Socratic Dialogue: Is It Possible In Islam?

Socrate has abandoned philosophy of nature, as practised by many of his fellow Greek thinkers. In his view, it is best to not dwell on those phenomenons we can't explain anyway, such as explaining what stars are; what is night and day, how it's come into existence. His people didn't possess the tools and equipment, yet, to travel far, or look at small particles and cells. Socrate found it good enough to perfect human life, morality, politics, present living conditions, economics, and how to improve and embellish these, now. This is only possible as a result of reason and dialogue. It is necessary to think and exchange views about the important aspect of human life, in order to reach personal perfection, and a good system for society. In later days, western culture has differentiated between natural science, which is about explaining objective and proven facts, and philosophy in the sense as Socrate has meant it: A rational exercise about other aspects of life, where objectivity may not come first. Aspects as human living conditions, beauty, morality, politics, economics, peace, religion. Natural Science and technology are seen as necessary to support other aspects of life, because they are objective and beyond questioning, and because they provide tools for living. But, even they, aren't ways to one ultimate truth.

Islam, has tried to combine natural science, philosophy of nature, and ethical intellectualism, with some rules and boundaries, to make a fair play possible. Investigating a text without immediate aim of giving absolutely true answers, but rather aiming to approach an issue from several angles and then encouraging use of logic and exchanging different views, can be a good approach towards better understanding Qur’an al Kerim. The ultimate aim is to come to truth, within natural limitations set forth by Allah SWT. 'People who think' will notice, that not everything is possible, even after the most excellent technology has been explored. Ultimate possibility, has been ordained by the creator of everything: Allah SWT. And, even Allah SWT is bound to absolute truths. 'Thinking' and 'mutual consultation' are encouraged. It is, however, not encouraged to make severe conflict about the 'ambiguous' verses in Qur'an. Ambiguous verses are those with, to us, incomprehensible or multiple meanings. Fighting about ambiguity, is seen as a sign of disbelief or injustice. It is not allowed in Islam, to invent or phantasize things, that clearly aren't there, or can't be perceived. It is allowed to phantasize about them, as long as we're clear about them being our own opinion, and as long as we are kind to those who disagree with us. There's a point, where Islam and Socrate diverge: Islam does believe in an ultimate truth. However, this truth may not be perceivable to humans. As not all truth is perceivable to humans, humans are allowed many freedoms of thinking and believing, as long as they do not lie, or oppress dissident thinkers. If opponents don't harm others, then let them. Discuss with others, is okay, but it may cause spiritual or religious harm to yourself. That is your problem, and not of a government censor. Censorship, isn't necessary anyway, because there's freedom of thought and no compulsion in religion. Because we can't observe Allah SWT, we can't legally enforce people to believe in Him. Many aspects of life are ambiguous, or lead to more than one way. Those very same people may be wrong about one aspect of truth, yet, they may be very truthful about another aspect of truth. Truth is a big thing, as big as the universe, with many facets. That's why, in Islam we must live by this rule: Live and let live, in honesty, humility, and tolerance -- until life has been made impossible by oppressors, or by natural impossibility.

Perhaps, Socratic dialogue is not the first way to understand most ahadith, as these transmit very specific sayings, actions and decisions of the Prophet saws. And, many scholars have classified and interpreted them and channeled them into jurisprudence. That doesn’t mean, it isn't allowed. There's some etiquette involved, however. You want a discussion with knowledgeable Muslims? Then, respect their privacy, safety, and personal lives. Discussions about philosophy and the meaning of life tend to take place in informal surroundings, among friends and relatives. And, Qur'an al Kerim was revealed exactly in answer to prevailing questions that people may have. Having said that, it is allowed to ask those who may have knowledge, any question. There are no inferior questions, nor inferior information seekers. The first 12 verses of Surah 80 mention a blind man who asked the Prophet questions, but the Prophet initially dismissed him. The verses, however, exhorted to answer questions. Furthermore, we live in a time where technology has changed living conditions and has literally shrunk distance between people globally. Another aspect is, that Islam was absent in many government systems, during the colonial era. So, it is possible, to look at ahadith from a fresh philosophical and legal perspective, without immediately ending up with untruth.

