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SUNNI ISLAM. Historical Overview

Practiced by the majority of Muslims, Sunni Islam refers primarily to the customary practice of the prophet Muhammad. The term Sunni (sometimes rendered “Sunnite”) derives from sunnah and has the general meaning of “customary practice.” This practice, this sunnah, is preserved in the hadiths, the Tradition, which consists of the accounts of what the Prophet said or did and sometimes of his tacit approval of an action. The Tradition, in addition to the Qur’an is one of the sources of Sunni religious law. Another source is the consensus of religious scholars, al-ijma`. This concept of consensus reflects the emphasis in Sunni Islam on community and its collective wisdom, guided by the Qur’an and the sunnah. Thus, Sunni Muslims have referred to themselves as ahl al-sunna wa al -jama`ah (“people of the sunnah and the community”).

Sunni Islam, however, is not monolithic. It is comprised of different theological schools and legal schools, as well as a variety of attitudes and outlooks conditioned by historical setting, by locale, and by cultural circumstances. Sunni Muslims do share, however, certain distinctive beliefs. They differ the the Shi`ah, “the party of `Ali” (the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law) in denying that the Prophet designated `Ali to succeed him as leader of the Islamic community: `All, the fourth of the rightly guided caliphs, al-khulafd’ al-Rashidun, like the first three, became a legitimate caliph through a form of public acclamation. They also distinguish themselves from other Islamic sects whose views, they maintain, constitute bida` (sg., bid’ah; “innovations”), departures from what the community at large holds.

Sunni Islam developed as a result of political and religious struggles within Islam that began very early in its history. The history of these struggles is complex, but certain historical facts stand out. A key event was an army mutiny in 656 CE. It resulted in the murder of the third caliph, `Uthman, a member of the Umayyad clan of the Meccan Quraysh. `Al! was acclaimed caliph, but `Uthman’s kinsman, the Umayyad Mu`awiyah, governor of Syria, demanded that `All bring to justice the murderers of `Uthman and refused to acknowledge him as caliph. During the ensuing inconclusive civil war between them, part of ‘Ali’s army withdrew its support from him but remained opposed to Mu’awiyah. This group was the basis of the sect of “the Seceders,” (alKhawarij) with their various divisions, who rejected both `Uthman and ‘All as legitimate caliphs and who confronted Muslims with pivotal theological questions that conditioned the development of sectarian thought. In 661, after a Khariji assassinated `Ali, Mu’awiyah was acknowledged caliph, initiating a dynastic caliphate, the Umayyad, which lasted until 750.

This period witnessed the polarization of political and religious attitudes that became formalized doctrine. Disputes arose over such questions as the definition of true belief, the status of those who profess Islam but commit a great sin, freedom, and determinism. These remained basic questions discussed by later Sunni thinkers who sought to formulate theologies consistent with the Qur’an and the sunnah. In 750 the Umayyad Caliphate was toppled by the `Abbasids, descendants of the Prophet’s uncle al-`Abbas. During the ensuing `Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258), Sunni Islam came into its own. The four schools of Sunni law, initiated by Abu Hanifah (d. 767), Malik ibn Anas (d. 795), al-Shafi’i (d. 82o), and Ibn Hanbal (d. 855) became firmly established. The history of Sunni Islam in this period is marked by the reaction of Muslims to two things: excessive rationalism in theology and developments in Shiism. [See Law, article on Sunni Schools of Law.]

The rationalist school of speculative theology (kalam), the Mu’tazilah, which had its roots in the late Umayyad period, alienated the more conventional Muslims, for whom Mu’tazili intellectualism missed the spirit and intention of the Qur’an. Things came to a head when the caliph al-Ma’mun (r. 813-833) espoused Mu’tazilah and attempted to impose its doctrine of the created Qur’an. This attempt, which continued with his two successors, saw the persecution of dissenters, including Ibn Hanbal. A reaction to Mu’tazilah set in. It lost its political power as well as its position of dominance as a school of kaldm and was superseded by the school of al-Ash’ari (d. 935), who used the method of the kaldm to defend traditional Islamic belief. This does not mean that all Sunnis are Ash’ariyah. Some subscribe to another school of Sunni kalam, that of al-Maturidi (d. 944); others totally disavow kalam.

