A Review of ‘The Modernist Menace to Islam’ by Daniel Haqiqajou (2021)
‘The Modernist Menace to Islam’ by Daniel Haqiqajou is subtitled, ‘A Muslim Critique of Modern-isms’ and checking by the contents, the reader gets a quick gauge of the breadth of what Haqiqajou hopes to cover:
Secularism & Democracy
Freedom, Equality and Liberty
Science & Scientism
Liberalism, Liberal Hypocrisy
Sex & Zina
Homosexuality & LGBT
The many ‘isms’ can be seen to be the multifarious arms of the neo-pagan pantheon of Modernity. His is a no-nonsense deep-dive into one of the most influentially destructive forces in the world – ever since the ironically named ‘Enlightenment’ Project. The total darkness of this world-view is demonstrated to be in actual fact, a religion, and is something that some Muslims have been assimilating to since the colonial project of the Western secular liberal Europeans (circa 12th Century AH/ 18th Century CE onwards). It is at once unnatural and an unmitigated disaster not merely for the Muslims and the Muslim world, but for the non-Muslims too in being their barrier to the uncorrupted (i.e. authentic) revelation of Islam. Indeed, this is a catastrophe for humanity and the world at large because of the consequent misguidance amplified tenfold due to this artificial Project.
Haqiqatjou endorses what he calls a ‘Skeptical’ view of this faux-religion of Modernity that, like a disease, has infected the hearts and minds of Western thinkers, Progressivists and Liberal Muslims alike. He uses the metaphor of renovating upon a pure structure, not one brittle with problematic debris, so that whereas our scholarly predecessors built on the unshakeable foundations of revelation (i.e. the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah, peace be upon him), the colonial period and thereafter, brought a “European modernist philosophy [that] increasingly became the dominant mode of thought… in Muslim societies as well”; …“scholars [had to] respond to these -isms and/or write their opinions in light of them, whether due to social pressure or political pressure or even outright coercion by colonizers and other agents of Western hegemony. …In effect, some of that scholarship ended up being built on rot.”1
We’ve had ‘Reformers’ and ‘Modernists’ in the Muslim milieu since then. Haqiqatjou likens their arguments to the multi-headed hydra. Instead of entertaining their arguments, which is like cutting off “one head and two more grow in its place,”2 it is better to “just stab the Hydra in the heart by critiquing [its] modernist assumptions.”3
The Muslim Skeptic, then, in terms of getting to the heart or foundation of the argument, is charged with cleaning out the rot. Extending the structure metaphor, he says, “we need to deconstruct and dismantle it and discard the rubbish”4 according to the traditional Islamic criterion.
“Many Muslims have major obstacles crippling their faith, e.g., liberalism, secularism, scientism, etc. Many Kuffar, too, have these obstacles preventing them from accepting Islam or, short of that, respecting the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Qur’an and the Islamic way. So let’s take down these obstacles.”5
How? To preface his plan, Haqiqatjou goes on to ask: “Have you heard of the ether? Or phlogiston? Or corpuscles? These were empirical entities which were assumed to exist and were theorized about and seemingly verified experimentally by the scientific community but were later rejected as nonexistent.”6
And so, consider, if there have been scientific mistakes, what about ideas like ‘freedom of conscience’, ‘democracy’, ‘religious liberty’, ‘sexual autonomy’, ‘gender non-conformity’? “What if these concepts have no basis in reality, i.e., have no moral weight? What if they’re figments of the collective imagination of modern people under the overwhelming influence of Western academic and intellectual hegemony?”7
So, the plan? “You simply deconstruct those theories of value. You point out their inconsistencies. You systematically pick them apart until it is clear to all involved that those ideas are vacuous and not worthy of respect or acceptance.”8
That is to say, “Why can’t Muslims turn the tables by expressing skepticism about liberalism, the nation-state paradigm, scientism, humanism, progressivism, and the rest of the unquestioned modernist dogmas of our time?”9
Haqiqatjou expertly manoeuvres the layman from outlining how Atheism ultimately is both ‘Self-Worship’ and self-defeating; to describing how Secularism is not neutral but a Eurocentic (or Western cultural) perspective projected onto the rest of the world, arbitrarily; breaking down the indoctrination of the masses to notions of Freedom; presenting how the five stages that Feminism can lead one down might well become the road out of Islam by introducing doubts that rests upon baseless conjectures if one logically follows through; suggesting how best to discuss the Hijab; highlighting the reality and scope of Science; identifying the endemic Liberal hypocrisy; showing the incoherence of moral Progressivism; making a strong case for the travesty of Reformed Islam; reiterating the problems of the commodification of sex; and un-clouding the mirage that is the LGBT movement.
His book is both easily digestible and a thoroughly engaging read. There are great insights in how to consider the broad range of contentions raised by Modernity. The book, however, assumes the reader has a basic understanding of Islamic precepts. If you don’t have this, clearly, there is an urgent need for it! Those deeply embroiled in Modern assumptions will find his incisive critique frustrating, no doubt, because of their emotional and existential investment in that false ideology, but his point, however, taken as a whole, is irresistible. And so, if you happen to be a Muslim living and breathing in this age of Modernity, then this book is a definite ‘must read’.
1 The Modernist Menace by Daniel Haqiqatjou, pg. 259.
2 Ibid, pg. 209.
4 Ibid, pg. 259.
5 Ibid, pg. 261.
6 Ibid, pg. 264.
7 Ibid, pg. 264 – pg. 265.
8 Ibid, pg. 266.
9 Ibid, pg. 270.