The Loss of the Muftī: Reimagining the Afterlife of Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s Islamic Modernism in Arabic Literature
What starting point can we find for a discussion of being Muslim as a moral way of life in these times when the Arabic discourse is bruised and stuttering? To begin to answer this therapeutic question, this project suggests that, instead of studying religious knowledge, (ʿUlūm Al-Dīn) and literature (Adab), separately – as their ostensible mutual estrangement in modernity has led us to do – we turn our attention to the range of experiences that become available when we consider the dynamic and symbiotic historical interrelations between them. This project is an endeavor in this direction. It attends to allocate the polemics incited in the first decades of 20th-century Egypt between religious and secular writers from the point of view of the latter as registered in their literal productions, particularly that by Taha Hussein (d. 1973) surrounding Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s death (d. 1905). Alongside voicing the tensions and uncovering the drama created in the aftermath of ‘Abduh’s absence, the project aims to show the ways Hussein and his fellow intellectuals, looked up and back to ‘Abduh with awe and sobriety and sought to extricate textures of belonging with him and his agenda of reform.