Ahmed Afzaal

Lecture II: Overview

At the end of Lecture I, Iqbal summarizes the gist of his conclusion, as follows:

Religious experience… is essentially a state of feeling with a cognitive aspect, the content of which cannot be communicated to others, except in the form of a judgment.

Muhammad Iqbal. The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, p. 21.

If this is so, Iqbal asks, how can those who haven’t had the same experience decide whether or not the said judgment is true? Iqbal suggests two different tests for this purpose—the intellectual or philosophical test, and the pragmatic test. Lecture II is Iqbal’s attempt to apply the former. While doing so, Iqbal also presents his understanding of the qur’anic view of Reality, which in his mind is identical with the qur’anic view of God. Taken as a whole, Lecture II is about establishing that what is revealed through religious experience is the same Reality that we know through other types of experience.

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Faith and Philosophy (1)

The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam is primarily a philosophical text; yet, the vast majority of people are neither philosophers nor do they harbor any burning desire to study this subject. But there are two redeeming features of the book: First, the title has the word “Islam” in it; and second, and it was written by a famous person. As a result, those who are interested in Islam and/or the author may feel enough curiosity to pick up the book, with every intention to read it. But the text is challenging even for students of philosophy, and is even more intimidating to those without a great deal of prior knowledge in theology and related subjects. These two facts, put together, raise the following question: What’s in it for me? Why should I spend all this time and mental energy on trying to understand a bunch of complex and abstract ideas that don’t have any obvious relevance to my everyday life? What am I supposed to do with the information that this book provides? In what ways is it going to help me strengthen my personal faith or enhance my religious practice? What do I stand to lose, if anything, if I decide to not engage with this book?

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Reconstruction: Preface (4)

Following are some thoughts in response to students’ questions and comments.

Religion vs. Science

Based on what he has to say in the “Preface,” Iqbal’s project of reconstructing Islamic thought seems to be heavily focused on producing what he calls “a scientific form of religious knowledge.” It is not entirely clear what he means, though the reader should assume that the book itself is going to provide some explanation of this phrase. It is therefore important to keep this question in mind as we proceed with our reading of the Reconstruction.

But it is true that the whole idea of reconciling science and religion can be confusing, especially if the reader has previously seen unsuccessful or uninformed attempts at achieving such an outcome.

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