Islamic Modernism

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For Liberal movements in Islam, see Liberal movements within Islam.
For the topic of Islam in the contemporary sociology of religion, see Islam and modernity.

Islamic Modernism is a movement that has been described as "the first Muslim ideological response"[1] which attempted to reconcile Islamic faith with modern Western values such as nationalism, democracy, civil rights, rationality, equality and progress.[2] It featured a "critical reexamination of the classical conceptions and methods of jurisprudence" and a new approach to Islamic theology and Quranic exegesis (Tafsir).[1]

It was the first of several Islamic movements – including secularism, Islamism and Salafism – that emerged in the middle of the 19th century in reaction to the rapid changes of the time, especially the perceived onslaught of Western Civilization and colonialism on the Muslim world.[2]

Modernism differs from secularism in that it insists on the importance of religious faith in public life, and from Salafism or Islamism in that it embraces contemporary European institutions, social processes and values.[2]

Overview[edit]

Egyptian Islamic jurist and Islamic modernist Muhammad Abduh
Egyptian Islamic jurist and scholar Mahmud Shaltut

Some trends in modern Islamic thought include:

  • The acknowledgement "with varying degrees of criticism or emulation", of the technological, scientific and legal achievements of the West, while at the same time objecting "to Western colonial exploitation of Muslim countries and the imposition of Western secular values" and aiming to develop a modern and dynamic understanding of science among Muslims that would strengthen the Muslim world and prevent further exploitation.[3]
  • Taking the four traditional sources of Islamic jurisprudence—the Quran, the reported deed and saying of Muhammad (hadith), consensus of the theologians (ijma) and juristic reasoning by analogy (qiyas) -- and reinterpreting the first two sources (the Quran and hadith) "to transform the last two [(ijma and qiyas)] in order to formulate a reformist project in light of the prevailing standards of scientific rationality and modern social theory."[1]
  • Restricting traditional Islamic law by limiting its basis to the Quran and authentic Sunnah, limiting the Sunna with radical Hadith criticism.[4] 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.[5]
    • On the issue of jihad, modernists such as Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida, took a different line than "traditionalist-classicist" scholars, emphasizing that jihad was allowed only as defensive warfare to respond to aggression or "perfidy" against he Muslim community, and that the "normal and desired state" between Islamic and non-Islamic territories was one of "peaceful coexistence."[6][7] According to Mahmud Shaltut and other modernists, unbelief was not sufficient cause for declaring jihad.[7][8] The conversion to Islam by unbelievers in fear of death at the hands of jihadists (mujahideen) was unlikely to prove sincere or lasting.[7][9] Much preferable means of conversion was education.[7][10]
  • 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.[citation needed] 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.[11]

History of Modernism[edit]

Commencing in the late nineteenth century, Muhammed Abduh and Rashid Rida undertook a project to defend and modernize Islam to match Western institutions and social processes. This project superimposed the world of the nineteenth century on the extensive body of Islamic knowledge that had accumulated in a different milieu.[2] These efforts had little impact at first, however were catalysed with the demise of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924 and promotion of secular liberalism – particularly with a new breed of writers being pushed to the fore including Egyptian Ali Abd al-Raziq’s publication attacking Islamic politics for the first time in Muslim history.[2] Subsequent secular writers including Farag Foda, al-Ashmawi, Muhamed Khalafallah, Taha Husayn and Husayn Amin et al have argued in similar tones.[2]

Islamic Modernists[edit]

Criticism of Modernism[edit]

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.[citation needed]. Other critics have described the modernist positions on politics in Islam as ideological stances.[14]

One of the leading Islamist thinkers and Islamic revivalists, Abul A'la Maududi agreed with Islamic modernists that Islam contained nothing contrary to reason, and was superior in rational terms to all other religious systems. However he disagreed with them in their examination of the Quran and the Sunna using reason as the standard. Maududi, instead started from the proposition that `true reason is Islamic`, and accepted the Book and the Sunna, not reason, as the final authority. Modernists errored in examining rather than simply obeying the Quran and the Sunna. [15]

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).[16][17]

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.[18][19] 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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mansoor Moaddel. Islamic Modernism, Nationalism, and Fundamentalism: Episode and Discourse. University of Chicago Press. p. 2. "Islamic modernism was the first Muslim ideological response to the Western cultural challenge. Started in India and Egypt in the second part of the 19th century ... reflected in the work of a group of like-minded Muslim scholars, featuring a critical reexamination of the classical conceptions and methods of jurisprudence and a formulation of a new approach to Islamic theology and Quranic exegesis. This new approach, which was nothing short of an outright rebellion against Islamic orthodoxy, displayed astonishing compatibility with the ideas of the Enlightenment." 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, Thompson Gale (2004)
  3. ^ "Islamic Modernism and Islamic Revival". Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ Peters, Rudolph (1996). Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam: A Reader. Princeton: Marcus Wiener. p. 6. 
  7. ^ a b c d DeLong-Bas, Natana J. (2004). Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad (First ed.). Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 235–7. ISBN 0-19-516991-3. 
  8. ^ Peters, Rudolph (1996). Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam: A Reader. Princeton: Marcus Wiener. p. 77. 
  9. ^ Peters, Rudolph (1996). Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam: A Reader. Princeton: Marcus Wiener. p. 64. 
  10. ^ Peters, Rudolph (1996). Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam: A Reader. Princeton: Marcus Wiener. p. 65. 
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Kurzman, Charles, ed. (2002). "The Emanciaption of Woman and the New Woman". Modernist Islam, 1840-1940: A Sourcebook. Oxford University Press. pp. 61–9. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d Watson, The Modern Mind, 2001: p.971
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ Mortimer, Edward (1982). Faith and Power : the Politics of Islam. Vintage Books. p. 204. "He agreed with them [Islamic Modernists] in holding that Islam required the exercise of reason by the community to understand God's decrees, in believing, therefore, that Islam contains nothing contrary to reason, and in being convinced that Islam as revealed in the Book and the Sunna is superior in purely rational terms to all other systems. But he thought they had gone wrong in allowing themselves to judge the Book and the Sunna by the standard of reason. They had busied themselves trying to demonstrate that `Islam is truly reasonable` instead of starting, as he did, from the proposition that `true reason is Islamic`. Therefore they were not sincerely accepting the Book and the Sunna as the final authority, because implicitly they were setting up human reason as a higher authority (the old error of the Mu'tazilites). In Maududi's view, once one has become a Muslim, reason no longer has any function of judgement. From then on its legitimate task is simply to spell out the implications of Islam's clear commands, the rationality of which requires no demonstration." 
  16. ^ Nabhani, T, "The Islamic Ruling System", al-Khilafah Publications
  17. ^ Mawardi, "Ahkaam al-Sultaniyyah"
  18. ^ Hallaq, W, “The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law”, Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp.173-6, 182-7
  19. ^ Salahi, A, “Pioneers of Islamic Scholarship”, The Islamic Foundation, 2006, pp. 51-2
  • Watson, Peter (2001). The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century. Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-008438-3.