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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Humphreys’ Islamic History and Western Scholarship on Islam

by: Asfa Widiyanto

Reviewed Work: R. Stephen Humphreys, Islamic History: A Framework for Inquiry, (London and New York: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 1999)

This piece of writing tries to draw attention of the readers to an extremely important reference in studying Islamic history, i.e. R. Stephen Humphreys, Islamic History: A Framework for Inquiry. To do so, I attempt to provide an overall picture of the book by presenting the main ideas of the chapters indicated by the professor. The next step to do is providing a critical analysis of either the content or methodological assumptions of the book. I try to review the general content and method of the book; however I also try to highlight particular issues which might interest me. Critical analysis is by nature, shows how a different set of thought reveals a different angle in seeing a particular subject, which might enrich the perspectives and horizons toward the subject under discussion, and help understand better the subject. This writing also endeavors to asses and to evaluate the suitability of this particular book in the learning-teaching process of “Methods and Principles of Islamic Studies” and “Islamic History”.

Reference Works
The most useful of the general reference tools for Islamic studies is the Encyclopaedia of Islam. The Moslem scholars made a number of adaptations of EI: Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Urdu. A reference very different in conception but likewise on a vast scale is the Handbuch der Orientalistik (HO), edited by Bertold Spuler. One last reference deserves mentioning, although it is aimed at a more general audience. This is the Dictionary of Middle Ages (DMA).

The most systematic of the bibliographic tools is the Index Islamicus, edited by J.D. Pearson et al. For the period before 1905 and for books and monographs published through World War I, there is another valuable resource in Gustav Pfannmuller, Handbuch der Islam-literatur (1923). Jean Sauvaget’s Introduction a l’histoire de l’Orient musulman is also very useful.
Sauvaget-Cahen contains a good discussion of references and periodicals but the best guide to this short of thing is Gustav Meiseless, Reference to Arabic Studies: a Bibliographical Guide. Meiseless can be supplemented with the Arab Islamic Bibliography, edited by Diana Grimwood-Janes et al. For Iranian subjects, the most useful guide is L.P. Elwell Sutton, Bibliographical Guide to Iran.

Abstracta Islamica functions as bibliographic compendia codifying the recent publications. And it is supplanted to some degree by Bulletin critique of Annales Islamologiques. Two titles which is very helpful for Central Asia and ancient Iran studies; A Bibliography of Pre-Islamic Persia (edited by J.D. Pearson) and Introduction a l’etude de l’Eurasie centrale (edited by Denis). Beside the standard references for the U.S. Doctoral theses, Dissertation Abstracts, we now have three-volume series by George D. Selim, American Doctoral Dissertations on the Arab World.
HO (1. Abteilung) provides concise description of Arabic, Persian and Turkish in the context of their broader linguistic families, along with surveys of their literatures. In addition, there are three major collective works devoted to Arabic, Iranian and Turkish philology:
Grundriss der Arabischen Philologie
Grundriss der Iranischen Philologie
Philologiae Turcicae Fundamenta

G.F.W. Freytag’s Lexicon Arabico-Latinum and Albert de Biberstein-Kazimirski’s Dictionaire Arabe-francais are generally reliable though it is antiquated by now. The achievement of Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic is useful for later medieval texts. When it is completed, the standard lexicon for medieval Arabic will be certainly the Worterbuch der Klassischen Arabischen Sprache (WKAS), edited by Manfred Ullman. Dictionnaire arabe-francais-anglais, by Regis Blachere et al., is also based on direct glossing of medieval and modern texts. The most valuable lexical tool for the historian at this point is R.P.A. Dozy, Supplement aux dictionnaires arabes. A useful work for legal terminology is Edmon Fagnan, Additions aux dictionnaires arabes.

The absorption of Turkish into Persian can be studied through the work of Gerhard Doerfer, Turkische und Mongolische Elemente in Neupersischen. Diwan Lughat al-Turk of Mahmud al-Kasghari, is one of the great monuments of medieval Islamic scholarship.
The most important effort to provide good research atlases is Tubinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients (TAVO). A new work is Georgette Cornu, Atlas du monde arabo-islamique a l’epoque classique (ix-x siecles). Two older atlases can often be useful, those are, R. Roolvink et al., Historical Atlas of the Muslim Peoples, and H.W. Hazard, Atlas of Islamic History.

For the Subcontinent (including Afghanistan), there is a major reference tool in Joseph E. Schwartzberg, ed., A Historical Atlas of South Asia. The most important historical gazetteer is Mu’jam al-Buldan, compiled by Yaqut b. ‘Abdallah al-Rumi al-Hamawi. Yaqut’s information can be supplemented in the works of Ibn Khurdadhbeh, Ibn al-Faqih, Ibn Rusta, al-Ya’qubi, al-Istakhri, Ibn Hawqal, and al-Muqaddasi, which are collected in the Bibliotheca Geographorum Arabicorum (BGA). For the Fertile Crescent, Arabia, and Iran, the data of the medieval geographers is digested in two books by Guy Le Strange: Palestine under the Moslems, and The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate.

In the case of conversion tables, the most elaborate set is that of F. Wustenfeld and E. Mahler, Vergleichungs Tabellen zur muslimischen and iranischen zeitrechnung. A less detailed but reliable presentation is given in G.S.P. Freeman-Grenville, The Muslim and Christian Calendars. The several calendars in use among Christian can be studied through V. Grumel, La chronologie. The most detailed and wide-ranging study is Eduard von Zambaur, Manuel de genealogie et de chronologie pour l’histoire de l’Islam.

For a long time Western scholars used the edition of the Qur’an by Gustav Flugel, Corani Textus Arabicus, to which he also prepared a concordance, Concordantiae Corani Arabicae. Users of the Egyptian also have an excellence concordance in M.F. Abd al-Baqi, al-Mu’jam al-Mufahras li-Alfaz al-Qur’an al-Karim. There are many tafsir literatures in European languages, such as Rudi Paret, Der Koran: Kommentar und Konkordanz, and Helmut Gatje, The Qur’an and Its Exegesis. The Qur’an and its Interpreters, by Mahmoud M. Ayoub, provides extensive citations and paraphrases from medieval and modern exegesis. Among annotated translations of the Qur’an, the scrupulous of Regis Blachere, Le Coran: traduction selon un essai de reclassement des sourates, deserves mentioning.

The most useful introduction to the classical science of hadith is probably Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte de arabischen Scrifttums, vol. I. Four collections of hadith within the Shi’I are: al-Kafi, Man la Yahduruhu al-Faqih, al-Istibsar and Tahdhib al-Ahkam. Two invaluable tools provide ready access to the Sunni hadith collections. The First is A.J. Wensinck, A Handbook of Early Muhammadan Tradition, Alphabetically Arranged. The second is the Concordance et indices de la tradition musulmane, ed. A.J. Wensinck et al. The ordinary reference tool for locating particular writings is the National Union Catalog produced by the Library of Congress. And it is supplanted by The Near East National Union List.

On general account of Islam, there are references should be added:
-Cyril Glasse, The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam
-Urdu Da’ira-I Ma’arif-i Islamiyyah
-Seyyed Hossein Nasr (ed.), Encyclopaedia of World Spirituality
-Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Iran (Reading Material for Use in Teaching about Eastern Cultures).

On bibliographic tools, there are references should be added as Hamdard Islamicus: Quarterly Journal of the Hamdard National Foundation, Pakistan and Carlien Patricia Woodcroft-Lee, A Select Bibliography of Materials Relating to the Study of Islam in Southeast Asia Available in Australia.

On languages, there are some references should be added as Taj al-‘Arus by az-Zabadi, and Al-Muzhar by as-Suyuti, Kitab al-‘Ain, by al-Khalil, and Lisan al-‘Arab, by ibn al-Manzur. For dictionary of colloquial Arabic see also: G.J. Lethem, Colloquial Arabic: Dialect of Bornu, Nigeria and the Region of the Lake Chad. Ahmad Taymur, Mu’jam Taymur al-Kabir li-al- Alfaz al-‘Ammiyya and Mu’jam al-Amsal al-‘Ammiyya.

On geography and topography, there are references should be added as Ismail Raji al-Faruqi, Historical Atlas of the Religions of the World, William C. Brice, An Historical Atlas of Islam, Hugh Kennedy, An Historical Atlas of Islam, Freeman-Greenville G.S.P., Historical Atlas of Islam, Ian Barnes, Historical Atlas of Asia, Yuri Bregel, An Historical Atlas of Central Asia, Jan M. Pluver, Historical Atlas of Southeast Asia, Robert Cribb, Historical Atlas of Indonesia, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Historical Atlas of Iran.

On chronology and genealogy, there are references should be added as Abu Raihan al-Biruni, al-Asar al-Baqiyah, Abu Raihan al-Biruni, Kitab fi Tahqiq ma lil-Hind, ‘Ubaid ibn Syarya al-Jurhumi, Akhbar al-Yaman wa Asy’aruha wa Ansabuha, As-Sayyid Salih Fu’ad, Mu’jam allazina Nusibu ila Ummahatihim, and Abu Bakr Muhammad Musa al-Hazim, Kitab ‘Ajalat al-Mubtada’ wa Fadlat al-Muntaha fi an-Nasab.

For ‘ulum al-Qur’an (Humphreys does not adequately explore this section, moreover those written by Muslim scholars) see: Jalal al-Din ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr as-Suyuti, al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, Badr ad-Din Muhammad az-Zarkasyi, al-Burhan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, Al-Fadl ibn al-Husain at-Tabrisi, Majma’ al-Bayan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, Mafhum an-Nass: Dirasah fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, Muhammad Lutfi as-Sabbagh, Lamhat fi Ulum al-Qur’an wa Ittijah at-Tafsir, Muhammad Husein az-Zahabi, at-Tafsir wa al-Mufassirun (this last work should be specially noted for it is widely used by students of Islamic studies in Muslim countries in introducing Qur’anic Exegesis and its Exegete). As for hadith and its sciences (al-hadis wa ‘ulumuh), Humphreys does not explore books on rijal al-hadis, such as Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Tahzib at-Tahzib.

The Sources: an Analytical Survey
The most famous of the bio-bibliographic works is Carl Brockelmann, Geschicte der arabischen Litteratur (GAL). An ambitious and largely successful attempt to supplant GAL is Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums (GAS). Several works can supplement GAL and GAS, e.g.: 1) `Umar Rida Kahhala, Mu`jam al-mu’allifin, 2) Khayr al-Din al-Zirikli, al-A`lam, 3) Hajji Khalifa, Kashf al-zunun `an asami al-kutub wa’l-funun.

The most thorough survey of the Arabo-Christian materials is George Graf, Geschicte der christlichen arabischen Literatur. A related body of material is covered in Anton Baumstark, Geschichte der syrischen Literatur, mit Ausschluss der christlich-palastinensischen Texte. A serious beginning in the Persian literature was made by C. A. Storey, Persian Literature: a Bio-Bibliographic Survey. Some of the problems in Storey are addressed in the Russian translation and revision by Yuri Bregel, Persidskaia literatura: bio-bibliograficheskii obzor. For our purposes the most useful survey on Turkish literature is certainly Franz Babinger, Die Geschichtsschreiber der Osmanen und ihre Werke (1927). For Eastern Turkish (Chaghatay) writing, there is a major survey, H. F. Hofman, Turkish Literature, a Bio-Bibliographical Survey. One example of the few bio-bibliographic surveys deal with particular field is Ismail K. Poonawala, Bio-bibliography of Ismaili Literature (1977).

Paleography is obviously the one indispensable skill for the would-be reader of manuscripts. The best presentation of the variety of hands which one can expect to encounter is probably Bernhard Moritz, Arabic Paleography: A Collection of Texts from the First Century of the Hijra till the Year 1000 (1905). The most rigorous statement of textual criticism is Paul Maas, Textkritik. A historical perspective is given by a solid and very approachable study of the transmission of Greek and Latin literature from Antiquity to early modern times: L. D. Reynolds and N. G. Wilson, Scribes and Scholars (1968). A broad overview, going far beyond the limits of Islamic studies, is provided by J.D. Pearson, Oriental Manuscripts in Europe and North America: a Survey.