Shiism in the `Abbasid period was dominated by two related groups, the Isma’iliyah, or Seveners, and the Ithna `Ashariyah, or Twelvers. Both maintained that the rightful Islamic leader, the imam, must be a descendant of al-Husayn, son of `Ali and Fatimah, the Prophet’s daughter, and that this imam was endowed with special knowledge. They disagreed, however, on who was the rightful seventh imam. The Twelvers gained prestige and influence when the Shi’i Buyid dynasty became the effective ruler in Baghdad (945-1055) although it continued to acknowledge the `Abbasid caliph. The Isma’iliyah established in 910 a countercaliphate, the Fatimid, in North Africa, conquered Egypt in 969, and made it their base. The tenth century witnessed a veritable growth of ShIN power. In the eleventh century, however, Sunni power revived when the Seljuk Turks, who were Sunnis, conquered Baghdad in 1055. They provided effective military opposition to the Fatimids in Syria and ideological opposition through the writings of such prominent Sunni thinkers as Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. IIII). Islam’s great countercrusader, the Sunni Saladin (Salah al-Din; d. 1193), brought an end to the Fatimid caliphate in 1171. Twelver Shiism fared better when Shah Isma’il (d. 1523), founder of the Safavid Persian state, espoused it; this strong base in Iran still exists today. The larger Ottoman Empire, however, the rival of the Safavid, was Sunni. In the late twentieth century the great majority of Muslims continue to be Sunni.

[See also `Abbasid Caliphate; Islam, overview article; Isma’iliyah; Ithna `Ashariyah; Khawarij; Shl’! Islam, historical overview article; and Umayyad Caliphate.]


Coulson, Noel J. A History of Islamic Law. Edinburgh, 1964. Readable and comprehensive general introduction that also contains very helpful bibliographical guidance.

Macdonald, D. B. Development of Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence and Constitutional Theory (1906). Reprint, Beirut, 1965. At one time a standard study, but now somewhat outdated; nonetheless, still very useful.

Rahman, Fazlur. Islam. London, 1966. Although this book assumes some background knowledge of Islam, it is rich in content and discusses issues essential to Sunnism and its development.

Watt, W. Montgomery. The Formative Period of Islamic Thought. Edinburgh, 1973. Standard study, excellent in every way; analytic, readable, comprehensive. Offers thought-provoking interpretive hypotheses.

Wensinck, A. J. The Muslim Creed. Leiden, 1932. Remains a very valuable study, though somewhat dated and not without a goodly share of “Western” assumptions.

Modern Sunni Thought

Any consideration of modern Sunni thought has to take into account new interpretations of the Qur’an, which started to appear at the end of the nineteenth century in the works of reformers who wanted to go back to scripture and early tradition in order to renew Islamic thought. Because any innovating thought that wants to carry weight for a Muslim audience has to refer to the Qur’an, the reformers Muhammad `Abduh (1849-1905) and Muhammad Rashid Rida (1865-1935) presented their ideas in the form of a new commentary on the Qur’an, which was published in the monthly issues of the Egyptian journal Al-manar between 1903 and 1935 (later published separately in twelve volumes). A number of such tafsirs (exegetical studies) produced in twentieth-century Egypt have been studied by Jacques Jomier, J. J. G. Jansen, and I. M. al-Sharqawi; those by `A’ishah `Abd al-Rahman (Bint al-Shati’) and Sayyid Qutb deserve to be mentioned here. In the IndoPakistan subcontinent, Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s (18171898) commentary on the first seventeen surahs of the Qur’an (seven vols., 188o-1907) was the first modern reformist commentary. Together with subsequent commentaries, the two most noteworthy of which are those by Abu al-Kham Azad (1888-1958) and Ghulam Ahmad Parwez (b. 1903), it has been studied by J. M. S. Baljon. In the 1940s, the Egyptian scholar Am-in alKhuli at the University of Cairo, along with his students Muhammad Ahmad Khalafallah and `A’ishah `Abd alRahman, initiated a new approach to the study of the Qur’an, regarding it as a literary document to be studied by literary methods without the interference of theological doctrine. In 1947, Khalafallah submitted his doctoral dissertation on the art of narration in the Qur’an (in Arabic) in which he proved that the Qur’an contains reinterpretations of earlier versions of scriptural stories. It met with strong resistance from al-Azhar authorities and could only be published in 1951, in a revised version. More recently, research has been carried out on the Qur’an by Hamad Nasr Abu Zayd at the University of Cairo. [See the biographies of `Abduh, Rashid Ridd, `Abd al -Rahman, Qutb, Ahmad Khan, Azad, and Khalafalldh.]

