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While examining the theological, ideological and sociological dimensions of the Sabbatean messianic movement, and sketching its major figures, the chapter is aimed at uncovering less famous kabbalistic schools and movements in the seventeenth century. These go beyond the continued editing, formulation and influence of Safedian Kabbalah, with the philosophically oriented interpreters of Kabbalah in Italy being of special interest. Against the backdrop of the general crisis of the century and particularly the growing insecurity of European Jewry, the development of nationalistic Kabbalah, especially in Prague, especially its focus on the Land of Israel, is examined. The role played by Musar (self-perfection) literature and magic in popularizing Kabbalah, the reception of Christianized Kabbalah amongst elites in several Protestant countries complement the picture of the growing sway of this lore during the course of the century. However, the very success of Kabbalah also generated a range of critical responses, expanding from Italy into northern Europe (including non-Jews). Tellingly, these included cautions against its early study found in central legal codes.
Chittick focuses on Sufism or “Islamic mysticism” as a prominent influence in Islamic history regarding religious experience, noting that its mystical emphasis among Muslims traces back to Mohammad and the Qur’an. He finds that according to the Sufi literature of Ibn Arabi, a soul must be prepared for mystical experience to reap its benefits and to avoid the mistaken assumption that it removes one from the obligation to follow the teachings of the Qur’an.
The concluding chapter includes an analysis of some of the salient features of the occasionalist and participatory accounts of causation. It summarizes both the continuities and discontinuities identified in the preceding chapters. It also suggests that the participatory approach to causality presents another strong current in the Islamic intellectual tradition, alongside with the occasionalist tradition, with its distinct characteristics and advantages.
The seventh chapter focuses on later developments in Sufi metaphysics concerning the question of causality and freedom. It examines writings of two influential followers of Ibn ʿArabī: Qūnawī and Qayṣarī. It will be argued that both Qūnawī and Qayṣarī agree with Ibn ʿArabī in their construction of causal efficacy and freedom of entities. What distinguishes both Qūnawī and Qayṣarī is their attempt to understand certain ideas attributed to the Philosophers and Ashʿarites in light of Ibn ʿArabī’s articulation of the concepts of existence (wujūd) and essence (māhiyya). Their writings include references both to the ideas of the Philosophers, such as secondary causality and emanationism, and to the ideas of Ashʿarites, such continuous creation, accidents, and “preponderance without reason” (tarjīh bi-lā murajjih). These thinkers selectively appropriate these ideas defended by different schools by using the philosophical possibilities suggested by the concepts of existence and essence. The result is a critical re-interpretation of emanationist and occasionalist elements within the larger framework of Ibn ʿArabī's metaphysics.
The tenth chapter focuses on a contemporary approach to causality. Here, I offer a detailed survey of Said Nursi’s account of causality. Nursi’s neo-occasionalism makes original contributions to Ashʿarite occasionalist metaphysics of causation while integrating it with Ibn ‘Arabī’s theory of Divine Self-Disclosure. As such, his theory of causality suggests an interesting meeting point of kalām and Sufi metaphysics. He also defends and emphasizes the idea of disproportionality of cause and effect in an unprecedented way in the history of Islamic occasionalism. The chapter also analyzes Nursi’s treatment of free will and theodicy.
The introduction presents main research questions, key concepts, and methodology. It introduces some of the reasons that make questions about causality and freedom fundamentally important for any religious tradition in general and Islamic tradition in particular. It discusses the reasons for the selection of thinkers examined in the book. It also provides short introductions to Platonic, Neo-Platonic, Aristotelian, and occasionalist accounts of causality to help the reader better understand the spectrum of ideas about causality and freedom examined in this book.
