The teaching of the Qur'an that life is a process of progressive creation necessitates that each generation, guided but unhampered by the work of its predecessors, should be permitted to solve its own problems.

(The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam)

Iqbal Study Group Sessions Held on 10th August, and 5th October 2010:

These were the first two sessions from the planned series of lectures on Iqbal’s Magnum Opus in prose “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”, hereinafter simply referred to as Reconstruction. These sessions were a response to the keen interest expressed by the members, and aimed at not only understanding and benefitting from arguably the most important and sophisticated response from the Muslim world to the internal and external challenges, but also using this opportunity as a means for developing the intellectual faculties and acquiring a keen familiarity with the related knowledge areas and philosophical discourse.

The first session was opened by the founding chairman of Iqbal Academy Scandinavia, Mr. Ghulam Sabir, with an inspiring introduction to the topic. He explained with reference to the title how these lectures by Iqbal aimed at redefining the Muslim religious philosophy, and by which he did not mean to define his own set of Islamic principles, but to inspire a pursuit for the deeper understanding of Islamic teachings based on the improved state of human knowledge and modern challenges, in accordance with Islam’s progressive character. Further Mr. Sabir added some interesting information on the seven lectures delivered by Iqbal at different occasions, which constituted this whole text of Reconstruction.

Mr. Sabir’s inspirational opening was followed by Mr. Hadi Khan’s brief lecture on the works and historical significance of Al-Ghazali, Ibn-e-Rushd and Immanuel Kant; this important introduction would not only add perspective to the references made to these great personalities in Reconstruction, but would also align well with the general goals of learning and edification set for these study sessions.

The rest of the session was dedicated to the in depth and thorough study of the first few pages of “Knowledge and Religious Experience”, the first and very important lecture in Reconstruction. The copies of the material had been sent to all members long before the meeting, and some of them came prepared with the questions on different parts of the text which made it a more fulfilling experience. This discussion, mainly conducted by Mr. Sarosh Alamgir, continued till the end of the next session on Oct 5, 2010, covering the following main topics from the text:

  1. The relevance of intellect in regards with faith, its function, and faith's/religion 's attitude towards it; it was the most natural point of departure for the very passionate and bright, albeit increasingly rationalist young minds among the audience; this was well-received.
  2. The limitations and the relativeness of the intellect and Philosophy, and conditions for their fair application to religion, which has in its claims a holistic as well as (the prospects of) a direct view of the ultimate reality; this was received with a sense of surprise.
  3. Intuition as a channel/mode of direct perception, unmediated by reasoning. This was the concept that drew the most number of questions. The description was accompanied by examples from normal appearing experiences, and psychological discoveries; some arguments from the audience tried to devise theories to justify the given examples on basis of “normal” means of perception and inference, which revealed a general difficulty faced by the modern intellects in conceiving a parallel system of perception, in addition to the sense perception in usual meaning. 
  4. In addition to the above, the following related topics were also briefly touched:
  1. The progressive, transcendent and holistic nature of Islam, and the need for the continuous revision and critical analysis of its understanding and interpretation in each era.
  2. The need for Reconstruction and its multi-pronged objectives, namely, to emancipate the Muslim world from the false intellectual stagnation, among other big internal and external impediments, to showcase the progressive approach towards the religion, something core to the character of Islam, and to offer the intellectual and philosophical foundations for further progress.
  3. The classification of propositions by Immanuel Kant (Analytic-Synthetic; A-priori, A-posteriori).
  4. The function and scope of each of Logic, pure-reason based Philosophy, and knowledge (in general terms), also in reference with the point 1 above.
  5. The tunnel vision of sciences and the presuming character of scientific and philosophical theories.
  6. The main subject of religion in contrast with the scientific and intellectual arenas (often confused and misunderstood).
  7. The evolution of faith in terms of the elements of cognition and belief, and their individual scope, functions, and effect on each other.
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