CONTENTS OF Vol. 32, Nos. 2-3, 2007

Maghreb Review Vol 32 Nos 2-3 2007

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MARILYN BOOTH: Street Walkers: Tracing the City through the Urban Memoir

ABSTRACT: This paper takes the production of memoiristic texts in Egypt in the 1920s as the site of a production of urban citizenship based not on elite political culture or participation in an emerging canon of “respectable” Arabic and Egyptian national literature but rather grounded in the (ventriloquized) “I” of counter-canonical “memoirs” articulated (if not necessarily written) by members of an urban service class and particularly its less respectable members: “fallen” or “falling” women, drivers-for-hire, and male youth apparently alienated from the markers of masculine success in an emerging modern urban society. These texts tend to detail the urban social fabric through evocations of walking the streets, claiming the city for a self-defined “underclass” which is not objectively subaltern but rather asserts a voice in the contemporary clamor for political subjectivity. The subjects constructed in these texts, the “narrators” of the urban street, claim a share in the national debate by asserting and constructing their own forms of respectability and demolishing the claims of others by exposing their self-interested and hypocritical interventions in national politics and culture.

KATHARINA IVANYI: Who’s in Charge?: The Tafsîr al-Manâr on Questions of Religious and Political Authority in Islam

ABSTRACT: The Tafsîr al-Manâr is, arguably, the most influential Qur’an commentary produced in Egypt over the course of the first three and a half decades of the twentieth century. Through an analysis of the Manar’s discussion of several well-known Qur’anic verses (Q 3:104, Q 4:49 and Q 3:159 in particular), this paper will examine how Rashid Rida, one of the foremost reformist thinkers of the interwar period in Egypt, tackled a number of fundamental questions about the nature of religious and political authority, raised by the advent of ‘modernity’. The coming of the modern nation-state, with its concomitant dismantling of centuries-old institutions of education and the Law, the rise of new mass-media, and that of a professional and ever-increasing ‘secularised’ middle class, raised questions such as ‘Who can speak authoritatively for Islam?’ and ‘Does Islam, as a religion, require to be expressed in political terms?’ with a very new urgency. The paper will attempt to show the Manar’s great ambivalence with regard to the gradual fragmentation of religious authority in Islam - a process that had already started in the nineteenth century, but picked up more and more speed during the first few decades of the twentieth century and is, still, very much ongoing today. Aware of the fact that ‘modernity’ had resulted in both a potential threat and a great opportunity for the development of the faith, Rida (just like his teacher Muhammad ‘Abduh) was torn between arguing in favour of making the religion as open and accessible to as many ordinary Muslims as possible on the one hand, while at the same time trying to avoid a complete ‘opening of the flood-gates’ to any ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’s right to speak for Islam on the other. Radically departing from established traditions of exegesis, ‘Abduh and Rida’s interpretation of Q 3:104, Q 4:49 and Q 3:159 is intrinsically related to the historic context of the early twentieth century, that is, the era of great intellectual ferment and social change that witnessed, among other things, the ‘ulama’s ever-increasing loss of authority in all walks of life.

RONALD NETTLER: History, Religion, and Intellectual Freedom: ‘Abd al-Muta‘al al-Sa‘idi on Islam in the Modern World

ABSTRACT: The first half of the 20th century saw the emergence of new trends in Islamic thought in Egypt. Especially from the 1930’s onward, these trends were very prominent and influential in Egypt, as well as elsewhere in the Arab world. Mainly, but not exclusively, the product of Muslim intellectuals outside the traditionalist circles of ‘ulama’, this thought attempted to address issues of religion and modernity from various perspectives, using a variety of traditional and modern sources. Though we can say that many of these thinkers worked broadly in an ‘Abduh/Rida-inspired framework enjoining ijtihad and opposing taqlid, what exactly this meant for them and the details of their arguments remain in need of clarification through analysis of basic ideas and intellectual methods. Indeed, with respect to the whole range of their thought, both within as well as outside the ijtihad framework, such analysis is essential for our understanding of this important chapter in Islamic intellectual history in late-colonial Egypt. The relatively modest amount of scholarship done thus far on this thought has for the most part treated it from a social-historical perspective, seeing its main ideas as part of the developing new culture in Egypt in that period. The emphasis here was on intellectual trends as social-historical phenomena that addressed certain needs of the times. This approach has been valuable and in its fashion it has given us a broad picture of the development of thought from that perspective. However, the content of the thought in its essential intellectual features, in its relationship to pre-modern and traditionalist Islamic thought and in its relationship to modern Western thought has not been adequately treated.. As the body of thinkers (many of them still relatively unknown) and their published works in books and in articles in the new journals of the time is large and diverse, the analysis of intellectual content proposed here is a long-term task for many scholars.
    As part of my own larger, ongoing project in this area, my paper will be on certain aspects of the thought of ‘Abd al-Muta‘al al-Sa‘idi (1894-?), a Professor of Arabic language and literature in al-Azhar. al-Sa‘idi was a prolific and sometimes polemical (against “conservative” ‘ulama’) writer whose articles and books are characterised by Islamic learning, intellectual depth and distinctive ideas about religion and modernity. I shall be particularly interested in his thought on history, religion and intellectual freedom as a cluster of subjects through which he, implicitly and explicitly, develops his ideas on the nature of Islam and its ideal expression in the world. Apart from some of al-Sa‘idi’s articles, I shall use a number of his main books such as Hurriyya al-Fikr fi al-Islam, Dirasat Diniyya wa Adabiyya, al-Hurriyya al-Diniyya fi al-Islam, al-Islah fi al-Azhar and al-Qur’an wa al-Hukm al-Isti‘mari.

