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Explores secularism and secularisation in Arab societies since the mid-19th century.

This book is a translation of Aziz al-Azmeh’s seminal work Al-'Ilmaniya min mandhur mukhtalif that was first published in Beirut in 1992. Both celebrated and criticised for its reflections on Arab secularisation and secularism in the modern history of the Arab World, it is the only study to date to approach its subject as a set of historical changes which affected the regulation of the social, political and cultural order, and which permeated the concrete workings of society, rather than as an ideological discussion framed from the outset by the assumed opposition between Islam and secularism.

The author takes a comprehensive analytical perspective to show that an almost imperceptible yet real, multi-faceted and objective secularising process has been underway in the Arab world since the 1850s.

  • Traces the concrete secular transformations in Muslim societies which occurred at particular times and by specific social agencies
  • Explores how secular changes influenced the functioning of different strata and groups, and the central attitudes of their members
  • Devotes considerable attention to religious reform in the broader context of the developments studied, and of the ideological, political and institutional religious reactions to both
  • Includes a new Preface by the author to introduce the English translation

Table of Contents

Foreword by Gilbert Achcar

Preface to the English Translation

Preface to the Second Arabic Edition


1 Religion and the World in Historical Perspective

2 The Reformist State and the Universalist Orientation

3 Intellectual Transformations and Elusive Reconciliation

4 Sites of Secularism in the Twentieth Century

5 The Nationalist Era and the Future Besieged

6 Secularism at the Turn of the Millennium in the Context

of its Adversaries



Publication Information

Aga Khan University – ISMC, Edinburgh University Press




978 1 4744 4749 2


Arab world, Islam, modernism, modernity, religious reform, secularisation, Secularism

Secularism in the Arab World: Contexts, Ideas and Consequences