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Religious Pluralism: Kadivar, Soroush Debate

Part I of discussion between Hojjat ol‑Eslam Mohsen Kadivar and Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush


{The question of pluralism is one of the discussions that

has found its way in recent years into religious studies fields in our

country and has recently prompted various arguments. SALAM newspaper, in

connection with expanding the foundations of Islamic thought and ideas, has

engaged in clarifying this theory and in this connection invited Dr.

Sorush, as the person who has raised this question, and Hojjat ol‑Eslam

Kadivar, as one of the thinkers of the seminary, to engage in discussions

and dialogue in this connection. What follows is the result of this

conversation. SALAM hopes that removed from futile commotions that some

create in the area of ideas, it will be able to create a suitable and clear

arena to express new ideas in the area of religious studies. We hope that

experts will help us continue this discussion by sending us their

criticisms and views. Also, we would like to point out that the publication

of this material in no way reflects the views of the newspaper in this


Part 1

Hojjat ol‑Eslam Kadivar

In the name of God the compassionate and the merciful, and with His

help. One of the important issues of our age is the manner of confronting

the variety and plurality of the religions that exist in the world. We have

numerous wars, both religious and nonreligious.

The existing religions are comprised of two groups, revealed and

non‑revealed religions. In each of the revealed religions, we have numerous

sects, as well. The question that is raised for every thinker is how to

interpret the variety and number of religious and nonreligious opinions, on

the one hand, and the number, plurality, and variety of various religions,

on the other, as well as the variety of sects in every religion. Certainly,

the variety and plurality of religions and sects as well as doctrines is an

"external reality." But, whether or not this reality also has any "truth"

in it is an issue that has occupied the minds of thinkers for quite some


In this area, numerous interpretations have been offered. The question

of "religious pluralism" is a particular interpretation of the existing

plurality in religious opinions. This interpretation is not the only

interpretation of the plurality and variety of religions. Other

interpretations can also be mentioned.

First interpretation: Some religious believers consider only their own

way the exclusive way for human guidance. They do not consider other ways

proper or as the ideal.

Second interpretation: Some others, even though they consider their

own way to be the way to reach the ideal, do not reject all other religions

and paths.

They establish a relationship between other religions and their own

and somehow are "inclusive" in their own religious beliefs in regards to

other religions and sects, in the sense that every religion, sect, or

doctrine has some truth, is not absolutely false, and is rewarding in

proportion to how much truth it has, but complete truth is only found in

one religion.

Third interpretation: One group regards this "actual plurality" as

"true plurality" and have tried somehow to speak of different and authentic

experiences of religion, and even in numerous sacred affairs to speak of

direct paths and not a direct path, numerous truths and not a single truth.

This interpretation constitutes religious pluralism. Considering that the

question of religious pluralism itself has different and numerous

interpretations, undoubtedly, starting the discussion in this area is an

auspicious beginning for the blossoming of religious studies in our

society. The main preoccupation of religious believers has always been

whether various understandings on the question of the plurality of

religions will harm the question of religious faith and belief, or can one

have religious belief and at the same time find some truth in a religion

other than one"s own. In other words, is religious pluralism

compatible with religious faith and belief and, in a word, with belief in

religion? The discussion that we want to have today, with the help of God,

is an examination and critique of various interpretations that have been

offered in regards to the plurality of religions. One of these

interpretations is the theory of pluralism which Dr. Sorush has discussed

recently, and which has raised serious questions. First, we will hear a

summation of this discussion from his own lips, and then we will discuss

other interpretations of the plurality of religions and sects, especially

from the viewpoint of religious pluralism and particularly from the

perspective of its compatibility or incompatibility with religious belief.

Dr. "Abdolkarim Sorush

In the name of God the compassionate and the merciful. I am grateful

to Mr. Kadivar for starting the discussion. I will also give a brief

explanation about the issue, and then we will have a discussion. The

question of pluralism is a search to explain the actual existing plurality

in the world and, for that matter, the inevitable, distinct, and sometimes

contradictory plurality. We live in a world in which we face numerous

pluralities, whether plurality in religion, plurality in languages,

plurality in cultures, plurality in skins, plurality in color, or plurality

in race, and the like. Hence, the external world is a world of plurality.

For every thinker, it is problematic how to explain the existence and birth

of these varieties and pluralities. In other words, it is a question of

why: Why are humans not of the same color and race in the world? Why do we

not have a single religion? Why do all the people not have the same tastes

and think alike? And so on.

As soon as we see ourselves confronted with the question of plurality,

explaining it becomes important to us. For us religious people, explaining

the plurality of religions is doubly important, because every religious

person believes in his own religion and regards other religions, compared

to his own, which he considers right, not to be right. This is different

from the plurality of languages and colors, in which there is no discussion

about right and wrong.

Now, in order to explain the plurality of religions, we must clarify

our opinion regarding several issues. But from the very start, I would say

that the question of religious pluralism, or the question of explaining the

plurality of religions, is primarily and by nature not an issue of deciding

about right and wrong. It is not a religious jurisprudential or theological

question. In other words, it is neither to determine the religious duty of

religious people, nor to discuss determining and proving the truth of one

religion among others. It is not even to recommend tolerance. But,

primarily and by nature, it is for the philosophical, epistemological

explanation that has appeared in the arena of religion at the present and

appears to be inevitable. In other words, despite the arguments that

various theologians from various religions have had with one another, this

plurality has not been eliminated and appears to be inevitable, and every

group of religious people continues to believe in its own sect and

doctrine. Also, religious pluralism does not begin from the premise that

all religions are right or equal, and it does not predetermine the truth or

falsehood of any one of them. Now, to explain the plurality of religions,

immediately we find ourselves faced with several problems. One is the

question of divine guidance. Philosophically, we must clarify our opinion

about divine guidance and determine in what sense we regard God to be a

guide. As pointed out in the article, "The Direct Paths," when we see

ourselves faced with poverty and injustice in the real world, we must

clarify our opinion in regards to divine mercy and providence. Without

coming to a clear opinion, we cannot succeed in solving the question of

evil in the world. The same is true of the question of divine guidance and

combining it with the misguidance of a large number of human beings.

A second point that we must face in explaining plurality is the

question of human intellect. We must also have a clear opinion in regards

to what the extension of our understanding is and how trustworthy it is,

because one can easily say, only we are right and all the people in the

world are misguided. This can easily be said, and perhaps the followers of

every sect have the same opinion. But it does not end here, because

immediately, we face the question of: How is it that the majority of the

people of the world are wrong, do not know that they are misguided, and

consider themselves the vehicle of truth? What is the difference between

our intellect and that of others, that we are not mistaken and have found

the truth? Have all the people been deceived? Are all the people blind

imitators? Do all disregard the rules of truth and falsehood, reason and

proof? Are all selfish? Are all deceived by Satan, except for us? In any

case, any one of these explanations would immediately confront us with the

issue that, until we have a [illegible] of the intellect of human beings,

we cannot especially solve the problem of religious pluralism, because the

fact is that each of the existing sects and religions in the world that

consider themselves to be right necessarily say that the majority of the

people of the world are misguided. In other words, if you look at

Christianity and think that, nominally, there are about 1 billion followers

of Christianity in the world, still there are four to five times as many

who do not follow Christianity. Take the Shi"ites, the Zeydis, the

Ismailis, the Jews. No matter what group you take that believe in their

truth, the conclusion is that the majority of the people of the world are

misguided, are not prepared to give up their wrong ways, and continue to

believe in their own path. Hence, we must make it clear what has happened

to people"s intellect and the purpose of divine guidance. The

implication that has been offered so far is that they have said that,

firstly, this plurality will return to unity. Hence, the plurality has been

denied. This is ignoring the issue.

The discussion on pluralism begins with accepting and proving

plurality. If someone believes that these pluralities, as the mystics say,

are an illusion, are arbitrary, and are not true, that they are false

pluralities and underneath them is a unity, in that case, the question of

pluralism is put aside and is beyond discussion. But, if we assume a

plurality that is explainable by nature, in that case, pluralism is an

issue. Secondly, it has been said that there are common aspects of

religions. But it must be noted that the question of pluralism is about the

differences and not what they have in common. The parts that they have in

common will be outside the explanation and do not need it. Thirdly, it has

been said that, in the world of religions, we can offer several theories of

why different groups have been misguided. One is resorting to the

conspiracy theory. Another is fighting the truth. Another is

misunderstanding, another imitation, another the complexity of the truth,

and others that have been mentioned in the article on "The Direct Paths."

