Heidegger for Muslims
By Umar Ibrahim Vadillo
First, you have to know what to expect as a Muslim out of the study of Heidegger. He was not a Muslim, so we are not looking for answers about what is Islam. He cannot give them to us. What Heidegger can help us with is to understand the way of thinking that has become predominant in the West, and by extension all over the world. He called it Metaphysics. The word is not his, but he re-captured the original meaning of the term and gave it an encompassing meaning as a tool to define the way of thinking of the West. That way of thinking can also be called Philosophy. Heidegger gave also a new meaning to this word taking from the original meaning and intention of its Fathers, the Ancient Greeks. He placed the beginning of Philosophy with the works of Plato and then Aristotle. And he said that this way of thinking, philosophy, carried an inherent error from its beginning. He called that error: "the forgetfulness of Being.". As a first approximation to his thinking we will say that Heidegger maintained that Philosophy cannot think Truth; or -which is the same-, that what philosophy calls truth is not Truth.
Why is Heidegger important to us?
Because all of us have been educated to think in the Western way of thinking. The only way of thinking which is available in our schools and Universities, that is, the thinking of science, the thinking of technology, the thinking of theology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc. We have accustomed ourselves to think this way. It is so normal, that we do not even find the need to explore our way of thinking any further. We take for granted that we way we think "is" the way of thinking. Full stop. So, why go any further about something which is normal? We simply do not see it as necessary. Then Heidegger appeared. When he said: "our way of thinking has a fundamental defect", everybody was shocked. Heidegger's new thinking put in question the unquestionable, the unthinkable: the very essence of our thinking. But what is so peculiar about Heidegger's critique is that he did not bring another epistemology, another philosophy. He did not question philosophy within philosophy. He declared nothing other than "The End of Philosophy". He closed the shop of a way of thinking that had been around for the last 2,500 years. The awesome thing is that this thinking was not just "a thinking" it is "our thinking". The thinking with which we have created everything around us, the thinking with which we think about ourselves, the thinking with which we think technology, democracy, economics and even God. This is what was so shocking. And this is why Heidegger is so important. And it is even more important to us, Muslims, than to anybody else. We can understand Heidegger in a way the kaffir never will. In a sense Heidegger, without knowing, was speaking for us, and the kuffar who have not understood him, probably never will.
The Limits of Heidegger
Heidegger left something unresolved. He finished Philosophy. But he could only vaguely point out the way forward. He resolved this problem with what he calls "poetry", not just any poetry, but the poetry of the one who is no longer himself. The one that lets "the things show themselves" to him. The one who is no longer the observer, but the observed. But he could not go any further. I would not say that what he pointed out was nothing, it was very important. But nobody yet has picked up this unfinished affair. Because the resolution of the End of Philosophy is only one: Islam. After Heidegger's closing of the shop of philosophy, only Islam can take over. The only possible destiny of the thinking of the West, of the West itself, is Islam. This is why I say that Heidegger spoke to us, because only we, the Muslims, can finish his affair.
How to Read Heidegger
You have to understand that Heidegger is questioning our own way of thinking. But how are we going to think Heidegger other than with our way of thinking? This is all we have. Would not our way of thinking prevent us from thinking Heidegger? And the answer is: it would. This is why to think Heidegger you have to prepare yourself. You have to allow yourself to walk with him a little. You have to lose yourself a little. If you do not, if you hold onto your way of thinking too early, you will not get the picture. You have to walk with him long enough so that you can understand. Once you have reached this level, you will be able to understand Heidegger with the same easiness that you read a novel. Then Heidegger becomes extremely easy. If not Heidegger becomes obscure and difficult, which is how most people (philosophers) experience him.
Who Was Heidegger?
Martin Heidegger was born in Germany in 1889 and died in 1976. He was the last of the philosophers, the one who declared that End of Philosophy. His main work was “Being and Time” (1927) which was a major breakthrough in thinking. It was received with enormous enthusiasm and fear by his contemporaries, many of who realised the vastness of the achievement. Then he wrote over a 100 other books that cover thousands of articles and essays. His work is still not completely published. In a sense we have not finished discovering Heidegger. Other important books are: On the Essence of Truth, Holderlin and the Essence of Poetry, Early Greek Thinking, The Question Concerning Technology, Letter on Humanism, On the Way to Language, and many others equally interesting.
It is important also to know who Heidegger is not. He is not an existentialist, because Heidegger was a lot more than that and you cannot put him in the same category as Sartre. He was not a phenomenologist, because although he learned from Husserl, he went beyond his teacher.
Thinking with Heidegger is to think at the edge of thinking. You are moving into the frontline of thinking. This is a bit like going ahead of your time. You will be experiencing the possibilities of a world that is not yet there. Heidegger will change for ever the way you look at sciences, anthropology, politics, sociology or theology. You will not be able to be persuaded by their proofs and their reasoning, which you will find deficient and partial. This is going to make you feel like a man sent back to the Middle Ages. You will say to yourself: what are these people doing surrounded by superstitious beliefs, fantasies which they endorse with their own fantasy way of thinking? You are going to be at odds with your time.
But the reward, the immense reward is that you will be able to experience the glory of your deen with all its magnificent wonders and possibilities free of all the clouds of nonsense and superstition with which it has been surrounded in our present days. But also at an individual level, you will be able to get rid of the clouds that our way of thinking inevitably imposes on the personal understanding of our own religion. When you look in retrospect you will think that you are different. Be prepared for a great adventure that will set you free to enjoy your Islam even more.
Now we can start.
(To be continued......)