Islamic Theological Themes

Islamic Theological Themes: A Primary Source Reader

EDITED BY John Renard
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 480
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt6wqbpp
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  • Book Info
    Islamic Theological Themes
    Book Description:

    Comprised of primary sources assembled from a broad chronological and geographic spectrum,Islamic Theological Themesis a comprehensive anthology of primary Islamic sacred texts in translation. The volume includes rare and never before translated selections, all freshly situated and introduced with a view to opening doors into the larger world of Islamic life, belief, and culture. From pre-theological material on the scriptural end of the spectrum, to the more practical material at the other, John Renard broadens our concepts of what counts as "Islamic theology," situating Islamic theological literature within the context of the emerging sub-discipline of Relational/Comparative Theology. Divided into five parts, students and scholars will find this collection to be an indispensible tool.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95771-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. PART ONE THE SCIENCE OF INTERPRETATION:: READING THE SACRED SOURCES
    • ONE Qurʾān and Hadith
      (pp. 3-26)

      Every volume in the vast library of Islamic religious literature owes its inspiration, thematic content, and “technical” vocabulary in some measure to the Qurʾān and Hadith and to the countless scholars who dedicated their life’s work to elucidating those sources. Knowledge of key themes in the Qurʾān and Hadith, and of the hermeneutical questions they raise, is essential to a fuller appreciation of the distinctly theological import of Islam’s immense Prophetic legacy. The present chapter supplies the fundamentals of that knowledge.

      A good deal of the Qurʾānic text is of genuinely theological significance, whether inherently or by implication. The overall...

    • TWO Interpreting the Sacred Sources
      (pp. 27-74)

      Chapter i began to suggest the emergence of “exegesis” as a mode of thinking nestled in the Hadith corpus and noted the kernel of several hermeneutical issues latent in key Qurʾānic texts. Here the focus shifts to two large varieties of theological writing dedicated to exegesis and hermeneutical considerations. First come samples of how major exegetes, both classical and modern, Sunnī and Shīʿī, have found a striking range of meanings in the sacred text. Then a selection of short topical or thematic pieces offers insights into the most pressing methodological questions in interpretation.

      Muslim exegetical literature, beginning in the late...

  6. PART TWO THE SCIENCE OF COMMUNITY:: MAPPING THE BOUNDARIES OF TRUE BELIEF
    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 75-76)

      Chapter i began by sampling from the most important theological themes—about God, revelation, and questions of freedom and responsibility—mentioned in the Qurʾān and Hadiths. Close attention to the implications of those themes led (in chapter 2) to exegetical commentary as well as to more theoretical discussions of hermeneutical principles (such as potential ambiguities, abrogation, the circumstances of revelation, and the Qurʾān’s inimitability) central to the development of the science and practice oftafsīr. In part 2, new theological themes and questions go hand in hand with an expanding repertoire of descriptive genres marshaled in service of sorting out...

    • THREE Muslim Awareness of Other Religious Communities
      (pp. 77-102)

      Savvy muslim observers of the human condition began to offer their reflections on religion and society well over a millennium ago in a wide range of literary genres. Their purview reached far beyond the predominantly Muslim communities in which they lived, embracing not only the other Abrahamic faiths but also the exotic traditions and history of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. While some accounts of the broader religious scene were naturally polemical in tone and intent, others approached the expansive subject out of a desire to chronicle the story of humankind more impartially—though with the occasional hint of fronting for...

    • FOUR Creed and Polemic
      (pp. 103-134)

      Two large, multifaceted genres of theological literature emerged fairly early in Islamic history, evolved somewhat over centuries, and continued to be written well into modern times. One could argue that creedal formulations are an extension of early doxographical texts, with their descriptions of the beliefs, correct and unacceptable alike, of the various subcommunities who identified themselves as “Muslims.” Overtly polemical texts also became an important tool by which Muslims of one persuasion underscored their disagreement with fellow Muslims, even to the point of dismissing them from the fold.¹

      Known as bothshahāda(testimony) andkalima(word, articulation), the statement “I...

