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The Quran and the Secular Mind A Philosophy of Islam pdf

Book Title The Quran And The Secular Mind A Philosophy Of Islam
Book AuthorShabbir Akhtar
Total Pages411
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The Quran and the Secular Mind A Philosophy of Islam by Shabbir Akhtar


The Quran and the Secular Mind

In this engaging and innovative study, Shabbir Akhtar argues that Islam is unique in its decision and capacity to confront, rather than accommodate, the challenges of secular belief.

 The author contends that Islam should not be classed with the modern Judaeo–Christian tradition since that tradition has effectively capitulated to secularism and is now a disguised form of liberal humanism.

He insists that the Quran, the founding document and scripture of Islam, must be viewed in its own uniqueness and integrity rather than mined for alleged parallels and equivalents with biblical Semitic faiths.

The author encourages his Muslim co-religionists to assess central Quranic doctrine at the bar of contemporary secular reason.

In doing so, he seeks to revive the tradition of Islamic philosophy, moribund since the work of the twelfth-century Muslim thinker and commentator on Aristotle, Ibn Rushd (Averroes).

Shabbir Akhtar’s book argues that reason, in the aftermath of the revelation, must be exercised critically rather than merely to extract and explicate Quranic dogma.

 In doing so, the author creates a revolutionary form of Quranic exegesis with vitally significant implications for the moral, intellectual, cultural, and political future of this consciously universal faith called Islam, and indeed of other faiths and ideologies that must encounter it in the modern secular world.

Accessible in style and topical and provocative in content, this book is a major philosophical contribution to the study of the Quran. These features make it ideal reading for students and general readers of Islam and philosophy. Shabbir Akhtar is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, USA. He has taught at the International Islamic University in Malaysia and has published widely on Islam, Christianity, and current affairs.

Islam is, for most westerners, a political nuisance, not a world faith of enduring spiritual fecundity.

 The world’s headlines are crowded daily with messages about its motiveless malice and misanthropic political vengeance.

Always marginalized in the Euro-Atlantic community, Muslims are now also criminalized, visible only as participants in an unmanageable politics of violence, at most symbols or victims or useful allies – but never equals.

Such Islamophobia would decline if there were a single developed western white nation that was officially Muslim. Bosnia in eastern Europe, born after a holocaust in the former Yugoslavia, might eventually become one such nation.1 Its existence would mean that Muslims, behaving as Muslims, could occasionally elicit sympathy from the West.

Admittedly, westerners treated Afghan Muslims with respectful sympathy in their struggle against Soviet imperialism – but those Muslims were seen as anti-Communist fodder.

By contrast, when Catholics behave as Catholics – in opposing abortion, for instance – they may be condemned as wrong but they are not dismissed as crazy outsiders with alien values.

Unlike other powerless western minorities such as black people – at least a respected cultural presence supplying famous names in sports, arts, and music – the Muslim reputation is wholly negative.

Therefore few western critics feel obliged to let mere facts disturb them in their increasingly simplistic prejudices against Islam. Muslims are not merely wrong, they are crazy. Such inflammatory prejudice sometimes passes for social commentary, even scholarship.

Islam is the only faith for which misunderstandings and even deliberate and systematic misrepresentations begin with its very name.

 The faith has been called ‘Muhammadanism’ as if Muslims worshipped Muhammad! One might, with much more justification, call Christianity ‘Paulianity’ since Paul was the chief prosely- tizer of Christianity.

 The mislabelling of Islam is ironic since it is by far the most fully and self-consciously defined faith at its source.

The Quran itself calls believ- ers ‘Muslims’ (Q:22:78)2 and repeatedly names the faith chosen for them as Islam (Q:3:19, 85; 5:3; 6:125, 39:22). Islam, unlike Christianity or Buddhism, has no second or third founder or political patron.

One orientalist Arabist, the late H.A.R. Gibb, tried to justify the label ‘Muhammadanism’: ‘In a less self-conscious age Muslims were proud to call their community al-umma al-Muhammadiyya.’3

Muslims are still proud to be called ‘the people of Muhammad’ but they resent the implication that there is a generic relationship between Islam and Muhammad similar to that between Christ and Christianity or the Buddha and Buddhism. Muslims claim that their faith is universal and that the attitude of surrender (isla¯m) is its correct designation.

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