Muhammad Asad is one of the most cultured Muslims scholars (or apologists, depending on one’s perspective) of the 20th century. I read his book, “The Road to Mecca” during the my freshman year and found it to be an extremely interesting narrative of his spiritual journey towards Islam.
As he admits in the book, and also the video interview that I’ll be sharing and discussing in this blog post, he embraced Islam through an Arab cultural immersion of sorts and after spending a substantial time with Muslims in Arabia and elsewhere.
What characterizes a scholar like Muhammad Asad is the sincere effort he made in understanding Islam in as much depth as possible.
In this post, as stated earlier, I will try to analyze the conception of God and role of reason in speaking about God, as discussed by Muhammad Asad in the following interview:
When Muhammad Asad was asked about his conception of God, he says the following around 2:57 into the video:
“My concept of God is that God exists and that I cannot understand Him and I cannot comprehend Him. That He is Infinite. My brain cannot operate with concept of Infinity or in time or in space. I can have no idea what God is and how is. I only know that He is. And that He is the Creator, All-Powerful and He embraces everything in His knowledge.”
My question to Muhammad Asad, which the interviewer didn’t ask is the following:
If God cannot be comprehended or understood, how can one even make the claim about God’s existence and other attributes such as being infinite in compassion, mercy, creative power, majesty, knowledge, so on and so forth?
In fact, what do words such as ‘is’ or ‘to exist’ mean when applied to God? The inability to conceptualize and clearly speak about God yet making assertions about the existence and attributes of God is extremely problematic. I do not think there may be a satisfactory solution to this problem based on the language and logic we humans rely upon.
During the second part of the video interview, as shared below, Muhammad Asad also shares his views on the relationship between reason and faith. On hand, he claims that “reason plays an enormous role” and shares an anecdote, at the start of the following video, wherein he talked to a Jesuit priest about how Islam encourages one to “use your reason and you will gain faith.”
At the same time, he says, around 3:28 in the interview that:
“Science can only judge, calculate, connect fragments which are visible or measurable and cannot give you the insight into the deepest Reality. That can only come through faith.”
Prima facie, his ideas didn’t make much sense. However, after some contemplation, I reached the conclusion that, according to Muhammad Asad, reason leads to faith and faith leads to an insight into the deepest Reality. This line of reasoning seems to suggest that faith plays an intermediary albeit an indispensable role in relating reason to the insight into Reality.
It’s really difficult to comment on this point because a lot of questions arise in the mind. For example, what is an “insight into the deepest Reality?” How is faith related to the such an insight? In fact, are there any operational definitions of the terms “reason,” “faith,” and “insight?”
Whereas Muhammad Asad’s sincerity and honesty regarding Islam is unquestionable, he appears unable to provide satisfactory answers to questions about the existence of Allah and relationship between faith and reason. The search for satisfactory answers must continue…