During one of Yaron Brook’s radio shows earlier this year, a listener in the chat linked to a lecture series by Barry Wood titled “The Battle over Reason in the Islamic World (and How it Was Lost).” I have finally had time to listen to the series, and it is quite fascinating, especially as I have been trying to learn a bit more about Islam since the attack on Charlie Hebdo.
Mr. Wood begins the series by pointing out that Islam had some positive elements that set it apart from Christianity. Islam was pro-trade and had none of the condemnation of worldly success to characterized Christianity. Early on in the history of Islam, they were accepting of reason and indeed mocked Christians for the irrationality of their religion. I liken the acceptance of reason in Islam to that of Thomas Aquinas in Christianity. Islamic philosophers attempted to integrate their faith with reason, seeing the two as compatible and supportive of each other. While this co-existence of reason and faith lasted, Islamic civilization flourished. They enjoyed a good, relatively speaking, standard of living and viewed the crusaders as primarily a group of country bumpkins in comparison.
Of course, such a coexistence of faith and reason could not last and did not last in the Islamic world. During one of the question periods, Barry Wood agree with a questioner on a large part of the difference in the path of Islamic civilization and Western civilization in regards to reason. Western culture has as its bedrock Greek thought, i.e. reason and logic, while Islamic civilization has as its bedrock the Koran, this is why it is called Islamic civilization rather than Arab civilization. When put under pressure, from forces outside or from within, Western Civilization falls back on its bedrock, reason. Islam also falls back on its bedrock, but in this case it is the mysticism of the Koran. Throughout the later lectures, Mr. Wood describes the growing influence of mysticism in Islam until it became the dominant force.
Today’s quote comes from near the end of the fourth lecture. When I heard it, I made a voice note to remind me where to find it on the recording, I was listening on the drive to work, to review it later. This quote summarizes the difference between Islam, and any faith based system, and reason.
Whatever you say about Islam at least it is honestly named. Islam means submission. Submission to god’s will. A Muslim is one who submits. And reason doesn’t submit. Rational men don’t submit. Free men don’t submit.
I can’t resist adding, because I hear it or I heard it practically everyday, when you criticize Islam they come back with, “You think every Muslim is a potential terrorist. You think Islam means terrorism.” And they are trying to put you on the back foot as somebody who is making a racist or at least a collectivist generalization. And my answer is, “No. I think anyone who elevates faith above reason is a potential murderer.” And that is what we see playing out.
This is, in essentials, what took place in Garland, Texas last week. Two men resorted to attempted murder against those who they could not convince, and likely did not even attempt to convince, by reason to refrain from drawing cartoons of the prophet Mohammad. Not because the cartoonists are not reachable by reason, but because there are no rational reasons that can be given. As noted above, when pushed they fell back on their book, their source of faith, and gave as their reason, “Well, I don’t know why you shouldn’t but it says in my book you shouldn’t do that or you will be killed.” And so they tried, and luckily failed, to kill the cartoonists.
Threats of force, or acts of force, are not reasons. They are the very antithesis of reason and make reason as such impossible.