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Prolegomena to the

Metaphysics of Islam

Some Contents and Original Text

Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas

ed. Omar KN

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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.


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.’” 2


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


Contents 3a

From the Introduction - Secularization

Notes and quotes from two chapters of the Prol…

Islamic language 30
- imitating shifting slogans of modernity
Freedom, is an act. ikhtiyar. to choose what is good, better btw 2 alternatives.
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

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)


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 *