Sculpting the Self

Islam, Selfhood, and Human Flourishing
Muhammad U. Faruque
What it means to be human


Sculpting the Self addresses “what it means to be human” in a secular, post-Enlightenment world by exploring notions of self and subjectivity in Islamic and non-Islamic philosophical and mystical thought. Alongside detailed analyses of three major Islamic thinkers (Mullā Ṣadrā, Shāh Walī Allāh, and Muhammad Iqbal), this study also situates their writings on selfhood within the wider constellation of related discussions in late modern and contemporary thought, engaging the seminal theoretical insights on the self by William James, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Michel Foucault. This allows the book to develop its inquiry within a spectrum theory of selfhood, incorporating bio-physiological, socio-cultural, and ethico-spiritual modes of discourse and meaning-construction. Weaving together insights from several disciplines such as religious studies, philosophy, anthropology, critical theory, and neuroscience, and arguing against views that narrowly restrict the self to a set of cognitive functions and abilities, this study proposes a multidimensional account of the self that offers new options for addressing central issues in the contemporary world, including spirituality, human flourishing, and meaning in life.

This is the first book-length treatment of selfhood in Islamic thought that draws on a wealth of primary source texts in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Greek, and other languages. Muhammad U. Faruque’s interdisciplinary approach makes a significant contribution to the growing field of cross-cultural dialogue, as it opens up the way for engaging premodern and modern Islamic sources from a contemporary perspective by going beyond the exegesis of historical materials. He initiates a critical conversation between new insights into human nature as developed in neuroscience and modern philosophical literature and millennia-old Islamic perspectives on the self, consciousness, and human flourishing as developed in Islamic philosophical, mystical, and literary traditions.

Muhammad U. Faruque is Inayat Malik Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati

Praise / Awards

  • Sculpting the Self is a masterpiece. It is among the finest explorations of selfhood and subjectivity in contemporary philosophical literature. Muhammad Faruque’s approach is breathtakingly erudite, analytically precise, and extraordinarily synoptic. He draws effectively on a wide range of Western philosophical literature-classical, modern, and contemporary; on classical and recent Indian philosophy; on contemporary cognitive science; and especially, and with great nuance, on a great swath of the Islamic tradition from the medieval period through the work of Muhammad Iqbal. Each of these many threads is spun with great care. But most impressive is the skill with which they are woven into a profoundly illuminating tapestry. Sculpting the Self is not only a superb exploration of selfhood, but a master class in the practice of cross-cultural philosophy.”
    —Jay L. Garfield, Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities, Smith College and Visiting Professor of Buddhist Philosophy, Harvard Divinity School
  • "Philosophically dense but yet eminently accessible, this book is a landmark publication in the fields of Islamic Studies and the study of religion more broadly."
    —New Books Network in Religious Studies
  • Sculpting the Self is a rare but essential treat that presents a creative analysis of major thinkers in Islam, and demonstrates how one might fruitfully read their work to move towards a truly global study of selfhood and philosophy.”
    —Sajjad Rizvi, University of Exeter
  • Sculpting the Self is an impressive book. Situated at the crossroads between Western and Islamic philosophies of the self, both modern and non-modern, it offers a new way forward: a ‘multidimensional’ model that is richer, more expansive, and more inclusive than most theories available today. Smart, deeply informed, and engaging, Faruque’s book will be a cornerstone for future thinking about the elusive entity we call the self.”
    —James I. Porter, Irving Stone Professor of Literature, Departments of Rhetoric and Classics, UC Berkeley
  • “In Sculpting the Self we are guided along the maze of the concept of the self in Islamic philosophy by one of the most promising, young global philosophers writing today. Muhammad Faruque’s breadth in this work is extraordinary, bringing many key pre-modern and modern Muslim philosophers from Iran and India into conversation with various currents in philosophy, consciousness studies, evolutionary theory, and neuroscience. The result is nothing less than a sophisticated, first of its kind account of Islamic philosophical conceptions of selfhood, personhood, and identity.”
    —Mohammed Rustom, author of Inrushes of the Heart: The Sufi Philosophy of 'Ayn al-Qudat 
  • “Faruque has delivered a tour de force study of selfhood across time and tradition. His expertise in Islamic thought, together with his facility with a wide range of sources and approaches, succeeds in bringing the self’s full spectrum into view. The ambition of his project is as rare as it is refreshing.”
    —Charles M. Stang, Professor of Early Christian Thought and Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School
  • “Faruque’s book is a welcome attempt to engage the various strands of Islamic philosophical psychology with contemporary work on subjectivity and selfhood in the philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences. The approach is novel and should initiate a vigorous discussion concerning the contemporary relevance of the history of Islamic thought.”
    —Jari Kaukua, University of Jyväskylä
  • “The variety of voices and sources, both Western and non-Western, bring to life the model of a multidimensional self especially in contrast to the reductionist models that Faruque critiques.”
    —Sayeh Meisami, University of Dayton

  • “. . . a great survey on the study of self. Faruque develops a unique perspective in combining neuroscience and philosophy and offers a great conversation between Western, Islamic, and Eastern philosophers.”
    —Ramazan Kilinc, University of Nebraska at Omaha

  • "This cross-cultural analysis of human identity or the self provides a brilliant and wide-spanning philosophical understanding of the current epistemological challenges in understanding selfhood. Faruque has amassed an extraordinary amount of source material in several European and Islamic languages by bringing the Islamic tradition into dialogue with the metaphysics of the East and West, including modern disciplines such as cognitive science, consciousness studies, evolutionary theory, and neuroscience—that offer a remarkable study of selfhood... This work will be important for mental health professionals seeking to better understand human identity as it is informed by the diverse cultures and their knowledge systems."
    The Humanistic Psychologist
  • "Explaining theories and conceptions of selfhood and subjectivity across Western, Islamic and Indian sources is no easy task; it is even more difficult to do so clearly, cogently and in a manner comprehensible to non-experts. ...Yet this is what Muhammad Faruque does in Sculpting the Self."
    Islam and Christian-Musim Relations

News, Reviews, Interviews

Listen:  Interview with Muhammad U. Faruque on Renovatio, hosted by Esme Partridge | 04/08/2022
Watch: Interview with Muhammad U. Faruque, Profs. Sajjad Rizvi, and Nauman Naqvi on Sculpting the Self | 11/12/2021 
Watch: Interview with Muhammad U. Faruque and Dr. Carrie York on Sculpting the Self | 10/28/2021 
Listen: Interview with Muhammad U. Faruque on the New Books Network | 09/24/21

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 328pp.
  • 6 charts.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13262-1

Add to Cart
  • $80.00 U.S.

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