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Rediscovering the Islamic ClassicsHow Editors and Print Culture Transformed an Intellectual Tradition$
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Ahmed El Shamsy

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174563

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174563.001.0001

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Reform through Books

Reform through Books

(p.147) Chapter 6 Reform through Books
Rediscovering the Islamic Classics

Ahmed El Shamsy

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on two reformers, the Egyptian Muḥammad ʿAbduh (1849–1905) and the Syrian Ṭāhir al-Jazāʾirī (1852–1920). As a reformer, ʿAbduh in particular as received a significant amount of scholarly attention. However, his contributions to the development of Islamic book culture in the service of language reform—the second of his self-identified life goals alongside religious reform—remain little known, as do those made by al-Jazāʾirī. Confronted with a growing body of printed literature, including books translated from European languages as well as an increasingly diverse range of Arabic works, some scholars recognized the powerful potential of print to serve their objective of broad, indigenously rooted sociocultural change. Driven by lofty goals such as the renewal of the Arabic language, elevation of public discourse, and cultivation of ethical sentiments in society, these religious reformers excavated the classical tradition for forgotten books that could be harnessed as exemplars and disseminated across society thanks to print.

Keywords:   Muḥammad ʿAbduh, Ṭāhir al-Jazāʾirī, religious reformers, language reform, religious reform, sociocultural change, Islamic book culture

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