Theology of Unity

Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s (1849-1905) Reformist Islam and His Interpretation of ‘Authenticity’, ‘Civilisation’ and ‘Religion’

Ammeke Kateman
Master Thesis - Research Master History


Theology of Unity

Cover: Muḥammad ‘Abduh (1849-1905) Photograph was probably taken in London in 1884 Mark Sedgwick, Muhammad Abduh (Makers of the Muslim World Series – Oneworld Publications: Oxford/New York 2010) 47.



Kateman@student.Theology of Unity Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s (1849-1905) Reformist Islam and His Interpretation of ‘Authenticity’.nl Telephone: 06-43007997 Student Number: 0394971 3 . 25 October 2010 Master Thesis Research Master History (Onderzoeksmaster Geschiedenis) University of Amsterdam (UvA) Contact Information: Ammeke Kateman Retiefstraat 21-4 1092 VV Amsterdam Ammeke.uva. ‘Civilisation’ and ‘Religion’ Ammeke Kateman Supervised by: Professor James Kennedy and Dr Richard van Leeuwen Amsterdam.

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That turned out to be a very good choice. you were the one who had to endure most of my crankiness and absent-mindedness. there are many things to thank for you for. Hoofthuis as a consequence of our parallel schedules. Prof James Kennedy. ‘You’re Still the One’ (released in 1998). Samuel Zwemer and the ethnically correct pronunciation of the latter’s name. preferably in the mensa) and Carlijn (the one asking after Muḥammad’s well-being). I will not forget your advice to write and argue more assertively. I am very much looking forward to the next four years. 5 .THEOLOGY OF UNITY ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Although I associate the terminology of ‘acknowledgements’ very much with highly acclaimed books published by the Oxford. for “putting a ring on it”!’ 1 Cheesy. my sisters Sanne and Aïcha for thinking the world of me. I would like to thank you very much for offering me to supervise my thesis in the first place – even though its subject lies miles outside of the borders of Dutch history. Alan Menken. So here I go. I am now able to say (though not in a fabulous red dress. In a real Beyoncélike manner. I am also very thankful for a more personal support throughout writing my thesis – and please skip these if you cannot stand sentimentalism: my parents Annemarie and Wim for raising me rather well (although I love to say that they did it completely wrong). as I am still very much intrigued by the man.): ‘Thank you. I would like to thank you for spending lots of time and tons of patience on me. my shaky translations and all of my attempts to tackle the literature which you recommended – and very often borrowed – to me. you were the one who introduced me to Muḥammad ‘Abduh in 2007. Third. This needs some practice still. I am very proud of your independence of mind in these things and extremely thankful for you wanting to spend your life with me – even if that includes years in a ‘whole new world’. but: ‘Looks like we’ve made it. I would like to add that I really enjoyed our regular lunches and lengthy talks in the canteen of the P. Young-Kon.. 2 Honey. however. A special place – of course – is reserved for the love of my life: Young-Kon. Besides these scholarly acknowledgements..C. Cambridge. I am still convinced that this is something which I should allow myself. Also. Dr Richard van Leeuwen. First of all. Victoria (the one who shares my ambitions. or perhaps Stanford University Press. Friends of mine even started to ask me how ‘Muḥammad’ is doing lately! Second. my dear friends – especially Liesje (the one whom I talk with for hours and hours)..’ 3 1 2 Beyoncé Knowles. 3 Shania Twain. ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’ (released in 2008).. and although this association causes me to feel rather self-conscious while writing my own ‘acknowledgements’. but very true. ‘A Whole New World’ (released in 1992 as part of the Aladdin soundtrack). I enjoyed our lengthy conversations about Christian missionary work. And I thank my class mates – especially Klaas for his intellectual support and being so much fun.

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Quran). I regularly repeat its meaning after the first appearance of the term.If an English equivalent exists.e. .Arabic terms for which there are no English equivalents or whose Arabic spelling is considered significant for the argument of this thesis are fully transliterated (including diacritical marks) and as such italicised by me.When I use an Arabic term for the first time. Whenever deemed relevant.THEOLOGY OF UNITY TRANSLITERATION AND PRONUNCIATION A. System of Transliteration For the transliteration of Arabic words in this thesis. . I follow the detailed transliteration guidelines of the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (IJMES) with a few adjustments: 5 .html [7 October 2010].edu/ijmes/pages/transliteration.No grammatical endings are displayed.cuny.I fully transliterate names of historical figures (for example. I use the English translation of an Arabic term. i. This means that I omit hamzas and ‘ayns as well as diacritical marks with regard to these words. I transliterate the Arabic terms in titles of secondary literature according to the IJMES transliteration system.The initial hamza is always dropped. . . as set forth in detail below. 5 Ibidem. I follow the Van Dalespelling in English. .I spell names of Arabic cities and countries with an accepted English spelling according to the English norms. I give a representation of its meaning in English. I add the Arabic term in italics in brackets. 7 . To accommodate the readers who are unfamiliar with the Arabic terms.gc. sentences and titles in this thesis. including diacritical marks. 4 Website of the editorial office of the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies: http://web. in the main text. Muḥammad ‘Abduh).If an (originally) Arabic term is included in the English language according to the Van Dale Online Professioneel Engels (for example. For the specific rules regarding the transliteration of Arabic words. mufti.I display the names of Arabic authors of secondary literature according to the Latin spelling of their names under which they publish (for example. The original transliteration of these words can be found in the corresponding reference as well as in the bibliography.To avoid confusion. Aziz al-Azmeh). . imam. ulama. . . I follow the general transliteration guidelines of the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (IJMES) with a few adjustments: 4 .

The definite article al is always a lowercase. as in ‘shy’.THEOLOGY OF UNITY . jīm. rā’. qāf.gc. while its feminine counterpart is ‘-iyya’. I display the transliteration of letters about which ambiguity may arise. khā’. nearing a soft khā’. 6 Website of the editorial office of the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies: http://web. Transliteration Chart and Pronunciation I follow the transliteration chart of the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (IJMES). ū ī long ‘u’ – to be pronounced as in the cow-sound boo. . ‘ gh q ‘ayn. sh ṣ shīn. In Arabic iḍāfa constructions.The Arabic tāʾ marbūṭa is rendered a. ḥā’.cuny. ghayn. 8 . ṭ ṭā’. an emphatic glottal stop – as in the Cockney substitution for medial t (for example: ‘wa’er’). as in ‘that’. r pronounced with tongue tip. when one whispers ‘house’ to someone far. an emphatic k. 6 Here. as in ‘thing’. dhāl. an emphatic s which renders the following vowel more round/muffled.pdf [7 October 2010]. aspirated h – for example. as in ‘yet’. to be pronounced as ‘ee’ – as in Eeny Meeny. ā long ‘a’ – to be pronounced as a long ‘è’ (for example in French: père) or as a round long ‘a’ around one of the emphatic letters. th j ḥ kh dh r thā’. Note: not to be confused with the transliteration of the ‘ayn – that is: ‘. B. as the famous letter ubiquitous in Dutch (for example: ‘goed’). an emphatic d. ṣād. This is represented by a hyphen. ḍ ḍād. it is rendered at. . .The a of the definite article al is elided when preceded by a vowel. uvular r. produced deep in the throat. y yā’. as in ‘joy’. ’ hamza.The adjectival nisba-suffix is displayed as ‘-ī’.

...............................................1 2................................................................. Civilisation and Scientific Progress Civilisation Mission Civilisatrice Intérieure and the Hidden Islamic Mission of ........THEOLOGY OF UNITY CONTENTS Acknowledgements A.. ………………………........... .................6 ........ True Rationality Mission Civilisatrice of the Fittest ..........2 3...................................5 2........................ .. ‘Civilisation’ and ‘Religion’ The Expanded ‘Horizon’ of Muḥammad ‘Abduh ‘Abduh’s Reformism and Authentic Islam Authenticity and Textualist Essentialism The Original Sources (Arabic: Uṣūl) of Islam 2 Authenticity and True Islam 2. ........................................................................................................ .......... …………………………………………………............................................................................ ............................. ...................................... Contents ............................................................................. 11 11 15 21 23 28 32 39 39 41 46 50 53 60 67 67 70 74 78 85 85 89 Introducing Muḥammad ‘Abduh A New Perspective on Tradition A Synthetic Solution of Modernity The Traditional Perspective on Muḥammad ‘Abduh A Synthetic Approach to ‘Authenticity’............ .........................................................1 1...5 1................ 1 Introducing Muḥammad ‘Abduh 1.....................1 3............ ............................... .......4 2....... 4 Islam as (a) Religion 4........... ............................. .............................2 1............ ……………………………………..................................................... …………….............. 3 An Islamic Mission of Civilisation 3. ................................................................... History.. B................................................3 2................. ............. ............... ...........4 1............................................................. .....4 Might and Unity: Ranking the Communities and the Survival ......................3 1............................................................ ……………………….. 5 7 7 8 9 Transliteration and Pronunciation System of Transliteration Transliteration Chart and Pronunication .......................................2 2. Authenticity and the Historical Essence of Islam Ijtihād as a Rational Source (Arabic: Uṣūl) and the Principles (Arabic: Uṣul) of Islam ............................................................................................................................................. ………………………………………………….................3 3................................................................................2 Opposing Essentialisms Differentiating Religions 9 .................6 ………………………………………………………….........................1 4............................

.......... ................................4 ...........................................................Consulted Translations from the Arabic Language B............................................................................... Primary Sources ...................Consulted in a European Language (Originally or Translated) ........................................ ...............................................Articles (in Books and Journals) 10 ......................................Consulted in the Arabic Language 104 104 104 105 105 106 106 109 .... ‘Abduh’s Theology of Unity ‘Abduh and Beyond .........THEOLOGY OF UNITY 5 Theology of Unity 5..............1 5..... ..................................... .................................................................................................................................................... Bibliography A...............................Books ........ ................. .............................. ‘Civilisation’ and ‘Religion’ ... Secondary Literature ........................... 95 95 96 98 101 Theology of Unity A Synthetic Understanding of ‘Authenticity’.............................................. .................................................................................................................. ..........................2 5.................................................................................. ................................................................ .................................3 5...............

Secret History. 77.’ Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. 11 Blunt. the British government should not intermeddle with this movement. except for ensuring its continued existence. Blunt. that Islam cannot move. 12 With his account on The Future of Islam in 1881. 9 This new interpretation of Islam would usher in an age of progress and prosperity. as it aimed at being ‘in harmony with modern knowledge’. 8 Contrary to the general learned opinion in his home country in the second half of the nineteenth century. Secret History. The fact is. Future of Islam. 46 and 144-145. Future of Islam. 174. according to all rule written and spoken by the orthodox. 10 Blunt.CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH I know. “E pur si muove”. Blunt. Knopf: New York 1922 – first edition in 1907) 406. and yet in spite of it I answer with some confidence in the fashion of Galileo. His book The Future of Islam (1882) was a collection of five articles which were published the year before in The Fortnightly Review. 11 Blunt was particularly impressed by one of these reformers. Being a Personal Narrative of Events (Alfred A. He believed that there was a liberal reform of Islam at hand which would be widely supported throughout the Arab lands. the British aristocrat and poet Wilfrid Blunt could not wait to disclose his analysis of the latest developments in the ArabMuslim world to his fellow-countrymen in 1881. 10 According to Blunt. Islam does move. with whom he developed a lifelong friendship: the Egyptian religious scholar Muḥammad ‘Abduh (1849-1905). Blunt was probably one of the first external observers to identify a liberal Muslim reform movement in the late nineteenth century. 79-81. Trench: London 1882) 135. But how to say it? / Out of the East a twilight had been born. / It was not day. The poem. The Wind and the Whirlwind included verses such as: ‘I have a thing to say. v. Yet the long night was waning. Cf. The Future of Islam (Kegan Paul. 9 He also devoted a poem of thirteen pages to his hopeful prediction of the Arab lands. Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922) in The Future of Islam (1882) 7 1. 11 . Blunt’s prediction for the Muslim world was remarkably positive. Future of Islam. Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt. The reform of Islam would be carried out completely by an indigenous movement of intellectuals – some of whom Blunt had already met while in Egypt.1 Introducing Muḥammad ‘Abduh After an extensive journey throughout the Arab world and Egypt in particular. / And the spent nations watched it less forlorn. 12 Blunt. in which 7 8 Wilfrid Scawen Blunt.

his considerations in this respect were significantly affected by questions of identity: that is. ‘Abduh’s ideas on Islam are widely acknowledged to have been highly influential on the development of modern Islamic thought until now – supported by Riḍā’s incessant posthumous praise of his master. An Essay on Religious Unbelief and Political Activism in Modern Islam (Cass: Londen 1966). Muḥammad ‘Abduh responded to the rising Western dominance in the Islamic lands culturally and politically. and the Colonial State’. but remained working beneath the surface. 16 See for biographical studies on ‘Abduh and his historical context: Hourani. ultimately. 130-160. the unacknowledged basis of the religious ideas of the ordinary educated Muslim. these matters of imitation versus authenticity find expression in the twin concepts of modernity and tradition. 15 With his reinterpretation of Islam. Mark Sedgwick. he wished to reinterpret Islam to its true and authentic nature as to reconcile it with the needs of modern times – as he understood these with the help of European philosophy. Afghani and ʿAbduh. 14 Because of his importance within modern reformist thought. according to Blunt – was a pivotal figure. similar questions revolving around the (actual as well as desirable) relation between the West and Islam characterise the study of the ideas of Muḥammad ‘Abduh. whether an imitation of the West and its modernity necessarily implies a loss of Islam. ‘Abduh’s reinterpretation of Islam was to a great extent coloured by his views on the desirable relation between Islam and the West. the National Public Sphere. of authenticity and. ‘The Sociology of “Islamic Modernism”: Muḥammad ‘Abduh. At the level of historiography. Itzchak Weismann is critical of this widely accepted view of ‘Abduh as a seminal figure within Islamic modernism.THEOLOGY OF UNITY Muḥammad ‘Abduh .’ Albert Hourani.‘one of the best and wisest. Muḥammad ‘Abduh is still considered in academic circles as one of the main representatives of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century historty of Islamic reform – alongside his teacher Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī and his pupil Rashīd Riḍā. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age (1798-1939) (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1983 – revised paperback edition. does this imply a Blunt. Elie Kedourie commented on the limited importance of the reformism of ‘Abduh and his teacher al-Afghānī for the Muslim world as a whole: Elie Kedourie. Arabic Thought. see: Weismann. His teaching was in the end to be rejected by many of those to whom he addressed himself. 13 Unquestionably. 105-110. Particularly. ‘Abduh agreed there was a need for change. 15 Albert Hourani introduced ‘Abduh in his standard work Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age as follows: ‘He was to become a more systematic thinker than his master [al-Afghānī. 104-121. of a particular collective Islamic identity. and most interesting of men’. 14 13 12 . Itzchak Weismann. MR. Pioneers of Islamic Revival (Zed Books: London 2005 – revised paperback edition. Furthermore. At his turn. first edition in 1994) 30-63. The Maghreb Review (MR) 32 (2007) 1. For Riḍā’s role in the magnification of ‘Abduh’s importance. If ‘Abduh is considered a modern thinker. Thus. not only in Egypt but far beyond. 16 As such. Pioneer of Islamic Reform’ in: Ali Rahnema (ed. Like his fellow-reformers. Secret History. Yvonne Haddad. ‘Muhammad Abduh. AK] and have a more lasting influence on the Muslim mind. but refused to accept that this would imply the end of Islam. first edition in 1962) 130. he occupied a middle position in the Muslim world between so-called Westernisers – who pleaded to adopt Western-style modernisation full-heartedly which included a disposal of Islam – and conservative ulama – who rejected any change inspired by the example of the West as a means to preserve the traditional identity of Islam. 80. ‘Sociology of “Islamic Modernism” ’.). Muhammad Abduh (Makers of the Muslim World Series – Oneworld: Oxford/New York 2010).

Leif Stenberg and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh (ed. In this sense. and Modernity (Syracuse University Press: Syracuse 2004) 329. On the other hand. Significantly. ‘civilisation’. I will unravel in this thesis how ‘Abduh’s conception of ‘authenticity’. 17 13 . all three of these concepts played a vital and disputed role in the nineteenth-century European discourse on colonisation and thereafter modernisation. Neither an analysis solely in the European tradition nor an explanation exclusively in terms of an ongoing Islamic tradition suffices in case of ‘Abduh’s ideas. Ottoman. It addresses diachronic continuity versus rupture (tradition). Culture. as the universal dissemination of European ideas have never amounted to complete Westernisation in an intellectual respect. Scholars such as Albert Hourani. Adhering to this perspective of synthesis. and ‘religion’ combined elements of the European as well as Islamic tradition and thereby produced new meanings. I characterise Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s reinterpretation of Islam according to its profound synthetic quality. there 3-5.CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH complete (intellectual) uniformity with the West and thus a radical departure from the Islamic tradition of thought? Plainly formulated – as the opposition tradition versus modernity is easily liable to obscuring instead of clarifying its underlying questions and premises – such a perspective inquires into questions of similarity and difference in time and space. anthropologist Samira Haj refuted this characterisation of ‘Abduh by emphasising his continuity with the Islamic intellectual tradition. related to synchronic uniformity versus difference on a global scale (modernity). For. Religion. his thought represents a departure from the Islamic intellectual tradition. His ideas are a particular combination of the modern European as well as Islamic tradition. his particular conceptions of ‘authenticity’. his ‘Europeanness’ represents a discontinuity within the Islamic tradition. Global Modernity and the Local Boundaries (French/German.). Birgit Schaebler. 17 Abandoning the level of historiography for history once again. Only a two-tradition perspective as proposed here does justice to the complexities of universal modernity of which I consider ‘Abduh to be a representative. Macolm Kerr and Aziz al-Azmeh emphasise ‘Abduh’s uniformity with the universally disseminated European tradition of thought as a sign of his modernity. Necessarily. ‘Abduh’s intellectual context was indeed characterised by a – quite recent and initial phase of a – universal dissemination of European ideas. I will demonstrate how the results of ‘Abduh’s act of synthesis – that is. Recently. modernity and tradition. ‘Civilizing Others. This renders ‘Abduh’s ideas in terms of similarity and difference. I seek to revise both of these characterisations in this thesis. and Arab) of Savagery’ in: Birgit Schaebler. Instead. thereby resembling and differing from both at the same time. to an extent which had not been encountered before. on the one hand. ‘Abduh’s adoption of European ideas did not engender a complete break with the Islamic (intellectual) tradition. Globalization and the Muslim World. Cf. These questions of tradition and modernity resonate particularly in the ongoing debate about ‘Abduh’s intellectual ‘Islamicness’ or ‘Europeanness’.

A Study of the Modern Reform Movement. 18 14 . Thus. 19 Ira Lapidus attempts to distinguish Islamic Modernism from Islamic Reformism by attributing the latter specifically to ulama. M. Modern Trends in Islam (University of Chicago Press: Chicago 1954 – first edition in 1947). (both Turkish. 21 Moaddel. A History of Islamic Societies (University of Cambridge: Cambridge 2002 – second edition. Armando Salvatore and Martin van Bruinessen (ed. Arabic Thought. Reformists such as Aḥmad Khān (1817-1898) in India and the Young Ottomans in Turkey struggled with similar questions revolving around Islam’s relation to the West. I do not think this is a useful distinction with regard to Muḥammad ‘Abduh. 1 and 29-30. ‘Introduction. and Egypt: Mansoor Moaddel. Hamilton Gibb. 21 Likewise. inaugurated by Muḥammad ‘Abduh (Oxford University Press: London 1933). Again popularized by Adams [in Islam and Modernism in Egypt (1933). (…). there 39. Nafi. moreover. Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century (IB Tauris: London/New York 2008 – paperback edition. ‘Abduh was a modernist in terms of his wish to modernise Islam without denying Islam’s relevance in modern times. Nafi. but a reformist as a member of the ulama (that is. As mentioned before. For the Turkish-speaking Ottoman Empire: Şerif Mardin. ‘Abduh resolves the problem of authenticity versus imitation altogether in his thought. 107. 18 Reformists or modernists – both of these designations are commonly used with regard to ‘Abduh. Islam and modernity.). and Fundamentalism: Episode and Discours (University of Chicago Press: Chicago 2005). Lapidus himself uses the two epithets interchangeably in his description of ‘Abduh’s reform project. ‘Abduh is considered one of the historically more important representatives of the broader reform movement in which he partook – commonly referred to as ‘Islamic Modernism’ or ‘Islamic Reformism’ in academic circles.A. however. Modernity and the Transformation of Muslim Societies’ and ‘Egypt. Islamic Modernism. being a ‘ālim). MR. Nationalism. Adams. The Reformers of Egypt (Croom Helm: London 1978 – first edition in 1976). 20 Significantly. first edition in 2004) 28-60. Indeed. as I will demonstrate in this thesis. ‘The Rise of Islamic Reformist Thought and its Challenge to Traditional Islam’ in: Suha Taji-Farouki and Basheer M.and Arabic-speaking parts of) the Ottoman Empire. The outcomes of this study do not stand alone.R.’ Weismann. Ira Lapidus. Key issues and debates (Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh 2009) 237-260. first edition in 1988) 253-468 and 512-534. the issues which characterised ‘Abduh’s thought and study come to the fore in the history and historiography of Islamic Reformism as a whole. 39. ‘Sociology of “Islamic Modernism” ’. Iran. ‘Islamic Modernism’ in: Muhammad Khalid Masud. ‘Rise of Islamic Reformist Thought’.THEOLOGY OF UNITY ‘civilisation’. Islamic Modernism. too. Islam and Modernism in Egypt. Gibb. Iran and Egypt.A. 20 For Egypt: Charles C. the issue had already been raised by Ignaz Goldziher [in Vorlesungen über der Islam (1910). Following Lapidus’ definitions. he presents his plea for synchronic conformity with the West as a regained diachronic continuity within Islam. Muhammad Khalid Masud. AK]. Zaki Badawi. but henceforth I will stick to ‘reformist’ in this thesis 19 – are thought to have manifested themselves in India. there 459 and 517-518. two-thirds of whose work is dedicated to ‘Abduh. as he tends to equate the imitation of the West – in as far as he deems this necessary . the title of his main work of theology in 1897. AK]. the aforementioned Itzchak Weismann comments on the origin of the terminology of Islamic Modernism as follows: ‘The appellation of Islamic modernism was coined by Western scholars. Secularism and Islamic Modernity’ in: Ira Lapidus.with a return to authentic and original Islam. or its modernity. Nafi (ed. who apparently derived it from contemporary Catholic modernism. Basheer M. there 237-238. As such. and was then taken up by the influential scholar H. For the Arabic-speaking parts of the Ottoman Empire: Hourani.). and ‘religion’ – specifically advance the conformity and harmony of the West and Islam – thereby warranting the collective characterisation of ‘Abduh’s ideas as a Theology of Unity (Arabic: Risālat al-Tawḥīd). The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought: A Study in the Modernization of Turkish Political Ideas (Princeton University Press: Princeton 1962). For India.

24 Rudolph Peters.CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH questions of imitation versus authenticity – of modern uniformity versus traditional continuity – come to the fore in the studies on this period of thought. For now. 23 Ahmad Dallal. Islam. Islamic Reformism. between tradition and modernity. bis zum 20. ‘The Origins and Objectives of Islamic Revivalist Thought. but predominantly in the wider context of Islamic Modernism. 22 This history of indigenous Islamic reform would explain Islamic Reformism (at least partially) independent of the West. Jahrhundert und die Rolle des Islams in der neueren Geschichte. this example illustrates how much the history of Islamic Reformism as a whole – and the subsequent twentieth-century history of modern Islamic thought. They consider eighteenth-century reformers such as the Indian Wālī Allah (1703-1762) and ‘Abd alRaḥmān al-Wahhāb (1703-1792) of the Arabian Peninsula as the forerunners of nineteenth-century reformists in the Muslim World. 24 See for biographical studies: Osman Amin. 1. Antikolonialismus und Nationalismus’ in: W. As such. Die Welt des Islams (WI) 20 (1980) 1/2.and nineteenth-century reformists – and synchronically – within the eighteenth. Muhammad ‘Abduh (Near Eastern Translation Program: Washington DC 1953) [translated by Charles Wendell. Gunnar Hasselblatt. too – is characterised by questions and concerns of the (actual and desirable) relation between Islam and the West. independent of Western influence. ‘Erneuerungsbewegungen im Islam vom 18. 1750-1850’ Journal of the American Oriental Society (JAOS) 113 (1993) 3. pointing out the extensive ideological differences both diachronically – between the eighteenth. Scholars such as John Voll and Rudolph Peters claim that crucial elements of the Islamic Reformists’ discourse were already existent in eighteenth-century reform movements. Continuity and Change (Syracuse University Press: Syracuse 1994 – first edition in 1982) 5.). untersucht an seiner Schrift: 22 15 . U. Voll. 341-360. however. Rudolph Peters. Most of these studies demonstrate a strong biographical tendency. Ende. Ahmad Dallal disagrees with Peters and Voll. his ideas are generally not studied in their own right. or as a precursor for twentieth-century Islamic thought. In addition. first edition in 1989) 90127. however. there 131. a better understanding of Muḥammad ‘Abduh with regard to similar issues – as this thesis aspires to – can advance insights into the complexities of the experience of Muslim intellectuals at the onset of modernity. Der Islam in der Gegenwart (Beck: München 2005 – fifth edition. 131145. there 341-342 and 358-359. 23 In the next chapter. I will come back to this discussion.2 The Traditional Perspective on Muḥammad ‘Abduh Because of ‘Abduh’s widely acknowledged significance in modern Islamic thought. a large volume of literature has been published on him and his thought from the beginning of the twentieth century until now. prior to a strong Western presence. Herkunft und Auswirkungen der Apologetik Muhammed ‘Abduh’s (1849-1905). Steinbach and Renate Laut (ed. John O.and early-nineteenth-century reformist movement. ‘Idjtihād and taqlīd in 18th and 19th Century Islam’. originally published in Arabic in 1944]. An important example is the discussion about whether the explanation of Islamic Reformism solely as a response to the West conceals an earlier history of Muslim reform.

Muhammadanism (Oxford University Press: London 1961 [first edition 1949]) 176-177. 26 Weismann. ‘The Sociological Thought of Muhammad Abduh’. quality and thoroughness which probe into a tightly confined aspect of ‘Abduh’s thought or biography. 42 (2003) 2. Yasir S. The Maghreb Review (MR) 32 (2007) 1. 91103. Rethinking tradition in modern Islamic thought (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1996) 4. Scholars tended to emphasise ‘Abduh’s intellectual Westernness and portrayed him as predominantly functioning within the modern European Islam und Christentum im Verhältnis zu Wissenschaft und Zivilisation (PhD-thesis: Göttingen 1968). ‘Sociology of “Islamic Modernism” ’. ‘Muhammad Abduh 1905†.M. Ekev Academic Review (EAR) 9 (2005) 24. 26 The attractiveness of ‘Abduh’s ideas to his European observers has resulted in the scholarly appointment of him as the intellectual hero of Islamic Reformism or Islamic Modernism. Muḥammad ʿAbduh : eine Untersuchung seiner Erziehungsmethode zum Nationalbewusstsein und zur nationalen Erhebung in Ägypten (PhD-thesis: Hamburg 1936). 49 (2005) 2. Omer Aydin. The Islamic Quarterly (IQ) 30 (1986) 3. ‘God’s Custom Concerning the Rise and Fall of Nations: The Tafsīr al-Manār on Q 8:53 and Q 13:11’. ‘Muḥammad ‘Abduh and Maqāṣid al-Sharī‘a’. Yusuf. Nabeel A. Gibb. Amin. ‘Sociology of “Islamic Modernism” ’. 48-75. this scholarly identification with him led to a misrepresentation of both ‘Abduh and Islamic Reformism as a whole. he continues. 16 . IQ. MR. MW. Vatikiotis. Baaklini. ‘Muhammad Abduh on Predestination and Free Will’. Ibrahim.R. Mahcer Lotfi. 207-262. ‘Abduh evoked identification and ensuing appreciation much better than more eccentric or angry men such as al-Afghānī and Riḍā. 145-161. ‘Abduh’s appeal to his European analysts particularly rested upon his moderate stance regarding the West. John W. Katharina A. See for ‘Abduh as a precursor to later political and legal developments: Muhammed el-Bahay. IQ. the Political and Legal Theories of Muḥammad ‘Abduh and Rashīd Riḍā (University of California Press: Berkeley 1966). 27 For examples of unbridled academic admiration of ‘Abduh see: H. Brown. Eine Studie zu den Reformbestrebungen im modernen Ägypten’. 85 (1995) 3-4. 1991). Islamic Reform. 108. Andreas Kemke. See for ‘Abduh in the wider context of modernist Islamic thought: Hourani. Seferta. 2-30. Oliver Scharbrodt. Besides the possible exaggeration of ‘Abduh’s role and importance within a broader movement of reform. 215-234. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (BSOAS) 70 (2007) 1.A. cited by Weismann. his rationalism and his openness to Western science. Ivanyi. Islams and Modernities (Verso: London 1996 – revised paperback edition. Horten.R. Khoury. ‘Waren Ğamāl ad-Dīn al-Afġānī und Muḥammad ‘Abduh Neo-Mu‘tazilieten?’. MR. 1905) zum Wakf (Peter Lang: Frankfurt a. Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied. because of his moderation and Westernness. Beiträge zur Kenntnis des Orients. ‘Abduh seemed to be ‘one of their own’ to many European as well as to secular Arabic observers. ‘Abduh: l’Esprit et la Lettre’. WI. Daniel Brown describes the dangers in appointing individuals to represent a larger movement of thought as follows: ‘Perhaps the greatest danger inherent in such an approach is of focusing on thinkers whose ideas meet with our approval. Islam and the Political Discourse of Modernity (Ithaca Press: Reading 1997) and Aziz al-Azmeh. Muḥammad ‘Abduh and his Risālat al-Wāridāt (Treatise on Mystical Inspirations)’. ‘The Salafiyya and Sufism. according to Weismann. ‘Muḥammad ‘Abduh. 25 M. Afghani and ‘Abduh and Malcolm H. 89-115. 27 So.J. Arabic Thought. first edition in 1993).’ Daniel W. ‘Muhammad Abduh and the Quest for a Muslim Humanism’. Yusuf H. 32 (2007) 1. Cf. we judge someone significant because his or her ideas are attractive. Itzchak Weismann points to the great appreciation or even admiration for him in academic circles. 32 (2007) 1. 42-52. 69 (1979) 1. ‘The Concept of Religious Authority according to Muhammad ‘Abduh and Rashid Rida’. 159-164. 75-82. Livingston. MR. Thomas Hildebrandt. 4 (1958) 4.THEOLOGY OF UNITY Nevertheless. 104. Jahrbuch der deutschen Vorderasiengesellschaft (BKO) 13-14 (1916/1917) 83-114 and 74-128. Stiftungen im muslimischen Rechtsleben des neuzeitlichen Ägypten : die schariatrechtlichen Gutachten (Fatwas) von Muḥammad ʿAbduh (st. Kerr. MW. 25 In search of an explanation for assigning ‘Abduh a special significance within modern Islamic thought. Muhammad Abduh. Sein Leben und seine theologisch-philosophische Gedankenwelt. Armando Salvatore. ‘Muḥammad ‘Abduh on Science’. 147-156. MR. and Abdo I. P. Kedourie. there is quite a large number of articles of varying length. An Ideology of Development’.

Examples of ‘Abduh as a liberal.CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH intellectual tradition. 142. Muhammad Abduh. 31 Others emphasised ‘Abduh’s strong resemblance to the European tradition of thought to the point that ‘Abduh became completely identified with it. WI. however. authors such as Hourani seemed to conclude that the European intellectual influence was so pervasive that ‘Abduh himself was some kind of an Egyptian version of Auguste Comte or Herbert Spencer. IQ. 130-160. ‘Sociological Thought of ‘Abduh’. ‘Islamist Revivalism and Western Ideologies’. by which he actually conveyed European ideas: In all cases. ‘Abduh’s Mu‘tazilism often merely served to reinforce his (Western-like) rationalism. 44-53. ‘Waren al-Afġānī und ‘Abduh Neo-Mu‘tazilieten?’. 29 Hourani. a humanist. In this view. Herewith. Aljunied. Accordingly. Hourani. Arabic Thought. it refines Haj’s broad sketch and does not reproduce it. Reform. and modernity (Stanford University Press: Stanford 2009). Haj. The emphasis on ‘Abduh’s intellectual Europeanness often found its counterpart in a neglect of the Islamic tradition in which ‘Abduh was thoroughly educated as a religious scholar (Arabic. Albert Hourani regretfully admitted that he might have overemphasized the reformists’ ‘modernity’ and novelty instead of continuity in the preface to the 1981 edition of his Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age. 28 In fact. scholars such as Elie Kedourie in 1966 and Aziz al-Azmeh in 1993 postulated a radical and complete break with the Islamic tradition. Arabic Thought. a sociologist and a modernist – as Samira Haj has also pointed out recently in her Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. 29 Thus. Arabic Thought. However. Reconfiguring Islamic tradition. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. ‘Abduh has been labelled a liberal. Indeed. For a thorough analysis of ‘Abduh’s supposed Mu‘tazilism: Hildebrandt. They stressed the innovativeness of ‘Abduh and other reformists in comparison to the then prevailing Islamic orthodoxy and the general vein of Islamic tradition. which is still unquestionably the standard work on nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Islamic thought (1798-1939). AK] appropriation of what was known as social Darwinism was conditional upon the concepts of The following historiographical analysis is indebted to Samira Haj’s observations. Aziz al-Azmeh. Arabic Thought. 31 For example: Hourani. Vatikiotis. Accordingly. 30 Hourani. Cf. viii-ix. ‘Abduh and Muslim Humanism’. ‘The Humanism of Mohammad ‘Abduh’. History Workshop Journal (HWJ) 32 (1991) 1. rationality. 4-6. humanist. ‘Abduh was depicted as a rather passive receptor or imitator of European knowledge. Samira Haj. although he was highly credited for his early recognition of the merits of modern European thought. Progressive Islam (PI) 1 (april/mei 1955) 9. IQ. 199. ‘Muhammad ‘Abduh’ in: Hourani. 13. 28 17 . 30 The only trace of Islamic tradition that was generally acknowledged in the academic literature on ‘Abduh was his supposed Mu‘tazilism – a more rationalist strand of Islamic theology which enjoyed its heyday in the ninth century and whose opinions in ‘Abduh’s time were considered heretical. Sedgwick. singular: ‘ālim) at the Azhar University in Cairo. sociologist or modernist: Osman Amin. Islamic reformism’s [in which ‘Abduh figures prominently according to Aziz al-Azmeh. ‘Abduh’s undeniable use of traditional Islamic vocabulary was characterised as mere form.