Besides his Qur’anic research and other publications on Islam, Sayyid Ahmad Khan carried out extensive studies on Christianity that resulted in a commentary on the first chapters of Genesis and Matthew (1862, 1865, 1887), and the Egyptian scholar Muhammad Kamil Husayn also paid considerable attention to the study of Christianity in addition to his work on the Qur’an.

Two Algerian scholars have also developed new approaches to the Qur’an. One scholar, Malek Bennabi, has concentrated on how to understand the Qur’an as revelation and how to account for Muhammad’s subjectivity in the revelatory process. Published in France in 1946, his book The Qur’anic Phenomena appeared in English translation in 1988. The other scholar, Mohammed Arkoun (b. 1928), in his publications pays attention to “reading” the Qur’an in the light of modern semiotic theory. The problem of interpreting scriptural texts in general is redefined by Arkoun in modern terms in his book Lectures du Coran (1982) and other publications in French, still to be translated into English. Especially Arkoun’s publications distinguish themselves from the thousands of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Sunni publications on the Qur’an by the new questions they ask about the literary and historical aspects of the Qur’an and its hermeneutics. [See the biography of Arkoun.]

In recent years, renewed attention has been paid to the sirah literature, which deals with the biography of Muhammad. Quite a few literary biographies of the person of Muhammad have seen the light since World War I; the main Egyptian ones were studied by E. S. Sabanegh in his book Muhammad: Le prophete (Paris and Rome, 1983). Al-Qummani has studied the sociopolitical conditions of ancient Mecca in search of historical causes for the rise of the Islamic state under Muhammad’s leadership. The question of the reliability of hadiths on the subject is part of the broader field of Muslim work on hadith literature. Western scholarship has denied the historical authenticity of at least part of this literature. Several Muslim scholars recognize the historical problems involved, and Muslim scholarship on the question of the historical authenticity of these texts has been studied by G. H. A. Juynboll.

Another field of major concern in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Sunni thought is shari’ah (the divine law). Whereas the writings of the great medieval fuqaha’ (jurisprudents) continue to enjoy high prestige and are considered to be authoritative, Fazlur Rahman and other twentieth-century modernist reformers recognize that the filth (jurisprudence) treatises remain human formulations of what is considered divine law. Such formulations from the past have to be checked over and over again, on the one hand, against scriptural data, interpreted with the help of reason, and, on the other, against present-day life situations and problems. Formulating shari’ah in human terms, consequently, is an ongoing enterprise. Uniquely, Mu’ammar al-Qadhdhafi contends that shari` ah should be based on the Qur’an only. Much thought has been given to matters related to shari’ah as distinct from the civil codes enacted in nearly all Muslim countries in the course of the twentieth century.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Muhammad `Abduh had admitted that fuqaha’ can draw on the four recognized fiqh schools (madhhabs) for the study of what shari’ah implies in specific cases. Around sixty years later, Mahmud Shaltfit added the Sh!’! Ithna `Ashari madhhab. By thus combining not only different Qur’anic texts but also opinions drawn from different law schools, it turned out to be possible to “modernize” or liberalize certain traditionally valid rules about polygamy, repudiation, and divorce.

