The ʿulamāʾ: Scholarly tradition and new public commentary

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Introduction: In modern times, the traditionally educated Muslim religious scholars, the ʿulamāʾ, often lament that their distinctive institutions have ceased to exist or to matter much, that their writings no longer receive the attention their religious expertise merits and that, in any case, their intellectual stature hardly compares with the major figures of earlier times. At least in this instance, observers and scholars of modern Islam tend to take the ʿulamāʾ at their word. It is true, of course, that the impact of colonial rule and the emergence of the post-colonial nation-states have radically altered all facets of life, including the religious. Even when Muslim societies are governed by fellow Muslims rather than by a colonial regime, the terms on which, and the sphere in which, religion is to operate are defined by the state rather than by the ʿulamāʾ; and the state itself is governed by a ‘modernist’ elite that is the product not of institutions of traditional Islamic learning, the madrasas, but rather of Westernised colleges and universities, with their own sense of what Islam means and how to make it compatible with the conditions of modernity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe New Cambridge History of Islam
Subtitle of host publicationMuslims and Modernity Culture and Society Since 1800
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781139055925
ISBN (Print)9780521844437
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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