  7. PART THREE THE SCIENCE OF DIVINE UNITY:: SCHOOLS AND THEMES IN SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY
    • FIVE Theological Schools and Principles
      (pp. 137-180)

      We begin with an account by Shahrastānī, a noted medieval historian of Islamic thought, describing the key actors in the dramatic unfolding of Islamic systematic theology. This sets the stage for more detailed presentations of specific methodological concerns of the schools most influential in the ongoing development of the kind of systematic theological thinking often referred to askalām. Discussion of the broad variety of views espoused by the schools and sects of the kind sampled here led to the evolution of a theological vocabulary that reflected a general spectrum of theological or confessional deficiency.¹

      Muslim scholars began very early...

    • SIX Major Themes in Systematic Theology
      (pp. 181-232)

      Following up on the theme of divine disclosure in scripture, and the attendant themes of the need for prophets and proof of their reliability, Muslim systematic theologians have discussed at considerable length and depth questions about who God is and how God “works” in and beyond the world of human experience. Such questions include matters of God’s transcendent unity (tawḥīd) interpreted as a blend of beauty and majesty; the nature of God’s relationship to His creation; what human beings can know about God; the nature and very essence of the divine communication; and the ways believers will experience God hereafter....

  8. PART FOUR THE SCIENCE OF HEARTS:: SPIRITUALITY AND LITERATURE
    • SEVEN Knowledge and the Spiritual Quest
      (pp. 235-268)

      Many theological treatises, as well as a number of traditional creedal formulations, begin with a discussion of the critical role of knowledge in Islamic tradition. In most instances those texts are talking about traditional or “acquired” knowledge, or ʿilm, the focal point of the work of Muslim religious scholars, whose designation ʿulamāʾ shares the same verbal root. But there is more to the theological significance of knowledge as manifest in a whole other “category,” another mode by which human beings can know God. A central theme in an important genre of Sufi literature is the nature and significance of intimate,...

    • EIGHT Poetic, Pastoral, and Narrative Theology
      (pp. 269-314)

      Once upon a time there was a walled city whose citizens longed to know what was beyond their shared enclosure. Every now and then, an intrepid soul would violate the rules and clamber up to have a look over the rampart. Horrified townsfolk observed that a smile would come over the climber’s face just before he disappeared over the wall, never to be heard from again. One day they decided to experiment: A volunteer climbed and peered into the great unknown with the others holding his legs. When the first hint of a smile stole across his face, they pulled...

  9. PART FIVE THE SCIENCE OF CHARACTER AND COMPORTMENT:: ETHICS AND GOVERNANCE
    • NINE Ethics in Theory
      (pp. 317-367)

      Two large topics occupy the present chapter. First, questions arising from the foundational concepts of God’s perfect omnipotence and omniscience have a host of complex implications for the degree to which human beings choose, effect, and bear responsibility for their actions. In the Islamic version of what Christians refer to as “moral theology” or “theological ethics,” answers range from an outright predeterminism that virtually exonerates the human agent of culpability for evil deeds, to attempts to balance divine power and human choice, to solutions that almost resort to reducing God’s choices to the very dictates of reason itself. As a...

    • TEN Ethics in Practice
      (pp. 368-400)

      Four large concerns occupy the present chapter. First, an articulation of an overarching principle of Muslim ethics emphasizes active, socially engaged moral responsibility for all. Second, divergent understandings of the theological foundations of legitimate succession to the mantle of the Prophet arose very early in Islamic history. In addition to Muhḥammad’s spiritual centrality as described in the final text of chapter 8, the Prophet also functions as the paragon of ethical conduct and virtue—an example enshrined in the Sunna. Here several texts explore other dimensions of how that ethical modeling has lived on in the post-Prophetic community as it...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 401-422)
  11. APPENDIX: Synoptic/Comparative Table of Texts
    (pp. 423-434)
  12. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS OF PERMISSIONS AND CREDITS
    (pp. 435-444)
  13. INDEX OF NAMES OF PERSONS
    (pp. 445-449)
  14. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 450-456)
  15. INDEX OF QURʾANIC CITATIONS
    (pp. 457-461)