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Ibn Taymiyya on Reason and Revelation

A Study of Darʾ taʿāruḍ al-ʿaql wa-l-naql

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Carl Sharif El-Tobgui

In Ibn Taymiyya on Reason and Revelation, Carl Sharif El-Tobgui offers the first comprehensive study of Ibn Taymiyya’s ten-volume magnum opus, Darʾ taʿāruḍ al-ʿaql wa-l-naql. In his colossal riposte to the Muslim philosophers and rationalist theologians, the towering Ḥanbalī polymath rejects the call to prioritize reason over revelation in cases of alleged conflict, interrogating instead the very conception of rationality that classical Muslims had inherited from the Greeks. In its place, he endeavors to articulate a reconstituted “pure reason” both truly universal and in full harmony with authentic revelation. Based on a line-by-line reading of the entire Darʾ taʿāruḍ, El-Tobgui’s study carefully elucidates the “philosophy of Ibn Taymiyya” as it emerges from the multifaceted ontological, epistemological, and linguistic renovations he carries out.

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Edited by Mohammed Ghaly

Islamic Ethics and the Genome Question is one of the very first academic works, which examine the field of genomics from an Islamic perspective. This twelve-chapter volume presents the results from a pioneering seminar held in 2017 at the Research Center for Islamic Legislation & Ethics, College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, in Qatar. The contributors to this volume, coming from different disciplines and specializations, approached the key ethical questions raised by the emerging field of genomics, viz. the Genome Question (GQ), from various angles and perspectives. Their shared thesis is that the breadth and depth of both the GQ and the Islamic tradition necessitate going beyond just producing quick answers in response to immediate questions. In order to accommodate the complexity and wide scope of the GQ, the volume included critical analyses of the ethical discourse on genomics, from outside the Islamic tradition. Within the Islamic tradition, the contributing authors explored how the QG can be better explored by involving insights from various disciplines including Quran exegesis, Islamic jurisprudence, philosophy and theology. Besides its interest for researchers and students specialized in ethics, bioethics and Islamic studies, this volume will be a source of important information for geneticists, genomicists and social scientists who are interested in the ethical discourse about genomics in the Muslim world.

Contributors include Arzoo Ahmed, Abbas Amir, Saadia Bendenia, Mohammed Ghaly, Mutaz al-Khatib, Amara Naceur, Aasim I. Padela, Ayman Shabana, Trevor Stammers, Mehrunisha Suleman and Hub Zwart.

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Aasim I. Padela

Bioethical questions pertain to the techno-scientific matter at hand, the societal implications of that science and/or technology, and also involve particular ontologies. These fundamental, although often implicit, views about nature and essence undergird ethical assessment. Using qualitative content analyses of a systematic literature review, this paper identifies three ontological perspectives of the human that impact the bioethical deliberation over genetics and genomics. These three conceptions of the human being - (i) a source of information about the past, present, and future, (ii) a reproductive organism, and (iii) an evolving biological entity – implicate bioethical deliberation and need to be unpacked by theologians seeking to render moral guidance about genomic/genetic science and technology. Indeed, identifying and addressing such fundamental ontologies is particularly important for religiously informed bioethical reflection because religious traditions generate their own ontological frameworks. At present, many Islamic bioethics commentators address the moral challenges of contemporary biomedicine solely through the lens of Islamic ethics and law. By clarifying ontologies present in contemporary bioethics literature, this paper suggests that the “western” bioethics discourse that Muslim thinkers seek to respond to might require Muslims to think ontologically in addition to ethico-legally. Indeed we propose that Islamic bioethicists might benefit from detailing the views on the relationship between ontology and ethics as they advance particular moral visions for biomedicine.

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Trevor Stammers

The mapping of the human genome and the subsequent development of techniques to modify and edit it, raise fundamental questions about our destiny and that of our children – whether we ourselves can shape the genome in a way previously unknown to us. Genomic editing also adds a new dimension to the debate about therapy vs enhancement. Whereas both healing and enhancement have hitherto come from ‘without’, in the form of drugs to be ingested or devices to be worn or implanted, both genomic therapy and enhancement (in contrast to genomic medicine in general) will come from within by rewriting “the language of God” to use Frances Collins’ phrase. The paper will explore themes from the accounts of creation and the Fall – imago dei, sicut deus, embodiment, dominion and co-creation - to see what guidance these can offer as to what might distinguish therapy from enhancement and how the boundaries of ethical forms of genomic engineering might be determined. In particular, it will be shown how the contrasting Augustinian and Irenaean understandings of the Fall lead to differing views of contemporary Christian scholars such as Wyatt and Cole-Turner on the ethics of genomic engineering. The paper concludes with an exploration of the concept of the genome as the ‘secular’ soul and of the Human Genome Project and gene editing as a religious quest and how its telos resembles and differs from a scriptural view of human purpose and destiny.

