What we mean here by optimism is that, in Islam, sin is not a necessary nature of a human in the way the Christian concept of original sin views the human. In Islam, sin is a chosen act by the accountable person (mukallaf
, i.e., a sane and mature human); therefore, sin is self-imposed. Technically, we can choose not to sin (i.e., anthropological optimism). In Christian thought, sin is an unavoidable state of man (i.e., anthropological pessimism). It can even be stated that the Islamic concept of ﬁṭrah
is the opposite of the concept of original sin. For a discussion on ﬁṭrah
, see below. For a discussion on original sin in relation to Islam, see Yasien Mohamed, Fitrah: The Islamic Concept Of Human Nature
(London: Ta-Ha Publishers, 1996), 25–32.
(“يطبع المؤمن على الخلال كلها إلا الخيانة والكذب”) Related in multiple collections, such as in al-Bayhaqī’s Sunan al-kubrá
(Mecca: Maktabat Dār al-Bāz, 1414 AH), 10:197. See for its use and an overview of sources: al-Birgivī, al-Ṭarīqat al-Muḥammadīyah
(Damascus: Dār al-Qalam, 2011), 352n1.
This is why the Qur’an allows in verse 16:106 lying about one’s faith to protect one’s own life, as the protection of life is a fundamental principle of the Shariah. Within the literature on the objectives of the Shariah (maqāṣid al-sharīʿah
), the dominant order is the preservation of religion, and then life, mind, progeny, and wealth. But there is of course a holistic element between these objectives, as without life and mind there is no religion. We see this also with scholars like al-Bayḍāwī, Ibn Taymīyah, and al-Qarāfī who place the preservation of life as the first and dominant of the objectives. See: Gamal Eldin Attia, Towards Realization of the Higher Intents of Islamic Law: Maqasid al-Shariah: A Functional Approach
(London: International Institute of Islamic Thought [IIIT], 2008), 16–36.
ʿAḍud al-Dīn al-Ījī (d. 756 AH), Risālat al-akhlāq
(Kuwait: Dār al-Ḍiyāʾ, 2018), 45. Translation by A. Y. Mol.
Ṭāshkuprī’zādah’s (d. 968 AH) supercommentary (sharḥ
) on al-Ījī’s Risālat al-akhlāq
MEE, “US and Rights Groups Warn Religious Minorities Being Blamed for Coronavirus,” Middle East Eye, April 4, 2020, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-religious-minorities-being-blamed-outbreaks
; Rowaida Abdelaziz, “Anti-Muslim Propaganda Is Seeping into Online Discourse about the Coronavirus,” HuffPost, April 10, 2020, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/anti-muslim-propaganda-is-seeping-into-coronavirus-coverage_n_5e90b721c5b624efd9a27fab
; Lizzie Dearden, “Coronavirus: ‘Dangerous’ Conspiracy Theories Could Spark Wave of Islamophobic Attacks When Lockdown Lifts, Report Warns,” Independent
, April 19, 2020, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/coronavirus-muslim-lockdown-conspiracy-theories-tommy-robinson-katie-hopkins-a9471516.html
For more on the psychological workings of xenophobia, see Lene Auestad, ed., Nationalism and the Body Politic: Psychoanalysis and the Rise of Ethnocentrism and Xenophobia
(London: Karnac, 2014). For an excellent volume on the various dimensions of Islamophobia, see Nazanin Massoumi, ed., What Is Islamophobia? Racism, Social Movements and the State
(London: Pluto Press, 2017).
