Using one’s God-given intellectual capacity was not just permissible. It was enjoined. Islam gave religious significance to both this world and the world to come. This world was not simply a vale of tears. One had a religious duty to make this world better for its inhabitants. Islam stressed the equality” of all believers. It required governors to consult and, by extension, rule in accordance with the wishes of those ruled. Islam was tolerant, protected non-Muslims. and eschewed forced conversions. These tenets were then employed to accept scientific discoveries, economic activism and entrepre— neurship. representative government, and an implicit acknowledgment of the world’s diversity (Le... Islam as one religion alongside others). Abduh himself was building on the ideas and efforts of those Muslims
140 CONVULSIONS OF MODERN TIMES who, since roughly the latter years of the eighteenth century;. had witnessed their vulnerabity to European incursions and had sought to borrow from this threatening but tempting Europe in order to “catch up.” He was thus in tune with a spectrum of statesmen and scholars—such as Khayr al—Din al- Tunisi or Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan or the ”Men of the Tanzimat”—who sought to reconcile their society and their religion to the world they con- fronted. These intellectual exertions of Abduh and others provided an Islamic ide- ological justification for the effort at “Westernization.” or “modernization,” that has been a dominant theme in Muslim history these past two centuries. All told, it was an impressive performance. Still, just as with any ideology— and, even more, any theology—not all questions were satisfactorily answered. The efforts of Abduh and others were most effective in undercut- ting what might be dubbed Muslim scholasticism, which turned a blind eye to changing circumstances and embraced uncritically the traditional Muslim canon. To this extent, the Salafi'yya may rightly be seen as setting in motion a Muslim ”Reformation.” Two weaknesses, however, characterized the ideology of Islamic mod- ernism. First, it was too much an effort to justify Islam to modernity. The presumed values of modernity (a. la européenne] were implicitly taken as the standard against which Islam was to be measured. As the ideas of what constituted modernity changed, Islamic modernism had to adjust to this fluctuating alien standard. To insist, for example, at one time or another that Islam was compatible with—if not, indeed, mandated—capitalism or social- ism or communism, exposed the defensive and derivitive nature of the Islamic modernist discourse. Second, the Salafiyya movement argued that Muslims over the centuries had deviated from God's divine plan as transmitted to his chosen prophet, Muhammad, and as practiced by the early Muslim community. The solu- tion, they maintained, was to use that earlier golden age as the needed model. This gave the modernists a powerful rhetorical weapon against established authority, whether religious or political [leaders of the
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