The Venture of Islam

4 April 2015
A discussion on Hodgson’s definition and analysis of the Islamic religion in terms of history, culture and social aspects.

This paper examines the meaning of the title of Marshall G.S. Hodgson’s work, “The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization”. The author provides Hodgson’s definition of Islam and discusses the social and cultural background of the Islamic religion. Moreover, he explains the effect modern civilization had on Islamic religion.
Hodgson’s discussion of the Islamic reaction to Modernization, at the close of his magisterial study, leaves the reader with a sense of depression at just how impossible it is to reconcile nationalist ideals and Western-derived thinking to the core “venture” of Islam. Although Muslims were able to create a cohesive and flourishing civilization in the pre-modern world, Islamdom was unprepared for the dynamism of Western expansion, based as it is on capitalist investment and mechanization. Moreover, the “disruption of tradition” which is so much a feature of modern life is, Hodgson argues, something the West is able to absorb much more easily than other cultures. “Yet, even in the West . . . the socially concerned are full of complaints about the fragmentation of life . . . and about personal loss of roots and alienation in the mass. [However], in Islamdom, the disruption of traditions is even more problematic” (III,419).

Hodgson’s conclusions about Islam in modernity are melancholy ones, giving us the impression that the creative vision and faith at the core of Islamic belief are unsuited to the dry, pragmatic realities of contemporary life.”

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