When we mention psychology today, the first thing that comes to the mind of a great deal of Muslims, particularly those who are not specialized in the field, is 'Freud'; from then on a succession of ideas leads to the fact that this 'Freud' was born a Jew, and is furthermore, an atheist who wrote books against religion. As for sociology, when it is mentioned, it is instantly associated with Durkheim and Marx, and the fact that they were also Jewish, atheist, and against religion, is also recollected.
This kind of relationship between certain branches of the social sciences and religion, which is so palpably engraved in the minds of our intellectuals and Muslim thinkers, explains the reason why some of these thinkers, and some of the Muslim scholars ( ulema ) have taken a negative stand, if not an opposing one, vis-a-vis the social sciences; especially towards psychology and sociology. Undeniably, quite a number of psychologists and sociologists are in fact atheists, and have indeed made religion the object of their criticism, disrespect, and have assigned themselves the task of refuting all that appertains to religion, whether it be institutions or thought. Whereas some have extended their negative position towards religion, and have disputed its origin, function and the role it plays in society altogether. We will exhibit some of these views in the forthcoming pages
However much this may be true, we should not brand all psychologists, sociologists and social scientists as being atheistic, irreligious and determined to fight religion; neither should this state of affairs, in my opinion, allow us to not distinguish between the social sciences on the one hand, with the subject matters and methodologies pertaining to them; and the thinkers on the other hand, as people with their own tendencies, beliefs, ideologies, and even desires and caprices. So, the aim of this study is confined to the nature of the relationship between the social sciences and religion, within the framework of Islamic thought, and also in Western thought. It takes into account the intellectual changes that have taken place in the West and in the Muslim world throughout the course of history, especially in those aspects related to the progress of the sciences, and their subsequent attempts at separating themselves from philosophy and religion. It also looks at the intellectual changes that began in the nineteenth century and reached their peak in the twentieth. During this process we will look closely at the high status enjoyed by the social sciences, and the role they have played in society, especially in the West.
To delineate the core of this relationship (i.e.. between the social sciences and religion) I envisage the following questions to be relevant to our topic:
1) What relationship is there between the social sciences and philosophy in the context of Islamic civilization?
2) What relationship is there between the social sciences and the Islamic sciences?
3) What type of relationships do the social sciences and religion enjoy in the context of Western thought?
4) What relationship is there between the social sciences and values in general?
5) What is the future of the relationship between the social sciences and religion overall?
I would like to quickly draw your attention to the fact that the answers to these questions require long discussions and exhaustive research. My aim is only to raise these issues to be debated amongst the specialists, in the hope that Muslim scholars specializing in the field of social sciences would, on the one hand, provide us with ways to get out of the Lizard's hole; and on the other would keep us from erring into nonsensical myth, delusion and obscure Sufi 'theopathetic locutions' and babble talk; all of which do not provide Muslims with the framework with which to surmount long centuries of underdevelopment.
This brief study is, actually, an introduction to auto-criticism of academic theses that are brought forward today by Muslim scholars and specialists in social sciences. This criticism is not aiming to underestimate these efforts, nor is it aiming to refute them. On the contrary, these steps are taken in an endeavor to try to urge those endowed with enthusiasm to increase their efforts towards producing more scientific and practical alternatives, to enable us to diagnose our shortcomings. Also for them to suggest ways of advancement to us, rather than us being led up the garden path and being presented with empty slogans, which only cause us to stray further away from our final aspirations and goals. Aspirations and goals can be shown to be within arm's reach, when in fact what is really being shown is a mirage, and only a mirage.
Before undertaking this task, I should emphasize that what is meant by religion in this study is Islam, whenever we are discussing religion in the context of Islamic thought; whereas in the context of Western thought, it refers then to any belief system. Furthermore, the approach of this study is not based upon unilateral visions and opinions, neither is the bilateral approach applicable. What we have here is, in fact, an attempt to examine the social sciences and their relationship with religion, from various angles, through discussing views in relation to Islamic thought and Western thought, using relevant examples.