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The Idea of Progress and its Discontents in Islamic Thought – Moosa print.pdf (8.88 MB)

The Idea of Progress and Its Discontents in Islamic Thought

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posted on 2023-02-17, 00:00 authored by Drew Blankstein
In his inaugural lecture for the Mirza Family Professorship of Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies, Ebrahim Moosa explores how the concept of progress has been understood in Islamic thought and the challenges that this notion of progress poses to European and American conceptualizations of the term. Beginning with a biographical sketch of his grandfather in South Africa and Muzzafar Mirza, after whom the endowed chair for this inaugural address is named, Moosa traces in these lives and in the life of Muslim thought more broadly what progress means. He contends that rather than a teleological notion of progress represented in much western philosophical thought, in Islamic thought we find a more restrained notion of progress, which he characterizes as improvement. Per this latter notion, history does not have a definitive end—such knowledge is God’s alone—but history is marked by moments of improvement. In conversation with multiple influential philosophers, theologians, and scholars across various traditions of religious and philosophical thought, Moosa lays out why a decolonial reading of the notion of progress through Islamic thought is one that we need today more than ever.


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