Global Philosophy of Religion Project, The

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Event Name: Global Philosophy of Religion Project, The
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 8/21/2021
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sic] welcome to the global philosophy of religion project at the university of birmingham run by professor eugene nakasawa we at closer to truth are thrilled to collaborate hansa yusef hansen is president of zaytuna college in berkeley california the first accredited muslim liberal arts college in the united states a proponent of the liberal arts and great books education in both the western and muslim traditions he has numerous scholarly publications on religion and contemporary ethical concerns hamsa it's a real pleasure to meet thank you nice to meet you robert let's talk about god in islam obviously god is the center of islam but i want to ask that in islamic history and tradition are arguments for the existence of god uh prevalent do you find them in discussions as we do in some other religions the most compassionate prayers and peace be upon our prophet and all the prophets uh first of all arguments for the existence of god are certainly i think rife in the islamic tradition a lot of people don't know that in fact the the catholic tradition uh that also works with reason and revelation is heavily influenced by the muslim tradition and so you'll find in the five ways of aquinas a good deal of the material that aquinas was working with came out of some of the great muslim philosophers like al-farabi avacena who's ibn cena in our tradition certainly uh averroes uh even russia and uh imam al-razadi so we do have a very strong tradition uh it's called the kalam tradition and in fact william lane craig who's one of the greats arguably one of the great christian philosophers of this age has devoted his life almost uh to the promotion of a distinctly muslim argument for the extensive existence of god which is called the kalam cosmological argument and he wrote a book even though he is a christian he's using muslim theologians as the basis for his argument yes we've uh we've had bill on and we've talked about that so that is absolutely the case uh are there uh disputes about it is there any traditions within the islamic civilization where some people argued uh against against the existence of god through some various types of philosophical or or practical kinds of arguments well i think you've always had uh atheists and agnostics that goes back to the ancient peoples i mean you have uh before christ you have uh lucifers you have people like lucretius uh who are materialists uh deram natora is is a great work in in the western tradition that looks at that so within the islamic tradition you do have people that did not believe you had arguments for why people shouldn't believe some of the great disbelievers um debated uh openly like in in iraq abu hanifa is famous for debating materialists there's a great story of one of his debates where he showed up very late and the man complained about him being late and he said unfortunately he was he was stopped at the river and there was no boat to get him across the the tigris but fortunately a tree fell and formed into a boat so he was able to come across and be on top be there for the thing and the man said that's the most ridiculous thing i've ever heard and he said well your argument that all of this just uh appeared naturally without any maker is as absurd to me as the idea that a tree turned into a boat on its own yeah that's a great story yeah i think that that debate is healthy even if you are a believer irrespective of the religion to to engage in in in thoughtful debate is certainly one aspect of um of a religious conviction i think that's very that's a very healthy it's not the only thing that religious people do obviously but i think it contributes to a deeper understanding absolutely i think tradition is strongest when it's engaged with uh counter-arguments i mean that's how really how theology emerges out of these great world religions is due to people who were opposed to it and so they had to make arguments for why they actually believe what they believe so reason and revelation is very important in the islamic tradition as well as the jewish and the christian in the great scholastic iterations of the abrahamic face right um in your essay suffering and surrender you address the trials and tribulations that we all come across in the world you have a statement which i want to highlight says only god brings forth good from evil so i want to ask you how does islam address the problem of evil why the enormity of evil in a world that was created supposedly by a god that is all good and all-powerful yet i mean this is the great bugbear of uh of really the world i mean let alone uh religious traditions and i think the the argument uh for atheism obviously one of the strongest arguments is is the argument of of the existence of evil if if allah is all good how could there be this evil world from the perspective of of muslims we we see that god is the creator of the heavens and the earth that this is his dominion that anything he does in his dominion is his prerogative and we don't in any way god is is is god and and and we are who we are the quran says very clearly that god does not oppress people but they themselves were oppressing themselves and and also oppressing one another so uh the way the muslims scholars looked at it really was this idea that if you had if if i have a cloak and i burn the cloak you can say why are you burning that perfectly good cloak and and i say well it happens to be infected with a very dangerous infectious disease so us judging why god does things is is is something that the muslims have really shied away from the quran says god will not be asked about what he does but you will be asked about what you do and so obviously there are different theodicies there's a theodicy that and by theodicy i mean the you know explanations of of evil of why there is evil and certainly one of the most important ones is that the the existence is binary and the quran says in in the 36th chapter that god has created everything in pairs and so in order for good to be known there has to be evil uh the the arabs by opposites things are known and and and also moral agency because we have natural evil like a tsunami and then we have moral evil which is where a moral agent does something if a lion eats uh a