Refloating the Intellectual Enterprises of Islam

By Ziauddin Sardar

(Vol. III, Feb. 1986)

Modernist thought in Turkey is intellectually bankrupt and emotionally hollow. Through a systematic attempt, first by translating the works of classical and modern Muslim scholars and then by analysing the world-view of Islam from a civilizational perspective, Muslim intellectuals have laid the foundation for a true revival of Islamic thought.

Ziauddin Sardar argues that the establishment of Imam hatib schools where Islamic studies are combined with modern scientific thought, and the emergence of a contemporary school of young intellectuals, who are concerned with issues of justice and equity, science and values, the epistemological basis of Muslim civilization and ecological and environmental problems, is an indication that in the next decade Turkey will become intellectually the most exciting country in the Muslim world.

The view from Istanbul’s Galata Bridge is quite breathtaking. The hypnotic beauty and power of the historic landscape acquires a special significance when one realises that Istanbul is the only city in the world which stands upon two continents. Looking out along the Golden Horn to where it meets the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, one can note that the main part of the city, which is located in the south-eastern tip of Europe, is separated from its suburbs in Asia by the shimmering water of the Bosphorus. But Istanbul is not just situated in two continents: historically, it has also been the centre for the physical and intellectual struggle of two civilizations – Islam and the West.

The history of the conquests and re-conquests of Istanbul is well known. In 1453, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II put an end to Byzantium and the western domination of Istanbul. In their turn, the European powers joined forces to bring down the Ottoman empire which was abolished in 1922. The following year, Mustafa Kamal declared that Turkey was a part of Europe and established the Republic, thus keeping Istanbul and Turkey physically in Turkish hands, but placing it intellectually in the hands of western civilization.

It is thus not surprising to note that western intellectual thought has had a strong hold on the Turkish mind; it has had a more pervasive and thorough impact than anywhere else in the Muslim world. However, traditional Muslim groups, especially the Sufi movements, have very deep roots in Turkey – after all, the Ottoman empire lasted over six hundred years – and command the influence and attention of a large proportion of the Turkish population. These groups have ensured that at least spiritually, if not intellectually, a segment of the Turkish intellectual community remained within the sphere of Islam. The influence and spiritual groundwork of the Sufi movements are now bearing fruit in the form of a new variety of Sufi intellectual who is not just versed in classical Islamic thought but is also well-equipped to deal with modernist ideas. In addition, certain Turkish intellectuals have been rather receptive to ideas coming from elsewhere in the Muslim world – particularly, Egypt, India and Pakistan – and have evolved an indigenous movement based on these ideas. The contemporary intellectual landscape of Turkey is an amalgam of Sufi spirituality and western alienation, secularist notions and Islamic ideals, conservative thought and modernist outlook. There is a great deal of confusion; but there is also some certainty. And amongst the host of well-established trends, one thing stands out clearly: Muslim intellectuals are gaining confidence in their own tradition and culture and are poised to make a truly original contribution to the development of Turkey.

The justification of this assertion can be found in the recent intellectual and educational history of Turkey. When Mustafa Kemal introduced his reforms after the formation of the Republic in 1923 he was reacting to an extreme situation. The Ottoman empire, despite its former glory and what romantic Muslim historians may say, had reached an intellectual and spiritual nadir: it was a corrupt and despotic enterprise, a cancer-ridden body whose only salvation lay in death. Over two hundred years before their final dethronement, the Ottoman Sultans had intellectually succumbed to western civilization: this process started first by military defeat at the hands of European powers in 1699 and 1718. A sense of inferiority complex was already evident in the diaries of Yirmisekiz Mehmed Celebi, the first Ottoman envoy to Europe, who was convinced of the intellectual superiority of the western civilization after a visit to Paris and Vienna. From then on the feeling of admiration for western culture and world-view grew radically displacing all confidence in indigenous ideas and ideals. The vast majority of Turkish ulama did not possess the intellectual acumen or the ability to generate an indigenous knowledge base or to creatively synthesise western science and technology and reacted to this admiration by behaving even more dogmatically and narrowly – and thus increased the pace of this development. Westernisation in Turkey, therefore, started not with Ataturk but in the palace. The institutional infrastructure for occidentalisation evolved during the Tanzimat reforms of the mid-nineteenth century (1839-1878) and the intellectual justification for the whole exercise was provided by the Young Ottomans, a group of Turkish intellectuals (allegedly, they were only six) who attained prominence during the late Tanzimat period. The Young Ottomans were the first Turks to embrace the ideas of the Enlightenment and develop a synthesis between these ideas and Islam. While such leading members of the Young Ottomans as Sinasi, Ali Suavi, Faud Pasa, Mustafa Rasid, Ziya Pasa and even Namil Kemal were by no means outstanding philosophers or scholars, the ulama, who were largely responsible for the decay and despotism of the Ottoman empire, could not compete intellectually with them and did not possess their skills at manipulating the media to voice extremely articulate criticism of the government and the empire.

