The evolution of religion and its relationship to the rest of society was a major topic of early sociological theory. One of its earliest and most persistent propositions--reaffirmed by many contemporary theorists of the sociology of religion--is that religion, like any other institution, is a dynamic entity and that its functional differentiation is a fundamental part of social processes. In this theoretical framework, religious institutional arrangements are thought to be evolving according to the perceived needs of the sociohistorical time period. As religion impacts the larger society, it too is impacted by the dominant patterns of society. Moreover, the various institutional arrangements either support or are in competition with one another. However, the topic of Islam and modernity, as it has evolved in the modern era, is a complex one largely due to shifting and multidimensional interpretations of both Islam and the concept of modernity.
The word Islam, which means "surrender," is related to the Arabic word salaam, or "peace." Islam as a religion means "submission to the will of God." It stands in a long line of Abrahimic religious traditions that share an uncompromising monotheism. The foundation of Islamic values and practices is the Koran and Hadith, which are composed of the teachings and the deeds of the Prophet Muhammad. For Muslims, the Koran is the Book of God (Allah) revealed to Muhammad by means of the angel Gabriel. In a very deep sense, Islam is the Koran and the Koran is Islam. Today Islam is the religion of one fifth of the world's population (1.2 billion), and, as the second largest religion, it exists not only in the Middle East but also in Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Europe, and the United States.
Modernity is a term used to describe the condition of being "modern." Since the term modern is used to describe a wide range of periods, modernity must be taken in context. In the field of sociology, many of the defining characteristics of modernity--such as specialization, rationalization, secularization, and universalism-- stem from the relatively small communities to the more large-scale societies. In this context, social changes which are common to many different levels of social integration are not limited to the Western European societies. In other words, modernization is a general, abstract process, also found in non-Western societies, including Islamic society.
1) Armstrong, Karen. 2002. Islam: A Short History. New York: Modern Library.
2) Esposito, John L. 2004. Islam: The Straight Path. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
3) Glasse, Cyril. 2003. The New Encyclopedia of Islam.Lanham, MD: AltaMira.
4) Murata, Sachiko and William Chittick. 1994. The Vision of Islam. New York: Cragon.
5) Rahman, Fazlur. 2002. Islam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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