All the same. As Muslims, we receive the questions. Not just about what Islam is, but also the more fundamental questions, of why you should believe; if you 'have to' believe and if yes, then why. And more specific questions about certain verses, especially those that may offer more possible answers. We'd like to counter them with relevance and wit, if possible. And, we'd like to pose our own questions. To non-Muslims and other Muslims alike. So, why not exercise in Socratic dialogue? Socrate offered here a methodology, not a full philosophical or religious theory. A discussion method is neutral and doesn't clash with other religion.

Some applicable Qur'anic verses:
2:255-258; 3:7-8; 3:200; 5:100-102; 10:18-20; 16:4-11; 24:58,59,61; 55:33; 60:5-9; 64:2-3; 67:3; 80:1-12; 112:1-4.

'Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him. Unto Him belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedeth with Him save by His leave? He knoweth that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His throne includeth the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous. (255) There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower. (256) Allah is the Protecting Guardian of those who believe. He bringeth them out of darkness into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out of light into darkness. Such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein. (257) Bethink thee not of him who had an argument with Abraham about his Lord, because Allah had given him the kingdom; how, when Abraham said: My Lord is He Who giveth life and causeth death, he answered: I give life and cause death. Abraham said: Lo! Allah causeth the sun to rise in the East, so do thou cause it to come up from the West. Thus was the disbeliever abashed. And Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. (258)' (2:255-258)
'He it is Who hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture wherein are clear revelations - they are the substance of the Book - and others (which are) allegorical. But those in whose hearts is doubt pursue, forsooth, that which is allegorical seeking (to cause) dissension by seeking to explain it. None knoweth its explanation save Allah. And those who are of sound instruction say: We believe therein; the whole is from our Lord; but only men of understanding really heed. (7) Our Lord! Cause not our hearts to stray after Thou hast guided us...' (3:7-8)

'O ye who believe! Endure, outdo all others in endurance, be ready, and observe your duty to Allah, in order that ye may succeed. (200)' (3:200)

'Say: The evil and the good are not alike even though the plenty of the evil attract thee. So be mindful of your duty to Allah, O men of understanding, that ye may succeed. (100) O ye who believe! Ask not of things which, if they were made known unto you, would trouble you; but if ye ask of them when the Qur'an is being revealed, they will be made known unto you. Allah pardoneth this, for Allah is Forgiving, Clement. (101) A folk before you asked (for such disclosures) and then disbelieved therein. (102)' (5:100-102)
'They worship besides Allah that which neither hurteth them nor profiteth them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allah. Say: Would ye inform Allah of (something) that He knoweth not in the heavens or in the earth? Praised be He and high exalted above all that ye associate (with Him)! (18) Mankind were but one community; then they differed; and had it not been for a word that had already gone forth from thy Lord it had been judged between them in respect of that wherein they differ. (19) And they will say: If only a portent were sent down upon him from his Lord! Then say, (O Muhammad): The Unseen belongeth to Allah. So wait! Lo! I am waiting with you. (20)' (10:18-20)

'He hath created man from a drop of fluid, yet behold! he is an open opponent. (4) And the cattle hath He created, whence ye have warm clothing and uses, and whereof ye eat; (5) And wherein is beauty for you, when ye bring them home, and when ye take them out to pasture. (6) And they bear your loads for you unto a land ye could not reach save with great trouble to yourselves. Lo! your Lord is Full of Pity, Merciful. (7) And horses and mules and asses (hath He created) that ye may ride them, and for ornament. And He createth that which ye know not. (8) And Allah's is the direction of the way, and some (roads) go not straight. And had He willed He would have led you all aright. (9) He it is Who sendeth down water from the sky, whence ye have drink, and whence are trees on which ye send your beasts to pasture. (10) Therewith He causeth crops to grow for you, and the olive and the date-palm and grapes and all kinds of fruit. Lo! herein is indeed a portent for people who reflect. (11)' (16:4-11)

