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Islamic Philosophy: An Introduction

Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas
The following paper is excerpted from the Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam, with the generous permission of the author, Syed Naquib al-Attas. Originally published by ISTAC, Kuala Lumpur, 1995.

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From the perspective of Islam, a ‘worldview’ is not merely the mind’s view of the physical world and of man’s historical, social, political and cultural involvement in it as reflected,for example, in the current Arabic expression of the idea formulated in the phrase naẓrat al-islam li al-kawn. It is incorrect to refer to the worldview of Islam as a naẓrat alislam li al-kawn. This is because, unlike what is conveyed by naẓrat, the worldview of Islam is not based upon philosophical speculation formulated mainly from observation of the data of sensible experience, of what is visible to the eye; nor is it restricted to kawn, which is the world of sensible experience, the world of created things. If such expressions are now in use in Arabic in contemporary Muslim thought, it only demonstrates that we are already being unduly influenced by the modern, secular Western scientific conception of the world that is restricted to the world of sense and sensible experience.

Islam does not concede to the dichotomy of the sacred and the profane; the worldview of Islam encompasses both al-dunyā and al-ākhirah, in which the dunyā-aspect must be related in a profound and inseparable way to the ākhirah-aspect, and in which the ākhirah-aspect has ultimate and final significance. The dunyā-aspect is seen as a preparation for the ākhirah-aspect. Everything in Islam is ultimately focused on the ākhirah-aspect without thereby implying any attitude of neglect or being unmindful of the dunyā-aspect. Reality is not what is often ‘defined’ in modern Arabic dictionaries as wāqicīyyah, whose use, particularly in its grammatical form wāqicīy, is now in vogue. Reality isḥaqīqah, which significantly is now seldom used due to the preoccupation with wāqicīyyah which only points to factual occurrences. A factual occurrence is only one aspect in many f ḥaqīqah, whose ambit encompasses all of reality. moreover, a factual occurrence may be an actualization of omething false (i.e. bāṭil); whereas reality is the actualization lways of something true (i.e. ḥaqq). What is meant by worldview’, according to the perspective of Islam, is then the ision of reality and truth that appears before our mind’s eye evealing what existence is all about; for it is the world of xistence in its totality that Islam is projecting. Thus by worldview’ we must mean rucyyāt al-islam li al-wujūd.

The Islamic vision of reality and truth, which is a metaphysical survey of the visible as well as the invisible
worlds including the perspective of life as a whole, is not a worldview that is formed merely by the gathering together of various cultural objects, values and phenomena into artificial coherence.
[Full article] Download: Journal of Islamic Philosophy 1 (2005):11–43
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