Howard, Damian Andrew Joseph Keeling (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Restricted to Repository staff only until 01 July 2040.
This thesis explores how the spread of evolutionary theory has affected the beliefs of contemporary Muslims regarding human identity, capacity and destiny. Incorporating traditional and modern notions, Muslim responses to the crisis of the religious imagination presented by evolutionary ideas fall into at least four different modes of engagement. During the 19th century encounter with “the West” Muslims addressed the issue largely by juxtaposing the data of scientific discovery with those of revelation, a method still dominant today in the guises of creationism and modernisation. Another approach, whose impact on Islamic thought reaches from India to West Africa, emerges under the influence of Henri Bergson’s optimistic evolutionary philosophy and inclines towards a dynamic view of human personhood. Diametrically opposed to this is a perennialist Traditionalism marked by the cultural pessimism of post-1918 Europe. Strongly influenced by neo-Platonic Sufism, it represents the most rigorous rejection possible of evolutionary ideas. The last style of engagement arises from various late-20th Century attempts to renew science itself by “Islamizing” it. The thesis evaluates the content, influence and success of these four modes, asking how Muslims might now proceed to address the profound challenges which evolutionary theory poses to the effective reconstruction of religious thought.
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