, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 447-450
Date: 12 Aug 2010

Review of Shabbir Akhtar, The Quran and the Secular Mind: A Philosophy of Islam

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The erudition underlying this deep-digging analysis and subtle interpretation of Quranic discourse and its significance for present-day Muslims is ironically also the weakness of Shabbir Akhtar’s latest book. Aside from a critical engagement with Islamic scripture, it is also the author’s intention not just to ‘revive among Muslims the tradition of philosophy itself’ (3), but in fact, ‘to establish a philosophy of Islam’ (2). Although Akhtar claims that he is ‘simply a philosopher of religion investigating Islam’s founding text in its confrontation with secular humanism’ (11), even with that deceptively modest ambition he is perhaps trying to do too much at the same time. This is implicitly acknowledged where Akhtar admits that his study has a ‘complex structure’ (8). Indicative of this is that the introduction contains no less than four comments or concerns guiding the five ‘recurrent motifs’ or themes addressed from various angles in the 12 chapters of which the book is composed.