Dr. Jonathan Brown on Historical Criticism of Islamic Primary Texts

A post based on my lecture notes from a talk given by Dr. Jonathan Brown, where he discussed the historical critical method and how it’s been applied to Islamic texts and especially hadith.


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

This blog post is adapted from my notes taken from Dr. Jonathan A. C. Brown’s lecture on the topic of historical criticism and how it’s been applied to Islamic primary texts, especially the hadith collections. Watch the lecture here: part 1part 2part 3. Note that it’s about 3 hours long including the Q&A, so be warned. It’s definitely worth a watch though, from beginning to end.

The lecture was given around the time that the UK government-sponsored documentary Islam: The Untold Story by charlatan historian Tom Holland was in the news. Basically, the documentary tries to tell a speculative revisionist story of the origins of Islam. Dr. Brown’s lecture is not a direct response to the documentary, but it contextualizes some of the assumptions being made in this documentary and other revisionist pieces that are claiming to examine Islam from a “critical” lens. Anyway, I’ll end the introduction here and start the portion based on my notes. Note that the section “My Thoughts” at the end of this post is not based on the lecture; those opinions are strictly mine.

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Is Darwinian Evolution True?

Recognizing the problems with Darwinian Evolution doesn’t require one to drop methodological naturalism or even metaphysical naturalism. But it requires intellectual honesty, which many people today lack, in our strange post-truth environment… these debates will continue to have a large impact on society. So it might just be worth being up-to-date with the latest trends and developments.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

A subject that has received significant attention and discussion in the modern and post-modern era is that of Darwinian Evolution, and the consequences it has for our religious, philosophical, or metaphysical beliefs. I want to address this topic from an Islamic point of view. Of course, I do not claim to represent Islam or Muslims in any way; these views only represent one person and that’s me. I hope to follow up on this with another post that addresses human evolution specifically, In Sha Allah.

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My Notes from Mind and Cosmos

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

I read the book Mind and Cosmos by Thomas Nagel some time back, and I figured it’d be a good idea to share the notes I took while reading it. Nagel is an atheist philosopher, though he’s one of the few honest atheists, so he talks quite openly about how many of the current orthodox theories about materialism, evolution, etc make no sense.

It should be stated that these are my notes, and not a summary of the book. I didn’t understand some parts, like some of the stuff about teleology, so I left them out, and I paraphrased some stuff according to my own thoughts and interpretations, so please do not assume that everything written below is coming from Nagel (though much of it indeed is). I would recommend you read the book also if you’re interested, it would give you a better idea and more detailed explanation of these concepts than my notes.

Also, I used Google Docs voice typing to transcribe these notes. I tried my best to correct the mistakes and format them, but there still might be errors, so I sincerely apologize if any of these errors slipped through uncorrected. Please notify me in the comments or via Twitter DM (@604yousuf) if you notice anything.

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Islamic science vs. secular science

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Nowadays, every opportunity is taken to denounce Allah’s deen (religion). One recent allegation is that Islam/Muslims are backwards or primitive, since they have lagged extremely far behind in the world’s scientific development for the past 300 years. Just visit Richard Dawkins’ Twitter feed to know what I’m talking about.

Many Muslims respond to this criticism by pointing out that there were thousands of Muslim intellectuals throughout history that contributed greatly to the world’s scientific knowledge. This is 100% correct. But I think we’re missing a key point here: the “science” practiced by Muslims during their Golden Age was NOT the (secular) science people like Stephen Hawking are a part of today. There were fundamental differences, which I hope to bring to light in this article In Sha Allah (God willing). The main differences are:

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