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    The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought makes available for the first time the breadth and depth of Mohammed Arkoun’s thought to an English readership and reaffirms the significance of his contribution to Modern Islamic Studies and Religious Studies more generally.

    Drawing on the tools and methodologies of history, sociology, psychology and anthropology, the work combines a critical review of modern studies dedicated to what is generally labelled ‘Islam’ with an assessment of the original texts treated in those studies as sources of genuine information. By doing so, Arkoun’s approach subjects varying belief–systems (including non–belief), traditions of exegesis, theology and jurisprudence to a critique aimed at liberating reason from dogmatic constructs.

    By treating Islam as a religion as well as a time–honoured tradition of thought, Mohammed Arkoun’s work aims at overcoming the limitations of a purely descriptive, narrative and chronological treatment of history. He does so by recommending that the entire development of Muslim thought, from the Qur’anic worldview to the range of contemporary discourses, be subjected to critical analysis – an analysis that will engender a discussion as to how Islamic studies and thought can be brought to the level of the fertile criticisms witnessed in European scholarship and historical development since the 17th century.

    In the work, Professor Arkoun pays as much attention to exploring the epistemological options underlying the different types of discourses, as to the development of facts, events, ideas, beliefs, performances, institutions, works of art and individual biographies based on reliable archives. He argues that writing history, without making an issue of each word, each concept, each attitude used by the social protagonists, is misleading and even dangerous for people who assimilate the representations of the past proposed by historians as the undisputable truth about the past. He asserts that this is why each social group has itself built an image of its past without having the means of differentiating the mythical or ideological image from the critical approaches provided by modern historians.

    Each of the book’s eight essays addresses some of these concerns by referring to a number of larger tensions which, Mohammed Arkoun asserts, remain ‘unthought’ in contemporary Islamic discourse – topics that have been addressed, in some cases, in academic scholarship on Islam, but have been relegated into the domain of the ‘unthinkable’.

    The first two chapters introduce ways of ‘problematising’ the larger category of revelation through the example of the Qur’aninfo-icon and proposes a programme of research aimed at constructing a new field for the comparative study of revelation as a historic, linguistic, cultural and anthropological articulation of thought, common to Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

    Likewise, seven other themes related to large and complex domains of modern debates are introduced in the following chapters: problems of the state, civil society, the individual and human rights; the concept of the person, the individual and the citizen; belief, non–belief and the construction of the human subject in Muslim contexts; authority and power and ‘religious imaginaire’.

    Outlining the author’s life–work and thought for the first time in English, the essays in this book explore the tensions that have challenged the author since the beginning of his academic career, providing an up–to–date and acute insight into his thought and methodology. The book will be an invaluable asset for those concerned with the contemporary world as viewed through the disciplines of Islamic and Religious Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology and History.

  • Introduction: Thinking the Unthinkable and the Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought

    1. A Critical Introduction to Qur’anic Studies
    2. The Cognitive Status and Normative Functions of Revelation: The Example of the Qur’aninfo-icon
    3. Belief and the Construction of the Subject in Islamic Contexts
    4. Logocentrism and Religious Truth in Islamic Thought: The Example of al–I‘lam bi–manaqib al–Islam
    5. Authority and Power in Islamic Thought
    6. The Concept of Person in Islamic Tradition
    7. Aspects of Religious Imaginary: The Examples of the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto
    8. The Rule of Law and Civil Society in Muslim Contexts: Beyond Dualist Thinking
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  • Prof. Mohammed Arkoun

    Professor Mohammed Arkoun was one of the most prominent and influential figures in Islamic Studies. He passed away in Paris on 14 September 2010. In a career of more than 30 years, he was an outstanding research scholar, a searching critic of the theoretical tensions embedded in the field of Islamic Studies, and a courageous public intellectual, carrying the banner of an often embattled Islamic modernism and humanism. A native of Great Kabylia , Algeria, he studied at the Faculty of Literature of the University of Algiers and at the Sorbonne in Paris. He established his scholarly reputation...Read more