human being we can we can't impose on that lion our moral sensibilities and say that it was evil although people do do that and and will kill the animal for doing something that by its nature it does but we we uh we can uh question our own actions and and and i think one of the greatest arguments for the existence of god is why we're offended by evil so in the muslim tradition or it does the problem problem of evil as a problem discussed or it's not a problem in the same way that you find in the western tradition i think the the muslims really did not because they saw that this is god's dominion and and he cannot you cannot be an oppressor in your own dominion if everything belongs to you what you do with it is your own business and so there was this idea that um god has the world is filled with good and it's filled with difficulty and it's filled with joy and sorrow and these are all ways in which human beings grow there's and they also they can only be understood in if it's only this world then absolutely it doesn't make any sense but if you have a day of judgment where rights are wrong there's a verse in the quran that says there is no oppression on this day everybody will have their due those who are merciful in the world mercy will be shown to them those who are judgmental in the world like christ said uh by the standard by which ye judge you two shall be judged so if you were somebody who always wanted justice in the world god will give you justice in the next world but for those of us i'm much more interested in mercy like i want to see a social mercy movement as opposed to a social justice movement because i think a lot of what's happening in the world is actually our just desserts for being who we are so i just wanted to add to that that one of the in arabic the word for evil has a lot of different meanings it's it's not so much evil per se but like poverty is called shutter that's the word so anything that's deficient uh is called evil and one of the things that i think people ask where is god with all this all these horrors in the world but from a muslim perspective god has more right to ask us as our creator where are you because the quran says had it not been for some people to constrain other people the entire world would be filled with evil and so i think it's really important to remember uh one of the things that helen keller said is that while the world is filled with evil it's also filled with the overcoming of evil and i think we we often focus solely on the evil and and and and use that as an excuse for not recognizing the extraordinary good that exists in the world but in the muslim understanding god at least created the capacity that there would be evil in the world i know many christians have difficulty with that concept yeah it's actually one of the six fundamental beliefs we have to believe in the measuring out of good and evil that evil is part of the world okay let's go on to uh the muslim understanding of how can we know god um your essay the prayer of the oppressed was a very um long and thoughtful approach to our uh our own personal situation and obviously god is in that does does that concept of the prayer of the oppressor does that lead to avenues that could lead to god one of the the quickest ways in which people begin to actually awaken to the possibility of god is when they're confronted with great pain and suffering uh it opens up the heart there's there's a tradition of our prophet peace be upon him that says that god is with the brokenhearted that very often it's the breaking of the heart that allows the light of god to come into the heart so i think it's very important uh to recognize that from our perspective suffering is redemptive suffering is something that can can actually be an incredible catalyst for spiritual growth and change um one of the things knowledge of god in the islamic tradition although we have a very profound scholastic tradition and we have great uh theologians uh who who used philosophy um to to make their arguments but there's also a very uh i think profound simple belief that in hears in just the common muslim that's quite stunning and i think you see this uh in in other faith traditions where the faith is is deeply rooted the way that they deal with suffering the way they deal with pain the way they deal with uh loss in life is is quite extraordinary i think that becomes a very profound proof of the power of faith to enhance our lives and and and to make our lives you know marx said that faith was an opinion of the masses but what what what a lot of people they quote that but what he actually said was that that that faith was it was the cry uh of of uh of of of a heart in an unjust world it was a cree decor of of an unjust world and so in essence what he was saying was religion numbs the pain of the world well one of the things that marxists and their minions and others have done is they've gotten rid of religion and so now i would argue opium has become the opium of of the masses like people need opium to numb the pain of the world whereas in the past it was by turning to god that one found solace and we have great examples of that so we have the philosophical tradition you now have the personal experiential uh condition of of uh needing god or seeing god through trials and tribulations let's go further um there is uh in islam as in as in many of the traditions a mystical tradition uh can religious and mystical experiences uh tell us about god uh for example islamic mystics do they know more about god than islamic non-mystics or or for that matter do they know more than analytical philosophies of religion yeah there's a great story of uh of a great philosopher ibn rushid who met with a great mystic who was also a a scholar and a philosopher but he's probably very known for for his mysticism uh and and uh his name was ibn arubi so avera we said to him is what we arrive at the same as what you arrive at in other words is our uh discursive knowledge of god the same as as your uh experiential knowledge of god and even is reported to have said yes and then uh even smiled and then ibn adobe said no and so that i think you know in in the islamic tradition experiential knowledge of god is far more profound and discursive knowledge of god one of the great scholars and mystics of islam ibrahim who was from egypt he said that that that the attempt to prove the existence of god is from the perspective of the absence of god and then he says but when was god absent