Robert R. Reilly recently gave a talk on the irrationality of ISIS at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA. WORLD magazine interviewed him afterward.
An excerpt from WORLD:
The reason ISIS behaves so irrationally can be traced to a ninth-century theological dispute in Sunni Islam, according to Robert Reilly, director of the Westminster Institute and author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamic Crisis. The Mu’tazilite school, as he explained in a lecture at Patrick Henry College last month, believed God is a god of reason and justice. It attempted to balance revelation and reason. If revelation—the Quran—appeared to conflict with reason, revelation must be reinterpreted or discarded.
The Ash’arite school, on the other hand, taught that God is pure power and therefore revelation dominates all, including reason. Man must submit to the Quran without questioning.
“The mind, once it testifies to the truth of the Prophet, must cease to act,” as one Islamic scholar put it.
In Ash’arite theology, man has no free will, is incapable of determining right from wrong, and the only cause of anything is the will of Allah, Reilly explained. An arrows flies because Allah sustains its path, not because of momentum. If you cut off a man’s head and he dies, he died because it was Allah’s will, not because of any other cause.
The Ash’arite school of thought became the dominant teaching among Sunnis, who became the majority sect in Islam. There is still a strong strain of irrationality in Sunni Islam, argues Reilly, and its central role in jihadist ideology helps explain why the Arab world mostly abandoned scientific inquiry and, in UN assessments, stands near the bottom of every measure of human development. This irrationality also helps explain why ISIS takes jackhammers to priceless artifacts and lines up Coptic Christians to slit their throats. …