No less spectacular has been the development of thought about the implications of shari’ah for constitutional law and the organization of the state. The immediate cause of the revision of traditional doctrine was the formal abolition of the caliphate (which had already been reduced to a largely titular post) by the Turkish National Assembly first in November 1922 and definitively in March 1924. In 1922-1923, Muhammad Rashid Rida had already proposed a new concept of the caliphate as a parallel religious and political structure which would encompass all Muslim countries. In 1925, the Egyptian scholar `All `Abd al-Raziq published a study on Islam and the fundamentals of government (in Arabic); he used powerful arguments to deny that the institution of the caliphate has a Qur’anic and Islamic foundation, as well as to combat the traditional idea that Islam requires a particular form of state and government. He asserted that Muslims are free to choose the form of government they prefer in their countries, since political authority does not constitute a fundamental principle of Islam. This was, of course, meant to give Muslims responsibility for the particular ways in which they wanted to build their states. Since the author made a distinction between Muhammad as a prophet and religious teacher of eternal truth and as a statesman in historical circumstances, he asserted that the religious character of Islam is distinct from its political character, implying a separation between religion and state. This went against established tradition and doctrine, and `Abd al-Raziq’s book was banned by al-Azhar. It should be realized that in the 19206 the question of the caliphate and the implications of its abolition by the Turkish government led to discussions all over the Muslim world, but in particular in the Near East and India. In Turkey, the USSR, and a few other countries, there were jurists who favored a separation between shari’ah and the state, that is, between state and religion. At present this position is defended by Muhammad Sa’id al-`Ashmawi in Egypt, in his Al-Islam al-siyasi (Political Islam; Cairo, 1987). [See the biography of `Abd alRaziq.]

The reaction came not only from al-Azhar, bastion of established Islam, but also from the circle of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928 and spread to Syria, Palestine, and elsewhere over the next twenty years. It was held in these quarters that Islam prescribes an Islamic social order (al-nizam al-islami), and the idea developed that such an Islamic social order could only be developed in an Islamic state (al-dawlah al-islamiyah). Under the circumstances of the time (foreign rule, World War II, the establishment of the state of Israel), the vision of an Islamic state, if necessary to be established by force, gained ground among the Muslim Brothers. The Muslim Brotherhood’s structural parallel in Pakistan was the Jama’at-i Islam!, founded by Abu al-A’la Mawdudi (1903-1979), who was intent on turning Pakistan into an Islamic state based on shari’ah. More than his Egyptian counterparts, who were persecuted under the Nasser regime between 1954 and 1970, Mawdudi described in detail the encompassing Islamic order to be realized in the hoped-for Islamic state. To achieve it, an Islamic “revolution,” not necessarily of a violent nature, was required, and this would guarantee the fundamental transformation of society, its islamization. Even under Zia ul-Haq, who imposed this kind of islamization in Pakistan, the hoped-for realization of shari’ah in an Islamic social order did not take place. The various Islamic states apply shari `ah in widely differing ways. [See Muslim Brotherhood, article on Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; Jama’at-i Islami; and the biography of Mawdudi.]

A different kind of Sunni thought developed when the attempt was made not to oppose Islam to things Western (as in the idea of an Islamic order and an Islamic state) but to reconcile some prominent Western ideologies with Islam. Was nationalism compatible with Islam? Until the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 al-Azhar scorned all nationalist divisions among Muslims, maintaining the ideal of the political unity of all Muslims, notwithstanding the fact that a number of new nationstates with Muslim majorities had been and were being founded. Insofar as Islamic sentiment had supported the struggle for independence, there was no conflict; the problem arose, however, when the nationalist leaders created secular rather than Islamic states. Was democracy compatible with Islam? Its proponents argued that Islam possesses an embryonic democracy in the Qur’anic concept of shura, as an advisory council to the head of the state. It was also felt that democracy, with its insistence on the responsibility of the citizens and its legitimation of the state as representative of responsible citizens, was a necessity for the development of Muslim societies. But most Muslim societies had been governed on the lines of “Oriental despotism,” religion in fact legitimizing the use of power from above. The adherents of an Islamic state affirm that the democracy which Islam brings about is different from the Western model of democracy. Most discussions, however, have been carried on about the relationship between socialism and Islam; this also had an immediate political relevance, since some Muslim countries had an open market economy according to the capitalist model, whereas other Muslim countries have at times followed varieties of the socialist model. The Syrian thinker Mustafa al-Siba`i’s fervent plea for an Islamic socialism, in his 1959 book on the socialism of Islam, was welcomed by Nasser and others at the time when Egypt and other Arab countries were moving to the left. But there turned out to be several versions of Islamic socialism, one being proposed by Sayyid Qutb, who took a critical distance to the state. There were also different versions of Arab socialism; even the Bath variety of the latter developed differently in Syria and Iraq. And if a revolution was to take place, should it be a socialist or an Islamic revolution? [See also Socialism and Islam and the biography of Siba’i.]

