The Sudanese thinker Mahmud Muhammad Taha (d. 1985) was a bold advocate of Arab enlightenment, which he based on a synthesis of Sufism, democracy and socialism that in his view represented the ideal amalgamation of ethics, freedom, and equality. The model of Islam he sought to renew was the Islam of Mecca (612–622). In his view, the Meccan period advocated universal values such as justice, freedom and peace, and ought hence be revived. The Medinan period (622–632), which turned Islam into a religion of coercion and exploitation, needed to be abolished. Taha’s sharp division of the Qurʾan into two parts, one exalted and the other inferior, signified a total break with past legacies. His dismantling of the sacred in the name of humanity was intertwined with his deconstruction of Arab collective memory regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, as he called for reconciliation with the Jewish State. While Taha’s vigorous writing rocked Islamic and Arabic scholarship, it left him and his followers on the fringes of consensus. This study opens a wider window onto the worldview of one of the most creative, and controversial, Arab thinkers in modern times–as yet not thoroughly researched–while framing him within a broader discussion of Arab liberalism.
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