Islamic Renaissance The real Task Ahead


For quite some time now, the global Muslim ummah has been experiencing an
increasing sense of discontent. Today, many believe that the times are ripe for a major
step forward in the ongoing movement for Islams renewal and revival. ! wide variety
of practical efforts in that direction are already underway in Muslim communities
across the globe. "espite their considerable #eal and fervor, however, there is little
agreement regarding the most effective and appropriate course of action. In most cases,
this disagreement or lac$ of coherence represents a state of confusion caused by a
general failure to identify the modern predicament of religion. %ome say that the main
problem is our ignorance of the Islamic tradition& others argue that it is our political
fragmentation and military wea$ness& still others claim that it is the corruption of our
rulers and the evil designs of the '% (mpire. %ince contemporary Muslims do not agree
on the nature of the fundamental challenge that Islam is facing, it is no surprise that
they differ so much about the practical steps needed to address it. Their efforts,
therefore, are scattered and dispersed in all sorts of directions, producing a flurry of
activity but resulting in little overall progress.

)learly, no treatment will benefit the sic$ ummah unless it is based on an accurate
diagnosis of her condition. In his treatise on *Islamic +enaissance,, the -a$istani scholar
and activist "r. Israr !hmad attempted to do just that. .e sought to identify the
essential nature of the modern predicament of religion/or, what amounts to the same
thing/the most fundamental challenge that Muslims are facing in the modern world.
In writing this treatise, "r. Israr !hmad wanted to single out the principal cause of the
widespread Muslim malaise in the face of modernity and of the failure of modern
Islamic movements to alleviate that malaise. In his interpretation of the Muslim
encounter with 0estern modernity, "r. Israr !hmad attempted to address some of the
most critical questions being faced by contemporary Muslims1 0hy is it that sincere
and well2organi#ed efforts to face the challenges of modernity have met with abject
failure or with only limited success3 0hat is it that the modern Islamic movements
have neglected to ta$e into account3 !t exactly what point did these efforts start to go
awry3 0hat do we need to do in order to formulate authentic and effective Islamic
responses to the challenges posed by modernity3 0here should we go from here3

In addressing these questions, "r. Israr !hmad attempted to ta$e stoc$ of what had
already been accomplished by previous generations of Muslim scholars and activists, to
isolate the inadequacies of the ongoing efforts by contemporary Islamic movements,
and to develop a concrete plan of action regarding what needed to be done in the present
as well as in the foreseeable future. 4eing cogni#ant of the various groups,
organi#ations, and movements that were actively pursuing the goal of Islams
*renaissance, in different parts of the Muslim world, he arrived at the conclusion that
something very basic and fundamental was missing in their efforts. .e contended that
Muslims scholars and activists ought to disregard the leaves and the branches and,
instead, focus their energies on dealing with what constituted the root of the modern
predicament of religion. .e argued that no real progress would be achieved unless
adequate effort and attention were directed at underta$ing what he called *the real

About the Treatise

The purpose of this web2based commentary on *Islamic +enaissance, is to ma$e the
arguments of the original treatise as accessible as possible to a wide range of audience.
In underta$ing this project, we have been motivated by our conviction that *Islamic
+enaissance, is a highly significant and rewarding text for several reasons.

First, the contents of *Islamic +enaissance, are as relevant to the global
Muslim ummah today as they were in 5678. The passage of time has failed to ma$e this
treatise either obsolete or redundant. In fact, a case can be made that the events and
trends of the last half2a2century have rendered this treatise increasingly more
relevant, even urgent.

%econd, *Islamic +enaissance, is one of the most enduring statements of "r. Israr
!hmads thought. .e wrote this treatise at the relatively young age of thirty2six, and
despite the fact that his thin$ing on many issues changed during the later part of his
career, he continued to express his confidence in the arguments of
*Islamic +enaissance, until the very end of his life.

Third, *Islamic +enaissance, presents many of "r. Israr !hmads most important ideas
in a relatively condensed form& a number of ideas that he developed more fully in the
later part of his career can already be found in their initial, germinal stages in the
pages of this treaties.

Finally, *Islamic +enaissance, is probably the most valuable of "r. Israr !hmads
numerous contributions. 0hile many of his views can be challenged and debated, there
is little doubt that this particular treatise offers some of his most compelling ideas.

About the "Renaissance" of Islam

0hat is the main theme of *Islamic +enaissance1 The +eal Tas$ !head,3 !s the title
suggests, the central assumption of this treatise is that there is an urgent need for
bringing about a state of affairs that the author refers to as the *renaissance, of Islam,
while its main argument concerns the practical steps that must be underta$en in order
to prepare the way towards the reali#ation of that goal.

The meaning of the word *renaissance,, however, is not immediately obvious.
The word is considerably ambiguous and potentially misleading. For this reason, we
must begin by clarifying the sense of *renaissance, that "r. Israr !hmad seemed to
have in mind.

(tymologically, the word *renaissance, comes from a 9atin word that denotes the
notion of being *born again, :in the religious or spiritual sense;. In common usage, the
term *+enaissance, refers to the (uropean experience of *re2discovering, classical
$nowledge, beginning in the fourteenth century, that produced a renewed flowering of
science and culture, bringing the so2called *dar$ ages, to an end. This particular
meaning of *+enaissance, has been dated to 5<=>, indicating the retrospective nature
of the historical judgment involved in the modern definition of *+enaissance.,

?iven the above bac$ground, the phrase *Islamic +enaissance, in the title of "r. Israr
!hmad@s treatise may lead some readers to assume that he is proposing for the Islamic
world something along the lines of what happened in (urope during the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries. %ome readers may also assume that the author is examining the
predicament of Islam and Muslims primarily through the lens of 0estern self2
understanding. It is important to point out that neither assumption is very helpful in
revealing the authors intention.

The original phrase in the title is Anash@at2e saniya,A which is an 'rduB-ersian form of
what is essentially an !rabic phrase. 0hile this has been rendered into (nglish as
*renaissance,, we should note that terms li$e *rebirth,, *second birth,, and
*resurgence, could also function as more or less valid substitutes. ?iven the authors
intellectual bac$ground, it would not be too far2fetched to suggest that he may have
derived both the concept and the phrase from the text of the .oly Curan, rather than
from (uropean history.

The !rabic word Anash@ahA denotes such phenomena as rising, emerging, being born,
coming into existence, cropping up, proceeding, springing forth, growing, developing,
etc. This word obviously has organic, and even biological, connotations, and this is at
least partly how the .oly Curan employs it. The Islamic %cripture repeatedly directs
the readers attention to the way in which dead vegetations come to life each spring,
using this otherwise mundane observation as an argument for its claim that the entire
humanity will experience resurrection at the end of time. To drive this point home, the
.oly Curan uses a variety of words and expressions& these include Aal2nash@at al2ulaA to
denote the original creation, and Aal2nash@at al2a$hiraA as well as Aal2nash@at al2u$hraA to
refer to the *re2birth, or *re2creation, that ?od has promised for each individual.

It can be readily seen that even though Anash@at2e saniyaA and *renaissance, are
practically synonymous, they do not share the same connotations because the
respective cultural and etymological bac$grounds of the two terms are significantly
different. "espite their overlapping meanings, these terms can be seen as representing
essentially independent concepts& consequently, the notion of a *rebirth, of Islam would
have been equally meaningful even if there had been no such thing as the (uropean
+enaissance. It is important to note in this context that the phrase -,-'` ة'-- ِ contains
additional shades of meaning that are not found in the French and (nglish word
*renaissance,, including, for example, the idea of resurgence or rising up.
Furthermore, the usual !rabic term for cultural flowering :which is the basic sense of
*renaissance,; is an altogether different word/*nahdah., !s a modern term, *nahdah,
refers to the revival of literary and cultural activities in (gypt, 9ebanon, and %yria
that too$ place between mid2nineteenth century and 0orld 0ar I. This suggests that
the semantic field of Anash@at2e saniyaA is broader than that of either *nahdah, or the
usual, 0estern sense of *renaissance.,

0hat did the author himself mean by the phrase Anash@at2e saniyaA/rendered here as
*renaissance,3 Dowhere in this treatise did he ma$e any attempt to define or explain
the significance of the term *Islamic +enaissance., Eet, its meaning was very clear in
his own mind. (lsewhere, "r. Israr !hmad has identified the rise of Islam during the
life2time of -rophet Muhammad :%!0; and the +ightly ?uided )aliphs :+; by explicitly
referring to the Curanic phrase Aal2nash@at al2ulaA :*the first birth,;. It is evident from
his writings and speeches that he anticipated a second period of Islams rise in the near
or distant future. It would have been completely natural, in this context, to identify
this second period of Islams rise as a *rebirth, or *renaissance.,

In writing *Islamic +enaissance,, "r. Israr !hmad was addressing an audience
that was already familiar with the concept in question and did not need any extensive
explanation. !s mentioned above, this treatise first appeared in the monthly 'rdu
journal *Mithaq,, and it is relevant to note that the readership of this journal consisted
largely of individuals who were already inspired by the idea of Islams revival and
resurgence/particularly under the influence of the FamaGat2e Islami/but had become
disillusioned with the existing options for wor$ing towards that goal. Moreover, the
meaning of a *rebirth, or *resurgence, of Islam was not un$nown among the educated
segments of Muslim societies in the late 567>s. This was partly due to the national
liberation movements that were leading to the decoloni#ation of the Islamic world as
well as the international initiatives of that period that were aimed at fostering unity
among Muslim nations, and partly due to the growing influence of revivalist
movements li$e the FamaGat2e Islami and al2I$hwan al2Muslimun. In fact, the discourse
of Islamic revival, rebirth, resurgence, or *renaissance, has been around at least since
the late2nineteenth century. This discourse had originated most forcefully in the
passion of a single individual, i.e., %ayyid Famal al2"in al2!fghani :5<H</5<68;, and
had subsequently been nurtured by succeeding generations of Muslim modernists,
nationalists, and revivalists throughout the twentieth century.

In the final analysis, however, "r. Israr !hmad did not explain the meaning of *Islamic
+enaissance, in this treatise simply because it was not the primary object of his
analysis. )areful readers should be able to discern that the very structure of the title
and the subtitle indicates that the author is directing the readers attention towards the
phrase *The +eal Tas$ !head, and not so much towards *Islamic +enaissance., The
author is implying that he and his readers already agree that there is an urgent need to
wor$ for a *renaissance, of Islam& the issue that remains unsettled, and must therefore
be addressed, concerns the practical steps that must be underta$en in order to achieve
that goal. In effect, the author wants to explain the *how, rather than the *what, and
the *why., This means that the treatise, despite its title, is not about the *renaissance,
of Islam per se. It is, rather, about *the real tas$,, i.e., the prerequisite without which
the goal in question cannot be achieved. !s such, this treatise is best seen as a practical
program of action/a manifesto/rather than a wor$ of theory.

For our immediate purposes, therefore, the concept of Islams *renaissance, would ma$e
most sense if it is understood with reference to the Curanic themes of *new birth, and
*second creation., It is important to note that this particular usage of the term is a
modern phenomenon, despite its Curanic origins. Traditionally, Muslims have
preferred terms li$e tajdid :renewal;, islah :reform;, and ihya :revival; to denote
efforts aimed at ma$ing the teachings and truths of revelation more relevant in a given
time and place/all three terms being rooted in the canonical texts of Islam, i.e., the Cur
an and the .adith. .istorically spea$ing, movements for renewal, reform, and revival
were launched in response to an internal or external challenge that seemed to threaten
the vitality and integrity of Islamic faith and practice, especially some form
of spiritual, moral, and social decline or stagnation. !s is well $nown, such efforts have
been initiated countless times throughout Muslim history and, ta$en together, they
constitute an unbro$en tradition of religious devotion and service.

In this bac$ground, the phrase *renaissance, of Islam suggests the need for efforts that
are essentially along the same lines as those of the numerous movements for renewal,
reform, and revival that were underta$en in the past. Eet, the fact remains that this
particular usage is unprecedented in premodern Muslim history& furthermore, the
concept of *rebirth, or *second birth, evo$es a far more ambitious goal than what is
generally implied in the three traditional terms. !s a result, the *renaissance, of Islam
seems to refer to a conception that includes the essential elements of renewal, reform,
and revival/as traditionally understood/but is also much more comprehensive and
far2reaching, even exceptional, in its scope and implications. Indeed, the argument of
*Islamic +enaissance, suggests that the modern challenges being faced by Islam today
are of an entirely different nature than anything it had faced in the past. This implies
that we must be prepared to ta$e unprecedented steps to meet these challenges, for
unusual problems cannot be addressed by repeating the usual solutions. %ince the
challenges are extraordinary, so should be the responses. For this reason, a *rebirth, is
an appropriate metaphor, since it serves to emphasi#e that renewal, reform, and
revival of an extraordinary $ind is needed if Islam is to meet the challenges it is facing

About the Commentary

The commentary being presented here is an attempt to explain the contents of AIslamic
+enaissanceA and to expand upon their significance. The need to produce a commentary
li$e this arose due to a number of factors. To begin with, while the logical structure of
*Islamic +enaissance, is simple and elegant, the text offers certain obstacles that ma$e
its arguments difficult to apprehend. For instance, the text of *Islamic +enaissance, is
very concise with minimum repetition. The author ma$es no effort to present detailed
evidence, cite other scholars, or to periodically recapitulate his position. -art of the
difficulty stems from the fact that "r. Israr !hmad was more of an orator by
temperament than a writer, let alone an academician. !s such, he was not used to
spelling out his thoughts on paper in the thorough and detailed manner that we expect
from professional scholars. Instead, much of his written legacy is in the form of brief but
highly dense essays that many lay readers find uninviting and even impenetrable. To
compensate for the brevity and density of his essays, "r. Israr !hmad would often
elaborate upon his own writings in his widely2attended lectures and public
presentations. .e was an accomplished performer of the oral discourse and a virtuoso in
the art of didactic speech. !s a result, the numerous audio and video recordings of his
speeches are significantly easier to follow, and much more popular, than his relatively
few writings. In effect, the full import of his essays remains relatively difficult to grasp
without the help of his own elaborations.

9i$e "r. Israr !hmad@s other writings, the brevity and compactness of *Islamic
+enaissance, present a serious challenge to readers who are not already familiar with
his thought. The sympathetic reader finds it difficult to fully appreciate his arguments
without repeated analytical readings of the text& such readings require a high level of
interpretive s$ill that many of them do not possess. In the other hand, the critical
reader is li$ely to object that the s$etchy evidence given in the text does not support the
authors bold contentions. %ince "r. Israr !hmad attempts to ma$e an argument in this
treatise that virtually spans the globe and covers five hundred years of history, the
terseness of his writing style forces him to generali#e and oversimplify in a way that is
unacceptable in contemporary scholarship. For instance, his critique of what he calls
*0estern thought, lac$s supporting evidence& his understanding of the motives of
colonial policies is based almost entirely on the case of the 4ritish in India& he discusses
several varieties of Muslim initiatives and movements but does not provide detailed
evidence or explain exactly how he arrived at his judgments. From an academic
viewpoint, perhaps the most significant wea$ness of this treatise is the authors failure
to consider alternative viewpoints and possible objections to his own contentions. The
resulting lac$ of nuance ma$es the treatise an easy target for criticism, which, in turn,
renders the value of his contribution even less li$ely to be appreciated.

In this context, our commentary is meant to provide some of the tools necessary for
facilitating the readers full engagement with the authors arguments. %pecifically, the
commentary is intended to accomplish the following1 :5; to interpret the authors
meaning in a reader2friendly style that is more suitable for a broad range of audience&
:J; to place some of his propositions in their respective socio2historical contexts& :H; to
introduce certain nuances and qualifications in order to refine and clarify the authors
meaning& :=; to add certain details and other references for a deeper and richer
appreciation of his arguments& :K; to address some of the questions and criticisms that
may arise due to the brevity of the original text& and :7; to augment the authors
presentation by citing relevant developments that have ta$en place since the treatise
was first published.

It is important to clarify that our commentary is not merely exegetical. 0e have
underta$en not only to explain "r. Israr !hmad@s intended meanings, but to also extend
their significance and implications beyond the relatively limited framewor$ of his
treatise. In other words, we did not restrict the scope of the commentary to an
explanation of the authors own thin$ing, but, in addition to that basic tas$, we have
also attempted to elucidate the subject matter from a number of additional perspectives
that the author did not ta$e into account. )onsequently, this commentary should be
seen as an *interpretation, that reflects not only the mind of the original author but
also, to a significant degree, the mind of the commentator. 0hether our attempt at
expanding the scope of the discussion is justified, and to what extent, is for the readers to

0hile the commentary adds some detail and nuance to the original text, it is not
intended to substitute first2hand research. +eaders should not ta$e the interpretation
given here as the absolute final word on the significance and implications of
the treatise, but only as a useful starting point. Indeed, *Islamic +enaissance, is a text
that does not present itself as the last word on the topic& instead, it invites the readers/
both explicitly and implicitly/to embar$ upon a life2long journey of inquiry and
appropriate action. 0e encourage the readers to use our interpretation of *Islamic
+enaissance, as a roadmap that may help them navigate an unfamiliar terrain, and
not as a final destination to be reached.

The Pervasive Ascendancy of Western Thought

The present age can be justifiably described as the age of the
predominance of Western thought and philosophy as well as of Western
arts and sciences. In this age, Western ideas and theories, along with
Western conceptions regarding the universe and the human being, have
come to dominate the entire globe. Ever since their origin in Europe
roughly two hundred years ago, these ideas and conceptions have been
continually growing and strengthening. egardless of the number of
nation!states or political blocs in which the contemporary world is
divided, it is more or less the same style of thin"ing#or the same point
of view#that prevails all over the world. $isregarding a few superficial
and trivial differences, it is the same cultural currency that holds value
across national, ideological, and societal boundaries. While we do
sometimes encounter alternative perspectives or viewpoints, the
combined significance of these is no more than that of a peripheral trail
compared to the central highway of human civili%ation. In both the East
and the West, the mindset of the ruling and leading classes#those who
control the collective affairs of their respective societies#seems to have
been dyed in e&actly the same hue. The pervasive ascendancy of
Western thought and culture has become so formidable that even anti!
Western movements in different parts of the world have not been able to
remain completely free of its influence. 'pon closer e&amination, the
perspective of the social forces struggling to resist the West turns out to
be (uite Western itself.


"r. Israr !hmad begins his treatise by ma$ing an observation1 Iver the last two
hundred years or so, the intellectual and cultural products of *the 0est, have been
widely internali#ed by societies across the globe, leading to an unmista$able
homogeni#ation. 0herever we travel on earth, we are li$ely to encounter very similar
ideas, assumptions, and ways of living. 0hile human societies have been substantially
different from each other during most of history, their diversity has rapidly and
uncharacteristically diminished in recent centuries. This intellectual and cultural
homogeni#ation has been the result of an increasing/and ongoing/assimilation of
peoples of diverse cultures and bac$grounds into 0estern modes of thin$ing and acting.

0estern influences are channeled through 0estern intellectual and cultural products&
these products can be grouped into two main types1 *thought and philosophy, on the
one hand, *arts and sciences, on the other. The former denotes theories, ideas,
conceptions, terminology, and style of expression& the latter denotes natural and social
sciences, as well as what the author calls *funun., This word usually means *arts, but
it can also be translated as *techniques., If the author means the former, he is referring
to poetry, music, literature, painting, architecture, and so on. If he means the latter, he
is referring to what is called *technology,, as well as the processes and procedures used
for organi#ing and motivating human beings both individually and in groups.

In this first section, "r. Israr !hmad contends that the $ind of *thought and
philosophy, and the $ind of *arts and sciences, that have come to dominate the world
during the last two hundred years can justifiably be called *0estern., This does not
mean that every idea or every technique that is in ascendancy today was literally born
in the geographical region called *the 0estern hemisphere., Instead, the author is
arguing that modern ideas and modern techniques developed in any part of the world
may be called *0estern, insofar as they have been made possible by the unique style of
thin$ing, or point of view, which too$ shape in 0estern (urope about two centuries ago.
!s used by "r. Israr !hmad in this treatise, the adjective *0estern, has at least two
meanings1 first, it refers to the societies of 0estern (urope and their overseas
extensions, including Dorth !merica and !ustralia& and second, it refers to a specific
perspective, an orientation, or an attitude that is best rendered as *modern.,
(lsewhere, he uses the words *modern, and *0estern, interchangeably.

In (nglish, the nouns *modernity, and *modernism,, as well as the adjectives
*modern, and *modernist,, are often used as virtual synonyms& in some contexts,
however, these terms are sharply distinguished. (ven though "r. Israr !hmad does not
ma$e these distinctions in *Islamic +enaissance,, it is nevertheless important to
understand their significance. The term modernism denotes the particular mindset
that emerged in 0estern (urope from seventeenth2century onwards, essentially as the
result of the scientific discoveries of ?alileo and Dewton and the philosophy of "escartes.
In the other hand, the term modernity is most often used for those social, political, and
economic conditions that shaped, and were in turn shaped by, the modern worldview.
:%ee Cuotes and Insights for definitions of modernism and modernity.;

In simpler language, we may say that our contemporary age has two sides1 an
intellectual side called modernism, and a structural side called modernity. 0hen "r.
Israr !hmad uses the words *0estern, or *modern,, the context is usually a sufficient
guide for the reader to determine whether he is referring to modernism as a mindset or
to modernity as a set of objective conditions.

!s we shall see throughout this treatise, "r. Israr !hmads main concern is not so much
with the objective, structural conditions of modernity as with the attitudes and
assumptions, i.e., the worldview, of modernism. .e sees *0estern thought and
philosophy, as being logically prior to the social, political, and economic conditions that
are associated with the phenomenon of modernity. These latter conditions include
industriali#ation, urbani#ation, capitalism, secular democracy, bureaucrati#ation, etc.
The author of *Islamic +enaissance, seems to assume that modernity is a product of
modernism. 0hile this is not incorrect, it is important to remember that the reverse is
also true, i.e., the objective conditions of modernity are responsible for nurturing and
sustaining the attitudes and assumptions $nown as modernism. In other words, there is
a dialectical relationship between modernism as an intellectual and cultural condition
on the one hand, and modernity as a set of social, political, and economic condition on
the other hand. For all practical purposes, therefore, the two sides of our contemporary
age are inseparable. This ma$es the distinction between modernity and modernism
somewhat irrelevant in most contexts.

Ince we understand exactly what he is tal$ing about, "r. Israr !hmads observation
can be appreciated as a relatively uncontroversial one. .e is arguing that a unique
style of thin$ing, or a specific point of view, started to ta$e shape at a particular point
in time and in a particular part of the world& and that, during the last two hundred
years, it has grown and become increasingly dominant all over the world. In this
context, his use of the phrases *style of thin$ing, and *point of view, is highly
significant. (ven though he does not use this term, what he most probably means is a
worldview. .ad "r. Israr !hmad employed the term worldview, his entire argument in
this treatise would have been much more clear and convincing. 4e that as it may, a
careful and sympathetic reader of *Islamic +enaissance, can still discern that the
phrases *style of thin$ing, and *point of view, do not refer to any specific theory or
philosophy but to something deeper and more general than any of our beliefs, thoughts,
or ideas. They refer to the mostly subconscious matrix of our attitudes and assumptions,
otherwise $nown as worldview. :%ee Cuotes and Insights for definitions of worldview.;

It is important to notice the authors implicit suggestion that the modern *style of
thin$ing, or *point of view, is a unique phenomenon because it is unprecedented in
history. Do other society in the history of human civili#ation has ever adopted this
particular set of attitudes and assumptions as its dominant worldview. To be sure,
0estern (urope did not invent this unique viewpoint out of nothing& there are
traceable influences from a variety of other cultures and societies, including Islamic
ones. Devertheless, because this style of thin$ing first came of age in *the 0est,, we
may, for the sa$e of convenience, refer to it as *0estern, in its origin. For all practical
purposes, however, it is best to call it *modern, because of its virtual universality.

To summari#e, "r. Israr !hmad is arguing that *modernism,, or the modern
worldview, has been ta$ing root all over the world ever since it reached a certain level
of maturity in 0estern (urope roughly two hundred years ago. .e ac$nowledges,
however, that the global dominance of this modern orientation is far from complete.
There are poc$ets of resistance in almost all parts of the world, a few of which are
thriving even in the midst of advanced industriali#ed societies. !c$nowledging that
numerous groups and sub2cultures are indeed trying to hold on to their traditional
andBor non20estern ways of thin$ing and viewing the world, "r. Israr !hmad
emphasi#es that this fact should not prevent us from appreciating the big picture. The
modern worldview has acquired so much influence and has become so pervasive in the
world that these minority viewpoints seem to be fighting a lost battle. (ven if they
succeed in preserving themselves as such for the time being, they are li$ely to do so as
*alternative, viewpoints or lifestyles that have little relevance for, or impact upon, the
mainstream of human civili#ation. If a few members of an *exotic, species were to
survive in a #oo, that does not change the reality that it has become practically extinct.

The claim that the modern worldview has become the predominant viewpoint of
humanity does not mean that it affects every single person in the world in exactly the
same way or with exactly the same intensity. The author ma$es an important
distinction between the elite classes on the one hand and the vast majority of human
population on the other hand. !s we shall see later, his definition of the *ruling and
leading classes, is much broader than what is normally understood by these words&
essentially, the phrase *ruling and leading classes, is synonymous with the word
*elite,, which itself has a range of meanings. 4riefly, the author is referring not just to
the political elite that run a particular regime, such as politicians, elected
representatives, and diplomats, but also to the social elite, such as top bureaucrats and
technocrats& the cultural elite, such as prominent journalists, broadcasters, artists,
thin$ers, scientists, and educators& and the economic elite, including successful
entrepreneurs, top business executives, and traditional aristocrats. !ll of these groups
of people are necessarily a small minority in any given society& yet they are the
carriers of the modern orientation.

The author argues that, in a given society, the degree of the predominance of 0estern
thought and culture tends to be unequally distributed& its presence or impact can be
seen most clearly among the elites of the society, i.e., among the relatively small
number of individuals who enjoy a disproportionally large share in power/regardless of
whether the power in question is primarily social, political, cultural, economic, or some
combination of these. In other words, the elites in all societies tend to be far more
moderni#ed or 0esterni#ed than the rest of the population. It is not unusual, therefore,
to find a variety of traditional or premodern beliefs and practices thriving among the
masses at large. In the other hand, those who enjoy the most influence in determining
a given societys overall direction and in shaping its norms and standards are the same
people who are most li$ely to display that style of thin$ing or point of view which the
author identifies as *modern, and *0estern.,

Towards the end of the first section, "r. Israr !hmad ma$es one of the most important
points of the entire treatise. .e suggests that modern or 0estern influences are not only
pervasive in todays world, they are also frequently below the level of conscious
awareness. In other words, many in the modern world are unaware that their own
style of thin$ing or point of view has become thoroughly modern and 0estern. This
lac$ of self2$nowledge can be observed most clearly among those social or political
movements that are see$ing to overturn the dominance of 0estern thought and
culture in different parts of the world. 0hile such movements/including their leaders
and ran$2and2file members/fancy themselves as ta$ing a stand against *the 0est, and
its hegemonic influence, they fail to notice that a large chun$ of their own motivation
and methodology is based upon, or derived from, 0estern assumptions and attitudes.
-ut differently, such movements are unable to see that they are resisting *the 0est,
within a conceptual and practical framewor$ that is itself a 0estern product& that
everything from their methods of organi#ing to their strategies, from their ideological
edifices to their final aims, can be shown as either inspired by or borrowed from the
same mindset that they are opposing and hoping someday to replace.

