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Saturday, April 30, 2011


Where is Ibn Rushd when we all need him more than ever?
This is not a frivolous question, but a very serious one. In the third century A.D.,the Christian theologian Tertullian asked: "What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?"
What he meant by this was, essentially, what do empirically-based knowledge and divine revelation have to do with one another? This viewpoint continued to be important for a few centuries. Enough for the last Roman Emperors to order the old Greek academies closed once Christianity became compulsory courtesy of the emperor Theodosius in 390. I am not as well acquainted with the process of reconciliation in Judaism as I am in Christianity, but I'm willing to bet Ben Maimon (also known as Maimonides) at least completed that process in Judaism as Thomas Aquinas (with addenda from the Franciscan scientist Roger Bacon) performed that very necessary-for-scientific-and-technological-service for--actually, more for Western Christianity as opposed to Eastern Christianity. What Aquinas, BenMaimon et al did was:they constructed the philosophical underpinnings by which scientific and technological progress could live under the umbrella of, and be seen as being part of, divine revelation.Without this, some nutty monk or hedgerow priest might have been able to call even a windmill heretical. (Step up, Don Quixote!) A millennium ago, Islam led the world in science and technology. They did so because the Caliphate had plenty of Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians inside it and because there was then a Muslim party called the Mu'tazilites. Suffice it to say for the moment, their theology left the door open for human reason, and empirically acquired knowledge, to come under the umbrella of divine revelation.  One of, if not the, foremost Mu'tazilite known as Ibn Rushd or Averroes, actually laid the ground for the work of both Aquinas and Maimonides. The Mu'tazilites were opposed by the Ash'arites.The Ash'arites basically said, nothing happens without God taking an active part and to say anything else is heresy. So, too, is the idea of humans being co-creators with God. Essentially, they did not believe in the laws of physics nor even in cause and effect. The Ash'arites won and, today, the Muslim sects without the Ash'arite stamp on them need to be looked for. Mainstream Islam is almost completely Ash'arite today. There are those seeking to reopen the doors of free inquiry and independent research within Islam today, and their numbers are growing, but they need an oilfield or two under them to have the power they need to spread their words and to have those who agree with them to courageously say so instead of keeping a cowardly silence. That's also one reason the Islamists are doomed to defeat: without Jews and Christians, all of whom the Islamists wish to murder, all the techno-scientific progress of the last six centuries would go gurgling down the drain and the resurgent Caliphate would be hardly larger than 500 years ago, except maybe for new areas of Eurabia.Underpinnings are important, ladies and gentlemen! If they go, so do the bridges! Maybe not immediately, but soon--and Muslims could not shore them up and no one else, if they're smart, would want to do it for them!
In my opinion, the two 'persons' Islam needs today more than ever are: 1)Thomas Aquinas, to build the underpinnings for earthly progress, and 2)Thomas Jefferson, to apply to Islam what the original said of Christianity: "If my neighbor says there are thirty gods, or no god, what is that to me? It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket." Maybe today's Islam needs many Aquinases and Jeffersons, but they need to act together, in concert and with the faith that it is they, as opposed to the Islamist enemies of all of us, who are truly doing God's work. Only thus will they find the strength and courage they need to contend with the common enemies of all of  modern civilization. The Islamists are enemies to the best in Islam as well as everything in other faiths; that cannot be said often enough right here, right now. Perhaps the anti-Islamist Muslims ought to have, "Back To Ibn Rushd!" as a rallying cry.