Apparently, we have no other solution. We must either say, for example,

that the Sunnis who did not become Shi"ites did not because of a

conspiracy in the history of Islam, and they all became Sunnis. Or we must

say that no conspiracy took place, but some misunderstood Islam, contrary

to us; we understood it correctly. Or we might say that they did not

misunderstand it, neither did a conspiracy occur, but they were hostile

and, because of selfishness and their interests, they trampled the truth.

Or we might say that the truth was so complex that few could understand it,

hence, they are not guilty. No matter which of these theories we mention

with regard to the variety of sects and religions, immediately we find

ourselves faced with this important supposition, that either the majority

of the people of the world are hostile to the truth, or have misunderstood,

or are intellectually weak, or have been deceived by conspiracy. In all

these cases, we are fighting the people"s intellect as well as divine

guidance. Of course, we should remember that every theory that we offer in

regards to intellect also includes ourselves. In my opinion, the correct

way to pose the question is that, if we do not want to say so, we should

find a way that would interpret both variety and human intellect, give a

clear place to divine guidance, and also contain truth and justice.

[Kadivar] I will begin with a discussion from within religion, and in

continuation, I will look at the issue from outside religion. Hence, I will

explain the understanding in Shi"ite Islam of the question of

plurality and variety of religions, sects, and doctrines in theological


First point: There is no doubt about the fact that there is actual

plurality in the world, especially plurality of religions. No one can deny

the plurality of religions as an external reality. In fact, the question is

how to explain this plurality. Why are there many religions, and now, if

there are, how should we approach this plurality? At the start of the

discussion, I find it necessary to separate the issue of "tolerance" from

the way we enter into and exit the issue of "religious pluralism." One can

believe in the exclusivity of legitimacy in one religion or accept other

theories, such as the "inclusiveness of the true religion" compared to

other religions, or the idea of numerous true religious (that is, direct

paths), while in practice, and in social attitude, believe in "tolerance."

Hence, these two issues must be separated. The question of pluralism,

exclusivity, non‑exclusivity, or any other theory that is discussed in

connection with explaining the plurality of religions can be combined with

the question of tolerance in the sense that, in our behavior, we believe in

peaceful coexistence with all religions and take certain rights into

consideration for the followers of different religions. We assume this

issue to be settled. In other words, various religions (or at least some of

the religions, as it is in our religion) have certain rights that have been

officially recognized. But our discussion is not about the social conduct

of the believers in one religion or the followers of other religions. In

fact, the discussion is about whether we exclusively have the truth and

others do not have it at all, or whether it is otherwise.

Second point: The issue can also be explained in another way. That is,

we believe that God has sent two types of messengers to guide human beings,

one messenger is the intellect of human beings, which He has granted as a

gift in all humans, and another consists of the external messengers, who

are the prophets sent by God. This internal messenger, that is, the

God‑given intellect or the God‑seeking nature of man, exists in all people

to varying degrees. No man lacks [the instinct to] seek the truth and

longing for God. All humans have such a pure instinct in them and, hence,

seek the truth. They may have differences ways of finding the manifestation

of truth, as they do, but it cannot be doubted that all seek the truth,

even supreme truth. On the other hand, God has not considered this

messenger, that is, the messenger of wisdom, the internal messenger, to be

enough and has been generous to humanity in sending external messengers

accordingly to guide the people. Various nations have witnessed the

appointment of prophets who have all provided the people with divine

teachings. Hence, it is meant that God has sent different prophets who have

started different religions. Among the revealed religions, this variety is

accepted in this sense. In other words, numerous religions consider

themselves to be related to God, and that numerous prophets, such as

Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad, have come to call the people to

salvation and perfection. There is no doubt that each of these divine

religions was in fact "true" in its own time and was most true for humans

to be able to understand and approach it. For example, Christianity during

the time when Jesus came to guide the people had the greatest part of the

truth (which humans could understand at that time). The same was true

during the time of Moses and other prophets. Hence, every prophet who came,

in fact, came from a single God with specific teachings. These teachings

are no different in nature from the teachings of the past prophets. They do

not have marked differences. They do not have inevitable pluralism,

contrary to the fact that in religious pluralism, it is said that those

marked differences are inevitable and natural. On the contrary, the

teachings of the revealed prophets (prophets who have come from God)

indicate a single truth. If there are differences seen in the teachings of

these religions, at least in the form in which they came (prior to being

distorted), they represent the various degrees of truth. In other words,

the single truth, which is sacred, which is God, reduces this truth to a

degree from the divine memory and places it at the disposal of the human

beings of each era. Undoubtedly, it is different from the degree of truth

that He provided man at the time of Jesus or at the time of the Prophet of

Islam. But these differences are dubious differences and not marked

differences by nature. What is meant by dubious differences is that the

final position of the revealed religion includes all the perfection of the

previous religions. Everything good that was in Judaism, Christianity, or

Abrahamic religions, Islam claims to contain. In addition to the past

perfection, it also has perfection that is not witnessed in the past

religions. The reason for this difference is explainable and clarifiable.

Based on the same religious instructions, appropriate to human development,

God decided to provide people with more of the truth. This truth is

expressed in the form of religious teachings, in the form of verses in the

divine book, or in the form of reliable reported sayings from the mouths of

the infallible and placed at the disposal of mankind and religious people.

Hence, there is no marked difference and inevitable plurality among the

divine religions, even though there is variety.

Third point: Also, among divine religions, with every religion that

comes, the latest religion revokes some of the religious rulings of the

previous one or completes them. But in regards to beliefs and morality, all

religions verify and complement one another, and none of them is considered

a revocation of another in terms of belief. If there is any revocation, it

is only in the area of religious jurisprudential rulings and religious

laws, proportionate to the level of perfection in various societies and

times, and not in the area of religious beliefs. This unity of many of the

beliefs of the divine religions is again another example of lack of

differences in nature and the incorrectness of inevitable plurality.

Islamic beliefs verify and complete the true Christian beliefs, the

same beliefs that Christianity had when the Bible was inspired, the same

beliefs that existed in Judaism, before distortion occurred in it. In fact,

these beliefs complete one another, and in this regard, there is no

difference between them. All these religions speak of a single God and

speak about the day of judgment and resurrection. They speak of the

necessity of guidance by prophets for man"s salvation, and all are

unanimous that certain laws should be expressed by the prophets to guide


Fourth point: The result that we can get from divine religion is that,

if we look at the plurality of divine religions, this plurality can be

explained in this way, that the final religion, Islam (at least, as claimed

by Muslims), includes all the perfection of the previous religions. The

truth of Islam does not mean the absolute falsehood of Judaism and

Christianity. It does not mean that the Jews and Christians who lived

before Islam and followed their own religious rules were wrong and false.

No. They were also guided. Even today, if someone is a Jew or a Christian,

we do not say that he is absolutely wrong, in the sense that, after all, he

is a monotheist and believes in the day of judgment. He performs good deeds

in accordance with his religious laws. And supposing that he is not among

the scholars of Christianity and has, for instance, not heard the message

of Islam and believes in the teachings of his own religion and performs the

laws of his religion, he may have salvation in the next world. Hence, if we

speak about the truth of Islam, it is dubious truth, in the sense that

Islam has the previous truths in its teachings. It never means that if

someone is not of our religion and does not call himself a Muslim, he is

certainly misguided. We do not make such a claim. Here, we are separating

the scholars and ordinary people. This is the issue that in our religious

culture is interpreted in some respect as the issue of "the inculpable

ignorant and the culpable ignorant."

In fact, what in Islam is value and the truth that stems from it is

true faith in God and the day of judgment and pious deeds. In our ideology,

titles and names are never of true value. Of course, it is clear that

complete salvation and reward belongs to one who believes in the

prophethood of the Seal of the Prophets and practices his instructions.

Hence, the discussion in the first part (among revealed religions) can be

summed up as follows: that we can both believe in one supreme truth and

also not consider other religions and followers of other religions as

completely false.

Fifth point: Another point is raised here about the followers of

non‑revealed and non‑divine religions. For example, the Buddhists and the

followers of Confucius and the like are not followers of divine religions,

from our perspective. But, considering the internal messenger to what I

referred to in the beginning of the discussion, if we assume that these

religions are human efforts to achieve the sacred and the supreme, we can

find in them some truth. Hence, if we consider Islam as absolute truth,

even the non‑divine religions are absolute falsehood. To the extent that

their direction is towards the sacred and the supreme, they may have

achieved some truth. In the same way that moral principles are not all

acquired by grace and worship, many of these principles are rational, there

is no problem with a follower of one of the non‑divine religions having

reached some of these moral principles with his own intellect, for

instance, considering lying as prohibited in his own religion, condemning

theft, respecting truthfulness, honor and self‑sacrifice, and the like. He

can also believe in a sacred concept. Hence, every religion, in proportion

to the truth that it contains, is worthy of respect.

