Göttinger Orient Symposium: "Al-Muḥāsibī and The Essence of Reason: A Note on Authorship" von Hussein Abdulsater

The place of reason (ʿaql) in the Islamic tradition has attracted much debate, both among classical scholars and among modern researchers. One of the main areas of disagreement is the definition of reason, with scholars from various disciplines (theology, law, hadith, philosophy, mysticism) oftentimes offering different definitions, which, in turn, undergird their corresponding understanding of rationalism. Starting in the classical period, Muslim scholars have credited al-Ḥārith al-Muḥāsibī (d. 243/857) with making a particularly powerful contribution to the discussion by defining reason as an “instinct” (gharīza) and elaborating on this definition; many recent scholars concur with this assessment. This talk studies Muḥāsibī’s theory of reason through his major work on the subject, Māʾiyyat al-ʿaql (The essence of reason). More specifically, it examines the concluding, analytical section of this work, titled “Masʾala fī al-ʿaql” (A question regarding reason). By analyzing the text, the talk attempts to verify the authorship of this critical section of Muḥāsibī’s work, therefore casting light on other contributions to the study of reason in Islam that were eclipsed by the scholarly concentration on Muḥāsibī’s output.

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