Scott Zamost, “Coronavirus Fraudsters Prey on Fear and Confusion with Fake Products, Email Scams,” CNBC, March 24, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/23/coronavirus-fraudsters-prey-on-fear-with-fake-products-email-scams.html
; Jane Lytvynenko, “Here's a Running List of the Latest Hoaxes Spreading about the Coronavirus,” BuzzFeed News, March 16, 2020, updated March 20, 2020, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/janelytvynenko/coronavirus-fake-news-disinformation-rumors-hoaxes
Nik Roskiman Abdul Samad, “Islam Sets Guidelines on Talking, Spreading News,” letter to the editor, New Straits Times
, February 15, 2020, https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2020/02/565969/islam-sets-guidelines-talking-spreading-news
; Sinduja Rangarajan, “WhatsApp Is a Petri Dish of Coronavirus Misinformation,” Mother Jones
, March 20, 2020, https://www.motherjones.com/media/2020/03/whatsapp-coronavirus-misinformation/
(“كَفَى بِالْمَرْءِ إِثْمًا أَنْ يُحَدِّثَ بِكُلِّ مَا سَمِعَ”) Related in the collections of Muslim (introduction) and Abu Dawūd (kitāb al-adāb
There are multiple maxims of Islamic jurisprudence (al-qawāʿid al-fiqhīyah
) concerning removing, avoiding, and balancing competing harms. These all center around the famous prophetic tradition: “There is no causing harm or reciprocating harm (لا ضرر ولا ضرار)”, which has been related in many collections such as Ibn Mājah. Islamic law is understood by the majority of scholars as revolving around two main concerns: removing harm and securing benefit. Removing harm is therefore seen as half the law, but also takes precedence over securing benefit. See: Shahrul Hussain, A Treasury of Sacred Maxims: A Commentary on Islamic Legal Principles
(Leicestershire: Kube, 2016), 48–58, 76–77.
 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
, s.v. “al-Farabi’s Psychology and Epistemology,” February 11, 2016, revised April 26, 2020, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/al-farabi-psych/
; Osman Bakar, Classification of Knowledge in Islam
(Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1998).
Al-Nasafī’s text (matn
) with al-Taftāzānī’s supercommentary (sharḥ
) in Aḥmad Farīd al-Mazīdī, ed., Shurūḥ wa ḥawāshī al-ʿaqā’id al-Nasafīyah li-ahl al-sunna wa-al-jamāʿah al-Ashāʿirah wa-al-Māturīdīyah
(Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿ
ilmiyyah, 2013), 1:87–95, 2:219–605; English translation: Earl Edgar Elder, A Commentary on the Creed of Islam
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1950), 16.
Bakar, Classification of Knowledge in Islam
, 69–73; Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī (d. 333 AH), Kitāb al-tawḥīd
(Beirut: Dār al-Ṣādr, 2010), 69–72.
There are multiple approaches toward fiṭrah
within Islamic theology that revolve around the issues of it being coercive (i.e., pushing towards certain knowledge/acts) or only receptive (i.e., confirming or subtly urging towards certain knowledge/acts) in relation to the concept of the existence of God, good ethics, and norms. According to Yasien Mohamed, these approaches can be categorized into: (1) predestinarian, each person is born with a ﬁṭrah
of faith (īmān
) or unbelief (kufr
) that correlates with the predestined place in either heaven or hell; (2) neutral, the ﬁṭrah
is a blank state at birth which attains the state of faith or unbelief through the person’s own choice; and (3) positive, the ﬁṭrah
is a state of goodness that naturally responds to truth and good acts, and therefore responds best to Islam. This last approach is the dominant approach and is adhered to by important scholars such as Ibn Taymiyya, Sahl al-Tustarī, and al-Raghib al-Iṣfahanī. Yasien Mohamed, Fitrah
, 35–55. See also: Frank Griffel, “Al-Ghazālī’s Use of ‘Original Human Disposition’ (fiṭra
) and Its Background in the Teachings of Al-Fārābī and Avicenna,” The Muslim World
102 (2012); Muḥī al-Dīn Mustawa and Muṣtafā al-Khin, al-ʿAqīdat al-Islāmīyah
(Damascus: Dār Ibn Kathīr, 2011), 126–36.
Mustawa and al-Khin, al-ʿAqīdat al-Islāmīyah
, 59–61; Bakar, Classification of Knowledge in Islam
Mustawa and al-Khin, al-ʿAqīdat al-Islāmīyah
report is a hadith or saying (khabar
) that is transmitted in every stage of the stages of the transmission-chain (sanad
) by multiple transmitters (the generally agreed-upon requirement is ten transmitters), whereby it can be rationally concluded that these transmitters could not have agreed upon a fabrication (ikhtilāq
). It also provides necessary knowledge (al-ʿilm al-ḍarūrī
). Any ṣaḥīḥ
tradition that doesn’t conform to these criteria, but has an authentic isnād
, is of the status of āḥād
(singular transmission), and thus only provides conditional knowledge (al-ʿilm al-mutawaqqif
), and therefore needs further investigation. Maḥmūd al-Ṭaḥḥān, Taysīr muṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadīth
(Riyadh, 1425/2004), 23–25, 27; See also Mustawa and al-Khin, al-ʿAqīdat al-Islāmīyah
Al-Nasafī with al-Taftāzānī, al-ʿAqāʾid al-Nasafīyah
, 1:90–91; Elder, Commentary on the Creed of Islam
There are three main schools of Sunnī theology: the two schools of philosophical theology (Kalām
), the Ashʿarī and Māturīdī (which are dominant among the Shāfiʿī, Mālikī, and Ḥanafī), and the narration-based theology school of the Atharī (which is dominant among the Ḥanbalī). This paper applies the perspective of the philosophical theology schools.
