ABSTRACT

In this chapter the author presents her encounters with the writings of three Iranian intellectuals who grappled with the problem of Western dominance in the Muslim world. Al-Afghani became a lifelong opponent of the British empire, the superpower in the Muslim world at the time. Most of his political work concerned attempts, which mostly failed in the short term, to strengthen Islamic regimes and create anti-British resistance. The Refutation of the Materialists was written in 1881 when al-Afghani was in India, as a critique of a contrasting Muslim response to conquest, the Aligarh movement. Led by Sayyid Ahmad Khan, this trend emphasised the pursuit of modernity, Western-style education, rationalist reform of Islam and political accomodation with the British. Al-e Ahmad reserves special anger for modernising secular Iranian intellectuals. At various points through the book, he criticises them fiercely as agents of Westoxication, much as al-Afghani had criticised the Aligarh movement as ‘materialists’.