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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ique and distinct so i think there's a verse in the quran which is very interesting to me that it says every people we have given them a away a a a way and a minhajj uh in in hebrew they call it a minhog um that they have their own particular way and it says we did this as a test so vie with one another in good and so each community is going to see itself as as unique and it is in reality unique but but uh the real the real um challenge is to prove yourself through virtue and that's where uh the moral character of a of a community becomes so important because by their fruits you shall know them as christ said the um challenge to that of course is that that sounds good but each of the major faiths even if we stick within the abrahamic tradition there are overt contradictions uh between them to pick religions that i'm more familiar with between judaism and christianity obviously the incarnation and divinity of jesus uh the nature of the trinity these are fundamental differences and of course islam brings the profit into it so how then do you deal with what on their surface appear to be outright contradictions well i mean first of all we have to remember that um the jewish tradition recognizes both uh islam and christianity as noah hides so within within judaism we're actually uh we're we're noahitic people we follow the at least seven of the ten commandments um but uh from and so the the the jews have never had a problem with the theology of the muslims and and in fact uh have have used it i mean they were influenced by the kalam tradition some of the great uh uh jewish philosophers like mushaf and mamon mamoinidis and others both of us the jews and the christians do have a problem with the trinity um so so we we we would both see the trinity as a serious problem we actually think it's it's it's an error and it's very easy to see triads everywhere uh that we have a whole science called trigonometry which just deals with three so three is a very powerful number um in some ways because it's it's really the you know in arabic tradition numbers begin with two with two not one one is not considered a number in arabic and but two is the first number and it's from the two that comes the third so all of creation comes out of the binary and and uh the male the female coming together brings the third and so uh and then we're triune we have a rational we have irratible and concupiscent soul so it's easy to see how they fell into that mistake but we believe it's a mistake um and and uh it it doesn't mean that there's great not great truths in christianity there are they're profound truths but there are air there can be errors the christians have had since the beginning a unitarian tradition that has challenged the trinity let's talk about the attributes of god in the islamic tradition and in islamic philosophy i'm familiar with the 99 names of god right in the islamic tradition and i'm also familiar in the philosophy of religion particularly from the christian tradition some very uh sophisticated analytic philosophy dealing with perfect being theology what does it mean for god to be perfect uh omnipotence the omni god omnipotence all powerful omniscience all knowing i'm not president or uh everywhere uh uh uh omni benevolent all good uh timelessness unchanging how did the 99 names in islam articulate with the omni perfect being god of christianity well we have we have two traditions so we have a type of natural theology which which is kalam which works largely with reason and from that 13 attributes were identified by reason as necessary for god uh seven of which are are are central um and and then the others come out of um of the of the seven so what are the some of those give me an example well well the the first one is a siety that god has existence and and that existence he's sub he he exists in and of himself and nothing brought him into existence so so he has absolute existence absolute being um in arabic the word is which is a beautiful word because it means it means you know if i can coin a a term find ability it's in other words god can be found and because what the the the arabic root is to find and and and but also it means to be ecstatic because when you fought when you discover something like the eureka moment of archimedes uh coming out of the bathtub and apparently running down uh the the streets of his village shouting eureka because he he discovered displacement um so so uh the joy of finding god is the greatest joy and it's a joy that children already live in so i mean very very young children so uh but but we we forget you know we we we leave the garden of eden and and we enter into uh a world that does have demonic and dark forces working to divert us from that and so then it becomes an epic journey uh back to god so that that's the first and then that he is uh so he he is living in other words he god has a a a he's hype uh hayem in hebrew same same same root um that god has life that god is all hearing that he's all seeing that he has power that he has will and his will and his power and his knowledge are the three attributes that bring everything into existence he wills things into existence and i'm using he muslims do not have any gender uh association with god god is neither male nor female god has beautiful attributes and he has um and and he has majestic attributes it's in in he's called so in the revealed philosophy uh the revealed theology uh there are 121 names of god mentioned in the quran the 99 names were specific for if somebody memorizes them and understands them then the prophet said that he will enter paradise so those specific names have a special place but the names of god are infinite uh and and there we have a tradition which says you know by every name that you have taught us or that you have withheld to your own knowledge so god has infinite number of names but we we know uh the names uh and there are names that the prophet gave us that aren't in the 99 names like manan and hannan but they're beautiful names the jewish tradition i think has 72 uh names that they also honor but uh they're they're beautiful and i think saint francis assisi when he after he met the muslims he came back and incorporated some of those practices by calling on the divine names because muslims call on the divine names he also raised the cross up to a tao i i think you differentiated among the names between the 13 and then the seven and the subset of that that are the kind of well like the seven uh which which uh has existence has life has power has will has uh uh knowledge and hearing and seeing those are the seven okay and and and from those you get um the the uh that he is uh the he is the speaker so they differentiate between the attribute and the and and the if i could use it i mean it's not the right word but the embodiment of the attribute the attribute that adheres in the essence okay so so now then what are the other key if that's the say the core category