This is perhaps the ultimate proof of the ascendancy of the modern worldview/that
even the self2proclaimed adversaries of modern thought and culture have been unable
to extricate themselves from the very orientation that they find problematic and from
which they want to liberate the rest of the world. Furthermore, since a worldview is
predominantly a set of attitudes and assumptions that operate at the subconscious
level, this last observation vindicates our own contention that *worldview, is precisely
what the author has in mind whenever he refers to *style of thin$ing, and *point of

The )undamental Point of *iew

The ideas and conceptions behind modern civili%ation did not come
into being overnight, nor should they be mista"en as constituting a
simple and monolithic entity. $uring the last two centuries or so,
practically countless schools of thought have emerged in the West, and
human beings have in(uired into human nature and e&istence from
virtually innumerable points of view. Throughout this variegated
intellectual journey, however, a single viewpoint has become
increasingly established. Thus, while modern thought is both comple&
and diverse, it is nevertheless possible to identify a particular viewpoint
as forming its essential foundation. This viewpoint may be stated as
follows+ The central a&is of human reflection and investigation should
consist of ,solid facts- and actual, observable events#as opposed to
,imaginary- or ,transcendent- notions. According to this viewpoint, the
legitimate objects of human in(uiry should be the physical universe, as
opposed to .od/ the material body, as opposed to the spirit/ and the life of
this!world, as opposed to the life hereafter. Though at a purely academic
level the reality of .od, the spirit, and life hereafter was neither
confirmed nor denied, this avowedly agnostic position has led, (uite
understandably, to the gradual elimination of these ,concepts- from the
domain of legitimate human in(uiry. 0ecause of this viewpoint, all of
human curiosity and concern become focused upon and restricted to
the realm of the material universe, the physical body, and the life of this!

1onsider the fact that $ivine Providence has bestowed upon human"ind
a great many capacities, the disciplined use of which in any field is
bound to produce definite results. 0y applying these capacities, all
manners of see"ers and e&plorers can potentially discover entirely new
worlds in their respective fields of in(uiry. 1onsider also that a single
atom appears trivial when compared to the mighty sun, but if some of the
divinely bestowed human capacities were to be focused on the
e&ploration of that trivial atom, it would reveal itself as a magnificent
and glorious sun in its own right. 2n the same analogy, the material
universe, the physical body, and the life of this!world appear to possess
no ontological value when we compare these to the reality of .od, the
spirit, and the life hereafter/ and yet, if all the human capacities for
ac(uiring "nowledge were to be focused solely upon the physical and
material reality, even this otherwise insignificant realm would seem to
possess an endless span and a bottomless depth.

This is precisely what happened in the West. When ,the universe- and
,matter- were brought under the lens of scientific in(uiry, the result was
a chain reaction of discoveries and innovations. 1lues were revealed
that pointed to immense sources of energy that have so far been lying
hidden or dormant behind the veils of nature. These developments
astonished the world and brought about revolutionary transformations
in all areas of arts and sciences.

Two important conse(uences followed this revolution+ )irst, a series of
continuous brea"throughs in deciphering the laws of nature, a
harnessing of natural forces and their use as efficient sources of energy,
and an uninterrupted stream of innovative tools and techni(ues#all of
this led to the rise of Europe as an invincible power. 3econd, the
immense power and grandeur of ,matter- came to be seen as an
irrefutable argument in favor of focusing the human ga%e on the physical
universe, as opposed to .od. The marvelous success of science itself
became a veritable proof that the truly important object of human in(uiry
was matter and its physical and chemical properties, rather than .od
and the attributes of .od.


"r. Israr !hmad begins this section by suggesting that we ought to be very careful
when using the term *0estern Thought., 0e should not use this term as if it referred to
a single, static, or indivisible entity. This is an important consideration that requires a
detailed treatment.

For the sa$e of brevity and convenience, we often use terms that are actually imprecise
ways of referring to very complex, multifaceted, and diverse set of phenomena. This
wor$s fine so long as there is a common understanding between the spea$er and the
listener about the meaning of the term in question. !t other times, however, the usual
way of spea$ing in short2cuts can be problematic.

For instance, consider the word *Islam., %omeone may use this word in a sentence, such
as *Islam is peace,, but without giving any further explanation. This may cause a
problem, particularly if the spea$er is unaware that the word *Islam, does not refer to a
single, static, or indivisible entity that could be easily recogni#ed by all people without
difficulty or disagreement. ! critical audience would want to $now1 Is the spea$er
referring to the !rabic word or the religious tradition3 If the latter, does the spea$er
mean the normative and ideal tradition or the actual and historical one3 Is the spea$er
referring to metaphysics or law3 Is the spea$er tal$ing about theology or ethics3

In this example, the problem in communication stems from the fact that there is no
consensus in the real world as to the precise meaning of the word *Islam,, which is why
different members of the audience are li$ely to hear this word in a variety of different
ways, leading them to a variety of interpretations regarding what the spea$er wishes to

The same is true when we use terms li$e *0estern Thought., !s "r. Israr !hmad points
out, there is no such thing as *0estern Though,, if we understand by this term a
simple, uncomplicated, well2defined, and unchanging *thing, that exists out there and
can be recogni#ed as such by everyone without difficulty or disagreement. 9i$e the
referent of the word *Islam,, what we wish to indicate by a term li$e *0estern
Thought, is not a monolithic entity. 0hat is called *0estern Thought, is not one idea&
it does not spea$ with one voice& it is not made up of one substance. In the contrary, it is
a set of complex, multifaceted, and diverse phenomena.

Thus, even though we use the term *0estern Thought, in the singular/again, for the
sa$e of brevity and convenience/what we are referring to is, in reality, a vast array of
ideas, concepts, theories, ideologies, and philosophies that are often at odds with each
other. 'nder the extremely broad rubric of *0estern Thought,, we find elements that
fiercely compete against each other because they happen to be mutually exclusive.

0e dont have to ta$e the authors word on this point& for even a quic$ survey of
0estern intellectual history will show far greater diversity than agreement, with
much of the diversity representing divergences over fundamental questions. This is
hardly surprising. ! dynamic and energetic culture that values intellectual activity as
well as freedom of conscience would naturally give rise to a wide range of ideas through
the interplay of dialogue and debate.

.aving established that *0estern Thought, is not monolithic, "r. Israr !hmad
attempts to show that there is, nevertheless, a profound unity that underlies all of its
observed diversity. .e contends that there is a particular feature hidden underneath
the entire range of modern thought and culture that has remained constant at least
over the last two hundred years, even as all other variables have undergone major or
minor changes. "r. Israr !hmad implies that this particular feature is exceedingly
important precisely because there has been little or no opposition to its veracity, or, at
the very least, such opposition has not been successful. In short, while recogni#ing the
diversity of 0estern thought, he insists that there is something common and stable
behind the diversity of its outward forms.

0e can notice that "r. Israr !hmad seems to be ma$ing a major claim/he is saying
that there happens to be a single common denominator underneath the immense
diversity of 0estern thought, and that he $nows what it is. !t this point, a critical
reader cannot help becoming somewhat s$eptical, for the claim, if true, had to have
momentous implications& and yet, the author provides no evidence to bac$ up the claim
but simply states it as self2evident. Furthermore, the assertion is so broad and general
that even a single counter2example would demolish his entire thesis. It appears to be a
precarious claim, and even somewhat naLve.

!s already noted, however, the issue at sta$e does not concern the many outward forms
of 0estern thought, but something that lies at a deeper and mostly subconscious, level,
i.e., the usually unac$nowledged but nevertheless potent attitudes and assumptions
that drive our thoughts and actions. "r. Israr !hmad is not referring to specific theories
or philosophies/which, as he recogni#es explicitly, are extremely diverse/but he is
referring to their normally hidden foundation, what is more commonly $nown as

If this interpretation is correct, then we can appreciate that "r. Israr !hmad is trying
to provide the reader with a potentially useful and even provocative way of
determining exactly what ma$es something *modern., In his understanding, the most
characteristic feature of modernity does not consist in either the acceptance or the
denial of any particular idea, conception, or doctrine. +ather, modernity is best
understood on the sole criterion of relative emphasis. !ccording to the author, a given
mode of thought or culture is modern if it places more emphasis on the physical
universe than it does on ?od& more emphasis on the material body than on the spirit&
more emphasis on the life of this2world than on the life hereafter.

This way of defining modern thought and culture has the distinctive advantage of
precluding simplistic or *digital, judgments li$e yesBno, trueBfalse, blac$Bwhite.
Instead of as$ing whether or not a particular mode of thought or culture is modern, the
criterion of relative emphasis requires that we as$ about the extent to which it is
modern. Thus, *modern, can be conceived as a quality whose extent in any particular
case must be gauged according to a wide spectrum ranging from #ero to maximum. In
other words, *modern, is not a quality that can be declared presentBabsent in an
absolute manner& instead of saying that ! is modern and 4 is not, the authors criterion
only allows us to say that ! is :slightly, moderately, significantly; more modern than 4.

To reiterate the authors argument in a slightly different way, the transition from
*premodern, to *modern, always involves a shift of emphasis rather than an absolute
change of categories. It is not that a given instance of modern thought or culture must
be absolutely atheistic or antireligious& nor is it the case that such tendencies were
entirely absent from all societies before the modern period. In the contrary, it is
perfectly possible to believe in ?od and to be very religious in ones outloo$ and lifestyle
while still exhibiting in relative terms the defining characteristic of modernity.
%imilarly, a society may allow what it believes to be complete religious freedom to all
its members, and a culture may show great respect for religious symbols and practices,
and yet the overall character of that collectivity may still lean heavily in favor of the
physical universe, the material body, and the life of this2world. To the degree that it is
so leans, we may characteri#e it as *modern.,

Thus defined, it is clear that concepts li$e *premodern, and *modern, are not to be
understood primarily in relation to geographical regions or time periods, but in terms of
a human collectivitys ultimate priorities. %ince human societies and cultures tend to
be both complex and dynamic, our assessments must also be complex and dynamic.
That is to say, in measuring a given collectivitys ultimate priorities in order to
determine the extent to which it may be modern or premodern, we must ta$e into
account both its internal diversity at any given moment as well as its changing
landscape over a period of time.

.aving said this, however, we must also recogni#e that the quality of *modern, is
much more characteristic of the thought and culture of 0estern (urope and Dorth
!merica as compared to the rest of the world, and that it is much more characteristic of
the last two hundred years as compared to the rest of the human past. 0e may ta$e this
observation to be the wor$ing assumption of *Islamic +enaissance,, while $eeping in
mind that we are always dealing with patterns of relative emphases, and never with
absolute categories.

0hat do we mean by relative emphasis3 The human act of *emphasis, may be
understood in terms of how people express their values. The more we value something,
the more we emphasi#e it/which means, simply, that we invest it with greater
attention. !s a human phenomenon, attention is practically synonymous with
emphasis and constitutes a useful and sensitive index for our values. 0e have a limited
amount of attentiveness/the capacity to pay attention/at our disposal, both as
individuals and as societies& and the way in which we distribute our attentiveness
among our various concerns, each of which may be clamoring to monopoli#e our
attention, indicates our estimation of their relative value. In this light, "r. Israr
!hmads $ey phrase *shift of emphasis, can be understood as any significant change in
a societys allocation of its total attentiveness. The shift from the premodern to the
modern involves precisely such a transformation.

0hile the process through which the premodern was first replaced by the modern on a
large scale too$ place in 0estern (urope, our author ma$es is very clear that we are
now living in a world where the ascendancy of modern thought and culture is not
limited to any particular area. Modernity has truly become global in its reach, and,
with the possible exception of a few *undiscovered, indigenous cultures, there is no part
of the world that can completely escape its influence. In many instances, we find that
people living in societies that are far apart from each other are nevertheless adopting
identical preferences in food, clothing, and entertainment. 4ut even when they retain
their uniqueness in these matters, there is another level of homogeni#ation that is more
fundamental than our choices regarding what we eat, wear, or enjoy. This deeper level
of homogeni#ation represents a convergence among otherwise diverse societies
regarding what is to be valued most highly and, as such, what deserves the largest
share of their attentiveness. In each moment, humans are faced with the choice of
whether they would pay more attention to ?od or to the physical universe& more
attention to the spirit or to material body& more attention to the life hereafter or to the
life of this2world. In this criterion, the global domination of modernity is nothing other
than the fact that, as both individuals and societies, humanity is increasingly
choosing/or is forced to choose/the latter set of values over the former. This *shift of
emphasis, is a veritable revolution in the focus of the collective human attentiveness.
!s such, it indicates a revolution in values.

.ow was this revolution in human values brought about3 .aving discussed "r. Israr
!hmads view of what ma$es something modern, it would be useful to mention, albeit
briefly, some of the major landmar$s of the historical process through which modernity
has come to gain its present ascendancy. The shift happened gradually over several
hundred years/which amounts to a relatively short period in the march of
civili#ation/with some of its most significant developments ta$ing place primarily in
0estern (urope. In broad stro$es, we may discuss this process by referring to five
interrelated and overlapping stages1 the +enaissance, the -rotestant +eformation, the
%cientific +evolution, the (uropean (nlightenment, and the birth of the %ocial %ciences.

The word +enaissance literally means a *rebirth., The +enaissance was a period
starting in the fifteenth century when (uropeans started to re2discover and study the
forgotten boo$s of ?ree$ and +oman civili#ations. The period between the fall of the
classical world in the fifth century and the beginning of the +enaissance has been called
the *Middle !ges., This was the time when )hristian beliefs and values dominated
much of (urope. .owever, by the twelfth century, the +oman )atholic )hurch and the
.oly +oman (mpire were beginning to lose their grasp over (uropean societies. The
+enaissance represented a shift away from an interest in theology and other2worldly
matters, and towards more human and practical affairs.

The -rotestant +eformation was a religious movement that started in the sixteenth
century under the leadership of Martin 9uther and Fohn )alvin. It was a revolt against
the wealth, political intrigues, and corruption of the +oman )atholic )hurch. The
+eformation led to the development of a division of the 0estern )hristendom into
)atholicism and -rotestantism. Instead of following the authority of the -ope and the
priests, the +eformation emphasi#ed the need for each believer to study the 4ible for
oneself. 0ea$ening of the authority of the )hurch facilitated the development of
secular political systems and paved the way for the creation of nation2states in (urope.

The %cientific +evolution started in the sixteenth century and came to its full strength
in the seventeenth. The wor$ of )opernicus, Mepler, ?alileo, "escartes, Dewton,
.arvey, and 4oyle radically changed the way in which human beings loo$ed at
nature. !ristotles authority and ideas were effectively removed from the realm of
science& instead, the method of observation, experience, and carefully controlled
experiment became the characteristic features of genuine science. Dature came to be
described in mechanistic terms, and its *conquest, became a legitimate goal for both
science and society.

The (nlightenment was a (uropean intellectual movement that started in the
seventeenth century and came to its climax in the eighteenth century in the form of
French +evolution. This movement emphasi#ed the use of human reason for the
betterment of the human condition. %ecular political theories of Fohn 9oc$e and
Thomas .obbes became popular& the wor$ of +ousseau, Noltaire, and Montesquieu
shaped the (nlightenment movement in France, strengthening the idea of democracy.
(nlightenment sought to apply human reason to religion, particularly )hristianity,
leading to various degrees of s$epticism, agnosticism, and atheism. Most philosophers of
(nlightenment, however, were deists& they believed in a few religious truths that they
thought could be established by reason, such as the existence of ?od, but they rejected
organi#ed )hristianity and refused to follow the dictates of the )hurch. The
(nlightenment thought quic$ly spread throughout the rest of (urope and even shaped
the formation of the 'nited %tates.

%ocial %ciences began to develop in the nineteenth century under the influence of
(nlightenments views on human nature and human society. The methods of science
that had already produced so much new $nowledge about the physical universe were
now applied to the study of human behavior and culture, leading to the development of
psychology, sociology, economics, political science, and anthropology as more or less
independent disciplines. The use of scientific inquiry to analy#e and predict the desires,
motives, and actions of human beings was a truly groundbrea$ing step& among other
things, it provided the impetus to the development of ideologies and ideological
movements, such as nationalism, socialism, and anarchism.

Through these five stages, the medieval worldview in 0estern (urope came to be
largely replaced by the modern worldview. Iften, the social and political authority of
religion was compromised as a direct result of this shift, but the resulting changes also
led on several occasions to the revival of religious concerns in new and unexpected
forms. Iverall, the shift of emphasis continued as collective attention increasingly
moved away from ?od, the spirit, and life hereafter, focusing more and more on the
physical universe, the material body, and the life of this2world. !longside these
changes, the (uropean coloni#ing enterprise continued to gain control over additional
overseas territories for economic exploitation. ?radually, the entire world was
incorporated into a new world order whose terms were set by (uropean powers. The
subjugated people not only encountered a force that was politically and technologically
superior, but one that also carried with it a unique worldview that it often tired to
propagate with an almost missionary #eal.

This new worldview showed a general disregard/and sometimes outright contempt/
for all transcendent and metaphysical concerns, claiming science to be the only
legitimate path to the $nowledge of truth. It exalted the physical universe to the status
of ultimate reality& narrow self2interest to the status of the highest good& and the
pursuit of transient pleasures to the status of lifes only purpose. It was this worldview
that challenged the traditional emphasis on transcendent realities in societies around
the globe.

Dotice that the above discussion has focused on the intellectual and cultural
transformations that characteri#e the momentous shift from the premodern to the
modern. This way of loo$ing at the birth of modernity can be potentially misleading,
for it tends to give too much attention to the efficacy of ideas and not enough attention
to the role played by concrete, material factors. ! historical analysis must address
intellectual and cultural changes, but it should also place such changes in the context of
the concrete, material conditions that define much of the human environment.

"r. Israr !hmad attributes the sudden rise of 0estern political and military power
primarily to the development of science and technology in the early modern period.
This analysis is quite applicable to the dynamics of (uropean colonialism in the
nineteenth2century, particularly in relation to its impact on the Islamic world. Indeed,
a major reason for the inability of Muslim polities to defeat (uropean incursions into
their homelands was the superiority of the coloni#ers military technology and of their
scientific $now2how. The same analysis is much less applicable, however, to the
dynamics of (uropean colonialism before the nineteenth2century. %ince "r. Israr
!hmad does not discuss (uropean colonialism in its initial phase, his remar$s on the
relationship between science and political power leave out certain factual
considerations necessary for a fuller understanding of the birth of modernity.

0hile it is true that a rapid growth in scientific $nowledge accelerated the
empowerment of the 0est in a variety of different ways, we should $eep in mind that
the beginning of (uropean colonialism dates bac$ to the mid fifteenth2century, i.e., to a
period well before the %cientific +evolution. !lso relevant is the fact that the now
familiar interdependence of science and technology is a relatively late development
that too$ place only in the mid nineteenth2century. The rise of science, then, could not
have been the initial cause for either the colonial enterprise or the resulting domination
of (uropean powers over much of non20estern world/even though science did become
a very important contributing factor in the last two centuries. In the other hand,
(uropean technical expertise in farming, sea navigation, printing, and other
enterprises had preceded the birth of modern science.

To put the matter in slightly different words, even before they produced any major
scientific discoveries of their own, (uropean nations were acquiring various practical
techniques from other cultures and applying them in their own context. They were
acquiring a technical orientation.

The historian Marshall .odgson ma$es the following argument1 4etween 57>> and
5<>>, the most important shift that too$ place in 0estern (urope was not so much
intellectual as it was technical& by giving an increasing attention to technical
considerations, a practical mastery over the forces of nature was achieved with little or
no input from *science, as we $now it today. Indeed, it was this increasing technical
expertise that allowed the development of favorable material conditions under which
science as a systematic and organi#ed discipline could find a niche. :%ee Marshall
.odgson@s description of AThe Technical !geA and AThe ?reat 0estern TransmutationA in
Cuotes and Insights.;

The impetus for this new emphasis on practical and technical matters was clearly
economic. In the fifteenth2century, one of the most urgent concerns for the nascent
(uropean empires li$e %pain and -ortugal was to brea$ the monopoly of Muslim
merchants over the spice trade, a desire that was continuously frustrated by the
Ittoman hold on %yrian and (gyptian coasts. In this bac$ground, it is worth recalling
that the exploits of Nasco da ?ama and )hristopher )olumbus were motivated by both
religious prejudice and patriotic #eal. !t the turn of the sixteenth2century, the
(uropean discovery of the !mericas brought about a drastic and unexpected increase in
the profitability of the colonial enterprise, allowing it to become the engine that
propelled the (uropean quest for prosperity during the next five hundred years or so.
Through massacres and enslavements, the %paniards and the -ortuguese were able to
exploit the riches of the Dew 0orld on a scale well beyond the imagination of most
(uropeans. The great flow of wealth and mobili#ation of slaves made possible by this
remorseless exploitation created the material conditions in (urope within which
modernity as a form of thought and culture could begin to ta$e shape. The rise of
modern )apitalism and the fueling of the Industrial +evolution were two of the most
important consequences of the (uropean exploitation of the !mericas. The resulting
food surplus, urban leisure, and political stability brought about the $ind of affluent
conditions, at least for certain classes of (uropeans, in which intellectual and cultural
developments could proceed at a previously impossible pace/including the rise of
modern science. Ince science established itself as a respectful and even necessary
enterprise, its own contributions began to serve the larger aims of (uropean empires,
particularly the efficient control and exploitation of overseas colonies. In this context,
the marriage of science and technology in the mid nineteenth2century brought the
ongoing empowerment of the 0est to an even higher level of virtual invincibility.

+egardless of whether we focus on ideas or on attitudes, the birth of the modern age
appears to be mar$ed by the same shift of emphasis identified above, i.e., a decrease in
the attention being given to transcendental concerns and a simultaneous increase in
the attention being paid to more mundane and concrete issues.

To sum up, (uropean navel expeditions were originally driven by the desire to control
international trade, an enterprise that demanded an increasing attention to practical
and technical expertise. This stress on improving practical technique became
exceptionally mar$ed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a period when
modern science was still developing independent of the growths in technology. Ince the
exploitation of the !mericas started to bring unforeseeable wealth to (urope, the
legitimacy of the coloni#ing enterprise became self2evident, demanding from the
population an ever2increasing investment in mastering practical and *this2worldly,
issues. The demand could only have been met at the expense of transcendent concerns.
It is clear that the philosophical thought that developed during this period was deeply
influenced by the changes in material conditions. The study of theology and
metaphysics, disciplines that focus on *other2worldly, issues, became increasingly
irrelevant for the actual and immediate concerns of (uropean society, i.e., the physical
universe, the material body, and the life of this2world. This was a boon for the flowering
of both physical and social sciences, since it was only these disciplines that promised to
create the $nowledge necessary for controlling the forces of nature, increasing the
longevity and comfort of the material body, and improving the conditions of human
existence on earth.

Political and Intellectual 2nslaught of the West on the
Islamic World

Thus empowered by the harnessing of newly discovered forces of nature,
the West soon came to dominate much of the Eastern world. The Western
onslaught was an unstoppable flood that rushed through the entire
world, sweeping away the mighty empires of the East as if they were mere
sand castles. 3ince the peoples of the 4ear and the 5iddle East were
among the earliest targets of European colonial offensive, Islam and
5uslims faced the brunt of this onslaught. This led, in an incredibly
short period, to the subjugation of the entire Islamic world to various
European powers.

The Western domination of the Islamic world occurred at two levels#
military and political on the one hand, intellectual and cultural on the
other. In the initial phase, 5uslims e&perienced the Western onslaught
most strongly at the political!military level/ as a result, their initial
reaction against the West was aimed at achieving political liberation
through armed resistance. The political domination of the West
manifested overtly in the form of occupation and anne&ation as well as
covertly in the form of indirect control, the latter only thinly disguised
as ,mandates- and ,protectorates.- As the 5uslim ummah wo"e up to
this new reality and began to recogni%e the e&tent of her political
subjugation and the fragmentation of her communal integrity, the
resulting grief often too" the form of heart!wrenching laments. The
nostalgia for the ummah6s glorious past spar"ed a widespread passion
among 5uslims masses to bring bac" her former splendor and majesty#
indeed, to turn the cloc" bac"wards. It was this nostalgic passion that
embodied itself on one occasion as the volatile personality of 7amal al!
$in al!Afghani and on another occasion as the popular movement to
restore the 8hilafah. 0ut each time it was the concrete, factual reality
that made a moc"ery of such sentimental wishes, as the political
domination of the West increasingly became an established and
ac"nowledged fact.

In the wa"e of consolidating their political hegemony, European powers
started propagating the modern point of view and style of thin"ing
among their new subjects. 9aving defeated the 5uslims in the political
arena, these powers were (uic" to initiate the process of con(uering
them in the realm of ideas as well. The da%%ling material progress
achieved by the West had already mesmeri%ed the majority of 5uslims,
who were now particularly vulnerable to intellectual capitulation.
)urthermore, any dynamic and vibrant culture necessarily displays
certain e&emplary character traits/ coloni%ed 5uslims were overawed as
they observed and e&perienced such virtues in the dominant Western
culture. With their critical faculties more or less suspended, 5uslims
approached Western thought with a defeatist and submissive mentality,
and, (uite predictably, their vast majority began absorbing Western ideas
and concepts with little or no discrimination. The plurality of
perspectives in modern humanities did allow some space for debate and
disagreement, or at least the possibility of selective adoption, but no
such space was permitted by the physical sciences. 5uslims
encountered the results of these sciences as absolutely certain and
un(uestionably conclusive, since these results were believed to be
grounded in demonstrable empirical evidence. 1onse(uently, they had
little choice but to greet the claims of these sciences with the "ind of
uncritical ac(uiescence that one normally reserves for a heavenly writ.
As a cumulative result of these factors, the point of view based on
disbelief and materialism seeped into the minds of the most thoughtful
and perceptive of 5uslims#without any conscious awareness on their
part. An increasing emphasis on the physical universe, the material
body, and the life of this!world accompanied a decreasing emphasis on
.od, the spirit, and the life hereafter. This change in viewpoint was so
sweeping that even the more religious and pious sections of the
ummah could not remain unaffected.


