[P6532] Debating Tawḥīd: An Ecumenical Project of Islamic Philosophy?

Created by M. Fariduddin Attar
Wednesday, 12/01/21 2:00 pm


One of the defining characteristics of post-classical Islamic theology is its close integration with a genre of philosophical writing that owed its basic structure and method to the Late-Antique Peripatetic and Neoplatonic tradition, namely falsafa (from the Greek φιλοσοφία, lit. love of wisdom), or more colloquially ḥikma (lit. wisdom). Recent scholars have shown that this integration was far from a superficial adoption of philosophical vocabulary on the part of theologians to buttress their predefined doctrines. Rather, beginning with Avicenna (d. 1037 CE), philosophers began including theological concerns and topoi into their discursive repertoire; while scholars who primarily engaged with the science of kalām took recourse to philosophical methods in order to critically evaluate the received doctrines of their theological forbears including those of their own school. This panel will explore how the genre of falsafa that was domesticated and systematized into the Arabic scientific nomenclature by al-Fārābī (d. 950 CE) and Avicenna provided a neutral discursive arena in which theologians from various sectarian and religious commitments in the Islamicate can debate some of the most controversial and intractable theological problems outside the dogmatic confines of their respective schools of religious thought (madhhab). The attraction that ḥikma holds for theologians seems to lie precisely in the non-dogmatic and religiously neutral quality of philosophical language. In examining these themes, the panel focuses on the debates surrounding the important concept of tawḥīd or monotheism, and the implications this has on a number of related philosophical issues. We choose this topic because the question of how “the one” relates to “the many” seems to be where theologians owe to the practitioners of ḥikma much of their theoretical complexity. The panel shall solicit papers that highlight the thought of intellectual figures from the Islamicate who, in producing their respective philosophical accounts of tawḥīd, engaged with thinkers from other, perhaps opposing, sectarian, religious, or intellectual commitments. The panel shall adopt the methodological perspective of the history of philosophy, grounded primarily in the analysis of ideas that are transmitted and transformed in philosophical and theological texts. In doing so, the panel is intended interrogate the strict separation between theological and philosophical intellectual projects that is still widely accepted in contemporary historiography and add to the emerging perspective that two disciplines were deeply intertwined especially in the post-classical period.


Philos; Philos



Robert J. Wisnovsky

(McGill University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

M. Fariduddin Attar

(McGill University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Hassan Arif

(McGill University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Zain Alattar

(McGill University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;