Papers to be presented at the 2008 Conference:
(Click here to read the original call for papers)
“Islamic Thought and Modern Science: Conceptualizing the Debate”[abstract]
C. Donald Smedley, the Rivendell Institute, Yale University
“Islam and Philosophy of Science: Empiricism vs. Antirealism” [abstract]
Daniel Jou, Harvard University
“Muhammad Iqbal and the Islamic Critique of Modern Science” [abstract]
Chad Hiller, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto
“When Worldviews Collide: The Points of Departure for Islamic Thought and Scientific Thought” [abstract]
John Herlihy, the Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi; Abdullah Al-Shami, the Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi
“The Unity of ‘Truth’ in Islam: A Philosophical Sketch to the Islamic Theory of Science” [abstract]
Mashhad Al-Alaf, University of Toledo, Ohio
“Ethical and Cultural Aspects of Severe Neurological Impairments: A Primer on Islamic Bioethics” [abstract]
Faisal Qazi, San Antonio Community Hospital; David Adams, California State Polytechnic University
“Islam, Psychology, and Muslim Mental Health ” [abstract]
Hamada Hamid, New York University
“Neuroscience, Free Will and the Problems with Science” [abstract]
Macksood Aftab, Harvard University
“Reconciling the Study of Islam and Modern Psychology” [abstract]
Alan Godlas, University of Georgia
“Le plus ça change…: The New Old Debate Between Science and Hadith” [abstract]
Jonathan Brown, University of Washington
“Rumi’s Ladder: Contemporary Consciousness Studies in Light of the Sufi Model” [abstract]
James VanPelt, Yale Divinity School
“Spiritual Healing, Sufism and America: A Case Study” [abstract]
Elliott Bazzano, University of California, Santa Barbara
Title: Islamic Thought and Modern Science: Conceptualizing the Debate
Abstract: In Islam, the coexistence of science and religious thought has a vigorous and sustained tradition, strongly influential on the science which arose in Christian medieval and Renaissance Europe. If some, such as Salabi, are correct, even Copernicus knew of and drew upon the work of the Islamic scientific tradition. During this time the rise of kalām and falsafa resulted in the growth of scientific knowledge within Islam, generating controversy, which still exists today, concerning the proper role of reason within Islam. Within these disputations what was not at issue, however, was the existence of God or the possibility of divine revelation. Even with conflicting positions (e.g., Ibn Sīnā, al-Ghazālī and Ibn Rushd) between theology and philosophy, I take as a given, before the rise of modern science from the 16th century onwards, the viability and compatibility of science within Islam. While the grounds for and limits of scientific knowledge may have been disputed and understood in a variety of ways within various Islamic traditions (e.g., Ismā‘īlī Shī‘a or Sunnī), the fact of compatibility and contribution is unassailable.
In this paper I will argue that modern science as understood today is not only incompatible with Islam, but in most of its expressions, is antithetical to it. Modern science is considered the paradigm case of rationality, knowledge and truth. To paraphrase philosopher, Wilfred Sellars, “In describing and explaining the world, science is the measure of all things, of what is and what is not.” Prima facie, if only science has this privileged status of the world, and the privileged access to it, then no little or no room exists for other forms of knowledge, such as revelation found in the Qur’ān, or of any non-empirical access to it. Modern science has built its paradigm on scientific naturalism – minimally the view that theism is false and the spatio-temporal universe of entities as studied by the physical sciences is all there is. More robustly, scientific naturalism includes, i) a naturalist epistemic attitude on the nature and limits of knowledge, including the rejection of a “first-philosophy,” ii) an etiological account of how all entities have come to be in terms of a grand causal story described in natural scientific terms, and iii) a general ontology in which the only entities allowed are those that bear a relevant similarity to those which characterize a completed form of physics. While Islam (as well as Christianity, my faith tradition) can coexist with the great wealth of contemporary scientific discovery and technology, I argue (as does Nasr on a similar line) that it can not do so at the level which concerns the nature of and metaphysical and epistemological foundations of (or lack thereof) the modern scientific enterprise. [return to list of papers]
Title: Islam and Philosophy of Science: Empiricism vs. Antirealism
Abstract: Throughout much of Muslim history, particularly in the modern period, there has been a vast and complex discourse on the relationship between empirical observation and revelation. In the modern period, this discussion has developed urgency due to the pressures on Islam and Muslims to adapt and conform to so-called modern “realities.” The prevailing intellectual paradigm within which Muslims have found themselves is a predominantly materialist, naturalistic one, where reality and truth are determined by empirical investigation and inductive analysis. This is the scientific method. As it turns out, the Qur’an and the Islamic ethos, in general, are not at their face in consonance with this intellectual paradigm. The unseen and, hence, unempirical are very much determinants and constituents of truth in the Islamic worldview. Thus, there is an apparent conflict here that many Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals throughout history have tried to resolve. Often these reconciliation attempts aim at allegorizing what has been traditionally understood of the revealed texts in order to assimilate those texts into a broader empirical understanding of the world. According to this hermeneutic of assimilation, the revelatory descriptions of formally or practically unseen entities, such as jinn, angels, the Night Journey and Ascension, the creation of Adam (peace upon him), and prophetic miracles are, to varying degree, considered metaphors as opposed to plain descriptions of reality.
