The secularization phenomena in Islam Term Paper

Secularization is a process of religion’s role decline in the life of a society; transition from society, regulated mainly by religious tradition, to the secular model of social structure based on rational norms. Secularization is accompanied by the separation of religion from state, by the acknowledgement of right to liberty of conscience. The term was first used in the 18th century and meant the transmission of landed estates from clerical to secular control.

Presently, the term ”˜secularization’ is used in two meanings. Often secularization is understood as decrease of population’s religiousness, expressed in the decline of religious structures attendance, in breakaway from religious ceremonies’ strict following, in outspread of atheism. However, sociologists use ”˜secularization’, meaning the transition from religious regulation of public and state institutes to rationalistic ground of their activity. Then, the growth of individual religiousness doesn’t contradict secularization (until religion remains the free choice, and state bodies don’t ground their decisions with religious norms) (Stark 36).

Conservative character of orthodox Islam, for many centuries saving the identity principle of religious, cultural and political institutes, reflected the stagnation Muslim medieval societies based on natural and seminatural economy, on the one hand, and contributed to considerable economic and cultural weakness of Muslim East, preventing integral secularization, on the other hand. At same time, it saved the great influence of Islam in the social life and made the division of secular and religious spheres problematic (Warraq).

At the end of 18th and especially in the 19th century, there were undertaken certain attempts to transform Islam, which were the consequence of the growth of social, religious, national contradictions; of bourgeois relations origin, and of multidimensional influence of European culture. The idea was either to reject all accumulated distortions and innovations and fully return Islam’s ideal form (which it had on early stages of the evolution), or, vice verse, to bring it in maximal correspondence to the basic tendencies of new capitalist epoch.

Such Muslim modernists of the beginning of the 20th century, as Abdo, Rashid Rida, Ikbal, aimed at the revival of Islam’s political and intellectual grandeur in the spirit of scientific and technical progress of that period. They suggested a thesis concerning the possibility to learn the real world and the grandeur of human mind; and conceded the combination of mind’s free development with faith in God.

Modernists required considerable expansion of the circle of persons, having a right to free interpretation of Koran “in a spirit time”; and also ritualism simplifications; softening of sacral orders and norms; improvement of female position in the society; polygamy liquidation; and introduction of Europeanized educational and legal systems (Watt 43).

But all the aspirations of these ideologists were directed on including new elements into the traditional structure without sharp contradictions with the established principles, on adaptation of Islam to contemporaneity by renewing only its most archaic components.

Appeal to Islam as to eternal symbol of uniqueness, and requirement of absolute dependence of Muslims from the “supernational ummah” restrained the process of the comprehensive secularization of Islam societies. As a result, more or less radical religious reformism of that time didn’t have success on Muslim East (Najjar).

Nowadays secularizing tendencies, set in the 19th – the beginning of 20th century and directed on separation of social ideology and religion, are strengthening; and in this process religion is only one of the instruments of national policy. Now the Muslim world is exposed to secularization, because it has opened itself to the external world. While in past Europeans perceived Muslims as alien, unclear and even backward, in the 20th century the important process of dialogue, interpenetration and mutual understanding of two cultures began (Yahya).

So, on the one hand, Islam and Muslims started to be treated more tolerantly, and, on the other hand, ideas and style of life of the modern Western society penetrate into Muslim environment. Strong influences from outside brought into Muslim society the same problems, which Christian denominations collide with.

Reason of religious regress in Muslim community is a loss of veritable knowledge; loss of well-educated and experienced leaders, being in step with the times; and breakaway from the laws of Islam. Having no retentive and consolidating factors, Muslim community appeared under the influence of a number of negative factors (Warraq).

Principles of Islam stop being main vital principles. Islam starts being perceived rather the cult, more likely than the way of life. Religion loses the role of moral imperative in life of people and in human relations. The substitution of values happened, and this process has global character. People are orienting in their action rather on media heroes, than on moral imperative of Koran (Najjar).

A rule, in accordance with which a family plays a role of religious community, does not work anymore. If family is not a projection of truly Muslim society, the society will hardly educate a real Muslim. This process is caused by two reasons: religiously mixed families, and irreligiousness of family members. Many Muslims adhere not to ethics, but etiquette of Islam, i.e. internal processes which result from Islam ethics don’t take place.

There’s also a tendency to “high-quality degradation” of imams and other religious leaders, which do not understand their own religion properly, not to mention other religions and different sciences in general. Islam is considered as one of possible religious traditions. Losing knowledge about superiority of their dogma and history, Muslims leveled Islam to other confessions. And now they choose the religion, they find comfortable (Watt 54).

The problem of development of democracy is one of the most actual today for almost all Islamic political leaders, political organizations and many theologians-legists. Those, who recently have been talking about democracy and hostility of Islam, move to the background. The basic tendency is perception of democracy (in own interpretation) in the context of basics of Islam political doctrine. At the same time, ideologist of “Muslim Brotherhood” Fehmi Huveydi marks that acknowledgement of democratic values by Islam (pluralism, equality, participation) does not mean the necessity to borrow specific models and institutes realizing these values in Western countries (Taylor 25).

