Saturday, October 13, 2012

Reconstruction: an Overview

A king entrusted his son to a team of scholars and they taught him numerous sciences until he became a complete master in spite of himself. Then the king put a ring in his fist and asked his son to make a guess. The son replied, "What you hold in your hand is round, yellow, inscribed and hollow." Overjoyed, the king asked him to name it and he replied, "It must be a sieve."

"Alas!" Said the king. "You gave all the details that would baffle the minds of anyone, but the small point has escaped you that the sieve will not fit in a fist?"

Remember this story when approaching The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, since the immense richness of that book can easily lead a reader to become overwhelmed with detail and miss the point - even due to the same reason which Rumi ascribed to the prince after narrating that story: 
...the great scholars of the age split hairs on details of all matters... but as for what is truly of importance and touches us more closely than anything else, namely our own self, this your great scholars do not know. They make statements about everything, saying, “This is true and that is not true. This is right and that is wrong.” Yet, they do not know their own self, whether it is true or false, pure or impure.
In my endeavour to understand the Reconstruction, I have tried to list the key statement of each of the seven lectures and the preface. Personally I find it easier to "swim" through this ocean of a book by having this bird's eye-view first. The list is by no means definitive, and other readers of the book may come up with a different set, but I am offering these key statements here for facilitating discussion.

Religious faith ultimately rests on a living experience of the king of biological unity implied in the Quranic verse: "Your creation and resurrection are like the creation and resurrection of a single soul." (31:28)
Thought and intuition are organically related. All forms of intuition can be studied systematically, just like other thought processes. In principles, this is even true about revelation (وحی) of prophets even though we may not be practically equipped for carrying out such a study at present.
Systematic study of revelation involves the appreciative side of our self as well as its efficient side.
Our thought can also rise higher than itself and recognize five elements in our conception of God: that He is (a) Eternal; (b) Powerful; (c) Knowing; (d) Creative; and (e) Infinite Ego.
Human being is a unity of life that can be best described as an ego (خودی): an intuitive unity that illuminates our consciousness. It is possible for this entity to survive after death.
The cultural world of Islam has sprung out of the Unitive experience (معراج) of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Its cornerstone is the realization that humanity has outgrown the need for prophet-hood, priesthood or hereditary kingship. Therefore, the birth of Islam is the birth of inductive intellect.
The essence of the Unity of God (توحید), as a working idea, is equality, solidarity, and freedom. The ultimate aim of Islam is a spiritual democracy, for which the present-day Muslims are better equipped than those in any previous time.
In its higher manifestations, religion is neither dogma, nor priesthood, nor ritual but a deliberate enterprise to seize the ultimate principle of value and thereby to reintegrate the forces of one’s own personality.


  1. Greetings,

    Thank you very much for this post.

    I will use these keys to help guide my journey through the Reconstruction.

    All good wishes,


  2. Khurram

    I like last one the best, this is exactly what's been hapening to me for the past 5 years or so, that is, religion as a means to reinforcing the power of the self.

    Naji Akbar

  3. I believe in the 'Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam'.We must study carefully,because even the smallest detail is very important.Otherwise like the King's son we may make the mistake of trying to fit the sieve in the fist.

  4. It just hit me hard this story of the king's son.I realized he gave the wrong answer,because he did not really comprehend what was taught.Memorizing anything without understanding is a waste of time. This is why he gave an incorrect answer.It reminds me of the time when the Maulvi Sahib was teaching my younger siblings to read Urdu.The Maulvi Sahib had his eyes closed,and he obviously memorized the book.My siblings had the book open and were repeating everything the teacher was saying.When the teacher left I got one of them to read to me.I opened a page in the middle of the book and pointed at a word.She said she wants to read from the first page.I knew then they were only repeating what the teacher was saying,they did not know how to read.Could this have happened to the King's son? I'm just curious.