Monday, January 22, 2007

Paul Edwards,

Of course, any literate Muslim knows about the Mu’tazilah, mostly by name only. I must admit that I myself, took very little interest in the subject until lately for reasons rather similar to the ones that drove you. You probably know that this particular sect has suffered terrible atrocities in first few centuries of Islam and beyond. To this day; the “Orthodox” Muslim establishment (especially on the Sunni side, and more particularly the Wahabis and their like) considers this school heretical and blasphemous. Unfortunately philosophical and intellectual debate is characterized by violence and terrible persecution in our history.

And in fact, if you study the Mu’tazilah carefully, you will easily discover that they were neither atheistic nor disrespectful of the basic fundamentals of religion. They were just uncompromising rationalists, and were very typically incredibly careless about their personal safety in expressing their views in times that the general public could hardly understand or appreciate such opinions. This thought was almost forgotten and considered part of the archaic heritage of the era of theological and philosophical speculation that flourished in the early centuries of Islam, but in recent times interest in this school has seen a revival by some intellectuals and seekers of truth.

One of our friends reminds us of Sufism, i.e. the mystic schools of Islam, and that is certainly another huge subject of interest. One similarity between the two is the common fate of most of their prominent figures, that is persecution and execution often by dismembering and crucifixion. Like Al-Hallaj, the founder of Islamic Sufism; Ghailan Al-Dimashqi ( of Damascus, Syria ), continued to preach while on the cross with amputated legs and arms, until the Caliph sent his executioners to cut his tongue off. The Caliph councilors had told him: “Sire, you have cut off his arms and legs, and left his tongue that is more harmful than a thousand arms and legs”. No wonder the kings and rulers loathed the Mu’tazilah; one of their main tenets was the religious duty to rise against any unjust ruler.

For those who are interested to know more about the subject, Wikipedia does indeed have a nice introduction'tazili ; someday when I might have more leisure we could be spending a lot of time debating these subjects that are much more interesting to me personally than the mess of the Iraqi situation.



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