Part 8

The sciences are numerous only in large, sedentary civilizations with a culture highly developed

January 29, 2020

This is because scientific instruction is one of the crafts, and crafts are numerous only in cities.

The quality and the number of the crafts depend on the greater or lesser extent of civilization in the cities and on the sedentary culture and luxury they enjoy, because (highly developed crafts) are something additional to just making a living.

When civilized people have more labor available than they need for mere subsistence, such (surplus) labor is used for activities over and above making a living. 64 These activities are man’s prerogative. They are the sciences and the crafts.

People who grow up in villages and uncivilized (thinly populated) cities and who have an innate desire for scientific activity, cannot find scientific instruction in those places. For scientific instruction is something technical, and there are no crafts among the inhabitants of the desert, as we have stated before. 65

These people, therefore, must travel and seek scientific instruction in cities where (civilization) is highly developed, as is the case with all crafts.

This may be exemplified by our previous statements 66 concerning Baghdad, Cordoba, al-Qayrawan, al-Basrah, and al-Kufah. At the beginning of Islam, the civilizations (populations) were large, and sedentary culture existed in them.

The sciences were then greatly cultivated there, and the people were widely versed in the various technical terminologies of scientific instruction, in the different kinds of sciences, and in posing problems and (inventing new) disciplines.

They exceeded (all) who had come before them and surpassed (all) who came after them. But when the civilization of those cities decreased and their inhabitants were dispersed, the picture was completely reversed. Science and scientific instruction no longer existed in those cities, but were transplanted to other Muslim cities.

We, at this time, notice that science and scientific instruction exist in Cairo in Egypt, because the civilization of (Egypt) is greatly developed and its sedentary culture has been well established for thousands of years. Therefore, the crafts are firmly established there and exist in many varieties. One of them is scientific instruction.

This (state of affairs) has been strengthened and preserved in Egypt by the events of the last two hundred years under the Turkish dynasty, from the days of Salah-ad-din b. Ayyub on. This is because the Turkish amirs under the Turkish dynasty were afraid that their ruler might proceed against the descendants they would leave behind, in as much as they were his slaves or clients, and because chicanery and confiscation are always to be feared from royal authority.

Therefore, they built a great many colleges, hermitages, and monasteries, 67 and endowed them with mortmain endowments that yielded income. They saw to it that their children would participate in these endowments, either as administrators or by having some other share in them.

This was their intention) in addition to the fact that they were inclined to do good deeds and hoped for (a heavenly) reward for their aspirations and actions. As a consequence, mortmain endowments became numerous, and the income and profit (from them) increased. Students and teachers increased in numbers, because a large number of stipends became available from the endowments.

People traveled to Egypt from the Iraq and the Maghrib in quest ofknowledge. Thus, the sciences were very much in demand and greatly cultivated there.

9. The various sciences that exist in contemporary civilization.

The sciences in cities are of two kinds:

  1. The one tat is natural to man and to which he is guided by his own ability to think
  2. A traditional kind that he learns from those who invented it.

The first kind comprises the philosophical sciences. They are the ones with which man can become acquainted through the very nature of his ability to think and to whose objects, problems, arguments, and methods of instruction he is guided by his human perceptions, so that he is made aware of the distinction between what is correct and what is wrong in them by his own speculation and research, in as much as he is a thinking human being.

The second kind comprises the traditional, conventional sciences. All of them depend upon information based on the authority of the given religious law. There is no place for the intellect in them, save that the intellect may be used in connection with them to relate problems of detail with basic principles.

Particulars that constantly come into being are not included in the general tradition by the mere fact of its existence. Therefore, they need to be related (to the general principles) by some kind of analogical reasoning. However, such analogical reasoning is derived from the (traditional) information, while the character of the basic principle, which is traditional, remains valid (unchanged).

Thus, analogical reasoning of this type reverts to being tradition (itself), because it is derived from it. 70 The basis of all the traditional sciences is the legal material of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is the law given us by God and His messenger, as well as the sciences connected with that material, by means of which we are enabled to utilize it.

This, further, requires as auxiliary sciences the sciences of the Arabic language.

Arabic is the language of Islam, and the Qur’an was revealed in it. The different kinds of traditional sciences are numerous, because it is the duty of the responsible Muslim to know the legal obligations God placed upon him and upon his fellow men.

They are derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, either from the text, or through general consensus, or through combination. Thus, he must first study the explicit wording of the Qur’an. This is the science of Qur’an interpretation. Then, he must study the Qur’an, both with reference to the manner in which it has been transmitted and related on the authority of the Prophet who brought it from God, and with reference to the differences in the readings of the Qur’an readers. This is the science of Qur’an reading.

Then, he must study the manner in which the Sunnah is related to its originator (Muhammad), and he must discuss the transmitters who have handed it down. He must know their circumstances and their probity, so that the information one receives from them may be trusted and so that one may be able to know the part of it, in accordance with the implications of which one must act. 71 These are the sciences of tradition.

Then, the process of evolving the laws from their basic principles requires some normative guidance to provide us with the knowledge of how that processtakes place. This is the (science of the) principles of jurisprudence.

After one knows the principles of jurisprudence, one can enjoy, as its result, the knowledge of the divine laws that govern the actions of all responsible Muslims.

This is jurisprudence.

The duties (of the Muslim) may concern either the body or the heart. The (duties of the heart) are concerned with faith and the distinction between what is to be believed and what is not to be believed. This concerns the articles of faith which deal with the essence and attributes (of God), the events of the Resurrection, Paradise, punishment, and predestination, and entails discussion and defense of these subjects with the help of intellectual arguments.

This is speculative theology.

The discussion of the Qur’an and hadith must be preceded by the (study of the) philological sciences, because it is based upon them. There are various kinds, such as lexicography, grammar, syntax and style, 72 and literature. We shall discuss each of these.

These traditional sciences are all restricted to Islam and the Muslims, even though every religious group has to have something of the sort. (The traditional sciences of Islam) are remotely comparable to (those of other religious groups), in that they are sciences of a religious law revealed by God to the lawgiver who transmits it. But as to the particulars, (Islam) is different from all other religious groups, because it abrogates them. All the pre-Islamic sciences concerned with religious groups are to be discarded, and their discussion is forbidden.

The religious law has forbidden the study of all revealed scriptures except the Qur’an. Muhammad said= “Consider the People of the Book neither as truthful nor as untruthful. Just say= ‘We believe in what was revealed to us and revealed to you. Our God and your God are one.’ " 73

When the Prophet saw a leaf of the Torah in ‘Umar’s hand, he got so angry that his anger showed in his face. Then, he said= “Did I not bring it to you white and clean? By God, if Moses were alive, he would have no choice but to follow me.”

The traditional legal sciences were cultivated in Islam in a way that permitted no further increase. The students of those sciences reached the farthest possible limit in knowledge of them.

The various technical terminologies were refined, and order was brought into the various disciplines. The traditional sciences thus achieved exceeding excellence and refinement. Each discipline had its authorities to whom one referred, and its rules that were used for instruction.

The West as well as the East had its share of famous traditional scholarship, as we are shortly going to mention, when we enumerate these disciplines. At this time, however, science is at a standstill in the Maghrib, because civilization has decreased there and the tradition of science and scientific instruction has broken off, as we stated in the preceding section. 75 I do not know what God has done with the East.

The assumption is that science is very much cultivated there and that the teaching of the sciences and of all necessary and luxury crafts continues there without interruption. The civilization and sedentary culture of the East are extensive, and students find support there through stipends from mortmain endowments which give them ample sustenance. 76