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An Outline of Orientalist Aberations about Islam

Muhammad Hasan Askari

Certain key features of [the orientalist] tradition were succinctly summarized by Muhammad Hasan Askari (1919-1978) in a short two-part treatise. [1]

Part two of this book contains a list of 153 specific presumptions, claims, and approaches to Islam which Askari called aberrations (gumrāhī).[2]

He pointed out that, in previous eras, aberrations were limited in number and in their geographical spread, but that this is no longer the case. Furthermore, certain foundational religious terms have changed meaning in Western thought so many times during the last three centuries that their use poses basic difficulties in understanding primary concepts; every few years, they are given a new meaning with the result that there is no fixed meaning attached to these terms anymore. “Religion” and “fiṭrah” are two prime examples of this kind of distortion. They have been used to mean so many different things that they have become meaningless.

The major aberrations included in Askari’s list are summarized below; evidence of most of these traits can be found in the articles of Encyclopaedia of the Qur’ān, …

According to Askari, Orientalists and their intellectual heirs, the academic scholars

  • lack the understanding that the religion (dīn) has three distinct elements: beliefs (‘aqā’id); acts of worship (‘ibādāt); and ethics (akhlāq), in this order of importance, or takes one or two of these and leaves the other;
  • they do not consider beliefs (‘aqā’id) to be an integral part of religion; or consider beliefs something that changes from time to time (evolutionary perspective); or as a means of emotional satisfaction;
  • they consider ‘ibādāt (specific acts of worship) mere rituals which can be accepted, rejected, or modified by human beings;
  • they consider religion a social institution and a means for the organization of society and take religion as a means for improving material life;
  • they limit religion to ethics or think of religion as an ethical system; they assume that the purpose of religion is character building—and equate character with those traits that are deemed socially useful;
  • they think that religion is a product of the human mind and take it as an evolutionary process; they even consider God or the concept of God to undergo evolution;
  • they consider false beliefs (al-bāṭil) at par with true beliefs (al-ḥaqq) under the pretext of tolerance and liberal thinking;
  • they apply relativism to religious principles and insist that all ideas are only relatively true, not absolutely;
  • they deny the existence of the Intellect (‘aql) or equate it with Reason; they deny the existence of knowledge (‘ilm) beyond that which can be gathered by Reason, and negate the existence of means of knowledge that are higher than Reason and thereby limit knowledge to the knowledge of the material world; they reject or rationalize beliefs which are beyond Reason; they even attempt to find rational bases for religious commands (aḥkām); they deny miracles or interpret them on rational bases;
  • they deny the authenticity of the oral tradition and demand textual evidence for all things;
  • they do not accept any authority, even the authority of a Prophet; they insist that their own opinion is as valid as the ḥukm found in the Book of Allah or in the saying of the Prophet;
  • their entire framework of study is built upon Positivism, Pragmatism, and Utilitarianism; they make material progress the measure of all things.

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal, The Qur’ān, Orientalism and the Encylopaedia of the Qur’ān (Kuala Lumpur, Islamic Book Trust, 2009) 17-19
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[1] Muhammad Hasan Askari, Jadīdiat yā Maghrabī Gumrāhīyon kī Tarīkh kā Khākah (Modernism or An Outline of the History of Western Aberration) (Lahore: ‘Iffat Hasan, 1979) It is also included in Majmu’a Hasan Askari, (Lahore: Sang-e-meel Publications, 2008) 1171-1268

[2] The truth of the matter is that many of the aberrations are found in the approaches of certain modernists among Muslims as well. These modernists are not original thinkers rather they are only rattled by the Western/Orientalist worldview.

Published : March 27, 2015

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One comment

  1. a palestinian christian named Edaward Said has a good book on the topic “orientalisme ” , they think that they know the arabian culture better than Arabs , they think they understand Islam better than Muslims and yet non of them visited an Arab country .
    they take their knowledge from books most of it translated by christian haters
    they take any narration that serves their purpos regarless of its isnad or reliebelity

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