Thursday, December 8, 2016

Shahab Ahmed on modern Muslims' disconnect from pre-modern ways of engaging Revelation

Modern Muslims conceive of Islam in terms that are crucially different to how pre-modern Muslims conceived of Islam—different, that is, in terms of the focus, emphasis, and weightage of the hermeneutical engagement with Revelation. Modern Muslims have largely lost the routine hermeneutical habit of making meaning in terms of Islam from Pre-Text and Con-Text of Revelation: modern Islam is, pre-dominantly, Islam of the Text of Revelation. Thus, when modern Muslims encounter statements of Islamic meaning that are made in terms of the hermeneutical engagement with Pre-Text (the ideas of Ibn Sīnā or of Ibn ʿArabī, the poetry of Ḥāfiẓ, miniature paintings, the wine-cup of Jahāngīr, etc .) they are, by and large, unable to recognize or make sense of these statements as Islam . The encounter between Muslims and the force of the definitive constitutive elements of modernity has, in various ways, resulted in the formation of a new species of human being, the modern Muslim , who conceives of his/her-self as a Muslim in terms of Islam that are crucially different to how pre-modern Muslims conceived of themselves as Muslim—precisely because the modern Muslim conceives of Revelation in a manner that is crucially different to how pre-modern Muslims conceived of Revelation. Modernity has resulted in nothing less than a reconstitution of the concept of Revelation that is, perhaps, best characterized in the parlance of business management as a downsizing of Revelation from Pre-Text, Text, and Con-Text, to Text more-or-less alone—or to Text read in highly-depleted Con-text. This modern downsizing of the terms of the hermeneutical engagement of Islam has rendered (the majority of) modern Muslims in a cognitive and epistemic condition where they are largely unable to establish a coherent conceptual relationship between modern Islam and pre-modern Islam: it has, in other words, rendered modern Muslims largely unable to conceptualize human and historical Islam. [230]
-Shahab Ahmed, What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic(Princeton and Oxford: Princeton UP, 2015, 515-6.