The Centennial Symposium on
Al-Manar and the Mannarists
"The Lighthouse of Modern Islam: Al-Manar (1898-1935) Revisited"
Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of its Publication
The University of Tokyo, 20-21 November 1998
(In the following summary of the symposium, the affiliations and titles of speakers, discussants, commentators, and all other participants were deleted.)
The Symposium had two major themes: first, the impact of the journal
"al-Manar" in a trans-regional sense, and second, reconstructing the
significance of al-Manar with special relevance to modern and contemporary Islam. To examine these two themes, the Symposium offered eight sessions and filled two days with heated discussion. Overall, the Symposium was remarkably successful. Its success proved that the"Lighthouse" (al-Manar) which was first lighted 100 years ago in Egypt, extended its illumination to today, and shed new light on our research today.
The Symposium started with Tsugutaka SATO's welcome speech, explaining the objective of the on-going "Islamic Area Studies" Project, and the significance of this symposium to the Project.
Masataka TAKESHITA started the session, emphasizing that this International Symposium was to be conducted as an extension of the Symposium on al-Afghani held in November 1997. Yasushi KOSUGI then gave a key-note speech describing three significant aspects of al-Manar: 1) this journal continued 37 years, 2) it was published while the Islamic world faced internal and external crisis, 3) it impacted not only the Islamic Middle East but other Muslim societies. He mentioned that the emergence of nationalist movements in the Islamic world disrupted the continuity of what is called Islamic revivalism, and yet Islamic revivalist movements reemerged today. Therefore, he maintained, reexamining the significance of al-Manar leads us to reevaluate modernity in the Muslim world, as well as the legacy of early Islamic values. After hearing KOSUGI's key-note, the audience discussed the significance of the "al-Manar Index" first distributed at this Symposium, the extensive impact of al-Manar on Muslim societies, and philosophical aspects of so called "Mannarists".
Youssef IBISH presented "Rida and his Time," discussing the historical difference between the West and the Islamic World: the history of the West is a series of struggles between the church and the state; whereas the history of the Islamic world starts with the state existing before any organized community of believers. He stated that, faced with military and political control by European colonial powers, Muhammad Abduh, Egyptian Islam reformer, theorized the doctrine of, and reformed education at, the Azhar University while Rassid Rida, a disciple of Muhammad Abduh, dealt with cultural aspects of Islam, trying to answer what is Islam. Discussant KOSUGI and the audience commented on: 1) how to consider the relationship of intellectual influence of the three reformers: al-Afghani, Abduh, and Rida, 2) the ideas and roles of Abduh and Rida in Islamic reformism, 3) al-Afghani's rejection of Western ideas, 4) the concept of the Ijma (consensus) of Ummah (Islamic community), 5) how to classify Abduh and Rida as modernist or fundamentalist, 6) the ulama's relationship to the state.
Yasushi KOSUGI discussed the significance of "Tafsir al-Manar," which is the Qur'anic interpretation serialized in al-Manar. He pointed out that "Tafsir al-Manar" was pioneering in its attempt to reaffirm and justify the validity of Islamic responses to modernity by interpreting Qur'anic passages. He also discussed the relationships among the so-called Trio of Islamic Reform (i.e., al-Afghani, Abduh, and Rida), as reflected in "Tafsir al-Manar." He lastly noted a contribution of "Tafsir al-Manar": it provided ordinary Muslims with easy access to Qur'anic interpretation by giving a general view of each chapter of the Qur'an, and subject-based interpretations. He maintained that "Tafsir al-Manar" paved the way for new interpretations of the Qur'an which continue to emerge today. The discussant, Youssef IBISH, argued that interpretation of the Qur'an must meet the needs of situations of the time, and that throughout history most Sheikhs tried to interpret the Qur'an so as to fit the needs of the society. Furthermore, he pointed out, the Arabic language is significant as symbol of the unity of the Ummah. Discussion included the following subjects: principles utilized for interpreting the Qur'an, problems with the application of the interpreted Qur'an , how to consider the level of liberalism in interpretations of the Qur'an by al-Afghani, Abduh, and Rida, and finally the number of copies of al-Manar circulated.
Gen KASUYA, in his presentation, analyzed intellectual trends in the late Ottoman era. He pointed out that the three schools of thought, i.e., traditionalist, modernist reformers, and Nakshbandi, cannot be clearly distinguished, and in fact are all inseparable from Ottomanism. KASUYA examined the writings of a representative Islamic reformer, Mehmed Akif, and said that Akif embraced both the orientation of Islamic reformist (such as Abduh and Rida) and the intellectual inheritance of the Young Ottomans.
