Applying the Epistemological Self Consciousness Transcendental Critique to Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism

We note that one of the unique features of reasoning regarding ultimate authorities is that an external authority cannot be appealed to when settling a dispute at that level because the authority would then not be “ultimate”.  Reasoning must be assessed using a transcendental basis, for as Kant posited, transcendental reasoning makes possible the ground for its own proof or is assumed in a circular fashion when reasoning at the level of ultimate authorities.  However, we then noted that does not mean that a claim to be a transcendental authority is sustained uncritically.  The worldview itself must be internally critiqued on its own terms, tested for coherence and correspondence.  We demonstrate this procedure in rudimentary fashion below – we describe this as “rudimentary” as there is clearly a lot of detailed work that might need to be done to comprehensively consider particular conceptions internal to these systems, but we can certainly get a sense of the enormous power of the transcendental critique in exposing the inadequate internal and external relationships of the various inflections of the non-Christian worldview.


It is clear that the Koran (or Qur’an) [1] states that Allah is transcendent and that this is an important part of the Islamic understanding of God.  One understands transcendence, by definition, as beyond human understanding, that is, human language is unable to communicate about Allah or to discern His nature: ‘No vision can grasp Him…He is above all comprehension [understanding, grasp]’ (Qur’an 6:103) and ‘Nothing there is like Him’ (Qur’an 42).  However, the Koran also wants to assure us of Allah’s immanence, ‘He is closer to humans than their jugular vein’ (Qur’an 50) and ‘And He is with you wherever you may be’ (Qur’an 57).  Islamic belief thus asserts God is both transcendent and immanent but also that Allah is one, it is, for the Moslem, the “glaring difference” between Christianity and Islam.[2]

Now the logical tension in this position is obvious, if immanence and transcendence are considered as opposites and Islamic belief demands we accept that Allah is both, we are asserting that God is both A and ~A which is contrary to any accepted conception of first order predicate logic.  However, that religious beliefs want to demand a different conception of logic or reject it altogether (as European Romantics did), is not necessarily a reason for deeming it irrational.[3]  After all, this is God and if anyone could be A and not A it would be that wholly other entity, accepting there could be some additional premise that would resolve the paradox.  However, if elsewhere within Islamic scripture we have argumentation which relies on propositional logic, we are going to struggle to answer the claim that the Koran is incoherent.

For example, it is argued by Islamic scholars that there should be absolute clarity in our Koranic texts for the principle of their meaning is obtained by understanding the exact meaning of the Arabic language:

“As such, this interpretation is corrupt and incorrect. May Allah be exalted above the idea of having an opponent to vie with over His kingdom!

The truth is that the istiwaa’ of Allah (Mighty & Majestic) over His Throne is rising and actual ascendancy. It is a rising that befits His Glory and Grandeur, in accord with the Saying of the Most High, {There is none like unto Him.} [Al-Shura 42: 11]

This is the meaning that is true to the term, for the Holy Quran was revealed in the Arabic language, and the principle in determining the meaning of words in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) is that it remains on the exact meaning in the Arabic language”.[4]

So, when those scholars use the terms “corrupt”, “incorrect”, “true” and “exact” we are committing to a strong logical conception.  That makes it extremely difficult to apply the elaborate hermeneutics and changing the text to say something completely different from what it presents to us.  This is by no means confined to Islam but is applied throughout the religions of the world when their texts embarrass the devotees with its propositions or demands.

We also have the second logical incongruity that it is alleging to be Allah’s transcendent Word, which it assumes we will understand from Muhammed as His prophet.  However, that is assuming we can grasp what is supposed to be beyond us.  The Koran also asserts that Moses and the Gospels of Jesus were previous, true revelations of Allah.  However, elements of Moses and the Gospels are antithetical in their theological content to the Koran.  Both cannot be true – if the Koran tells us Moses and the Gospels are true, it cannot be.

In fairness, some Moslem theologians respond to this by asserting that the biblical texts are “corrupt”,[5] which is why they are inconsistent with the Koran.  This too is a legitimate logical technique for the resolving of paradoxes – you introduce another premise, but the premise must be assessed on its merits, it is not self-evident unless we assume what we are trying to prove (in this case, the reliability of the text).  However, let us appreciate the scholars here – at least we have an agreement that the texts, if taken at face value, do indeed say different things.  Only one of these texts or neither, could be asserted as the transcendental for human intelligibility.

The charge of “corruption” of the biblical texts is difficult to reconcile with the extensive manuscript evidence (the largest collection of extant manuscripts for any ancient literature are the biblical texts by a very long way) which has established the biblical texts to a large degree.  Most scholars are prepared to admit that the textual uncertainty that remains does not affect the main theological doctrines of the Bible.[6]  In contrast, the biggest criticism in this respect of the Koranic text is with regards to the largely arbitrary recension of the Koranic texts by Caliph Uthman (640) where the Koranic variants, apparently conceived of as substantively large variants (which is why the Caliph ordered the recension), were burnt.  The Koran would seem to be far more open to criticism as to its authenticity than the Bible on the text-critical level [7] because of the absence of the record of these variants to allow the text to be assessed.  There are also linguistic issues with “mistakes” in the Arabic grammar, which if the words are the literal words of Allah transcribed as is claimed for the Koran – if Allah spoke, he would have spoken perfect Arabic – there could be no mistakes.

