Sheikh's work includes a dissertation on ninth-century Arab Muslim thinker and moral teacher al-Harith, born Asad al-Muhasibi. Sheikh (William and Mary) has also presented at conferences and written journal articles—evidence of his significant scholarship in religious ethics. In the present book, Sheikh applies what is appropriately termed a “third wave” interpretation in comparative religious ethics. He adds to his previous writings by integrating a close reading of 20th-century Kurdish Muslim Qur'anic scholar Said Nursi (1878–1960) with work of French philosopher Pierre Hadot and with late-career, post–Iranian revolution writings of Michel Foucault. The introduction, “Narrating Ideal Muslim Subjectivities in a Foucauldian Register," provides a succinct orientation to the project. Four substantive chapters—two on Muhasibi and two on Nursi—bring received Muslim categories into a more general discussion that includes the formation of moral subjectivity, sincerity, and self-care practice central to the work of Hadot and Foucault. The result is a serious, consequential analysis that can show new ways to appreciate long-established practices and methods for Muslim moral formation. Extensive references, bibliography, and index. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
Textually layered, theoretically vivacious, and historically grounded, Forging Ideal Muslim Subjects marks a major intervention in the study of Muslim ethics and moral philosophy. How have Muslim thinkers wrestled with the foundational question of what constitutes a normatively good life and subjectivity? Faraz Sheikh examines this question, combining brilliance with deep reflection, through an unprecedented exploration of the religious thought and career of two major though less explored scholars from the 9th and 20th centuries: al-Harith al-Muhasibi (d.856) and Said Nursi (d.1960). Faraz successfully demonstrates that while distinctive and separated by many centuries, these thinkers present us with particularly effective examples of the enduring yet variegated significance of moral discipline and subjectivity in Muslim thought and practice. This book should and will be widely read and debated.
Living in the modern world demands subservience to the gods of materialism, tribalism, and efficiency. How may one escape this iron cage? Faraz Sheikh investigates the writings of al-Harith al-Muhasibi and Said Nursi to find out and discovers that these two thinkers have plenty to say. Both thinkers drew exquisitely detailed portraits of the ideal subjectivity and wrote incisively about how one may fashion it. This beautifully written book is an exemplary constructive and conceptual contribution to the field of religious ethics that puts Islamic thought in dialogue with ethicists concerned with secularism, pluralism, and the place of religion in the modern world.