The beginnings of transnationalism in modern Islamic thought: Rashîd Ridâ (1869-1935)
01 / 2006 - unknown
This project will focus on the transnational dimension of the religious and political thought and activism of Muhammad Rashîd Ridâ, who was one of the precursors of modern Islamic reformism. Ridâ was born inSyria but livedin exilein Egypt from 1897onwards, both to escape Ottoman censorship and repression, and to become the disciple of the famous reformist thinker Muhammad Abduh. Although he is usually considered to be the inheritor and conveyor of Abduh s ideas, especially after the latter s death in 1905 he developed his own system of reformism and political activism. In 1898 he founded the journal al-Manâr, which was distributed throughout the Muslim world, from Morocco to Indonesia, from Istanbul to Khartoum, and which became the source of inspiration of many reformist groups and currents in Islam. In his journal he not only propagated a return to religious values and the adaptation of religious thought and practice to the requirements of modern society, he also gave legal advice on issues related to modern developments and problems. The origins of Ridâ s thought should be sought in the highly unstable years marking the decline and collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the First World War, and the European interventions in thew Middle East and North Africa, which led to the redrawing of the political map of the Arab world and Western hegemony. In all of these developments, Ridâ was involved as a thinker, a commentator and an activist, seeking to create a modern form of Islam out of the debris of the Ottoman Empire and trying to influence the policies of the foreign powers. It is one of the hypotheses of this project that it was the impact of exile and the political upheavals during his lifetime that shaped the transnational dimension of Ridâ s thought. Transnationalism can be related to Ridâ s ideas in several ways: first, through his exile in Egypt, which made him part of a transnational network of scholars and political activists; second, throughhis journeys to Syria, Istanbul, the Hijâz,Indiaand Europe; through his interest in modern technology and means of communication, which became manifest in the publication of al-Manâr, the first transnational Islamic journal; fourth, through his efforts to revive the idea of the caliphate, as a modern concept and as a solution for the collapse of the political structures in the Levant; and, fifth, through his tireless efforts to purify Islam from superstitions and local divergencies, and to formulate the tenets of a uniform, fundamentalist faith, transcending political boundaries. These five pillars of Ridâ s transnationalism are also the basis of reformist thought and Islamic political activism throughout the 20 th century, in which the transnational component became increasingly important, not only because of the process of globalizationm and increasing interaction between the Muslim world and the West, but also because of the availability of modern means of communication and the call for a uniform, text-based Islam. Therefore, Rashîd Ridâ can be seen as the forerunner of many transnational, reformist thinkers in Islam today.