Islam is the original and innate religion of human beings. This religion, which has an eternal validity, started with Hadhrat Adem and was renewed, finalized and completed with the last Prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (saw) and took its place in human history.
Islam, as a life order, addresses all aspects of humankind's existence and actions, while taking into account all their spiritual, rational, material, and moral characteristics. Islam does not consider any of them less important than the other. In this respect, mainstream Islamic thought has succeeded in compiling different understandings such as the apparent and the invisible, tanzih and tashbih, physics and metaphysics based on the principle of monotheism and it has created a new offer that is not only a world view but also has historically played a founding role in the world. The methods of religion (usûlu’d-dîn) that preach the foundations of religion from the Qur'an and Sunnah, which enabled this offer to be described in a meaningful way for the rest of humanity, the methods of fiqh (usûl-i fiqh), which provides an exemplary understanding of the proposed view of life, and theoretical and practical structures built on these two originals, have made Dar al-Islam (territory of Islam) the center of the world history in almost every aspect for more than a thousand years. And it made Muslims the most blessed ummah with the ability to witness all of humanity and finally made the descriptions of the universe formed based on the Islamic view of life into final explanatory thoughts. Both these explanatory thoughts and the accompanying practical, social and institutional structures dynamically preserved their exemplary characteristics until the 18th century.
Despite this historical role, Islamic thought and civilization live in one of the biggest and difficult periods of its history with nearly two billion followers. The Islamic world is struggling with very deep crises and depressions in almost all fields, especially in political, social, scientific, economic and intellectual fields. In fact, this is not the first crisis we have experienced as a civilization. Previously, there were two major crises, one during the first Islamic conquests when the Muslims experienced to encounter the neighboring culture and civilizations, and the other during the massive attacks at the time of Batiniyyas, the Crusades, and Mongolian invasions. These crises have been overcome by Muslims' consistent renewal (tecdid) efforts who are acting with the dynamics of Islam. The first crisis shifted the founding centers of human history from Rome, Konstantinapolis, Alexandria and Gundeshapur to Basra, Kufa, Baghdad, Nishapur, Bukhara and Samarkand by developing the skills of describing Muslims' unique offers in a common language with neighboring culture and civilizations. The second crisis, whose epistemological aspect is dominant as well as its political aspect, has paved the way for the emergence of new insights enabled by methodological transformations and integrative new political theories. It has also enabled the second major leap forward of Islamic civilization with the cohesion in the Transoxiana (Maverâünnehir), Turkistan, Horasan, Sindh-Hind, and Rumelia geography. In these difficult times, Muslims were born from their ashes and made great advances in science and civilizations. They established the Andalusian civilization by going up to the Liberian peninsula, they extended to Transoxiana and opened the gates of Anatolia to Islam and they succeeded in bringing a powerful and great empire in every field, the Ottoman Empire, to the world stage.
The third major crisis, which has directed almost all searches since the 18th century, arose under the influence of new knowledge, thought and moral understandings emerging in the West world. This new crisis, which still has a strong influence, has resulted in aspects that cannot be compared with the previous ones and it had equally traumatic effects. Perhaps the most important aspect of this new crisis was that the political, economic and social revolutions that accompany the methodological transformation take place in our view of nature and the universe have brought human history almost irrevocably to the brink of a new phase. It is a known fact that the transformations in this period were much more than the transformations in the five thousand years written history of mankind. With these rapid changes, Muslims gradually lost their qualities of being the subjects of history and they could not find the intellectual and scientific strengths that would respond to the challenges.
There are many reasons why non-Western societies in general and Islamic societies in particular are vulnerable to producing information that can overcome the challenges they face. In addition to political, economic, military and social reasons, perhaps the most important of these, which is often neglected, is a cognitive weakness of methodological transformations that will mediate for the production of knowledge. That is, the changes in our view of the universe lie behind the transformations that took place in the Western world and influenced the rest of the world from the 17th century onwards. The methodological transformation was behind the great scientific, technical accumulation that we inherited today, we deemed obliged to adapt ourselves, and otherwise, we thought our historical existence would be compromised. This methodology described knowledge as a “power” itself, rather than “discovering the existent”.
The developments in this century and beyond have created a new method that aims to take over nature and universe, and moves from bottom to top instead of the classical method that understands from top to bottom, from Allah to mankind, or from revelation to life. This has led traditional knowing methods to prevail in many areas, such as metaphysics, epistemology, psychology, ethics and even the philosophy of nature, and the continuation of filling the area expected to be occupied by the method that allows the production of new knowledge that is impossible to remain indifferent. This form of knowing and understanding has gradually become a “field of value” that takes its power from history and reached a protected status. Along with the efforts of those who produced the new knowledge to protect their membership in this field of “value”, a difficult contradiction has emerged. A world of technicians has been created that applies the scientific “knowledge of skills” necessary for the protection of historical assets and to adapt mandatory technical developments with the current circulation but is mentally closed to the method that causes these developments and the reproduction of the information. While this world of technicians initially showed themselves only in the field of applied sciences, they gradually transferred to other disciplines of natural sciences, social sciences and even to Islamic sciences.
