Mystic Mantra: Ibn Rushd’s reflections on spirituality

After the catastrophes of the two World Wars, we are now fated to see the biggest tragedy of the 21st century.

Recently, social scientists have reinforced the idea of teaching moral and spiritual sciences in secular schools and rational sciences in religious seminaries. This is a welcome sign of introspection. But regrettably, we are living in a turbulent time when both religion and science are at stake.

After the catastrophes of the two World Wars, we are now fated to see the biggest tragedy of the 21st century. Science and religion both are being twisted and misused to further nefarious ends. Religion, which came as a spiritual path to salvation is being turned into a political ideology creating religio-fascism. The danger has grown so exponentially that it has gone beyond the extent of colonialism, the economic exploitation of Capitalism, the atheism of Marxism and the moral bankruptcy of other man-made systems. Today, it’s not difficult to see how scores of religious thugs are playing out in society to debar the blind fathers of religions from reason and rationality.

Much in the same way, moral and ethical decay and spiritual deterioration are on the rampage in the academic and scientific domain. Tolerance of dissenting views, respect for freedom of expression and critical reasoning; all are losing their actual meaning in educational institutes. In place of intellectual and social engagement, students are more inclined towards political activities. The consequence is that young and gullible pupils in university campuses are raging, protesting, quite angrily and furiously. The reason? An essential combination of science and spirituality is on the brink of complete disappearance from the whole scene of modern society. Just as science without spirituality is hampering the experience of one’s unlimited potential, religion without science is indoctrinating one into unhealthy precepts and retrogressive dogmas.

The concrete solution to this baffling problem, according to the world’s luminaries, is that science and spirituality are weaved into a thread of mutual corroboration. As a matter of fact, both have striking commonalities, albeit slight differences.

Spirituality has never been antithetical to science. Rather, scientific temperament is a pre-requisite to attain eternal salvation. One who is well versed in the rational sciences, gets deeply immersed in mystical and spiritual wisdom. Similarly, scientific thinking requires that we shun the polemics of religion and have the heart of its spirituality. Modern man can thus find a panacea for all the ills, both in mundane and in spiritual affairs.

Muslim inventors and scientists also perceived a perfect harmony between reason and revelation. They argued that numerous Quranic verses exhort contemplation (tadabbur), reflection (tafakkur) and pursuit of surest knowledge (ilm al-yaqeen).

Reviver of Aristotelian philosophy and a believer in the holy Quran as guidance for all mankind, Ibn Rushd (Averroes) extensively quoted the Quran’s references in support of his progressive views on religion, philosophy, reason and the science of creations. His interpretation of the Quran engages one in intellectual brainstorming. He was so immersed in the Qur’anic combination of reason and revelation that he had courage of conviction to say: “the study of existing beings, natural sciences, and other disciplines like physics, metaphysics, ethics etc. is obligatory in the Quranic view”.

Ibn Rushd contributed a comprehensive book in Arabic — “Kitab fasl al-maqal” — on the harmony of religion and science, articulating it in a clear, cogent and convincing way. Here is a glimpse of how Ibn Rushd quoted the Quran to buttress that religion is in full synergy with scientific temperament:

“There is a clear indication of the necessity of both reason and revelation in the interpretation of things. The Quran says: ‘Do they not contemplate the kingdom of heaven and earth and the things which God has created?’ [7:184]”.

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