There is a handbook on papyri, i.e. Adolf Grohmann, From the World of Arabic Papyri. For Persian state document we have a general hand book, Lajos Fekete, Einfuhrung in die persische Palaographie: 101 persische Dokumente. The most recent analysis on Egypt documents is Kisei Morimoto, The Fiscal Administration of Egypt in the Early Islamic Period. Egyptian state documents have been catalogued by Muhammad Amin, Catalogue des documents d’archives du Caire, de 239/853 a 922/1516. Documents from Jerussalem were first described by Linda S. Northrup and Amal Abul-Hajj, “A Collection of Medieval Arabic Documents in the Islamic Museum at the Haram al-Sharif”.

Every coin is a direct and authentic reflection of the political and economic system which produced it. A good introduction to the special concerns and skills of numismatics will be found in the handbook of Philip Grierson, Numismatics. A sound overview of Islamic coinage can be found in Stephen Album, ed., Marsden’s Numismata Orientalia Ilustrata. There are a few dynastic surveys such as two works by Paul Balog: (1) The Coinage of the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt and Syria (2) The Coinage of the Ayyubids. To assess the problem of Islamic coins, see Eduard von Zambaur, Die Munzpragungen des Islams, Zeitlich und Ortlich Geordnet. On political and ideological significance of legends and exclamations found on Muslim coins, see O. Codrington, A Manual of Musalman Numismatics (1904),

Metrology is a crucial aspect of numismatic analysis and interpretation. The older reference on this is Henri Sauvaire, “Materiaux Pour Servir a l’histoire de la numismatique et de la metrologie musulmanes”. Walther Hinz, Islamische Masse und Gewichte, Umgerechnet ins Metrische System, is not so rich resource as Sauvaire’s, but much more compact.

An excellent overview of Islamic inscription is Khalid Mu’adh and Solange Ory, Inscriptions arabes de Damas: les steles funeraires. The contents of Islamic inscriptions may be grouped in four classes: (1) literary (2) religious (3) commemorative (4) legal and administrative.
An overall assessment on art history and archaeology can be found in Oleg Grabar, “Islamic Art and Archaeology”. The two volumes by Arthur Lane on ceramics remains a useful and reliable introduction to the subject: Early Islamic Pottery; Later Islamic Pottery. An excellent model for archaeological survey can be found in L. Vanden Berghe, Archeologie de l’Iran ancient, and its companion volume, Bibliographie analytique de l’archeologie de l’Iran ancien.

References should be added:
-Blair, The Monumental Inscription from Early Islamic Iran and Transoxania (AD. 622-1106)
-Syed Abdur Rahim, Arabic, Persian and Urdu Inscription of Central India: a Topographical List, 2000
-Abdul Karim, Corpus of Arabic and Persian Inscription of Bengal, 1992
-Archilalds G. Walls, Arabic Inscription in Jerussalem: A Handlist, 1980
-Nevo Yehuda D, et al., Ancient Arabic Inscriptions from the Nagev.
-O. Solange, Muslim Society through Computerised Arabic Epigraphy, 1999
-I.A. Bierman, Writing Signs: the Fatimid Public Text, 1998
-V. Martinez Enamorado, Epigrafia y Poder: Inscripciones Arabes de la Madrasa al-Yadida de Ceuta, 1998
-G. Oman, V. Grassi, and A. Trombetta, The Book of Khor Nubt: Epigraphic Evidence of an Islamic-Arabic Settlement in Nubia (Sudan) n the III-IV Centuries A.H./X-XI A.D., 1998
-M. Sharon, Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae (CIAP), 1999
-Ziyaud-Din A. Desai, Arabic, Persian and Urdu Inscriptions of West India: A Topographical List, 1999
-Mahnaz Shayesteh Far, Shi’ah Artistic Elements in the Timurid and the Early Safavid Periods: Book Illustrations and Inscriptions, 1999
-Helen Loveday, Islamic Paper: A Study of the Ancient Craft

Early Historical Tradition and the First Islamic Polity
If our goal is to apprehend the way in which Muslims of the late 2nd /8th and 3rd /9th centuries understood the origins of their society, then we are very well. But if our aim is to find out “what really happened” then we are in trouble. The Arabic narrative sources can become an adequate foundation for “scientific” history only we have learned a great deal more than we presently know about the oral tradition.

The bulk of our historical texts on early Islam are to be found in a body of compilations and digests composed roughly between 850 and 950 A.D. There is one extremely important exception. As it happens, our principal accounts of the life of Muhammad were all composed in their definitive form between 750 and 850 by Ibn Ishaq (d. 150/767), al-Waqidy (d. 207/823), and Ibn Sa`d (d. 230/845). Perhaps the best way to get a comprehensive view of the whole body of this tradition is through the ten folio volumes of Leone Caetani, Annali dell’Islam.

Without question, the crucial historical works of the late 9th and early 10th centuries are the massive compilations of two scholars: Ahmad b. Yahya al-Baladhury (d. 279/892) and Abu Ja`far Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabary (d. 310/923). The author of the digests have been somewhat better dealt with, no doubt because the relative brevity and cohesion of their works makes them easier to manage, as well as causing their personal orientations to be more visible. In contrast to the digests, the compilations make no effort to construct a connected narrative of events; rather, they consist of series of discrete anecdotes and reports.

When we ask to what degree the extant works reflect the original or primitive form of the ancient historical tradition, we enter into one of the most controversial areas of Islamic studies. The issue is how far, and in what ways, the concepts of historical process, the religio-political concerns, and the literary structures of the extant texts have diverged from accounts originally composed (whether orally or in writing) during the 1st/7th century.

A highly critical approach is taken in E.L. Petersen, ‘Ali and Mu‘awiya in the Early Arabic tradition: Studies on the Genesis and Growth of Islamic Historical Writing until the End of the Ninth Century (1964). Here Petersen attempts to reconstruct the overall development of Arabic historiography by analyzing the treatment of a few crucial event --in particular the Siffin arbitration imbroglio-- between the composition of the earliest identifiable texts (ca. 725-750) and the final shaping of these narratives in al-Tabari 150 years later.

The only monograph devoted to the period of origins as a whole is N.A. Faruqi, Early Muslim Historiography. Discussion on the origins of Arabic historiography have focused almost exclusively on two issues: (1) whether there really was any properly historical collection and composition by the turn of the 1st/8th century; (2) whether the accounts ascribed by our extant texts to the scholars of that period are substantially genuine or later fictions. The debate on these issues has been closely connected to the critique of isnads.

In The sectarian milieu, John Wansbrough analyzes early Islamic historiography as a late manifestation of Old Testament “salvation history”. The problems in early Arabic historiography are addressed more explicitly by Patricia Crone in two later monographs: (1) Slaves on Horses; (2) Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam. Crone is of the opinion that when the data is collated and analyzed, some of underlying structural realities of early Islamic history will emerge. Watt believes that the narrative structure given by the extant texts is fundamentally sound. Since such anachronistic elements can normally be spotted, it is possible to identify the core of fact even in texts which have been so tainted. The terms of the debate might be clarified by Petersen, Ali and Mu’awiya, and F.M. Donner, The Early Islamic Conquest.
At least, we can seek the criteria of authenticity from theological writings which are attributed to the early Islam, from early Islamic poetry, from the broader currents of cultural change in Islam.

We want to know about social stratification, urban demography, etc., but the early Muslim historians were much more concerned with political legitimacy, the nature of right government, etc. What can we do is making our questions in line with those of the early Muslim historians to make use of their material.

The text of the Constitution of Medina is a very remarkable both in content and language. Wellhausen, Wensinck, and Leone Caetani regarded it as unity, and argued that it belonged to the first year or so of Muhammad’s residence in Medina, before the battle of Badr in 2/624. Wellhausen finds it betrays “a certain mistrust of the Jews”.
Moshe Gil asserts the unity of the Constitution. It represents a specific moment in the Prophet’s career, about five months after his arrival in Medina, and that it defines a long-term strategy vis-a-vis both the pagan Meccans and the Jews of Medina. In contrast, the thesis of Watt and Serjeant that the Constitution is a composite document leads them to a different conclusion. For Watt, the Constitution displays no particular hostility toward the Jews, though their special religious status of course had to be recognized.

We will focus on the intentions and concerns of the historians who composed the historical text dealing with the reign of ‘Uthman. We will examine the account of ‘Uthman’s Caliphate given by Ahmad b. Yahya al-Baladhury in his vast biographical-historical collection, the Kitab al-Ashraf. He is pursuing a fundamental question generated by the religio-political conflict of the preceding centuries: did ‘Uthman’s Caliphate represent a break in Islamic government, a betrayal of the new covenant brought by Muhammad, or did this new dispensation remain intact in at least its essential points? In his book, he is presenting a kind of legal-political dossier, a compilation of evidence for and against ‘Uthman on a series of widely current charges.

Modern Historians and the Abbasid Revolution: the Art of Interpretation
The Abbasids claimed that their seizure of power in the years 129-132/747-750 was no mere change of regime, but rather a decisive turning point is Islamic history. The Abbasids did not take power by a simple coup d’etat. They recruited a very substantial army from among the alienated elements of Umayyad society and used this army to bring down the regime through an arduous and complicated series of campaigns. But this straightforward statement raises many crucial issues. (1) which group were the Abbasids able to attract to their cause, and what discontents among these groups were they able to exploit in order to do this? (2) What program did the Abbasids devise in order to attract recruits to their cause? (3) How did the Abbasids organize their following into an effective military and political movement? (4) what links and parallels did it have with other such movements in this period, and how was it able to dominate its rivals?

Our sources for the Abbasid Revolution consist almost entirely of literary texts, and can be classified into six classes:
(1) chronicles
By far the most important new work is an anonymous chronicle discovered in Baghdad in 1955 and published by ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Duri and A.J. al-Muttalibi under the title Akhbar al-dawla al-‘abbasiyya
(2) biographical dictionaries;
(3) heresiography (properly, the study of firaq, “sects”);
(4) political treatises and polemics
What does survive are two essays by the Iranian mawla Ibn al-Muqaffa (d. 142): the Kitab al-adab al-kabir and a remarkable private memorandum, the Risala fi al-sahaba
(5) poetry and belles-lettres;
A work just beginning to reveal its value for the Abbasid Revolution is the Sharh nahj al-balagha of Ibn Abi al-Hadid
(6) messianic texts, in the form of hadith, malahim (apocalyptic predictions), and perhaps a few Jewish and Christian sermons and tracts.

The heresiographers surveys on the Islamic sects have many flaws from our point of view: e.g., they are not concerned with the socio-political milieu in which the various sects arose; many of the groups which they describe are fictional; doctrinal development within the sects is ignored. The anthologies of poetry and belles-lettres, to some degree, provide alternative versions of akhbar known to us from the chronicles, but they also contain significant texts which have otherwise disappeared.

Since almost all accounts of these events took their present form and context about a century after the Revolution, we must be aware of at least three levels of meaning in them: (1) their data, authentic or otherwise, about the event being described; (2) the intention or program of an account’s original authors; (3) the secondary intention of the final compiler.

A story may be intensely partisan in tone and intention and still be factually accurate, but if we fail to grasp the various messages which the story carried for contemporary readers, then we will miss important dimensions of the event which it recounts. Some ideas of possibilities can be gained from two recent monographs, i.e. Tilman Nagel, Untersuchungen zur Enststehung des abbasidischen Kalifates and Jacob Lassner’s Islamic Revolution and Historical Memory.
In Der Opkomst de Abbasiden, Gerlof van Vloten focuses on three aspects of the Abbasid Revolution: (1) the alleged designation by ‘Ali‘s grandson Abu Hashim of his cousin Muhammad b. ‘Ali (a grandson of the Prophet’s uncle al-‘Abbas) to succeed him as chief of the Hashimiyya sect; (2) the reorganization of the sect under Muh}ammad b. ‘Ali and its underground agitation in Khurasan over a period of three decades; (3) the uprising in that province led by Abu Muslim, which finally brought down the Umayyads. In “Recherches sur la domination arabe,” the author focuses on the social and ideological context within which the Revolution took place.

