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Book: The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology

The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology provides a comprehensive and authoritative survey of the current state of the field. It provides a variegated picture of the state of the art and at the same time suggests new directions for future research.

Part One covers the various strands of Islamic theology during the formative and early middle periods, rational as well as scripturalist. To demonstrate the continuous interaction among the various theological strands and its repercussions (during the formative and early middle period and beyond), Part Two offers a number of case studies. These focus on specific theological issues that have developed through the dilemmatic and often polemical interactions between the different theological schools and thinkers. Part Three covers Islamic theology during the later middle and early modern periods. One of the characteristics of this period is the growing amalgamation of theology with philosophy (Peripatetic and Illuminationist) and mysticism. Part Four addresses the impact of political and social developments on theology through a number of case studies: the famous miḥna instituted by al-Maʾmūn (r. 189/813-218/833) as well as the miḥna to which Ibn ʾAqīl (d. 769/1367) was subjected; the religious policy of the Almohads; as well as the shifting interpretations throughout history (particularly during Mamluk and Ottoman times) of the relation between Ashʿarism and Māturidism that were often motivated by political motives. Part Five considers Islamic theological thought from the end of the early modern and during the modern period.

This book explores the history of Islamic theology, with particular emphasis on the doctrinal thought of all the various intellectual strands of Islam that were concerned with theological issues—including groups such as the Ismāʿīlīs and philosophers. It also discusses the inter-communal exchanges between Muslim, Christian, and Jewish thinkers over the course of the centuries to show how the theological thought of Jews and Christians intertwined with that of Muslims, and how Muslim theological thinking was influenced by Christian methodologies of speculative reasoning and doctrinal concepts. The rest of the book considers the impact of political and social history on Islamic theology. This introduction provides an overview of the foundations of Islamic theology and the advances that have been made in the scholarly study of Islamic theology.

The present volume provides a comprehensive overview of theological thought within Islam, from the earliest manifestations that have come down to us up until the present. Given the numerous desiderata in the study of Islamic theology, the overall picture that evolves is inevitably incomplete, and in many ways the volume is intended to serve as an encouragement and a guide for scholars who wish to engage with this field of study. The approach in the preparation of this volume has been an inclusive one—rather than defining ‘theology’ in a narrow way or preferring one interpretation of what ‘orthodox’ belief consists of over another, an attempt has been made to cover the doctrinal thought of all the various intellectual strands of Islam that were engaged with theological concerns—including groups such as the philosophers and Ismāʿīlīs, whom theologians of different shades condemned as heretics. Moreover, this volume also acknowledges the significance of inter-communal exchanges between Muslim and Christian as well as Jewish thinkers over the course of the centuries. The theological thought of Jews and Christians not only mirrored at times that of Muslims, Christian methodologies of speculative reasoning and, at times, doctrinal notions contributed to its shaping. While the Jewish reception of kalām methods and the doctrines of the Muʿtazilite school in particular are touched upon in Chapter 9, the interplay between Muslim and Christian doctrinal thought at various points in time is discussed in detail in Chapters 1, 5, and 31.

The overall arrangement of the chapters is primarily diachronic. The unevenness of the three parts reflects, on the one hand, the robust scholarship that has developed in the study of Islamic intellectual history from early Islam to the classical period, contrasted with, on the other hand, the deplorable paucity of scholarship on the post-classical period. Part I, by far the most detailed, comprises chapters discussing forms of Islamic theology during the formative and the early middle period; Part III focuses on the later middle and early modern periods; and Part V addresses Islamic theological thought from the end of the early modern period to the modern period. Wedged between the (p. 2) three diachronic blocs are two parts that address thematic issues. Part II comprises four case studies that explore intellectual interactions of Islamic theology(ies), while Part IV, also comprising four case studies, focuses on the impact of political and social history on Islamic theology.

About the Author

Sabine Schmidtke is Professor of Islamic Intellectual History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. She has published extensively on Islamic and Jewish intellectual history.

Bibliographic Information

Title: The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology

Author(s): Sabine Schmidtke

Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition

 Language: English

Length: 1014 pages

ISBN: 978-0199696703

Pub. Date: May 24, 2016

The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology

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