Reforming Modernity

Ethics and the New Human in the Philosophy of Abdurrahman Taha

Wael B. Hallaq

Columbia University Press

Reforming Modernity

Pub Date: November 2019

ISBN: 9780231193887

400 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£50.00

Pub Date: November 2019

ISBN: 9780231550550

400 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $64.99£50.00

Reforming Modernity

Ethics and the New Human in the Philosophy of Abdurrahman Taha

Wael B. Hallaq

Columbia University Press

Reforming Modernity is a sweeping intellectual history and philosophical reflection built around the work of the Morocco-based philosopher Abdurrahman Taha, one of the most significant philosophers in the Islamic world since the colonial era. Wael B. Hallaq contends that Taha is at the forefront of forging a new, non-Western-centric philosophical tradition. He explores how Taha’s philosophical project sheds light on recent intellectual currents in the Islamic world and puts forth a formidable critique of Western and Islamic modernities.

Hallaq argues that Taha’s project departs from—but leaves behind—the epistemological grounds in which most modern Muslim intellectuals have anchored their programs. He systematically rejects the modes of thought that have dominated the Muslim intellectual scene since the beginning of the twentieth century—nationalism, Marxism, secularism, political Islamism, and liberalism. Instead, he provides alternative ways of thinking, forcefully and virtuosically developing an ethical system with a view toward reforming existing modernities. Hallaq analyzes the ethical thread that runs throughout Taha’s oeuvre, illuminating how Taha weaves it into a discursive engagement with the central questions that plague modernity in both the West and the Muslim world. The first introduction to Taha’s ethical philosophy for Western audiences, Reforming Modernity presents his complex thought in an accessible way while engaging with it critically. Hallaq’s conversation with Taha’s work both proffers a cogent critique of modernity and points toward answers for its endemic and seemingly insoluble problems.
Reforming Modernity is the first work that examines an under-researched contemporary Arab philosopher and his unprecedented philosophical project from the Islamic tradition, a project that presents a staunch critique of both Arab-Islamic discourses of reform as well as a staunch critique of European-American (i.e. “Western”) modernity and its malaise since the Enlightenment. Reforming Modernity, written by an international scholar on an influential philosopher, is original, timely, and a needed contribution to the field. Mohammed Hashas, Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII
The English-speaking world needs to discover the work of Abdurrahman Taha, one of the most important Muslim philosophers of our postcolonial time. Wael B. Hallaq proves himself as a profound, rigorous reader and interlocutor in Reforming Modernity, which brilliantly manifests the Moroccan thinker’s oeuvre. Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Columbia University
This is a fascinating book. Abdurrahman Taha is one of the Arab world’s best grounded and most daring thinkers, and Wael B. Hallaq’s book gives a comprehensive overview of his thought. Taha knows his Kant as well as his Ghazali, and his critique of modernity—both Western and Arab—is pitiless. He goes on to propose an Islamic modernity, Qur’ānic and ethical. Since Hallaq provides interpretation as well as exposition, this book is also part of Hallaq’s own ongoing (and equally fascinating) project of critique and reconstruction. Mark Sedgwick, author of Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century
In Reforming Modernity, Wael B. Hallaq proves to be an ideal guide through the dense logic and complex language of Abdurrahman Taha, perhaps the most original Muslim philosopher of ethics and modernity unknown in the English-speaking world. Taha posits nothing less than the self-sufficiency of Islamic moral philosophy, yet his is a project at once critical of and open to other philosophies rather than mired in the futile pursuit of an Islam purged of “foreign influence.” A critical and sympathetic reader, Hallaq scrutinizes the content of these arguments, the way they are made, and how they unfold. The effect is not only to make Taha’s thought accessible, but also to invite readers to dwell within its texture and richness. Few scholars aside from Hallaq have the depth and breadth of knowledge to accomplish such a feat; we are indebted to him. Roxanne L. Euben, University of Pennsylvania
Citation Method and Abbreviated Titles
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. “Rethinking the Islamic Tradition”: A Conceptual Framework
2. The Spirit of Modernity
3. Islamic Applications of Modernity’s Spirit
4. Recasting Reason
5. Religion, Secularism, Ethics: A Concept of Critique
6. Sovereignty, Ethical Management, and Trusteeship
Epilogue: A New Concept of the Human
Appendix: Taha Responding
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Wael B. Hallaq is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. His works, which have been translated into a number of languages, include The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament (2013), which won Columbia University Press’s Distinguished Book Award, and Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge (Columbia, 2018).