Reconstruction: Preface (4)

Following are some thoughts in response to students’ questions and comments.

Religion vs. Science

Based on what he has to say in the “Preface,” Iqbal’s project of reconstructing Islamic thought seems to be heavily focused on producing what he calls “a scientific form of religious knowledge.” It is not entirely clear what he means, though the reader should assume that the book itself is going to provide some explanation of this phrase. It is therefore important to keep this question in mind as we proceed with our reading of the Reconstruction.

But it is true that the whole idea of reconciling science and religion can be confusing, especially if the reader has previously seen unsuccessful or uninformed attempts at achieving such an outcome.

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Lecture I: Overview

The first lecture in The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam is titled “Knowledge and Religious Experience.” After reading the lecture at least twice—or as many times as necessary—the reader should be able to carry out step 2 of analytical reading (“State what the whole text is about with the utmost brevity.”)

Since every lecture in the Reconstruction seems to address a variety of topics, step 2 can be incredibly helpful in allowing the reader to apprehend the single most important idea that structures “the whole text,” as opposed to just one of its sections or sub-sections. The reader’s job here is not to make a list of all the topics discussed in the text (“The author talks about A, and B, and C, and …”) as if they were a random collection of unrelated items. Rather, the reader’s job is to find the one theme that represents the text’s underlying unity. The underlying unity of a text is the single most important thought that makes all of its different components hang together; it is what transforms a broad range of ideas into a coherent whole. Step 2 asks the reader not only to find the underlying unity (“what the whole text is about”) but to also state that unity as concisely as possible, preferably in no more than one or two sentences

Based on my current understanding of the first lecture, here’s how I would carry out step 2 of analytical reading: Taken as a whole, Lecture I is about establishing that religious experience is a potentially valid source of knowledge.

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The main text of the Reconstruction is organized into seven lectures, each of which has its own title. However, there are no section breaks or subheadings within any of these lectures. This poses a difficulty for the person who is trying to apply the steps of analytical reading to understand Iqbal’s text. Specifically, the absence of clear sub-divisions in the Reconstruction makes it hard for the reader to identify the different segments that make up each lecture, which is what step 3 of analytical reading requires. To make the reader’s task easier, I would like to amend the process of analytical reading by adding a new step. Since this step has to be carried out before step 3, let’s call it step 2A.

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