'O ye who believe! Let your slaves, and those of you who have not come to puberty, ask leave of you at three times (before they come into your presence): Before the prayer of dawn, and when ye lay aside your raiment for the heat of noon, and after the prayer of night. Three times of privacy for you. It is no sin for them or for you at other times, when some of you go round attendant upon others (if they come into your presence without leave). Thus Allah maketh clear the revelations for you. Allah is Knower, Wise. (58) And when the children among you come to puberty then let them ask leave even as those before them used to ask it. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations for you. Allah is Knower, Wise. (59) ... No blame is there upon the blind nor any blame upon the lame nor any blame upon the sick nor on yourselves if ye eat from your houses, or the houses of your fathers, or the houses of your mothers, or the houses of your brothers, or the houses of your sisters, or the houses of your fathers' brothers, or the houses of your fathers' sisters, or the houses of your mothers' brothers, or the houses of your mothers' sisters, or (from that) whereof ye hold the keys, or (from the house) of a friend. No sin shall it be for you whether ye eat together or apart. But when ye enter houses, salute one another with a greeting from Allah, blessed and sweet. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations for you, that haply ye may understand. (61)' (24:58,59,61)
'O Ye who believe! Enter not the dwellings of the Prophet for a meal without waiting for the proper time, unless permission be granted you. But if ye are invited, enter, and, when your meal is ended, then disperse. Linger not for conversation. Lo! that would cause annoyance to the Prophet, and he would be shy of (asking) you (to go); but Allah is not shy of the truth. And when ye ask of them (the wives of the Prophet) anything, ask it of them from behind a curtain. That is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. And it is not for you to cause annoyance to the messenger of Allah, nor that ye should ever marry his wives after him. Lo! that in Allah's sight would be an enormity. (53)' (33:53)
'O ye assembly of Jinns and men! If it be ye can pass beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth, pass ye! Not without authority shall ye be able to pass!' (55:33)
'Our Lord! Make us not a prey for those who disbelieve, and forgive us, our Lord! Lo! Thou, only Thou, are the Mighty, the Wise. (5) Verily ye have in them a goodly pattern for everyone who looketh to Allah and the Last Day. And whosoever may turn away, lo! still Allah, He is the Absolute, the Owner of Praise. (6) It may be that Allah will ordain love between you and those of them with whom ye are at enmity. Allah is Mighty, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (7) Allah forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that ye should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! Allah loveth the just dealers. (8) Allah forbiddeth you only those who warred against you on account of religion and have driven you out from your homes and helped to drive you out, that ye make friends of them. Whosoever maketh friends of them - (All) such are wrong-doers. (9)' (60:5-9)

'He it is Who created you, but one of you is a disbeliever and one of you is a believer, and Allah is Seer of what ye do. (2) He created the heavens and the earth with truth, and He shaped you and made good your shapes, and unto Him is the journeying. (3)' (64:2-3)

'He Who created the seven heavens one above another, no want of proportion wilt thou see in the Creation of the Most Gracious. So turn thy vision again: seest thou any flaw?' (67:3)

'He frowned and turned away (1) Because the blind man came unto him. (2) What could inform thee but that he might grow (in grace) (3) Or take heed and so the reminder might avail him? (4) As for him who thinketh himself independent, (5) Unto him thou payest regard. (6) Yet it is not thy concern if he grow not (in grace). (7) But as for him who cometh unto thee with earnest purpose (8) And hath fear, (9) From him thou art distracted. (10) Nay, but verily it is an Admonishment, (11) So let whosoever will pay heed to it, (12)' (80:1-12)

'Say: He is Allah, the One! (1) Allah, the eternally Besought of all! (2) He begetteth not nor was begotten. (3) And there is none comparable unto Him. (4)' (112:1-4)

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