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Review Essay On Irfan Ahmad’s Religion as Critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace

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journal contribution
submitted on 2023-03-15, 08:05 and posted on 2023-03-15, 09:15 authored by Ian Almond

Ahmad’s book comes at a moment when a concerted effort is being made, on many fronts but especially from a right-wing, populist direction, to render “Islam” synonymous with the inability to think critically. Religion As Critique in this sense performs a timely range of functions: a useful reminder of how culturally located and historically conditioned the key moments of the Enlightenment were; a vigorous argument for the existence of alternative genealogies of “critical thinking,” in particular the Islamic Persian/Urdu speaking world of the seventeenth to twentieth centuries; a central consideration of one key figure in this period, the scholar Abu Aula Maududi and a number of his subsequent disciples, from whose debates Ahmad builds on to develop a concrete argument for an Islamic form of critique—one which “does not dismiss Greek, pre-Muhammad or Western traditions but which at the same time can’t be subsumed within them” (16); a brief evaluation of the debates around women and gender; and finally, some anthropologically driven considerations of the place the marginal and the everyday within the Muslim world has for any wider definition of what “Islam” and “Islamic thinking” might mean.

Other Information

Published in: Religious Studies Review
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  • English



Publication Year

  • 2020

License statement

This Item is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Institution affiliated with

  • Georgetown University in Qatar