“From “Self-Criticism after the Defeat” and later through his monograph “Love, and Platonic Love,” al-Azm engages in refuting myths and justifications, while also rejecting their use in perpetuating various kinds of ideological and political dominations…The correct answer to the question ‘Is Islam compatible with the humanist secular tendency and its components?’ is to call them incompatible if we examine them from the perspective of rigid dogma, but to label them compatible if we look at them from a historical perspective...the problem of Islam with secularism emerges when political forces isolate it from the historical context of Muslims in each age, and instead attempt to force it into a rigid framework of beliefs and rituals…Although he participated in many debates and battles during his rich intellectual life, al-Azm never accepted limitations to his own choices. Instead, he remained open to whoever wanted to accompany him on this odyssey. This apparently explains his ability to find common ground for dialogue with liberals, Islamists, secularists and Marxists, seeing himself as a fellow traveler to all of them until they crossed borders which he could not cross.” (From Hussam Itani’s essay “Sadiq Jalal Az-Azm: A Critical Yet Humanist View of Arab Thought,” scheduled to appear in forthcoming Al Jadid, Vol. 21, No. 72, 2017).
(Images from the top left image, clockwise: Sadik Jalal al-Azm from Matthew Davidson’s The Zero Room, Critical Muslims, Qantara, and Middle East Eye.)