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Mohammad Abdu was an Islamic jurist who was born in Egypt in 1849. In addition, he was a religious scholar and reformer who contributed greatly to Islam. He is regarded as the founding father of Islamic modernism, which encouraged use of reason in efforts to keep up with the changing world (Sedgwick 19).
Abdu was born into a peasant family that could not afford a lavish life. However, his parents hired a private tutor who taught him the basics of Islam such as how to recite the Quran. His contributions to Islam were based on his study of philosophy, logic, and Muslim mysticism at the University of Al-Azhar (Sedgwick 20). One of his instructors at the university (Jamal al-Din al-Afghani) influenced him significantly. Abdu used the influence of al-Afghani to advance his study of politics, Muslim mysticism, and journalism.
He advocated for reforms in the Egyptian society through education. He believed that quality religious education was key to good morals in children, which would help them to improve the society (Sedgwick 21). In addition, he believed that scientific knowledge was necessary because it was important for better reasoning abilities. He highly criticized corruption, lavish living, and fallacies.
Abdu’s contributions to Islam
Abdu’s main contributions to Islam include pioneering the Islamic modernist movement and reinterpreting Islam thought to modern thought. His contribution of developing Islamic modernism was significant in liberalizing the Egyptian education system, transforming Islamic worldview, fusing western and Islamic ideals to form a liberal Islamic society, and restructuring the jurist consult agency (Sedgwick 23).
He championed Islamic feminism, which had been disregarded in Islamic teachings and ways of life. He constructed an Islamic model of thought that valued feminism and that distinguished the Islamic view of feminism from the western view of feminism.
He pioneered Islamic feminism, and his ideals spread to other Muslim countries around the globe (Sedgwick 24). He advocated for gender equity and maintained that women had equal rights to men. Therefore, he taught that the preferred Islamic ideal for marriage was monogamy because polygamy would not foster justice and equality for all partners in the marriage.
Modernity refers to renunciation of old ideals and values in favor of new values and ideals. Islamic modernism refers to religious reform that attempts to eradicate inflexible beliefs from Islamic teachings in order to facilitate change (Sedgwick 27). Abdu was a supporter of modernity because he believed that Islam would advance only by adapting to societal changes. His ideals and thoughts on Islamic modernism were based on concepts of rationalism, nationalism, liberalism, and the universalism of Islam (Sedgwick 28).
Abdu reiterated the importance of embracing modernity in Islamic civilization. As such, he stated that Islam’s religious disposition depended on its ability to adapt to changes. His contributions are apparent in his contributions to the fields of philosophy, Islamic theology, hadith, and tafsir (Sedgwick 34). For example, he began the Quran commentary that was interrupted by his demise. However, one of his students carried it on although he did not complete it as Abdu had intended.
Abdu did great work in presenting a modern and rational interpretation of the Quran. The Tafsir al-Manar is Abdu’s greatest work. In the al-Manar, he demonstrated how modernity could be fused with Islamic ideals in order to advance the Islamic community. He postulated that embracing western ideals was imperative for liberation of Muslims from religious decadence, stagnation, and primitivism (Sedgwick 37).
Abdu was a key figure in the resurgence and restructuring of Islamic intellectual thought and movement. The movement’s main aim was to revive religious consciousness among Muslims. Moreover, the movement aimed to challenge the assumption that Islam was incompatible with modern thought and ideals that were the foundation of civilization and religious advancement (Sedgwick 41).
Abdu believed that Islamic reforms could be achieved through embracement of western ideals, and reformation of Islamic legal and social ideals and thought.
His reformation agenda involved reinterpretation of Islamic ideals and reconciliation of faith and reason (Sedgwick 43). He intended to create ideals that could respond to contemporary issues in the political, religious, social, and scientific fields. Islamic reformation involved the study and exegesis of the Quran (Sedgwick 53).
He believed that studying the Quran was more important than studying Islamic theology because the Quran was a better source of truth for Muslims. In addition, reformation involved simplifying Islamic theology in order to improve comprehension, and reforming religious understanding of Islam through revival of important beliefs and values. His idea of Islamic reform was greatly influenced by his instructor, al-Afghani.
The reform movement that Abdu formed influenced Islamic thought significantly because it revived religious ideals that were missing in Islam at the time (Sedgwick 48). As the Chief Mufti of Egypt, Abdu reviewed Islamic law and issued judgments based on teachings of the Quran.
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Moreover, he insisted on issuing fatwa guided by teachings of the Quran and Sunnah (Sedgwick 52). This represents Abdu’s dynamism in developing inclusivity and universality in Islamic ideals. The contribution of Abdu had great influence on reformation of Islamic thought.
This is evident from his work. He taught Muslims to adhere to Islamic ideals and values without compromising them, identified ways to solve problems that had caused the decline of Islamic faith, and protected Muslims against religious criticism (Sedgwick 53). Opponents of Islamic ideals claimed that Muslims could not advance by following principles of Islam that were considered backward. This criticism was one of the factors that encouraged Abdu to initiate reforms of Muslim thought to include modern Islam values and ideals.
Mohammad Abdu was an Egyptian reformer, religious scholar, and jurist who had great influence on Islam religion. He is considered the father of Islamic modernism owing to his immense contributions and work. Abdu was a supporter of modernity because he believed that Islam would advance only by adapting to societal changes.
His ideals and thoughts on Islamic modernism were largely based on concepts of rationalism, nationalism, liberalism, and the universalism of Islam. His contributions to Islam are based on his study of philosophy, logic, and Muslim mysticism at the university of Al-Azhar. His main contributions to Islam include pioneering the modernist movement, reinterpreting Islam thought to modern thought, transforming Islamic worldview, coalescing western and Islamic ideals, and restructuring the jurist consult office.
In addition, he championed Islamic feminism by advocating for gender equity. He initiated a reform movement that revived Islamic ideals and thought that had been discarded even though they were important. Abdu also simplified Islamic theology to improve its comprehension by all people, and reformed religious understanding of Islam through revival of important beliefs and values. His idea of Islamic reform was greatly influenced by his instructor, al-Afghani.
Sedgwick, M. Muhammad Abdu. Oxford: Oneworld Publishers, 2009. Print.