The Aim of Scholastic Theology and Its Results

Commencing with theological science, I carefully studied and meditated upon it. I read the writings of the authorities in this department and myself composed several treatises. I recognized that this science, while sufficing its own requirements, could not assist me in arriving at the desired goal. In short, its object is to preserve the purity of orthodox beliefs from all heretical innovation. God, by means of his apostle, has revealed to his creatures a belief which is true as regards their temporal and eternal interests; the chief articles of it are laid down in the Qur'an and in the traditions. Subsequently, Satan suggested to innovators principles contrary to those of orthodoxy; they listened greedily to his suggestions, and the purity of the faith was menaced. God then raised up a school of theologians and inspired them with the desire to defend orthodoxy by means of a system of proofs adapted to unveil the devices of the heretics and to foil the attacks which they made on the doctrines established by tradition.

Such is the origin of scholastic theology. Many of its adepts, worthy of their high calling, valiantly defended the orthodox faith by proving the reality of prophecy and the falsity of heretical innovations. But, in order to do so, they had to rely upon a certain number of premises, which they accepted in common with their adversaries, and which authority and universal consent or simply the Qur'an and the traditions obliged them to accept. Their principal effort was to expose the self-contradictions of their opponents and to confute them by means of the premises which they had professed to accept. Now a method of argumentation like this has little value for one who only admits self-evident truths. Scholastic theology could not consequently satisfy me nor heal the malady from which I suffered.

It is true that in its later development theology was not content to defend dogma; it betook itself to the study of first principles, of substances, accidents and the laws which govern them; but through want of a thoroughly scientific basis, it could not advance far in its researches, nor succeed in dispelling entirely the over-hanging obscurity which springs from diversities of belief.

I do not, however, deny that it has had a more satisfactory result for others; on the contrary, I admit that it has; but it is by introducing the principle of authority in matters which are not self-evident. Moreover, my object is to explain my own mental attitude and not to dispute with those who have found healing for themselves. Remedies vary according to the nature of the disease; those which benefit some may injure others.

Philosophy. ---How far it is open to censure or not--- On what points its adherents may be considered believers or unbelievers, orthodox or heretical---What they have borrowed from the true doctrine to render their chimerical theories acceptable---Why the minds of men swerve from the truth---What criteria are available wherewith to separate the pure gold from the alloy in their systems.

I proceeded from the study of scholastic theology to that of philosophy. It was plain to me that, in order to discover where the professors of any branch of knowledge have erred, one must make a profound study of that science; must equal, nay surpass, those who know most of it, so as to penetrate into secrets of it unknown to them. Only by this method can they be completely answered, and of this method I can find no trace in the theologians of Islam. In theological writings devoted to the refutation of philosophy I have only found a tangled mass of phrases full of contradictions and mistakes, and incapable of deceiving, I will not say a critical mind, but even the common crowd. Convinced that to dream of refuting a doctrine before having thoroughly comprehended it was like shooting at an object in the dark, I devoted myself zealously to the study of philosophy; but in books only and without the aid of a teacher. I gave up to this work all the leisure remaining from teaching and from composing works on law. There were then attending my lectures three hundred of the students of Baghdad. With the help of God, these studies, carried on in secret, so to speak, put me in a condition to thoroughly comprehend philosophical systems within a space of two years. I then spent about a year in meditating on these systems after having thoroughly understood them. I turned them over and over in my mind 'till they were thoroughly clear of all obscurity. In this manner I acquired a complete knowledge of all their subterfuges and subtleties, of what was truth and what was illusion in them.

I now proceed to give a résumé of these doctrines. I ascertained that they were divided into different varieties, and that their adherents might be ranged under diverse heads. All, in spite of their diversity, are marked with the stamp of infidelity and irreligion, although there is a considerable difference between the ancient and modern, between the first and last of these philosophers, according as they have missed or approximated to the truth in a greater or less degree.