Philosophy was the science of olden days. And now science has assumed the position of philosophy of our days. Science has since intervened in the sphere of philosophy with this perspective.
In fact, the problem with contemporary rationality is that it has intermixed pure philosophic issues with science. Interrelationship of science and philosophy has become vague. Let us elaborate in simple terms:
A student is given to understand that the essence of philosophy is rational study of nature and the universe. It is also claimed that it is the study of nature alone which is the ultimate source of knowledge.
Saying that philosophy and religion have common ground because the issues which philosophy deals with includes creation, judgment, predestination, good and evil, ethics and various issues related to the individual and the society are the same as have already been dealt with by religion, amounts to making category mistake.
In fact such thinking has misplaced both science and philosophy. It has also given rise to so many erroneous challenges to religion. Therefore, it is very necessary to understand each subject in its own place.
Philosophy is actually knowing the real fact, what and how it is. It is practical as well as theoretical. Practical philosophy includes knowing those actions which are in our control. They include ethics and domestic economy (tadbῑr al-manzil) and politics. Theoretical philosophy includes Physics, Metaphysics and Mathematics.
The fundamental branch of philosophy is study of nature (physics) while its top most realm is that of metaphysics.
The former is a means to the later. So it must be born in mind that means never become end in themselves. Keeping this fact in view it can be said that science has intervened into various branches of philosophy including metaphysics.
It is important to see that if this intervention does not prove counterproductive to any of the branches of philosophy then it will be a welcome intervention otherwise it will create a plethora of confusions in our understanding of science itself apart from philosophy and religion.
True revealed religion basically deals with aqā’id (beliefs), ibādāt (worship, where in a narrow sense only rituals are included), mu‘āmalāt (transactions), mu‘āsharat (social relationships) and akhlāqiyāt (ethics). Factually, religion shares these issues with the basic issues of philosophy excluding mathematics and physics.
Mathematics and physics are not basic issues of religion. Why? Because religion is basically concerned about the interrelation of the Creator and the creation. Its fundamental and foremost objective is to know and fulfill the rights of the Creator (huqūq Allah) and of the creation (huqūq al-‘Ibād) for the pleasure of the Creator (ikhlās).
That is why the Shari‘ah deals with such issues which are related to the welfare of beings and shares them with philosophy unlike mathematics and physics which don’t have anything to do with the rights of the Creator and the creation. These subjects are not the end in religion but means to the end.
Hence, unlike science, in religion, the study of nature is not an end in itself but natural phenomena and the material world provides signs for those who think and reflect.
Religion essentially requires man to prioritise his role as a coherent being and recognise his responsibilities towards his Creator and rest of the creation.
This is the reason why no exhaustive details are provided in the Qur’an about the things that are not its objectives but are simply means to the ultimate objective.
For example, trying to know where the stars are situated in the heavens can be a laudable venture to know but making man accountable for this is against the Divine Compassion and Love, as knowing the universe is not the objective but means to the objective, which is to know the Creator and the Creator-creation relationship in a wider perspective.
This clearly makes us understand that study of nature and science as such is a means to the end not the ultimate objective of true knowledge. Hence, stretching the boundaries of physics beyond its limits, amounts to the demolition of the edifice of knowledge and thought itself and degrading religion and philosophy at the same time.
Religion is above philosophy also because, for instance, Religious teachings of ethics and morality are far better and effective than philosophical teachings.
Consciousness and gnosis of God is the basis of all ethics. In religious ethics earning the pleasure of the Creator is essential whereas the philosophers have no knowledge of radā e ilāhῑ (Pleasure of God).
The immediate benefit of God consciousness is that a believer will never get dejected and despaired whereas it has been seen that philosophers have hardly experienced mental peace and solace.
Then even the intention behind earning the divine pleasure is also of two kinds: one, to earn the divine pleasure for peace. This is shirk; two, to earn the divine pleasure for the above all purpose of pleasing God.
This is the ultimate destination of all the pursuits to knowledge for a believer. Has any Aristotle, Socrates, or Plato ever smelt this fragrance of religion? Hence, knowledge is in infancy when it is scientific, it assumes adolescence in philosophy and it matures completely in religion.
If this is the position of the science of the olden times then what can be the position of the philosophy of the contemporary time?
Now, coming to the modern mind which experiences so many mental dilemmas when it becomes judgmental without understanding the fact discussed above very briefly.
The confusions which unfortunately are mostly about religion are because:
Firstly, confusions about religion are basically because of spiritual illnesses but confused people do not consider them result of any spiritual illness. Had these confusions been understood as spiritual illnesses, the patient would have consulted a proper person to cure them. A doctor would have been consulted to cure the mind.
Secondly, self-reliance at every level is ignorance in the matters of knowledge because above every knowledgeable person is one who is more knowledgeable. Relying upon one’s findings and understanding leads sometimes to erroneous conclusions.
Thirdly, not accepting expert opinion simply because it is other’s is again result of the same kind of illness in which one considers himself to be the only giant in the field.
In the modern times ambiguity in the interrelationship of science and philosophy has resulted in serious setback to the principles of scholasticism.
This has not only caused confusions in understanding the nature of philosophy but has also given a wrong signal to science to poke into the realms of philosophy and more seriously religion.
As a result truth, in whatever form, scientific, philosophical or religious becomes the greatest casualty.
Dr Nazir Ahmad Zargar, Coordinator, Department of Religious Studies, Central University of Kashmir
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.