G. Arabic Thought.’ by Hourani: Hourani. Modernity (Stanford University Press: Stanford 2003) 220. al-Azmeh and Kedourie do not seem to allow for either synchronic or diachronic differentiation within Islamic tradition. 35 More importantly. profundity of insight and learning. Proceedings of the Dutch Oriental Society Held in Leiden on the Occasion of its 50th Anniversary.. Kedourie resonates Lord Cromer’s observation on ‘Abduh: ‘I suspect that my friend Abduh. although he would have resented the appellation being applied to him. 144. Formations of the Secular. Islam. they tend to ignore ‘Abduh’s comparability with earlier strands of thought within the Islamic tradition – such as the Islamic Revivalism from the eighteenth century onwards. implied in the foregoing. was in reality an Agnostic.J. critical evaluation of other people’s beliefs seems arrogant and tactless. This may seem at first glance an unexceptionable proposition. and sincerity of purpose. easy in this way to distort if not destroy the precise meaning of the Islamic concepts (. this secularist as well as European-centred perspective was not merely an interpretation of ‘Abduh intellectually. It often also had a strong normative character with its particular understanding of what (traditional) Islamic religion is and what it is not.) was in reality an agnostic” in: P.). Indeed. Kedourie but also Hourani treat the Islamic tradition (and even the Islamic religion) as a finalised and uncontested product. 34 Samira Haj criticised this implicit premise in her 2009 work Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. 8th-9th May 1970 (Brill: Leiden 1971) 71-74.. Modern Egypt. or older and by then dismissed or neglected strands of thought such as Mu‘tazilism or the work of Ibn Kaldūn (1332-1406) – or consider this irrelevant for ‘Abduh’s intellectual ‘Islamicness’. Acta Orientalia Neerlandica. 180. 121. even though the discourse assumed the form [emphasis mine] of argumentation based on interpreting verses of the Koran: (…). II.. that the practical significance of a set of abstract social ideas may at least be partly dependent on their intellectual worth: on their coherence.. Likewise. Afghani and ‘Abduh. 35 Cf. It was the standard which ‘Abduh’s ideas had to meet to be of any worth. but in actuality many people today are embarrassed by it. this was formulated in negative terms. As such. cited and refuted by: J. 17. Jansen. Asad. they only focus on his deviation from Islamic orthodoxy as it was formulated by the conservative Sunni religious scholars – or. Pestman (ed. Christianity. as he argued that ‘Abduh adhered only nominally to Islam in order to reach the Islamic masses. of course.’: Kerr. “I suspect that my fried Abduh (. Islams and Modernities.). 32 Elie Kedourie extended this argument of external Muslimness to ‘Abduh’s religiosity. 33 32 18 . where all cultures are equal and non are more equal than others. In their analysis of ‘Abduh’s ideas as actually European.THEOLOGY OF UNITY social Darwinism. al-Azmeh. Kedourie. whenever his reasoning did not coincide with the European secular and al-Azmeh.’ Cromer. contemporary – or modern – European thought acquired the status of a fixed and univocal normative point of reference. whenever ‘Abduh deviated from this standard. Talal. 34 This type of reasoning becomes manifest in statements such as these: ‘It was. within which there is no sign of (further) change.of the late nineteenth century: the very Islam ‘Abduh intended to reform. 36 This resulted in a frequent qualification of ‘Abduh’s thought as apologetic and eclectic to the point of inconsistency. Islamic Reform. ulema (Arabic: ‘ulamā’) . In this age of foreign aid and cultural exchange programs. In this work. So. 33 In their stress on ‘Abduh’s novelty and modernity.W. 36 Kerr states this argumentation rather explicitly in his introduction: ‘The theme of this book follows from the assumption.

Modern Trends in Islam. The ‘remnants’ of Islamic tradition were blamed particularly for ‘Abduh’s innovative flaws. or even language. if he was to survive in modern times. 38 Gibb. 37 19 . 142-143. See: Haj. Cf. 16 and 105. 39 This quote of Kerr’s points out the underlying argumentation of the normative use of the modern European intellectual tradition and its consequent dismissal of Islamic tradition. 67. Hourani. 40 There were also those who thought that the Islamic world was not capable of modernity. the European intellectual tradition since the Enlightenment equated modernity. As it took Europe centuries to develop this intellectual product. there was no analytical room to represent ‘Abduh’s intellectual creativity in a positive respect.did gain ground after ‘Abduh died. Malcolm Kerr states in his Islamic Reform. Islamic Reform. It resulted from the conviction that complete Westernisation – including intellectual Westernisation – was the only viable option for the rest of the world en route to prosperity in the rapidly changing world of the late nineteenth century. 109. that is. however. Ibidem. Arabic Thought. 106-107. 191. 13. the modern world. These voices do not dominate the historiography on ‘Abduh. Islamic tradition was not only outdated because of its traditionalism. Cited by: Itzchak Weismann. 41 It was therefore crucial for ‘Abduh to adopt the European ideas completely and not half-heartedly. Rotraud Wielandt. but also because of its religiosity. here. Gibb tells us. This type of reasoning only resonates in Hamilton Gibb’s analysis that ‘Abduh’s ideas were inherently fruitless. Thus. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. because of its religion. Islamic fundamentalism – self-proclaimed upholders of tradition . Hamilton Gibb ascribed flaws such as these to the very recent introduction of the rational analytic method in the Muslim world. 38 In this perspective.CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH scientific norms of ‘Abduh’s day. while the Islamic intellectual tradition coincided with tradition in the opposite sense of modernity. 39 Kerr. Westernisation or modernisation Kerr. ‘Sociology of Islamic Modernism’. 40 It was time for the rest of the world to leave history behind and to follow the West as their guide into modernity. MR. Islamic Reform. Hasselblatt. race. The Political and Legal Theories of Muhammad ‘Abduh and Rashīd Riḍā from 1966: What does matter is that the classical doctrines [which ‘Abduh and RiDā sought to use as a basis in the modern age] were of a nature inappropriate to modern institutionalization unless stood upside down and turned inside out. Apologetik Muhammad Abduhs. imitation of the West was the key. at times understandable but never desirable. also in an intellectual respect. and their modern reformist proponents were not willing to go that far. 41 Note the linguistic ambiguity of the term ‘tradition’. and. modernisation was generally seen as a desirable universal future destination. In this perspective. Innovation can only be rejected as deviation. Offenbarung und Geschichte im Denken moderner Muslime (Steiner: Wiesbaden 1971) 17. For most modernisation theorists. as they could never truly reach the Islamic masses who were still caught up in tradition and irrationality. Significantly. In addition. Westernisation thus equated modernisation. 37 Sympathising with ‘Abduh in a rather paternalistic way. one cannot expect ‘Abduh to fully get it instantly. until well into the 1970s.

Arabic Thought.. many of ‘Abduh’s academic observers interpreted his reformed Islam as the first step in the process of the secularisation and simultaneous disappearance of Islam. Roy Wallis and Steve Bruce. 42 20 . it would remain backward and caught up in tradition.) reformed Islam is Islam no longer. one group of his disciples were later to carry his doctrines in the direction of complete secularism. This immediately recalls Lord Cromer’s famous analysis of reformed Islam in Modern Egypt. 199. AK] was convinced that the educated Egyptians were “demoslemised Moslems and invertebrate Europeans”. He had intended to build a wall against secularism. 45 Hourani. 46 Tradition – even in the general sense of historical (intellectual) continuity – and modernity do not go together in this perspective. A fruitful synthesis of local tradition and universal modern intellectual history. as cited by Mansoor Moaddel: “Islam cannot be reformed (. there 8-9. and how it can be’. as ‘Abduh intended with his reformist Islam. 43 Samira Haj rightly summarises this kind of reasoning as: ‘to modernise Islam is to betray it’. Religion and modernity in India and Britain (Princeton University Press: New Jersey 2001) 15. Wagner. he [Cromer. as we shall see. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavorial Sciences (2001) 9954-9961. Alternatively. ‘Modernity. for example. as Albert Hourani did in Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age: Without intending it. this perspective does not suffice to analyse ‘Abduh analytically. 81. it was bound to disappear. Religion and Modernization.. 43 Hourani. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. seems an impossibility. 46 P.” (…).THEOLOGY OF UNITY implied secularisation at the least. 42 As Islam was not deemed capable of secularisation because of its supposedly inherent confusion of worldly and spiritual power. 44 So. Because of these flaws and implicit normative premises. Arabic Thought. full modernisation necessarily amounts to a rather radical break in Islamic intellectual history – which is one of the profoundly ahistorical implications of the classical terminology of modernity. History of the Concept’. this was both an undesirability as well as an impossibility in the long run according to many of ‘Abduh’s academic observers. Sociologists and Historians Debate the Secularization Thesis (Clarendon Press: Oxford 1992) 8-30. Peter van der Veer. So. 144. Imperial encounters. ‘Abduh was perhaps opening the door to the flooding of Islamic doctrine and law by all the innovations of the modern world. he had in fact provided an easy bridge by which it could capture one position after another. it is something else.1016/B0-08-043076-7/00133-9 . Moaddel. 45 In their view. which was exemplified by violent Islamic fundamentalism.June 2010]. It was not an accident that. 144-145. Islamic Modernism. although Hourani identified ‘Abduh’s main aim as: ‘To show that Islam [emphasis mine] can be reconciled with modern thought.). 44 Haj. ‘Secularization: the Orthodox Model’ in: Steve Bruce (ed. there 9955 and 9956 [doi:10.

CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH 1.3 A New Perspective on Tradition

Recently, more and more authors respond to the aforementioned flaws and omissions of the European-centred perspective by explaining aspects of ‘Abduh’s ideas in an Islamic intellectual context. Thereby, they point to contemporaneous as well as to earlier intellectual movements which originated in the Islamic world within the framework of the Islamic tradition. From a conservative Islamic nineteenth-century perspective, these could be considered as either orthodox or less orthodox, but they were all somehow part of the Islamic instead of the European intellectual tradition. 47 In their theorising contributions to this type of articles, Daniel Brown in Rethinking tradition in modern Islamic thought (1996) and Samira Haj in Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition (2009) suggest a comprehensive reinterpretation of Islamic reformism ‘on its own terms’ instead:
Like a specter haunting the Western mind, Islamic revivalism appears in distorted forms, rarely conceptualized on its own terms. Instead, Islam is framed through a particular reading of the experience of post-Reformation Europe, an uncritical self-understanding of the emergence of European modernity. 48

By this, Brown and Haj mean to explain scholars such as ‘Abduh – who figures prominently in both works – within a dynamic Islamic tradition. Opposing the interpretation of tradition as fixed and unchanging – which prevails implicitly in the European-centred perspective, they implement Talal Asad’s definition of Islam as a ‘discursive tradition’. According to Asad, a tradition is not defined by a shared agreement on matters of opinion, but by a specific rationality which is itself grounded in specified texts and institutions. Thus, Asad stresses the existence of diversity within one tradition. Debates can arise ‘over the meanings of [the tradition’s] texts (even over which texts are formative)’, but this does not deny the underlying coherence of a tradition. 49 Following this definition of tradition, ‘Abduh’s reformed Islam should be regarded as an expression of ‘an ongoing process of rethinking the traditions’ in which he participated, according to Brown and Haj. 50 At the same time, ‘Abduh’s reinterpretation of Islam is an attempt at ‘rethinking orthodoxy’ and, as such, contest over religious authority. 51 This does not exclude ‘Abduh from the Islamic tradition, however. Indeed, intellectual activity and creativity within a specific religious

Ibrahim, ‘ ‘Abduh and Maqāṣid al-Sharī‘a’, MR; Scharbrodt, ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’, BSOAS; Hildebrandt, ‘Waren al-Afġānī und ‘Abduh Neo-Mu‘tazilieten?’, WI. 48 Haj, Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition, 1. 49 Ovamir Anjum, ‘Islam as a Discursive Tradition: Talal Asad and His Interlocutors’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (CSSAAME) 27 (2007) 3, 656-672, there 662-663; cf. Stout’s definition of democracy as a tradition: Jeffrey Stout, Democracy & Tradition (Princeton University Press: New Jersey 2005 – fifth print; first edition in 2004) 3. 50 Brown, Rethinking Tradition, 3. 51 Haj, Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition, 30.



THEOLOGY OF UNITY tradition is defined here by ‘the pursuit of an ongoing coherence by making reference to a set of texts, procedures, arguments and practice’ instead of by agreeing on a set of theological doctrines. 52 Despite ‘Abduh’s unorthodoxy according to nineteenth-century standards, this perspective on tradition enables Haj to position ‘Abduh’s reformism in the historical practice of religious criticism, which she considers as one of the underlying rationalities of the Islamic tradition. In the historical imagination of Islam, the mere passing of time since the revelation of the Qur’an is thought to entail the danger of corruption (Arabic: fasad) and degeneration (Arabic: taqahqur). One of the leitmotivs in Islamic history was thus to purify contemporary Islam from accretions for which the mere unfolding of history was responsible. 53 Therefore, ‘Abduh’s striving for Islamic reform should not be considered exceptional or as a mere expression of his European ideas. In their use of Talal Asad’s definition, Haj and Brown explicitly oppose the conception of tradition as opposed to modernity. Tradition is not static and thereby belonging to the past, but – as Haj quotes Talal Asad:
To Asad, Islamic tradition is a set of “discourses that seek to instruct practitioners regarding the correct form and purpose of a given practice that, precisely because it is established, has a history. These discourses relate conceptually to a past (when the practice was instituted, and from which the knowledge of its point and proper performance has been transmitted) and a future (how the point of that practice can best be secured in the short or long term, or why it should be modified or abandoned), through a present (how it is linked to other practices, institutions, and social conditions). 54

In denying this opposition, Haj rejects the necessity of a fundamental break between ‘Abduh’s ideas on Islam and the pre-modern Islamic tradition and simultaneously rejects the complete identification of ‘Abduh’s ideas with those of the modern European tradition. Modern Western thought – or modernity according to the Eurocentrist perspective – is only one of the many external influences on the continuous reformulation or rethinking of Islamic tradition in both Haj and Brown’s analyses. 55

Ibidem, 5. Haj, Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition, 7-8. 54 Talal Asad, The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam (Georgetown University: Washington DC 1986) 14. Cited by Haj, Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition, 4. 55 Brown compares the influence of modernity to that of a “prism” through which Islamic tradition is refracted and thus redefined. Brown, Rethinking Tradition, 3. Haj is in this respect influenced by Alasdair MacIntyre’s definition of tradition as “an argument extended through time in which certain fundamental agreements are defined and redefined in terms of two kinds of conflict: those with critics and enemies external to the tradition who reject all or at least key parts of those fundamental agreements, and those internal, interpretative debates through which the meaning and rationale of fundamental agreements come to be expressed and by whose progress a tradition is constituted.” Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame University Press: Notre Dame 1988) 12. Cited by Haj, Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition, 4 (quote) and 5 (elucidation on quote).



CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH This Islamic perspective on ‘Abduh and other Islamic Reformists clearly has its advantages as against the Eurocentrist one. The reformulation of tradition as a dynamic discursive tradition, inspired by Talal Asad, is very fruitful indeed. It draws attention to innovation and change in response to contemporary challenges as well as to ‘Abduh’s indebtedness to an Islamic intellectual tradition, which displays specific styles of reasoning and conceptualising. 56 As a comprehensive perspective for characterising ‘Abduh – or other Islamic Reformists in that respect – it does not suffice, however. A singular Islamic perspective only draws attention to dynamic continuities within the Islamic discursive tradition; ‘external’ influences only serve to explain an ‘internal’ metamorphosis. As a solely diachronic perspective, as Haj suggests by her ‘traditional’ perspective, Haj neglects synchronic explanations which were particular and significant to ‘Abduh’s intellectual situation at the onset of modernity. Haj’s perspective seems to stem from the wish to guard the local in Islamic intellectual history from the threat of universalising Westernisation. 57 Although this wish is certainly justified in a historiographical context in which the force of modernisation was quite overpowering, one should not retreat in its counterpart and explain ‘Abduh solely in the perspective of the Islamic tradition. I argue that neither of the discursive traditions should fulfil a predominant role in the analysis of ‘Abduh’s ideas, as neither one does justice to ‘Abduh’s complex historical context, which Mansoor Moaddel rightly characterises as one of extensive discursive pluralism. 58 In addition, ‘Abduh’s main aim was to provide a synthesis between Islam and European thought – as Hourani explained. 59


A Synthetic Solution of Modernity

Instead of emphasising a single tradition as all-clarifying, I seek to explain ‘Abduh’s ideas in relation to two traditions at the same time: the (modern) European tradition and the Islamic tradition. Although this duality of traditions is perhaps not a unique trait in intellectual history, it is particular
See: Anjum, ‘Islam as a Discursive Tradition’, CSSAAME, 662. Reinhart Koselleck exemplifies this type of reasoning in my opinion as follows: ‘An analogous connection exists between spoken speech, synchronically, and the diachronically given language that always takes effect in a conceptual-historical way. What happens is always unique and new, but never so new that social conditions, which are pregiven over the long term, will not have made possible each unique event. A new concept may be coined to articulate experiences or expectations that never existed before. But it can never be too new not to have existed virtually as a seed in the pregiven language and not to have received meaning from its inherent linguistic context.’ Reinhart Koselleck, ‘Social History and Conceptual History’ in: Reinhart Koselleck, The Practice of Conceptual History. Timing History, Spacing Concepts (Stanford University Press: Stanford 2002) [Translated from German by Todd Samuel Presner et al] 20-37, there 30-31. 57 This impression is strengthened by Haj’s referral to her mother – to whom she dedicates the book – as ‘(…) herself a bearer of the tradition’. 58 Moaddel, Islamic Modernism, 17 and 27-30; Idem, ‘Discursive Pluralism and Islamic Modernism in Egypt’, Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ) 24 (2002) 1, 1-29. 59 Hourani, Arabic Thought, 139 and 144.


This was the result of a universal acculturation which has filtered through modern state structures. whose role was later partially assumed by non-European countries such as Japan. which have become globalized. 62 Three related points must be stressed (again) here. The Birth of the Modern World. although European in proximate origin. there viii.). 276-325.N. the hallmark of (ideological) modernity is a degree of intellectual universalism which was not encountered before in history. Here. Timothy Mitchell. Reinhard Schulze. 61 In this perspective. forms of discourse and communication.THEOLOGY OF UNITY applicable since the nineteenth century. First. ‘civilisation’. WI (1990) and Peter Gran’s Islamic Roots of Capitalism (1979) both demonstrated eighteenth-century developments in the Islamic world which may have led to institutions or ideas which resemble European developments. Islam and modernity. Muhammad Khalid Masud and Armando Salvatore ‘Western Scholars of Islam on the Issue of Modernity’ in: Muhammad Khalid Masud.). which seemed to prove the cultural superiority of Europe and thus justified the adoption of European ideas. This process was continuously reinforced because of Europe’s dominance in the political and economic fields. ‘Abduh’s involvement in and appropriation of European thought might be regarded as part of an early stage of this ongoing process. Taking my clues from Hans-Georg Gadamer’s dialectic theory on interpretation. Peter Gran. I follow C. 1760-1840 (University of Texas Press: Austin 1979). a repertoire which. there 49. though of Western origin. 33. has in the last century and a half become a universal patrimony beyond which political and social thought is inconceivable. which takes both traditions into account. educational and legal system. first edition in 2004) 12. in: Timothy Mitchell (ed.) I mean that the tropes and notions of political and social thought available today form a universal repertoire that is inescapable. 60 The universal impact of European thought is aptly formulated by Aziz al-Azmeh as follows: (. As such. the history of modern Islamic thought and of Muḥammad ‘Abduh in particular is in need of a specific analytical approach. I propose a synthetic perspective which addresses ‘Abduh’s indebtedness to both traditions as well as his transcendence from both. However. 36 (1996) 3. with the onset of universal modernity. ‘Was ist die islamitische Aufklärung?’. and ‘religion’ in terms of Islam and the West. 60 24 . the adoption of ideas from the European tradition does not necessitate a loss of intellectual Reinhard Schulze’s ‘Was ist die islamitische Aufklärung?’. terms of political life and much more. Egypt. Bayly in appointing Europe’s modernity an influential role as the first ‘exemplar and controller of modernity [sic]’. WI. Key issues and debates (Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh 2009) 36-54. Islamic Roots of Capitalism. this synthetic perspective enables me to render ‘Abduh’s conception of ‘authenticity’. 61 al-Azmeh. Islams and Modernities. Armando Salvatore and Martin van Bruinessen (ed. C. As such. Global Connections and Comparisons (Blackwell: Carlton/Malden/Oxford 2008 – paperback edition.. Questions of Modernity (University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis 2000) vii-x.. modernity refers to an intellectual modernity which was (predominantly) connected to the increasing universality of the European discursive tradition since the nineteenth century. tradition and modernity and similarity and difference – which does justice to the complexity of ‘Abduh’s late-nineteenth-century modernity. native not only to their points of origin. ‘Preface’.A. 62 Cf. 17801914. but worldwide [emphasis mine]. Bayly. except very marginally.

too. 7281. the interpreter necessarily brings his anticipations to the text as ‘fore-structures’ of understanding.stanford. Secondly. Hans-Georg Gadamer’s dialectic theory on understanding might help to formulate a framework for the analysis of ‘Abduh along the lines just sketched. Orientalism and Religion.) of the selfconstituting subject. the first two points imply that an instance of non-Western intellectual modernity always portrays differences as well as similarities to both the local as well as the European tradition. as Haj has demonstrated effectively. Richard King.CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH identity or authenticity. as he actively strove to reach an accommodation between the two. According to him. Every tradition incorporates elements from outside it. Eisenstadt. Zalta (ed. Gadamer explains this by referring to theological interpretation. perhaps. Thus. Still. Truth and Method (Sheed & Ward: London 1989 – first edition 1975) [translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald Marshall. Because of his emphasis on the fundamental historical subjectivity of every interpretation and the importance of tradition in this process. despite their unorthodoxy according to nineteenthcentury standards. fragments which do not contain the signs of any essential belonging inscribed in them. ‘Recovering the Subject. Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore 1993) 14. This applies to ‘Abduh particularly. more accurately. ‘Abduh was not ‘actually’ Auguste Comte or Herbert Spencer dressed in a robe and turban. 65 In his hermeneutical theory. intellectual modernity could be conceived as a new sub-tradition in both – as well as a tradition of its own. we can proceed to the idea that though histories and identities are necessarily constructed and produced from many fragments [sic]. Cited in: Talal Asad. From such a rejection. 64 S. in which an interpretation of the revealed texts is necessarily an application of these texts at the same time. 1-29. although global intellectual modernity is dependent upon the diffusion of European ideas and discourses. it is not necessarily identical to them. as a consequence. originally published in German as Wahrheit und Methode in 1960] 265-379.N.’ R. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (SEP) (Summer 2009) [http://plato. Daedalus 129 (2000) 1. 63 25 . O’Hanlon. Following O’ – August 2010]. Orientalism and Religion. that a consciousness or being [sic] which has an origin outside itself is no being at all. as approvingly cited by Talal Asad: ‘[One must reject] the myth (. Also: Cf. 63 Thus.. ‘Abduh and other modern Islamic thinkers can still be said to function in an Islamic tradition. ‘Abduh functioned within an Islamic tradition as well as in a European tradition. Genealogies of Religion. or. Thirdly. 64 Certainly. Postcolonial Theory. ‘Hans-Georg Gadamer’ in : Edward N. as this would suppose downright passivity of the historical subject outside the West as well as a complete and a-historical rupture with the (religious) past. following Talal Asad’s definition of a dynamic tradition. this does not cause the history of the subaltern to dissolve once more into visibility. he stresses the necessary and positive role of ‘prejudice’. Hans-Georg Gadamer. King. Subaltern Studies and Histories of Resistance in Colonial South Africa’. As such. The global nature of modernity does not imply complete Westernisation on a global basis. his ideas would probably have been regarded as heterogeneous and deviant in both traditions. moreover. India and “The Mystic East” (Routledge: Londen/New York 1999) 14. nor to the non-West. This is not peculiar to modernity.). 65 In broad lines this representation of Gadamer’s ideas draws upon: Jeff Malpas. ‘Multiple Modernities’. Modern Asia Studies 22 (1989) 1.

Interpretation. ‘Civilizing Others’. As such. Therefore. As his interpretation of the European texts transformed his own horizon. Considering the ontological nature which Gadamer ascribes to understanding and his explicit comparison with theological understanding. however. new contexts of meaning can be established. Although Gadamer’s conception of tradition as a unifying bond in history between text and interpreter is not as such applicable to ‘Abduh’s situation of traditional duality. SEP. With the ‘fusion of the horizons’ of text and interpreter. Thus. moreover. 68 Asad. Schaebler. This does not disqualify his interpretation. I propose to analyse ‘Abduh’s Islam as a synthetic result of such a dialectic process of understanding – or translation. 67 Gadamer refers to these ‘forestructures’ as a ‘horizon’ (German: Horizont). Gadamer’s idea of an inherent subjectivity of interpretation is to be welcomed. Likewise. Each text within a tradition has its specific and particular bond to the tradition’s underlying unity. Indeed. as Talal Asad would prefer to call it. however. 66 Gadamer’s emphasis on the interpreter’s subjectivity does not amount to complete subjectivism. It is an inevitable trait of character of any interpretation. it should be remembered – following Talal Asad’s redefinition of tradition – that traditions themselves allow for differentiation within. then. this process worked vice versa. Genealogies of Religion. 308-309. The ‘fore-structures’ through which the interpreter understands the text are – at least partially – an effect of a shared history (tradition). 66 67 Malpas. I think it fit to employ Gadamer’s theoretical insights to formulate an analytical framework for a better understanding of ‘Abduh’s ideas. 5. 12. When viewing ‘Abduh’s Islam as a synthesis of two traditions. it opens up to analysing the creativity of ‘Abduh’s particular fusion of ‘horizons’. Gadamer. the text itself is also the product of a certain ‘horizon’. 295. Gadamer’s perspective draws positive attention to the subjectivity as well as creativity of understanding – out of which new intellectual productions result – which is not purely individual but situated in a shared historical context. Cf. On the one hand. Nor does this preclude change. Truth and Method. every understanding is always oriented towards the interpreter’s contemporary concerns and interests. 26 . as well. the interpreter never completely escapes from his ‘horizon’. two points should be addressed beforehand. Gadamer. 68 ‘Abduh’s reinterpretation of Islam testifies to his synthetic act of interpreting ideas from the ‘European’ discursive tradition from the viewpoint of the ‘Islamic’ discursive tradition in which he was thoroughly educated and in which Islam had been defined for ages. Truth and Method. Gadamer formulated his theory specifically in response to claims of objectivity within the humanities. ‘Hans-Georg Gadamer’. is a ‘fusion of horizons’ (German: Horizontverschmelzung) between text and interpreter. however.THEOLOGY OF UNITY Similarly. As such. Instead of rendering ‘Abduh’s Islam in terms of ‘deviance’ from either the European or Islamic tradition. the horizons of the European as well as the Islamic tradition were fused in ‘Abduh’s Islam.

technologically and culturally. his ideas on what Islam was or should be were a constant factor co-determining his interpretations – in a manner reminiscent of the theological application to which Gadamer refers – while his interpretations at their turn influenced his conception of Islam. ‘Abduh’s ideas fitted in particularly well with elements in the Islamic tradition which were deemed heterodox compared to nineteenth-century standards.’ 71 However. economically. A Reader (Columbia University Press: New York 1994) 150-161. Orientalism and Religion. ‘Abduh himself consciously strove to accommodate Islam to the intellectual challenge as posed by (secular as well as Christian) European ideas. 70 Moaddel. elements within the European tradition which were critical of Christianity or positive of (Classical) Islam provided ‘Abduh at times with the ammunition to counter European ideas and discourses which were highly critical of Islam. Gadamer explained that a ‘horizon’ was not merely made up of the tradition in which the interpreter functioned. 71 King. I demonstrate in the next chapter how ‘Abduh possibly reversed the Orientalist discourses on Islam with regard to authenticity and as such defended Islam in the terms set by its European offenders. because of the political. I will come back to this in the next chapter. there 152-153. It was also formed by the contemporary conditions and interests of the interpreter – as well as his personal competences. furthermore. ‘Abduh seems to have conceived of the (modern) European tradition as authoritative because of Europe’s dominance. Following an analysis of Richard King regarding Orientalist discourses on Hinduism and Buddhism. In consideration of this background. 69 Frequently. For example. Cf. 70 Second. the two discursive traditions related to each other in a fundamentally asymmetrical way. Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory. Islamic Modernism. Dennis Porter. scientific as well as technological superiority of Europe over the rest of the world. 76-77. perhaps. As such. 69 27 . this part of ‘Abduh’s ‘horizon’ was characterised by the nineteenth-century rise of Western dominance politically. Most importantly. First. ‘Abduh’s attempt at accommodating Islam with dominant Europe manifests itself most remarkably in his interpretation and application of discourses produced in the European tradition with regard to the Islamic religion.CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH ‘Abduh’s intellectual context was constituted by divergent and opposing manifestations of the Islamic as well as European tradition. two points should be stressed. 151. scientifically. economical. and as a consequence of the first. On the other hand. King described an example of a similar process for India where ‘the colonial discourses of the British became mimetically reproduced in an indigenous and anti-colonial form. while the Islamic tradition dear to him was in need of defence. ‘Orientalism and its Problems’ in: Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (ed. it is also probable that ‘Abduh’s defence of Islam using a discursive reversal was initiated – or at least reinforced – by independently developed discourses on religion in the Islamic religion which exhibited striking similarities with the current European discourses.).

this concept functions as the prime means for connecting and reconciling the Islamic as well as the European traditions. 73 In other words. As such. Genealogically. Islams and Modernities. What does ‘Abduh precisely mean by these concepts and how do his interpretations relate to the conceptions of ‘authenticity’. 33. as I agree with al-Azmeh that: ‘Modernities do not and cannot free any modern history from bondage to Modernity [sic]. but worldwide’. a similar – but not identical – perspective seems to be expressed by Timothy Mitchell. This does not mean that these concepts were new altogether in the Arabic vocabulary of the nineteenth century. He sums his position up as: ‘Modernity then becomes the unsuitable yet unavoidable name for these discrepant histories. the terminology of aṣāla. before the Muslim world was affected by a Western presence.THEOLOGY OF UNITY As this example demonstrates. Formations of the Secular. ‘Civilizing Others’.” 72 The result is a synthetic intellectual modernity which is ‘native not only to their points of origin. He states that the singular terminology of modernity both refers to its imagined singularity (which explains its globalising force but also refers to the imagination of modernity as the West) as well as an inherent pluralism (caused by its global ambitions). furthermore. a transcultural and dialectic process is highly complex as well as creative. 74 1. disregard. xiv.5 A Synthetic Approach to ‘Authenticity’. madaniyya and dīn can be retraced within the Islamic tradition. 5. 74 Cf. integration. it is well-captured by the following quote of Birgit Schaebler: The interplay of global and local forces then is not a top-down form of domination. ‘civilisation’ and ‘religion’ in the European and Islamic tradition? All of these concepts fulfilled a central role in ‘Abduh’s ideas on Islam and its relation with Europe or modernity. As we will see. 217. a process that has to be interpreted as being in itself creative and not just as simple “imitation. a dialectic of dominant cultural forms and their adaptation. adoption. I use the singular form of modernity here. 73 72 28 . The first is the concept of ‘true Islam’ (Arabic. In fact. adjective for ‘true’ or ‘truthful’: ḥaqīqī) with the related concept of ‘authenticity’ (Arabic: aṣāla). Furthermore. however. I will specifically focus upon ‘Abduh’s synthetic interpretations of three concepts within his ideas on what Islam is or should be: ‘authenticity’ (Arabic: aṣāla). Islams and Modernities. ‘Civilisation’ and ‘Religion’ Following the described framework. they were of crucial importance in the European discourse of colonisation and modernisation. and ‘religion’ (Arabic: dīn). ‘civilisation’ (Arabic: madaniyya). but a transcultural process. al-Azmeh. Asad. ‘Preface’.’ Mitchell. or rejection by other cultures. For Schaebler. not a one-way street. This terminology fulfils a central role in the thought of Muḥammad ‘Abduh as well as of modern Islamic thought as a whole. transformation.’ al-Azmeh. More nuancedly. being the result of a dialectic – or even a dialogue – every instance of universal intellectual modernity is the product of a particular ‘fusion of two horizons’. iv. it is heavily contested as it has been exclusively attributed to either the European or the Islamic tradition in the existing literature on ‘Abduh.

78 Asad. the concept of ‘civilisation’ will be examined. ‘Introduction’ in: Idem (ed. and Social Life in the Middle East (Campus Verlag/Westview Press: Frankfurt/Boulder 1987) 189-222. relying – among others – on Talal Asad’s Genealogies of Religion. ‘Civilising Others’. Mass Culture. as well as to enhance the thesis’ unity. These articles have never been translated in a European language. Formations of the Secular. Suha Taji-Farouki and Basheer M. ‘Abduh’s conception of religion co-determines the relation between ‘civilisation’. but of whose articles ‘Abduh is considered the author. 6. 79 (2) his most Suha Taji Farouki and Basheer M. Of a slightly other order than the first two concepts. ‘alNaṣrāniyya wa-l-Islām wa Ahluhā’ (English: ‘Christianity and Islam and their People’). 77 In early-twentieth century Islam and Christianity related to Science and Civilisation (Arabic: al-Islām wa-l-Naṣrāniyya ma‘a al-‘Ilm wa-lMadaniyya). ‘Civilizing Others’. 77 Schaebler. Its Present and the Treatment of its Sicknesses’). there 3-4 and 12. for example.). As Islam is considered a religion itself. 79 Sedgwick. ‘Mass Culture and Islamic Cultural Production in 19th Century Middle East’ in: Georg Stauth and Sami Zubaida (ed. also intensified Islam’s contact with that other world religion. the concept of ‘religion’ is the subject of the fourth chapter. 78 ‘Abduh’s interpretation and application of these three concepts with regard to Islam will be examined throughout his life. 49. which he co-founded with his teacher Jamāl al-Dīn alAfghānī while in Paris. however. As such.). ‘Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn wa 75 29 . Asad described. how Christian missionary work was increasingly (self-)identified with the civilising mission by which colonialism was justified. Muhammad Abduh. Popular Culture. the concept of ‘religion’ will be studied in respect to issues raised by the two preceding chapters. as it ultimately refers to a new and discontinuous interpretation of Islam. In this respect. ‘Māḍī al-Umma wa Ḥāḍiruhā wa ‘Ilāj ‘Ilalihā’ (English: ‘The Past of the Muslim Community. there 189-190. ‘Fātiḥa al-Jarīda’ (English: ‘Introduction of the Newspaper’). This terminology is deemed central to the colonial mission of nineteenth-century Europe. He had already adopted the same terminology in 1884. 62. Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century (IB Tauris: London/New York 2004) 1-27. Muḥammad ‘Abduh and Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī. 76 In the third chapter. Islams and Modernities. as represented by three of his main works: (1) seven relevant articles which appeared in the journal The Strongest Bond which he co-founded with his teacher al-Afghānī while in Paris in 1884. Muḥammad ‘Abduh strove to accommodate Islam to civilisation. All translations of citations from the Arabic are therefore mine. ‘al-Jinsiyya wa-lDiyāna al-Islāmiyya’ (English: ‘The Nationality and the Islamic Faith’). ‘authenticity’ and his interpretation of Islam. Schaebler. ‘al-Jarīda wa-l-Manhajuhā’ (English: ‘The Newspaper and its Method’). Nafi consider the self-consciously Islamic character of modern Islamic thought – in which the discourse of ‘authenticity’ fulfills a central role – as one of the most problematic elements of modern Islamic thought. 31 and 49. 3-5. Aziz al-Azmeh lashes out at the inauthenticity of the fundamentalist as well as post-modernist discourse of ‘authenticity’ in his 1993 book Islams and Modernities. 75 Furthermore. Nafi. Reinhard Schulze.CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH example. both Catholic and Protestant. as is evident from articles in the journal The Strongest Bond (Arabic: al-‘Urwa al-Wuthqā). Lastly. 76 al-Azmeh. while the advent of the Christian mission in the Middle East. ‘religion’ is perhaps more aptly described as a category.

