Islamic Theological Themes: A Primary Source Reader.

Author:Rippin, Andrew
Position:Book review
 
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Islamic Theological Themes: A Primary Source Reader. Edited by JOHN Renard. Oakland, Calif.: University of California Press, 2014. Pp. xviii + 461. $70, 48.95 [pounds sterling] (cloth); $35.95, 27.95 [pounds sterling] (paper).

John Renard has produced a series of readers on Islamic themes in recent years, among them Windows on the House of Islam: Muslim Sources on Spirituality and Religious Life (1998) and Tales of God's Friends: Islamic Hagiography in Translation (2009). These books have been constructed with pedagogical aims in mind and, as such, they make a considerable contribution to the resources available in our discipline. It can also not be denied that such volumes are functional for many of us already in the profession, providing ready access to material with which we might not yet be fully familiar and supplying fluent translations of sometimes challenging material from which we can benefit.

This latest reader is of substantial interest, in part because it develops the idea of theological themes much further than one might expect in such a context. Structured in five sections, the book commences in part one with the Quran and hadith and their interpretation, just as one might well anticipate. Themes of transcendence, immanence, revelation, freedom, and responsibility are highlighted in the scriptural sources. Exegetical treatments are provided of the "throne verse" (Q 2:255) in summary form and of the "light verse" (Q 24:35) in fuller form with texts from Avicenna, al-Ghazali, al-Tabrisi, and Mawdudi, followed by statements related to the principles of exegesis from 'Abd al-Jabbar, Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Suyuti, and Khu'i. From this beginning the character of the work starts to become clear: the coverage is broad confessionally, geographically, and historically. Parts two and three of the work likewise incorporate standard material following theological themes that are often portrayed as the core of Islamic theology. These deal, in part two, "Mapping the Boundaries," with "the boundaries of true belief"--through creedal statements, expositions of attitudes to other religions, and highlights of intra-Muslim polemic (on heresy); and in part three, "The Science of Divine Unity," with attention to miracles, divine perpetual creativity, divine speech, and the vision of God. Again, the translated sources range widely so as to include Sunni (broadly conceived), Sufi, Twelver Shi'i, Isma'ili, and Ibadi perspectives with representatives from...

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