When we scrutinise the cause behind the divergence of some of the early Islamic sects, we find that the influence of philosophers and their methodology in justifying sciences is the main reason, especially the science concerning substantiating belief.
The early Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah and Asha'irah, who were influenced by these schools of thoughts, intended to refute the philosophers' position in belief matters by using the philosophers' logic and analogy, which was established on Aristotelian logic (which led to establishing Ilmul Kalaam), and they ended up rejecting and distorting major principles within the Islamic belief amongst which giving precedence to the intellect (a'ql) over the text (naql: Qur'an and Sunnah).
Lately, we saw the same scenario repeat itself through some propagators involved in the dawah scene in the West, whom I do not question their truthfulness and eagerness to guide the misled atheists. These brothers followed the footsteps of the early Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah in arguing with the atheists by leaning immensely in their arguments on philosophical premises, venerating this method and citing abundantly the arguments of philosophers in their debates, which lured their followers, especially university lay Muslims, to read and learn philosophy in order to be as impressive and articulate as they are.
What is more annoying and disturbing is to see some of these propagators went to an extent to recommend learning philosophy and make it palatable to everyone without distinguishing between lay people and specialized aqeedah scholars!
To open the door widely for ordinary people to delve into the turbulent ocean of philosophy is extremely detrimental; it is tantamount to walking with folded eyes in a minefield, even if you survived death you may not escape fatal wounds. One sad example is the famous Abdullah Al-Qasimi, who was a very smart student of knowledge and not any ordinary person, who wrote even materials defending Tawheed; he was in-depth looking into the books of philosophy and due to their enormous impact on him he ended up denying God's existence (wal iaadhu billaah).
Who Can Look Into The Books of Philosophy?
Consequently, looking into the books of philosophy is exclusive to the expert scholars of aqeedah and only if there is a necessity for that, such as refuting the intellectual confusion caused by these philosophers, especially if their evil had reached the commoners.
The Philosophy taught in academia today is nothing but to free your thoughts and mind from any prior notions, convictions or beliefs and start to question everything around you including the metaphysical realities (i.e. the unseen, things beyond nature) and God is no exception.
Philosophy today is nothing but an attempt to fathom the confusion and disruption of perplexed men who lost their way to God. Philosophy student get to study in-depth the biography and theories of these baffled philosophers, where some ended up committing suicide and others were living a corrupt lecherous life. Some denied axiomatically logical concepts, such as denying law of causality and others went even to extreme to question their own existence and came to conclusion that this is the sound approach to acquire justified knowledge by doubting everything (i.e. Methodic doubt, known also as Cartesian doubt)! Each one of these perplexed philosophers was trying to introduce his own understanding of existence and the individual's role in this existence; such as the theory of knowledge (also known as epistemology) and what is the nature and scope of knowledge; concept of liberty; concept of justice…etc. which are all, obviously, alien to the divine way. And if there were any intellectual goodness produced in these theories and thoughts, it is deemed minimal compared to the disturbing degree of confusion these philosophers have caused to people.
To venerate such misguided figures is misleading and to encourage reading or insinuate value to their literature deemed a deceit to the ummah.
If lay people need to understand the position of some of these philosophers in some philosophical issues, then the way to acquire that is to refer to the work of our scholars, who simplified their ideas and exposed their fallacies and misguidance.
Conflating Philosophy, Kalaam and Mantiq
I have noticed that these keen Western Muslim propagators are conflating philosophy, kalaam and mantiq (Aristotelian logic) and using the scholars' opinion on mantiq to justify learning and reading philosophy. Allegedly, kalam theologians defined mantiq as a tool used to hold the intellect from producing error (i.e. logically). Ilmul Kalaam comprises the debates and argumentations produced by early kalaam theologians to substantiate the Islamic creed and to refute the philosophers' opposing position in creed using the mantiq as a tool. While philosophy, as I have mentioned earlier, is broader in scope and has detrimental approaches and arguments even in perceiving axiomatic facts despite using Aristotelian logic.
Even scholars, who allowed the teaching of mantiq, have stipulated stringent constraints, amongst which restricting it to persons who have firm knowledge in Qur'ān and Sunnah, which means only mantiq but not kalaam or philosophy is limited to the advanced students of knowledge and not ordinary people. After all, why would a sane person advice an ordinary Muslim to learn or read philosophy when he has no foundations in aqeedah or fiqh. Sadly, the reality of many of these lay people today if exposed to the slightest doubt, you would see their faith shaken and about to fall apart.
