SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Hannah Erlwein

MA (SOAS), MA (Exeter)
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Hannah Erlwein
Department of the Languages and Cultures of Near and Middle East

Teaching Fellow

Miss Hannah Erlwein
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Thesis title:
Arguments for the Existence of God in Classical Islamic Thought: Origins and Trajectories of the Discourse (working title)
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PhD Research

A lot of research has been done in the field of Islamic Studies on arguments for the existence of God. There is unanimous agreement among scholars that the question whether God exists and how His existence could be proven was an issue of great importance for both Islamic theologians and philosophers: early on the theologians declared it their task to prove this issue through the use of rational arguments, and the method most characteristic of them became known as the cosmological argument which infers the existence of God from the need of the temporally originated world for an originator. Islamic philosophers are seen to have pursued the same task, even though they resorted to concepts and ideas different from those of the theologians, resulting in the debate among scholars whether Islamic philosophy can be credited with having produced an ontological argument for the existence of God.

Most of secondary literature on this topic is dedicated to presenting and analysing the method of proof as put forward by a certain individual as well as to classifying the various arguments we encounter. Yet, the very aspect of the rationale for the engagement of Islamic scholars with this particular question has remained somewhat unanswered so far. In particular in the case of Islamic philosophy, it is often seen mainly against the background of its Greek sources, while the inherently Islamic aspect of certain discussions is neglected. It is the aim of my research to shed light on the reasons both theologians and philosophers had to participate in what could be called a discourse on arguments for the existence of God. In doing so, my research takes into consideration the historical circumstances in which these scholars produced their works, since religiously inspired debates do not take place in a historical vacuum. The role of language and terminology with the ideas and concepts they convey in this discourse also poses an important aspect of my research. The focus of my research is on the classical period of Islam (ca. 9th – 13th century CE), examining the role in this discourse of such individuals as al-Māturīdī (d. 944), al-Bāqillānī (d. 1013), Ibn Sīnā (d. 1037), al-Juwaynī (d. 1085), al-Ghazālī (d. 1111), Ibn Rushd (d. 1198) and al-Āmidī (d. 1233).

PhD Publications

Entry “Blasphemy” for the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, 2nd Edition, edited by Richard C. Martin (forthcoming).

Erlwein, Hannah (2014) 'Review of 'Kausalität in der muʿtazilitischen Kosmologie: Das Kitāb al-Muʾaththirāt wa-miftāḥ al-muškilāt des Zayditen al-Ḥasan ar-RaSSāS (st. 584/1188)' by Jan Thiele.' Journal of Qur'anic Studies. Volume 16, Pages 167-172.