The sixth chapter offers a way of approaching the question of causality in Ibn ʿArabī’s metaphysical system. Ibn ʿArabī’s metaphysics is relational in the sense that entities are comprehended as the totality of their relationships to God. The divine names are theological categories denoting these relations. It is processual in that it perceives the world as the multiplicity of the incessant and ever-changing manifestations of the divine qualities. The world is recreated anew at each moment and entities are societies of divine acts or theophanies. In this framework, causal power is attributed to God, and causality refers to the regularity and predictability of the related theophanic individualities. The relational and processual qualities of Ibn ʿArabī metaphysics allow him to integrate participatory and occasionalist perspectives on causality. The chapter also examines how Ibn ʿArabī uses the idea of participation and the fixed archetypes (al-aʿyān thābita) to establish freedom.
In this volume, Ozgur Koca offers a comprehensive survey of Islamic accounts of causality and freedom from the medieval to the modern era, as well as contemporary relevance. His book is an invitation for Muslims and non-Muslims to explore a rich, but largely forgotten, aspect of Islamic intellectual history. Here, he examines how key Muslim thinkers, such as Ibn Sina, Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Arabi, Suhrawardi, Jurjani, Mulla Sadra and Nursi, among others, conceptualized freedom in the created order as an extension of their perception of causality. Based on this examination, Koca identifies and explores some of the major currents in the debate on causality and freedom. He also discusses the possible implications of Muslim perspectives on causality for contemporary debates over religion and science.
The intellectual biographies of the scholars presented in this chapter – Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792), Shah Waliullah Dihlawi (1703–1762), Shaykh Da’ud al-Fatani (1769–1847), ‘Abd al-Nasir al-Qursawi (1776–1812), Ma Laichi (?1681–1766), and Ma Mingxin (?1719?–1781) – lead us through an exploration of how mysticism and legal approaches to Islamic practice took shape not as mutually exclusive but rather as intertwined dynamics, highlighting a dual track of reformism and Sufism concerned with “proper” ritual, a return to the scriptures, and a rejection of bid’a, often manifested as the absorption of local traditions into Islamic practices. The specific focus on the Naqshbandiyah additionally allows us to center these dynamics in Asia, as this Central Asian order spread to the Indian subcontinent and influenced developments in China and Southeast Asia, ultimately bringing Asia center-stage when exploring scholars’ concerns (and interventions) about “deviation” and “orthodoxy”. Without denying the crucial role played by Mecca and Medina as gathering places for scholars coming from all corners of the world, this chapter has taken into consideration alternative routes and networks of religious learning that connected the umma across geographical boundaries.
This chapter considers the emergence of one of the main vehicles for the diffusion of new ideas of religiosity, literary Turkish. In contrast to previous studies which have claimed the emergence of Turkish as an expression of a proto-nationalism, this chapter argues that the emergence of Turkish must be seen against the twin background of the interest of Sufis, especially Jalal al-Din Rumi and his circle, in multi-lingual communication, and the new political circumstances thrown up by the Mongol invasions. Turkish is initially used extensively only for literary works in new cultural centres emerging in his period – the Mongol garrison town of Kırşehir, and the Turkmen principalities of the coastal peripheries. In the old Seljuq urban centres of Anatolia, Konya, Kayseri and Sivas, Persian remained the dominant if not the only form of literary language into the fifteenth century. Turkish thus seems to have been a medium not just to communicate with an audience unversed in Persian, but an expression of political and religious aspirations.
This chapter examines the relationship between political and Sufi elites. Sufis relied on the financial support of Seljuq and Mongol officials, as is amply demonstrated by the correspondence of Jalal al-Din Rumi. It is often suggested that such support is rooted in practical advances for political elites such as legitimacy through association with Sufi saints. I argue that in fact the theology of Sufism itself could provide crucial legitimation to political elites, which helps explain its popularity. In the writings of Sultan Walad, Rumi’s son, we find the theory that the ruler can himself be not just a wali, one of God’s friends, as the saints were known, but even the qutb, the leader of the Sufi hierarchy, but will only be recognised as such by a Sufi saint, forming the ideological groundwork for this alliance. However, not all Sufis were automatically aligned with the status quo, and some sought temporal power for themselves; this chapter also takes up the story of the descendants of the rebel saint Baba Ilyas, and shows that despite his failure to seize secular power, his descendants succeeded in establishing a cult around his shrine that was sufficiently powerful to impress the Ottomans in the fifteenth century.
