Islamic modernism is a movement within Islam that tries to reconcile Islamic thought and practice with the modern notions of life. These modern notions include scientific knowledge, philosophy ,human sciences modern social organizations and state along with its institutions.
According to Allama Iqbal, who was the most important Muslim philosopher of the twentith century, there is no essential difference difference in the teachings of Islam and the Western understanding of life. The essence of Islamic civilization and the West are similiar to each other.
However, the difference is in the materialization of this essence; Islamic spirit is similar to the Western spirit but both are different in their body.
according to Iqbal the present misunderstanding among Muslims that science and other advancements of knowledge are contradictory to the basic teachings of Islam is wrong. Islam supports science and knowledge.
As far as science is concerned , Iqbal says that there is no opposition between science and Islam. Science views reality in pieces and Islam has a holistic vision of reality. Islamic religious knowledge that has come through revelation , is not bound by time and space. This knowledge belongs to a consciousness that can see everything , past , present and future, in an eternal now.
On the other hand, this same reality is viewed by the intellect , and science for that matter, as divided into moments. Science knows everything in serial time, where as religion views everything in an eternal 'now.'
Following Immanuel Kant, Iqbal also believes that religious knowledge can only come through an intellectual intuition, in which one intuits reality free from the forms of time and space.
Religious consciousness is the consciousness of totality of the existence and time. Scientific consciousness is in a certain particular moment of time and covers slices of being and not the whole being.
Allama Iqbal also said that Islamic civilization , during his times, was 500 years behind the modern world. The reason was Muslims did not have any major ijtehad since last 500 years. What is Ijtehad? Ijtehad is a fundamental element in Islamic law making.
Islamic jurisprudence has four sources of law making. These four sources roughly fall into two categories. One type of sources cannot change. There content cannot be changed. And then there is a source of law making whose deals with the change. The law sources are:
- The Quran
So if a new situation appears in the society , about which none among the three traditional sources says anything explicitly, then there remains no possibility of solving that new problem or addressing that new situation . The only way to deal with the new un precedented situation or problem is to di Ijtehad . Ijtehad is the tool through which Muslims can solve unprecedented problematic situations.
Thus, Ijtehad is the key to dynamism in Islam; Ijtehad is the tool to meet with new unprecedented challenges.
Allama says that Muslims have not done any Ijtehad since last 500 years, therefore, it ius imperative for Muslims to do Ijtehad and to come at par with the modern civilization.
Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam
Iqbal's Ijtehad is this that he says that there is no difference , in essence, between Islam and the Western civilization. So, following the lead from the West , Muslims can also establish similar sort of institutions in their territories.
That is the reason why Iqbal suggested that a Muslim country, a nation state be established according to the principles of modernity. And Pakistan was established to actualize this vision.
However, as for most of the people in Islamic nations , modern law is secular and therefore irreligious, therefore Iqbal has addressed this issue as well. For Iqbal the Western Secularism is irreligious if it is compared with the spiritual religion of Christianity. Christianity is totally spiritual and does not consider this worldly issues as of religious import; Christianity has a vision of Kingdom of heavens and aims this vision alone.
Islam , according to Iqbal deals with both this worldly and other worldly issues; therefore , Islamic law is quite similar to the modern law.
A testimony of this fact can be seen in the decisions of British Courts in Indian, in dealing the cases of tribal areas which now form a part of Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwah(Old NWFP).
According to these decisions British Judges gave the verdict that instead of using the tribal laws, tribes should use Islamic law to deal with their issues. Thus British judges used to give decisions according to Shariyah or the Islamic Law.