Islam, Modernity, and the Human Sciences

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1 Islam, Modernity, and the Human Sciences

2 Islam, Modernity, and the Human Sciences Ali Zaidi Palgrave macmillan

3 ISLAM, MODERNITY, AND THE HUMAN SCIENCES Copyright Ali Zaidi, Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition All rights reserved. First published in 2011 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN in the United States a division of St. Martin s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY Where this book is distributed in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, this is by Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered in England, company number , of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave and Macmillan are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries. ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI / Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Zaidi, Ali, 1970 Islam, modernity, and the human sciences / Ali Zaidi. p. cm. 1. Social sciences Philosophy. 2. Islam Relations Christianity. 3. Christianity and other religions Islam. I. Title. H61.15.Z dc A catalogue record of the book is available from the British Library. Design by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd., Chennai, India. First edition: May 2011

4 In the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Mercy-Giving For Ashie, Mustapha, and Sadiq

5 Contents Foreword Fred Dallmayr Acknowledgments A Note on Transliteration ix xi xv Part I Social Theory and Dialogical Understanding Introduction 3 1 Critique and Dialogical Understanding 23 Part II Muslim Debates on Social Knowledge 2 Muslim Reconstructions of Knowledge: The Cases of Nasr and al- Faruqi 53 3 The Putative Modernity of Ibn Khaldun 81 Part III Western Debates on Social Knowledge 4 Dilthey and the Problem of Immanence Weber: From Nihilism to an Organic Metaphysics 125 Conclusion 145 Notes 163 Bibliography 175 Index 201

6 Foreword This is an exciting and timely book. It is exciting because it has the courage to attack two major taboos upheld, respectively, by religious fundamentalists and secular social scientists. On the side of religious fundamentalists, the taboo consists in the negative verdict that ostracizes modernity in all its forms, including modern social science, as a mode of apostasy and ignorance [jahiliyya]. On the side of secular social scientists, the taboo involves the expulsion of religious faith as irrelevant and even inimical to the study and understanding of social life. Ali Zaidi s book has the merit of boldly debunking these prejudices. As he shows, religious faith especially Islamic faith cannot avoid intimate engagement with modern society and social science if it wishes to prevent spiritual suffocation and self-enclosure in stale, reactionary mantras. At the same time, modern social science cannot afford to encapsulate itself complacently in positivistic formulas without losing access to the very lifeblood animating concrete social experience. The book ably critiques the temptation to escape from social experience into perennial verities as well as the pretense of equating traditional theology with social-scientific knowledge. In venturing beyond entrenched taboos, Ali Zaidi offers illuminating discussions of such important thinkers as Ibn Khaldun, Wilhelm Dilthey, Max Weber, and Hans-Georg Gadamer. One can only wish his book the widest possible readership. May his plea in favor of a close engagement and reconciliation between religious faith and social experience bear ample fruit, inshallah. Fred Dallmayr Professor of Philosophy and Political Science University of Notre Dame

7 Acknowledgments This book begins at a fork in the road: as a doctoral candidate, I was confronted by the tension between my unyielding theoretical drive on the one hand and a lukewarm desire for ethnographic, empirical research on the other. The theoretical drive won out, and led me down the path of the theorist, mostly working late and alone at night. The saving grace has been the many friends along the way: Dalibor Misina rendered material help and care at critical times, and long conversations with him were always refreshing and revitalizing; Katherine Bullock introduced me to the Muslim Graduate Study Group (MGSG), which was a source of much intellectual stimulation at a crucial stage of my journey; Andrzej Wiercinski s gift of his three volume edited series on hermeneutics reaffirmed for me the humaneness of hermeneutic scholars; the 2006 Summer Academy in Essen on Islam and the Re-positioning of Islam, convened by Armando Salvatore and Georg Stauth, came at just the right time for me to present my work and meet many bright, engaged young scholars, among whom Ahmet Okumus and Ho Wai Yip I now happily count among my friends and with whom I look forward to future endeavors; I was fortunate enough to spend a research term during the Fall of 2007 at the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) in Leiden, where Martin van Bruinessen and Jeanette Jouilli invited me to present my work on dialogue to a meeting of the NWO working group on tradition and secularity in Europe. Recep Senturk and Syed Farid Alatas convened the Second International Ibn Khaldun Symposium where I presented part of the chapter on Ibn Khaldun. Students in my Dialogue and Critique course at Wilfrid Laurier University have endured explorations into the wide terrain of this book with good humor and, surprisingly, in some cases with especially keen interest. Louise Robert deserves mention for taking up my ideas in a particularly dedicated manner, and for her meticulous help with the manuscript.

