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Prolegomena to the

Metaphysics of Islam

Some Contents and Original Text

Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas

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”A revival of philosophy—and, in particular, metaphysics—is crucial for a restoration of genuine faith fortified with reason and genuine civilization that cultivates care for the common good.”1

Its pursuit (are) the first causes of things.

1. What is Metaphysics?

”Metaphysics is (among other aspects) the science of abstraction: the attempt to grasp the nature of things in their immaterial and universal essences. It aims to understand first principles, including those of causation itself, its nature, scope, and limits.

This invariably means it investigates the contents of our minds, including our presuppositions (all that we assume or take for granted), how it is that we perceive the world, and the effects of those presuppositions on our active life, which are left unexamined by most people—hence, Socrates’ famous dictum, ’The unexamined life is not worth living.’”


Quotes from ”Islam, The Concept of Religion” S. Attas

The complete title is ”Prolegomena To the Metaphysics of Islam”, subtitle to this section ”Islam, The Concept of Religion and the Foundation of Ethics and Morality.”
This text is from 1975, pagenotes see 3b below.
The second text is ”The Meaning and Experience of Happiness In Islam” from 1993, pagenotes see 3c below.
It is difficult to choose which quotations to take; the whole text is a necessary read.
PDF download below.

An Alien Wordview
Our present engagement is with the challenges of an alien wordview surreptitiously introduced into Muslim thought and belief by confused modernist Muslim scholars, intellectuals, academics, writers and their followers, as well as by religious deviationists and extremists of many sorts. They have wittingly or unwittingly come under the spell of modern secular Western philosophy and science, its technology and ideology which have disseminated a global contagion of secularization as a philosophical program. p.38

Progress According to Islam
Change, development and progress, according to the Islamic viewpoint, refer to the return to the genuine Islam enunciated and practiced by the Holy Prophet ﷺ, and …

Thus, for Islam, the process of movement towards genuine Islam by Muslims who have strayed away from it is development; and such development is the only one that can truly be termed as progress. Progress is neither 'becoming' or 'coming-into-being' ... for the notion of 'something aimed at', or the 'goal' inherent in the concept 'progress' can only contain the real meaning when it refers to that which is already clear and permanently established, already being. Hence what is already clear and established, already in the state of being, cannot suffer change, nor is it subject to constant slipping from the grasp of achievement, no constantly receding beyond attainment.… p.76

Crisis of Identity
The crisis of identity experienced by the middle-aged is somewhat similar to that experienced by the youth, with the exception that, for the middle-aged, the freedom to choose their destiny is increasingly limited, for time relentlessly moves on like a Greek tragedy to the very end. The old, in such a society, or mere creatures forgotten by society, because their very existence reminds the youth and the middle-aged of what they would be like which they want go forget. p.82

Unattainment and Dissatisfaction
The three generations that in such wise comprise Western society are forever engaged in the search for identity and meaning of life; are forever moving in the vicious circle of unattainment3; each generation dissatisfied with its own self-involved values of life; each generation finding itself a misfit. And this condition, we maintained, is what we mean by injustice (zulm). This condition is further aggravated by the fact that in Western society there exists also a crisis of identity between the sexes, in that women are engaged, as women, in the search for their own, separate identity. p.83

The Character of Western Civilization
What is the character and personality, the essence and spirit of Western civilization that has so transformed both itself and the word, bringing all who accept its interpretation of knowledge to a state of chaos leading to the brink of disaster? p.85

3. Reading Notes

Contents 3a

From the Introduction - Secularization

Notes and quotes from two chapters of the Prolegomena

Islamic language 30
- imitating shifting slogans of modernity
- Freedom, is an act. ikhtiyar. to choose what is good, better btw 2 alternatives.
- Iman
- Happiness
- Certainty yaqeen
- Change Yes, but not the fundamental elements themselves 37
- Worldview w/out confusion 37
- Challenges 37/8
- A global contagion of secularization as a philosophical program. 38o
- Progress 39