A Buddhist and an apostate without religion are different. He is

preferable to [the apostate] who denies the sacred and oppresses the

metaphysical. Every religious person is respectable to the degree of truth

he has in his religion. Certainly, if someone believes in Islam, if he

considers his religion right, it does not mean that anyone who does not

have his beliefs is absolutely false. Rather, he believes that the various

truths are found in his own religion in their perfected and completed form.

Sixth point: The next stage of the discussions is about various sects.

We see that there are various sects in every religion. In Islam, we have

Shi"ites and Sunnis. Among the Sunnis, there are various sects.

Various sects have also appeared among the Shi"ites. Still, the same

question is raised. In our belief, we do not say that if someone is not a

Shi"ite, he is completely wrong. Rather, we believe that truth is also

found in his religion and beliefs. In religious rules, he has many common

points with Shi"ism. In terms of religious discussion, as a believer

in one of the Islamic sects, we say that this interpretation, that is, the

interpretation of the Prophet"s family of Islam, in our opinion, is


If we say that Shi"ism is right, we do not mean that the

teachings of the Sunnis are all false, and anyone who does not believe as

we do will have no benefit from guidance. This interpretation has some

supporters, but what I am defending here is that heaven and hell are not

granted for a price, but as a justification. Faith and pious deeds bring

salvation and not names and titles. Every Muslim who has this belief and

engages in good deeds will benefit according to the level of those beliefs

and good deeds. Of course, we believe that the most perfect beliefs are in

the interpretations of the teachings of the Prophet"s family, both in

the area of beliefs and in the area of practice. But, again I emphasize

that, if we say truth is in Shi"ism, it is not meant that Sunnis are

all wrong. Rather, some of the truth, that is, Islam, is also found among

the Sunnis. Hence, we defend the fact that other Islamic sects also have

some of the truth, and as to whom God takes to heaven, God only knows. We

certainly know that the requirement for going to paradise is faith and good

deeds. This faith and good deeds has a perfect form and also more imperfect


Since I consider the main problem of religious pluralism its

compatibility or incompatibility with faith and religious belief, I have

found it necessary, before giving an explanation from outside religion, to

present the religious (inside religion) understanding of the question of

plurality of religions, sects, and doctrines and emphasize that, by

accepting, firstly, the existence of a single supreme truth, secondly,

accepting the possibility of understanding the truth to the level of human

intellect, and, thirdly, accepting a specific level and standard of truth

for separating the truth from falsehood, one can believe that a religion

and a sect have more of the truth and other religions and sects have

salvation based on the level of this truth and not necessarily closeness to

the religion of truth. Also, the principles of our religion have a

determining effect on our extra‑religions discussion.


Subslug: Part II of discussion between Hojjat ol‑Eslam Mohsen Kadivar and Dr.

"Abdolkarim Sorush


Dr. Sorush

Mr. Kadivar took the discussion inside religion and spoke of truth and

falsehood. He expressed the beliefs of a pure Shi"ite that

Shi"ism is pure and absolute truth, and others have some truth at the

level of their proximity to Shi"ism. A Shi"ite goes to heaven and

others, if they do not know about Shi"ite beliefs, are the inculpable

ignorant, and that God will treat them with kindness and mercy. Such an

entry into the question of pluralism is to remove its foundation and

meaning. It is a statement that I would also hear if I were speaking with a

Wahabi, a Christian, or a Zoroastrian. It is astonishing that he says that

religions are not markedly different in nature, however, not religions in

their present form, but undistorted religions. In other words, again, it is

settling for the same positions within one"s own religion. Another way

to look at the issue is from the extra‑religions perspective. It is a more

philosophical look at the issue in the form that I said earlier, in other

words, in explaining plurality by the nature of plurality, regardless of

the religion, sect, or doctrine to which we belong. As the phenomenologists

say, we should set our own beliefs aside; that is, we should disregard them

for now and discuss the issue in more general terms. Then we use the answer

that we find in a general discussion to find an answer within religion,

because based on the principles that I have stated in "Contraction and

Expansion," the external bases of our religion totally affect our judgment

within our religion, and while our view about generalities has not reached

any conclusion in regard to particular issues, we will not come to a clear

judgment. For this reason, I suggested that, in regards to plurality, we

argue that, firstly, we accept the plurality that exists and secondly,

clarify the "reasons" and "causes" of this plurality. The reason that I put

my finger on the reasons and causes is that they are different and have

different rules.

The cause becomes meaningful because of the existence of the "object,"

and reason is based on claim. Causes are non‑epistemological and

non‑reasoning factors, which consist of training, environment of birth,

life geography, natural evolution, social and hereditary conditions,

interests, selfishness, ignorance, and the like and are involved in the

creation of human affairs. In other words, if we ask, for what reason have

people turned different colors? For what reason have they different races

and languages? We must give causal answers, and reasoned answers are

irrelevant. But when it is religion"s turn, when it is the turn of

philosophical doctrines, one should ask both about causes and reasons. I

have also stated in "Direct Paths" that the religion of the majority of the

people (public) has a cause and not a reason. In other words, before

engaging in a scholarly and philosophical evaluation and before studying

the reasons for the truth of various religions, to examine the truth of

various religions, the public becomes interested in a religion or a sect

that the environment dictates without any evaluation. Changing one"s

religion is very rare and exceptional. Hence, plurality in the religion of

the public is due to the plurality of causes, and as long as there is

plurality of causes (that is, the environment, education, imitation...),

the plurality of religions (or plurality of belief in religions) will also

exist. Now we get to the religion of the elite (scholars), which has

reasons and not causes, and each group of them considers itself right and

the other wrong.

Now, here, the question is raised that, if the scholars, theologians,

and intellectuals of a nation are involved in the reasons (and neglect the

causes and are not under the influence of the environment, imitation, and

inculcation), how is it that all have invariably remained in their

different and contradictory positions, and none of the scholars of various

nations have agreed to give up their reasons and admit that they are wrong?

How is it that the Jews continue to insist on the reasoning that Judaism is

right, the Christian scholars insist on the reasoning of the truth of

Christianity, the Shi"ite scholars insist on the truth of

Shi"ism, the Sunni scholars on the truth of Sunnis, etc., and this

quarrel has not ended? Since both sides of the quarrel have heard each

other"s reasoning, and because they are wise and scholars, they should

go, listen, and submit to the truth. When we get there, the issue becomes

very difficult, and the point is raised that I referred to earlier. We must

explain our theory about wisdom. If we do not have a clear opinion on

wisdom (and thereby on truth), we cannot take any steps, because we are not

discussing the wise of the nation. The wise of the nation consist of

[different] groups, some of whom have accepted Judaism as truth and

maintain that other religions and sects are wrong, and others who belong to

Christianity, etc.

Here, we have two ways. One is to say that these reasons should be

changed to causes, that is, the reasons are all fabricated and are all

ideas and ideologies. This is what the post‑modernists say, which has old

roots. In other words, our intellect is controlled by our emotions. Our

intellect is controlled by our selfishness, interests, and belongings and

is captive to what is inculcated in us, does not have the power and courage

to examine the reasons impartially, it has a historical nature, it is

affected by ideology, etc. This is a lengthy argument. If we make such a

statement, firstly, we have offered our theory in regards to wisdom and,

secondly, we have clarified our duty and situation, that we are like

others, indeed no different from others. When reasoning is changed to

cause, it means that the intellect has no authority, and what operates and

affects human judgment are causes, such as profit or political and

ideological geography. As Hafez says:

Do not frighten us of the prohibition by wisdom, bring wine/ Because

that policeman has no authority in our land.

If we change the reasons into causes, we go back to the previous

position, and pluralism becomes inevitable. Everyone has as much right as

the next to stay within his particular beliefs, and no one can boast of

superiority over another, claim to be more right than another, or say: I am

superior to you because I have more correct beliefs and stronger reasoning.

In fact, the elite become like the public, only a bit more complex.

But if we do not have such an opinion with regard to intellect and do

not change the reasons to causes, in that case, we must say why the wise of

the nation, despite hearing the statements of the rivals, continue to

insist on their own ideas, and no reason has replaced another. It is here

that some have reached the opinion that the work of the wise in the world

in regards to religion has reached "equality of reasons." This is also a

sort of opinion. This is the same opinion that Kant reached in metaphysics.

