HDS 3964

The Development of Islamic Modernism (Islamic Modernism 2)

Baber Johansen


The second of these three courses will treat the period from the end of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century. It will focus on the development, within a colonial context, of the learned Islamic modernism that develops in Egypt in the last third of the 19th century, in the sphere of Qur'anic exegesis and the reinterpretation of Muslim Law. This Islamic Modernism, best represented by Muhammad 'Abduh, the Mufti of the Egyptian state at the turn of the century, sees the earliest period of Islamic history as the model by which a Muslim society has to abide. The Muslim societies of the 19th and the early twentieth century is characterized as "ignorant" (jahili) much as the pre-Islamic societies.Secular Arabic liberalism in Syria and Egypt, from the 1930s on, strives to be compatible not only with a modern state, based on elections, legislation, and a modern judiciary but also with this new form of Islamic Modernism. In Egypt, in particular, it looks for the model of modernization in the earliest history of Islam, which it interprets according to modern notions of state, science, and virtue. A similar approach, focused on the earliest history of Islam is followed by Islamist mass movements of the same period. But these refer to the earliest Islamic history as the model for an Islamic, as opposed to an imported state organization and law. They follow Muhammad 'Abduh in their characterization of the modern state and society as a form of jahilyya. A lively exchange, sometimes resulting in violent conflicts, develops between 1930 and 1970 between liberals and Islamists. Representatives of these Islamic mass movements, such as Sayyid Qutb, develop their own criticism of the liberal approach to Islamic history, religion, and virtue.The course will focus on the reform activities of different types of Arab states from the beginning of the 19th until the middle of the 20th century and the way in which the religious movements and thinkers of the period accompanied, supported or opposed these reforms.

Enrollment Limited: No
Open to BTI Students: Yes


0.50 credits
Expected to be offered Spring 2016
Course times to be announced.
Course location to be announced.

Relationship to Program Requirements

Program Requirement Area / Category / Art / Designation
MTS Area(s) of Focus
  • African and African American Religious Studies
  • Islamic Studies
  • Religion, Ethics, and Politics
MDiv Distribution Category/ies
  • Islam
MDiv Art(s) of Ministry None
Language Course Designation(s) None