This paper will argue that taking what are considered scientific truths at any point in history as a standard by which to evaluate and interpret revelation is a problematic approach for several methodological reasons. There are certain reasons that are to be found in revelation itself that have been discussed by Islamic scholars of the past. But this paper will focus on reasons that are motivated by current and historical debates in the Western study of the philosophy of science. In particular, this paper will consider antirealist conceptions of the scientific endeavor and the success of science. Antirealism is the general view in the philosophy of science that theoretical entities scientists posit have no necessary connection to reality. Antirealism is motivated by several philosophical and historical concerns, the most salient being the many paradigm-shifts that occur within the development of scientific thought. How are we to understand the drastic changes that occur in the scientific conception of the external world and how does that understanding influence our relationship with revelation? This is the central question around which my paper will revolve. [return to list of papers]
Title: Muhammad Iqbal and the Islamic Critique of Modern Science
Abstract: The Indian Muslim poet and philosopher Mohammad Iqbal, known as the spiritual father of Pakistan, was arguably the first modern Muslim thinker of international repute. His philosophical magnum opus, The Reconstruction of Religion Thought in Islam was an effort to reconcile the Islamic tradition with modern western knowledge. In this work, Iqbal argues that this union is not ill-fitting because European knowledge is merely the natural outworking of its Islamic inheritance. In fact, many of the ideas touted in western thought today can be either directed connected or paralleled in Islamic intellectual history. Iqbal argues, however, that western knowledge has moved in ways that has stifled its understanding of the dynamic and spiritual essence of creation, notably by the increasing separation of religion and civil society. This is no more evident that in science, where the dominant philosophy of mechanicalistic naturalism has robbed the soul of western thought by dividing one element of human experience – the senses – and making them the absolute authority for knowledge.
Iqbal admits that science produces genuine knowledge, but asserts that “we must not forget what we call science is not a single systematic view of Reality. It is a mass of sectional views of Reality – fragments of a total experience which do not seem to fit together.” So while science has something to say about matter, life and mind, it cannot address how each of these relates to the others. Science is simply too variegated to provide a holistic view of Reality. This makes science an artificial endeavor, as it is selective in the parts of Reality and human experience it examines. He states, “Natural Science is by nature sectional; it cannot, if it is true to its own nature and function, set up its theory as a complete view of Reality.” As such, the organization of knowledge science offers is selective also. This means, Iqbal affirms, that religion has no need to be concerned about science. Since religion deals with the whole of Reality, it must occupy a central place in the synthesis of all “data of human experience” and should welcome the sectional data from science.
