Reading Frithjof Schuon on Islam
Schuon is arguably the greatest writer on Islam in the Western World though hardly heard here
MUHAMMAD MAROOF SHAH
Are you troubled by such questions as the following?
•Why God created man when he knew he will disobey and most men will go to hell?
• How come saints claim that they have a sort of mir’aj?
•What was God doing before he created the universe?
•Why different religions continue to flourish and refuse conversion despite the message being conveyed so clearly to many of their followers and leaders?
•What is the inner meaning of shab-i-qadr and how come it can be sought where sun hardly sets or sets after six months?
•Why shall we be punished in hell for not believing or how is it that we ar really punished by sin not for sins?
•How to explain the drama played in the Garden of Eden and why was Satan given license and how come he managed to enter paradise?
•How can we explain innocent children suffer for no sins of their own?
•Why does Islam require affirming previous revelations and if it endorses Muslim monopoly on salvation? What about those who have never heard about Islam getting sentenced to hell?
•Why is it a condition that intelligence saves and it is God’s mercy rather than good actions that primarily determine who will be saved?
•If everything is foreknown or predestined how come we are still accountable?
•What is burnt in the hell if not self will only?
•What is the meaning of God being the one who leads astray?
Perhaps you have been troubled by one or more of these questions. Perhaps some atheists have cornered you asking embarrassing questions. Or perhaps your own kith and ken invoke Darwin or Hawking to deny God. And countless questions have been raised by those studying anthropology, philosophy, comparative religion, and modern physics regarding your traditional religious beliefs. So how do you propose to approach all these questions?
I, for myself, found all the “answers” or at least got my questions dissolved by turning to Masters of Islamic intellectual-spiritual heritage and their exegeses of the Quran. The Quran is at times very difficult to grasp though it is very easy for zikr as it itself says. The best exponent of Islam in the modern idiom that engages with all faith denying philosophies head on and can be called modern proof of Islam (Hujjatl Islam) is is Frithjof Schuon, a Swiss born metaphysician who converted to Islam and was renamed Isa Nuruddin. The spirit of many works on defense of islam such as Shah Wailluah’ Hujjatullahi Balligah is best presented in metaphysical framework of Schuon for modern Muslims educated in modern academies and nurtured in an environment where religion has been increasingly marginalized after its theological formulations have come to be scrutinized. Reading him is reading the most objective, crisp and authentic traditionalist metaphysical view of Islam. It has been respectfully taken by the best Western minds. Schuon attracted some of the greatest scholars on Islam and Perennial Philosophy through his works. Amongst his Muslim admirers are included such great Muslim thinkers as Syed Hussain Nasr. Martin Lings who wrote that great book on the Prophet of Islam (S.A.W) is one amongst dozens of great scholars of the Western World.
Schuon is arguably the greatest writer on Islam in the Western World though hardly heard here. It shows poverty of our education and reading. Why his Understanding Islam, Dimensions of Islam and Islam and the Perennial Philosophy are, in many respects, best, most sophisticated, scholarly and dense works on Islam and comparative religion can be shown only by reading them.
Regarding some of the questions listed above Schuon would apply his metaphysical approach that accesses the truth or haqeeqa most directly to give his insights. He clarifies that he has nothing original to say but present what has already been said by the prophets and sages or saints and the most authoritative ulama. He is only a transmitter, not even an exegete. For him man is made for the Absolute, God is to be understood as pure Being and personal God is a hypostasis of it. The Prophet is Logos. Intelligence can intuit metaphysical realities after the fog of passions is cleared. Man is quintessentially intelligence and it is oriented towards transcendence and thus saves. Theology is our own story or what Coomaraswamy called autology. Adam and Eve needn’t be seen in light of history or anthroplohgical thought. Modern thought is guilty of fundamental blunders in questions relating to religion. Religion is for csaving people rather than communicating objective truth. There is a unity of religions but at transcendent plane that has to be realized by deep mystical discipline, by perfecting the practice on forms. Syncretism is wrong but so is theological exclusivism. Atheism and theism are both limited perspectives and one needs transtheistic metaphysicsc to make sense of both. We are not sent to heaven or hell but choose them by our use or abuse of intelligence. We can deny hell only if we deny demands of our theomorphic nature.
Schuon is not easy to read but then one should not ask difficult questions on Islam. I have seen certain atheists here asking big questions but can’t distinguish between saint and sage or religion and metaphysics. Syed Hussain Nasr has said that if it were possible to teach metaphysics to everyone there would be no atheists around. Teaching metaphysics needs hard discipline of not only mind but also will and virtues and humility to be open to the Real. Are we ready? .
Reading Schuon is a treasure, a rare treat as it provides an opening to the deeper intellectual and spiritual content of islam we all need to understand. One reads not only Muslim philosophers and Sufis but also great thinkers, poets and artists of other traditions by reading him. His Transcendent Unity of Religions is one of the most brilliant books and a must read for anyone interested in the fate of other religious believers and dialogue between faiths.
One should have tawfeeq of reading Schuon. One can’t simply recommend him to all and sundry.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 6 Sep 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 6 Sep 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Sep 2013 00:00:00 IST
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