The Alwaleed Program team speaks with Dr. Rushain Abbasi, winner of the 2021 Alwaleed bin Talal Prize for Best Dissertation in Islamic Studies for his dissertation entitled, "Beyond the Realm of Religion: The Idea of the Secular in Premodern Islam." In this study, Rushain challenges the prevailing view that maintains that premodern Muslims did not distinguish between the religious and the secular and that this distinction only emerged with the invention of these categories in the modern, post-Enlightenment West. His longue durée study demonstrates how numerous Muslim thinkers from the medieval to early modern period (1000-1750) regularly differentiated between the religious and the secular in subjects ranging from politics to prophethood. Furthermore, Rushain constructs a radically different conception of secularity that, far from being opposed to the religious, was based on a desire to bring religion to its best and fullest expression.
Rushain Abbasi recently completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. In 2021-22, he is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities and Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. Twitter: @AbbasiRushain