2.3.2 The Myth of Intellectual Decline

“Bahāʾ al-dīn al-ʿĀmilī.” Wikimedia Commons.

In a recent article on philosophy, faith, and civilization, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf presents a compelling case to reinvigorate the study of metaphysics on account of the critical role it can play in establishing reasoned faith and a more ethical society (The Maydan, 2017).
Abdurrahman Mihirig, then a graduate student at Harvard University, contests Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s assumption of Islamic intellectual decline in this article in The Maydan, a publication of George Mason University. We highly recommend students also read the original essay in Renavotio by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, president of Zaytuna College, as a supplemental material.

Read: The Myth of Intellectual Decline: A Response to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf // The Maydan


Guiding Questions:
  1. What reasons does the author give in contesting the myth of intellectual decline?
  2. How has Sunni scholarship understood the meaning and scope of falsafa?
  3. The author argues that Ibn Khaldun did not reject metaphysics writ large, but a particular approach to metaphysics. What kind of metaphysics was this? And why is this point critical in the argument the author is making?
  4. What is nominalism, and what role did the Ash’arites have in its influence?
  5. Why does the author believe that it is incorrect to say that nominalism led to the ills of modernity?
  6. Based on the information provided, do you think Ibn Taymiyya was a nominalist?
  7. Are intellectual contestations such as this essay conversation between Mihirig and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf important to our practice and understanding of tradition? How so?

Photo: “Bahāʾ al-dīn al-ʿĀmilī.” Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Ashrf1979. Public domain.