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Title: The Politics of Fitra: Approaching Moral Concepts in the Contemporary Study of Islamic Ethics
Authors: von Doetinchem de Rande, Raissa Antonia
Advisors: Zaman, Muhammad Q.
Gregory, Eric
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Human Nature
Islamic Ethics
Islamic Philosophy
Religious Ethics
Subjects: Islamic studies
Religious history
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: My dissertation puts the spotlight on a concept in Islamic thought that those concerned with (Islamic) moral concepts, as well as those interested in questions surrounding the theme of human nature more broadly, ought to consider. This is the concept of the fiṭra. My dissertation begins by engaging with the better-known strand of understanding this concept, which originates in scriptural sources. According to this levelling understanding, God created all humans in one way, namely for worship of him. But the chief contribution of my research is the uncovering of another strand of Islamic thought that is less well-known but equally robust and interesting. It was put forward by philosophers, who understood themselves as having been created with intellectual capacities not found in all human beings. These special capacities qualify some human beings for special tasks and a special treatment, while also imposing on their bearers an obligation to cultivate the capacities to their fullest in the service of wisdom and the highest good. A deeper engagement with these two accounts is worthwhile for multiple reasons as I will argue. My research, broadly speaking, thus intervenes in the study of Islam and ethics in two ways: first, by showing that a fundamental ethical concept has a complex history of interpretations. This in turn has implications for how we think about Islamic ethics as a dynamic field. I offer some suggestions to the study of Islamic ethics that highlight the contextuality and complexity of ethical thought and seek to be attentive to endemic categories and concerns. Second, I show that discussions of human nature were not limited to a levelling reading in Islamic thought. This insight is of interest not only to those working in Islamic intellectual history, but relevant to all those working on issues of human nature, the nature of a just society, and the place of education, philosophy, and law therein. While these are rather abstract achievements, I also think that my work has importance today. Engaging with both strands of Islamic thought on the fundamental topic of human nature complexifies and enriches our contemporary debates, in the university, the academy, and society.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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