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The Socio-Intellectual Foundation of Malek Bennabi's Approach to Civilization

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Since the publication of Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” concern about civilization has been reintroduced into the debate on the world order. Malek Bennabi (1905–1973), prominent Algerian thinker and great Muslim intellectual, intently focused on unraveling the causes of Muslim decline and the success of Western civilization and culture. The key problem he theorized lay not in the Qur’an or Islamic faith but in Muslims themselves. The author investigates Bennabi’s approach to civilization and the fundamental principles drawn, using metatheorizing methodology. In doing so he sheds further light on perhaps one of the more intriguing elements of Bennabi’s theory, that civilization is governed by internal-external and social-intellectual factors and that an equation can be generated for civilization itself. This equation of Man+Soil+Time = Civilization and of which religion, according to Bennabi, forms the all-important catalyst, is explained and its significance in terms of the reversal of Muslim decline evaluated. What is clearly apparent is that for Bennabi, Man is the central force in any civilizing process and without him the other two elements are of no value.

With regard to outcomes, Bennabi’s unerring conviction that unless Muslims changed their spiritual condition they could not effect any far-reaching, meaningful change in society is echoed in the Qur’anic verse: “Verily, never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (13:11).

Badrane Benlahcene is Associate Professor of civilization studies and philosophy of history, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Islamic and Social Sciences and Humanities, Batna University, Algeria. He is an expert on the work of Bennabi having published articles in a number of journals and presented papers on Bennabi and civilization studies at conferences in Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. (2011).

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Badrane Benlahcene
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