n Journal for Islamic Studies - What is 'reform'? Approaches to a problematic term in African Muslim contexts




The term 'reform' has come to describe a large array of different and rather variegated processes of change in historical as well as contemporary academic debates. This contribution looks at the emergence of new concepts of 'reform' in Muslim countries in the early 20th century and will address the question of how we can develop a sound terminology of reform that considers the inherent dynamics of movements of reform and the constant change in the meaning of 'reform'. In order to achieve this goal, it is necessary, however, to tackle some methodological problems and to define the term 'reform' in conclusive ways. By studying movements of reform in their respective historical context, by identifying the specific dynamics of those movements as well as their social and religious relevance, we will eventually be able to determine the very nature of religious movements of reform. This contribution argues that while reform movements have to be understood in terms of how they are situated in a matrix of international networks and media-based representations, these movements must also be interpreted in terms of how they are situated in their local contexts.


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