!t the beginning of this section, "r. Israr !hmad contends that *the peoples of the Dear
and Middle (ast were among the earliest targets of the (uropean colonial offensive.,
This statement is unli$ely to be an oversight or mista$e& instead, it seems to indicate
that the author is not concerned in the present context with the initial phase of
(uropean colonialism, but that he is focusing almost exclusively on its later phase.

0hat was (uropean colonialism3 .ow did it function3 0hy did it have such a powerful
impact on the Muslim world3 These questions have continuing relevance today. !ny
adequate understanding of the current predicament of the ummah requires a deep
familiarity with the colonial experience and its aftermath.

Muslims first experienced 0estern modernity in the context of their subjugation at the
hands of (uropean colonial masters. !s a result, the attitude of most Muslims towards
modernity was initially shaped by their attitude towards colonialism, their loss of
political power, and the collapse of their social, cultural, and educational institutions
that had $ept the classical IslOmic tradition vibrant for many centuries. Furthermore,
as Muslims developed social, political, and intellectual responses to the relatively
sudden changes brought about by the processes of moderni#ation, they did so within the
context of direct or indirect rule by (uropean powers. In order to understand some of
the Muslim responses to modernity, as well as to appreciate the many ways in which
Islam itself has been understood in the last two hundred years, we must grapple with
the nature and impact of the colonial experience.

(uropean colonialism brought about a crucial difference between 0esterners and the
rest of the world as regards their typical experience of modernity and moderni#ation.
For most (uropean nations, the development of modernity was closely associated with
their liberation from the ecclesiastical and royal2feudal systems of oppression and
exploitation that had become entrenched during medieval times. For most Muslims, on
the other hand, the first exposure to modernity was not only associated with slavery
and servitude at the hands of foreign rulers, it was also experienced as something alien
and artificial in itself, imposed on them from the outside rather than being an organic
product indigenous to their own cultures. "uring the colonial as well as the postcolonial
periods, the processes of moderni#ation in Muslim societies progressed at an
exceptionally rapid pace and, frequently, in a hapha#ard manner, leading to social
disruptions at a wide scale. 'nder (uropean colonialism, Muslims experienced brutal
oppression and greedy exploitation, perpetrated by the representatives of a civili#ation
that was, at the same time, claiming to be the brightest beacon of freedom and liberty
ever seen by human$ind. This contradiction was to have far2reaching impact on
Muslim perceptions not only of 0estern peoples but also, more significantly, of modern
0estern thought itself.

(uropean colonialism began in 5=5K with the conquest of )euta in Dorth !frica by a
-ortuguese expedition. ! $ey turning point came with the *discovery, of the Dew
0orld by )hristopher )olumbus in 5=6J. "uring the next K>> years or so, eight
(uropean countries would conquer and coloni#e vast territories in !frica, !sia, and
!merica. These were -ortugal, %pain, France, the 'nited Mingdom, the Detherlands,
4elgium, ?ermany, and Italy. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as these
(uropean nations were embar$ing upon global empire building, the three major
Muslim empires of the time/Ittoman, %afavid, and Mughal/had reached the pea$s of
their power and were about to enter a period of decline and disintegration. %ignificant
power vacuums would soon arise in the Muslim majority regions of the world. In the
coming centuries, the new colonial powers of (urope would fill those vacuums either
through direct conquest and rule or through indirect influence and manipulation.

Ine of the major events in the history of colonialism came in 586< when Dapoleons
army conquered (gypt, even though the French rule in (gypt was soon removed by the
4ritish in 5<>5. %ince that time, (gypt remained only nominally free, for it was
practically under the powerful influence of the 4ritish, particularly after 5<<J, though
it became a protectorate only in 565=. The "utch established direct political control in
%outh (ast !sia by the early decades of the nineteenth century. France occupied
!lgeria between 5<H> and 5<6>, transformed Tunisia into a protectorate in 5<<5, and
occupied Morocco in 565J. In the same year, Italy began its conquest of 9ibya. Ither
regions of !frica, including the %udan and Digeria, ended up as either 4ritish or French
colonies. India came under direct 4ritish control in 5<K<, replacing the rule by the
4ritish (ast India )ompany. Muslim rule in central !sia came to an end as +ussians
devoured one state after another. 4y the beginning of the twentieth century, most of
the Muslim lands were subjugated by various (uropean powers. The crumbling of the
Ittoman (mpire in the aftermath of 002I allowed the !llies, particularly 4ritain and
France, to fragment much of the Middle (ast, draw new boundaries, and install regimes
favorable to their own political and economic interests.

For the sa$e of convenience, the five hundred year history of (uropean coloni#ation
may be divided into two phases. -erhaps the French invasion of (gypt in 586< may
serve as a useful, if somewhat arbitrary, dividing line between these phases. The earlier
phase involved (uropean incursions into %outh and Dorth !merica& the islands of the
-acific Icean, i.e., !ustralia, Dew Pealand, Melanesia, Micronesia, and -olynesia& and
parts of !frica. 0ith only a few exceptions, (uropeans did not encounter advanced city2
based empires during this phase& instead, they encountered pre2literate indigenous
societies, most of which were based on a traditional hunting2gathering economy or
simpler forms of agriculture. It was during this phase that (uropeans acquired the
wealth and material resources that allowed them to pursue not only higher cultural
activities li$e science and philosophy on an unprecedented scale, but also to develop the
military strength they needed to successfully challenge the established empires of the
Ild 0orld. (uropean economies began to grow exponentially during this period, than$s
to the *export, of enslaved !fricans to the Dew 0orld as well as the semi2imperial
activities of such early corporations as the "utch and the 4ritish (ast India )ompanies.
-art of the significance of this phase is that the encounter between (uropean nations
and a variety of non2(uropean peoples helped the former construct for themselves their
distinctive cultural identity as *0esterners.,

This empowerment of (uropean nations at the cultural, economic, and military levels
paved the way for the later phase of their colonial enterprise, a phase that included
(uropean incursions into the literate and city2based cultures of (ast !sia, Dorth !frica,
the Middle (ast, and the Indian %ubcontinent. !s already mentioned, the earlier phase
of (uropean conquests was largely executed without the benefit of the coupling between
science and technology. Indeed, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the
emerging (uropean powers had not yet acquired the military capacity that would
allow them to easily and decisively subdue one of the well2established empires of the
Irient. (ven during the nineteenth2century, (uropean armies had to face many well2
organi#ed and sustained oppositions on the battlefield, despite their rapidly increasing
advantage in weapons technology.

In the other hand, it must be ac$nowledged that the (uropean conquest andBor
domination of the older Muslim empires did not result solely from (uropes economic
and military strength. %igns of social, political, and cultural decline were apparent in
various Muslim societies well before any (uropean invasion. Indeed, it was precisely in
response to this decline that a number of Islamic movements for reform and revival had
already become active in the Muslim world during the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. %ubsequently, as the threat of (uropean invasion and foreign rule appeared
on the hori#on, some of the same movements militari#ed themselves in order to
challenge (uropean invasion and rule in places li$e India, %udan, %omalia, !lgeria,
9ibya, %umatra, and the )aucasus.

"espite some initial setbac$s, however, (uropeans eventually triumphed in these
armed encounters, than$s to their superior technology and organi#ational s$ills.
%ubsequently, freedom movements in the coloni#ed Muslim world would ta$e political,
rather than militant, forms& though !lgerias struggle against French rule was a
notable exception. In many ways, the trauma of defeat and the humiliation of foreign
rule served to sha$e significant sections of the Muslim population out of their
complacent slumbers.

It is important to $eep in mind that he basic motives for the entire colonial enterprise
were economic1 cheap labor, cheap raw material, control of international trade, and
mar$ets for the newly emerging )apitalist system. .owever, more respectable religious
and cultural justifications for the colonial enterprise were also generated& one such
rationale was depicted in +udyard Miplings famous poem *The 0hite Mans 4urden.,
The actual experiences of the encounter between the coloni#ers and the coloni#ed were
multi2dimensional and complex. This encounter involved a great deal of cultural and
intellectual exchange that left both sides thoroughly transformed in various ways.
!mong (uropeans, the intoxication of political and technological power led to a belief in
the natural superiority of the 0hite race and the uniqueness of its rationalism, as
opposed to the racial and ethnic inferiority of the *natives, along with their incapacity
for rational and scientific thought. The very humanity of non2(uropeans was
questioned/an attitude that was widely used to justify not only the need for overseas
colonies but also mass $illings and enslavement.

)ultural identity is typically constructed in terms of an *us2versus2them, dichotomy,
in which a *self, is defined in contrast to an imagined opposite, or *other., If the native
peoples of the !mericas acted as (uropes primary *other, during the first phase of
colonialism, Muslims of the Dear and Middle (ast were assigned that role during its
second phase. In order to consolidate their own distinctive identity as *0esterners,,
(uropean nations needed to construct a category of *(asterners, that would serve as
their exact opposite or nemesis, a contrasting *other., Furthermore, there already was
a tradition among (uropean )hristians of polemical writings against Islam and
Muslims& in other words, a cultural vocabulary already existed that had previously
served to create the *Islam2versus2)hristianity, dichotomy. Together, these two factors
led to the construction of an image of Islam and Muslims that was fraught with a
variety of negative characteristics. Muslims in particular, and *Irientals, in general,
came to be seen as naturally inferior, irrational, violent, uncivili#ed, and incapable of
ruling themselves/hence in need of the (uropean civili#ing mission.

0hile the initial impact of (uropean control of Muslim lands was experienced primarily
in the political sphere, its impact in the cultural sphere soon became increasingly
significant. Through (uropean colonialism, Muslims came face to face with the results
of the dramatic changes that had ta$en place in (urope during the previous centuries,
including rapid scientific progress, technological innovation, rationali#ation of thought
and society, and the consolidation of the modern nation2state with its impersonal but
powerful bureaucracy. The resulting brea$down of traditional forms of cultural
practices and educational institutions in Muslim societies was accompanied by the
wea$ening/and in some cases collapse/of ta$en2for2granted certainties. This encounter
with modernity and moderni#ation gave birth to a chain2reaction of transformations in
Muslim societies that accentuated some of the tensions and contradictions that had been
lying dormant just underneath the surface. ! process of soul2searching also began
among the Muslim intelligentsia, leading to a profound re2examination of the Islamic
tradition as part of their attempts to ma$e sense of the modern realities. This too$ place
within the context of an entirely new form of $nowledge that was (uropean in origin
but was rapidly becoming global in its reach and impact.

From the viewpoint of nineteenth2century Muslim societies, modern $nowledge had two
distinct dimensions1 the first consisted of modern social and philosophical thought, and
the second consisted of modern science and technology. The first was armed with the
power of logic and rationality, and the second with the power of practical
demonstration. There was no consensus among (uropean thin$ers on social and
philosophical questions& indeed, they were divided among numerous schools of thought
mar$ed by fierce debates and controversies. The fact that the 0est could not spea$ on
these issues with a unanimous voice allowed some breathing space for Muslims& at least
in theory, Muslims had the option of arguing bac$, or at least pic$ing and choosing.
%cience and technology, however, constituted an entirely different $ind of challenge.
These disciplines had established their truth claims on the basis of controlled
experiments and demonstrable proofs. There was no possibility, in other words, to argue
against a science that actually wor$ed, that was able to prove its claims with
mathematical precision and by means of tangible results.

0estern military and political domination came to Muslim lands in the company of the
uniquely modern ways of thin$ing& the resulting combination was hard to resist. Do
wonder, then, that virtually all Muslims who came into direct or indirect contact with
modern thought before the twentieth2century found themselves at a serious
disadvantage. Their society, culture, and tradition had not equipped them with the
tools that were necessary for adequately and creatively dealing with what they were
up against. %ince the challenge was unprecedented, entirely new tools had to be
developed/but that required time. 'nable to provide self2confident responses to this
new challenge, Muslim societies ended up internali#ing the basic premises of modernity.

It is important to $eep in mind that this acceptance of the modern worldview was not
necessarily a conscious phenomenon& nor did it always result from a direct exposure to
0estern education. Nery few Muslims actually renounced their religion, although this
did happen on several occasions. Most often, they passively absorbed the modern
worldview from their respective cultural environments. The influence came slowly but
surely, and affected almost everyone in society to a lesser or greater degree, including
its most religious segments. The process was characteri#ed by a shift of attention and
emphasis away from ?od, the spirit, and the life hereafter& and towards the physical
universe, the material body, and the life of this2world.

Early $efensive Attempts and their 2utcome

4umerous endeavors of a defensive nature were initiated on behalf of
Islam, through which many concerned and devout 5uslims attempted to
safeguard their faith and religious tradition against the onslaught of
Western thought and philosophy. These defensive attempts were of two
main varieties#first, attempts aiming at preservation alone/ and second,
attempts aiming at protection along with some compromise and

0orrowing the analogy used by 5ana%ir Ahsan .ilani, the first of the two
varieties can be described as similar to the strategy adopted by the
,People of the 1ave.- This refers to the story of As6hab al!8ahf as narrated
in the 9oly :ur6an+ a group of young men flee from society when their
faith was threatened, see"ing refuge in an isolated cave ;cf. 3urah al!
8ahf <=+>!?@A. In the nineteenth!century, the essence of this approach
was to focus upon preserving one6s faith and religiosity by removing
oneself from the mainstream of social life and thereby avoiding its
challenges and temptations. Even though this attitude may appear to be
sheer escapist in motivation, it was based on the realistic
ac"nowledgement that the Islamic world did not have the capacity to
survive in a face!to!face encounter with Western thought and
philosophy. The onslaught of the West was li"e an enormous tidal wave,
and the only practical option for 5uslims was to move out of its way as
(uic"ly as possible. In this approach, top priority was given to the tas" of
preserving the integrity of Islamic faith and tradition, even at the cost of
having to retreat from the mainstream of society and becoming, as a
result, the targets of its derision and ridicule. Indeed, whatever success
was achieved during that period was the result of this very approach.
Than"s to those who followed the e&ample of ,People of the 1ave,-
religious faith stayed alive in at least one section of the ummah/ a few
candles of spirituality were left burning in the otherwise dar" night of
disbelief and materialism/ and the basic structure of religiosity and
religious practice survived through the preservation and transmission of
traditional Islamic sciences. In the Indian 3ubcontinent, this "ind of
defense was epitomi%ed by the $ar al!B'lum at $eoband, a religious
seminary that was also the vanguard of a great movement.

The second variety of 5uslim defense was characteri%ed by protection of
the self as well some conciliation with the other. Its essence was a desire
to "eep up with changing times without losing the commitment to Islam.
The approach was two!fold/ first, to critically e&amine Western thought
and philosophy in order to sift the grain from the hus", and, second, to
construct a new interpretation of Islam in order to establish its veracity
in the modern world.

Initial efforts of this "ind were mar"ed by an e&cessive awe and
admiration for the West along with a sense of resigned ac(uiescence. In
India and Egypt, a number of (uasi!theologians began to evaluate the
fundamental tenets of Islamic faith and doctrine on the touchstone of
Western rationalism. In their attempt to fit a s(uare peg in a round hole,
as it were, these reformers were forced to trim down Islamic
metaphysical beliefs, often by e&plaining them away in purely scientific
terms. 3ayyid Ahmad 8han in the Indian 3ubcontinent and 5ufti
5uhammad BAbduh in Egypt, as well their disciples and followers,
epitomi%ed this variety of 5uslim defense. These reformers wanted the
ummah to follow the same path of material progress that Europe had
pioneered, and to "eep Islam with them as a supportive and
accommodating companion in this journey.

egardless of how sincere and well!intentioned these reformers may
have been, the fact of the matter is that their efforts literally s(uee%ed the
life out of religious faith and tradition. Caunched under the pervasive
influence of Western thought and philosophy, these defensive attempts
at compromise and concession ended up producing a more or less
seculari%ed version of Islam.

If there was any useful outcome of this variety of defensive efforts,
perhaps it was this+ 5uslims who were already westerni%ed in their
thin"ing and life!style did not have to repudiate their connection to
Islam. )or such 5uslims, this modernist and seculari%ed version of
Islam became the ,apology- that they would humbly offer to the West in
e&change for maintaining their 5uslim identity.


In the wa$e of the establishment of 0estern political2military dominance over Muslim
lands, modern (uropean thought started to permeate into every crevice and cranny of
the coloni#ed societies. This was an intellectual and culture encounter between two sets
of apparently opposing worldviews and ways of life/on the one hand was a powerful
and confident civili#ation, armed with new philosophies, efficient technology,
rationali#ed bureaucracy, and a pervasive sense of its own moral superiority& on the
other hand was a once2powerful but now2vanquished civili#ation that had already been
suffering from political and social disintegration and relative intellectual stagnation for
a number of centuries. Ibviously, the precolonial Muslim societies were not free from
serious socio2political and cultural problems& these problems were certainly being
*managed, in various ways but had yet to be fully faced, identified, addressed, and
resolved. In this bac$ground, we can appreciate how the encounter between the
coloni#ing 0est and the coloni#ed Muslim world contributed to the exacerbation of some
of these problems& inadvertently, the new stress of coloni#ation and moderni#ation
worsened the contradictions hidden just below the surface in many Muslim societies,
and brought them out in the open.

!fter being defeated in the political realm, coloni#ed Muslims now faced the full force of
modernity in the intellectual and cultural realm as well. .ow did they deal with such a
formidable challenge3 ?enerally spea$ing, there were two major varieties of Muslim
responses. Ine group of Muslims refused to engage with the intellectual and cultural
side of the modern 0est in order to safeguard its own faith and way of life as well as to
preserve and transmit the legacy of the Islamic tradition to future generations. This
was similar to the approach ta$en by a group of young men, sometimes $nown as the
*people of the cave,, whose story is recounted in %urah al2Mahf of the Curan. !ccording
to the Curan, these unidentified young individuals feared that if they were to continue
living in their home town, they would be forced to renounce their faith against their
will& not finding enough strength within themselves to face the opposition directly,
they left the town and hid themselves in a cave, far away from any human population.
In the nineteenth2century, we find that a significant minority of Muslims adopted the
same approach, partly in order to maintain the continuity of Islamic tradition through
learning and teaching but partly to circumvent the powerful impact of 0estern
thought and culture.

In contrast, the other Muslim approach vis2Q2vis 0estern modernity was to face the
challenge head2on. This group attempted to acquire the $nowledge offered by the
coloni#ers with a view to apply Islamic standards to its contents, and, on that basis, to
analy#e and differentiate among the different elements of 0estern modernity. They
had recogni#ed that the cultural and intellectual side of modernity cannot be entirely
wrong or evil, but that it was most li$ely some combination of good and bad elements.
Their objective was clear& they wanted to embrace those elements of modernity that
were compatible with Islam, and to discard the rest.

!t first sight, one might say that the former group was trying to escape or avoid the
challenge due to a defeatist mentality while the latter group was adopting a courageous
and principled approach. 0ith the advantage of hindsight, however, it can be said that
the former group had shown better judgment& it was as if this group had ac$nowledged
that Islam at that point in its history was incapable of a self2confident engagement with
modernity, and that the best strategy was not to fight and be martyrs but to retreat,
regroup, and reorgani#e. In the meantime, it focused its energies on ensuring that the
legacy of religious $nowledge and culture, including the IslOmic textual tradition, was
$ept intact and passed onto the next generation. 0ith the benefit of hindsight, it may
also be said that the apparently courageous latter group did not have the wherewithal
to successfully meet the challenge of 0estern modernity. (ven though it had the right
attitude as well as sincere motives, it ended up accepting most things modern without
adequately sifting the hus$ from the grain. 0hile this group admired the 0ests use of
critical reason, generally spea$ing it could not apply that critical reason to modernity

%everal factors contributed to this outcome, out of which *timing, was probably the
most important factor. From the Muslim viewpoint, it was too early in the game to go
on the offensive& self2confidence was in short supply and defeatism was pervasive.
Modernity itself was intoxicated by the empowering vision of its own endless progress,
while enjoying an unrelenting faith in the capacity of science to solve all problems and
answer all questions. The appropriate historic moment for an authentic IslOmic
response to modernity had not yet arrived. In effect, the massive difference in political
and economic power between the coloni#ing 0est and the coloni#ed Muslim world
decisively influenced the outcome of the intellectual and cultural encounter. It is
important to reiterate, however, that we can pass this judgment only in hindsight. In
the nineteenth2century, Muslim societies under direct or indirect colonial rule were
dealing with real problems for which wor$able solutions had to be found then and there.
Those who participated in the effort to face these challenges deserve our respect and
gratitude, regardless of their mista$es.

These two groups/or, more accurately, two points of view/that first emerged in the
nineteenth2century have had an enduring influence on shaping the dynamics of
modern IslOm that is discernable even today. Deither of these was a monolithic entity,
of course. In general, however, we may refer to these points of views as *conservative
traditionalism, and *classical modernism, respectively. It must be ac$nowledged that
the main difference between the two points of view was one of strategy, and not
necessarily that of ultimate objective. The attempts that early modernists made were
motivated by a sincere desire to see Islam victorious, to help Muslim societies cope with
the reality of 0estern power, and to assist their fellow Muslims adjust and adapt to the
rapid changes that were happening all over the IslOmic world. In these respects they
were definitely pioneers who were willing to venture into the un$nown territory of
0estern modernity, primarily because they wished to empower other Muslims. Eet,
good intentions alone do not guarantee successful results. 'ndoubtedly, many mista$es
happened in this process, unnecessary compromises were made, and sometimes
authentic Islamic values were erroneously seen as dispensable. %ince the guardians of
the Islamic textual tradition, otherwise $nown as the Gulama, were found most often in
the conservative camp, a great deal of intellectual moderni#ation too$ place at the
hands of self2taught individuals whose grounding in classical IslOm was neither
thorough nor very deep. There were important exceptions, of course, as discussed below
in some detail. In general, however, the sharp dichotomy between the two points of
view very often led to a premature drawing of battle2lines that precluded a
collaborative approach to the modern challenge.

In this regard, perhaps the greatest blow was suffered by Islamic theology and
metaphysics. It is well2$nown that only a very small proportion of the Curanic text
deals with matters of jurisprudence, and that the main bul$ of the Curan is about faith
in transcendent and metaphysical realities and crucial issues of personal and social
ethics. Furisprudence had been the most fertile field in Muslim scholarship, and
differences of opinion in this field were the rule rather than the exception.
Furthermore, regarding matters of political governance the Curan had given basic
rules :such as divine sovereignty and mutual consultation; but had not specified any
particular form. In the other hand, the significance of faith in such unseen realities as
?od, prophecy, angels, resurrection, and revelation was central to the very integrity of
the Curanic message. )onsequently, in most cases it was not the introduction of social
and political reforms as such but a tendency to compromise the tenets of Curanic
metaphysics that represented a real threat to Islam. This appeared in its most
scandalous form in the theological writings of %ayyid !hmad Mhan :and in a much
milder form in the wor$s of Mufti Muhammad G!bduh;. The Curanic text was
interpreted with a conscious or unconscious tendency to dilute, or *domesticate,, its
metaphysical teachings without an adequate grasp of their significance or an
appreciation of their relevance. In an amateurish attempt to present a *rationally,
acceptable interpretation of religious beliefs, %ayyid !hmad Mhan and his disciples had
little choice but to let go of much that was, in hindsight, central and indispensable in
the Curanic metaphysics.

Dineteenth2century witnessed the emergence of classical Muslim modernism. This was
a trend that continued well into the twentieth century. It consisted of intellectual,
educational, and organi#ational attempts that were made throughout the Muslim
world in order to find creative ways of coming to terms with the new realities of
(uropean colonialism and the impact of modernity.

)lassical modernism in the Muslim world was by no means a monolithic or unanimous
movement, for the proponents of modernism differed with each other as often as they
agreed. ?enerally spea$ing, classical modernism played an important role in
addressing the social and economic problems facing Muslim societies, in defending Islam
against (uropean criticisms, and in facilitating the adoption of modern political
institutions. In the negative side, classical modernism is sometimes accused of
contributing to a wea$ening of traditional religious and educational institutions, and to
a general decline in religious adherence.

Ine of the first large2scale efforts in this context was the reorgani#ation along modern
lines of Ittoman military and bureaucratic institutions between 5<H6 and 5<87.
)alled Tan#imat, these reforms were intended to slow down and reverse the decline of
the Ittoman (mpire :which had been labeled *The %ic$ Man of (urope,;, and were
underta$en partly under pressure from the 4ritish and +ussian (mpires. These
moderni#ing efforts included universal conscription :mandatory service in the
military;, educational reforms, and control of corruption. The rights of citi#enship were
extended to everyone irrespective of religion and ethnicity, and the autocratic powers
of the %ultan were chec$ed through )onstitutional safeguards.

Ine of the most famous of Tur$ish modernists in the nineteenth century was Dami$
Memal. .e is remembered today as a poet, playwright, and an advocate of
)onstitutionalism. Memal was born in 5<=>. .e did not receive any significant formal
education, though he traveled a great deal in the company of his grandfather who was
a government official. 0hile in Mars :eastern !natolia;, he studied %ufism& in %ofia
:then an Ittoman province, now the capital of 4ulgaria;, he studied !rabic and
-ersian. 9ater, he wor$ed in the Translation 4ureau and started writing newspaper
articles on literature and social issues, particularly womens education. .e also joined
the Eoung Ittoman %ociety, a group of activists wor$ing for )onstitutionalism.

%oon, however, Memal had to flee to (urope due to the Ittoman governments opposition
to his writings and political activities. In (urope, he started a journal and continued to
publish his writings. Through these articles, Memal explained the concept and necessity
of a )onstitution in an Islamic terminology. .e presented the idea of public
participation in government as an IslOmic imperative, and sought to restrict the
unlimited powers of the %ul═On. .e also attempted to reconcile (uropean theories of
law with %harRGah, argued for the proper IslOmic relationship between religion and the
state, and defended Islam against (uropean accusations of bac$wardness.

In 5<8>, Memal was able to return to Istanbul, but got into trouble again when a
performance of one of his plays led to public demonstrations. Memal was sent to )yprus
in !pril 5<8H, where he spent H< months imprisoned in a dungeon. .e was pardoned
after three years. 4ac$ in Istanbul, Memal wor$ed on the new Ittoman )onstitution.
0hen the %ultan turned against the proponents of )onstitutionalism, Memal was exiled
once again. .e continued to write until his death in 5<<<. The dungeon in )yprus
where he was once imprisoned was subsequently restored and opened to public as
Dami$ Memal Museum in 566H.

?reatly impressed by the writings of Dami$ Memal was another very influential
Tur$ish modernist, Piya ?S$alp. !s a sociologist, ?S$alp was influenced by French and
?erman social thought, particularly by the wor$s of Tmile "ur$heim. ?S$alp
elaborated an ideology of Tur$ish nationalism which was largely implemented by

Piya ?S$alp was born in 5<87 in the small town of "iyarba$Vr in southeastern Tur$ey.
.e was encouraged by his father to pursue both Islamic and modern education. !fter a
traditional Muslim primary education and a secular secondary education in
"iyarba$Vr, he went to )onstantinople :now Istanbul; to continue his studies in 5<6K.
"ue to the psychological turmoil he experienced as a result of his dual education,
?S$alp attempted suicide in 5<6=. (ven though he failed in his suicide attempt, he had
to live with a bullet lodged in his head, a symbol of his faith crisis.