then what are all the others uh you know 121 minus 13 or 99 oh well names like the beautiful the prophet muhammad sallallahu alaihi said i'm sad that god is beautiful and he loves beauty okay and and also that he's majestic so for instance the joy of of experiencing a sunset is from it's it's it's a apotheosis of god's beauty it's it's a tajelli it's a manifestation of that beauty whereas a tsunami is a manifestation of his jalal of his majesty and so the muslims distinguish between uh the these two it's and they're not mutually exclusive so god is just and he's merciful and so a lot of people don't know how to square justice and mercy but god will show mercy to those who show mercy and he will be just with those who did not show mercy is it proper given those names to describe god as a person and i ask because in christianity there's a fairly heated dispute in whether god is a person and a person has personhood features like awareness and intent and will um or is that an anthropomorphizing of what should be a very deep and impersonal ground of being that's the tension in christianity and philosophy religion in christianity i'm much more familiar with the catholic tradition than than the protestant uh and the orthodox and uh you know personhood in in in western catholic metaphysics is is according to jacques meretein um is is basically it's it's the immaterial nature even per the personhood like there's a distinction between the person and the individual so the individual is what relates to their material nature and to their their the accidents that have been acquired in the world from their background and their experiences whereas the person is something that transcends that it gets to the core essence of the human being and so the idea in in western christianity that god is a person in other words that that that that is how we're able to communicate with god in the islamic tradition we don't use that term person but there is a verse in the quran where jesus says god you know what is in my soul myself but i don't know what's in yourself and so there is an idea that we are created in this metaphysical uh image the imago dei enables us to know god so even though the muslims use the word surah the form because what is the only way we can know things metaphysically the only way we can know things is through their form so i know a dog because of the form that the dog presents itself with and i'm able to abstract the universal out of that god is formless and so in that way god is unknowable so there this is the via negativa this is the in arabic it's it's called parikha it's it's the the path that we know god through what god is not and this is why the most fundamental verse about god which is in the 42nd chapter of the quran is the 11th verse it says laysa committed his shape there is nothing like god and yet and then it says and yet god hears all and sees all so the only way we can know what all hearing and all seeing is is because god has made us creatures that see and hear he's given us will he's given us life he's given us speech so the quran says in your own souls don't you see in other words don't you see this manifestation of these divine attributes in yourself you are not god but it's through yourself you know god and this is why we have a it's an apocryphal tradition but it's quoted often that whoever knows his self knows knows his lord how does that articulate within western philosophy of religion the apathetic or can only know god in the negative and the cataphatic tradition where you can know affirmative characteristics of god well th this is in our tradition it's called tischbier and tenzia um which is loosely imminence and transcendence um i don't they don't have identical correspondences but what i would say is that even though i have hearing any number over infinity is zero so i in that way i i can know something of what that means that god hears and god sees and god's alive but at the same time because it's it's a thing over infinity it's canceled out and so in that way we can know but at the same time we can't know in islam what's the relationship between the creator god and the created the the world as we know it well the most the most important uh is that all of creation is in submission to god except for the human being and and and and the spirit world like what what are um uh daemon in in greek they would call them the demon uh you know these these creatures that can they're spirit creatures and they're either good or they're bad um but we the two of us have been given free will and and so the human being has has god has given us the ability to choose unlike everything else in creation everything according to the quran everything is praising god for instance in our tradition the two times that are very important to have special time set aside for praise are the the the the dawn period and the and the sunset period well you'll notice that a lot of creation is doing that so you'll see birds literally gather and start chirping and singing now you can have evolutionary biologists explain that but from our perspective they're actually praising god and so we do that consciously they do it uh they do it simply by their nature and so this is what we're called to do we're called to enter in to a covenant with god freely and wholeheartedly and to worship god and we worship god by by one by recognizing first and foremost that god is our creator and so that is saying that there is nothing worthy of worship except the one true living god which is there is no god except the one true god and and that god communicates to his creation uh through uh revelation and through inspiration and and so uh we we uh the the prophets have revelation and the saints have inspiration and and and ordinary people can have it the prophet muhammad peace be upon him said that a true dream is 146 of prophecy so even common people even people that aren't believers have access to true dreams like the pharaoh in uh in the story of joseph how does this god intervene in human affairs whether in individual lives or in the in the flow of history well i think you have to open yourself first of all the quran says every day god is on a new affair and so everything that we see the flower blooming uh the the fruit ripening all we see this everything as just god is doing all of this and so it's opening up to that relationship it's literally open your heart to the light of god which is everywhere and and fanaticism is being blinded by that light and true spirituality is being guided by that light and so finding that balance um one of the things about the world is the vanity fair you know this idea of pilgrim's progress you you come into the world and then there's this vanity fair that literally can sideline you and preoccupy you until death shows up and when death comes the quran says you can't put it off and so it's really a preparation uh for the prophet muhammad peace be upon him taught us to reflect on death every single day he said to wake up in the morning not expecting to reach the evening