Through a socio-anthropological approach, this course will deal with reformist and modernist movements in the contemporary Islamic world. In particular we will deal with the dialectic between tajdīd (renewal) and iṣlāḥ (reform) and the connection between religious discourses and social practices, showing how Quranic exegesis takes shape in daily life, linking, precisely, sacred scriptures to the construction of social ideals.
Reformism and modernism are generic categories that describe heterogeneous movements, often in opposition to each other. In these categories we can find values and practices that are pluralist, liberal and progressive, or monist and ultra-conservative. We will also see that these labels coined by European thought are often approximate.
If the world of research has dealt extensively with Salafi reformism, the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabism, less space has been devoted to other forms of reformism and modernism. In this course we will deal with lesser-known aspects, such as the “Nation of Islam” movement; the liberal philosophy of Fazlur Rahman and Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd; the Sufism of Mahmoud Mohammed Taha; the Islamic theology of liberation born in South Africa; and finally, feminist and LGBTQ activism in the Islamic world.
One of the objectives of this course is not only to study the normative dimension of the Islamic religion (sharīʿa and fiqh), but also to grasp other dimensions, often underestimated, such as spiritual, aesthetic, philosophical ones, linked to social class, gender and sexuality.
Another objective is to focus on other locations of contemporary Islam: Sudan, Pakistan, South Africa and the United States; expanding our horizon beyond Middle Eastern Islam. Finally, this course will allow us to deconstruct some stereotypical perceptions, which conceptualize a contemporary Islam as crushed by the weight of the legacy of tradition and / or by an unfinished modernity.
The following questions encompass the challenges that reformist and modernist movements pose and attempt to solve:
• How to interpret the Quran? (Exegetical dimension)
• How to relate to the Islamic theological and juridical tradition? Renew or reform Islam? (Doctrinal dimension)
• Who are the faithful and the infidels? Who are included in the Islamic umma? (Relation to otherness)
• What is injustice and how do you deal with it? (Political and social relationship)
• Change yourself or change society? Or both? (Ethical and spiritual dimension).