2023/ 2024

Zahiye Kundos

The Loss of the Muftī: Reimagining the Afterlife of Muḥammad ‘Abduh’s Islamic Modernism in Arabic Literature

Previous Fellowships: 2022/ 2023, 2021/ 2022, 2020/ 2021

Zahiye Kundos is a literary scholar, specializing in modern Islam, Arabic literature and the critique of modernity. She is completing her first book titled In the Name of God we Will be Modern (Once Again): The Re-Religious Turn of Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī and Muhammad ʿAbduh and the Critique of European Modernity. In her current project, ‘The Afterlife of Muhammad ʿAbduh in Arabic Literature,’ which focuses on the Egyptian canon, Kundos demonstrates the influence of modern religious reforms on the development of Arabic literature. She is a member of the editorial advisory board at Political Theology Beyond, a public scholarship project from the journal Political Theology. In the academic year 2020/21, she was a EUME Fellow. Since then she continues to be affiliated with EUME during the academic years 2021-2023 with the support of the Minerva Foundation, and in 2023/24 as a research associate at Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow.

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.