He said, in metaphysical issues, that the work of the intellectual has

reached "equality of reasons." What does "equality of reasons" mean? It

means that the reasons of both sides are equally strong, so that neither

can overpower the other and force it out. What was Kant"s opinion

about the incidence or precedence of the world?

He said: If the metaphysicians and philosophers argue until Judgment

Day about the incidence or precedence of the world, neither side can

completely overpower the other, or, in other words, prove 100 percent that

the world is a precedent or an incident, that it does or does not have a

beginning. It has come down to the equality of reasons. The same is true

about the finite or the infinite nature of other dimensions and problems of

metaphysics, as stated in Kant"s work, and it was one of the basic

points that Kant believed. I am not now discussing the opinion of Kant. I

have just mentioned this as an example, to identify what the issue is

about. Kant believed that the secret behind the fact that the

metaphysicians have not been able to overpower each other is that there is

a problem in the operation of the intellect when it steps into the arena of

metaphysics. There, it enters an arena that it should not, and hence it

cannot prove everything 100 percent. Therefore, every opinion reaches

equality and equilibrium with the opinion of the rival. In other words, it

reaches equality of reasons. There are the antimonies of Kant (the debating

opinions of both sides, as our own philosophers say, this is the wooden leg

of the rationalists). Five centuries before Kant, Mowlavi also had the same

opinion about determinism and fatalism. He said:

Between the determinists and fatalists/ Continue to argue until the

Day of Judgment

Since the bad practice of the teacher of that school/ Is to trains them

with reasons.

He considered this constant argument as the will of God. Now, if in

the arena of religion we say that the wise in the nation and the

theologians of every religious sect have reasons for their beliefs and have

not pursued selfishness and profit in these reasons (because, if we say so,

reason is changed to cause), and have been only seekers of truth and have

examined the reasons with impartiality and have still remained with their

own beliefs, we would have to reach the conclusion that, hence, different

conflicting reasons have not been able to overpower one another and,

therefore, none of the rivals has changed his position.

Look at Ghazali. Ghazali was a person who doubted everything,

according to what he writes in AL‑MONAQEZ MEN AL‑ZALAL. He says: A day

arrived at the age of 38 when I doubted everything; it was a sincere and

impartial doubt. I seized myself and questioned my life until I reached the

most obvious beliefs I had. It is obvious that he was facing a very clear

and naked Descartian doubt. As he puts it: For six months, I was ill and

bedridden at home and would not say a word. They brought a physician, but

the physician was helpless in trying to treat me. I knew myself what my

ailment was. My ailment was internal struggle, the temptation that had

befallen me about the most obvious of the obvious. This life of mine, the

status and glory that I have, being a teacher at the Nezamiyyeh University,

being esteemed by the sultan and calif, is this the best way to live? It

began from here and went to my beliefs, to my being an Ash"ari, a

Sunni, to my opinions on religious jurisprudence, principles, and theology.

And it went further back, until it reached the obvious, that there exists a

world, that it is day now, that the sun that shines, and why do I believe

in them? He says that the doubts had overcome him such that he put all

aside and left his surroundings and place, sat in seclusion for 10 years,

and decided what he had to do. After 10 years, he returned and was still a

full‑fledged Ash"ari Sunni. In other words, if we do not say that he

was overcome by selfishness and interests (and we do not), and if we say

that he had engaged in an impartial, sincere, God‑seeking investigation,

you can see that ultimately he reached the point where he was, more or

less, in the beginning. Of course, the elements of piety and morality had

increased in him, and his way of life had changed, and he pursued piety and

seclusion from the world. But in regards to official and orthodox beliefs,

he was more or less what he was before he left Baghdad, and his work quite

shows this.

Among us Shi"ites, no one like Ghazali, with such grandeur, is

found in history. But, for instance, Mr. Motahhari also, after studying all

that philosophy, theology, reported sayings, religious jurisprudence, and

principles, remained the same Shi"ite that he was from the beginning

of his life. He did not change.

Now, if we believe that there are, in fact, great scholars and wise

people who wash their hands of all interests and seriously, out of fear of

God and seeking the truth, engage in studying the various reasons regarding

the truth or falsehood of various religions and ultimately reach the point

that the religion that we have ourselves and have had from the beginning is

true, in other words, the Shi"ites say Shi"ism is right, the

Sunnis say Sunnism is right, the Buddhists say Buddhism is right, etc., in

this case, our theory about the intellect brings us to the point that, if

religion is a zone into which when intellect steps, it is deflated, it

faces equality of reasons, in other words, Kant"s opinion about

metaphysics. This is one possible interpretation of the actual pluralism

that has occurred with regard to religion. Other interpretations believe in

the finality of wisdom, changing it to causes, and the absolute domination

of emotions and interests over human intellect, or the absence of intellect

from the scene. In any case, in interpreting the existing plurality, we

have only two ways, either an interpretation based on cause or one based on

reason. The causal interpretation does not leave anything at all. All are

dependent on a series of intentions and emotions, they choose religion

blindly, and their intellect is controlled by their interests. The path of

reason gives intellect a line of independence, but ultimately reaches

equality of reasons. This is the interpretation of pluralism that can be

stated. Now, someone who would say, only we are right, and the rest are

right only to the degree of their proximity to us and false at the level of

their distance from us, and that ultimately, we have the greatest share of

the truth and others are false, must also make it clear how people"s

intellect works, that the majority of the people in this world believe in

falsehood and do not understand that what they believe is false. Also, he

must make it clear how all that lasting falsehood has appeared, taken a

position in the intellect, and has not left. When this is our theory about

the intellect of the majority of the people, that they believe in falsehood

and do not want to give it up, this theory of intellect will also come back

to haunt us. Gradually, we will be asked, how did you understand all these

truths so easily and did not do anything, while all the rest of the people

are engulfed in misguidance?

No matter what theory you offer about the intellect, it will also

include you. In other words, it is a strategic theory; it is a reflexive

theory, as the Westerners say, that is, it comes back to itself. In other

words, our opinion about the intellect will also include our own intellect.

In my opinion, this is the battle scene in which we must fight. Beyond

this, every sect will remain with its particular opinions and understanding

of its own truth. Saying that Shi"ism is right and others, depending

on their distance from and closeness to it have truth, is a theological

argument, is the position of every Shi"ite, and is not related to

pluralism at all. Of course, every believer has this opinion about himself.

Whether or not we are Shi"ites, we must discuss the issue of pluralism

independently from our theological and sectarian opinions. To say that they

have some of the truth because they have those in common with us is again

not the answer to the question. The issue of pluralism concerns the

differences and not the common grounds. In other words, it is when there is

multiplicity and not sameness.

I should also add that the issue of pluralism does not mean that all

are right. This is an understanding that some have acquired, and

unfortunately it is a false one. In the article on "Direct Paths," I have

clearly stated and I will also repeat here: The discussion on pluralism is

to explain the plurality that exists in the world, whether this plurality

is in the truths or it is a plurality that contains a mixture of truth and

falsehood. A plurality has appeared in the world. This plurality should be

explained, and these explanations should be either with cause or reason.

But to say that there is falsehood in this plurality is beyond argument.

Certainly, there are false doctrines in the world. Undoubtedly, as Mowlavi


He who says all are right is a fool/ He who says all are false is


Hence, we are not at a point of proving by discussing pluralism and

making others see everyone as equal and considering every sect right. We

are absolutely not arguing that you should not consider any difference

between different sects and different religions. This is the wrong

understanding of the issue. Also, we are not trying to show that we are

right or more right than others, any one of them. When we juxtapose the

fact that there is plurality in the world, there is truth and falsehood,

that 1) various religions exist, that 2) each considers itself right, that

4) every sect believes that the majority of the people in the world are

either misguided or mistaken, that 5) God is merciful and guiding, and that

6) people are wise, have a choice, and seek the truth, a series of

questions arise. To solve these problems, we must have a theory about the

intellect and one about divine guidance to explain the existing plurality

of reason or plurality of cause. As I said, whether we believe in

conspiracy in the history of religions, whether we believe in people"s

mistaken understanding, or we believe in people"s hostility, none of

these solve the problem, because we immediately ask why the majority are

hostile to the truth, why the majority of the people misunderstand, why the

majority of the people have been deceived by the conspiracy and have not

recognized the truth? Again we see that the task of explanation has not

ended. Hence, assuming that we solve these problems inside one religion,

the larger question remains. Discussing the standards of truth and

falsehood also does not solve anything, because the wise in the nation

believe that they have become committed to their own way by using criteria

and reasons. In other words, the same reasons and criteria have created

pluralism and, hence, by mentioning criteria, plurality will not disappear.

