April 7, 2013

Henry Corbin On A Major Philosophical Difference Between Shiites And Sunnis

"Henry Corbin was a partisan of the freedom of the Imagination and an implacable enemy of fundamentalism and totalitarianisms of all kinds." - Tom Cheetham, author of, "All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings." This quote is taken from the website, "virtualborscht."

Below is an excerpt from Henry Corbin's book, "History of Islamic Philosophy." 1993. Kegan Paul International: London. Pg. 125-126.

The book was first published in 1964 in French. Here is a description from Amazon:
Published in English for the first time, this work by Henry Corbin, the Islamic scholar, philosopher and historian of religion, offers a definitive interpretation of traditional Islamic philosophy - from the beginning down to the present day. In this authoritative volume, Corbin makes clear the great themes of the doctrinal and mystical vision of Islamic philosophy through a wealth of comparative parallels and in relation to the most profound currents of Western philosophy. Corbin's "History of Islamic Philosophy" aims to be a work of reference, enabling readers to discover for themselves the richness of this body of thought.
Henry Corbin On A Major Philosophical Difference Between Shiites And Sunnis: 
"It is scarcely surprising that the first 'hermeticizing' Muslims were Shiite. On the one hand, Shiite prophetology already in itself subsumed the prophetic category proper to Hermes. He is not a legislative prophet, charged with revealing a shari'ah to mankind. In prophetic hierohistory, his rank is that of a nabi who was sent to organize the life of the first city-settlements and to teach men the technical sciences. On the other hand, Shiite gnosiology also subsumed in itself the mode of knowledge that was common to the ordinary nabis prior to Islam (such as Hermes), to the Imams, and to the awliya in general during the cycle of the walayah which succeeds the cycle of legislative prophecy. This is what we saw described as direct divine inspiration (see above, II, A, 5), superior even to the legislative mission. Hermetic philosophy does in fact call itself a hikmah laduniyah, an inspired wisdom, which is to say a prophetic philosophy.

In contrast to this, the Sunnis (according to the evidence of al-Shahrastani) condemned the hermeticism of the Sabians as a religion incompatible with Islam, because it can dispense with the prophet (the prophet-legislator of a shari'ah, that is): the ascent of the spirit to Heaven, into which Hermes initiated his disciples, made it unnecessary to believe in the descent of an Angel who reveals the divine text to the prophet. That flat incompatibility ceases to exist when the question is viewed in the context of Shiite prophetology and gnosiology, with far-reaching consequences. One can see how and why hermeticism, introduced through Shiism, was able to achieve recognition in Islam before Aristotle's syllogistics and metaphysics had made their appearance. In addition one can see more clearly the reasons for the Shiite attitude and its consequences for the future of philosophy in Islam, and why, on the Sunni side, there was indiscriminate condemnation of the Shiite attitude, as well as the Ismaili and hermeticist position, as fundamentally hostile to prophecy and destructive of the legalistic Islam of the shari'ah."