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Islamic Thoughts

Islamic Thoughts

1 Use this short excerpt from Ibn Sina to comment on the philosophers’ notion of God and His relationship to the rest of the universe (15 point).

“The First loves His essence and is loved by His essence, whether or not He is loved by other beings. But He is not unloved by other beings. Rather due to His essence, He is loved by His essence and by many other things….no yearning can be attributed to the First.”

2 Explain this short excerpt from ‘Ata’ Allah, highlighting the significance of humility in Sufi approach to religious practice (10 points).

“No deed arising from a renouncing heart is small,

And no deed arising from an avaricious heart is fruitful.”

3 The story goes that Rumi started his journey to Sufism after an encounter with an uneducated/unlettered man who impressed Rumi by making his books burn by means of a certain invisible intervention. Rumi would leave his ‘ordinary’ life as a scholar basing his knowledge on the scholarship delivered through books and literacy. In his new life, he would learn from someone whose claim to distinction rests on some work of ‘magic.’ This story is probably apocryphal, but the retelling of the story by Rumi’s disciples tells us something about the world of mysticism. Discuss why would a non-Sufi, Sunni legal scholar have an issue with this method of knowledge transmission, and with a practice based on such knowledge? And then discuss how would a medieval Islamic philosopher respond to this kind of knowledge? (25 points)

4 Discuss, interpret to the extent you deem necessary, and highlight the main idea expressed in this excerpt from Ibn ‘Arabi’s The Bezels of Wisdom (15 points)

“A deeper truth in this matter is that the contingent beings are, in the final analysis, non-existent, since the only [true] existence is the existence of Reality in the forms of the states in which the contingents being are in themselves and their [eternally latent] essences. So you should know [that it is none other than the Reality] Who undergoes pleasure and pain.”

5. Ibn al-Qayyim says “…Qur’an is Allah’s speech, it is revealed by Him amd is not created…it is not the speech of another and it is not permissible to state that it is an account of the speech of Allah or an expression it…indeed even when people recite it or write it in books, it still does not cease to be the literal speech of Allah.”
Briefly define the controversy that Ibn al-Qayyim responds to and why this is an issue? (15 points)

6. “I would say that, God willing, most of the Christians of Byzantium and Turks of this age will be covered by God’s mercy. I am referring here to those who reside in the far regions of Byzantium and Anatolia who have not come in contact with the message of Islam. These people fall into three categories: 1) A party who never heard so much as the name Muhammad. These people are excused. 2)A party among those who lived in lands adjacent to the lands of Islam and had contact , therefore, with Muslims, who knew his name, his character, and the miracles he wrought. These are the blasphemous Unbelievers. 3) A third party whose case falls between these two poles. These people knew the name Muhammad, but nothing of his character and attributes. Instead, all they heard since childhood was that arch-liar carrying the name Muhammad claimed to be a prophet…This group, in my opinion, is like the first group. Even though they heard his name, they heard the
opposite of what his true attributes were. And this doesn’t provide enough incentive to compel them to investigate (his true status).” Ghazali, Boundaries of Theological Tolerance.
Use this excerpt to reflect upon the notion of God’s justice and the centrality of knowledge to it in Islamic theology. (10)

7. Imagine this unrealistic scenario where three men, a Sufi, legal scholar and a philosopher from the medieval era were handed three copies of Qur’an and left in an isolated island. How would each approach the sacred book and its teachings? What would be the focus of each? Try to answer this question with details. (10)

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Category: Sample Questions