The modernity of anti-modernism in Islam

“Throughout the colonized lands of the Middle East and North Africa, the voice of modernism and integration with the Enlightenment ideals of the European colonialists was consistently drowned out by the far louder and more aggressive voice of traditionalism and resistance to the insufferable yoke of imperialism.”

— No god but God by Reza Aslan

And, yet, Aslan would be the first to admit that empire was often resisted in a voice that is as much the voice of capital is empire: the voice of nationalism. Islam and Islamic empire was born prior to the emergence of capitalism. In its best expression, Islamic empire was multi-ethnic and even multi-religious, even if the clan or tribe always lay not far beneath the surface. But this means that the drawing out and extension of what we imagine the past to have been — traditioning — which Hadith got wrong even before the Holy Prophet was buried, should not be confused with its fetishized form under capitalism, which, in its opposition to the specific fetish Islam calls “the West,” incorporates the logic of capitalism itself into its very core. Modernism and the Enlightenment are not enemies of traditionalism, but its perfect complement; traditionalism is among its most illustrious fetishes. A deep critique of Islam, a critique in which Islam redeems criticism, has yet to be written.

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