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Intellectual Origins of Islamic Resurgence in the Modern Arab World (Suny Series in Near Eastern Studies) Paperback – November 16, 1995
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This is the most interesting, comprehensive, and intelligible study of the Arab/Islamic resurgence I have read to date. It stands in a class by itself as a learned synthesis of its subject. Its special strength is the richness of Arabic-language source material, looked at with the aid of sophisticated philosophical and culture-criticism discourse. Frederick M. Denny, University of Colorado at Boulder
This book provides an excellent summary of the intellectual origins of the Islamic resurgence, drawing on the best Muslim and western scholarship. The breadth of the analysis of scholarship is complemented by the more focused treatment of al-Banna, Qutb, and Fadlallah. It could easily be adopted as a text in undergraduate and some graduate courses. John L. Esposito, Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University
The book is lively, well-written, and engaging. The scholarship is thoroughly up to date. What I like most is the author s skill in interweaving the narrative thread of the ideas of Islamic resurgence with the approach of intertextual and epistemological analysis. He has succeeded admirably in that effort. Karl K. Barbir, Siena College"
"This is the most interesting, comprehensive, and intelligible study of the Arab/Islamic resurgence I have read to date. It stands in a class by itself as a learned synthesis of its subject. Its special strength is the richness of Arabic-language source material, looked at with the aid of sophisticated philosophical and culture-criticism discourse." -- Frederick M. Denny, University of Colorado at Boulder
From the Back Cover
This is a systematic treatment of the religious, intellectual, cultural, and social foundations of Islamic resurgence in the modern Arab World.
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In order to develop his self-critical position in Islamic studies, Abu-Rabi` does not hesitate to buy the idea of what he calls "the serious orientalist" such as Hamilton Gibb, Louis Gardet, and Von Grunebaum, or Bernard Lewis. He combines the ideas of Muslim thinkers from the early nahdah thinkers with the contemporary thinkers that have been categorized in terms like Marxist, Islamist, liberal, and secularist. Abu-Rabi` considers the works of the Orientalists beneficial to develop a new conspicuousness of Muslims for seeking the way out of the crisis. It is true that Abu-Rabi` does not write specific themes as did Qutb or Mawdudi, to mention only two examples. However, his reflection about the orientalists and Muslim thinkers has been another important topic in the major themes of Islamic resurgence. His standpoint as a commentator on the orientalists and Muslim thinkers, at the same time, reveals his own position as a `modernist' and as a society-centered intellectual among contemporary Muslim thinkers today. In this context, he confines the term "modernist" as the intellectual who is "more Western in essence and orientation...and does not see any contradiction between learning from both the great Islamic tradition and appropriating the best features of the Western world" (38).
Moreover the works of Abu-Rabi` are also valuable to review how far Muslim intellectuals have dealt with the problems of capitalism and the whole notion of modernity. From his reflection of the intellectuals, Abu-Rabi` concludes that "both Muslim reformism and modernism have failed to transform their ideas into mass movement" (38). In other words, there is no exact formulation from the scholars that will guarantee a Muslim to be remaining a Muslim and a modern at the same time.