8 xii Acknowledgments Although I was not able to study under Muhammad Fayyaz, I am grateful for our lasting friendship. His eagerness to discuss my endeavors in late-night conversations encouraged me and enabled me to sharpen my formulations. Indeed, his thoughts became clearer to me as I approached the end of my study. I am indebted to him for giving me his entire collection of books a scholar s life-long treasure! without which the research for much of this work would have taken much longer to complete. Derek Sayer indulged my first foray into this area and recommended that I wrestle with Weber. Ray Morrow profoundly recognized that students of sociology need much greater exposure to philosophy in order to reflect upon the philosophical and normative presuppositions underlying empirical theory. His teaching opened up for me vistas that otherwise I could not have glimpsed but obscurely. I have not met a more profound scholar and a gentler soul than Professor Fred Dallmayr, whose generosity of spirit is matched only by his willingness to support young scholars! Malcolm Blincow has provided the unflagging support and belief in my project that is so crucial to a young scholar. Brian Singer took the time to provide written commentaries, without which I would not have made it through the maze of my own thoughts. I am thankful to Ratiba Hadj-Moussa for helping me roam intellectually. In an age that compels one to specialize, I had the benefit of a supervisor who not only did not stifle my incorrigible generalist streak, but also recognized the importance of comparative theoretical work of a general nature, which alone allows us to ask the most meaningful questions. My colleagues in the Department of Global Studies rolled up their sleeves and took on added duties without complaint during my research term at ISIM. Alex Latta, in particular, deserves mention for shouldering much departmental service at a very early stage in his career. I m thankful to have him as a colleague and friend. Michel Desjardins jumped head-first into our department and mentored us with a steady hand. Could there have been a better Chair at such a crucial time for me? No part of this journey would have been possible without my families. Chacha, Khala, and Noni have supported me, my wife and our children with love and security, and many warm meals. My brothers not only undertook filial duties in my absence, but also taught me many things: from Ahsan, I learned that adversity only makes you stronger; from Mohsin, I learned the power of faith and belief; from Rizwan, I learned the meaning and value of skepticism and critique.

9 Acknowledgments xiii My parents provided the strongest of foundations, which cracked but did not fall even when earthquakes shook us. My deepest gratitude goes to my wife, Ashie, and to our children, Mustapha and Sadiq, for enduring all the travails with patience and forgiveness. Mustapha and Sadiq have been like a soothing balm, while Ashie s love has been transformative. Her patience and endurance only grew stronger as the years went by, and I shall not be able to repay the sacrifices she made. It is because of, and for them, that I have finally made it to this point in the road. Many people have a rightful claim to their share of the credit for this project; needless to say, they are absolved for the sins, major or minor, that continue to plague it. Parts of Chapter 1 were published in International Sociology, 22(4): , by Sage Publications, Ltd.; some excerpts also appeared in a revised and translated version in L Islam et l Occident. Biopsies d un Dialogue, Lise Garon, Azzedine G. Mansour and El-Mostafa Chadli (eds.) Québec City: Presses de l Université Laval. Parts of Chapter 2 were published in Theory, Culture and Society, 23(5): by Sage Publications, Ltd. I also acknowledge the generous book preparation grant provided by the Research Office of Wilfrid Laurier University, and Natalie Boon s work on the index.

10 A Note on Transliteration Since this book aspires to be an interdisciplinary work in comparative social theory, rather than a specialist treatment of Islamic thought, diacritics have not been used in transliterating Arabic terms. I have rendered such terms using standard English spelling; in any case, many of the Arabic terms employed herein have already been, or are in the process of becoming, absorbed into the English language.

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