This is the first of an six-part series of courses that unpack the questions (masa’il) of Taftazani’s pithy Sharh al-’Aqa’id al-Nasafiyya, arguably the most important textbook ever written  in the science of Islamic theology. These courses explain the intellectual context in which the book’s questions are set, and then apply those questions to contemporary theological problems, with a special focus on modern science and occasional digressions into Western philosophy. Take this course to to understand what the science of kalam is; the historical circumstances that led to its development; who the Mu’tazilites were and why they are important; who the falasifa were and why they are important; what philosophical skepticism is, what motivates it, its relevance to kalam, and how it should be tackled; what human knowledge is and how to distinguish truth from falsehood; the epistemological value of sensation, rational inference, historical transmission, and revelation; and the relation of all of these topics to non-religious historical accounts of Islamic theology, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary accounts of human development.

Curricular Context

This is a second-level course in Step Four.

  • Before taking this course, take all courses in Step Three, especially Intermediate Islamic Theology: Bajuri’s Commentary on the Sanusiyya Explained (Part One and Part Two)

  • Take this course before all courses in Step Five.

Course Outline

  • Lesson 1
    • Introduction to ‘Ilm al-Kalam, al-Nasafi, and al-Taftazani
    • Kinds of Hukm + Why the Sahaba Didn’t Need Kalam
  • Lesson 2
    • Fiqh, Usul, and Kalam
    • Names of Kalam and the Mu’tazili Mihna
  • Lesson 3
    • History of Early Kalam
  • Lesson 4
    • Early Kalam
    • Late Kalam
  • Lesson 5
    • The Dangers of Kalam
  • Lesson 6
    • We Have Objective Knowledge of Real Things (haqa’iq al-ashya’ thabita)
  • Lesson 7
    • Philosophical Skepticism (safsata)
  • Lesson 8
    • Knowledge (‘ilm)
  • Lesson 9
    • The Conventional Causes (asbab) of Human Knowledge
    • Knowledge
    • Sensation (al-hawass)
  • Lesson 9
    • Mass-Transmission (tawatur)
  • Lesson 11
    • Messenger (khabar al-rasul)
  • Lesson 12
    • The Mind (‘aql)
    • Experiential Knowledge (ilham)

What You Will Learn:

  • Describe the Mu‘taziites and the falasifa and their role in the development of kalam

  • Explain what knowledge is and how it is acquired

  • Learn about the epistemology of sensation, rational inference, historical transmission, revelation, and mystical experience

  • Apply these questions to non-religious historical accounts of Islamic theology, cognitive psychology, scientific naturalism, and evolutionary accounts of human development

Course Requirements: Bajuri on Sanusiyya (Parts 1 and 2)

About the Course Text

For centuries, Taftazani’s Sharh al-’Aqa’id has been a standard and indispensable part of curricula in traditional institutions of learning all over the Muslim world. No other textbook in any of the Islamic sciences has as many scholarly glosses (hawashi) as it does. The importance of a textbook can be judged by the number of glosses that have been written on it. The innumerable glosses on Sharh al-’Aqa’id by scholars in the Ottoman Empire, in al-Azhar, in the Indian Subcontinent, and elsewhere make it the most important textbook of Islamic theology ever written.

The author, Sa‘d al-Din al-Taftazani (d. 792/1390), is famous for his sharp mind, pithy expressions, and his unwavering commitment to an evidence-based approach to knowledge, never hesitating to discuss questions that were never discussed before, nor to correct mistakes that were made by authors who came before him. A couple of decades after his death, Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani (d. 852/1449) reported that Taftazani’s books were sought everywhere and scholars all over the world competed to write commentaries on them. He was a prolific scholar–his Sharh al-’Aqa’id is a mainstay of every curriculum in Islamic theology, his Mukhtasar al-Ma‘ani a mainstay of every curriculum in Arabic eloquence, his Tahdhib al-Mantiq a mainstay of every curriculum in Islamic logic, and his Hashiya on al-Iji’s commentary on Ibn al-Hajib’s Mukhtasar a mainstay of curricula in Islamic legal theory.

Significant Dates

Registration Opens: September 30, 2019

Registration Closes: November 25, 2019

Note: Course material will be available on the first day of classes, October 21, 2019.

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“Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward”– The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)