Defying scholarly deception

Before presenting Sa´adeh’s response to al-Khouri, it is important to highlight his main declared objective in publishing his articles in al-Zawba´ah. Sa´adeh assured his readers that he was impartial and not taking side with one religion against the other. He bluntly declared that his concern was not to defend Christianity or to prove its authenticity and soundness. “We are not preachers of religion”, he said. Indeed, Sa´adeh was a secular man who advocated complete separation between religion and the state. As Rabee’h Debs has remarked: “Sa´adeh appealed to ingrained secularism – that is, to a complete separation between religious and temporal powers. This means dedicating religion to spiritual values and allowing the intellect to take its natural role as supreme adjudicator in human life.”

The impediment to the social unity of people,
Sa´adeh explains, is the existing sectarian tendencies and socio-legal barriers that separates the various sects and denominates within the society. Thus, Sa´adeh’s main concern was to fight people who propagate prejudice, attack religions and breed religious fanaticism and who are capable of influencing and manipulating the public. His aim was to refute false beliefs and distortion of realities and to promote the spiritual unity of society. He clearly stated:

We prepare this study in order to defy religious and scholarly deception [charlatanism] and the cynical disrespect of principles in the abstract, be they religious or non-religious; and in order to clarify those facts that would help reduce the excessiveness of religious fanaticism which is based on distortion of those facts and the development of false beliefs that hinder the vanishing of religious fanaticism.

In a different context, Sa´adeh asserted that his aim was not merely to demonstrate that al-Qarawi was an intruder to science, but to put at the disposal of the Syrians a systematic study that would promote their understanding of two religious denominations. These two religions are often discussed, in almost any social gathering, together with the social and political issues ensuing from their co-existence and proximity, especially in Syria where it is impossible to settle national and political issues outside the framework of religious partisanships. The message of the social national renaissance, on the other hand, “does not emanate from mere foreigner hatred, but from an authentic aspiration to blend our diverse doctrines and theories together and mould them in a spiritual unity that would not possibly be weakened or torn apart by foreign ambitions”. In Sa´adeh’s opinion, this spiritual unity must embrace every idea and every outlook in life: “Only the superficial scholars ignore the importance of studying our religious ideas and views in a scientific [logical], daring and open manner, leaving no scope for doubt and ambiguity, for the purpose of arriving to an absolute outcome that would unite our spirits in all its aspirations, ambitions and wishes.”

Sa´adeh was confident in his ability to produce an objective response that would benefit his fellow citizens and promote their understanding of religion and faith. Nevertheless, he was keen to tell us that his research, for all its benefits and precision, was only a start. More detailed investigation was necessary.

Scientific Approach
Sa´adeh adopted a scientific approach in his analysis. He was a propagator of logic and rationality and tended to write with clarity and precision. As a critical and creative thinker, he reflects on presuppositions with logic. Rabia´ah Abi Fadel has noted:

The research works (studies) of Islam in its Two Messages are characterized by a scientific mood, academic analysis, and accurate care of sources and references as well as by an extensive knowledge that manifested itself, mostly, in comparisons, conclusions, and quotations, and particularly, in the completeness, harmony and rationality of these studies.

Like every philosopher, Sa´adeh employs in Islam in its Two Messages an in-dispensable tool: argumentation. He tends to question statements made by Al-Qarawi, often accusing him of being illogical and demonstrating that his arguments contain mistaken beliefs and fallacies and, therefore, lead to unsound or invalid conclusions. On the other hand, Sa´adeh tends to state his premises explicitly. He arrives at his persuasive propositions, which are the conclusions of his deductive arguments, through the process of inference.

By Dr. Edmond Melhem 

Reference Al-Zawba’ah

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