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Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950$
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Marwa Elshakry

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226001302

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226001449.001.0001

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Theologies of Nature

Theologies of Nature

(p.131) Four Theologies of Nature
Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950

Marwa Elshakry

University of Chicago Press

Perhaps another feature of the backlash against evolutionary materialism was the rise of a contemporary natural theological discourse in Arabic, which forms the focus of this chapter. Examining the broader intellectual milieu that formed around the rejection of materialism in Beirut in particular, and revolving around the work of the Sufi theologian Husayn al-Jisr, it shows how writings on evolution in Arabic helped spur renewed interest in older theological debates, particularly around the tradition of Muslim scholastic theology, or ‘ilm al-kalam. This revitalization of theology also shows how Arabic readings of Darwin necessarily drew in older textual traditions and debates. These readings were critically shaped by contemporary debates on Ottoman educational and institutional reform. Indeed, al-Jisr himself spent time at the Sultan’s court in Istanbul, and was commissioned to write a treatise on the contemporary natural sciences from a Muslim theological perspective.

Keywords:   Natural theology, Chain of Being, Providentialism, ‘ilm al-kalam, theology, Natural law, Ottoman Reform

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