The Bangladeshi scholar, Manwar Shakhawat addresses the perennial problem faced by all religions, including Islam: How do its followers reconcile the fundamental tenets of their religion with the progress of contemporary thoughts and knowledge?
This poses a major challenge since religious knowledge and understanding have always had to reach an accommodation and consensus with advances in knowledge.
This was not a great problem for Muslims in the past because the scholars advancing this knowledge were also religious scholars who developed sound approaches to address this issue.
Today as knowledge advances and diversifies at an ever-increasing rate, religion struggles to keep up.
In the Muslim world, this is compounded by the separation of this knowledge from a religious framework. It is further complicated by the loss of these traditional approaches to this problem arising from centuries of colonial occupation.
Manwar’s solution is to return to basic principles by looking at the problem through the lens of Ibn Taymiyyah’s approach to reconciling revelation and reason. In doing so he engages in a dialogue between religion and modernity.
Returning to Ibn Taymiyyah’s traditional approach to scholarship provides a path to resolving this problem.
However, there is an additional step needed.
In the past religious scholars were also scholars of the modern knowledge of their time. Today knowledge is too vast and specialised for religious scholars working on their own. It requires a dialogue between them and experts in their respective fields.
This is where the value in Manwar’s work lies. It provides a solution for Bangladesh but has a wider application. As such it needs to be translated into formats and languages which make it more accessible to the wider Muslim world.
Rethinking Islam is published by Boikendro, Islami Tower, Bangla Bazaar, Dhaka, Bangladesh.