How to approach the complex intellectual legacy of a modern Muslim thinker like Muhammad 'Abduh (1849-1905)? This book offers an answer to this question by providing a new complete intellectual biography of him. It delineates 'Abduh's formation as a reformer and activist and embeds his varied intellectual contributions in a culture of ambiguity which has marked the intellectual life of Muslim societies throughout their history.
By using new sources - in particular his early mystical, philosophical and political writings - and including recent academic contributions on him, the book explores 'Abduh's complex intellectual formation, the various religious, philosophical and cultural influences that shaped him, and his changing attitudes towards "Western modernity" and its colonial manifestation in the 19th century. Oliver Scharbrodt challenges the perception in academic scholarship - and among Muslim reformers of the 20th century - that searched for intellectual coherence and biographical consistency in 'Abduh's life. Instead, this book offers a new more comprehensive reading of his intellectual legacy and highlights the variety of approaches and ideas manifest in his contributions.