Of course, this is not to say that all ulama were incompetent: there were many, intellectually formidable exceptions. Ahmet Cevdet Pasa, for example, saw that educational structure of Ottoman Turkey, as exemplified by the madrasa system, was not capable of producing the type of scholar that the immediate future needed. In his Tarih-i Cevdet he points out that the inflexibility and narrow-mindedness of the ulama is dangerous and argues for a “preparation for the future without the destruction of the past”. But such scholars were few and did not form the dominant voice. The majority were happy with issuing (religious rulings) which justified the rule of despotic Sultans and supremacy of the western intellectual system. And once an empire, however, mighty, produces scholars which act as surrogates to the rulers or sell their minds to another civilization, its physical and intellectual subjugation follows as a matter of course.

It was Ataturk who saved Turkey from becoming a physical part of western civilization. Clearly, the Ottoman Sultans were not capable of doing that. However, when the pendulum swings, it swings from one extreme to another. Ataturk’s reforms took Turkey straight into the bosom of the West. In this respect, Ataturk brought to logical conclusion what the Ottoman Sultans started themselves; if Mustafa Kemal had not appeared on the scene at an appropriate time, he would have had to be invented. He was both a necessity for Turkey and a natural outcome of the process of decay and degeneration that the Ottoman empire went through for over a hundred years.

However, it was also natural that the Kamalist revolution would take the same course as revolutions have done throughout history. The pattern starts with an initial movement, under a strong and charismatic leader, towards ever greater radicalism and purism, culminating in a regime of terror and virtue where the leader is transformed into demi-god and becomes the sole arbitrator of what is `revolutionary’ and what is seen as ‘counter-revolutionary’. To maintain the purity of the revolution `counter-revolutionaries’ have to be eliminated and reforms have to be enforced with greater and greater force. Mustafa Kemal played the role of a demi-god amiably: `I am Turkey’, he said, `to destroy me is to destroy Turkey’. He identified the ideology of the old system as the enemy: it was Islam, its ulama, its ritual and mentality that was preventing Turkey from becoming a prosperous nation, a modern state respected by all the other countries of the world. He thus set about to destroy the old system in its totality: from the way the people dressed to the way they thought and worshipped. The period of terror and reform in a revolution is followed by what Crane Brinton in his Anatomy of Revolution calls a `Thermidor’. This is the period where revolutionary reforms are solidified and turned into permanent fixtures.

In Turkish history, the Thermidor occurred from 1924 to 1949. From the Islamic viewpoint, this period is rightly described by Salih Tug, Dean of the Faculty of Theology, Marmara University, as the ‘Age of Ignorance’ (The Middle East Times, 8 August 1983). Islamic activity and thought were banned from every sphere of national activity and the generation that grew up during this period was almost totally divorced from the tradition and Islamic past of Turkey. Only the Sufi movements managed to survive and keep alive the spiritual dimensions of Islam.

This period also had a devastating effect on Turkish intellectual life. Post-revolutionary intellectuals tend to be ideologues who faithfully reproduce, without adding or subtracting, the thoughts of the father of the revolution. This exercise has a powerful numbing effect on the mind; and after a time whatever critical faculties may be there, eventually evaporate. Thus during this period Turkey produced a singularly unified type of intellectual: a dogmatic Kemalist, a poor, impoverished clone of the western scholars. The occidentalised intellectuals of the late-Ottoman period had said all that could have originally been said in the Turkish context about imitation and adoption of western philosophy and outlook on life. The positivism of Auguste Comte (Ahmed Riza), Social Darwinism (Abdullah Cevet), biological materialism (Subhi Edhem), the individualism of La Play (Prens Sabahuddin), political collectivism and secularism of Durkheim (Ziya Gokalp), the notion of corporate representation (Kor Ali Ihsan Bey), totalitarianism of Lenin (Muhiddin Birgen), centralisation – all these ideas had been discussed by the intellectuals of a generation ago. The post-revolution intellectuals could add little except to dogmatically echo their sentiments.

