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Chap 9 Final

Chap 9 Final

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Published by ytur1954
Chapter 9, Islam and Science, Ashgate Publications, 2002
Chapter 9, Islam and Science, Ashgate Publications, 2002

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Published by: ytur1954 on Jan 20, 2012
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The Colonized Discourse
The new Islam and science discourse that emerged from the ruins of theold tradition during the nineteenth century is a “colonized discourse”,steeped in the great chasm that separates our contemporary world from thetraditional Islamic universe and the science it inspired and cultivated foralmost eight centuries. The modern Muslim scientist is unlikely to find anyresonance with his peers in that universe of discourse not because modernscience has discovered some new facts about nature that are fundamentallydifferent from the scientific data of Ibn S
and al-B
. It is not thescientific content that is of importance in this widening breach thatseparates the contemporary Muslim scientist from the Islamic scientifictradition. Had it been the scientific content, the Newtonian and thequantum physics could not have shared a common universe in which theyremain rooted in spite of their vast divergence; both are constructs of aconcept of reality formulated
the metaphysical and philosophical worldview of the modern Western civilization. Thus, it is neither theheliocentricity nor the contemporary atomic theory of matter that has rentasunder the traditional universe of Islam and science discourse; it is thefoundational philosophy of modern science that stands as an unbridgeablechasm between modern science and the Islamic scientific tradition. Thisgreat chasm between the pre-colonial Islam and science nexus and its post-colonial caricature is not the result of any specific theory of science, but thatof a radical recasting of the foundations of science since the seventeenthcentury.It was during the colonial era that the Islam and science discourseaccumulated a heavy overlay of extraneous issues which had never beenpart of the traditional discourse. There are three important facets of thisnew discourse that keep it hostage to the legacy of the colonial era: it isinextricably linked to a feverish demand for the acquisition of Westernscience—which, in turn, is laden with a whole range of issues in the realmsof education and modernity; its apologetics; and a deep layer that is theproduct of the cultural schizophrenia which characterizes the post-colonialMuslim world. Hundreds of works deal with the issues related to variousaspects of Islam in the modern world. In almost all cases, these works positthe challenge of modernity within a social and cultural context and
Islam and Science
invariably find the question of Islam and science as an integral part of thediscourse on modernity.This has led to the emergence of the new Islam and science discourse ina realm that is not its own.
These three facets cast such a deep shadow onthe new discourse that it is almost impossible to separate it from thisburden. This heavy overlay expresses itself in various attempts to “Islamize”modern science and in the extensive literature that attempts to prove theexistence of various modern theories in the Qur
n. Among its otherformulations are (i) the Arab
(renaissance, rebirth) movement of thenineteenth century which focuses on the works of Muslim reformers andthinkers such as Jamal al-Din Afghani, Rif 
ah al-
, and Mu
 Abduh; (ii) a typically Orientalist reconstruction of the problem of decline,formulated by Hamilton Gibb, Gustave von Grunebaum, Louis Gardet,Robert Brunschvig and others, finding expression in various works onIslam and modernity; (iii) the discourse shaped by various secularresponses, such as nationalism and Marxism which emerged in the Muslim world as part of its efforts to dislodge the colonial yoke but which alsoaffected educational, scientific and social institutions; and (iv) formulations which posit the religious response to modernity in the context of a “static”tradition that had been conquered by the “mobile” and “energetic” West.
Two useful works dealing with the challenges of modernity are: Nasr,Seyyed Hossein (1981),
Traditional Islam in the Modern World,
KPI,London and Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (1975),
 Islam and the Plight of  Modern Man
, Longman, London. Also see Rahman, Fazlur (1982,1984),
 Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition,
 The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, London; von Grunebaum,G. E. (1962),
 Modern Islam: The Search for Cultural Identity
, GreenwoodPress, Westport; for a post-modern perspective, see Majid, Anouar(2000),
Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World,
 Duke University Press, Durham & London; for a post-modern analysisof the impact of Mustafa Kemal’s policies on Turkey, see Sayyid,Bobby, S. (1997),
 A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and Emergence of  Islamism,
Zed Books Ltd., London, New York. For a case study of Turkey, see Mardin,
erif (2000),
The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought: A Study in the Modernization of Turkish Political Ideas
, Syracuse UniversityPress, Syracuse, first published in 1962. Other useful references are:Hourani, Albert (1962, reprnt. 1983),
 Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age:1798-1939
, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; Sharabi, Hisham(1970),
 Arab Intellectuals and the West: The Formative Years 1875-1941
,The Johns Hopkins Press, Washington DC.
For various formulations of reform movements, see Enayat, Hamid(1982),
 Modern Islamic Political Thought,
The University of Texas Press, Austin; Gibb, H. A. R. (1947),
 Modern Trends in Islam
, Chicago
The Colonized Discourse
It was also amidst these various patterns of response that there appeareda persistent rhetoric calling for acquisition of modern science. This needseems to have dawned upon all proponents of mutually exclusive response-patterns as well as upon many reformers of the nineteenth century withsuch great urgency that it became the battle cry for all groups, except for asmall segment of traditional
who called for a revival of the Islamicspiritual and ethical norms, rather than acquisition of Western science, as acure. As a result of these developments, it is impossible to extricate thediscourse on Islam and science from the burden it has accumulated in thepast two centuries.Unlike the Islam and science nexus that had developed naturally in theeighth century and which grew in various schools of thought and produceda vast corpus of literature, the new discourse is strained, labored and carriesthe burden assigned to Islam in the discourse: the legitimization of themodernists’ agenda. It is also important to note that most of the championsof the new discourse were neither scientists nor
, but reformers, who wanted Muslims, especially the young Muslim students, to acquire Westernscience. But because this realization was simultaneously attached to the Western cultural baggage which the religious scholars deemed to be athreat to the Islamic way of life, many reformers found themselves pitchedagainst the traditional
; this is how Goldziher’s ill-conceived notionof an Islamic “orthodoxy against foreign sciences” finally arrived in theIslamic polity. The battle-lines were sharply drawn and they covered theentire Muslim world with only minor local variations.The overlay of other issues makes it difficult to explore the newdiscourse without simultaneously discussing the accumulated themes of modernity, development, education, progress and a host of other issuesintertwined in the discourse. Yet, following the threads of these issues is notthe focus of this study; hence the need to draw a fine line between totallyignoring the related issues and delving too deeply in them at the cost of losing focus.
University Press, Chicago; Siddiqi, Mazheruddin (1982),
 Modern Reformist Thought in the Muslim World
, Islamic Research Institute,Islamabad; von Grunebaum, Gustave (1982),
 Islam: Essay in the Nature and Growth of a Cultural Tradition,
Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport; and Smith, W. Cantwell (1957),
 Islam in Modern History
,Princeton University Press, Princeton.

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