Because God is just, He made Islam available to everyone. Its truth is independent of revelation, and its doctrines are free of mysteries. It is a rational religion. But human reason is not reliable. Due to mental incapacity or affective attachments, people make countless errors. Therefore, we cannot base religious belief solely on intellectual arguments.
While it may seem paradoxical to combine trust in rational religion with distrust of human reason, this is exactly what the great littÃ©rateur and intellectual provocateur al-JÄá¸¥iáº (d. 868-9) proposed in his theological writings. He pushed for an inclusive epistemology that broadened the scope of knowledge. For this, he argued that humans can acquire rational knowledge without discursive arguments, through an unconscious process of social exposure. In this, he presented a radical alternative to other Islamic conceptions of rationalism, with immense promise for modern contexts. This alternative was one advanced by a group of understudied Muslim theologians known as the âEpistemistsâ (aá¹£á¸¥Äb al-maÊ¿Ärif) whose premier advocate he was.
This talk presents an overview of the intellectual project of al-JÄá¸¥iáº (d. 868-9) as an introduction to the worldview of the Epistemists, while touching on their rise and fall as a theological trend. It also seeks to situate it in the formative Ê¿Abbasid moment of Islamic history.
Discussant: Prof. James Montgomery (Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic, University of Cambridge)
Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies
Hussein Ali Abdulsater is Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on Islamic intellectual history, particularly the development of theological schools, the formation of sectarian identities and the various modes of rationalism.
âA JÄá¸¥iáºian Contribution to Reason in Islam? Revisiting al-Muá¸¥ÄsibÄ«âs MÄÊ¾iyyat al-Ê¿aql,â Journal of the American Oriental Society, 142:1 (2022), 1-32.
ShiÊ¿i Doctrines, MuÊ¿tazili Theology: al-SharÄ«f al-Murtaá¸Ä and the Systematization of Imami Discourse. Edinburgh University Press, 2017.
âReason, Grace and the Freedom of Conscience: The Period of Investigation in Classical Islamic Theology,â Studia Islamica, 110:2 (2015), 233-262.