In )onstantinople, he became an active and vocal member of the )ommittee of 'nion
and -rogress :which later became the -arty of 'nion and -rogress;. This association
eventually attracted the attention of the %ultans secret police, which resulted in his
imprisonment for a year.

The Eoung Tur$ +evolution in 56>< created the opportunity for ?S$alp to openly voice
his views and to act as a cultural and educational advisor to the government. In 565K
he became the first professor of sociology at the 'niversity of Istanbul. .is position of
delegate for the -arty of 'nion and -rogress, however, led to his banishment to Malta
for two years after the party led the Ittoman (mpire into 0orld 0ar I.

Throughout his life ?S$alp dealt with the political, religious, cultural and educational
ramifications of what he believed to be the reforms needed to arrest the decline of
Tur$ish national unity. Following the fall of the Ittoman (mpire he welcomed the
birth of the nationalist, republican, and secular regime of !tatUr$ in 56J5. .e
continued to provide the intellectual foundations for this regime until is death.

?S$alp was primarily concerned with the debate of how far Tur$ey should adopt
0estern culture and how much the traditional Islamic civili#ation should change in the
direction of a (uropean style nation2state. .e rejected the religious and political
conservatism of the pan2IslOmists, arguing that traditional forms of IslOm were an
impediment to the nations progress.

For some time, ?S$alp was attracted to Ittomanism, the idea of a multinational state
made up of numerous separate nationalities within the Ittoman (mpire. .owever, as
political events demonstrated the impossibility of implementing this notion, he evolved
his idea of *Tur$ism., 4y using this term, ?S$alp meant the reali#ation of the Tur$ish
national spirit and culture, to be achieved through a revival of Tur$ish popular culture
and literature and a purification of the language by ridding it of extraneous elements.
The influence of this idea can be seen in !tatUr$s subsequent decision to change the
Tur$ish script from !rabic to 9atin characters.

Eet, Piya ?S$alp was a very religious individual, and his values were deeply shaped by
%ufism. Time and again he emphasi#ed that IslOm and modernity were compatible, and
critici#ed those who would sacrifice one for the other. .e died in 56J=.

In terms of his wide2ranging influence in different parts of the Muslim world, %ayyid
Famal al2"in al2!fghani can be regarded as the *grandfather, of classical Muslim
modernism. .e was an educator, a philosopher, and a political organi#er who
contributed greatly to the shape of modern Islam. .e was born in Iran in 5<H<. The
socioeconomic and political events that al2!fghani observed and experienced influenced
his interpretation of politics and Islam. For several decades, al2!fghani traveled around
(urope, the Middle (ast, and India, while teaching, writing, organi#ing, and trying to
foment political agitation and rebellions. It was also during his tours that he gathered
groups of disciples in various places, instigating several currents of thought and
political action.

0hile al2!fghani claimed to be a %unni Muslim who was born and raised in
!fghanistan, but historical documents show that he was born in Iran. "etails of the first
thirty years of al2!fghanis life remain unclear, and it is still a controversial issue in
some circles whether he was a %unni or an Iranian %hii. .e did spend time traveling
and teaching in !fghanistan, from where he was expelled in 5<7<. !pparently, al2
!fghani claimed to be a %unni Muslim in order to have his message more palatable to
the largely %unni population.

!l2!fghani had traveled to India during the period when the 4ritish forces were
brutally crushing the combined .indu2Muslim rebellion against foreign rule
:sometimes called the *Indian Mutiny, of 5<K8;. !fter their suppression of the
rebellion, the 4ritish replaced the former Muslim ruling classes and discriminated
against the Muslims in education, religious institutions, and government jobs. !l2
!fghani reacted by urging Muslims to reform themselves as the first step in rising to
defeat the oppressions and meeting other challenges coming from the 0estern
imperialists. .owever, !l2!fghani was not happy with %ayyid !hmad Mhan and the
latters conciliatory approach to 0estern modernity, which he thought was a
compromise with atheistic materialism. .is boo$, *+efutation of the Materialists,, was
a response to %ayyid !hmad Mhan and his movement in India.

0hile warning Muslims of the dangers of 0estern expansion, he urged them to accept
modern political ideas including a rejection of autocratic rule. !l2!fghani often pointed
out what he saw as the virtues of modern (urope, which in his opinion could also be
found in Islam. .e forcefully advocated -an2Islamism, trying to persuade Muslim
rulers to discontinue their ties to colonial powers. -olitically, he aimed to persuade
Muslim rulers to discontinue the ties with colonial power. !l2!fghani was involved in
the *Tobacco +evolt, in Iran during 5<6>2 5<6J. 0hile opposing 0estern imperialism,
he noted the stagnation and conservatism of Muslims and continued to urge wide2
ranging reforms. .e died in 5<68 and was buried in Istanbul.

The most famous disciple of al2!fghani was the (gyptian scholar Muhammad G!bduh
who has had tremendous influence in the Muslim world. .e was born to a poor family
in (gypt in 5<=6. !s a youth, G!bduh received a traditional Islamic education and
memori#ed the Curan. In 5<7J, G!bduh left his hometown to study in Tanta. Four
years later, G!bduh traveled to al2!#har 'niversity to continue his education. .e
quic$ly became disenchanted with the traditional nature of the courses offered at al2
!#har and returned home. 0hile home, his uncle/a scholar himself/introduced the
young man to logic, mathematics, and geometry. In 5<8J, G!bduh returned to al2!#har
to complete his studies& he also continued to independently pursue philosophy as well as
the fields he studied with his uncle. !t al2!#har, G!bduh made the acquaintance of !l2
!fghani who became his mentor. It was al2!fghani who exposed G!bduh to (uropean
scholasticism and heightened his awareness of the political problems facing (gypt and
the larger Islamic community as a result of increasing 0estern imperial influence.
Finishing his studies in 5<88, G!bduh became a teacher at al2!#har. .e also joined al2
!fghani (gyptian nationalist movement, advocating the revival of traditional IslOm as
a means of deterring the growing threat of 4ritish imperialism. G!bduh collaborated
with al2!fghani to publish articles stressing pan2Islamic unity and a return to the
religious beliefs and practices of the pious predecessors, or salaf. In 5<86, the (gyptian
government exiled G!bduh to his native village for promoting such reforms& he was
allowed to return to )airo a year later.

Ince bac$ in )airo, G!bduh became editor of the (gyptian governments journal, *al2
0aqaG al2Misriyy., !s editor, he published many articles urging for resurgence in
traditional Islamic ways of thought. In 5<<J, the 4ritish successfully gained control of
(gypt. 4oth G!bduh and al2!fghani were exiled to -aris since they had organi#ed
against 4ritish imperial presence in (gypt. 0hile in France, they published a highly
influential journal, *al2G'rwi al20uthqa., Two years later, they dissolved their
partnership over differences of opinion.

In 5<<<, G!bduh was allowed to return to (gypt. .e became a deputy judge and began
his official public career. In 5<6K, G!bduh was named to al2!#hars administrative
board. .e used this position to bring about moderni#ing educational reforms which
reflected his view that Islam could be compatible with 0estern science and learning. .e
also began to advise similar educational reform councils in the Ittoman (mpire and
%yria. !lthough many of the reforms G!bduh promoted were not passed during his
lifetime, his early efforts incited later changes in the Islamic education system.

In 5<66, G!bduh was selected to join the ruler of (gypts advisory board, became the
MuftR of (gypt, and the (gyptian minister of education. G!bduh believed (gyptians
would not be prepared to overcome 4ritish dominance until they underwent internal
reform and moderni#ation. G!bduh thought this process had to begin by determining
which aspects of Islam were capable of undergoing change and reform. G!bduh argued
that Gibadat :religious rituals and worship; were immutable, but muGamalat
:injunctions regulating social affairs, such as family matters and business; could be
moderni#ed without any harm to Islam. G!bduh also strived to show that Islamic
jurisprudence was compatible with 0estern law. .e believed Muslims needed to revive
the practice of ijtihad rather than continuing with the practice of taqld as they had
done for centuries. G!bduh published many of his reforming opinions and leigal
judgments in a journal called *al2Manar,, which he established with his protWgWe
%hay$h +ashid +ida.

G!bduh wrote extensively throughout his career. %ome of his most notable wor$s were
published near his death. In 5<68, !bduh penned *+isalah al2Tawhid, which
summari#ed his theological views. In 56>J, he wrote *al2Islam wa al2Dasraniyah maG
al2 GIlm wa al2Madaniyah,, which he examined Islam and )hristianity in relation to
science and civili#ation. Mu╒ammad G!bduh died in 56>K. .is final wor$, a rebuttal to
the critics of Islam, was published posthumously in 56>6.

In the Indian %ubcontinent, the origin of classical modernism is centered around the
personality of %ayyid !hmad Mhan and his influential !ligarh Movement. .e too was
interested in a reinterpretation of Islamic theology and law along modernist lines, but
lac$ed the Islamic training and expertise of Muhammad G!bduh.

%ir %ayyid !hmad Mhan was born in "elhi in 5<58, the third child of a noble family of
bureaucrats. .is first teacher was his mother. 9ater his father appointed private tutors
for his son. .e learned -ersian and !rabic as well as mathematics and traditional
medicine. .is formal education ended at the age of 56, but he continued to pursue an
informal literary education. 0ith the death of his father in 5<H<, %ayyid !hmad Mhan
was forced to ma$e his own living. .is first job was a bureaucratic appointment in the
(ast India )ompany. .e wor$ed for the (ast India )ompany in the lower counts, which
had Indian judges and conducted cases in Indian dialects. In 5<H6 he was appointed to
the post of naib munshi :sub2judge;.

In his early years at the (ast India )ompany he published six boo$s. These were
religious treatises in defense of %unni belief. .e was first recogni#ed for his scholastic
accomplishments in 5<75 when a French translation of his boo$ *!thar al2%anadid,
was published. This boo$ was a survey of historic buildings and monuments in "elhi. In
5<7=, %ayyid !hmad Mhan was elected honorary Fellow of the +oyal !siatic %ociety in
9ondon. This may have been his greatest intellectual contribution had it not been for
the Indian rebellion in 5<K8, when his views on colonialism would become of
monumental importance to the future of Indian Muslims. .e was definitely pro24ritish,
but believed that both sides had made drastically false assumptions about the other. .e
believed that the Indian people misunderstood (nglish rule and that it was imperative
to reconcile Muslims with the 4ritish.

%ayyid !hmad Mhans most recogni#ed contribution was in education. The movement
he began was named !ligarh, after the city where his university was eventually
founded. In 5<K6 he founded his first school, the ?ulshan %chool at Muradabad. In 567=
he founded the %cientific %ociety of ?ha#ipur, an organi#ation that translated scientific
papers into 'rdu. In 5<76 he traveled to (ngland to study the (nglish educational
system. The visit to (ngland is credited with inspiring him to establish a Muslim college
open to non2Muslims, an institution that would utili#e 0estern methods of education to
encourage the reinterpretation of the Curan. .e wanted to show Islams compatibility
with (uropean sensibilities and culture.

!fter %ayyid !hmad Mhan returned to India, he started a maga#ine, *Tahdhib al2
!$hlaq, :reform of morals;. The intention of this periodical was to remove archaic
prejudice from Muslim society. In 5<8< he started a Muslim )ollege based on the 4ritish
template and dedicated to reforming the Muslim world. .e also instituted the
Mohammedan (ducational )onference, which allowed scholars from various areas to
convene and exchange progressive theories. ! year later he was appointed a Mnight
)ommander of the %tar of India and a year after that he received an honorary degree
from the 'niversity of (dinburgh. Throughout this period, %ayyid !hmad Mhan
continued to publish boo$s intended to close the gap between the colonial rulers and
their Indian subjects. .e published two pamphlets titled *9oyal Muhammadans of
India, and *)auses of Indian +evolt., 4oth were aimed at turning popular opinion away
from revolution and convincing the 4ritish of the loyalty of Indian Muslims.

%ayyid !hmad Mhan believed that without modern education Muslims would not be
able to become politicians or participate in government. .is goal was to prepare the
Muslims for the future& apparently, he believed that the rest of the world was
eventually going to follow in the footsteps of (urope. .e could not foresee the
revolutionary changes that were going to occur in (uropean thought, nor could he
anticipate the widespread destruction that would come in the form of two world wars.
!s an enthusiastic child of the nineteenth century, %ayyid !hmad Mhan believed that
the (uropean science and philosophy of his own times represented the height of human
achievement, and the only viable option for Muslims was to embrace that science and
philosophy in a bid to $eep up with the rest of the world. Deedless to say, this required
radical changes in Islamic beliefs, life2style, and practices.

In 5<<8, %ayyid !hmad Mhan was as$ed to join the Indian Dational )ongress. .e
refused on the grounds that it would eventually become a purely .indu party. In his
opposition to the Indian Dational )ongress, he was later seen as a forerunner of the Two2
Dation Theory that eventually became the foundation for the movement for -a$istan.
%ayyid !hmad Mhan died in 5<6<, and was buried at the college mosque. .is college
was granted the ran$ of 'niversity in 56J>.

In many ways, classical modernism continued the trends of islah :reform;, tajdid
:renewal;, and jihad :struggle; that we find in increasingly prominent forms in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 9i$e these earlier movements, classical
modernism sought to strengthen the Muslim personality through internal reform, to
purify and renew Islam as a way of life, and to reorgani#e Muslim societies so as to
enable them to meet the challenges of changing political realities. In the process, Islam
itself became a topic of contention. %erious questions of theology, history, ethics, and
jurisprudence were raised and fiercely debated.

Modernism was a wa$e2up call for traditionalist Muslims, including the Gulama. The
latter often critici#ed the proponents of modernism as apologetic Muslims who were
ready to sacrifice Islamic tenets in order to enjoy the superficial attractions of 0estern
civili#ation. For their part, the traditionalists launched a defense of what they viewed
as authentic Islamic beliefs and practices. 0hile the two groups often influenced each
others thin$ing, and even though several attempts were made to reconcile the two or
to find a *middle road, between extremes, it is fair to say that this dichotomy has
continued to exist until today.

Irrespective of the quality or authenticity of the answers that came up in the debates
between traditionalists and classical modernists, there is no doubt that their encounter
contributed to a reinvigoration of the Islamic tradition. It helped focus attentions on the
concrete problems that were emerging as a result of Islams contact with modernity.
This focusing of attentions then stimulated the intellectual and political awa$ening
among Muslims at large.

0hile it is essential to point out the errors of classical modernism/human efforts being
necessarily imperfect/it is also important to recogni#e some of its positive contributions
to the growth of Islamic tradition.

The $evelopment of the 3ocial 3ciences

As already mentioned, while claiming to suspend any final judgment on
.od, the spirit, and the life hereafter, Western thought nevertheless
amounted to a practical denial of these metaphysical realities. As .od
and the spirit became marginali%ed as subjects of legitimate concern
and in(uiry, human attention was increasingly focused on the physical
universe and the material body, initiating a chain!reaction of scientific
discoveries and innovations. In the same way, as the life hereafter
ceased to be at the center of legitimate concern and in(uiry, human
attention was increasingly focused on the immediacy of worldly life and
earthly e&istence. As a result, temporal and mundane aspects of human
life became topics for profound reflection and in!depth analysis, leading
to an e&plosive growth in new conceptions and theories relating to the
social, political, and economic spheres of life. Through the process of
synthesis and integration, these conceptions and theories gave rise to
systematic programs for organi%ing human life at the collective level.
Initially confined to academic and theoretical discussions, such
systematic programs inspired new ideological movements that caused
these programs to start manifesting in the domain of historical reality as
well. The political and economic structures associated with medieval
feudalism gave way to modern ideological systems, such as nationalism,
fascism, and democracy in the political realm, and capitalism and
socialism in the economic realm.


Fust as the seventeenth2century mar$s the beginning of rapid advances in the physical
sciences, the nineteenth2century mar$s the beginning of the social sciences as
independent and legitimate disciplines. (ven though their roots can be traced to earlier
times, it was only in the nineteenth2century that disciplines li$e psychology,
anthropology, sociology, economics, and political science began to ta$e concrete shape
and started to assert their independence from religious doctrines. The greatest
challenges to religion, theology, and ethics came not from the physical sciences but
from the views and theories that developed in the social sciences. This holds true at the
beginning of the twenty2first century as well.

!s the human attention shifted from religious and metaphysical issues to more
mundane and this2worldly concerns, the methods of scientific inquiry :including
disciplined observation, data collection, controlled experiments, and theory
construction; were directed towards human beings themselves. !s the scientific ga#e
was increasingly focused on the human individual and on the behavior of human
groups and societies, an increasing amount of attention was given to the role of
concrete, historical factors in determining the social, political, and economic realities
that human beings have to face. It was increasingly recogni#ed that the undesirable
conditions of society, such as tyranny or poverty, were not divinely mandated fates
that people must accept& instead, they were the result of particular forms of human
behavior and material conditions. Insofar as the social world was humanly constructed,
it was amenable to humanly devised and humanly implemented solutions.

The nineteenth2century, as well as most of the twentieth2century, has been called *the
age of ideology., It was in the context of the development of the social sciences that
*ideologies, started to proliferate. !n ideology can be understood as a set of ideas that
expresses discontent with the current state of affairs, posits an ideal human situation,
and then offers a detailed plan for achieving the latter through organi#ed human effort
:especially social and political activism;. Dineteenth and twentieth century
movements li$e nationalism, socialism, democracy, capitalism, conservatism,
liberalism, feminism, anarchism, fascism, and so on, are ideologies that draw upon
some aspect of social scientific $nowledge to argue why things have gone wrong and
how they can be fixed. (very ideology is based on some sort of social philosophy. The
emphasis in an ideology is on the material aspect of the problem, i.e., an ideology
proclaims that bad choices have led to a problematic or undesirable condition, such as
poverty or gender inequality or class warfare or social brea$down, and that humans
can correct the condition by ma$ing the right choices. !n ideology, by definition, does
not focus on metaphysics, the spiritual world, or the realm of life after death. !n
ideology may pay lip service to a particular religion, but its basic goal is to change the
concrete world of social relations in some fundamental way& an ideology is never aimed
at attaining spiritual liberation, enlightenment, or salvation in the hereafter :which
are specifically religious goals oriented toward the individual;. !n ideology is an
eminently human2centered conception of social reality& this is true both in terms of its
diagnosis of the human condition and in its recommendation of the plan to improve the
human lot. !n ideology is never concerned with how an individual may enter the
heavenly -aradise& instead, it wants to create a -aradise right here on earth.

The 1onception of an ,Islamic 3ystem- and the Twentieth
1entury Islamic 5ovements

The intellectual evolution in the social sciences is best seen in terms of
ideological clashes that tossed Western societies from one e&treme to
another. 'nder the influence of these developments in the West,
5uslims began to view Islam in ideological terms as well,
conceptuali%ing it as a systematic program for organi%ing human life at
a collective level. As Islam became the object of reflection from this
ideological perspective, its injunctions concerning the various spheres
of collective life were compiled, categori%ed, and arranged, so as to
formulate a new interpretation of Islam as a comprehensive ,code of life-
or a complete ,system.- While Islam was being re!interpreted in
ideological terms, a number of revivalist movements were launched with
the goal of establishing this ,Islamic system- in historical reality.

These twentieth century Islamic movements were launched almost
simultaneously in a variety of 5uslim countries from Indonesia to
Egypt, and are similar in a number of ways. Indeed, it would be accurate
to say that all of these movements are animated by more or less the same
conception of Islam and that they are permeated by more or less the
same "ind of emotional energy. It is also true that in the Islamic world
the influence of these movements has raised the overall level of
confidence in Islam, at least improving the general credibility of Islam
as a superior code of life. Than"s to the influence of these revivalist
movements, the uncritical admiration for the West has also declined,
especially in the younger generation.

In addition to the influence of Islamic movements, there are several
other factors that helped reduce the general level of awe and admiration
for Western thought and civili%ation. )irst, the rising tide of Western
political and military domination eventually ran out of momentum/ it
not only came to a standstill but was also forced to retreat from one
colony after another. When faced with the pressure e&erted by various
nationalist movements in their overseas colonies, European powers had
no choice but to gradually withdraw their political hegemony. Even
though the 5uslim world is still constrained by the chains of Western
political maneuvering and economic advantage#disguised respectively
as defense pacts and economic aid programs#by now almost the entire
5uslim ummah has liberated itself at least from the direct and overt
domination of Western powers.

3econd, the hollowness of Western civili%ation became increasingly
obvious through the direct e&perience of its negative conse(uences. As a
result, the presence of a basic flaw or fundamental croo"edness in its
structure began to be recogni%ed even in the West. As atheistic
materialism followed its own course and reached its logical
culmination, it gave birth to socialism and communism#ideological
programs that started sacrificing the remaining moral values of
humanity at the altar of the much more ,concrete- economic realities.
The resulting panic in the West led many people to revert bac" to the
notion of humanism/ and even the idea of spirituality began to be
mentioned in somewhat muffled tones.

Third, modern science began to lose some of its previous claim to
finality and conclusiveness. 4ew theories shoo" the foundations of
4ewtonian physics and Euclidian geometry/ matter lost its roc"!solid
permanence and revealed itself as a form of energy. As a result of these
developments, the affirmation of metaphysical doctrines became
somewhat easier and, on the whole, the foundation of religion began to
be strengthened once again.

)ourth, the concept of Islamic revival received indirect support from
nationalist and anti!colonial movements. The sense of communal
solidarity among 5uslims is based on religious affiliation/
conse(uently, when movements for liberation and self!determination
were launched in various 5uslim countries, they inevitably appealed to
people6s religious sentiments in order to arouse a sense of nationhood.
These nationalist feelings, in turn, nourished the desire for a rebirth
and revitali%ation of Islam.

3upported and encouraged by the above factors, Islamic movements with
the avowed goals of ,Islamic evival,- ,Establishment of .od6s 8ingdom,-
and ,Enforcement of the Islamic 3ystem- became active in different
5uslim countries. 2f these, al!I"hwan al!5uslimun of Egypt was most
distinguished in terms of its strength, e&tent, and fervor. 0y offering a
robust and vigorous intellectual framewor", however, the 7amaBat!e Islami
of the Indian 3ubcontinent occupies a prominent place among all the
Islamic movements.

These revivalist movements have been active in different countries for
the last three decades, influencing a substantial segment of the younger
generation of 5uslims. In practice, however, none of them has achieved
any remar"able success anywhere in the Islamic world. ather, it seems
that these movements have outlived their allotted time, and that the
moment is not yet ripe for the reali%ation of the hope and vision of an
Islamic renaissance. Egypt6s al!I"hwan has met almost complete
disintegration within the country, and its few remaining members are
scattered in e&ile, many of them surviving on the basis of the mutual
rivalry among Arab states. As for the Indian 3ubcontinent6s 7amaBat!e
Islami, most of its potential has been lost in the (uagmire of Pa"istani
politics, and it has now been largely reduced to a mere addendum in the
struggle for the restoration of democracy.

2n the surface, the cause of the failure of these revivalist movements
appears to be their impatience and strategic hastiness. They jumped into
the political arena too soon, without having changed the minds of a
substantial number of thoughtful and perceptive individuals in their
respective countries. This resulted in a premature clash between the
Islamic movements on the one hand and the secular political leadership
as well as the various ,progressive- elements on the other hand.

'pon deeper reflection, however, the actual cause of the failure of these
twentieth century revivalist movements turns out to be entirely
different. In reality, their failure is the direct result of an immaturity in
their conception of religion and of a deficiency in their understanding
of Islam.


-artly under the influence of (uropean ideological movements, but for the explicit
purpose of opposing their influence in the Muslim world, numerous Islamic movements
rose in the twentieth2century that emphasi#ed an *Islamic way of life., These
movements represent an important phenomenon in the modern Islamic world, often
$nown as Islamic revivalism. !s mentioned above, the nineteenth2century witnessed
the rise of numerous ideologies as mass political movements aimed at changing the
world in particular ways. The focus of these ideologies was on human society insofar as
it can be improved by human efforts& consequently, these movements too$ little or no
interest in issues of metaphysics, spirituality, and religion. In essence, these
movements had emerged to fill the vacuum created by the demise of the medieval
synthesis of church, feudalism, and monarchy& they represented the aspirations and
demands of the rising middle class that was boldly replacing the old system of nobility
based on birth.

4y the beginning of the twentieth2century, it had become obvious that many of these
ideological movements were impacting not only the social conditions in (urope but in
!sia and !frica as well. Muslim societies were soon introduced to the force of these
movements& particularly the educated classes came to $now of their sophisticated
arguments rooted in modern social scientific discourse, as well as their determination to
rema$e the world in significant ways. It is no surprise, therefore, that many Muslim
intellectuals started to ta$e the same approach toward Islam, i.e., they started to see
Islam less as a religion and more as an ideology. The result of their ideological approach
to Islam was Islamic revivalism.

Islamic revivalism became a particularly strong phenomenon in the Muslim world
during the 56H>s and 56=>s, a period that also witnessed the gradual wea$ening of
(uropean colonial rule. 0e can easily recogni#e the phenomenon of Islamic revivalism
by the widespread use of phrases li$e *comprehensive way of life, and *complete
system., The use of such phrases to describe the nature of Islam shows the impact of
0estern ideological movements on the way in which many Muslims interpreted Islam
in the twentieth2century.

(uropean colonialism started to give up its direct control over !sia and !frica in the
aftermath of the %econd 0orld 0ar, resulting in the phenomenon called *de2
coloni#ation., Meeping the colonies under control had become an increasingly difficult,
bloody, and expensive underta$ing. There were powerful anti2imperialist movements
throughout !sia and !frica, and 0estern colonial powers increasingly reali#ed that
they cannot maintain their hold indefinitely over nations that were rapidly learning
new ways of resisting foreign domination and demanding the right of self2

%uch anti2imperialist movements were launched in Muslim majority areas of the world
as well. Nirtually all of these movements appealed to Islam in way or another in order
to arouse anti20estern sentiments and the desire for independence from foreign rule.
(ven though these movements were primarily aimed at national independence rather
than at IslOmic revival, they nevertheless contributed to the awa$ening of Islamic
spirit, including the desire to see the revival and renaissance of Islam as a concrete
historical reality.

The world2wide power of 0estern empires was now in its twilight. The disastrous results
of the two world wars brought to the fore the emptiness of the ideal of progress and the
wea$ness of materialism. It became increasingly clear that scientific and technological
progress alone cannot be the foundation of a healthy and dynamic civili#ation. This
reali#ation, along with the rise of former colonies as independent nations, eroded the
image of an invincible 0est, challenged the notion of the inherent superiority of the
0hite race, and called into question the racist assumption that non20estern societies
and cultures had nothing useful or valuable to offer. 0estern scholarship on non2
0estern societies and cultures started to shed some of its prejudices.

