Book Review

The book’s underlying argument thus becomes mostly a question about the individual’s purpose and aim in life, and how he is to determine the same. The entire seven chapters are thus engulfed by the theme, “How do we know what we know?” (Iqbal, 2007).

Analysis

Science of the Cosmos, Science of the soul applies a refreshingly intriguing mindset to a much debated topic relating to the conflicts between religion and modern intellect. Chittick has gone to some length to explain why the conflict arises in the first place and how reverting back to the core principles of Islam, which involve an adherence to the transmitted knowledge as much as to the intellectual knowledge, would solve the problems of the contemporary Muslim world. He urged the Muslims to keep thinking and reflecting upon what they have learnt so as to reach a greater level of apprehension, a plausible notion that itself suggests Chittick’s objectivity in its derivation. Of course, he has tremendous knowledge and experience in the works he used as his source for such a claim and is entirely credible. It falls to reason, however, whether his urging the Muslims to think intellectually is more a call towards modernization or away from it. Awareness may lead an individual either way.

Chittick scribes his thoughts into the book following a carefully treaded path, walking a middle ground without appearing too Islam conscious. Not only does he offer insight into the problems of the world, although admittedly in an alarmingly direct tone, he offers solutions that may actually be resorted to. In the process he dismisses the modern ideology that Islam and modernization cannot co-exist, but in fact suggests a perfect cohesion between the two, citing the correct interpretation of Quran as the source. Moreover, his arguments refute the Western way of life, which focuses upon arts and sciences and a humanistic culture as the pivot around which progress is to be mapped out. According to him, following that route is most certainly going to lead humanity into the snake’s pit, recovering from which may prove very difficult if not impossible. His adherence to tradition in light of the intellectual thought process is suggested as the key to success for individuals by themselves and ultimately humanity as a whole. This perspective is unique to Chittick and has been formulated by much deliberation to the texts of scholars that he has spent decades interpreting and translating. His command over their material is commendable and a theory emerging out of that command can very easily be deemed an ideal theory. Before such a criticism is made, however, it is important to look at it in further detail.

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