In any case, most Muslim thinkers stressed the idea of justice and particularly social justice in Islam. The status of women in Islam continued to be a subject of debate.

A different area of thought cherished in Muslim circles is the more speculative realm of metaphysics and theology, for instance, the problem of the relationship between reason and revelation. Traditional doctrine held that the use and domain of reason is circumscribed by the data of revelation: in the end, reason is subordinated to revelation. The modernist Sunni reformers Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Muhammad `Abduh, however, assumed a basic parallelism of reason and revelation, in the visible as well as in the invisible sphere. Both men were inspired by the Muslim philosophical heritage and impressed by the achievements of Western science and thought. Both gave reason a higher place than it occupied in traditional kalam (metaphysical theology); for both there is an essential harmony among reason, revelation, and moral conscience; both accepted shari’ah as basically identical with natural law; and for both Islam was a religion of progress. Both, too, acknowledged that human beings have great freedom as the authors of their actions, and both gave much attention to education in the broad sense of the word.

Muhammad Rashid Rida, too, accepted a parallelism between reason and revelation, but he accorded the former a somewhat lesser status than did `Abduh. In his Islamic Reform (Berkeley, 1966), Malcolm Kerr recognizes in `Abduh’s attempt at a rational reform of Islam, based on its sources, a visionary character and a moral purpose. He calls Rashid Rida, however, an ideologist who tried to give a revivalist interpretation of Islam, restating old doctrines in modern terms.

In recent times, the need for rationality and intellectual rigor is increasingly felt as a counterweight to the irrationalisms of modern times. In Egypt Muhammad `Imarah has tried to reawaken the rationality of alAfghani, `Abduh, and Rashid Rida, whose works he has reedited. He has become well known through his study Al-Islam wa-al-sulta al-diniyah (Islam and Religious Authority; 2d ed., Beirut, 1980). Similar rational concerns are alive with present-day thinkers, such as Hasan Hanafi, who works for a new tanwir (Enlightenment) in Arab-Muslim thought and wants to replace theology by anthropology. Other Muslim countries too, have their champions of rational thought, such as Muhammad Abfi Jabiri in Morocco and `Abd al-Majid Sharfi in Tunisia. These thinkers have often studied in the West and are open to dialogue and to a common struggle for the causes of humanity. Throughout the twentieth century Muslim thought has been stressing the responsibility of man and woman as persons, and much more attention has been given to the problem of human freedom than in earlier times. [See the biography of Hanafi.]

Another field of modern Muslim thought is that of history. As far as the Middle East is concerned, European imperialism, Western neocolonialism and exploitation by socialist bloc countries, the World Wars and the following Cold War, the establishment of Israel, mutual rivalries, petrodollars, and other factors have made it one of the crisis areas of twentieth-century history. Some Muslim authors are fascinated by the rise and fall of nations and civilizations, with the lurking question of whether the West or Islam will dominate the world of the future. In a similar vein, authors, such as `Abbas Mahmud al-`Aqqad and Muhammad Kamal Ibrahim Ja’far in Egypt, have discussed the place of Islam in the ongoing history of religions. Here and there a scholarly interest in religions other than Islam is visible, as distinct from the apologetic and polemical spirit that pervades so much writing on this subject and prevents true dialogue between cultures and religions. Such a dialogue requires, as a first condition, a free development of thought in Muslim countries, and this, unfortunately, is under constant threat. Certain trends of thought have scope to develop among Muslims living in the West and not in Muslim countries. The tragic end of the Sudanese independent thinker Mahmud Muhammad Taha (d. 1985) is a warning signal.