This paper, based on the first part of my dissertation, will show and critique three things. First, building upon the criticism of Berkeley and others, I will show how Iqbal criticizes modern science as being philosophically problematic and inconsistent. This includes his criticism of the modern notions of matter, space, time, biological life and psychology. Second, this paper will show how Iqbal utilizes non-mechanicalistic scientific theories, like Idealistic metaphysics, Emergent Evolutionary theory and Configuration Psychology to construct a particular view of Reality that he argues is more consistent with the Quranic worldview. Third, I will show how Iqbal reinterprets particular Quranic texts in order to marrying them to his metaphysical understanding. . [return to list of papers]
Title: When Worldviews Collide: The Points of Departure for Islamic Thought and Scientific Thought
Abstract: One way to revitalize the dialogue between science and religion is to revisit the first principles upon which these two worldviews are based. When we trace their effectiveness back to their source, we find that worldviews build the foundation of their edifices “in the beginning”. The many rooms of the edifice are merely elaborations in the form of evidence and proofs upon what they propose to be ultimate truths. A better alignment of science and religion in terms of their points of departure could lead to a better under-standing, if not a more seamless interaction, of where these two colossi are coming from and what they hope to achieve.
This paper will examine in detail the sources of knowledge of the scientific and religious worldviews in an attempt to outline a pragmatic answer to the question: How do we know what we know? Within the scien-tific framework, we rely on the faculty of human reason to work our way through the labyrinth of evidence and facts that lie in wait of discovery in our pursuit of an understanding of the true nature of reality. Sec-ondly, we will examine the scientific method that utilizes the five senses in making observations and ex-perimentations in the pursuit of theories and suppositions. Within the Islamic religious framework, the three main sources of knowledge are understood to be Revelation, Nature, and Humanity as a prototype human being. Each worldview has well-specified points of departure that define and shape the entire na-ture of its inquiry.
We hope to examine certain misconceptions within each of these worldviews that hamper mutual under-standing, misconceptions that will continue to divide and separate the adherents of these two worldviews so long as no attempt is made to articulate the true nature of the conflict and communicate reasonable points of interaction and compromise. The main areas under discussion are the reliance on faith within both perspectives; questions concerning the true meaning of objectivity; a fresh look at the concept of closed and open systems of thought; the perennially unresolved question of origins; and the importance of maintaining levels of comprehensibility accessible to everyone.
Contrary to appearances, we do not believe that the proponents of a strictly modern science have the destruction of the religious perspective as a primary motive fueling its quest. We hope to clarify that both worldviews have the same objective at hand; they simply go about its pursuit from different starting-points. Both worldviews seek to identify the true nature of reality and hope to instill within its supporters feelings of certitude within a worldview that not only makes sense, but has value and meaning. Identifying this perennial conflict at its source may narrow the distance between these two great worldviews. In com-ing to terms with their differences, they could give birth to a new world order, reminiscent of the harmony that once existed within the Islamic framework between traditional knowledge and what was called the sciencia sacra. [return to list of papers]
Title: The Unity of ‘Truth’ in Islam: A Philosophical Sketch to the Islamic Theory of Science
Abstract: Contrary to the modern discourse on truth, Islam offers a holistic conception of truth that stands as the very foundation of what I call the Islamic Theory of Science. The first foundational principle in this theory is The Unity of Truth. This principle presupposes a logical axiomatic premise: it is impossible for the truths from different fields of knowledge to be contradictory. This is only possible in a dynamic holistic Qur’anic universe; in which all parts are well designed to serve specific goals. If there is any apparent contradiction, then it is the task of scientists and scholars of these fields to unveil the hidden secrets of such an apparent contradiction. Scientists must use a reliable method to search for the truth in order to explain such an apparent contradiction. Most essential of this method, is the criterion of objectivity. The Qur’an offers the concept of justice or ‘Adl as a necessary methodology to reach the truth in various fields such as: the natural, mathematical, social, and religious sciences. The concept of scale or Mizan (as connected to the concept of ‘Adl), becomes a necessary means to objectively measure the ‘Adl in seeking the truth. Since the ontological conception of reality in Islam has a special hierarchy, then the types of scales are different from one another. Hence, the scale or the criterion of measurement that is used in the realm of observable reality (‘Alam al-Shahada) is different among each of the following areas: the natural sciences, mathematical sciences, and lastly metaphysics. Qur’an itself stands as a distinct criterion (al-Furqan) for many things, especially those in the realm of reality beyond the human capabilities; which is also called ‘Alam al-Ghaib in the Arabic language.
