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Philosophy and Science in the Islamic World.

C. A. Qadir's Philosophy and Science in the Islamic World, now available in this paperback edition, is a book that could be appreciated by devout Muslims who view philosophy and science as levels of cosmic understanding that complement the moral and spiritual truths of Quran, Hadith and Sharia. The book is intended, it would seem, for the Muslim reader. However, as the author composed it in English, it may have been intended to persuade non-Muslims of Islam's scientific rationality. Accordingly, it is a fundamental of the author's faith that "true" Islam and "true" science bear no contradiction one to the other. Qadir's is not a book that would seriously engage the student of medieval or Islamic philosophy and science, except perhaps psychologically as a case study in contemporary apologetics.

Though there is no contradiction between science and scripture in Islam, as the author contends, there is a great chasm between Islamic science and Western. Western science went wrong by cutting away from its moral and spiritual bedrock, following the sixteenth century, to fasten onto the shifting sands of secular materialism. Bereft of metaphysics (here understood as moral and spiritual wisdom revealed rationally by the divine), Western science is today lost in a soulless labyrinth of mechanical materialism where humanism has been lost and life is led in a robot-like manner. This cliche is supported by a reference to George Sarton. One wonders if Qadir has read what Sarton wrote about the philosopher who put soul into philosophy, Plato.

Rather than presenting a critical, objective history of the changing place science and philosophy have had through the centuries in Islamic society, Qadir appears singlemindedly determined to convince the reader of the multiplicity of planes in which God has revealed His wisdom and the structure of His creation in Quran and Hadith. Science and philosophy constitute the rational plane. Since Islam is rational, as he states, all intellectual and spiritual dimensions of it are rational. The moral, mystical and theological planes of discourse are therefore rational and included as dimensions of science and philosophy; or, as God is one, so too are the many planes of reality at one in the rational mind of the spiritually perceptive believer. The mystical poetry of Jalal al-Din al-Rumi and the alchemical symbolism of Ibn al-Arabi equally fall within the realm of science and philosophy, which constitute the intellectual and spiritual essence of Islam. In this sense, Qadir's work is in the pious tradition of the Ikhwan al-Safa, S. H. Nasr, and the Lahore school of Amir Ali and Muhammad Iqbal, to whom the author constantly and unquestioningly refers as authorities.

The principles of science and philosophy revealed in Islamic scripture, contends Qadir, are the principles that make true science. Greek scientists and philosophers are faulted for having not perceived these principles. Muslim scientist-philosophers who found inspiration in their Greek predecessors are termed "Hellenists," deviationists who strayed from true Islamic science by not seeking the fulfillment of their wisdom in Quran and Hadith. But even these Hellenists were in part inspired by Islamic scripture: "There is no doubt the Muslims received inspiration for philosophical and scientific thinking from the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet and his companions ...". Two pages later he asserts more emphatically that it was not the works of Hellenic and Hellenistic thinkers that inspired Muslim scientist-philosophers, but the Quran. Al-Kindi, al-Farabi and Ibn Rushd were hopeless Hellenists; Ibn Sina had a foot in Hellenism but he also had a foot in the right place, Ishraq, or the Illuminationist school. For Qadir, this is a truly Islamic scientific and philosophical tradition, rooted in Quran and Hadith, and continued by Ibn Sina, Suhrawardi, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi, right up to Muhammad Iqbal and S. H. Nasr.

With this as the author's frame of reference, one would not expect his supporting citations to be predominantly secondary Western sources. But they are. It approaches absurdity when Philip Hitti, for all his excellences as a historian and pioneer in creating a place for Islamic studies in the United States, is cited as an interpretive authority in the history of the exact sciences in Islam. Qadir's book adds nothing to our knowledge of Islamic science and philosophy, in fact or interpretation.

Criticisms of a less serious nature concern transliteration and usage. With respect to the former, alim is rendered aleem; yakun, yakoon; tahafut is incorrectly rendered tahafat; Hujwiri as Hijwari; and manazir as mansir. The term "Arab" is used in referring to thinkers where "Muslim" would be more accurate. Also, the author's persistent use of the Arabic "Allah" instead of "God" is disconcerting; it is as though non-Muslim monotheists believe in a lesser god. It also tends to cleave the historical relationship of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as a distinct religious tradition venerating the same God. Regarding Qadir's own veneration, the Quranic religiosity in which his understanding of science and philosophy is embedded is so fervent that he calls upon non-Arab Muslim scientific investigators to learn Arabic. This has to do with cultural roots and keeping contact with the past and its sources of spiritual and intellectual greatness. "As the majority of scientific and philosophical treatises written in the past by Muslims are in Arabic, proficiency in Arabic is the minimum desideratum for research in this domain".

The adversarial position taken by Qadir toward other religious perspectives involved in the historical evolution of Islamic thought is sometimes jarring. In a section on the Mutazilites and al-Ashari, history as process is sacrificed at the private gate of the author's own personal interpretation of Islamic orthodoxy, the Mutazilites being figuratively decapitated as a caste of Greek-inspired outsiders alien to Islam, in the same way the ideas of Hellenic Muslim scientist-philosophers were aliens to "true" Islam. "They |the Mutazilites~ had launched a powerful attack against some of the fundamental principles and beliefs of the Muslim Community ... and had the backing of Greek philosophy and of some rulers in support of their arguments." Mutazilites are clustered together on one hand, the true community on the other. "The masses were very much perturbed." One would like to know how perturbed the masses were in this heady battle of dialectics.

This said, the book does include brief sketches of the lives and works of individual scientists and philosophers (as well as leading theologians, mystics, poets, historians) throughout Islamic history, which would prove useful to beginning students of Islamic intellectual history. The biographical sketches of leading scientists and philosophers continue right up to contemporary times, in what Qadir calls--the title of his final chapter--"The Renaissance of Science and Technology." Here are thumbnail biographies of this century's intellectual descendants of al-Kindi and al-Farabi, culminating in the 1979 Nobel prize winner for physics, Dr. Abdus (sic) Salaam, who was educated and trained in no other than that secularist-materialist hotbed of godless Western science, Cambridge, where Newton dared feign no metaphysical hypotheses.
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Author:Livingston, John W.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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