Islamic Modernism is a movement that has been described as "the first Muslim ideological response" to the cultural challenges which attempts to reconcile Islamic faith with modern values regarding nationalism, democracy, civil rights, rationality, equality and progress. It featured a "critical reexamination of the classical conceptions and methods of jurisprudence" and a new approach to Islamic theology and Quranic exegesis.
Some trends in modern Islamic thought include:
- Restricting traditional Islamic law by limiting its basis to the Quran and authentic Sunnah, limiting the Sunna with radical Hadith criticism. A few, such as Ghulam Ahmed Pervez in Pakistan, go further and treat only the Quran as absolutely binding.
- A more or less radical (re)interpretation of the authoritative sources. This is particularly the case with the Quranic texts on polygyny, the hadd (penal) punishments, jihad, and treatment of unbelievers, which conflict with "modern" views.
- An apologetic which links aspects of the Islamic tradition with Western ideas and practices, and claims Western practices in question were originally derived from Islam. Modernist apologetic has however been severely criticized by many scholars as superficial, tendentious and even psychologically destructive, so much so that the term "apologetics" has almost become a term of abuse in the literature on modern Islam.
In relation to the Islamic Caliphate, some Modernists argue there was no glorious history as the first three Caliphs were assassinated. Furthermore, Spain, Africa and Persia were autonomous at different points in history resulting in there being no one Caliphate state, contradicting traditional historiography which relates the Umayyad, Abbasid and Ottoman Caliphates as maintaining general political and territorial integrity with fragmentation and divisions being the exception.
Criticism of Modernism
Criticism of Islamic modernism comes mainly from supporters of Islamism who argue modernist thought is little more than the fusion of Western Secularism with spiritual aspects of Islam.. Other critics have described the modernist positions on politics in Islam as ideological stances.
Critics argue politics is inherently embedded in Islam, a rejection of the secular principle, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's". They claim that there is a consensus in Muslim political jurisprudence, philosophy and practice with regard to the Caliphate form of government with a clear structure comprising a Caliph, assistants (mu’awinoon), governors (wulaat), judges (qudaat) and administrators (mudeeroon).
It is argued that Muslim jurists have tended to work with the governments of their times. Notable examples are Abu Yusuf, Mohammed Ibn al-Hasan, Shafi’i, Yahya bin Said, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ismail bin Yasa, Ibn Tulun[disambiguation needed], Abu Zura, Abu Hasan al-Mawardi and Tabari. Prominent theologians would counsel the Caliph in discharging his Islamic duties, often on the request of the incumbent Caliph. Many rulers provided patronage to scholars across all disciplines, the most famous being the Abassids who funded extensive translation programmes and the building of libraries.
A list of alleged Islamic Modernists
- Jamal al-Din al-Afghani
- Muhammad Abduh
- Rashid Rida
- Agus Salim
- Hassan al Banna
- Mohammad Natsir
- Sayyed Qutb
- Syed Ahmed Khan
- Mahmoud Shaltout
- Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah
- Ali Shariati
- Muhammad Iqbal
- Ghulam Ahmed Pervez
- Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
- Syed Ameer Ali
- Hamiduddin Farahi
- Amin Ahsan Islahi
- Mahmoud Mohammed Taha (Neomodernist)
- Farag Fawda (Neomodernist)
- Yasir Qadhi
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- Islamic modernism, nationalism, and fundamentalism By Mansoor Moaddel
- [Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, Thompson Gale (2004)
- Muhammad 'Abduh, for example, said a Muslim was obliged to accept only mutawatir hadith, and was free to reject others about which he had doubts - Risalat al-Tawhid, 17th Printing, Cairo: Maktabat al-Qahira, 1379/1960, pp. 201-3; English translation by K. Cragg and I. Masa'ad, The Theology of Unity London: Allen and Unwin, 1966, pp. 155-56. Ahmad Amin, in his popular series on Islamic cultural history, cautiously suggested that there were few if any mutawatir hadith (especially, Fajr al-Islam, 10th edition Cairo: Maktabat al-Nahda al-Misriyya, 1965, p. 218; see also G. H. A. Juynboll, The Authenticity of the Tradition Literature: Discussions in Modern Egypt (Leiden: Brill, 1969), and my Faith of a Modern Muslim Intellectual, p. 113.
- See Quran 4:3 on polygyny, 5:38 on cutting off the hand of the thief, 24:2-5 on whipping for fornication (the provision for stoning for adultery is in the Hadith). On jihad and the treatment of unbelievers, the difficult passages for modernists are the so-called "verses of the sword," such as 9:5 on the Arab pagans and 9:29 on the people of the Book – Shepard, W E, op cit, 1987, p. 330
- Smith's criticism of Farid Wajdi in Islam in “Modern History”, pp. 139-59, and Gibb's complaint about "the intellectual confusions and the paralyzing romanticism which cloud the minds of the modernists of today" - “Modern Trends in Islam”, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947, pp. 105-6.
- Shepard, E, “Islam and Ideology: Towards a Typology”, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3, Aug 1987, Cambridge University Press, p. 307
- Nabhani, T, "The Islamic Ruling System", al-Khilafah Publications
- Mawardi, "Ahkaam al-Sultaniyyah"
- Hallaq, W, “The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law”, Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp.173-6, 182-7
- Salahi, A, “Pioneers of Islamic Scholarship”, The Islamic Foundation, 2006, pp. 51-2