Muhammad Bahjat al-Bitar and the Decline of Modernist Salafism in Twentieth-Century Syria

Itzchak Weismann, Rokaya Adawi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Salafī version of the Islamic Modernist trend emerged in the late nineteenth century among middle-ranked ulema-cum-intellectuals in the major Arab urban centres of the Ottoman Empire. Modernist Salafīs strove to strike a balance between modernization along Western lines and an authenticity based on the model of the pious ancestors (al-salaf al-ṣāliḥ). They differed from other early modernists such as the Young Ottomans and the celebrated Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī and Muḥammad ʿAbduh by drawing their inspiration from the teachings of the medieval theologian Aḥmad Ibn Taymiyya and his early modern successors, the Wahhābīs and the Indian Ahl-i Ḥadīth. The major components of the quasi-liberal and open religious reform they professed were adherence to the Qurʾān and Sunna, denunciation of saint worship, reasoned ijtihād, selective adoption of Western innovations, revival of the Arab-Islamic civilization, and opposition to autocratic rule.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-256
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Islamic Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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