William Chittick: "The Recovery of Human Nature"

The mythic message of the Koran, when viewed through the lens of the political ideologies and instrumental rationalities that are the backbone of modern education, can easily be interpreted as a systematic program for reforming the human race—and this is the way it is presented by contemporary Islamist movements. If we look back, however, at the Islamic intellectual tradition as represented by the great Muslim philosophers and sages of the near and distant past, we discover a radically different notion of the meaning of the human situation. This intellectual tradition is Islamic, because it is rooted in the basic message of the Koran, as encapsulated in the double testimony of faith, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is God’s prophet.” It is also universal, however, because it focuses on a spiritual anthropology that transcends religious boundaries and employs the language of philosophy and metaphysics.

In the view of the Islamic intellectual tradition, any solution to the crises of our times can only be found in the recovery of our true human nature. This nature, however, cannot be grasped with the tools at the disposal of the modern sciences and academic disciplines, but rather by way of a process self-discovery within the context of an overarching anthropocosmic vision. Perhaps a review of the specifically Islamic reading of the significance of human embodiment can throw some light on our contemporary predicament.

2008 July 16 Chittick

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