0estern self2criticism of materialism, secularism, and atheism was not an entirely new
phenomenon& it was always present in one form or another, for instance in nineteenth2
century romanticism in ?ermany and transcendentalism in !merica. In the twentieth2
century, however, such criticism became a powerful voice of protest against the
discontents generated by an exclusive reliance on science. Movements in literature,
art, and philosophy challenged such reliance, and pointed out the negative
consequences of a way of thin$ing and living that had become too obsessed with the
material world. +eligion, after having been restricted to the private sphere, started to
reappear in the public realm and began to assert its continuing relevance for human
life. !s the author points out, the ideological movements of socialism and communism
represented the logical culmination of the same trend of emphasi#ing the material
reality that defines modern thought in general. The specter of these overtly atheistic
and anti2religious movements so shoc$ed the rest of the modern world that religion was
enlisted to help fight the '%%+ and its rising influence in the Third 0orld. The inclusion
of the phrase *under ?od, in the !merican pledge of allegiance in 56K= was a
prominent case of such appeals to religion. Two years later, the '% )ongress officially
adopted *in ?od we trust, as the national mottoX

!long with these changes, the claim of modern science to have replaced both religion
and metaphysics was challenged by developments that too$ place within science itself.
There were three such developments in the first half of the twentieth2century1 (instein
s theory of relativity, .eisenbergs 'ncertainty -rinciple, and Cuantum Mechanics&
while a fourth one was the slightly later arrival of )haos theory. !ll of these
developments in the realm of science have significant implications for philosophy,
including the philosophy of science and the philosophy of religion& and hence for
religion, ethics, and theology. 0hile considerable wor$ has been in this field, it is fair to
say that neither philosophers nor scientists have succeeded in fully wor$ing out all of
the implications of these discoveries for human $nowledge. (ven though debates and
discussions are still going on, there is hardly any doubt that the certainty and solidity
of Dewtonian physics has collapsed& this is particularly true when certain natural
phenomena are studied at very small scales, at very high speeds, and in terms of their
long2range effects and consequences. The cumulative result of these developments has
been a lessening in the power of purely scientific explanations to adequately account for
all of reality. This has inevitably opened up a space in which religion and metaphysics
are able to assert their own claims to validity. It is no longer possible to ridicule
religious claims simply as evidence of someones bac$wardness or ignorance. 'nli$e the
nineteenth2century, the scientific community can no longer dismiss religious claims a
priori& indeed, sometimes it has to entertain the possibility that in certain areas of
$nowledge religion might even be superior to science.

!s religious resurgence of one $ind or another began to spread throughout the world,
Muslim societies too experienced a renewed self2confidence in Islam. The awa$ening of
Muslims in the social and political sense was almost everywhere accompanied by their
awa$ening in the religious sense as well. The phenomenon of Islamic modernism,
however, was beginning to lose its momentum by the end of the first quarter of the
twentieth2century. !fter its initial success in galvani#ing the Muslims into action,
classical modernism was increasingly at a loss when it came to providing practically
sound and genuinely Islamic solutions to the complex problems of Muslim societies. This
was largely due to modernisms lac$ of methodological sophistication and its reliance on
apologetics. The subsequent generations of Muslims, having been awa$ened by the
efforts of early Muslim modernists, now began to choose one of two ways of asserting
themselves in the world1 %ome of them initiated or joined nationalist movements for the
independence of Muslim lands from foreign domination, while others/who saw Islam as
an ideology/joined the various religio2political movements aimed at establishing what
they called the *Islamic system of life., Foremost among these religio2political
movements were al2I$hwan al2Muslimun and FamaGat2e Islami.

Islamic revivalism is a complex and multi2dimensional phenomenon that has ta$en a
variety of different forms in different parts of the Muslim world. "r. Israr !hmad,
however, paints a simplified picture of this phenomenon by using very broad stro$es.
That is to say, he does not go into the details of the various leaders, ideologues, groups,
and movements that together constitute the phenomenon of twentieth2century IslOmic
revivalism, nor does he discuss the many significant differences among them& instead,
he only provides a general outline.

!ccording to this general outline, both al2I$hwan al2Muslimun and FamaGat2e Islami
failed in achieving the goals that they had set for themselves. This judgment may
sound harsh or inaccurate, especially to those readers who are associated with, or are
sympathetic to, one or the other of these organi#ations. Ine may object, for instance,
that both of these organi#ations are still very much active in various parts of the world,
and to claim that they have already failed is either premature or it betrays a rather
short2term perspective.

To appreciate "r. Israr !hmads real argument, however, two points should be $ept in
mind. First, this essay was written in 5678, at a time when al2I$hwan al2Muslimun
was facing the full wrath of the (gyptian government& its main leader, %ayyid Cutb,
had been executed only a year ago& and many of its exiled members were being
protected in %audi !rabia mainly because of the latters rivalry with -resident Dasser.
This was also the time when FamaGat2e Islami was in a poor state& after having invested
much of its energies and reputation in -a$istans unpredictable and explosive political
arena, the FamaGat had been reduced to an ineffective faction while the oppositions
agenda was being formed by stronger political parties. ?iven these circumstances, the
authors judgment accurately reflects the pervasive feelings of disappointment and
disillusionment that many members of these organi#ations were also experiencing at
that time.

%econd, and more importantly, if the question is as$ed whether these two organi#ations
have succeeded in turning their fortunes around during the four decades after this
essay was written, the answer must be given in the negative. ! considerable body of
research by both Muslim and non2Muslim scholars is now available that vindicates
Israr !hmads much earlier judgment. !ccording to this research, the history of these
organi#ations has been ripe with compromises, schisms, and questionable practices&
their deliberate or inadvertent involvement in )old 0ar politics has played a major
and largely negative role in this regard. In most cases, revivalist movements did not
formulate any clear methodology for their activism& instead of developing a concrete
and realistic course of action based on Islamic values, they relied mostly on advertising
and slogans, while freely borrowing their methods and tactics from Marxist and other
anti2imperialist movements. )onsequently, they merely reacted to whatever appeared
as the latest crisis or the most tempting opportunity for asserting political power.
-articularly damaging has been the violent behavior of extremist factions that thrived
in, or emerged from, these organi#ations, often by ta$ing the original ideology to its
logical conclusion.

(ven if we were to ta$e a very charitable view of their performance and focus only on
their positive contributions, we are still forced to arrive at more or less the same
conclusion. 0hile it is true that both al2I$hwan al2Muslimun and FamaGat2e Islami
have raised the overall level of Islamic consciousness in the Muslim world, the fact
remains that, despite their best efforts, the dream of an Islamic renaissance appears to
become more and more difficult with every passing decade. Indeed, the initial optimism
of both organi#ations has practically disappeared, giving way to disillusionment in
some cases and cynicism or nihilism in others.

0hy have these organi#ations, and the movements they launched, failed to ma$e any
progress towards their stated goals3 0hy is it that the goal of an Islamic renaissance,
which appeared to be just around the corner in the wa$e of the de2coloni#ation of the
Muslim world, now appears to recede further and further away li$e a mirage3 !s we
study the text of *Islamic +enaissance,, it is important to remember that these
questions are being raised by a man who himself was deeply committed to, and
involved with, the movement of FamaGat2e Islami for a number of years. In some ways,
the subject of this treatise was a matter of deep existential concern for Israr !hmad.
"uring the 56K>s, he had experienced a profound pu##lement while witnessing the
rapid decline of morality within his beloved movement, an experience that forced him
to closely analy#e the theoretical foundations underlying the whole phenomenon of
Islamic revivalism.

In trying to account for the failure of these organi#ations, most analysts are li$ely to
blame the social and political conditions, the role of the %uperpowers, or some flaw in
their strategies. Ine of the most obvious explanation is that both al2I$hwan al2
Muslimun and FamaGat2e Islami acted with impatience& they jumped into the
battleground of national politics and challenged the secular leadership of their
respective societies without having prepared the ground in their favor. 4ecause of their
hastiness, they initiated confrontations that they could neither win nor abandon. This
argument does have some weight, and should be seriously considered.

Do society is without an intelligentsia, or brain trust, i.e., a group of thoughtful and
perspicacious individuals that tends to have a disproportionate influence on the
character and direction of that society. !n argument can be made that unless a
significant change ta$es place in this section of the society, no lasting transformation
can occur in the society at large. In other words, unless a considerable number of
individuals who constitute the brain trust of the society are reformed, the society as a
whole cannot be reformed/regardless of how much time, energy, and resources are
invested in it by a given movement. This, indeed, is an argument that the author
himself ma$es towards the end of *Islamic +enaissance.,

There is, then, some weight in the claim that organi#ations li$e al2I$hwan al2Muslimun
and FamaGat2e Islami failed to achieve their avowed goals primarily because they acted
in too hasty a manner. They simply assumed that the majority of their nations
population will support them in their struggle to move the country in an IslOmic
direction, not reali#ing that they had a very long way to go before they could get
enough support for their cause. In other words, they overestimated their own influence
in society and underestimated the power of vested interests& as a result, they rushed
into challenging the secular leadership without having accomplished any significant
change in the viewpoint of the intelligentsia. Ince the confrontation began, they could
not receive the $ind of enthusiastic support that they had anticipated, leading to
repeated setbac$s.

0hile the above analysis is correct as far as it goes, it does not go all the way/it does not
provide the full answer to the questions posed above. The ultimate reason why
revivalist movements have not been ma$ing any substantial progress towards their
goal is to be found neither in the wea$ness of their leadership nor in the conspiracies of
their enemies. Instead, the ultimate reason is to be found in the very conception of
Islam that animates their struggle. Its not that these movements have not been
wor$ing hard enough& its because the very plan they are following suffers from a
serious shortcoming. 0hile there have definitely been problems in their strategy,
including premature confrontations, these problems themselves do not represent the
real illness that has been holding them bac$, for they are merely symptoms. The
underlying pathology has all along been a deficiency in their understanding of Islam.

The 3hortcoming in the evivalist Interpretation of Islam

It can be seen upon closer e&amination that the understanding of Islam
that animates these revivalist movements is based on the same
modernist viewpoint that privileges the material body over the spirit and
the life of this!world over life hereafter. 1onse(uently, while a formal
affirmation of Islamic metaphysical beliefs#collectively called iman#
does e&ist in the revivalist discourse, these beliefs are not given the "ind
of weight or value that they obviously deserve. 2n the contrary, the ga%e
of the revivalist interpreters has been e&clusively fi&ed on the practical
guidance that Islam provides concerning the social, political, and
economic spheres of life, and for which they have coined the term Islami
4i%am!e 9ayat, or the ,Islamic 3ystem of Cife.-

Thus, while the reality of .od is formally affirmed in the revivalist
discourse, that e&periential state of iman billah is entirely absent in
which the faithful actually ,see- .od as the ultimate agent and final
cause in both the inner and outer worlds. While the reality of life
hereafter is formally affirmed, that e&periential state of iman bil!a"hirah
is completely lac"ing which alone allows the faithful to spend their lives
as if they were merely strangers or wayfarers in this world. While the
truth of prophecy is formally affirmed, a warm and passionate love for
Prophet 5uhammad ;3A is hardly discernable. According to the more
,progressive- types, the status of the Prophet is analogous to that of an
ordinary postman, and is no more e&alted than that of any other central
figure of the 5uslim community#a mere leader whose authority does
not e&tend beyond his own life!time. Even those who recogni%e the
significance of the sunnah have created a loophole by distinguishing
between sunnah Badah and sunnah risalah. This bifurcation allows them
the freedom to choose their lifestyle in accordance with the changing
trends and fashions of the time, at least in their personal and private

In a nutshell, only that level of faith is upheld in the revivalist
interpretation of Islam that (ualifies a person to be counted as a
,5uslim- in the strictly legal sense of the term. Entirely absent is any
mention of the inner e&perience that allows faith to become a person6s
state of being. Indeed, there is not even the slightest awareness of its
need and indispensability.

It is due to this viewpoint that the concept of din has been identified
with the modern notion of the 3tate, and the concept of Bibadah has been
reduced to the level of mere obedience to a higher authority or
sovereign. In the revivalist view of Islam, the sublime blessing of the
daily salah remains unappreciated, and the truth of the Prophetic saying
that e(uates the ritual prayer with spiritual ascension ;miBrajA is
completely hidden from sight. 4or is there any awareness of the soul6s
nourishment through salah, to the e&tent that the daily performance of
ritual prayer becomes a source of inner peace and joy. 1arrying this
trend to its logical conclusion, some of the more ,progressive- elements
have gone so far as to identify salah with the social order of the 5uslim
communityD 2thers have recogni%ed the value of salah only at an
e&oteric level/ in their view, the Islamic ritual prayer is important mainly
because it offers a comprehensive program for the reform and
organi%ation of the 5uslim community. 3imilarly, the power of %a"ah to
develop and purify the soul is much less "nown or appreciated than its
role as an important pillar of the Islamic economic system. )asting is
readily ac"nowledged as an e&ercise in self!control/ its power to
strengthen the spirit and rela& the shac"les of bodily demands, however,
is either not recogni%ed at all or is deliberately left une&pressed because
of a certain embarrassment. The Prophetic saying ,fasting is a shield- is
often reiterated and a good deal of time is spent in its e&planation. 2n
the other hand, the highly significant holy tradition ,fasting is for 5e . .
.- is either s"ipped altogether, or is mentioned only in passing. )inally,
it is well "nown that the ritual of 9ajj provides an important means
through which a monotheistic community is organi%ed on a global level.
0eyond this, no mention is ever made of the deeper religious
significance of the pilgrimage or of its numerous spiritual blessings.

The above features of the revivalist interpretation of Islam are direct
conse(uences of the pervasive ascendancy of Western thought and
philosophy, the influence of which has pushed the viewpoint in the
direction of disbelief and materialism. 1onse(uently, in the revivalist
discourse the spirit and its inner life have been e&cluded from the
discussion, while the material reality and the life of this!world have
been elevated as the central topics of reflection and in(uiry. This has
produced what amounts to a materialistic understanding of religion. In
theory, the revivalist discourse affirms that Islam is a comprehensive
program for human flourishing and that it aims at human welfare in this!
world as well as in the life hereafter. In practice, however, Islam is
approached entirely as a political and social system, while the status of
theology and metaphysics is reduced to that of a faEade or veil. This
happens because the ga%e of the revivalist interpreters is firmly fi&ed on
the life of this!world. The real purpose of life, according to this
understanding of religion, is to enforce the Islamic political and social
system in the world. As for personal "nowledge and intimate love of
.od#and the attitude of loving adoration, humility, supplication, and
yearning for communion that form the essence of Bibadah#all of these
have been relegated to a secondary and peripheral status.

When e&amined from this perspective, it becomes clear that the essence
of these twentieth century Islamic movements is more socio!political
than religious. They are more this!worldly than other!worldly. As such,
the revivalist movements are distinguished only in claiming that the
Islamic code of life offers a better solution to the problems of temporal
human e&istence/ whereas other ideological movements ma"e the same
claim for capitalist democracy, socialism, and so on.

The above analysis is tantamount to saying that the tas" of reviving the
real values of religion has not even startedD

It is precisely for this reason that the predicament of the revivalist
movements is comparable to that of a ship without a rudder, one that
drifts aimlessly at the mercy of winds and waves. 2r it is li"e that of a
traveler who becomes a victim of amnesia, unable to recall the
whereabouts of either his native land or his destination.


This section of *Islamic +enaissance, contains a strong and trenchant criticism of the
twentieth2century Islamic revivalist thought from within. It is important to note that
the author is not judging revivalist Islam from the sidelines. .e was an active
participant in a major revivalist movement, vi#., FamaGat2e Islami of -a$istan, before
his resignation in 56K<. Moreover, he did not abandon the struggle for the revival and
renaissance of Islam after leaving the FamaGat, but continued to pursue that goal
throughout his subsequent life. 'nli$e many others who were once ardent supporters of
revivalist Islam before turning against it, "r. Israr !hmad did not reject or disown the
revivalist thought in its totality. In the contrary, he continued to publicly
ac$nowledge hid debt to %ayyid !bu Gl2!Gla Mawdudi long after leaving the organi#ation
of his mentor.

The gist of the criticism is that the main shortcoming of revivalist Islam is precisely
what defines 0estern modernity as a whole. Fust as modernity represents a shift of
emphasis away from the spiritual and metaphysical dimension of reality and towards
its concrete and material dimension, the same shift is reflected in the theory and
practice of revivalism Islam. )onsequently, the renaissance of Islam is understood
almost exclusively in terms of an establishment of the *Islamic system of life,, while
little or no attention is given to the revitali#ation of religious faith. This should come as
no surprise, since twentieth2century revivalism is a phenomenon that grew out of the
Muslim experience of colonialism and moderni#ation& and that revivalist movements
were launched in the Muslim world at least partly in response to, and in an unconscious
imitation of, 0estern ideological movements. %ince these 0estern ideological
movements were, by definition, concerned with this2world rather than with the
hereafter, the same pattern was replicated in the theory and practice of almost all
revivalist movements.

The main problem, therefore, lies in the very understanding of Islam that was
presupposed by the ideologues of Islamic revivalism. In their understanding of Islamic
activism, the cultivation of a strong and authentic faith/or iman/was not a priority
at all, since there was little appreciation of its deficiency, and even absence, in the vast
majority of Muslim populations. In general, the revivalist thought does not ta$e into
account that Islam depends on a true experience of the presence of ?od, of the transience
of this2worldly life, and of the reality of the hereafter. 0ithout any serious attention
being given to the cultivation of such an experiential faith/which was ta$en for
granted/the ideologues of revivalist Islam focused on the legal, ethical, and this2
worldly aspects of divine guidance. The result was an interpretation of Islam not as an
all2encompassing guidance for humanity but as an ideological response to the
encroachment of 0estern domination. -ut differently, the emphasis in this
understanding of Islam was on the collective, outward, and exoteric aspects of religion,
at the cost of its individual, inward, and esoteric aspects. Islam was conceived primarily
as a social, political, economic, and cultural *system,, along with a virtual disregard
for its spiritual and existential aspects.

This is not to say that the understanding of Islam presupposed by these revivalist
ideologues was *wrong., If course, Islam does offer concrete instructions pertaining to
the worldly aspects of human life, and it does offer both general and specific guidance
for organi#ing the social, political, economic, and cultural spheres of a human
collectivity. Interpreters of Islam may disagree as to the significance of these teachings,
the relative importance of the commands found in the Curan and %unnah, and the
appropriate mode of their application in concrete situations& no one can deny, however,
that such teachings actually exist. )onsequently, the problem is more accurately
described not by using the word *wrong, but by employing the word *shortcoming.,

The shortcoming of revivalist Islam is best understood in terms of an imbalance or
asymmetry in its understanding of religion. This imbalance or asymmetry resulted
from the fact that the ideologues of Islamic revivalism approached Islam not on its own
terms, but on the terms dictated to them by the ideological environment of the
twentieth2century within which they were wor$ing. !s a result, they *systemati#ed,
the various teachings of the Curan and %unnah into an ideological program that was
constructed as an almost exact antithesis of *the 0est., From their viewpoint, Islam
had to be presented in as sharp a contrast as possible to the competing ideological
programs of socialism, capitalism, liberal democracy, and other 0estern movements of
the time. Islam not only became an ideology, but an ideology whose defining character
was its opposition to what was seen as *0estern, values and culture.

This criticism of revivalist Islam helps identify the $ey issue that has been responsible
for the lac$ of success shown by the twentieth2century revivalist movements.
!ccording to "r. Israr !hmad, if any significant progress is to be made in the struggle
for the revival and renaissance of Islam as a concrete historical reality, we must pay
very close attention to this issue.

The primary sources of Islam employ a word that is of central importance in
understanding the issue at hand. The word is iman, or faith. In the Curan and .adith,
faith has two levels. In the legal level, faith is the outward declaration of ones religion
commitment& this is called the testimony or shahadah. !s soon as a person publically
says *I bear witness that there is no deity except ?od, and I bear witness that
Muhammad is the servant and messenger of ?od,, he or she immediately enters the
Muslim ummah. For all legal and practical purposes, that person will be considered a
Muslim. .owever, while the saying of the testimony is an important act of submission,
it is by no means sufficient in the sight of !llah. 0hile the shahadah can be said in less
than five seconds, at the existential level faith may ta$e years or decades to fully
develop. !t this second, deeper level, faith has to be firmly entrenched in the heart as a
conviction and a trust& it must lead to an inner state of peace, tranquility, and
confidence. Moreover, it must express itself in continuing submission to the will of !llah
through obedience to the %hariGah.

Mnowing that iman has these two levels is crucial for our understanding of what went
wrong with the revivalist movements. ?enerally spea$ing, the ideologues of the
revivalist movements recogni#ed the importance of faith at the legal level, but did not
pay sufficient attention to faith at the existential level. In effect, they reasoned as
follows1 there are millions of men and women in the world who say the shahadah, hence
they are Muslims. 4ecause they are Muslims, they already possess faith& the only
problem, then, is that they do not fully comprehend and practice the implications of the
shahadah. )onsequently, in order to ma$e them better :i.e., practicing; Muslims, all
that we need to do is tell them the logical implications of the shahadah. !s they learn
about the meaning of what they already believe, they will come to appreciate their
Islamic obligations& as a result, they will automatically start to fulfill them. 0e will
then arouse their emotional attachment with Islam and the Muslim ummah so as to
mobili#e them in the struggle for the establishment of the *Islamic %ystem of 9ife.,

Deedless to say, this view of Islam was narrow, truncated, and incomplete. Most
importantly, it failed to clearly distinguish between the two levels of faith mentioned
above& as such, it was imbalanced and asymmetrical. This view of Islam conflated the
two levels into one, assuming that being muslim in the legal sense was the same as
being mumin in the existential sense. !s a result of this failure to comprehend the real
significance of faith, the ideologues of the revivalist movements did not see much need
for trying to find out why faith at the existential level had declined, how can the causes
of its decline be identified and addressed, and what can be done to ensure that such faith
grows rather than continues to shrivel up.

Ine of the most significant ways in which this deficiency shows up in the revivalist
thought is in the latters approach to the Islamic rituals of worship. The four main
pillars of Islam are %alah, Pa$ah, %awm, and .ajj. In the revivalist thought, these are
treated primarily as instruments for establishing and upholding the social, political,
economic, and cultural structures of what is understood as the *Islamic %ystem of life.,

!s a result of this emphasis on the exoteric dimension of religion, the personal and
spiritual aspects of these pillars received little or no attention. Thus, in the revivalist
thought Gibadah is usually defined in terms of mere *obedience, to a higher authority
:often called *sovereign,;& it therefore becomes primarily a political concept that has to
do with political sovereignty as embodied in a modern nation2state. There is, therefore,
a corresponding disregard for cultivating a sincere love for !llah as the animating
spirit of obedience. This approach emphasi#es the political aspect of Islam at the cost of
its spiritual aspect. %imilarly, the fact that the regular performance of %alah leads to
inner peace and a sense of intimacy with the divine is not mentioned& what is
emphasi#ed, instead, is that it creates a military discipline conducive to an ideological

The same is true of the other three pillars as well. In each case, what is brought to the
fore is the ideological, i.e., this2worldly dimension of Islamic rituals. %uch an approach
stems from the fact that the dominant concern in the mind of the interpreter is to show
Islam as an ideology, at par with other modern ideologies. It is no surprise, therefore,
that the most *religious, :i.e., spiritual; aspect of Islam/faith at the existential level/is
either pushed to the margin in the revivalist discourse or, if it is mentioned at all, its
moral and metaphysical significance is never given the proper attention that it, in fact,
deserves. The result is not necessarily a *wrong, understanding of Islam, but one that is
definitely imbalanced and asymmetrical.

To sum up, "r. Israr !hmads essential criticism of modern revivalist movements is
that they are based on, and are primarily motivated by, a particular interpretation of
Islam that has been heavily influenced by the characteristic feature of the modern age,
i.e., the pervasive ascendancy of 0estern thought. The revivalist interpretation of
Islam developed and flourished towards the end of the colonial period and the beginning
of postcolonial period, which is why it frequently ta$es an anti20estern and anti2
imperialist stance. !t the same time, we must not forget that it developed during a
period that was also characteri#ed by the popularity and widespread influence of
ideological movements& these ideological movements/while frequently at odds with
each other/had one thing in common1 they were exclusively focused on the material
aspect of reality, on the human body, and on the life of this2world. This $ey feature of
modern ideological movements is also the $ey feature of 0estern modernity, as
discussed previously. This common tendency of 0estern modernity and of modern
ideological movements was so powerful and so pervasive that it ended up significantly
shaping even those movements that were trying to oppose the domination of 0estern

In the revivalist discourse, it is true that Islam is presented as a comprehensive plan for
human welfare and salvation/a divinely revealed plan that is as concerned with
improving the human lot in this2world as it is with ensuring human salvation in the
hereafter. The ideological emphasis of the revivalist discourse, however, means that, in
effect, the mention of salvation in the hereafter is reduced to a mere formality& while it
is certainly mentioned, it does not seem to ta$e the center of the stage but appears
almost as an afterthought. In a few extreme cases, some ideologues have gone so far as
to claim that, in fact, Islam was all along an ideological system for social and political
welfare, and that it became distorted due to the influence of metaphysics and theologyX
This $ind of thin$ing is obviously incorrect, for it does not represent the Curanic
perspective that, while encouraging a balance between the life of this2world and that of
the hereafter, does demand that the believers give their priority and preference to the

)onsequently, the modern revivalist movements should be regarded as more political
than religious. Fust because they claim that Islam is the solution to all human problems
does not ma$e them significantly different from other ideological movements. !s a
result of the fundamental shortcoming in their interpretation of Islam, these
movements have become reactive rather than proactive& they seem to be drifting
aimlessly in one direction or the other, with no real progress being made in the cause of
reviving the real values of Islam.

enewal of )aith+ The Precondition of Islamic

3ince Islam is based on faith#"nown in Arabic as iman#the dream of
Islamic revival can never become a reality without a general renewal of
religious faith.

There is no denying the importance of gaining political freedom and self!
determination for various 5uslim countries/ to some e&tent, these
achievements have contributed towards clearing the path for a
renaissance of Islam. 3imilarly, the spread of the idea that Islam is a
comprehensive code of life and that it is superior to other ideological
programs has also been a helpful and valuable development. The
revivalist movements that have contributed#or are contributing#to the
credibility of Islam in this way must be appreciated for their role in the
larger process of Islamic revival.

