Monthly Archives: January 2007


“For [Tahtawi]. as for Islamic thinkers of the later Middle Ages, law was a negative restraining factor. It set the limits within which the ruler must act, not the principles in accordance with which he should act. Muhammad ‘Ali and Isma’il did not infringe those limits. They were benevolent autocrats of a type familiar to Islamic thought and posing no new problems. They issued no new statement of principles which might be , or seem to be, in contrast with those of the shari’a, and their innovations were mainly in the sphere of economic life and administration, about which the Shari’a says little, rather than in the basic administration of society or the realm of personal status, about which it says much.” pg 83

“Like other Muslim thinkers of his day, he was willing to accept the judgement on Christianity given by European free thought: it was unreasonable, it was the enemy of science and progress. But [al-Afghani] wished to show that these criticisms did not apply to Islam; on the contrary, Islam was in harmony with the principles discovered by scientific reason, was indeed the religion demanded by reason. Christianity had failed – he took Renan’s word for it; but Islam, being neither irrational not intolerant, could save the secular world from that revolutionary chaos, the memory of which haunted the French thinkers of his time.” pg 123

“In general, a certain definition of European civilisation was accepted: Europe was taken at the value it put upon itself – or more specifically, the value put upon it by the liberal thinkers of the nineteeth century. The bases of European civilisation , the ‘secret’ of its strength and prosperity, were taken to be such factors as these: the existence of the national community, ruling itself in the light of its own interests; the separation of religion and politics; the democratic system of government, that is to say, the prevalence of the general will as expressed by freely elected parliaments and ministries responsible to them; the respect for individual rights, particularly the right to speak and write freely; the strength of the political virtues, of loyalty to the community and willingness to make sacrifices for it; above all, the organisation of modern industry and the ‘scientific spirit’ which lay behind it.” pg 324

Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age.