Abu-Rabi`s commentaries on Hasan al-Bannâ, Sayyid Qutb, and Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah are a philosophical and historical review of the failure of these thinkers in transforming their ideas into mass political movements. He schematizes the cultural and political background of their idea and marks the significant moments such as the experience of the thinkers during their time living in jail and their responses to the treachery of the ulama class in Muslim communities and to political moments such as the malfunction of nationalism in the Arab world. It is not clear on what basis he chose to comment on figures like al-Bannâ, Qutb, and Husayn Fadlallah in this book. However, among others prominent intellectuals, it is obvious that both al-Bannâ and Qutb are the most significant figures, especially in their movement of Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin). Other Ikhwan leaders such as 'Abd al-Qâdir 'Awdah and Muhammad al-Ghazâlî are also significant to the continuation of the movement and worthwhile to be mentioned here. Furthermore, when the Ikhwan movement spread beyond its physical and intellectual concentration in Egypt, other intellectuals such as Râshid al-Ghannûshî of Tunisia, Hasan Turabi of Sudan, and Sa'îd Hawwâ of Syria are also valuable to be studied and written about here. However, Abu-Rabi` seems to be more interested in conducting deep research on al-Bannâ and Qutb in this starter book, rather than to make a simple review of many the intellectuals mentioned above. In the case of Qutb, Abu-Rabi` goes even further by explaining both Qutb's life prior to his decision to join the Ikhwan movement and the articulation of Qutb's thoughts of the Qur'an. The wide range of Qutb's experience and thought, from his enthusiasm for poetry and literature to his position as the ideology of the radical Islamic movement, forced Abu-Rabi` to write three chapters on Qutb alone.
In his account of al-Bannâ, Abu-Rabi` confines his analysis around the questions of al-Bannâ's structure of thought, the type of problems and issues with which al-Bannâ dealt, and the impact of the Ikhwan movement after the assassination of al-Bannâ in 1949. These three themes become central to his explanation in the chapter called "Hasan al-Bannâ and the Foundation of the Ikhwan: Intellectuals Underpinnings." Beginning with the review of Bannâ's educational background, Abu-Rabi` highlights that mystical training and allegiance to the Hasafî mystical school, in addition to the disciplined training by his father at home, which shaped al-Bannâ's entire personality. Al-Bannâ joined tarîqah while he was very young, only eighteen years old. His intimacy with the life and the teaching of Sufi slowly built his character as one who is responsible to the mortal problems faced by the people of his community. Abu-Rabi` says "...precisely because of his social background and his Sufi training, he felt it was his duty to alleviate the suffering of the common people" (67).
In my view Intellectual Origins of Islamic Resurgence in the Modern Arab World and its sequence Contemporary Arab Thought: Studies in Post-1967 Arab Intellectual History are the evidence of Abu-Rabi`'s seriousness in discussing the discourse of the Islamic movement in modern academia. For the first book that is under review, Abu-Rabi` has been fascinating in his research about the thoughts of Qutb that scattered in many different materials. However, Abu-Rabi`'s effort to schematize the thoughts of Qutb has made the object becomes more complicated. One who read the work of Qutb like This Religion of Islam (Delhi, 1974), The Islamic Concept and Its Characteristics (Indianapolis, 1992), Milestones (Kuwait, 1989), or Islam: The Religion of the Future (Delhi, 1976), will easily catch and follow Qutb's argument. On the contrary, in this book, the genre ideas of Qutb become more complex. However, by saying this, I am honestly applauding that this book's ability to fulfill the advanced course of the Islamic movement or Islamic studies in general, which is still in the embryonic stage of its development.
To say that Abu-Rabi‘ is sympathetic to Qutb (and several other fundamentalist authors) would be an understatement. In fact, he serves as their apostle to an English-speaking audience. For example, he explains Qutb’s concept of intellectual imperialism, segues into his own elaboration of this topic, then returns to Qutb. Author and subject meld into a nearly seamless whole. The sharp-eyed reader will not be surprised that Abu-Rabi‘ sanitizes a hateful brand of fundamentalism: in the book’s acknowledgments, he thanks Ramadan ‘Abdallah (of the University of South Florida in Tampa) for reading his manuscript. In October 1995, as this book was in press, Ramadan ‘Abdallah surfaced in Damascus as Ramadan ‘Abdallah Shalah, the head of Islamic Jihad, the most murderous anti-Israel outfit anywhere in existence. As The New York Times headline about this story put it, “Professor Talked of Understanding But Now Reveals Ties to Terrorists.” No, the surprise is not that Abu-Rabi‘ apologizes for killers; but that the State University of New York Press should print such propagandistic ....
Middle East Quarterly, March 1996