If van Vloten was the pioneer in this subject, the imam is without doubt Julius Wellhausen. Das arabische Reich und sein Sturz . Wellhausen was the first to grasp the whole socio-political milieu and reconstructed this milieu with a richness of detail. For Khurasan and Transoxiana under the Umayyads, Wellhausen’s work has been brought up to date in M.A. Shaban, The Abbasid Revolution (1970). An intelligent account focusing on questions of power and administration can be found in Hugh Kennedy, The Early Abbasid Caliphate: a Political History.

The best starting point for administrative history is Dominique Sourdel, Le vizirat abbaside, who demonstrates quite conclusively that the early decades of Abbasid rule saw mush less “Persianization” and “bureaucratization” than was once supposed. Elton Daniel, The Political and Social History of Khurasan undeer Abbasid Rule, 747-820, rejects both “Iranian nationalism” and “heresy” as concepts possessing any explanatory power. Rather, the revolt of the late 2nd/8th century “typically represented the efforts of peasant communities to resist subjugation by the new ‘Muslim,’ Arabo-Iranian, urban elite in Khurasan”.

The “Arabist” interpretation of the Revolution seems to have first been adumbrated in two articles by Richard Frye: (a) “The Role of Abu> Muslim in the Abbasid Revolt”; (b) “The Abbasid Conspiracy and Modern Revolutionary Theory.” An interpretation which builds on Wellhausen and Omar, but reshapes their conclusions into the clearest synthesis to date, is Moshe Sharon, Black Banners from the East (1983).

The general problem of the connection between the Abbasid da‘wa and early 2nd/8th-century Shi‘ism was carefully explored in Claude Cahen, “Points de vue sur la ‘Revolution abbaside’. The best place to begin on the broad Shi’ite milieu within which the Abbasids operated is the survey of Wilfred Madelung, Religious Trends in Early Islamic Iran.

References should be added:
-Saleh Said Agha, “Did Qahtabah b. Shabib al-Tai hail from Kufa?”, Studia Islamica
-Paul M. Cobb, White Banner: Contention in ‘Abbasid Syria, 750-880

A Cultural Elite: The Role and Status of the ‘Ulama’ in Islamic Society
‘Ulama appear in our texts as semi-literate village imams and erudite qadis, rabble-rousers and privy counselors to kings, as spiritual directors and cynical politicians. For two reasons, then –their omnipresence, and the caliber of our data—the ‘ulama demand special attention by the social historian. The biographical dictionary –our principal source-- appears very early in the development of Islamic historical writing. Earlier biographical works tended to focus on religious scholars but then the net was spread more broadly, such as seen in the work of Ibn Khallikan, Wafayat al-a’yan fi anba’ abna’ al-zaman. Although a single author would sometimes write both chronicles and biographical dictionaries, these are very distinct genres. Because of their narrow scope, however, can not be used in a vacuum, the aggregate data derived from them can be given substance only when it is fleshed out from other sources. When two conditions are met, biography has proved to be an approach worth pursuing: (1) when a subject has left a large body of work in which he comments fairly on his own experience, (2) when he is so public a figure that his statements and actions are extensively recorded in contemporary chronicles. In only a small number of cases, we can hope to find those connections between social milieu and the development of personality which are the essence of biography.

From the point of view of the ‘ulama’, the crucial collectivity was the school of law (madhhab). The most systematic body of research in the field of madhhab as societal-professional institution is probably represented by a series of studies by Henri Laoust on the Hanbalis, a natural extension of his work on Ibn Taymiyya. The program implied by Laoust’s approach has been most fully worked out in George Makdisi’s imposing Ibn ‘Aqil et la resurgence de l’Islam traditionaliste au xi siecle. For the Shafi’is, there is now a very useful skeleton history in Heinz Halm, Die Ausbreitung der safi’itischen Rechtschule von den Anfangen bis zum 8/14 Jahrhundert. A laudable essay --trying to connect ‘ulama’ to broader problems of social and political structure—is Richard Bulliet, The Patricians of Nishapur.

On the institutional side of things, the most important recent work has been done by George Makdisi in The Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West. A study tries to blend the concerns of Laoust, Makdisi and Bulliet is represented by Louist Pouzet, Damas au vii/xiii s. Vie et structures religieuses dans une metropole islamique. For the educational system of earlier times, we must do with Munir-ud-Din Ahmed, Muslim Education and the Scholar’s Social Status up to the Fifth Century Muslim Era in the Tarikh Baghdad. Ira Lapidu’s Muslim Cities in Later Middle Ages and Jean-Claude Garcin’s Un centre musulman de la Haute-Egypte medievale: Qus try to reconstruct a whole socio-political system and they inevitably grapple with the ‘ulama’ as part of this system. Lapidus’ pages on the ‘ulama’ are an excellent distillation of ideas generated by Orientalist thought over a long period of time, restated here in the language of functionalist sociology. Garcin’s study of Qus represents an effort to restore a sense of concrete time and the dimension of change.

There are two general guides for the historian, as to what can be done and what mathematical techniques are needed; Roderick Floud, An Introduction to Quantitative Methods for Historians, and C.M. Dollar and R.J.N. Jensen, Historian’s Guide to Statistics: Quantitative Analysis and Historical Research. An early quantitative essay dealing with the ‘ulama’ is an article by Hayyim J. Cohen, “The Economic Background and the Secular Occupations of Muslim Jurisprudents and Traditionists in the Classical of Islam (until the Middle of the Eleventh Century)”. Carl F. Perty, The Civilian Elite of Cairo in the Later Middle Ages, is by far the most ambitious study we have of the “learned classes” in any one time or place in Islamic history. In Le monde des ulemas andalous du v/xi au vii/xiii siecle, Dominique Urvoy tries to use computer-analyzed aggregate data to grapple with questions which could not otherwise be posed. Although Urvoy’s source is very limited, she does succeed im showing how a quantitative approach can lead to a very productive set of questions even in a field which has always been the sacred preserve of close textual analysis. As with every other approach discussed in this chapter, quantitative analysis is clearly not the final key to the puzzle of determining who and what the ‘ulama’ were. Its effectiveness depends entirely on the quality of hypotheses and categories of data to be used.

Islamic Law and Society
Humphreys, different from most of historians of Islam, tries to show that Islamic law is a significant source for social and economic life. Digests of positive law suggest that fiqh and shariah were not only rooted in social ideals but also in social reality. Robert Brunschvig is one of those has sought out the elements of realism in classical fiqh. The elusive balance between “realism” and “idealism” must be established for each text and each case. By the late 5th century, the idea had begun to spread that the “gate of ijtihad” was closed. There is a revisionist line of argument on the idea of closing of ijtihad by Fazlur Rahman, George Makdisi and Bernard Weiss. The method of fiqh is scholastic as well as casuistic. The best place to begin with the discussion on this issue is Joseph Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law. Schacht’s concepts of the nature and purpose of Islamic jurisprudence are rooted in the work of Snouck Hurgronje. Schacht’s treatment can be supplemented by N.J. Coulson, A History of Islamic Law, and Conflicts and Tensions in Islamic Jurisprudence.

Discussion on Shi’ite Jurisprudence is found in Hossein Modarresi Tabataba’i, an Introduction to Shi’i Law: A Bibliographical Study. Perhaps the best way to acquire at least the rudiments of Arabic legal usage is to study those digests of positive law. A sound analysis of the doctrine of one madhhab is provided by the study of David Santillana, Instituzioni di diritto musulmano malichita, con riguardo anche al sistemo sciafiita. Anyone who hopes to use Islamic jurisprudence as a source for social history must be familiar with the usul in order to interpret his texts, but such treatises are quite theoretical. One has to pay attention to the manuals which presented outlines of the doctrine of each of the schools. Works of the earliest period sometimes take the form of dialogue between a master and his disciples, such as Muhammad al-Shaybani, Kitab al-asl. More limited in scope are treatises on special topics. This approach can give us an excellent insight into the blend of pragmatic, religio-moral, or scholarly motivations in early fiqh, especially when it is combined with the more positivist investigations favored by Western scholars.

Among the Malikis, adaptation to the social realities took the form of ‘amal, a concept which allowed a qadi or mufti to regard established local custom and necessity in framing his rulings. As the positive content of shari’a was increasingly defined by authoritative compilations, commentaries, and digests, the fatwa became the most important tool for addressing contested issues. From the 6th/12th century, it became common for eminent faqihs or their disciples to collect and publish their fatwas. The extant legal documents can be divided into three broad classes, Sharia-court records, deeds of waqf, and contracts on subjects of all kinds.

The institutional machinery through which fiqh was applied has been much less carefully studied than the doctrine itself. We do have one major effort at a synthesis, however: Emile Tyan, Histoire de l’organisation judiciaire en pays de l’Islam. The notarial system is described in the excellent monograph of Tyan, Le notariat et la regime de la prevue par ecrit dans la pratique du droit musulman. Apart from modern studies, medieval Muslim authors wrote a number of treatises on the administration of justice, such as Ibn Khaldun’s chapter entitled, “The Functions of the Religious Institution of the Caliphate”.

In the perspective of knowing the contribution of fiqh to make the history of Islamic society, Humphreys focuses his attention on trade and commerce during early Islamic times, down to ca. 1100. A.L. Udovich, Partnership and Profit in Medieval Islam, endeavors to define the main institutions of commercial investment and business organization in early Islamic times through a close analysis of the discussions found in the major early compilations of Hanafi and Maliki fiqh. For Humphreys, external evident is essential –legal documents where these exist, non-legal sources otherwise (such as letters, invoices, letters of credit, etc.). As to the literary sources, the most useful and widely consulted genre has been geography. The materials supplied by the geographers can be supplemented by scattered statements in the chronicles and biographical dictionaries. Even more useful, are the compilations of anecdotes. These deal not only with the elites of caliphal society but also with a surprising number of ordinary folk as well. Unfortunately the character of our sources seldom permits us to pursue biographical and family studies. We can perhaps identify the main factors of the economy, but we will have no idea of their relative size and importance. A serious economic history thus seems out of question.

Non-Muslim Participants in Islamic Society
Islamic history is not a history of Muslims alone. From the beginning, the non-Muslim elements of society have been at the very center of life. A broad bibliography on the non-Muslim communities with emphasis on modern times is given by Erhard Franz, Minderheiten im Vorderen Orient: Auswahlbibliographie. One can also make use two more narrowly conceived studies, i.e. A.S. Tritton, The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects: a Critical Study of the Covenant of Umar, and Antoine Fattal, Le statut legal des non-musulmans en pays d’Islam, which can throw light on the development of shari’a doctrine regarding non-Muslim. An enormous amount of material on Muslim attitudes towards non-Muslims is contained in works of history and belles-lettres.

Three broad groupings were to prove most significant in the development of Islamic society and culture, i.e. the “Zoroastrians” of Iraq and Iran, the Christians of the Eastern Mediterranean lands, and the Jews. The trove which makes such the study of Jewish history in medieval Islam possible was found in the storage room (Geniza) of the synagogue of Old Cairo or Fustat in the 1890s. It is a miscellaneous assortment of papers numbering more than a quarter-million leaves, for most part deposited there between the 11th and 13th centuries. This latter class of material was ignored for some time after its discovery, but with the work of Jacob Mann after World War I, it became apparent that it would permit a far better history of Jewish life in medieval Egypt than could ever have been imagined previously. A first true synthesis of the Geniza materials is S.D. Goitein, A Mediteranian Society: the Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza.

