Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Monday, October 24, 2005

The History and Origins of Kalam-i-Batini

Here is a bit more on the Hidden Conversation.

Early Islamic philosophy/theology (for about the first 200 years) was called Kalam, which means “speech” or “conversation”. It was a sort of Socratic method, which used questions and answers to arrive at “truth” This was a “rationalist” philosophy and was the domain of the theologians.

About two hundred years after the Hijira, Greek Neo-Platonic thought began to heavily influence Islamic philosophy. This led to the formation of a group of philosophers called the “Mutazilites” (separatists). Some of the greatest thinkers of the age were members of this school of thought, including Ibn Sina, Al Farabi, and Ibn Rushd.

The greatest Challenge to the Mutazilite school came from the “Asharites” A school of theology founded by the theologian Al-Ashari. The Asharite School also had as its adherents some of the greatest minds of the time, including Muhammad al Ghazzali, and Fhkaruddin Razi.

The clash of ideas between these two schools became known as the debate between the philosophers and the theologians. It culminated in Al Ghazzali’s monumental work “The Incoherence of the Philosophers” and Ibn Rushd’s reply, “The Incoherence of the Incoherence”.

I would hazard to say that the friction between these two schools of thought, to a great extent, produced the energy that lead to the Islamic “golden age” of science, philosophy, art, and literature.

There was a third group during this period (which interestingly, included Muhammad al Ghazzali’s younger brother Ahmad al Ghazzali) who observed that Greek pagan philosophy had infected both of the former groups. While the argument was around the pros and cons of Neo-Platonic thought, both sides tended to use the logic of Aristotle to make their case.

It can be argued that this dichotomy still holds sway in the Islamic world, with the “left wing” of Islamic thought leaning toward the Neo-Platonic (as with some Sufi Groups) and the “right wing” being locked into Aristotelian dualities (as with Imam Khomeini and the “Islamic Revolution”).

This third group, feeling that the “Kalam Theologians” were originally on the right track, but had “dropped the ball” by adopting an Aristotelian approach, began developing what they called “Kalam-i-Batini” (to use the Persian spelling).

The devolopers of Kalam-i-Batini (who were known as the Ahl-i-Saffa, the people of alignment, when they were known as anything at all) were interested in producing “Yaqin”, or certainty through their practices, while avoiding the pitfalls of ignorant belief.

They defined “certainty” (Yaqin) as a three level process. The first level was “Ilm al Yaqin” (the certainty found through study). The second was “Ayn al Yaqin” (the certainty found through direct observation and experience). And the third was “Haqq al Yaqin” (certainty through direct inspiration).

The Ahl-i-Saffa were the first pioneers of Information theory. A study that they were convinced was necessary to approach Yaqin. One of the great writers in this field was Ibn Khaldun, who in his Muqadimmah outlines the problem of accurate passing of information as having seven possibilities for error. He says:


  • All information, by its very nature, is liable to error.
  • The first of these errors is partisanship towards a creed or opinion.
  • The second error is over‑confidence in one's sources.
  • The third error is the failure to understand what is intended by to originator of the information.
  • The fourth error is a mistaken presupposition about the truth.
  • The fifth error is the inability to place information in its real context.
  • The sixth error is the common desire to gain favor of those of high ranks, by distorting information so as to please them.
  • The seventh, and the most important error, is the ignorance of the laws governing the transformations of human society.

BTW this group should not be confused with the "Ikhwan al Saffa" or brotherhood of purity.


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