Reform in the discourse of Islam and the making of Muslim subjects

Authored by: Abdulkader Tayob

Routledge Handbook of Islam in Africa

Print publication date:  December  2021
Online publication date:  December  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367144234
eBook ISBN: 9780367144241
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter proposes a model for understanding a heightened adherence and commitment to Islam in Africa through a reading of an emic category in Islamic discourse. Translated usually as reform, tajdid is one among many terms that signifies a desire and compulsion to reform the self and other to make Islam new again. This chapter presents a framework for thinking about a reformist discourse on the African continent in colonial and postcolonial times. Reform in Africa is a dialectic of religious practices, norms, and values between the past and present, the local and global. It has been part of major political and social changes in recent times, expressed in public norms and conflicts. I propose that Islamic reform as the remaking of Muslim subjectivity is constituted by three features: an identification and perception of a crisis that recalls the norms of Islam, a performance of such norms, and debate and contestation over such norms. A crisis is real but takes on a distinct form in the demand for reform. Creatively performed, norms of Islam are derived from the foundations of Islam, with a particular emphasis on the model of the Prophet Muhammad. And third, reform challenges existing norms which entail deliberation and contestation.

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