Reason and Inspiration in Islam: Theology, Philosophy, and Mysticism in Muslim Thought. Essays in Honour of Hermann Landolt

Thirty-eight essays are brought together in this volume to honor Hermann Landolt of the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University, Canada. A broad range of participants, including former students and colleagues both close and distant, have contributed essays, most of which deal with aspects of Ismaili, Ithna-ashari, or Sufi thought. Almost all of the essays are in English; four are in French, however. The range of topics is catholic, to say the least, and the rough chronological ordering of the essays can hardly contain them.

A History of Islamic Philosophy, 3d ed.

That Majid Fakhry’s A History of Islamic Philosophy, first published in 1970, has been brought out in a third revised edition can be of no surprise to the many admirers of this most robust of scholars. Fakhry’s scholarship is meticulous, and his style, even when handling the most complex ideas, remains simple and straightforward. As many of the theological questions raised by Islam’s key philosophers, particularly those pertaining to free will, justice, rights, and responsibilities, had political implications, each chapter in this book begins with a historical context. However, Fakhry only allows this context to play a subsidiary role, as a backdrop to the main narrative: the history of ideas. This approach lends itself very well to an examination of the ideas held by both individual philosophers and schools of philosophy. Importantly, Fakhry demonstrates how, during several key Islamic epochs, there was no one dominant system of thought, but rather, contending systems of thought. He takes us through these debates step by step, as in, for example, the first theological controversy on free will and predestination (qadar). It is in the presentation of these debates, more than anywhere else, that we see that while A History of Islamic Philosophy is distinguished from the work of many other grand narrative histories by not being marred by a partisan viewpoint, Fakhry’s is by no means a clinically scientific approach.

Human Rights in Traditionalist Islam: Legal, Political, Economic, and Spiritual Perspectives

The vaunted clash of civilizations has grown into a Fourth World War of demonization against Islam. The newest strategy is to single out Islam’s essential values, deny that they exist, and assert that their absence constitutes the Islamic threat. This article shows the common identity of classical American and classical Islamic thought so that Muslims, Christians, and Jews can unite against religious extremism. Muslim jurisprudents developed the world’s most sophisticated code of human responsibilities and rights. This is now being revived as the common heritage of western civilization based on the premise that justice reflects a truth higher than man-made positivist law and on the corollary that the task of religion is to translate transcendent truth into the transcendent law of compassionate justice.

Equilibrium and Realization: William Chittick on Self and Cosmos

William Chittick, currently professor of religious studies at the State University of New York (Stony Brook), is an internationally renowned expert on Islamic thought. His contributions to the fields of Sufism and Islamic philosophy have helped paint a clearer picture of the intellectual and spiritual landscape of Islamic civilization from the seventh/thirteenth century onwards. Yet Chittick is not simply concerned with discussions in Islamic thought as artifacts of premodern intellectual history. His vast knowledge of the Islamic intellectual tradition serves as the platform from which he seeks to address a broad range of contemporary issues. In this short essay, I will outline Chittick’s writings on the self within the context of his treatment of cosmology. Rather than being outdated ways of looking at the universe and our relationship to it, Chittick argues that traditional Islamic cosmological teachings are just as pertinent to the question of the self today as they were yesterday.

Capitalism's Impending Dangers for Global Humane Development

The author suggests that development models influenced by the capitalist model of development overlooks nonmaterial dimensions of development and underdevelopment. As a consequence of this, social sciences, which are shaped by capitalist concerns also, do not examine the negative consequences of colonization on underdeveloped societies. The problem is not just ideological it is also epistemological. Positive social science, according to the author an offshoot of capitalism, is also unable to comprehend the most important consequence of colonization - other underdevelopment - the underdevelopment of the cultural symbols, psychology, and language of the colonized societies. The author advances a model that will help include an analysis of cultural symbolic underdevelopment in the study of development and underdevelopment of societies. 

Modernity in the discourse of Abdelwahab Elmessiri

Adapting Western self-critical discourse, the Arab Egyptian intellectual Abdelwahab Elmessiri (1938-2008) attempted to Islamize modernity; however, he did this ironically via Western critique itself. This paper follows a comparative approach to show how Elmessiri’s construction of the duality of immanence (Western modernity) and transcendence (Islamic monotheism) is based on the critiques introduced by Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) and Zygmunt Bauman (1925- ). However, while Bauman saw the role of critical theory as the modest comment on human experience, Elmessiri and Voegelin uncovered the dominance of immanence in Western modernity so as to contrast it with Islamic monotheism and the Christian humanistic legacy, respectively. The critiques introduced by Elmessiri and Voegelin reach their climax when modernity is compared to a form of heretical Gnosticism.

The Structure of Reality in Izutsu’s Oriental Philosophy

This paper aims at elucidating the structure of reality in Toshihiko Izutsu’s “Oriental Philosophy” by discussing the main characteristics of his philosophical perspective of reality and consciousness. From semantic perspectives, Izutsu attempted to construct Oriental Philosophy by a creative “reading” of variegated traditional Oriental thought, which has developed in the Orient since ancient times. His philosophical reflection is characterised by his unique semantic theory, whose sphere ranges from East Asian philosophical traditions to Middle Eastern ones. On the basis of his “reading” of Oriental thought, he undertook the “synchronical structuralisation” of varieties of Oriental thought by artificially creating “an organic space of thought,” which could structurally incorporate all these traditions. An important characteristic of this Oriental Philosophy consisted in the way Oriental philosophers opened the dimension of depth-consciousness as their own experiential facts. Thus, Izutsu developed his semantic theory of Oriental Philosophy characterised by a multi-layered correlation of reality and consciousness.

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