Islam, Reason, and Civilization

Shaykh Muhammad Abduh

in Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195174304
Published online November 2007 |
Islam, Reason, and Civilization

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He received a traditional religious education but was transformed by his contact with Jaml al-Dn al-Afghn. Exiled by the British, he spent time in Beirut and Tripoli, then in Paris where he edited a review with Afghn for a brief time. He returned to hold high religious posts, including that of Mufti of Egypt. His desire to reform Islam and put it in harmony with modern times by a return to primitive purity pushed him to theological reflection and writing, which make him the founder of the modernist school in Islam.

This work originally appeared in Abduhs landmark Risalat al-Tawhid (The Theology of Unity), first published in 1897. The author insists on the compatibility of reason and revelation and argues that Islam in fact explicitly encourages the search for truth, which is the purpose of reason. God has endowed humans with the capacity of reason. Although this seems to suggest that the individual could disprove the validity of religion by recourse to reason, Abduh counters that reason may not be able to penetrate deep religious truths. Reason, he maintains, may lead one to contradictory principles, as between revelation and science, for example. But if this happens, reason must believe that the apparent is not the intended sense. In other words, the apparent refutation of a divine principle must be reconsidered in the light of the rest of the prophets message. When this is done, the true meaning will present itself. The thrust of the argument is that Muslims must not only embrace reason but must use it in the service of their God-blessed welfare.

Chapter.  2140 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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