The remaining possibility consists of identifying a plurality of possible beginnings. 1901 (the year in which Tolstoy was excommunicated to which ‘Abduh refers in the first letter) and 1904 (the year in which Tolstoy responded to ‘Abduh’s letter(s))]. Muḥammad ‘Abduh. 38-44. their Stagnation and the Reason for this’) and ‘Sunan Allah fī-l-Umam’ (English: ‘The Principles of God regarding the Communities’) in: Muḥammad Jamāl (ed. originally published in Arabic as ‘al-Islām wa-l-Naṣrāniyya ma‘a al-‘Ilm wa-l-Madaniyya’ in 1902]. al-A‘māl al-Kāmila li-l-Imām al-Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Abduh (English: The Complete Works of the Imam and Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Abduh) (Madinat al-Nasr 2006) II. 85 As Sukūnuhum wa Sabab Dhalika’ (English: ‘The Decline of the Muslims. 83 Excellent examples of such a genealogical approach have been aptly performed by Talal Asad. ‘Social History and Conceptual History’. Richard King and Reinhart Koselleck. Salvatore. in: Gunnar Hasselblatt. The Theology of Unity (Allen & Unwin: London 1966) [translated by Ishaq Musa‘ad and Kenneth Cragg. 84 Asad. ‘Islam und Christentum im Verhältnis zu Wissenschaft und Zivilisation’. Genealogies of Religion. based on the German as well as the Arabic texts. 30-31. is translated into German by Gunnar Hasselblatt in 1968 as Islam und Christentum im Verhältnis zu Wissenschaft und Zivilisation. Muḥammad ‘Abduh. 81 This collection of articles. ‘Risāla ilā-l-Qiss Isḥaq Ṭaylor’ (English: ‘Letter to the Cleric Isaac Taylor’) and ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā-l-Qiss Isḥaq Ṭaylor’ (English: ‘Second Letter to the Cleric Isaac Taylor’) in: Muḥammad ‘Amāra (ed. 72-81 and 218-227. Islam and the Political Discourse of Modernity. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’ (English: ‘Theology of Unity’) in: Muḥammad ‘Amāra (ed. Asad. 45-60. 83 Salvatore. ‘Risāla ilā Tūlstūy’ (English: ‘Letter to Tolstoy’) and ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā Tūlstūy’ (English: ‘Second Letter to Tolstoy’) in: ibidem. 1885-1888]. 85 Reinhart Koselleck. I compared his translation with the Arabic original. Koselleck envisions a pregiven conceptual or linguistic structure in which a specific use of a concept becomes possible. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn (al-Iḍṭihād fī-l-Naṣrāniyya wal-Islām)’ (English: Reply to Faraḥ Anṭūn (Oppression in Christianity and Islam)) in: Muḥammad ‘Amāra (ed. 377-501. xx and xxvi. 82 Muḥammad ‘Abduh. ‘civilisation’ and ‘religion’ as emerging from these four types of sources in both the European and Islamic tradition. originally published in the journal The Lighthouse (Arabic: al-Manār) which was edited by ‘Abduh’s pupil Rashīd Riḍā. Muḥammad ‘Abduh. Armando Salvatore. In this essay. 80 (3) ‘Abduh’s polemic response to the Christian Syrian Faraḥ Anṭūn titled Islam and Christianity in 1902. 82 In the following three chapters. As Armando Salvatore argued convincingly. 264-376 [originally published in Arabic as ‘al-Islām wa-lNaṣrāniyya ma‘a al-‘Ilm wa-l-Madaniyya’ in 1902]. II. Orientalism and Religion. the search for a unique point of beginning for a specific terminology is fruitless in these kind of histories. al-A‘māl al-Kāmila li-l-Imām al-Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Abduh (English: The Complete Works of the Imam and Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Abduh) (Madīnat al-Naṣr 2006) III. alA‘māl al-Kāmila li-l-Imām al-Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Abduh (English: The Complete Works of the Imam and Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Abduh) (Madinat al-Nasr 2006) III. however. 361-362 [originally written between ca. Formations of the Secular. 35-37.). Herkunft und Auswirkungen der Apologetik Muhammad ‘Abduh’s (1849-1905). 61-71. al-‘Urwa al-Wuthqā li-Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī wa Muḥammad ‘Abduh (English: The Strongest Bond of Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī and Muḥammad ‘Abduh) (al-Maktaba al-Ahliyya: Cairo 1927) [originally published as a newspaper in Paris in 1884] 25-34. 357-358 and 359-360 [originally written in Beirut. the translation of Musa‘ad and Cragg will be used for citations from this work. Muḥammad ‘Abduh. Citations from this text are given in English.THEOLOGY OF UNITY important work Theology of Unity (Arabic: Risālat al-Tawḥīd) which was based upon ‘Abduh’s lectures on theology in Beirut but was only published in 1897. Whenever deemed relevant. I compared it with the Arabic original.). Political Discourse of Modernity. 30 . 81 as well as by: (4) four of ‘Abduh’s letters to the cleric Isaac Taylor – written during his time in Beirut – and to Leo Tolstoy – written at the beginning of the twentieth century.). 84 In his theoretical contribution to the subject. 80 This work of ‘Abduh’s was translated into English by Ishaq Musa‘ad and Kenneth Cragg as Theology of Unity in 1966. University of Göttingen 1968) 7-164 [translated by Gunnar Hasselblatt. I will retrace ‘Abduh’s conceptions of ‘authenticity’. ca. Muḥammad ‘Abduh. King. untersucht an seiner Schrift: Islam und Christentum im Verhältnis zu Wissenschaft und Zivilisation (PhD thesis. Whenever deemed relevant.). originally published in Arabic as Risālat al-Tawḥīd in 1897].

‘Abduh’s ideas could legitimately be referred to as a Theology of Unity (Arabic: Risālat al-Tawḥīd). such as the 86 For example. however. One residing in a ‘European’ intellectual discursive tradition. Supported by his conceptions of ‘authenticity’. a unity between the Islamic civilisation and the European civilisation as well as a unity between the Islamic religion and the Christian religion. The particular configuration of these traditions help to explain ‘Abduh’s specific conception of ‘authenticity’. the other in an ‘Islamic’ one. a concept’s history can help to expose the precise meaning of a concept. I will focus on how ‘Abduh performed this act of synthesis. ‘ “Progress” and “Decline”. ‘Abduh’s specific anxieties and desires – which were in turn determined by his contemporary as well as historical context – influenced his specific interpretations of these three concepts. ‘civilisation’. the title of his main work of theology in 1897. ‘civilisation’ and ‘religion’. after which I will address this issue as a whole in the concluding chapter. and ‘religion’ render ‘Abduh’s interpretation of Islam in this respect as one characterised by an overpowering sense of unity. as the pre-given conceptual structure is twofold. because of the synthetic quality of his ideas. ‘civilisation’ and ‘religion’? As Gadamer pointed out. Timing History. as mentioned before. How did ‘Abduh compose a new interpretation of these concepts out of the existing conceptual structures in the European and Islamic tradition with regard to ‘authenticity’. the effect of a Sufi world view on ‘Abduh’s later works and ideas are still in need of further investigation. I will turn to Oliver Scharbrodt’s thorough description of ‘Abduh’s adherence to a Sufi inspired emanationist world view in his early work Treatise on Mystical Inspirations (Arabic: Risālat al-Wāridāt) as a possible explanation. the careful study of the history of a concept helps to detect the subtle shifts in meaning. his ideas on Islam were crucial in this respect. too. An Appendix to the History of Two Concepts’ in: Reinhart Koselleck. 31 .CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH such. In an attempt to uncover the underlying coherence of ‘Abduh’s idea of unity with respect to Islam internally and externally as becomes manifest by ‘Abduh’s usages of the concepts of ‘authenticity’. Indeed. In this thesis. In particular. particularly because of ‘Abduh’s critical attitude towards Sufi practices. Therefore. As such. I will lightly touch upon the recurrent theme of unity in this particular aspect of ‘Abduh’s work as well as its possible explanation in Sufism. 86 Applied to Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s ideas. the possible usage of a concept depends – to a great extent – on its preceding meanings. Specifically. I will demonstrate how ‘Abduh’s conceptions of ‘authenticity’. Spacing Concepts (Stanford University Press: Stanford 2002) [Translated from German by Todd Samuel Presner et al] 218-235. A pre-given conceptual structure does not preclude change. ‘civilisation’ and ‘religion’. a particular understanding is always co-determined by the concerns and interests of the interpreter. So. an exciting and innovative dimension is introduced. ‘Abduh’s interpretation as well as application of the concepts transcended the original conceptions in both traditions. ‘Abduh postulates and advocates a unity within Islam. Indeed. The Practice of Conceptual History. As Scharbrodt’s article ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’ only focuses upon ‘Abduh’s Treatise on Mystical Inspirations. ‘civilisation’ and ‘religion’. In every chapter. Reinhart Koselleck.

THEOLOGY OF UNITY popular Sufi veneration of saints. 32 . a better understanding of the specific mechanisms involved in the ‘fusing of two horizons’. ‘civilisation’ and ‘religion’ came about. as I aspire in this thesis. this study does justice to the complexities of ‘Abduh’s modern experience outside the West. With specific regard to his intellectual context. this argument is to be considered strictly hypothetical here until further research is conducted. This inquiry into ‘Abduh’s specific use of concepts. as many 87 Taji-Farouki and Nafi. his successors continued formulating their ideas on Islam in relation to an increasing dissemination of European ideas and discourses. furthermore. this study is also relevant to the subsequent history of twentieth-century Islamic thought. As such. since elements of ‘Abduh’s reinterpretation of Islam have been influential until now. First and foremost. Suha Taji-Farouki and Basheer M. Such a general analysis confirms the need for the particular methodology chosen in this thesis. In their 2008 book Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century. and authenticity and imitation which were pivotal to his own thought as well as to the existing historiography on him. 1. This makes clear how much his context was formed by an intellectual duality as well as by anxieties concerning Islam and the Muslim World. tradition and modernity. I will demonstrate how ‘Abduh acquired general knowledge of the European and Islamic traditions and which specific works he knew.6 The Expanded ‘Horizon’ of Muḥammad ‘Abduh Before delving into how ‘Abduh’s interpretations of the concepts of ‘authenticity’. Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s reformulation of Islam was – to a great extent. based on a nuanced perspective of intellectual modernity. Accordingly. too. as it addresses questions of Islam and the West. 3-4 and 7. will be relevant to the study of the twentieth century. Particularly. I will pay attention to the contemporary conditions which engendered ‘Abduh’s particular concerns and interests. Therefore. ‘Introduction’. 87 Like ‘Abduh. As such. I will first sketch out ‘Abduh’s expanded ‘horizon’ – following Gadamer’s terminology – in general. the historiography on twentieth-century Islamic thought is similarly characterised by questions of tradition and modernity. though not solely – a response to the challenge as posed by the Western dominance. In seeking a middle ground in all of these oppositions. In addition. Nafi identify the debate over what is truly and authentically Islamic as one of the central themes of modern Islamic thought in the twentieth century. ‘Abduh’s conception of ‘authenticity’ is significant in this respect. and the concepts’ position in ‘Abduh’s ideas on Islam contributes to a better understanding of Muḥammad ‘Abduh as a whole. although I consider the explanation of ‘Abduh’s emphasis on a theology of unity along lines of emanationist Sufism as promising.

the state-appointed authority in legal matters – of Egypt. 34-35. ‘Abduh aimed at transforming Egypt or the Arab-Muslim world at large to viable and prosperous societies which could vie with Europe again. 91 ‘Abduh. 88 This challenge manifested itself in a political. 89 88 33 . it is perhaps no surprise that ‘Abduh actively engaged himself with Islamic as well as the European tradition. Since ‘Abduh aimed at realising a social change. edited by his pupil Rashīd Riḍā. he dressed as a religious scholar. Thus. through the support of the British Controller-General Lord Cromer (1883-1907). as he had followed the traditional path of religious education which started with remembering the Quran by heart and ended at the famous religious university of the Azhar in Cairo. 90 Sedgwick. as he wanted his ideas on Islam to fit into both. Regarding the first. economical and technological superiority. 116-117 and 120. ‘Abduh intended to formulate an Islam which was acceptable for the Islamic elite as well as the Islamic masses. his goal was not Westernisation as such. as the editor of the Egyptian Gazette (Arabic: al-Waqā’i‘ al-Miṣriyya) from 1880 to 1882. in which Western dominance was evident. 89 For this purpose. His aim was Muslim prosperity as well as the preservation of Islam in the context of the latest developments. “I suspect that Abdu was an agnostic”. In addition. Muhammad Abduh. Muhammad Abduh. 90 Taking ‘Abduh’s main aim of synthesis into consideration. ‘Abduh also engaged in the actual implementation of educational and judicial reform through his position in the Azhar Administrative Council and his position from 1899 on as Grand Mufti – that is. and as a frequent contributor to many journals including The Lighthouse (Arabic: al-Manār). which was probably most succinctly expressed in the British occupation of his home country Egypt in 1882 for ‘Abduh. his lifelong efforts to alter the educational system in Egypt comes as no surprise.CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH authors have noted before me. 91 These religious scholars were the main authorities for defining Islamic orthodoxy in Islam. the conservative ulema continued to oppose the new-fashioned reformist attempts of their fellow ‘ālim throughout his life. ‘Abduh’s major obstacle in this respect was constituted by the conservative ulema (Arabic: ‘ulamā’). Muḥammad ‘Abduh was certainly well aware of their intellectual positions. designating him as one of the ulema. His solution was a reformation or modernisation of the people through a reformation of Islam. wearing robes instead of uniform and a turban instead of a fez. Through the implementation of his reformed Islam. 92 At the same time. Increasingly. 13 and 15. he engaged actively in journalism. as the co-editor of The Strongest Bond in 1884 in Paris. 92 Sedgwick. But by the time ‘Abduh was to graduate from the Azhar University. as the first had to educate the second to realise a true reformation of Islamic society. by means of a reinterpretation of religion. 71. Jansen. his ideas had so much diverted from Azhar orthodoxy that he was almost denied the Azhar degree by which he received the title of ‘ālim. Theology. ‘Muhammad Abduh’. For example: Haddad.

‘Islamic Modernism’. Islam. Christian van Nispen tot Sevenaer. Ibn Khaldūn’s theories and Sufism were the most important of the sub-traditions Cf. 93 34 . Ibn ‘Arabī (1165-1240) and Ibn Khaldūn (1332-1406). 95 This order was part of a greater Sufi development in the Islamic world at large. ‘Abduh’s rejection of taqlīd also found expression in ‘Abduh’s justification of unrestricted eclecticism from the Islamic tradition at large. 96 These eighteenth-century reformist ideas resemble ‘Abduh ideas on ijtihād and taqlīd as well as on ḥadīth-literature. Also. Moreover. 49. Rudolph Peters considers the ijtihād-taqlīd discussion as one of the most central discussion of the eighteenth. who was a major influence on ‘Abduh’s early life. ‘Abduh couched his reinterpretation (also) in Islamic terms and as such functioned within the Islamic tradition. including ‘Abduh. 95 Sedgwick. Thus. In fact. 97 Hildebrandt. WI. Nafi. 238. 98 Thus. As such. Activité Humaine et Agir de Dieu. Haj. called neo-sufism. 93. 96 Voll. and was connected to the scholarly revival of the critical study of ḥadīth-literature. 98 Scharbrodt. 93 His reinterpretation of Islam as a ‘true’ Islam reasoned along arguments which were historically formulated within Islam. classical theology as well as philosophy. Muhammad Abduh. 24. as I will demonstrate in the next chapter. al-Afghānī came to Cairo in 1872 and introduced a small circle of Azhar students. which was by then commonly rejected. Adherents stressed a purity of Islamic beliefs and were critical of popular superstition and the veneration of saints. Nineteenth-century Sunni orthodoxy. as ‘Abduh invoked the authority of the Quran and employed ideas of earlier theologians and reformists. Khalid Masud characterises the Islamic Modernist reinterpretation of Islam as the formulation of a new Islamic theology. who was presumably originally from Persia. with which he probably came into contact through his uncle Shaykh Darwīsh. 97 He was educated in these more unorthodox trends in Islamic theology by his Shiite teacher Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī. BSOAS. 4. ‘Abduh came into contact with diverse intellectual movements within the Islamic tradition. ‘Waren al-Afġānī und ‘Abduh Neo-Mu‘tazilieten?’. he freely chose from the commonly accepted Ash‘arite and Hanbalite school of theology as well as from the Mu‘tazilite tradition. 94 Masud. Continuity and Change. Shaykh Darwīsh was a member of the Sufi order of the Madaniyya. 210. they urged a return to the scriptural sources of Islam independent of the existing scholarly tradition – thus.THEOLOGY OF UNITY Claiming his own right to Islamic orthodoxy. Le Concept de <<Sunan de Dieu>> dans le Commentaire Coranique du Manār (Dar el-Machreq Sarl: Beirut 1996) 10. to works of Ibn Sīnā (980-1037). eighteenth-century revivalism. ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’. BSOAS. 94 In ‘Abduh’s methodological consideration on how to reach ‘true’ knowledge on Islam. ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’. 98.and early nineteenth-century reformist movement. 27-30 and 38-40. he might have been influenced by the eighteenth century revivalist movement. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. they argued for individual ijtihād (individual interpretation based on the original sources) as against taqlīd (the strict following of a scholarly tradition of interpretation). Scharbrodt. ‘Rise of Islamic Reformist Thought’.

CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH within the Islamic tradition upon which ‘Abduh could draw in his reformulation of Islam and his interpretations of the concepts of ‘authenticity’, ‘civilisation’, and ‘religion’. In the following chapters it will be set forth which elements of the Islamic tradition he used specifically in this process, as well as how he differed from them. In addition, ‘Abduh employed European ideas from the European tradition in his interpretations of ‘authenticity’, ‘civilisation’, and ‘religion’ in relation to Islam. The influences of the European tradition were already evident in the methodological innovations ‘Abduh made. His emphasis on rationalism and possibly historicism could not only be traced back to Mu‘tazilite influences, but also, for example, to European positivism. European ideas were held in very high esteem by ‘Abduh and his fellow reformists. This was at least reinforced by the actual prosperity Europe enjoyed at that time. In addition, the significance of the European intellectual tradition was reinforced, because science and rational philosophy themselves were accredited a fundamental role in the history of Europe’s supremacy, according to European analysis. Muḥammad ‘Abduh was well-acquainted with the philosophical and scholarly discourses as developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth century in the European tradition. As ‘Abduh was born in 1849, he was raised in an Egypt which had been subjected to fundamental transformations since the invasion of Napoleon in 1798. Initiated under the rule of Muḥammad ‘Alī (1811-1848) and with the help of French adherents of Saint-Simon’s positivistic model of society, military, technical and economic modernisation was introduced. For this purpose, students were sent to Europe – among whom was Rifā‘a Rāfi‘ al-Tahṭāwī (1801-1873). Thereafter, Tahṭāwī was engaged in the translation movement of European works such as Montesquieu’s Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline which gained enormous popularity. Also, secular schools were established, such as the House of Sciences (Arabic: Dār al’Ulūm) in 1876 where ‘Abduh taught history in the late 1870s. Independent from the Egyptian state, but connected to the British’ liberal attitude towards the press, scientific journals – such as Tahṭāwī’s Garden of the Schools (Rawḍat al-Madāris) in 1870 – and societies were founded to disseminate all these new and exciting ideas to the learned public. 99 Certainly, the Egyptian elite to which ‘Abduh belonged was no stranger to nineteenth-century European thought. But these efforts did not only originate in indigenous initiatives. Christian missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant, were very active in the Middle East in establishing schools, societies and journals. Many Muslim intellectuals were impressed by the educational quality of Christian colleges, including ‘Abduh’s pupil Riḍā. ‘Abduh himself certainly came into contact with the scientific activities of the Syrian Protestant College (since 1866, in 1920 renamed as the American


Moaddel, Islamic Modernism, 76-77.


THEOLOGY OF UNITY University of Beirut), when he lived there between 1884 and 1888. 100 Notwithstanding their scholarly value for the Muslim elite, the Christian missionary writings and activities were often highly polemical in tone regarding Islam. Their attacks on Islam, which was supposedly inadequate for civilisation, led to counterattacks on Christianity and apologetic replies on the Muslim side. In this respect, missionary schools were increasingly regarded as a danger to Islam. 101 Many of the Syrian Christian graduates of these missionary schools founded journals of their own in Beirut, such as The Digest (al-Muqtaṭaf). These aimed at a general scientific education and are therefore aptly designated as Bildungszeitschriften by Dagmar Glaß. 102 In response to the increasing rigidity of the regime of sultan Abdülhamid (1876-1909), numerous of these Arabic Christian intellectuals moved themselves and their journals to Cairo and Alexandria in the 1880s and 1890s. Their journals, which espoused a secularist rejection of any religious organisation of society, were widely read among Muslims. As such, the Syrian Christian served as important middlemen to introduce European ideas and discoveries to the Arabic educated public at large. 103 Muḥammad ‘Abduh was certainly acquainted with these journals as well as with their editors on a personal level. Continuing on a more personal level, ‘Abduh’s teacher Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī was crucial in this respect. It was he who introduced the young ‘Abduh to the work of European philosophers, most notably The History of Civilisation in Europe (1828) by the French historian and politician François Guizot (1787-1874) which was translated into Arabic in 1877. 104 In the same period, ‘Abduh befriended the Briton Wilfrid Blunt – with whose remarks on Islamic Reformism this chapter opened –; Blunt was well-informed about the latest developments in his home country. Furthermore, ‘Abduh chose to join his master al-Afghānī in Paris in 1882, when he was exiled from Egypt for his public support to the ‘Urābī-revolt against the government of Khedive Tawfīq. From that time on, ‘Abduh travelled to Europe on a regular basis. He even visited Herbert Spencer in his home town Brighton in 1903, just months before he died, while Blunt acted as an interpreter. 105 After ‘Abduh’s return to Egypt, he learned French himself and read, for instance, the

Umar Ryad, Islamic Reformism and Christianity. A Critical Reading of the Works of Muhammad Rashīd Riḍā and his Associates (1898-1935) (Brill: Leiden 2009) 111-113. 101 Moaddel, Islamic Modernism, 29; Ryad, Islamic Reformism and Christianity, 13; Christine Schirrmacher, ‘The Influence of Higher Bible Criticism on Muslim Apologetics in the Nineteenth Century’ in: Jacques Waardenburg (ed.), Muslim Perceptions of Other Religions. A Historical Survey (Oxford University Press: New York/Oxford 1999) 270-279. 102 Dagmar Glaß, Der Muqtaṭaf und seine Öffentlichkeit. Aufklärung, Räsonnement und Meinungsstreit in der frühen arabischen Zeitschriftenkommunikation (Ergon Verlag: Würzburg 2004 – paperback edition) 71, 81 and 122. 103 Albert Hourani, ‘The Middleman in a Changing Society: Syrians in Egypt in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’ in: Idem (ed.), The Emergence of the Modern Middle East (University of California Press: Berkeley/Los Angeles 1981) 103-123, there 119-122; Moaddel, Islamic Modernism, 76-77; A.M. Hassani, ‘The Appearance of Scientific Journalism in Syria and Egypt’, Journal for the History of Arabic Science (JHAS) 1 (1977) 284-298, there 284-285 and 290-293; Radwan Mawlawi, ‘Arab Scientific Journalism. Achievements and Aspirations’, Impact of Science on Society (ISS) 152 (1988) 397-409, there 398-401. 104 Sedgwick, Muhammad Abduh, 8, 11 and 16-17. 105 Ibidem, 92.



CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCING MUḤAMMAD ‘ABDUH French translation of Spencer’s On Education (1861). 106 From then on, he corresponded regularly with European intellectuals such as Leo Tolstoy, Herbert Spencer, the British cleric Isaac Taylor, and Gustave Le Bon. 107 After ‘Abduh’s death in 1905, his library is said to contain books by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ernest Renan, David Strauss, and John William Draper. 108 Finally, ‘Abduh was on familiar terms with the British authorities in Egypt. Since Afghānī introduced him to the Cairo-based Masonic Lodge Star of the East (Arabic: Kawkab al-Sharq) whose members included the highest (British) political circles in Egypt, ‘Abduh frequently came into close contact with European politicians. 109 In 1884, his friend Blunt invited him to London to discuss British policy in Sudan and Egypt with Randolph Churchill (1849-1895) and other politicians, while ‘Abduh befriended the highest British authority in Egypt – Lord Cromer – later on in his life. 110 ‘Abduh’s interaction with European colonial officers was not always friendly, however. At the turn of the century, ‘Abduh got involved in a polemic with the French politician Gabriel Hanotaux (18531944) who dismissed the Islamic religion on the basis of its Semitic tendency to fatalism. 111 As Hanotaux’s opinion already indicated, the opinion of political representatives of European (colonial) administration regarding Islam was almost always formulated in highly negative terms. Similar to the often negatively formulated Christian missionary positions on Islam, they excluded the Islamic religion from the (future) possibility of civilisation or modernisation. Many authors already indicated how much this exclusion was interwoven with imperialist interests of specific European countries. 112 Also, these analyses were often supported by scholarly research, such as the racial arguments of the French philosopher Ernest Renan (1823-1892) to whose accusations Afghānī responded vehemently in 1883. 113 Likewise, many secular Egyptians – both of a Muslim and Christian origin – were convinced that Egypt and the Muslim World as a whole should leave Islam behind to Europeanise fully and thus to obtain civilisation. These Europeanised Egyptians, as they were called, dressed in European styles. In addition, they attended and propagated state schools in which the Islamic religion was not taught extensively. ‘Abduh was vigorously opposed to these men, as they opened Egypt up for foreign

Ibidem, 72 and 74. Amin, ‘Humanism of Abduh’, MW, 6. 108 Hourani, Arabic Thought, 135. 109 Sedgwick, Muhammad Abduh, 19; Albert Kudsi-Zadeh, ‘Afghānī and Freemasonry in Egypt’, JAOS, 92 (1972) 1, 25-35, there 30; Karim Wissa, ‘Freemasonry in Egypt. 1798-1921. A Study in Cultural and Political Encounters’, Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies) 16 (1989) 2, 143-161, there 148-149 and 155-156. 110 Amin, ‘Humanism of Abduh’, MW, 6; Sedgwick, Muhammad Abduh, xii. 111 Sedgwick, Muhammad Abduh, 87. 112 Schaebler, ‘Civilizing Others’, 3-5. 113 Keddie, Nikki, An Islamic Response to Imperialism. Political and Religious Writings of Sayyid Jamāl al-Dīn “alAfghānī” (University of California Press: Berkeley 1968) 85. In his renowned work Orientalism (1978), Edward Said elaborates on the academic as well as public European construction of the Orient as opposed to the Occident and its justifiying relation to imperialist politics. Edward Said, Orientalism (Vintage Books: New York 2003 – paperback edition; first edition in 1978).



44. 357-360. 137. Hourani. A copy never matches its original. 103. Muḥammad ‘Abduh opposed complete Westernisation of the Muslim world. however. 119 Similar efforts were developed in Europe regarding the defence of Christianity against an increasingly secular civilization. Arabic Thought. or so many Christians feared. 52 and 55. Arabic Thought. ‘al-Jinsiyya’. 116 Ahiska. there was still an element of friction regarding the imitation of the West. In combining the European and Islamic traditions and as such reconfiguring an Islam which he thought to be conform with modern times. SAQ. 52-56. On the one hand. 118 Hourani. as Meltem Ahiska described with regard to modern Turkey. Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s reformist Islam is an example of how ‘Abduh tried to resolve this ambivalence towards Europe which he exhibited himself. The South Atlantic Quarterly (SAQ) 102 (2003) 2/3. justified by the contemporary supremacy of Europe on practically all levels. This friction manifests itself in the inevitability of being a ‘copy’ of the West. Europe and its modernity or civilisation functioned as a model. Islams and Modernities. ‘Fātiḥa al-Jarīda’. al-Azmeh. ‘Abduh. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. 351-380. ‘Abduh. 116 Indeed. there was a – quite legitimate. 119 This particular reformist attempt at unity did not last long after ‘Abduh’s death. too. 115 Many Muslim intellectuals feared that Islam had to be given up completely for a European kind of prosperity and culture. even if it is only distinguished by a gap of time. 136-138. 29. And even in case of complete renunciation of Islam. Only at the last moment. too. 114 38 . these Europeanised Egyptians would realise their unintentional treachery and regret their naïve stupidity. ‘Abduh expressed and addressed his admiration of Europe and his fear of losing Islam to modernity. considering the anti-Islamic opinions of European politicians – rejection of Westernisation as ‘a threat to “indigenous” (…) values’. Islam und Christentum. ‘Occidentalism’. 117 ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. moreover. This is no coincidence. 118 As already set forth. The Historical Fantasy of the Modern’. ‘Occidentalism. because of the Muslims’ own particular history and mindset. there 353. so they opposed Europe’s modernity altogether. 115 Meltem Ahiska. as Goldziher – who coined the terminology of ‘modernist’ in this respect – probably coined the term in comparison to Catholic Modernists. The designation of ‘modernist’ is applied to these Christian movements.THEOLOGY OF UNITY intervention. 117 Hourani describes ‘Abduh’s opinion on judicial reform as an example. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. however. In fact. On the other hand. laws had to have ‘some relation with the standards and circumstances of the country to which they apply’ in order to be effective. 121-122. According to ‘Abduh. 114 Consequently. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh also fostered a great admiration towards nineteenth-century European sciences. according to ‘Abduh. the status of modernisation or civilisation – as typified by Europe or the West – has always been one of ambivalence within modern Muslim thought.

27. 125 As ‘Abduh found the majority of Islamic religious scholars and ordinary Muslims alike very conservative and opposed to any change at that time.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM 2.1 Abduh’s Reformism and Authentic Islam For Muḥammad ‘Abduh. 97-98. or. Islam und Christentum. 120 39 . 49. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. 124 and 126. which was bound to subside soon. 51. in particular in the figure of the caliph. according to ‘Abduh. the severity and longevity of this situation seemed to imply that this is not an ill-fated accident. the Syrian Christian Faraḥ Anṭūn argued in 1902 that Islam suffers in this respect from its inherent mixture of spiritual and worldly authorities. according to ‘Abduh. 478 [muqirr]. Like a medical doctor. 125 ‘Abduh. Theology. there was never a question about it: the Muslim world of his time found itself in a state of utter decline. 121 Already in the eighteenth century. 101. 12-13 and 64. 124 Ibidem. 122 ‘Abduh. 126 However plausible this type of reasoning might seem. Islam und Christentum. Sedgwick. 124 Likewise. 104 and 151-153. ‘Abduh. as opposed to Christianity’s secularism. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. 99. taqahqur). 104. ‘Abduh. Muhammad Abduh. ‘Abduh. ‘Erneuerungsbewegungen’. 126 Ibidem. hubūṭ. ‘Islamist Revivalism’. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. in an age of an upcoming dichotomy between secular modernity and religious tradition. ‘Abduh. HW. ‘Abduh. many Muslims felt that something had gone wrong: Peters. 116-117. al-Azmeh. ‘Abduh had to account with the accusations of European observers and secularists within the Muslim world who blamed for the inferior position of the Muslim countries. 123 Haj. 122 Furthermore. 120 Furthermore. For example. 121 More fundamental reasons seemed to underlie the contemporary decline. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. a careful examination of the sick body – including its anamnesis or previous history – was necessary to make a right diagnosis. 138. Islam und Christentum. 70 [taqahqur] 72 [inḥiṭāṭ] and 221 [inḥiṭāṭ and hubūṭ]. at best. ‘Abduh. 87. in a very bad case of stagnation (Arabic: jumūd). the French diplomat Gabriel Hanotaux stated in 1900 in article in the Arabic newspaper The Confirmed (Arabic: al-Mu’ayyad) that Muslims were unsuitable to develop a modern civilisation because of their fatalistic attitude which is related to God’s absolute transcendency in Islam and the Islamic doctrine of predestination. this negative judgement on Islam was passed too quickly. 142 and 146. Theology. 127 Therefore. 127 ‘Abduh uses this type of medical terminology very frequently in his analysis of the ills of the Muslim world at that time. 108. degeneration. 104 [jumūd]. 123 For example. he understood why many of his non-Muslim – and some Muslim – contemporaries arrived at similar conclusions. Cf. retrogression (Arabic: inḥiṭāṭ. he replies to this type of accusation in his Theology of Unity: ‘Abduh. Islam und Christentum. 92.

Th. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. But the reason lies in the fact that after the time of the prophets and the passing of their régime.E. 58. the Islam of his time is not really Islam.’ 133 The concept of a ‘true’ Islam which could be revived is therefore vital to ‘Abduh in two ways. Likewise. 51. according to ‘Abduh. 97. nominalised: ṣaḥḥa) nature (Arabic: ṭabī‘a). as true Islam coincides with human prosperity. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. Bearman. 132 Furthermore. 298 [ṭabī‘a]. 319 [ḥaqq. 60. 130 For example: ‘Abduh. The true Islamic beliefs are not found among them. 131 God favours His community of believers (Arabic: umma) both in this world and in the hereafter. religion fell into the hands of those who quite failed to understand it. Muslims in modern times were in great need of a reformation and restoration of Islam to its ‘true’ and ‘sound’ (Arabic: ḥaqq or. 104.). 108. 442 [ṣaḥḥa. ṭabī‘a]. 59 [ḥaqq]. As ‘Abduh explains in Theology of Unity: ‘Religion is a guide. ‘Abduh argued. Islam und Christentum. – June 2010]. 40 . salāma wa ṣaḥḥa]. Theology. 59. Islams and Modernities. 124 and 126. it provides him with an effective defence of Islam in a hostile environment. 106. Contemporary Islam is only Islam in name. But human weakness impedes those who are called to take its guidance to themselves. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. Cf. 48. 96. ‘Abduh seems to regard īmān (inner faith) as indispensable for islām (outer adherence). On the one hand. The picture [of decline] is true. 120. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. ‘Dīn’ in: P. I will unravel ‘Abduh’s conception of ‘authenticity’ (Arabic: aṣāla) in the following and trace its components back to its possible roots in the European and the Islamic 128 129 ‘Abduh. or lapsed into extremism. they perform their religious rituals and utter their religious phrases. 146. 128 According to ‘Abduh. 133 ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. ‘alNaṣrāniyya’. 131 ‘Abduh. Gardet. Islam as such cannot be held responsible for the contemporary decline of Muslims and there is no need to renounce it. cf. 132 Kerr. ‘Abduh. 78. 96. Having established the function of ‘Abduh’s conception of ‘authenticity’ regarding Islam and the challenge as posed by European dominance. That is one component of God’s ultimate justice towards his umma. 96. Theology. 130 A reformed Islam will change the current conditions of the Muslims for the better. Theology. 70. 129 Therefore. most of his fellow Muslims are believers only in an outward sense. 333 [ṭabī‘a]. Bianquis. On the other hand. The real Islam has been distorted somewhere along the way. Here. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’.THEOLOGY OF UNITY We say in reply: Yes! indeed. ‘Abduh. Encyclopaedia of Islam. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. 114. Islam und Christentum. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. Islamic Reform. it is the cornerstone and ultimate justification of his reformist project. Second Edition (EI2) (Brill: Brill Online 2010) [www. Islam und Christentum. al-Azmeh. On the contrary. or else they did not sincerely love it at all. Bosworth et al (ed. Yet that weakness does not disqualify the perfection of religion. nor yet man’s urgent need for it. the current aberrations did not exclude this possibility. as Malcolm Kerr explained and as will be expanded upon later in this chapter and in the next. See for a history of the theological discussions revolving around the relation between islām (outer adherence) and īmān (inner faith): L. C.

As such. 137 al-Azmeh. 135 Nonetheless. according to him) in the reformist discourse on Islam. I will retrace their possible genealogies in the Islamic tradition. 137 On the one hand. 99. 135 Ibidem. history is the location of true Islam Aziz al-Azmeh. 2. Islams and Modernities. 106. as set forth before. this leads me to a more elaborate investigation of ‘Abduh’s dual notion of uṣūl (sources and principles of Islam) – linguistically related to the Arabic word for ‘authenticity’ aṣāla – in the Islamic tradition. ‘5. While al-Azmeh and King only point at the possible European roots of these elements. I will demonstrate that these can be found in both the European and the Islamic tradition and that these two traditions possibly reinforced each other in ‘Abduh’s notion of ‘authenticity’. Authenticity and the Historical Essence of Islam In a chapter of his book Islams and Modernities titled ‘The Discourse of Cultural Authenticity: Islamist Revivalism and Enlightenment Universalism’. Informed by the studies of Aziz al-Azmeh on al-Afghānī and The Strongest Bond and Richard King on nineteenth-century European Orientalism in India.2 History. history functions in a peculiar dual way in the reformist discourse of ‘Abduh and others with regard to true Islam. I will examine whether ‘Abduh exhibits the rationales which underlie a conception of authenticity. it will become clear that ‘Abduh’s interpretation of ‘authenticity’ is an intricate constellation of the European and Islamic traditions. The Discourse of Cultural Authenticity: Islamist Revivalism and Enlightenment Universalism’ in: al-Azmeh. because ‘Abduh does not employ a corresponding concept of ‘authenticity’ (aṣāla) in Arabic. I will retrace here the possible genealogies of the logic underlying the discourse on ‘authenticity’ as described by al-Azmeh and as exhibited by ‘Abduh. According to al-Azmeh. As a consequence of its synthetic quality. which reinforce each other at times. 136 In the following I will designate ‘Abduh’s interpretation of ‘authenticity’ as a notion instead of ‘Abduh’s use of a concept or ‘Abduh’s conception. On the other hand. a notion of ‘authenticity’ seems very important in ‘Abduh’s reinterpretation of Islam. history is assigned a purely negative role as a corruptive device of time. Islams and Modernities.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM traditions. Aziz al-Azmeh describes the centrality of the concept ‘authenticity’ (for which the common Arabic term is aṣāla. too. In spite of the crucial significance of the discourse of ‘authenticity’ in reformist thought. With regard to ‘Abduh’s (textualist) essentialism. al-Azmeh reveals the types of reasoning underlying the reformist ‘authenticity’-discourse. I will demonstrate that ‘Abduh’s interpretation of ‘authenticity’ differs from and as such transcends both traditions. ‘Abduh does not use the noun aṣāla to my knowledge. 134 41 . 97-116. 134 In order to demonstrate the striking similarities with the logic of protonationalist Romantic thought. 136 In order to retrace ‘Abduh’s conception of ‘authenticity’ without his actual use of the terminology of aṣāla.