In contrast to the dearth of discussions about visual images in the first centuries of Islam, discussions of music abounded, often incorporating discourses inherited from Greek antiquity. Chapter 2 considers how juridical discussions of music reflected antique traditions of inward mimesis. Inheriting aspect of Eastern Roman music theory, discussions generally distinguished between theory and performance, affectivity and entertainment. Inheriting the Pythagorean–Platonic tradition, theorists emphasized the capacity of music to engage with the harmonies between the universe and the body that enabled its therapeutic and curative capacities. Music and instruments could be characterized through an iconography of sound. Music needed to be treated with caution due to its association with forbidden practices such as drinking and licentiousness. Yet it was also recognized as facilitating transcendence by opening the heart to the workings of the divine. Both aspects became central to literary gatherings devoted to the ritualized recitation of poetry with music, wine, food, and real or imaginary gardens. The centrality of music in the Islamic intellectual corpus undermines the oculocentrism of art history, offering instead a field of multimedial perceptual culture.
The discursive sphere of Islam explored in this book emerges through the interaction of texts of many genres, elaborating faith and engaging with multiple previous, neighboring, and intertwined cultures, and disseminated through ritual, poetry, music, geometry, and painting. The ideas about perception woven through them suggest that the questions that we ask through modern, Euronormative frameworks of religion, art, and history often veil Islamic culture in the name of revealing it. This not only alters dominant understandings of Islam and its arts, but also destabilizes the presumed universalism of disciplinary art history. Positing the broader category of ‘perceptual culture’ against the analytic limitations implicit in the categories ‘art’ and ‘history,’ this introduction critiques the modern segregation of culture from religion as disingenuous. Rather than inviting a ‘Western’ reader trying to understand an Islamic ‘other,’ it situates the reader, regardless of faith or heritage, as a modern subject using historical theological, philosophical, and poetic discourses to enter an earlier episteme and engage with Islamic cultures of the past. The resulting study emphasizes interfaith communication and Sufism as central aspects of Islamic perceptual cultures. It reflects on the performative character of perception as experienced through the eye, the ear, or the heart.
Why is the so-called image prohibition made out to be so important? Why does the historic plenitude of all sorts of images in the Islamic world, ranging from theological narratives to pornography, fail to automatically refute their supposed absence? The repetition of the accusation, despite all evidence to the contrary, suggests that the ‘image’ at hand is never a picture, but a symbol of alterity that establishes distinction between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West.’ Chapter 1 unravels the supposed ‘prohibition of the image’ in Islam. Explaining the logic of Islamic law through the history of its development during the first centuries of Islam, it traces contemporary Islamic assertions of the prohibition against an abridged history of Islamic legal interpretation. It then examines how the sources through which European scholars describe this ban conceive of images. Far from expressing the same concerns about iconoclasm as in Abrahamic scripture, Islamic sources reflect an understanding of mimesis deeply intertwined with philosophical traditions inherited through late antiquity. This observation institutes two themes in the work: the affinities of Islamic thought with Greek, Abrahamic, and Buddhist legacies; and how modern interpretations of similar sources led Europe to distinct interpretive practices.
