The production of Western Islamic knowledge

Authored by: Stefano Allievi

Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415691321
eBook ISBN: 9781315794273
Adobe ISBN: 9781317744023


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Defining Islamic knowledge is far from an easy task. What Muslims define as properly Islamic is not something that holds general consensus. Islam is a living tradition that in practical terms refers to an orthodoxy and an orthopraxy. The idea of living tradition implies differences in views, opinions, and behaviors. In this sense, a single, unique, unified, homogeneous, universally accepted form of Islamic knowledge simply does not exist. What exists is a corpus that constitutes a set of references, in which differences, contradictions, and conflicts of interpretation, as well as consensus (ijma‘) and agreement, are intrinsic parts of the concept of tradition. A sociological concept, in this sense, not exactly equal to that of taqlid; and also a historical one: because, as Asad (1986) points out, tradition has (or, better, is) a history that refers to a past and redefines itself in respect to a future, through a relation with the present. In this sense we can speak of an Islamic discursive tradition, as the author does, in a broader sense: that is not only the common intellectual meaning of the word “discourse,” but rather the etymological one, from the Latin dis-currere – “running (currere) here and there”; moving and changing, we might say.

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