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The Failure of Nomenclature: The Concept of "Orthodoxy" in the Study of Islam

Issue: Vol 3 No. 2 (2007)

Journal: Comparative Islamic Studies

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Islamic Studies

DOI: 10.1558/cis.v3i2.169


In Euro-American Islamic Studies, the terms orthodox and orthodoxy have a history of imprecision and collusion in theological axe-grinding. Yet despite their oft-noted inadequacies, scholars continue to invoke and retool the terms with a perplexing persistence. The resilient reworking of the term has resulted in a marked indeterminacy which renders orthodoxy a liability rather than an asset in scholarly nomenclature. This paper examines the trajectory of orthodoxy in scholarly works on Islam, outlines its conceptual problems, and probes its place within the conceptual “religionization” of Islam. Special attention is paid to Talal Asad’s influential usage and revival of the term. Despite its newfound life, this paper concludes that orthodoxy remains as problematic as ever.

Author: M. Brett Wilson

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