Synopses & Reviews
This study examines the impact which the demise of Islamic theology ( ilm al-kalam) by the fifteenth century C.E. has had on modern Islamic thought, and explores the correlation between anti-theological discourse and the rise of Islamism in the twentieth century. The socio-political implications of an absolutist anti-theological creed and the potential dangers of its intermarriage with the absolutism of the modern nation-state are thus explored. Special attention is given to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, the first Islamist movement, and the leadership of Umar al-Tilmisani (d. 1986) during the 1970s and 1980s. Analysis of the thought of al-Tilmisani reveals a tantalizing correlation between political moderation and theology. Based on this correlation, this study argues that contrary to reformist views, Sunni theology, specifically Asharism, can serve as the basis for a vigorous Islamic liberalism. Ultimately, this dissertation seeks to know whether a retrieval of theology, as a rational, intellectual discourse on religion, can dilute the absolutism of increasingly pervasive Islamist thought. In the process, it also demonstrates the vital role which theology has played, however implicit (and overlooked), in modern Islamic thought, and political thought in particular.