Chapter

Why Did the Muslim World Decline While the Civilized World Advanced?

Musa Jarullah Bigi

in Modernist Islam, 1840-1940

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780195154672
Published online November 2007 |
 Why Did the Muslim World Decline While the Civilized World Advanced?

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Religious scholar, journalist, politician, and author, Musa Jarullah Bigi (Russian Tatarstan, 18751949) was one of the most important figures of the Modernist Islamic movement in Russia. Born in Rostov-on-Don, Bigi was raised by his mother, who sent him to a Russian elementary school. He was later trained at religious schools in Kazan, Bukhara, Istanbul, and Cairo, where he studied with an associate of Muhammad Abduh (chapter 3). On his return to Russia, he turned to political activism, attending and recording the discussions of the major meetings of the Muslims of Russia. In addition, he taught at a reformist seminary in Orenburg, wrote articles for the reformist press, translated Sufi classics into Tatar, and wrote several books on Islamic jurisprudence. Bigi's work was widely read by religious scholars in Russia and the Ottoman Empire, but not always well received. Bigi was so outspoken in his espousal of Western science and his criticism of traditional Islamic scholarship that even some of his fellow modernists disapproved. Traditionalists called him a heretic. His books were banned by Ottoman authorities, and he was forced to leave Orenburg because of conservatives hostility. In this typically strongly worded selection, Bigi ascribes the progress of the civilized worldwhich he equates with Europeto the freedom of thought generated by the Protestant Reformation. He stops short of calling for an equivalent Reformation in Islam, but the selection makes clear why Bigi's critics accused him of aspiring to serve as the Martin Luther of Islam.1

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Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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