Winner of Iran’s 31st World Book of the Year Prize

Sculpting the Self (University of Michigan Press, 2021) addresses “what it means to be human” in a secular, post-Enlightenment world by exploring notions of selfhood and subjectivity in Islamic and non-Islamic literatures, including modern philosophy and neuroscience. Weaving together insights from several disciplines such as philosophy, anthropology, religious studies, and neuroscience and arguing against views that narrowly restrict the self to a set of cognitive functions and abilities, this study proposes a multidimensional theory of the self that offers new options for addressing central issues in the modern world, including the nature of spirituality, meaning, and human flourishing.

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  • The first book-length treatment of selfhood in Islamic thought, drawing on a wealth of primary texts in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, German, Greek, French, and other languages.
  • Proposes a new, spectrum theory of the self.
  • Offers new options for addressing central issues in the contemporary world, including spirituality, human flourishing, and meaning in life.
  • Draws together Islamic, European, and Indian philosophical traditions, with neuroscience and social anthropology.
  • Lively and articulate, accessible to a wide interdisciplinary readership.



Reviews/Praise for the Book

Sculpting the Self is a masterpiece. It is among the finest explorations of selfhood and subjectivity in contemporary philosophical literature. Muhammad Faruque’s approach is breathtakingly erudite, analytically precise, and extraordinarily synoptic. He draws effectively on a wide range of Western philosophical literature-classical, modern, and contemporary; on classical and recent Indian philosophy; on contemporary cognitive science; and especially, and with great nuance, on a great swath of the Islamic tradition from the medieval period through the work of Muhammad Iqbal. Each of these many threads is spun with great care. But most impressive is the skill with which they are woven into a profoundly illuminating tapestry. Sculpting the Self is not only a superb exploration of selfhood, but a master class in the practice of cross-cultural philosophy.”
—Jay L. Garfield, Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities, Smith College and Visiting Professor of Buddhist Philosophy, Harvard Divinity School

“In Sculpting the Self we are guided along the maze of the concept of the self in Islamic philosophy by one of the most promising, young global philosophers writing today. Muhammad Faruque’s breadth in this work is extraordinary, bringing many key pre-modern and modern Muslim philosophers from Iran and India into conversation with various currents in philosophy, consciousness studies, evolutionary theory, and neuroscience. The result is nothing less than a sophisticated, first of its kind account of Islamic philosophical conceptions of selfhood, personhood, and identity.”
—Mohammed Rustom, author of Inrushes of the Heart: The Sufi Philosophy of ʿAyn al-Quḍāt 

Sculpting the Self is an impressive book. Situated at the crossroads between Western and Islamic philosophies of the self, both modern and non-modern, it offers a new way forward: a ‘multidimensional’ model that is richer, more expansive, and more inclusive than most theories available today. Smart, deeply informed, and engaging, Faruque’s book will be a cornerstone for future thinking about the elusive entity we call the self.”
—James I. Porter, Irving Stone Professor of Literature, Departments of Rhetoric and Classics, UC Berkeley

“Philosophically dense but yet eminently accessible, this book is a landmark publication in the fields of Islamic Studies and the study of religion more broadly.”
—New Books Network in Religious Studies

Sculpting the Self is a rare but essential treat that presents a creative analysis of major thinkers in Islam, and demonstrates how one might fruitfully read their work to move towards a truly global study of selfhood and philosophy.”
—Sajjad Rizvi, University of Exeter

“Faruque has delivered a tour de force study of selfhood across time and tradition. His expertise in Islamic thought, together with his facility with a wide range of sources and approaches, succeeds in bringing the self’s full spectrum into view. The ambition of his project is as rare as it is refreshing.”
—Charles M. Stang, Professor of Early Christian Thought and Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School

“Faruque’s book is a welcome attempt to engage the various strands of Islamic philosophical psychology with contemporary work on subjectivity and selfhood in the philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences. The approach is novel and should initiate a vigorous discussion concerning the contemporary relevance of the history of Islamic thought.”
—Jari Kaukua, University of Jyväskylä

“The variety of voices and sources, both Western and non-Western, bring to life the model of a multidimensional self especially in contrast to the reductionist models that Faruque critiques.”
—Sayeh Meisami, University of Dayton

“. . . a great survey on the study of self. Faruque develops a unique perspective in combining neuroscience and philosophy and offers a great conversation between Western, Islamic, and Eastern philosophers.”
—Ramazan Kilinc, University of Nebraska at Omaha

“This cross-cultural analysis of human identity or the self provides a brilliant and wide-spanning philosophical understanding of the current epistemological challenges in understanding selfhood. Faruque has amassed an extraordinary amount of source material in several European and Islamic languages by bringing the Islamic tradition into dialogue with the metaphysics of the East and West, including modern disciplines such as cognitive science, consciousness studies, evolutionary theory, and neuroscience—that offer a remarkable study of selfhood… This work will be important for mental health professionals seeking to better understand human identity as it is informed by the diverse cultures and their knowledge systems.”
The Humanistic Psychologist

“Explaining theories and conceptions of selfhood and subjectivity across Western, Islamic and Indian sources is no easy task; it is even more difficult to do so clearly, cogently and in a manner comprehensible to non-experts. …Yet this is what Muhammad Faruque does in Sculpting the Self.”
Islam and Christian-Musim Relations

“In the perusal of contemporary philosophical literature, one rarely comes upon a work that engages in an analytic penetration of a philosophical topic with such erudition and cosmopolitanism. Faruque’s study draws on primary philosophical work from English, German, French, ancient Greek, Persian, Arabic, Urdu sources and then supplements them with the latest and most cutting-edge scientific and historical studies; this is all done in an elegant and inclusive manner. Indeed, this study is not only a comprehensive philosophical treatment of selfhood, but it is also a blueprint for an exemplary philosophical analysis which is not cramped by scholarly parochialism endemic to the run-of-the-mill academic essays.”
Comparative Philosophy