New Theology in the Islamic Republic of Iran: A Comparative Study between Abdolkarim Soroush and Mohsen Kadivar

This dissertation describes the nature of what has been called kalām-e jadīd (new theology) in the Islamic Republic of Iran. It argues that there are currently two kinds of “new theologies” in practice. One new theology that is more widely adhered to is an extension of classical theology and stays true to traditional precepts, while the second is postmodern in nature and breaks with tradition completely. The first strand of kalām-e jadīd, referred to as “theology of selectivity,” is represented here by the works of Mohsen Kadivar, the person who epitomizes the intellectual but tradition-bound wave of post-revolutionary theological thought in Iran. The second strand of kalām-e jadīd, referred to as “postmodern theology,” is presented via the works of Abdolkarim Soroush, the most representative thinker of this type of kalām. In making this distinction, this dissertation therefore delineates the different forms of post-revolutionary reformist theology in Iran and presents Soroush’s work in terms of the greater postmodern discourse that feeds his work. The interest and importance placed on Soroush’s work also speaks volumes about the receptiveness of Iranian reformist intellectual communities towards postmodern thought and the possibility of placing these communities within what has come to be known as the postmodern condition. Thus, in essence this project can be seen as a comparative work that also points towards the ideological distance between these two modernizing trends in current Iranian Islamic thought.
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