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Legenhausen's Reversion To Islam


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#1 .InshAllah.

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Posted 22 March 2011 - 05:29 PM

When I first read prof. Muhammad Legenhausen's account of his reversion to Islam, I was a disappointed to find little in the way of philosophical argument. He was a lecturer in Western philosophy at the University of Texas at the time of his reversion, with a PhD in the subject, so I was expecting some clever refutations of atheism and rigorous proofs for Islam. At the time, his reversion story seemed pretty mundane.

I recently reread his account, and I realised how wrong I was. It seems that one of the central factors that strongly influenced reversion was the beauty and spirit he discovered in the religion and particularly in the character of Imam Ali [a]. What I didn't appreciate when I first read his account was that this way to Islam beats any clever proofs. And in my limited experience, this path is the most commonly traversed by reverts, who tend to be drawn to the religion not by clever syllogisms but after reflecting on the profoundness of its teachings. The fitra plays the biggest part in reversion - people feel an intuitive and deep pull towards become Muslims. Becoming a Muslim just feels like the right thing to do. In Legenhausen's case it was primarily this appreciation of the beauty of Islam, and secondarily philosophical argument that convinced him to revert. The passage below illustrates this pretty well:

The character of Imam ‘Ali was a relentless inspiration. He was a persistent defender of the weak and oppressed, a poet, a treasury of practical wisdom, a theologian, a statesman, a paradigm of virtue, courageous, insightful, humble, faithful, patient, and he had a sense of humour. How could he have been wrong about the existence of God? I might make a jumble of the arguments, but he seemed to see the matter with such clarity as to leave no room for doubt. Certainly emulation of such a person would be a noble thing, but such emulation would be far less than noble if there were no god, and so, God must be! These are the sorts of thoughts that occupied me until somehow the “Why not?” of doubt – of thinking that in some sense maybe it could be true that God exists – became “OK, that can be taken as true”, and then “Indeed, God is!”


We can fomalise part of the above as follow:

(1) Emulation of the Imam [a] is a very noble thing
(2) If God does not exist, then emulation of the Imam is a less than noble thing
(3) Therefore, God exists

A valid deductive syllogism, but with premises that are known foremost intuitively through the Fitra. He had a deep conviction that the Imam was worthy of emulation, but then realised that if God is a lie, this emulation is surely less than very noble. God is so central to all that Imam Ali [a] was and everything that he did. Given the choice between devaluing the greatness of the emulation of the Imam on the one hand, and accepting God on the other, the latter won. In other words, if it's a choice between atheism and the Imam, the Imam comes out on top. Only a tainted spirit and polluted mind which choose the former.

Edited by .InshAllah., 22 March 2011 - 05:31 PM.

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#2 .InshAllah.

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Posted 22 March 2011 - 05:51 PM

Another passage that made me think:

The Shi‘ites also seemed to have a long history of intense interest in social justice. The source for all these ideas turned out to be ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad and first Shi‘ite Imam, (may the peace and blessings of Allah be with Muhammad and with his progeny).
So, I thought that if ever I were to become a Muslim, I should most certainly be a Shi‘ite, as the devotees of Imam ‘Ali are called. My only problem was that I didn't believe in God.


As an atheist, he favoured Shia Islam above all other faiths. This is interesting because one of the criticisms of Pascal's wager is that for all we know, God could have any range of infinite attributes. For example, he could have the attributes of Zeus, or be unjust, or hate Pascal's wager and condem anyone who utilises it to hell. What this criticism misses is that not all of these gods are equally plausible. For someone like Legenhausen who took the Islamic God to be the most plausible one and rejected others, Pascal's wager would be a straightforward bet between atheism and Islam, and Islam would win. Pascal's wager wouldn't be effective against someone who viewed all gods as having an equal chance of existing. The best thing for that person would be to either try and convince them that not all gods are equal, or not bother with the wager.

Edited by .InshAllah., 22 March 2011 - 05:53 PM.

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#3 Gypsy

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 10:07 AM

(salam)
Thank you for sharing this with us. I have the same view with the professor. You only had to look at Imam Ali’s sermon in Nahjul Balagha to see his eloquence. Even when Ali (as) is discussing mundane everyday matter, he speaks rationally and beautifully.

#4 thecontentedself

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 01:28 PM

(salam)

Thanks for sharing brother, I always read his articles as he always manages to give a different perspective (usually a theosophical one) on history. May Allah swt reward him.

#5 habib e najjaar

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 01:52 PM

JazakAllah khayr for sharing :)

#6 hameedeh

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 02:14 PM

(bismillah)
(salam)

ABNA website has put the same account of reversion (in the OP) on their website, adding a photo.

Who is Shia Converted, Muhammad Legenhausen http://abna.ir/data....ang=3&Id=301100

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#7 al ghareeb75

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 02:55 PM

(salam)

Do you know if some kutubs from him are available in English , I ear about him but never saw books ?



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