Contents 3b

Islam: The Concept of Religion and the Foundation of Ethics and Morality

Pagenotes, with page number

Islam - diin 42; dayn- (1.) Indebtedness, obligation,(2.) submissiveness*, (3.) judicious power 4.) natural inclination or tendency (to serve God - fitrah 51), (5.) recurrent rain (benefit, gain)
- Returning the debt 46u
- Returning himself 49o und bother.
- Tradition 47 fn8
- Cc Su 86-2 or 11 p.47 fn9 raj = rain?!
- Khidmah service 50
- *conscious, _ willing_ submission** to the law of God brings harmony, for it means realization of what isas opposed to in one's true nature; opposition to it brings discord, for it means realization of what is extraneous to one's true nature. It is _cosmos_ as opposed to _chaos_; justice as opposed to injustice. 51
- freedom 52o
- **real submission 52
- **total submission to God is best. 52u
- diversity btw religions not only form 53u
- belief in God not enough, Satan believed
- **unwilling submission 55fn
- belief ÷ fundamental core of true religion
- Islam = social order 56, `abd + khalifah
- diin = kingdom, cosmopolis 56
- man's true self 57 a microcosmos 58o
- cardinal values 58o
- nafs, human soul 2 aspects 58u rational soul & animal soul
- h: die before you die 59 = return
- ibādāt service 59cu means of approach 61
- Freedom, supreme peace 59u mutma'inna
- ibādāt => knowledge ma`rifah - qalb fn37
- Islam in person & in the society 61
- Islam is the unity of all (mentioned...) 62
- Covenant to all souls of Adam 62u
- Muslims are brothers 63
- True objects of loyalty 64c
- Happiness? 64u for salvation 65o
- Justice, doing ~ to oneself 65, evth in its right place 65u, btw man & his self
- Knowledge = 2 kinds 69u ma'rifa highest
- Knowledge of the prerequisites/ essentials of Islam 69c
- Knowledge = 2 kinds example -71
- Hidden Treasure h 71
- Rational soul 71 God reveals H-s to ~
- qalb ruh sirr 71u spark of Divine origin
- good man > good citizen 74 good to h-s
- Knowledge includes faith iman 74
- Sum 74u... 75o
- Islamic vision (shuhud) of reality 75co
- Wujud mawjud wahdah kathrah baqa fana
- Islam = an absolute reflection of the mode of the Object 75-5
- development only as referring to spiritual & real nature of man 76o
- change development progress: return to the genuine Islam . P M saws 76
- development: also refers to self: return to its original nature and religion. 76
- back to the Straight and True Path 76
- progress: to a final purpose 77o
- If purposes not final/ without definite direction/ vague, how can it mean progress? 77 (Sura 2--17-20)
- Holy Quran 78cu clear Guidance
- loneliness of his self 78 u if in denial
- The man of Islam is never lonely 79
- Contemplation dhikr & munājāt 79
- The Holy Prophet saws 79u
- He is the Perfect Man 80
- Next to the Quran he is our guide 80
- Muslim: no crisis of identity 80
- Western civilization constantly changing 81
- Path ones life of those confused 82
- Worship of youth 82
- How meaning, +quality of life 83
- 3 generations in ZULM 83
- Islamic society already establ. identity +destiny 83
- Prophet Muhammad brought knowledge .our identity +destiny 83
- Perfect model embodies values 84
- The problem of human identity +destiny is root cause 84
- The challenge of knowledge as conceived+ disseminated by Western civilisation 84
- Brought about chaos in man's life 84u
- Elevated doubt and conjecture 84
- Essence of Western civilization? 85o
- Islamic contribution h b recast 85u
- Produced a characteristic dualism 85u
- Conflicting ideas; dualistic vision of reality 86o
- Centred upon man as physical entity+ rational animal 86u
- Quran: 3 degrees of certainty of knowledge 86u
- No certainty in philosophical speculations 86u
- Disenchantment of "religion" in the West 87o
- Insatiable quest for discoveries 87
- What is sought is never really found 87
- Thirsty traveller found water plain then salt of doubt 87
- The fundamental truths of religion are thus regarded as mere theories, or discarded altogether as futile illusions 87
- Absolute values are denied and relative values affirmed; nothing can be certain, except the certainty that nothing can be certain. 87
- Man is deified and Deity humanized 87u
- Change, development, progress 87u
- Spurred by doubt+ inner tension 88o
- Distracting the soul from the tragedy of unattainment 88
- Reliance upon the powers . the human intellect alone 88
- Character of Western culture & civilisation
- The test of true knowledge is on man himself 89

