Timothy Winter on Salafism

by Imraan

Again, here’s a principled, intellectual, moralistic critique – by an intellectual giant in the West; a principled, ‘mainstream’ Islamic scholar, Timothy Winter – of the contemporary Salafi ideology that’s sweeping the Islamic world

(I’d argue that it’s an anti-intellectualist, anti-philosophical, ‘protestant’ form of interpretation of scripture and canon – sometimes with an overemphasis on literal meaning) with disastrous results on the intellectual health of the Islamic community – critical faculties seem to be cast away, despite the fact that this Salafi worldview is an hermeneutical construct.)

That said, there are plenty of people who belong to this school that one can have a meaningful conversation, I met many at university, for example – however my concern, as Seyyed Hossein Nasr points out – that the dominant theology behind Salafis and other groups have not been able to produce heavyweights in the senses of al-Ghazzali, Ibn Sina, Mulla Sadra and so forth. Certainly, these latter figures have contributed to the Islamic mystical climate for the most part – however the worldviews that they espoused had a much broader application – there are ontological, epistemological, ethical criteria outlined by these great visionaries that could prove utterly beneficial when Muslims face the challenges of a modern, secular, imperialist hegemon, as well as when it comes to dealing with internal affairs, the relationships to their own dictatorial governments, etc.- these are things that don’t seem to occur any more because of perhaps an over-reliance on ‘authority’ in a hermeneutic sense. That said, I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

Whatever path takes you there, I guess. But I wonder if we might be able to expedite our own progress if we just permitted ourselves to reflect more, just a little…? Not to be afraid of our thinking if we remained steadfast to our fundamental Islamic beliefs – Tawhid (divine ‘Unity’, I guess), Revelation, and importantly, the place of the intellect in relation to this.

Below, I’ve pasted a brilliant talk by Seyyed Hossein Nasr on the need for philosophy in the Islamic world that you will get immense benefit out of. He is a true moral heavyweight, and a very brilliant man at that. Not to mention a polymath. Please watch, if you’re interested.