Between Revivalism and Reconstructionism: Islam, Reform, and Secularism in the Works of Taha Abderrahmane and Mohammed Arkoun
Tais, Miloud Amine
Opwis, Felicitas M
The examination of the works of some of the major reformist thinkers in the Maghrib region since the late nineteenth century reveals a tension between two attitudes, revivalism and reconstructionism. The study contends that Taha Abderrahmane and Mohammed Arkoun are in some ways the ultimate representatives of later more sophisticated revivalist and reconstructionist drives respectively. Abderrahmane seeks to ground a modern social and political system in renewed Islamic principles that he carefully elaborates to act as a corrective to what he presents as the failures of uncritically imported Western modernity and secularism. He keeps the Islamic at the forefront of an overarching system that replaces ʿalmāniyya (secularism) with i’timāniyya (entrusting). Arkoun, on the other hand, critiques the very foundations of “Islamic principles” and grounds modernity and secularism in a Muslim context through that very critique. He challenges the historical interpretations of Islam and calls for keeping a constant space open for the secular, as a way of combating the sacralization of human discourses, a process that serves the interest of some social groups at the expense of others. The study also argues that by proposing for Muslim societies a commitment to a particular and authentic Islamic vision, Abderrahmane’s project falls within the global intellectual current that stands in an adversarial position towards secularism and its claim to universalism, as exemplified by the works of Talal Asad and Saba Mahmood. Meanwhile Arkoun highlights the need to critique and contextualize secularism in order to move beyond the dichotomy of religion versus secularism and to allow secularism to be rethought within the frame of “emergent reason,” a modern universal reason that Islam and Muslims ought to participate in shaping alongside others. Thus, Arkoun’s work falls within another trend that champions secularism but seeks to rethink some of its aspects, as exemplified by the works of Charles Taylor and Jürgen Habermas.
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