Renaissance questions that were aborted by fundamentalists

Renaissance questions that were aborted by fundamentalists

Dr.Hani Nasira

We do not go overboard if we say that the thrust of all renaissance projects of the late nineteenth century were against stagnation, backwardness and closed identity that believes in theoretical sufficiency and cultural dispensation with the modernity of the West, the reason and the sin of the history in an inverted conception of time that suggests moving backward rather than moving forward.

For that reason its first attempts and projects were opposed by the supporters of stagnation and despotism at that time, but Islamist mobility and slogans, which appeared later, granted life to and strengthened an obstacle to rather face it, with a social, cultural and religious authority that possessed the rules and agitated masses to fiercely stop the force of the renaissance and its theses and efforts that were exerted since its emergence.

Why did Muslims fall behind and why did others advance?!” This is how the renaissance question was formulated to question the causes behind backwardness and advancement, in an attempt initiated by its supporters to bridge the gap between the Arab and Islamic East on the one hand and the West and its civilization on the other hand, but it didn’t only emerge with the book of Shakib Arslan “1869-1946 ” which bored this title in 1939, but indeed the question was asked much earlier, and perhaps in the same form. It was written by Abdullah Al-Nadim (1845-1896) forty-seven years before Arslan in Al-Ustad magazine under the title “Why did the Europeans advance and we are late?” while in 2015, a book was printed addressing the same issue and suspicions.

Historically, The issue of questioning the renaissance motivated the writings of people like Egypt’s Rafaa al-Tahtawi, Tunisia’s Khair al-Din Basha and Lebanon’s teacher Boutros al-Bustani and like what Ahmad Fathi Zaghloul translated in 1899 about the secret of the progress of the English Saxons, in which he says in his introduction to his translation: “One of the facts is that nation can’t rise from its sickness and escape its slumber, unless it is freed from its shackles and separated from the restrictions that exhaust its powers and degrade its resolve, and it is not possible for the nation to get rid of its pain and absolve itself from illnesses, unless it knows its reasons and surround the weaknesses , the first duty of the one who seeks the interest of his nation is to show areas of weakness and to be aware of it, if the disease diagnosed, it is easier to know the medicine.”

The question tackling the gap of modernity and renaissance between East and West was the motivation and goal of all above mentioned with the early awakening of Arab awareness since the beginning of the nineteenth century, and it was earlier than other questions that were posed late , such as the questions of reference and identity, which we see that it came a little bit late and only accompanied the rise of nationalism and the Islamists emergence  in the 1920s and it has been keeping escalated to date. As for the question of the renaissance, it was the quiet rational question that followed the shock of modernity since the French set their foot in Egypt in 1798. Actually, the whole nineteenth century was inaugurated with this question, and the people new awareness exploded through it, a challenge to the self through the challenge to the superior at the same time.

Abdullah Al-Nadim reflected the centrality of the renaissance question in the consciousness of the easterners in the introduction to his book, saying: “This question became popular with the tongues of the easterners, and the wise people overwhelmed with it in all the eastern kingdoms. They became asking about Europeans: why do they specifically progress while all are human being, shall be equal? “, then he added “As the question revolved on their tongues, many answers revolved as well, and each one claimed that he knew the reason and found the causes of the delay.”

This concept is what Fathi Zaghloul explained when he said: It is undeniable that we are lagged behind the West, weak in front of them, cannot overcome them and that we cannot erase our misfortune as long as we maintain the status quo, we are weak in everything on which the lives of nations are based. In his book, Shakib Arslan answered the question posed by one of Al-Manar readers; his name is Muhammad Basyuni Imran from the Muslims of Java and Malay, to its editor, Mr. Muhammad Rashid Rida, on the reasons behind the Muslim backwardness and the progress of the West and Japan. Raslan answered: “The decline and weakness of Muslims is a public concern in the East and the Maghreb and not confined to Java and Malay. Rather, it varies in its depths, it is in some of them less dangerous while in others more critical, and in general, the present situation of Muslims, especially Muslims of the twentieth century, does not satisfy the most enthusiastic people to Islam. While Abdullah Al-Nadim Wasa and Fathi Zaghloul were liberal school graduates, Shakib Arslan was the most conservative in answering the Renaissance question, and we see that all other questions, such as the question of identity and reference, have been delayed and came after the renaissance question, perhaps other questions erupted from the renaissance one, so we saw the identity topic flared up in the discourse of Islamists who couldn’t separate the renaissance from the historical conflict with the west.

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