Jamal Al-Afghani: Rhetorical Analysis

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Much has been written on Jamal al-Din Afghani, a political activist and a writer who inspired the need for reformation across the Muslim World. Controversial figure during his lifetime, his origins remain mysterious, it is believed that he was ethnically Persian therefore of Shi’a descend and education. It is possible that he adopted the pen name ‘Al-Afghani’ in order to avoid Sunni mistrust. Spending his life travelling and lecturing; Al-Afghani lived during the height of European Colonization and he sought to unify, fortify and salvage Islam in the face of the West. Stressing the need for Islamic unity and modernism, Al-Afghani believed that religion was essential catalytic force in the progress of humanity and he wished not to abandon…show more content…
In the ‘Journal des débats’ Al-Afghani summarized Renan’s speech in two main points: Islam is opposed to the development of science and Arabs by nature do not love metaphysical sciences or philosophy. In response to Renan’s criticism of Islam, Al-Afghani argued that Islam was in harmony with scientific reason. He referred to the ‘Golden Age’ when rational sciences had flourished within Islam in order to rebuke Renan’s criticism of the religion being incompatible with sciences. Renan, who argued that Arabs were hostile to science was criticized by Al-Afghani as racially…show more content…
He appropriated the Islamic philosophical and cultural tradition with the call to restore Islam to political superiority. Al-Afghani believed that the Muslim world was in dire need of reform, which would revitalize Islam and adapt it to the changing needs of the modern world. Afghani never denied that Islam as a civilization had deteriorated, become corrupt and had fallen into ignorance and fanaticism. Yet to him, this situation was reversible if an Islamic reformation took place. Afghani believed that the Western powers, namely the British, were ruling over the world because of their scientific success and supremacy. What Islam needed first of all, therefore, was spiritual and intellectual revival and reform. For Al-Afghani, Islam was a community. He sought unification through Pan-Islamist ideology. The ‘true Islam’ Al-Afghani preached was in accord with reason, modern sciences and modernity itself. Al-Afghani attributed the relative decline of the Islamic world to political decay, tyranny and despotism. The theme of returning back to the true religion is repeated throughout the document. The intellectual aim of Al-Afghani was to revitalize the Islamic Community through internal political and spiritual reform. However Al-Afghani also appealed to nationalism in believing that it would aid Muslim peoples in their resistance to foreign western influence and domination.

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