Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Long reads
10 February 2010updated 24 Sep 2015 10:46am

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani

The prime mover in the Islamic renaissance.

By Ian K Smith

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani was the founder of Islamic revivalism, the movement to restore Muslim civilisation to its former glory. Al-Afghani was an activist who travelled around the Islamic and European worlds preaching political and religious reform, being courted, getting exiled, and generally creating controversy.

Al-Afghani called for pan-Arab unity as a response to western colonialism — the main voice among many. He claimed Afghan Sunni descent (hence the name al-Afghani), but many believe he was in fact of Persian Shia origin. From 1884 onwards he published from his base in Paris, together with his student Muhammad Abduh, the Firmest Bond, an important anti-imperialist journal protesting against British colonialism in Egypt and Sudan.

Al-Afghani was described as a liberal by English contemporaries, including Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. Towards the end of his life he was a prominent agitator in the run-up to the Iranian constitutional revolution, leading to his eviction from Iran in 1891.

However, there is little proof that he ascribed to European liberalism, and his deference to intellectuals such as Ernest Renan was aimed at defending Islam, rather than adopting European ideas.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

On the rationality of Islam:

The Islamic religion is the only religion that censures belief without proof.

Next: Muhammad Abduh (d.1905)

Back to list.

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action