One of the striking features of late twentieth-century Muslim societies is the increasing “conscientization” of Islam and Islamic norms and values. Against Western secular history, economics, education, and thought, calls can increasingly be heard for an Islamic view and methodology, just as an Islamic Declaration of Human Rights has been proposed besides the United Nations’ one. The growing concern with Islamic specificities, norms, and values has led, at least in the Arab-Muslim world, to an increasing concentration on Islamic subjects: jihad and religious tolerance, dhimmah and religious freedom, the status of woman in Islam as opposed to that in the West, and so forth.

Under the manifold pressures of the present, traditional concerns with Islam as a distinctive entity have apparently developed into what Yvonne Haddad calls “neonormativist” thinking, as opposed to what she calls “acculturationist” thinking, which is open to historical and social forces and willing to change. Typical for neonormativist thinking is the exclusive concern with Islam as a total system embracing all aspects of life, religious as well as worldly (din wa-dunya). Man is seen as vicegerent of God on earth, the Muslim community as fulfilling God’s plan with the world.

In this view, the Western world, its culture and religion, is seen as the historical enemy of the Muslim world and a threat to Islam. The Islamic identity itself is threatened by Western secular scholarship, secular methodology, secular education, and ongoing Western cultural and intellectual imperialism, which is seen as incapable of dialogue and of discerning any spiritual quality in things Islamic. Against this sombre image and perception of the West, Islam is seen as eternal and perfect, and Muslims can appropriate it, by zeal and commitment, through orienting themselves to the Qur’anic view of reality. In this line of thought, Islam is presented as the sole subject of reflection, the absolute religion, accessible either through specific scriptural texts (as held by the fundamentalists) or through the coherent system of a rationalized Islam (as held by the ideologists). The versions of this absolute Islam vary according to political regimes and their oppositions, and on closer analysis they are largely conditioned by political forces.

Yet there are other ways of thinking about Islam as well, where Islam is a domain of personal experience, of communal norms and values, of creative effort in the sense of Muhammad Iqbal (1875-1938), or enlightenment in the sense of Mohammed Arkoun, who wants to free Muslim thought from political conditioning. [See the biographies of Iqbal and Arkoun.] Reading the expressions of modern Sunni thought and also some works of literature, one becomes aware of an immense variety among Muslim thinkers and of the multiple interpretations permitted by Islam. And if more Muslims could express their thinking freely, this variety in Muslim thought would be still more visible than it is today.

All these thinkers work under great political, economic, and social pressures. Under the same pressures states in Muslim lands tend to become authoritarian while the deprived population finds an outlet for its misery in protest movements appealing to Islam.

[See also Revival and Renewal.]


`Abduh, Muhammad. The Theology of Unity. Translated from the Arabic by Ishaq Musa`ad and Kenneth Cragg. London, 1966. Modern theological treatise written by an outstanding Muslim modernist reformer, first published in Arabic in 1897.

Abraham, Midhat David. “Mahmud Shaltfit (1893-1963), a Muslim Reformist: His Life, Works and Religious Thought.” Ph.D. diss., Hartford Seminary, 1976. Important study of a well-known rector of al-Azhar University (1958-1963).

Adams, Charles C. Islam and Modernism in Egypt. London, 1933 Classic introduction to the rise of Islamic modernist reform thought in Egypt.

Ahmad, Aziz. Islamic Modernism in India and Pakistan, 1857-1964. London, 1967. Excellent survey of Islamic modernist reform thought in the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent.

Ahmad, Aziz, and G. E. Von Grunebaum, eds. Muslim Self-Statement in India and Pakistan, 1857-1968. Wiesbaden, 1970. English translations of important texts that provide insight into modern Muslim thinking on Islam in the context of the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent.

Ahmad, Khurshid, and Zafar Ishaq Ansari, eds. Islamic Perspectives: Studies in Honour of Mawland Sayyid Abu A’la Mawdudi. Leicester, 1979 Essays on different aspects of the islamization of thought, society, and the state, written by thinkers concerned with a revitalization of Islam.

