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Rational Theology in Interfaith Communication

Abu-I-Husayn al-Basri's Mu'tazili Theology among the Karaites in the Fatimid Age


Wilferd Madelung and Sabine Schmidtke

Rational speculative theology (kalam) in early Islam was represented most distinctly by the theological school of the Mu‘tazila. Founded in Basra in the early 8th century, the school soon became predominant in theological scholarship and discourse and remained so until the early 11th century. The Mu‘tazila held that the basic truths of theology, such as the existence of God and the nature of His attributes and justice, are entirely subject to rational proof without the benefit of scriptural revelation. Only after these basic truths have been established can the veracity of scripture be proved by reason, and the primacy of reason must also maintained in the interpretation of scripture. Mu‘tazili theology naturally appealed to rationally inclined theologians of other scriptural religions and provided a suitable basis for inter-faith communication in the Islamic world. In Judaism Mu‘tazili thought was adopted to varying degrees from the 9th century on and reached a peak during the tenth century.
The Mu‘tazili world view and rational theology was facing increasing competition and criticism from philosophy of Greek origin, which claimed to provide the only scientific world view based on cogent logical demonstration independent of religious beliefs. Study of the philosophical sciences was mostly shunned in religious scholarship, but was an integral part of the education of the medical profession. Among Qadi ‘Abd al-Jabbar’s disciples in Rayy was for some time a young physician trained in the philosophical sciences, Abu l-Husayn al-Basri (d. 1044), who challenged some of his teaching in his lectures and went on to compose a massive critical review of the arguments and proofs used in kalam. His theological works were generally ignored among the Mu‘tazila and handed down among students of medicine. Only a century later his teaching was revived and espoused by the Mu‘tazili scholar Mahmud b. al-Malahimi in Khorezm in Central Asia and gained recognition as a school of Mu‘tazili theology.
The present study presents evidence that Abu l-Husayn’s theology was immediately registered and controversially debated in the Karaite community under the Fatimid caliphate. The study is based on source material preserved in Genizahs and now dispersed in libraries around the world.

Robert Singerman

Edited by David L. Gold

This work identifies and describes over 3,000 books, essays in books, and articles on Jewish given names and family names throughout history, spanning the Biblical period to modern times. The bibliography is a highly analytic one, recording published materials in a wide variety of research languages treating Jewish anthroponymy in the broadest sense from historical, sociological, and linguistic perspectives. The bibliography will be an invaluable resource for any researcher engaged in etymological studies, Jewish intralinguistics, or Jewish family history.


Emma Wild-Wood

Christianity and migration have greatly influenced society and culture of sub-Saharan Africa, yet their mutual impact is rarely studied. Through oral history research in north eastern Congo (DRC), this book studies the migration of Anglicans and the subsequent reconfiguring of their Christian identity. It engages with issues of religious contextualisation, revivalism and the rise of Pentecostalism. It examines shifting ethnic, national, gender and generational expressions, the influence of tradition, contemporanity, local needs and international networks to reveal mobile group identities developing through migration. Borrowing the metaphor of 'home' from those interviewed, the book suggests in what ways religious affiliation aids a process of belonging. The result is an original exploration of important themes in an often neglected region of Africa.


Edited by Ralph L. Piedmont and David O. Moberg

Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion (RSSSR) publishes reports of innovative studies that pertain empirically or theoretically to the scientific study of religion, including spirituality, regardless of their academic discipline or professional orientation. It is academically eclectic, not restricted to any one particular theoretical orientation or research method. Most of our articles report the findings of quantitative or qualitative investigations, but some deal with methodology, theory, or applications of social science studies in the field of religion.

The Unheard Prayer

Religious Toleration in Shakespeare's Drama


Joseph Sterrett

Titus shoots his arrows bearing petitions for justice to the gods; Claudius asks ‘what form of prayer can serve my turn?’; Lear wishes he could crack the vault of heaven with his prayers. Again and again, Shakespeare dramatises the scenario of the unheard prayer, in which the one who prays does so full well in the knowledge that no one is listening, interested, or even there at all. The scenario is keyed to the anxieties that surrounded the act of praying itself, so full as it was with controversy, the centrepiece of sectarian dispute over what was good and bad religion. This study reads the unheard prayer scenario as itself an appeal for a vision of tolerance, unobtainable perhaps, but nevertheless desired and imagined.


Calvin L. Smith

This interdisciplinary study breaks new ground by exploring relations between Protestants (mainly Pentecostals) and the Sandinistas in revolutionary Nicaragua, which to date have received scant attention. It challenges the view that most Protestants supported the Sandinistas (in fact, the majority vigorously opposed them) and establishes why many believed Nicaragua was heading towards communism or totalitarianism. Meanwhile, the Sandinistas expressed irritation with Pentecostalism’s otherworldliness and support for Israel. Pentecostals were harassed, even brutally repressed in the northern highlands, leading many to join the Contras. That a minority of Protestants supported the Sandinistas caused further problems.
Pentecostals and Sandinistas were ideological rivals offering an alternative vision to the poor: revolution or revival. As Pentecostalism exploded, a collision between the two was inevitable.

Religion on the Move!

New Dynamics of Religious Expansion in a Globalizing World


Edited by Afe Adogame and Shobana Shankar

How do religions spread in today’s world, where Christian missions have lost influence and modern nations have replaced colonial empires? Religions on the Move is a collection of essays charting new religious expansions. Contemporary evangelists may be Nigerian, Korean, Brazilian or Congolese, working at the grassroots and outside the mainstream in Pentecostal, reformist Islamic, and Hindu spiritual currents. While transportation and media provide newfound mobility, the mission field may be next door, in Europe, North America, and within the “South,” where migrants from Africa, Asia, and Latin America settle. These essays, using perspectives from religious studies, ethnography, history and sociology, show that immigrants, women, and other disempowered peoples transmit their faiths from everywhere to everywhere, engaging in globalization from below.


Edited by Esther Peperkamp and Malgorzata Rajtar

The radical process of religious change in eastern Germany poses a real challenge to social researchers. Common explanations view either the socialist past or larger scale processes of modernization to be the cause of eastern German secularization, but fail to address historical contingencies and individual agency. This book focuses on the interplay between local bureaucracies and individual lives. Contextualizing individual choices is essential in order to gain insight into how religious meaning is produced, reproduced, contested, discontinued, and disrupted. Bringing together the disciplines of anthropology, history, political science, and sociology, what unites the articles is their qualitative approach. The collection of articles lays out an impressive mosaic of the religious and the secular in the GDR and contemporary eastern Germany.

Contributors are Irene Becci, Anja Frank, Uta Karstein, Anna Körs, Esther Peperkamp, Małgorzata Rajtar, Thomas Schmidt-Lux, Nikolai Vukov, Kirstin Wappler, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr.

Alexander Darius Ornella

Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2017. isbn : 978-1-4399-1280-5. Paperback. $34.95 / £27.99. The aim of Daniel A. Grano’s book, The Eternal Present of Sport , is bold and ambitious. He sets out to move away from common approaches to understanding the sport-religion relationship that

Terry Rey

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2006 Religion and Human Rights, 1:229–248. Catholicism and Human Rights in Haiti: Past, Present, and Future Terry Rey* Abstract This article surveys the relationship between Catholicism and human rights during four periods of Haitian history: (1) the colonial era