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Tradition and Modernity

Christian and Muslim Perspectives

David Marshall, Editor. Afterword by Rowan Williams

Publication Year: 2013

Tradition and Modernity focuses on how Christians and Muslims connect their traditions to modernity, looking especially at understandings of history, changing patterns of authority, and approaches to freedom. The volume includes a selection of relevant texts from 19th- and 20th-century thinkers, from John Henry Newman to Tariq Ramadan, accompanied by illuminating commentaries.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-4

This volume is a record of the proceedings of the ninth Building Bridges seminar for Christian and Muslim scholars, convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and held at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, from May 25–27, 2010. The focus of this seminar on Christian and Muslim approaches to the relationship between tradition and...

Part I: Surveys

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Tradition and History in Islam: Primitivism in Islamic Thought and Scripture

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pp. 7-24

This remarkable passage was written in the late 1580s by ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Fishtālī (d. 1621), the court historian of the Moroccan Sultan Aḥmad al-Manṣūr al-Dhahbī ("The Golden Conqueror," r. 1578–1603). Aḥmad al-Manṣūr’s father, Muḥammad al-Shaykh al-Mahdī (d. 1557), reunited Morocco after more than a century of civil war and foreign invasion. He...

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pp. 25-30

Tradition, put simply, is what is handed on. The English word "tradition" derives from the Latin "to hand over, to deliver."
It may be helpful, before specifically discussing "tradition" in Christian thought, to consider how much in human life is "passed on" by others. Here are two musical examples. The first is from my own workplace—the...

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Religious Authority and the Challenges of Modernity

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pp. 31-44

Societies live by their myths. If asked about the modern history of religious authority, many Americans at least would turn to the legendary 1925 Scopes trial, the bitter confrontation between supporters and critics of Darwinian evolution, as mediated through the film Inherit the Wind (1960). Here, we think, reason and science ran rings around obscurantism and faith, and that...

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Between Traditional and New Formsof Authority in Modern Islam

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pp. 45-56

If the traditional authority structure in Islam had always been polyphonic, modernization made it even more so. "Islam" means submission to God’s authority alone, as expressed in the divine revelation, the Qurʾān and the Ḥadīth. Yet the authority to interpret the divine revelation is not the monopoly of a person, group, or institution. On the contrary, all Muslims, men...

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Freedoms of Speech and Religionin the Islamic Context

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pp. 57-66

One premise of this essay is that freedoms of speech and religion are necessary means for each human person to pursue what she holds as the ultimate purpose and meaning of her life. In other words, people tend to link the value of rights such as freedoms of speech and religion to the purpose for which they are asserting those rights rather than to affirm them for...

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Christianity, Modernity, and Freedom

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pp. 67-78

Modernity—to the degree that it was or is a kind of cultural project or epochal ideology—understands itself as the history of freedom. Or rather, I suppose I should say, the one grand cultural and historical narrative that we as modern persons tend to share, and that most sharply distinguishes a modern from a premodern vision of society, is the story of liberation, the...

Part II: Christian and Muslim Thinkers on Tradition and Modernity

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John Henry Newman (1801–90)

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pp. 81-88

From An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845)

The following essay is directed towards a solution of the difficulty which has been stated,—the difficulty, as far as it exists, which lies in the way of our using in controversy the testimony of our most natural informant concerning the doctrine and worship of Christianity, viz. the history of eighteen...

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Newman on Revelation, Hermeneutics,and Conscience

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pp. 89-96

John Henry Newman (1801–90) stands undoubtedly as the most important Catholic thinker to emerge between the Council of Trent of the sixteenth century and the Second Vatican Council of 1963–65. If the first council posited Catholicism’s authoritative answer to the Protestant reformers, the second rightly hails Newman as its "Father."1 His influential essay on the...

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Muḥammad ʿAbduh (1849–1905)

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pp. 97-104

From Destiny and Fate

The Europeans believe that there is no difference between the doctrine of destiny and fate (al-qaḍāʾ wa al-qadar) and the doctrine of the theological school of the Predestinarians (al-Jabrīyya), who say that the human being is compelled absolutely in all of his acts. They imagine that with the doctrine of destiny (al-qaḍāʾ) Muslims see themselves as a feather floating in...

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Muḥammad ʿAbduh: A Sufi-Inspired Modernist?

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pp. 105-114

Chronologically the earliest of the Muslim reformers to be discussed in this volume, Muḥammad ʿAbduh is the most ambiguous in terms of understanding the full extent of his legacy in the century since his death. With the possible exception of his teacher and political mentor Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī (1838–97), he is arguably the most overinterpreted figure in...

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Sayyid Abū l-Aʿlāʾ Mawdūdī (1903–79)

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pp. 115-124

From Our Message

[Islam and secularism]
Three Fundamental Principles

Now I wish you further to understand clearly the principles of modern civilization which we desire to uproot and also the principles which we want to establish in their place.
Modern civilization on which revolves the whole present-day organisation of the world (intellectual, moral, cultural, political and economic) is, in reality, based...

