In our last text “And if we tried not to row against the Koran anymore? », we had established the methodological bases to be able to extract all the intellectual and spiritual possibilities offered by the Koran and thus build a « Muslim thinking subject » capable of facing the great challenges that are piling up before him. We do not read the Koran in an anarchic way but in an orderly way with intellectual asceticismthat is to say with this will to purify our mind of our philosophical and ideological prejudices as well as our foggy feelings in order to perceive with clarity the meaning of one or more verse, and to describe it as it appears to us when we emerge from these prejudices. This intellectual purification, the specialists of the question called it the “phenomenological reduction”, it constitutes an important moment of the “science of seeing” (“’Ilm al basira”).
Once we have seen the concrete application of this method of the “science of seeing”, we will try to identify all the implications or consequences. We will have to practice this methodology which is, let us remember, nothing more than a way of perceiving things directly. In a final article, devoted to this series “rereading our sources”, we will take sura al ‘Asr (time) to see all the possibilities offered by this “science of seeing”.
Now let’s try to see concretely how we can apply this method, because this is what will allow us to judge its effectiveness. We will take two thinkers who have applied it, each according to his temperament: Gaston Berger for our time, and Hakim al-Tirmidhi the mystic of 10th century.
The first will describe Value structure. When we talk about Value what are we talking about? A value is a quality that one wishes to follow so that it becomes, by dint of following it, a line of conduct. Moral values, as far as we are concerned, are a set of principles that founds us as human beings. In the Muslim perspective, it can be identified through the term القيمة (Al qïma) but also through that of الأصل (Al ‘asl); it was Ibn Hazm who affirmed that “everything in the Koran is Value or Principle”.
Gaston Berger reminds us that there are three kinds of values: the True (Al Haqq), the Good (Al Kheïr) and the Beautiful (Al Jamal/Hassan) ; he will seek to identify their common structure in order to reach “the essence of Value”. It will do the same with other realities such as time, freedom or even education. This notion of Value is essential for any Muslim and I even think that it is the drama of the believer’s life that is being played out here. Indeed, each person who practices his acts of worship knows that they can be valid with the faqih while having no value with God.. Normally, a Muslim aware of this, can never have a presumptuous attitude or be sure of his salvation.
Centuries before Berger, we have a thinker, like Hakim al Tirmidhi (d. 930?), who will use the same approach as our phenomenologists of the 20th century. In his book “Al Wujuh wa Nadha’ir” (aspects and correspondences), he will collect all the important words (today we say structuring) of the Koran and analyze their multiple meanings For find the source meaning who structures them; we will see him at work in his attempt at exegesis of the Koran.
Let’s start by understanding the method developed by G. Berger. In an article entitled “Structure and development of values”, he gives 8 fundamental characteristics of any stock ; also, for a value to be considered as such, it must have these characteristics. A reflection on the essence of Value is fundamental for us Muslims, because everything in the Koran refers to this “notion-reality” as Ibn Hazm saw very well. The Quran, too, recognizes three interdependent values: Doctrine (the True), ethics (the Good) and aesthetics (the Beautiful).
- For Gaston Berger, Value must, first of all, be an “ideal”. In other words, ” it clings to things, but is in no way a thing”. This reminds us of the most widespread expression of the Koran “wa taqou llah” – Fear God! – the ultimate ideal.
- “Value is experienced » – In effect, “there is value only for a subject and he tests value in an original act (…). Value vanishes with hardship “. Man was created only to experience things says the Koran (Khouliqa the insane fi kabad).
- “The value is recognized» – I recognize the value because “ if it offers itself to me, it is not my work; it comes from elsewhere (…). Value does not constrain me like a force, but it solicits me as it pleases and not as I want “. This reminds us of this call from the Koran: “You who believe, respond positively to God and to His Messenger, when he calls you to what gives you (re)life”.
- “To every value corresponds a certain order – In fact, each determines a certain “field”, whose structures have definite and intelligible relations between them. As a Muslim I have to give alms, help others, be ready to defend the truth and fight against injustice. Each situation corresponds to a field of action and everyone’s ability to act according to their possibilities. The Koran reformulates this characteristic by calling the believer to “fear God as much as possible”. Thus, the moral value that is charity is a principle that applies to everyone but which applies differently depending on whether one is rich or modest.
- “All value is a perspective on the Absolute – This translates a fact of experience: in any experience of value, it “invades” us, “inundates” us (…). And this experience is an end which is self-sufficient and not the means of other things… Opening onto the Absolute, the value is nevertheless far from being absolute. “. Value comes from the Absolute (“You may like something when it is bad for you and you may hate something when it is good for you; God Knows and you, you don’t know” recalls the Koran); but above all the fact that I embody a value does not make me an absolute being because “each value is only one of the possible points of view on things”.
