Sculpting the Self: Islam, Selfhood, and Human Flourishing By
 Muhammad Umar Faruque
Publisher University of Michigan Press Pub Date 2021 Pub Location None Isbn 9780472132621 Course(s)


The title of this book is derived from the interpretation of Plotinus, according to which sculpting the self should be learned from the master sculptors who, with perfect knowledge and craft, carve and scratch the raw and shapeless marble in such a way that they create the most beautiful figure from it. By exploring notions of self and subjectivity in Islamic philosophical, mystical, and literary traditions, this book addresses ‘what it means to be human’ in a secular, post-Enlightenment world. It discusses the works of Islamic thinkers on selfhood within a wider constellation of related discussions in modern and contemporary thought and criticizes and evaluates the insights on the self by Kant, Nietzsche, William James, Heidegger, Sartre, and Foucault. In this book, the author attempts to offer a theory on the self, using issues of moral philosophy, philosophy of mind and the study of spirituality, so that, in the next step, he can successfully confront the challenges of the modern era, such as spirituality, human flourishing and the search for meaning in life. This study has used a wealth of primary source texts in different languages, including Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Greek and it can be considered as a starting point for establishing a dialogue between Islamic philosophy and contemporary philosophies in the practical field of self-knowledge and self-improvement. This work, in addition to be a comprehensive research on the self in the opinion of modern Western thinkers, is considered a distinguished work in comparative philosophy and intercultural philosophy. ‘I’ or ‘self’ is one of the important topics that has attracted the attention of philosophers. Many books have been written on this subject, which are often influenced by the point of view of Western subjectivity (self-centered and self-reliant) and less related to the past Western sages and to Muslim Eastern sages and mystics. In this book, the author, by analytically and critically examining the works of contemporary Western philosophers, has convincingly studied the opinion of Muslim sages and mystics. He has showed that the solution to the problem lies not in Western subjectivism, but in the theory of the intuitive knowledge, proposed by Muslim and Eastern sages. From the author's point of view, ‘self-knowledge’ does not come through the new sciences used by contemporary philosophers, but through the theology of Muslim sages, the philosophy and mysticism of Eastern sages and certain ancient theologians Europeans, and by proving the divine origin of the soul through intuitive knowledge. He draws on the work of three major Islamic thinkers: Mullā Ṣadrā (d. 1640), Shāh Walī Allāh (d. 1762), and Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938).