Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Opening of Abdal-Hakim Murad's "Ishmael and the Enlightenment’s crise de coeur"

If the modern West is the civilizational climax of the profane and the material, then Islamic civilization, when it existed, was probably the civilizational climax of the sacred. This function need not be attributed to a spiritual eminence, which Muslims might wish to claim but which is certainly undemonstrable; nor can it be shown that any given Muslim artifact or text was more refined than a cognate production of, say, Hinduism. Rather, Islam's civilizational eminence stemmed from a spectacular plenitude. Of the other religions of the pre-Enlightenment world, only Buddhism rivaled Islam in massively encompassing a range of cultures; however Islam, uncontroversially, was the foundation for a still wider range and variety of cultural worlds. In particular, we may identify distinctive high civilizations among Muslim Africans, Arabs, Turks (including Central Asians), Persians (including, as an immensely fertile extension, Muslim India), and the population of the Malay Archipelago, radiating from the complex court cultures of Java.
-Tim Winter, ‘Ishmael and the Enlightenment’s crise de coeur: a response to Koshul and Kepnes,’ in Basit Bilal Koshul and Stephen Kepnes (eds.), Scripture, Reason, and the contemporary Islam-West encounter: studying the ‘Other’, Understanding the ‘Self’ (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 149-175.