The Proposed Political, Legal, and Social Reforms

Chiragh Ali

in Modernist Islam, 1840-1940

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780195154672
Published online November 2007 |
 The Proposed Political, Legal, and Social Reforms

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Chiragh Ali (North India, 18441895), a staunch supporter of Sayyid Ahmad Khan (chapter 40), was the Aligarh movement's most outspoken critic of traditional Islamic scholarship and legal stagnation. Of Kashmiri background, he grew up in North India. After his father died young, Chiragh Ali's family responsibilities, along with the turbulent events of the 1857 uprising, prevented him from pursuing formal higher education. Still, he was able to find work with the colonial regime in various revenue and judicial positions. In 1877, with the recommendation of Sir Sayyid, he entered the administration of the Nizam of Hyderabad, where he rose to the position of finance secretary. Chiragh Ali's writings often refuted missionary and Orientalist criticisms of Islam as being hostile to reason and incapable of reform. He argued, rather, that the Islamic legal system and schools were human institutions capable of modification. His position was that while the Qur'an taught religious doctrine and rules for morality, it did not support a detailed code of immutable civil law or dictate a specific political system. In his English-language writings, such as the passage that followsand in his Urdu articles, many published in Sir Sayyid's journal, Tahdhib al-Akhlaq (Cultivation of Morals)Chiragh Ali espoused a variety of modernist positions, including the importance of girls education. His arguments on interpretation of hadith (narratives of the Prophet) and the possibility of ijtihad (rational interpretation) drew on the writings of Shah Wali Allah al-Dihlawi (Indian religious scholar, 17031762), a precursor to modernist Islamic thought in South Asia.1

Chapter.  9562 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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