The Quran and the Secular Mind: A Philosophy of Islam
Shabbir Akhtar’s book, “The Quran and the Secular Mind: A Philosophy of Islam“, offers a unique perspective on how Islam confronts the challenges posed by secularism and argues that it should not be compared with the modern Judaeo-Christian tradition, which he asserts has surrendered to secularism and become a form of disguised liberal humanism. Instead, he advocates for a thorough examination of the Quran’s uniqueness and integrity, rather than its supposed parallels with biblical Semitic faiths.
The author contends that Muslims should critically evaluate central Quranic doctrine using contemporary secular reason, which will in turn revive the tradition of Islamic philosophy, which has been in decline since the twelfth century Muslim thinker and commentator on Aristotle, Ibn Rushd, or Averroes. According to Akhtar, reason must not only shed light on Quranic dogma but must also be exercised critically to reveal new interpretations of the Quran. His approach can revolutionize Quranic exegesis and have significant implications for the moral, intellectual, cultural, and political future of Islam and other faiths that must interact with Islam in the modern secular world.
Akhtar’s book is written in an accessible style and is of significance to both students and general readers of Islam and philosophy. His philosophy of Islam encourages an assessment of Quranic Islam against the bar of contemporary secular reason, an exercise that will provide insights into Islam’s strategic response to contemporary social, political, and intellectual challenges.
The book is divided into four parts. The first part, “Quranic Islam and the Secular Mind,” addresses the challenge posed by secular humanism and locates Islam in the modern world. The second part, “An Arabic Quran: Assessing its Authority,” re-examines the Quran’s significance as the founding document and scripture of Islam. The third part, “A Quranic Lebenswelt in a Secular Age,” analyzes the Quran’s teachings on human nature and its response to contemporary challenges, while the fourth part, “Conclusions,” outlines a philosophy of Islam to guide contemporary Muslims.
The author’s approach is based on his belief that the Quran exhibits an intellectual and philosophical independence that is unique in comparison to other major world religions. For instance, Akhtar argues that the Quran is “a self-contained book of presuppositions rather than a mere reflection of prior religious beliefs or natural theology.” The Quran provides its worldview, which is not borrowed from other sources, and its own unique notion of God, morality, and the ultimate purpose of life.
Akhtar’s book is also unique in how it engages with contemporary secular thought. Unlike some Islamic scholars who advocate for an isolationist approach to Western secularism, Akhtar’s book not only recognizes the Western tradition of secular humanism but also identifies the ways in which contemporary Islamic thought can find common ground and dialogue with these secular perspectives. He argues that such engagement will help Muslims develop a better understanding of their religious beliefs and its position in the modern world.
The book is recommended for readers who would like to gain a deeper understanding of Islam’s intellectual history, the relationship between reason and revelation, and the challenges of Muslim living in a secular world. It is an important work that illuminates the potential of Quranic Islam to provide a relevant and authentic response to the challenges of modernity and the secular world.
- A note on transliteration and abbreviations
- Part I: Quranic Islam and the secular mind
- Locating Islam in the modern world
- Human reason and divine revelation
- The moral challenge of secular humanism
- Part II: An Arabic Quran: Assessing its authority
- The book sent down
- The book as ‘the frustrater’
- The scope of the book
- The authority of the book
- A sign is enough – for the wise
- Faith and the varieties of rejection
- Human nature and the Quran
- ‘Greater is God!’
- Part IV: Conclusions
- Preface to a philosophy of Islam
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