Even though some persons are attributed special blame. 104. 58-59 [bida‘]. which should be removed to reach a state of salāma. 140 ‘Abduh blames postprophetic innovations (Arabic. 97. Arabic Thought. ‘Abduh. 99. Hourani. Theology. 120. 150-151. ‘Abduh. According to Hourani. Islam und Christentum. 106. 144 As such. ‘Abduh. ‘Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn’. ‘Abduh. ‘Civilizing Others’. such as freethinkers. his call for ‘true’ Islam as a call for. salāma does indeed portray a negative attitude towards the workings of history. 25. 112-113. and adherents to other religions as well as by more heterodox groups of Muslims. ‘Abduh. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. the corruption of ‘true’ Islam seems to be an almost inescapable by-product of the passing of time for ‘Abduh. did not care about religion as only their own interest mattered to them.. This latter group was particularly blamed. cf. plural: bida‘) for corrupting this original state of purity and perfection. a state of immaculate perfection and purity (Arabic: ṭahāra and ṣafā’). Islams and Modernities. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’.). 141 ‘Abduh. 139 For example: ‘Abduh. mystics and rigid religious scholars. 147. 142 These and other innovations were introduced to the beliefs and practices of Sunni Muslims by all kinds of newcomers. 145 Hourani. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. 142 ‘Abduh. History could have no more lessons to teach. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. Theology. 151. 144 ‘Abduh. 375 [salīm min bida‘]. Samira Haj and Rotraud Wielandt consider the fear of impending retreat (Arabic: taqahqur) and corruption (Arabic: fasad) because of the mere 138 al-Azmeh. if there was change it could only be for the worse (…). 140 For example: ‘Abduh. 489 [ṭahāra]. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. 34-35. Islam und Christentum. 107. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. ‘Abduh. Theology. Islam und Christentum. 147. 8. Paragraph 3. 103-107. according to ‘Abduh. 143 ‘Abduh. 104 and 108. cf. ‘Abduh lists the doctrine of predestination – which was put forward by Hanotaux to discredit Islam – as one of these historical corruptions. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. ‘Abduh. cf. 451 [awzār al-bida‘ (English: burdens of (heretical) novelties)]. 154. this fear of history as a force of corruption leading to decline has been inherent in the teachings of Islam from its earliest time onwards: ‘With the full articulation of the message of Muḥammad (. Schaebler. He regards these bida‘ as accretions to the original and ‘true’ Islam. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh. the ‘true’ and ‘authentic’ Islam of the Prophetic Age was abandoned. Islam und Christentum. 70.4. 138 Regarding the first role assigned to history. 338 [ṣafā’]. non-Arabs. 139 Salāma refers to an unimpaired state of Islam. 493 [verb: alḥaqa]. 141 As such. as they did not uphold true religion and consequently educated the masses in a corrupted and untrue religion. 42 . sophists. Arabic Thought.. 78. 143 This process of adulteration was facilitated and reinforced by ignorant (especially Persian and Turkish) rulers. ‘Abduh. such as Shiites. the Arabic terminology of salāma used by ‘Abduh in Theology of Unity to refer to true Islam is significant. 442 [salāma wa ṣaḥḥa]. 6 and 14. Theology. what was significant in history came to an end.THEOLOGY OF UNITY after which contemporary Islam should be modelled. ‘Abduh.’ 145 Likewise. who. 116-117. 141-142. Islam und Christentum. This duality is pointedly expressed in the terminology of authenticity (Arabic: aṣāla). among other things. Such discourses can also be referred to as ‘primitivism’ or ‘archaism’.

‘Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn’.). al-Azmeh. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. 8. 451 [uṣūlihu-l-ṭāhiru-l-ūlā]. ‘Abduh. Wielandt. 45. 100 and 104. ‘Abduh.. 146 In an article on Christianity and Islam in The Strongest Bond. 149 Haj. 8. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. the unfolding of history has no other role regarding Islam than a negative one for ‘Abduh. The struggle between truth and untruth is as the defence between the disease and the force of the mixture. 298 [uṣūl]. The ulama and learned people have an ongoing duty of critically reviewing. Muslims should turn to God and true belief again. according to ‘Abduh. 147 146 43 . 101. ‘Abduh particularly calls upon the ulama and learned Muslims to perform such a function. 71. 107. 151 His own reformist project was an attempt to do just that. there is a permanent pushing and wrestling which does not stop. 80. ‘Abduh. 149 Indeed.) between [the contingencies] and the true beliefs (.. 148 According to Haj. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. Their contemporary state of decline must have been their own fault. 107. In this sense. 104. 8. Wielandt. 336 [asbāb mā kāna salafkum ‘alayhi] 338 [verb: nasaba]. which has been the exemplary era in the imaginations of generations of Muslims before.. 8. 153 This is the Golden Age of Islam. 152 The true belief which ‘Abduh wishes to retain and regain against history is firmly located in earlier history – here. 99. 147 Thus. 154 This type of reformism or revivalism is therefore at the same time a return to the historical and primal origins (Arabic: uṣūl) of Islam. ‘God’s custom’. Offenbarung und Geschichte. 154 Hourani. Haj. ‘Abduh even calls upon every Muslim individual to examine their morals critically. ‘Abduh might have regarded himself a member of the ‘ahl al-sunna wa-ljamā‘a. 293 [uṣūl al-dīn al-ūlā]. Particularly in hard times. Arabic Thought. 150 In an article in The Strongest Bond on the customs of God regarding nations. 153 ‘Abduh. self-recognized. as Katharina Ivanyi also acknowledges. 152 Hourani. Haj on al-Jāhiz’ chronicle of Islamic history. 151 ‘Abduh. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. 150 ‘Abduh. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. Haj. Islams and Modernities. Arabic Thought.. a corrective device was developed within the Islamic community to counter this problem. ‘Islam und Christentum’. 51. seeking in it guidance in the new problems cast up by those changes. believing in the revelation of Muhammad. 42. ‘Sunan Allāh’. Offenbarung und Geschichte. defending it’. unorganized body of “concerned” Muslims. 8. Theology. 223-225. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. as God would never punish His community except if they went astray. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. or as Aziz al-Azmeh puts it succinctly: ‘Authenticity is (…) both past and Haj. 8. 42.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM passing of time as a critical component of Islamic historical memory. It is the original (Arabic: aṣlī) and pure Islam of the time of the Prophet Muḥammad and his Companions. testing and correcting contemporary Islam against the original Islam of the Prophetic age. whom Hourani describes as ‘the self-appointed. Cf. the second role assigned to history becomes manifest. Theology. Ivanyi. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh exhibits a similar type of reasoning when he writes that: (. wishing to preserve it unaltered amidst the changes of time. ‘Abduh. 148 Cf. the Pious Forefathers of the Muslims (Arabic: al-Salaf al-Ṣāliḥ). MR.

history is the past in the future anterior. 132 and 150. most of these fellow reformers either propose a faulty version of Islam because they are not genuine in their intentions or because they follow a wrong method of interpretation. and God always keeps His promises. MR. 51. ‘God’s custom’. however. 70. ‘Abduh staunchly believes that the third stage of restoration is drawing near at his time. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. 106. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. according to Hourani. For example. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. as just described – as the forerunners of nineteenth155 al-Azmeh. he notes that some Muslims had also taken on the necessary duty of reform. 44 . ‘Fātiḥa al-Jarīda’. Islam und Christentum.. the nineteenth-century followers of ‘Abd al-Wahhāb (17031792) advocate a literal understanding of the Quran. ‘Abduh. 157 ‘Abduh. 162 As announced in the first chapter of this thesis. 157 Since then. 156 Hourani. history became a triptych in which the centre piece only gained significance as an unfortunate intermission. Sunni Muslims had arranged the early history of the Islamic community in three stages: (1) the Golden Age of Islam which equalled moral perfection. 100. 78-79. Although it might have taken some time and will take some time more. 49.. ‘Abduh. 161 ‘Abduh. Orientalism and Religion. Therefore. King. HW. marked by moral corruption and consequent decline. 159 Haj. ‘Abduh. of which ‘Abduh does not approve. they consider eighteenth-century reformers such as the Indian Wālī Allah and Wahhāb of the Arabian Peninsula – ‘Abduh disagrees with the latter in Islam and Christianity on matters of methodology. the first period of moral excellence lasted until the disintegration of the Abbasid Empire which began in the tenth century and intensified with the Mongol invasions from the thirteenth century onwards. ‘Abduh concludes hopefully. 160 ‘Abduh. (. Approvingly. ‘Revivalism and Reformism are thus an Janus-like figure. ‘Abduh. The past is the accomplished future and the future is the past reasserted. According to al-Azmeh. ‘Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn’. 162 ‘Abduh. ‘Fātiḥa al-Jarīda’. ‘Islamist Revivalism’. 27-28. For him.’ 155 For ‘Abduh. 227. 100 and 149. Cf. 106. 7. 160 However. (3) a period of restoration under the Abbasid Dynasty. God will not allow His people to perish. (2) the Umayyad Period in which the umma was morally corrupted by the secular ambitions of kings. 158 As such. scholars such as John Voll and Rudolph Peters claim that this type of reformist thought in terms of iṣlāḥ and tajdīd already gained specific force in the eighteenth century. 158 ‘Abduh. Islam und Christentum. 35. 106. 32-33. 156 ‘Abduh retains this threefold historical order.).’ al-Azmeh. this is God’s promise to His community. Also cited by Ivanyi. This tripartite classification was not new or foreign to the (Sunni) Muslim tradition. ‘Sunan Allāh’. the Muslim World has been in the second stage of history.THEOLOGY OF UNITY future linked contingently by the ontological void of today. particularly in Egypt and India. King on the threefold periodisation of Hinduism in the imagionation of Western orientalists. ‘Abduh took up a practice – and discourse – of reform (Arabic: iṣlāḥ and tajdīd) which was well-established within the Islamic tradition. 129. 161 ‘Abduh likens these reformists to quacks who do more harm than good with their efforts. Islams and Modernities. but expands it until his own time. 159 ‘Abduh himself saw that he was not alone in this. Islam und Christentum. Arabic Thought.

whose manifestation in history coincides with the prosperity and might of the Islamic community as it reflects its ‘true’ and ‘essential’ nature. 164 ‘Abduh’s conflicting comments regarding Wahhāb and Sanūsī make clear that he was at least aware of a broader reformist movement. Islam and Modernities. ‘Abduh refers approvingly to the theologian and mystic shaykh Muḥammad al-Sanūsī (1787-1859). 131. with which his ideas demonstrated broad parallels and with some of whose proponents he felt particularly related. is for Muslim reformists knowledge of a ‘self-identical entity’. Islamic history becomes a function of the historical subject named Islam. al-Azmeh. al-Azmeh argues. Knowledge of authentic Islam. a return to Islam is like a return to a collective’s true self. but that the reformist movement was not a homogeneous body of thought and as such certainly no ‘school’ within Islam. HW. 167 al-Azmeh. ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ Islam refers to the pure and original Islam of the Prophetic days. ‘Islamist Revivalism’. Change and Continuity. 163 Two pages before ‘Abduh rejects the Wahhabist reading of the Quran in Islam and Christianity. 165 For now. 104. According to al-Azmeh. In addition. 165 Dallal. who is also considered an important member of the earlier reform movement. This core exists throughout history – unaffected by historical change. JAOS. these two functions of history converge in the reformist notion of (‘true’) Islam as an ‘historical essence’. while simultaneously it is truly a-historical as it resembles ‘a substance presupposed by history rather than being its product’. a Muslim can fall back on this supra-historical entity at any time. He is also one of the first to use it with a definite article: al- 163 164 Peters. Voll. ‘Idjtihād and taqlīd’. ‘Abduh. 166 As such. ‘Erneuerungsbewegungen’. however. 166 al-Azmeh. ‘Islamic Revivalist Thought’. Peters. ‘Islamist Revivalism’. al-Azmeh. it is more important that ‘Abduh’s approving reference to a fellow reformer such as al-Sanūsī whose thought was not yet pervasively characterised by European interference. That is. it is significant that ‘Abduh is one of the first to use ‘Islam’ as a substantive relating to the Islamic religion as such. WI.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM century reformists such as ‘Abduh. Islams and Modernities. 50. 50-51. demonstrates that ‘Abduh’s reformist use of the terminology of a ‘true’ Islam had roots in an Islamic discourse which was not merely an outer form concealing his ‘actual’ European origins. 98. Indeed. ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ Islam exists as a subliminal core. HW. 104-106. as a result of which al-Azmeh dubs their reformism quite condescendingly as an act of ‘transcendental narcissism’. Islam und Christentum. This indicates a middle position between Peters and Voll who posit a high degree of continuity between the modern reform movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries because of their shared preference for ijtihād (individual interpretation based on the original sources) over taqlīd (the strict following of a scholarly tradition of interpretation) and Ahmad Dallal who disagrees with this position altogether because of the extensive ideological variety both diachronically and synchronically between the reform movement on matters of taqlīd and ijtihād. 5. 45 . because it is an ontological dimension underlying history. 167 In this respect. however. Islam.

I demonstrated that the types of reasoning underlying the notion of ‘authenticity’ can (also) be retraced in the Islamic religion. Salvatore. According to al-Azmeh. Salvatore argues that this terminology of Islam – which was not specific to ‘Abduh. 174 al-Azmeh. 102-103. Cf. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. 169 As – June 2010]. to the romantic notion of a Volksgeist and to Herder’s vitalist notion of Kräfte guiding history. Islams and Modernities. 96 and 121. HW. 170 In addition. EI2 [www. 78. 76. King. 172 al-Azmeh. There is one ‘true’ Islam – at any given point in history – and that is Islam according to its original quality. As such. 49-50. The emergence of the terminologies of ‘Buddhism’ and ‘Hinduism’ in India under the influence of orientalist scholarship on Indian religions. The Islamic religion. 168 46 . his language reifies Islam. 333 [all: ṭabī‘a] and 349 [lubb al-dīn al-islāmī wa rūḥuhu]. Orientalism and Religion. al-Azmeh. 170 Salvatore. 293. al-Azmeh seems to attempt to demonstrate how ‘inauthentic’ the reformist notion of ‘authentic’ Islam was. 174 Although the idea of authentic Islam as a ‘historical essence’ whose manifestation advances the fate of its corresponding collective’s community might be new. ‘Abduh. ‘Chapter 13. ‘Abduh refers to the true ‘character’ or ‘nature’ (Arabic: ṭabī‘a) of Islam and the ‘core of the Islamic religion’ (Arabic: lubb aldīn al-islāmī). 138 and 146. 171 For example: ‘Abduh. 173 Ibidem.3 Authenticity and Textualist Essentialism As demonstrated. 172 As the intended effect of the manifestation of the collective self-entity is one of power and might for the community concerned. but to most if not all subsequent twentieth-century Muslim thought on Islam – was a response to the essentialist discourses of Orientalism. Theology. 45. 298.THEOLOGY OF UNITY Islām. Muslim reformists are able to determine what authentic Islam L. 123. 51. the two functions of history underlying the notion of ‘authenticity’ converge in the idea of Islam being a historical essence. that is the rationale underlying the concept of authenticity. 76. 169 Wielandt. 31 and 49. 49-50. Theology. according to Rotraud Wielandt and Armando Salvatore. ‘Islamist Revivalism’. 478 and 488 [both: rūḥ]. Gardet. Islam und Christentum (Arabic: al-Islām wa-l-Naṣrāniyya). 173 I will examine this proposition closer in the next chapter on ‘Abduh’s interpretation of ‘civilisation’. or: Islam’ (Arabic: aldīn al-islāmī aw: al-islām) in: ‘Abduh. 168 ‘Abduh’s language regarding Islam implies a cognisable and univocal entity which can assert its influence on history. Islam und Christentum. Ibidem. ‘Abduh. 143. 2. Islam and Political Discourse of Modernity. 171 Aziz al-Azmeh likens this type of reasoning of a collective self. ‘Abduh’s notion of ‘authenticity’ might not be so ‘inauthentic’ after all. ‘Abduh. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. 319. ‘Abduh. which necessarily affects its collective’s history.brillonline. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. ‘Islām’. Islam and the Political Discourse of Modernity. 65. Offenbarung und Geschichte. As such. 107. 465. ‘Abduh. Islams and Modernities. while its spirit (Arabic: rūḥ) should be restored to attain moral excellence and prosperity again. al-Azmeh also points out its relation with SocialDarwinist thought and its notion of a survival of the fittest of nations or communities.

On the other hand. Muḥammad ‘Abduh exhibits precisely these consequences of the ‘authenticity’-discourse in his attempt to establish the ‘true’ nature (Arabic: ṭabī‘a) of Christianity and Islam in his book Islam and Christianity. its revelation – and passed down testimonies of the earliest adherents of this particular religion. I will first explore the possible genealogy of ‘Abduh’s dual interpretation of uṣūl in the European tradition.4. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. These principles. because they are Muslim. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. This essentialism reflects ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as principles. 45. 298 [uṣūl]. ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā Ṭaylor’. 177 Furthermore. this implies that knowledge of the ‘true’ characteristics – or. 51. ‘Abduh. he explains that the study of a religion’s essence should concern itself only with the founding principles (Arabic: uṣūl) of the religion in question instead of its later accretions and innovations. Instead. Islam und Christentum. he continues. ‘Abduh’s terminology of uṣūl for both principles and sources is significant. Richard King’s analysis in his book Orientalism and Religion on the Orientalist study of Hinduism and Buddhism suggests a possibility in this respect. For example: ‘Abduh. Nonetheless. because uṣūl is linguistically very closely related to aṣāla – which al-Azmeh designated as the common Arabic term for the concept of ‘authenticity’. 47 . However. ‘Abduh. 28 and 31.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM is. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. only to be known through a transcendental ontological epistemology. Islam und Christentum. a revealed religion such as Islam is no nation or people. His description of the characteristic traits of an Orientalist perspective on religion strongly resembles the focus on origins and essentials which are implied in the discourse on ‘authenticity’. 500. more aptly called: essentials – of a particular religion is obtained through the study of the origins of the religion. 26. 25-26. 293 [uṣūl al-dīn al-ūlā]. Theology. 59. 178 ‘Abduh. are found in two types of sources (Arabic: uṣūl): the founding text of the religion concerned – that is. 43. 158. He does not investigate this proposition any further. Islam und Christentum. 359. Because of the prominence of the terminology of uṣūl in the Islamic tradition of theology and law and because ‘Abduh’s notion of ‘authenticity’ is commonly considered as modern and European in origin following al-Azmeh’s analysis. I will retrace ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as sources and principles in the European as well as Islamic tradition. ‘al-Jinsiyya’. ‘Abduh refers frequently to the Bible and in particular to the gospels of Mark and Matthew. 27. the essential tenets of any religion are found 175 176 ‘Abduh. I will pay more elaborate attention to the possible Islamic genealogy of ‘Abduh’s conception of uṣūl as an essential component of his understanding of ‘authenticity’. 176 With regard to Islam’s essential characteristics. when the rationale of the ‘authenticity’-discourse is applied to a revealed religion. On the one hand. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh invokes the authority of the Quran and the opinions and acts of the Prophet Muḥammad (Arabic: sunna) and the Pious Forefathers (Arabic: al-salaf al-ṣāliḥ). ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. 175 In his exposition of Christianity’s true nature. notwithstanding the contemporary practices and beliefs. To start with. 177 See the elaborate exposition of ‘Abduh’s ideas on the sources of Islamic knowledge: paragraph 2. 178 In the following. King identifies a strong essentialist tendency in the Orientalist attempt to define ‘true’ or orthodox religion.

Anṭūn began this polemic by criticising Islam’s true nature (Arabic: ṭabī‘a) for its incompatibility with modern civilisation (Arabic: al-tamaddun al-ḥadīth). ‘Abduh and other reformists’ essentialist perspective on Islam mirrored the – often highly negative – Orientalist analyses of Islam which they knew and which were framed in terms of authenticity and its related essentialism. 48 . 16.THEOLOGY OF UNITY in the study of a religion’s founding texts. Muhammad Abduh. 76. I argue. the corresponding definitions of this essence were framed in terms of ‘authenticity’. In addition. 181 A similar process of internalisation might have happened in ‘Abduh’s case. King describes how the ‘Oriental’ representatives of Hinduism and Buddhism frequently internalised the textualist essentialism of the Orientalist discourse on their religion. 185 179 180 King. ‘Abduh exhibits a similar essentialist reasoning in his discrediting of the Christian religion. 185 ‘Abduh.. 180 In addition. Furthermore. according to the Orientalist perspective on religion. 182 Haj. Moaddel. Instead of rejecting Islam’s worth in modern times. Often. 38-39. Orientalism and Religion. 179 According to King. 183 Particularly. This textualism is similar to important parts of ‘Abduh’s understanding of uṣūl as (original) sources. moreover. ‘Abduh’s response to Faraḥ Anṭūn’s allegations to Islam is a significant example in this respect. the reifying terminology of ‘Buddhism’ or ‘Hinduism’ came into being among Buddhists and Hinduists themselves. Islam und Christentum..148-153 for his account on Buddhism in this respect. Salvatore. 184 ‘Abduh refutes Anṭūn’s allegations in a similarly essentialist type of reasoning regarding Islam in Islam and Christianity. King argues. ‘Humanism of Abduh’. Furthermore. According to them. Informed by the French Orientalist Ernest Renan (1823-1892) – whom he even quotes in this respect. Islam and the Political Discourse of Modernity. ‘Abduh sets outs to demonstrate Islam’s conformity with modern times. this perspective of ‘textualist essentialism’ – as put succinctly – mirrors a (post-)Christian conception of religion. 81. Christianity has a history of defining its religious tenets exclusively and essentially – it is either true or false – and with a great emphasis on beliefs over practices. 69-70 and 145-146. 87. Amin. As a monotheist religion. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. 198. ‘Abduh was also on good terms with Lord Cromer – the British governor of Egypt – whose famous statement ‘(. 35-41. which itself hinges upon its revealed nature. 25. 266 [ṭabī‘a al-dīn al-islāmī]. 6. 184 ‘Abduh.) reformed Islam is Islam no longer’ seems to imply that he did not believe that Islam was capable of change. one might think of Gabriel Hanotaux’s criticism of Islam to whom ‘Abduh replied in 1900. the religious text’s significance in establishing this truth mirrored the centrality of the Bible. MW. Ibidem. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. 181 For example: Ibidem. The analyses of Samira Haj and Armando Salvatore lend credibility to this hypothesis. because of his strong emphasis on the Bible and the Quran and his rejection of contemporary practices among believers as proof for their religion’s ‘true’ nature. 183 Sedgwick. ‘Abduh. As a consequence. 182 In particular. Islamic Modernism. Islam und Christentum.

49 . So. ‘Abduh formulated his ideas in a context of Syrian Christian intellectuals who were educated by – particularly French and American – Christian missionaries. he wrote two letters to Leo Tolstoy at the beginning of the twentieth century expressing his deep admiration for the Russian writer. according to King. Retracing ‘Abduh’s essentialism and textualism to Christian exponents of the European tradition is a line of argument which needs further investigation. 188 Finally. it is also possible that ‘Abduh became aware of essentialist and textualist types of reasoning through Christian contemporaries. Attempts to find the essence of Christianity through a careful reading of the Bible were widespread in the nineteenth century. 190 For example: King. First. 189 King. Orientalism and Religion. there is always an element of agency for the ‘Oriental’ subject. King recognises that a Hinduist or Buddhist textualist essentialist perspective on Hinduism or Buddhism is not necessarily or uniquely the product of an internalised European notion of religion. 187 In Islam and Christianity. It is important to note two related things in this respect. 148-153 for his account on Buddhism in this respect. ‘Abduh refers to the papal edicts of 1864 – which is commonly known as the Syllabus Errorum – and of 1868 which listed beliefs and practices which the Roman-Catholic Church deemed false. it is also possible that he became familiar with these ideas through their journals. which were developed in a religious tradition prior to Western influence. however. for example. 40. According to Hourani. This will become clear in the next two chapters in which I will demonstrate how ‘Abduh argues that Islam is compatible with civilisation and is superior to Christianity according to the logic of ‘authenticity’ described here. Orientalism and Religion. 189 Second. There might be indigenous tendencies towards similar types of reasoning. he employed these to assert the opposite of Orientalist definitions of Islam. ‘Abduh was familiar with the works of David Strauss and Leo Tolstoy on religion. 190 In particular. as it will become clear from the following that he resembles Tolstoy’s ideas quite specifically on how to read a revelation. 191 186 187 Hourani. Arabic Thought.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM Since the Orientalist study of religion was informed by Christian conceptions of religion. although ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl was possibly affected by a European notion of ‘authenticity’ and its underlying rationales of essentialism and textualism. 43. King thinks that this might apply in the case of other monotheist and revealed religions such as Islam. 188 ‘Abduh. Islam und Christentum. 143. ‘Abduh. 186 In addition. ‘Risāla ilā Tūlstūy’ and ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā Tūlstūy’. 191 Ibidem. Therefore. 148-149 and 151. Especially ‘Abduh’s possible indebtedness to Tolstoy deserves more attention. according to King. even in a process of imitation and borrowing. moreover. Significantly. King identified a similar process of reversal in India where indigenous representatives of Hinduism and Buddhism translated the colonial discourse into an anti-colonial form. on the necessity of a religion’s principles being simple and on the compatibility of reason and revelation.

The first is the use of uṣūl in the sense of uṣūl al-fiqh – as the generally agreed upon sources for Islamic law (which are also the sources for Islamic theology). the articles of dogma (Arabic: ‘aqā’id) formulated by Islamic theology (Arabic: Kalām). I will point out both types of influences on ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl. 2. In the last paragraph on true rationality as a source for religious knowledge. as this emphasises the intricately synthetic character of ‘Abduh’s ideas. these differences can be attributed to European ideas which are unrelated to the discourse on ‘authenticity’ as investigated here. I will point out indigenous tendencies towards a text-based essentialism – as King already suggested there would be. Hourani. ‘Abduh’s understanding of uṣūl appeals to both Islamic and European conceptions of what ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ Islam – July 2010]. the extremely intricate character of ‘Abduh’s act of synthesis comes to the fore. this specific element itself is again well-grounded in the two traditions.brillonline. however. 145. I will demonstrate how ‘Abduh’s usage of the dual terminology of uṣūl is well-grounded in Islamic tradition. as will become evident. ‘Abduh’s differences with the Islamic tradition regarding his interpretation of uṣūl result in an even greater resemblance to King’s description of Orientalist textualist essentialism. Also. At the same time. Again. I will examine King’s proposition further with regard to ‘Abduh’s dual terminology of uṣūl – sources and principles – along two lines in the Islamic tradition. which coincide with the commonly accepted sources in Islamic law (Arabic: uṣūl al-fiqh): the Quran. the Sunna. however. I will explain how one particular element of ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as a crucial component of his notion of ‘authenticity’ transcends both traditions alike in this respect.4 The Original Sources (Arabic: Uṣūl) of Islam Sunni Islamic theology came to accept four sources (Arabic: uṣūl) as authoritative. At times. and the Analogy (Arabic: qiyās). The second is the appearance of the terminology of uṣūl in the sense of the uṣūl al-dīn. 193 Ibidem. EI2 [www. Often. they might be the consequence of heterodox elements within the Islamic tradition. 193 Gimaret. In Islamic theology. 192 As such. too. Arabic Thought. the Consensus of the Muslim Community (Arabic: ijmā‘). the first three sources are collectively referred to as the revealed proofs (Arabic: dalā’il sam‘iyya) while qiyās is considered a rational (Arabic: ‘aqlī) proof. Interestingly. ‘Abduh’s ideas on the uṣūl of Islam differ from the interpretations of uṣūl which had been developed within the Islamic tradition until then. As such. In the following.THEOLOGY OF UNITY In the following. Thus. 192 50 . ‘Uṣūl al-dīn’.

Islam und Christentum. 127. 197 Hereby. 197 ‘Abduh.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM ‘Abduh’s opinions with regard to the first category of sources give further evidence that he equates true Islam with original (Arabic: aṣlī) Islam. Cf. Cf. Formations of the Secular. 199 In his article ‘Ijtihād and Taqlīd in Eighteenth. 100. 155-156. By definition. Islam und Christentum. according to ‘Abduh in Theology of Unity: ‘Only the Quran remained unimpaired in its continuity. 117-118. 129. 125. 226. Islams and Modernities. ‘Abduh takes position against the established practice of taqlīd. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. ‘Abduh. 153. ‘Sunan Allāh’. Rudolph Peters describes an upsurge of the age-old dispute on ijtihād and taqlīd in eighteenth. ‘Abduh. Haj. 111-112. the imperative and strict following of the interpretations of the established theological and legal schools (Arabic. 200 194 ‘Abduh. Peters links the rise of this discussion to the revivalists’ pursuit of authenticity which Peters considers a central part of their fundamentalism. 200 Peters. 32. 119. 220. 198 ‘Abduh. Theology. WI. 196 ‘Abduh. 128. when all the time Muslims have the very Book of God as a balance in which to weigh and discriminate all their conjectures and yet its very injunctions they abandon and forsake?’ 196 The authority of the Quran as a source for both Islamic law and Islamic theology has never been questioned within the Islamic tradition. ‘Abduh. Theology. ‘Abduh. But ‘Abduh departs from nineteenth-century Islamic orthodoxy in his emphasis on the need for an independent reading of the Quran. the Quran always marks the standard to which one should return: ‘What are all these accretions to their religion.’ 194 As such. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. 91-92. ‘Idjtihād and Taqlīd’. that is. 198 The fourteenth-century Hanbali scholar Ibn Taymiyya was one of the first and most authoritative voices speaking out against taqlīd in the Islamic tradition. No Muslim should ever solely rely on the interpretations of the preceding theologians and jurists for his idea of true belief. these had to be rejected according to the logic of their fundamentalist plea for authenticity and originality. Islam as it was revealed and practiced by Muḥammad and the earliest Muslims. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh compares the Quran a true Muslim’s weapon in times of hardship as it will guide him to the way out of decadence. the Quran is not susceptible to later accretions. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. ‘Abduh lays very strong emphasis on the Quran as the most original and authentic source. ‘Erneuerungsbewegungen’. ‘Abduh.and Nineteenth-Century Islam’. Theology. Theology. ‘Abduh. 9. Theology. Asad. 51 . Peters. 195 Even in times of insecurity and deviation. 119 and 143. 61-62. as he disputed the idea of human infallibility with regard to the founders of the school of law which was implied by the prescription of taqlīd. First. 132-133. 110-111. 9. 71. that is. 151. The Quran itself should be consulted anew each time. 119 and 127. Islam und Christentum. al-Azmeh.and early-nineteenth-century fundamentalist revivalism. 195 ‘Abduh. plural: madhāhib) and the corresponding prohibition of independent individual reasoning (Arabic: ijtihād) for the religious scholars of Islam. 199 Haj. As theological and juridical schools were developed after the time of the Prophet and the rightly-guided caliphs.

‘[e]ither one must cease to believe that upright belief and conduct are rewarded in history or [‘Abduh] must change his view of ijmā‘. Laroui draws a parallel between the anti-authoritarian vein of the taqlīd. and supported by the analyses of Hourani and Salvatore. 99 and 155-156. 206 Kerr.ijtihād discussion to the Enlightenment repudiation of (clerical) authority and its corresponding cheer for individual rationality. Although ‘Abduh does not comment on ijmā‘ to my knowledge. it is important to note that ‘Abduh does not thereby 201 202 ‘Abduh. Islam. 202 As such. Islam und Christentum. Islams and Modernities. Only the ḥadīth of which the validity could be ascertained were to be accepted as proofs. The criteria involved in this process included the establishment of an unbroken chain of reliable authorities (Arabic: isnād) who had no interest themselves in circulating this particular tradition as well a multiplicity of traditions setting the same norm independent of each other. he was very careful which tradition to accept and which not. In addition to these proponents of ijtihād within the Islamic tradition. the two traditions might have reinforced each other here again. 203 ‘Abduh. Kerr writes. 52 . according to which the Community as a whole is divinely protected from error. ‘Abduh was compelled to abandon ijmā‘ as a binding principle. Islamic Reform. John Voll considers the scholars who were involved in these activities (Arabic. Salvatore.THEOLOGY OF UNITY One of the fundamentalist revivalists discussed by Peters is al-Sanūsī. Islam und Christentum. 205 Voll. ‘Abduh. he does not explicitly include it among the sources of Islam. this passage on Sanūsī is specifically concerned with Sanūsī’s treatment of the issue of taqlīd and ijtihād. the science regarding the authentication of traditions experienced a true revival. 114. 204 As such. however – nor was it of a particular recent date. this makes clear how much ‘Abduh was – also – a part of the Islamic tradition. 201 As such. 83-84. according to Kerr. Arabic Thought. In case of evident decline. But. Theology. the Sunna – as the generally approved standard of practice and belief introduced by the Prophet and his Companions as narrated in the traditions (Arabic. 203 However. The last source in the revealed category of theological proofs is the consensus of the Muslim community. Islam and the Political Discourse of Modernity. Change and Continuity. Secondly. singular: muḥaddith) as important members of the eighteenthcentury revivalist movement. 204 ‘Abduh. 98. 26 and 111-112. Already in the eighteenth century. which was initiated long before Western presence. Interestingly. singular: ḥadīth) – was an equally valid source for defining true Islam for ‘Abduh. of whom I mentioned before that ‘Abduh mentions him approvingly in Islam and Christianity. in particular with regard to his eighteenth-century predecessors. ‘Abduh came to accept only few traditions as genuine and valid. Hourani. Theology. The critical reappraisal of the large corpus of traditions was not something which was particular to ‘Abduh’s nineteenth-century concern of authenticity and originality. 64. 29-30. Cf.’ 206 Although I agree with Kerr on this. 205 Again. 109. 147. Paraphrased by al-Azmeh in: al-Azmeh. ‘Abduh’s plea for ijtihād as opposed to taqlīd should probably be considered a continuation of a central discussion within the Islamic tradition.

