Jamal ad-Din "al-Afghani", one of the outstanding figures of nineteenth-century Islamic history, has attracted increasing interest in both the East and West in recent years. Jamal ad-Din, known also as Afghani, was one of the first important leaders to try to reinterpret traditional Islamic ideas so as to meet the agonizing problems brought by the increasing incursions by the West into the Middle East. Rejecting either pure traditionalism or uncritical imitation of the Christian West, he began what has become a continuing trend among Muslim modernists emphasizing pragmatic values needed for life in the modern world. These included political activism, the freer use of human reason, and efforts to build up the political and military power of Islamic states. By seeking these values within the Islamic tradition instead of openly borrowing them from the hostile West, he was able to attain an influence on religious Muslims not possible for those who simply appropriated Western ideas.
A Monthly Newsmagazine from Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT)
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