Reason and Belief: Theological Debates in the Medieval and Early Modern Islamic West

Datos sobre el Proyecto:

Call and Funding agency: Proyecto de I+D de Generación de Conocimiento, Plan Estatal de Investigación Científica y Técnica y de Innovación

Grant reference: PGC2018-099268-A-I00

Date of the project: 2019-2021

Tabs group


This three-year project will be exploring cultures of rationality in the medieval and early modern Islamic West (that is, al-Andalus and North Africa). We will be examining the doctrinal history of Maghribi and Andalusian Ashʿarism from a longue-durée perspective. Historically, Ashʿarism is the most important strand of kalām (rational theology) in Sunni Islam, and it still has a huge following and influential role in modern Morocco.

The project seeks to address the overall issue of how theologians view the relation between reason and religious belief in sources dating from between the 11th and the 17th centuries. It will study how Ashʿarite theologians legitimized their use of reason, and specifically their claim that belief in God has a rational rather than a scriptural foundation. The project will furthermore be analyzing a heated theological debate among Muslim scholars of the early modern Maghrib about the general populaces engagement with doctrine: in order to avoid eternal hellfire, did they, like the educated elite, need to know logical proofs for each doctrinal stance, or did it suffice to imitate the stances of others? Finally, the project will explore rational approaches to specific theological issues: it will be analysing theological-philosophical notions, arguments and frameworks that helped scholars in theology to resolve doctrinal questions. By moreover situating these lines of inquiry in relation to broader trends within Islamic theology (kalām) this project aims to contribute to and complicate this emerging historiography on medieval and early modern Islamic theology. 

The project will be delving deep into the sorely understudied textual corpus produced by Ashʿarite theologians from the Islamic West: it will make extensive use of unpublished manuscript material and the rich source of neglected literature that has come to light only very recently.