In Islam, ‘Adl as a general category is distinguished from ‘Adl as a particular means that is applied in a specific field of knowledge. Most importantly both ‘Adle and Mizan are necessary in the religious and the non-religious sciences. Truth in Islam is not a mere reference to the reality of a statement or a proposition, but to the very reality that goes beyond language and outside the mind. This reality is coherent with what is called Shar’i reality, as we will discuss further in the paper.
Since seeking the truth is aimed at reaching certainty, then the collected data and truths must be examined carefully. Muslim scientists were able to achieve this examination by applying a method called the scientific doubt (for example, for two scientific hypotheses; either both are false or one of them is false while the other is true, or both of them are true, the question that arises here is how could they both be true at the same time?). On the other hand, some Muslim philosophers used doubt as a methodological apparatus as a precaution of searching for the truth and reaching certainty. This methodological doubt was applied by relying upon certain, clear, and self-evident ideas; starting from sense-data, moving to reason, then to revelation.
In Islam, the truth that comes from science (which is acquired by experience and logical reasoning, 'aql) can be successfully incorporated with the knowledge that comes from religion and revelation (naql). Thus, reason and revelation do not contradict each other. This will be discussed further in the paper. [return to list of papers]
Title: Ethical and Cultural Aspects of Severe Neurological Impairments: A Primer on Islamic Bioethics
Abstract: Central to the development of clinical ethics in the U.S.A. have been several landmark cases dealing with severely neurologically impaired patients—most recently, that of Terri Schiavo. While these cases have established the salience of certain distinctions—e.g., withdrawing care vs. active euthanasia—one area of questions continues to perplex families and frustrate physicians: How to understand and assess the ethical relevance of diagnoses ranging from Minimally Conscious state (MCS), to Persistent Vegetative state (PVS), to brain death. How, for example, should health care professionals help families and surrogates to assess prospectively the quality of life of patients in PVS or MCS? How can lay persons be assisted to understand the concept of brain death?
Complicating these challenges are differing religious and cultural attitudes toward brain death, PVS, and MCS. In this paper we focus particularly upon the emerging field of Islamic bioethics, and highlight ethical perspectives on severe neurological impairments that, while they may be consistent with views from various other religions, differ markedly from widely held legal opinion in the U.S.A. While brain death is now a widely accepted criterion of death, it may not be uniformly applied in the Muslim world because a person whose body is still capable of absorbing nutrition and medication may thereby be thought to possess important indicators of life. The growth of nails and hair are regarded as further such indicators, as is the continued growth of a fetus in the uterus of a brain dead woman. Discussion of quality of life for comatose Muslim patients in a PVS may be complex, given the belief that maintenance artificial supportive interventions are considered by some Muslims to be a right [return to list of papers]
Title: Islam, Psychology, and Muslim Mental Health
Abstract: The intersection of scientific inquiry and religious thought is particularly relevant in the fields of psychology and the behavioral sciences, especially as they relate to mental health. Both religion and psychology attempt to address fundamental human drives, the nature of human character, the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, and the emotional health of communities. During the premodern period, Muslim scholars often drew from both the Islamic as well as ancient philosophical traditions when examining the nature of the self and how to regulate human behavior. As the modern discipline of psychology developed, religiosity and spirituality became an object of study, and at times were pathologized. Through a systematic review of the biomedical, psychological and social sciences literature, this paper examines the intersection of Islam and mental health and traces the trends in the literature over the last six decades. We are particularly interested on how the discourse on Islam and mental health can be shifted to draw on the Islamic tradition to address Muslims’ emotional distress. We will also draw on the experience of editors from the Journal of Muslim Mental Health to address the many challenges of developing a body of literature that is sensitive to the cultural and spiritual needs of the Muslim community, while maintaining a high academic standard. [return to list of papers]
Title: Neuroscience, Free Will and the Problems with Science
Abstract: Several philosophers and neuroscientists are utilizing modern neuroscience as a method to debase free will. They argue the entire mechanism of decision making and emotions is explainable by studying the brain and therefore free will is just an illusion. This undermines the most basic premises of Islam, that of nafs and its ability to engage in willful action. It also undermines a key feature of the West’s own success, namely humanism.