Anderson, J. N. D. Law Reform in the Muslim World. London, 1976. Insightful survey of juridical thought and the relation between modern law and religious law (shari’ah) in a number of Muslim countries.

Arkoun, Mohammed. Lectures du Coran. Paris, 1982. Essays on new ways of reading the Qur’an with the tools of modern semiotics. Arkoun, Mohammed. Pour une critique de la raison islamique. Paris, 1984. Thought-provoking analysis of classical and traditional Muslim thinking, and an urgent plea for its liberation from past political and other conditioning.

Baljon, J. M. S. Modern Muslim Koran Interpretation, 1880-1960. Leiden, 1968. Introduction to modem Qur’an interpretations, in particular in the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent.

Boullata, Issa J. Trends and Issues in Contemporary Arab Thought. Albany, N.Y., 1990. Excellent survey of intellectual trends in the present-day Arab world, including thinking on Islam.

Cragg, Kenneth. The Pen and the Faith: Eight Modern Muslim Writers and the Qur’an. London, 1985. Good introduction to the way in which some prominent authors relate themselves to the Qur’an. Donohue, John J., and John L. Esposito, eds. Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives. New York, 1982. Presentation in English translation of important texts from the last hundred years which provide insight into the broad range of modern Muslim thinking. Enayat, Hamid. Modern Islamic Political Thought. Austin and London, 1982. Excellent introduction to both Sunni and Shi`i political thinking in the nineteenth and twentieth century.

Gibb, H. A. R. Modern Trends in Islam. Chicago, 1947. Classic work on Muslim reformist thought up to World War II.

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck. Contemporary Islam and the Challenge of History. Albany, N.Y., 1982. Insightful treatment of the various ways in which Muslim thought has responded to the impact of modernism.

Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939. London, 1962. Classic study of many aspects of Arab thought up to World War II.

Iqbal, Muhammad. Six Lectures on the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. Lahore, 1930. Vision of the famous philosopherpoet of the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent on the future of Islam. Juynboll, G. H. A. The Authenticity of the Tradition Literature: Discussions in Modern Egypt. Leiden, 1969. Thorough study of Muslim responses to Western critical scholarship on the historical authenticity of hadith literature.

Keddie, Nikki R. An Islamic Response to Imperialism: Political and Religious Writings of Sayyid Jamal ad-Din “al-Afghani.” Berkeley, 1968. Texts of one of the first modern Muslim reformers in English translation, with an introduction to the life and thought of alAfghani.

McDonough, Sheila. The Authority of the Past: A Study of Three Muslim Modernists. Chambersburg, Pa., 1970.

McDonough, Sheila. Muslim Ethics and Modernity: A Comparative Study of the Ethical Thought of Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Mawlana Mawdudi. Waterloo, Ont., 1984. Good introduction to the ethical thought of two very different Muslim reformers in the IndoPakistani subcontinent.

Na’im, Abdullahi Ahmed An-. Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law. Syracuse, N.Y., 1990. Important study by a prominent Sudanese thinker.

Rahman, Fazlur. Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition. Chicago, 1982. Excellent introduction to various trends of thought with regard to renewal of education and thought in Islam.

Sardar, Ziauddin. Islamic Futures: The Shape of Ideas to Come. London and New York, 1985. Vision of the future of Muslim thought in response to the demands of the times.

Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Modern Islam in India: Social Analysis. Rev. ed. London, 1946. Masterly study of Muslim thought in nineteenth- and twentieth-century India and its social conditionings.

Taha, Mahmud Muhammad. The Second Message of Islam. Translation and introduction by `Abd Allah Ahmad Na’im. Syracuse, N.Y., 1987. English translation of an important text written by the famous Sudanese Muslim reformer, with a new vision of individual and communal responsibilities in Islam.

Vogelaar, Harold S. “The Religious and Philosophical Thought of Dr. M. Kamel Hussein, an Egyptian Humanist.” Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1978. Good introduction to the thought of an outstanding Egyptian intellectual, on both Islam and Christianity. Waardenberg, Jacques. “The Rise of Islamic States Today.” Orient (Hamburg) 28.2 (1987): 194-215.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/sunni-islam/

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