Afghani on empire, islam, and civilization

11368 mots 46 pages
Political Theory

Afghani on Empire, Islam, and Civilization
Margaret Kohn Political Theory 2009 37: 398 originally published online 10 March 2009 DOI: 10.1177/0090591709332339 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Afghānī on Empire, Islam, and Civilization
Margaret Kohn
University of Toronto

Political Theory Volume 37 Number 3 June 2009 398-422 © 2009 Sage Publications 10.1177/0090591709332339 hosted at

This essay provides an interpretation of Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn al-Afghānī, a controversial figure in nineteenth-century Islamic political thought. One aspect of this controversy is the tension between “Refutation of the Materialists,” Afghānī’s well-known defense of religious orthodoxy, and a short newspaper article entitled “Reply to Renan” that dismisses prophetic religion as dogmatic and intellectually stifling. In this essay I argue that close attention to Afghānī’s theory of civilization helps resolve this apparent contradiction. Afghānī’s interest in Ibn Khaldūn and the French historian Guizot is well known, but has not been fully explored in the literature. I suggest that understanding Guizot’s distinctive approach to the concept of civilization illuminates Afghānī’s writings on the political utility of religion. Afghānī was an ardent anti-imperialist and his goal was to encourage reform in Islamic countries while resisting Western hegemony. He

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