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Intellectual Dependency: Late Ottoman Intellectuals between Fiqh and Social Science

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Modernization led to the intellectual dependency of the Muslim world on the West for social theories. Human action ('amal) is the subject matter of both Islamic fiqh and Western social science (i.e. of all those sciences which attempt to apply empirical methods drawn from the natural sciences to the sphere of human society, including education and law). Though different in many aspects, both have a claim on widely overlapping intellectual territories. Social science in its different forms conquered the space traditionally occupied by fiqh, and its professional representatives (such as academicians, jurists, educationists, and writers) replaced the fuqahā'. This article thus points to a dialectic tension between fiqh and Western social science which shaped Muslim intellectual history since the 19th century. This article unearths this latent tension by using the example of late Ottoman intellectuals as Ziya Gökalp, Said Halim Pasha and İzmirli İsmail Hakkı. In the Ottoman case it brought about a new cleavage in the Muslim intellectual community between advocates of social science and advocates of fiqh. Yet many intellectuals and even some fuqahā' attempted a synthesis between both fields. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the modern Turkish Republic adopted the policy of wholesale westernization, an element of which was the adoption of Western social science to replace fiqh in explaining and ordering human action. This intervention in the intellectual life increased the dependence of modern Turkish intellectuals on the state; which is another aspect of their intellectual dependency explored in this article.

Affiliations: 1: Istanbul


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