Ibn Taymiyya on Reason and Revelation

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


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 (Refutation of the conflict of reason and revelation). 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” that is 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 reforms that Ibn Taymiyya carries out in this pivotal work.
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Carl Sharif El-Tobgui, PhD (McGill University, 2013), is Associate Professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies at Brandeis University. He has published on reason and revelation in Islamic theology and legal theory, including "From Legal Theory to Erkenntnistheorie" (Oriens, 2018).
“A documented and careful work, that whatever the reader’s point of view, is destined to become a term of reference for future studies on the subject.”
- Giovanni Bonacina, Bibliotheca Orientalis, (2022).
"Die Studie von El-Tobgui ist eine Fundgrube von Beobachtungen und Erkenntnisse, die auch in Zukunft die Forschung zu Ibn Taimīya befruchten wird.“
- Rüdiger Lohlker, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes , (2022).
List of Figures and Tables

Mise en Scène

 1 Contours of a Conflict
 2 Why the Darʾ taʿāruḍ?
 3 About This Work

Part 1 Reason vs. Revelation?

1 Reason and Revelation in Islam before Ibn Taymiyya
 1 Reason and Revelation, Reason in Revelation
 2 The Early Emergence of Rationalist and Textualist Tendencies: The Case of the Law
 3 Early Theological Reflection and Contention
 4 The Muʿtazila
 5 Non-speculative Theology and the Legacy of Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal
 6 The Miḥna and Its Aftermath
 7 Nascent Ashʿarī Thought and the Early Kalām
 8 Philosophy
 9 The New Kalām and Subsequent Developments
 10 Kalām and Falsafa in the Wake of al-Ghazālī

2 Ibn Taymiyya: Life, Times, and Intellectual Profile
 1 The Life and Times of Ibn Taymiyya (661–728/1263–1328)
 2 Intellectual Profile
 3 Character and Contemporary Reception
 4 Ibn Taymiyya’s Works
 5 The Historiography of the Darʾ taʿāruḍ: Ibn Taymiyya’s Assessment of the Intellectual Legacy He Inherited
 6 The Darʾ taʿāruḍ in Context: Ibn Taymiyya’s View of Previous Attempts to Solve the Conundrum of Reason and Revelation

3 On the Incoherence of the Universal Rule and the Theoretical Impossibility of a Contradiction between Reason and Revelation
 1 Ibn Taymiyya on the Universal Rule and the Variety of Responses It Has Elicited
 2 The Result of Figurative Interpretation (taʾwīl)
 3 Specious Rationality and Its Discontents: Reason in a Cul-de-Sac
 4 Ibn Taymiyya’s Project: Refuting the Universal Rule
 5 On Reason Grounding Our Knowledge of Revelation
 6 Knowledge vs. Conjecture: Conclusiveness Is What Counts
 7 Not “Scriptural vs. Rational” but “Scripturally Validated vs. Innovated”
 8 Further Arguments Regarding the Rational Contradictoriness of the Universal Rule
 9 On the Universal Rule’s Incompatibility with the Status and Authority of Scripture

Part 2 Ibn Taymiyya’s Reform of Language, Ontology, and Epistemology

4 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Manqūl, or What Is Revelation
 1 Taʾwīl and the Meaning of Qurʾān 3:7
 2 The Centrality of Context and Ibn Taymiyya’s “Contextual Taʾwīl”
 3 The Salaf and the Authority of Their Linguistic Convention (ʿurf)
 4 Analysis of Terms to Detect and Correct for Semantic Shift
 5 A Case Study: The Terms wāḥid, tawḥīd, and tarkīb

5 Ṣarīḥ al-Maʿqūl, or What Is Reason?
 1 What Exists? Ibn Taymiyya’s Account of Reality
 2 How Do We Know What Exists? The Primary Sources of Knowledge
 3 The Realm of the Mind: What Exists fī al-adhhān?
 4 The Structure of Reason

6 Reason Reconstituted: The Divine Attributes and the Question of Contradiction between Reason and Revelation
 1 Rational Inference and the Question of Qiyās al-ghāʾib ʿalā al-shāhid
 2 Ibn Taymiyya’s Reforms Applied: The Question of the Divine Attributes
 3 Concluding Reflections

Appendix A: Summary Outline of the Darʾ taʿāruḍ
Appendix B: Detailed Outline of the Darʾ taʿāruḍ
Glossary of Arabic Terms
Glossary of Proper Names
Index of Arabic Passages
Index of Ḥadīth
Index of People and Places
Index of Qurʾānic Verses
Index of Subjects
Students and scholars of Ibn Taymiyya or Islamic theology, philosophy, or rationalism; students and scholars of medieval Christian and Jewish scholasticism; general readers interested in questions of reason and revelation.
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