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In Translation: Modern Muslim Thinkers​

Series Editor: Abdou Filali-Ansary

This series aims to broaden current debate around Muslim civilisations. Although global in scope, academic and media conversations about Muslims often overlook works of new and original thinking produced in Muslim contexts.

This series aims to identify and translate some of these works, which have engendered important debates within their own indigenous settings, thereby introducing them to the wider discussions about Muslim civilisations taking place on the world stage.

The texts chosen for the series represent some of the most important, new, and cutting edge thinking from the Muslim world in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.​​​

al-Azmeh_SecularismCoverArt_2020.jpgSecularism in the Arab World: Cont​​exts, Ideas and Consequences

Author: Aziz al-Azmeh

Translator: David Bond

Publication Date: March 2020

ISBN: 9781474447461 (HB)

Published in assocation with Edinburgh University Press

Available for purchase here

Explores secularism and secularisation in Arab societies since the mid-19th century

  • Traces the concrete secular transformations in Muslim societies which occurred at particular times and by specific social agencies
  • Explores how secular changes influenced the functioning of different strata and groups, and the central attitudes of their members
  • ​Devotes considerable attention to religious reform in the broader context of the developments studied, and of the ideological, political and institutional religious reactions to both
  • ​​Includes a new Preface by the author to introduce the English translation
This book is a translation of Aziz al-Azmeh’s seminal work Al-'Ilmaniya min mandhur mukhtalif that was first published in Beirut in 1992. Both celebrated and criticised for its reflections on Arab secularisation and secularism in the modern history of the Arab World, it is the only study to date to approach its subject as a set of historical changes which affected the regulation of the social, political and cultural order, and which permeated the concrete workings of society, rather than as an ideological discussion framed from the outset by the assumed opposition between Islam and secularism.

The author takes a comprehensive analytical perspective to show that an almost imperceptible yet real, multi-faceted and objective secularising process has been underway in the Arab world since the 1850s. The early onset was the result of adapting to systemic novelties introduced at the time and a reaction to the perceived European advance and local retardation. The need for meaningful reform, and the actions taken in order to put in place a new organisation of state and society based on modern organisational and educational criteria, rather than older, religious traditions, stemmed from the perceived weakness of Arab polities and from an internal drive to overcome this situation.

The book follows these themes into the close of the 20th century, marked with the rise of Islamism. A preface to the English translation takes a retrospective look at the theme from the vantage point of social, political and intellectual issues of relevance today.

​​Amin_front cover.jpgThe Sor​rowful​​​ Muslim's Guide

Author: Hussein Ahmad Amin

Translators: Yasmin Amin and Nesrin Amin

Publication Date: October 2018

ISBN: 9781474437073 (HB)​

Published in association with Edinburgh University Press

Available for purchase here​

Explores the interaction between pre-Islamic tradition and modern supporters of continuity, reform and change in Muslim communities​

Published as Dalīl al-Muslim al-ḥazīn ilā muqtada-l-sulūk fī’l-qarn al-ʿishrīn in 1983, this book remains a timely and important read today. Both the resurgence of Islamist politics and the political, social and intellectual upheaval which accompanied the Arab Spring challenge us to re-examine the interaction between the pre-modern Islamic tradition and modern supporters of continuity, reform and change in the Muslim World. This book does exactly that, raising questions regarding issues about which other Muslim intellectuals and thinkers have been silent. These include – among others – current religious practice vs. the Islamic ideal; the many additions to the original revelation; the veracity of the Prophet’s biography and his sayings; the development of Sufism; and historical and ideological influences on Islamic thought. 

Key Features

  • Makes available in English an important contribution to modern Muslim thought from a prominent Egyptian thinker

  • Looks at how current religious practice conforms (or not) to the Islamic ideal when Islam was first revealed

  • Explores the relationship between core, inner religious values and ritualistic practices

  • Engages critically with the sources by using historical, literal and logical criticism

'No history of modern Islamic thought, especially rationalist thought, can disregard this work----that has to do with its purely scholarly importance to the historian of ideas. But its charm, its gentle persuasiveness, its succinct description of what the author identifies as the shortcomings of modern Muslim thought makes this work of major importance to any reader, specialist or general, interested in modern Islam.'

- Shaikh Zayid Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies Emeritus, American University of Beirut, Tarif Khalidi

Hussein Ahmad Amin was born in Cairo in 1932 and died in 2014. While Deputy Director of the Diplomatic Institute in Cairo he produced several major works on Islam all of which were critical of Islamist movements.

Islam and the Foundations of Political Power​

Author: Ali Abdel Razek

Translator: Maryam Loutfi

Editor: Abdou Filali-Ansary 

ISBN: 9780748639786​ (HB)  ISBN: 9780748689835​ (PB)  

Publication date: 2012 and 2013

Published in association with Edinburgh University Press

The first English translation of this controversial essay that challenged fundamental ideas about political power

Egypt, 1925: the Muslim world is in turmoil over Mustapha Kamal Ataturk's proposal to abolish the caliphate in Turkey. The debate over Islam and politics re-ignites as traditional political systems dissolve under pressure from European powers and most Muslim countries lose their sovereignty.

Into this debate enters Ali Abdel Razek, a religious cleric trained at Al-Azhar University, arguing in favour of secularism in his essay 'Islam and the Foundations of Political Power', translated here for the first time.​

Scholarly features include

  • A substantial introduction that places the essay in its context and explains its impact

  • An appendix of Razek’s sources with full publication details

  • Explanatory notes beside Razek’s original footnotes

  • Additional notes about particular people, events or vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to modern readers

‘It is somewhat astonishing that Ali Abdel Raziq’s Al-Islam Wa Usul Al-Hukm, one of the most discussed and most significant books of early twentieth-century Egyptian, Arab, and Islamic intellectual history, should have gone so long without a translation into English. Its appearance, in Edinburgh’s ‘In Translation: Modern Muslim Thinkers’ series, is therefore especially welcome…Filali-Ansari’s introduction situates the work in its own context, particularly stressing its importance in sparking what might be seen as the first major​ ‘public-opinion’ controversy of modern Middle Eastern history.’

- James McDougall, Trinity College, Oxford, Journal of Islamic Studies​

Islam: Between Message and History​

Author: Abdelmadjid Charfi

Translator: David Bond

Editors: Abdou Filali-Ansary and Sikeena Karmali Ahmed

ISBN: 9780748639670​ (HB) ​

Publication Date: 2009

Published in association with Edinburgh University Press

This book could easily be called 'A Guide for the Modern Muslim', for someone to 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 was 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 where few Muslim scholars have dared until now to tread. He confronts with great lucidity those 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 the University of Manouba until his retirement in 2002.