Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Testifying Beyond Experience: Theories of Akhbār and the Boundaries of Community in Transoxanian Islamic Thought, 10th-12th Centuries CE
by Correa, Dale June, Ph.D., New York University, 2014, 218; 3635114
Abstract (Summary)

Understanding how the Qur'an and statements from and about the Prophet Muhammad came to possess unquestionable historical and religious validity for Muslims requires an examination of the establishment of the reports of other human beings as a source of knowledge in Islamic epistemology. This dissertation addresses the question of how Transoxanian Hanafi scholars of the 10th - 12th centuries constructed a theory of knowledge that gives an account of the epistemological status of the truths transmitted by Muslims. The theory of akhbar (reports, testimony), and in particular, the concept of tawatur (recurrent transmission), developed by Islamic legal theorists and theologians exemplifies this epistemology. This study of testimony in Islamic thought interrogates the relationship between the individual and the community in producing certainty in knowledge of the past. The consequences of this relationship nuance the universality of the generally assumed reason-revelation dichotomy for the intellectual study of Islam.

Drawing on previously unstudied primary sources collected in Uzbekistan and Turkey, this study explores the shared epistemic foundations of Islamic legal theory and speculative theology. The dissertation concludes that the epistemology developed in the formative period of this school of thought necessitates an objective truth beyond the human self, and that individuals contribute to the maintenance of access to such truth through testimony. However, this reliance on fallible human practice succeeds only if blind ideological allegiances or community do not constrain the individuals involved in the transmission. Furthermore, the epistemic maneuvers developed throughout the 10th-12th centuries come to specify that the agreement of vast groups through tawatur was dispositive only for the Muslim community. By introducing new sources on Transoxanian Islamic thought, and conceiving of Transoxania as an intellectual center at a geographic periphery, this dissertation erases a blind spot in the fields of Islamic Studies and Eurasian Studies by shifting the focus to Islamicate Transoxania, offering a new perspective on the simultaneous development of Islamic legal and theological schools throughout the Islamicate empire.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rowson, Everett K.
Commitee: El Shamsy, Ahmed, Katz, Marion H., Larsen, David, Reinhart, A. Kevin
School: New York University
Department: Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 76/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Islamic Studies, Middle Eastern Studies
Keywords: Epistemology, Islamic legal theory, Maturidi theology, Testimony, Transoxania, Ḥanafī
Publication Number: 3635114
ISBN: 9781321160826
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