“But our scholars [of the Ḥanafī] follow the opinion that good and evil are known by reason as established by the Most Wise, who is God the Exalted. ... And this is the opinion of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah in that anyone to whom revelation has not reached, and who does not believe in the existence of God and His Oneness, then that person will be in the hellfire forever as this is a fact known by reason.”
ʿIṣām al-Dīn al-Qūnawī, Ḥāshiyat al-Qūnawī ʿalá tafsīr al-imām al-Bayḍāwī
(Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2001), 11: 463. Translation by A. Y. Mol. See the concept of “minimal theology” discussed here: Arnold Yasin Mol, “Divine Respite in the Ottoman Tafsīr
Tradition: Reconciling Exegetical Approaches to Q.11:117” in Osmanli‘da ilm-i tefsir
, ed. M. T. Boyalik and H. Abaci (Istanbul: ISAR, 2019), 543–52, https://www.academia.edu/36916673/_Divine_respite_in_the_Ottoman_tafsīr_tradition_Reconciling_exegetical_approaches_to_Q.11_117_Osmanli_da_ilm-i_tefsir_ed._M.T._Boyalik_and_H._Abaci._Istanbul_ISAR_2019_539-592
Ibn Kamāl Pāshā discusses in his work on dogma al-Māturīdī’s position behind the wisdom of the sending of messengers by emphasizing, from a philosophical perspective, religion as the basis for civilization:
We say: As God, the Exalted, created mankind and determined for them that their existence is dependent on survival, and He created for them the necessities [of survival] such as food, drinks, clothing, homes, and things of such nature. So, mankind was made covetous for those necessities in service of their own existential survival [and are therefore hostile] towards others, and are not content with what God the Exalted provides them and will therefore allow injustice, usurpation, theft, murder, etc. So there is no escaping that men are to be united by people of law, who are sent to them to forbid those evils. They make a system of law and order between the people in this world and in order that they do not destroy this world. And guide them towards worshipping their Lord with their bodies and wealth so that they deserve by it paradise in the Hereafter. And those who do not do this are, in the Hereafter, a people lost and destroyed.
Ibn Kamāl Pāshā, al-Munīr fī al-mawaʿiẓ wa-al-ʿaqāʾid (Istanbul: Dār al-Lubāb, 2018), 46. Translation by A. Y. Mol.
Al-Nasafī with al-Taftāzānī, al-ʿAqā’id al-Nasafīyah
, 1:91; Elder, Commentary on the Creed of Islam
) is a classical tool to “protect the mind from mistakes in thinking” and has pervaded the totality of Islamic sciences since early Islam. See: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
, s.v. “Arabic and Islamic Philosophy of Language and Logic,” July 23, 2008, revised November 11, 2013, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arabic-islamic-language/
While Arabic logic was ultimately based on the earlier Greek tradition of Aristotelian logic, through Syriac intermediaries, it was never uncritically adopted. In fact, a long critical process took place of selection, digestion, and assimilation into the intellectual world of Islamic orthodoxy. Arabic logic hence became an independent and mature logical tradition fully harmonized with Islamic law and theology. For an excellent overview of this process of integration, see Tony Street, “Arabic Logic,” in Handbook of the History of Logic
eds. Dov. M. Gabbay and John Woods, vol. 1, Greek, Indian and Arabic Logic
(Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2004), 523–96.
