William chittick is an interpreter and translator philosophical Islamic text. In his book the Science of the Cosmos, science of the Soul, exposes Islamic intellectualism, he shows his mastery in the world of Sufism and Islam, he cuts across religion and science two conflicting issues that he argues have affected the modern life. The book is like his personal view of Islam on the areas of religion and science traditional issues and modern issues. In this books he tries, expose how traditional Islam believes have been changed by the so called modern life he urges Muslim leaders to opt for extreme forms of Islam, which definitely will create and cause alarm to many who thinks he is a supporter of extremist groups and he also shows how important the so called traditional Islamic life is in this era, he explains that, such life seen as traditional can be used to solve current maladies.
Professor Chittick in this book seems to defend Islam and paints it as a superior religion compared to others. In support for this he says that if the basic concept of traditional Islamic religion are upheld and practiced, this will lead to a conducive environment that will enable prosperity in the field of philosophy and science. This shows how strongly he tries to defend the core or the traditional believes of religion.The book is divided into seven chapters; the first six chapters are lectures and the seventh chapter is compilation from his other works.
The first three chapters in particular have in depth look in philosophy and knowledge that is considered very important for Muslims in this new age. According to professor chittick, the thought that is behind the mentioned notion is considered as Islam’s core essence. According to him also, intellectual advancements are of great importance like principles of the Quaran that urges the Muslim to ponder, reflect and think. The first chapter tackles how an important religion is being rejected by its followers, professor chittick shows the importance of understanding the reason behind some beliefs of the Islam religion and not just knowing how things are done but by knowing why things are done that way. He says understanding something needs studying it and learning from the intellectuals in that field. He argues that lack of understanding combined with influence modernity has had on tradition Islamic religion has contributed a lot to the vanishing of a heritage, that is the traditional Muslim culture (Chittick, 2007). He argues that there are new forms of idols that have replaced the core traditional believes, for example he points out how democracy science and the urge for progressAfter exposing the current trend that’s contributing to erosion of the Muslim culture, he points out two Islamic sources of knowledge and law; naqli and aqli which mean transmitted knowledge and intellectual knowledge respectively.
Naqli or transmitted knowledge is the traditional that god prophet himself revealed; in other words it is the knowledge that has been passed from the generation of people who were close to Prophet Mohammed. Examples of these traditions include, praying five times a day which was practiced in the days of Prophet Mohammed and it was passed from generation to generation and it’s still practiced even today. He shows the importance of intellectual knowledge, the knowledge that makes one understand and it is gained through extensive mind training through the use of scholarly work. Such knowledge also calls for the use of teachers who are believed to have knowledge in that field at hand. Intelligence as he portrays it is believed to be got from intellectuals; this intelligence helps one in discerning what to do and what not to.
He talks of a visitor from the past seeing today’s intellect and wondering what went wrong. This in my view is like a representation of how over the years how people have changed in the way they perceive and understand things in the Muslim world. His message seems to me that, modern Muslim seem to understand the importance of upholding the core Islamic values and not let modernity brain wash them. He talks about how scientific intellect makes people think that they know everything and in the real sense they are being derailed from their basic and core beliefs that are believed to provide answers to many matters in life (Chittick, 2007).
After exposing intellectual matters, professor chittick, brings out the concept of thought and how something a simple as a thought means a lot and can be a driving force to identifying who we are. On matters of thought, he exposes how deep he understands the power of thoughts. He argues that the core or traditional thought is so influential to Muslim in their day to day life. Having gained the intelligence in the Muslim culture, he argues that you should be in a position to make intellectual decision even concerning modern life issues. Concerning human life he argues that, the goal of any human life should be the achievement of status of a perfect being, that is a human being who have an Islamic thought, a thought that is paramount in whatever one does, a thought that cannot be surpassed by any other thing.
Such thought are not transmitted; but learned as through learning one gets to understand the reason behind the facts.He also argues that, the Islamic thought has suffered and people don’t realize it is in the verge of dying, people believe in science and science is considered to be an offspring of intellectual Islamic thought. Professor Chittick argues that many Muslims nowadays don’t understand intellectual progress and modernization principles that are against Islam. Such an act according to him is a reflection of how the so called modern Muslims have stopped using their minds and ignoring the intellectual knowledge they are supposed to have concerning their religion. According to his own personalized description of intellectual knowledge, he expresses it as a heightened individual’s awareness which surpasses many idiosyncrasies around it. To further contrast modern learning, he talks about the tahqiq that aims at discovering the haqq which is inside the one seeking intelligence (Chittick, 2007).Another major issue he deems important is the fact that intellectual knowledge is like the pivot of Islam, if it lacks, the teaching of Islam will be deemed incomplete.
