[P5905] Late Ottoman Modernity as a Project of Translation: Science, Morality, and the Secular

Created by Monica Ringer
Monday, 10/05/20 11:00 am


The systematic redefinition and relocation of religion that were fundamental to nineteenth-century religious reform movements in the Middle East and elsewhere, threatened existing understandings and practices of religion. Any accurate historical account of modernizing reforms must include Islamic Modernism as a serious endeavor by those committed to the genuine re-unification of religion and science, alongside new social and political ideals. Modernist scholars were committed to applying new scientific methods to questions of religious authority. The critical reading of texts and the historicizing scrutiny of Islamic tradition were corollaries to the commitment to empirical, rational modes of scientific inquiry, and necessitated a serious redevelopment of Islamic epistemological methodology. Central to the issue of fashioning 'modern' Islam were questions of morality, science, methodology and definitions of 'religion' as a category of analysis.

Paper # 1 discusses the emergence of 'Quest for the Historical Prophet' narratives in nineteenth-century Islamic Modernist thought. The Prophet Mohammad is recast as the embodiment of modern sensibilities and dispositions. At the same time, the historicization of the Prophet embodies a new modern hermeneutics of the Hadith and Quran, one which reconfigures the concept of precedent centered on the presumption of discerning God's intentionality.

Paper # 2 Celal Nuri, often hailed as a founding figure of the secular Turkish Republic, was equally a modernist and an Islamist. In his seminal work on the life of the Prophet Mohammad, Nuri proposed Islam as inherently rational and modern. The work demonstrates Nuri's twin commitments to modern criticism and Islamic precepts.

Paper # 3 approaches the debate surrounding extraterrestrial life that exploded in the 19th century Ottoman Empire as a means of negotiation of Western scientific ideas. The paper argues that ulama from various positions in this debate deployed traditional Islamic epistemology and methodology to translate ideas into the Ottoman discourse, thereby resisting intellectual and cultural imperialism.

Paper # 4 explores the contextual and contested meanings of the terms secular and religious in nineteenth-century Ottoman periodical literature. The paper offers a genealogical mapping of terms, their circulation and contested meanings, as 'religion' emerges as a category of analysis.

Paper # 5 looks at the emergence of imagined new spaces of public, secular sociability in late Ottoman novels. The paper argues that the interiorization of religious morality models a performance of 'secular' citizenship, expressed in particular modes of sensibilities and dispositions.