and to go to sleep at night not expecting to wake up in the morning muslims are actually told to live like that so that so that they really take advantage of the preciousness and the gift of life it's something to really be appreciated and and it also brings you into the moment we have a saying in our tradition that uh that um you know that that this that that the true uh mystic is in in the moment they're present and and so getting into this presence and being aware of the presence of god is is really at the at the fundamental core of islamic practice which is why we we pray five times a day we go back the baseline is five times a day many people pray a lot more than that but the baseline is five times a day the um there's an argument in um in particular christian philosophy of religion about god as the creator and god as the sustainer there's some views that god created the universe of all that exists all reality but is independent from it um another view is that god is so intimately associated with the the creation that if god in some way stopped willing the creation on a continuous basis the creation would disappear right does islam deal with that kind of of differentiation between god the creator as an event and god the sustainer on a continuing basis the quran is very clear that every moment god is sustaining it and if god turned away from creation for one iota if the entire thing would disappear so there's a verse in the quran that says that we will show them our signs in themselves and on the horizon the horizon is the meeting place of the heaven and the earth the self is the meeting place of the heaven and the earth we are soul and body that's come together and so god will show us on on the in ourselves and on the horizon in that meeting place of heaven and earth until it becomes clear that this is the truth and then it says does it not suffice that god is witnessing all things so that witnessing is what enables existence to take place it's the divine providential uh witnessing of creation that sustains it and if that was removed for an instant it would be gone the the most important verse in the quran it's called the it's in the second chapter it's called the uh the the master verse it says it begins god there is no god but that one true god the the living and the sustainer and so god is sustaining in every instant and becoming aware of that is is really becoming aware of the presence of god in your life um somebody once asked me you know he asked me about islam and i told him well it's a type of really it's just a gratitude for for the gifts that god gives us and he said to me i suppose god's given me some gifts in my life and i just looked at him i said who do you think sustaining your temperature right now at 98.6 you know it's like that's god you know and when he makes you sick he does it for a wisdom and when he gives you health he does it so in sickness we're patient and in health we're grateful and that's why these are the two great attributes in the quran of the believer patience and tribulation gratitude and blessings i assume in islam it does not make sense to ask the question that is often done in philosophy of religion in the judeo-christian tradition and in that when god intervenes as soon there's a god and assume that god does intervene you believe that um does god violate the laws of nature the laws of physics when god intervenes whether in our minds or intervenes with so-called miracles or intervenes in history is there a violation of physical law what you said that's a meaningless question yeah we wouldn't use the word violation we we would you we would say that that first of all quantum physics theoretically violates all these newtonian laws and so so the prophet muhammad said that the unseen world to the seen world the the ratio of this scene world which is called the mulk in in the quran uh in relation to the malachute he said is like an iron ring in the midst of a vast desert so what's unseen is so much greater than what's seen so we make these assumptions about laws but most of these are dialectical they're they're not demonstrative most laws are are dialectical they're not demonstrative laws in fact we have to we have to use leisure domain in our mathematics to even measure motion so so we take curves and we turn them into these infinitely small straight lines in order to measure it's all approximations um so so when you look at at the world your assumptions about what are laws i mean there are there are observable laws but are the are the are they the ultimate truth no they're they're they're saving the appearances generally in traditional logic they would be seen as dialectical and not apodictic or or uh demonstrative in islam what do we say about the salvation process or eschatological um speculations about uh the future of earth these are obviously prevalent in judeo-christian tradition how are they in islam i think the most important thing is that we all share i know there's a debate in the in the jewish tradition but generally we share this idea of a day of judgment that there is a day when the debts fall due there's no free lunches they say so your life is going to be taken into account and and we will have to answer for what we did here and and so we believe in a in a a day of judgment we the quran says that just as the universe uh was spread out god will the big crunch at the end it says god will roll it up like a scroll at the end so the universe will go back into that singularity point that it began from and all of the souls are going to be raised up and and we will meet on a plane and then we will go through a uh a reckoning and there will be intercession there will be prophets uh interceding for their peoples uh we believe that the prophet muhammed peace be upon him has this great intercession um christ will intercede all of the prophets will have their intercessions and then then the judgment uh comes so uh the quran says there's a group uh destined for the fire and there's a group destined for for paradise and and so you know this it's interesting because you find this in so many uh religious traditions um and and it's it's hard to believe that uh this simply came out of the imaginations of people um so this has been terrific i've learned about the god of islam i've always wanted to learn more that's one of the the themes and the elite motifs of closer to truth that we want to explore the different traditions and understand them and i really thank you for our conversation i look forward to do it more in depth at some future time where we can address these subjects even further but thank you for participating in the global philosophy of religion project in which we hope to bring mutual understandings from different traditions thank you very much robert for having me on i appreciated your stimulating uh questions and i love the name closer to truth we one of the names of of god in in in the 99 names is al haq the truth so we believe in the truth so hopefully we'll all get closer to truth with a capital t thank you [Music] you