Contents 3c

The Meaning and Experience of Happiness In Islam

S. Attas (Prolegomena)

Pagenotes, with page number

Happiness (ultimate ~) = sa`ādah (in dunyawiyya wa-l ukhrawiyyah) 91
- relating to 3
- nafsiyyah (knowledge & good character)
- badaniyyah (body: health, security)
- khārijiyyah (external to self)
- seat of knowledge in man is heart (qalb) or… 92
- nafs al-ḥayawāniyyah
- nafs al-nāṭiqah
- virtue (faḍīlah) excellence of mind & good character 92u
- In order to produce virtue & good character 93o
- intellect must be trained… 93
- when desire & anger are subordinated to intellect … 93
- ikhtiyār (free) choice towards what is good 93u
- a so-called ’choice’ towards what is bad ≠ a choice 93-3
- if happiness relates only to the temporal 94
- (an element of) eternal happiness even in (the) temporal… 94
- 2 conceptions of happiness in Western thought 94u
- secularization involves divesting of spiritual meaning from… 95+2
- the meaning of happiness and virtue (in Western thought) has changed 95c
- psychological states with no relation with moral codes 95u
- not much different from pagan societies 95u
- philosopic virtues acceptable when in agreement with religion 96o
- examples of reformulation of philosopic virtues 96
- religious virtues 2 kinds: external (ẓāhir) & internal (bāṭin) 96c
- internal virtues: activities of the heart which 96u
- require (niyyah) (`amal) (ikhlāṣ) (ṣidq) 96u
- knowledge of the self 97o
- watch over the animal soul (murāqabah), (muḥāsabah) 97
- knowledge of God, meaning ~ 97
- (tafakkur), … the love of God (maḥabbah) 97u
- inward activities of heart, outward ~ body 98o
- you can’t realize the one w/out the other 98o
- all virtue in Islam is religious 98c
- reason & reason verified by Revelation 98c
- meaning of shaqāwah ≈ ’great misfortune’ 98u
- ḥasrat spending life in self-waste, tragedy 99
- meaning of tragedy in Greek drama 100
- meaning of tragedy in Western man 100u
- even religion was cast into t crucible of tragedy 101
- purching fear by banishing God from creation… 101c
- freedom of will - struggle tow. goal, but goal shifting 101u
- spirit of defiance when man rejects God & turns away 102o
- Adam - injustice against himself 102
- sent to live a life of trial and tribulation, but guidance (K) 102
- lost their souls (K) 103o
- the Day of Distress (K) 103o
- doing good works - bound with īmān 103c
- reverential fear or awe tow. God, to know Him 104
- piety, taqwā, imān, the tranquil soul (K) 104u
- freedom from worry resulting from doubt 105o
- freedom = being submissive to God = muslim 105o
- remembrance of God’s presence 105o
- consciousness of certainty (yaqīn) of the truth 105
- certainty (yaqīn) of knowledge = 3, (K) 105u
- degrees of certainty - pertain to truth 105-4
- degrees of certainty - pertain to heart = faith īmān 106+1
- this consciousness comes from divine guidance 106o
- this consciousness arises as certainty (yaqīn) 106o
- forgetfulness of God involves forgetfulness of soul 106co
- when soul’s rational aspect supressed by its animal aspect (K)
- who has lost his soul (khusr) (K)
- The meaning of suffering 107
- To distract from the tragedy of unattainment - struggle against all others 107
- Happiness is not an end in itself - but love of God 108o
- Certainty of Ultimate Truth 108
- Certainty is a permanent state of consciousness - qalb 108
- It is knowledge of God - Revelation ... 108
- Accompanied by requisite action ibādah 108
- 2nd and 3rd levels of happiness 109o
- Vision of God is highest
- So happiness is twofold 109co + above
- Virtuous activity by body and soul
- Divergence btw Western / Aristotelian conception of happiness and Islam 109u
- Three levels of happiness in the Islamic conception 109u
- No change in our experience and consciousness of happiness throughout the ages 110

Finally it may be noted that the references to "those who turn to God and follow his guidance" not necessarily mean to indicate only those who profess to adhere to the religion of Islam, just as those who profess to follow the religion of Islam are not all necessarily included among those who turn to God and follow his guidance.

This was the last sentence in this chapter.



(K): This statement has a Quran reference.
(Noted first for page 103, there are of course many more Quran references before.)

102o: upper part of the page.
102c: central part of the page.
102u: lower part of the page.


Oriental Pattern


Related texts

link-in Metaphysics, Islamic ~
It is the study of Allah (may His Majesty be exalted) سبحانه و تعالى in relation to His ongoing Self-manifestation or - in other words - understanding the relationship between Allah’s unity and the world’s multiplicity - all through the vehicle of the Islamic revelation.

- Prolegomena-to-the-Metaphysics-of-Islam-Syed-Muhammad-Naquib-Al-Attas.pdf
A Quote From the Prolegomena

  1. Is the Matter of Metaphysics Immaterial? Yes and No; Sh. Hamza Yusuf -↑-

  2. The claim is that only in striving to come to know ourselves and to understand ourselves do our lives have any meaning or value. sparknotes.com

    Since Socrates was religious and trusted his religious experiences, such as his guiding [inner] voice, he accordingly preferred to continue to seek the truth to the answer to his question, in the after-life, than live a life not identifying the answer on earth. wikipedia.org -↑-

  3. Or: a vicious circle of entertainment to death! -↑-


* Living Islam – Islamic Tradition *