‘Arabī. 211 Gimaret. alQurṭubī. Islams and Modernities. I will demonstrate here how ‘Abduh’s understanding of the rational category of sources for Islam results in a determination of the principles of Islam which is increasingly reminiscent of the Orientalist tendency to essentially define what are true and false beliefs.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM discard the preceding tradition of Islamic theology and law completely – as al-Azmeh seems to imply. 212 See: M. Hourani argues. however. 208 entry?entry=islam_COM-0351 – August 2010]. I will retrace the possible genealogy of every particular issue involved within the Islamic and European tradition. EI2.brillonline. 207 In Islam and Christianity. 210 Hourani. al-Azmeh. Islams and Modernities.B. and D. 126. according to Hourani. 210 Still. the Quran and the Sunna are not self-evident. 83. 212 While qiyās was only to be employed in case of problems not treated in the scripture and not encountered before. 128. 78. ‘Abduh dedicates a complete paragraph to express his dissatisfaction with the disregard of early theological scholarship in contemporary Islamic schools. Islam und Christentum. Theology. 142-142. While the aforementioned three sources – that is. the revealed category of sources consists first and foremost of the Quran. ‘Abduh’s interpretation of the sources (Arabic: uṣul) for Islam fit the textualist approach of Orientalism as described by King even better. 152. Haj. 208 207 53 . the strict imitation of the established meanings of one of the four schools in theology or law – ‘Abduh advocates complete freedom in picking the sound interpretations from all theological and legal schools (Arabic: talfīq) here. and G. and the commentators of the Quran al-Ṭabarī. J. ‘Abduh. Troupeau. Bernand. the following names are mentioned: the scholars alAsh‘arī. Islam und Christentum. al-Ghazālī. al-Jaṣṣāṣ. ‘Abduh considers a rational interpretation of the revealed sources necessary throughout – regardless of explicit textual references or previous interpretations. Theology. ‘Abduh proposes a continuous critical assessment of the opinions of all authoritative predecessors – no matter what juridical or theological school (Arabic: madhhab) one adheres. al-Isfaraynī. Schacht. 211 ‘Abduh does not limit this category to reasoning (Arabic: ijtihād) analogously to the texts (Arabic: qiyās). As this argument evolves. 2. al-Bāqillānī. Arabic Thought. al-Iṣfahānī. Instead of merely rejecting taqlīd – that is. the analogy (Arabic: qiyās) is traditionally considered a valid source for religious knowledge within the rational category of sources. the Quran. For him. but are (almost) always in need of an act of interpretation al-Azmeh. ‘Abduh. 209 He even argues for a complete synthesis of all schools of . Sunna. al-Māturīdī. MacDonald. ‘Ḳiyās’ in: EI2 [www. 122. Cf. In this respect. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition.5 Ijtihād as a Rational Source (Arabic: Uṣūl) and the Principles (Arabic: Uṣul) of Islam After having established ‘Abduh’s interpretation of the revealed category of sources for Islam. ‘Abduh. with the Consensus of the Community rejected as an infallible source of religious knowledge and with the corpus of valid Traditions strongly depleted. 142.brillonline. and ijmā‘ – are collectively referred to as the revealed proofs. Thereby. 209 ‘Abduh.August 2010]. ‘Uṣūl al-Dīn’. ‘Id̲j̲tihād’ in: EI2 [www.

as I will demonstrate now. 213 On the one hand. On the diversity of opinion within the revivalist reformist movement regarding ijtihād and taqlīd. 217 ‘Abduh. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. ‘Abduh. 214 Instead. in Islam and Christianity – ‘Abduh probably referred to the Wahhabites here. cf.THEOLOGY OF UNITY (Arabic: ta’wīl or tafsīr) based on individual reasoning (Arabic: ijtihād). 219 This general vein (Arabic. Samira Haj traces this back to al-Ghazālī’s eleventhcentury philosophy on a virtuous society in which he deemed stability and equilibrium of central importance. Theology. He warns against an interpretation in which reason acts independently of the text as the counterpart of an overly literal interpretation. 142. 215 On the other hand. 488 [rūḥ] and 495. ‘Abduh. Islams and Modernities. 54 . ‘Abduh argues for an act of interpretation in which one balances between ‘force or frailty of memory’. for which other reformers argued. ‘Abduh’s plea for ijtihād clearly propagates a rational interpretation of the Quran and the few ḥadīths he acknowledges as valid. 87. ‘Abduh displays a strong preference for balance (Arabic: mīzān). used adverbally by ‘Abduh: ijmālan) should guide the reading of the Quran in its particulars. al-Azmeh. 478 [rūḥ]. ‘Abduh’s precise instructions how to read the Quran coincide strikingly with Tolstoy’s ideas on how to read the Bible: 213 214 Asad. ‘Abduh thereby makes ijtihād into ‘the general exercise of free reason. which flows beneath history. the theologian al-Ash‘arī serves as an example. The terminology of ‘essence’ and ‘spirit’ used here by ‘Abduh is strongly reminiscent of alAzmeh’s description of Islam as a ‘historical essence’. according to Gunnar Hasselblatt. Theology. Islam und Christentum. WI. one should start with establishing the general or essential meaning of the Quran – or Islam as such. 219. which he deemed very similar to the Romantic notion of a (Volks)geist. Islam und Christentum. or independent opinion’. Formations of the Secular. it does not follow from ‘Abduh’s emphasis on the need for independent reasoning (Arabic: ijtihād) that ‘Abduh disregards the theology of previous ages altogether. 219 For example: ‘Abduh. 52 [generally] and 57 [Sinn des Textes]. ‘Abduh refers to this as the ‘real import [of the Islamic religion]’ and the ‘spirit (Arabic: rūḥ) of the Quran’. This becomes especially manifest in his explicit denunciation of a literal interpretation of the revealed texts. Instead. ‘Idjtihād and Taqlīd’. 215 ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. ‘Sunan Allāh’. this does not imply ‘Abduh’s advocacy of the reverse. 216 ‘Abduh. Also. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. he pleads for an independent and direct reading of the sources. According to Talal Asad. 100 and 110. Theology. 134. 217 Again. Islam und Christentum. 216 Again. Here. 218 But what does ‘Abduh mean when he advocates for a rational instead of a literal interpretation of the Quran? According to ‘Abduh. 36-37. 227 [spirit of the Quran]. 146 [spirit] and 153-154 [real import]. as already mentioned. As explained before. 218 Haj. 72-73. 138 [spirit]. ‘Abduh. 143. ‘Abduh’s advocacy of ijtihād is an implicit rejection of the strict imitation of the founding fathers of the established schools within Islamic law and theology (Arabic: taqlīd). see: Peters.

CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM ‘(…) we must form our idea of the drift and spirit of the whole work. Arabic Thought. Islams and Modernities. 221 For now. 60. But Yasir Ibrahim draws our attention to the usage of a similar terminology within the Islamic tradition. the underlying aims or intentions (Arabic. within the science of Islamic law (Arabic: fiqh) and in particular as formulated by the theologian al-Shāṭibī. Informed by Ibrahim’s analysis.’ 220 As mentioned before. ‘Abduh seems to propose a historical method to infer general principles from the Quran and. 221 Hourani. spirit (rūḥ) and truth (Arabic: ḥaqīqa) in a similar way. MR. ‘Abduh argues that general principles (Arabic: uṣūl) should guide our understanding of the Quran and the Traditions. it is striking that the texts which ‘Abduh seeks to interpret along these general principles (Arabic: uṣūl) to deduce specific applications from. ‘Abduh’s reference to the true spirit of the Quran can be compared to the traditional concept of maqāṣid al-sharī‘a. Hourani. ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as principles can also be retraced within the Islamic tradition. According to Ibrahim. As such. 103 and 155. singular: qaṣd or maqṣūd) which should guide the jurist’s rational interpretation (Arabic: ijtihād) of specific verses concerning prohibitions and authorisations. ‘Abduh uses a terminology of an (underlying) wisdom (Arabic: ḥikma). ‘ ‘Abduh and the Maqāṣid al-Sharī‘a’. Then. collectively constituting the spirit of Islam. How does one arrive at this spirit of Islam and specifically its deduced uṣūl. 127. Theology. MR. uṣūl should be translated here as principles or essentials instead of sources. Ibrahim argues that ‘Abduh employs uṣūl in a similar way. except for Hourani’s broad statement that ‘Abduh was familiar with Tolstoy’s religious ideas. 135 and 143. 62 and 111. to a lesser extent. ‘ ‘Abduh and the Maqāṣid al-Sharī‘a’. the revealed sources as a whole constitutes the general textual context to which a specific verse should be related. I do not know which of Tolstoy’s works on religion ‘Abduh specifically knew. Indeed. this is a matter for further investigation. that is. 224 As such. 226 Furthermore. The Works of Leo Tolstoy. 55 . constitute at the same time the authorities or sources (Arabic: uṣūl) from which these principles themselves can be deduced. in Theology of Unity. 226 ‘Abduh. 223 Thus. we may proceed to make out what we is confused or not quite intelligible. this example underlines the complexity of ‘Abduh’s act of synthesis. 6-7 and 9-12. Arabic Thought. according to ‘Abduh? With regard to methodology. 29. however. On Life and Essays on Religion (London 1934) [translated from the Russian by Aylmer Maude] 207. To understand the (true or esoteric) aims or 220 Leo Tolstoy. al-Azmeh. from the Sunna. To do so effectively. ‘Abduh. 223 Ibidem. 224 ‘Abduh. Theology. a very thorough knowledge of the Arabic language is needed. 57. 225 Thus. on the basis of what we have understood. 222 Ibrahim. as Hourani and al-Azmeh’s analyses confirmed. that is. 10. 225 Ibrahim. I consider it one of the possible elements of the European tradition within ‘Abduh’s interpretation of the uṣūl within an Islamic framework.151-152. Islam und Christentum. 222 In addition. 3. 2.

as al-Azmeh observes with regret. MR. a distinction can be made between theological and juridical principles. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. 59-60 and 62. 2-3 and 5. 37 and 43-44. 84. ‘ ‘Abduh and the Maqāṣid al-Sharī‘a’. Theology of Unity. However. ‘Introduction’ in: Muḥammad ‘Abduh. renders ‘Abduh’s interpretation intelligible at the least and emphatically not a deliberate case of manipulation. one must understand the historical conditions in which the Quran was revealed. 233 Although maṣlaḥa is a familiar concept within the tradition of Islamic law.THEOLOGY OF UNITY principles of Islam from the Quran. one can indeed easily read into it everything one would like. influenced by a duality of (intellectual) traditions as well as by prejudices resulting from specific historical conditions. maṣlaḥa – that is. Besides. ‘Abduh mentions al-Bāqillānī approvingly a few times and is influenced by precisely al-Shāṭibī’s analysis of the maqāṣid al-sharī‘a. This conclusion seems to be confirmed by other scholars. With regard to ‘Abduh’s identification of Islam’s general principles (Arabic: uṣūl). according to Ibrahim. 233 Ibrahim. however. Continuing our research into ‘Abduh’s understanding of uṣūl as principles. reasoning while taking into consideration human welfare (Arabic: maṣlaḥa) as the law’s main aim – was not traditionally accredited as one of the main sources for Islamic law. Wielandt mentions a few theologians – al-Bāqillānī. there 17. 130. Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition. Wielandt argues that a historical reading of the Quran is highly unusual in Islam. Cf. Hourani. 228 Ibrahim. 229 As such. Haj. 231 To define Islam in this way. 151. ‘ ‘Abduh and the Maqāṣid al-Sharī‘a’. ‘Abduh. it is important to reiterate here that istiṣlāḥ – that is. MR. 229 Ibrahim. Islam und Christentum. 56 . 142-143. one could also maintain that this is a necessary component of any interpretation – especially in case with theology as it seeks to apply the text it interprets to a historical situation. Haj. Theology. 83. ‘Erneuerungbewegungen’. 4-5 and 29. 153-154. 231 Al-Azmeh. Islam und Christentum. 9-23. 230 Hourani. 8-9. Arabic Thought. 132-133 and 144. 122-123. ‘Abduh. 109 and 128. 232 Keeping Gadamer’s theory on interpretation in mind. 108. ‘Abduh. Theology. according to ‘Abduh. as they describe how moving back and forth from text to general spirit enabled ‘Abduh to apply a general Islam – free from its historical inessentials – to the specific historical situation of his own time. Arabic Thought. Islams and Modernities. Offenbarung und Geschichte. precisely as ‘Abduh intended. Kenneth Cragg and Ishaq Musa‘ad. Hourani draws our attention to the way ‘Abduh’s use of istiṣlāḥ differs from the 227 ‘Abduh. Wielandt. 232 Ibidem. 230 al-Azmeh claims that ‘Abduh stripped the Quran and Islam hereby from their specific historical meanings and contexts. Peters. MR. ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as principles seems to refer (also) to a historical reading of the Quran which distinguished the historical meaning of the Quran from its essential meaning. 151-152. 228 Significantly. A closer look at ‘Abduh’s horizon. I will now look into what these principles specifically referred to. human welfare – should be considered as one of the principles to guide rational interpretation in matters concerning Islamic law for ‘Abduh. According to Ibrahim. ‘ ‘Abduh and the Maqāṣid al-Sharī‘a’. al-Shāṭibī – who do testify to this kind of more historical reasoning. 227 Although Ibrahim points out a similar kind of historical reasoning in establishing the aims of Islamic law in consideration of the conditions of revelation (Arabic: maqāṣid al-tanzīl).

488 and 489 [both sadāja]. ‘Abduh. 237 In his emphasis on the simplicity and generality of the essential ‘truths which must be believed’ by every Muslim. 208. 66. 145. These might be referred to as the theological principles of religion (Arabic: uṣūl al-dīn or ‘aqā’id). For now. seem to be a mix of doctrines. Besides identifying juridical principles such as that of maṣlaḥa.’ 238 Again. It is just this – just what is fully comprehensible to all men – that constitutes the essence of Christ’s teaching. 236 As such. ‘Abduh exhibits again a striking similarity with Leo Tolstoy’s view that: ‘(…) all [people] will certainly agree in what is most important [in the Gospels]. it becomes clear that. juridical principles. the Quran. ‘Abduh reduces Islam to a number of essential and simple doctrines which were understandable for every human being: Islam in a nutshell. ‘Abduh and Tolstoy’s conformity regarding this particular point should be considered as a specific lead for further research into ‘Abduh’s synthetic interpretation of the uṣūl as principles in which Christian conceptions of religious authenticity should be more prominently included. Gimaret. 359. Works of Leo Tolstoy. cf. 145. 57 . 234 Here. this observation is in need of further investigation. while ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as principles might be grounded in the Islamic tradition (too). 76. 147 and 156. The eight uṣūl of the Islamic religion. Arabic Thought. or – as defined by the Encyclopaedia of Islam – ‘the truths which must be believed’. methodological instructions and sources (Arabic: uṣūl) of the rational category: 234 235 Hourani. 235 These principles or essentials comprise the only beliefs which were obligatory to all believers. ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā Ṭaylor’. Besides these two categories of principles. he very much differed from this tradition in the peculiarities regarding his synthetic interpretation.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM traditional standard in the fiqh-literature. 151-152. 236 ‘Abduh. Hourani. and these are things which will be found quite intelligible to everyone. Hourani states that the principle of human welfare was only a subsidiary means of interpretation. Tolstoy was not the only one exhibiting this type of ideas within modern Christianity. These particular principles serve to defend Islam against allegations of it being unscientific and not suitable to modern civilisation – as opposed to the Christian religion. His Prophet and the Prophet’s message. Certainly. these principles had to be very general and very simple. ‘Abduh seems to define still another type of uṣūl in Islam and Christianity. according to ‘Abduh: every Muslim should believe in one God. which are in keeping with the Islamic tradition of law and theology at least in some respects. that is. ‘Uṣūl al-Dīn’. according to ‘Abduh. 238 Tolstoy. while ‘Abduh considers it to be of primary importance. EI2. Theology. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. Arabic Thought. Theology. 237 ‘Abduh. as laid down by ‘Abduh in Islam and Christianity. ‘Abduh.

(8) Islam does not advocate a rejection of worldly matters in favour of the hereafter. Islam und Christentum. al-Azmeh. (5) Islam does not know religious authorities who can assert their power over an individual believer. Thereby. through his identification of only a few uṣūl as the essentials of Islam – the only truths which every Muslim should acknowledge – ‘Abduh proposed a quite minimalist definition of what defined being a Muslim. it is important to see how two possible genealogies of ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as principles converge and as such reinforce each other. Islam und Christentum. he wanted to dispose of age-old theological debates on matters which he deemed inessential. Islams and Modernities. 241 Furthermore. ‘Abduh’s minimalist definition of Islam makes clear how he displayed continuities as well as discontinuities with the general reformist movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. as described by Richard King. 63 and 156. ‘Abduh’s minimalist definition of Islam is reflected in his very tolerant attitude on diversity within Islam. 152. I will look into the consequences of ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as principles. JAOS. Theology. 240 As such. 61. ‘Origins and Objectives’. thus. (2) Islam favours a rational interpretation of the Quran. Cf. 242 As such. Dallal. For now. these principles were formulated as a defence against Anṭūn’s accusations that Islam was by nature unsuitable to civilisation as it was inherently hostile to science.THEOLOGY OF UNITY (1) Rationality and the Islamic faith are compatible. 56-72. Hourani. rationality leads to faith. he stressed the unity of Islam and the Muslim world as a 239 240 ‘Abduh. As mentioned before. 241 ‘Abduh. Peters. But ‘Abduh’s emphasis on internal Islamic unity is quite parallel to the Indian Wālī Allah’s ideas on ‘true’ Islam. (7) Islam preaches a tolerant attitude towards adherents of other religions. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh’s striving for talfīq and his own eclecticism – a synthesis of all legal schools. ‘Erneuerungsbewegungen’. 138-139. ‘Abduh’s minimalist definition of Islam was very much contrary to Wahhāb’s maximalist definition of Islam. Peters. 58 . 111-113 and 138-139. 242 ‘Abduh. Before finishing my investigation into ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as sources in the next section on sheer rationality as a last source for religious knowledge. Significantly. ‘Erneuerungbewegungen’. ‘Abduh approach to the Islamic religion resembled the Christian Orientalist emphasis upon textbased orthodoxy. He deemed all schools of law and theology (Arabic: madhāhib) equally valid and even advocated tolerance towards Shia Islam. 97. In fact. Islam und Christentum. 239 Because of their composite nature they are quite unlike the traditional interpretation of uṣūl within Islamic law or Islamic theology until the end of the nineteenth century. 128. for example. (6) Islam is peaceful. (4) Islam encourages his believers to think about God’s customs or patterns (see the next paragraph). Arabic Thought. (3) Islam rarely proclaims a believer as a heretic. 121-122. it is possible that ‘Abduh internalised the essentialist discourse of his adversary. 349.

‘Abduh cannot but discredit the Consensus of the Community as a revealed source for religious knowledge. 244 Scharbrodt argues that this leads ‘Abduh to adopt a quite relativist position in matters of truth. this research into ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as principles which resulted from his interpretation of one of the rational sources (Arabic: uṣūl) – that is. Theology.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM whole. 247 Hourani. 147. creation as a whole emanates from God and is united in its descent from a common origin. Islamic Reform. 144. Arabic Thought. 249 Cf. his advocacy of internal tolerance and relativism might have resulted from ‘Abduh’s ideas on human rationality. in which ‘Abduh was well versed through his uncle shaykh Darwīsh. 248 This idea of an elite having special access to God and His wisdom is again familiar to Islamic mysticism. ‘Abduh only grants the right of ijtihād to ‘those who possess the necessary knowledge and intellectual power’. According to this emanationist perspective. 249 This confirms the need to investigate possible Sufi influences on ‘Abduh’s ideas. 97 and 158. BSOAS. 245 ‘Abduh. Only perfect reasoning is infallible and only very few human beings can attain this level. theological differentiation within Islam should not be considered absolute. ijtihād – shows how much his interpretation is one of synthesis. ‘Abduh’s Sufi beliefs – which were very heterodox regarding nineteenth-century standards – are still in need of further investigation. 53-55. differences of opinion can only be defined gradually and not absolutely. 59 . 247 ‘Abduh probably considers himself one of these knowledgeable men (Arabic: ‘urafā’) who have partial access to divine wisdom. ‘Abduh firmly rejected the veneration of human beings as saints. moreover. according to Hourani. ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’. In conclusion. BSOAS. 93. 246 Kerr. Theology. one should always be aware of ‘the inherent unity behind the apparent diversity’. which could be ascribed to some Shiite doctrines and specifically to some popular forms of Sufism. ‘Abduh’s tolerance with regard to Islam internally might be a result of his belief in a Sufi inspired emanationist world view. His ideas on uṣūl in its dual meaning can be possibly 243 244 ‘Abduh. 246 Accordingly. ‘Abduh considers rationality – and thus. ijtihād – as necessarily susceptible to human fallibility. Scharbrodt. Alternatively. Theology. Instead one should focus upon the relativity of one’s own position and the underlying unity which connects the diverging opinions together. 100 and 103. 245 Kerr reasons that this reservation applies equally to ijmā’. 97. Likewise. Thus. being the collective equivalent of individual rationality. I will come back to this in my concluding chapter. However. Although this is an interesting hypothesis which finds evidence in ‘Abduh’s possible exhibition of a similar logic regarding other instances. Although there is constant movement in the creation – both downwards (from God to its creation) as upwards (the movement of creation towards God as a result of its inherent inclination to perfection) – which produces hierarchical diversification. 248 ‘Abduh. Scharbrodt. 243 Informed by Oliver Scharbrodt’s analysis of ‘Abduh first work Treatise on Mystical Inspirations. ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’. Postulating an underlying unity in all creation.

Hereby. 254 Sedgwick. on the level of history. Islamic Reform. 137. independent human rationality is one of the sources (Arabic: uṣūl) for achieving a ‘true’ and ‘authentic’ interpretation of Islam. Modern Catholic thought itself was in this respect indebted to the early authorities of Augustine (354-430) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Islams and Modernities. 2. 252 Tolstoy. In addition to ‘Abduh’s transformation of qiyās to almost uninhibited ijtihād – as demonstrated in the previous paragraph. see: Hildebrandt. altogether independent from the revealed sources – as another valid source for establishing the essential principles (Arabic: uṣūl) for Islam. 251 Furthermore. ‘Abduh differs from notions of ‘authenticity’ as prevalent within the European tradition as described by al-Azmeh and King. 13. but he also differs from interpretations of uṣūl – as principles and source – which have been developed within the Islamic tradition. For a thorough analysis of ‘Abduh’s supposedly Mu‘tazilite opinions. ‘Abduh seems to agree specifically on this issue of rationality with Tolstoy. the specific interpretation of ‘Abduh’s ideas on uṣūl with regard to Islam give similar evidence to his plea for unity. his ideas should be considered according to their unifying quality. 108. 254 In addition.6 True Rationality Continuing my quest to unravel ‘Abduh’s interpretation of uṣūl as part of his notion of ‘authenticity’. he furthers unity within Islam. This demonstrates how ‘Abduh’s act of synthesis with regard to his notion of ‘authenticity’ transcends both traditions and creates new meanings. as I will demonstrate here. Aziz al-Azmeh is convinced that the compatibility of faith and reason – or science and religion – which ‘Abduh exhibits by considering rationality as a valid source for religious knowledge. this type of reasoning is not foreign to the Islamic tradition either.THEOLOGY OF UNITY retraced to multiple roots within the Islamic and European tradition. WI. Works of Leo Tolstoy. a similar line of reasoning is set forth by Tolstoy in an essay titled ‘Reason and Religion’ from 1894. 253 ‘Abduh. ‘Waren Afġānī und ‘Abduh Neo-Mu‘tazilieten?’. By advocating tolerance within Islam. al-Azmeh. 252 In his letter to him. 60 . ‘Abduh might have been influenced by then abandoned theological views of the Mu‘tazila School (8th-10th century) which stated that reason was capable of deciding on good moral behaviour. on a historiographical level. 253 In addition. for ‘Abduh. Muhammad ‘Abduh. 250 As such. His interpretation of ‘authenticity’ is truly the result of a ‘fusion of horizons’. In this respect. The results of this endeavour would coincide with norms derived from the revelation. ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā Ṭaylor’. ‘Abduh identifies rationality pur sang – that is. As such. is influenced by Catholic apologetic thought through the works of the Syrian Christian Francis Marrāsh (1836-1873) and the Syrian Sunni Muslim Ḥusayn al-Jisr (1845-1909). 199-204. I will turn my attention to an additional source for religious knowledge which ‘Abduh includes in the rational category of sources. 363. In addition. 250 251 Kerr.

singular/plural: aṣl/uṣūl) while appealing to prevalent European types of reasoning. there 69.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM Ibn Sīnā’s (980-1037) philosophy stated – as paraphrased by Hourani . ‘Islamist Revivalism’. a rational study of human nature results in the establishment of general principles (Arabic: uṣūl) of Islam. ‘Aql’ in: EI2 [http://www. Theology. ‘Abduh. 70. HW. 260 al-Azmeh. rightfully stresses that these ideas of ‘Abduh were highly unorthodox at his time.). HW. 103. because Islam itself is considered a primeval religion (Arabic: dīn al-fiṭra).’ 261 Since Islam is a natural religion. Ibn Sīnā influenced the Catholic Thomas Aquinas in this respect. 255 In spite of these possible links between ‘Abduh and earlier authorities within the Islamic tradition. Although ‘Abduh’s positions on reason and religion would perhaps be acceptable to nineteenth-century Shiite Muslims. 77. ‘Islamic Reformism and the Secular’ in: Heike Bock. Riḍā’s usage of the doctrine of fiṭra with regard to the problem of miraculous events. too – as long as the rationality involved is sound. Islamic – September 2010]. also: ṭabī‘a). 261 ‘Abduh. 260 Or. 259 This rational method of knowing right from wrong is only possible. author of the most recent biography of ‘Abduh.brillonline. 262 Similar to the aforementioned workings of ijtihād.that ‘the divine law was attainable in principle by the unaided human intellect’. too. as ‘Abduh expresses it in Theology of Unity: ‘The [Islamic L]aw simply comes to disclose things as they are and not. fiṭra – or ṭabī‘a – refers to the natural human disposition of rationality by which human beings are enabled to know what is right and wrong independent from tradition (Arabic: naql). Possibly. as he repeatedly refers to rationality as a God-given ability to mankind which should therefore be employed. Cf. 256 So. Muhammad Abduh. 68. 258 Tj. Rahman. will examine in what ways ‘Abduh employs a traditional Islamic terminology to present rationality as an independent source (Arabic. 256 255 61 . how does ‘Abduh himself justify his position on rationality as another valid source for religious knowledge? In the following. Kerr. Cf. 79. 257 Al-Azmeh. 18. 44. Sedgwick. Islam und Christentum. Cf. Mark Sedgwick. 108. Islamic Reform. 76. Theology. 127. 258 ‘Abduh demonstrates this type of reasoning in Theology of Unity. Richard van Leeuwen. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh and other reformists justified their position on independent rationality and the self-evidency of Islam by referring to the doctrine of fiṭra which could be translated as nature or character (Arabic. 257 In relation to rationality (Arabic: ‘aql). ‘Islamist Revivalism’. Furthermore. Kerr. so to speak to make them so. Theology. Secular and Sacral Concepts and Practices in Interaction (Campus Verlag: Frankfurt/New York 2008) 64-78. 259 ‘Abduh. Offenbarung und Geschichte. 44. de Boer and F. the Sunni ulama of the Azhar would have opposed it wholeheartedly. cf. which coincides with human nature. Religion and Its Other. Malcolm Kerr justly compares this type of Hourani. Arabic Thought. According to al-Azmeh. studying (human) nature must reveal religious knowledge. 115 and 117. 262 Wielandt. I will demonstrate how an interpretation along these lines favours the early – and authentic – period of the rightly guided forefathers as worthy of imitation. Jörg Feuchter and Michi Knecht (ed.

265 ‘Abduh puts these last conclusions to use in his defence of Islam in relation to civilisation. 71 and 107. God is considered to act systematically regarding his creation. 263 If Islam – as deduced from the revealed sources – can also be discovered by independent reasoning. ‘Abduh. 272 Kerr.. 77 and 117. 27. Theology. fiṭra is itself not easily distinguished from the sunan. 58. however. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh also draws upon the concept of God’s rules regarding His creation (Arabic: sunan Allāh) to enable a rational interpretation of nature. Theology. Islam und Christentum. 270 Although God is able to deviate from His standard.. 266 In Ash‘arite theology. ‘God’s customs’. as explained by Malcolm Kerr. However. which maintains that morality is (or should be) deduced from (human) nature and its patterns and regularities. 272 ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh emphasizes the importance of fixed laws (Arabic: sunan) for the possibility of rationality and scientific reasoning. 66. 264 In addition. 271 For example. as we will see in the next chapter. MR. 131. reason and revelation are mutually reinforcing. 270 ‘Abduh. Islam und Christentum. 136-137. 51. cf. 268 Van Leeuwen. Activité Humaine et Agir de Dieu. the sunan – are unchanging and therefore reliable. Activité Humaine et Agir de Dieu. Wielandt. knowledge which is acquired through sound reason can never be rejected in name of the Islamic religion. 269 Van Nispen tot Sevenaer. Offenbarung und Geschichte. ‘Abduh. As such. 268 In addition. 20. Islamic Reform. Cf. Nature is permanently subjected to God’s will and actions. The doctrine of fiṭra is not the only Islamic terminology in which ‘Abduh justifies the independent significance of rational reasoning for understanding true Islam. as Richard van Leeuwen explains with regard to ‘Abduh’s student Rashīd Riḍā. Ivanyi. 266 According to Christian van Nispen tot Sevenaer. Wielandt. 60 and 78-79. Christian van Nispen tot Sevenaer goes as far as to call the sunan an ‘ontological statute’. which is intelligible for human beings because of its regularity and structure. 145-146. The rules (Arabic: sunan) underlying human nature (Arabic: fiṭra) include that human beings have a natural disposition to human rationality (itself also called: fiṭra). 265 ‘Abduh. 29-30. 267 Kerr.) and laws’ underlying creation. 119. 68. this implies the other way round that there is nothing essential in the revealed sources which is not rationally intelligible. Theology. 271 ‘Abduh. 264 263 62 . Offenbarung und Geschichte. Cf. the sunan Allāh are considered ‘a foundation of strict rules (. Van Nispen tot Sevenaer. Theology. Therefore His rules – that is. God’s invariable rules enabled human beings to reason independently from the sources which were revealed by Him. 20. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh. 102. 39. He does not do so – except to prove the truth of His message as brought by His prophet – so that mankind can rely on these laws and deduce reliable knowledge from them. ‘Abduh argues. God is allocated an active role in nature. 48-49.THEOLOGY OF UNITY reasoning to that of the European concept of natural law. 267 As such. ‘Reformism and the Secular’. ‘Abduh. Islamic Reform. human reason can deduce the unity of God from the regular structure of nature. 31-32. 269 Throughout his works. 129 and 131.

97. 93. along which a believer should interpret the Quran. the historical lessons are a source of particular importance for ‘Abduh and gain a much more prominent role in his thought than they had had before him. 97-98. 273 The possibility of historical lessons in morality – as also displayed by the Quran – is dependent upon the idea that God is not neutral towards the communities of the world.23). 30-31. this cluster of meanings – history. Islam und Christentum. 273 63 . 104. Offenbarung und Geschichte. plural: umam) has been existent in the Islamic tradition from the outset. similarity – is well-captured in the Arabic terminology of mathal. ‘Sunan Allāh’. 22. Islam und Christentum. Offenbarung und Geschichte. exemplarity. 45. MR. cf. according to ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. God altereth not what is in a people until they alter what is in themselves’ (13. however. Individuals are only punished or rewarded in the Hereafter. 277 Wielandt. these lessons may be compared to the uṣūl as principles. 138. ‘Such was the way of God in days gone by and you will find it does not change’ (48. Islam. ‘Sunan Allāh’. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. 104. 118. ‘God’s Custom’. 58-59. The invariable custom of God regarding the punishment of disobedient societies thus enables historical lessons in morality. Wielandt.53 and 13. 220-221. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. 275 This type of reasoning only applies to societies. although this type of historical reasoning is not foreign to Islamic tradition.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM Besides studying nature. ‘Abduh. 26. however. 276 ‘Abduh. history .11 were traditionally interpreted in a roughly similar way as ‘Abduh does here: God changes the fortune of a people whenever they pursue a sinful life. then God changes their fortune for the good – was not answered by traditional theology. ‘Sunan Allāh’. 138. ‘Abduh. John Voll notes. 54. ‘Abduh. 222. however. Theology. Kerr. 276 In addition. Theology. ‘Abduh based his reformism upon this interpretation. 277 Therefore. 6-7. 137 and 138. ‘God’s Custom’. according to ‘Abduh. 121. It was an important Quranic theme. Cf. 279 Therefore. when a people changes for the good. Islamic Reform. 118. 278 Whether this specific custom of God also works in the reverse way – that is. according to Wielandt. cf. ‘Abduh. 137.53). 100.62). 278 Ivanyi. 92-93. the history of communities who received a divine punishment are instructive to others in religious matters. the fortunes of preceding peoples – that is. Abduh. 274 As such. Cf. God is always on the side of those who follow His religion. In addition. ‘Abduh. Theology. 104. 60. Drawing lessons from the history of societies (Arabic. ‘Abduh. 275 ‘Abduh displays this type of reasoning clearly as he regularly cites four similar Quranic verses: ‘It is God’s practice towards those who passed away before you and you will not find a change regarding the practice of God’ (33. Here. Katharina Ivanyi argues that the Quranic verses of 8. Theology. 100. it is important to note that the lessons which ‘Abduh drew from history were of a rather general nature. Ivanyi. ‘Abduh.serve as examples of good or bad group behaviour for subsequent generations in a similar situation. 127. ‘al-Jinsiyya’. 274 Voll. ‘Fātiḥa al-Jarīda’. Wielandt explains in his Offenbarung und Geschichte im Denken moderner Muslime from 1971. 279 Ibidem. 45. 218. the sunan also enable human reason to deduce true Islam from the course of human history. Theology.11) and ‘This is because God is not one to alter good which He hath bestowed upon a people until they alter what is in themselves’ (8. Change and Continuity. ‘Truly.

Offenbarung und Geschichte. and Ibn Rushd (1126-1198). 138 and 153-154. ‘Abduh. 281 For ‘Abduh. Islam und Christentum. 45. the early prosperity and might was a worldly sign from heaven that the Muslims of that time were following the right course. Arabic Thought. Hourani. 51. 142-144. Theology. ‘Abduh. 282 Early Islam thus becomes a model for later times. al-Azmeh. ‘Abduh. 287 For example: ‘Abduh. 284 Wielandt. This Golden Age is not confined to the earliest days of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs for ‘Abduh – as most contemporary Salafists and nineteenth-century Wahhabites would hold. 285 ‘Abduh. 223 [al-salaf al-ṣāliḥ]. Islam experienced a remarkable story of immediate. The buildup to these misfortunes. As ‘Abduh recalls in Theology of Unity as well as in an article in The Strongest Bond. Theology. Offenbarung und Geschichte. ‘Abduh. al-Ghazālī (1058-1111). 285 Having thus deduced the Golden Age. 283 ‘Abduh. such as ‘Abduh. ‘Sunan Allāh’. 7-8 and 149.THEOLOGY OF UNITY If ‘Abduh’s philosophy of history is as I have just expounded. Instead. consists of the Kharijite and Shiite secessions in the seventh century and the disintegration of the Abbasid Caliphate with the competing Fatimid and Cordoban Ummayad Calphates. as just set forth. 65. historical might and prosperity give evidence to the existence of ‘true’ Islam. 71. ‘Abduh. ‘al-Jinsiyya’. such as: al-Ṭabarī (838-923). Arabic Thought. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. cf. 40. ‘Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn’. Wielandt. 280 In traditional Sunni imagination. This periodisation depends upon ‘Abduh’s philosophy of history. fast and wide expansion. 281 280 64 . it becomes clear that especially the pious or rightly guided forefathers (Arabic: al-salaf al-ṣāliḥ) are of essential importance to ‘Abduh’s epistemology of ‘true’ Islam. al-Bāqillānī (ca. ‘Abduh. 67-68. it is significant that ‘Abduh frequently refers to Western historians and their (occasional) positive remarks on the Classical Period of Islam. 70. Cf. 286 ‘Abduh considers all of these forefathers as worthy of imitation and refers to their practices and beliefs regularly to prove the truthfulness of his expositions on Islam. according to Wielandt. 287 In ‘Abduh’s exposition on the history of Muslim societies. 142-143. Hourani. HW. 284 As such. Islam und Christentum. Theology. Cf. according to ‘Abduh. al-Ash‘ari (874936). 286 ‘Abduh. ‘Islamist Revivalism’. 78-79. 149. 282 ‘Abduh. their prosperity and their practices and beliefs in Islam and Christianity. too. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. but also because history taught ‘Abduh so. ‘Abduh explicitly names several religious scholars who should be revered and imitated as Pious Forefathers. 86 and 91. 83-84. 32 and 148. Theology. 80. most particularly of Bagdad in 1258. which differentiates between good and bad history dependent upon the adherence to true Islam which is in turn manifested in worldly prosperity. 144-145. Islam und Christentum. 950-1013). ‘Abduh locates the final rupture with ‘true’ Islam at the end of the Abbasid Empire with the Mongol conquest in the thirteenth century. the remarkable expansion of early Islam is from very early onwards interpreted as a sign from God. 45-47. Following this methodology. 110 and 118. ‘Abduh’s exemplary Golden Age covers almost seven centuries and runs from Muḥammad’s Community in Medina to the end of the Abbasid Period. 283 Not only because of its inherent original and primal quality.

