Sunni Islam and Free Thought
You indicated that during one period, the Ottoman madrassas froze artistic, aesthetic, and intellectual movements because of the madrassas' extremist position (being closed to positive science and Sufism). Some claim that Sunni Islam (beginning with Imam Ghazali) obstructed philosophy, art, and free thought. As one who emphasizes Sunni Islam in this century, how do you evaluate this criticism?
Sunni Islam cannot be opposed to aesthetics, art, beauty, and the expression of beauty. If it could do so, the magnificent Islamic civilization that flourished in the first 5 centuries of Islam would never have occurred. During this period, in addition to Hadith, Qur'anic commentary, and jurisprudence being at their zenith, positive sciences, philosophy, Sufism, literature, and architecture realized considerably high degrees of development. Although a pause was observed after this, the Ottoman period saw the further and unprecedented advancement of such fine arts as architecture, music, literature, and calligraphy. If anything could constrain art and free thought, it would be jurisprudence. But history shows that when jurisprudence's codification was the most advanced, art and free thought were also at their most advanced level. Andalusia is a wonderful example of this. Authors of Islamic science and history, such as Seyyid Hossein Nasr and Roger Garoudy, don't hesitate to express their amazement and surprise. Islamic civilization is represented by tolerance, peace, and love kneaded in the midst of free thought and belief. August 13-23, 1995
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