- “All values are bipolar. – It is easy to understand that the values “offer themselves in the form of opposing couples: good-bad, true-false, beautiful-ugly…”. The Quran states that “everything was created by couple”.
- “ Value causes momentum – It lifts us up, takes us away. Indifference only appears where value is not experienced. It remains that men, who differ in their sensitivity to various values, also differ in the intensity with which they lean towards the values they recognize. There are “generous” and “lukewarm” “. The Koran confirms this, in particular, when it lectures those who do not rush towards the path of goodness: “what is it to you not to rush towards the path of God and to weigh yourself down towards the earth”?
- “The impetus towards value is oriented – Of the two poles, one is positive (good) and attracts us, the other negative and repels us (evil)…“. And yet, “it seems that it is possible for man to refuse value, not out of attraction for the negative term but out of revolt against the call – let us say the word, out of pride. If man is free, it is here without doubt and perhaps he will be… It is between value and power that is the decisive option offered to our freedom”. The Koranic Adam was the perfect illustration of this.
As for the method of Hakim al Tirmidhi, it seems surprisingly modern when compared with that of Gaston Berger. The method of our master is simple and specifies it thus, reports Paul Nwiya who worked on the exegesis of Tirmidhi: ” a word can have different vocables (alfaz) which give it the various “aspects” (wujuh) that it has in the Koran; however, it is possible to bring these various terms back to the original unity expressed by a single word. “. Like Gaston Berger, he will undertake a “ reduction philosophical to find the basic meaning. Tirmidhi’s intention is therefore clear, Nwiya tells us, “he will try to reduce the plurality of wuguh…, to the unity of a first kalima, of a root word whose meaning synthesize all the other meanings and explains their derivation “. As an ascetic, Tirmidhi will purify the meaning of the word by a reduction that can be described as phenomenological, to reach its true meaning enveloped by a plurality of aspects.
Let us take the example of the word Hudä: there would be eighteen wujuh or different meanings in the Koran (bayan-explanation, Islam-submission, du’a-call, ma’rifa-knowledge, Koran, Prophet, etc.), Hakim al Tirmidhi therefore listed them all to then find the underlying source word. This is what our sheikh explains about his methodological approach: “all the elements that have been declared as so many wujuh or different meanings of the term hudä, are reduced, as we see, to a single root word, to a primary meaning: the mayl, the inclination of the heart towards God by that light which lit up the chest and which dilated it”. For Tirmidhi, hudä means mayl (inclination) and reminds us that to say of someone “yatahada” in his gait means that he is waddling. Moreover, the Koran clearly identifies the source word in the verse “inna hudna ilayka” (“we bowed down to You”).
But then, in the age of Tik Tok, compulsive consumerism and reality that goes beyond fiction, how can the approach of a Hakim al Tirmidhi be of use to me, to me, a poor Muslim from France who manages to struggling to make ends meet (spiritually and intellectually)? The “science of seeing” allows us to return to an invigorating understanding of the Koran, by stripping itself of its naive thoughts, its philosophical and religious prejudices to reach the very things. It will invite the reader of the Koran to abandon the naive readings that history has accumulated.
The episode of Adam, for example, and in particular that of his “fall”, is the revelation that “the decisive option offered to our freedom” is that of the choice between Value (morality) and power (proud). It is the revelation of the destiny of men throughout their lives; the latter must do their duty and refuse to revolt against the call out of pride and in the case of Adam, out of a will to power (“Adam, shall I guide you to the tree of eternity and an indestructible kingdom » Koran 20, 120 – this promise strangely resembles that of the transhumanists). All the naive exegeses to know what was the tree, or the fruit, or to know if the enemy appeared or not in the form of a serpent, obstruct the multiple potentialities in terms of messages offered by the Quran, especiallythe one who exhorts us to cling to our human duties and to fight against our pride or our will to power which, it should be remembered, has destroyed since the 17th century of cultures and erased entire peoples.
Stock market values have replaced moral values and it is still surprising to note that a majority of contemporary Muslim elites are quite comfortable with them, without having any desire to offer humanity a more equitable and just world; this famous spiritual democracy which Iqbal had dreamed of, Muslim societies are slow to make it happen because of this devouring lure of gain and are content with a mimetic cult, because it is easier to quibble about the rules of prayer or ablutions than to propose a spiritual horizon for Man. Heaven ignores us for this and abandons us to our laziness, our greed, our dead ends and our cowardice: “Lord, why do You gather me blind when I had sight? – He (God) will say: Our sign has come to you, you have forgotten it. Likewise on this Day are you the forgotten” (C.20, 125-126).