56. which is acceptable to the whole of society – with which he reacts against the polarisation of the French society after the French Revolution. it is obligatory for – at least most – human beings to trust upon God and His revelation. 294 ‘Abduh. 57. Indeed. 77 and 84. Theology. 60. Additionally. For one thing. 294 Besides. the conformity of revealed and rational knowledge does not render revelation superfluous. Actually. 84-84 and 87-91. 288 Here. 290 Thus. According to Hourani. 149. Arabic Thought. 146-147. plural: ‘ibadāt) as well as to reason’s incapacity of reaching the essence of truth (Arabic: kunh ḥaqīqatihā) by which he ultimately seems to refer to truly knowing God Himself. Cf. 295 Ibidem. 288 65 . Jean d’Alembert. as he secularises the sources of religious knowledge for communities altogether. as well as Montesquieu’s of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire – as they had been translated to Arabic by Tahṭāwī’s translation movement. 76 and 95. 290 Hourani. 292 Ibidem. 289 ‘Abduh probably knew some historical works of Voltaire and Montesquieu – such as Voltaire’s works on Peter the Great and Charles XII of Sweden. Arabic Thought. 291 Ibidem. Islam und Christentum. 296 ‘Abduh. Multiple elements of both the European and Islamic traditions interlock in a very Ibidem. and Edward Gibbon. 74.CHAPTER TWO – AUTHENTICITY AND TRUE ISLAM Gustave Le Bon. Theology. 293 According to ‘Abduh. reason is of no help. in some cases. ‘Abduh refers to knowledge about the specific prescriptions regarding the ritual worshipping of God (Arabic. 110. Gustave LeBon’s The World of Islamic Civilization is nothing but a tribute to classical Arab civilization. 295 Therefore. ‘Abduh’s notion of ‘authenticity’ is truly an act of synthesis of two traditions. which taught that universally valid lessons could be deduced from history. Hourani. 80. originally published in French as La Civilisation des Arabes in 1884]. Offenbarung und Geschichte. we can see how elements of Western Orientalist discourse enable a colonial subject such as ‘Abduh to contradict the general Orientalist portrayal of Islam. Kerr. Wielandt points at the conformity of ‘Abduh’s philosophy of history based on God’s customs (Arabic: sunan) with the one prevalent in the Enlightenment. not all human beings possess a rational mind sound enough to be capable of attaining a level of perfection which matches the wisdom of the Quran. 292 Malcolm Kerr is convinced that – with ‘Abduh’s rational and systematic definition of Islam – ‘Abduh ultimately removes the use of religion. ‘Abduh’s desire to prove that Islam is itself a rational system of morality – or even a ‘true sociology’ – results from the influence of the positivist philosophy of the French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857). 53-54. Islamic Reform. by referring to the traditional terminology of sunan as well as of fiṭra or ṭabī‘a. ‘Abduh. Islam und Christentum. William Draper. ‘Abduh draws attention to the systematic and rational nature of knowledge within Islam. 108. there are only very few who can. ‘Abduh. 60 and 69. Here. 71 and 138. Comte argues. 291 Society should be organised along a scientifically acquired system of morality. just as there are only very few who can correctly execute the task of ijtihād. Islamic Reform. Cf. 296 To conclude this chapter with. 139-140. 122. 293 Kerr. The World of Islamic Civilization (Tudor: New York 1974) [translated by David Macrae. however. Gustave le Bon. 289 Wielandt.

these principles can also be established using rationality alone. includes the establishment of the essential principles (Arabic: uṣūl) of Islam. having established the principles of Islam. ‘Abduh exhibits an essentialist approach towards religion as described by King. this demonstrates his inclination towards ‘originality’. 66 . In particular. As such. This will become particularly evident in the next two chapters. the practice of ijtihād in reading the Quran is another valid source for religious knowledge for ‘Abduh. Third. Thereby. he differs from Islamic tradition while exhibiting an inclination towards ‘originality’ as portrayed by an emphasis on texts – described by King – and as portrayed by his ambivalence regarding history – explained by al-Azmeh. his particular notion of ‘authenticity’ transcends both traditions. of which elements can also be retraced within the Islamic tradition. these happen to coincide with the prescriptions of a scientific (sociological) model for humanity’s welfare. His particular interpretation of ijtihād. (early) Islamic history is relevant in this respect. again. Again. Finally. As such. First. As such. Second. I will repeat the main lines of argument here. according to ‘Abduh. In addition. ‘Abduh’s notion of ‘authenticity’ unifies ‘Abduh’s wish to return to ‘true’ Islam and his desire to modernise it at the same time. both within the European as well as within the Islamic tradition.THEOLOGY OF UNITY complex way in his interpretation of a ‘true’ and ‘authentic’ Islam. ‘Abduh considers the Quran and the few valid traditions of the Sunna as the most important sources for religious knowledge. ‘Abduh’s interpretation of the uṣūl with regard to his notion of ‘authenticity’ (Arabic: aṣāla) combines multiple elements. furthermore.

Fisch. ‘Zivilisation.CHAPTER THREE – AN ISLAMIC MISSION OF CIVILISATION 3. Talal Asad points at the prevalent nineteenth-century Egyptian terminology of being ‘Europeanised’ (Arabic: Jörg Fisch. 398-422. Europe conceived of itself more and more as the leader or front runner of the world. 298 It was no act of aggression.1 Mission Civilisatrice In the second half of the nineteenth century. there 740. Werner Conze and Reinhart Koselleck. ‘al-Jinsiyya’. 718 and 753. Based on a universalist conception of humanity which was particularly prevalent in France and Great-Britain – the homelands of ‘Abduh’s main intellectual influences – the concept of civilisation even rendered Europe’s interference as a service to the unfortunate countries who were lagging behind at the universal ladder of civilisation. the terminology of civilisation and the hierarchy implied acquired an important legitimating role in the colonialist activities of European countries towards non-European countries. This ladder of developmental progress as well as its highest point of destination then measured – that is. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. European thought: 1848-1914 (Yale University Press: New Haven 2000 – paperback edition) 72 and 80. 301 Similarly. Crisis of reason. In the following. ‘Abduh. 298 John Wyon Burrow. 299 Before these conceptual developments – as described in the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe project in which Reinhart Koselleck was involved – which drew strict boundaries between Europe and the rest. Das 19. as becomes evident in The Strongest Bond. The non-European peoples or nations were measured against the developmental position which Europe ascribed to itself. ‘Afghānī on Empire. Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe.und Zivilisationsbegriffs im 18. Crisis of Reason. Entstehung des modernen Kultur. there 398. ‘Civilizing Others’. 705774. Islam. cf. he was well aware that civilisation (Arabic. In fact. 299 Margaret Kohn. Political Theory (PT) 37 (2009) 3. Jahrhundert’ and ‘Zivilisation. ‘Civilizing Others’. in Europe – was called ‘civilisation’. Thus. 72 and 80. 300 ‘Abduh. 744. 53-54. 43. 743-744 and 758. Kultur’. 297 As such. Jahrhundert: zwei Begriffe als Ausdruck des Selbstbewuβtseins einer Epoche’ in: Otto Brunner. a Muslim intellectual such as al-Ṭahṭāwī still conceived of civilisation as a universal cultivating development in which Muslim countries such as Egypt equally and simultaneously participated. but a more favourably phrased mission civilisatrice. Historische Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland (Klett-Cotta: Stuttgart 1992) VII. Only if I want to emphasise its function within the text as a concept. Schaebler. Only barbarians and Bedouins were excluded by him. ‘Zivilisation. Burrow. und im frühen 19. 23-24. 301 ‘Abduh. however. and Civilization’. Kultur. I will add them. 23. Ibidem. the rest of the world was hierarchically classified according to its level of developmental congruence with or deviation from Europe. I will normally omit the brackets of ‘civilisation’. 297 67 . formulated his ideas on civilisation in a radically different discursive environment. Kultur. here: tamaddun) was used by European powers as well as by staunch proponents of extensive Westernising reforms to portray and justify European interference in internal matters as a helping hand. 300 Schaebler.

I will demonstrate how ‘Abduh unremittingly matched his idea of what civilisation was with his idea of the ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ nature of Islam. as he agrees with Anṭūn that contemporary civilisation is indeed situated in Europe. 135. 134 and 135. 44. ‘Fātiḥa al-Jarīda’. 361. for which he employs the dual terminology of uṣūl (sources as well as principles). 128. 37. 308 These terms are significant. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. 360. 304 ‘Abduh. 305 However. Donald Malcolm Reid. The Odyssey of Faraḥ Anṭūn. Thus. On the other hand. 61. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. PT. Islam und Christentum. 148. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’.compatible with civilisation. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. According to Ibn Khaldūn. but also: ḥaḍāra and madaniyya). 82. as set forth in the preceding chapter.THEOLOGY OF UNITY mutafarnij) as an equivalent of being ‘civilised’ (Arabic: mutamaddin). he locates civilisation in the heydays of medieval Islam. This applied particularly for civilisation towards Islam. 490. 303 302 68 . 12-13. 137 and 151. 128. extensively. ‘Abduh. 100. Islam und Christentum. as Ibn Khaldūn (1332-1406) exposed it in his Prolegomena (Arabic: Muqaddima) – is formulated in terms of ‘umrān. 16 and 103. ‘Abduh. 266 [madaniyya] and 338 [tamaddun]. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. 13 and 16. 264 and 266. I will analyse ‘Abduh’s conception of civilisation as he expounded this in Islam and Christianity in particular. ‘Afghānī on Civilization’. 82. ‘Abduh predominantly uses the Arabic word madaniyya for civilisation. a Syrian Christian’s Quest for Secularism (Bibliotheca Islamica: Minneapolis 1975) 83-85. ‘Abduh. ‘Fātiḥa al-Jarīda’. 58. ‘umrān and tamaddun. both of these concepts must have co-determined each other’s meaning to a high degree. purely based on the original sources – in particular the Quran – and its deduced and therefore equally authentic principles. 417 [‘umrān]. ‘Abduh. according to ‘Abduh’s philosophy of history. Islam and Christianity Related to Science and Civilisation in 1902 (Arabic for civilisation here: madaniyya) – was written as a response to allegations of the Syrian secularist Faraḥ Anṭūn that Islam was by its nature not suitable to civilisation (Arabic. 293. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. Cf. 53-54 [tamaddun]. 354. 150. 469. 134. 307 Use of madaniyya for civilisation: ‘Abduh. 304 ‘Abduh does not counter Anṭūn’s localisation. 59 and 60. ‘Abduh employs the terms ḥaḍāra. 306 In the following. 362 and 372. tamaddun. 323. 134. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. 360. Throughout these three works. Theology. and reinforced it in occasional references in Theology of Unity in 1897 as well as in his 1884 articles in The Strongest Bond. but only sporadically. Cf. since the relations between Europe and the Muslim world were asymmetrical indeed – as I mentioned in the introduction. 335. Simultaneously. Anṭūn locates civilisation exclusively in contemporary or modern (Arabic: ḥadīth) Europe. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. Theology. 305 ‘Abduh. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. 70. 302 In addition. he wishes to demonstrate that ‘true’ Islam is – and was . 308 ‘Abduh. On the one hand. 58. 306 For example: ‘Abduh. 128. 127-128 and 140. tamaddun]. Pre-Islamic state of barbarism [barbariyya]: ‘Abduh. 127. 252. ‘Abduh’s most elaborate account of Islam and civilisation – that is. 492. 399. Afghānī on religion and civilisation: Kohn. ‘umrān knows two Asad. ‘Abduh refers to Islam in its original quality. ‘Abduh. Islam und Christentum. 307 Furthermore. 37. Formations of the Secular. Islam und Christentum. which coincided with ‘true’ Islam. 59 and 60. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. 303 Instead. Theology. Theology. because the best-known theory on human civilisation in the Muslim world – that is. ‘Māḍī alUmma’. 148. ‘Abduh. 354. 264 [ḥaḍāra. most of the time: tamaddun. ‘Abduh. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’.

This strengthens Hourani’s conviction that. 16. 132. Arabic Thought. Therefore. ‘Civilizing Others’. through ‘Abduh and Afghānī’s usage of the concept of civilisation in The Strongest Bond. at least – ‘umrān. Hourani himself does not go into this at all. 13 (2008) 2. 315 This further qualification of the importance of ‘Abduh’s understanding of ‘civilisation’ by Hourani renders a detailed examination of ‘Abduh’s usage of the concept even more interesting. Djamel Chabane. 114 and 132. a more detailed examination of ‘Abduh’s idea of civilisation seem to be in place. Hourani is more interested in showing ‘Abduh’s correspondence with European ideas than in analysing ‘Abduh’s ideas as a creative act of interpretation. Totalitarian Movements & Political Religions (TMPR) 1 (2000) 3. according to Hourani. Kohn. 311 Schaebler. to my knowledge. ‘Abduh did not choose – or not predominantly. 311 Although Ibn Khaldūn’s Prolegomena was republished in Cairo in 1857-1858 under the auspices of Ṭahṭāwī and was lectured by ‘Abduh at the House of Sciences (Arabic: Dār al-‘Ulūm) in the 1870s. the one of ḥaḍāra – is characterised by ‘the state of “living in the city” ’ (Arabic: tamaddun). Before I delve into this. 312 Hourani. as I argue in the introduction. Schaebler. particularly because there were Muslim conceptions of civilisation available which ‘Abduh held in high esteem and because the concept of civilisation was being arrogated for European colonial interests. Both in the European and the Khaldūnian conception of Schaebler. place. 16-17. ‘Civilizing Others’. 352. JNAS. but is. 314 Sedgwick. and person. I must direct my attention to the composite nature of the concept of civilisation known to ‘Abduh. This set of lectures was translated into Arabic in 1876 and exerted great influence on Afghānī and ‘Abduh. ‘Afghānī on Civilization’. ‘Civilizing Others’. 309 Furthermore. ḥaḍāra or tamaddun to refer to civilisation. there 76. 16-17.CHAPTER THREE – AN ISLAMIC MISSION OF CIVILISATION successive forms: the first being a nomadic type of civilisation (Arabic: ‘umrān al-badawī) and the second a sedentary or urban type of civilisation (Arabic: ‘umrān al-ḥaḍarī – in which ḥaḍarī is adjectivally used). 331-349. ‘The Structure of ‘Umran al-‘Alam of Ibn Khaldun’. PT. 313 ‘Abduh even lectured on this work at his house. the summit of the sedentary type of civilisation is called by its corresponding noun in Arabic: ḥaḍāra as such. The Journal of North African Studies (JNAS) 13 (2008) 3. at least in the 1884 journal The Strongest Bond. 315 Hourani. Laroussi. 114. ‘The Concept of ‘Umran. Frédéric Volpi. 313 Hourani. ‘Abduh uses madaniyya – a term which is linguistically related to tamaddun. ‘Understanding the Rationale of Islamic Fundamentalists’ Political Strategies: A Pragmatic Reading of their Conceptual Schemes during the Modern Era’. Arabic Thought. not used by Ibn Khaldūn. however. Arabic Thought. 314 More importantly. 351-361. Amri. Muhammad Abduh. This makes it unlikely that ‘Abduh adopted Guizot’s conception of civilisation completely. JNAS. this ‘seminal idea of nineteenth-century Europe’ of civilisation was introduced to the Islamic world at large. 312 Instead. 16. 310 309 69 . 72-96. Moreover. there 352. there 342. Amri. 310 This last stage – that is. which was performed in a context of an Islamic intellectual tradition as well as interests specific to that time. The Heuristic Knot in Ibn Khaldun’. ‘Concept of Umran’. 411. the usage of civilisation was highly determined by the exposition on civilisation by the French historian and politician François Guizot (1787-1874) in his 1830 Histoire de la Civilisation en Europe.

Y. 318 Thus. civilisation has known from early on a specifically collective dimension. JNAS. as well as the highest point of being civilised. ‘Zivilisation. cultural. who transposed Darwinist conceptions. 740. Herbert Spencer on Social Evolution. 320 Similarly. a higher degree of civilisation enabled and justified conquest and subjection. such as the survival of the fittest. to social phenomena. ‘Introduction’ in: Herbert Spencer. In the nineteenth-century European imagination of time and space on a global level.THEOLOGY OF UNITY civilisation.Y. Crisis of Reason. Kultur’. Peel. 3. Selected Writings (University of Chicago Press: Chicago 1972) vii-li. ‘Abduh continuously makes a similar connection between civilisation and the worldly might of human collectives. while Europe itself became the site of civilisation.D. It may refer to social. Peel] 37 and 167. there xvi. the overpowering of other nations might even be conceived as particularly positive. Indeed. Selected Writings (University of Chicago Press: Chicago 1972) [edited and introduced by J. This was in keeping with the ideas of Social-Darwinist proponents such as Herbert Spencer. civilisation was certainly not conceived in an apolitical manner. to the detriment of non-European nations in an earlier stage of civilisation. As competition was seen as an inevitable feature of human life which resulted in progress. as it referred to humanity as a whole (civilisation as a universal ladder) or to specific nations or peoples (the highest form of civilisation exclusively assigned to the European peoples).D. As became clear in the application of this conception of civilisation in a discourse of colonialism. ‘Abduh equates the worldly might of one community (Arabic: umma) necessarily with its dominance over For the nineteenth-century concept of civilisation: Jörg Fisch. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. 319 Spencer. this applies to ‘Abduh’s idea of civilisation. 721 and 753. 317 Fisch. Spencer on Social Evolution. Herbert Spencer. 318 Burrow. the stages of Europe’s own history of development provided the means of categorisation for other nations or peoples – although contemporaneous in time. economic and scientific activities as well as the products of these efforts. cf. civilisation simultaneously refers to the progressive ladder of human development. J. ‘Structure of Umran.2 Might and Unity: Ranking the Communities and the Survival of the Fittest As I explained before. Therefore. political. 718. ‘Zivilisation. 316 70 . 332. civilisation is quite a comprehensive concept. 319 Although only sporadically explicitly. 52. 320 ‘Abduh. I will dissect his conception of civilisation into its most prominent components. moreover. As such. 59 and 60. Kultur’. 45-46. It was coupled with the idea of might and power. For the concept of civilisation (Arabic: ‘umrān) by Ibn Khaldūn: Chabane. Herbert Spencer on Social Evolution. too. Europe’s history of civilisational progress was concretised in space. 317 Civilisation thus offered a possibility of hierarchically ranking the communities with Europe as its culmination. 316 Not surprisingly perhaps.

325 Peters. Theology. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh. Islam und Christentum. 97. ‘Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn’. 77-78. according to Hourani. 130. 138. ‘Abduh. 328 ‘Abduh. 327 al-Azmeh. Schaebler. ‘Erneuerungbewegungen’. 322 Based on the Quran. 72. Kerr. an argument which I also encountered in the previous chapter. 27. It flowed out to cover and to embrace in one the territories it renewed. ḥayāt]. ‘‘al-Jinsiyya’. 148. Change and Continuity. Theology.’ 323 Moreover. MR. 60. Aziz al-Azmeh compares ‘Abduh and other reformists’ emphasis on Islam’s congruence with might. and [as] the ground of human well-being in both worlds. 45. Islam’s conformity with strength and power demonstrates how much Islam is in keeping with human nature (Arabic: fiṭra). 77-78. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. 22. (…). Islam has traditionally been accustomed to the idea that ‘true’ Islam results in worldly prosperity and might (Arabic: ‘izza). 321 As demonstrated in the section on God’s customs (Arabic: sunan) and the possibility of historical lessons regarding ‘true’ Islam. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. 59.CHAPTER THREE – AN ISLAMIC MISSION OF CIVILISATION other communities (Arabic: umam). as they wished to counter the economic. Theology. the remotest part of God’s earth from civilization [Arabic: al-madaniyya]. 102-103. 138. cf. 322 321 71 . 43. al-Azmeh. 327 Indeed. 29-30. 77-78 and 142. 92-93. 326 In addition to these leads within Islamic tradition. It was a river of life welling up in the desert of Arabia. ‘Islamist Revivalism’. Ibn Khaldūn connected the development of civilisation (Arabic: ‘umrān) specifically to the acquisition of political and military power of a state. 328 Ibidem. 49-50. ‘Abduh. 131. ‘Abduh. while a decline in the community’s power always results in its submission to and subjugation by other communities. Theology. ‘Abduh states that Islam existed ‘for the welfare of humanity. Islamic Reform. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh. HW. Islam. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. ‘al-Jinsiyya’. ‘Sunan Allāh’. ‘Civilizing Others’. 319 [‘izza]. Islams and Modernities. according to ‘Abduh. Theology. for example: ‘Abduh. Ivanyi. cf. power and collective survival primarily to Herderian Vitalist theories combined with Social-Darwinist notions of a survival of the fittest on the level of nations or communities. 219 and 221. 108. cf. the spirit of Islam – which al-Azmeh compares to the Herderian Volksgeist – functions as a revitalizing power – which al-Azmeh likens to the Herderian concept of Kräfte – in ‘Abduh’s Theology of Unity: How splendid is the wisdom of God in the pattern of Islam. ‘Abduh. Arabic Thought. 323 ‘Abduh. bringing to them a vitality [Arabic: ḥayāt]. ‘Abduh. ‘al-Jinsiyya’. ‘Abduh. historical patterns and the corresponding model of the classical period of Islam. 43. ‘Abduh. 325 Furthermore. ‘Abduh. 324 Eighteenth-century reformists of Islam displayed a similar type of reasoning in which ‘true’ Islam would coincide with might and prosperity. 326 Hourani. ‘Abduh. 324 ‘Abduh. cultural and political decline – well before European powers entered the scene – they perceived in their time by reforming Islam. Voll. 133-134 and 143. See for the spirit of Islam and the consequent strength for the Muslim community: ‘Abduh. ‘God’s Customs’. 149. Arabic Thought. Hourani. 490 [madaniyya.

332 ‘Abduh was certainly not the first Muslim thinker to emphasise unity. According to Peters.. according to Ibn Khaldūn. 103.’ 331 In addition. ‘Abduh regularly uses the body-metaphor in his articles in The Strongest Bond and in Islam and Christianity to explain something regarding the Muslim Community. His eighteenthcentury fellow reformists demonstrated a similar tendency. Theology. 330 Indeed.THEOLOGY OF UNITY These Romantic notions of Darwinist vitalism fitted well into the Darwinist evolutionism. or even a civilisation – was conceived as a body. 72 . Aziz al-Azmeh draws our attention to the importance of unity in ‘Abduh’s ideas on power and might. 142 and 146. as far as I know. Kohn. according to Ibn Khaldūn’s cyclical notions of history. A healthy and internally interdependent body was a strong and powerful body. 333 Peters. a religion is particularly well-suited to create a bond of solidarity and unity within a state to ensure its survival – although this is always temporary.. group solidarity – that ‘unity and political supremacy are mutually interdependent. but also in his later Theology of Unity in which he writes that ‘Each individual (. Ibn Khaldūn teaches us with his reference to ‘aṣabiyya – that is. 85-86. the theme of unity was very prominent in Romantic vitalism. according to al-Azmeh. ‘Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn’. 101. whose parts depended on the whole. Arabic Thought. Transposed to a social entity. which alAzmeh analysed himself. 333 Even more interesting is Kerr’s reference to an Islamic proponent of unity with specific regard to civilisational development: Ibn Khaldūn. see also the medical metaphors to which attention was drawn before [chapter 2]. ‘Afghānī on Civilization’. a nation. A human collective – that is. ‘Islamist Revivalism’. 411. 78. 48-49. 331 ‘Abduh. Islam und Christentum. as it spreads discord in the last resort. 137. al-Azmeh. Islams and Modernities. while the community in turn has its role which none can dispense with for his growth and subsistence. Peters. which does not have a very important role in European discourses on civilisation. PT.’ 334 More specifically. which often had a strong organicist tendency. which the European civilisational discourse already portrayed. this organic view of the social world resulted in an emphasis on unity and collectivity. 332 ‘Abduh. which is not specific to the eighteenth or nineteenth century but has been a constant factor in Islamic intellectual history.) has something to do in maintaining the whole. No nation (. a people. the emphasis on unity is even a trait specific to the Islamic fundamentalist style. 335 Hourani.. WI. HW. 132-133. 334 Kerr. and vice versa. 91. In a continuing manner. a community.not only in The Strongest Bond. According to Kerr. he advocates pan-Islamic unity instead. 329 However. In The Strongest Bond he calls upon all Muslims to unify themselves to regain strength and prosperity 329 Professor James Kennedy is right to suggest that civilisation always implies a certain amount of unity. linguistically related to ‘aṣabiyya: ta‘aṣṣub) regarding the nation. being a designation for a collective. 335 Although ‘Abduh rejects fanaticism (Arabic. ‘Abduh. 108. 24. 330 al-Azmeh.. ‘Erneuerungsbewegungen’.) can prosper without a cohesive and aggressive spirit. ‘Abduh testifies to this type of reasoning . ‘Idjtihād and taqlīd’. Islamic Reform.

31. and political unity. Theology. 115 and 138-139. 63 and 156. ‘Abduh. 59. as these engendered divisions and discord – both between scholars and among the masses who followed them. produce for the communities the power of unity. 115. 341 In sum. Islam is particularly well-suited to promote unity. 336 73 . Mu‘tazilite and Ash‘arite scholars who discussed each other’s ideas freely. 61. the sources and principles (Arabic: uṣūl) of Islam play an important role in establishing proof for this assertion. they knew not to secede into different schools or sects. civilisation. Islamic Reform.CHAPTER THREE – AN ISLAMIC MISSION OF CIVILISATION in the Muslim World as a whole. ‘Abduh. 112-113 and 138-139. ‘Introduction’. 124. 102. power. Scharbrodt. 38-40. 339 Finally. ‘Abduh brings Islam. ‘Fātiḥa al-Jarīda’. at my words that the true religious origins. 134 and 138. which are free from novelties and innovations. 342 ‘Abduh. ‘Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn’. Did you forget the history of the Arabic community and what was incumbent upon them before the rise of the religion regarding barbarism and disunity as well as the existence of disgraces and forbidden actions until the religion reached it? Thus [the religion] united [the community]. 337 ‘Abduh. Islams and Modernities. 32-33. unity and dominance over other communities together in his plea for Islamic revivalist reform: Are you amazed. 338 Hourani. 78. the forefathers who were worthy of imitation – as proved by their might which ensued from political unity – already testified to the spirit of theological. Islam und Christentum. 128. 45-47 and 59. and so it mastered the world. it straightened its moral. ‘Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn’. it purified it. 340 ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. 59. 342 ‘Abduh. it strengthened it. o reader. ‘Abduh. one could easily find prominent Shiite. 337 Furthermore. ‘Abduh. ‘al-Jinsiyya’. 90-92. according to ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. 17. the harmony of union and the esteem of honour for the bliss of life? And that the [true religious origins] cause for [the community] the acquisition of moral excellencies and the expansion of the domain of knowledge and that [the religion] finally leads towards the most extreme limit of civilisation [Arabic: madaniyya]? If you are astonished. Again. 12. ‘Abduh. juridical. 103-104. ‘Abduh maintains. BSOAS. ‘Abduh’s advocacy to favour general principles (Arabic: uṣūl) of religion over specific and detailed regulations and his efforts to promote a synthesis of the theological as well as juridical schools imply an Islamic unity in itself. 137-138. 341 ‘Abduh. 336 According to ‘Abduh. the revealed sources and the deduced general spirit or principles of Islam call Muslims to internal unity and stimulate individual efforts for the common good. 111-114. al-Azmeh. Islam und Christentum. Cragg. ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’. 111-112. 73 and 80. 339 ‘Abduh. Although they differed of opinion on the details of Islam. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. Theology. Kerr refers to the article ‘Islamic Unity’ (Arabic: ‘al-Waḥda al-Islāmiyya’) in The Strongest Bond: Kerr. 338 ‘True’ Islam did not bother itself with hairsplitting activities. ‘Abduh. According to ‘Abduh. 123 and 148. it enlightened its minds. then my astonishment with your astonishment is greater. it directed its rulings rightly. Arabic Thought. 152. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. cf. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. Theology. 340 In the Classical Muslim world which was still united under one caliph. Islam und Christentum. Islam und Christentum. 107.

Burrow. whose title immediately gives it away: science. science is unquestionably an indispensable aspect of civilisation.3 Civilisation and Scientific Progress In an article with which he immediately aroused ‘Abduh’s anger. 52. 86-87 and 91. Crisis of Reason. 349 Ibidem. 82. titled Islam and Christianity Related to Science and Civilisation. moreover. science and scientists were assigned an almost divine role in the progressive development of mankind. I will touch on them only briefly here. 84-85 and 87-91. 19. ‘Abduh does not question Anṭūn’s line of reasoning which coupled science and civilisation intricately together. and therefore with civilisation. ‘Abduh does object. 80. this quote also refers to the conceptual twin of civilisation as becomes manifest throughout ‘Abduh’s works. according to ‘Abduh. he relies on European works of history for this. 349 In addition. 117 and 145-146. ‘Abduh refers to these twin concepts and their close connection regularly. 83-85. 103 348 For example: ‘Abduh. 54-55 and 99. Odyssey of Faraḥ Anṭūn. He devotes the greatest part of Islam and Christianity to counter the first component of Anṭūn’s allegation. 346 Ibidem. given the prominent status science had acquired in the nineteenth century. 109. according to ‘Abduh. 127 and 140. In the works of Auguste Comte as well as in Renan’s own work The Future of Science. 343 The connection between science and civilisation is not particularly surprising. I will now turn to this component of civilisation. Theology. however. as has just been demonstrated. In these. like Anṭūn. the essentials of Islam teach that the Quran should be rationally – instead 343 344 Reid.THEOLOGY OF UNITY Moreover. 77-78. Islam und Christentum. 65. he argues that science was particularly conducive to might and power – which he regards as one component of civilisation. 347 Ibidem. 347 He cites scientific accomplishments of the medieval Muslim civilisation to prove ‘true’ Islam’s compatibility with science and civilisation. 83-84. According to ‘Abduh. Faraḥ Anṭūn – following Ernest Renan’s works on Islam and on the Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd – set forth why Islam was not conducive to science and therefore not to civilisation. ‘Abduh first and foremost stresses Islam’s rational nature. 74 . ‘Abduh. 100. 345 ‘Abduh. 344 In his reply to Anṭūn. Islam is even particularly conducive to science. Apart from the telling title. The rationality of Islam manifests itself in two ways. to Anṭūn’s claim that the Islamic religion is incompatible with science. 3. First. Having encountered both in the second chapter. such as those of Gibbon and Le Bon in which the classical Muslim-Arabic sciences are highly praised. 345 Also. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh refers to the eight general principles (Arabic: uṣūl) of Islam which he deduces from the general spirit of the Quran and the Sunna. 346 For ‘Abduh. 348 Preferably. but particularly in Islam and Christianity Related to Science and Civilisation. 129 and 142.

72. ‘Abduh reasons. 353 Fourth principle of Islam: ‘Abduh. 363. 357 ‘Abduh. 64 and 102. if rationality is an indispensable component of human nature and if Islam is necessarily conducive to human nature. cf. according to ‘Abduh. that is. religion necessarily exerts influence on the mind of the leader and therefore on his politics regarding the state. reason as such – that is. 12-13. As such.CHAPTER THREE – AN ISLAMIC MISSION OF CIVILISATION of literally – interpreted. 56. 350 Second. 79 109 and 146. However. As the ruler is a believer himself. 354 Eighth principle of Islam: Ibidem. Theology. religion is restricted to its proper sphere and cannot harm the development of science. 355 Probably. ‘Abduh. 361. Reid. 117. 358 ‘Abduh. As I explained in the second chapter. ‘Abduh argues. there is no religious authority asserting its influence over an individual believer – whether this is a political leader or not. Anṭūn maintains. in a Christian society. 58. ‘Abduh. Reid. Based upon an earlier article in The Strongest Bond on Christianity and Islam. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. ‘Abduh is proud to announce that Islam by its nature does not know any clerical hierarchy between God and His believers. Odyssey of Faraḥ Anṭūn. Odyssey of Faraḥ Anṭūn. Islam und Christentum. 115. ‘Abduh’s exposition on the rational nature of Islam would not have persuaded Anṭūn that Islam is compatible with civilisation. Islam does not reject the possibility of natural or social laws. however. 84-85. 353 Secondly. 65. it seems that ‘Abduh rejects the possibility of a separation of church and state. 358 As such. Islam und Christentum. this conformity relies upon the regularity of God’s customs. 56. 83. 35. Second principle of Islam: Ibidem. 354 So. Christianity is actually just as detrimental to science as Islam. Islam by definition confirms and stimulates human rationality. Every believer gives account to God only. according to ‘Abduh. 72 355 Ibidem. 76-77. First principle of Islam: Ibidem. according to Islam’s principles drawn up by ‘Abduh. Odyssey of Faraḥ Anṭūn. 60-62. 352 On the contrary. the general purport of the Quran motivates Muslims to examine the regular workings of nature. 351 Thus. 39. 357 A religion can therefore only be conducive to a secularist separation of church and state – as ‘Abduh understands it in a quite unique way. According to him. as Anṭūn argues. 351 350 75 . 103. closely following the analysis of Renan in this respect. 352 Reid. independent from revealed sources – is capable of producing religious knowledge in Islam. Because of its inherently irrational nature. revelation and reason coincide in the case of Islam. 356 ‘Abduh. the following account should be considered predominantly as a first impulse to further investigation. Anṭūn considers a secularist separation of church and state as a necessary condition for the acquisition of civilisation. 86. ‘Risāla ilā Tūlstūy’. 127 and 145. Christianity’s secular nature is the only reason that Christian Europe became civilised in the first place. 356 ‘Abduh’s reply to this is rather enigmatic – therefore. when it does not claim any authority over its believers. the conformity of faith and reason is dependent upon Islam’s conformity with human nature. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh. ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā Tūlstūy’.

205. 364 This parallel with Guizot is confirmed by ‘Abduh in Theology of Unity. A caliph is not in the position to judge – or force – the believers regarding their inner faith. this renders ‘Abduh’s interpretation of secularism rather peculiar. Islam is a religion of tolerance. Also. ‘Abduh claims that a religion should peacefully preach tolerance and independence of mind – in particular to promote science and. Asad. civilisation. the state and perhaps the jurists – are intertwined. 76 . With this term. Islam und Christentum. originally published as Histoire de la civilisation en Europe in 1828] 29. 115. instead of coercion. 361 In addition. sixth and seventh principle of Islam: ‘Abduh.THEOLOGY OF UNITY The function of the caliph is not to be misunderstood. 360 As such. It does not persecute anyone for his thoughts and opinions. as such. For ‘Abduh. ‘al-Radd ‘alā Faraḥ Anṭūn’. 100. The terminology of ‘al-Islām dīn wa shar‘ ’ is particularly interesting. The caliph is merely a civil (Arabic: madanī) ruler. 13. his interpretation for civilisation includes a component of secularism as he conceives it – but perhaps a less confusing terminology would be that his interpretation of civilisation comprises religious tolerance and the lack of religious coercion. 121. Indeed. the strict and compulsory following of the interpretations of one established school of theology and law – favours an independence of mind. That is the task of God only. 129 and 138. cf. 125. 62. according to ‘Abduh. Islam is ‘religion’ (Arabic: dīn) and ‘law’ (Arabic: shar‘). moreover. Theology. Guizot assigns particular importance to the Reformation in this respect. moreover. 110-111. because of its parallels with ‘al-Islām dīn wa dawla’ [Islam is religion and state]. 359 In that particular sense. ‘Abduh. 310 [madanī]. according to ‘Abduh. 57. Indeed. As such. The History of Civilization in Europe (Penguin Books: Londen 1997) [translated by William Hazlitt in 1846. 98. 67-69. as it favoured an independence and freedom of mind. According to him. the pluralist composure of European civilisation engendered a particularly high level of tolerance which resulted in the thriving European civilisation of the nineteenth century. Religion remains an important foundation of the nature of the state. ‘Abduh conceives of him as secular. whether these concern the religious or scientific domain. 363 The particular combination of intellectual freedom. 66 and 70. 39. 31-32. 364 François Guizot. which collectively characterise ‘Abduh’s idea of secularism. ‘Abduh. is reminiscent of Guizot’s theory on the development of European civilisation. For example. ‘Abduh omits here that. ‘true’ Islam’s rejection of taqlīd – that is. a pluralism of opinions and tolerance. 127. Formations of the Secular. 117 and 125. with regard to classical as well as contemporary tolerance regarding scientists: Ibidem. 139 and 140-141. as Hasselblatt translates madanī here. the state and church – or in the Islamic case. 63-65 and 71. he holds that a caliph should provide the state with religiously inspired law. cf. in which he states: ‘A certain [W]estern philosopher of the recent past has said that the growth of civilization in Europe rested on the 359 360 Ibidem. However. so that believers can conduct their religiosity as an individual and as a collective. Islam und Christentum. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh seems to mean that the caliph does not intermeddle with individual matters of spirituality. 362 Third. 363 Ibidem. 67-68. 362 The legal status of protection for Christians and Jews in the medieval caliphates was just one example of this attitude of ‘true’ Islam. 72. previously in that chapter. ‘Abduh. Islam certainly fits this picture well. 361 For example: ‘Abduh. according to ‘Abduh.