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Mutaz al-Khatib

The power of biomedical technology lies not only in treating diseases and relieving pain, but also in intervening in our bodies at the molecular level in a way that makes us wonder if this is (re)shaping our very human nature. This technology raises ethical, philosophical and religious questions related to understanding and identifying our essential humanity, that which is “uniquely human” in us, and how far genetic interventions in our human bodies may affect all this. Biomedical developments and their associated philosophical and religious dilemmas shed new lights on old questions like: What makes us distinctively human? Why is human life sacred? When does human life begin? What makes an individual eligible to certain rights? How would the answers to these questions determine the optimal way to deal with a human being throughout the various stages of his/her lifespan?

All the previous questions were usually linked to the classical topic of abortion, but modern biomedical technology expanded the reproduction possibilities in unprecedented ways. This new situation puts humans in front of a new and increasing list of options and alternatives, including striking ones like the so-called “liberal eugenics”. These developments make the decision-making process about these issues quite complex because one’s moral world, consisting of basic moral assumptions and convictions, does not always have readymade and clear-cut answers about these questions. This holds true to both the deliberations taking place among Western philosophers like Habermas and the parallel discussions in the Islamic tradition.

This chapter will tackle the above-mentioned questions by examining first the moral status of biomedical technology itself and understanding the different perceptions of its potential among philosophers and Muslim jurists. Further, the chapter will discuss the philosophical and jurisprudential perceptions of human beings and human life; and the identification of the key ethical dilemmas raised by modern biomedical technology, as epitomized by genetic intervention.

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Hub Zwart

This paper addresses the cultural and spiritual impact of genomics and the Human Genome Project. Notably, it addresses the claim made by Max Delbrück that Aristotle must be credited with having predicted DNA as the soul that organises bio-matter and the claim made by Francis Collins that the genome is the language of God. Building on the work of continental philosophers such as Hegel, Teilhard and Lacan I argue that human existence results from a dialectical interaction between two types of texts: the language of molecular biology and the language of civilisation; the language of the genome and the language of our socio-cultural, symbolical ambiance. Whereas the former ultimately builds on the alphabet of the nucleotides, the latter is informed by primordial texts such as the Bible and the Koran. Bioethical deliberations regarding genomics and religion often focus on very specific issues such as selective abortion, artificial reproduction or paternity testing but in such debates, science is easily framed as liberating and progressive while religious world-views are seen as conservative and restrictive. This paper rather focusses on the broader cultural ambiance of the debate to assess the impact of genomics on human self-understanding. Coming to terms with the spiritual and ethical implications of human genomics requires a mutual learning dialogue between science (genomics research) and religion (notably world religions such as Islam and Christianity), to which this paper aims to contribute from an occidental perspective.

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Mohammed Ghaly

This study that reviews the Islamic ethical deliberations on the Human Genome Project (HGP) and the field of genomics in general, which started as early as the beginning of the 1990s. To our knowledge, no earlier study analysed this vast amount of literature. The chapter focuses on the interdisciplinary discussions which took place between Muslim religious scholars and biomedical scientists, with frequent references to the contributions made by individual scholars as well. The key questions addressed in this chapter include: How was the HGP and genomics framed and approached through the lens of Islamic ethics? Who contributed to the Islamic bioethical discourse on these issues, which positions did they adopt, and which arguments and counterarguments did they use in order to defend their positions? What impact did these discussions have on the actual scientific activities conducted in Muslim countries?

In order to address these questions systematically, the chapter is divided into three main sections, in addition to a conclusion. The first section, “Genomics in the Age of Collective Reasoning”, outlines the mechanism of the collective juristic reasoning (al-ijtihād al-jamāʿī). It sheds light on how this mechanism was employed to facilitate the interdisciplinary discussions between Muslim religious scholars and biomedical scientists on bioethical issues, in addition to focusing on the main conferences and expert meetings which made use of this mechanism to discuss the ethical issues related to the field of genomics. The second section, “Framing Genomics: Two Main Approaches”, addresses two main approaches within the Islamic ethical discourse towards genomics and related fields, such as genetics and genetic engineering. This section explains how both the “precaution-inclined approach” and “embracement-inclined approach” framed genomics from an Islamic theological perspective and how this framing affected their positions on some practical questions. The third section, “Further Developments”, explores the possible impact of the interdisciplinary discussions and the related two main approaches, reviewed in the first two sections, on the recent developments in the field of genomics and biobanking in the Muslim world. Finally, the “Concluding Remarks” section summarizes the key points of the chapter and further highlights a number of critical remarks and challenges facing the Islamic ethical discourse on genomics and the field of Islamic Bioethics in general.

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Arzoo Ahmed and Mehrunisha Suleman

The unlocking of the cellular nucleus and the discovery of DNA with the identification of genes that code for particular phenotypes have profoundly influenced our understanding of the human person through a re-evaluation of inheritance, genetic and species relatedness and distinctiveness. A constellation of Islamic philosophical, theological and spiritual narratives have contributed to the definitions for and understanding of the human person. Central to such accounts is the nature and role of the soul in defining and determining the human person. Yet very few scholarly contributions consider the relationship between the human genome, its association with the human person, and how these relate to Islamic considerations of the soul. The aim of this paper is to redress this imbalance. This study seeks to extend the list of textual sources that contribute to ethical considerations of the genome question. We will show that these issues must, of necessity, include discussions of the human person and interrogate the interplay between them.