History and doctrines of Islam

Dialectics of Oppression: Qur’anic Hermeneutics and Socio-Political Action in Islamic Liberation Theology in South Africa

This project aims to retrace the construction of the discourse of Islamic liberation theology in South Africa, in the late apartheid and post-apartheid period. The project focuses on the Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town as a case study.  Founded in 1854, the Claremont Main Road Mosque has since the early 1980s established itself as a key platform in South Africa for the elaboration of a progressive and liberationist Muslim discourse. The hypothesis behind this project is that the development of Islamic liberation theology in South Africa in the second half of the twentieth century represents an excellent example of the interaction between the global and the local in the construction of the Islamist discourse in a postcolonial context; it is an example on which relatively little research has hitherto been carried out. The construction of a historical hermeneutic rooted in praxis and the claim of a divine preference for the poor and oppressed represent the pillars of a theology which, far from becoming less relevant with the end of apartheid (1994), has continued to produce an original critical reflection, focused on the themes of economic and social justice, gender justice, and religious pluralism.

Contributor: Margherita Picchi.

‘Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi (Aleppo 1855-Cairo 1902)

Al-Kawakibi was one of the voices in a phase of renewing and re-imagining Arab and Islamic thought in the 19th century. This phase had at its origins structural socio-political changes (the integration of the Syrian and Middle-Eastern economy into an increasingly globalized capitalist economy; European colonialism; the decline of the empires and the emergence of a new political unity, i.e. the nation state) and the encounter with ideologies and concepts that had developed in Europe (nationalism, liberalism, socialism, libertarianism…). Al-Kawakibi is known in particular for two books published at the turn of the 19th century: Umm al-Qura (The Mother of the Villages) describes a fictional conference on the decline of the Islamic world held by religious experts representing the doctrinal and geographical variety of Islam; Taba’i‘ al-istibdad wa-masari‘ al-isti‘bad (The Nature of Tyranny and the Injuries of Enslavement) is a philosophical study on despotism and its consequences for different spheres of human activity, such as religion, knowledge, morality, and the economy. This research focuses first on al-Kawakibi’s idea of an Arab Caliphate as a contribution to the regional and transnational debate on the political future of the umma, and second on his conception of the relationship between the religious and the political.

Contributor: Francesco Cargnelutti.