Call for Papers- Rooted Revival: Core Ideas, Key Figures, Enduring Legacy

Organisers: Usul Academy

Conference Dates: 5 & 6 August, 2022

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

Abstract Deadline:  March 7, 2022

Usul Academy is hosting a 2-day conference on the theme of Rooted Revival: Core Ideas, Key Figures, Enduring Legacy in Istanbul, Turkey. Selected participants may be able to present their papers online should they be unable to travel to Istanbul.

 Modernity swept across the Islamic World in the 19th and early 20th century sending shock waves. It generated three main responses from Muslim intellectuals ranging from those who sought to reject it outright to those who sought to adopt or accommodate it.  The first two approaches have been studied extensively. The third approach, which has not yet received sufficient scholarly attention, was the path of “rooted revival.”

‘Rooted revival’―neither reactionary nor apologetic―refers to an approach that seeks to understand the Islamic Sciences and Islamic Civilization within its own traditional categories of being and meaning and employ this traditional conceptual/value framework to address contemporary social, political, psychological, and existential challenges confronting Muslims in the spirit of “reviving” the ummah. In other words, it is a “revival” anchored in the traditional methods and roots of the classical Islamic sciences that have been inherited from scholar to scholar and handed down from generation to generation. As such, this approach is not one that seeks to assimilate to modernity nor develop superficial reconciliations between Islam and modernity. Still it does not attempt to defensively justify itself in the face of a modernity that is considered normative. Rather, it questions this very normativity itself.

The “revivalist” imperative receives its impetus from tradition itself. The noble Prophet Muhammad (SAW) says in a Hadith: “At the beginning of every century God (Allah) will send to this ummah someone who will renew its religious understanding.” The countless commentaries on this hadith have explained its meaning in a way that mirrors what we have already articulated above, i.e. that revival is always rooted in the tradition. The method of the “revivalists” of the past like Imam al-Shafi‘i, al-Tahawi, and al-Ghazali was precisely a “rooted revival.” Therefore, ‘revival’ is not a modernist imperative; rather it is an Islamic one with a venerable genealogy, tradition, and method.

The ‘reactionary’ and the ‘apologetic’ approaches have received the bulk of scholarly attention even though they represented a small fraction of the ummah. The “rooted revival” approach was the dominant approach in mainstream scholarly circles, yet it has received little scholarly attention. Hence the importance of studying this approach in depth and giving it its due. The conference explores this approach at the conceptual and theoretical level, uncovering its genealogical roots in the 18th century right through to the early 20th century and the influence it had in the second half of the 20th century. 

The objectives of the conference are to:

  1. Focus on ‘rooted revival’ in the Islamic world in relation to other contemporaneous tendencies that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century reflected in terms like ‘enlightenment,’ ‘reform,’ ‘tradition,’ ‘imitation,’ and ‘stagnation.’
  2. Foreground the uniqueness of this approach and its difference from the other approaches
  3. Analyse its key concepts and ideas
  4. Highlight the key figures of this movement and its influences until the present
  5. Explore how this approach has been and can be deployed in various fields of knowledge
  6. Evaluate and critique it
  7. Develop a framework for a “rooted revival”

Conference Themes:

Abstracts may focus on one or more of the themes listed below, or on themes not listed but related to them:

  1. The trajectory of “rooted revival,” its core concepts, its advantages over other approaches, comparisons with “reformist” approaches or “modernist” approaches and other schools that prevailed in the Islamic intellectual and social spheres in the 20th century.
  2. The ‘genealogical’ origins and influences on the movement in the works of key figures like: Sheikh of Al-Azhar Hasan Al-Attar; Al-Zabidi; Al-Dardir, and Al-Khadimi; Al-Jabarti Al-Kabir; and Al-Galanbawi and others.
  3. The key figures who developed this approach and deployed it in the late 19th and early 20th century such as: Sheikh Al-Islam Mustafa Sabri Efendi, Yusef Al-Dijwi, Yusef Al-Nabahani, Muhammad Bakhit Al-Muti’i, and Muhammad Zahid Al-Kawthari, Hamdi Yazir, Omar Nasuhi Bilmen, Babanzade Ahmed Naim, Said Halim Pasha, Ahmed Cevdet Pasha, Said Nursi, Al-Tahir bin Ashour, Al-Moalimi Al-Yamani, Al-Kashmiri, Shibeer Ahmad Al-Uthmani, Muhammad Abu Zahra, Ahmad Al-Zarqa, Muhammad Abdullah Diraz, and others.
  4. Key figures who adopted and deployed this approach in the second half of the 20th century and in our own times such as: Muhammad Hamidullah, Abu al-Hasan Al-Nadwi, Muhammad Said Ramadan Al-Buti, Mustafa Al-Zarqa, Abdel Halim Mahmoud, and Taha AbdelRahman, Alija Begovic, Naqib Al-Attas, and others.
  5. Comparative studies between the school of “rooted revival” and other approaches that were dominant at the beginning of the 20th century.
  6. Educational systems/programs that adopted either “rooted revival” or other approaches.
  7. Rooted Revival in:
  • Fikr (Thought) and Kalām (Theology)
  • Fiqh & Uṣūl al-Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence & its Methods)
  • Tarbiyah & Sulūk (Practical Ethics)
  • Hadīth Studies
  • Qur’anic Studies & Tafsīr
  • Sīrah and Islamic History
  • Social Sciences & Humanities

We intend for this conference to be an exploratory space for wide-ranging discussions on the above panel topics within the overarching theme of “rooted revival.” We invite abstracts from scholars of diverse backgrounds who can provide rigorous and intellectually stimulating insights and help shed scholarly light on this approach. The language of the papers and presentations for this conference will be English, Turkish, and Arabic.

Select participants will be asked to send in full papers by June 10th, 2022.

Papers will be published either as articles in a special issue of a journal, or as a book chapter in an edited volume published by Usul Academy Press.

We would also like to highlight that this conference is envisioned as a starting point for a scholarly conversation on the theme of “rooted revival.” It is our intention to build a network and host future events through which further discussions and publications on these themes can be supported and encouraged.

Important Dates:

Last date for submitting abstracts: March 7th, 2022

Last date for submission of full papers draft: June 10th, 2022

If you have any questions or queries, please email [email protected]