Scholars Position Toward Learning Mantiq
Imam al-Akhdari رحمه الله said in his Assullam Al-Munawraq in ilm Al-Mantiq, which is a poem in mantiq for beginners, concerning the scholars' position in mantiq:
وَالخُلـفُ فِي جَـوَازِ الاِشتِغَالِ *** بِــهِ عَـلَى ثَـلاَثَـةٍ, أَقــوَالِ
The khalaf (i.e. the generations after the first 3 generations) are upon 3 positions concerning its ruling.
This implies that the salaf (1st three generations) had never dealt with mantiq and had no problem conveying Allāh's ﷻ deen to a wide spectrum of sects.
فَابنُ الصَّـلاَحِ وَالنَّوَاوِي حَرَّمَا *** وَقَـالَ قَـومٌ يَنبَـغِي أَن يُعـلَمَا
Imam Ibn as-Salah رحمه الله (d. 643) and Imam an-Nawawi رحمه الله (d.676) said it is haram (impermissible) – while others said it is obligatory to learn
وَالقَـولَةُ المَشهُـورَةُ الصَّحِيحَه *** جَـوَازُهُ لِـكَامِـلِ القَـرِيحَـه
And the famous sound position – it is permissible for the one perfectly talented
مُمَـارِسِ السٌّـنَّةِ وَالكِتَـابِ *** لِيَـهتَدِي بِـهِ إِلَـى الصَّـوَابِ
Who is experienced in the Sunnah and Qur'an – in order to be guided to the truth
The Righteous Predecessors Position Toward Ilmul Kalaam
When some of ahlus-Sunnah opine the permissibility of learning mantiq for advanced students of knowledge, of course, the motive behind that was not to substantiate the Islamic creed like the kalaam theologians did, but rather to get firm perception of the doubts presented by the kalaam theologians and to refute them using their principles and logic; exactly like what Ibn Taimiyyah رحمه الله did.
We know how firm and hostile the position of our righteous predecessors against ilmul kalaam, which is less detrimental than philosophy. Mantiq, as an innovated science which was the tool for ilmul kalaam, was never used by the righteous predecessors in any way. Like they were able to manage all of their great works, be it in Tafseer, hadith, aqeedah, fiqh or refutations of the deviated sects without dealing with mantiq, hence, what was sufficient for them should be sufficient for us.
Imam Malik رحمه الله (d.179) said, "Whoever seeks deen by kalaam he had committed 'zanndaqah' disbelief" [Dham Al-Kalami wa Ahlihi, 5/71]
Imam ash-Shafi'i رحمه الله (d. 204) said, "My ruling on people of kalaam: That they should be beaten with palm trees bars, and they should be walked around in the clans and tribes, and it is said: This is the recompense of one who abandons the Book and the Sunnah and accepts kalaam." [Jama' Bayan Al-Ilm, 2/941]
Imam Ahamd رحمه الله (d. 241) said, "The kalaam person never succeeds, and you hardly see anyone who has looked at kalaam without having a deceit in his heart" [Jama' Bayan Al-Ilm, 2/941]
This is why Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah رحمه الله (d. 728) was among the first to critique even the mantiq itself (Aristotelian logic) and later European philosophers and thinkers followed him in this critique. He asserted that Mantiq, which is less detrimental than kalaam and philosophy, that: "The intelligent does not need it, nor does the dull benefit from it." [Ar-Rad ala Al-Mantiqieen, 3]
Many concluded that mantiq became a tool, which prevented the intellect from extending its capacity and scope.
Does Refusing Philosophy Entail Refusing Logic?
And again refusing philosophy, kalaam or mantiq does not entail refusing logic whatsoever. In fact the Qur'an and Sunnah are rich with logical arguments and both encouraged exploiting the intellect to be guided to Allah. These logical arguments can still be presented when giving dawah to the atheists. Simply, the Qur'an directs us to reflect upon Allah's ﷻ intriguing creation to be guided to Him. How the creation complements each other to form an applicable atmosphere for all these creation to bliss. How the intricate human body parts complement each other to form a normally living human being. How the intricate cell holds the blueprint of a complete human being and where does this tiny cell get the instructions to carry on this complex mission?
We do not need to go into complex and confusing arguments to substantiate innate truth, which may backfire against our own major Islāmic principles, exactly like what happened with the early Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah and Asha'irah. Alhamdulillah, our scholars had sufficed us from having to scrutinize the philosophers' or kalaam theologians' books to dig for arguments to avail us in calling to Islām.
Islam does not oppose using scientific facts but opposes using hypotheses in substantiating God's existence to the deniers or doubters.
Finally, I say to those who are lured by the philosophical approach in dawah, you may learn philosophy to impress people, but trust me it will not be impressive when you stand before Allāh ﷻ with an aqeedah which is full of fatal bruises. Your faith is more precious than your life, exposing it to philosophy may yank it from its roots.
I hope by this we realize how erroneous to make philosophy palatable for everyone.