bruce b. lawrence

Writing in the Eye of the Storm

I am reading, absorbing, and reflecting on Talal’s essay, “Thinking about Religion through Wittgenstein,” in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has enveloped the world in spring 2020. COVID-19 has stopped ordinary activity almost everywhere, including the United States and North Carolina, where I live and from where I am writing. The beauty of Talal’s essay is its frontal engagement with big ideas, major thinkers, and long-term processes that most scholars ignore or deal with tangentially. Modernity is on trial, as is Western philosophy, science, and translation. Linguistics is foregrounded, via Wittgenstein and others, ethics are redeployed through MacIntyre, and Qurʾanic idioms are reinvested with fresh meaning in English. In what follows, I want to explore four themes—namely, modern thought, barzakh, conscience, and community—that offer the reader my deep read of Talal’s essay. In effect, I am confirming the need for the grammar of a tradition, at once Islamic and global, that can be elaborated based on what Talal’s grammar of Muslim tradition(alism) suggests yet does not fully develop. Click here to read the full article