On the development of Jewish life and thought under Islam, and of the relations between the two communities, there is a good bibliography in Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands; a History and Source Book. One can profit from the massive synthesis of Salo W. Baron, A Social and Economic History of the Jews. Among a few good studies on the situation of the “protected communities” –specifically within the Fatimids and Ayyubids—is C.E. Bosworth, “The Protected Peoples (Christians and Jews) in Medieval Egypt and Syria”. On the very important Jewish communities of North Africa, the standard survey is H.Z. Hirschberg, Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Afrika ha-Zefonit. The Jews of the Ottoman Empire have recently begun to claim attention. In addition to a few of the pieces in Braude and Lewis, see especially Amnon Cohen, Jewish Life under Islam: Jerussalem in the Sixteenth Century. On balance, perhaps the best-integrated and most finished monograph to follow up the lines of inquiry traced by Goitein is Mark R. Cohen, Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt: The Origins of the Office of Head of the Jews, ca. 1065-1126.

The Muslims were at the outset a small minority in most of the lands they ruled. They became a majority not by displacing the indigenous peoples but by converting them. The collection edited by Nehemiah Levtzion, Conversion to Islam is certainly useful; but it focuses on modern times. For some of the legal consequences of conversion in marriage and inheritance, see Fattal, Statut legal des non-musulmans.

The Muslim chronicles have only isolated incidents to report even in regard to Muslim/non-Muslim relations overall, let alone the specific problem of conversion. A second historical genre, the biographical dictionary, might have more to offer. Historical works are clearly a major source for dealing with the problem. Original documents would be very useful. But these usually come from Egypt or from Ottoman times. Finally, there is the evidence of archeology. There is an important monograph making serious use of archaeological evidence, i.e. J.M. Fiey, Mossoul chretienne: essai sur l’histoire l’archeologie, et l’etat actuel des monuments chretiens de la ville de Mossul. There are two systematic and imaginative efforts to deal with the issue of conversion: (a) Richard W. Bulliett, Conversion to islam in the Medieval Period: an Essay in Quantitative History; (b) Speros Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor ad the Process of Islamization from the Elevent through the Fifteenth Century.

References should be added:
-N. Roth, “Dhimma: Jews and Muslims in the Early Medieval Period”, in: I.R. Netton (ed.), Studies in Honour of Clifford Edmund Bosworth
-Sklare David, “Responses to Islamic Polemics by Jewish Mutakallimun in the Tenth Century”, in: H. Lazarus-Yafeh et.al (eds), The Majlis: Interreligious Encounters in Medieval Islam
-Bunce Masters, Christian and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World: the Roots of Sectarianism
-Hassan S. Khalileh, Salvage in the Eleventh and Twelfth Century Mediterranian: Geniza Evidence and its Legal Implications
-Joshua Holo, “A Genizah Letter from Rhodes Evidently Concerning the Bizantine Reconquest of Crete”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies.

Urban Topography and Urban Society: Damascus under the Ayyubids and Mamluks
The city has long been considered the hallmark of Middle Eastern civilization. Although Adam Mez published a paper on the Islamic city as early as 1912, far more influential was the article of William Marcais, “L’Islamisme et la vie urbaine”. Gustave von Grunebaum, in “The Structure of the Muslim Town”, constructs an ideal type in the manner of Max Weber. Perhaps the best introduction to urban life in medieval Islam currently is the chapter “La ville et les milieux urbains”, which is highly cognizant of social and political change. Ira Lapidus has sought to define the complex interactions between the social groups which made up the urban populace. Oleg Grabar tries to pay attention also to the cultural dimension of urban life. Robert Brunschvig, “Urbanism medieval et droit musulman”, demonstrated that later Maliki jurists did address specifically urban issues.

Bernard Lewis was the first to discuss the significance of the Ottoman archives for the Arab provinces, in “The Ottoman Archives as a Source for the history of Arab Lands. To take only the Arab provinces of the Empire, a concise but detailed survey of six towns (Algiers, Tunis, Cairo, Damascus, Mosul, and Baghdad) is given in Andre Raymond, Les grandes villes arabes a l’epoque ottomane. In Al-Fustat: Its Foundation and Early Urban Development, Wladyslaw Kubiak also uses a rich historical records. Jean Sauvaget tries to approach urban history with a well-defined set of hypotheses. In Alep: Essai sur le developpement d’une grande ville des origins au milieu du xix siecle, his analysis was shape by his idealization of the Hellenistic and Roman city and by his ascription of decisive moral value to this ideal.

The first of historical topographies on Damascus was written by Ibn ‘Asakir, Tarikh Madinat Dimashq. ‘Ali al-Harawi, Kitab al-Isharat ila Ma’rifat al-Ziyarat, is a sort of religious geography, identifying sacred locales throughout the Near East. Local chronicle and biography also have a vital contribution to reconstruct the evolution of Damascus. The earliest work of this kind is perhaps Ibn al-Qalanisi, Dhayl Tarikh Dimashq. A second local tradition was begun by Sibt ibn al-Jawzi in his Mir’at al-Zaman fi Tarikh al-A’yan. A systematic though very uncritical effort to collect the inscriptions of Damascus was made in the late 19th century by William Waddington.

The oldest of preliminary studies on the architecture of medieval Damascus is Karl Wulzinger and Carl Watzinger, Damascus, die islamische Stadt. The first architectural studies in the proper sense is Jean Sauvaget and Michel Ecochard, Les monuments ayyoubides de Damas.

The socio-political approach in the study of Damascus was first developed in an article by E. Ashtor-Strauss, “L’administration urbaine en Syrie medievale”. In The Black Death in the Middle Ages, Michael Dols tries to determine the peak population of Cairo and Damascus ca. 1340. Urban topographies, inscriptions and monuments permit us to construct a remarkably systematic profile of architectural patronage in Damascus. The study of architectural patronage, in turn, can be a revealing way of analyzing the internal structure and mutual relationships of the city’s social and political elites during the later middle ages. For the monuments, at least five categories of data can be recovered; (1) for every building we know at least the Arabic term for the monumental type to which it belonged (2) we can also determine the functions served by the building (3) most buildings can be located, at least by quarter, even if they are no longer extant (4) dates are sometime thing (5) we can often determine whether a particular monument represents original construction or the conversion of an old edifice to some new use.

In the case of medieval Damascus, our data falls into three categories; (1) we can construct a highly complete and accurate census of certain types of structures and their patrons (2) commercial structures, private residences, aqueducts and fountains, etc. are noted only haphazardly in our sources (3) Two very common types of monument –the ordinary mosque and the public bath—belong in a category by themselves. To create aggregate data in this way is an extremely tedious task, worth undertaking only if it allows us to develop new lines of inquiry, or at least to answer old questions in a clearly more adequate manner. A detailed version of the discussion of Damascus in the first half of 7th/13th century is given in Humphreys, “Politics and Architectural Patronage in Ayyubid Damascus”.

References should be added:
-Chase F. Robinson (ed.), A Medieval Islamic City Reconsidered: an Interdisciplinary Approach to Samara
-Lawrence Conrad, Ibn Butlan in Bilad al-Sham, the Career of a Traveling Christian Physician
-U. Vermeulen and D. B Smet (ed.), Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk Dinasties.

The Voiceless Classes of Islamic Society: The Peasantry and Rural Life
Although medieval Islamic society was overwhelmingly a society of peasants, the peasant seems both voiceless and invisible. A study which attempts to build a bridge between Europe and the Islamic world is Thomas F. Glick, Irrigation and Society in Medieval Valencia. Lucette Valensi, Fellahs tunisiens: l’economie rurale et la vie des campagnes aux 18 et 19 siecles. The standard hand book in the physical setting has long been W.B. Fisher, The Middle East: a Physical, Social, and Regional Geography.

By far the most impressive set of studies on technology and the human impact are those dealing with lower Iraq and southwestern Iran. One should begin with the extremely influential study of Robert McC. Adams, Land Behind Baghdad: a History of Settlement on the Diyana Plains. An essay which attempts to combine archaelogy and contemporary anthropology to analyze the human impact on Tigris-Euphrates floodplain is McGuire Gibson, “Violation of Fallow and Engineered Disaster in Mesopotamian Civilization.” The Jazira and Syria have not benefited from long-range ecological studies of this kind, and only for Egypt we find an important one, K.W. Butzer, Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt: a Study in Cultural Ecology. A.M. Watson, Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World, contains a very full bibliography and lengthy critical notes. For Iran, start with the fine study of Hans E. Wulff, The Traditional Crafts of Persia. The whole range of agricultural tools and methods are surveyed in a useful study by H.Q. al-Samarraie, Agriculture in Iraq during the 3rd Century A.H. Besides the Nabatean Agriculture and a few botanical works, much useful data on Iraq as on other places may be gleaned from the geographers. For the 20th century a number of good surveys are available. The most recent is that of Eugen Wirth, Syrien: eine Geographische Landeskunde. For the Islamic Middle Ages, we have only brief essays. The only attempt at a general statement is N. Elisseeff, Nur al-Din.

The traditional-style of technology of early modern times, can be approached through the attractive book of H.H. Ayrout, Moeurs et coutumes des fellahs. The agronomic tradition of Islamic Spain and its practical applications have been studied in an important monograph by Lucie Bolens, Les methods culturales au Moyen Age d’apres les traits d’agronomes andalous: traditions et techniques. If we combine the statements of the agronomists with the kind of archival and archaeological materials used by Glick, we are in a very good position to reconstruct the farming tools and methods of medieval Islamic society.

Lambton’s Landlord and Peasant in Persia focuses on issues of land tenure and agrarian administration. A very important interpretation of one period in medieval Iranian history is provided by I.P. Petrushevky, “The Socio-Economic History of Iran under the II-Khans”. On North Africa, there is a well-documented paper of Mohammed Talbi, “Law and Economy in Ifriqiya (Tunisia) in the Third Islamic Century: Agriculture and the Role of Slaves in the Country’s Economy”. For Spain, in addition to the article of Rachel Arie already cited in HO, we might add the concise chapters on economic life in her thesis on L’Espagne musulmane au temps des Nasrides, 1232-1492. Good studies focused on the culture of the village, of the kind done most notably by Clifford Geertz for Java and Bali, are still a rarity. We do have a most interesting text from 17th-century Egypt on peasant behavior and norms, the Hazz al-Quhuf li-Qasid Abi Shaduf of al-Shirbini. A pessimistic (or realistic) assessment of what we have said above would say that it is impossible to write a valid history of peasant society and culture in the medieval Islamic world; at best we can hope to create a plausible imaginative reconstruction.

Humphreys aims to reveal the readers the horizons in studying Islamic history. To do this, he explains how to deal with sources and reference tools, the first step in studying Islamic history. He goes further explain how to ask questions relevant to the sources – which, according to him are the nucleus of historical knowledge-- and how to reconstruct the historical narratives and historical knowledge of these sources. He also surveys various books written on particular issues in Islamic history, presents a picture of its promises and pitfalls, so the readers can learn how the authors of these books use the sources, and what their methods.

It seems to me that Humphreys tries to give the readers the capability of reviewing books on Islamic history, by showing the strength and weakness of the books, either in methods, sources or questions. He seems to focus more on surveying the literature rather than providing general horizons and general concepts on Islamic history. We as if read a collection of book review, without negating the importance of such reviews in seeing how a particular issue has been discussed, or in another word, in seeing state of the art of a particular problem. Humphreys also neglects the sacred aspects of Islamic history, especially in earlier period of Islamic history. Seyyed Hossein Nasr points out that Muslims consider the earlier period of Islamic history, especially before the fitnah kubra, as sacred. Therefore there is such a notion of sacred history of Islam among Muslims. Humphreys should pay attention to this in order to understand how Moslems view their own history, and how the Islamic historiography on the earlier period of Islamic history somewhat is influenced by this very idea.