One conclusion that must be drawn from this assessment is that, regardless of the field, studies on the method (usûl) and manner must first be calculated by methodological transformations that direct our view of the universe or nature. In this respect, we believe that we should always keep this in mind; the way to describe the offer of the Din-i mübin-i Islam (explaining the truth) in a meaningful way for all humanity is to be able to bespeak (kalam) by producing ideas on a common ground with the rest of humanity. It is imperative that such a thought and philosophy, which provides the ground for legitimacy for religious texts (nass) and judgments centered by the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) method, must verify any methodological transformation in our view for the universe. This situation also makes it necessary to return to the discussions of knowledge and methods that are vitally important to the methodologists and theologians in every period of Islamic thought. It is seen that the deadlocks in both fields have weakened the production of knowledge in the Islamic world and have made the ulema, which should stand out with their problem-solving roles, become increasingly deprived of these roles. This makes an urgent and in-depth review inevitable. Based on this reviewing, we need qualified scientists who consider contemplation, imagination, and reasoning, in other words, mind and conscience, and all sources of information, as the knowledge and morality, and also as a responsibility. We need qualified scientists who transform it into the actions that will benefit society and become a good example to people. And we need qualified scientists who make you think right and open up peoples’ horizons, more than ever. This means inviting each Muslim individual, especially scholars, to the quality of “witnessing humanity”, which is the essential element of being ummah.
It is noteworthy that, in order to overcome these problems, numerous educational institutions have emerged in the Islamic world in modern times and the collection of “Islamic sciences” has become more common than ever before. Hundreds of thousands of students on “Islamic sciences” are educated in this field. In addition to this, with the spread of the internet and increasing digital opportunities, it has become much easier to reach all kinds of information. The information has entered every house and even every pocket. However, all this acquis, unfortunately, was not enough to save the Islamic world from this deep crisis and vortex. This abundance of possibilities and ease of access to information have turned into a chaos of knowledge and realization and it has led to complete confusion in the field of Islamic thought with the deeper problems it brings.
While the Islamic world was struggling with such a deep crisis, our country, Turkey, got its share from this, and unfortunately, we could not present a scientific and cultural solution and offer. In our country, which is hopeful for the Islamic world in many respects with the political and economic expansions in recent years and is regarded as the only country of well-being despite being located in the middle of a ring of fire, unfortunately, it has not been possible to make a breakthrough in science, thought and culture.
In our country, the number of theology faculties in the past fifteen years has exceeded one hundred. Tens of thousands of young people have met with “Islamic sciences” with the associate degree and distant education opportunities on theology. And civil religious education institutions have increased in numbers in this environment of freedom. However, despite this increase in society, it has been observed that the Islamic horizon has started to narrow further. Unfortunately, despite all the opportunities provided, we cannot say that a sense of education which establishes correct relationships, tries to understand the verses of the Holy Book and the verses of the universe as the language of the same truth, and trains religious scholars (ulum-ı diniyye) together with physical and social sciences and theology together with wisdom and philosophy, has yet been established in our country with the fifteen centuries knowledge and civilization. The division of religious and non-religious sciences that have been incorrectly inherited from history continued to exist in the university. The theology education could not be integrated with other departments of universities and the departments educating natural and social sciences in our universities could not be integrated with theology education.
Years and centuries after the birth of Islam, two questions have always existed and the ummah has constantly disagreed on them. The first question is the question of what should be done when we face new conditions, new situations, and new events after the revelation. The second question is how to evaluate the history, tradition of Islam, ijtihads (independent legal judgments) and fatwas of the ancient times, and how we can read our valuable scientific and thoughtful sources that fill our huge libraries today. There are always calls for renewal, revival, amendment, and construction for these two questions. However, each of these well-intentioned calls turned into a source of conflict on its own. And it is clear that Islam itself does not need any of these concepts.
Islam, -perish the thought-, does not grow old so we cannot renew it. It does not die so we cannot revive it. It does not spoil so we cannot amend it. How can we rebuild Islam, which guides us to build our world, our lives, our morals, and the hereafter? However, it is far from any explanation that our ideas and thoughts need renewal, our science needs revival, our method needs amendment and our moral needs reconstruction. The important thing here is not to give up the direction and the facts of Islam.