The Koran certainly wants to be considered as the very words of Allah, dictated rather than ‘inspired’ (which is preferred by Christian conceptions of scripture) because it wants to emphasise the logical imperative of obedience to Allah.  The implication being that as these are the very words of Allah, we have an absolute moral obligation to obey them as His transcendence behoves us.  However, if we are required to accept predicate logical forms in this case, we can then not reject the requirements of logic with respect to His person unless we make it a matter of transcendent faith and that it would be impious to question our apparent ability to understand.  Thus, the venerable Imam Malik:

“{The Most Beneficent (Allah) rose over the Throne}[Taha 20: 5]: how is the istiwaa’? He replied (may Allah be merciful to him), “The istiwaa’ (rising) is known, but the ‘how’ is unknown; belief is obligatory, and the question about it is innovation (bid`ah)”.[8]

Here Malik does indeed make it a matter of uncritical belief that we accept there are aspects of Allah’s action that escape logical expression in human language, but we accept them on the basis of the ‘how’ belonging to the transcendent realm.  The problem then is with the metaphysical status of Allah and how words apply to a being not part of the creation and yet how are we to consider Allah a “one” when there is nothing like him in the created order.  So, at various important points of logical clarity, we see Islam becomes mystical or fideist in its worldview, it is impious to question the assertions of scripture.

Thus, on this level, the claim of Islam to be a transcendental that lends intelligibility to human experience generally, cannot be supported.  This does not dismiss Islam as a religious system, but it does describe it as fideist, asserting that some elements of its system deny rational explanation and consider it impious to attempt it.

Hinduism and Buddhism

These words are a clumsy Western aggregation of a broadly related (but sometimes oppositional in their details) group of religious practices.  “Hinduism” was more of a geographical term related semantically to the word for those from “across the river” (analogous to the designation of Abraham as a ‘Hebrew’, the Hebrew word for one who crosses the river).  Buddhism is held to be a localised variation of Hinduism.  What they have in common is their core metaphysical belief that what we consider as “reality” is fundamentally incorrect, it is an “illusion” and a “higher consciousness” that allows the intuition of the true reality is possible by ascetic means.[9]

In this view, all the distinctions we assert we believe are “illusory”.  We are in fact “one”, i.e., these beliefs are asserting a radical monism.  In many varieties of this thought, that oneness is what we call “God”, and we are all “God”, we just need to rediscover that.  In other varieties the oneness is atheistic, i.e., any concept of a person or meta-person called “God” is denied, the universe just “is”, and our ultimate aim is to lose our personal identity and re-join its energy.  By means of meditation and spiritual exercises we ascend beyond our rational limits and receive mystical insight into our oneness and all distinctions disappear.  At that point we re-enter what we might called “heaven” or “Nirvana”.

However, in order for you to communicate to me about our alleged oneness, you have needed to have recognised a distinction between yourself and me.  In doing so, you have denied our oneness and we can again conclude the worldview you claim to believe is rationally incoherent.  There is no sense in which such a belief system pretends to offer any type of transcendental as the prerequisite of intelligibility.  Its very structure relies on mystical intuition apart from the natural order that we are trying to describe.  Again, this does not dismiss this type of religion as a religious system, but it does show it to be irrational with no claim as a transcendental authority.

[1] Islamic and Arabic scholars prefer the transliteration Qur’an.  However, as it is still a transliteration and phonetically unnatural for the English speaker, ‘Koran’ is used in the succeeding discussion except when referring to particular scripture references.

[2] Knowing Allah. (2010, January 23). Monotheism – One God. Retrieved from Knowing Allah:

[3] In one discussion I was part of, it was described as “alternative rationality”.  Rather like the statement “true for you but not for me”, it contradicts what is attempting to qualify by changing its fundamental nature.  Once we call it alternative rationality, we are talking of something other than the rational.

[4] Knowing Allah. (2011, August 7). 6.Transcendence (Rising Above). Retrieved from Knowing Allah:

[5] Knowing Allah. (2011, August 7). 6.Transcendence (Rising Above). Retrieved from Knowing Allah:

[6] However, others do believe that any type of discrepancy invalidates the entire corpus, an inductive generalisation that I hope we have already demonstrated is a logical fallacy if for no other reason that it is an inductive generalisation and inductive generalisations are psychological in nature, not logical.

[7] Aland, K., & Barbara, A. (1995). The Text of the New Testament (2nd pbk ed.). (E. F. Rhodes, Trans.) Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.

[8] Knowing Allah. (2011, August 7). 6.Transcendence (Rising Above). Retrieved from Knowing Allah:

[9] What is also distinctive in these traditions is that there was no verbal revelation from a personal God, they are inherently polytheistic, and the spiritual books were of an entirely different character to the Bible or the Koran.  However, owing to the influence of Christianity and Islam, the modern forms of these religions often have more of a focus on one God who is considered the “highest” God.  Thus, whereas Krishna was once just one god amongst many, He is now in some sects considered the Supreme God imbued with creative abilities.

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