This generation, because of state support and its vast numbers, still dominates the Turkish intellectual scene. But numbers and grants are not a substitute for thought and analysis. Reading through such works as Kemalism by Suna Kili (School of Business Administration and Economics, Robert College, Istanbul, not dated) is like reading the minutes of the politbureau meeting taken by a mindless secretary. Not surprisingly, this type of intellectuals and their output have received and continues to receive welcome and patronage from the scholars and intellectuals of the United States and Europe. This, along with the fact that in the fifties and sixties faith in modernisation and industrialisation was really high, can be used to excuse such works as that of Suna Kili.

But even in the eighties when the notion of westernisation has been thoroughly discredited, when modernity as an analytical concept has been thrown out in the rubbish heap, when three United Nations Decades of development have produced extensive documentation of the disasters of westernisation, when Third World cities have been irreparably damaged by the process of modernisation, when the western civilization itself has reached an apex of alienation and intellectual bankruptcy (as catalogued by such scholars as Alvin Toffler, Theodore Roszak, Lester Brown, Hazel Henderson, Jerremy Rifkin, and numerous Club of Rome studies), modernist Turkish scholars continue their fanatical and fundamentalist belief in westernisation. For example, the inane discourse of the modernist ideologue brought together in Ataturk and the Modernisation of Turkey (Edited by Jacob M Landau, Brill, Leiden, 1984) is truly dumbfounding. The contribution of Osman Okyar, Metin And, Ismet Giritli, Metin Heper, Ilter Turan and Vakur Versan enforces my belief that there is no such thing as a critical modernist who is willing to question his/her own beliefs and intellectual stance (as always there are exceptions to the rule: in the Landau anthlogy, Sabri M Akural’s analysis of Kemalist Views on Social Change takes a refreshingly critical course). To keep Turkish modernists intellectually enslaved and dependent, western academics promote the myth of westernisation at every opportunity. It is thus not surprising that the guru of modern Turkish modernists is the noted Zionist orientalist Bernard Lewis, whose political and racial prejudices are legion and who, in the words of Edward Said, cannot be matched ‘for sheer heed less anti-intellectualism unrestrained or unencumbered by the slighted trace of critical self-consciousness’. It should also come as no surprise that most non-Turkish contributors to anthology by Landau, who is Professor of Political Science, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, are self-confessed Zionists.

But Zionists are not the only fanatically anti-Islamic scholars around. There are also numerous apparently respectable western academics with intricate links to the national intelligence networks promoting the cause of westernisation in Turkey. The most pathetic and intellectually feeble contributions to The Proceedings of the International Conference on Ataturk (9-13 November 1981, Bosphorus University, Istanbul) came from such scholars. Thus to Zhu Kerou, Ataturk’s reforms were perfect and had divine origins (evidently he did not step out of the Conference Hall and look at the rampant poverty); for Hans-Jurgen Kornrumf the Ttreaty of Lausanne was one of  ‘the grat political miracles of the twentieth century’; for Donald Webster, Mustafa Kemal was a Fabian socialist (and I thought they were only indigenous to Britain) and so on. In this anthology too, in terms of analysis and ideas, the contributions of most of the Turkish scholars are meagre to say the least. The overall impression one gets from reading the modernist diatribe from Turkish scholars and their western mentors is that the whole group is completely divorced from reality, the feelings and passions of the vast majority of the people and has no appreciation of the recent history of development. It is as though they were looking at a very dark room from a very small keyhole. This, then, is the product of the post-revolutionary age of ignorance.

1949 marked the end of the age of ignorance in one aspect. During the post-revolution days most of the religious schools had been closed and replaced by ‘laic’’ (lay or secular) educational system. According to the official interpretation, Turkish `secular ism’ does not include any form of persecution of religion or of those who practice it. Despite his strongly secular view, Mustafa Kemal did not set out to destroy Islam, as Lenin tried to do with religion in the Soviet Union, but merely to disestablish it and limit its influence to matters of personal piety and rituals. This being the case, Ataturk and his followers could easily allow Muslim institutions to function independently of the government – just as religious institutions do in European secular democracies, and Jewish and Christian institutions do in Turkey. But as Saleh Tug points out, Ataturk and his successors did not dare go as far as that. However, when Turkey entered the ‘democratic phase’, after the second world war, many politicians adopted the cause of religious education and eventually succeeded in establishing special middle and secondary schools known as  Imam Hatib schools. For the first time in over thirty years, the teaching of the Qur’an and its commentaries, hadith and its interpretation, Islamic law, history and philosophy in conjunction with modern science and ideas became common. These new schools found an enthusiastic welcome in vast sectors of the Turkish Republic, not as institutions of professional training but as an alternative to the secular middle and secondary schools. In 1975, a reform act transformed and reorganised the Imam Hatib schools as Imam Hatib Lyces with full teaching curriculum, including of course Arabic and Islamic studies. After the 1980 military coup, the graduates of Imam Hatib schools were given permission to enter universities for higher education. It is the graduates of the Imam- schools, with sound knowledge of Islam and acquainted with modern thought, ideas, science and methodology, who will really shape the intellectual future of Turkey.

