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Islam And Modernization In Indian Sub Continent Theology Religion Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Theology
Wordcount: 1722 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was the first Islamic modernist of the Indian sub-continent. He served as the judiciary sub-judge under the East Indian Company in 1840. At first, he was loyal to the Company but after the event of 1857 Indian revolt he became critical of the British attitude towards Muslims and Islam. He believed that if Muslims and European co-operate with each other and share their scientific heritage, it could help the society at large. After visiting Britain in 1869 he established the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College of Aligarh in 1875, India’s first Muslim University which was inspired by Oxford and Cambridge educational system. He believed that Muslims need religious reforms as he said: “Today we are, as before in need of a modern theology [jaded ‘ilmal-kalam] whereby we should either refute the doctrines of modern sciences, or undermine their foundations, or show that they are in conformity with Islam” (Troll, 1978:311). He believed that there is no discrepancy between the Quran and science as he stated: “There is no matter in the Qur’an disagreeing with the laws of nature” (Khan, 1970: 30). Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was criticized by the Islamic scholars firstly, because of his loyalty to the British, whom the Islamic scholars consider as invaders. Islamic scholars like Ashraf Ali Thanwi and Jamal-ud-Afghani issued fatwas against Ahmed Khan because of his views on nature and denial of the miraculous events in Islam.

Allama Iqbal


Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Maududi

Hamza Alavi (1988) classifies eight ideological positions among Indian Muslims before partition. They range from the Islamic traditionalism of Deobandi and Braelvi Islamic scholars (ulema) to the Islamic fundamentalism of the Jamat-e-Islami led by Maududi to the Islamic modernism of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Muhammad Iqbal to the secular nationalism of Jinnah to the secular non-communal Indian Nationalist Muslims of the Congress party.


‘Islam and modernity, modernity and Islam; different approaches in historiography and the social sciences attempt to find a significant connection between these two, allegedly separate, certainly distinct, “forces of history”‘(Salvatore, 1997: xiii).

The relationship between Islam and modernization has been studied by the social, political, legal, historical and economic experts; besides, this subject has been widely addressed in relation to Muslim diaspora and their integration in the non-Muslim world especially after the events of 9/11 Muslim societies and Islam became the centre of scholars’ interest. The classical theorist of modernization such as Weber, Marx, Lerner and Bell predicted the decline of religion due to modernization. According to Weber rationality is the process of disenchantment which led to a disintegration of religious world views (Habermas, 1995). While for Marx religion creates false consciousness as he remarks, “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the value of woe, the halo of which is religion” (Cited in Paden: 2003). Casanova (1995) argues that relationship between religion and modernity needs to be rethought in the following words, “Theories of modernity, theories of modern politics, and theories of collective action which systematically ignore this public dimension of religion are necessarily incomplete theories” (66). While Casanova suggests to rethink theories of modernity, Appadurai (1990) contends the role of religion is “more consequential than ever in today’s highly mobile and interconnected world” (7).

increasing role of religion in the present worldThere is plethora of literature on Islam and modernization and different stances have been taken by the academics on the issues related to Islam and modernization.

Theorist such Marx, Bell and Lerner predicted the decline of religion due to modernization … CAN BE A POSSIBLE BEGINNING … Instead debates about religion became more visible toward the end of twentieth and beginning of twenty-first century

1. Introduction

a. what this is about IM since time immemorial and the conflict between Islam

b. Various Islamic scholars

c. This section is divided i. approaches of scholars ii.

2. Approaches of Scholars

a. Edward Said and Essentialism

b. Islamic Modernism

c. Reformism

d. Islamic revivalism

3. IMD during colonial rule

4. Specifc case of Indian sub-continent

a. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

b. Allam Iqbal

c. Maududi

5. History of Pakistan

a. all history section

b. some events like Ahmadis

c. Blasphemy law

d. Swat and Red Mosque probably

Eisenstadt argues that Islamist are not necessarily rejecting modernity

Brief introduction and pre-modern scholars

The debates on Islam and modernization have been going on since time immemorial. Both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars ventured on this area. I suggest that the debates between Islam and modernity are actually the debates within Islam and these questions have been asked by Islamic scholars centuries ago by scholars like Ghazali, Khaldun, Taymiya etc. They have already threw light on the differene between science and religion, reason and rleiigon etc. The literature on Islam and modernization is voluminous and it is beyond the scope of this study to examine that.