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Mawdūdī and the Challenges of Modernity

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pp. 125-132

Abū l-Aʿlāʾ Mawdūdī (often referred to as Mawlānā Mawdūdī) was born in 1903 as the youngest of three sons. He lived with his family in Aurangabad, a well-known town in the former state of Hyderabad (Deccan, now known as Maharashtra), in India. His family was strongly religious and had a long tradition of spiritual leadership, with a number of Mawdūdī's ancestors...

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Lesslie Newbigin (1909–98)

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pp. 133-140

Tradition and History

The christian mission is the clue to world history, not in the sense that it is the "winning side" in the battle with the other forces of human history, but in the sense that it is the point at which the meaning of history is understood and at which men are required to make the final decisions about that meaning. It is, so to say, not the motor but the blade, not the driving...

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Newbigin and the Critique of Modernity

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pp. 141-150

Life in Brief

Following Lesslie Newbigin’s death in 1998, the obituary in The Times described him as "one of the foremost missionary statesmen of his generation," and "one of the outstanding figures on the world Christian stage in the second half of the century."1 Born in 1909 to Quaker parents, he studied at Cambridge University and went to India in 1936 as an ordained...

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Alasdair MacIntyre (1929– )

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pp. 151-156

From After Virtue

[Excerpted from a chapter titled "The Virtues, the Unity of a Human Life and the Concept of a Tradition"]

It is now possible to return to the question from which this enquiry into the nature of human action and identity started: In what does the unity of an individual life consist? The answer is that its unity is the unity of a narrative embodied in a single life. To ask "What is the good for me?" is to ask how best I might live out that unity and bring it to completion. To ask "What...

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MacIntyre on Tradition

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pp. 157-168

Is the notion of tradition applicable to all cultural phenomena, both secular and religious? Or is it to be associated especially with religious phenomena? We speak very easily of both cultural and religious traditions, and in general we tend to contrast a "traditioned" mode of life with a "modern" mode of life that is seen as having emanated from the West. "Tradition" as a...

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Seyyed Hossein Nasr (1933– )

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pp. 169-176

From Islam and the Plight of Modern Man

[The tension between the traditional Muslim outlook and that of modern Western civilization]

The contemporary Muslim who lives in the far corners of the Islamic world and has remained isolated and secluded from the influence of modernism may be said to live still within a homogeneous world in which the tensions of life are those of normal human existence. But the Muslim...

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Seyyed Hossein Nasr on Tradition and Modernity

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pp. 177-184

Born in Tehran in 1933, Seyyed Hossein Nasr has been at the forefront of discussions of the relation between Islam and modernity for more than four decades. He has published more than five hundred articles and more than fifty books that have been translated into some twenty languages. Nasr is one of only three intellectuals who have delivered the Gifford Lectures in Natural...

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Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (1938– )

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pp. 185-192

From In Memory of Her

[The ekklēsia of women]

In the Greek Old Testament ekklēsia means the "assembly of the people of Israel before God." In the New Testament ekklēsia comes through the agency of the Spirit to visible, tangible expression in and through the gathering of God’s people around the table, eating together a meal, breaking the bread, and sharing the cup in memory of Christ’s passion and resurrection. Christian...

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Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza: A Christian Feminist Responds to Betrayals of the Tradition

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pp. 193-200

The theme of tradition, the handing on of something to be both treasured and handed on again, harbors within it the apparently counter theme of betrayal. All traditions are vulnerable to betrayal for, in the very process of handing on, the original gift may be distorted or even lost. Different traditions no doubt develop different strategies for minimizing the element of...

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Tariq Ramadan (1962– )

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pp. 201-208

From Western Muslims and the Future of Islam

[Distinguishing between the unchanging and the changing]

The work of categorization left by scholars through the ages is phenomenal. Specialists in the foundations of law and jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh), who labored at this exercise of extrapolating and categorizing rules on the basis of a reading that was both careful to be faithful to the...

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Tariq Ramadan’s Tryst with Modernity: Toward a European Muslim Tradition

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pp. 209-220

In the introduction to a significant recent collection of essays on the concept of religion, Hent de Vries writes:

"Religion" may—or may not—be here to stay. As a "concept" (but which or whose exactly?), from one perspective it might seem to be losing its received reference (the transcendent, the world beyond, and the life hereafter) and its shared relevance (a unified view of the cosmos and all beings in it; a doctrine of the origin, purpose and...

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pp. 221-226

Modernity and the scatter of terms related to it are agreed to be slippery words. They are hardly ever used neutrally, just to describe what happens to be the cultural position at the present moment. They may be used in both positive and negative ways: "modernization" is assumed unthinkingly to be a good thing; "modernism" is a bad thing in the vocabulary...


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pp. 227-236

E-ISBN-13: 9781589019829
E-ISBN-10: 1589019822
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589019492

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013