Modernity in the discourse of Abdelwahab Elmessiri

Adapting Western self-critical discourse, the Arab Egyptian intellectual Abdelwahab Elmessiri (1938-2008) attempted to Islamize modernity; however, he did this ironically via Western critique itself. This paper follows a comparative approach to show how Elmessiri’s construction of the duality of immanence (Western modernity) and transcendence (Islamic monotheism) is based on the critiques introduced by Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) and Zygmunt Bauman (1925- ). However, while Bauman saw the role of critical theory as the modest comment on human experience, Elmessiri and Voegelin uncovered the dominance of immanence in Western modernity so as to contrast it with Islamic monotheism and the Christian humanistic legacy, respectively. The critiques introduced by Elmessiri and Voegelin reach their climax when modernity is compared to a form of heretical Gnosticism.

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