My suggestion is that we pursue an extra‑religious discussion and

leave internal religious judgment to a time when the extra‑religions

opinion has become clear. I must also say that it is not enough to say that

those who act sincerely in their religion and [illegible] are excused.

Correct opinion teaches us that, as long as a person is not consciously

hostile to the truth (the truth that he himself understands) in this world,

he is subject to God"s mercy. There is no question about this. We can

also say this as an extra‑religious issue. God does not look for excuses to

send people to Hell. He looks for excuses to send people to Heaven. The

Sufi opinion is true, which states: Heaven is given by excuse and not at a

price. Also, I should add that, in pluralism, there is no debate concerning

no reason defeating another reason in the area of religion. The debate is

that after, supposedly, we remove the ideas that are decisively false from

the scene, there still remain ideas and reasons that compete and show equal

strength, precisely as we have in religious jurisprudence. In other words,

the discussion of pluralism starts from the point that the champions have

fought the battles, the weak have left the field, and those with equal

strength remain. I have stated this point as positive pluralism in "Direct


Hojjat ol‑Eslam Kadivar

Everyone"s religiousness, even the public"s, has a "reason,"

from his own perspective. No one accepts a religion without a reason. But

this reason may be weak or strong. The learned do not consider much of the

reasons of the public to be reasons and believe that much of such reasons

is "cause." Hence, from this perspective, even causes can be changed to

reason, even though from a different angle reasons can be changed to


In the explanation that you pointed out, there was both the issue of

"equality of reasons" and also the issue that accepting pluralism does not

require all religions to be right. Well, certainly, you must consider some

limits within which to believe in the equality of reasons of some religions

and consider religions that are outside these limits as false. Otherwise,

you also admit that falsehood cannot give reasons that are of the same

level and equality with the reasons of truth.

Firstly, we ask of you for a "measure" with which to choose some of

the existing religions and doctrines, and on the basis of this measure

identify the false religions and doctrines, as you say, to believe in the

equality of reasons of other religions. Does religious pluralism allow such

a thing? And on the basis of the epistemology that you explained, will we

have a "criterion" with which to choose among the existing religions? Or

should we believe that every religion or every claim (even though likely

false) which has given reason as its claim is on the same level as the

reasons of other religions (even though those religions are right)?

Secondly, the explanation that you offered of pluralism has an implied

contradiction. If we discuss truth and falsehood, undoubtedly, we believe

that truth can be separated from falsehood, and that this separation is

possible with "reason." Hence, the assumption of accepting the truth and

falsehood and dismissal of some religions and sects as "false" is to accept

"reason" and reasoning in such a discussion, and we separate truth from

falsehood on the basis of "reasoning." My question is, among other

religions, how do we claim that there is a possibility that they are wrong

and at the same time their reasons are equal to the reasons of another

religion that may be right? In other words, is there equality of reasons in

truth and falsehood or failure to distinguish truth from falsehood? Also,

if after rejecting the weak reasons you accept the equality of the winners,

how does a person whose religion has equal reasons remain in his own faith

and belief?

Dr. Sorush

I repeat, in the discussion of pluralism, actually, we are not trying

to provide the criteria of truth and falsehood. We are not engaged in a

theological discussion. Were it a theological discussion, one side would

insist on the truth of one sect and another side on the truth of another.

There have been many such discussions and they require no repetition. The

criteria that you want in a very general sense of the word is the same as

the criterion of reasons. After all, anyone who claims that something is

right and believes that it is must have reasons. This is the criterion, on

the whole, and there is no other criterion, because we are not subject to

divine inspiration, and we do not want to rely on internal evidence and

experiences in this connection. Hence, if someone has a reason, and his

reason is acceptable, we accept what he says. We have no other duty, and I

do not think that we have anything further to say in this connection. In

any case, you say yourself what the criterion is, so that I can show that

the criterion itself generates plurality. But I think that the discussion

of plurality is something else, and we must start elsewhere. It is what I

said. The question is, why is it that, despite the fact that there has

existed a criterion called reasons, reasons have been different, none of

them have driven another out of the field, the wise men of no sect have

listened to the reasons of the rival sect, and the differences have lasted

forever? Again, one must either say that they were inflexible theories that

come back to haunt us, or we must say that it is what it is, and we should

not expect more in the arena of religions. Reasons are not capable of doing

more, and God of the world has wished this. In any case, the issue of truth

and falsehood in the arena of religion is more complicated than we

apparently assume.

We are facing this situation. The question of pluralism is not the

story of the criterion for truth and falsehood. Neither is it the negation

of truth and falsehood. Nor is it the story of the equality of truth and

falsehood. It is not the story of position in regard to a particular sect,

and which is right and which is wrong, and from our own internal position,

for that matter. It is the story of taking positions with regard to the

essence of plurality. We want to explain why these pluralities have

appeared, and once we have done so and reached an opinion about religious

wisdom and divine guidance, then our position in regard to these sects will

be more clear. For you to look for the criterion to distinguish truth from

falsehood is precisely to leave the issue, and I have frequently said that

it will not get anywhere. Have we lacked discussion about criterion and

reasons? Suppose we provide a criterion with new proof. We would be

confusing the situation more than it is. The question is, why has this

confusion remained and no intellect is able to eliminate it? There is a

time when we say we are right and others are wrong and reject them. This is

a religious discussion. In other words, it is from our own particular

position. But if you take the question one step further back, accept that

we are right and the rest wrong, the question that arises is, why have all

this right and wrong appeared in the world, especially wrong that considers

itself right and, precisely like us, does not want to retract? It is not us

alone who say we are right and the rest are wrong. No matter whom you ask,

he would say the same. It is not us alone who are prepared to be killed for

our ideas. Others do the same. It is not us alone who are facing internal

confusion with regard to religion. Other religions are facing the same.

Giving a religious jurisprudential or theological answer that we are

right and others are wrong is an answer for the internal followers of the

religion. But our question is not this question at all. Our question is

outside the argument.

A simple example is that, as residents of a particular land, we might

be at war with the residents of another country. We consider ourselves to

be right, and they also consider themselves to be right. But someone else

from the outside might say, I want to see why war has appeared in this

world at all. I am not concerned about what the problem is between one

country and another at the present, which one is telling the truth, which

one is wrong. I want to know, what is the structure of humanity that

creates wars and cannot live in peace? Especially when we see that war is

continual, and in every century and period of history different extensive

wars have occurred. In other words, it appears that it cannot be

eliminated. Of course, the form of the wars can be changed, and the level

of quarrels and the kinds of weapons that they use against each other can

change, but war itself remains. Hence, perhaps God wills it. Perhaps it is

futile to try to eliminate it. Perhaps human intellect and structure should

be changed to put war aside. Perhaps war cannot be eliminated by fighting.

Perhaps war is, in fact, desirable, and many other ‘perhapses.’

Yes, this is pluralism. If we come close to answering this question, then

our position in regards to those whom we consider right and those we

consider wrong will be more clear. In other words, if you answer this

question first, we can take the next step. Here, no matter which sect we

choose to consider right as our premise (Shi"ites, Sunnis, etc.),

still we are not exempt from answering the next question. The secret of the

differences and plurality of sects continues to demand an answer, even

though when we discuss that Shi"ism (or Sunnism) is right, we know

that if we say Shi"ism is right, we do not mean that whatever some

Shi"ite scholar has said is all right. And we know that Shi"ism

is nothing but what the Shi"ite scholars have written in their books

on their understanding of Shi"ism. In other words, Shi"ism is not

pure truth, in the same way that Sunnism and other sects and religions are

not. In their opinion, truth and falsehood are found. But supposing that we

consider all that Shi"ite scholars have said to be right and regard

the others to be right or wrong according to their proximity to

Shi"ism, still we are not exempt from the extra‑religious discussion.

My question to Mr. Kadivar is, what is really your opinion about the

secret of this plurality and variety that implies truth and falsehood? What

is your explanation of this issue?

