Reflection on the concept of religious intellectual

The religious intellectual, an innovative concept and an ancient reality

When the work of Zaki Al-Milad, “The test of the Pre Islamic religions with the times intellectual”, appears for the first time in 2000, he was the first to use the concept of religious intellectual. Concept more pioneer he raised questions within the thinkers, the subject of numerous reports, articles and studies to the Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Emirates as well as in England. This book lays the foundations for a radical reflexivity on the intellectual experience, more precisely, one might say that he wondered about the conditions of possibility of intellectual experience… religious. “Religion we can’t she be intellectuals?”, for example the title of the second chapter of the book. A book which so enriches the sociology of science, since the (ontological, introspective) reflection on the role of the religious intellectual in the production of speech is quasi-absente.

Analyses of this inaugural book are indeed put into perspective compared to books related to the figure of the intellectual (but not religious), such as of E. Said (Images of the intellectual, 1996) with intellectuals rather Western and secular, M. A. Al-Jabiri (intellectuals in Arab civilization: the ordeal of Ibn Hanbal and the Nakba of Ibn Rushd, 1995) with rather liberal, and Arab intellectuals A. Harb (criticism of the intellectual, 1996), with more Arab and Socialist, intellectuals etc as well as they are put into perspective with discussions on intellectuals in our Western, French, British and American companies.

Is the experience of the religious intellectual still possible?

However, some intellectuals have been baffled in the face of the use of that concept when it first appeared, an embarrassment which is probably explained by their religion-specific report or by the absence of theological culture in culture intellectual in general, since the Muslim thought finds itself the disappearance of the religious intellectual. Think of these intellectual figures have become historically exceptional like Mr. Iqbal (died 1938), Mr. B. Nabi (1973), Mr. B. Sadr (1980) and M. Motahhari (1980), all four engaged on the ground of the ideological struggle and in line with their modernity. Therefore the expression of religious intellectual may now seem incongruous in the eyes of some. Even more marked incongruity that the representation of the intellectual is different depending on whether you are Muslim or Western civilization.

In the first, the intellectual is religious ‘in nature’, religion is its repository and source of its representations, are looking at Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, Al-Beiruni, Ibn Tufeil, Ibn Khaldun, and many others which refer to the religion in the development of their independent and open thinking on other thoughts of their time; However that in the second, the intellectual is “by nature” not religious, even if some figures can sometimes be closer to what is meant by “religious intellectual”, as the English critic Thomas Eliot, but without this reconciliation him either perfectly true, at least in a sustainable way, said Zaki Al-Milad (we should add that in France, we have frankly Christian intellectuals whose writings remain purely philosophical and abstract, consider a. Girard or Mr. Henry). This split between the intellectual culture and religion in the West is due, according to Zaki Al-Milad, by the separation between the so-called exact sciences and the intellectual as a human science culture as well as the triumph of the Cartesianism (p. 58). Note, however, that it was not always so in the West since the intellectual in the Middle Ages was before all religious, as J. The Goff in his reference work intellectuals in the middle ages, 1957

The test of the religious intellectual in the face of the secular intellectual hegemony

It is clear then that this is the Western ideal-type of the intellectual who dominates. This hegemony extends to Arab and Muslim societies, see Zaki Al-Milad, since the report of the intellectual to religion tapers. Where the issue of “proof” of the religious intellectual in his time, in his era and its context. What the author meant by “test” (al-Mihnah) is as and as the religious intellectual closer to his time, interact with their social environment, intends to exercise its right to criticism in an environment not accustomed to this grid of analysis and tries to influence its context… therefore he feels a strangeness that is favored by the sidelining of the religion by Western civilization. It is this strangeness that generates the unpleasant event experienced by the religious intellectual.

The notion of event reminds obviously savvy readers “proof” experienced by the theologian Ahmed Ibn Hanbal in the face of the Abbassid Al-Maw calif about controversy “creation of the Quran .” If the leader of the Hanbali school had resisted, many of our contemporaries amongst the educated Muslim chose for them to enroll in the paradigm of the abdication, surrender and submission to return their weapons against their own religion. It is also facing this test through the community that Zaki Al-Milad written this book to reconnect with the figure nostalgic of the religious intellectual, one of the main conditions of the civilizational renaissance.

The missions of the religious intellectual

Indeed, at the seventh chapter entitled “The missions of the religious intellectual” (p. 111), the author lists seven major missions for this renaissance. The intellectual should not expect from the company that she gives him his status, but look it up and earn it through its own activities. In addition, these missions include society in which he lives, the community to which he belongs religiously, the world he belongs to humanly, then he temporally belongs. These missions are thus:

  • Generate knowledge and contribute to the development of intellectual culture.
  • Join the ideological fight with the other currents of thought.
  • Worry about the concrete problems of the challenges and interests of the community.
  • Develop awareness of contemporary social challenges within the community.
  • Think the articulation between the Muslim thought and the conditions of modernity (i.e. of contemporaneity).
  • The integration and full participation in society.
  • The humanistic religious intellectual should be a bridge between communities and civilizations.

A concept popularized by the intellectuals then

As noted above, the publication of this founding work left no insensitive Arab intellectual community. In addition to the many accounts rendered and critical of this book, books and articles offer today to extend this thinking by appropriating the concept of the “religious intellectual.”

A guideline, let’s mention some: ‘The problem of the religious intellectual between the anvil of the imitation and the hammer of modernity’ Bassim Al-Madhi Al-Tom, 2009 , this book written in context Iraqi devotes the first chapter to the definition of the religious intellectual; then it examines the factors that have annihilated the role of the religious intellectual; sets it apart and different from «» the secular and liberal intellectual”(p. 127); He also presents his report to metaphysics, the relativity of morality, faith, experimental sciences, philosophy, humanities, tradition, hermeneutics, objectivity; and “the position of the religious intellectual to the new science of the Kalam” (p. 242); Finally his report to ‘Postmodernism’, “narcissism” and “elitism” (p. 290-330).

The concept of religious intellectual also underwent numerous publications in academic journals on the Muslim thought. This is the article of the intellectual and theologian Haydar Hobbollah, “Religious intellectual in the contemporary world” (journal Al-Minhaj, spring 2004, n ° 33) in which he discusses particularly the distrust of theological to circles the respect of religious scholars, and in 2007 he published an article in the same journal, n ° 44, entitled ‘the Muslim thinker and the crisis of the relationship between religion and modernity’.

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