In fact, the nature of religion, religious texts, language and mankind necessitate a certain degree of differences in understanding. However, the misconception of religion and the religious discourses that encompass the Islamic world bring together a single truthful and self-centered understanding. It ignores the comments of Islam that embrace all the ummah and adopt the principle of living fraternally.
The human competences, our nature, our sources of information, cultural differences and undoubtedly the ways of understanding are the main reasons why we express our thoughts and opinions in many different ways. Indeed, it is equivalent to thinking almost every member of the society in the same way, putting pressure on the freedom of the will of each of us, designing in the same character or mentality. However, there is no objection to original thinking, to make different decisions, to understand and interpret the social orientation or events and facts that is related to the world of revelation or physics differently, in short, to make a unique assessment of the person. Let alone every believer has competence and consistency in itself based on the commitment to a sound method and a correct purpose in his/her thoughts, behaviors, preferences and orientations.
The dispute, which we mostly attribute negative meaning today, mainly refers to the diversity in the Muslims’ view. This conflict, which means that different minds trigger each other, is considered as a wealth conducive to intellectual and scientific dynamism and mercy. Because the search for solutions to the problems of the ummah is diversified, the minds and experiences know each other and they inspire each other. However, the clash of ideas, which is not for good sense, which do not match with the facts of Islam and lead the polarization of the ummah, are called “contraries” and they lead to insolubility. The transformation of the contraries into strict separation is the harbinger of the painful picture we call division. This situation not only generates people alienated mentally and emotionally from each other but also creates a ground for sedition by threatening the unity and solidarity of society.
The Islamic tradition accepts reasonable differences and controversial issues as a strong starting point for the search for truth and it does not consider it as a problem. As long as the Muslims, who shaped their goals and orientations within the Islamic goal and effort, should not ignore and rule out the high principles of religion!
Undoubtedly, unity does not mean that all Muslims have a single world of thought as if they were out of the same pattern. Unity is when Muslims, each of which has a particular world, with various qualities come together to build a harmonious society and it is the engagement of the community of believers with the consciousness of the ummah without losing the freedom. Therefore, conflict does not prevent unity. For this reason, Islamic civilization has hosted different schools, sects, and dispositions throughout history. Religious interpretations, ideas, and opinions will obviously have differences as it is in history. These differences are the richness of our civilization and they are the manifestation of the freedom that Islam gives individuals in science and thought.
If different views emerging as productive fields within the inner integrity of the Islamic tradition have always been valued as integral and inseparable parts of a mighty and wholeness limb that nourishes protects and seeks each other with different perspectives, methods and interpretation practices in many parts of the Islamic geography, the most important reason of this is method. Each field of science also gifted us a method. The sciences of exegesis (tefsir) have thought us the methods of commentary and the sciences of the Qur’an (ulûmü’l-Qur’ân). The science of hadith has thought us the sciences for hadith (mustalahu’l-hadîs) and the methods of hadith. The science of fiqh has thought us the methods of fiqh (usûl-i Fıkıh). They are brought to our history of science and culture. It should be accepted that these sciences have no meaning without method and methodology.
The methods of religion (Usûlü’d-din), which includes the philosophical discussions emerged in the first centuries and express the original roots of Islamic understanding of wealth, knowledge and value, and the methods of fiqh (Usûl-i Fıkıh), that determines the bases of jurisprudential rulings and ijtihad, are the most original methods and sciences built by the Islamic civilization with their basic foundations and methodological principles. They are both included in not only revelation-based sciences such as exegesis, hadith, and fiqh but also in rational sciences. As the methods of sciences reveal the nature of the conflict, they are sciences that reduce unnecessary religious discussions and provide unity. For this reason, having the right method will prevent us from all kinds of extremism for the sake of religious effort, and from spoiling the religion for the sake of modernity and rationality.
Today, apart from the methodological conflict mentioned earlier, the reason we lost the system of evidences and values, the hierarchy of evidences and values, the priorities of fiqh, and the relationship between rational and revelation-based evidences in Islam resulted from the fact that we lost the method of understanding religion correctly. Although the basic sources of knowledge and deeds of Islam are very clear and the Qur’an, which has not changed a letter, and the sunnah of Prophet (Sünnet-i Nebeviyye), which separates the wrongdoings from the precise ones with great scientific efforts, are apparent, confronting these sources of information fifteen centuries later, classifying Islam as the Islam of Quran, Islam of Sunnah, Islam of Hadith, and even positioning Allah against His Messenger is a clear indication of how much we have lost our methodology.
To question even the creed (amentü) that united us fifteen centuries ago, to discuss the principles of belief and aqaid (religious doctrine), to abandon the many principles of aqaid, and to convert many elements, which are not in aqaid, to the facts of religion, arises from the inability to develop and continue the methods of religion (usûlü’d-din) that emerged to meet the challenges of the first centuries.
