Friday, February 9, 2007
Haqq al din in classical Islamic jurisprudence is the duty to respect religion. The great Shaykh al Islam Ibn Ashur from Tunisia in his monumental book, Maqasid al Shari’ah al Islamiyya, wrote in 1946 that this means “freedom of religion.”
Haqq is a wonderful word that means variously God, truth, and human right. But what does the Qur’anic term “din” mean, translated into English as “religion”? And what do Muslims understand by “freedom of religion”?
Of all the most eminent Christian scholars of the past two millennia, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross, writing respectively seven hundred and four hundred years ago, were probably most familiar with Islam. St. Thomas wrote that the master of masters in philosophy and moral theology was Avicenna (Ibn Sina), through whom he absorbed Aristotelian methodology.
According to Miguel Asin Palacios in his book Saint John of the Cross and Islam, translated by Douglas and Yoder, Vantage Press, 1981, the Carmelite St. John of the Cross borrowed his entire methodology and terminology from Shaykh Abu’l Hassan al-Shadhili, who was a contemporary of St. Thomas.
Shaykh Shadhili of North Africa founded what came to be known as the Shadhiliyyah Sufi Order, which is the only great tariqa to originate outside of Central and Southwest Asia and is ancestral to many of the modern Sufi paths in Europe and America.
St. Thomas and St. John of the Cross are usually considered to be opposites in that St. Thomas emphasized the rational basis of faith, whereas St. John of the Cross emphasized the higher level of infused wisdom. Like all the Muslim theologians, theosophists, and jurisprudents, both St. Thomas and St. John agreed that there could not possibly be any contradiction between faith and reason, and that if one saw an appearance of such then one’s understanding of at least one of the two must be wrong.
All of these wise thinkers, however, went far beyond the negative belief that there could be no contradiction between the truth that God reveals though nature and the truth that he reveals through human intermediaries, known as prophets. They also believed that each of these two sources of truth is designed to reveal and enrich the other and that they both have a common purpose.
From an article prepared and condensed for presentation at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, New York, on February 25th, 2007, as part of the Sixth Annual Understanding Islam Series for the Islamic cable network, Bridges TV.