Ideals and Realities of Islam


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A revised and updated edition of the best-selling introduction to Islam written by one of the foremost scholars in the field.

Women in Islam: Ideals and Realities - Smithsonian Associates

Ideals and Realities of Islam seeks to answer criticism brought against Islam by presenting the point of view of Islam. This edition includes a new introduction by the author and an updated annotated bibliography.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr was born in Teheran to a family of traditional scholars and physicians. After receiving his early education in Iran, he went to America where he studied physics and the history of science and philosophy at M. Your email address will not be published. This revised edition of Seyyed Hossein Nasr's seminal work includes an updated, extensive, annotated bibliography for each chapter by both Muslim and Western scholars as welll as a Preface by Titus Burckhardt and a Foreword by Huston Smith.

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This classical book has been rendered into numerous languages including Indonesian, translated by the present President of Indonesia. Ideals and Realities of Islam This is the first of very few English books to treat Islam from its own point of view, from within the tradition. From this indescribable Absolute, Pure Being derives; as it is immaterial it doesn't register on man's senses or laboratory instruments, but unlike the Absolute it can be conceived.

These are the four principal levels of existence. Religions are concerned with the relation of man's phenomenal life to the upper spheres. There are two lines of connection. First, as the Absolute would not be such were it anywhere absent, it must be in man. It is, in the form of Intellect, capitalized to indicate that the word is used in this book in a technical sense I shall presently indicate.

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Ideals and Realities of Islam by Hossein Nasr Seyyed

Intellect is present in us all, but it is too deep lying for most persons to detect, so a second link to the Absolute is needed. This is Revelation, the way the Ultimate erupts overtly, for human collectivities on the phenomenal plane. Intellects is not ratio'. Ratio we know; it is reason as generally understood in the modern West. What is intellect us? In India it is known as buddhi the faculty that understands directly, not indirectly by reflection through the lower mental faculties manas, mind among which reason rightfully dominates. Thomas is on its track when he characterizes intellections as intuitive knowing in contrast to ratio which thinks discursively.

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Plotinus, Proclus, Dionysius, St. Bonaventure, and Nicolas of Cuss all in one way or another make intellection central to their epistemologies ; there is no point in adding other names. Intellectual knowledge is direct knowledge in that it operates without intervening concepts. It is adequational in that it adequates the knower to its object; it knows by becoming what it knows and thereby transcends the subject-object dichotomy. In so doing it offers itself as the only complete knowledge, for distinction implies distance and in cognition distance spells ignorance.

As the object of the intellect is timeless and one and the intellect can be adequated to this object, indeed at some level is this object, it follows that the intellect too is trans-personal and eternal in some respect. If the foregoing seems obscure to the point of unintelligibility, that is precisely why it must be supplemented by another map showing where man is and pointing the way to his destiny.

This complementing map—there is one to fit the terrain of each of the great historical traditions, but they all belong to the same genre—is provided by revelation. People differ in psycho-spiritual makeup as much as if not more than in body build. In relatively few is intellect in the technical sense here used prominent enough to render the preceding page intelligible, to fewer still will it seem plausible, and for almost none will it be self-evident.

In Islam, these few are Sufis. Because their number is small, and equally because they too had to get where they are and be stahilized there, the Absolute must connect with man in other, more exoteric ways, exoteric here denoting ways that connect with more obvious human faculties: man's capacity to understand language and be moved by convincing example. Revelation in its verbal and personified modes.


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God surfaces verbally in the Islamic tradition in the Quran. For most Muslims divinity discloses itself more there than through the intellect, but even for them the book is far from transparent. All sacred texts present difficulties ; in the final analysis these spring from the incommensurable disproportion between Spirit with its infinity and the limited resources of human language. The Arab extracts much from a few words.

Ideals and realities of Islam

Moreover, many phrases and verses in the Quran function as mantras; commencing as sentences that convey thoughts, they become transformed, through use, into beings, powers, or talismans. The soul of the pious Muslim comes to be woven of these sacred formulas. In them he works, rests, lives, and dies. As for the Prophet—the way Being erupted in the Arab world in a human life—he serves as a kind of heavenly mold, ready to receive the inflow of Muslims' intelligence and will. With their wills, Muslims love him and seek to imitate him to the smallest details of everyday life. With respect to intelligence the Prophet represents unfathomable Lagos.

For the Muslim it is the Quran as conveyed through Muhammad.

Introduction to Islamic Mysticism

Paralleling Christ's human and divine natures, Muhammad is not the Absolute, yet the Absolute truly and distinctively announces itself through him. Schuon, Understanding Islam, pp. But I am beginning to trespass on the book.

Ideals and realities of Islam

Let me close by returning for a moment to its author. Seyyed Hossein Nasr is a contemporary man or no such man exists. To begin with, he knows science.

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