duminică, 13 noiembrie 2011

Sociologie in secolul 10

[...] It may therefore come as a surprise to many people that there is a long and vibrant intellectual tradition of dissidence and freethinking going back to the Middle Ages. The Islamic thinkers of the early medieval period expressed ideas and engaged in debates that would appear strangely enlightened in comparison with the attitudes and views adopted by modern Islamic scholarship.

This is the basic argument presented by From the History of Atheism in Islam by the renowned Egyptian thinker Abdel-Rahman Badawi. Published in Arabic in 1945, the book was reprinted only once in 1993. It discusses the work of the Islamic philosopher-scientists of the medieval period and the way they upheld reason, freedom of thought and humanist values, while questioning and often refuting some basic Islamic tenets.

Although many of those thinkers, according to Badawi, did not attempt to disprove the existence of God, they lashed out against the notion of prophethood and argued against the privileged position occupied by the Prophet Muhammad and his followers.

Most prominent among those scholars was Abu Bakr al-Razi (865-925 CE) who believed in the supreme importance of reason. He argued that the mind had an innate capacity to distinguish between good and evil, and between what was useful and what was harmful. According to him, the mind did not need any guidance from outside it, and for this reason the presence of prophets was redundant and superfluous.

Al-Razi directed his most vehement attack against the holy books in general, including the Qur'an, because he saw them as illogical and self-contradictory. He also believed that all human beings were equal in their intellectual capacities as they were in all other things. It made no sense therefore that God should single out one individual from among them in order to reveal to him his divine wisdom and assign him the task of guiding other human beings. Furthermore, he found that prophets' pronouncements and stories often contradicted those of other prophets. If their source was divine revelation as is claimed, their views would have been identical. The idea of a divinely-appointed mediator was therefore a myth.

Al-Razi understood the hold of religious belief on society, which he attributed to several factors. Firstly, systems of beliefs spread mainly through the human propensity for imitating and copying others. Secondly, religion's popularity rested on the close alliance between clerics and political rulers. The clerics often used this alliance to impose their own personal beliefs on people by force whenever the power of persuasion failed. Thirdly, the lavish and imposing character of the attire of religious men contributed to the high regard in which they were held by common people. Lastly, with the passage of time religious ideas became so familiar that they turned almost into deep-seated instincts that were no longer questioned.

Amira Nowaira: When Islamic atheism thrived