I see that Humpreys’ book pays much emphasis on legal aspects of Islamic tradition (fiqh, shariah) than any other aspects. It inclines to catch how one facet of the multi-faceted Islamic culture, i.e. the facet of jurisprudence, functions in Islamic society within the history of Islam. He pays more attention on the exoteric rather than the esoteric aspect of Islam. He is much more influenced by Snouck Hurgronje who tries to pay more attention to the legal aspect rather than other aspects of Islam. Humphreys’ presentation is important and significant, in using fiqh to throw light on the social structure and interaction of Islamic society; however it would be more revealing if he also pays attention to other facets of Islam. It seems to me that what Humphreys presents in “Islamic Law and Islamic Society” and “A Cultural Elite: The Role and Status of the ‘Ulama’ in Islamic Society” are not significantly different. I think it would be better if Humphreys combines the two chapters into one.

Humphreys is at pains to survey the bulk of literatures studying the role and status of the ‘ulama’. He admitted that the term ‘ulama’ covers very broad figures within Islamic society, such as qadis, rabble-rousers, privy counselors to kings, spiritual directors and cynical politicians. He also delves into the problems of using the extant sources to construct how the ‘ulama’ play a certain role in Islamic society. However, it seems to me that Humphreys pays much attention to the so-called fuqaha’ rather than any other figures within the ‘ulama’ – such as Sufis, theologians, and philosophers—to do justice to the various aspects of Islamic tradition. I was also wondering why in page 252, he differentiates between religious establishment (‘ulama’, qadis) and Sufis. He also does not pay attention to the so-called “sage” (hakim, or hakim mutaallih) which was, according to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the central figure within Islamic society. Such figures are the guardians of Islamic tradition, mastering both the revealed knowledge (al-‘ulum an-naqliyyah) and the acquired knowledge (al-‘ulum al-aqliyyah), and preserving the hierarchy of realities and human sciences.

Humphreys as if place the fuqaha’ as central figures for its explicit functions which much to do with the needs of the society, such as the giving religious guidance, and with the needs of the government, such as the production of fatwas and solving judicial problems. Perhaps it because of the assumption that society is ordered by law rather than by any other norms (this conclusion is somewhat different with that of Mark Woodward who is the opinion that grass-root Muslims is governed by Sufism as well as by fiqh). As if he inclines to state that Islam is law-oriented (shariah) faith. From this train of thought, we can understand why Humpreys discusses the collectivity or institution (i.e. mazhab and madrasah, not zawiyah and khanqah) under which the ‘ulama’, in general, and the fuqaha’ in particular, function in the society. We can also understand why Humphreys the idea of ijtihad as if it is only in the boundary of fiqh. I think that the term ijtihad is not apt to refer only the creative thinking within fiqh. It refers to all variety of the process of creative thinking within Islamic tradition, as represented in the study of fiqh, Sufism, theology, etc.

In Chapter Ten, “Urban Topography and Urban Society”, Humphreys discusses at significant length such things as chronicle and biography, which had bee discussion in previous chapters. It would be better if he discusses these things as compact as possible as long as it throw a direct light on the problem under discussion. In Chapter Twelve, “The Voiceless Classes of Islamic Society: the Peasantry and Rural Life”, he seems to draw attention of the readers of the so-called “history of environment” which tries to see the interplay between environment and human.

Humpreys underlines the significance of quantitative history in studying Islamic society. As Jon Tosh[1] points out, the fundamental shift in emphasis, in the study of history, from the individual to the mass which occurred earlier in this century has major quantitative implications. As long as historians concentrated on the doings of the great figure, they hardly needed to count. But when they became interested in economic growth, social change and history of entirety, questions of number and proportion had a critical importance. Quantitative approach has made its significant contribution in demographic history, history of social structure, and economic history. Humphreys shows that quantitative approach hold significance in demographic history --as can be seen in his explanation on “Urban Topography and Urban society”-- history of social structure --as can be seen in his presentation on “A Cultural Elite: The Role and Status of the Ulama’ in Islamic society” and on “Urban Topography and Urban Society” (with special attention to his explanations on career backgrounds of patrons in Ayyubids)-- and economic history –as can be seen in his explanation on “Non-Muslim Participants in Islamic Society”. Quantitative approach is good in suggesting the historians to count rather to content themselves with impressionistic estimates.

I think that quantitative history pays less attention to the meaning of a thing rather than its formal structure or outward appearance. They might pay attention to the number, but it could be more meaningful, if they also pay more attention on how it holds meaning for a particular society, in order not to trap in the euphoria of (“meaningless”) quantification.
On what Humphreys says on the concern of Modern historians, it should be noted that Leopold von Ranke laid the foundations of modern historical scholarship a century-and-a-half ago. The content of historical study has been vastly extended too. It now embraces social structures in their entirety, the history of collective mentalities, and the inter-relationship between society and natural environment. It concerns both events and structures, both the individual and the society, both mentalities and material forces. Historians need to combine narrative with analytical skills, and to display both sympathy and detachment.[2]

What is lack in Humphreys is the concern of studying collective mentalities, which, according to John Tosh,[3] tries to re-create the emotions and intellect of people living in conditions very different from our own, so that their humanity can be more fully realized.
Ranke explained in the preface to his first book (as quoted by John Tosh)[4], “History has had assigned to it the task of judging the past, of instructing the present for the benefit of the ages to come. To such lofty functions this work does not aspire. Its aim is merely to show how things actually were (wie es eigentlich gewesen)”. By this Ranke meant more than an intention to reconstruct the passage of events, although this was certainly part of his programme.

Unfortunately this is the impression conveyed by the most frequently cited translation, ‘What actually happened’. What was new about historicists’ approach was their understanding and realization that the atmosphere and mentality of past times also had to be reconstructed, if the formal record of events was to have any meaning. In this line of thought, we can see how Humphreys uses this misleading translation in portraying the concern of modern historians. In “Early Historical Tradition and the First Islamic Polity”, he explains that to find out “what really happened” means to develop reliably documented answers to modern questions about the earliest decades of Islamic society.

Among recent scholarly developments, it is worth noting one approach which is now having a major impact on the historical studies, that is, a more searching attempt to exploit the full potential of language as a window on the past. In addition to stressing the accurate translation, historians have often characterized their encounter with the language of the sources as a dialogue, in which the researchers show “a willingness to listen the wording of document, to be governed by its every phase and murmur…so as to hear what is actually being said, in what accent and in what tone.”[5]

We see the inter-relationship between history and (philosophy of language) – as provoked by such thinkers as Foucault and Derrida. For Tosh[6], if language facilitates certain modes of thought, and if there is a sense in which language determines consciousness, then the political order must depend on linguistic as much as administrative structures. Politics is constituted within a field of discourse, as well as within a particular territory.

That the notion of discourse is premised on variegated meanings and contested readings is even more evident in the times of political turmoil. It can be seen in the case of Abbasid revolution, in which Abbasid da’wa conveys multi-layers of meaning, and how this da’wa has a significant role in the revolution, and how this new discourse displaced the old discourse. Here we see the power of discourse. It is importance to see Abbasid da’wa as a discourse rather than as a symbol (the last stance is hold by Humphreys).

The first scholar to approach the history of mentalities in a systematic way was Lucian Febvre, co-founder of Annales.[7] For the Annales school, the ultimate aim of the historian was to recapture human life in all its variety, or, more precisely, to write ‘total history’ (histoire totale or histoire integrale). Paradoxically, in practice, the most suitable field to apply the approach of ‘total history’ is local history. For political historians especially, local history is a reminder that their subject is about not only central institutions of the state but also the assertion of authority over people.[8] In my mind, Humphreys’ presentation on “The Voiceless Classes of Islamic Society: The Peasantry and Rural Life” needs both perspective of history of mentalities and total history.

John Tosh [9] highlights two different principles governing the direction of original research; source-oriented approach and problem-oriented approach. In this point, Humphrey gives a good synthesis, i.e. trying to formulate questions relevant to the sources.

Humphreys does not give an introductory passage on methods in studying history, in general, and Islamic history in particular. The lacunae should be complemented with the books on the methods and scope of history such as Arthur Marwick, The Nature of History, John Tosh, The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods & New Directions in the Study of History, and G.J. Reiner, History: its Purpose and Method. Such books provide the readers an awareness of the limits placed on historical knowledge by the character of the sources and the working methods of historians, so they can develop a critical approach to the historical writings. Therefore the books discuss such issues as the uses of history, writing and interpretation, the limit of historical knowledge, history and theory, and different kinds and currents of history being written up to now. General introduction of the methods in studying history will provide the students the ability to understand and criticize the methodological assumptions of historians of Islam. In practical domain, it enables the students to understand the reviews on particular books, and, even write the reviews on such books.

I admitted that Humphreys’ book is good to introduce western scholarship on Islam (Islamic studies in western academia) especially on Islamic history but not sufficient to give an adequate and comprehensive picture of Islamic studies. Humphreys’ book is not adequate to be the only reference in the course of “Methods and Principles of Islamic Studies”, or even in the course of “Islamic History”. The course of “Methods and Principle of Islamic Studies”, in my mind, is aimed at introducing and teaching the students one single body of knowledge. The course tries to introduce the students the varieties of approaches in studying Islam. The students are introduced to such extensive literatures –they are encouraged to read extensively and extend their readings at home-- which help figure their own approach and perspective in studying Islam.

[1] John Tosh, The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods & New Directions in the Study of Modern History, (London and New York: Longman, 1992), p. 184-189. Thanks to Prof. Atho’ Muzhar for drawing my attention to this particular book.
[2] Ibid. p. 228-231.
[3] Ibid. p. 231.
[4] Ibid. p. 14.
[5]Ibid. p. 86.
[6] Ibid. p. 89.
[7] On history of mentalities, it deserves mentioning the works of Michel Foucault as Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, The Birth of Clinic, and The History of Sexuality. Foucault tries to approach philosophically the mentalities within human history.
[8] John Tosh, op.cit., p. 103-109.
[9] Ibid. p. 54-55, 111.



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Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Peradaban Milenial Timur dan Pengetahuan Suci

By: Asfa Widiyanto
reviewed work: Seyyed Hossein Nasr, The Need for a Sacred Science, (Surrey: Curzon Press, 1993)

Tulisan ini berusaha mengkaji kaitan antara “ilmu pengetahuan modern”, “ilmu pengetahuan tradisional” dan ”pengetahuan suci” yang terdapat dalam salah satu karya Nasr, The Need for a Sacred Science. Setelah mengkritisi paradigma ilmu pengetahuan modern --dalam dataran ontologis, epistemologis, dan aksiologisnya— Nasr mengelaborasi dan merestorasi konsep “ilmu pengetahuan tradisional” dan “pengetahuan suci”. Kedua paradigma yang disebut terakhir ini, diyakini Nasr, berlandaskan pada metafisika dan Kesucian, dan akan menemukan momentumnya kembali di era modern ini.

Key words: the paradigm of modern science, traditional science, and scientia sacra

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, penulis buku ini, adalah seorang perenialis terkenal yang menganalisis secara hampir sempurna tentang spiritualitas dan filsafat. Reputasinya sebagai guru besar di tiga benua, selama tiga puluh tahun lebih, telah melahirkan sejumlah karya intelektual.
The Need for a Sacred Science, salah satu karya intelektual Nasr, mencoba membahas pengetahuan yang berakar dari Kesucian (the Sacred), landasan metafisik pengetahuan suci (sacred science, scientia sacra), perbedaannya dengan ilmu pengetahuan modern, dan relevansinya dengan beberapa isu utama kemanusiaan dewasa ini.

Buku ini terdiri dari empat bagian, namun untuk lebih terfokusnya tinjauan ini, penulis hanya mengkaji bagian ketiga, “Science: Traditional and Modern”. Bagian ini berusaha membahas ilmu pengetahuan Barat dan kebudayaan timur, pengetahuan tradisional dan makna spiritual alam, yang secara keseluruhan bahasan-bahasan ini mengacu pada tema sentral pengetahuan suci.

