Sunday, December 29, 2013

New book on the role of skepticism in the development of Islamic theology

by Salman Hameed

End of the semester and then a trip to Pakistan kept me away from Irtiqa. There are a number of items in the backlog. But first I wanted to point out this new book, Skepticism in Classical: Moments of Confusion by Paul L. Heck. The book looks really interesting, but I haven't seen a review yet. Oh and it is also obscenely priced at $145! Well, this is what you get for academic publishing (actually you can also rent the book on Kindle for $34). Nevertheless, here is the description:
The first major treatment of skepticism in Islam, this book explores the critical role of skeptical thinking in the development of theology in Islam. It examines the way key thinkers in classical Islam faced perplexing questions about the nature of God and his
relation to the world, all the while walking a fine line between belief in God’s message as revealed in the Qur’an, and the power of the mind to discover truths on its own. 
Skepticism in Classical Islam reveals how doubt was actually an integral part of scholarly life at this time. Skepticism is by no means synonymous with atheism. It is, rather, the admission that one cannot convincingly demonstrate a truth claim with certainty, and Islam’s scholars, like their counterparts elsewhere, acknowledged such impasses, only to be inspired to find new ways to resolve the conundrums they faced. Whilst their conundrums were unique, their admission of the limits of knowledge shares much with other scholarly traditions. 
Seeking to put Islam on the map of the broader study of the history of scepticism, this book will be of interest to scholars and students of Religion, History and Philosophy.
Sounds fascinating. On a related topic, there is a chapter on medieval Muslim freethinkers in Jennifer Michael Hecht's Doubt - A History. But then Hecht was looking at freethinkers and not those who were  also working on Islamic theology.

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