Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age: Religious Authority and Internal Criticism

MODERN ISLAMIC THOUGHT IN A RADICAL AGE
  • Book Title:
 Modern Islamic Thought In A Radical Age
  • Book Author:
Muhammad Qasim Zaman
  • Total Pages
11567
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MODERN ISLAMIC THOUGHT IN A RADICAL AGE – Book Sample

modern islamic thought in a radical age – MODERN ISLAMIC THOUGHT IN A RADICAL AGE

Among traditionally educated scholars in the Islamic world there is much disagreement on the crises that afflict modern Muslim societies and how best to deal with them, and the debates have grown more urgent since 9/11.

Through an analysis of the work of Muhammad Rashid Rida and Yusuf al-Qaradawi in the Arab Middle East and a number of scholars belonging to the Deobandi orientation in colonial and contem- porary South Asia, this book examines some of the most important issues facing the Muslim world since the late nineteenth century.

These include the challenges to the binding claims of a long-established scholarly consensus, evolving conceptions of the common good, and discourses on religious education, the legal rights of women, social and economic justice, and violence and terrorism.

 The debates, marked by extensive engagement with Islam’s foundational texts and legal tradition, afford vital insights into the ongoing contestations on religious authority and on evolving conceptions of Islam in the Muslim public sphere. This wide-ranging study by a leading scholar of Islamic intellectual history provides the depth and the comparative perspective necessary for an understanding of the ferment that characterizes contemporary Islam.

Muhammad Qasim Zaman is Robert H. Niehaus ’77 Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Religion at Princeton University. He is the author of Religion and Politics under the Early Abbasids and The Ulama in Contemporary Islam, among other works.

Introduction

This is a book about the content, rhetoric, and ambiguities of social and religious criticism in modern Islam. There is considerable contestation in many Muslim circles today on precisely what the “crises” are that afflict Islam and Muslim societies, at whose doorsteps the blame for the provenance or persistence of these crises should be laid, what Islamic norms, institutions, and practices need to be reformed, and on what authority such reform would take place.

Muslims of varied intellectual orientations have long discussed such matters, and the debates continue, indeed with especial vigor, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Despite their centrality to any sophisticated understanding of religious and political thought, many crucial dimensions of these debates remain little understood, however.

What are some major themes in reformist discourses on Muslim institutions, norms, and practices as they have been articulated in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries? What accounts for the persistence of some of these themes over the course of more than a century and in quite different locales? How do discourses on reform in South Asia and in the Arab Middle East – two regions of great historical, political, and intellectual significance in the modern world – compare with one another?

 In what ways has the Islamic tradition served simultaneously as the object of social and religious critique as well as the ground on which such critique has often rested?

Put differently, what forms has “internal criticism” taken in modern Islam, how does it relate to the specificities of the social, economic, and political context in which it is articulated, and what questions of religious authority are at stake in such criticism? These are among the questions I propose to address in this volume.1

Certain facets of Islamic thought in the modern world have, indeed, been care- fully studied by scholars. Classic studies by Albert Hourani, Malcolm Kerr, and

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