The idea that religion has undergone a radical change since the Christian Reformation—from totalitarian and socially repressive to private and relatively benign—is a familiar part of the story of secularization. It is often invokved to explain and justify the liberal politics and world view of modernity. And it leads to the view that "politicized religions" threaten both reason and liberty. Asad's essays explore and question all these assumptions. He argues that "religion" is a construction of European modernity, a construction that authorizes—for Westerners and non-Westerners alike—particular forms of "history making."-- James R. Wood
In search of meeting points between the language of Islam and the language of secular reason, Asad gives particular importance to the varieties of transformations of religious language into the idioms of secularism. He discusses the claim that liberal conceptions of equality represent earlier Christian ideas translated into secularism; explores the ways that the language and practice of religious ritual play an important but radically transformed role as they are translated into modern life; and considers the history of the idea of the self and its centrality to the project of the secular state. Secularism is not only an abstract principle that modern liberal democratic states espouse, he argues; it is also a range of sensibilities expressed in concepts such as “modernity,” “religion,” and “secularism.” The shifting vocabularies associated with each of these sensibilities are fundamentally intertwined with different ways of life. Drawing on a diverse set of thinkers ranging from al-Ghazālī to Walter Benjamin, Secular Translations rigorously seeks a language for our time beyond the language of the state.