If Pope’s evidence (the famous 14th century dialogue) to beef up his argument against Islam being a violent religion was fragile, flimsier was this allusion that Islamic teachings defy all the inherent reason in the universe. In fact, his remarks were pathetically blatant lacking sufficient concern for historical reality and an in-depth knowledge of Muslim philosophy. After reading the text of Ratzinger’s speech quite a few times, I am still perplexed regarding the line of his reasoning; namely that faith in an absolutely transcendent God whose acts and will cannot be grasped completely by human reason can possibly lead one to conceive His images which are capricious and may be against all truth and goodness. The argument becomes further ironic as Pope strangely chooses to abduce views of a multifarious Muslim writer who can equally be classified as a quasi-liberal writer/poet, a literal jurist, a controversial philosopher, an innovative grammarian or above all a compassionate ethicist.
Even scanty readings of Ibn Hazm would fail to portray him primarily as an absolute fatalist which Joseph Ratzinger was able to do inadvertently for his Christian audience with such an ease. The intuitive reason which Ratzinger calls creative and self communicating when combined with sound human perception and understanding of language is the first and foremost source of all human knowledge according to Ibn Hazm. It was one of his earliest projects to advocate a sound system of logic so that the revealed word of God can be defended without taking refuge in circular arguments. Times right before his were famous for determining value of logic as a means for attaining absolute truth. There were debates, for instance between Christian logician Abu Bishr Matta bin Yunus and the Muslim philologist Abu Said al Sirafi in early tenth century, resolving controversies whether logic is a form of universal expression or not. Ibn Hazm wrote extensively against the holders of extreme view of man tamantaqa tazandaqa (whoever practices logic practices heresy). In reposnse to his opponents, who objected with the counter-argument that early generations of Muslims did not resort to demonstrative argumentation and proofs rooted firmly in logic, he replied that they witnessed the revelation directly and were not exposed to contrastive beliefs.
An alternate undertaking in parallel was to refute the philosophers and theologians who elevated logic to a station where it can be used independantly as a means for attaining truth thereby superceding and replacing revelation. Many consider him as a pioneer in methodological rejection of hellenistic metaphysics of that time which was voiced by many Muslim philosophers with slight shifts in semantics. Here, the Pope is partially right as Ibn Hazm advocates an unbridgeable gap between the Creator and creation. However the underlying aim in Ibn Hazm’s discourse is not to establish that human beings are not responsible for their own actions by being submitted to Divine Will but to define a supreme station for God where there is no room left for speculations. Ibn Hazm achieves this with ease as he has the revealed word of God to fall back to, and which he uses as a touchstone to establish veracity of any claim regarding His ultimate nature.
Ratzinger however speculates erroneously when he hypothesize that Ibn Hazm’s God could have done everything against the truth and virtue. Ibn Hazm does not push his God away in order to grant him more divinity (as the Pope contends) but asserts that we cannot comprehend fully the particulars of God’s wisdom and will instead remain in need of His favours always. He pits these arguments against some of the Mutizilites who were presumably in favor of basing ethics on human reasoning, even at the cost of statements in the Quran. His often misunderstood contention that God can reward evil and punish good is completely subjective as he never claimed that God in fact does so. His contentions are rooted in a constantly recurring theme that humanity always needs objectively sustainable communication from the Creator as we cannot achieve salvation through reason alone. He and his God calls it the divine mercy and love, on which depends the destiny of all creation; and that is the only real analogy as far as Ibn Hazm is concerned.
Ibn Hazm can easily be misunderstood if his different positions are not disentangled carefully. Moreover his various intellectual stances can be put forth as an evidence for contradictory assertions. He tried all his life to bridge gaps between reason and revelation and describe the human condition and thought in relation to revealed word of God. His literature is depictive of human beauty and love of God. According to Ibn Hazm, we constantly need God to reveal us who He is, why He created us and what should we do and what we should not in order to attain His pleasure. It is one of His favors that He gave us the power to reason and contemplate both within our selves and with others. However all human contemplation, cogitation and criticism should take revelation as the starting point.
On a different note, I completely agree with what thabet has said and do share his feelings. Pope’s speech may have been full of inaccurate assertions and misreadings of Muslim theology (kalam) yet he has asked some challenging question which should be responded satisfactorily by contemporary Muslim scholarship. His major contention is that Islamic weltanschauung incorporates violence as a valid methodology and this world view is theologically rooted in the understanding of God’s nature and character. Why should these questions invoke anger, hate and murder instead of inciting positive and objective confrontation on intellectual fronts.
Among 20+ people that I have asked in the past week, none cared to read what Pope has actually said though they were aware that he has said something very wrong. A Christian member of Pakistan’s parliament who proposed the house to ask clarification from Vatican before passing a unanimous resolution of condemnation was forced to sit in protest. No major or minor newspaper (of Pakistan) took pains to translate and publish the entire speech or even its controversial parts. However none of them failed to make a great news story out of it. Its sad that Muslims of the world seems to be a big rabble lead by the pirates of intellect. Even sadder is the realization that there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.