Hojjat ol‑Eslam Kadivar

Before answering your question, it is necessary for me to make a

point. The explanation that you provided, that supposing we have a shared

opinion "within religion," but "outside religion," the question remains in

place, in this "second‑level explanation" that you offer of the plurality

of religions, do you believe in its "second‑level results"? Or do you

conclude first‑level knowledge from a second‑level discussion? In your

statements, both in this session and also in the article under discussion,

"first‑level" conclusions are derived from a "second‑level" perspective. If

we say that "neither can much burden be placed on such a religion nor can

we have much expectation of it," this is, in fact, a "first‑level"

discussion. In other words, from the perspective and position of an

epistemologist at the second level, you have come down and drawn

"first‑level" conclusions. As an epistemologist at the second level, you

should not offer recommendations and guidance in a position of an

epistemologist at the first level. You can merely explain and describe. You

do not stay in your "second‑level" understanding. You offer first‑level

conclusions, and these conclusions may seem contradictory to religious

belief and remaining within religious faith and may create certain

problems, or at least ambiguities, which cannot be addressed on the basis

of your premises. By merely saying that you have brought an epistemologist

at the second level into the discussion, you cannot make my questions


Dr. Sorush

What is meant is not second‑level of epistemology. In my statements, I

mostly emphasized extra‑religious discussion, and my main emphasis is that

extra‑religious and religious are different from second‑level and

first‑level epistemology. If we clarify our opinion outside religion and

use it as a basis, it will then have an effect on our opinion within

religion. But the discussion of second‑level epistemology is another

discussion. If we look at pluralism as an extra‑religious issue, and

certainly if we explain it and reach a certain and trustworthy, clear

opinion, it will surely have an effect on our opinions within religion. In

fact, the opinion within religion becomes dependent on the extra‑religions

one, and, in the least, they will interact and have a dialogue. I am not

afraid of using extra‑religions opinions inside religion. It will resemble

our opinion about justice or choice. If we develop it outside religion and

clarify it, we can make use of it within religion.

Subslug: Part III of discussion between Hojjat ol‑Eslam Mohsen Kadivar and Dr.

"Abdolkarim Sorush


Hojjat ol‑Eslam Kadivar

Your discussions have two aspects. You described them as

"extra‑religious" and also emphasized "second‑level knowledge." Separating

the extra‑religious issue and the issue of second‑level knowledge is not

very helpful. Nevertheless, if we accept that the issues you discussed are

not "second‑level issues" and are merely extra‑religious issues, in

addition to the previous problem that remains, new problems are raised, as


Even if the discussions are intra‑religious, in fact, not every

extra‑religious opinion can be compatible with every intra‑religious

opinion. Undoubtedly, every specific extra‑religious opinion will have

compatibility with a particular issue that is intra‑religious. What I am

saying is that, if you reach "equality of reasons" outside religion,

"within the religion" reaching the "legitimacy of a particular religion" in

any sense of achieving a particular faith is seriously questionable. In

other words, can it be said that this choice of reasons that I mentioned in

regards to the truth of my own religion can be replaced? In other words,

are there other reasons that prove the contrary, while, at the same time, I

believe in the truth of a particular religion? In other words, is "equality

of reasons" outside religion compatible with "legitimacy of the reasons of

a religion"? This question requires an answer. How can the causality of

reasons and the legitimacy of a particular religion be made compatible? He

who has found the reasons of various religions equal and non‑preferable

outside religion is deprived of preferred intra‑religious reasons. Hence,

he does not have a reason (which is irrefutable and irreplaceable) why his

own religion is right. As a result, he cannot have "faith" in the

legitimacy of his own religion. The truth should either be "evidenced" or

should be obtained by reasoning. Equality of reasons is the utterance of

one who has, firstly, not reached the level of "evidence" and, secondly,

either lacks the scholarly ability to state or understand the preferred

reason or is at the second level of knowledge, merely as an observer and

spectator of the followers of religions. And, of course, such a person

(whether due to lack of scholarly ability or as an epistemologist of the

second level) is not allowed to issue decrees, recommendations, and

prejudgments. He cannot go further than explaining and describing the

actual variety of religions and [cannot] believe in the plurality of truth.

The problem with religious pluralism is when the external plurality of

religions is assumed to be inevitable and real and when from succeeding

descriptions and study and second‑level discussions conclusions and

first‑level prejudgments are offered. The logical requirement of the

equality of reasons of a religion (the extra‑religious discussion) is the

impossibility of recognizing the legitimacy of a particular religion.

Religious pluralism is incompatible with faith and certainty. Saying that

the issue of pluralism is not related to the issue of truth and falsehood

does not solve any problem, because, on the basis of religious pluralism,

we cannot consider one religion to be true and another false. The

impossibility of separating truth from falsehood is the logical requirement

of religious pluralism. The implied basis of religious pluralism is

absolute relativity in the area of knowledge.

The second point is that you say that the majority of the thinkers in

the world should certainly have reached a correct opinion. Why? For what

reason should the majority have chosen the correct opinion? Do you have a

reason for this claim, or do you consider what the majority of the thinkers

have concluded to be obvious truth? And if we accept that the majority of

the thinkers have not necessarily chosen the right opinion, in a

"succeeding study," can reasons or causes be mentioned for such a claim? By

"succeeding study," one can neither claim that the majority of the thinkers

would make the correct choice, nor can one claim that the majority of the

thinkers would make the wrong choice. Using prejudgment, one cannot say

that the majority must reach truth or falsehood. By "succeeding" study, we

reach the conclusion that a number of the thinkers in the world have erred

in reaching the truth. Now, this error and not reaching the truth could

have different reasons and causes.

The third point: In regards to divine guidance, which you resorted to

several times, it is interesting that "guidance" has two meanings. One is

to offer a path and another is to reach the desirable. What is incompatible

with the misguidance of the majority is the second meaning of guidance,

which, incidentally, is not what is meant by divine guidance, because it is

incompatible with human choice and is incompatible with the issue of the

testing of humans in the world, as well. What is meant by divine guidance,

which is achieved by God‑given intellect and sending prophets, is "offering

the way." With regard to this divine guidance, human beings are divided

into two groups: the grateful and the ungrateful. Apparently, your

understanding in regards to guidance is the second meaning, which is the

contrary reason.

Fourth point: In regards to the fourth point, you asked: What is the

secret behind the plurality and variety of religions? First, the difference

in the capacities of humans has caused God to send numerous prophets to

guide them. These revealed religions have dubious differences. The later

religions contain the perfection of the former ones. All these religions

report on the unity of the beginning and the end, and with the professing

of each religion in regards to the previous ones, the claim of inevitable

plurality becomes baseless. With the coming of a new revealed religion, the

believers are responsible to profess their faith in the new prophet and his

teachings. But, for some, for reasons which I will refer to later on, did

not do so. Second is the statement that you have also accepted, that the

complexity of the truth, the grandeur of the supreme, and the lofty status

of religion have resulted in different and numerous interpretations. We

have no argument about this, when an issue is complex and supreme, on the

one hand, and then the issue of the level of human understanding and

comparing it with a supreme issue causes different interpretations. This

point is a serious one in regards to the plurality of non‑revealed

religions. But, in divine religions, certain criteria, standards, and

principles have been offered for man to have a correct understanding of the

sacred and the supreme. In your writings and speeches, no attention has

been paid to the directives of religion in this vital issue. Has God

Himself paid attention to the grandeur and complexity of this truth or not?

