I am reading the latest book by Ziauddin Sardar which bears the title Reading the Qur'an. It was published by Oxford Press last year and while I bought this book in December, it was only today I got the chance to read it and just managed to finish only the prologue. But I am eager to write about it because Zardar has always been an important Muslim's figure for me. I put Sardar on the same pedestal with Hossein Nasr as contemporary greatest Muslim's thinkers especially in the realm of Islamic Philosophy.
But both are quite distinctive from each other. They advocate quite different approaches, views and ideas. Whilst Nasr greatly influenced by Sufism, Sardar is someone you would called as modernist or to some extent, although inapropriate, Wahabis. I read and I respect them both. No preference as far as intellectuality is concerned.
Intellectual rivalry, I would say, between Sardar and Nasr is best read in The Context written by Muzaffar Iqbal, which is a chapter of a book titled Islam, Science, Muslims and Technology. Let me put down a paragraph from the chapter herein for your reading.
"The varying and conflicting ideas expressed by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the President of Pakistan, and Ziauddin Sardar during the Islamabad Conference represent three distinct perspectives on the relationship between Islam, science, Muslims, and technology. At a deeper level, however, these views are indicative of three different visions of Islamic thought and civilization and their future."
Despite these differences, they are similar in the sense that:
1) both are contemporary greatest Muslim scholars and brilliant minds
2) both read physics (former in City U London, latter in MIT),
3) both are currently professors (former in City U, latter in George Washington),
4) both live in non-muslim country (UK and US respectively),
5) both promote Muslims to read science to the greatest depth
6) both originated from Muslim's scientifically greatest countries, Pakistan and Iran, respectively
As I said, I have just finished reading the prologue and below is a couple of paragraphs taken from the prologue which I consider to be expected after knowing Zardar's way of thinking but interesting enough to invoke future discussions. Here we go.
"However, the greatest challenge for both Muslims and non-Muslims is to read the Qur'an in its own terms, to engage with its text unencumbered by prejudices and preconceived ideas, to free their minds as far as humanly possible from what we have been told to understand and encounter its words anew."
"My thesis is that the Qur'an has to be reinterpreted from epoch to epoch, generation to generation. The natural corollary of this thesis is that it is legitimate for Muslims to reject, enhance, go beyond and differ significantly from the interpretations of earlier times"
Both calls are familiar sound nowadays, aren't they? For example, they should remind us of our own Islamic thinker, Dr Asri aka Dr Maza who is now in Oxford. I thank Allah for granting us with Dr Asri who is for me the most reputable Muslim-Malay intellect in our country. I herein explicitly declare that I do agree a lot with Dr Asri. But I am also praying to Allah for more Muslim-Malay religious figures having scientific background like Sardar and Nasr in recent future. My best bet is my continuous flow of students who some I wish, will be able to take this job. Ameen.
In accordance, I will, from to time, make some commentary on my reading on Sardar's book as I progress with the reading and I will try the best as I can to relate and compare them with those by Nasr's and Asri's hence the Part 1 assigned to the title of this entry. InsyaAllah.