The events of the 20th century have totally disturbed the geography of Islam. Decolonization and globalization have been raising new issues in Muslim societies throughout the world. In this essay, we will see how the tension between the search for a Muslim identity on the one side, and the push for modernization on the other side, has encompassed a period that stretches from the beginning of second half of the 20th century to today. We will identify modernization in a broad sense. It can be defined as a process in history during which a society implemented better ways of regulating itself. Here, we will take modernization as an ensemble of historical and material conditions that allow emancipation from the given traditions, doctrines and ideologies and are not problematized by a traditional culture.
The end of the 19th century witnessed the rise of al Nahda, a cultural, political and religious renaissance. It represented an attempt to adapt Islam to the Western concepts of modernity in order to enable Muslim societies to rivalize with the West. And thus the thinkers of al Nahda introduced and incorporated Western concepts to Islamic thought in an attempt to make it more relevant in the context of a modernizing world.
[...] The movement led by Abdul Ala Mawdudi also defined Islam as a third path between capitalism and socialism. However, even if they take the ideologies of the West as counter-models, these ideologies still have an influence on the way Islamism is defined, since it was thought partly with these concepts in mind. Mawdudi borrowed several concepts from Western political science, like the one of nation-state, but adapted it to Muslim societies. Nevertheless, he was convinced that Islam had to be opposed to the Western world. [...]
[...] There is one Western idea of it, but it is not necessarily the only one that is relevant, especially in a different ensemble of concepts. This is why on the other side we can also believe that it is not possible to conciliate both systems of thought. Indeed, we can imagine that the reflexion and the nurturing of ideas about a reform of Islam should be internal and need not necessarily be conducted following ready-made foreign concepts and values. We can imagine a global conference gathering all Muslim authorities, and enabling them to re-interpret the controversial texts. [...]
[...] In his article Islam change?' Ziauddin Sardar (born 1951) points at the example of the ‘triple talaq' by which a man can divorce his wife. In India, Muslims can regulate their own affairs according to the shari'a and the ‘triple talaq' was the rule until the All India Muslim Personal Law Board declared that there would now be a divorce contract, because too many Muslims get divorced in a moment of rage, then regretted it and it created complications. Some reforms have already been made here and there. [...]
[...] However, at the same time, globalizing trends and the general consensus over a corpus of ideas and values associated with modernity, spread by international organizations and legislations, set a series of challenges for Muslims. Parallel to the return to their faith and its sources, they also found themselves searching for a modern interpretation of this faith, to search a more humane interpretation for it, a more contemporary way to live it. So, now we will examine the current movements towards reformism. How is it possible for Islam to change today? And in which directions? [...]
[...] Secondly, the idea of modernity is generally associated with those of individual rights, freedom, and self-fulfilment. But religion, and especially Islam, is based on a series of obligations (towards God, the family, society etc.). This can make it difficult to associate both in a coherent system. The concept of citizenship, for example, highlights the fact that the individual is not anymore defined by its belonging to a religious community or his/her subjection to a political authority, but by the fact that they are free individuals before being anything else. [...]
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