Occidentiosis: A Summary of Introduction of Hamid Algar (I)

This is part one of two blog posts I'm writing to introduced an old book of post-mid 20th century, produced right before Islamic revolution of Iran. The link between the two is a reality hard to deny, in fact, too important to be mentioned. In this first part I will introduce the writer of the biographical introduction to the book and its themes by Hamid Algar, a renowned, majestic scholar of Islamic studies, history and languages. In the second part I will try to summarize the introduction which is not a piece of reflection, but a piece of historical information and a lucid narrative of author's (Jalal Al-i Ahmed) unstable intellectual, literary and political life. The book might have created many doubts as to exact summation of author's views that were amended after author penned the books. But more of that in part 2.


One of the few Muslim scholars of Islam that i'm fascinated these days is Hamid Algar. I should mention that my fascination with him is not newly born. It is only that he falls into that category of few luminaries who have the immense capacity to critique Western modernism from Islamic point of view, and write with no apologetic tinges on Islamic subjects that can be well understood by a modern reader and someone trained in classic thought, I believe.

More on Hamid Algar is necessary before , as the deliberate mentioning of his name in the title necessitates (with premediatation) a personal introduction to him. It is going to be personal, as you can look up his credentials online.

First time I ever saw the name of Hamid Algar and his books in a bookstore was 3-4 years backs. Two books I encountered were two printed lectures: Sufism and Al-Fatiha. In those days i every somewhat aware of the disease of Occidentiosis, secular fundamentalism and reformist literature by the books of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, most important being Nasr's collection of essays Islmaic Life & Thought. However, i wasn't able to critically discern an authentic one from the rest - although i doubt i can critically evaluate even now.

Hence, the very first reading of his books conveyed a hidden message that here is a scholar with high level of objectivity, understanding and depth that i hardly encountered in DAWN's book reviews or few books by westernized muslims or non-muslims on Islam. For instance, in Al-Fatiha he advocated the transcendent roots of word Allah, challenging the scholarship of Orientalists. I didn't understand much of the high-level semantic discussions; although most of the discussion in Al-Fatiha can't be termed semantic, it was on another plane altogether. Here I must apologize that this recollection is 3-4 years old, and new after reading fully the book is due.

Another example of author's independent, non-apologetic and scholarly attitude, stemming from an Islamic worldview from within: in the book Sufism, he rejected the modernistic/western notions of Sufism, and even refused to discuss subject further with this very Sufism, and preferred traditional term of tasawwuf, as it lacked the secularized connotations attached by westerners and modernized muslims with this traditional, integral part of a religion who principles are Immutable and which always resisted Reformist kind of change.

The most clear and sharpest critique on modern western intellectual thought to come in the form of an essay in a monographic book, The Challenge of Islam. His essay was about intellectual challenges that modernism presents to Islam. He was conscious to mention that in reality modernism cannot present a challenge to Divinely Revealed religion of Islam as such; in fact, it is Islam that presents a challenge to idols of western ideologies. I will inshaAllah write a summary of arguments presented in the essay.

Please do look forward to introduction to Occidentiosis by Jamal Al-i Ahmed.

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