The birth of modernity in north-west Europe is generally dated to the middle of the eighteenth century, although sometimes it is considered to have begun in the seventeenth century with the publication of Rene Descartes’s Discourse on the Method in 1637. However, the advent of modernity was not as abrupt as the above may indicate. Rather, it was the outcome of a long process beginning as early as the Renaissance. Nevertheless, intellectual movements of the late seventeenth and early to mid eighteenth centuries known as the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason were the main wellspring of modernity.1
Can Islam and Modernity be Reconciled?
Is Islam particularly inimical to modernity, and the two are never to be reconciled? Many westerners and Muslims alike would argue that this is the case. Yet the more pertinent question; is religion in general and modernity incompatible and irreconcilable? There is a basic tension between all religions which rely on revelation as the primary source of knowledge and on God as the source of law and ethics, and modernity which privileges reason as the main source of knowledge and posits the source of law and ethics in human beings. An objective and unbiased reading of Islam shows that it is no more inimical to modernity than any other religion. Rather some of its aspects, including its emphasis on the importance of reason, its injunction that there is no compulsion in faith, and its frequent reference to people and their rights makes a reconciliation between Islam and modernity possible.
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