Why is philosophy condemned? Can a Muslim oppose philosophy?

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Why is philosophy condemned? Can a Muslim oppose philosophy?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Let us give some brief information about philosophy first:

Philosophy is derived from the Greek word “philosophia”. It consists of two words: “philo” and “sophia”. In Greek,“sophia” means “knowledge and wisdom”. The word sophia was used in Greek literature for thinkers and philosophers up to Pythagoras, one of the philosophers of the First Age. That is, the philosophers before him described themselves as people with knowledge and wisdom.

However, Pythagoras said that the only being with knowledge and wisdom in real sense was God and regarded it impossible for man to have absolute knowledge and wisdom; he added the word "philo" before the word "sophia" stating that man could only be the lover of wisdom or knowledge. “Philo” means lover. Therefore, according to Pythagoras, man cannot have knowledge and wisdom in the real sense; so, he can only be the lover of wisdom.

Then, the word philosophy means love of wisdom and knowledge; a philosopher is a person who wants to be experienced and who loves and cares for knowledge. Wisdom, which is one of the basic principles of “Philosophia”, which was accepted as "love of wisdom and knowledge" in the first ages, includes the meanings of both knowledge and virtue. Accordingly, we can deduce the meanings of knowing what happens and discovering what is good from the word philosophy.

Famous Islamic philosopher, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) defines philosophy as follows: Philosophy means man's having a grasp of objects and all truths as much as he can and trying to understand their secrets.” Philosophers thought everything about man's life based on the mind; thus, they regarded philosophy as an area that researches everything.

There are various views regarding what knowledge and wisdom are like and how to define philosophy. Therefore, it is very difficult to make one definition of philosophy.  However, it will not be wrong to define philosophy as follows by taking into consideration the general properties of philosophy:  Philosophy is the activity of rational, critical, objective, consistent and comprehensive thinking on everything that exists.” Acting upon this definition, we can list the basic properties of philosophical knowledge as follows:

1. Philosophical knowledge occurs as a result of critical thinking based on research and examination.

2. Philosophical knowledge is knowledge in which the issues that are dealt with are interpreted in a system based on reason. 

3. Philosophical knowledge is a kind of knowledge that proceeds cumulatively.

4. Philosophical knowledge is uniting and integrating.

5. Philosophical knowledge cannot be proved through experimenting or observation like scientific knowledge. It is nor a kind of knowledge whose trueness can be determined clearly due to its continuity and including new interpretations.

The topics that philosophy deals with are divided into three main parts: They are ontology, (existence), epistemology (knowledge) and axiology (values). Accordingly, ontology deals with the existence of the universe, how it came to being and everything in the universe; epistemology deals with the definition, source, criteria, possibilities, area and scope of knowledge, along with logic and science. Axiology is the activity of thinking on the basic issues like ethics, esthetics, politics and education.

After this brief information, let us answer the question.

It is necessary to mention the importance of something: The philosophy that our religion does not find appropriate is the wrong views of life that are on the agenda in this age rather than the philosophical views of the past. They usually lead people to unbelief and irreligiousness. The word philosophy is used for the "exact sciences", which examine the universe with its "literal meaning", examining the works only, without taking the creator into consideration.

The reason why philosophy in this sense is opposed is that people deal with rational sciences only, think that they themselves and this realm are without an owner and that they only work for this world, without thinking about Allah and the hereafter.

In his work called Munazarat (Debates), Badiuzzaman Said Nursi likens the religious sciences and the exact sciences to two wings and emphasizes that “the success of the student will soar with them.” In his work called Lamaat (Gleams), he likens the religious sciences to the black part of the eye and the exact sciences to the white part of the eye; he draws attention to the fact that the eyes function when they come together but the part that actually sees is the black part. Saying, "the light of the mind comes from the heart", he draws attention to the fact that dealing with the mind only by ignoring the heart, which is the place for belief, will leave man in darkness.

The philosophy that is opposed is the philosophy that is based on the mind only, the philosophy that has only one wing and that has no light. Otherwise, no Muslim opposes exact sciences. For, one of his most distinguished features is to see the universe and the things in it as evidence for the existence and oneness of Allah and for the endlessness of his attributes and to make use of these scientific facts to the utmost in order to explain and prove his cause.

People have moved away from spirituality due to dealing with matter too much; they have seen life as only the life in this world and the purpose of life as "living comfortably in welfare". This has made people move away from the religion, attached them to the world and led them to debauchery.

The mental struggle between the prophets who view events based on revelation and the philosophers who base their views on the mind only has continued throughout history. However, in this age of science and technology, there is not a philosophy in the sense of the philosophy in the past; there is a philosophy that regards the exact sciences, which are a product of the mind, as sufficient regarding all issues. The mental discussions of this age are very different from the philosophical currents Before Christ. In this age, some scientists who have moved away from the religion use nature and matter as a means of denying spirituality and have virtually raged a war against the religion. The philosophers who found it enough to utter their philosophical views and did not interfere with others are very different from the unbelieving scientists of this age. Therefore, the meaning of philosophy in the past is very different from that of this age.

Until recently, the currents of "atheism, evolutionism and materialism" were included in the school textbooks in communist countries; they tried painstakingly to bring up an irreligious youth. In the developed countries, "interest, matter and debauchery" started to dominate the community life as a result of the fast development in technology; consequently, a debauched and irreligious generation was brought up. They all occurred because people "moved away from the revelation and adopted the wrong thoughts produced by their own minds".

Accordingly, a Muslim opposes the philosophy that aims unbelief and irreligiousness; a Muslim does not oppose the philosophy that is in good terms with the religion.

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