Here is the English abstract of Morteza Mezginejad (Associate Professor, Department of Islamic Philosophy and Kalam, University of Birjand, Iran)'s presentation at the 6nd pre-con meeting of the conference “Imam Reza (PBUH) and Interreligious Dialogue" which was held in University of Birjand, Iran on December 4, 2023.
Schematism (Shākilah) of Imam Reza’s Debates
By evaluating the intellectual, political, and ideological conditions of the era of Imam Reza, certain features can be identified for this period. The expansion of Islamic lands, the introduction of ideas from other religions into Islamic society, the presence of heretics, and consequently, the emergence of doubts, the peak of the translation movement, and the formation of various theological sects are among the characteristics of this era. On the other hand, al-Ma'mun’s inclination toward Mu'tazilism and the establishment of numerous debate sessions with theologians (although there were political motives for such sessions) brought many issues that were not openly discussed before to the forefront, causing debates and disputes among the general public. However, Imam Reza, with a clear understanding of the philosophical and rational movements of this era, not only did not reject the matter of debate and thinking about religion but also sought to instigate a profound movement among intellectuals by seizing every opportunity. Given the innovative nature of this approach, the present research focuses on examining the framework of Imam's debates. The results of this research indicate that, generally, his method of debate possesses several outstanding features: 1. The use of reasoning and argumentation instead of relying solely on holy texts. 2. Engaging in a discussion with each individual based on their religious and intellectual perspective, demonstrating the fallacy of their thoughts through their own beliefs. This is referred to as the use of Musallamāt (postulates) in Islamic logic. 3. Some of his debates and methods of argumentation are reminiscent of the Socratic method. In this approach, the audience is guided to discover the truth through rethinking his/her previous knowledge. 4. In certain positions, Imam Reza would not wait until the interrogator asks a question. Instead, he would start questioning and challenging the false beliefs, especially those prevalent among the general public, he attempted to make the most of the opportunity to eradicate misconceptions.
Translator: Mahdi Qasemi