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Medicine & Mimicry: I‘jaz ‘Ilmi as Post-Colonial Discourse

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Title: Medicine & Mimicry: I‘jaz ‘Ilmi as Post-Colonial Discourse
Author: Schnur, Scott
Advisor: Zadeh, Travis
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Religion
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2010
Abstract: My thesis is about a modern form of Qur’anic hermeneutics called i‘jaz ‘ilmi, which translated from Arabic means “scientific inimitability.” This genre of literature illustrates the ways in which all discoveries of modern science and scientific knowledge are contained within the Qur’an. This fact, in turn, demonstrates that the Qur’an is an inimitable miracle from God. In my text, I excavate the intellectual history behind this field of exegesis, discussing the fact that it ultimately sprung out of the nineteenth century colonial encounter between Europe and the Global South (discounting South America). In order to fully examine this phenomenon I have drawn upon a number of historical moments, intellectual movements, and mediums, including the medieval Muslim translation movement, the Enlightenment, Colonial British travel photography, and the cholera epidemics of the nineteenth century. What I present here is a reflection on how to understand the paradoxical mixing of religion and science seen in this discourse, along with a theoretical strategy and a narrative for how to comprehend and contextualize it. These works present a discrete form of scriptural reasoning, which may be best understood through the lens of post-colonial theory. Seeing it in this light, it is clear that this discourse of scientific inimitability problematizes and menaces the normative scientific understanding of the world by questioning the boundaries of truth and forcing reflection in its readers. The genre presents a Qur’anic translation and reclamation of modern science, and is the product of a long historical process of epistemological shifts, impositions, and absorptions between and within different cultures. Overall, my piece is at once a map and a chronology, outlining the history, evolution, and structural relationships that led to this Qur’anic rebellion against a deep rooted intellectual project of colonial domination and control.
Subject: Religion and science -- History
Subject: Islam and science -- History
Subject: Postcolonialism -- Arab countries
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Schnur, Scott. "Medicine & Mimicry: I‘jaz ‘Ilmi as Post-Colonial Discourse". 2010. Available electronically from

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