Religion is central to any religious discourse, but religion as an analytical category that facilitates the reexamination and reinvention of a particular religious tradition is more difficult to locate. This task is made particularly difficult in Islam, where the lines demarcating religion, culture, civilisation and politics are deliberately ambiguous and fuzzy. The objective of this book is to identify and examine the place of religion as such an abstract category in modern Islamic discussions from the nineteenth century to the present. It shows how ideas of religion facilitated the transformation of religious discourses, both when accepting and resisting modernity. The central focus is on intellectuals who grappled with reconciling Islam with successive waves of modernization. Religion in Modern Islamic Discourse begins with early discussions in Egypt and colonial India on the essence of religion and its social value in the light of modern challenges in science and politics. It then moves from these discussions, and explores key contributions by twentieth century Muslim intellectuals on the meaning of identity, state, law, and gender. Above all, Abdulkader Tayob offers the reader a creative way of understanding modern Islamic discourse, uncovering the deep structural foundations of its approach to religion, religious values and spirituality.
‘This is one of those rare studies of modern Islam that is not confined to a survey of key thinkers or a list of key issues but that deals with its subject thematically. …This argument is fresh and even unique in the literature, attaching the modernity of Islam to the development of the idea of religion itself among Muslims. At one stroke, the reader is liberated from the tedious and wellworn theme in the scholarship of the inseparability of religion and politics in Islam.’ — Faisal Devji, New School University
‘… as a work of intellectual history, Tayob’s effort is distinctive and idiosyncratic … his is also a fresh, at times even radically so, reading of the modern Islamic texts, a reading that discloses many revealing signs of the very secularity and modernity that Muslims so often decry.’ — The Muslim World Book Review
Abdulkader Tayob is Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He has held visiting professorships at ISIM, Nijmegen and at the Universities of Virginia and Hamburg. His previous books include Islam: a Short Introduction.