However, as KASUYA concluded, unlike in Arab states, in the Ottoman Empire, the impact of Islamic reformism was limited. Discussant Stephane A.DUDOIGNON, contrasted this with Central Asia, pointing out that the impact of al-Manar in Central Asia was quite extensive, since al-Manar dealt with the key issue of the status of Islam, which attracted readers living in non-Muslim states under orthodox Christianity in Central Asia. Moreover, he pointed out the inseparability of the concepts of secularism and modernization in the region, and concluded his remarks with a new perspective for future research. An important comment came from one of the audience, which referred to the development of Islamic revivalist trends after the Republic of Turkey was established.
Masato IIZUKA compared the thoughts of Rida and Abdul Raziq, and examined Raziq's ideas on the political function of the Prophet, the Ummah, the Sharia, the Caliphate, and man's religious and civil welfare. IIZUKA attacked the commonly held view that Raziq and Rida disagreed on the codification of the Sharia. IIZUKA demonstrated that they both actually recommended the application of the Sharia, even though they had totally different views on the caliphate. Takashi OOISHI, the discussant, remarked on the relation between Indian Muslims and Arabs, as well as the caliphate question, and clarified characteristics of the impact of Arab Islamic reformist movements in the Indian sub-continent from the late 19th to the early 20th century. The discussion revolved around the issue of the caliphate system in the Medieval and Modern times and also the idea of the codification of the Sharia in the Muslim world.
David Dean COMMINS talked about "al-Manar and popular religion in Syria,1898-1920." He maintained that the impact of al-Manar on Syrian society was limited, since the nationalist movement quickly took over the momentum of reformist movements and mobilized the masses, which reformist movements failed to do. Kan KAGAYA, as a discussant, asked a fundamental question on the relationship between intellectual movements and mass movements, asking whether intellectual thought, in general, can appeal to the masses. COMMINS responded by saying that the masses cannot be easily mobilized by intellectual arguments, and that Muslim Brethren was successful because it was able to bridge the gap between the populace and intellectuals. The relationship between mass culture and nationalist movements, the comparison between Hassan Al-Banner and Rida in their styles of writings, and vernacularization of ideas were also discussed.
Azra AZYUMARDI discussed "the Transmission of al-Manar's Reformism to the Malay-Indonesian World," with special reference to the cases of al-Imam and al-Munir. He remarked that the impact of al-Manar on the Malay-Indonesian World was extensive: it was well circulated and read, and stimulated similar publications, such as al-Imam and al-Munir, written in the vernacular language. He pointed out that it is difficult to tell which appeared first, either reformist magazines and journals or Salafi-oriented organizations, yet that it is certain that Islamic reformist journals and magazines further stimulated and expanded the development of Salafi organizations in Indonesia. In contrast, AZYUMARDI maintained, Islamic reformism did not get much momentum in the Malay society till late 1970's.
The discussant Mitsuo NAKAMURA stated al-Manar's social impact on the region, and emphasized that its impact actually produced a new type of educational system which combined a new kind of madrassah (traditional Islamic elementary school) with modern secular knowledge. The discussion was made on the significance of the vernaculization of thought, and Sunni-Shia relationship in the modification of reformist ideas.
Session VIII (General Discussion)
The symposium ended with KOSUGI pointing out the two achievements of the symposium: one was the circulation of the Index of al-Manar, and the other was a discussion fitting the intended scope of the "Islamic Area Studies" Project: combining trans-regional and historical approaches with a new insight on contemporary issues. The symposium was, KOSUGI maintained, very successful, paving a way for further research. Suggested were the production of an encyclopedia of biographical entities of Mannarists, and to shed new light on the development of reformist movements in the Indian Sub-continent, and on the relationship between Japan and the Islamic world.
General discussion included comments on al-Manar's impact on the Indian Subcontinent (Kan Kagaya), comparison between Abduh's and Shi'i concepts of Ijtihad (interpretation of the Qur'an) (Kenji TOMITA), a demonstration of the practical use of the Index of al-Manar (Yosuke NAITO). Akira USUKI mentioned how Mannarists' thoughts and activities have relevance to the Palestinian question in late 1920's and early 1930's.
By Hisae NAKANISHI
Group Representative: Yasushi KOSUGI