Introduction

This is the second of a 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 understand the various arguments for the existence of God in modern philosophy, why Muslim theologians have always used the cosmological argument, the historical debate over the creation of the world between the Aristotelian falasifa and the Sunni mutakallimun, how to formulate the traditional kalam argument in light of modern science, the evidence for the Big Bang and how it relates to the cosmological argument, and debates around the kalam cosmological argument in modern philosphy.

Course Outline

Week 1

 

1.    Natural Philosophy and Modern Science
Week 2

 

2.The Natural Philosophy of Falsafa

3.The Universe According to Falsafa, Kalam, and Science

Week 3

 

 

4.    Arguments For And Against Medieval Atomism
Week 4

 

5.    Properties in Falsafa, Kalam, and Science
Week 5

 

6.    The Kalam Perspective on Arguments For the Existence of God in
Modern Philosophy
Week 6

 

7.The Kalam Argument (1): Properties Began to Exist

8.The Kalam Argument (2): Physical Objects Began to Exist

Week 7

 

9.    Responses to the Falasifa’s Objections to the Kalam Argument
Week 8

 

10.Scientific Evidence for the Beginning of the Universe

11.The Kalam Cosmological Argument in Modern Philosophy

Week 9

 

12.  Contemporary Objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument
Week 10

 

13.  The Impossibility of Infinite Regress and its Relation to the Kalam Argument
Week 11

 

14.  Allah Most High’s Oneness (1)
Week 12

 

15.Allah Most High’s Oneness (2)

16.Allah Most High’s Beginninglessness

 

What You Will Learn:

  • Use the epistemology from Part 1 of this course to prove the existence of God 

  • Respond to medieval and modern objections against the existence of God

  • Describe the cosmology and metaphysics  of the falasifa and their role in the development of kalam

  • Learn when to update theological issues in light of modern science and when to use theological issues to correct modern science

  • Navigate contemporary debates over the existence of God using traditional Islamic theology

Course Requirements: 

  • All courses in Step Three, especially Intermediate Islamic Theology: Bajuri’s Commentary on the Sanusiyya Explained (Part One and Part Two)

Course Format: 12 downloadable lessons, 3 live sessions.

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.

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