Impact of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s intellectual project on his views on Christianity
Abu Shareea, Mohammad
This thesis explores Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s (d. 606/1210) views on Christianity to answer the question: How does al-Rāzī’s intellectual project impact his examination of Christianity? The use of the term ‘intellectual project’ refers to the positions adopted by the Muslim thinker to structure his or her understanding of Islam itself which includes issues of epistemology, philosophical theology, and hermeneutics. While al-Rāzī did not write a dedicated work on Christianity, his views on the Christian tradition are among the most debated and cited in the history of Christian-Muslim interactions. A study exploring al-Rāzī’s views on Christianity and how this relates to his broader intellectual project is thus essential and contributes to the field of Muslim perceptions of Christianity in three ways: Firstly, the first extensive treatment of al-Rāzī’s views on Christianity, drawing on an extensive reading of the primary sources and the most recent secondary scholarship. Secondly, exploring how does al-Rāzī’s understanding of Islam itself impact his examination of Christianity. Thirdly, shedding light on the breadth and diversity of Muslim perceptions of Christianity. This thesis traces al-Rāzī’s views on Christianity with a particular focus on four key texts which have been written in two phases; his late fifties’ famous Qur’anic commentary Mafātīḥ al-Ghayb (keys to the unseen) and Al-Maṭālib al-‘Āliya Min al-‘Ilm al-Ilāhī (Sublime issues) on philosophical theology. His late twenties’ work on Islamic legal theory al-Maḥṣūl Fī ‘Ilm Uṣūl al-Fiqh (the utmost conclusion) and Nihāyat al-‘Uqūl fī Dirāyat al-Uṣūl (The furthermost reach of intellect) on philosophical theology. The other works of al-Rāzī’s will be consulted throughout the discussions where necessary. Accordingly, this thesis is comprised of five chapters. Chapter One gives an overview of al-Rāzī’s intellectual project. Chapter Two focuses on his position vis-à-vis the Crucifixion. Chapter Three concerns his views on the Bible. Chapters Four and Five address the Trinity and Christology, respectively. Chapter One explores three aspects of al-Rāzī’s intellectual project that shaped his views on Christianity: epistemology, philosophical theology, and hermeneutics. On the former, al-Rāzī’s views on the issue of transmission of reports (akhbār) will be shown to have shaped his views on the authenticity of the Crucifixion and the Bible. On philosophical theology, al-Rāzī’s views on the Divine attributes (Ṣifāt Allāh) shaped his views on the Trinity and Christology. On hermeneutics, his famed theological law, known as al-Qānūn al-Kullī Fī al-Ta’wīl (The general law of interpretation), shaped his views on the Qur’anic representation of the Christian tradition. Chapters Two to Five explore al-Rāzī’s views on the major themes of Christianity. Each chapter comprises four sections. This first section examines the reported views of the first three generations of Islam with an overview of the relevant secondary literature on the topic such as on the availability of the Bible in Arabic and the Christology of groups in Arabia. It aims at constructing the apparent meaning (ẓāhir) of the relevant Qur’anic verses on each topic. This is because al-Rāzī connects the apparent meaning with both the ordinary use of terms and the first three generations of Islam throughout his discussions. The second section examines al-Rāzī’s views in his commentary through raising one question: How does al-Rāzī’s approach the apparent meaning of the relevant verses if it contradicts reason; what he calls a rational decisive evidence (al-Mu‘āriḍ al-‘Aqlī) as a response to the Christian objections? The third section examines al-Rāzī’s epistemology (Chapters Two – Three) and his philosophical theology (Chapters Four – Five). The main concern of these sections is to engage al-Rāzī’s corpus and to trace the impact of al-Rāzī’s intellectual project on contested issues namely the concept of successive transmission of reports (tawātur) and abrogation (naskh) for (Chapters Two – Three) and the nature of attribute (Ṣifah), God’s speech (kalām Allāh), and Incarnation (Ḥulūl)- hypostatic union (Ittiḥād) for (Chapters Four – Five). Each chapter has a concluding remarks section which locates al-Rāzī’s views within the intellectual history of each topic. A conclusion would summarize the findings of this study.