The tremendous success of science and technology in the recent past has resulted in the popular false perception that not only is modern science a pathway to truth, it is the only such path. Several Islamic thinkers including Naquib Al-Attas and Hossein Nasr point out the flaws in such an assumption. Science itself makes no such claim, it is merely a tool that attempts to model the Universe. Furthermore, the entire outlook of science changes over time via paradigm shifts as new theories emerge. The emergence of these idea are not completely objective; social, political and religious factors play a key role. Therefore critical analysis is required prior to accepting western scientific methodologies and conclusions as truth.
In the case of free will, neuroscience is at a loss, as it can only explain its mechanism not its metaphysical value. This idea of using reason and science to undermine the self and free will is not new neither to modern science nor to Islam. Islamic philosophy has struggled with neoplatonic ideas of causation and its implications for free will. Islamic theology also overcame strictly rationalistic outlooks early in its history. These ideas will be examined by using key historical figures such as Ibn Rushd and Al-Ghazzali. The ideas of Islamic thinkers such as Rumi and Iqbal, may help reconcile the utility of scientific investigation while preserving the importance of the individual and free will. [return to list of papers]
Title: Reconciling the Study of Islam and Modern Psychology: a method drawing on insights from hermeneutics, the psychologies of Terror Management Theory and Emotional Intelligence, and Sufi Psychology
Abstract: A scientific method of studying and teaching religions that does not distort them can be grounded in research in psychology in what is called “Terror Management Theory.” Such research shows that stereotypically distorted and constructed understandings of “others” are evoked in people confronted with religio-cultural viewpoints conflicting with their own (Pyszczynski, Solomon, & Greenberg, J. 2002.) Based to some degree on such research, I argue that a method that also increases self-understanding is necessary --in the context of long-term research or study of the “other” in general and of Islam in particular. Without an increase in self-understanding, researchers and students will retreat behind some degree of stereotypical distorted constructs. In this argument I am also guided by the Gadamerian hermeneutical circle (specifically by the need for increasing self-consciousness on the part of the observer/interpreter).
Since the obstacles to understanding are both cognitive and affective, the method that I have developed for understanding self and other has one aspect that focuses on understanding and another that focuses on emotions. (I am currently developing a social-scientific measure of the method’s effectiveness.) The cognitive dimension is based on cultivating three modes of understanding: 1) historical-contextual; 2) coherence-based; 3) hermeneutical. Historical-contextual understanding consists of seeing how an event or idea makes sense given its context. Coherence-based understanding involves seeing how someone’s particular belief fits together or coheres with other major beliefs of that person’s worldview, by examining beliefs in the following analytical areas: epistemology, ontology (including theology, cosmology, and eschatology), philosophical anthropology, psychology, teleology, and methodology. (In this paper examples of Islamic beliefs will be used to illustrate this form of analysis.) Hermeneutical understanding involves gaining an understanding of both oneself and the other through the first two methods.
The affective component of this method is based on the concept of “emotional intelligence” (EI) (Salovey & Mayer (1990). “Since retreating behind distorting stereotypes is rooted in a deep-seated need to avoid the fear (and related emotions) that arise in the encounter with the “other,” this is indicative of a relatively low level of EI. Hence the affective dimension of my method utilizes techniques of enhancing EI that have recently been shown to be effective in academic settings and the business world (Goleman, 1996; Bar-On et al, 2007).
