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The Plural Of Knowledge

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Chapter Summary

ʿUlûm, the accepted plural of ʿilm, does not occur in the Qurâân or in the old traditions of the Prophet. Greek and Latin simply formed a plural for the respective abstract notions in these languages indicating “knowledge,” in order to obtain a general designation for the diverse concrete forms knowledge might take. In modern English, “knowledge” was retained to express the overall abstract concept, whereas other terms came to be employed for the general designation of “sciences” and “disciplines.” The plural ʿUlûm did, in fact, serve later on occasionally to express also the plurality of a number of things known in the language of philosophy and speculative theology. All three dimensions of knowledge continued to live on independently and in a kind of interplay which determined the essence and forms of Muslim civilization.

Keywords: ʿilm; ʿUlûm; knowledge; Qurâân



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