Islamic Scholarship and Modernity
“I cite from the analysis of modernity of the renowned French sociologist Alain Toraine, in his Critique de la modernité.4 According to him, modernity is enlightened humanity’s revolt against tradition. Modernity sacralises society, submitting it to natural law and reason. In its Western manifestation, modernity is “reason’s work itself, and hence above all of science, technology and education; the social politics of modernisation should have no other goal than to disencumber reason’s path by suppressing the rules, corporatist defenses, or customs barriers.”
We are thus face-to-face with a modernity that eradicates, a modernist ideology which calls for “disencumbering the way” so that “enlightened
humanity” might dispel the darkness of “tradition”—a tradition which, in the eyes of the West, is currently incarnate in the “illuminati” of an obscurantist islam. When Touraine speaks of the archaic in connection with the modern, absolutist (and proselytising) sectarians of the new religion of Modernism think of islam as something to be rejected, something to be set aside like some unworthy and shameful archaism.
Modernity is thus a “sacralisation” of the natural law of reason, and a submission to all that this entails. To be modern, it is supposed, means one must rebel against the sacred, against the divine. Ideological modernism owes it to itself to have as its goal “disencumbering the way.” This is rationalism’s violent indictment of the irrational, it is the crushing argument against the tatters of tradition by armed and wealthy scientific technology. Disencumber! Smash to bits! Native modernists, ever colonizable—and ever yet colonised, hide their faces from their warrant officer lest he find them in flagrant disobedience, insubordination, and non-conformity with the standing orders.
Islam is submission5 to God. It is a peaceful submission, non-violent towards others, not puffed up, not out to exterminate others’ sense of identity just to tidy up and clear the way for its majestic and exclusive progression. Amalgamation is quickly achieved: once you submit, you yield to reason’s latest flowering, democracy. In a democracy I submit to a law in whose deliberation I took part—not to some despotic cleric or some divine-right despot”.
This post is part of our series of lecture reading excerpts from Sanad Foundation's 2018 course 'Islamic Scholarly Tradition' taught by Sidi Mohamed Acharki in Melbourne.