However, thanks to a number of other major developments these future scholars will have very good ground support. The first of these developments dates back to the early sixties. The first generation of Republican intellectuals had a major handicap: they had no access to the fundamental sources of their society thanks largely to latinisation of Ottoman Turkish. Almost overnight, this act destroyed the historical and cultural roots of Turkish society. As they could not read or understand the basic works on Turkish history and culture, thoughts and ideas, Turkish intellectuals had to turn to secondary and tertiary sources, to the deeply flawed and prejudiced works of Bernard Lewis and other orientalists. Turkish intellectual life thus became a rootless tree which could not bear fruit; hence the poverty of original thought and excess of modernist clones in the age of ignorance.

Muslim intellectuals thus launched a campaign of translations. First classical Muslim scholars such as al-Ghazali, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, ibn Taymmiyah, and ibn Tufayl were translated into Turk ish, followed by more recent intellectuals such as Jamaluddin Afghani, Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida, and right down to Abu Ala Maududi, Syed Kutb and Malik bin Nabi. These translations opened up the classical sources for the young intellectuals and connected them with development of Islamic thought elsewhere in the Muslim world.

The availability of classical and contemporary works of Islamic thought had, as one would expect, a very strong impact on the Turkish intellectual scene. It generated a host of original writings on such essential areas as Sira (M Asim Koksal), fiqh (Ali Safak), kalam (Bakir Topaloglu) and hadith (Mehmet Sefuoglu). Moreover, it led Muslim intellectuals to think about the common problems of Muslims throughout the world. A whole generation of neo-Salafi intellectuals like Khauddin Karaman who’s Ijtihad in Islamic Law argues that Muslims have no future without opening the gates of ijtihad, has emerged.

At the same time, Sufi groups, of which the Naqshbandi tariqa and the followers of Budruzaman Said Nursi are the strongest, began rendering the classic Sufi works into Turkish. Almost every Sufi classic has been translated: just one Sufi publication house, Dergah Publications, has brought out over 150 classical works. As a result Sufi thought began to gain even greater influence and the confidence of Sufi intellectuals filtered to other groups. Furthermore, the translations, in the early seventies, of the works of the Swiss Sufi, Rene Guenon, and his followers, Martin Lings, Titus Burkhart and Hossein Nasr, with their devastating and often internal criticism of western civilization, generated a real feeling of self-confidence in Islam and in the belief that it offered a viable and comprehensive alternative to western civilization.

This self-confidence was enhanced and strengthened by a highly original, and completely indigenous, intellectual movement which came into vogue in the early fifties and bloomed into full mat rity in the sixties. It would be wrong to characterise it as a coherent movement; but there is a single notion which binds group of Turkish intellectuals who have led the Muslim intellectual revival in the past two decades. The notion is that of civilization: these scholars see Islam not just as a religion and culture but as a civilizational apparatus (political structure, social organisation, a way of knowing – science, a way of doing – technology, a way of being – art and culture) intact and waiting to be rediscovered. On the whole, members of this group tend to be genuine polymaths in the classical sense and propagate their ideas not just on the basis of intellectual discourse, but also in fiction and poetry; and they command vast following both amongst the middle age scholars and the emerging young intellectuals. Moreover, they regard Turkey as the arena where the battle between the civilizations of Islam and the West originally started and will be eventually settled.

Necip Fazil Kisakurck, founder of the Great Orient Movement and the monthly journal of the same name, is the forerunner of this group. Since 1943, and in more than 80 books, notably Bab-i Ali and The Ideological Web, he has argued that both the scholastic structure of the madrasa education which produced the type of ulama which could not meet the challenge of westernisation during the late Ottoman period, and modern secularistic educational establishments set up after the Tanzimat reforms and the Young Turk Revolution, are incapable of meeting the need of a contemporary, dynamic Turkey. Only when Islam is seen as a civilization and its parameters rejuvenated in a contemporary form in their totality can Turkey really progress.