According to chittick philosophers nowadays are going through a session of fearful cognition when it comes to bringing together religion and practice, and this has made people think that what they have in their minds is convenient to them instead of the right thing. Such a situation is seen as the cause of having other gods as he describes a god as anything that gives someone orientation and meaning of life, he describes the modern life as having so many gods and people whatever is appealing to them. Professor Chittick in this book also takes us to the understanding of matters or things that are beyond ideology (Chittick, 2007). The book seams to ponder a question of how will people know what they think they know, and this brings a debate about religion and modernity. He argues that the only solution to such problems and conflicts is adoption or bringing back the core principles of Islam which will provide answers to all the topics which arise.In the book, chittick urges Muslim to practice reflection and thinking about the things they have learned as this will enable them achieve a high grade of apprehension; this seems to have come direct from his personal life as he has spent many years researching in this field of Islam philosophy and religion. Through professor Chittick’s work, there is an insight of the problems of the world and at the same time solutions to the problems can be drawn from it.
As a matter of contrast, many might have thought that he will not show a possibility of co existence between modernity and Islam, but in contrast to this though he says with the right interpretation of the Quaran the two can successfully coexist. Chittick suggests that following the traditions guided by intellectual thought can be the right track to success of individual and the whole of humanity. Chittick argues that as philosophers, they should be concerned much with scrapping off the cot of modernity that is covering traditionalism, and as a result, Islamic and Sufism mechanism will be given a chance to thrive.
Chittick also argues that, the approaches which are modernistic in nature make the society capitalistic and this makes the souls of an individual empty and in need of satisfaction(Chittick, 2007). On the other hand, approaches which are traditional make someone eager to learn and thus creating awareness that promotes the ability to smoothly go through new situations or issues betterHe talks of how scientism culture is blinding people and they are being taken away from the core truth by the scientism worldview. He warns of how Muslim intellectual thinking is being slowly killed by the new thought that is based on modern ideas that are based on science and not an immortal being. Professor Chittick expresses that in the modern world, there are so many teachers and so many ideas being brought up and it seems like there is competition among the different ideologies.All these people in the different area of study have different things they want to achieve, and this creates a competition between the traditional Islamic values and scientism values.
He emphasizes the fact that all will be possible if one acknowledges God and see him as real and not as a myth. Science is believed to picture religion as an imagination that cannot be touched or proofed as science seems to prove everything it puts across. To chittick death has hit Islamic intellectualism, and without it one cannot understand own self.
In order to understand anything, you need to understand own self, so for those who lack the Islamic intellectualism are lost as they don’t have base of understanding, this is just a reflection of how much his 40 years if Islamic study have transformed him and given him a deeper understanding of the core believes of Islam that cannot change no matter what.Professor Chittick at some point in the book bases is work on the philosophy advanced by Hossein Nasr, who has had a tremendous impact in his work, he acknowledges him as an adamant speaker of the tradition that has been left to erode. Professor Chittick argues that there is a very big relation of cosmos and soul, which is expressed in terms of naming. Names are believed to signify an inner understanding of something, names represent a certain thing learned from the cosmos, that is to say nature and he argues that, names which are not guided by nature can bring disaster to those who adopt them (Chittick, 2007). In my own understanding, I think this is to show how deep he wants to emphasize the importance of naming and their connections with nature.In this work professor chittick expresses how knowledgeable and experienced he is in the area of Islam and the philosophy associated with Islam. His work is full of insight and it also provokes debate on some issues.
After reading his work you cant remain the same as there is a lot to learn and it gives one, more so a Muslim a big task and a new way of practicing their faith. He urges them to understand the reason why things are done that way and they should not just follow things because the leaders or people who are deemed superior say so. He give an example wit a mathematics question; if a teachers enters in class and tells students that one plus one is two, and then after some time the students is asked why one plus one is two and says its because the teacher says so, the student will be depicting a picture of lack of understanding of the core concepts.
In the same way, towards matters of religion, followers are supposed to understand why they practice some things and not just follow things blindlyProfessor Chittick really did a commendable work and he has shade more light in Islamic religious matters, and may be to some modern Muslim, it’s a wake up call to watch their ways and see if they still follow the core principle of their beliefReferenceChittick, C. (2007). Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul: the Pertinence of IslamicCosmology in the modern World. England, One World Publication