The International Seminar on Malik Bennabi

Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 1-4, 1991.

This conference was the first international seminar in the Muslim worldto focus on the thought of Malik Bennabi (1905-1973), an Algerian thinker known to English readers for his book The Qur’anic Phenomenon. It was organized by the University of Malaya, the Institute of Policy Research, and several other academic institutions. The seminar’s patron was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian minister of finance, a political activist and intellectual who has a great interest in Malik Bennabi’s thought. The seminar’s objectives were to generate a greater interest in Bennabi’s ideas among Malaysian intellectuals and to highlight his impact on contemporary Muslim society.

Islamic Aspects of the Legacy of Malcolm X

Spike Lee's 1992 film, ''Malcolm X," is the most recent evidence of the increased popularity of Malcolm X (El Haj Malik El Shabazz). The film, based on a screenplay by James Baldwin and Arnold Perl, sparked controversy over "X" memorabilia and also a debate over the appropriate interpretation of Malcolm X's legacy. For example, black nationalist Amiri Baraka opposed Lee's portrayal and criticized the film as an attempt to "make middle class Negroes sleep easier."' Yet when the current controversy and debate end, the Islamic aspects will remain, as before, the most significant and least recognized elements of Malcolm X's legacy. This paper briefly examines this phenomenon in order to offer a more accurate and meaningful analysis of the significance of Malcolm X.

Islam in History

Malek Bennabi (translated from French and annotated by Asma Rashid). Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute Press, 1988, 110 pp.

Malek Bennabi (1903-73) was an Algerian scholar who received his education in Algiers and Paris. An engineer by training, his concern about the ummah's decadence led him to analyze the causes of this decay and to provide solutions. The result of his analysis is this book. Originally written in French in 1943 under the title Vocation de l’Islam, it was not published until 1954, in order to coincide with the Algerian revolution.

Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet

Karen Armstrong, San Francisco: Harper, 1992, 290pp.

During the almost one thousand years of European obsession with Islam, only a few authors have tried to rise above their contemporaries by presenting a more balanced view of this religious ideology. Armstrong's main aim is to encourage "this more tolerant, compassionate, and courageous tradition" (p. 15). From the very beginning, it is apparent that this book is written with an unsurpassed empathy and that it contains a degree of dismay and resentment that the truth about the Prophet and Islam has been compromised and hidden by ethnocentric European writers inspired either by the Christian church and its missionaries or modern secularism.

Islam and the End of History

The debate about the end of history raises issues that sometimes touch almost upon the philosophy of history, insofar as they relate to the significance of not only a particular century but of the human species.  Francis Fukuyama provoked this debate in his seminal article entitled, "The End of History?" in the journal The National Interest. At the end of the twentieth century, Fukuyama saw "an unabashed Victory of economic and political liberalism."' His central argument was that the whole world was moving towards a liberal democratic capitalist system that was destined to be the final sociopolitical paradigm of all human evolution. As Fukuyama put it:

  • What we may be witnessing is just not the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

Universal Social Culture: An Empirico-Revelational Paradigm of Shah Wali Allah

Shah Wali Allah's (1703-63) ideas and profound intellectual legacy continue to attract scholastic interest. Despite many works on his legacy, significant facets remain unknown. As his futuristic ideas hold great promise for modern and future Islamic thought, his works should be analyzed. We will focus on one such idea: his synthesis of reason, revelation, and empiricism. Building on evidence from an inductive survey of social phenomena to support the claims of revelation and staying within the doctrinal framework of revealed guidance, he constructs a universal social culture paradigm and says that all Qur'anic injunctions and instructions of the Prophet are compatible with the demands of human nature.

Islamic Resurgence and Western Reaction

Islam is an ideology and a world religion with more than one billion adherents spread around the globe (Kettani 1986). Muslims are a majority in more than forty-five countries from Africa to Southeast Asia. Their populations continue to grow, as do the Muslim populations in the former Soviet Union, China, India, Europe, and the United States. Islam seeks the evolution of a social structure based on the concept of the unity of mankind and comprised of individuals who are living moral and spiritual lives. It seeks to build a transnational society in which such narrow loyalties as color, race, and so on are negated, in which complete submission to the will of Allah is displayed, and in which Muhammad is the model to follow in daily affairs and is recognized as the chief interpreter of revelation.

The Islamic Impact on Western Civilization Reconsidered

The topic of the Islamic impact on western civilization has received a great deal of attention from various Muslim scholars, and some attention from western scholars. When discussing this topic, Muslims usually concentrate on providing a list of important scientific discoveries made by Muslims with the intent of proving that Muslims made the discoveries before the Europeans. For example: Ibn Sina (d. 1036) used an air thermometer and Ibn Yunus (c. 900) used a pendulum many centuries before Galileo, al Idrisi (c. 1OOO) discovered and mapped the sources of the Nile River nine hundred years before the Europeans, and al Zarkayl proved that the planetary orbits were elliptical-not circular-many centuries in advance of Copernicus.

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