The Quran and the Secular Mind

Dr. Saad Ismail engages with Prof. Shabbir Akhtar in a comprehensive conversation on the professor’s seminal book ‘The Quran and the Secular Mind: A Philosophy of Islam’ (Routledge, 2007).

In this engaging and innovative study Shabbir Akhtar argues that Islam is unique in its decision and capacity to confront, rather than accommodate, the challenges of secular belief. The author encourages his Muslim co-religionists to assess central Quranic doctrine at the bar of contemporary secular reason. In doing so, he seeks to revive the tradition of Islamic philosophy, moribund since the work of the twelfth century Muslim thinker and commentator on Aristotle, Ibn Rushd (Averroës).

Akhtar argues that reason, in the aftermath of revelation, must be exercised critically rather than merely to extract and explicate Quranic dogma. In doing so, the author creates a revolutionary form of Quranic exegesis with vitally significant implications for the moral, intellectual, cultural and political future of this consciously universal faith called Islam, and indeed of other faiths and ideologies that must encounter it in the modern secular world.

Dr Shabbir Akhtar is a philosopher who was trained at Cambridge University. He has published widely on pluralism, political Islam, Islamophobia, extremism and interfaith dialogue, besides Islam and Christianity’s differing responses to the challenges of modernity. His books include The Light in the Enlightenment (Cassell, 1990) and his well-known Be Careful with Muhammad! (Bellew, 1989) which is considered a classic critique of Salman Rushdie. Dr Akhtar has also written The Quran and the Secular Mind (Routledge, 2007) and Islam as Political Religion (Routledge, 2010). In 2018, he published The New Testament in Muslim Eyes: Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Routledge, 2018), the first such work on the Greek New Testament in Islamic history. Dr Akhtar has published three volumes of poetry in English, and he has also lectured at universities in Malaysia, USA and the UK.

His articles have appeared both in academic journals and in the UK press. Several of his books have been translated into the major Islamic languages. Since 2012, Dr Akhtar is on the Faculty of Theology and Religions at the University of Oxford. A member of Regent’s Park College, he is also a Research Associate at the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies, Oxford.

From 2012-16 she was City Councillor for St Clements Ward in Oxford, and from 2016-2018 she was a member of the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum. She is a member of the Methodist Church’s Faith and Order Committee, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

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