This article examines an Arabic commentary on the American self-help pioneer Dale Carnegie's How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, written by a one-time leading intellectual of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Muḥammad al-Ghazālī. Ghazālī’s 1956 commentary was perhaps the earliest manifestation of an influential genre of literature within the Islamic world today: “Islamic self-help.” Although scholars treat Islamic self-help as an effect of neoliberalism, this article reorients the study of Islamic self-help beyond neoliberalism by showing first, that Ghazālī’s early version of it emerged through a critical engagement with several ideological forms that relate in complex ways to neoliberalism's antecedent, liberalism; and second, that his Islamic self-help is best understood in terms of an Islamic encounter with American metaphysical religion made possible by Carnegie's text. It argues that Ghazālī’s Islamic self-help constituted a radical reconfiguration of Western self-help, one that replaced the ethics of self-reliance and autonomy with Islamic ethical sensibilities clustered around the notions of human insufficiency and dependence upon God. In doing so, it highlights how scholars of contemporary Islam might fruitfully pose the question of how novel intellectual trends and cultural forms, like self-help, become Islamic, instead of limiting their analysis to how Islam is reshaped by modern Euro-American thought, institutions, and practices.
Revealing what is 'Islamic' in Islamic art, Shaw explores the perception of arts, including painting, music, and geometry through the discursive sphere of historical Islam including the Qur'an, Hadith, Sufism, ancient philosophy, and poetry. Emphasis on the experience of reception over the context of production enables a new approach, not only to Islam and its arts, but also as a decolonizing model for global approaches to art history. Shaw combines a concise introduction to Islamic intellectual history with a critique of the modern, secular, and European premises of disciplinary art history. Her meticulous interpretations of intertextual themes span antique philosophies, core religious and theological texts, and prominent prose and poetry in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu that circulated across regions of Islamic hegemony from the eleventh century to the colonial and post-colonial contexts of the modern Middle East.
This chapter explores several key factors which created the conditions for the women’s rights reforms that became evident after 2000 in the Maghreb. These include such factors as the French legacy; the adoption of unified legal systems after independence; the growing secular Amazigh influence; the particular appeal of Sufism to women; the impact of political opening, however minimal, in the region; and, finally, to a much lesser extent, attitudes toward gender equality and religiosity. In and of themselves, these factors do not explain the changes I am describing because many of them were present long before the changes, but they helped lay the groundwork for the reforms. Many of these factors are evident in countries that have not undergone change, which is why they do not suffice as explanations. Nevertheless, they played a facilitating role in making the reforms more likely. What is important here is not just the role of these factors, but the way in which they mattered.
This chapter discusses the divergence and commonalties between the Maghreb (Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria) and the Middle East when it comes to advancing women’s rights. I hypothesize several possible explanations for the divergence: (1) Maghrebi leaders adopted the political strategy of advancing women’s rights in order to present a modernizing image of their nation to the world and to neutralize Islamist movements, especially extremist ones; (2) the ruling parties, including Islamist parties, sought to stay in power by advancing women’s rights, knowing it would cost them if they did not adopt such reforms; (3) women’s movements exerted pressure resulting in demands for greater accountability (often these reforms occurred in the context of a critical juncture after a change of leadership, the end of a war, a coup d’état, or other major social upheaval); and, finally, (4) the women’s movements in all three countries communicated with each other, thus diffusing goals and strategies. The chapter briefly engages with alternate explanations for women’s rights reforms in the region. One set of explanations relates to cultural factors like kinship and religion, and the other looks at structural factors relating to women’s education, economic growth, the presence of oil rents, and international pressures.
Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, Muslims experienced multiple crises. The Crusaders and the Mongols destroyed the urban infrastructure and the public order across a vast Muslim geography. On the one hand, the fall of most Muslim states, except the Ayyubids and then Mamluks in Egypt, and Berber dynasties in Morocco/Andalus, weakened the ulema–state alliance. On the other hand, the perils of the Crusades and the Mongol invasions led many Muslims to seek safety from the ulema–state alliance. In general, both the Crusader and the Mongol invasions led to a deterioration of mercantile and scholarly activities in many Muslim cities. Muslim countries still produced such remarkable scholars as Ibn Rushd and Ibn Khaldun. Another scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, wrote on the theory of the ulema–state alliance. Meanwhile Western Europe was protected from destructive invasions after the halt of the Mongol invasion in Eastern Europe. In this context, Western Europe witnessed socioeconomic and political transformations. This chapter first analyzes the Muslim world and then explores these Western European transformations.