Has He not instructed his prophets to guide mankind in these different

interpretations? You resort to "divine guidance" (besides the previous

problem that guidance means offering the path and not achieving the

desired). My question is, why are you negligent of "divine wisdom?" Does

not "divine wisdom" require that after all to offer general directives in

regards to correcting human understanding of the supreme and the sacred,

which is called religion? This is the claim of divine religions, that God

has provided us with such general guidance through His prophets. In

interpreting the issue of the sacred, you have accepted that the

understanding of the prophet is the criterion. Why have you accepted this

criterion only in regards to "interpretation of the issue of the

sacred”? In the issue of "interpreting religious texts" as well, we

have general guidelines from religion. In other words, in both issues of

"interpretation of religious texts" and the “interpretation of the

sacred," we have such a criterion. The answer to this question prevents

some of the differences in understanding. Some of these standards have been

violated/ignored. At least, this is the interpretation of the common

practice of scholars. Hence, this is one secret behind the variety and


The third secret behind the variety of religions, which belongs to the

category of "causes" and not "reasons," and which you avoided, is that

worldly selfishness, desires, and impurity blind the eye of human

intellect. You mentioned Professor Motahhari. Did you expect Motahhari, for

instance, after studying and contemplation in religious jurisprudence,

theology, and philosophy, to change his religion and sect? Expecting to

find an example of changing Islam or Shi"ism is based on a particular

epistemological theory, in other words, absolute relativism. Given the fact

that Ghazali claimed that for 10 years he was being purified and admitting

that his final opinion was the same as his initial one, would you accept

this statement merely because Ghazali said it? Should we accept the claim

of purification by any scholar and not assume that selfishness has a role

in it? Especially since our intra‑religious opinions emphasize that man is

under the influence of desires, and few human beings have been saved by the

grace of God from this calamity. Desires, worldliness, selfishness, and

ambition can blind human intellect and cause him to trample the truth. The

issue of "negation" and denial in the Koran and the repetition of "the

majority are unwise" and "the majority are ignorant" or [Arabic passages

omitted] are not compatible with your theory of intellect but contrary to

it. Religious belief will cause you to once again contemplate this theory

of intellect and revise it. We can give numerous examples of this issue in

history. The secret behind some of the varieties can be such causes. For

example, think about what the Koran asserts in regards to the solid and

allegorical discussions. Why do you not use the answer that the Koran

provides here? Have all those who have misunderstood the allegories had

scholarly opinions? I am saying it from an intra‑religious perspective. The

same can be said from the extra‑religions perspective. When someone has

merely expressed a religious opinion, is this opinion not affected by any

extra‑religious causes, such as hereditary, educational, environmental,

psychological, and other causes? It can be. We discussed its probability,

and we cannot deny it. Historical facts also verify this point. Why did the

Jews during the time of Jesus not accept his prophethood, despite the

miracles? Is there any other cause but hostility to truth, denial, and

worldly selfishness? Why did the infidels, the Jews, and the Christians

during the time of Mohammad not accept his prophethood, despite the final

miracle, the Koran? In fact, the Koran is explicit about the cause of

denial of the truth. Considering such negation and denial as results of

equality of reasons is unkind.

The fourth secret behind the variety of religions is the difference

between human understanding and the ignorance of some levels of truth. The

thinkers who are safe from the scourge of denial and selfishness and the

ones adorned with scholarly fairness are not all at the same level of

perception and wisdom, similar to the difference in levels between Salman

and Abuzar. Of course, this point is not as widespread and abundant as the

previous one.

Fifth point: Another point is the issue of equality of reasons. You

said that religion is a place for the equality of reasons. First, on the

basis of your epistemological foundation, I want to make a comparison

between the religious and common human knowledge. You can have a similar

opinion outside religion, as well. In fact, you may say that the sciences

are the place for the equality of reasons. In each of the human sciences,

various schools have been offered, and the advocates of each school do not

consider other schools to be right but believe that their interpretation of

external reality is incorrect. These schools, as well, continue their

scientific existence without the advocate of each school wanting to

consider the reasons of another school as complete. At the same time, the

student of that science learns both views and can believe in one of those

two views. The issue of attitude in practice and tolerance is one issue and

the issue of pluralism, that is, accepting equality of reasons, is another.

The core of the discussion is that, in the world of truth, one cannot

believe in the "equality of reasons" and remain a religious believer at the

same time. In other words, my question concerns the possibility of the

compatibility of these two premises. How can one believe in the reason of

"intra‑religious" truth through that "extra‑religious" equality of reasons?

Secondly, another problem is that Kant reached the inability of human

intellect in metaphysics and proved the need for religion through ethics.

Apparently, through ethics, you are also facing the same problem of

equality of reasons, and this procedure is precisely true in ethics, as

well. For what reason should this issue remain only in the domain of

beliefs? To state it more clearly, by accepting the basis of the equality

of reasons, no domain remains for the truth of reasons, neither beliefs nor

ethics. And the domain of religious experience is personal and is not the

domain of reasons. Ultimately, the problem will be that one cannot give

reasons in regards to religion and religious faith. (What is meant by

reasons is preferred reasons, not afflicted by equal irrefutable proof of

the same strength.) In other words, religious belief becomes an issue with

no proof or reason. It would make no difference to accept Religion A or

Religion B. The reasons of both religions are equal, and religious belief

only has "causes": psychological, environmental, and hereditary causes.

Obviously, when the reasons are afflicted by equality of reasons, on the

basis of your statement, one cannot speak of "reasons for religious

belief." Do you see where such a basis leads? Do such requirements not

prove the falsehood of the premise?

Thirdly, another point is that this issue of "equality of reasons" has

no end. There are sects in our society which the religious believers in our

society unanimously believe are colonialist sects. Can one believe that the

reasons of such obviously false sects are equal to the reasons of divine

religions? So far, you have not offered any criterion regarding the

separation of truth and falsehood in religion. On this basis, anyone who,

from the perspective of his own religion and in his own opinion, sets forth

a reason can be included in this discussion. Are such sects and religions

permitted into the domain of equality of reasons in religious pluralism? By

what standards will you discuss the sects? In an extra‑religious

discussion, do you consider their reasons equal to the reasons of other

religions? I do not believe in the "equality of reasons," even in

extra‑religious terms. I do not accept that extra‑religious knowledge is

"relative." On the contrary, I can offer criteria to determine that some of

these reasons are wrong and others are valid and prove the legitimacy of a

religion inside the religion, because, undoubtedly, proving the legitimacy

of that religion will not be within that religion. Proving the truth or

legitimacy of each religion will be outside that religion. A person who

reaches equality of reasons outside religion absolutely cannot believe in

the truth of a particular religion. Hence, we must clarify the situation of

legitimacy outside religion. You cannot regard the issue of legitimacy as

an intra‑religious issue and believe in equality of reasons outside

religion. The serious question is, where do you prove the truth of

religion? Because inside religion, certainly "[illegible]" will occur; you

will have to resort to [reasons] outside religion. But outside religion, as

well, you believe in equality of reasons. Then, how do you prove the issue

of the legitimacy of the religion?

Dr. Sorush

In fact, we reached the point that if in regards to the actual

plurality of religions, we reach a particular view, undoubtedly, it will

affect our opinions with regard to our religion. In other words, if we

believe that in proving the legitimacy of various religions (after

rejecting those which are definitely false), we have reached equality of

reasons, then we must understand the meaning of being right in another way

and change our philosophical system with regard to intellect, truth, etc.,

as did Kant. In fact, until we have clarified what areas we are

confronting, questions about truth and falsehood are irrelevant. With

regard to an external phenomenon, truth has one meaning, and with regard to

its text, it has another. Moreover, we must offer a criterion of truth as

to whether we are Aristotelian or believe in another doctrine. There is no

doubt in this, and I think that there is agreement between us on this

issue. You raised many questions and problems. Many such questions can be

posed, but I wanted to see what you ultimately say about explaining

plurality. Apparently, what I understand from your statements is that you

say a mixture of reasons and causes have created plurality. In other words,

there is no problem with us having both reasons and causes. In other words,

this is the limitation of the intellect. When we ask about the secret

behind plurality, the secret behind plurality is either summed up in causes

or in reasons, or a mixture of causes and reasons. One cannot say that it

is neither causes nor reasons. In other words, the fourth category is

automatically assumed. When it is a mixture of causes and reasons, in my

opinion, the criticism that we stated is doubly true about you. We had some

criticism of causal interpretation. Because you also accepted causes, they

are relevant to you. We also had criticism of reason interpretation, and

you accepted reason. Hence, you are the target of these deadly arrows,

which are aimed at you from both sides, and your task becomes difficult. In

other words, you have, in fact, offered a theory about the intellect. You

say that the people operate somewhat with reasons and somewhat with causes

(that is, desires, selfishness, etc.). If this is what you say, this is

also true about my opinion and yours, as we believe in one of the

religions. I said that, no matter what opinion we give about plurality, it

will come back to us, because we ourselves are facing plurality. We cannot

separate ourselves from others. We ourselves in practice believe in one of

these religious positions.

Regarding the Shi"ite scholars who have also accepted one of the

religions, it is partly due to reasons and partly due to causes. It is not

correct to say that only Shi"ites have acted on the basis of intellect

and reason and that is why they accepted Shi"ism, but the rest, that

is, the non‑Shi"ites, acted irrationally (pure cause or reason mixed

with cause). This is a general explanation and includes all, Shi"ites

and non‑Shi"ites.

If that is so, we will reach the initial position that the followers

of various religions are all companions. All can tell each other, you also

belong here. You have some reason and you have also mixed with it some

impurities from elsewhere. Your reasons can be challenged, and there are

other reasons of the same strength. Hence, we are all equal. We can only

boast to others, claim to be superior, or flaunt our legitimacy, when we

are really separate from others, when we can say, you have misunderstood,

your reasons are quite false, you are hostile, you misunderstand, you are

deficient of intellect, etc. But, no matter which one of these we say, we

see that we ourselves are also included (intellect and fairness also

dictate this). We can no longer separate ourselves from others easily. In

that case, we reach the first place again and more or less give equal

shares to everyone.