Throughout this paper, comparisons will be made with Sufi psychology, building upon the Sufi concept of al-shirk al-khafi (subtle worship of other than God) as devotion to mediating and distorting constructs. (For this I will largely draw on the Sufi tafsirs of Sulami, Qushayri, and Baqli and on the work of Abu Talib al-Makki.) Specifically, just as the scientist should strive to improve objectivity by diminishing the distorting effect of stereotypical constructs upon his/her theories and observations, the Islamic method (in the view of Sufis) can be conceived of as both a cognitive and affective method that can enable Muslims in general and especially Sufis to recognize and surrender various forms of “al-shirk al-khafi” in their quest for ever-increasing closeness to Truth (al-Haqq) or God. [return to list of papers]
Title: Le plus ça change…: The New Old Debate Between Science and Hadith
Abstract: In the early twentieth century, Muhammad Sidqī (d. 1920), an Egyptian doctor and sometime contributor to the Islamic Modernist journal al-Manār, argued that the ‘Hadith of the Fly’, which instructed someone in whose drink a fly had landed to submerge the fly completely and then drink, blatantly contradicted modern medicine and could not have been said by the Prophet. His mentor Rashīd Ridā (d. 1935) similarly argued that another hadith that described how, after setting, the sun passed beneath the earth and eventually prostrated before God’s throne, had been unquestionably proven false by modern astronomy. Both these hadiths had long been considered sahīh, the authenticated words of the Prophet, by the greatest Muslim hadith critics.
Sidqī and Ridā were not arguing that these classical hadith critics had been dishonest or incompetent – they simply had not had access to the knowledge yielded by modern science. Furthermore, classical hadith critics such as al-Bukhārī and Muslim had not concerned themselves with examining the meaning of hadiths when evaluating their authenticity. They had restricted themselves to an analysis of the hadiths’ chains of transmission. Modern Muslims, Ridā, Sidqī and others have argued, must reexamine the contents of the classical hadith corpus using the knowledge yielded by modern science to sift out forgeries that classical critics had missed.
This paper aims at exposing the classical antecedents for this modern debate. In reality, the very hadiths that have ruffled modern scientific and medical sensibilities also raised eyebrows amongst Muslims in the eighth and ninth centuries. In that period, arguments over whether or not the Prophet could have said the Hadith of the Fly and the Hadith of the Sun Prostrating raged as part of the struggle between Muslim rationalists and early Sunni scholars. Moreover, far from passing over the contents of hadiths in their assessment of their authenticity, critics such as al-Bukhārī and Muslim had demonstrated their own medical and scientific sensibilities in rejecting hadiths whose meaning they found unacceptable.
This paper will explore the continuities between the classical and modern debates over the clash between hadiths and scientific ‘truths.’ It will also try to explain how such continuity could exist in the light of the tremendous developments that science and medicine underwent between the ninth and twentieth centuries. . [return to list of papers]
Title: Rumi’s Ladder: Contemporary Consciousness Studies in Light of the Sufi Model
Abstract: In recent years the disciplines now grouped together as the cognitive sciences—psychology, psychiatry, neurology, philosophy of mind—have combined with physics, sociology, and even theology to focus as never before on comprehending the nature of consciousness; a challenge one Sufi master compared to “eating your own head”.
Swayed by the strong bias in Western science toward physicalist monism, the rising field of consciousness studies has largely rejected the available Western models of consciousness, based as they are on various expressions of dualism. Yet after several decades, alternative models such as behaviorism and accounts relying on neurology and emergent properties, regardless of their rich detail and convincing evidence, remain inadequate and reductionistic in their attempts to explain the experiential core of consciousness—its range, depth, and intangible essence. It remains what those in the field ironically term “The Hard Problem”.
Consequently the field has turned in two directions for a foundation of a new model: toward the roots of being as expressed in the mathematics of quantum mechanics, and oppositely toward traditional Eastern models—especially as found in Vedantic, Buddhist, and Islamic traditions. Perhaps ironically, Islamic culture is near the source of both, having gifted with world with the tools of modern mathematics—long before Al Jazeera and Al-Qaeda came Al-Gebra—and having provided the conceptual link between Christian and Eastern views of the source of consciousness—located by Jesus “in your very midst” (Luke 17:21) and by Muhammad (pbuh) “closer to you than the veins in your neck.”
Unquestionably the richest model of consciousness among the Abrahamic traditions, even to the present day, is the gift of the Islamic mystical tradition of Sufism. Its underlying structures having predated Islam itself (as is the claim), the Sufi model has been exquisitely elaborated by Islamic inspiration and scholarship in the quest of a complete representation of consciousness as it emerges from and returns to its divine source until its detail and magnificence rivals that of the Alhambra itself.