And yet, the most basic and essential re(uirement in this regard still
remains unfulfilled. 3ince the revitali%ation of religious faith is the
necessary precondition for bringing about an Islamic revival, it is highly
imperative that all thoughtful and perceptive 5uslims direct their
attentions toward this tas". Those who come to reali%es its significance
must concentrate their efforts on generating a powerful movement for
the renewal and rejuvenation of religious faith#so as to ensure that
iman is not just a verbal affirmation ;qalA on a person6s lips, but that it
grows into a genuine conviction that defines the very state of one6s being

In its essence, religious faith involves an inner state of confidence in
certain metaphysical realities. To develop such faith, one must have the
ability to e&perience a much higher level of certitude in transcendent
truths than the certitude one e&periences in the facts revealed by
ordinary sense perception. 2ne must have the ability to invest a far
greater amount of trust in realities that are "nowable only through one6s
heart, as compared to realities "nowable through one6s physical eyes or
ears. This means that a capacity for iman bil-ghayb or ,faith in the
unseen- is the foremost condition of this path. The flowering of genuine
religious faith in a person6s heart is necessarily accompanied by a
radical change in thin"ing and a profound revolution in viewpoint.

As a result of the inner transformation that faith brings, a person comes
to see the material universe as entirely insignificant and even unreal/
while, in sharp contrast, the presence of .od is e&perienced as a living
and eternal reality. )or a person of faith, the empirical world is neither a
self!governing chain of cause and effect nor is it under the determining
control of rigid mechanical laws/ instead, faith allows the witnessing of
.od6s will and purpose in each and every moment. The world of matter
becomes worthless and inconse(uential, but the spirit appears as an
almost tangible reality. As faith grows, a person no longer attributes the
term insan ;human beingA primarily to the physical body, but applies it in
the first place to the divine spirit that is the real essence of human"ind#
the same divine spirit whose presence made Adam worthy of the angels6
prostration. )or a person of faith, the life of this!world appears not only
transient and ephemeral, but also utterly unreal and trifling/ one comes
to reali%e that in comparison to the fleeting life of this!world, only the
life hereafter is ultimately real, worthwhile, and everlasting. The goal of
pleasing .od becomes infinitely more valuable than the entire world
and all of its treasures. In accordance with a saying of Prophet
5uhammad ;3A, a person of faith assigns no more value to the totality of
worldly riches than the worth of a gnat6s wing.

Cet it be clearly understood that unless a significant and influential
portion of the 5uslim ummah undergoes this "ind of profound
transformation in its thin"ing and viewpoint, the hope of an Islamic
revival will not be reali%ed.

The most effective means for cultivating faith in the hearts of the 5uslim
masses involves the fellowship of persons who are significantly advanced
in religious "nowledge and practice. These are the individuals whose
hearts and minds are radiant with the light of gnosis and faith/ whose
souls are free of conceit, jealousy, rancor, and hypocrisy/ whose lives are
devoid of greed, covetousness, and the love of this!world. In the
aftermath of the collapse of khilafah ‘ala minhaj al-nubuwwah, it was
mainly through the instruction, e&hortation, and fellowship of pious
souls who embodied these (ualities that the light of iman continued to
spread and illuminate the world. 5ore recently, the poisonous winds of
Western disbelief and materialism have had a chilling effect on this
dimension of Islamic culture as well/ yet, such personalities are not
completely e&tinct in the 5uslim ummah whose hearts are luminous
with the light of faith and whose passions are abla%e with the warmth of
conviction. What is needed in the present moment is a powerful wave
that sweeps through every part of the ummah, so that no city or town is
left without such resolute and steadfast individuals whose sole aim in
life is to please .od, and whose hearts are free of all desires and
ambitions other than the noblest aim of bringing divine guidance to

)ortunately, a mass movement has already emerged in the Indian
3ubcontinent, under the influence of which the radiance of religious
faith is disseminating among the multitudes on a large scale. The 7ama
Bat!e Tabligh, which is an off!shoot of the movement associated with the
$ar al!B'lum at $eoband, is raising the awareness among the 5uslim
masses that .od, the spirit, and the life hereafter are infinitely more
important than the physical universe, the material body, and the life of
this!world. The movement of the 7amaBat!e Tabligh was initiated by
persons of such deep faith and conviction that, despite the passing of
more than a third of a century, there has been no diminishment in the
movement6s fervor and %eal. Though we do not completely agree with its
approach and methodology, it remains an observable fact that the
influence of the 7amaBat!e Tabligh leads to a profound transformation in
people6s thin"ing and viewpoint. As a result of this transformation,
individuals begin to e&perience that reality is an attribute of the 1reator
and not that of the creation, that the 2ne who controls all the causes is
incomparably more real than all the finite causes put together. They
reali%e that it is not food that overcomes their hunger, nor is it water that
(uenches their thirst, but that such finite causes become efficacious
only through the will and permission of .od. They begin to see even the
minor injunctions of Islam as having intrinsic value, without needing to
be convinced through logical arguments that such injunctions are parts
of a larger code of life or the means for establishing an ideological
program. The smallest details of the Prophetic sunnah begin to appear
luminous, for no other reason e&cept their association with their beloved
Prophet 5uhammad ;3A. Thus transformed in their inner lives, people
who come under the influence of the 7amaBat!e Tabligh fre(uently limit
their material consumption to a bare minimum and spend a significant
part of their time in religious propagation and preaching by following a
typical method and routine.

$espite its achievements, the actual effectiveness of the 7amaBat!e
Tabligh is destined to remain limited/ the main reason being that this
movement primarily addresses the sentiments rather than the intellect,
and that it is founded upon religious practice and rituals as opposed to
"nowledge and understanding. 1onse(uently, those sections of society
are not li"ely to come under the influence of the 7amaBat!e Tabligh in
which intellect ta"es precedence over feelings and "nowledge is
privileged over practice. 3uch individuals are compelled, by virtue of
their temperament, to first traverse the realm of reason and critical
in(uiry before they can whole!heartedly step into the domain of love and
passion. Their natural constitution is such that they cannot reach the
deeper levels of the spirit without having untangled the "nots of their
analytical and in(uisitive minds. It is an established fact that
individuals of this temperament, ta"en as a whole, constitute the
intellectual minority of a society. All over the world, and in every
historical period, it is this minority that (uite naturally comes to play a
leadership role in setting the direction and priorities of society. As a
result, paramount importance must be given to bringing about a
revolutionary transformation in the thin"ing and viewpoint of those who
belong to this intellectual minority. If iman could not be "indled in the
hearts of such individuals, and if they could not be rescued from the
dar"ness of spiritual ignorance, then changing the hearts and minds of
the masses alone will not bring about any substantial and lasting


!fter pointing out the basic shortcoming in the view of Islam that has been assumed
and promoted by the modern revivalist movements, "r. Israr !hmad turns his
attention to the main question that this critique has raised. .e has already argued that
the primary reason for the irrelevance of modern Islamic revivalism is not simply the
strategic errors made by its leaders, even though such errors have played an important
role too. The primary reason why these movements seem to be wandering aimlessly
li$e rudderless ships, however, is that the vision of IslOm that motivated their
ideological activism was itself seriously imbalanced, if not flawed. To put it in a
nutshell, the revivalist vision emphasi#ed the exoteric aspects of Islam at the cost of its
spiritual and metaphysical aspects. In other words, it brought into sharp focus the
worldly dimension of religion and, consequently, made the establishment of the Islamic
way of life the central aim of Muslim activism& while this was a desirable move in itself,
it was achieved by ma$ing the esoteric or inward dimension of religion more or less
marginal and, in some cases, practically irrelevant. The resulting imbalance in the
revivalist vision of Islam significantly affected the character of the typical Muslim
activist that these movements produced. The vitally necessary lin$ with the life and
mission of the -rophet Muhammad :%; could not be maintained. In effect, the goal of an
Islamic renaissance, instead of coming closer with each generation, $ept moving
further and further away.

This critique raises the all2important question of finding an alternative approach. If the
renaissance of Islam is indeed the desired/and desirable/goal, and if the modern
revivalist movements have failed to ma$e substantial progress due to their seriously
imbalanced vision of Islam, then exactly what is to be done instead3 0hat are the
conditions under which an IslOmic renaissance can become a reality3 .ow are those
conditions to be achieved3

The critique, however, is not entirely negative. "r. Israr !hmad does ac$nowledge that
the phenomenon of the modern Islamic revivalism has had some positive and desirable
effects, just as the various anti2colonial independence movements in various Muslim
majority regions have had some positive and desirable effects. To attain political
independence by removing the shac$les of foreign rule is definitely a significant step in
the direction of an Islamic renaissance& similarly, to raise the consciousness of an
Islamic way of life and of the need to establish this way of life as a historical reality
through organi#ed struggle is also a major step in that direction. In both cases,
however, no substantial progress has been made in order to facilitate *the real tas$,
that must be done in order to truly pave the way for an Islamic renaissance.

0hat is the real tas$3 !ccording to Israr !hmad, political independence of Muslim
countries is definitely a part of the equation& so is raising awareness and confidence in
the vitality of the IslOmic way of life as an option that is equal to, or even better than,
what 0estern ideologies promise. These two tas$s were important, and they occupied
the attention of a large proportion of worlds Muslim population during much of the
twentieth century& both the nationalist and the revivalist movements have therefore
contributed their share to the cause of Islam. Eet, neither of these constitutes the most
basic and essential step in the desired direction.

0hen tal$ing about an Islamic renaissance, we need to be very clear about the
meaning of our central term. 0hat is it that we call *Islam, whose renaissance we are
see$ing3 Islam is difficult to define in a few words& it is a religion, a tradition, an
approach to reality and a comprehensive outloo$, a worldview, a way of life, a culture,
a civili#ation, and much more. In whatever way one might describe and define it, there
is no denying that at the very foundation and core of Islam lies something that is best
designated as *faith., To say that there is a need for an Islamic renaissance is to imply
that, first and foremost, there is a need for the revitali#ation of faith. 0ithout a
revitali#ation of faith, there can be no revival of Islam.

The concept denoted by the (nglish word *faith, is more or less the same as that
expressed by the !rabic word iman. There are, of course, subtle differences, since
!rabic is a much richer language in certain respects than (nglish. Furthermore, there
are also significant differences between how the word faith has been used in 0estern
culture as opposed to how the word iman has been employed in !rabic and Muslim
tradition. Ignoring these differences for now, we are going to use the two terms
interchangeably, primarily in the interest of simplicity.

Faith denotes a trust and confidence in, affirmation of, and assent to some metaphysical
postulates. ! postulate is simply a statement that is presented as true. The emphasis in
this provisional definition faith is on the metaphysical nature of the postulates in
question. If the postulates are not metaphysical, but merely physical, ones trust and
confidence in, affirmation of, and assent to those postulates would not be called faith.

0hat differentiates faith from our ordinary $nowledge of the world is precisely this1 To
have faith is to be committed to ideas or understandings that are not immediately
obvious to the human senses and reason.

For instance, one does not have faith in the reality of earths gravitational pull& for one
$nows the existence of gravity through observation, experience, and a little reasoning.
To say that the earth exercises gravitational pull on all material bodies is therefore a
physical postulate& it is verifiable through ordinary means of acquiring and testing
$nowledge. In the other hand, the reality of ?od is a very different $ind of postulate
altogether& it cannot be $nown in the same way in which we can $now gravity. This is
a metaphysical issue, rather than a physical issue, and hence faith is going to have to
play a central role in our confidence and trust in ?ods reality.

To emphasi#e the role of faith in affirming the reality of ?od does not mean that the
reality of ?od is absolutely un$nowable and, as such, must be based on *blind,
acceptance& nor does it mean that sense perception and reasoning have no legitimate
role in the realm of faith. In the contrary, it merely means that the reality of ?od is
not $nowable in exactly the same way in which we $now gravity. The same is true of
other metaphysical issues, such as the reality of the human soul, the continuity of
human existence beyond death, the "ay of Fudgment, heaven and hell, etc. 0hile it is
possible to argue for the truth of these postulates using evidence from our ordinary
$nowledge of the world/including sense perception and reasoning/the fact remains
that these are, ultimately, metaphysical postulates& as such, they have to be
approached in a way that is very different from the usual way of approaching questions
regarding physical postulates, such as the existence of gravity.

%ince faith is a trust and a confidence in some metaphysical postulates, it necessarily
involves the ability to go beyond what is $nowable through ordinary sense experience
and reasoning. Faith requires the capacity to transcend the limits of ones immediate,
sensory experience& it therefore calls for courage, imagination, and the willingness to
ris$. Ine is called to commit oneself to certain metaphysical postulates without being
offered irrefutable empirical andBor rational evidence that would publically establish
those postulates as absolutely certain. Ine may be provided strong and plausible
reasons that would ma$e the given postulates *probably true,, but one is not given any
final, decisive, and uncontestable proof that would remove all possibilities of doubt and
error. Indeed, if all possibilities of doubt and error were removed, everyone will be able
to recogni#e the truth and the very notion of *faith, would then become meaningless.

To say that faith is at the very foundation and core of Islam is to emphasi#e the
metaphysical nature of the postulates that we are required to accept, affirm, and trust.
0e are called upon to recogni#e the ris$ we ta$e in ma$ing such commitments, and
then to have the courage to ta$e that ris$ anyway. Iur commitment is then expressed
in a radically changed outloo$ on reality.

If we accept the metaphysical postulate of ?ods reality, we must see the world and even
ourselves as considerably less real than ?od. If we accept the metaphysical postulate
that each human being contains a divine spar$, a spirit from ?od, then we should be
able to see that spirit as more worthy of our attention than its temporal embodiment as
a particular physical form. If we accept the metaphysical postulate that the .ereafter
is more real, more lasting, and permanent than the life of this2world, we should be able
to prefer the former over the latter whenever a conflict arises between their respective
demands. In short, faith involves a drastically different perspective& the consequences
of the new perspective are transformative in radical ways.

)lassical Muslim authorities have frequently discussed the difference between qal and
hal as they explained the meaning of faith. It is one thing to say that *there is no god
but ?od and Muhammad :%; is the messenger of ?od,, and quite another to have this
become synonymous with who one is. The term qal refers to the act of saying or
verbally claiming that a particular metaphysical postulate is true& that indeed is
required from a person in order for him or her to enter the fold of Islam. Eet, there is
little or no ultimate benefit if ones faith is limited at the level of ones speech. It must go
deeper than ones throat& it must penetrate the very essence of the person, to the extent
that the postulate is neither just a sentence that he or she occasionally utters nor a
thought that he or she habitually thin$s, but that it comes to describe the persons state
of being. Faith is much more than what we say& it is, ultimately, who we are. This is the
meaning of the term hal. !ccording to "r. Israr !hmad, unless this level and intensity
of faith is actuali#ed in a significant portion of the Muslim ummah, no amount of social
and political activism will ma$e any substantial progress in the direction of an Islamic

If it is true that iman lies at the very foundation and core of Islam, then it is easy to
understand why any authentic service to the former is always, and in the same degree,
a service to the latter as well. Faith, however, represents the internal or esoteric
dimension of religion and is, for that reason, hidden from direct view& as such, it is
tempting to ignore or belittle its significance over and against the external and exoteric
dimension of religion which is much more tangible. This, indeed, has been the primary
reason for the aimlessness and loss of direction so prevalent in the Islamic revivalist
movements. To correct that shortcoming is to recover the lost balance between the
internal or esoteric dimension of Islam on the one hand and its external or exoteric
dimension on the other. 0ithout recovering, and re2establishing, this balance, no
significant progress is possible in the direction of true Islamic revival. In other words,
the revitali#ation of genuine religious faith is the absolutely essential precondition for
an Islamic renaissance. Fust as we cannot hope to construct a stable house without first
laying down a strong foundation, we cannot hope to establish Islam as a historical
reality without first inculcating authentic religious faith on a significant scale.

Those who are unable to appreciate the significance of this venture would as$1 Isnt it
true that Muslims already have enough faith3 Isnt it true that almost a billion and a
half Muslims today affirm and proclaim the reality of ?od and the prophethood of
Muhammad :%;3 Isnt it true that the problem is not a deficiency of faith, but a lac$ of
understanding and motivation3

Ince again, to appreciate "r. Israr !hmads main point we ought to be able to
distinguish between faith at the legal level and faith at the existential level& or faith as
a verbal attestation and faith as a state of being. 0hat millions of Muslims possess today
is faith at the level of verbal attestation& in fact, they wouldnt be Muslims if they hadn
t publicly ac$nowledged the basic Islamic postulate1 *there is no god but ?od and
Muhammad :%; is the messenger of ?od., The question that concerns us here, however,
is whether or not this verbal attestation has become their state of being3 -ut
differently, there is no doubt that, by definition, all Muslims enjoy faith as a matter of
qal& what is at sta$e is how many of them also experience it as a matter of hal3 The
obvious answer is1 Dot too many. The clearest index of faith is behavior& in general, the
behavior of contemporary Muslims can hardly be seen as an accurate reflection of
Islamic teachings. 0here we do find some adherence to Islamic rituals or symbols, a
great deal of it is the result of sociali#ation and emotional attachment rather than
spiritual reali#ation or conscious insight.

0hen it is said that an IslOmic renaissance is impossible without a revival and
revitali#ation of religious faith, what is implied is not faith merely as a verbal
attestation :there is no deficiency of that;, but faith as a state of being :which is in short
supply;. )onsequently, *the real tas$, is to raise the level of faith among a significant
portion of Muslims from qal to hal.

9ets approach this issue from another perspective. !ny $ind of activism, whether
religious or secular, must to be based on a solid foundation within the heart and soul of
the activist. This is because it is extremely hard to bring about any $ind of change in
the objective, historical reality. The struggle of the !frican2!mericans in the 'nited
%tates since their formal emancipation from slavery in 5<7J is a case in point. "espite
great advancements, complete racial equality still eludes the !merican nation. It ta$es
sustained effort over many generations to bring about a significant change in social
structures and institutions, and yet there are frequent setbac$s, disappointments, and
losses. -eople wor$ hard all their lives for a certain cause, and then reali#e that
virtually nothing was achieved. !s a result, it is very common for activists to
experience emotional fatigue and even *burnout, after only a few years of passionate,
hard wor$. 0e all $now that this is not uncommon in what is called Islamic activism&
we have seen how youthful idealism soon turns into cynicism and then degenerates into
worldliness. %uch is almost invariably the result of frantic outward activity without a
solid foundation in the heart and soul of the activist/an imbalance or asymmetry that
favors the exoteric dimension while neglecting the esoteric. The foundation in the heart
and soul can only be established on the basis of faith, insofar as that faith is not just
verbal attestation but has truly become the state of ones being.

!fter having established the need for a widespread revival of faith in the Muslim
community, "r. Israr !hmad goes on to explain the most common and most effective
way through which such a revival can be actuali#ed. Dote that this segment starts
with a qualification, vi#., *Muslim masses., ! distinction between Gawam and $hawas is
being made here, and it is important to understand exactly what it means and why is it
so relevant.

The first point to note in this regard is that the distinction is not inherently
hierarchical. In other words, whether a person belongs to the *masses, or not is by no
means a reflection of his or her worth either in the sight of !llah or in the community
at large. The distinction, on the contrary, should be understood as primarily
temperamental and secondarily functional. Furthermore, it has no relationship
whatsoever to ones capacity for faith and righteous deeds, or to ones chances of
attaining salvation in the hereafter.

%econd, the distinction between Gawam and $hawas within the Muslim community has
always been accepted by the Islamic scholarly tradition as a legitimate distinction, for
it goes bac$ to the Curan itself and is also reflected in the various gradations found
among the )ompanions of -rophet Muhammad :%;. Do student of early Islamic history
can miss the well2recogni#ed and widely accepted distinction between some of the closest
associates of the -rophet :%; on the one hand, and the larger Muslim community on the

Third, the essence of the distinction in question is to be found in the common
observation that most human beings at any given period in history tend to follow the
norms and beliefs of their native society without too much critical reflection. Eet, a
small minority of individuals in virtually all societies regularly shows a tendency to be
s$eptical of conventional wisdom. These individuals, while always a minority by
definition, often tend to be a disturbing element in any society because they li$e to roc$
the boat by challenging traditional explanations of why things are the way they are.
They question authority and critici#e the status quo& no ready2made answers seem to
convince them, and they are satisfied only by personally see$ing and finding the truth.

In this bac$ground, it is obvious that the revival of faith in the Muslim community is a
project that must ta$e this distinction into account. It is worth repeating that in this
context the word *masses, is not a derogatory term& it simply denotes the large
majority of human beings at any given time, individuals who tend to be more
pragmatic than reflective. .owever, and very unfortunately, there is no satisfactory
(nglish word that can be used to describe the small minority of critical thin$ers and
see$ers of truth described above, without giving the impression of elitism. 0e may use
the word *intellectuals, to describe them, but there is a clear suggestion of superiority
in this word, as commonly understood today, that goes against the egalitarian and
democratic spirit of Islam. 0hile the (nglish language does not seem to offer a non2
hierarchical term that can adequately function as the opposite of *masses,, the Cur
anic term ulu Gl2al2bab comes to the rescue. This term simply means *people of
intellect,, but does not carry any connotations of superiority.

There is, therefore, every reason to introduce this particular term into contemporary
Muslim discourse. !t the same time, however, there is no need for us to surrender the
word *intellectuals, either, just because its present connotation often contains an
undesirable element of elitism. 0e should insist on using the word *intellectuals, while
explicitly denying that a mere temperamental difference among humans can ever
imply that some people are inherently better than others. Instead of avoiding the word
*intellectuals, altogether, we need to rehabilitate it bac$ into our discourse.

.aving clarified the meaning of the $ey words *masses, and *intellectuals,, let us turn
to the methodology for reviving authentic religious faith. %ince human beings tend to
be of two basic temperaments, it is necessary that the methodology used is suited to
each temperament if it is to be successful at all. This is because the methodology for
reviving religious faith that is going to wor$ most effectively for the Muslim masses
may not be as useful for the ulu Gl2al2bab

!s far as the masses are concerned, "r. Israr !hmad notes that the most effective
method for developing, maintaining, and enhancing iman to spend time in the
company of the faithful. This is the traditional and time2honored method of finding a
pious and learned person of faith in the community and spending as much time as
possible in his or her company& this method usually goes by the name of suhbah and its
psychological effectiveness is undeniable. It is difficult for a materialist mindset to
understand how the mere company of such a person can be a highly effective source of
faith. It is important to remember that, metaphorically spea$ing, what we call iman is
a brilliant light that spreads throughout the personality and character of a man or
woman in whose heart it shines, illuminating not only their souls but even their
physical environment as well. )onsequently, individuals who are close to a person of
faith can almost passively acquire this light by doing nothing other than spending time
in their company, and by $eeping their own hearts in a receptive mode. !dditionally,
of course, witnessing the righteous conduct, self2restraint, piety, and other positive
qualities in ones role2model has its own influence through the usual channels that are
well2$nown in social psychology. This, indeed, is the most common way through which
Islam spread from 0est !frica to )hina and to %outh (ast !sia. Incidentally, this is also
the method that has been populari#ed on a wide scale by the movement called Tabligh.

The text clarifies the distinction between the two $inds of human temperament in
relation to faith. 0hile all human beings are *rational,, in the sense that they have the
same inborn capacity to thin$, reflect, understand, and argue, comparatively spea$ing
a small minority of them tends to use these faculties much more extensively than the
rest of us. "r. Israr !hmad calls this group of people *the intellectual minority,,
identifying it as the informal leadership of a given collectivity. "espite its small si#e,
*the intellectual minority, tends to exert a very significant and widespread influence
on the trends and directions of society.

0hat is this *intellectual minority, and where do we find its members3 Typically, an
*intellectual, is anyone who frequently experiences a disturbing sense that most
human beings are mindlessly following the established norms and uncritically
pursuing the goals and ideals of their society& that they are living in a dream2li$e state
of only semi2awareness, a state in which they are neither conscious of what they are
doing nor do they ever pause to question why they are acting in certain ways. This
experience is the hallmar$ of the people whom the Curan calls the ulu Gl2al2bab.

It is important to $eep in mind that an intellectual, as understood in the present
context, is not necessarily a person of extraordinary intelligence& similarly, an
intellectual does not have to be someone with many academic degrees and titles li$e
*doctor, or *professor, attached to his or her name. It is true that many intellectuals
are found in academic institutions, in thin$2tan$s, in non2governmental organi#ations,
in newspapers and other media, and so on& however, not everyone who wor$s in these
fields is necessarily an intellectual, and many genuine intellectuals do not have much
formal education. Indeed, many individuals with -h. "s are seriously lac$ing in self2
reflection and self2criticism, both of which are indispensable qualities of the ulu Gl2al2

+egardless of ones educational qualification or professional position, an intellectual is
simply a person who has either awa$ened from the dogmatic slumber in which most of
humanity is lost, or is beginning to come out of that state. !ll that a person needs in
order to be qualified as an intellectual is to exercise the natural faculties of disciplined
observation, critical reflection, and honest reasoning, and, in doing so, to be able to
recogni#e and ac$nowledge ones own errors, biases, and blind spots/as well as cultivate
the courage and willingness to correct them. In other words, an intellectual is a person
who is just li$e the rest of us, except that he or she is relentlessly committed to finding
and practicing the truth, irrespective of the cost.

To say that the leadership of a society belongs in the hands of its intellectual minority is
a very important statement. In the surface, it may appear as if a society is actually led
by its political and economic elite, i.e., individuals with most power and most money& in
the 'nited %tates, for example, most people would thin$ that the -resident and his
cabinet, members of the )ongress, )(Is of major corporations, )hairman of the Federal
+eserve, and billionaire aristocrats of various stripes together constitute the main bul$
of !merican leadership. This is certainly true, but only in the short2term& if we were to
loo$ at the unfolding of history with a wide2angle lens we would surely see that the
leadership exercised by the political and economic elite tends to be overshadowed by the
much more pervasive leadership of the intellectual minority. 'ltimately, it is not the
whim of the monarch that triumphs, but the vision of his wisest advisors. The
intellectual minority may not hold the power to bring about dramatic changes in
society with the stro$e of a pen& it does, however, hold a great deal of influence. The
latter is a more subtle, but nevertheless real, form of power& it can be used to prepare
the masses to accept particular changes or, at the very least, to delegitimi#e and resist
those changes.

In order to bring about stable and long2lasting transformations in a society, it is clearly
insufficient if only the masses are convinced of the need for those changes. %imilarly, it
is not enough to convince only the political and economic elite. Ine of the most
important prerequisites in this regard is that the intellectual minority, the true leaders
of a society, are fully committed to the desirability of the said transformations.
Influence typically flows from the intellectuals to the masses, and, once the masses are
mobili#ed, the political and economic elite/despite their power/do not pose any real,
long2term, resistance. In the other hand, a political revolution brought about by a
small segment of the political elite, such as a faction of the military, is one of the most
fragile and unstable of transformations& this is not only because such a revolution
generally lac$s firm foundations among the masses but also/and more importantly/
because it tends to have little or no support among the intellectuals. It is precisely for
this reason that many military rulers in !sia, !frica, and 9atin !merica have tried to
win the support of at least some members of the intellectual minority in order to
legitimi#e their hold on power.

