Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition (Publications of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies)
"As Professor Fazlur Rahman shows in the latest of a series of important contributions to Islamic intellectual history, the characteristic problems of the Muslim modernists—the adaptation to the needs of the contemporary situation of a holy book which draws its specific examples from the conditions of the seventh century and earlier—are by no means new. . . . In Professor Rahman's view the intellectual and therefore the social development of Islam has been impeded and distorted by two interrelated errors. The first was committed by those who, in reading the Koran, failed to recognize the differences between general principles and specific responses to 'concrete and particular historical situations.' . . . This very rigidity gave rise to the second major error, that of the secularists. By teaching and interpreting the Koran in such a way as to admit of no change or development, the dogmatists had created a situation in which Muslim societies, faced with the imperative need to educate their people for life in the modern world, were forced to make a painful and self-defeating choice—either to abandon Koranic Islam, or to turn their backs on the modern world."—Bernard Lewis, New York Review of Books
"In this work, Professor Fazlur Rahman presents a positively ambitious blueprint for the transformation of the intellectual tradition of Islam: theology, ethics, philosophy and jurisprudence. Over the voices advocating a return to Islam or the reestablishment of the Sharia, the guide for action, he astutely and soberly asks: What and which Islam? More importantly, how does one get to 'normative' Islam? The author counsels, and passionately demonstrates, that for Islam to be actually what Muslims claim it to be—comprehensive in scope and efficacious for every age and place—Muslim scholars and educationists must reevaluate their methodology and hermeneutics. In spelling out the necessary and sound methodology, he is at once courageous, serious and profound."—Wadi Z. Haddad, American-Arab Affairs
well-researched, insightful - a significant contribution
By A Customer - August 24, 2000
Fazlur Rahman is truly one of the greatest scholars of Islamic History, in addition to being very controversial. In this book, Fazlur Rahman explores the transformation of the Islamic intellectual tradition, ranging from philosophy and ethics, to jurisprudence. He brilliantly exposes and analizes the tension that exists in the interpretation(s) of the Qur'an. Rahman ambitiously demonstrates that for Islam and the Qur'an to be what Muslims actually claim them to be, comprehensive in scope and pertinent for every age and society, then Muslims must re-evaluate the Qur'an in positive ways, and in light of modernity and its challenges. In a similar vein, Rahman argues that for Islam to truly demonstrate its principles of social equality and justice, Islamic scholars must re-examine their methodology and hermeneutics. Amongst several other things, Rahman critiques the repetitive rhetoric and anti-philosophical trends that the Islamic intellectual communities faced during... read more
Wonderfully clear writing
By Jamesian "pragma" - June 24, 2005
Here's a sample of the book's prose. After describing the challenge to some traditional Islamic tenets posed by Izz al-Din Ibn Abd al-Salam al-Sulami, and others, Fazlur Rahman writes "But orthodoxy had developed an amazing shock-absorbing capacity: all these thinkers were held in high esteem by orthodox circles as great representatives of Islam, but such statements of theirs as had radical import were invariably dismissed as 'isolated' (shadhdh) or idiosyncratic and were quietly buried. It took real rebels like Ibn Taymiya to make any perceptible dent in this stieel wall of ijma (consensus.)"
I love it. We get a sense of the orthodoxy-preserving process he's describing in visual and tactile terms, and we're drawn in to the "buried" views that it is some part of his goal to resurrect here.
a scholars vision for his religion
By Tron Honto - November 25, 2001
This small work is essential reading for understanding Islam. The previous review suffices, but I just wanted to add a note about the work's content. During my first reading, I thought that the work was overly bogged down with a discussion of education and its development throughout Pakistan, Turkey, etc. However, upon a second reading, I found this to be the most profound and impactful section of the work, as this is the locus of the true reform of Islam and its true modernization will occur. Thus, this work is partly a late scholar's dream for the future of his religion. Though at the same time, it is deeply grounded in history and its realities.
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