RACHEL SCOTT: The early thought of Muhammad al-Ghazali: the Islamic Order and the ’ulama’

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the thought of the late popular Egyptian Islamic thinker and preacher Muhammad al-Ghazali (1917-1996). It examines al-Ghazali’s relationship with the religious establishment of al-Azhar and focuses on his critique of the ’ulama’. Based on al-Ghazali’s books from the period in which he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood prior to the 1952 Revolution, it examines the role al-Ghazali thinks the ’ulama’ should have in the proposed Islamic order.
    Al-Ghazali expresses dissatisfaction with the current state of the ’ulama’. He criticises the ’ulama’ for their ineffective preaching and for their failure to be the guardians of Islam. He mocks their political impotence and their lack of political involvement. Yet, at the same time, he criticises them for becoming too close to the state and for having interpreted the religious texts to suit their own political agendas and those of the government. His critique contains a number of contradictions one of which is his attitude towards Islamic jurisprudence. While expressing suspicion of the ’ulama’’s interpretation of texts, particularly in relation to the question of social justice in Islam, al-Ghazali also expresses respect for the body of knowledge produced by the ’ulama’.
    Like the Muslim Brotherhood at the time, al-Ghazali called for the unity of “religion” and “state”. This paper attempts to answer what is meant by this by focusing on the role of the ’ulama’. While a specific answer to this question is impeded by vagueness and contradiction, there are some interesting indications. On one level, al-Ghazali implies that the role the ’ulama’ had in theory - if not in practice - in the pre-modern order should be replicated in the modern Egyptian state. He calls on the ’ulama’ to fulfil their traditional role as the guardians of Islam by attacking the government and informing the people of any religious violations. The ’ulama’ should be separate from the state and should take up a position of advising and correcting it. The assumption behind this vision is that the ’ulama’ speak with one voice and present a unified stance.
    However, al-Ghazali does not engage with the reasons why reality in Islamic history departed from this ideal. Al-Ghazali argues that the Islamic world became disconnected from the “true constitution” long before the introduction of Western law, and that the ’ulama’ are partly to blame for this. And yet, he does not discuss the mechanisms which contributed to the separation of religion and state in the medieval period and to what he claims as the ’ulama’’s misinterpretation of the texts. He does not answer his own question as to what the circumstances were that allowed Muslim rulers to depart from Islamic law. He manifests both a dependence on the past as a normative ideal and a reluctance to formulate a theoretical vision of religion, state, and the ’ulama’, that could apply today.
    Despite this “traditional” model, al-Ghazali proposes something more radical, “modern” and “democratic”. His vision of the ’ulama’’s role in society appears to break down the boundaries between the people, the ’ulama’, and the state. He argues that every man is a man of religion and that the ’ulama’ have no monopoly on defining religion. He also argues that the state should have the ability to disallow what is allowed in Islamic law when it is in the public interest. The implication is that the ’ulama’ do not necessarily form a religious elite that has a monopoly on speaking for Islam. This has important implications for the popularization or democratization of religion and for the power of the state vis-à-vis the ’ulama’. It rests uneasily with the argument that the ’ulama’ have a responsibility to protect Islam. In addition, it contradicts the idea that it is through independence from the government and through the ’ulama’’s establishment of “institutions” that they can wield sufficient power to ensure that adherence to Islam is maintained.
    The tension between these two visions reflects the interesting position of al-Ghazali himself. Al-Ghazali, as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a former member of al-Azhar to which he subsequently returned, represents a convergence between official and popular Islam. Al-Ghazali does not manifest a self-consciousness concerning how he contributes to the important and problematic relationship between the two. By defending and undermining the ’ulama’, al-Ghazali is contributing to the same contradictory situation that his thought illustrates. This situation reflects that of Egyptian society in general, in which there was - and still is - a strong desire to return to the past from which the Islamic world has been dislocated, while the Egyptian state itself is a product of modern transformations that cannot necessarily be reversed.

LEONARD WOOD: Proponents of Islamic Legal Reform in Interwar Egypt and the Flowering of Comparative Law

ABSTRACT: This paper assesses the development of comparative law in Egypt during the interwar period. During this period, a sub-field of comparative law emerged that compared Western and Islamic law. Jurists operating in this area of research endeavored to modernize Islamic law and to bring Egypt’s largely French legal system more in concert with the sharia. My paper discusses how Egyptian jurists used comparative law to establish new trajectories in Islamic jurisprudence and simultaneously to advance the modern conception of Egypt as a modern Muslim state wherein sharia should be the wellspring of national laws.
    In the intellectual and social historiography of modern Egypt, scarce attention has been paid to the role played by Egyptian jurists in developing Islamic jurisprudence and influencing national culture and conceptions of modern Egyptian identity. The majority of prominent Muslim Egyptian jurists remain unknown even in Arabic-language histories. This paper introduces influential Egyptian jurists and their work, and suggests paths of further inquiry that would benefit the study of law and the intellectual and social history of twentieth-century Egypt.
    The paper analyzes articles that appeared in two contemporary, Arabic-language journals: the journal of the Egyptian Sharia Bar Association (Majallat al-Muhama al-Shar‘iya) and the journal of Cairo University Law Faculty (Majallat al-Qanun wa’l-Iqtisad). While the paper is primarily an exploration in intellectual history, it also addresses social and political factors that influenced the comparative jurists. It discusses how changes in social life and economy enhanced the number of comparative jurists during the interwar period. The paper also examines how political events of the time influenced their juridical thinking.

NADIA ABU-ZAHRA: Al-Manar (1898): A Journal inspired by Afghani and Abduh



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