Inwardness: Comparative Religious Philosophy in Modern Egypt

This article centers the Islamic philosopher ʿUthman Amin in order to explore the intellectual exchange
between Muslim and Christian scholars in twentieth-century Egypt. Specifically, I look at inwardness, intellectual dialogue, and interreligious friendships in a field that has traditionally been dominated by scholarship on the relationship between Islam and politics or Islam and the law. I elucidate Amin’s philosophy of inwardness and its attendant virtues of seclusion, spiritual contemplation, and the jihad of the self—paying particular attention to reading as an illuminative embodied practice—through the lens of an Islamic discursive tradition. How might we understand the concept of an Islamic discursive tradition, as a philosophy of reasoned and embodied religion, within the context of such interreligious encounters? Amin, I argue, was engaged in an experimentum mentis in which inwardness provided an angle of lucidity from which Islam and Christianity could gaze upon one another. In so doing, I demonstrate the heuristic value of theorizations of tradition by Alasdair MacIntyre and Talal Asad to studies of interreligious encounter and scholarly exchange.