Cemil Meric taking cue from Kisakurck, analysed the notion of civilization with profound sophistication and dissected the western civilization with the ability of a master surgeon. In From Civilization to Umran he uses Ibn Khaldun’s notion of umran to argue for the reconstruction of the physical and intellectual apparatus of Islamic civilization. Sezai Karakoc, another leading intellectual of this group and founder of the movement and the journal Resurrection, argues that the world is facing a deep crisis as a result of western civilization’s imposed conflict between man and nature and the resultant imbalance between physic and metaphysics. In such works as The Resurrection of Mankind and The Resurrection of Islam, he argued that the crisis facing mankind can only be overcome by the creation of a new civilization which is based on the teachings of the Qur’an. In the Resurrection of Islam he writes: ‘The Muslims can only acquire their own identity with the advent of the Muslim intellectual; and this requires resurrection of Islamic thought. Belief resurrection cannot come without thought resurrection. And without thought resurrection, we cannot experience a revival of art and literature… ‘. While the influence of Malek Bennabi and Mohammad Iqbal is clearly visible in Karakoc’s writings, many of his ideas about history, technology, and the future are highly original and his analysis of the universalism of Islam is very powerful.

The civilizational group, the translations of the works of classical Muslim scholars including the Sufi classics, the availability of the works of contemporary Muslim writers – all had a profound effect on the Muslim intellectual scene in Turkey. Moreover, the emergence as the third largest political party and the electoral success of Milli Selamet party in 1974 and brief, flawed but encouraging political career of Najmuddin Erbakan as Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister, confirmed that the influence of Muslim intellectuals was not limited to narrow circles but could be translated into votes when necessary.

What the rise and fall of the Milli Selamet party demonstrated more than anything else is that just developing an Islamic critique of western civilization and modernist scholarship is not enough. Muslim intellectuals have an even more pressing and formidable task in front of them: shaping real and pragmatic contemporary Islamic alternatives in science and technology policies, economic activity, social and educational development and the involvement of the vast majority of the Turkish people in the running of the country.

For all intents and purposes modernism in Turkey is dead: it has died not just because of the force of argument and the devastating criticism that Muslim intellectuals have marshalled against it, but also because of its own uselessness. Of course, its effects will linger on for years; just as modernist scholars, with considerable help from their western colleagues, will continue to produce apologia on behalf of westernisation. But one only has to ask a single question to conclude the issue: why has Turkey, despite over one hundred years of westernisation in the late Ottoman period, and over sixty years of unhindered modernisation after the formation of the Republic, not succeeded in: (1) becoming a coherent modern state; (2) developing economically, technologically and scientifically; (3) eradicating class structure and (4) mass poverty; (5) and gaining the respect of Western nations? How is Turkey with such a long track record of westernisation better – politically, economically, scientifically and technologically – than Pakistan which only has 30 years of westernisation to show or Saudi Arabia which has only experienced a decade of westernisation? Does that not mean that westernisation has failed, and failed spectacularly in Turkey; just as it has failed everywhere else in the Third World? And what sense is there in perpetuating a policy that has demonstratively failed?

Of course, the more discerning modernist scholars realise the futility and intellectual feebleness of arguing for westernisation. Thus modernist scholars like Serif Mardin, author of The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought (Princeton University Press, 1962) and Ibrahim Aga Cubuken are forced to give due importance to Islamic culture and the history of Turkey and now argue that more attention should be paid to indigenous Islamic culture in Turkey. Similarly, there have been many defections from leftist and Marxist groups to Muslim camps. The most notable of these is undoubtedly poet-philosopher Ismet Ozel. When asked by his friend Murat Belge, a noted socialist intellectual, the reason for his conversion, Ozel answered: ‘man looks either after his freedom or his security. But he cannot acquire one without the other. All my life has been a search for ontological security. I am convinced that I found this security in the Quran. Islam is a healing for me. Those who either have no wounds or are not aware of their wounds will have no need for this healing’.

However, Ozel is convinced that mankind is sick. In Three Problems: Technology, Civilization and Alienation and in To Speak in Difficult Times and Stone Eating is Banned Ozel argues that mankind is from an acute alienation which is a result of destructive technology artificial division of man and nature, and the enlightened principles of Islam which emphasise the synthesis of the sacred and the profane is the only medicine available for this disease. Three Problems is one of the most influential books of recent time in Turkey.

