Sep 13, 2012
“At a certain point in its history, Islam abandoned reason in the belief that the human mind cannot know good and evil without divine revelation. Thus, the only people qualified to distinguish right from wrong are the experts who have studied the sacred texts their whole lives. This has infantilized the vast majority of Muslims.”
This is the statement of Robert Reilly, an expert from the American Foreign Policy Council and author of the book The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist. Reilly’s thoughts reflect Benedict XVI’s speech in Regensburg, where he compares the Christian conception, according to which “not to act in a rational manner is contrary to the nature of God,” and the Muslim conception, in which God transcends concepts such as rationality.
Mr. Reilly, what do you think of this distinction?
What the Pope said is exactly the correct diagnosis, and I try to demonstrate that through the important example of the de-Hellenization of Islam of which the Pope spoke in the Regensburg Lecture. I refer to the medieval theologian Al-Ghazali, considered by Muslims the second most important person after Muhammad. Prior to Al-Ghazali, the rational school of theology called Mu’tazilite, held that it is obligatory to do what accords with reason because through it we can come to a knowledge of good and evil, and we have the freedom to choose that good. Otherwise God could not hold us accountable for something we could not know. This was the Hellenized Islam, the golden age, but it did not last long. Al-Ghazali, belonging to the Asharite movement, destroyed the integrity of reason in Islam through his book "The Incoherence of the Philosophers”. According to him, there is nothing that is obligatory by reason, but only by Sharia, divine law. Reason, instead, is incapable of coming to knowledge of good and evil, justice and injustice. Those who are not Muslim, and do not adhere to these sources of revelation, are lost because they have no mental capacity to come to moral knowledge. These views formed the culture of Sunni Islam, and this was a catastrophic change.