On The Epistemological Scope and Some Contemporary Implications of The Qur’anic Notion of Āyāt

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Patrick Laude

Abstract

This paper argues that the cosmic signs or āyāt repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an can be understood, and indeed have been understood in classical Islam, as theophanic manifestations of His Being and Qualities; hence a metaphysical intuition of their divine roots goes beyond reason as mere decipherer of the wonders of structure and mechanics of the world. By contrast, literalist reformist and modernist discourses tend to shun the Quranic evidences of Divine immanence while emphasising exclusively the distance between God and His creation. This is why most contemporary Islamic apologists of modern science understand the world as a realm of cosmogonic “signatures” rather than one of metaphysical theophany. As a response to this type of views, it is argued herein that both the reductive and problematic treatment of the Qur’an as a kind of scientific manual and, at the other extreme, the denial of the conjunction between tawhīd and the traditional Islamic concept and practice of science fail to do justice to the deeper layers of meaning of āyāt. Only a consideration of a sense of the qualitative meaning of the cosmos through a  restoration of a consciousness of Divine Immanence can provide an antidote to such reductive readings.

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