Intellectual Traditions in Islam brings together a number of leading scholars to examine the central role of reason and intellect in the development of the Islamic world into one of the great civilizations. The scope of this volume is wide-ranging, relating to issues and perspectives from the beginnings of Islam to the contemporary period. The contributions by Aziz Esmail, Hugh Kennedy, Oliver Leaman and Muhsin Mahdi are devoted mainly to examining the significance of the intellectual life for Muslims and analysing the variety of internal and external forces – political, religious, philosophical and scientific – which gave rise to the intellectual sciences in the early centuries of Islam.

Norman Calder, Farhad Daftary, Alice C. Hunsberger and Annemarie Schimmel focus on the development of intellectual traditions in various Muslim communities of medieval times. The pre-modern and contemporary periods are the setting for a third group of contributions by John Cooper, Abdulaziz Sachedina and Mohammed Arkoun, which investigate the relationship between political and religious authority on the once hand and the social and intellectual life of Muslims on the other.

All the contributors highlight, in their different ways, the pivotal role of the intellect in the formation of Islamic cultures and its continuing relevance for the Muslim world today. By demonstrating the extent to which some of the seminal achievements of Islamic civilisation were underpinned by a vigorous culture of intellectual enquiry and debate, this publication seeks not only to promote a better understanding of Islam, but also to encourage further debate on the challenges facing Muslim societies today as their enter a new era of unprecedented change in world history.