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Theology In The Modern World Essay

1362 words - 6 pages

Ziauddin Sardar's Desperately Seeking Paradise is a progressive interpretation of Islam in the modern world, a world that is more globalized and is largely influenced by western culture. Sardar views modern Islam is an integration of the past that is largely derived from its golden Abbasid period and is desperately trying to retain its medieval origin, this inherent conservative tendency within Islam is largely fueled by the Wahabi's whom Sardar encountered on his visit to Saudi Arabia. Sardar's interpretation of the past stresses the idea that one can be immersed in history while still abiding by the customs of the present; this is especially pertinent to Islam because ironically the most ...view middle of the document...

Shortly after Sardar made the decision to leave the group deciding it that the this way of life was not for him; "I felt no nearer to paradise nor clearer in my ideas about paradise than when they had stormed my flat that fateful Sunday morning. All I had learned was that their formula could not be mine." (p.18).
A vital moment which heavily influences Sardar's realizations about the impacts of the modern world on Islam is back when his father told him of Al-Ghazali's story regarding the Bedouin who said: "you go to a university to learn, not to take notes" (p.46). The quote is a paragon of the problems that Islamic society is facing today; the regurgitation of the past (taqlid), and the abandonment of independent reasoning (itjihad). Building on his father's advise Sardar continues on for his quest for knowledge and meets with a Sudanese theologian in order to study the origin of Islam first hand through the works of ancient Muslim scholars and Hadith compilers such as Al-Bukhari and Ibn Ishaq. During Sardar's time studying with his fellow Muslims he recognized two things that they lacked: self-doubt and forgiveness, he said "The first led many to see the world in black and white. The second sowed the seeds of discord among us." (p.52). The key in this quote is 'self-doubt'; the idea that modern Muslims are afraid to make misinterpretations, this again ties back to the taqlid vs. itjihad debate.
During Sardar's encounter with the Naqshbandi Sufi tariqa in Britain there was a leader of a group known as the fuqar, this leader distinguished between "True Muslims" and "Modern Muslims" in the following way: "The modern Muslim, has lost ilm al-yaqin (knowledge of certainty), which is based on the Unseen. In the modern Muslim, the whole confrontation with his own nature has been conveniently filed away in the pursuit of worldly pleasures." (p.67). The loss of certainty however is not a matter of modernism but rather progressivism--the willingness to adapt to change. The idea that 'modern' or progressive Muslims are too enveloped in worldly pleasures is a generic argument made by conservative Muslims in an effort to delegitimize the liberal Muslims. The Islamic golden period was pronounced by open-mindedness, and not merely "worldly-pleasure".
Al-Ghazali plays an important role in Sardar's book and observations in terms of the classifications of travel. Al-Ghazali distinguished between two types of travel: the first is the literal, physical kind of travel rihla meaning 'trip' in Arabic, this type of travel is usually undertaken for the sake of learning and discovery. The second type of travel is safar which is more spiritual type of travel that involves inner transformation and the liberation of self as well as socializing and learning about others. Al-Ghazali also had classifications for what he deemed to be different classes of travelers; a first class traveler is in search of knowledge that will lead to the transformation of self...

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