Conclusion: The Critical Methodology of Islam
Let us, in conclusion, review the characteristics of meta-religion
according to Islam, those characteristics that make it rational and critical.
1) Islamic meta-religion does not a priori condemn any religion. Indeed, it gives every religion the benefit of the doubt and more. Islamic meta-religion assumes that every religion is God-revealed and God-ordained, until it is historically proven beyond doubt that the constitutive elements of that religion are human made.
2) Islamic meta-religion readily links the religions of history with the divine source on the ground that there is no people or group but God had sent them a prophet to teach them the same lesson of religion, of piety and virtue.
3) Islamic meta-religion grants ready accreditation to all humans in their religious attempts to formulate and express religious truth. For it acknowledges all humans to have been born with all that is necessary to know God and His will, the moral law, so as to discriminate between good and evil.
4) Islamic meta-religion is painfully aware of human passions, prejudices, and deficiencies and of their sinister influence upon what was revealed or discovered to be primordial religion (din al fltrah) or primordial truth. Thus, it calls upon all humans, especially the ulama of each religion, to subject their religious traditions to rational, critical examination, and to discard those elements that are proven to be human additions, emendations, or falsifications. In this task of historical criticism of all the religions of history, all humans are brothers and must cooperate to establish the primordial truth underlying all the religions.
5) Islamic meta-religion honors human reason to the point of making it equivalent to revelation in the sense that neither can discard the other without imperiling itself. That is why in Islamic methodology, no contradiction, or non-correspondence with reality, can be final or ultimate. The Islamic scholar of religion is therefore ever tolerant, ever open to evidence, ever critical.
6) Islamic meta-religion is humanistic par excellence, in that it assumes all men to be innocent, not fallen or vitiated at birth, capable of discerning good and evil, free to choose according to their reason, conscience, or best knowledge, and personally, that is, individually, responsible for their own deeds.
7) Islamic meta-religion is world -- and life -- affirmative, in that
it assumes creation, life, and history not to be in vain, not the work of a
blind force, or of a trickster-god, but ordered to lead to value. It
acknowledges the critical principle that nature is incapable by itself to
produce critical self-consciousness, but man's role is to do precisely that. A
trickster-god would be in foolish self-contradiction, to create man and endow him
with his critical faculties.
8) Finally, Islamic meta-religion is an institution, not a mere theory, tested by fourteen centuries of continuous application, of success against tremendous odds. It alone among the religions and ideologies of the world was large enough in heart, in spirit as well as in letter, to give mankind the gift of a pluralism of laws with which to govern their lives under the aegis of its own metareligious principles and laws. It alone acknowledged such plurality of laws as religiously and politically de jure, while it called their adherents with wisdom and fair argument to consider rationally, critically, and freely why they should not unite under the banner of the one religion that is the one and only meta-religion.
1. On this point Muslim scholarship is unanimously in agreement. To those who are not familiar with this longstanding tradition, suffice it to warn that the situation of hermeneutical despair and confusion which exists in the case of Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and other scriptures has absolutely no parallel in Islam.
2. Qur'an 20:88, 29:46, and 42:15.
3. Qur'an 2:285.
4. Qur'an 2:140.
5. Qur'an 3:84.
6. Qur'an 3:24.
7. Qur'an 3:2-4.
8. Qur'an 5:69.
9. Qur'an 3:67 and 21:71-94
10. An analysis of ancient Near Eastern religious consciousness may be read in
this author's Historical Atlas of tize Religions of tize World (New York: The
Macmillan Co., 1974), pp.3-34.
11. The evidence of Tall al ‘Amarnah (Akhetaten) is the very opposite. The Egyptian colonial governors in Palestine cornmunicated with the Pharaoh not in Egyptian but in Akkadian.
12. Regarding the latter, Sabatino Moscati wrote: "In the course of establishing themselves, the new peoples thoroughly absorbed the great cultural tradition already existing. In this process of absorption, Mesopotamia seems to prevail.
Like Rome in the Middle Ages, despite its political decadence, Mesopotamia celebrates the triumph of its culture (over its enemies)." The Face of the
Ancient Orient (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1962), p.164.
13. Leader of the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 19 A.H I 641 A.C. and late Governor
14.Qur'an 3:68. Quran 3:68
15. Qur'an 3:68. Quran 5:82.
16. Qur'an 3:63-64.
17. Qur'an 17:13-15.
18. Qur'an 35:24.
19. Qur'an 40:78 and 4:163.
20. Qur'an 16:36.
21. Qur'an 14:4.
22. Qur'an 4:164.
23. It should be added here that Islam holds its revelation to be mainly a revelation of a "what" that can become a "how" befitting any historical situation. Thus, the "how"' or prescriptive form of the law may and does change in substance as well as in application, but not its spirit, purpose, or "what." Usul al Fiqh discipline has devised and institutionalized a system to govern the process of evolution of the law.
24. Qur'an 6:124.
25. Qur'an 2:30.
26. Qur'an 33:72.
27. Qur'an 23:116.
28. Qur'an 3:191.
29. Qur'an 38:27.
30. Qur'an 51:56.
31. We have not created heaven and earth but ... for you to prove yourselves
worthier in your deeds. ... All that is on earth and all the worldly ornaments we
have made thereof are to the purpose of men proving themselves worthier in the
deed (Quran 11:7,6:165, and 18:7).
32. Qur'an 95:4.
33. Qur'an 32:7-8.
34. Qur'an 14:32-33.
35. Qur'an 16:14, 22:36-37, 22:65, 31:20, and 45:12. 60
36. Qur'an 11:61.
38. Qur'an 30:30 and 48:23.
39. On the philosophical uncertainty of the laws of nature, see Clarence Irving
Lewis, Analysis of Knowledge and Valuauon (Lasalle, IL: Open Court
Publishing Co., 1946) and George Santayana, Skepticism and Animal Faith
(New York: Charles Scribners & Sons, 1923). Their position, which is that of
contemporary science, is epistemologically identical to that held by al Ghazali
(d. 504/1111) in his controversy with the philosophers (see his Tahafrt al
Falasifah or Refutation of the Philosophers, tr. by Sabih Kamali (Lahore:
Pakistan Philosophical Congress, 1963).
40. Qur'an 51:21, 33:62, and 35:43.
41. Qur'an 15:9.
42. Qur'an 30:30.
43. Qur'an 3:19.
44.This is the substance of the Hadith, "Everyman is born with natural
religion --i.e. as a Muslim. It is his parents that make him a Jew, a Magian, or
45. Rudolph Otto, The idea of the Holy (New York: Oxford University
46. Mircea Eliade, Patterns of Comparative Religion (London: Sheed and
Ward, Ltd., undated) and The Sacred and the Profane (New York: Harper and Row,
47. Qu'ran 49:13
49. Ishaq ibn Hisham, Sirat Rasul Allah (The Life of Muhammad), tr. by Alfred Guillaume (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946)
Thomas Arnold, The Preaching of Islam (London: 1906; Lahore: Muhammad Ashraf Publications, 1961).
Al Kufi, Shah-Namah, tr., by H. M. Elliott in his The History of l~dia Os Told by Its Own Historians (London: 1867-77), vol 1, pp. 184-97.
50. Thomas Arnold, The Preaching of Islam (London: 1906; Lahore: Muhammad
Ashraf Publications, 1961).
51. Al Kufi, Shah-Namah, tr., by H. M. Elliott in his The History of
l~dia Os Told by Its Own Historians (London: 1867-77), vol 1, pp. 184-97.