Ilmu Pengetahuan Barat dan Kebudayaan Timur
Adalah urgen, menurut Nasr, untuk mencoba mencoba mencari hubungan antara ilmu pengetahuan Barat dengan wacana kebudayaan Timur, untuk melihat watak ilmu pengetahuan Barat, dengan klaim dominasi globalnya, dan peradaban Timur, yang merupakan tempat lahir dan berkembangnya pengetahuan suci.

Ilmu pengetahuan Barat ini diletakkan dalam posisi yang berbeda dengan kebudayaan timur, bukan karena menafikan keterpengaruhan dan kontribusi peradaban Timur terhadap ilmu pengetahuan Barat, namun karena ilmu pengetahuan Barat sejak renaissance (aufklarung) telah menciptakan bentuk dan paradigma baru yang diderivasikan dari corak pemikiran rasionalistis dan antropomorpis serta sekularisasi kosmos. Bentuk baru ini melahirkan ilmu pengetahuan yang monolitik dan unilateral.

Nasr mengakui bahwa ada beberapa perbedaan di antara berbagai macam kebudayaan Timur, namun ada bagian yang menyatukan kebudayaan Timur tersebut, yakni agama dalam pengertian seluas-luasnya, atau “tradisi”, yang menekankan sifat hirarkis realitas, keunggulan hal-hal spiritual atas material, karakter suci kosmos, keterkaitan nasib manusia dengan lingkungan alam, kesatuan pengetahuan dan kesalinghubungan antar segala sesuatu.

Sekarang di Barat, menurut Nasr ada kecenderungan baru di sementara orang Barat untuk mengkaji khazanah spiritual Timur, karena melihat bahwa ilmu pengetahuan yang mereka miliki telah menimbulkan krisis. Sedangkan di Timur sendiri, ada semacam dua cara pandang terhadap alam; perspektif tradisional mereka dan perspektif ilmu pengetahuan Barat –yang mereka adopsi. Perspektif tradisional masih dalam bentuk perenialnya karean ia berakar dari prinsip-prinsip yang tidak berubah, sedangkan pandangan dunia sains, bukan hanya baru dalam sisi lahirnya, namun juga akarnya, paling tidak dalam aspek-aspek tertentu.

Nasr memandang bahwa krisis lingkungan yang terjadi di Barat mengingatkan bahwa ada kesalahan mendasar dalam konsep manusia dan hubungannya dengan alam, yang dibangun dengan melupakan pengetahuan suci –yang memandang manusia dan kosmos dalam hubungan yang harmonis.

Lebih jauh lagi, Nasr melihat bahwa ada semacam efek langsung dari penerapan ilmu pengetahuan dan teknologi terhadap peradaban manusia, di antaranya, khususnya dari sudut pandang peradaban tradisional, yakni pemecahan (comparmentalization) pengetahuan dan akhirnya perusakan terhadap pengetahuan akhir atas realitas, scientia sacra, atau Gnosis (ma’rifah) yang terletak di jantung setiap tradisi integral, sebagaimana juga kemunduran pengetahuan suci tentang tatanan (keteraturan) alam.

Peradaban tradisional memberikan tempat tersendiri pada bijaksanawan (sage) sebagai figur sentral dalam masyarakat. Bijaksanawan boleh jadi terdidik dalam beberapa cabang khusus sains, namun yang lebih penting dari itu adalah pengetahuannya tentang kebenaran dalam aspek universal, dan perhatiannya terhadap akhir perjalanan manusia dan kebahagiaannya.
Perkawinan antara metafisika dan ilmu-ilmu kosmologi sangat jelas dalam peradaban tradisional bukan hanya sebagai pengungkapan kebenaran yang terletak dalam segala sesuatu, namun juga realitas praktis yang esensial bagi kesejahteraan manusia.

Dengan demikian pengetahuan khusus selalu berhubungan dengan keseluruhan, dan keselarasan bagian vis-a-vis keseluruhan selalu dijaga. Pandangan tentang keseluruhan selalu berkaitan dengan perasaan tentang kesucian. Kehilangan perasaan tentang keseluruhan juga bisa menjadi buta terhadap perasaan tentang kesucian dan akhirnya melupakan tatanan keseluruhan.

Perusakan terhadap kemenyeluruhan (wholeness) kehidupan manusia semakin meluas, dan yang lebih besar lagi adalah keterpecahan pikiran manusia dan disintegrasi psikis manusia, yang berkaitan dengan hilangnya pengetahuan prinsipil, dan konsekuensi logis dari segmentasi apa yang dipelajari dan diketahui manusia. Ini berkaitan dengan hilangnya pengetahuan suci.
Kehilangan “pusat” (center) pada peradaban Barat telah menimbulkan bukan saja segmentasi berbagai cabang pengetahuan tapi juga pemisahan antara pikiran dan tindakan. Pada tingkat yang lain, kehilangan ini mengakibatkan pemisahan antara sains dan etika, yang saat ini dunia modern menjadi menderita karenanya.

Peradaban tradisional tidak (pernah) antroposentris dalam perspektif dan tidak memisahkan manusia dari ‘tatanan Ilahi’ atau makhluk-makhluk lain yang berbagi rahmat dengannya. Etika dalam peradaban tradisional mencakup tidak hanya masyarakat manusia namun semua makhluk di bumi. Sebaliknya masyarakat Barat menciptakan hukum etika yang meliputi manusia saja, dan dalam kenyataannya, orang Barat saja, sedangkan hukum lain digunakan untuk penduduk benua lain. Makhluk-makhluk lain diposisikan untuk memenuhi kebutuhan manusia tanpa memiliki suatu hak apapun. Sebenarnya, kata Nasr, orang Barat pada abad pertengahan hidup dalam warisan etika Kristen namun secara bertahap memisahkan diri dari doktrin Kristen, dan cenderung memformulasikan “etika ilmiah”.

Dalam kondisi inilah sebetulnya dibutuhkan pengetahuan suci, sebuah filsafat alam dan pandangan dunia yang menyeluruh dan dapat memberikan arah baru ilmu pengetahuan modern. Pada poin kritis ini, peradaban tradisional yang masih hidup dapat memainkan peran utama dalam transformasi ilmu pengetahuan modern dengan memberikan pandangan dunia yang lebih luas yang dapat dilihat untuk apa sebenarnya mereka, dan dalam kasus tertentu bahkan memberikan bentuk hidup baru pada ilmu pengetahuan, mentransformasikan mereka dalam bagian-bagian dalam alam ini dari pengetahuan dan pengalaman.

Keberlangsungan peradaban Timur tidak bergantung banyak pada keberhasilan langsung dalam dataran material, namun lebih pada kemampuan mereka untuk memelihara pandangan kesatuan yang mengikat berbagai tingkat pengetahuan dan realitas, spiritual dan material ke dalam keseluruhan yang tak terpisahkan.

Ini adalah pandangan yang terdapat dalam pengetahuan suci dan yang manusia modern berusaha mencari jalan untuk menyelamatkan diri dari efek (yang) merusak dari aktivitas mereka sendiri. Tiada yang lebih tragis bagi dunia secara keseluruhan dari, jika, orang Barat yang telah lama melupakan perasaan tentang kesatuan, berusaha menemukannya untuk menyelamatkan diri mereka, sementara peradaban Timur melupakan pandangan kesatuan dan pengetahuan suci yang terletak di jantung kebudayaan mereka.

Ilmu Pengetahuan Tradisional
Ilmu pengetahuan tradisional lebih berkaitan dengan sisi esoteris daripada sisi eksoteris sebuah tradisi. Sifat ilmu pengetahuan tradisional, bentuk, pola dan simbol yang berkenaan dengannya, menuntut dasar-dasar ilmu pengetahuan ini berhubungan dengan “pengetahuan tertingi” dan dimensi esoteris tradisi. Oleh karena itu jika dipisahkan dari akar dan setting tradisionalnya ia nampak seperti “ilmu ghaib”.

Dari sudut pandang tradisional, kata Nasr, tidak ada wilayah yang dapat dianggap sepenuhnya profan. Alam adalah pengejawantahan dari prinsip Ilahi; dan tidak ada wilayah realitas yang dapat dipisahkan sepenuhnya dari prinsip tersebut. Ilmu metafisika dan kosmologi dalam peradaban tradisional tentu merupakan pengetahuan suci yang berdasarkan pengetahuan tentang manifestasi, bukan sebagai maya, namun sebagai simbol dan ayat Ilahi, sebagai viestigia Dei.

Perbedaan utama antara ilmu pengetahuan tradisional dan ilmu pengetahuan modern terletak dalam kenyataan bahwa dalam ilmu pengetahuan tradisional, hal-hal profan selalu marginal, dan kesuciam adalah sentral. Sedangkan dalam ilmu pengetahuan modern yang profan menjadi sentral, dan intuisi serta penemuan yang berasal dari Asal Ilahi menjadi periferal.
Ilmu pengetahuan tradisional berdasarkan pada pandangan hirarkis terhadap alam, memandang dunia fisik sebagai wilayah terendah yang merefleksikan keadaan yang lebih tinggi dengan perantaraan simbol yang merupakan pintu menuju “yang tak terlihat”.

Bahasa, yang dengannya ilmu pengetahuan tradisional mengungkapkan selama beberapa abad, tidaklah sama. Beberapa tradisi bersifat mitologis, sedangkan yang lain menggunakan bahasa yang lebih abstrak untuk mengekspresikan kebenaran.
Bahasa suci, tanda bunyi, ungkapan dari bahasa tersebut, makna esoteris alpabetnya, menempati jantung dari hampir semua ilmu pengetahuan tradisional. Dan yang sangat berkaitan dengan ilmu pengetahuan tradisional tentang bahasa dan alpabet adalah matematika tradisional, khususnya cabang-cabang utamanya: aritmetika, geometri, musik, dan astronomi. Matematika merupakan bahasa khusus yang berbicara tentang keselarasan batin sesuatu. Secara lahiriah ia berurusan dengan kuantitas namun secara batiniah merupakan tangga menuju dunia yang dapat dpikirkan.

Alkemi berdasarkan pada pandangan priomordial tentang bumi sebagai being yang hidup dengan bantuan pengaruh langit mengembangkan logam yang berada di luar susunan alam. Alkemi adalah cara memuliakan materi, karena berhubungan dengan seni suci. ini berarti alkemi bukan saja merupakan pengantar kimia, namun merupakan pengetahuan tentang jiwa dan kaitannya dengan kosmos, dan menggunakan transformasi luar untuk kepentingan transformasi dalam yang menjadi tujuan akhir semua ilmu pengetahuan tradisional.

Kedokteran tradisional dan farmakologi selalu berhubungan dengan sejarah alam, yang melihat manusia sebagai bagian dari tiga kerajaan, dan sebuah lingkungan alam, yang diciptakan Tuhan, juga menjadi simbol dunia spiritual. Pentingnya sejarah alam bagi khususnya tema-tema keagamaan dari berbagai tradisi dapat dilihat pada bagian ilmu-ilmu yang berurusan dengan “geografi suci”, di mana peradaban tradisional memandang bumi sebagai simbol yang mengejawantahkan hirarki vertikal.

Teknologi tradisional berkaitan dengan kerajian dan “seni” (art) dalam makna aslinya (techné sebenarnya sama dengan ars yang berarti “membuat”). Dalam bentuk tradisional teknologi, pengetahuan yang diperoleh oleh pengetahuan tradisional dikombinasikan dengan metode praktis untuk menciptakan hasil yang mempengaruhi tubuh dan jiwa pembuat, pengguna, pelihat dari obyek atau kerja tersebut.

