A Criticism of Religious Thought

Sadiq Al-azm

in Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195174304
Published online November 2007 |
A Criticism of Religious Thought

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The descendent of a prominent Syrian political family and graduate of American University of Beirut, he holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University. His Marxist criticism of religious thought published in 1970 caused a scandal. He was brought to trial in Beirut in the same year on charges of provoking religious troubles but was acquitted.

The first edition of the work from which this selection comes, was published in 1969. In this excerpt, Azm attacks the misuse of Islam by reactionaries and urges a scientific critique of such misuse. It is not Islam but the thought of reactionaries, relying on false understandings of the faith, that he criticizes. Azms problem is not only with unnamed reactionaries but also with progressives associated with what he terms the Arab liberation movement, because he sees the latter as too respectful of religious tradition, which enshrines backward institutions and obscurantist ideology. Identifying Marxs Kapital and Darwins Origin of Species as the most important books of the last two centuries, Azm sets out to demolish the argument made by Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh, among others, that no contradiction exists between science and revelation. Azm avers that religion accepts doctrines as a matter of belief, whereas science requires proof and utilizes methods that contradict basic religious assumptions, such as the doctrine of the creation. He adopts the argument of the American pragmatist philosopher, William James, that the acceptance of anything for which proof is lacking must be placed in abeyance. This is not to reject religious feeling for those who desire to express it but rather to reject the imposition of those sentiments upon everyone as uncontested truth.

Chapter.  3657 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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