-define Islamic intellectual tradtions
-classical literature vs modern litertature
- Islamic ideology in Africa
Is there room for critical thought within classical Islamic thinking and does modern Islamic thinking have a future within the study of Islam.
A critical spirit has been central to Islam from its inception. The Qur'an is generously sprinkled with references to thought and learning, reflection and reason. The Sacred Text denounces those who do not use their critical faculties in strongest terms: "the worse creatures in God's eyes are those who are [willfully] deaf and dumb, who do not reason" (8:22). A cursory look at the life of Muhammad reveals that his strategic decisions were an outcome of critical discussions. The way he decided, for example, to fight the Battle of Badr outside Medina, or, later on, defend the city by digging a trench. The Prophet's basic advice to his followers, in one version of his " Farewell Pilgrimage", was to " reason well"1. The scholarship that evolved around collecting the traditions and sayings of the Prophet was itself based on an innovative and detailed method of criticism. It is widely acknowledged that debate and discussion, argument and counter-argument, literary textual criticism as well as scientific criticism were hallmarks of the classical Muslim civilisation2. Roger Allen traces the Islamic tradition of criticism right back to Abu Tammam (d.846) and ibn Abd Rabbihi (d.940), two poets who also excelled in literary criticism3. Islamic philosophical theology is littered with critical works, such as those of Ibn Hazm (994-–1064) , ibn Sina (990-–1037) and ibn Rushd (1126-1198). Critical discernment is clearly evident in the work of Muslim scientists of classical period such as al-Haytham (965-–1040), who excelled in optics, the natural and social scientist al-Biruni (973-–1048), and the astronomer al-Battani (858-–929). Debate and discussion, as for example the one between al-Ghazzali (1058-–1111) and ibn Rushd, were the norm in classical Islam.
Yet, with the exception of a relatively small number of reform oriented scholars, thinkers and activists of all ages, this critical spirit is lacking in the modern Muslim world.
The reasons for the evaporation of this critical thought are many and diverse. Perhaps it was all the fault of al-Ghazali, as "a widely held view" has it: he "strongly attacked philosophy in The Incoherence of the Philosophers" and, as a result, "their role was significantly reduced in the Sunni world"4, along with the importance of criticism. Perhaps it was "the well-known decree of al-Qadir in 1017-18 and 1029", that banned the rationalist thought of the Mutazalites, the school of speculative theology that flourished in Baghdad and Andalusia between eighth and twelfth centuries, as the late Mohammad Arkoun suggests. As a consequence, "to this day, the ulama officially devoted to the defence of the orthodoxy, refuse to reactivate the thinkable introduced and developed by original, innovative thinkers in classical period"5. Perhaps it was the closure of "the gates of Ijtihad", the "sustained reasoning" that a jurist had to undertake to critically interrogate Islamic law and reach an independent decision, that sealed the door to criticism. :While no one actually closed the gate, it came to be treated, as Sadakat Kadri notes, "as a historical fact rather than a poetically pleasing way of saying that jurists were no longer as good as they used to be"6. Perhaps it was because Muslim societies could not develop "legally autonomous corporate governance", Arabic thought is "essentially metaphysical" and incapable of developing universalism, and Muslim culture and ethos is just too reverential to religious authorities, as Toby Huff has argued7. Perhaps criticism died out because of a lack of any kind of state support or protection for dissent; or maybe it was the colonization of the Muslim world.