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Arguing the Archive: Ṭāhā ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, Muḥammad ʿĀbid al-Jābirī, and the Future of Islamic Thought

Issue: Vol 11 No. 1 (2015)

Journal: Comparative Islamic Studies

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Islamic Studies

DOI: 10.1558/cis.30824


This article analyzes an argument between the Moroccan philosophers, Taha ʿAbd al-Raḥmān (b. 1944) and Muḥammad ʿĀbid al-Jābirī (1936 – 2010). In the 1990s, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān claimed that al-Jābirī had misread Islamic intellectual history by failing to grasp its connection to the Arab-Muslim community. After showing that the differences between ʿAbd al-Raḥmān and al-Jābirī cannot be reduced to differences in European philosophy, this article proposes that a theory of the archive better conceptualizes their differences than MacIntyre’s notion of “tradition,” a common theoretical posture in Islamic studies. The archive, as elaborated by Jacques Derrida (to whom these thinkers are also compared), emphasizes the importance of difference, or an encounter with alterity, and repetition to Muslim intellectual history. The significance of these themes is demonstrated by showing how ʿAbd al-Raḥmān and al-Jābirī read the debate between Mattā ibn Yūnūs (d. 940) and Abū al-Ḥasan al-Sīrāfī (d. 979) on grammar and logic.

Author: Samuel Kigar

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