Dengan demikian ilmu pengetahuan tradisional merupakan penerapan prinsip-prinsip metafisik dan tipe-tipe tertentu pikiran, dan tangga menuju prinsip-prinsip tersebut. Dalam konteks tradisi yang hidup, ia merupakan sarana semua sisi kehidupan dan pengetahuan diintegrasikan dalam pusat tradisi. Ilmu pengetahuan ini bisa menjadi kunci penting untuk memahami kosmos dan membantu perjalanannya melewati dan dalam kosmos. Walaupun merupakan pengetahuan tentang wilayah kosmis, ia bisa menjadi dengan bantuan simbol jiwa yang memancarkan realitas spiritual di luar bentuk dan membantu manusia mencapai keadaan “melihat Tuhan di mana-mana”.

Fungsi tertinggi ilmu pengetahuan tradisional adalah membantu intelek dan instrumen-instrumen persepsi untuk melihat dunia dan semua tingkatan eksistensi, bukan sebagai fakta atau obyek, namun sebagai simbol, sebagai cermin yang dengannya terrefleksikan wajah Tercinta, yang dari-Nya semua berasal dan kepada-Nya semua kembali.

Makna Spiritual Alam
Bukan hanya ada ilmu pengetahuan suci dan tradisional yang digali dari berbagai peradaban tradisional, dan menaruh perhatian pada studi kosmos dalam sinaran prinsip-prinsip metafisik. Namun ada juga dimensi pengetahuan suci yang menaruh perhatian pada alam sebagai keseluruhan sebagaimana makna spiritual alam diperhatikan. Alam mempunyai makna spiritual, yang dengannya setiap tradisi spiritual integral memperhatikan, walaupun penekanan pada dimensi realitas ini tidaklah sama pada setiap tradisi.

Makna spiritual alam mengejawantahkan dirinya pada berbagai tingkatan dan melalui beberapa saluran. “Alam murni” (virgin nature) memiliki keteraturan dan keserasian. Keteraturan ini, lebih jauh lagi, berkaitan dengan keserasian yang luar biasa, yang dalam perasaan musik, secara teknis meliputi semua bagian alam dari bintang sampai partikel-partikel sub-atomis. Proporsi bagian-bagian binatang, tumbuhan dan strukur kristal, mengejawantahkan kehadiran keserasian yang meliputi semua keteraturan alam. Keseluruhan kosmos tidak hanya memiliki eksistensi mereka sesuai dengan hukum keserasian, namun bergerak dengan ritme tarian kosmis.

Kehidupan alam bukan hanya memancarkan keserasian dan keteraturan, namun juga hukum-hukum yang membuat keserasian dan susunan. “Hukum alam” tidak lain adalah hukum Tuhan untuk makhluk-Nya, shari’ah (dalam maknanya yang umum) dari setiap keteraturan eksistensi, dengan menggunakan terminologi Islam. Atau jika kita menengok pada bahasa Budisme, “hukum alam” adalah dharma segala sesuatu.

“Alam murni” memanifestasikan kesucian dan menyerahkan diri secara utuh pada kehendak Pencipta, atau pada dharama mereka. Penyerahdirian alam pada dharma-nya dan keserasian tidak hanya membawa pada “kualitas moral” yang meliputi susunan alam ketika susunan ini dipandang dari sudut pandang tradisional; mereka juga sebagai hasil keindahan tiada tara yang harus diamati di mana saja di alam.

Pesan spiritual alam, kata Nasr, tidaklah terdapat hanya dalam keseluruhan keindahan dari bentuk, gerakan dan kualitasnya, namun juga dalam simbol yang merupakan refleksi langsung berbagai Kualitas Ilahi. Pesan spiritual dari simbol-simbol alam tidak didasarkan pada sentimen atau semacam mistisisme alam yang samar . Ia didasarkan pada pengetahuan suci, yang merupakan pengetahuan tentang keselarasan kosmis dan berkaitan dengan realitas ontologis bentuk-bentuk alam.

Pengetahuan tentang simbol-simbol susunan alam, kata Nasr, dibangun dalam dada beberapa kosmologi tradisional. Dalam hal ini makna spiritual alam telah direkapitulasikan dalam bahasa yang dipahami, sedemikian rupa sehingga memungkinkan manusia tradisional, untuk mencari peta yang dengannya bisa mengorientasikan dirinya dalam perjalanan spiritual melewati kosmos dan merenungkan keseluruhan kosmos sebagai gambar yang merefleksikan kekuatan dan kebijaksanaan “Pelukis Ilahi”.

Pada tingkat tertinggi, kata Nasr, alam murni dapat direnungkan sebagai teofani yang memiliki pesan metafisik dan disiplin spiritual tersendiri. Alam mengejawantahkan yang satu dari kualitas keserbaragam-Nya. Dia berdo’a, memohon dan beribadah. Namun untuk berpartisipasi dalam do’a dan ibadah alam, dan membaca pesan Gnosis terdalamnya, membutuhkan pemilikan terlebih dahulu kesadaran spiritual yang tinggi.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr dan Tradisi Filsafat Islam
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, dilahirkan di Teheran, 7 April 1933, filosof Iran dan exponent Islam tradisional, dianggap sebagai salah seorang cendekiawan terpenting dalam kajian keislaman dan keagamaan. Keluasan interaksi akademiknya, baik di kalangan muslim atau non-muslim, ditambah kecerdasan dan kegigihannya dalam mencari pengetahuan yang membebaskan, menjadikannya memiliki keluasan wawasan.

Seperti halnya pemikir Malaysia Syed Naquib al-Attas (l. 1931) dan cendekiawan Arab-Amerika Ismail Raji al-Faruq (1921-1986), proyek utamanya adalah untuk menghidupkan kembali “the lost sense of wonder” (Abaza, 2000: 94). Karena itu dalam sebuah artikel (Gazo, 2001: 278-279), upaya Nasr tersebut disebut “the project of reenchantment”. Dalam upayanya membangkitkan kembali rasa kesucian, Nasr menekankan peran intellectus. Dengan demikian metafisika dan spiritualitas (juga) berperan dalam proyeknya.

Memahami pemikiran Seyyed Hossein Nasr, terutama tentang “pengetahuan suci” (sacred science, scientia sacra) tidak bisa dilepaskan dari perkembangan filsafat Islam sendiri. Filsafat Islam lahir berkenaan dengan upaya rasional manusia muslim dalam memikirkan hakekat “yang ada” (being), dan dalam banyak hal, upaya ini dipengaruhi oleh tradisi filsafat Yunani yang masuk dalam wilayah komunitas dan peradaban muslim.

Salah satu di antara kecenderungan yang ada dalam filsafat Islam adalah al-hikmat al-mashsha’iyyah (filsafat peripatetik), yang merupakan sintesis ajaran-ajaran wahyu Islam, Aristotelianisme dan Neoplatonisme, baik Atenian maupun Alexandrian. Filsafat Perpatetik ini ditemukan dalam iklim intelektual yang kaya di Baghdad oleh al-Kindi (w. 260/873). Usaha ini kemudian diteruskan oleh al-Farabi (w. 339/950), dan mencapai puncaknya dengan Ibn Sina, yang barangkali terbesar dan secara pasti mempengaruhi sebagian besar filosof muslim (Nasr, 1996: 33-38). Namun pada akhirnya Ibn Sina menyimpang dari filsafat peripatetik dan menjurus ke arah filsafat iluminasi (al-hikmat al-ishraqiyyah)[1] yang cenderung kepada Sufisme. Pandangan tersebut oleh Ibn Sina dituangkan dalam bukunya al-Isharat dan dalam beberapa karyanya yang belum pernah diterbitkan, yakni Hikmat Mashriqiyyah (al-Ahwani, 1995: 85).

Filsafat Islam, meskipun mengalami gerhana pada abad ke-5/11 M di Persia dan di negeri-negeri timur lainnya akibat serangan al-Shahrastani dan al-Ghazali, tidaklah sekedar hijrah ke Spanyol dan menikmati musim semi yang singkat di tangan ibn Bajah, ibn Tufayl, dan ibn Rushd, dan akhirnya mati mengering di ujung barat dunia Islam. Filsafat ibn Sina dihidupkan kembali oleh Nasiruddin Tusi dan kelompoknya dia bad ke-7 H/13 M. Sementara dua generasi sebelumnya, suatu perspektif intelektual yang baru, dikembangkan oleh Suhrawardi (1155-1191) yang dinamainya madhhab Ishraqi (Nasr, 1996b: 8)–yang merupakan sintesis antara tradisi peripatetik dan Gnosis. Suhrawardi juga seorang mistikus besar yang merestorasi dasar-dasar Islam tentang filsafat perenial, yang ia sebut al-hikmat al-laduniyyah atau al-hikmat al-‘atiqah, yang ada dalam (khazanah) peradaban Hindu, Persia, Babilonia, Mesir, dan Yunani (Nasr, 1963: I: 376).

Pemikiran filosofis tersebut kemudian berkembang secara ekstensif, yang ditandai oleh tokoh-tokoh seperti Qutb al-Din Shirazi dan keluarga Dashtaki, dan mencapai kulminasinya dalam madhhab Isfahan yang dibangun oleh Mir Damad dan mencapai titik puncaknya pada Mulla Sadra, muridnya, yang berusaha mengembangkan al-hikmat al-muta’aliyyah (transcendental philosophy), yang merupakan sintesis final antara ishraq, mashsaha’iyyah, ‘irfan, dan kalam (Razavi, 1997: 122-130).

Pemikiran filosofis terus berkembang, terutama di kalangan Shi’ah Iran, sebagai tradisi filsafat Islam yang hidup. Dalam kondisi demikian itulah Seyyed Hossein Nasr hidup dan berdialektika dengan tradisi tersebut. Maka kita lihat, Seyyed Hossein Nasr banyak mendasarkan diri pada warisan dan tradisi yang ada tersebut untuk kemudian membangun kerangka pikirnya, dalam hal ini, bisa kita lihat dalam konsep “pengetahuan suci”-nya.

Jika kita lihat secara cermat, sebenarnya struktur pemikiran Nasr hampir serupa dengan struktur pemikiran Suhrawardi. Suhrawardi mengemukakan kesatuan dan universalitas prinsip-prinsip ketuhanan, yang akhirnya mengantarkan dia untuk mengenalkan term-term seperti al-hikmat al-laduniyya dan al-hikmat al-‘atiqa (Nasr, 1964: 61-62). Posisi Suhrawardi ini bersesuaian dengan Nasr, yang berpendapat bahwa ada kebijaksanaan yang bersifat abadi dan universal, karena itu dia ikut membangun madhhab perenial (sophia perennis atau philosophia perennis). Suhrawardi dan Nasr sangat apresiatif terhadap penalaran diskursif dan intellectus, dan mendasarkan filsafat mereka pada dua perangkat metodologis tersebut. Isu tentang persinggungan antara Barat dan Timur merupakan concern Suhrawardi dan Nasr. Dalam hal ini, salah satu karya Suhrawardi tentang isu ini perlu disebut, Qissat al-Ghurbat al-Gharbiyya.

Pengaruh karya-karya Suhrawardi tidak terbatas pada dunia Islam, namun juga mencapai tradisi lain seperti Hindu, Yahudi, dan Zoroastrianisme (Nasr, 1964: 82). Hal yang sama juga bisa dikatakan tentang karya-karya Nasr. Filsafat Suhrawardi sangat kaya, menyinggung tentang filsafat agama, etika, seni, logika, alam, dan matematika. Dia menganggap bahwa walaupun elemen-elemen ini berbeda namun merepresentasikan kesatuan, atau dengan kata lain, merupakan sarana memahami keterkaitan antara kathrah dan wahdah. Tema yang serupa juga terlihat dalam filsafat Nasr, yang juga menekankan hubungan antara unity dan multiplicity, dan antara filsafat dan agama.

