Islamic Scholarship and Modernity
“Modernist thinking,” writes Touraine, “affirms that human beings have the right to live in a world governed by the natural laws discovered by reason and to which reason itself is subjected. It identifies people with a nation, and social body that also functions under natural laws, and which owes it to itself to discard the forms of organisation and irrational domination that fraudulently attempt to legitimise themselves by recourse to superhuman revelation or divine will.”8
Anything that did not conform to what had become the world’s only answer had to be a fraud, contrary to “natural” law; it had to be discarded in order to make way for the truth. Let the new pass unimpeded, get rid of the old—by force if necessary. Modernity was not some simple philosophy aflutter in the abstract, the salon topic of debate. Soon after its birth it became an engine of evolution and revolution that overturned the concrete realities of life and bid farewell to the time-worn, slashing and slaying.
Slowly at first, at the dawn of the Renaissance, then more and more rapidly, science and technology, Enlightenment philosophy, and the social movement took flight, nourished by a trenchant and violent ideology. The French Revolution, followed by its fearful and murderous undoing by the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, would spread the flames of change throughout all of Europe.
Yet another revolution played its role: the Industrial Revolution permitted Europe to enrich and arm itself so that European nation-states could now enter into conflicts far more modern—that is, murderous—than the amateur butchering of the Napoleonic wars. Manufacturing capitalism, more industrial and mechanised, needed space to live and prosper—when the necessity again of disencumbering and pruning”.
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.