The centrality of the opposition of stagnation versus dynamic is significant. 371 Blunt’s words in defence of Islam. Theology. Here. moreover. which I mentioned in the introduction to this chapter. 375 Kerr. younger generations could surpass their predecessors. ‘Abduh’s demonstration that Islam is particularly suitable to science is at the same time a defence of Islam’s dynamic – and progressive – nature. 367 For him. ‘Abduh. 104.’ 365 As ‘Abduh continues to set forth the philosopher’s ideas on the importance of the Reformation. the passage of time implies a change for the better. 108. knowledge is never on a stable and constant level throughout history. ‘Abduh particularly connects progress to the continuous practice of science. Certainly. the unfolding of civilisation is not a neutral transformation. Orientalism and Religion. Kultur’. in nineteenth-century Orientalism. ‘Afghānī on Civilization’. cf. PT. Theology. also testifies to this hopeful belief in progress. Sedgwick also seems to confirm this position: Segwick.’ 372 Likewise. 366 Furthermore. 375 On the one hand. 16. 374 Despite firm claims by Kerr and others with regard to ‘Abduh’s belief in progress. ‘Abduh. Reinhart Koselleck already warns us for religious concepts of 365 366 ‘Abduh. 131. the idea of a progressive civilisation implies a great appreciation for dynamics and a corresponding rejection of stagnation. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. in an essay on the conceptual history of ‘progress’ and ‘decline’. 149. 135. Guizot is most probably referred to here.CHAPTER THREE – AN ISLAMIC MISSION OF CIVILISATION independence of will and the independence of thought and opinion. 16-17. 103. cf. ‘Abduh’s references to progress are not without ambiguity. Future of Islam. in the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. I will briefly draw attention to the prominence of change in this respect. Theology. too. in his introduction to Histoire de la Civilisation en Europe. 716. Islam und Christentum. After all. 367 Guizot. are telling in this respect: ‘The fact is. 373 It also explains why he so fervently argues against taqlīd as a sign of stagnation (Arabic: jumūd). 63. Muhammad Abduh. the ranking of communities along a civilisational ladder. Peters. 370 ‘Abduh. 127. 368 In line with Guizot’s ideas on civilisational progress. ‘Zivilisation. 374 ‘Abduh. 370 Because of ‘Abduh’s terminology of process and constant movement. Imperial Encounters. according to ‘Abduh. progress is even presented as the most central element of the modern civilisational discourse. if it is not identified by it – because of its inherently unchanging nature. Van der Veer. with which I began my introduction of this thesis. Islam does move [emphasis mine]. while the West is active and therefore especially suitable to civilisation. 77 . 415. 128. 369 ‘Abduh. History of Civilization. By the merit of hindsight. The East is portrayed as passive and fatalist by many Orientalists. This amounts to the Orient virtually being excluded from history – which is itself conceptualised in close reference to change. Guizot is very explicit that he defines civilisation in the light of progress. It is in constant process. Theology. 372 Blunt. 368 Fisch. Islamic Reform. ‘Erneuerungsbewegungen’. because it figures very prominently. Kohn on Afghānī’s indebtedness to Guizot: Kohn. 4. 373 Cf. 371 King. 369 Similarly. In fact. which was gained by the study of history. 104 and 110.

Koselleck. ‘ “Progress” and “Decline” ’. Muḥammad is considered the seal of prophets. 68. however. ‘Abduh’s Islam is civilisation in its dual sense. 381 Cf. ‘Abduh often writes in the terminology of perfection [Arabic. ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’. 383 ‘Abduh. 380 Koselleck. 60. Kultur’. This type of combination was not foreign to the European discourse surrounding civilisation. 133-134 and 140. 102-103. ‘Abduh seems to exhibit a sense of progress in his interpretation of civilisation. ‘Abduh. 223-224. 78 . ‘Zivilisation. 376 Indeed.4 Mission Civilisatrice Intérieure and the Hidden Islamic Mission of Civilisation In his conception of civilisation. Islam has been traditionally conceived as the final religion. Wielandt. ‘ “Progress” and “Decline” ’. 3. 379 Koselleck. one’s ‘prior experience will never suffice to predict coming surprises and innovations. Theology. BSOAS. which should be predominantly retraced to the European tradition. however. furthers a constant movement towards perfection. 96. ‘Abduh seems to suggest that Islam. Koselleck does not consider the Renaissance interpretation of progress modern. 718. Precisely because of this argument. Theology. ‘ “Progress” and “Decline” ’. being the highest level of human development. 377 This idea of perfection is well-grounded in the Islamic tradition. although the final stage of Islam refers to perfection. 382 ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh maintains that Islam is not opposed to further development. 383 Although he is not completely explicit about this. As such. 382 But. 82 and 83. 233. Islam und Christentum. Wielandt. although they may seem so at first. Scharbrodt demonstrates that ‘Abduh’s belief in progress might be facilitated by his knowledge of the ideas of the Iranian Mullā Sadrā (ca. 225. 225. Can a return to history herald the future in a progressive view on civilisation? 381 In addition. ‘ “Progress” and “Decline” ’. Islam is a point of destination.’ 380 ‘Abduh’s wish to return to the Pious Forefathers (Arabic: al-Salaf al-Ṣāliḥ) becomes suspect in this respect. As such. civilisation was from its earliest days onwards also a moral or ethical qualification – perhaps even before it acquired political connotations. 378 Koselleck argues that the decisive feature of a modern conception of progress is the qualitative differentiation between past and future.THEOLOGY OF UNITY perfection which do not refer to a modern concept of progress. 1571-1640) who sees a constant tendency of all creatures to increasing perfection as they all strive to come near to their divine creator. 384 Fisch. Thus. Offenbarung und Geschichte. A similar type of reasoning is exhibited by the European Renaissance. both as the highest state of development as well as the development itself. 384 François Guizot’s ideas on 376 377 Koselleck. 50. 378 Scharbrodt. 132. 379 Although one might learn lessons from history. ‘Abduh connects religion with political as well as scientific development. As the simultaneous treatment of culture in Koselleck’s Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe already seems to suggest. verb: kamala]. Offenbarung und Geschichte.

92-93 and 97-98. ‘Abduh. under the auspices of Ṭahṭāwī and gained enormous popularity in both the Arabic and Turkish parts of the Ottoman Empire – demonstrates an analysis in which morality is of similar importance in maintaining political might. 392 Interestingly. however. 387 In addition. 393 For Afghānī and ‘Abduh. 342. 58. 40. Islams and Modernities. whereby the luxury which comes with the last stage of civilisation (Arabic: ḥaḍāra) corrupts the ruling elite’s morality and destroys their civilisation eventually. Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline (Hackett Publishing Company: Indianapolis/Cambridge 1999 – first edition by The Free Press in 1965) [translated by David Lowenthal. 391 ‘Abduh. Guizot. a change in a collective’s morality is based upon a change in morality of the individuals constituting it. ‘Islamist Revivalism’. 71. 106. ‘Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn’. 394 ‘Abduh. 16. 75-76. Montesquieu’s Considérations sur les Causes de la Grandeur des Romains et leur Decadence – which was translated. moreover. Kohn. 393 al-Azmeh. PT. Theology. al-Azmeh. ‘Afghānī on Civilization’. one can find the same tense convergence between an individual upbringing and the prosperity of a collective in the Romantic notion of Bildung. ‘Abduh. God’s system of reward concerns human collectives only. Kohn. 391 Furthermore. 203 and 211. To Guizot. 102. This type of reasoning is also found in Ibn Khaldūn’s theory. Arabic Thought. 390 Conversely. Sedgwick. 385 With regard to European civilisation. 394 After all. Muhammad Abduh. as Kerr analyses that God’s promise of worldly prosperity in case of upright reform does not apply to the individual level. ‘Structure of ‘Umran. clever and well-intentioned intellectuals. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. 121. 392 Kerr. would never be able to direct the 385 386 Ibidem. 412. 17. ‘Afghānī on Civilization’. the Muslim community (Arabic: umma). civilisation is simultaneously a development of man’s inner life and morality as well as of society’s public life and institutions. 49. for example. the Roman Empire eventually perished because it lost its superior morality which was characterised by a very high degree of discipline and a healthy fighting spirit.CHAPTER THREE – AN ISLAMIC MISSION OF CIVILISATION civilisation especially testify to this connection. JNAS. Sedgwick. 389 ‘Abduh gives examples of this type of historical reasoning in which decadence of morality was of major importance in explaining decline. Changing individual morality is not easy. 63. a moral decline inevitably results in a political decline. Guizot assigns an important role to the intellectual influence of the Protestant Reformation. 753. Muhammad Abduh. 399 and 402. 390 ‘Abduh. Theology. Sedgwick. Islamic Reform. who could figure out the right mentality rationally and independently from revelation. 387 Chabane. 388 Hourani. PT. too. a moral revival leads to a revival in other respects – a conviction that ‘Abduh’s advocacy of a reformation of Islam illustrates. HW. 70 and 110. that is. according to him. as al-Azmeh points out in passing. as God only rewards individual believers in the Hereafter. These are intricately connected. 388 According to Montesquieu. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. 79 . 389 Baron de Charles de Secondat Montesquieu. History of Civilization. This might explain ‘Abduh’s emphasis on education. the surest way to ensure a communal following of the right morality was religion. Muhammad Abduh. originally published in French as Considérations sur les Causes de la Grandeur des Romains et leur Décadence in 1734] 62. 386 If civilisational progress in all of its aspects is coupled with moral progress.

90 and 93. which was directed outwards. 10-11. The civilising mission. 398 Hourani. 253. ‘Afghānī on Civilization’. ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. A return to the ancestor’s way of life would bring about a regeneration of civilisation. ‘Abduh concludes in Theology of Unity that: The ground of moral character is in beliefs and traditions and these can be built only on religion. Cf. in respect both of public and of private ethics. 396 Therefore. 58-59. ‘Abduh was perhaps confirmed by Comte’s opinion that religious symbols were highly necessary to gain acceptance for any rational sociological model. ‘Abduh. Islamic Reform. Arabic Thought. The inner civilising mission. 14 and 25-28. 63-64 and 71. in which a remote ancestor was idealised as a noble savage. 398 ‘Abduh also quotes the French historian and politician Gabriel Hanotaux who claims that Islam has a particularly great influence over its believers. of which he experienced the 395 396 ‘Abduh. despite man’s uniquely rational powers. the most powerful of all. referred to the barbaric masses within which still had to be civilised by the avant-garde of domestic civilisation. As ‘true’ Islam equates civilisation. 400 Asad. This mission had an inner and an outer component. 80 . Kerr. Islam und Christentum. 139-140. 6. The religious factor is. 397 ‘Abduh. therefore. ‘Abduh indeed regularly presents the forefathers as a model of ‘true’ but also ‘authentic’ Islam. 399 ‘Abduh. as it suited human nature better in the long run. 397 In this. 106. 402 As mentioned before. 110. Schaebler argues that the Islamic reformists’ revivalism was similarly informed by a nostalgia for the Pious Forefathers and the Golden Age of early Islam. Theology. the internal type of civilisational activities was often supported by a Romantic form of archaism. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. Theology. ‘Abduh. 399 The attainment of civilisation thus required the ‘ “civilising” of [an entire subject population]’ through religion. applied to efforts to colonise the barbaric rest of the world. As such. 402 Ibidem. Formations of the Secular. as described by Schaebler. 403. the imitation of the pious forefathers would lead to civilisation again. 401 The efforts of Muslim reformism were directed towards their fellow Muslims and could therefore be particularly compared to the internal civilising mission. Theology. the trope of a noble ancestor enables ‘Abduh to formulate an acceptable alternative to the European mission civilisatrice. as encountered before with regard to Europe’s colonialist efforts regarding the rest of the world. 126. 395 Religion worked even better than love for one’s own nation. Kohn.THEOLOGY OF UNITY masses into a the right course of morality. 401 Schaebler. cf. 152. ‘Abduh. on the other hand. as Talal Asad noted with regard to the juridical reform which ‘Abduh wanted to introduce in Egypt. It exercises an authority over men’s souls superior to that of reason. According to Schaebler. 400 Birgit Schaebler compares this civilising activity with the mission civilisatrice as performed by nineteenth-century European states. ‘Civilizing Others’.

403 I do not agree with al-Azmeh on this. however. as described by Schaebler. By this. 404 Burrow. It draws upon the same Romantic notions. Crisis of Reason. while he does not have to reject the necessity as well as desirability of modern. 125. 404 The ancestors to whom ‘Abduh referred in his appeal to civilisational revival did not embody a certain Volksgeist. and implicating this name with a politically desired and intellectually pre-determined world. European-style reforms because of their ‘inauthenticity’. as the adjective of ‘pious’ already indicates. ‘Abduh’s specific type of archaic revivalism enables him to transcend the mission civilisatrice as monopolised by Europe in a second way. applying its name to that which historically was neither part of it nor its intellectual and cultural authority. On the succession of civilisation and thereafter modernisation/secularisation. is particularly well-suited to a specifically pluralist idea of civilisation. 129. Islams and Modernities. Modernity is also ensnared. as the creation of a mission civilisatrice intérieure provides ‘Abduh with room to deviate from and transcend the European model. it might be said that ‘Abduh avoided the pitfall of equating modernisation or civilisation with Westernisation – as most modernisation theorists are only now beginning to realise. While the English and in particular the French were convinced of the universal pretentions of their civilisation – as is most succinctly expressed in the French terminology of a mission civilisatrice – a more pluralist and distinguishing view on humanity and its corresponding civilisations – albeit not without an hierarchical ordering – was developed in the German lands. Ibidem. Indeed. ‘Abduh counters excessive European interference. al-Salaf Ṣāliḥ – the Pious Forefathers – did not represent the spirit of the Arab people. cf. as mentioned before – as rather destructive and disruptive: With this. that is. Informed by Schaebler’s analysis. 87 and 90. as al-Azmeh described earlier with regard to ‘Abduh’s notion of ‘authenticity’. by assuming its correspondence with that supposed past. Thus Reformism undertook the secularization of Islam. I propose to explain ‘Abduh’s civilisational reform as a mission civilisatrice intérieure: an Islamic civilising mission. Formations of the Secular. al-Azmeh dismisses this type of reasoning – which he compares to Herderian Romantic thought. The coupling of civilisation with a religion instead of a people does not necessitate a pluralist conception of 403 al-Azmeh. Both are presumed equal under an ideological sign: Islam. history is ensnared: it is supposed to contain modernity. 217. Burrow describes that such an archaic revivalist civilising perspective was particularly prevalent in the German lands – perhaps because Herderian Romantic thought and its references to Völker were most influential there. whose manifestation in history vitalises the specific and enclosed Volk corresponding with it. It presupposes a Volksgeist. The archaic revivalist tendency in the European civilisation discourse. but of the Muslim religion. By this.CHAPTER THREE – AN ISLAMIC MISSION OF CIVILISATION consequences at first hand through the British protectorate of Egypt. 81 . In addition. see: Asad.

407 With his appeal to his religious ancestors. as Guizot also testifies to this kind of civilisational universalism – albeit hierarchical – as well as Ṭahṭāwī. 408 ‘Abduh. ‘Civilizing Others’. 406 Islam’s correspondence with civilisation assumes that ‘Abduh conceived of civilisation in equally universalist terms. but ‘Abduh also uses his religious ancestors to reveal a civilising mission which spread from the Muslim world to Europe – instead of the other way round. Schaebler. ‘Risālat al-Tawḥīd’. but in a purely chronological respect – this is therefore also where ‘Abduh’s interpretation of (progressive) civilisation exhibits inconsistencies. 29. 149-150. History of Civilization. 125 and 142. moreover. 405 Missionary work – whether in relation to Christianity. ‘Abduh. 134. as the discourse of progress implies. I do want to draw the attention to the way ‘Abduh employs this typical combination in a second way. or to civilisation – goes hand in hand with a universalist view of humanity. 90. civilisation – which is indebted to Islamic and European discourses on civilisation. Theology.THEOLOGY OF UNITY civilisation. 410 Guizot. ‘Abduh demonstrates a universalist view on Islam and civilisation. 407 Fisch. Kultur’. ‘Islamic Fundamentalists’ Strategies’. ‘Zivilisation. 77. ‘Abduh. 409 Guizot considers the Crusades as a crucial experience for the maturing and civilisation of the European mind. 6. History of Civilization. This is not particularly surprising. Le Bon and Guizot. Not only does ‘Abduh employ his Pious Forefathers to demonstrate the contemporary possibility of Islamic civilisation. 23. As ‘Abduh conceives of his noble forefathers – and this epithet applied to most (Sunni) Muslims until the end of the Abbasid Empire. he is able to postulate them as Europe’s civilisational predecessors. which at times succeeded in closely relating itself to the civilising mission. however. 145 and 150. Theology. as mentioned before – as early representatives of European-style civilisation. Islam has been a potentially universal religion from the beginning. 410 ‘Abduh employs this analysis of Guizot then to claim that Europe adopted the Islamic spirit during the 405 406 Schaebler. ‘Civilizing Others’. his interpretation of a concept – that is. 408 Relying on European works of history of Gibbon. 36. 485 [adjective for universal: ‘āmm]. which culminated in the Protestant Reformation. ‘Abduh. 753. Not as an earlier stage of development. does not result in a mere deviation from the original. This is evident with regard to European Christian missionary work. Islam und Christentum. 409 ‘Abduh. Guizot. according to ‘Abduh. moreover. TMPR. Volpi. Again. ‘Abduh draws our attention to the beneficial effects of Europe’s interaction with the Islamic World – in particular the translations of Greek philosophers which were reintroduced into Europe through Andalusia. 82 . Although I do not want to claim that ‘Abduh was unique in this. ‘Abduh thus combines the revitalising archaism of the German civilisational discourse with the (at times religious) universalism of the French and English civilisational discourse. Similarly. but should be judged at its transcendental value. The history of ‘Abduh’s own religious ancestors and their connections with the ancestors of the civilised Europeans of that time provides him with the ammunition of a hidden mission civilisatrice in reverse. Draper. 121. Islam und Christentum.

29. ‘Fātiḥa al-Jarīda’. which is always coupled with his call for revivalist reformism. Islam und Christentum. 147-148. a Muslim should treat himself as he has treated Europe before. see: ‘Abduh. as this is ‘in reality a civilisation which belongs to the countries on whose structure of nature and on whose course of human society. 53-54. Theology. ‘Abduh. 224. ‘Civilizing Others’. 416 He rejects the imitation of European civilisation (Arabic: tamaddun). which became prevalent later on. 154. while one could argue that this would not matter if European civilisation is actually Islamic anyway. ‘Abduh’s preference for originality and authenticity comes to the fore again. ‘Abduh. 413 ‘Abduh. the germs of a more pluralist view which divided humanity into East and West and its corresponding civilisations. Islam und Christentum. 83 . ‘Māḍī al-Umma’. he states that Islam is compatible with civilisation as such (Arabic: madaniyya). he regards the Islamic form of civilisation as slightly better. ‘Abduh explains in the following metaphor: a physician treated a sick man with medicine and he recovered: then the doctor himself succumbed to the disease he had been treating. 417 ‘Abduh. 36. In dire straits from pain and with the medicine by him in the house. In the same article in which ‘Abduh opposes the imitation of European civilisation (Arabic: tamaddun). 27-28. see: ‘Abduh. he has yet no will to use it. 418 ‘Abduh does not elaborate on the distinction between tamaddun – the word for the European type of civilisation – and madaniyya – the word for the civilisation with which Islam coincides. 414 ‘Abduh. 415 Schaebler. ‘Sunan Allāh’. Theology. For a more culturalist classification. He states that copying the copy is of no use. ‘Abduh seems to solve this apparent contradiction in a rather mystical way. while he himself despairs of life and waits either for death or some miraculous healing.’ 412 Likewise. 121 and 154. As the home of civilisation. Theology. 417 As such. 415 For. 128 and 149-150. it seems: ‘A glimmer of Islam (…) illuminated the [W]est but its full light is in the [E]ast. 416 Geographical classification into East and West. 411 ‘Abduh is not entirely clear whether this history of interaction and borrowing renders European civilisation as identical to the Islamic civilisation. too. however. ‘Abduh. that these 411 412 ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh opposes the complete imitation of European civilisation. besides his use of a neutral geographical classification into East and West. 414 Here. Many of those who come to visit him or seek his ministrations or even gloat over his illness could take up the medicine and be cured. ‘Abduh also testifies to a more culturalist one – especially in The Strongest Bond. 58. 34. might be evident.CHAPTER THREE – AN ISLAMIC MISSION OF CIVILISATION Crusades and that the resulting Protestant faith was actually and essentially Islamic – although without reference to Muḥammad. 413 Here. as the copy is often only an imitation of the original’s appearance instead of the original’s essence. I argue. Islam itself is the cure and therefore. 153. I pointed out ‘Abduh’s universalism and his culturalism regarding civilisation. 418 Ibidem. ‘Fātiḥa al-Jarīda’. it is based’.

Islamic civilisation is the true civilisation. tamaddun can differ from the true spirit of civilisation. when the underlying spirit of civilisation (Arabic: madaniyya) is available in the Islamic religion. Following this emanationist perspective nonetheless. To conclude this chapter with. It does not make sense to imitate a manifestation of civilisation (Arabic: tamaddun). here – European traditions. See paragraph 2. I will come back to this in the concluding chapter. 419 Scharbrodt. BSOAS. the particular configuration of the elements from both traditions enable ‘Abduh to transcend the then prevalent European conception of ‘civilisation’ to assert Islam’s compatibility with and even superiority to nineteenth-century European civilisation. but. this idea of a unity underlying diversity might have been indebted to Sufi philosophy which saw creation as an emanation of God. ‘Abduh’s interpretation of civilisation consists of multiple components which can be traced back to Islamic and – in particular. ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’. Certainly. this assertion is very much hypothetical still and is in need of further investigation.THEOLOGY OF UNITY two relate to each other as a manifestation (tamaddun) of an underlying spirit (madaniyya). madaniyya would be the original civilisation – the source – while tamaddun would be a derivative of madaniyya. 419 As also already indicated. At times. these possible Sufi influences are just one aspect of ‘Abduh’s complex interpretation of civilisation.5 of this thesis. it cannot be regarded independently from it. 103-104. in the last resort. The last hypothesis of ‘Abduh’s application of an emanationist perspective to his understanding of ‘civilisation’ should be considered another possible example of this. while European civilisation is merely a copy. Likewise. As explained. As set forth before with regard to the minimalist definition of Islam in the previous chapter. 84 .

In this chapter. First of all. 420 The same ambiguity is exemplified by the dual nature of civilisation. 420 Mitchell. Europe – and to a developmental ladder on whose steps the other nations and peoples are positioned. In this chapter it will become clear that ‘Abduh does not resolve it. European discourses on modernity – which shows parallels with the discourse on civilisation – display similar tensions. I explained how the religious nature of Islam enabled ‘Abduh to combine his nostalgic archaism for ancient forefathers with the universalist pretensions of civilisation. or does their ranking result from a rather coincidental fortune and is it therefore only temporary? Will the backward nations be able to catch up with the West? Or are they destined to stay behind? These are the questions underlying the opposition of universalism versus pluralism.1 Opposing essentialisms The previous chapter on civilisation concluded with a discussion on the culturalist versus universalist nature of ‘Abduh’s ideas on Islam and civilisation. which refers both to the final stage of development – that is. there iv. The discourses on civilisation and modernity are not clear regarding this fundamental question. Questions of Modernity (University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis 2000) xi-xxvii and 1-34. while on the other hand modernity exerts universal claims. it is important to notice that this type of ambiguities concerning universalism and pluralism is not restricted to Islam in the modern period. 85 . moreover. xii-xiii and 15. I will look into these contrasting consequences of a modern religious discourse which is itself well-grounded in an Islamic theological tradition.). I do not intend to focus upon the concept of ‘religion’ in all of its aspects. However. according to Timothy Mitchell. The representation of Islam as the perfect and ultimate religion advanced a differentiating discourse on human nature which found expression in the rejection of an imitation of Europe. As such. modernity is construed ‘as the West’. essentially and therefore permanently defined. ‘Abduh’s discourse on Islam as a religion also nourished a more culturalist and essentialist view of the world. Mitchell considers it one of their foundational tensions. For example. ‘Religion’ will be looked into here only in as far as it elucidates issues raised by the previous two chapters. either. however. This ambiguity revolves around a set of questions which often remains unanswered: is the position of the West and the non-West in the world rankings inherently. On the one hand. ‘Introduction’ and ‘The Stage of Modernity’ in: Timothy Mitchell (ed.CHAPTER FOUR – ISLAM AS (A) RELIGION 4.

425 This religious type of essentialism might also shed another light on the universalismpluralism discussion with regard to ‘Abduh. Islams and Modernities. ‘Abduh. 111. for these are privations of the essence which seek to subvert. 422 According to al-Azmeh. 425 King. 86 . It was also a central trait of nineteenth-century Orientalist religious studies. Islam and the Political Discourse of Modernity. For. Islams and Modernities. and thus to nullify. 68-70. ‘Islamist Revivalism’. 424 Peters. as long as religion is not regarded as an inherent feature of a human being – which would exclude the possibility of conversion – even an essentialist view on religion opens up the possibility of universalism. alAzmeh. while the other religion only functioned as its negative. 146 and 148. 104. whereby the observer’s own religion constituted the positively defined photo. this oppositional type of discourse is a necessary consequence of the essentialism which ‘Abduh displays in his equation of ‘true’ Islam with ‘authentic’ or ‘original’ Islam. which by virtue of the very nature of bodies naturally seek to subjugate the nation-subject. 421 According to al-Azmeh. 97. 422 al-Azmeh. instead of on the contemporary practices of its believers. this type of essentialist and oppositional reasoning is not specific to a discourse of culturalism or nationalism. 423 This is confirmed by Rudolph Peters. This renders Islam comparable to a nation or a culture. This approach did not only result in an essentially and permanently defined image of what the religion in question truly was. which was itself a product of Christian conceptions of religion. 423 Chapter 5. the religious essentialist discourse drew firm lines between the religions. 424 According to Richard King. al-Azmeh. and to corruptions within. as also expressed by ‘Abduh. al-Azmeh. 105. too. but also of what it was not. 50-51. I argue that ‘Abduh testifies to this 421 Salvatore. HW. As such. 104. who argues that Islam acquired a new cultural dimension in the colonial period through Afghānī.THEOLOGY OF UNITY Aziz al-Azmeh and Armando Salvatore both stress the essentialist nature of the modern discourse on Islam. and others’ (political) opposition against their colonial rulers. King continues that the thus established permanent nature of the ‘Oriental’ religion in question often coincided with being the opposite of the ‘true’ nature of the Orientalists’ own religion – that is. King describes how Orientalists defined the ‘true’ character of the religion under study by focusing predominantly on the religion’s original texts. the vital importance of authenticity in ‘Abduh and other reformists’ definition of Islam engendered an antithetical relation to all otherness: to other nations. The Discourse of Cultural Authenticity: Islamist Revivalism and Enlightenment Universalism. Christianity most of the time – whose essentials were similarly established upon the revealed texts. ‘Erneuerungsbewegungen’. as al-Azmeh’s terminology of a nationsubject testifies to in a chapter on Islamist Revivalism. Orientalism and Religion. the vital energy which uplifts and allows for glory. for example: 69-70. Islams and Modernities.

87 . just as Islam was corrupted 426 427 See paragraph 2. 428 A reference to Draper: Ibidem. Christianity is not scientific.3 to 2. ‘Abduh. (3) Christianity renounces the worldly in favour of the Hereafter. 25-36.CHAPTER FOUR – ISLAM AS (A) RELIGION universalist type of reasoning most of the time. Islam und Christentum. ‘Abduh relies in particular on John William Draper’s A History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) for Christianity’s history of opposition to science as well as on Voltaire’s critical comments on the harmful effects of the authority of the Catholic clerical hierarchy. notwithstanding the existing germs of a more culturalist division of humanity in his ideas. 133 and 136. contemporary Christians – like their Muslim counterparts – did not follow the ‘true’ nature of their religion anymore.6. Regarding Voltaire: Wielandt. ‘Abduh’s congruence with the essentialist discourse regarding religion has been set forth in the second chapter by emphasising his dual use of the uṣūl-terminology in his definition of Islam. (6) Christianity teaches hostility towards adherents of other religions. it was only very fortunate for the Christian nations that the worldly rulers of Europe held the Church in check. 427 These principles are drawn up by ‘Abduh to deny Christianity’s capability to attain civilisation. Based on the Bible as well as on the Christian history of persecution. Islam und Christentum. I will first look into ‘Abduh’s essentialist view on religion(s). 428 Here it is evident that critical elements within the European tradition supported ‘Abduh to formulate an alternative to European allegations of Islam’s essentially anti-modern or anti-civilised nature. 429 In addition. however. Offenbarung und Geschichte. (4) Faith is considered to escape the powers of human reason. This anti-civilising nature of Christianity implies that the flourishing of nineteenth-century civilisation should not be attributed to Christianity. 63. ‘Abduh defines the six basic principles of Christianity in a mirror image with the eight basic principles of Islam – see chapter two – in Islam and Christianity: (1) Christianity relies on the faith in miracles. Indeed. Therefore. 33. Before I will expound on this assertion. rational or tolerant and is therefore by definition hopelessly unsuitable to civilisation. they represent the antithesis of some of the main components of ‘Abduh’s concept of civilisation. (2) The Christian Church – with the exception of Protestantism –positions the clergy as a religious authority between God and believer. 426 This conclusion is only to be reinforced by ‘Abduh’s essentialist and opposing perspective on other religions. Their Christian morals were corrupted. according to ‘Abduh. (5) The Christian scriptures contain every knowledge there is to know. In his essentialist depiction of Christianity. 429 ‘Abduh.

It is also significant that ‘Abduh’s teacher. Jamāl al-Dīn alAfghānī. 67. 66-67. 436 In the long run. the Christian deviation and ‘corruption’ consisted of the adoption of the Islamic religion. his ideas on the inherent pacifist nature of Islam seem to contradict his ideas on civilisation’s congruence with dominance and subjugation. Haddad. Islam und Christentum. Although he assigns the Reformation a crucial role in the development of civilisation in Europe. 26. he deemed Christianity by its essence peaceful – and therefore unsuitable to civilisation. Protestant Christianity is still thoroughly and essentially Christian. his use of history becomes very instrumental at times. 68-69. however. Guizot. Unintentionally. for example. 435 ‘Abduh. the Christian deviation of their ‘true’ religion was very lucky. Theology of Unity. however. ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh anxiously defends Islam and angrily attacks Christianity. 438 ‘Abduh. Muhammad Abduh. following Guizot. he is not particularly consistent through time on the ‘true’ nature of Christianity. 437 ‘Abduh. or so it seems. 438 Thus. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. 128. 435 ‘Abduh argues that Protestantism was indeed very promising at the beginning. Islam und Christentum. as I explained in the preceding chapter. for example. The overriding desire to disqualify Christianity is perhaps best exhibited by ‘Abduh’s ideas on Protestantism. and even likens Protestantism to Islam in Theology of Unity. 434 ‘Abduh. 432 Ibidem. 38 en 82. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. ‘Abduh claims. 203 and 211. the apologetic nature of ‘Abduh’s works comes to the fore. Theology. An Islamic Response. 88 . Protestantism differs only from other forms of Christianity in its rejection of the absolutist clerical authority. 134. 433 In this threatening environment. ‘Muhammad Abduh. Islam und Christentum. 135-136. 431 As ‘Abduh exclaims in The Strongest Bond. 434 In addition. 137. ‘Abduh brings to mind the persecution ordered by Calvin himself of the theologian Servetus to prove this. as described by King. ‘Abduh’s essentialist portrayal of both Islam and Christianity – which is possibly indebted to the Christian Orientalist discourse on religions. 122-123. The Reformation should even be a model for contemporary Islamic reformist activities because of its return to the original sources and its rejection of religious authority. 44-45 and 150. ‘Was the Sunna [perhaps] exchanged in the two communities?’ 432 In these passages. In The Strongest Bond. ‘Abduh. which is caused by the particular context in which ‘Abduh lived. 430 In contrast to the Muslim situation. which happened to be the antithesis of Christianity’s uncivilised nature. 430 431 ‘Abduh. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. Islam und Christentum. 149-150. Islam und Christentum. Also. 436 ‘Abduh. History of Civilization. 437 Otherwise. 71. 44-46. Sedgwick.THEOLOGY OF UNITY nowadays. 17. liked to compare himself to Luther: Keddie. he rushes to discredit it in Islam and Christianity after all. In this process. Especially Islam and Christianity is pervaded with anxiety and anger. His angry references to the dangers of Christian missionary schools are significant. ‘Abduh. 433 ‘Abduh. but which is also well-engrained into the Islamic tradition by ‘Abduh’s dual use of uṣūl as principles and sources – produces a largely antithetical relation between Islam and Christianity.

humanity changes necessarily over time.2 Differentiating Religions Another element of the modern (Christian) conception of religion is described by Talal Asad and Armando Salvatore. It matures. 89 . 118-119. 439 On the one hand. ‘Abduh explains. (3) the post-prophetic stage. he described a gradual unfolding of human religiosity which was itself a specific and passing stage in the evolution of civilisation. cf. For example. as defined by modern Christianity. 443 Considering ‘Abduh’s good relations with Spencer. On the other hand. 441 As such. 107. Wielandt. 441 Ibidem. 25. The first is the one suitable to humanity with the intellectual level of a child. 444 Sedgwick. ‘al-Naṣrāniyya’. 442 In addition. Salvatore. According to ‘Abduh. According to al-Azmeh. Asad. this resulted in a scholarly perspective on nonChristian religions which was informed by the Christian experience. ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’. 72. however. 446 ‘Abduh. Spencer’s ideas on religious evolution were probably known to ‘Abduh. Human diversity is on the one hand caused by the different conditions in which the diverse peoples developed. humanity is internally differentiated. 443 Spencer. 170 and 175. Herbert Spencer on Social Evolution. after which humanity should return to its second stage. Genealogies of Religion. religion adapts itself to the particular stage in which humanity finds itself. BSOAS. ‘Abduh set forth his own ideas on the development of a common human religiosity. was regarded a universal element of the human experience. This constituted a stable point of reference with the help of which the actual religions could be classified. 92. 445 al-Azmeh. An example of this is the essentialist textualist approach of Orientalism. 63-64. Islam and Political Discourse of Modernity. Tolstoy displays the same kind of reasoning in his works on religion. 442 Tolstoy. 440 Thus. Islams and Modernities. ‘Abduh maintains. As such. universal and Natural Religion. This religion expects absolute obedience and marvels its believers with 439 440 Asad. he was deeply influenced in this by Herbert Spencer. 447 This type of reasoning is in keeping with a tendency towards culturalist pluralism. another hierarchy is introduced of which ‘Abduh was probably aware. Religion. 103-104. 444 In Theology of Unity. 447 ‘Abduh. 66-67. which ‘Abduh at times exhibits with regard to civilisation. 40-42. as religiosity is a natural disposition of humanity. (2) the prophetic stage. 206-208. Talal Asad points out how Kant’s philosophy on religion postulated ‘a fully essentialized idea of religion which could be counterposed to its phenomenal forms’. Scharbrodt. 448 In this development.CHAPTER FOUR – ISLAM AS (A) RELIGION 4. On the other hand. Theology. Herbert Spencer couples the existence of a common human religiosity with a progress in time. he describes three stages. Works of Leo Tolstoy. Muhammad Abduh. Theology. 90. Hourani. 143. 445 The development of religiosity is intricately connected to that of humanity. 110 and 150. there was postulated a common and human religiosity to all religions. Arabic Thought. 448 Wielandt also mentions ‘Abduh’s exposition on a second type of evolution for human religiosity: (1) the preprophetic stage. Genealogies of Religion. 42. Offenbarung und Geschichte. 446 Despite its common human nature. In this respect. there was one valid. as Richard King described.