To sum up, the revitali#ation of authentic religious faith among the masses can be
achieved through their immersion in the company of the faithful. For the intellectual
minority, however, a very different approach is required. !ccording to "r. Israr
!hmad, paying attention to the particular needs of this minority is one of the most
important elements in the struggle for Islamic renewal and revival

The eal Tas" Ahead

In view of the analysis presented above, the most critical need at the
present moment is as follows+ powerful intellectual movement must
arise that would revolutioni%e the thin"ing and viewpoint of the most
intelligent classes and the best educated elite of the society. A
movement is needed, in other words, that would liberate the members of
the intellectual minority from the cold night of disbelief and
materialism, bringing them into the warm daylight of faith and enriching
them with the treasures of .od!consciousness and self!awareness.
2bviously, this goal is impossible to reali%e e&cept through a cogently
reasoned affirmation of religious beliefs as well as a coherently argued
refutation of all forms of disbelief and materialism.

In this regard, a crucial point must be borne in mind. 3ince in our age
physical distance has become inconse(uential and the entire world has
become a virtual family, the intellectual level of discourse in the
re(uisite movement cannot be set according to the academic standards
of any particular society. ather, the proposed movement must function
in accordance with the highest standard of intellectual and academic
sophistication that is found anywhere in the world.
There can be no doubt that what is being proposed here is an e&tremely
arduous and challenging tas", but it should be e(ually obvious that
dreaming of a renaissance of Islam without underta"ing its essential
prere(uisite is tantamount to living in a fool6s paradise.

The first step for launching this intellectual movement is to identify
bright and talented young individuals who are naturally endowed with
an intense thirst for "nowledge. They must feel an inner restlessness#a
dissatisfaction with conventional wisdom and an irrepressible yearning
for finding the truth. 3uch individuals must have reached the reali%ation
that ultimate reality is far beyond what can be "nown through ordinary
sense perception. Their motivation to uncover the veiled reality should
be so intense as to create a burning desire for dedicating their lives to
this end#disregarding in the process all the worldly ambitions of status,
comfort, and attractive careers.

These young in(uirers will have to review the entire range of human
thought, which will involve a thorough and penetrating study of
intellectual history from its earliest stages to the present day. In this
regard, the main arenas for their research and reflection will include the
disciplines of logic, metaphysics, psychology, ethics, and theology. In
addition, they will complement their main in(uiry by giving due
attention to what is indispensable in the social and physical sciences.
Along with this deep and critical e&amination of human thought, they
will underta"e a focused and thoughtful study of the 9oly :ur6an#the
last and most comprehensive of divine revelations#with the aim of
discovering for themselves the true nature of reality.

And if, after a laborious study of human thought and revealed guidance,
the radiance of the :ur6an comes to illuminate their hearts, if its
message sounds li"e the voice of their own souls, if their innermost
beings resonate with its teachings, if they find compelling answers to all
of their fundamental (uestions about the nature of reality, and if, in the
ecstasy of this enlightenment, they e&perience a profound inner
satisfaction and fulfillment#then they will "now that they are tasting
the sweetness of iman.

2nly such individuals will be capable of ac(uiring rusukh fil ‘ilm, i.e., a
firm and authentic grounding in the "nowledge of reality ;cf., 3urah Al!
BImran F+GA. Instead of moral waywardness and intellectual caprice, their
"nowledge will lead them to ever greater piety and fear of divine
judgment. Their personalities will bear witness to the :ur6anic ayah+ ,. . .
verily, those who fear .od from among 9is servants are the ones who
possess abundant . . .- ;3urah Al!)atir FH+?=A. Their characters will be
such that instead of being mere readers of the :ur6an, they will become
the living embodiments of divine revelation. This is so because the
essence and core of the :ur6an is precisely this ,"nowing- of reality
which is otherwise called iman. While the laws and practical injunctions
of the :ur6an#collectively "nown as the 3hariBah#are definitely of great
importance when considered in their own right, they are of much less
significance when judged against the immense value of iman. The 3ufi
poet umi has even used the metaphor of ,marrow- to emphasi%e the
primacy of faith, while referring to the debates and controversies
surrounding the law as mere ,bones.- The truth of the matter is that any
intellectual in(uiry into the laws and practical injunctions of the :ur6
an is completely futile so long as such activity is not preceded and
accompanied by the cultivation of a deep and authentic religious faith. It
is this subtle point that has been very aptly conveyed in the following
statement by BAbd!Allah bin BAbbas ;A+ ,We ac(uired iman first, and
learned the :ur6an later.-

A convincing refutation of Western thought and a demolishing criti(ue
of Western culture can only be produced by individuals who have
thoroughly imbued the refreshing "nowledge of reality that flows from
the 9oly :ur6an. 2nly such individuals will find it possible to write a
new ,incoherence- in response to today6s philosophers and mount a
crushing ,refutation- upon the claims of today6s logicians. It will be the
efforts of these individuals alone that will finally chec" the flood of
disbelief and materialism#the same flood whose momentum has been
carrying the human mind for the last two hundred years.

0esides this negative wor" of demolition, they will have to underta"e the
positive tas" of laying down the foundations for a new philosophical
theology of Islam, otherwise "nown as kalam. The aim of the latter
enterprise is to allow the facts that have been discovered so far in the
domains of mathematics, physics, cosmology, biology, and psychology to
occupy their proper places within the framewor" of Islamic beliefs. After
all, these facts are nothing other than partial details of the same eality
whose fullest manifestation is found in the ,"nowing- that we call iman.

About thirty!five or forty years ago, 5uuammad I(bal initiated this tas"
through his wor" The econstruction of eligious Thought in Islam. A
portion of this wor" dealing with religious law and the issues of ijma‘ and
ijtihad is rather controversial/ but that discussion is not directly related
to the main topic of the boo". 1oncerning the reconstruction of the
philosophical theology of Islam, I(bal6s wor" is very important and
thought!provo"ing. 9e himself observed in the preface+ ,As "nowledge
advances and fresh avenues of thought are opened, other views and
probably sounder views than those set forth in these lectures, are
possible. 2ur duty is to watch carefully the progress of human thought
and to maintain an independent critical attitude towards it.- 9ad other
scholars pursued this tas" by continuing to reflect along the lines
suggested by I(bal, and had only a few steadfast individuals devoted
their lives for this purpose, a great deal of valuable and substantial wor"
would have been produced. It is regretful that not even a single
individual from I(bal6s own circle of influence chose to enter this arena.
In any case, unless a considerable amount of truly high (uality wor" is
accomplished in the field of philosophical theology, the hope of
attracting the intelligentsia towards religion will be nothing more than a

After the ,reconstruction of religious thought in Islam,- the second most
important tas" is to elaborate in a cogent and coherent manner the
practical guidance of Islam concerning the various spheres of human
life, such as politics, jurisprudence, culture, and economics. As
mentioned earlier, a substantial amount of wor" has been accomplished
in this field during the last fifty or si&ty years, particularly in Egypt and
the Indian 3ubcontinent. The 7amaBat!e Islami and al!I"hwan al!
5uslimun have given particular attention to themes li"e the ,Islamic
way of life- and ,social justice in Islam.- 9owever, all of this wor" can be
described only as a useful beginning or merely as an initial step in the
right direction. 5ore recently, the tendency of mindlessly repeating the
same ideas#and publishing them under different titles#has diluted the
significance of even that earlier effort, which was (uite valuable in itself.
The enterprise of publishing unoriginal wor"s by amateur authors and
self!proclaimed scholars, and selling them within a niche mar"et, may
bring economic benefit to a few but does not accomplish any positive
and lasting service to Islam. In today6s world, persons of high
intellectual caliber do not have the leisure to study the writings of
un(ualified authors, i.e., those who lac" the appropriate academic
training and the relevant credentials. It is imperative, therefore, that a
high academic standard is maintained in whatever intellectual wor" is
brought out, and that (uality#as opposed to (uantity#is given
ma&imum attention.

To engage in this "ind of wor", it is obviously essential to have an
accurate understanding of the affairs and problems of the contemporary
world, as well as first!hand "nowledge of the latest trends and
developments in the various fields of social sciences. 3ide by side with
this modern "nowledge, one must have deep familiarity with the primary
sources of Islam, i.e., the :ur6an and the 3unnah. It is futile to e&pect
high (uality results without the application of the same degree
of meticulous attention and analytical rigor to both sides of the e(uation.


The modern condition has created a tremendous problem of plausibility for all religious
traditions. 0hile religion tries to focus human attention on the spiritual and
metaphysical dimension of reality, the powerful forces of history have already
succeeded in directing most of human attention towards the material and physical
dimension of reality. The result so far has been a pervasive process of seculari#ation in
its various manifestations/intellectual, psychological, social, political. In the face of
this powerful challenge posed by modernity, all religious traditions are facing an uphill
struggle in trying to regain their lost status and relevance. Islam, too, is facing the
same challenge, but it enjoys a very distinctive advantage.

!ccording to the Curan, the physical universe, the material body, and the life of this2
world consist of innumerable *signs, of what is spiritual and metaphysical. The Curan
does not deny or denigrate the concrete, material reality, nor does it view that reality
as evil. In contrast to many other forms of religious sensibility/including certain
trends within the Islamic tradition itself/the Curan affirms and embraces the
empirical world by interpreting all of its phenomena as so many *signs, of ?od. This
means that by emphasi#ing the material universe, the physical body, and the life of
this2world, modernity has caused the human attention to focus on the realm of divine
*signs., Furthermore, by discovering and systemati#ing a tremendous amount of
$nowledge relating to the concrete, material reality, modernity has done the greatest
possible service to the human understanding of the *signs, of ?od.

This is a $ey moment in the argument of *Islamic +enaissance,, though the text itself
does not emphasi#e its significance in any obvious way. 0e may recall that the treatise
started by saying that the modern age is characteri#ed by the pervasive ascendancy of
0estern thought, which means that modernity encourages a disregard for the
transcendent and the metaphysical& it ends, however, by turning that statement on its
head. %ince the Curan treats all empirical phenomena as *signs, of ?od, in the final
analysis the modern shift of emphasis towards the concrete, material reality does not
pose any impediment for religious faith. In the contrary, modernity itself has opened
up new possibilities for a postmodern revival of authentic religious faith.

The fact that the spirit of the Curan has something crucial in common with the spirit
of modernity constitutes a momentous discovery, one that can cause a powerful
paradigm shift in a wide2range of contexts. This is precisely why the wor$ of
Muhammad Iqbal requires serious attention today. Indeed, his claim has tremendous
weight that certain $ey elements of 0estern modernity, particularly its empirical
attitude, represent a flowering of what is a genuinely Islamic contribution. In effect,
Iqbal has shown us that Muslims ought to approach modernity as a friend and ally of
religious faith, and not its enemy. This is so because each and every step in the progress
of the natural and social sciences, every bit of reality that is unveiled through human
effort, exposes/and ma$es accessible/the truth of a divine *sign., !s human
$nowledge relating to the material and physical world goes on increasing, the tas$ of
affirming the spiritual and metaphysical realities posited by the Curan becomes that
much easier.

%ince the unprecedented growth of $nowledge under the conditions of modernity is
nothing but the latest stage in the revelation of divine *signs,, Muslim theologians do
not have to start from scratch as they try to secure a rational foundation for religious
beliefs. !ll they have to do is study the various aspects of modern $nowledge, and
interpret that $nowledge in the service of their faith/not by forcing unwarranted
conclusions on the data but by exercising an honest commitment to the pursuit of
truth. If the +eality that is revealed in the Curan is identical to that which is revealed
in the concrete, material reality, then each *fact, about the latter will only illuminate,
rather than obscure, the teachings of the Curan.

It is in this bac$ground that "r. Israr !hmads insight about the nature of the *the real
tas$, can be best appreciated. .e suggests that the most fundamental form of activism
that is required in order to pave the way for a renaissance of Islam is neither social nor
political. It is, first and foremost, intellectual. 'nfortunately, the word *activism, has
acquired connotations of visible activity with immediate and tangible results, while the
word *intellectual, carries connotations of dusty libraries and sterile hairsplitting& at
the same time, there is a certain amount of suspicion in Muslim communities against
anything *intellectual,, a strange development in a religion otherwise $nown for its
vibrant intellectual tradition. The entire argument of *Islamic +enaissance,, however,
comes down to the following two claims1 First, a thoughtful and disciplined reflection on
the *signs, of ?od is necessary for developing the $ind of faith that is capable of
becoming ones state of being. %econd, no substantial transformation can occur in a
society without the approval and cooperation of its intellectual minority. These two
claims, in turn, lead to the following conclusion1 ! particular form of intellectual
activism must be underta$en in order to ma$e possible the rebirth and *renaissance, of
Islam. )alling the required intellectual activism *the real tas$, does not mean that the
social and political varieties of Islamic activism are useless pursuits& on the contrary, it
is to ac$nowledge that other forms of activism, while necessary in their own right, will
not ta$e us closer to our goal so long as this fundamental need remains unfulfilled.

To sum up, those who are seriously concerned with the goal of achieving a true and
lasting renaissance of Islam must pay attention to the following issues1 a; the social and
political fortunes of Islam are directly dependent upon the cultivation of authentic
religious faith, among both the intelligentsia and the masses, b; the religious needs of
the intelligentsia are of a very different nature than the religious needs of the masses,
and c; instead of spreading our limited energies and resources too thin by getting
involved in a wide range and levels of activism, there is a need to focus on what is most
important, most essential, and most fundamental for the cultivation of religious faith
among the intelligentsia.

The practical form that *the real tas$, must ta$e is obvious. It is to launch an
intellectual movement that can appropriate modern discoveries in both the physical
and social sciences for the purpose of showing their spiritual and metaphysical
*significance, in accordance with the teachings of the Curan. %uch an intellectual
movement is the essential prerequisite for the revitali#ation of religious faith among
the intelligentsia, which, in turn, is necessary for the cultivation of faith among the
masses in general.

The nature of the *real tas$, is intellectual, and to fulfill its demands an academic
movement has to be launched. ?iven the fact that rapid means of communication have
led to an unprecedented rise in the ease and speed with which information and ideas
travel around the globe, the academic movement in question cannot succeed if it limits
itself to a parochial level. In other words, a movement that meets the intellectual
standards of one particular country but then fails to meet the higher standards of
another country will not be able to remain competitive in the global mar$etplace of
ideas& ultimately, such a movement will be an exercise in futility. Ideas and arguments
that do not meet the highest standards of intellectual sophistication are quic$ly
challenged, refuted, and replaced/or simply ignored. In order for the required
academic movement to have any chances of success, it must avoid the temptation of
ta$ing the easy way& preaching to the choir, in other words, is not an option. It must
aim at meeting the highest standards of academic rigor in the world.

The academic wor$ required to fulfill the practical demands of *the real tas$, is
obviously very important, yet it is not required from everyone. 0hile everyone who
comes to recogni#e its need can and should contribute to this movement in one way or
another, the creative labor that has to form the core of this movement requires certain
special qualities and commitments for which, generally spea$ing, only a tiny fraction
of any given population is suitable at any given time.

The first step, then, is to find the right $ind of human resources, i.e., men and women
who possess the necessary motivation and aptitude, a strong desire for achieving
genuine $nowledge, and an irrepressible urge to experience truth rather than accept it
second2hand. The sort of individuals most suitable for this underta$ing are those who
feel compelled to do so as a result of a desire that they feel arising from within their
souls, rather than an imperative that is artificially imposed upon them from the
outside. They must feel *called, to ta$e this route.

The second step is to develop the financial and institutional resources that would
provide the $ind of training and mentoring necessary for preparing these men and
women for participating in *the real tas$.,

0hat $ind of education is required3 ?iven the nature of the required academic
movement, these men and women would have to be well2versed in the teachings of the
Curan and appropriately grounded in the traditional sources of Tafsir, .adith, Fiqh,
and Tasawwuf. That this would require a thorough $nowledge of classical and literary
!rabic, and perhaps other languages, goes without saying. The main emphasis will be
on acquiring the necessary tools and s$ills that will help the individuals establish a
close and personal relationship with the .oly Curan. !t the same time, they should
acquire the necessary capabilities that would allow them to underta$e a thorough and
critical study of the entire range of human thought, particularly of those areas that
they find most congenial to their own interests as well as most relevant to the demands
of *the real tas$.,

In terms of human thought, the most relevant subjects include philosophical theology
and metaphysics, as well as those branches of philosophy that deal with psychology,
ethics, anthropology, and logic :including epistemology and philosophy of science;

The above mentioned are the most crucial or *core, disciplines, but they are far from
sufficient for our purpose. In the second place are the social sciences, including
economics, political science, sociology, psychology, and anthropology. From the
perspective of *the real tas$,, the emphasis has to be placed on the philosophical and
theoretical aspects of these social sciences, though a basic acquaintance with empirical
research will be necessary as well.

)losely related to the social sciences are the fields of study that are classified under the
rubric of humanities. In addition to philosophy, humanities include the important
areas of literature and history. These fields are valuable mainly due to their multiple
connections with our *core, disciplines as well as with the disciplines in the social

Finally, some attention must be given to the physical or the natural sciences, such as
physics, cosmology, biology, and experimental psychology. The emphasis, again, is not
on the technical and applied aspects of these sciences but on their philosophical
implications for the *core, disciplines identified above. For instance, the men and
women hoping to participate in *the real tas$, would be less interested in the actual
mathematical modeling of chaotic systems or in loo$ing for blac$ holes or dar$ matter,
but they would be deeply interested in the philosophical and theological implications of
these discoveries as they relate to their *core, disciplines.

The above survey, quic$ and cursory as it might be, paints a daunting picture. 0ho, in
this age of information explosion, could hope to master a single discipline, let alone all or
most of them3 If the answer is *no one,, then what does this say about the prospects of
*the real tas$,3 Two relevant points should be noted in this regard. First, the proposed
academic movement will be a collaborative enterprise led by a networ$ of scholars& as
such, it will not require everyone to become an authority in every discipline, which is
impossible in any case. %uch a movement will require the putting together of a team of
li$e2minded scholar2activists who are experts in their own particular areas of inquiry
but who are also, at the same time, sufficiently $nowledgeable about other areas so as
to be able to communicate intelligently among themselves across disciplinary

%econd, the very idea of *the real tas$, involves the building of bridges across diverse
modes of thin$ing that are considered too far apart to have anything meaningful to say
to each other& such a goal requires a synthetic approach that goes beyond the analytical
trend of hyper2speciali#ation. In other words, while speciali#ation is necessary and
unavoidable, the very nature of *the real tas$, demands an extraordinary degree of
inter2disciplinary competence from those who would underta$e it. %ince the goal
involves viewing both the verses of the Curan and the discoveries of science as *signs,
of the same 'ltimate +eality, only men and women with a wide range of interests and
the ability to move comfortably among various disciplines will be able to ma$e the best
and most useful contributions.

The purpose of all this study is not to gain information for its own sa$e& it is to acquire
the tools and s$ills needed for a thoughtful contemplation of divine *signs., The aim of
the entire activity is to create the necessary conditions in which faith can prosper as a
natural and organic inner experience.

!s discussed in the previous section, the religious needs of the *masses, are significantly
different from those of the *intellectuals., )onsequently, when it comes to acquiring
religious faith, at least two different approaches are needed depending on the unique
temperament of the individual in question. ?enerally spea$ing, religious faith tends to
develop gradually within a persons inner being through a combination of factors,
including, most importantly1 :5; absorption or assimilation from ones social
environment, and :J; personal reali#ation or *enlightenment., -eople who fall in the
category of the *masses, are more li$ely to develop their faith by $eeping the company
of pious and faithful individuals& this is because their temperament allows them to
absorb or assimilate from their surroundings the $inds of feelings and tendencies that
are associated with religious faith. In the other hand, people who fall in the category of
the *intellectuals, are also influenced by the company they $eep, but, in addition, they
usually have to go through a variable period of questioning and intense reflection
before faith can begin to ta$e root in their hearts. For such individuals, the need for the
experience of personal reali#ation or *enlightenment, often ta$es the form of an
irrepressible urge for truth that $eeps them restless and dissatisfied. The only thing
that can bring them lasting peace is the personal experience of finding the truth within
their own souls. In rare case, such *enlightenment, may happen purely as a result of
divine grace, with little or no human effort. More often, however, the experience of
personal reali#ation must be actively cultivated with the help of appropriate guidance,
a disciplined intellectual inquiry, a contemplative attitude, a life of service and prayer,
and a practice of silent meditation.

If course, the two categories of the *masses, and the *intellectuals, are gross
generali#ations or ideal2types. ! large number of individuals may not easily fit in
either one of these categories, which is why it would be more fruitful to imagine these
categories as opposite poles of a wide spectrum. Furthermore, people also change
somewhat during their lives, and hence at different ages they may be found at different
locations on the spectrum. In very general and approximate terms, however, it may be
possible to speculate that the people who fall in the former category :or who are closer to
the *masses, pole on our spectrum; are li$ely to have one $ind of religious faith, while
the people who fall in the latter category :or who are closer to the *intellectuals, pole of
our spectrum; will have a different $ind of faith. If a persons faith is mostly acquired
through absorption or assimilation from the surroundings, then such a faith may be
called *naLve., In the other hand, if a persons faith is mostly the result of personal
reali#ation, then such a faith may be named *critical.,

0hether it is naLve or critical, the subjective feelings and tendencies associated with
faith tend to remain the same. 4y definition, faith is characteri#ed by a state of trust,
contentment, peace, lac$ of concern for the past or the future, a confidence that reality
is ultimately benevolent, etc. -ractically, it is characteri#ed by modesty and self2
restraint, honesty and fairness, a willingness to serve fellow humans and other
creatures, a lac$ of interest in wealth or power, a tendency to forgive and overloo$
peoples mista$es, etc. These feelings and tendencies are unaffected by the process
through which faith has been acquired. 0e may thin$ of these qualities as the *depth,
dimension of faith. In other words, the difference between naLve faith and critical faith
lies in its breadth, rather than in its depth. 4oth $inds of faith can potentially attain
the same degree of depth, but critical faith tends to have significantly more breadth
than that attainable by naive faith. 4y definition, naLve faith :also $nown as *blind
faith; is the result of a persons unreflective and uncritical/and sometimes even
unconscious/assimilation of certain feelings and tendencies from the social
environment& the intellectual or *critical, component is minimal, though it is never
entirely absent. In the other hand, while passive assimilation plays some role in the
development of critical faith as well, the latter is largely the result of a peculiar $ind of
personal experience that cannot come about except through a process of searching,
questioning, observing, thin$ing, contemplating, reflecting, meditating, and so on.

There is often an element of innocence and wholesome purity in the experience of naLve
faith, along with an insufficient capacity for doubt or suspicion& as a result, inner
turmoil is rare and existential crisis is un$nown. -erhaps for this very reason, naLve
faith is incapable of satisfying the religious needs of a significant minority of human
beings, i.e., of individuals who possess an *abnormal, tendency to be critical and
s$eptical of the ta$en2for2granted beliefs and practices of their society. These
individuals demand something more than, or different from, what seems to satisfy the
vast majority of their peers. Typically, many of these *intellectuals, fail to progress
beyond the phase of s$epticism, dissatisfaction, and criticism of all things conventional&
if they dont receive appropriate guidance, they may end up in a state of cynicism or
get lost in the dar$ despairs of nihilism. ! few, however, continue the process of
intellectual inquiry. %uch individuals may experience, with the help of divine grace,
the personal reali#ation or *enlightenment, that is the characteristic feature of critical

Those who wish to pursue *the real tas$, would want to $now the process that may lead
them to a genuine experience of critical faith. There is no easy way to attain this goal,
however, for this $ind of faith does not come to the see$er li$e the mothers mil$ but
must be harvested as the fruit of disciplined effort. !s discussed previously, these
individuals must embar$ upon a long and painsta$ing journey of intellectual inquiry
spanning traditional religious $nowledge as well as modern humanities and social
sciences, focusing on particular areas or fields in accordance with their respective
aptitudes and preferences. In the course of this inquiry, each of them will inevitably
gravitate towards a more or less unique set of questions, problems, and issues. In
addition, they must cultivate spiritual awareness through the practice of ritual
prayers, night vigils, recitation, and fasting :both prescribed and supererogatory;.
They must develop a contemplative attitude, particularly towards nature, and develop
the habits of humility and selfless service to others. Finally, they must learn to become
intensely aware of the moment by moment activities of their own minds, so that,
among other benefits of meditation, they are able to catch the negative urgings of their
own egos.

0hat happens next is beyond prediction or planning, for the results of this endeavor are
entirely in the hands of !llah. (ven the availability of the best guidance and
mentoring, while useful, cannot guarantee a positive outcome in all cases. !s the
intellectual inquiry continues at an ever higher level of sophistication/along with the
cultivation of spiritual awareness/we could hope that at least a few of these individuals
will receive the gift of grace. Those so blessed will be able to experience the perfect
harmony that already exists among all the *signs, of ?od& they will reali#e that the
*signs, on the *hori#ons and within their own souls, are indicating the same truths
that have been conveyed in the *signs, found in the +evealed %cripture, i.e., in the
ayat of the .oly Curan. They will thus experience the spiritual contentment that only
comes from a personal reali#ation or *enlightenment.,

It is important to reiterate that the goal is not to turn ones mind into a jun$yard of
information& instead, the goal is to cultivate authentic religious faith that has a
significant intellectual component. Intellectual inquiry should not be allowed to become
an end in itself& for it is only a means to facilitate ones journey towards critical faith.
This $ind of faith is much more than mere belief or theory or information that one
carries around in ones head, for it necessarily manifests itself in ones character and
influences the concrete reality in both subtle and obvious ways. The individuals who
have been so blessed would naturally, and effortlessly, manifest the Curanic truths in
their thoughts, judgments, and actions. They would be able to *see, things as they are,
and not as their egos wish them to be. +ight action would not have to be forced by the
exercise of ones willpower& instead, it would organically flow from their *seeing., %ome
of them may achieve an even higher ran$1 instead of being preachers or teachers of the
Curan in the ordinary sense of these words, they may be chosen by !llah to act as the
living, embodied proofs of the truth of .is +evealed 0ord.

"r. Israr !hmad goes on to say that *faith is the heart of religion., .ere again, he is
drawing our attention to the core of his thesis, i.e., that iman is more fundamental than
anything else in the Islamic tradition, including law and ethics. Faith is primary and
practice is secondary, even though these two elements of religious life are supposed to be
intimately intertwined as well as mutually supportive.

)ontemporary Muslims who become concerned with the reform and revival of Islam
tend to focus their attentions on the legal and ethical aspects of religion, i.e., the %hari
Gah. The reali#e, correctly, that the historical development of Islamic juristic tradition,
or Fiqh, has not $ept pace with the rapid changes in the social, political, economic, and
cultural spheres that have ta$en place during the last two hundred years or so.
+ecogni#ing the need for filling that vacuum and for updating the various dimensions
of the %hariGah, they naturally turn to the practice of ijtihad.

