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Islamic Modernism I: New Methods

Questions for Seminar:
  • Why did nineteenth-century reformers think that Islam needed modernizing?
  • What intellectual techniques did Islamic modernists use to produce progressive interpretations of Islamic law?
Assigned Reading:

Research the following three thinkers, to establish an outline of their biographies and intellectual positions: Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad 'Abduh, Muhammad Rashid Rida. Useful places to look include the Encyclopaedia of Islam (note that it spells al-Afghani's first name Djamal al-Din) and Albert Hourani's book cited below.

Also read:

Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age: Religious Authority and Internal Criticism (Cambridge University Press, 2012), chapter 4, "Contestations of the Common Good."

Primary Sources:

Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi, "Guiding Mankind to Act on the Basis of Telegraphic Messages," in Modernist Islam, 181-7.

Further Reading:

Although its Arab world framework is problematic, an excellent starting point for understanding Islamic modernism and the context in which it emerged in Egypt and Syria is Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939 (Cambridge University Press, 1983), especially chapters 4 through 9.

John Donaghue & John Esposito, Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives (Oxford UP, 1982).
Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim, Pragmatism in Islamic Law: A Social and Intellectual History (Syracuse UP, 2015). See chapter 5 for a discussion of the important concept of talfiq (combining rulings from different madhhabs to create new doctrines) in modernist thought.
Nikki Keddie, "Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani," in Pioneers of Islamic Revival, ed. Ali Rahnema (Zed, 1994), 11-29.
Charles Kurzman, Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook (Oxford UP, 1998).
Charles Kurzman, Modernist Islam, 1840-1940: A Sourcebook (Oxford UP, 2002).
John Livingstone, "Muhammad 'Abduh on Science," Muslim World 85 (1995), 215-34.
Muhammad Rashid Rida, The Muhammadan Revelation, trans. Yusuf T. DeLorenzo (al-Saadawi Publications, 1996).
Mark Sedgwick, Muhammad Abduh (Oneworld, 2010).
Rifa'a Rafi' al-Tahtawi, An Imam in Paris: Account of a Stay in France by an Egyptian Cleric, 1826-1831, ed. Daniel Newman (Saqi, 2011).