Truth and Religion: a brief look at Abdolkarim Soroush (and some other thoughts)

Before I begin, I just want to mention a great post I read recently over at Tazaqqa’s blog – a favorite of mine – called “Revealed scriptures vs divine inspiration”… a must-read! I reach different conclusions than she, but I still found the post very moving.

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Now, to my post. I’ve just started reading some of Abdolkarim Soroush’s work. He is an Iranian religious intellectual and I must admit that I enjoy reading his thoughts. If you peruse the links on this blog you’ll find one leading to his website, where you can find a number of his lectures and essays in both English and Persian. Today I just wanted to share a few quotes from a book I’m reading, “Reason, Freedom, and Democracy in Islam: Essential Writings of Abdolkarim Soroush”.
Religion vs Religious Thought
This is a concept I found most refreshing when it comes to Islamic thought. Basically, it means that in endeavors to understand religion, or the reform/revival of religion, one must first understand that their is a difference between the religion itself and our understanding of religion.

“The truth is that as long as one has not distinguished between religion and people’s understanding of it, one will be incapable of finding an adequate answer to these intriguing questions. Yes, it is true that sacred scriptures are (in the judgment of followers) flawless; however, it is just as true that human beings’ understanding of religion is flawed. Religion is sacred and heavenly, but the understanding of religion is human and earthly… Religion has not faltered in articulating its objectives and its explanations of good and evil; the defect is in human beings’ understanding of religion’s intents. Religion is in no need of reconstruction and completion. Religious knowledge and insight that is human and incomplete, however, is in constant need of reconstruction. Religion is free from cultures and unblemished by the artifacts of human minds, but religious knowledge is, without a shadow of a doubt, subject to such influences… It is up to God to reveal a religion, but up to us to understand and realize it. It is at this point that religious knowledge is born, entirely human and subject to all the dictates of human knowledge.”


A Motto to Live By
The beginning of the book included and interview with Soroush, in which he discusses some of his personal ethics. I found the following deeply inspiring:

“… I always follow a single motto. It is rather easy to state but hard to practice. I believe that truths everywhere are compatible; no truth clashes with any other truth. They are all the inhabitants of the same mansion and stars in the same constellation. One truth in one corner of the world has to be harmonious and compatible with all truths elsewhere, or else it is not truth. That is why I have never tired of my search for truth in other arenas of intellect and opinion. This truthfulness of the world is a blessing indeed, because it instigates constant search and engenders a healthy pluralism.”

This defines perfectly my (intended) method of understanding Islam. I hold certain truths in my heart that I couldn’t escape if I wanted to. So far these truths seem compatible with those of Islam, but I continue to search and question in order to discover if it is so.
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And now, some other thoughts:
Its funny… I remember crying when I first began reading the Quran. It was a beautiful yet painful moment, as if my heart was breaking. And I do feel as if the Quran broke open my heart; emotions seem stronger than they did before, with moments of great comfort and great confusion coming one after the other. I feel more awake. It reminds me of falling in love.
I don’t know what all this means yet, just something I’ve been reflecting on lately.
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10 responses to “Truth and Religion: a brief look at Abdolkarim Soroush (and some other thoughts)

  1. The most fundamental information about reincarnation is found in Bhagavad-gita. In Chapter 2, Krishna explains in a rational, simple and clearly understandable way how the soul travels from body to body. This fact is not a question of belief but is relatively easy to understand and to accept with logical conclusions. The prerequisite for this understanding of reincarnation is that one understands the difference between the body and the soul. "That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul. " (Bhagavad Gita 2.17)"For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain." (Bhagavad Gita 2.20)

  2. Tazakka Cult,Manji Cult,bhagavdgita cult,un organized religion Cult,Quranic Cult,MANY CULTSAnd Another Cult:Authorities search for 13 from 'cult-like' sect……….http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100919/ap_on_re_us/us_missing_cult_members

  3. Ummm…. ok. Hello there, omshreekrishna. I guess you're interested in the Bhagvad Gita. I did do a post about the Bhagavad Gita awhile back, check my older posts if you'd like to get my two cents on it. But… This post was about Abdolkarim Soroush. Would you like to discuss his work?

  4. Dear omshreekrishna,The cult news story is pretty messed up, its a good thing they were able to find everyone… turns out the Christian group had just spent the night praying, not committing mass suicide as authorities feared.I gotta ask though, why are you interested in cults? And why did you mention the Bhagavad Gita as a cult after bringing it up in the first place? This cult fascination seems similar to an anonymous reader's comments left on this blog in the past. I'll repeat what I said then: I am not aware of a Manji cult. I don't see how she could have a cult when everyone seems to hate her. If by "Tazakka" you mean "Tazaqqa", then you are referring to someone else's blog, not a religious organization. If posting stuff on the web qualifies as a cult, then so does YahooNews, so I guess you follow that cult? And finally, "unorganized religion cult"? Could you elaborate on that a bit? I'm not sure I understand that one.

  5. salam,:-)I love this part so much:" Religion is in no need of reconstruction and completion. Religious knowledge and insight that is human and incomplete, however, is in constant need of reconstruction."specially when it comes to women rights.Dear Shopia your last paragraph, remind me of Iranian movie"book of law" its director is Maziar Miri. moral of story in this movie is that convert muslims are 1000 times more muslim than born muslims in Islamic coutries.honestly I have very good feeling while reading Quran but never cried like you.I am jealous of you:-):-):-)mariam-Iran

  6. Awww, thanks Mariam, thats really sweet of you. Welcom to my blog! I think the Quran just took me by surprise, really. I think maybe if one is raised with the Quran it is still a transformative experience, just more gradual… and possibly less traumatic (even good experiences can be traumatic in a way). I'll have to check out that movie!

  7. @mariam**Maziar Miri. moral of story in this movie is that convert muslims are 1000 times more muslim than born muslims in Islamic coutries.**actually that notion is incorrect. Comparing born and reverts in that sense is just preposterous. Either it be a convert or a born muslim , the only difference between them is in piety and nothing else.I could also say that Muhammad(sws) and his companions children were all born muslims and as we all know they were the best of muslims and were like the cream of the crop in Islam. Muslims can be corrupt either they be reverts or born. Saying the converts are better than the born muslims only creates enmity between each other.

  8. To be fair, blackb3ard911, I think Mariam was presenting the view of the movie she mentioned, not necessarily her own view – so lets not rush to judgement, ok? Besides, I think she was talking about Muslims today, not Muslims in Muhammad's time. I haven't seen the movie, have you?

  9. @sophiawell i was saying that the notion was incorrect(obviously the movie) and I didnt personally attack her in any way if u read my comment.Either it be muslims today or during the past. I can show u converts that only convert becauce their hubby is muslim. Does that make them better? … i can also show u born muslims that are only muslim by name and hang out in night clubs ,fornicating with woman.No i havent watched a movie and i would like to thank mariam for giving a heads up that i dont ever watch such a movie which will create enmity between me and my revert brothers and sisters. Its piety that counts infront of Allah(swt) , not being black , white , brown , convert , born , young , old or anything else.

  10. Sorry, blackb3ard911, I wasn't trying to accuse you of attacking, I just thought we should be clear that it was a reference to a movie. I agree that inner piety counts far more than what's outside – all Muslims, born or converted, still must make the same choice everyday to continue following their faith. Personally, I still think I'd like to see the movie myself before coming to any conclusions.

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