Human rights have also appeared in the center of Islam intellectuals’ political discussion, theologians and statesmen. Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights and Cairo Declaration on Human Rights were accepted almost 25 years ago, but their practical realization in the Islamic world is far from ideal. Since the middle of 1990s Islamic political organizations has been actively demanding their introduction, turning frequently into human rights movement in the union with the Left and Liberals. In addition, they often appeal to the generally accepted concept of human rights; for example, leaders of Palestinian Hamas, stand for giving equal rights to all citizens, referring to the revision of the earlier approach to the conception of the «sheltered» (Zimmi). Woman question became one of the central ones for Islamic political movement. Even a term “Islamic feminism” has appeared which in many cases expresses the demands to observe and provide rights for women according to norms of Islam, which enables women to protect and extend their rights in patriarchal society, contrasting Shariat and ethnic customs, frequently coming from in pre-Islamic leftovers (Hoodfar 18).

The supporters of Islamic political doctrine, not taking into account small number of radicals, change their attitude toward the West, which is no more associated with the source of all evil, of social illnesses and vices. Many leaders of Islamic political organizations call to learn from the West, acknowledging its unprecedented achievements in socio-economic, political, scientific and technical spheres. Moreover, Islamic leaders and activists start realizing that basic guilt for the regress of Muslim countries is carried not by the West, but by Muslims, who haven’t managed to react adequately to the challenges of modernity (Watt 38).

In this connection, today the problem of revival of caliphate, being always actual for Islam, becomes a second-rate issue. Such authoritative figures, as one of leaders of Western Europe Muslims Tariq Ramadan or the leader of Islamic political movement in Tunis Rashid Ganushi, call coreligionists to concentrate all forces on integration in the society, they live in, in order to influence on it from inside. Only a number of radical groups (Hizb ut-Tahrir, etc), busy fighting against political regimes, support the positions of caliphatism and the idea of “golden Islamic dinar” introduction. However, the topic of regional integration in the spirit European Union or G8 is discussed more actively (Stark 365).

The majority of Islamic leaders talk about the importance of consolidation of Muslims in the modern world, about overcoming and purging from the archaic forms of consciousness, vestiges, prejudices, etc. In spite of Islam’s centuries-long domination in the area of its traditional spread, the perceptions, based on the folk forms of religiousness and ethnic customs, and frequently contradicting with the Muslim dogma, are very strong. It remains one of the basic problems for the revival of the Islamic world and of that spirit of cognition and progress, which was inherent to it in the 18-19th centuries (Warraq).

Contacting secular ideologies, comprehension of the society and western experience of secularization from positions of Islam began.

Ideologists of Islamic political doctrine insist that it is impossible to apply to Islam the secularization practices, characteristic for the Western countries of 19th-20th centuries, because initially this religion has no division into secular and spiritual, as Islam covers all spheres of life. By the Council of Islamic academy of jurisprudence (fiqh) at the Islamic Conference organization a special fatwah concerning secularization is issued. The idea of religion’s separation from any sphere of vital activity is acknowledged as hostile (Stark 402).

At the same time, Islamic thinkers are developing the forms of participation of Muslim world outlook in the development of the modern world, where secular paradigm dominates. Possibly, a positive solution will be found in projecting the principles of Medina agreement to the international relations. Different projects of Islam reformation aim at purifying religion from all the factors restraining modern neoliberal values and preventing integration; they reject extreme measures and support evolutional Islamisation. Transformism principle of violence unacceptability and support of gradual reformation through Islamisation of individual consciousness and social institutes becomes firmly established (Yahya).

This strategy is grounded on the necessity of sober estimation of modern realities and possibilities of Islamic movement. For example, such conception as “vasatizm” (meaning “centrism”, “moderation”, and “constructivity”) is based on main positions of Islam. Its basic thesis is the necessity of constructive participation of Muslims in world affairs, reject of extremes, support of dialogue and moderation. Flexibility of political activity and reject of excessive sacralization become prevailing ideas. Besides, the approach, according to which problems of modernization, providing high life level, fight against a corruption, authoritarianism, becomes firmly established in the Islamic political environment. In the Islamic world the idea of the cooperation became actual again. Two basic directions were set in this connection: rapprochement with Christians and with alter-globalists. Each of these projects could easily unite more than half of humanity, and present a serious call for neoliberal globalization (Taylor 27)

Thus, radical isolationism moods, formed once in traditional Islam, lose their influence. The crisis of extreme movements, speaking under Islamic slogans, is obvious. This process is strengthened by serious discussions in the Islamic world, which marginalize extreme moods, allowing to produce the acceptable from point of Islamic political doctrine forms of political consciousness and participation, which will help the Muslim world to take the appropriate place on the world arena.

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