Muhammad ʻAbduh

Islam and New Urbanity in the Nineteenth-Century Arab World

  • Kinda AlSamara
Keywords: madaniyya, urbanity, modernity, civilisation, 19th century, Arab world, Nahḍa


Most studies of the distinguished 19th -century Arab scholar and reformer Muḥammad ʻAbduh focus on the religious reforms he instigated. Very few studies discuss his vision for modernisation through educational, social and political reforms. ‘Abduh realised these reforms were necessary for creating a civil society based on a new mode of urbanity (madaniyya). This article examines how Muḥammad ʻAbduh managed to bridge the gap between secular modernists and religious traditionalists by reinterpreting Islamic doctrine with a contemporary outlook and emphasising how the Islamic faith could shield people from the moral temptations, traps and pitfalls that modern European people were facing. In his view, achieving this new mode of urbanity was mandatory for the Arab world to keep up with the urban development, social progress and scientific advancements occurring in the West.