The seminar will undertake to study the comparative Sunni and Shi’ite theologies (‘ilm al-kalam) to underscore a historical development of Muslim creed in the context of social and political conditions. The course will concentrate on the development of Muslim Theology in general and the Sunni and Shi’ite creeds in particular. It will primarily be a comparative theological study, and secondarily Sunni-Shi’i doctrinal analysis. The major concern will be the development of creeds in Islam, the gradual process of formulating Principles of Religion (usul al-din), and their crystallization in the form of dogmas, with theological complexities. The essential difference between the Sunni and Shi’ite schools of thought begins in their emphasis on the fundamentality of leadership for the continuation of the prophetic mission. This difference also leads to their classification of the founding principles of Islam. While the Sunnites have insisted on a communal consensus regarding the centrality the community’s adherence to the Tradition for the continuation of the mission, the Shi’ites have regarded the ongoing need for authoritative guidance following the Prophethood, that is, the Imamate on rational-scriptural grounds. The Sunnites have rejected the latter necessity on rational grounds. There is, however, agreement among all Muslims that three doctrines constitute the faith of Islam: Unity of God, Prophethood of Muhammad, and the Final Day of Judgment. The Shi’ites add to these three two other doctrines: the Justice of God and the Imamate of the rightful successors of the Prophet. The Shi`a-Sunni differences have also impacted the development of juridical principles and ethical epistemologies based on the relationship between reason and revelation.
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