The Muslims of America

By Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad | Go to book overview

7
The Legacy of Fazlur Rahman

Frederick Mathewson Denny

Among the major Muslim thinkers of the second half of the twentieth century, Fazlur Rahman was one of the most learned in both classical Islamic and Western philosophical-theological discourse and had the widest scope in viewing and applying fundamental elements of the Islamic belief and action system. This essay is intended as a descriptive appreciation of his legacy through a selective sampling of his scholarly work, focusing on three main aspects: the philosophical-theological, the moral-ethical, and the religious-communal. Although the first aspect is the most purely "intellectual," in terms of following an argument to its logical conclusion (and Rahman was certainly one to do that), Rahman was in fact a Muslim intellectual who applied keen critical and analytical awareness to every serious topic, whether theoretical or practical, individual or communal, textual or contextual.

These three aspects of Rahman's legacy as a Muslim thinker should not be thought to be isolated from one another, whether in his numerous formal publications, in his role as a Muslim activist, or in his formative influences on the considerable community of students, Muslim and non-Muslim, he trained. Just as there was no disjunction between Rahman's thought, life, and works, so there is none among the three aspects of his legacy we examine here. For Fazlur Rahman, the scholarly, the moral-religious, and the legal-communal dimensions were all of a part. He considered religious belief without rational scrutiny both of motives and evidences to be not only foolish but immoral. Intellectualism devoid of spiritual insight and moral awareness he thought to be mere sophistry. And moral appeals and judgments without reasoned regard for their legal and communal ramifications he saw as wayward innovation, whether on the left or right of the religious-political spectrum.


A Biographical Sketch: Three Major Periods of Rahman's Work

Fazlur Rahman was born in 1919 in India's Punjab and educated there through the baccalaureate degree. He later studied at Oxford University under Professors S. Van den Bergh and H. A. R. Gibb, earning the Ph.D. in 1949 for a thesis on the medieval philosopher Ibn Sina. 1 In the 1950s, Rahman taught first at the

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The Muslims of America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Religion in America Series *
  • The Muslims of America *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Contributors *
  • Introduction- the Muslims of America 3
  • Notes 8
  • I- The Muslims of the United States *
  • 1- Muslim Organizations in the United States 11
  • Notes 24
  • 2- Estimate of Muslims Living in America 25
  • Notes 35
  • References 36
  • II- Perceptions of Muslims in the United States *
  • 3- Perspectives of American Churches on Islam and the Muslim Community in North America 39
  • Notes 49
  • 4- The Muslim as the "Other" 53
  • Notes 61
  • III- Islamic Thought in the United States *
  • 5- Ismail R. Al-Faruqi 65
  • Notes 78
  • 6- Seyyed Hossein Nasr 80
  • Notes 92
  • 7- The Legacy of Fazlur Rahman 96
  • Notes 105
  • IV- Islamic Activity in the United States *
  • 8- Political Activity of Muslims in America 111
  • Notes 123
  • 9- Da''Wa in the West 125
  • Notes 134
  • 10- Muslims in Prison 136
  • Notes 151
  • 11- Islamic Education in the United States and Canada 157
  • Notes 173
  • V- Muslim Women in Intercultural Perspective *
  • 12- African-American Muslim Women 177
  • Notes 186
  • 13- Two-Way Acculturation 188
  • Notes 200
  • VI- American Muslims and the Question of Identity *
  • 14- Islamic Issues for Muslims in the United States 205
  • Notes 215
  • 15- American Foreign Policy in the Middle East and Its Impact on the Identity of Arab Muslims in the United States 217
  • Notes 231
  • 16- Convergence and Divergence in an Emergent Community 236
  • Notes 248
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