Abdelwahab Elmessiri's Critique of Western Modernity and the Development of an Islamic Humanism

Mesard, Helen Elizabeth, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Childress, Jim, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Bouchard, Larry, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Sachedina, Abdulaziz
Mathewes, Charles, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
al-Rahim, Ahmed, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Quandt, William, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

This dissertation provides a study of Egyptian thinker, writer, and public figure, Abdelwahab Elmessiri (1938-2008). It identifies and tracks the commitments, virtues, and values shaping Elmessiri's critical analysis of "modern Western civilization" and his formulation of an "Islamic humanism." The study begins by demonstrating that critiques of modernity are oriented by ethical commitments, and developing analytic tools for thinking about the critical discourses of Elmessiri's predecessors, peers, and interlocutors both inside and outside the Muslim world. In developing his critique and his alternative Islamic humanist vision, Elmessiri integrates a wide range of discursive threads, from the Traditions of Islam, to Marxism and German social theory, to British and American Romantic poetry. Elmessiri's efforts have also played a significant role in ethical and political thought in Egypt since the forced resignation of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. These features of his work warrant further attention from scholars outside of Egypt as they investigate the moral contours of our age and seek to contribute to constructive discourse about living together in an increasingly pluralistic world. In addition to contributing a first major study of Elmessiri's life, work, and legacy written in English, the project also develops a framework for reading and analyzing comprehensive critical analyses of Western modernity that have been put forward by numerous writers in the past century or more – particularly those oriented by theological concepts and vocabularies. This framework expands the space available for research at the intersection of Religious Ethics, Islamic Studies, and Social and Political Theory. It also invites comparative study of practices of critique in the context of Religious Ethics.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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