Islam and Modernity: Key Issues and Debates

Islam and Modernity: Key Issues and Debates

Islam and Modernity: Key Issues and Debates

Islam and Modernity: Key Issues and Debates

Synopsis

Recent events have focused attention on the perceived tensions between the Muslim world and the modern West, with the sense that Islam appears resistant to internal development and inherently pre-modern. However Muslim societies have experienced most of the same structural changes that have impacted upon all societies: massive urbanization, mass education, dramatically increased communication, the emergence of new types of institutions and associations, some measure of political mobilization, and major transformations of the economy. These developments are accompanied by a wide range of social movements, and by complex and varied religious and ideological debates. This is the first book to provide an introduction to and overview of the debates and questions emerging regarding Islam and modernity. Key issues are selected to give readers an understanding of the complexity of the phenomenon, an historical perspective, and access to several manifestations of modernity in Muslim life such as social change, gender politics, and shifts in religious authority.

Excerpt

The idea of the present book emerged in 2002 when the editors began developing a postgraduate course on Islam and modernity at the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) in Leiden, The Netherlands. Our aim was to engage with Western social thought as well as with the ideas and visions of nineteenth- and twentieth-century thinkers in the Muslim world concerning the political, socio-economic and cultural transformation of their societies. We found that there was no single book we could use to introduce the range of subjects that we thought essential for such a course. The scholarly literature on various aspects of Islam and modernity is rich and complex and rapidly expanding, but there is a dearth of general works that offer an interdisciplinary perspective and overview of the major questions and debates in this literature. We convened a workshop at ISIM on ‘Islam and Modernity, Key Issues and Debates’ in October 2004. The present book is an outcome of continued deliberations and revisions of the papers presented at the workshop.

The book aims to provide reflections on major debates that have taken place within and between the various scholarly disciplines that have addressed questions of modernity in connection with Islam and Muslim societies. The book is organised in three parts. The first part, ‘Conceptualising Modernity’, consists of two chapters that introduce theoretical and general issues in modernity studies. The four chapters in the second part, ‘Negotiating Modernity’, offer an analysis of the processes of modernisation of Muslim societies, focusing on certain specific aspects of their social and political dynamics. The four chapters in the third part, ‘Debating Modernity’, survey how Muslim scholars and intellectuals have perceived and responded to issues of modernity. The contributors to the book are drawn from among the best-known scholars in the field, whose earlier work we found most seminal and stimulating in our teaching.

The immediate background to the importance of producing such a textbook is under everybody’s eyes. Dramatic events have focused public attention on the potential tensions between the Muslim world and the modern West. Are such tensions rooted in real differences or in distorted perceptions? Compared to the other world religions, Islam appears either more resistant to internal development, with less prospect of change or, in spite of all efforts at reform, inherently pre-modern. Islam, it is frequently claimed, has experienced neither a major reformation, as has Christianity, nor been touched by Enlightenment. Or, paradoxically, as some observers would have it, Islam would no longer be Islam if truly reformed.

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