that he needed to be proved and so and and so the idea is that there are people that genuinely experience god um one of in in in that same book which is called the aphorisms translated by victor danner a good translation in english one of the things that he says is whoever knows the truth sees the truth in everything and so the quran says we created the heavens and the earth with truth so there is goodness in everything and and that's why that knowledge of god which is a natural knowledge of god is much more powerful than the artificial knowledge that comes through this uh discursive thinking intuition and this is what imam alhazadi writes in his in his famous the the savior from error he writes that that he studied these different ways of knowing like epistemology and concluded that the most profound way was the way of direct experience what's called in in in arabic or gnosis of god it's it's a direct immediate experience of god and and it's far more profound especially for the person obviously that experiences it but to believe in it is is a type of um experience so those of us who might not have had the experience we believe in those who have uh and certainly the prophets are the foremost uh among them for those of us who have not had such experiences and seek to know god uh are we in an inferior position then i i think in in terms of of in terms of a degree of understanding absolutely the problem is obviously is there a lot of charlatans that abuse this type of of knowledge for those who believe in it that haven't experienced it and and and you find that uh too many of our religions and of our sex are filled with these type of people who claim to have this knowledge and usually one of the signs that they don't have the knowledge is that they make the claim that they have the knowledge i like that that that's our tradition it's it's a it's a big red flag because the true gnostics are people that uh that the uh you know imam al-ghazali says that a tree that has great fruit uh the branches hang low and and so there's a type of humility that comes with that um that uh they don't see themselves as as anything i've worried that if i if i had which i've not had that type of mystical experience i would i would not believe it i would think it's some neurochemical imbalance that i had or not enough sleep or some other explanation so how what is it that can differentiate we actually have we have a whole science of that so we have we have a science in our in our tradition that deals with mystical experiences so for instance there's there's experience that are outward terrestrial uh sensory experiences then there's outward terrestrial meaning experiences outward celestial meaning experiences then there's inward terrestrial sensory experiences like uh for instance uh some certain psychotropic drugs are very similar like i i actually believe that i had a profound mystical experience on fentanyl it wasn't illegal it was actually given to me in the hospital but i had an extraordinary experience and and william james writes about this and varieties of religious experience so i think people drugs unfortunately are one of the vehicles for opening a lot of people up to the possibility because there's an experience that there's more here than meets the eye quite literally and i think materialists try to reduce those things to uh neurological phenomena but the but the reality of it is is that consciousness itself is a spiritual experience people ask me you know i want to have a spiritual experience my response to that is you are having a spiritual experience it's just mediated through your your sensoria but this whole thing is mystical consciousness is mysticism the fact that we can communicate and speak in language the fact that i can say these words i don't know where they're coming from and you don't know where yours are coming from the fact that i'm speaking at this rapid rate and your mind is digesting all of these things putting them together you have all this past experience that enables you to even understand what i'm talking about these this this phenomena which is happening constantly it's it's miraculous and it's just amazing that people in this kind of perfunctory attitude towards existence i feel sorry for them from the standpoint of islam do all or most religions the ones we know worship the same god do they worship the same god i think we're all talk if particularly in the abrahamic religions we're certainly talking about the same god we we some of us know people that um for instance you might know somebody and i know somebody and we share that but then we've had very different experiences of those people so you begin to describe a person i say that doesn't sound like the person i know but it is the same person and so i think in many ways this is the way uh we look at god uh we we have different perspectives and those perspec perspectives color our understanding of god but the god that we're talking about is the creator of the heavens and the earth sustainer of all things animate and inanimate uh and this is this is the god of uh the the even the hindus despite all of their um their various manifestations and things if you get into the vedic scriptures you'll find that they're really talking about a very similar uh understanding of what what they they call it the uh the nierguna as opposed to the sergona the unattributable god the god the unknowable god and so the godhead the unknowable godhead i think is the same for all of us when we get into attributes i think then there's going to be some differences the argument is that when you look for that commonality the lowest common denominator to be a bit pejorative um you wind up with almost nothing just a kind of a ground of being and you lose all meaning is that it i i think that's that's excellent because there's a great um section in the dostoyevsky is the possessed uh where chateau he's got this character shatoff who's a who's a he was an atheist and then he kind of has this um he comes back to his faith in america of all places and uh and one one of the things that he says is that every every nation has their own understanding of god and if it wasn't for that they wouldn't be a nation they wouldn't they wouldn't have their distinct character and and and i think it's a very profound insight for nation i would say umma which is the community the ecclesia uh the the the song guy the um you know the minion all those things that that bring a people together that make them un