One influence perhaps drawing the Western intellect in this latter direction is the Sufi perspective as found in the poetry of the thirteenth-century Sufi master Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, whose work has become, over the past three decades, the most-read poetry in the English language. His essential truth as it relates to consciousness is that a model faithful to the actual experience of being consciousness, in its full range and depth, vastly transcends the bounds of the physical domain. Neither entirely idealistic nor materialistic, the Sufi model as found in Rūmī presents at its core a continuum connecting the physical-phenomenal surface of things to the transcendent source of all being, “closer than the veins in your neck”, the verification of which can be achieved through one’s direct apprehension of the continuum of one’s own most intimate consciousness—lured ever deeper by a craving for truth most comparable to the craving of the lover for the divine Beloved.
Following this introduction, this presentation summarizes the current state of consciousness studies and the intractable problems now confronting that field. Next, Rūmī’s model of the continuum of consciousness is outlined, supported by quotations from his work, and compared to contemporary Islamic thought on consciousness. The implications of this model in reference to the problems faced by consciousness studies are intimated, followed by a consideration of the larger implications that exceed the current scope of that field. The presentation ends by referring to the essential idea of contemporary Islamic science—that the truth is one, and thus if both the Quran and science are true, they must in some way be fully commensurate. Although a simplistic interpretation of that idea can lead to a rejection in the name of Islam of scientific findings considered canonical by science elsewhere, a deeper understanding can point the way toward a reconciliation of science and religion—really a re-integration—currently beyond the scope of Western conceptuality. [return to list of papers]
Title: Spiritual Healing, Sufism and America: A Case Study
Abstract: The following proposal is part of a larger project, which explores the Shadhdhuliyya Sufi order’s role in the United States—specifically the intersection between traditional Sufi/Islamic practices and syncretism, with attention to how this relationship informs expressions of Islam in a twenty first century American context and creates a liminal identity in the process.
In line with this year’s conference theme I will explore the curriculum and institutional structure of a spiritual healing school in the United States. The University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism (USHS), formerly The Jaffe Institute of Spiritual and Medical Healing, began some twelve years ago under the direction of a medical doctor, Robert Jaffe (and is now directed by him and another MD, John Laird). Jaffe always considered himself clairvoyant and capable of producing “spiritual” and physical transformations in his clients and used this skill while also practicing what he learned at the University of Chicago’s medical school, where he earned his degree. Jaffe practiced his spiritual healing modalities for many years before opening the school, but shortly after opening the school he met a Sufi shaykh (of the Shadhdhuliyya order), Muhammad al-Jamal, who forever changed his approach to healing and spirituality.
After recovering from heart disease (which Jaffe attributes in part to the shaykh) and taking formal initiation with the shaykh, Jaffe began to implement Sufi practices and philosophies into the curriculum of his school. Students at the school today are taught to recite Qur’anic suras, traditional healing prayers (in Arabic) and practice Salat, in addition to the type of therapy one might expect to find from a typical psychologist/therapist in the United States (such as helping clients talk about their feelings, providing a safe environment for them to do so and emphasizing personal responsibility).
Given the theme of the conference I should also note a number of the school’s affiliates are doctors—either MDs or psychologists and even JDs. Moreover, a number of CAM practitioners (e.g. acupuncturists, massage therapists and herbalists) are also involved with the school. I would like to interview doctors and CAM practitioners who are affiliated with the school, in addition to exploring textual, theoretical sources, and I am already in contact with a number of the school’s graduates, teachers and current students. I am interested in how they see the intersection of empirical science and “western” medicine vis a vis the types of practices they encounter at USHS. Do they consider the practices at the school to have scientific undertones? Or do they see spiritual healing in another realm altogether? By what justifications?
The directors of the school have participated in AIDS research to see if their methods can be scientifically verified and have been involved with other scientific studies. Shaykh al-Jamal, moreover, has written three books on spiritual healing that incorporate herbal and natural remedies. Through this paper, I hope to convey how spiritual healing relates to the scientific method in the eyes of USHS affiliates (specifically doctors) and what this relationship means to them. [return to list of papers]