The task of developing practical Islamic alternatives to a whole range of contemporary issues in now being undertaken by a new group of young intellectuals – in their late twenties and early thirties – which can be described as the contemporary school of Turkish Islamic thought. The realisation that intellectual and policy issues cannot be overlooked has encouraged even the more traditional groups which have hitherto concentrated on spiritual matters, such as the Naqshbandi tariqa, to set up workshops and intellectual discussion groups. Many of these issues are discussed in the Naqshbandi journal Science and Art. Some members of the contemporary school, such as Nazif Gurdogan whose Beyond Technology won the Turkish Writers Association Essay Award for 1985, are influenced by Naqashbandi thought. But the influence of Sufi thought is by no means paramount. In the writings of Ilhan Kutluer, whose Background to Modern Science and On Scienticism reveals a penetrating insight into the history and philosophy of western science and technology, and Ali Bulac whose Intellectual Problems of the Islamic World is a critical survey of contemporary issues facing the Muslim ummah, there is the equally powerful influence of `civilization scholars’ such as Necip Fazil and Karakoc, and the classical modern Salafi school of thought.

Ali Bulac summed up the concerns of the contemporary school when he told me: ‘we are not for or against Kemalism. That does not concern us. We are much more concerned with the question of science and values, the relevance of technology to our society, the ecological and environmental problems of Turkey, the social and economic betterment of the vast majority of our people, the provision of absolute justice, the spread of equality, the epistemological basis of our civilization, the reconstruction of a critical Islamic tradition, the flowering of our art and culture, poetry and fiction. We seek Islamic alternatives to these issues. And it is precisely the issues which concern university students and young academics, Muslim and non-Muslim, throughout Turkey’.

There are, however, certain basic hurdles that the contemporary school, and other intellectual groups, must overcome in the near future. The first concerns the Shariah which is still seen in a very narrow, fiqh-orientated manner. It needs to be developed as a modern problem-solving tool rather than propagated as a worn- out and out-of-date collection of jurisprudential rulings. The contemporary school is the only group of intellectuals in Turkey capable of seeing that the Shariah has become an ossified mono lith, rather than a dynamic methodology, and that much fiqh has little relevance to our times. Almost all of what is being thought at schools of theology in Turkish universities as Shariah and fiqh is designed it take the Muslim mind back to pre-Ottoman days rather than go forward with a methodology which solves the complex problems of our time. The Shariah needs to be rescued from the clutches of obscurantist traditionalism and applied such areas as science, technology, environmental legislation, urban development, economic progress and the promotion of justice and equity.

The second hurdle concerns the hot and controversial issue of `women’. The question of dignity should not be confused with the question of equality; there is no logic which dictates that treating women with dignity necessarily means that they have to be locked up and denied equality of opportunity for intellectual and professional development. While the importance of women in maintaining a healthy family life cannot be underestimated, the view that the place of women is necessarily in the kitchen is neither Islamic nor tenable in a just society. It is a figment of suffocating traditional thought which can only justify its position by producing obsolete, banal and mundane arguments. An appropriate example of which is provided by Ali Riza Demircan in his Sexual Life in an Islamic Society which has become quite popular amongst the more narrow-minded conservative groups. A contemporary nation cannot hope to move to a viable and just future if it isolates and marginalises half of its intellectual and professional cadre. It is noteworthy that amongst various Muslim intellectual groups in Turkey, including the contemporary school, there is not a single woman intellectual. Clearly, this is not because women are not up to the task!

Studying Islam as a civilization and total system automatically leads one to consider the Shariah as a method for solving the ethical and policy problems of Muslim society. It also forces the open minded intellectual to consider women as an active and equal part of this civilizational undertaking. In many respects the narrow interpretation of the Shariah and marginalisation of Muslim women echo some of the concerns that gave rise to the Young Ottomans and other intellectual groups of Ottoman and post- Ottoman period. While these groups sought solutions to these problems via an alien civilization and from a position of intellectual inferiority, contemporary Muslim intellectuals are in a position to provide answers to these issues from within the civilization of Islam and from a position of self-confidence and relative intellectual strength. Only courage and boldness is further required. The young Turkish intellectuals are well on their way to demonstrating that Islamic alternatives best serve the national needs of Turkey and its people. When they have surpassed the major hurdles on their way, and when the thought of the contemporary school combines with the work of Imam Hatib graduates who will emerge from universities in a decade, an unparalleled intellectual fusion will be generated. Turkey will then become intellectually the most exciting and powerful country in the Muslim world.

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