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.