The Islamic Intellectual Tradition

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The relationship between rationality and religious scripture has often been seen as a contentious one. Especially in the European intellectual tradition, much has been made of the dichotomy between medieval blind following of the Catholic clergy and the Age of Enlightenment, based on science and reason, which succeeded it. The infamous Galileo affair in the 1610’s if oftentimes cited by modern partisans of science as proof of the inherent incompatibility of religious belief and scientific, logic-based endeavor. Regardless of the truth of such a claim in the Christian tradition, that rhetoric of conflict has found its way outside of Europe and into discourses, both academic and amateur, on the Islamic intellectual tradition. Modern-day celebrity …show more content…
While Islamic theology and law are rooted in the 23-year period during which Muhammad preached a new religion in the deserts of Arabia from 609 to 632, the formalization of his teachings into a codified, written set of laws did not begin until the eighth century. The fact that Muslim civilization was almost entirely oral for the first hundred years of its existence played a key role in how reason found a way into the intellectual tradition once it began to be recorded in the eighth century. The reason that Islam was at first passed down orally was a function of the geographic and social context in which the first Muslims …show more content…
These reports of his actions, known as Hadiths, spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa as Muslim political power grew. Muhammad’s Companions, who would have heard directly from him, would go on to pass reports about what Muhammad said to new converts in lands as diverse as Persia and North Africa. The Islam practiced by these Companions was generally adopted by new Muslims they were in contact with, who were known as tabi‘een (followers). These tabi‘een would then pass on the Islamic tradition to a new generation of followers, and so on and so forth. The problem with this system of passing down Islamic tradition, however, was that with each degree of separation from the Prophet, the reports on his actions became less reliable. How could a merchant in a provincial Persian town in the mid-eighth century be sure that what he heard from his local preacher was truly what was said by Muhammad over a hundred years

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