There is nothing wrong with this endeavor per se& from a practical point of view it is
often urgently needed in order to address the everyday needs of Muslim populations.
The problem, however, is that in their desire to update the legal and ethical aspects of
the IslOmic tradition, modern reformers tend to disregard the correct order of priorities.
They do not reali#e that this important endeavor cannot be carried out in an authentic
fashion without a prior revitali#ation of religious faith. 0hile the %hariGah is a central
and indispensable element of our tradition, it does not constitute its entirety. There is
something else in Islam that is more basic and more essential to the goal of living in
submission to !llah than even the %hariGah/and that is the need to acquire, cultivate,
and maintain the inner state of peace and trust that we call iman. 0hile the legal and
ethical tradition/collectively $nown as Fiqh/represents one of the greatest
achievements of Muslim civili#ation, the legitimacy of that tradition is itself based on
the foundation of religious faith. If our iman is in trouble, then all the wor$ we do in the
realm of Fiqh may not bring us the desired results.

Today, the most urgent and immediate challenge is not a reconstruction of Islamic law
and jurisprudence, even though that too needs to be accomplished if the Islamic
tradition as a whole is to undergo a true revival and a genuine renaissance. The most
urgent and immediate challenge is the reconstruction of Islamic theology on sound/i.
e., scientific/foundations, for our ability to experience authentic religious faith is
directly related to such a reconstruction. This is not to say that law and ethics are
unimportant, but to emphasi#e that faith ta$es priority over law and ethics.

The correct order of priorities is evident from the Curan itself. !s any student of the
IslOmic scripture would testify, the Curan is primarily concerned with having its
audience achieve a vision of reality as it truly is. In other words, the primary aim of the
Curan is to inculcate in us that $nowledge of reality which alone can bring us inner
peace and contentment, and which alone can enable us to live in harmony with ?ods
will, i.e., iman. It is for this reason that less than ten percent of the Curanic text deals
with matters of the law, and the rest deals with discussions of divine *signs, that are
scattered all around us in history and society and nature, as well as within our own
souls. The main emphasis of the Curan is on drawing our attention toward these
*signs,, to guide us in ways that we can interpret them correctly, and, through our
engagement with them, attain the $nowledge of things as they really are. If this basic
and essential step is not accomplished, then merely focusing on the ten percent of verses
that tal$ about legal matters will not contribute to an Islamic renaissance. In fact, the
true wor$ of the reconstruction of Fiqh can be carried out only by those men and
women who have already attained a high degree of faith, not by those who are still
wondering in the valleys of doubt and suspicion.

G!bd2!llah bin G!bbas :+;, a companion of -rophet Muhammad :%; has reported1 *0e
first learned iman and then we learned the Curan., .ere, the -rophets companion is
pointing out the natural order of priorities& according to this saying, the details about
legal and ethical matters were given to the companions of the -rophet :%; only after
they had become receptive to it, that is to say, only after they had acquired a
sufficiently strong foundation of faith. The word *Curan, in this saying has misled
many, but it simply stands for $itab, which means *law, or *practice., The implication
of this saying is that practical commandments and instructions cannot be forced on to
people unless they have developed an inner state of acceptance, receptivity, and
readiness that comes only from having tasted the sweetness of iman.

Inly such scholars as have attained a strong faith of the critical $ind can underta$e
*the real tas$, that will truly pave the way for an Islamic renaissance. In Muslim
history, examples of such individuals would include !bu .amid al2?ha#ali :+; and Ibn
Taymiyah :+;. The former wrote Tahafat al2Falasifah, or *The Incoherence of the
-hilosophers,, to refute certain un2Islamic claims made by philosophers li$e Ibn %ina,
who were influenced by ?ree$ thought. The latter is $nown for his wor$ al2+add Gala Gl2
Mantiqiyin, or *The +efutation of the 9ogicians,, in which he challenged the
foundations of ?ree$ logic. 4oth of these giants of Muslim history produced wor$s that
may be called *negative,, in the sense that they were aimed at negating and refuting
certain notions that had become influential at the time but which these two scholars
had judged to be un2Islamic. %uch wor$ needs to be done in our times as well.

!ccording to "r. Israr !hmad, *the real tas$, involves not only the negative wor$ of
refuting what is false& it also involves the positive wor$ of supporting, affirming,
synthesi#ing, and constructing what is true. The most crucial and absolutely central
aspect of the positive wor$ requires a reconstruction of Islamic philosophical theology,
otherwise $nown as $alam. "r. Israr !hmad argues that a new $alam/a new way of
understanding, explaining, and defending the Curanic view of reality/must be the
cornerstone of *the real tas$.,

Traditionally, $alam has not been a central concern of our scholars, most of whom had
occupied themselves with the study of Fiqh and other practical matters. !nd yet, the
intellectual developments of the last two hundred years have made it clear that a
reconstruction of theology is the foremost tas$ without which a true revitali#ation of
faith cannot be attained. The reason that so few of our classical authorities indulged in
the discipline of theology had to do with the general intellectual climate of their time.
In the pre2modern period, it was generally ta$en for granted that a spiritual
interpretation of the universe was the most satisfying one. In the modern period, this is
no longer true, for religious faith has now become one option from among many other
options. )onsequently, philosophical theology has attained an importance today that it
did not enjoy a millennium ago.

The new $alam that is needed today must be founded on empirical foundations. This
means that modern Muslim theologians have to ta$e into account all the discoveries
that have been made until today by the application of the scientific method. 0hat has
been discovered through the scientific method constitutes a set of facts pertaining to the
world. The CurOn too provides us with a set of facts pertaining to the world. !ll facts
are *signs,, as previously discussed, since they point toward the same 'ltimate +eality
that we call *?od., Today, only that $ind of theology is viable that embraces the results
of science wholeheartedly, and uses these results to show how they point beyond
themselves to ?od.

In the twentieth2century, it was Muhammad Iqbal who brought to the fore the urgent
need and the immense significance of developing a new $alam, i.e., of reconstructing
the Islamic philosophical theology in the light of modern $nowledge and of rebuilding
the edifice of religious belief on the basis of newly available philosophical categories and
newly discovered scientific data.

Iqbal sought to demonstrate that the intellectual and scientific progress that was
achieved by (urope during the last few centuries was a manifestation of the Curanic
spirit. !ccording to Iqbal, the birth of IslOm was the birth of inductive intellect& it was
the Curanic emphasis on observation and experience, as well as its stress on the
concrete and the finite, which gave rise to the scientific method of inquiry. The
scientific spirit was born as a result of the imperative by the Curan to give up all
superstitious and fanciful beliefs, to rely on the senses and the faculty of reason for
gaining $nowledge of the material world, and to contemplate the physical and natural
phenomena because these are *signs, of ?od. It was under the influence of such Cur
anic teachings that the inductive method of inquiry blossomed among the !rabs, before
being carried through the universities in Muslim %pain into (urope, paving the way for
the +enaissance and subsequently the %cientific +evolution. It was in this sense that
Iqbal saw the intellectual side of the (uropean culture as *only a further development
of some of the most important phases of the culture of Islam.,

Iqbal argued that the religious thought in Islam had been practically stagnant during
the last half a millennium, while during the same period science and philosophy have
been rapidly progressing in the 0est. Muslims will disregard these developments at
their own peril. -art of the Muslim awa$ening in the twentieth2century has been the
demand for a new way of approaching the timeless teachings of the Curan that ta$es
into account these latest discoveries. %uch a demand cannot be ignored. It is the duty of
modern Muslim theologians to *reconstruct, the religious thought of Islam, through a
critical examination of the classical Islamic tradition as well as the scientific and
philosophical $nowledge that has been made available more recently. If Muslim
scholars failed to meet this demand, and if, instead of thoughtfully engaging with the
challenges of modernity, they were to see$ refuge in the isolated fortress of classical
texts, then the gap between Muslims and their religious tradition will go on increasing
with the passage of time and the tas$ of establishing faith on rational foundations will
become increasingly difficult.

Iqbal had recogni#ed both the urgency and the immensity of the tas$. .e $new that the
revival and reform of Islam cannot be achieved through political or economic means
alone. .e understood that the vital element in any $ind of reform wor$ or activism was
inner transformation of the human soul, achievable only through personal reali#ation
or *enlightenment., %uch an inner transformation can be attained through authentic
spiritual experience. Traditionally, the great mystical traditions of Islam had offered us
highly sophisticated approaches to the cultivation of such an experience. Many of these
techniques, however, have lost their appeal and effectiveness due to the radical change
in human mindset which we call *modernity., Dew techniques are obviously needed,
but techniques derive their appeal and effectiveness from accurate and meaningful
understandings of the nature of reality. This means that what we call $alam has now
acquired a far greater significance than was the case in the medieval period.

Iqbal himself initiated the tas$ of developing a philosophical theology of Islam that
would be more conducive to the modern mindset and its *concrete habits of thought.,
'sing his broad and deep $nowledge both of classical Muslim learning and of modern
philosophy and science, he sought to articulate a comprehensive Curanic worldview
for our times.

There can be no doubt that Iqbal made some remar$able progress. .owever, the project
of the reconstruction of religious thought is truly immense, which means that it can
only be carried out adequately by teams of scholars wor$ing over several generations
rather than by a single individual. Indeed, the load is so heavy that very few
individuals have shown the courage or the willingness to accept its responsibilities. The
vast majority of Muslim scholars have been content with merely repeating or
rephrasing past authorities. This is certainly true of Iqbals own *fans., 0hile there is
no lac$ of individuals who are enamored by Iqbals poetry or those who write boo$s
showing their admiration for Iqbals philosophy, very few have actually ta$en up as
their own life mission what Iqbal had identified as the essential prerequisite for the
revival and reform in Islam, i.e., a fresh approach to the Curan in light of modern
scientific and philosophical discoveries.

The next item on the agenda is a cogent and coherent elaboration of those Islamic
teachings that have to do with human conduct, i.e., the practical spheres of culture,
law, social institutions, politics, and economics. 'nder the influence of modernity, the
doctrine of *secularism, has become widely accepted in much of the world. !ccording to
this doctrine, religion is the private and personal affair of the individual believer, while
the public spheres of society should be established and managed on purely rational and
utilitarian foundations, with no input or interference from any religious teaching. This
understanding of *secularism, is contrary to IslOmic teachings, and modern revivalist
movements have been correct in rejecting it as such.

The other side of the problem, however, is equally worthy of our attention. !s
mentioned above, the growth and expansion of Islamic Fiqh has not $ept pace with the
historical changes that have been ta$ing place during the last five hundred years or so.
These changes constitute the practical consequences of moderni#ation,
industriali#ation, and seculari#ation in relation to human conduct and institutions.
Ine of the main reasons for the relative stagnation in the growth and expansion of
Islamic Fiqh is the Muslim experience of colonialism& the classical institutions of Islamic
learning were systematically dismantled by (uropean powers during the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries, mainly to establish and maintain their own hegemony. This,
however, is not the sole reason for the current state of juristic stagnation& a movement
against the continuing development of Fiqh had already appeared among Muslims even
before the (uropean invasions began, a movement that is sometimes referred to as the
*closing of the gates of ijtihad.,

Irrespective of the cause, no one can deny that a significant gap now exists between the
classical or medieval ideals of an Islamic society and government on the one hand, and
the complex realities of the modern world on the other. This means that while anyone
can raise the slogan that *IslOm is the %olution,, it is an entirely different matter to
actually explain to the world exactly how the teachings of Islam are to be put into
practice today and exactly how would they solve the problems that human$ind is
currently facing. It ta$es very little effort to proclaim that IslOm provides the best
system of social justice, which is why so many of us are inclined to ma$e such a claim
without giving it as much as a second thought. In the other hand, it is going to ta$e a
great deal of effort to actually go about establishing the truth of that claim in a cogent
and coherent manner, something that so few of us are willing to underta$e.

)onsequently, it is vital for us to reconstruct and rearticulate the practical teachings of
Islam in ways that are capable not only of reaching and influencing the modern
sensibilities but also of being put into practice under contemporary conditions. This
wor$ is part and parcel of any effort at revival and reform. ! great start was made in
this regard when scholars li$e %ayyid Cutb and %ayyid !bu Gl2!Gla Mawdudi wrote
significant treatises in the 56H>s and 56=>s on social, political, and economic issues.
'nfortunately, the disciples and followers of both of these ideologues did not critique,
develop, or extend this initial wor$. Instead, they fell into a pattern of reiterating,
reorgani#ing, and repac$aging the same ideas, giving rise to an endless series of popular
boo$s and pamphlets that still adorn the shelves of religious boo$stores while ma$ing
little or no original contribution to scholarship. %uch publications give the readers a
false sense of security and confidence, usually confirming their existing beliefs rather
than challenging them to stretch their minds. 4ecause of the low standard of these
writings, professional scholars and academics cannot be expected to read such boo$s and
pamphlets, let alone be moved or influenced by them in the slightest wayX

<I. A 0lueprint for Action

In order to launch the above!mentioned intellectual movement, the
following two steps must be ta"en immediately.

)irst, an institution of mass propagation should be established that not
only invites people to renew their faith and reform their lives, but also
provides training and mentoring for the intellectual and moral
development of those who respond to its call. In addition, it should
elucidate the significance of the re(uisite scholarly wor" to those who
are sincerely aspiring for the renaissance of Islam, as well as identify
such bright and talented individuals who may be willing to dedicate
their lives for this purpose.

)inding such individuals, however, seems li"e a virtual impossibility at
first glance. This age of ours is characteri%ed by a pervasive domination
of materialism and the love of this!world/ in addition, the challenge of
earning a livelihood has become so acute that most people are forced to
invest all of their abilities and energies in order to afford the basic
necessities of life. The general trend of society is such that those who
rise above this level immediately become obsessed with continuously
raising their standards of living. $espite these impediments, the fact
remains that the world is never bereft of wholesome and pure souls that
are untainted by worldly ambitions. 1onse(uently, if only a few sincere
and resolute individuals were to embar" on this mission with a single!
minded devotion, they are#.od willing#sure to find in the same
materialistic society many young individuals with brilliant minds and
e&ceptional talents, individuals who would devote their lives to the
learning and teaching of :ur6anic "nowledge. Their lives would thus
embody the Prophetic saying ,the best among you are those who learn
and teach the :ur6an.-

The only essential prere(uisite for underta"ing any momentous tas" is
a strong inner motivation that develops under the influence of a
particular thought or feeling. 2nce such an urge or desire is awa"ened
in a person6s heart, it becomes a force in its own right that is able to
create the appropriate ways and means for its own reali%ation. A
motivation that emerges from within is also able to meet and overcome
any number of impediments and challenges that might arise in its path.

All that is really needed, therefore, is to propagate the idea that a
powerful intellectual movement is essential for bringing about the
renaissance of Islam. 2nce a strong sense of its necessity has ta"en root,
there is no reason why such a noble and e&alted aspiration would fail to
attract the re(uisite human resources.

3econd, a :ur6anic academy should be established that underta"es the
teaching and dissemination of :ur6anic "nowledge on a mass scale, so
that the light of divine revelation illuminates the society at large and
that people come to appreciate the majesty and glory of the revealed
Word. At the same time, the academy should arrange for the education,
training, and mentoring of young individuals so as to e(uip them with
the necessary e&pertise in modern disciplines as well as direct
ac(uaintance with the 9oly :ur6an. This, in turn, will pave the way for
underta"ing the academic tas"s mentioned above.

The most important outcome of the teaching and dissemination of :ur6
anic "nowledge on a mass scale will be as follows+ people6s attentions
will come to focus upon the 9oly :ur6an/ their intellects will be
impressed by its unmatched power/ and their hearts will once again fall
in love with its ayat. In short, there will be a general attitude of respect
and reverence, as well as devotion and dedication, towards the revealed
3cripture. Inevitably, a large number of young individuals with brilliant
minds and e&ceptional talents will also become ,introduced- to the 9oly
:ur6an, in the real sense of the word. There is every reason to hope that a
substantial number of such individuals will come to recogni%e the true
worth and value of the 9oly :ur6an, and that this recognition will
motivate them to spend their lives ac(uiring and propagating its
"nowledge and wisdom.

The primary function of the proposed academy would be the education
and guidance of such individuals. To e&ecute this function, Arabic
language will be taught on sound foundations, with the aim of
developing in the students a deep appreciation for the language as well
as a refined taste in classical literature. They will then go over the entire
te&t of the :ur6an in a formal academic setting, while also underta"ing
the study of 9adith, )i(h, and 'sul al!)i(h.

3ubse(uently, those with an aptitude for philosophy and theology will be
able to offer a cogent criti(ue of modern philosophical trends in the light
of the 9oly :ur6an, as well as to lay down the foundations for a modern
philosophical theology or kalam. Those inclined towards the various
fields of social sciences will be able to present the guidance of Islam
concerning the different spheres of human life at the highest
intellectual level.



Iur worldviews determine to a large extent what we can believe about life,
faith, and the very cosmos. If we are unaware of which worldview claims our
allegiance, they will continue to determine our behavior in ways to which we
are simply blind. !t a far deeper level than ideologies or myths, worldviews tend
to dictate what we are able to believe. They are the presuppositions by which we
thin$, the very foundations of thought itself. . . .

0orldviews are the fundamental presuppositions about reality, the elementary
bases of thought for an entire epoch. ! worldview dictates the way whole
societies perceive the world. It is neutral, in the sense that it provides only the
presuppositions with which to thin$, not the thoughts themselves.

0orldviews provide a picture of the nature of things1 where is heaven, where is
earth, what is visible and what invisible, what is real and what unreal3 !s I am
using the term, worldviews are not philosophies, or theologies, or even myths or
tales about the origin of things. 0e might thin$ of them rather as the foundation
of the house of our minds. In that foundation we erect the walls and roof, which
are the myths we live by, the symbolic understandings of our world. The
furnishings/the stuff to sit on and lie down and eat with/are our theologies and
personal philosophies. -eople notice the sofa and rugs :our theologies;, they
comment on the structure :the $ey myths;, but no one notices the foundation
:our worldview;. It is covered, hidden from view. In the very act of opposing
another persons thought, we usually share the same worldview. Thus, during
the )old 0ar, the +ussians and the !mericans share a similar worldview, but
with no comprehension that we were so ali$e.

0orldviews are the bac$ground against or context in which faith exists. .ence,
a worldview can prevent certain $inds of faith. The basic tenets of a worldview
are not argued to but argued from. ! worldview is always presupposed, being
transcendent to daily life and even to philosophical rationality. It tends to be
global, a pre2understanding by which whole societies live. 0orldviews are
antecedent even to our reflections and discussions of them.

0alter 0in$. J>>7. *The Dew 0orldview1 %pirit at the )ore of (verything, in
Transforming the Powers: Peace, Justice, and the Domination System, edited by +ay
?ingerich and Ted ?rimsrud. Minneapolis, MD1 Fortress -ress, pp. 5825<.

The Technical Age

Narious terms are now used in referring to the distinctive complex of cultural
traits that have played a decisive role in human society since about the
generation of 58<6. Most of such terms are appropriate in one context or
another. ! first set of terms depends on the recentness of these traits and on the
fact that they do not remain constant, but must always be brought further up to
date. The age characteri#ed by these traits :together with that period which,
within the Iccident, can be regarded as leading up to them; is usually called
GModern& the traits can be summed up as GModernity, and adoption of them, as
GModerni#ing. ! second set of terms refers to the high degree of economic
exploitation of resources which is also a fundamental characteristic. ! society
lac$ing the traits in question is called Gundeveloped or Gunderdeveloped and the
acquisition of such traits is called Gdevelopment, which properly should refer
strictly to technical development as applied to exploitation of resources, but can
be generali#ed to all the necessarily related traits. ! third set of terms has a more
precise application. 4ecause a $ey trait is technical rationality in the sense of
subjecting all behaviour to calculation according to presumedly objective ends
without interference from arbitrary tradition, the acquisition of the traits
generally can be called *rationali#ation. Finally, some refer to acquisition of the
traits in question as *0esterni#ation because they were first developed in
western (urope, and because acquisition of them appears to ma$e any group
seem li$e western (uropeans.

Marshall .odgson. 568=. The Venture of Islam: onscience and !istory in a "orld
ivili#ation :Nol. 5; )hicago, I91 'niversity of )hicago -ress, pp.K>2K5.

The Great Western Transmutation

4etween about 57>> and about 5<>> there too$ place in 0estern (urope a
general cultural transformation. This transformation culminated in two more
or less simultaneous events1 the Industrial +evolution, when speciali#ed
technical development decisively transformed the presuppositions of human
production, and the French +evolution, when a $indred spirit established
li$ewise unprecedented norms in human social relations. These events did not
constitute the transformation I am spea$ing of& they were its most obvious early
consequences . . . . The same generation that saw the Industrial and French
+evolutions saw a third and almost equally unprecedented event1 the
establishment of (uropean world hegemony. . . .

The 0estern transmutation can be described . . . as consisting primarily in
transformations of culture in three main fields1 the economic, the intellectual,
and the social. In the economic life there too$ place that great increase in
productivity/due to a sequence of new techniques, and carried out through a
concentrated control of production based on capital accumulation and mass
mar$ets/which led up to and culminated in the *Industrial +evolution, and the
accompanying *!gricultural +evolution., In intellectual life there came the
new experimental science, from Mepler and ?alileo on, and more generally the
philosophical exploratory independence made widely popular in the
(nlightenment. In social life there came the brea$down of old landed privileges
and supremacies and their replacement with a bourgeois bureaucratic or
mercantile power which ushered in the !merican and French revolutions, with
their repercussions throughout (urope. . . .

The shift from reliance on custom and continuity to reliance on reason and
innovation, although it occurred only in a limited measure, was not in itself
what was specific to the Modern 0estern Transmutation. It was not this that set
the 0esterners apart from both their ancestors and the rest of the world. It
merely accompanied and facilitated a change in the patterns of investment of
time and money. This . . . occurred only in a special form, one that I shall call
technicalistic, so that speciali#ed technical considerations tended to ta$e
precedence over all others. Indeed, in that special form/rather than in other
forms/the shift went to unprecedented lengths, so that the results set new
conditions for all historical life. It was not that the human mind as such was
suddenly emancipated, as if by some mutation, and could therefore begin freely
to explore all calculable possibilities where, before, new paths could be opened
only by chance and despite the weight of customary bias. +ather, new concrete
sorts of opportunity for social investment, hitherto impractical even for the most
emancipated mind, became practical, attracting even minds that still, by and
large, resisted any deviation from intellectual habit. !nd then the resistance
was gradually reduced. . . .

!t the core of the new innovation was the pattern of multiple technical
speciali#ations. %uch technical speciali#ation was not altogether new . . . . 4ut
now it reached a breadth of scale, a *critical mass,, which allowed much more
extensive institutionali#ing of such innovation than before, an institutionali#ing
which has to embrace and finally dominate all the $ey sectors of the whole
society. (conomically, it appeared in forms of industrial and commercial
investment in northwest (urope during the seventeenth century1 capital was
systematically re2invested and multiplied on the basis of continuing technical
innovation and of anticipated expansion in mar$et patterns. Intellectually, it
appeared in the wor$ of such associations as the +oyal %ociety . . . . In the
seventeenth century the +oyal %ociety aimed explicitly at gathering and
disseminating that new $nowledge which would replace the old, and did so
largely in expectation of the continual new inventions of the by then
professionali#ed instrument2ma$ers and the new observations that they would
ma$e possible.

Ine must suppose that the intellectual side of the movement was dependent on
the economic side, but not in the sense that the natural sciences benefitted
directly from the inventiveness of industry. +ather, the expansion of industrial
investment released more resources to the whole economy. These were then
made use of, among scholars, in a manner consonant with the expansive mood of
which the pace was surely set by the exhalation associated with the new
mercantile and industrial ventures. The intellectual development was
apparently quite autonomous. !fter a certain point is reached in the
development of natural sciences, at any rate, it cannot advance further without
a disproportionate amount of human investment on all fronts at once1 i.e.,
increasing speciali#ation in many different fields. . . .

In both scientific and economic life, the scale of increasing technical
speciali#ation brought with it qualitative changes. -erhaps most obviously it
reached a level on which it paid to invest the requisite time, funds, and concern
into institutions that embodied and further confirmed the technical
speciali#ation. These very institutions, then, helped to hasten the process. . . .

It will readily be seen that such a technicalistic process left behind most basic
presuppositions of all agrarinate society. (ven those agrarinate level societies
that there not themselves immediately agrarian/being, say, pastoralist or
mercantile/had depended for their existence on the social relations prevailing in
their agrarian hinterland, in which the agrarian surplus provided the chief
income on which the carriers of the high culture, the chief mar$et of the
mercantile cities, depended. The growth of inter2dependent technical
speciali#ations freed the income structure of the privileged classes in large areas
from primary dependence on agrarian exploitation of the agriculturalists.

It did so, of course, not because the industrial production could ta$e the place of
agricultural in providing the common necessities of life, such as food. +ather,
what the non2agricultural sectors of the economy could support now was the
special income of the privileged, the careers of the high culture& and this was not
nexus. (ven with no increase in the agricultural surplus, that is, with no
increase in the number of non2agricultural laborers that could be fed, technical
speciali#ation could vastly increase productivity, and hence total production, till
so much of it was nonagricultural that a correspondingly large proportion of
income in the society need not be determined by agrarian relationships. . . .

The overall process, and then the condition of society in which it has resulted, I
call technicali#ation, which I will define as a condition of rationally calculative
:and hence innovative; technical speciali#ation, in which the several specialties
are interdependent on a large enough scale to determine patterns of expectation
in the $ey sectors of a society. . . .

)entral to the technicalistic spirit was the expectation of impersonal efficiency
through technical precision. There had in all times been concern with
efficiency, especially military efficiency, in limited ways. There had also been a
certain amount of technical speciali#ation and precision, for instance in fine
craft wor$. (ven technical inventiveness had held a respected place within a
more rounded economic pattern. 4ut now in western (urope the technical
efficiency was increasingly given a primary role, such that all other
considerations of a less universally or obviously objective sort/aesthetic,
traditional, interpersonal/were increasingly made to yield to this, and it was
relied on as the most important basis for excelling in constructive activities. In
this psychological level, to say that all aspects of social organi#ation where being
technicali#ed means that they were organi#ed primarily in terms of speciali#ed
procedures calculated to yield maximum efficiency for the limited ends
immediately in objective view. It is in this form that technicali#ation meant
institutionali#ing a major shift from authoritative custom toward independent
calculation. . . .

Marshall .odgson. 566H. *The ?reat 0estern Transmutation, in $e%Thin&ing "orld
!istory: 'ssays on 'urope, Islam, and "orld !istory. )ambridge, 'M1 )ambridge
'niversity -ress, pp. ==285.