About the Book
Vocation de L’Islam was written in 1949, but published in 1954, just on the eve of the algerian revolution, the book, probably the most important of Bennabi’s writings, presents an incisive and quite original analysis of the crisis facing the muslim as well as the western world, the author’s masterly exposition of the twin phenomena of colonisibilite and colonisation makes him one of the “First arab and afro-asian social philosophers of our times,” and his remarkable grasp and critical appraisal of the modern trends in the muslim world ensures him an honourable place in the forefront of muslim thinkers of the present century.
Malek Bennabi (1903-73) could easily be regarded as the most eminent and profound scholar and thinker of post-World War II Algeria, and certainly in his period one of the foremost intellectuals of the Arab world. As a philosopher, he could be placed on the same plane as Allama Iqbal, although Bennabi remained in comparative obscurity even in the Arab world for a long time, the main reason for which seems to be his almost exclusive use of the French language for all his writings. His works have only recently been translated into Arabic. English versions of his books are still very rare. These factors contributed to the woeful lack of recognition of his due place among the Islamic thinkers of his age. The Islamic Research Institute, therefore, takes some pride in the fact that it is publishing the first English translation of one of his epoch-making works, viz. Vocation de l’Islam, very ably done by Professor Asma Rashid from the original French.
Malek Bennabi was educated in Algiers and Paris, obtaining a diploma in engineering in 1952. He settled in Cairo and his exuberant mind’ impelled him to devote himself exclusively to writing. It was only after the heroic and persistent freedom- struggle of the Algerian people, a veritable legend of this century, humbled the arrogant obstinacy of colonial France, that Bennabi returned to his homeland in 1963 to serve as Director of Higher Education. However, he did not allow his genius to be suppressed under the weight of the onerous responsibilities of this Office and continued contributing richly to historical, cultural, philosophic and Qur’anic themes.
The Vocation de l’Islam, though written in 1949, was published in 1954 to synchronize with the out-break of the Algerian revolution. As the learned translator rightly observes,’ ‘the book, probably the most important of Bennabi’s writings, presents an incisive and quite original analysis of the crisis facing the Muslim as well as the Western world”. It is a noteworthy coincidence that the writing of Bennabi’s book was almost contemporaneous with the publication of the French translation of H.A.R. Gibb’s well-known work Modern Trends in Islam in 1949, on an almost identical theme. Bennabi’s remarkable ‘exposition of the twin phenomena of Colonisibilite and Colonisation makes him one of the first Arab and Afro-Asian social Philosophers of our times’. His profound and masterly analysis of the politico-cultural cross-currents underlying the contemporary state of Muslim world entitles him to a position of eminence among the foremost Muslim thinkers of this century. A critical comparison of Bennabi’s analysis with Gibb’s appraisal of the modern trends in the Muslim world should offer an intriguing prospect to any discerning reader.
The translation was first serialized in our journal Islamic Studies, and has been thoroughly revised for the present volume. Miss Asma Rashid deserves the gratitude of the English readership in general, and the Islamic Research Institute in particular, for undertaking this very painstaking and scholarly task and producing a lucid translation, besides adding a number of useful footnotes, which enhance the value r of this work considerably, In addition, she has contributed a comprehensive introduction, comprising a succinct account of Malek Bennabi’s life and works to provide a clear perspective to the subject-matter of the book. Necessary indices have been added by our Bureau of Editing.
A change in the composing process at the Islamic Research Institute’s Press compelled us to depart from our usual transliteration scheme. A table illustrating the transliteration system followed in this book has, therefore, been added.
If this translation helps in some measure to introduce a larger readership of Muslims to Bennabi’s thought, we would have achieved our purpose. We hope this Institute would be able to publish the English version of some other works of Bennabi in not too remote a future.
It is always difficult to convey faith- fully the message of an author in translation, but it is even more so, in the case of Malek Bennabi who insisted on complete accuracy and precision in the translation of his work. Anyway, I have tried my best to keep true to both the letter and the spirit of the original, at times even at the expense of strict rules of English grammar and diction. It is, of course, upto the reader to judge the result.
My thanks are due to Dr. Zia-ul Haq, former Editor, Islamic Studies, for suggesting a most apt title for the English translation.
Malek Bennabi: his Life, Times and Thought: Translator’s Introduction
The Post-Al-Muwahhid Society
The Cyclical Phenomenon
The Post-AI-Muwahhid Man
The First Europe-Islam Contact
The Reformist Movement
The Modernist Movement
The Chaos of the Modern Muslim World
The Internal Factors
The External Factors
The Chaos of the Western World
The new Paths
Muslim world: a Preamble
Conclusion: The Spiritual Development of Islam
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