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Delivered by: Professor Ebrahim Moosa [Duke University, USA]

This course will both explore some of the ideas of the Pakistani emigre scholar Fazlur Rahman and offer a retrospective view on his ideas. Modernity and tradition are both highly contested categories in Muslim life, practice and thought. This course attempts to flesh out some of these issues in order to enhance the conversation.

This one-day seminar will explore some critical concepts in modern Islamic thought. The challenges modernity poses to inherited Muslim thought and how Muslims both adopt and combat modernity. The seminar will explore the ideas of prominent thinkers and grapple with the question of history and interpretation with a special emphasis on the remaking of tradition especially in the light challenges in ethics, science and citizenship.

Course contents covered:

  • Debates in Islamic Thought
  • Who Makes the Norms? God and/or Humans: Shah Waliyullah, Iqbal, Fazlur Rahman revisited
  • Shari`ah and History
  • Question of the Intellectual Landscape
  • Politics of Tradition and Interpretation: A Ghazalian Intervention
  • Courage in Questioning and Earnest Practice by Conviction

Suggestive Pre-Readings:

Iqbal, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Chap 1, “Knowledge and Religious Experience,” & “The Principle of Movement in the Structure of Islam.” Fazlur Rahman, Islamic & Modernity. Participants should try to read this book, it would be helpful. But those who did not read can still participate in the seminar.

ad-Dihlāwī, Shāh Walī Allāh, and Marcia K. Hermansen (trans). The Conclusive Argument of God: Shāh Walī Allāh of Delhi’s Ḥujjat Allāh Al-Bāligha. short sections Karl Lowith: Meaning in History, “Hegel”. Leszek Kolakowski: “Modernity on Endless Trial” in Modernity on Endless Trial Abdulkader Tayob: “Religion Between Shari`a and Law” in Religion in Modern Islamic Discourse Moosa, Ebrahim. “The Debts and Burdens of Critical Islam.” In Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism.

Professor Ebrahim Moosa [Duke University, USA]

Ebrahim E.I. Moosa is Professor of Religion and Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion. His interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a special focus on Islamic law, history, ethics and theology. Dr Moosa is the author of Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination, winner of the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book in the History of Religions (2006) and editor of the last manuscript of the late Professor Fazlur Rahman, Revival and Reform in Islam: A Study of Islamic Fundamentalism. He was named Carnegie Scholar in 2005 to pursue research on the madrasas, Islamic seminaries of South Asia. Born in South Africa, Dr. Moosa earned his MA (1989) and PhD (1995) from the University of Cape Town. Prior to that he took the `alimiyya degree in Islamic and Arabic studies from Darul Ulum Nadwatul `Ulama, one of India’s foremost Islamic seminaries in the city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He also has a BA degree from Kanpur University, and a postgraduate diploma in journalism from the City University in London. Previously he taught at the University of Cape Town’s Department of Religious Studies in South Africa till 1998 and was visiting professor at Stanford University 1998-2001 prior to joining Duke University. As a journalist he wrote for Arabia: The Islamic World Review, MEED (Middle East Economic Digest) and Afkar/Inquiry magazines in Britain, and later became political writer for the Cape Times in South Africa. He contributes regularly to the op-ed pages of the New York Times, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, The Boston Review and several international publications and is frequently invited to comment on global Islamic affairs. Currently he is completing a book titled What is a Madrasa? Also under construction are two books on ethics: Muslim Self Revived: Ethics, Rights and Technology after Empire and another title, Between Right and Wrong: Debating Muslim Ethics (Wiley). In these writings Moosa explores some of the major challenges that confront a tradition-in-the making like Islam , in a rapidly changing world. Moosa examines the way religious traditions encounter modernity and in the process generating new conceptions of history, culture and ethics. Dr. Moosa serves on several distinguished international advisory boards and is associated with some of the foremost thinkers, activists and role-players in the Muslim world and beyond. He advised the first independent South African government after apartheid on Islamic affairs and serves on committees of the Organization of Islamic Conference in addition to others. He also has extensive experience in human rights activities. He has received grants from the Ford Foundation to research contemporary Muslim ethics and issues of philanthropy in the Muslim world. For further details and access to research materials please visit Dr Moosa’s website

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