In my writing, I have stated that the world is filled with the average

and that the average are the same. The average Christians and Muslims have

become Christian and Muslims in quite the same way, because the former were

born into a Christian environment, and the latter into a Muslim one. In

fact, they are quite the same, and God will treat them equally. This is

what our intellect dictates. The same is true of the Buddhists and the

Hindus. This average situation that makes up the majority in the world is,

in fact, clear. Their plurality has a clear cause. Their religion is all

causal, and reason has no role in their faith. It is all due to imitation

and inculcation. But when reason comes into play and the issue concerns the

thinkers and theologians, it becomes more interesting. The question is, why

do these thinkers not accept each other"s views? Have, after all, the

Jews heard little of the reasons of the Christians? In fact, they have

lived together for centuries and are accused of having killed Jesus. And,

on the other hand, have the Christians heard little of the reasons of the

Jews? They have, but they do not accept the reasons of each other. Why do

the scholars not accept each other"s reasons? Have the Shi"ite

and Sunni scholars given each other few reasons? Why do the scholars not

accept each other"s reasons? After all, there are only two choices.

You must either say that the Sunni scholars are all selfish, follow their

desires, and have no fear of God, and they reject the clear reasoning of

the Shi"ites. Or, you must say that the Shi"ite scholars follow

their desires and reject the reasoning of the Sunnis. (And I do not dare

say either.) Or you must say something else. This is no small problem. Two

groups of great, God‑fearing, faithful Muslim scholars have had a scholarly

argument with each other for 1300 years, and neither side of the argument

has been convinced [by the other]. Or you might say that no matter how many

Sunnis God creates, there is something wrong with the intellect, or no

matter how many Shi"ites God creates, there is a deficiency in their

genes, or you should find another solution. It is here that it is said that

the domain of religion is a domain that, when intellect steps in, it

reaches equality of reasons, that is, it reaches a dead end, as in the

domain of metaphysics and unlike the domain of empirical sciences, even

though today, with the paradigms of Cohen and Foucault and the like, the

domain of empirical sciences is not dissimilar to the domain of political

ideologies and metaphysical schools. It was Popper who regarded science as

the domain of the intellect. But the post‑modernists even deny this.

Moreover, the domain of religious jurisprudence is a good example of the

domain of equality of reasons. But, as for pluralism being incompatible

with the legitimacy of a particular religion, what is meant by that? Does

it mean that pluralism is incompatible with its own meaning? Is this what

you expect? But, in regards to the thinkers of the world, what we say is,

why, despite being thinkers, have they reached contradictory statements in

the domain of religion? You must either say that some are not thinkers,

which is contrary to the assumption, or you must say that they have not

followed the dictates of their intellect. Then, one must ask, why? Or you

must say that the domain of religious intellect is the domain of pluralism,

which is what we are seeking.

Thirdly, equality of reasons is a succeeding‑descriptive and not a

preceding‑recommended issue. We must see whether or not we have reached it

somewhere. Kant said, in metaphysics we have. Some also say we have in

ethics. In any case, it is after the historical extension of a technique

that we can make such judgments.

But, as for how I prove the legitimacy of a religion, am I supposed to

be different from others? Everyone has reasons for himself, and so do I.

But the question is, when you look and see that there are many believers

and faithful, they are different, and each presents reasons for his claims,

the same six premises that I stated earlier apply here and require

solutions. In any case, pluralism is compatible with plural legitimacy and

not with exclusive legitimacy. And this is precisely its claim. After

accepting pluralism, our understanding of legitimacy changes. Hence, we

must first decide about pluralism and then the legitimacy of this or that


In any case, these negative statements also have an affirmative aspect

that I will explain. So far, we had confined ourselves to the two branches

of reason and cause. We said, either provide a causal explanation or a

reason explanation, and faced problems and dead ends, which, to be fair,

would not be easy to get out of. Now, I want to add one branch to the two

branches and see what results and consequences we reach if we enter in this

way into the discussion. Let us have a quick review of the history of

philosophy. In the history of philosophy, we have mainly had two

directions. One was the reason direction, which comprises the entire

history of philosophy up to the 19th century. Among us Muslims, who are the

heirs to Greek philosophy, almost up to the present, our philosophy is a

philosophy of reason, and it is excellent. In other words, philosophers

give reasons before one another and engage in the dismissal or validation

of each other"s opinions. From the 19th century on, when psychology

and sociology became strong, in a sense, one can say from the time of Kant,

philosophy was looked at causally. In other words, gradually, scholars said

that it should not be so, that philosophers stand to discredit each

other"s reasons, but behind the reason, there are motives and causes,

and even though they fight a war of reason, in fact, they are fighting a

causal war. And then Marx"s ideology and Freud"s subconscious all

were methods to change reason to causality and for explaining how a thinker

who thinks and provides reasons has something else going on in his mind,

how it works, and puts reasons in his mouth and pen. In fact, they changed

reason to the fabrication of reason. They said that we have no reasons,

what we have is fabrication of reasons. We have no reasoning, but make

things appear reasonable. We have no reason; we have rationalization. You

have another wish to which you give a rational cover. As soon as we unveil

your desire, the purpose becomes clear, and your hand is revealed. It is

the same in post‑modernism. But this one raises the issue of the variety of

cultures and strives to reduce the role of the intellect in history. They

[post‑modernists] believe that the intellect was an illuminator that relied

on reason, and that today we have understood that intellects are also

historical and captives of other factors. But another path has also opened

in the history of philosophy since the 19th century, which is thriving

today, and that is the branch of hermeneutics, that is, referring to

meaning. Hence, we have three methods of thought: the reason‑finding method

of thinking, the cause‑finding method of thinking, and the meaning‑finding

method of thinking. In a sense, you are not after the cause, nor, in fact,

is there a claim at all for you to demand reason. There is no phenomenon

for which you should seek a cause. Rather, there is a text, the meaning of

which you want to understand. This is a very important issue. I said, in

the domain of religion, when reason enters in, intellect is deflated,

resulting in equality of reasons. If we advance with cause, we face

problems, and religious belief turns into an irrational phenomenon, such as

color and race. If we advance with reason, we face a problem and confront

the dead end of the intellect. The solution is to go to the meaning. The

domain of religion is the domain of finding meaning. Unfortunately, we

neglect this third branch.

Mr. Kadivar pointed out that in the domain of human sciences, it has

reached equality of reasons. In other words, in sociology and psychology,

various scholars make different statements, and none accepts another. I

want to point out that this is true. But, precisely in the domain of human

sciences, hermeneutics, that is where meaning comes in, and incidentally,

this verifies our opinion that, in finding meaning, we have positive

pluralism. In other words, we actually have an explanatory plurality that

cannot be changed to unity, because in the domain of human sciences and in

the branch of hermeneutics of epistemology, you see the society as a text

and read it to get its meaning. There is neither a claim for you to have to

give reasons, nor a phenomenon for which you should deterministically

mention a cause. In fact, this is the nature of hermeneutics, and it

reaches a sort of definite pluralism. In other words, in interpretation,

our interpretations become varied and numerous and, in fact, it reaches the

point that several rival interpretations are left on the scene, none of

which can eliminate the other. In fact, the best place for us to see and

understand pluralism is where we strive to discover meaning.

In more philosophical terms, the text is a nonspecific issue and is,

by nature, ambiguous. Contrary to existence that is equal to specificity,

meaning is not so in the text, and, hence, multiple meanings are

inevitable. The text is like a cloudy mass from the various sides of which

light is shown, creating various shadows.

Hence, now I will complete the previous discussion in this way, that

the domain of religion is the domain of finding meaning. When a domain

becomes that of finding meaning, it is a domain of plurality, and this

plurality is a requirement and necessary for finding meaning. The plurality

that occurs in both the understanding of religious experience and in

religious understanding has no solution, and we must accept it. Now, if we

have a theory about legitimacy, we must set it forth in this geography. We

must refer legitimacy neither to reasons nor to causes. Rather, we must

relate it to meanings and interpretation. We must see whether, with regard

to the interpretation of religion and the interpretation of religious

experience, considering the shortcomings of the intellect and human

understanding and considering the long human experience, we can speak of

being right or wrong in the common sense of the words (that is, by the

Aristotelian criterion of compatibility with reality) or not. While

accepting definite plurality that exists here and cannot be eliminated, I

will also ask a question of the kind that you ask. Did you expect Ghazali,

after all that scientific and mystical search, to ultimately give up

Ash"arism and Islam and become a Shi"ite or a Christian?

Moreover, I am still waiting to see what your criterion is that will

eliminate plurality and all the differences.


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