The only reason we continue to mix the constants with the variables of religion, the essential with the secondary, the religious texts and the revelations with the culture, the custom with the worship, the local with the universal, and make our supreme religion incomprehensible, is due to lack of methodology and not knowing the certain methods.
Today, as if the divisions such as Shia-Sunni, Sufi-Salafi, Zahiri-Batiniyya, traditionalist-modernist, the followers of Qur’ân - the followers of hadith (ehl-i Qur'ân and ehl-i hadith) are not enough, starting disputes within the followers of the Sunnah (ehl-i sünnet), downgrading us to a sect, turning this religion of unity into an understanding that produce division shows how far we are away from the methodology.
The emergence of exceptional searches such as neo-selephism that turns culture into a religion, and modernism and historicism, which interpret religion and revelation as the product of culture, and the fact that we forget consensus (icma), comparison (kıyas), relation (maslahat), juristic preference (istihsan), sedd-i zerîa, and higher purposes (maqasid) shows that we are moving away from our methodology.
We have to face this situation, which will lead to the collapse of certain traits of the Islamic civilization one by one and which includes deep tremors, revenge, and pains for search, without a moment’s to spare. We have to compensate for our losses and negligence in order to seriously answer for this state of affairs that can only be considered as 'hal-i pür melal' in the house we live in, in the neighborhood, in the village, city, country and the entire Islamic world. And we have to present new offers.
In such an environment, the responsibility on the shoulders of our scholars, thinkers, and intellectuals becomes heavier. This responsibility is to rediscover the discipline, understanding, and practices of Islam that will produce knowledge, wisdom, and ingenuity, adopting a monotheist approach as a principle, without entering into religious and non-religious classification and without bringing wisdom against revelation. Otherwise, the rhetoric in the Islamic civilization will not mean anything beyond holding onto the past and defending against what happened in our age.
Institute of Islamic Thought
Based on these grounds, the Institute of Islamic Thought, an Ankara-based international institute, is decided to be established for dealing with these important issues. Institute of Islamic Thought will work both as a research center and as an academy that organizes training and seminar programs for the post graduate level. The primary aim of the Institute is to conduct and had conducted researches in the fields of “The Methodology in Islamic Thought”, “Methods and Maqasid in Islamic Sciences”, “Ethics” and “Aesthetics”, and to share these researches with scientific centers in the Islamic world in different languages.
By method and methodology, it is meant to understand religion as a whole, not just the fiqh method (Usûl-i Fıkıh), which deals with the relationship between judgment, religious texts and indications and which deals with the jurisprudential rulings (istinbat) from the religious texts (nass). In this context, the fiqh method has to enter into a serious reckoning against methodological transformations that direct our view of the world and the universe. In this regard, the Institute of Islamic Thought associates the methodology issue not only with a deadlock in the production of fiqh knowledge but an essential crisis in the production of absolute knowledge and it will concentrate its efforts to overcome this essential crisis.
With the same point of view, the aim of the maqasid is not only Maqasidu'ş-Şeria but all the goals and purposes such as Maqasidu't-tekvîn, Maqasidu'l-umran, Maqasidu't-tenzil, Maqasidu'l-Qur'ân, Maqasidu's-Sunnah, and Maqasidu't-teklif. It is undoubtedly necessary to reconsider the Islamic thought and sciences that established this idea in order to understand the method and the maqasid correctly. Maqasidu’t-tekvîn is a set of methods that address the purpose of existence and the wisdom of creation in all aspects and make us understand nature and the universe that gave meaning to the entity. Maqasidu’l-umran is the method that allows us to understand the history, society, social life and the history of civilization within the framework of principles suitable to the rules of Allah (Sünnetullah). Maqasidu’t-tenzil is the purpose of revelating the Divine revelation and the reasons for the existence of the Prophecy. Maqasidu’l-Qur’ân is not the meaning expressed one by one by the verses, but the general purposes of the Qur'an as a whole. Maqasidu’s-Sunnah is not the particular behaviors of the Prophet, but the universal sample that is shown by the behaviors and the aims of the Prophecy as a whole. Maqasidu't-teklif is general purposes that express the relationship between religion and human beings, who are obliged by the judgments of religion and have to act accordingly. Maqasidu'ş-şeria are general purposes of the system of orders and prohibitions related to the behaviors in the religion. It is far from explaining that Maqasidu'ş-şeria cannot be understood without determining other purposes.
For Islamic thought, wisdom represents a perfect composition of knowledge and deeds. Ultimately, it aims perfection (insanî kemal). In this framework, the Institute of Islamic Thought sees it as its fundamental responsibility to reconsider science of morality, which is the most basic indicator of the composition of knowledge and deeds, with its theoretical and practical dimensions.
The Institute will shape its studies under the following topics:
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