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Defining Kalām in the Mamluk Era
Despite the recent scholarly focus on post-classical kalām, its development in the Mamlūk domains- an important region of the pre-modern Islamic world – has remained largely unchartered, leaving the mistaken impression that rational sciences, including kalām, were not well-integrated in these societies. This impression is further reinforced by the disproportionate focus on anti-kalām scholars, such as Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328) and his student, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751/1350), compared to other scholars of this region. Furthermore, given that the overwhelming output concerning kalām was carried out as commentaries and glosses, which were considered as merely repetitive and derivative in nature in modern scholarship until the turn of this century, almost no effort has been made to document and analyze the contribution of Mamlūk scholars to the discipline of kalām. Beyond rectifying the impression that Mamlūk scholars were not active in the kalām debates, my paper focuses on the question of how kalām was conceptualized as a religious discipline in this period and region. By focusing on the commentaries and glosses on popular kalām treatises and creedal texts, I argue that practitioners of kalām viewed their intellectual endeavors firmly rooted in the Islamic sciences with its goal being establishment of religious convictions (‘aqīda). While reason was still seen as a major source of establishing religious convictions, the only time when it did not need aid of the revelation was in proving matters that existed outside the purview of scripture, such as existence of God, the Qur’an as His revelation and Muhammad as His prophet. Hence, it was seen as a discipline that served as the foundation of the Qur’an and the Sunna, which in turn served as the foundation for the rest of the religious convictions (‘aqīda). Resultantly, the question of what counts as ‘ilm, ma‘rifa and ẓann and how are they related to religious convictions became a topic of contention among the commentators. This paper will contextualize the developments in Mamlūk kalām within the wider history of increasing systemization of the discipline as religious science, as well as the challenges posed by the anti-kalām scholars in its immediate environment. Overall, the paper hopes to bring to light the scholarly tradition of kalām as practiced in the Mamlūk realms to problematize the simplistic narratives of decline of “rational sciences” and the victory of “traditionalism” and show how kalām produced in this time and region did not fit in these simplistic binaries.
Religious Studies/Theology
Geographic Area
All Middle East
Sub Area