Salvatore. it becomes clear that peoples can contemporaneously differ in their developmental stage and thus in their religiosity: There are. As rationality is considered a universal trait of human nature. Genealogies of Religion. This religion was Islam. 40-42. The second stage of humanity is that of a woman. very aptly as ‘a dual modality of historical time which enabled [modern anthropologists] to represent events as at once contemporaneous and noncontemporaneous – and thus some conditions as more progressive than others. Theology. Islam and Political Discourse of Modernity. which was elucidated in chapter two – suits ‘Abduh well. which was also characteristic of the modern anthropology of religion. a conformity with human nature was considered a very important point of reference in the hierarchical ranking of religions. 132-133. 452 ‘Abduh. Genealogies of Religion. moreover. 25. al-Azmeh. 125. 136 and 140. 449 The other two stages probably referred to Judaism and Christianity. 451 Asad. ancient and modern. types of worship and diversities of pattern in true religions. in shape to each people and time according to His knowledge of what is best for them.THEOLOGY OF UNITY wonders. cf. Islam’s traditional doctrine of fiṭra – Islam’s conformity with human nature. With regard to natural religiosity. there was only one true and universal religion. as al-Azmeh concluded. God’s way – the way of the Lord or nourisher of the worlds – is to proceed by stages in the nurture of a man. 452 The contemporaneous existence of diverse stages of human history recalls the hierarchical ranking concerning civilisation(s). Ibidem. of course. states ‘Abduh. 22-23. This was also the most Natural Religion. again. ‘Abduh’s ideas on religion(s) reflect a commonality as well as a hierarchical 449 450 ‘Abduh. knowing nothing. Islams and Modernities. ‘Abduh appeals to Islam’s conformity with rationality in this respect. But these we trace to the mercy of God and His gentleness. 130. Here. Islam’s rationality serves as a proof of Islam’s coincidence with human nature and as such establishes universal validity and the highest position in the ranking of religions for Islam. 453 Asad. It was directed to the emotions and preached an ascetic way of life. from the time he is born. capable of penetrating the veiled mysteries of existence by his reason and attaining a knowledge of them. Talal Asad describes this type of reasoning. The highest form of religion is directed to a mature man. and also varieties of precepts. It appeals to humanity’s rationality. to a ripe intelligence and a mature personality. In particular. When ‘Abduh’s first proposition on human diversity – as dependent upon different conditions – is coupled with the second – as dependent upon humanity’s stage of maturity. 451 As such. Following Koselleck. 119. 450 Remembering Kant. Theology.’ 453 As such. the modern European as well as traditional Islamic line of reasoning easily coincide. new and old. 90 . The nurture of peoples may be likened to that of individuals.

30. 25. the idea of progressive development in time with regard to religion came into being by referring to the doctrine of abrogation (Arabic: naskh). This doctrine originally governed the hierarchy between contradictory verses in the Quran. 133. 130 and 134. Ibidem. ‘Abduh. In the Quran. Wielandt explains. a later revealed religion could be considered to annul a previous religion altogether. as mentioned in chapter two. as a ‘recovery of true belief’. Islam) were originally one and the same. They are considered as the messengers of a true revelation. 459 However. ‘Abduh. soon afterwards. Theology. 456 Wielandt. 132. 114. 358. ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā Ṭaylor’. the Islamic tradition displays a similar ambivalence – even in the Quran itself. Offenbarung und Geschichte. Theology. 361. 461 Wielandt. 454 ‘Abduh testifies wholeheartedly to this idea in Theology of Unity: When Islam came. Applied to the hierarchy of religions. 129. 50 and 152. 50. by which he asserted a sense of Islamic superiority over Christianity. 459 Wielandt. Offenbarung und Geschichte. Islam und Christentum.CHAPTER FOUR – ISLAM AS (A) RELIGION ordering. ‘Abduh. 136 and 140. mankind was divided into religious sects (…). ‘Abduh. Christianity and Islam is postulated. the Islamic message would not have been necessary if the Jews and Christians had not corrupted and even falsified their revelations (Arabic: taḥrīf). A later revealed verse was said to negate – or. Islam repudiated all that and affirmed unmistakably that the religion of God through all times and by the mouth of all prophets is one. 59-60. 455 454 91 . 461 ‘Abduh. Both of these ideas are not completely foreign to the Islamic tradition. ‘Abduh establishes a superiority of Islam over Judaism and Christianity within the framework of the Islamic tradition. Theology. a unity of the revealed truth of Judaism. 458 Ibidem. ‘Risāla ilā Ṭaylor’. There was no differentiation in humanity yet. ‘Abduh. 115. Offenbarung und Geschichte. Wielandt. 118 and 133. 25. The Quran acknowledges the prophets mentioned in the Bible as prophets. ‘Abduh was not the first within the Islamic tradition to set forth the idea of progressive change regarding religions. 125. 458 As such. the Quran – was itself unsusceptible for this kind of corruption. Theology. 36-37. abrogate – a previously revealed verse concerning the same topic. 457 Islam’s own revelation – that is. ‘Risāla ilā Ṭaylor’. 110. 456 Therefore. Offenbarung und Geschichte. Islam conceives of itself as standing in the same line with Judaism and Christianity. Since its earliest days. 31 and 33. the messages which were revealed to the diverse communities (Judaism. On the contrary. the hierarchical relation of Islam towards Judaism and Christianity became increasingly connected to the mere passage of time. Thus. Islam came as a correction of the earlier and in time revealed religions. 114 and 145. 460 As such. Islam und Christentum. Christianity. ‘Abduh. 457 ‘Abduh. 455 However. ‘Abduh. cf. 33. 359. As the Islamic tradition developed. 460 Ibidem.

‘Abduh pleads incessantly for tolerance towards adherents of other religions. ‘Abduh argues for the commonality of Christianity and Islam. Theology. ‘Abduh also argues for harmony and union between the revealed religions. plural: adyān). 357-358.THEOLOGY OF UNITY Still. ‘Ahl al-Kitāb’ in: EI2 [www. and Muslim (both Sunni and Shi‘i) – including the British cleric Isaac Taylor and the Orthodox archimandrite Christophoros Gibara. Islam und Christentum.brillonline. ‘Dīn’. he established a society for this purpose. 468 ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. dīn comprised a component of īmān (inner faith) as well as of islām (outer ritual or practice). Sedgwick suggests that ‘Abduh purposefully omitted these kind of statements to the reverend Taylor in his letters. 463 Gardet. Muhammad Abduh. an archimandrite refers to an abbot of a cluster of monasteries. Probably. 470 Sedgwick. while he was in Beirut (1885-1888): The Society for Unity and Rapprochement among the Revealed Religions (Arabic: Jam‘iyyat al-Ta’līf wa-l Taqrīb bayna al-Adyān al-Samāwiyya) whose members were Christian. Islam und Christentum. ‘Risāla ilā Ṭaylor’. 130. EI2. Islam and the Political Discourse of Modernity. To distinguish the Islamic dīn from the other religions (Arabic. 467 In the Greek-Orthodox Church. 466 ‘Abduh. 464 Gardet. that – September 2010]. Traditionally. Jewish. 465 Salvatore. 462 The Jewish and Christian religions were referred to as a dīn. 470 But Sedgwick cannot reconcile ‘Abduh’s ideas of a true and unified religion with his remarks on the hierarchical evolutionary relation between Christianity and Islam in Theology of Unity. according to him. because of which a unity of religion should be established. 14 and 50. 465 As announced at the beginning of this chapter. moreover. 92 . 144 and 146. Islam was referred to as al-dīn al-ḥaqq. 138. 50. Theology. They constituted the ahl al-kitāb – the people of the book. 464 ‘Abduh’s increasing usage of islām as such for the Islamic religion instead of merely dīn therefore conceals the commonality as expressed by the terminology of dīn. 61-62. Vajda. ‘Abduh. 134-135. 76. 13. this substantivised use of islām is no coincidence in an increasingly essentialist and oppositional discourse with regard to Islam’s relation to other religions (as well as cultures). 463 In the traditional terminology of dīn. 469 Sedgwick argues that ‘Abduh’s idea of a single true religion probably stems from conceptions of religion as developed by European Theosophy or the Baha’i faith. Christian and Jews are recognised as brothers in religion throughout Islamic history. Islamic Reformism. that is. 467 In his letters to Taylor. ‘Abduh does not only emphasise the differences between Islam and the other religions. Theology. in his definition of the principles (Arabic: uṣūl) of ‘true’ Islam. 466 In fact. as these 462 G. Ryad. as Salvatore concludes through a different reasoning. This unity would strengthen both religions. the commonality as well as the hierarchy of the relation between Islam and other religions – as exhibited by ‘Abduh and the Islamic tradition as a whole – is well-formulated. 123. ‘Abduh. 4. ‘Dīn’. 468 Also. He points at evidence for Islam’s conformity with tolerance in the Quran as well as in the classical history of Islam. ‘the religion of truth’. the word for religion which was also used for the Islamic religion. 469 ‘Abduh. EI2.

I argue that ‘Abduh himself would not have agreed to this supposed contradiction. ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā Ṭaylor’. I think that Wielandt’s rather casual remark on ‘Abduh’s idea of a developmental connection between the religions provides the key to explaining ‘Abduh’s ideas on Islam’s relation with the other revealed religions. 103 (for quote) and 104. BSOAS. 478 471 472 Sedgwick. towards the agreement on the foundations so that concord on the branches becomes easy for us. 64. 477 ‘Abduh. Offenbarung und Geschichte. Muhammad Abduh. ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā Ṭaylor’. and towards the union on the father so that the union on the son is easy for us. this particular world view enables ‘Abduh to take on a rather relativist position in matters of truth. 359. ‘Salafiyya and Sufism’. it advances ‘Abduh’s desire for harmony with Christians and his tolerant attitude towards Shiites. 50. According to Scharbrodt. 360. Again. 473 ‘Abduh. 474 Wielandt. Islam und Christentum. 475 ‘Abduh. ‘Abduh. following this type of reasoning: Come on. as he added without hesitation a chapter in Islam and Christianity to explain that Islam and Christianity were essentially one and the same. ‘Abduh seems even able to accept differences of opinion regarding the divine status of Jesus. He is concerned with the general principles (Arabic: uṣūl) and not so much with the details. in his letter to Taylor. 49. 473 Instead. however. my friend. Thus. 359. 471 Furthermore. 476 Moreover. 472 Also.CHAPTER FOUR – ISLAM AS (A) RELIGION would not have pleased the cleric. he asks him repeatedly not to niggle over inessentials such as slavery. 474 For ‘Abduh. 477 As in case of the internal diversity within Islam. ‘Abduh’s letter to Taylor seems actually quite explicit about Islam being the highest form of religion to him. 476 Ibidem. divorce or polygamy. because the conclusions stem from its premises. 478 Scharbrodt. 475 In a concluding passage. As such. being the almost exact opposite of the ‘true’ nature of Islam. 69. ‘Abduh states in Islam and Christianity that religions only differ in manifestation – not in spirit or truth. the shared divine descent of Islam. ‘Abduh seems to favour here an underlying unity over differences in manifestation. ‘Abduh’s plea for a unity between the revealed religions seems at first glance rather contradictory to ‘Abduh exposition on the ‘true’ nature of Christianity in Islam and Christianity. Islam und Christentum. Scharbrodt attributes this type of reasoning of an ‘inherent unity behind [a] apparent diversity’ to the emanationist philosophy of Sufi philosophers such as Ibn al-‘Arabī (11651240) and his unity of existence (Arabic: waḥdat al-wujūd). Scharbrodt’s exposition of the influence of Sufi-inspired emanationist thought on ‘Abduh’s first and only mystical work contributes to a better understanding. and its premises do not stem from its conclusions. 93 . Christianity and Judaism seems to undo the seemingly fundamental differences – although he certainly acknowledges these considering his list of opposing principles in Islam and Christianity.

the same idea of an underlying and unifying truth is also telling with respect to ‘Abduh’s ideas on European civilisation (tamaddun) and the spirit of civilisation (madaniyya). and Islam] the visitor [of Jerusalem] sees one family tree.THEOLOGY OF UNITY Although ‘Abduh’s later inclinations towards this type of Sufism are unknown to a very great extent and would have been considered very heterodox by most nineteenth-century Sunni ulama. Judaism. Christianity. For besides giving an explanation with regard to ‘Abduh’s position on Islamic diversity and on Islam’s relation to other religions. 94 . thus it is its summary and the extremity in which its course ended. ‘Abduh is able to reverse the negative essentialist discourse of European scholars on Islam and. ‘Abduh’s conception of Islam as a religion is in its emphasis on both commonality and hierarchical difference grounded in the Islamic and European traditions alike – which exhibit a high degree of heterogeneity themselves.e. i. with regard to its colour and its flavour. 479 ‘Abduh. which draws from all its roots and its stems. plural: adyān) being a religion like Islam.. According to ‘Abduh. With his particular configuration of elements of two traditions – and as such appealing to both. It is concentrated in the Islamic religion [Arabic: al-dīn al-islāmī]. that is. Islam is the only al-dīn al-ḥaqq – that is. he judges that the fruit is as one. 479 With the terminology of al-dīn al-ḥaqq as the underlying truth. ‘Abduh invokes at the same time the traditional and commonly accepted Islamic view on all revealed religions (Arabic. There. the only religion which is truth itself instead of a derivative: And in [the three religions. Furthermore. Islam is the religious truth underlying and unifying the other revealed religions. even to posit a relation of commonality and at the same time superiority of Islam towards Christianity. As such.).. the only ‘true’ religion. Similarly. ‘Risāla Thāniyya ilā Ṭaylor’. which are mere manifestations of Islam’s truth. Scharbrodt’s hypothesis is certainly worthy of further investigation. in addition. 359. while the European civilisation was a mere manifestation. The unity of its sort and its character nor the singularity of its origin is harmed by what [the visitor] sees in the diversity of its leafs and in the splitting of its branches. in addition. while Islam is the highest. from which numerous twigs branch out. the true religion [Arabic: al-dīn al-ḥaqq]. or civilisation as such. Islam as a civilisation was itself the underlying spirit. (.

1 Theology of Unity Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s reforms of Islam steer a middle course between secularists and traditionalists. 95 . while those who deceive themselves that they have some pretension to be religious and orthodox believers in its doctrines regard reason as a devil and science as supposition. Islams and Modernities. As such. Like a premature proponent of the de-Westernising efforts of modernisation theorists from the 1980s onwards as well as of their attempts to reformulate tradition in a dynamic way. as this quote of ‘Abduh from Theology of Unity illustrates. from choosing between 480 481 ‘Abduh. His ideas are the result of a specific ‘fusion of horizons’ and as such represent one of the many paths to modernity in the non-European world. Muḥammad ‘Abduh. Cf. Odyssey of Faraḥ Anṭūn.CHAPTER FIVE – THEOLOGY OF UNITY Those Muslims who stand on the threshold of science see their faith as a kind of old garment in which it is embarrassing to appear among men. 481 The support which Faraḥ Anṭūn received from the religious establishment of the Azhar University for his polemic with ‘Abduh is telling in this respect. on the contrary. 482 Both sides postulate a spatial as well as temporal fault line between modern Europe – alternately conceived of as (secular) Christian or as essentially non-religious altogether – and traditional Islam. Interestingly. sought to counter both of these propositions. he stressed the spatial unity instead of difference between Islam and Europe without equating them altogether. Theology. at the same time. Viewing ‘Abduh’s ideas as an intellectual combination of the European and Islamic traditions prevents one from stressing either ‘Abduh’s ‘Europeanness’ or ‘Islamicness’. 480 5. Likewise. 482 Reid. 153. 86. 27-28. ‘Abduh emphasised Islam’s compatibility with all the good things which Europe stood for. al-Azmeh. Although these two groups were not particularly fond of each other. I argue that ‘Abduh’s ideas on Islam reflect a unity between the European and Islamic traditions. He also stressed a temporal unity between modernity and tradition through his reference to the Pious Forefathers (Arabic: al-Salaf al-Ṣāliḥ) as representatives of European-style civilisation and ‘authentic’ Islam. they demonstrate a striking complicity in their absolute attribution of tradition to Islam and (secular) modernity to Europe. on the level of historiography. these two positions and their pitfalls are still reflected in the existing historiography on ‘Abduh – as set forth in the first chapter.

this synthetic perspective does justice to the complexity and ambiguity of non-European modernity – of which ‘Abduh might be considered a typical representative – by not equating it to Westernisation. at the same. wishes to return to the earliest history of Islam. although a synthesis is by definition indebted to thesis and antithesis.THEOLOGY OF UNITY tradition or modernity.without neglecting the discontinuous nature of his ideas vis-àvis the Islamic tradition. one of the rationales underlying ‘Abduh’s notion of ‘authenticity is the double role history fulfils. 5. it transcends both. As such. Because. as Hourani and al-Azmeh did – or whether one focuses instead on the similarity of ‘Abduh’s arguments to those of al-Ghazālī and Wahhāb – thus rehabilitating Islamic tradition by stressing a coherence underlying its diversity. Similarly. ‘Civilisation’ and ‘Religion’ Following this analytic perspective of syntheses. At times. this implies a definition of tradition in which diversity and heterogeneity are recognised without denying its claims to coherence. Indeed. For example. the two traditions reinforced each other. In each case. Indeed. I exposed the dual nature of ‘Abduh’s intellectuals origins by dissecting ‘Abduh’s conception of each of the three concepts and tracing its components back to its possible roots in both the European and the Islamic traditions. ‘Abduh himself proposes an almost complete congruence between Islam and modernity. In the first chapter. the title of ‘Abduh’s main work is particularly appropriate to characterise ‘Abduh’s ideas: Risālat al-Tawḥīd – aptly translated by Kenneth Cragg and Ishaq Musa‘ad as Theology of Unity. this perspective of unity draws attention to the synchronic continuity with nineteenth-century Europe and its European tradition. without disregarding or dismissing how ‘Abduh differed from the European tradition. ‘Abduh’s ‘horizon’ was characterised by tradition and modernity. On the other hand. I demonstrated how this particular trait of his conception of 96 . I argue that his ideas should be analysed according to their synthetic quality. Islamic tradition . On the one hand. ‘civilisation’ and – but only regarding themes raised by the first two – ‘religion’. Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s intellectual task as well as that of the historiography on him revolve around balancing similarity and disparity – in a temporal and a spatial respect. I unravelled ‘Abduh’s interpretation of the concepts of ‘authenticity’.2 A Synthetic Understanding of ‘Authenticity’. ‘Abduh’s dismisses history as necessarily corruptive and. by Islam and the West. as Haj did – one necessarily misses out on the peculiarity of ‘Abduh’s modern intellectual experience as a self-conscious Muslim at the end of the nineteenth century. whether one elaborates predominantly on ‘Abduh’s striking resemblance to Comte or Herder – thereby favouring modernity. This perspective implies a demonstration of the diachronic continuity of ‘Abduh’s ideas with tradition – that is. Therefore. While I advocate an analytical perspective of synthesis to explain ‘Abduh intellectually.

‘Abduh’s acquaintance with Christian conceptions of religion should be examined in detail. religious differentiation. ‘Abduh’s admiration of Tolstoy and his close contact with Syrian Christian graduates of missionary schools might be significant in this respect. ‘Abduh’s particular combination of elements engendered meanings which were novel to one or both traditions – not necessarily intentionally.THEOLOGY OF UNITY ‘authenticity’ could be retraced to both traditions equally. ‘Abduh’s access to and knowledge of both traditions should be researched in much greater detail. displays a similarly a-historical attitude. or ‘religion’ enabled him to transcend the existing conceptions in both traditions. Arguably. a similar process of a mutual reinforcement of the two traditions applied to ‘Abduh’s interpretation of ‘civilisation’ – for example with regard to the component of unity and corresponding might – and of ‘religion’ – for example with regard to the component of universal religiosity and. al-Azmeh explained. Therefore. which is characterised by its combination of the European as well as a local tradition? In addition. which is defined as a tradition by its particular fusion of the Islamic and the European tradition? Or is there even a universal tradition specific to non-European modernity to which ‘Abduh belongs. 97 . however. ‘civilisation’. research should be conducted to establish further proof to the possible genealogies proposed here. In particular. These subtleties are ignored if one focuses either upon ‘Abduh’s ‘Europeanness’ or solely upon his ‘Islamicness’. Furthermore. and ‘religion’. underlying and determining history while the essence itself remains unaffected. On the other hand. the Romantic vitalist notion of an unfolding historical Geist. Further research is still needed. the traditional Islamic historical imagination favours the Golden Age of Islam above all other history. his plea for rationality as a source for (Islamic) knowledge on social morality fits in with Comtean sociology.CHAPTER FIVE . The configuration of European as well as Islamic elements into his conceptions of ‘authenticity’. which suit the interests and anxieties of his time. On the one hand. ‘Abduh’s recognition of rationality as such as a source for knowledge on ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ Islam connects rationality and Islamic ‘authenticity’ in ways new to both traditions. while ‘Abduh frames his argument for rationality within Islam in an Islamic terminology of fiṭra and sunan. ‘Abduh’s thought can be considered part of the Islamic and European tradition. it conceives of the passing of time particularly in terms of corruption. Regarding its theoretical framework. But should ‘Abduh – also. Furthermore. one sees how elements from two tradition converge in ‘Abduh to produce new meanings. Specifically. though. at the same time. Following King’s argument that Indian ‘Oriental’ subjects internalised Orientalist ideas on religion which were themselves inspired by the Orientalists’ conceptions of Christianity. ‘civilisation’. his acquaintance with Christian conceptions of religion should be investigated. or primarily – be considered as a representative of the modern Islamic tradition of thought. this analysis raises questions about the status of ‘Abduh and other reformists’ ideas in terms of tradition. with regard to the synthetic understanding of ‘Abduh’s interpretation of ‘authenticity’. At other times. For example. As such.

‘Salafiyya and Sufism’. these examples confirm the need for further research regarding the Sufi aspect of ‘Abduh’s ideas. as ‘Abduh was very critical of the Sufi-related popular veneration of saints. civilisation itself – if they only reform their religion to its ‘true’ nature. Thus. 98 . BSOAS. second between Islam (both in historical reality as in contemporary potentiality) and European civilisation. more research should be conducted on the possible Sufi influences on ‘Abduh – especially considering Scharbrodt’s remark that ‘Abduh in his first work adhered to a Sufi-inspired emanationist world view through which a unity underlying diversity is postulated. contemporary Muslims can learn the ‘true’ Islam of their ancestors. It is also particularly in need of a critical examination. while this idea of a ‘unity of existence’ draws upon the same emanationist world view as to which Scharbrodt alludes.3 ‘Abduh’s Theology of Unity The theme of unity is recurrent in ‘Abduh’s ideas concerning all three concepts. Also. because the emanationist perspective might have played an important role in his postulation of unity throughout – as I will demonstrate in the next paragraph. First. the preparations are made for a spatial as well as temporal unity by asserting a conformity between ‘true’ Islam and modernity. As such. This is particularly significant for a better understanding of ‘Abduh’s ideas. Through the original religious sources (Arabic: uṣūl). contemporary Muslims can reach the highest point of civilisation – that is. This makes possible the convergence and identity of the Islam of contemporary Muslims with the ‘true’ Islam of their Pious Forefathers (Arabic: al-Salaf alṢāliḥ). This enables ‘Abduh to postulate a unity between ‘original’ . Scharbrodt explains this discrepancy by means of the traditional distinction between elite (Arabic: khāṣṣa) and the mass (Arabic: ‘āmma). 113. 5. as such. Regarding the composite nature of civilisation – which can be predominantly but not exclusively traced back to European and particularly Guizotian conceptions of civilisation – this ‘true’ Islam fits all of the aspects of civilisation particularly well. however.and therefore ‘true’ – Islam and modern civilisation. In ‘Abduh’s conception of authenticity regarding Islam. This 483 Scharbrodt. from which original and true religious knowledge could still be obtained. a temporal as well as spatial unity is simultaneously established: first between original Islam in history and Islamic potency nowadays. He did not oppose them. 483 For now. however. ‘Abduh was afraid that these kind of theories might confuse the intellectually underdeveloped masses. The first Muslims are the proponents of ‘authentic’ (Arabic: aṣlī) and therefore ‘true’ Islam. ‘Abduh prohibited the republication of the work of Ibn ‘Arabī (1165-1240) in which a ‘unity of existence’ (Arabic: waḥdat al-wujūd) was postulated.THEOLOGY OF UNITY Also. ‘Abduh’s idea of ‘true’ Islam relies upon a discourse of originality.

too. Of course. which coincides – again – with ‘true’ Islam. the religious establishment of that time would not have agreed. Having just set forth ‘Abduh’s ideas on ‘true’ Islam’s compatibility with European civilisation. it seems plausible that ‘Abduh would have been capable of casting aside his opposition to his contemporary Muslims – if it was not for their rejection of precisely this type of tolerance! With regard to civilisation. ‘Abduh might have believed that this omnipresent spirit of Islam implies a fundamental unity underlying all Muslims – despite the diversity of Islam’s manifestations. who represent ‘true’ Islam. Since all Muslims agree to these general principles. 484 Looking closer into Scharbrodt’s suggestion. For. creation as a whole emanates from God and is united in its descent from a common origin. one should always be aware of ‘the inherent unity behind the apparent diversity’. moreover. on the one hand. at times it seems more apt to refer to Islam’s compatibility with ‘true’ 484 Ibidem. In this world view. who embodied Islam and thus civilisation. and Europe.THEOLOGY OF UNITY unity is strengthened. Although there is constant movement in the creation – both downwards (from God to its creation) as upwards (the movement of creation towards God as a result of its inherent inclination to perfection) – which produces hierarchical diversification. The uṣūl as principles express a generality as well as essentiality regarding Islamic law and theology. Second. ‘Abduh seems to recognise a unity within diversity because of a common origin. Scharbrodt mentions in passing that ‘Abduh’s (later) advocacy of internal tolerance should be understood in consideration of ‘Abduh’s adherence to a Sufi emanationist philosophy. the spirit of Islam pervades them all – perhaps even the Azhar ulema who ‘Abduh so forcefully opposed.CHAPTER FIVE . because it does not rely on coincidental resemblance only. according to ‘Abduh – I formulate the hypothesis that this particular usage of uṣūl as principles enables ‘Abduh to advance an inherent unity between all Muslims. they are essentially connected to the highest truth on Islam. 100 and 103. On the other hand. In the last resort. Not only do the uṣūl refer to the original sources. despite the Muslims’ diversity in beliefs and practices. the uṣūl can also mean principles – although the way ‘Abduh uses the terminology of uṣūl is certainly not orthodox regarding nineteenth-century Sunni Islam. ‘Abduh seems to consider Islam’s essentials (Arabic: uṣūl) as deductions from the spirit of Islam. During the Middle Ages. With regard to Islamic internal unity – itself a prerequisite for civilisation. As such. ‘Abduh’s ideas on Islam and authenticity (Arabic: aṣāla) are couched in a terminology of uṣūl in another way. 99 . in his very original analysis concerning ‘Abduh first mystical work. Adhering to an emanationist world view. Europe borrowed the spirit of civilisation from the Islamic Pious Forefathers. however. ‘Abduh would have argued that most Muslims would agree with these essentials – facilitated by the essentials’ general nature. ‘Abduh posits a historical connection between his medieval ancestors.

Christianity. ‘Abduh does not only stress the unity between ‘true’ Islam and European-like civilisation. Nonetheless. for example. there is a civilisational spirit which connects European civilisation with civilisation as such – the first source – which happens to be the Classical Islamic civilisation. Jewish and Muslim members of this society argued for a harmonious relation between Islam. according to Mitchell. ‘Abduh renders Islam as superior to the European civilisation and Christianity. ‘Abduh emphasises the underlying unity of the diverse and opposed revealed religions – particularly concerning Islam and Christianity. Finally. modernity is considered unique to the West. from which all manifestations emanate. to Herbert Spencer’s conception of a common but hierarchically phased human religiosity. The Christian. their scriptures were adapted to an earlier and therefore inferior stage of humanity.THEOLOGY OF UNITY civilisation (Arabic: madaniyya). For European civilisation and Christianity are only manifestations of the ultimate truth: Islam and its corresponding civilisation. and Judaism. Furthermore. only Islam – in its uncorrupted form. Thus. it becomes clear from the foregoing that ‘Abduh advocated unity throughout his works. Again. One must always aim for the manifestation which is closest to the common origin. Keeping in mind Scharbrodt’s exposition on emanationist philosophy. On the one hand. while it is also attributed 100 . ‘Abduh exhibits a similar logic of a unity underlying diversity regarding his ideas on Islam as (a) religion. it now makes sense why ‘Abduh rejects a complete imitation of European civilisation – added to his objections which arose out of his concerns over authenticity and autonomy as prompted by pervasive Westernisation and colonisation. However. In the fourth chapter. he stresses their fundamental commonality as revealed religions (Arabic. Thus. On top of that. By doing so. the underlying unity should never be betrayed. By corrupting their revelations (Arabic: taḥrīf). For ‘Abduh posits the European civilisation (Arabic: tamaddun) as a mere manifestation of ‘true’ civilisation. Still. which itself coincides with the Classical Islamic civilisation as this embodies ‘true’ Islam. I referred. Christians and Jews distanced themselves even further from the truth. as these prophecies ultimately derive their existence from one and the same God. singular/plural: dīn/adyān). Yet. the European ambivalence regarding modernity – whereby. ‘Abduh’s reform of Islam is the solution to both. On the other hand. these first investigations into ‘Abduh’s possible adherence of a Sufi-inspired emanationist world view confirm the need for a further investigation of Scharbrodt’s hypothesis. This type of reasoning might have led ‘Abduh to founding his Society for Unity and Rapprochement among the Revealed Religions. the idea of a diversified unity of human religiosity can also be traced back to European conceptions of religion. He does not merely counter the claim of contemporary secularists as well as traditionalists that the Islamic religion is not compatible with civilisation while Christianity is. Only Islam is therefore called the religion of truth (Arabic: dīn al-ḥaqq). a Muslim should turn to ‘true’ civilisation which coincides with a return to ‘true’ Islam. In addition. of course – is still in complete congruence with its divine origin.

Increasingly. But the beginnings of a more hostile and self-centred perspective were already existent in the ideas of ‘Abduh and other reformists.5. 485 ‘Abduh stresses the (actual) universalist nature of Islamic civilisation. these changes were at first the result of the continuing and increasing colonial aggression of European states in the Middle East. 49. ’Rise of Islamic Reformist Thought’.Van der Veer. 487 In the following. too. however. 488 Predominantly. Also. nationalism. which included a wish for revival and a desire to preserve (Islamic) identity. On Christianity . See paragraph 4. I pointed out some of the pluralist tendencies in ‘Abduh’s thought.CHAPTER FIVE . Instead of construing modernity ‘as the West’. 487 In their stress on opposition instead of accommodation. ‘Introduction’ and ‘Stage of Modernity’. these new developments constituted a break with ‘Abduh’s reformism.4 ‘Abduh and Beyond Soon after ‘Abduh’s reformist plea for a Theology of Unity. Imperial Encounters. In particular. In addition. 15. This development was in part to be attributed to elements within ‘Abduh’s thought itself. ‘Abduh’s complex notion of ‘authenticity’ – as explained in the second chapter of this thesis – was too easily transformed into a simple nostalgia for the Islamic past and the corresponding rejection of the present and the West as having any value as such. they stressed ‘authenticity’ and a self-conscious (Islamic) identity to demarcate the lines between the self and the other. Nafi. ‘Introduction’. xii-xiii and 15. iv. especially after the dissolution of the Ottoman empire. 3-4. which were too naive and not refined enough to provide a philosophical foundation for twentiethcentury Islamic thought. 490 Cf. On Reformism and nationalism: Nafi. on difference instead of similarity. Cf. In the third chapter. was the centrality of a discourse of ‘authenticity’. His literal equation of modernity with early Islamic history reveals a lack of any real sense of history through its denial of change. 47-53. in my opinion.THEOLOGY OF UNITY universal validity and desirability – seems to be reversed. 490 In modern and self-consciously Islamic thought in particular. 485 101 .1 in this thesis for a short exposition on Mitchell’s ideas on the subject. while reserving the highest point (civilisation itself) for Islam. the ongoing story of globalisation seemed to present an ever increasing challenge to (traditional) identities. other intellectual tendencies gained the upper hand within modern Islamic thought. 25-26. 489 More importantly. ‘Stage of Modernity’. Arabism and – although somewhat later in full force – political Islam came to the fore and took the prominent position in public debate reformist ideas once had. 486 5. 488 Nafi and Taji-Farouki. as Mitchell analysed. ‘Abduh imagined civilisation – as well as religion – ‘as Islam’. ‘Rise of Islamic Reformist Thought’. ‘Abduh demonstrates no awareness that his specific interpretation of Islam is prompted by the concerns and desires of his Mitchell. I will predominantly focus on modern Islamic thought instead of nationalist or Arabist thought. 489 See the end of paragraph 3. 486 Mitchell.

not a statesman. Throughout the twentieth century. although lost in the main-stream twentieth-century arrogation of Islamic ‘authenticity’. he did not only conceive of Islam or Muslims as victims of European aggression or even modernity as such. 102 . At the same time. he calls on Muslims to assume an active role in defining their own religion. For example. 493 Hourani. 205-256. See for Hourani’s argument that ‘Abduh possibly advocated a purely spiritual caliphate: Ibidem. seems to be a first step to an emphasis on defining Islam spiritually and ethically. legal advice – and his own religious practice. which renders this rather implicit element of ‘Abduh’s thought particularly valuable for consequent modern Islamic thought. He wished to view Islam critically in order to reform it to a viable religion which was suited to its time. As such. As such. 183-192. For example. instead of adopting full-fledged Westernisation. 494 Instead. 494 Tariq Ramadan. this methodology seemed to include the seeds of a historical method in which there is a distinction between the essential and the historical meaning of the Quran. This allows for a conscious and constant reinterpretation of Islam in ever changing contexts. in his fatwas – that is. 492 A spiritually defined Islam provides for a much greater flexibility in interpreting it. As such. Muslim authors have taken on these aspects. The essentials of Islam seem self-evident to him. Ramaḍān wishes to reinterpret the Quran and the Sunna in the context of the modern European context in which many Muslims now live. See for an exposition on the secular aspects of ‘Abduh’s position on Islamic law: Asad. Yet. Second. Formations of the Secular. he allocates Muslims a similarly sense of agency in defining and designing their form of modernity. Ṭāriq Ramaḍān (b. he urges them to seek active accommodation and 491 492 See paragraph 2. Instead. he does not recognise any form of human agency with regard to the definition of ‘true’ Islam. ‘Abduh’s plea for ‘authenticity’ was very much an internal critique. He calls on all European Muslims to stop marginalising themselves by retreating into an exclusively defined Muslim identity. Third. his plea to define the essentials of Islam in their generality.THEOLOGY OF UNITY time and in particular of himself. ‘Reconfigurations of Law and Ethics in Colonial Egypt’. 114. in 1925. 491 Although not very explicitly.5. other aspects of ‘Abduh’s thought. Naṣr Abū Zayd (1943-2010) and. ‘Alī ‘Abd al-Rāziq (1888-1966) proposed a purely spiritual interpretation of the caliphate. 155. He conceived of Muḥammad as a prophet only. I referred in the second chapter to ‘Abduh’s methodology to deduct the general essentials (Arabic: uṣūl) from the Quran. he recognised an important task of internal discussion and subsequent reform laying ahead for the Muslim community itself. 1962) amplified on the aforementioned themes of ‘Abduh’s thought. First. Maḥmūd Muḥammad Ṭaha (1911-1985). Muhammad Abduh. In Westerse Moslims en de Toekomst van de Islam (English: Western Muslims and the Future of Islam). stripped from their historical specificity and literal meaning. Arabic Thought. Westerse Moslims en de Toekomst van de Islam (Bulaaq: Amsterdam 2005) 17-20. he stressed the inner over the external aspect of religiosity. Sedgwick. most recently. are still promising and valuable. 493 Similarly.

these themes are all still very much in need of further elaboration. of greater dissemination among the religious elite and of consequent 2009/2434282. between Islam and the West. modern Islamic thought is in need of a similar revision.CHAPTER FIVE .THEOLOGY OF UNITY integration with the West – for which he says he feels particularly indebted to Muḥammad ‘Abduh. 495 103 . the main-stream history of modern Islamic thought has been held captive throughout the twentieth century by the appealing but too simple divide between the self and the other. 495 Although it is more than a century since ‘Abduh between tradition and modernity: the very same oppositions I seek to revise in the study of ‘Abduh as an exponent of modern Islam. In fact.htm and In fact.ianburuma.rtf [18 October 2010]. for example: http://www. See interviews with Ramadan on.

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