Muhammad Shahrur’s “Cargo Cult”: A meditation on his underlying conceptual framework


The purpose of this paper is to present an integral critique that explores the underlying conceptual structure of the work of Muhammad Shahrur. It is the author’s contention that every thinker and writer is an inheritor of a chain of ideas or an intellectual system that he necessarily manifests in his writings, consciously or unconsciously. There is no such thing, in other words, as an orphan idea or an idea without a conceptual genealogy. This means that the integrity or soundness of any idea is narrowly dependent on the pedigree of its genealogy or silsila. The value of Shahrur’s thought is therefore inevitably linked to the value of the origin of his ideas, which we have briefly attempted to trace and evaluate in this paper. It is hoped that this model of critique may become an effective tool in understanding the mechanics of the varying and hybridised conceptual systems that ‘reformers’, or one should say ‘intellectual adventurers’, have recently introduced into the Islamic world.