Formulating a rigorously historicist approach to contemporary cultures of Islam can build on Asad’ pivotal concept in The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam: not the “discursive tradition,” but the discursivity of tradition. Already implicit in its reiterative tradition, the modernity of Islam consists in the reconfigured powers of discursivity beyond discourse.
In the introduction to the symposium “The Roots and Ruptures of Contemporary Islamic Piety,” Aaron Rock-Singer elucidates the questions within contemporary Islamic studies that stand between the completeness of historical narratives and the ruptures of Muslim intellectual, social, and cultural life.
Rather than establishing structural analogies or historical filiations between “religion” and “politics” (terms he opens to question), Talal Asad urges attention to shifts in the grammar of concepts across different situations.
The business of religion, to use that unfortunate turn of phrase, is to change the world. The theo-political implication of radical democracy is that we cannot wait for a God to save us. If democracy indeed is the political instantiation of the death of God, then this is a task that is ours alone.