“هي مقدمة العلوم كلها، ومن لا يحيط بها، فلا ثقة له بعلمه أصلاً”, Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad b. Muḥammad al-Ghazālī, al-Mustaṣfá min ʿilm al-uṣūl
, 2 vols. (Cairo: al-Maṭbaʿa al-Amīriyya, 1324/1906), 10.15–17. Slightly adjusted translation by T. Street (emphasis by the authors). al-Ghazālī is seen as the Islamic scholar who was most instrumental in integrating logic into the Islamic sciences. See Wael B. Hallaq, A History of Islamic Legal Theories: An Introduction to Sunnī
Uṣūl al-Fiqh (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 39–40; Khaled El-Rouayheb, “Theology and Logic”, in The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology
, ed. Sabine Schmidtke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 411–14.
Jon McGinnis provides an excellent outline of logic, especially with regards to its relationship to scientific inquiry; see his Avicenna
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 27–52.
Logic as a science is a vast subject that extends beyond the scope of this article. However, the basics of logical thinking are easy to grasp. For an accessible introduction to logic in the English language, see Peter Kreeft, Socratic Logic
(South Bend, IN: St Augustine’s Press, 2010). For an extensive treatment of Avicenna’s syllogistics, see Tony Street, “An Outline of Avicenna’s Syllogistic,” in Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie
84 (2002): 129–60.
Terms are notoriously ambiguous and making sound definitions helps us to clarify our terms. Hence, definitions are of utmost importance if we really want to understand each other (“coming to terms”). For a helpful guide to understanding definitions in a logically sound way, see Kreeft, Socratic Logic
While logic as a system of rules for correct reasoning has been adopted by the vast majority of Muslim scholars in traditional Islam, the authors are well aware that an important minority of scholars have rejected the use of logic for various reasons, most notably the Shāfiʿī jurist Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ (d. 643/1245) and the Ḥanbalī scholar Ibn Taymīyah (d. 728/1328). It is beyond the scope of this article to explore the scholarly positions for and against logic (we hope to dedicate a full article to this topic in the future), but for more details on this debate see Khaled El-Rouayheb’s excellent overview: “Sunni Muslim Scholars on the Status of Logic, 1500–1800,” Islamic Law and Society
11, no. 2 (2004): 213–32.
From early Islamic history, Islamic scholars and encyclopedists have put great effort into systematizing and categorizing the different fields of knowledge. As a result, different scholars have used different sets of criteria to construct categorizations. The two-fold distinction of “instrumental” and “higher” sciences used here reflects the Ottoman madrasa
tradition. Another well-known and much more comprehensive categorization is found in the famous encyclopedic work of Ṭāshkuprī’zādah, Miftāḥ al-saʿādah wa miṣbāḥ al-sayādah
[The Key to Happiness and the Lamp of Lordship] (Beirut: Dār ibn Ḥazm, 1431/2010). For more on the classification of the sciences in Islam, see Hans Hinrich Biesterfeldt, “Medieval Arabic Encyclopedias of Science and Philosophy,” in The Medieval Hebrew Encyclopedias of Science and Philosophy
, ed. Steven Harvey (Dordrecht: Springer, 2000), 77–98; Bakar, Classification of Knowledge in Islam
(lit. “instrument” or “tool”) is the ancient Greek term that came to be used for the standard collection of Aristotelian logical writings that were part of the scientific-philosophical curriculum of the Hellenistic world. For more on the Islamic madrasa
curriculum and its importance, see Hamza Karamali, The Madrasa Curriculum in Context
(Abu Dhabi, UAE: Kalam Research & Media, 2017) and John Walbridge, God and Logic in Islam: The Caliphate of Reason
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
For a classical Orientalist expression of the “decline theory” in Arabic logic, see Nicholas Rescher, Studies in the History of Arabic Logic
(Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1963). For an important corrective of this paradigm, see: Khaled El-Rouayheb, Relational Syllogisms and the History of Arabic Logic 900–1900
(Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2010).
Fortunately, we can witness what seems to be the beginnings of a revival of this intellectual tradition throughout the Muslim world, for example in the reopening of the famous Suleymaniye Madrasa in Istanbul, which served as the top theological seminary of the Ottoman empire for centuries, see: “Süleymaniye Campus Opened with Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony,” Ibn Haldun University, October 3, 2018, https://www.ihu.edu.tr/en/suleymaniye-campus-opened-with-ribbon-cutting-ceremony/
See this discussed in Amjad M. Mohammed, Muslims in Non-Muslim Lands: A Legal Study with Applications
(Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 2013), 60–70.