Friday, January 8, 2010

540)Emulating Ibn Sina and Ibn al-Haytham; Renewing the Impetus of Philosophical Thinking in Islam: Paper presented by IIS's Dr Nader El-Bizri in Iran

IIS Scholar Presents Paper at Conference on Islamic Philosophy
December 2009

Dr Nader El-Bizri presented a paper titled: ‘Renewing the Impetus of Philosophical Thinking in Islam?’, at the international conference, Islamic Philosophy and the Challenges of the Present-Day World. The conference was held in Tehran and Hamedan, Iran, between 10th and 13th November 2009.

Dr. El-Bizri also gave three interviews in English and Arabic, on ‘Philosophy, Science and Islam’ to the Iranian media and press, including Radio Tehran.The conference was organised by the Iranian Institute of Philosophy, the Academy of Science, the Ministry of Science, Research & Technology, in association with UNESCO (Tehran Office and Paris Headquarters), and Bu Ali Sina University in Hamedan.

This academic event corresponded with the UNESCO celebration of ‘World Philosophy Day’ in November 2009. International colloquia and symposia also took place in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, as well as in Tehran and Hamedan.

The focus of the conference in Tehran and Hamedan was primarily on the legacy of Ibn Sina, who is also known by his Latinised name of Avicenna. The conference coincided with a highly distinguished national ceremony held at Ibn Sina’s shrine in Hamedan. Delegates from fifteen countries were in attendance at the ceremony, as well as participating in the conference sessions in Iran.

By critically conceptualising the ‘impetus of philosophising in Islam’, Dr. El-Bizri’s paper focused on the fundamental question concerning the ‘renewal of philosophical thinking’ that is inspired by Islam as a vibrant lived faith and a rich intercultural sequence of civilisations.In this context, he drew a distinction between the philosopher who is motivated by the systemic unfolding of fundamental questions and concepts, and the archiving exegete who is primarily bent on reporting them. This calls for rethinking some of the principal systems in ontology and epistemology in relation to history of ideas in Islam.

The foundational traditions that had a deepimpacton philosophical and scientific thinking in Islam and a profound influence on European scholarship in the mediaeval and Renaissance periods, are best represented by the legacies of two influential polymaths: Abu ‘Ali Ibn Sina (d. 1037 CE) and al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (also known as Alhazen, d. ca. 1041 CE). Both offer pointers and directives that may in part assist in reformulating the essential classical questions in ontology and epistemology, and in devising new responses to their conceptual prolongations in the light of contemporary philosophy, the exact sciences, and ‘the unfolding of the essence of technology’.

Dr. El-Bizri sees this line of enquiry as an ‘exercise in thinking’, rather than a research project per se, and as one intellectual pathway amongst many others. In its epistemic possibilities, this study may potentially facilitate the founding of new modes of rethinking metaphysics and cosmology, while being inspired by intellectual history in Islamic civilisations. It is essentially oriented by lived and concretised aspirations in the unfurling of genuine philosophical thinking in relation to ‘Islam in the 21st Century’.

The conference and accompanying events were covered by Iran’s national media and press. The conference was concluded by a high-profile ceremony. The Minister of Science, Research & Technology, the Minister of Culture, the Director of the Academy of Sciences, Professor Reza Davari Ardakani, and the Institute of Philosophy, Professor Gholamreza Aavani, attended, along with various other Iranian dignitaries.

Prestigious awards were also granted to distinguished scholars for their contributions to the field of ‘philosophical studies in relation to Islam’. Award winners included Ayatollah ‘Abdallah Javadi Amoli, Dr Ali Akbar Velayati, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Professor Gholamreza Aavani.

"In this context, would it not also be relevant to consider how, above all, it has been the Qur'anic notion of the universe as an expression of Allah's will and creation that has inspired, in diverse Muslim communities, generations of artists, scientists and philosophers? Scientific pursuits, philosophic inquiry and artistic endeavour are all seen as the response of the faithful to the recurring call of the Qur'an to ponder the creation as a way to understand Allah's benevolent majesty. As Sura al-Baqara proclaims: 'Wherever you turn, there is the face of Allah'.The famous verse of 'light' in the Qur'an, the Ayat al-Nur, whose first line is rendered here in the mural behind me, inspires among Muslims a reflection on the sacred, the transcendent. It hints at a cosmos full of signs and symbols that evoke the perfection of Allah's creation and mercy"(Aga Khan IV,Speech, Institute of Ismaili Studies, October 2003, London, U.K.)

"....AND SHOULD'NT IB SCIENCE STUDENTS not learn about Ibn al-Haytham, the Muslim scholar who developed modern optics, as well as his predecessors Euclid and Ptolemy, whose ideas he challenged...."(Aga Khan IV, "The Peterson Lecture" on the International Baccalaureate, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 18 April 2008)

"The truth, as the famous Islamic scholars repeatedly told their students, is that the spirit of disciplined, objective enquiry is the property of no single culture, but of all humanity. To quote the great physician and philosopher, Ibn Sina: "My profession is to be forever journeying, to travel about the universe so that I may know all its conditions." "(Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims: Aga Khan IV(1985)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)