The Story of Reason in Islam

9780804794619: Hardback
Release Date: 9th November 2016

9781503600577: Paperback
Release Date: 9th November 2016

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 288

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Cultural Memory in the Present

Stanford University Press

The Story of Reason in Islam

Unconventionally fusing the the history of faith and reason in Islam, this book traces the Qur'an-inspired intellectual revolution that took off in the Islamic world of the seventh century, revealing its highlights and following it through to its sixteenth-century demise.
Hardback / £77.00
Paperback / £24.99

In The Story of Reason in Islam, leading public intellectual and political activist Sari Nusseibeh narrates a sweeping intellectual history—a quest for knowledge inspired by the Qu'ran and its language, a quest that employed Reason in the service of Faith. Eschewing the conventional separation of Faith and Reason, he takes a fresh look at why and how Islamic reasoning evolved over time. He surveys the different Islamic schools of thought and how they dealt with major philosophical issues, showing that Reason pervaded all disciplines, from philosophy and science to language, poetry, and law. Along the way, the best known Muslim philosophers are introduced in a new light. Countering received chronologies, in this story Reason reaches its zenith in the early seventeenth century; it then trails off, its demise as sudden as its appearance. Thereafter, Reason loses out to passive belief, lifeless logic, and a self-contained legalism—in other words, to a less flexible Islam. Nusseibeh's speculations as to why this occurred focus on the fortunes and misfortunes of classical Arabic in the Islamic world. Change, he suggests, may only come from the revivification of language itself.

Contents and Abstracts
1The Arabian Desert
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

2The Daunting Idea of God
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

3Free Will and Determinism
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

4The Qur'an: Created or Eternal?
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

5From Wasil to Ibn Hanbal
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

6Early Islam: Literacy, Conflict and Expansion
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

7Speculative Discourse: A Style
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

8Discourse: In Pursuit of the Ultimate Answers
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

9Law and Morality
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

10Al-Ma'moun and the Devil's Banquets.
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

11The Language-Logic debate
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

12Back to the Human Will and Language
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

13Expanding the View
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

14An Interlude: Caliph, Imam, and Philosopher-King
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

15Philosophy and Politics
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

16The Philosophers' "Frenzy"
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

17Back to Wine and Logic
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

18Motion and Light
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

19The Nature of Truth
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

20Fardajan and Beyond
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

21The Cosmos
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

22Cosmic Lights
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

23Fast Forward
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

24Language and Reason: The Dilemma
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the cultural and historical framework in which the Qur'an first appeared in Mecca, and the inspirational and intellectual hold the document had on the people who came to adopt it as God's word delivered by Muhammad. The two contextual themes highlighted in the chapter are the desert's geo-historical centrality to the major regional religious and cultural traditions and the immanence of poetry as the revered artistic form of linguistic expression among desert Arabs. The Qur'an is shown to have combined these attributes–religious narrative and poetic finesse–and merged them into a single and unique discourse that exerted a mesmerizing influence on peoples' hearts and minds. The power of this synthesis shook people out of pre-existing modes of thought and inspired them to speculate about the world in radically new ways.

Sari Nusseibeh is Professor of Philosophy at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. His most recent book is What's a Palestinian State Worth? (2011) .

"Sari Nusseibeh’s The Story of Reason in Islam is a very beautifully and thoughtfully written book.”—Heidrun Eichner, Reading Religion

"Sari Nusseibeh's The Story of Reason in Islam is a very beautifully and thoughtfully written book."

Heidrun Eichner
Reading Religion

"Written with the uninitiated in mind....Nusseibeh's sensitive, elliptical handling of dense metaphysical material echoes one of the book's central points: that the philosophical tradition in Arabic grew out of a world in which poetry was the preeminent means of expression....Through skillful weaving of events and ideas, Nusseibeh shows how politics determined the themes—justice, free will, the legitimacy of resisting an unjust leader—that became central to early Islamic thought."

Yasmine Seale
Harper's Magazine

"This engagingly written and ambitious intellectual history of Islam will provoke much thought and response. Novel in approach and mindful of the concerns of the present, it focuses not only on the story of philosophy, but also on the hermeneutics of scripture, the understanding of the arts and sciences, and the relation between law and ethics."

Sajjad Rizvi
niversity of Exeter

"Sari Nusseibeh's The Story of Reason in Islam is a gift to the broadminded Western reader. It comes from a man of rare moral and intellectual standing who has risked much in his life to intellectual honesty and thorough fair-mindedness. It doesn't provide quick or easy answers about modern Islam, but it does convey the depth and complexity of traditions that Western pundits too frequently seem comfortable boiling down to 140 characters. Professor Nusseibeh's book is its own best argument for judging others cautiously and assuming their best intentions."

Noah Kennedy
The Humanist