena. There is no contradiction between them. key distinguishing feature of Islam is the Sunnah and Biography of the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]. There is no other religion that contains such intricate and detailed account of its founding figure’s daily life except Islam. The Sunnah and Biography provide a very wide-scope for practicality. This practicality does not aim to dominate a person’s life, as the Prophet’s advice on date-palms show. Islamic spirituality represents as practical way of living that can be used in parallel with other scientific and modern discoveries to problem solving. Because Islamic spirituality allows for a parallel usage of several differing perspectives, the central question ceases to be any exclusive choice between spirituality or science. A person can have both spirituality and science. If a person chose spirituality only and ignored science, he would be mistaken, as the Prophet[pbuh] made clear to the Sahaba. If a person chose science only and ignored spirituality, he too would be mistaken, but for different reasons. Practical living becomes more effective the wider a person’s mental horizon is. Between a person who can only think in one way and


another person who can think in two different ways, the person who can think in two ways will have a greater ability to solve the problem of living practically. This argument alone is sufficient to warrant accepting Islamic spirituality as more practical than the scientific worldview. As has been shown, the scientific worldview totalizes and dominates all other perspectives; it allows for no parallel perspectives to be accepted. The only possible counter-argument would be based on the actual experience of Modern Muslims. In our time Modern Muslims either reject or are ignorant of Islamic spirituality. Their very lifestyle involves superstitious beliefs and irrational actions. This happens due to the prevailing dominant system of education which is based on liberalism, positivism and rationalism. Modern Muslims need to be exposed to the true system of education based on the Islamic theory of knowledge. This research does not deny this, and definitely does not attempt to justify what Modern Muslims think and do. The same, however, can be said of the Average Atheist, but in slightly different terms. The Average Atheist does not exhibit the daring ingenuity of Atheist Intellectuals such as Camus or Sartre or even Freud or Darwin. The Average Atheist is a common person who follows the social habits in his society and on social media. If his society is religious, he will follow the social media trend of ‘free thinkers’ which is merely the Entertainment and Publishing Industry. If his society is secular, he will reject the social media trends of ‘religious believers’ which is merely the gossip and opinions of Modern Muslims. In other words, the Average Atheist exhibits commonality. The daring ingenuity that is Atheism’s legacy cannot be found in the common. In the same way, Modern Muslims exhibit commonality whereas Islamic spirituality cannot be found in the common. This argument has been mentioned before in relation to the critique of Materialism with reference to healthy diets and fasting.


The research does not ask the reader to embrace the commonality in Modern Muslims; rather, this research presents a fresh understanding of Islamic spirituality that allows for a greater practicality in solving the problems of living. As mentioned previously, an Average Atheist can be much more virtuous than a Modern Muslim; so, this research should not be seen as advocating choosing between either being Atheist or being Muslim. While such choices may be common place in apologetic and polemical works, it has no place in this research. Choosing a side in such a debate will do nothing for improving your practical living. What can improve your practical living is a new way to conceptualize the vast Islamic heritage into an area for practical application in life in time space context. It is the author’s humble opinion that, when all is said and done, Islamic spirituality, in this light, will have appeal to both the Average Atheist and Modern Muslim, in motivating them both to leaving aside commonality and to start living their life to its fullest extent.



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