In Translation: Modern Muslim Thinkers
Series Editor: Abdou Filali-Ansary
Islam: Between Message and History
Author: Abdelmadjid Charfi
Translated by David Bond
Edited by Abdou Filali-Ansary and Sikeena Karmali Ahmed
Publication Date: 2009
This book could easily be called “A Guide for the Modern Muslim”, someone for whom the sentiments of his or her ancestors resonate but who cannot accept the canonised formulas of a stultified education. Charfi spells out what for him is the essential message of Islam, followed by a history of its unfolding through the person of the Prophet Muhammad who he perceives as a visionary, seeking to change the ideals, attitudes and behaviours of the society in which he lived. The message and its history are delineated as two separate things, conflated by tradition. Charfi’s reflections cross those horizons upon which few Muslim scholars have dared to tread, until now. He confronts with great lucidity the difficult questions with which Muslims are struggling, attempting to reconsider them from a moral and political perspective that is independent of the frameworks produced by tradition.
Abdelmadjid Charfi was Professor of Arabic Civilisation and Islamic Thought at University of Manouba until his retirement in 2002. Among his publications are Al-Islam aw-l- Hadatha (1990) and Al-Islam Bayn ar-risala wa-t-tarikh (2001).
Islam and the Foundations of Political Power
Author: Ali Abdelraziq
Translated by Maryam Loutfi
Edited by Abdou Filali-Ansary and Aziz Esmail
The publication of this essay in Egypt in 1925 took the contemporaries of Ali Abdelraziq by storm. It was the focus of much attention and the seed of a heated debate. At a time when certain Muslim societies were in great turmoil over the abolition of the caliphate by Mustapha Kamal Ataturk in Turkey, Abdelraziq, a religious cleric trained at Al-Azhar University, argued in favour of secularism. The abolition of the caliphate had re-ignited the issue of Islam and politics, as traditional political systems were dissolving under pressure from European powers while most Muslim countries had lost their sovereignty.
This essay gave rise to a series of “refutations”, three of which were published the same year. It also unleashed the Arab world’s first great public debate published in the press with polemics supporting or refuting Abdelraziq’s ideas. Eventually, he was tried by the Al-Azhar court, denounced, stripped of his title of ‘alim and barred from future employment in education and the judiciary. This was however, later revised.
Ali Abdelraziq came from a wealthy, landowning family that was politically active. He graduated from Al-Azhar University in 1915 as an ‘alim and went on to travel to Britain to study for a short period at Oxford University. The outbreak of World War I interrupted his courses in politics and economics, compelling him to return to Egypt where he undertook further study at the newly founded Egypt University. Following this, he served as an Al-Azhar alim, a judge in the traditional Islamic Courts of Alexandria, and as a teacher of Arabic.
Enlightenment of the Community and Purification of the Nation
OR Governance from the Perspective of Islam
Author: Ayatullah Aqa Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Na’ini
Introduced and annotated by Ayatullah Sayyid Mahmoud Taleqani
Translated by Lotfali Khonji and Mohammed Nafissi
Edited and with commentary by Mohammed Nafissi
This early twentieth century treatise by the esteemed Ayatuallah Aqa Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Na’ini is translated along with the 1955 commentary on the treatise by the Ayatullah Sayyid Mahmud Taleqani. The treatise is a discussion of Islamic governance, its relationship to the Shia doctrine of Imamat based on two basic principles: preservation of the domestic order and infrastructure, and safeguarding from foreign intervention or in the lexicon of Islamic scholars, “preserving the essence of Islam”. It takes into account two types of governance, the first is a legitimate guardianship and the second a necessarily corrupted monopoly. Ayatullah Na’ini addresses the foundations of “truth”, the limitation of power during the occultation of the Imam, the function of constitutional governance, the nature of parliament and parliamentary representation, the forces of despotism and how to overcome them. In addition to clarifying the often complex and at times obscure passages in Na'ini’s treatise, Taleqani’s commentaries offer the views of a key leader of the Iranian revolution of 1978-79 on Islam and governance.
Ayatullah Aqa Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Na’ini (1860-1936) was born in Na’in in Central Iran and was a leading mujtahid, or legal scholar, during the first half of the 20th Century. In 1885, he migrated to Ottoman Iraq to pursue his religious education at the highest level after spending some years in Isfahan’s major seminaries. In 1894, Naini moved to Karbala and eventually settled in Najaf where he continued his advanced studies under Akhund Mulla Mohammad Kazem Khurasani.
Ayatullah Sayyid Mahmoud Taleqani (1911-79) was born in Iran’s northern city of Taleqan and received his higher religious education in Qom, Iran’s premier centre of Shi’a learning. Taleqani stands out as the leading reformist amongst his generation of Shii clergy.
Mohammed Nafissi is a research associate at the London Middle East Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies, and an associate of the Human Rights and Social Justice Research Institute, London Metropolitan University. Prior to this, he taught politics and political economy at London Metropolitan University where he was also Associate Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion, Conflict and Cooperation. He is author of Development of Socio-Economic Thought in the Pahlavi Era (1993) and Ancient Athens and Modern Ideology: Value, Theory and Evidence in Historical Sciences (2005).