Philosophy, Religion, and Science: Makers of Contemporary Islam

Article excerpt

Makers of Contemporary Islam, by John L. Esposito and John 0. Voll. Oxford, UK and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001 216 pages. Notes to p. 240. Further reading. to p. 243. Index to p. 257. $35 cloth; $17.95 paper.

In Makers of Contemporary Islam, John Esposito and John Voll focus on the lives and work of nine "modern Muslim activist intellectuals." Since none of the nine have come from traditional `Mania backgrounds, they represent a wide spectrum of views on the role of Islam in modem society and politics. While all of these individuals lived in the second half of the 20th century, their work and writings span, roughly, three different periods in the development of Islamic thought: Ismail Ragi al-Faruqi, Khurshid Ahmad, and Maryam Jameelah in the 1960s; Hasan Hanafi, Rashid Ghannoushi, and Hasan Turabi in the 1970s and 1980s; and `Abdolkarim Soroush, Anwar Ibrahim, and `Abdurrahman Wahid in the 1990s. Significantly, these people also represent quite different sorts of Islamic societies, from North Africa to Southeast Asia. Some have been at the centers of power in their countries, (often being forced out eventually) while others have either been seen as enemies of the state or have avoided political controversy. Many of them are at odds with other Islamic activists in their societies.

The authors provide in each case a biographical sketch, a description of the person's involvement in Islamic movements and other activities, a comparison with other intellectual figures in their homelands, their relationship to the local political scene, and an analysis of their ideas extracted largely from their writings. Presenting this information in such a fashion allows the reader to see easily the comparisons among these figures and to realize how little consensus there is about the direction Islam should take in the political and cultural life of societies where Muslims form a majority.

One of the major themes that runs throughout the works of these figures is whether Islamic law (shari'a) should be established as the law of the state. There are those such as Sudan's Hasan Turabi who advocate this position, while Indonesia's Abdurrahman Wahid calls for the separation of religion and the state, viewing Islamic legalism as a product of the past. …