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Dr Tony Street (Principal Investigator)

Hartwell Assistant Director of Research at the Faculty of Divinity and Fellow, Clare Hall.

Dr Yasser Qureshy

Postdoctoral Associate at the Faculty of Divinity and Postdoctoral Associate, Clare Hall.


Taking as its starting point the 11th century, the aim of this project is to explore Islamic philosophical theology with a view to outline two of its major properties: its inherent systematicity, and its method. Systematicity here refers to an intellectual framework which offers a profound degree of conceptual ordering and interconnection across all of its domains. Three considerations in specific are important for highlighting systematicity within Islamic philosophical theology:

  1. How the internal topics of Islamic philosophical theology fit together. For instance, how discussions on metaphysics, ontology, types and sources of knowledge, God’s attributes, and prophetology are inter-related and cross-dependent.
  2. How Islamic philosophical theology as a science sits in relation to other sciences such as uṣūl al-fiqh, Ḥadīth, and Qur’anic exegesis to form both an integrated and hierarchically arranged set of disciplines. Such an idea is, of course, Aristotelian in stock (metabasis), is modified and developed by Ibn Sīnā (d. 427/1037), and then brought into the tradition of philosophical theology in its earliest form by al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111). In such an epistemological hierarchy, Islamic philosophical theology was seen as the epistemological guarantor for all other sciences.
  3. How Islamic philosophical theology—although serving as epistemological guarantor—nonetheless interacted with, and adopted premises from other sciences such as Ḥadīth and Qur’anic exegesis in complex ways. Conceived this way, Islamic philosophical theology can thus be viewed internally, vertically (hierarchy), and horizontally (interdisciplinary).


Method is here used to refer to the tools of interpretive methodology which were developed and deployed in the tradition of philosophical theology. Whereas the earlier tradition of kalām relied mostly on sub-deductive methods of reasoning, important thinkers from the 11th century onwards began to move towards Avicennan forms of reasoning, especially his theory of demonstration. However, their method was not limited to Avicennan logic, but appealed to a broader interpretive toolkit that—based on considerations of systematicity noted above— included the resources of uşūl al-fiqh (legal theory). Herein, uṣūl al-fiqh is taken as the science that determines how scripture is to be understood through a particular theory of language, a particular theory of abrogation, and a particular theory of resolving seemingly conflicting evidence. It is through the hermeneutical principles of uṣūl al-fiqh that Muslim scholars have come to understand scripture the way they do, and some of the things that have come to be understood through this method have theological implications. In this way, we can see how systematic concerns dovetailed with methodological concerns.

For the purposes of this project, systematicity and method as two points taken together are to be understood as an autochthonous approach to the study of Islamic philosophical theology. The project hopes to produce studies on various topics through such a lens.



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