Dr. Philip Dorroll is receiving favorable reviews for his recently published book that’s focused on the distinct tradition of Islamic theological thought stemming from the Turkish Republic. Most importantly, the feedback is coming from the people whose opinions mean the most to him.
Dorroll’s book “Islamic Theology in the Turkish Republic” was published by Edinburgh Press.
“The fact that academics see the book as valuable and interesting means a great deal, especially from my Muslim colleagues,” says Dorroll, associate professor of religion.
The book is receiving international attention.
“Dr. Dorroll uses a wide range of Turkish language theological sources not available in English and never before analyzed in English,” Dr. Begum Burak, an independent researcher based in Istanbul, Turkey, wrote on her blog. “This makes his book a unique one in the discipline.”
Dorroll has studied, conducted research and led trips to Turkey since 2002. He visited the country as a student while still in search of a region and religion to make his academic focus. At the time, Islam was a growing topic in the United States, but many discussions were slanted and framed the religion as simply a political problem.
“We were sort of missing the fundamental aspect of it as a religion, a way of believing in God and faith,” says Dorroll.
Dorroll, who is an Eastern Orthodox Christian, felt a connection to Turkish culture and people and how his faith stemmed from the same part of the world.
He began studying the modern Turkish language in graduate school and undertook intense training in the summers. He also learned Medieval Arabic to read religious texts. Over the years, Dorroll began to recognize a distinct genre of Islamic thought coming out of Turkey that he believed was overlooked.
Dorroll used his studies of Turkish to analyze and translate the work of prominent Turkish theological thinkers spanning from the 19th century to present day. He reviewed at least 200 articles. Many of the scholars had never received exposure in English.
“There’s not any book in English that has offered my attempt at an overview of the history of Islamic theology in modern Turkey,” Dorroll says about the book, which is his first.
Dorroll credits his experience teaching introduction to Islam courses at Wofford for helping him think through how to write the book and make it approachable for readers by addressing common open-ended questions related to Islamic theology.
The timing of the book’s release during the COVID-19 pandemic has given Dorroll additional opportunities to participate in video discussions and interviews while many people are embracing video conferencing technology and searching for online content. An interview with Al Jazeera also will be published soon.
“The people whose opinions matter the most to me are Muslims themselves,” Dorroll says. “I’ve always seen my role as a bridge or translator so that my students can go out in the world with better understanding.”