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Secularism in the Arab World

Contexts, Ideas and Consequences

Aziz al-Azmeh
Translated by David Bond

Hardback (Forthcoming)

Published in Association with the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

Explores secularism and secularisation in Arab societies since the mid-19th century

  • Traces the concrete secular transformations in Muslim societies which occurred at particular times and by specific social agencies
  • Explores how secular changes influenced the functioning of different strata and groups, and the central attitudes of their members
  • Devotes considerable attention to religious reform in the broader context of the developments studied, and of the ideological, political and institutional religious reactions to both
  • Includes a new Preface by the author to introduce the English translation

This book is a translation of Aziz al-Azmeh’s seminal work Al-'Ilmaniya min mandhur mukhtalif that was first published in Beirut in 1992. Both celebrated and criticised for its reflections on Arab secularisation and secularism in the modern history of the Arab World, it is the only study to date to approach its subject as a set of historical changes which affected the regulation of the social, political and cultural order, and which permeated the concrete workings of society, rather than as an ideological discussion framed from the outset by the assumed opposition between Islam and secularism.

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Foreword by Gilbert Achcar

Preface to the English Translation

1. 1992-2018

2. Negative authority

3. Keywords: vitalism, historism

4. Secularism and the sociology of fate

5. One postcolonialist standard

Preface to the second edition


Chapter One Religion and the world in historical perspective

1.On the term "secularism"

2.Religion and public life in Christian commonwealths

3.Islam and the world

Chapter Two The reformist state and the universalist orientation

1. The state and its society: education and secular culture

2. The secularisation of daily life

3. The state: from the millet to the secular state

Chapter Three Intellectual transformations and elusive reconciliation

1. Evolutionism and Salafism

2. Translation and equivocation

3. Explicit secularism and accord with reality

Chapter Four Sites of secularism in the twentieth century

1. Secular legislation and social dynamics

2. Intellectual secularism and reformist retrogression

3. Secularism and politics

Chapter Five The nationalist era and the future besieged

1. The flowering of secularism and its social dynamic

2. State, religion and the beleaguered future

Chapter Six Conclusion: Secularism today in the context of its adversaries

1. The discourse of exceptionalism and its auxiliaries

2. Islam, politics and society

3. The context of secularism



About the Author

Aziz Al-Azmeh is CEU University Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of History, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. Prior to that, he had taught at the University of Exeter and at the American University of Beirut, and been visiting professor at Columbia, Yale, Berkeley, Georgetown, ISTAC, and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Paris. He was a long-term Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Berlin, and a Fellow at the Swedish Institute for Advanced Studies, Uppsala, the Kollegium Budapest, the Kaete Hamburger Kolleg, Bochum, and a Senior Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, University of Bonn, as well as a Resident Scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation Center for Scholars in Bellagio. Aziz Al-Azmeh held the Bourse Fernand Braudel over several terms as Directeur de Recherches Associé, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris.

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