Islamic Modernist and Reformist Thought: A Study of the Contribution of Sir Sayyid and Muhammad Iqbal
Muslim modernists, from Middle East to South Asia, asserted the need to ‘reinterpret and reapply’ the principles and ideals of Islam, formulating new responses to the challenges of Europe and of modern life. In South Asia, it was Sir Sayyid and Muhammad Iqbal who pioneered the modernist visions and agendas, during the 19th and 20th centuries. This paper attempts to make an assessment and analysis of the response of these two South Asian thinkers to modernity and their contribution to ‘Islamic modernism’. Sir Sayyid – devoting his life to religious, educational and social reform – called for a bold ‘new theology/ reinterpretation’ of Islam and acceptance, not rejection, of best in the Western thought; and Muhammad Iqbal – judging the conditions of the Muslims as one of five centuries of ‘dogmatic slumber’ as a result of taqlid (blind following) – called for the ‘reconstruction’ of religious thought (in Islam) to revitalize the Muslim Ummah. The paper concludes (among others) with the arguments that it is the thinking of these pioneers that is still relevant to reformist and modernist discourse in the entire Islamic world in general and in South Asia in particular.
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