Dalam banyak hal, magnum opus Suhrawardi, hikmat al-Ishraq, juga bisa disandingkan dengan magnum opus Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred. Suhrawardi mengklaim bahwa bukunya ini ditulis dalam waktu yang sangat pendek, karena diberi inspirasi oleh ruh al-quds (Nasr, 1964: 66). Hal yang sama juga bisa dinyatakan tentang magnum opus Nasr. Karya jenius ini ditulis dalam waktu beberapa bulan, dan dianggap Nasr sebagai hadiah dari langit.
Saya menganggap Nasr sebagai salah seorang pewaris tradisi pemikiran Suhrawardi. Jika kita cermati sejarah filsafat Islam, kita menemukan figure-figur seperti Mir Damad (w. 1630) dan Mulla Sadra (ca. 1571-1640), yang sangat apresiatif terhadap Suhrawardi dan pemikirannya. Mereka semua adalah pewaris tradisi pemikiran Suhrawardi. Jika kita mencermati karya-karya Nasr, kita akan mendapatkan bahwa Suhrawardi merupakan salah seorang figur yang sangat mempengaruhi struktur pemikiran Nasr.

Mulla Sadra juga merupakan tokoh yang mempengaruhi pemikiran Nasr, walaupun demikian saya melihat Mulla Sadra sebagai seorang yang berada dalam koridor tradisi pemikiran Suhrawardi, walaupun dalam beberapa hal dia berupaya untuk mengembangkan dan mengkritisinya. Mulla Sadra, menurut Henry Corbin (1990: 112), adalah komentator terbaik terhadap karya dan pemikiran Suhrawardi. Oleh karena itu saya kira relevan menganggap Nasr sebagai Neo-Suhrawardi, penerus tradisi pemikiran Suhrawardi dalam dunia kontemporer.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Ilmu (Pengetahuan) Modern dan Ilmu (Pengetahuan) Tradisional

Jika melihat pemikiran Nasr, antara lain yang tertuang dalam bab ‘Science : Traditional and Modern’ yang telah kita bahas di atas, kita akan menyadari bahwa Nasr termasuk salah seorang cendekiawan yang secara tegas dan lugas mengkritisi tradisi ilmu pengetahuan yang berkembang di Barat.

Kritik Nasr, boleh dikatakan, sangat mendasar, karena mengarah pada landasan ontologis, aksiologis, dan epistemologis. Menurut Nasr, pada dataran ontologis, ilmu pengetahuan modern mempunyai kelemahan, karena berdasarkan pada asumsi pemisahan antara pengetahuan dan “yang ada”, sekularisasi kosmos, dualisme mind dan matter. Pada ranah epistemologis, ilmu pengetahuan modern mendasarkan pada rasionalisme dan empirisme, mendasarkan pada paradigma “naturalisme” (pemiskinan realitas kosmos), mengingkari peran intellectus dan peran metafisika dalam penemuan ilmu. Dalam wilayah aksiologis, ilmu pengetahuan modern berdasar pada pemisahan antara ilmu pengetahuan dan etika, dan pada asumsi bahwa “Yang Suci” tidak mempunyai peran dalam penemuan dan penerapan ilmu.

Sebagai antitesis dari ilmu pengetahuan modern, Nasr mengelaborasi konsep ilmu pengetahuan tradisional. Secara ontologis, ilmu pengetahuan tradisional didasarkan pada perspektif hirarkis terhadap alam, memandang dunia fisik sebagai realitas yang merefleksikan wilayah realitas lain yang lebih tinggi. Nasr berpendapat bahwa ilmu pengetahuan tradisional tidak pernah terpisahkan dari prinsip-prinsip metafisika, bahkan merupakan penerapan dan tangga menuju prinsip-prinsip tersebut. Dengan demikian secara ontologis, ada kaitan erat antara metafisika dan ilmu pengetahuan tradisional.

Pada tataran epistemologis, ilmu pengetahuan tradisional didasarkan pada wahyu, intellectus, dan akal, yang ketiganya bekerja secara simultan. Nasr percaya bahwa fungsi utama dari ilmu pengetahuan tradisional adalah untuk membantu intellectus dan instrumen-instrumen perceptive lainnya untuk melihat alam bukan sebagai obyek namun sebagai simbol dan cermin yang merefleksikan wajah Tuhan.

Ilmu pengetahuan tradisional adalah aspek intelektual dan rasional dari sebuah tradisi. Sebuah tradisi yang tidak menaruh perhatian pada aspek rasional dan intelektual akan menjadi dogmatis dan takhayul. Dalam hal ini kita menyadari bahwa Nasr berupaya untuk menjelaskan dan merestorasi landasan suci dari ilmu pengetahuan. Sebuah publikasi (Bakar, 1999: 61) mengemukakan bahwa Nasr berupaya menunjukkan hubungan antara sains dan pengetahuan spiritual.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr dan Pengetahuan Suci (Scientia Sacra)
Pengetahuan suci Nasr artikan sebagai pengetahuan terhadap realitas, yang terletak dalam jantung setiap tradisi integral. Pengetahuan ini, menurut Nasr, dapat diidentikkan dengan metafisika sebagaimana yang dipahami secara tradisional, atau ma’rifah.

Konsep pengetahuan suci terbut bukanlah sesuatu yang baru, dan memang Nasr tidak pernah mengklaimnya sebagai konsep orisinalnya. Konsep pengetahuan suci tersebut banyak dilandaskan pada warisan dan tradisi pemikiran yang ada sebelumnya.

Pengetahuan suci, yang menurut Nasr, diperoleh melalui intellectus[2] dan dapat dirunut akar keterpengaruhannya dalam konsepsi Suhrawardi tentang al-‘ilm al-huduri (knowledge by presence). Al-‘ilm al-Huduri, dalam pandangan Suhrawardi, merupakan pengetahuan yang didasarkan pada sesuatu yang nyata dan hadir dengan sendirinya (self evident) dan memiliki obyek yang swaobyektif, dalam arti realitas kesadaran dan yang disadari oleh diri secara eksistensial adalah sama (Yazdi, 1996: 51).

Proses identitas antara kesadaran dan obyek kesadaran mengandaikan beberapa premis ontologis:
1. Ada hubungan ontologis antara pengetahuan dan being
2. Ada semacam pengetahuan primordial yang diperoleh manusia sebelum dia lahir ke dunia
3. Hal-hal aksidental dalam diri manusia menghambat aktualisasi pengetahuan primordial ini. Dengan membersihkan hal-hal aksidental ini manusia dapat mencapai pengetahuan tersebut.
4. Dalam diri manusia ada ranah yang merupakan percikan dari Tuhan. Lewat ranah inilah –jika dipelihara kesuciannya— manusia dapat mengenal Tuhan. Karena itu ada resiprositas dan identitas antara ranah ketuhanan ini dengan Tuhan itu sendiri.
Pengetahuan semacam itu diperoleh melalui inteleksi, yang menurut Suhrawardi, merupakan salah satu bentuk vision (mushahadah), yang dengannya seseorang bisa melihat arketip-arketip dalam dunia imaginal (Razavi, 1997 : 90-91).

Konsep pengetahuan suci juga bisa kita temukan akar keterpengaruhannya dalam konsep ibn ‘Arabi tentang pengetahuan intuitif, yang menurutnya, merupakan pengetahuan tentang kebenaran itu sendiri, yakni pengetahuan tentang realitas-realitas dari segala sesuatu sebagaimana adanya. Pengetahuan semacam ini, kadang disebut oleh ibn ‘Arabi sebagai ma’rifah, yang merupakan pengetahuan kudus (divine science). Pengetahuan ini sangat mirip dengan kategori pengetahuan ketiga dari Spinoza, yaitu scientia intuitive, yang menurutnya merupakan suatu keadaan di mana kesadaran manusia terserap dalam Amor Intelektualis Die (Affifi, 1995: 146-149).

Dengan demikian, konsep pengetahuan suci ini dapat diperiksa akar keterpengaruhannya dalam tradisi filsafat Islam yang hidup, terutama sekali madhhab ishraqi, transendental, dan perenial; atau lebih luasnya, digali dari tradisi dan peradaban timur.

Maka tidak mengherankan bila pemikir lain, yang sangat terpengaruh madhhab ishraqi dan perenial, seperti Frithjof Schuon –yang banyak dirujuk Nasr dalam karya-karyanya— juga mengemukakan konsep pengetahuan suci (scientia sacra) , yang menurutnya berarti pengetahuan yang mentransendensi keyakinan manusia yang sadar dan Deo Juvante yang dapat dicapai oleh intelek murni (Schuon, 1994: 207).

Konsep Nasr bisa dipahami jika kita meletakkannya dalam konteks peradaban timur, yang memandang ada kesatuan organik antara sains dan pengetahuan spiritual. Hal ini dapat dilihat misalnya dalam peradaban Islam, yang menempatkan ilmu terkait dengan prinsip keesaan Ilahi (al-tawhid) (Bakar, 1994: 73), sehingga visi keilahian nampak dan melingkupi semua ilmu pengetahuan. Hal ini berbeda dengan peradaban Barat yang mereduksi visi keilahian sains, sehingga kehilangan visi kesatuan dan menimbulkan krisis kemanusiaan (al-Attas, 1995: 28).
Urgensi dan orisinalitas pemikiran Nasr –tentang pengetahuan suci—terletak dalam usahanya mengelaborasi pengetahuan suci dari tradisi timur –terutama tradisi Islam— dan memformulasikkan kerangka argumentasi untuk mendukung urgensi pengetahuan suci tersebut, yang diharapkan bisa menawarkan dan memberi solusi dari krisis kemanusiaan Barat, secara khusus, dan kemanusiaan, secara keseluruhan. Dengan demikian Nasr berupaya mengelaborasikan dan menyampaikan kebenaran milineal Timur dalam bahasa kontemporer.

Uraian tentang substansi pemikiran Nasr tentang kaitan antara pengetahuan dan kesucian, sebagaimana terdapat dalam bukunya The Need for a Sacred Science akan lebih dipahami jika kita meletakkannya dalam tradisi filsafat Islam, secara khusus, dan filsafat timur, secara umum. Elaborasi Nasr tentang pengetahuan suci dan ilmu pengetahuan tradisional menemukan relevansinya dalam situasi kontemporer, ketika paradigma ilmu pengetahuan modern mendapat banyak kritikan, termasuk dari pemikir Barat sendiri.

Akhirnya, adalah suatu hal yang amat naif bila penulis berkeyakinan –dan bersikeras—bahwa tulisan ini sudah sempurna ; namun paling tidak inilah usaha penulis dalam mendekatkan diri pada kebenaran –kebenaran sebagai suatu hal yang absolute, ultimate, dan infinite tidak bisa kita capai. Semoga saja tulisan ini masih mempunyai nilai ilmiah dan kebenaran, walaupun sedikit, sebab jika tidak, tulisan ini menjadi sia-sia (useless) belaka.


[1] Kata ishraq dalam bahasa Arab bermakna iluminasi, dan mashriq berarti timur. Keduanya berakar dari kata sharq yang berarti terbitnya matahari. Lebih jauh lagi, kata sifat iluminatif, mashriqiyyah, dan ketimuran, masyriqiyyah, dalam bahasa Arab ditulis sama. Identifikasi simbolis timur dengan cahaya, inheren dalam bahasa Arab dan yang digunakan oleh filosof iluminis, menimbulkan beberapa kesulitan tentang filsafat yang iluminatif dan oriental tersebut. Namun jika kita memperhatikan bagaimana geografi suci dari cahaya timur dan kegelapan barat, dalam karya-karya ibn Sina dan kemudian Suhrawardi, akan menjadi jelas bagaimana iluminasi dan timur disatukan dalam bentuk filsafat ini (Nasr, 1963: I: 378).
[2] Intellectus menurut Nasr berada dia tas akal (reason) dan cepat memperoleh pengetahuan secara langsung. Intelek, dengan demikian, mempunyai konotasi kapasitas mata hati, satu-satunya elemen yang ada pada manusia, yang sanggup menatap bayang-bayang Tuhan yang diisyaratkan alam semesta (Hidayat, 1998: 268, 298).


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