Every man on
earth seems to be in search of an identity for himself that can last a lifetime.
I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, an identity can really set our
preferences straight and keep us steadfast on one path. However, the problem
arises when we confuse the pursuit of an identity with that of limiting
ourselves within the bound of ‘isms’.
A little study
of philosophy will reveal to mind the idea behind any ‘ism’. It portrays a
thought that must encompass all. In other words, an ‘ism’ does not simply entail
appreciation of a school of thought. Rather, it portrays absolute belief in a
theory that bounds all reality within itself. In effect, belonging to an ‘ism’
conveys the belief that all incidences, all phenomena and all occurrences can be
defined and explained from within a thought. Any prescription or proscription
external to it, thus, would be regarded as false and inconsistent.
If one takes
notice of the fame that Marx has achieved in the past, one can be astounded. For
even though the man condemned religion and regarded it only as a product of the
oppressed class, he seems to have created a new religion for his followers -
‘Marxism’. There is no denying the fact that the man was a thinking individual,
that he had the capacity of luring men towards himself and therefore, towards
his thought. However, in order to be appreciative of one element of his
philosophy does not mean that we must enslave ourselves to everything he ever
had to say. For no matter how intelligent and noble a man may be, he will remain
a man after all. Just as many philosophers argue for ‘rationality’ as being the
basis of differentiation between a man and an animal, the difference between God
and man may be highlighted as well. Whilst man can commit errors and make
mistakes on account of his limited knowledge, God remains All-Knowing and
unbounded by any shortcomings. God is ‘infallible’, man is not.
If one is to
admire Marx’s explanations regarding the demise of Capitalism, to me, there
seems to be no harm. However, the moment we respond to the calls of our
excitement and relief by declaring ourselves Marxists, alarm bells begin to
ring. For such a declaration implies that we are, in fact, ascribing an
attribute of infallibility to all theories resting in the cradle of the Marxian
thought. It follows then that belief in Marx’s critique of a political economy
does not necessitate belief in his definition of religion as the ‘opium of the
that seems to have clutched our youth is that of Freud’s theories. Having read
through the works of Sigmund Freud, many people claim to be thoroughly
impressed. Again, as far as I see, there is nothing wrong with being impressed
with what is read. However, an affirmation of each and every word within that
book and all others by the psychologist, is not a requisite for any admirer.
That remains a requisite only for the believer with the divine book in his
hands. Yet again, the urge of having an identity for ourselves wins the battle,
and we begin to laud ourselves on acquiring faith in Freudianism.
caution is required in appreciating a philosophy because, in many cases, it is
the innocent admiration that gradually leads to the extreme – that is,
enslavement of the mind. The same rule ought to be applied concerning Islamic
thinkers and scholars as well. This concern first sprung to me after attending a
lecture on Muslim philosophers. Walking out of the class, a friend began
thinking aloud: ‘Should I be a Rationalist? Or should I be a Traditionalist?’.
Regardless of what fate she would decide for herself, I thought the question
itself was wrong. Of course, when we studied Ash‘arī’s criticism on the
Mu‘tazillite approach, the appeal was immense since he wrote with much
conviction, all the while, strictly adhering to the traditions of religion. On
the other hand, when we analyzed Ibn Rushd’s essay aimed at compelling men to
use their sense of reasoning, it appealed greatly to the intellect. However,
such appreciation certainly does not mean that one should either become a
traditionalist and remain a die-hard loyalist to the Ashariite school of
thought, or that one should definitely hail the God-cosmos relationship as
purported by the great Averroes. Because to do so would amount to a grave error:
assigning an unerring quality to man.
quality that we should try to equip ourselves with is that of realizing the
infallibility and absoluteness of God - and only God. And the only identity that
we ought to be satisfied with is that of being His servant.