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philosopher, pioneer of Islamic reformist thought, pan-Islamic nationalist as well as a staunch opponent of British penetration in the East, also known as al-Asadaabadi and al-Husayni, Afghani, was born in October/November 1839 in the Iranian village of Asadaabad. However, he endeavored to hide his origins so as to conceal his Shiite identity. It was with this in mind that he assumed the surname al-Afghani (of Afghan origin).

His father, Sayyid Safdar, is said to have been a modest farmer, but a learned Muslim. From the age of five to ten, Afghani was apparently educated at home, focusing on Arabic and the Qurʾan. Thereafter, he was sent to school in Qazvin and later Tehran, where he received the standard Shiite education.

After several years of study in the holy city of Najaf, Afghani moved to India in approximately 1855 where he first encountered British colonialism By the time he reached ...


Allen J. Fromherz

philosopher, scientist, and theologian, was born Abu al Walid Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Rushd. Known in the Medieval Latin West as Averroes, he was one of the most influential commentators on Aristotle and on Plato’s Republic. A philosopher, scientist, and theologian of remarkable ability, Ibn Rushd famously stated that there was no inherent inconsistency between Greek rational thought and Islam. Born in 1120 in Cordoba Ibn Rushd wrote and studied in North Africa as well as in Muslim Spain al Andalus Although his life has often been portrayed as a struggle between rational thought and the tyranny of the African Almohad rulers who reigned in al Andalus Ibn Rushd s thinking was influenced as much by his time in Africa as his time in Spain Popular depictions of Ibn Rushd as an oppressed liberal thinker and as a European stifled by the close mindedness of the ...


Steve Howard

Sudanese philosopher, author, and Islamic religious reform leader, was born in the Blue Nile town of Rufa’a in the Gezira, the heart of Sudan’s Sufi establishment. Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, known to his followers as “Ustadh Mahmoud” (“teacher”), was the founder of Sudan’s preindependence Republican Party, which he subsequently led to become a religious reform movement known as the Republican Brotherhood. The movement advocated a moderately progressive approach to the role of Islam in the contemporary world, with an emphasis on social equality, particularly for women in the context of rethinking sharia law. His best known book, The Second Message of Islam (1968; trans. Abdullahi An-Na’im, Syracuse, 1987), detailed his understanding of a modern conceptualization of Islam. He married Amna Lotfi and had a son (deceased) and two daughters, Asma and Somaya.

Taha s education was the religious then secular mix that became increasingly common as the British introduced formal schooling ...


David B. McCarthy

Presbyterian theologian and ethicist, was born in Alcolu, South Carolina, the son of Anderson James Williams and Bertha Bell McRae. He spent his early years on the farm his family had purchased soon after emancipation, where nearby the Westminster Presbyterian Church stood on a corner of the family property. But he spent most of his youth growing up in racially mixed Homestead, in metropolitan Pittsburgh, where he attended Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Williams graduated Phi Beta Kappa with an AB from Washington and Jefferson College in 1947, and he earned his master's degree from the same institution in 1948. He enrolled in Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he earned his bachelor of divinity in 1950. Later that same year the Pittsburgh Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ordained Williams as a minister.

In 1954 Williams received his master of sacred ...


The little information known about Zara Yacob’s life is derived from the autobiographical nature of his philosophical treatise, which he wrote in the mid-seventeenth century. Yacob was born in 1599 (or 1592 in the Julian calendar) near Aksum, the ancient capital and center of religious learning in present-day Ethiopia. He followed a traditional training within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a Christian church. Yacob studied music, qene (poetry or hymns), and especially the biblical Psalms of King David.

After studying the scriptures for ten years Yacob taught for four years in Aksum Living as a monk he acquainted himself with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church which had been introduced to Ethiopia by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries beginning in the middle of the sixteenth century During this period the competition between the Catholic and the Ethiopian church was fierce and many people linked adherence to the Orthodox Church with the very ...