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Abduh, Muhammad (1849–1905)

Many scholars consider Muhammad Abduh—controversial teacher, jurist, theologian, and reformer—to be the founder of Islamic Modernism. Abduh was born in rural Egypt to a family committed to religion and education. In 1869, he left for Cairo to study at Al-Azhar University (where he eventually became its modernizing rector). There he studied with Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, who introduced Abduh to Islamic theology and mysticism as well as more “Western” subjects such as social and political science. Afghani also instilled in Abduh an appreciation of activism and Pan-Islamism (regarding all Muslims as one global community). Afghani's influence, it seems, was to further make Abduh anticolonialist. The government eventually appointed Abduh chief editor of the official Egyptian gazette, where he increasingly influenced public thought and opinion. During this ...

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