Decolonizing the Study of Religions
Muslim Intellectuals and the Enlightenment Project of Religious Studies
The term â€˜religionâ€™ as a discursive term occupies a dominant, but neglected feature of Muslim intellectual reflections since the 19th century. Intellectuals from Muá¸¥ammad Ê¿Abduh (he died in 1905) to recent scholars like Naá¹£r á¸¤Ämid AbÅ« Zayd (he died in 2010) have used religion as a critical term to develop a critique of tradition and modernity, and a strategy for renewal. This discourse may be compared with the study of religion since the 19th century that has also used religion to develop a perspective on the religious history of humankind. In this contribution, I argue that the two intellectual traditions that have employed religion â€“ Kantian and the modern Islamic â€“ point to very different ways of relating to the world, to the self and the â€˜otherâ€™, and to the political condition of modernity. Rather than using the hegemonic Western tradition to make a judgment on the modern Islamic, I use the latter to point to the formerâ€™s peculiar proclivities. Using the modern tradition among Muslim intellectuals, I invite an inquiry into both from each otherâ€™s positions.
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