Politics and Government

Modernity, tradition and modernity in tradition in Muslim societies

In the 14th century, the North African Muslim political sociologist, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), made a distinction between badawah, desert nomadic life of simplicity, and hadarah, the life of sedentary urban civilization. He stressed the inevitable transition from badawah to hadarah with the consequent transformation of society and human habit (Dawood, 1969). This distinction is maintained in contemporary social and political discourse with varying terms and concepts including tradition and modernity. A good deal of research in the area of modernization dealt with identifying qualities, traits and characteristics assumed to belong to “modern societies” in contrast to qualities found in traditional societies.” Tradition, to Edward Shils (1981, p.12), is anything which is transmitted or handed down from the past to the present.”  It includes material objects, beliefs, images, practices and institutions. “It is the traditum, that has been and is being handed down or transmitted. It is something which was created, was performed or believed in the past, or which is believed to have existed or to have been performed or believed in the past”(Shils,1981, p.13).

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