As the term modernization suggest I will start these debates from the eighteenth century during the colonial rule and will divided it into three sections.

During colonial rule

Post-colonial states

Recent developments

In late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Muslim scholars initiated debates on Islam’s compatibility with modernization, which they encountered due to the European expansion during the colonial rule.

Essentialist … Huntington and Lewis

To respond to Said’s critique of Orientalism-that it presents Islam as homogenous and unchanging-and also to counter the idealized Muslim claim of the unity of the ummah (the global community of believers), anti- essentialist scholars (e.g., al- Azmeh 1993; Eickleman and Piscatori 1990) present Islam and the West (or modernity) as constantly evolving, decentered, de- essentialized, and empirically diverse (Sayyid 1997). It is true that the Orientalist essentialization of I slam abetted the exertion of control over the Muslim Other (Salvatore 1997: 70). (Cited from book pg 25).

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However on the one hand, Islam is neither monolithic and unchanging, as the Orientalists posit, nor an undifferentiated unity, as many of the faithful wish to believe. But on the other hand, neither does Islam simply dissolve into a plurality of local Islams devoid of any civilizational content.(pg 25 cited from book).

Karamustafa (2003) argues, Islam is an open, dynamic, holistic civilizational project that receives its direction from the human agents-individual and collective-that comprise it. True, agency resides not in reified entities such as civilizations but in the hands of groups of human actors. Nevertheless, Islam is a supra- cultural package of values, practices, and resources that Muslims adopt to help them navigate their earthly life. The holism of Islamic civilization is, thus, to be found in the commitment of Muslims to a shared stock of ideals and key ideas and their willingness to express these in a shared idiom. Karamustafa reminds us that it is important not to reify the key ideas and practices into a rigid formula, such as the overly simplistic five pillars of faith. (pg 26).

In contrast to al- Afghani and Iqbal, other reformers, such as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), largely accepted the reality of European political rule and focused instead on transforming Muslim educational institutions, based on European models. Khan, for example, founded a translation society in 1864 for the introduction of modern Western texts to India and in 1874 established the Anglo Muhammadan Oriental College at Aligarh (Esposito 1999: 38). Cited in book pg 55-56

Early times … Allama Iqbal and Muhmmad Abduh … before that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

Maududii and Hassan Al Banna and Syed Qutb


“No doubt Islam was particularly prone to become the object of a kind of social-scientific essentialisation as a ‘traditional religion’ preventing a modern societal differentiation and the autonomisatin of political power from the tutelage of religious authority” (Salvatore, KEY ISSUES AND DEBATES ON MODERNITY: 14).

Akroun and Salvatore (book date) essentialism

“Thus on the whole “Islam” tends to be regarded as a greater moral and political affront to modernity than other religious traditions” (Asad, 2006:302).

“The idea that Islam was originally – and therefore essentially – a theocratic state is, I argue, a nineteenth century European one, developed under the influence of evolutionary theories of religion” (Asad, 2006:308).

David Harvey correctly remarked that, “Enlightenment thought embraced the idea of progress, and actively sought that break with history and tradition which modernity espouses. It was, above all, a secular movement that sought the mystification and desacralization of knowledge and social organization in order to liberate human beings from their chains” (1989:12-13).

As Gellner remarks about Islam that it’s theological character renders it “a dramatic conspicuous exception to the otherwise universal process of secularization” (1992:5).

Islam as a political ideology is a recent phenomenon as he states that, “It is the product of modern politics and the modernizing state” (Asad, 2006:307 original emphases).

WAhhabism add in 18th century


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