The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology
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 though 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 ofspeculative 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.
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