Fall 2012 REL 378 Islam In The Modern Age

Popular discourse often characterizes ‘Islam and ‘Modernity’ as two mutually exclusive points of view. Such attitudes are frequented exhibited in questions such as: “Is Islam compatible with democracy?” or “Does Islam give equal rights to women?” In light of such questions, this course aims to engender a nuanced appreciation of the various meanings of the terms ‘Islam’ and ‘Modernity’. The basic argument of this course is as follows: In order to understand the place of Muslim actors in the contemporary world it is better to conceive of ‘Islam’ and ‘Modernity’ as historical projects that are still in the process of being executed. Rather than assume that ‘Islam’ and ‘Modernity’ have fixed meanings, our study will try to illustrate how these terms have come to represent varying (often vying!) political, social and spiritual aspirations at different moments in history.
We will begin with an examination of the phenomenon of ‘Modernity’, its origins in the Western Europe, its various interpretations and significance. We will then turn to a basic introduction to the Islamic tradition and its pre-modern intellectual, political and social landscapes1. With this historical and intellectual understanding of ‘Islam’ and ‘Modernity’, we will examine how ‘Islam’ and ‘Modernity’ that had unfolded in different geographical spaces came to intersect during the Colonial age. The rest of the course will examine the intellectual, religious, sociopolitical and cultural transformations in the Islamic world due to this intersection and the response of Muslim thinkers and societies to the Modern ideals. We will end our study by reflecting on the recent developments in the Islamic world and the future of ‘Islam’ and ‘Modernity’.