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Books and Documents

Books and Documents

The Myth of the Muslim World
Asma Afsaruddin

"The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the hours of the Prophet have never transgressed the measure of human virtues; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion." Such views influenced Edward Gibbon and his largely favourable depiction of Islam in his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Similar positive assessments of Islam continued to be found through the first quarter of the 19th century;...

 

Fleeing a Fictional World of Despots and Drones
Francine Prose

As the violence escalates, the central characters become hunted fugitives, refugees in their own city. We learn their closely guarded secrets, and we come to share their terror of the probable consequences should those secrets be revealed. We read with increasing anxiety and in the growing hope that these heroic men and women — Christian and Muslim, from a wide range of backgrounds — will somehow triumph....

 

How the Islamic State Rose
Stanly Johny

The ISIS may now be losing territories to Kurdish rebels in Syria and the Iraqi Army in Iraq, both backed by the U.S. But its ideology, like that of al-Qaeda and other jihadist organisations, is unlikely to fade away in the near future given the geopolitical and sectarian fault lines of West Asia. ...

 

Jihad and Death – The Global Appeal of Islamic State

Are the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad responsible for modern Jihadism, or does the terrorists’ ignorance of their religion show that Islam is cover for inner disquiets that make more sense to the psychologist than the imam? Last July’s lorry massacre on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice was committed by an unstable libertine who had only recently discovered Jihadism....

 

The Enemy within – A Thrilling and Satisfying Polemic
Leila Aboulela

Despite all this, she has been subjected to the insult of being perceived as “the enemy within”, and finds herself wondering whether the UK will still be a home for her grandchildren. It is this personal stake that gives her forthright and intelligent book its sense of urgency. By tackling the “Muslim problem” head on...

 

Reconciling Islam with the Modern World

She first quotes Iqbal (whose suggestion that elected Parliament should be able to complement Ulema’s work and exercise Ijtihad appears shockingly modernist).“The law revealed by the Prophet takes special notice of the habits, ways and peculiarities of the people to whom he is specifically sent. The sharia values [ahkam] are in a sense specific to that people; and since their observance is not an end in itself they cannot be strictly enforced in the case of future generations....

Religion Gone Astray—What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith

Like individuals, religions, when they become institutions, can, as the title of this book says, go ‘astray’, deviating far from their purpose. They do this, the authors say, when, for instance, they are interpreted to promote monopolistic claims to truth, when they are marshalled to foment conflict and engage in violence against people who behave and believe differently and when they are invoked to seek to justify gender injustice. Hence, the authors stress, they ‘need to be called back’—...

The Story of Piro and the Gulabdasis

The main protagonists of this fascinating piece of work are a terribly marginalised Piro—a low-caste Muslim prostitute in nineteenth-century Punjab—and her Guru Gulabdas, a cult-figure and preacher of syncretistic Bhakti variety. The main part of the story revolves around Piro’s struggles over her own life, body and thought in association with Gulabdas, for whom she abandoned her Muslim-ness, amidst violent opposition, and sought a new beginning in the devotional milieu at the Dera of the Guru....

 

Guru Nanak’s Devotion to God and His Message of Social Equality

About his mission to unite people who claimed to follow different faiths in common devotion to the One God, because of which many Hindus and Muslims came to accept him as a true man of God. About his teachings about the meaninglessness of narrowly-inscribed religious labels and identities that hinder one from realizing God.  About his critique of supremacism, bigotry, exclusivism, communalism, priest craft, caste and caste-based discrimination and superstition in the name of religion. About his insistence that mere rituals or belief in dogmas are utterly insufficient for salvation.....

 

Non-Violence and Peace-Building in Islam

Hardly a day passes without the media reporting some violent barbarity somewhere in the world being committed in the name of Islam. Today, there is an urgent need for popularising an alternate understanding of Islam, one rooted in a commitment to peace, nonviolence and inter-community harmony. Peace and prosperity for all peoples, not just Muslims alone, crucially depends on this....

Pained at the horrific conditions of many Muslim societies today, that are characterized by patriarchy, intolerance, violence and oppression, Sardar insists that the root cause for their malaise is what has come to be seen as ‘Islamic orthodoxy’ (in its Sunni as well as Shia versions). Hence, the only solution lies in replacing this with an alternate understanding of Islam, one drawing on the tradition of Muslims like the Mutazilites, who placed a premium on reason in their understanding of Islam, and the Sufis, for whom love was the pivot.....

 

Social and Political Issues Facing Muslims Living in the West

He also sees value in Western secularism, explaining that “Muslim Westerners have understood that when secularism and religious neutrality are not instrumentalised by ideologues or intellectuals or political trends opposed to any presence of religion, they guarantee religious pluralism in Western societies and protect their legitimate rights.”...

 
A Call for Spiritual Renewal
K. Suhela, New Age Islam

A Call for Spiritual Renewal

It’s hard for us even to be civilized in the parking lot of a Masjid, for God’s sake. The only time we are organized is when we have to be organized in Sufuf (rows), when Salah is called, but outside of that—forget about it! Just basic human decency, basic human decency, we don’t possess. We don’t possess it. What have we done? What have we produced as a people? How have we contributed to the world? The only time we make it to the news is when we blow something up or we are in some chaos or another....

 

Falsity of the Thesis ‘Clash of Civilizations’ That Insists, Muslims and Others Simply Cannot Live Together In Peace and Harmony

She appreciates his “cultural scope”, that “spans continents”, and suggests that his “near-seamless transition from a village prodigy to a global scholar” is a “stunning example of Muslim cosmopolitanism”. She refers to Nadwi’s kindness, reserve, politeness and patience, and his open-mindedness and respect for differences while being deeply-rooted in his faith....

The Surprising Role of Jesus in Islam

Is that too big a leap in both time and theology? Maybe not. Akyol frames it this way: “The three great Abrahamic religions of our battered world, despite all the past and present tensions between them, come together” in the story of Jesus. “Whether we are Jews, Christians or Muslims, we share either a faith followed by him, or a faith built on him, or a faith that venerates him.”....

“Vedanta views different religions as so many ways to the same goal. Vedanta does not antagonize any religion. Vedanta takes the position that the same God can be viewed by individual minds in different ways. There are sure to be various conceptions of God. The human mind can conceive of God according to its capacity. The Hindus may conceive of God in one way. Mohammedans in another way, the Christians in another way, the Jews another way. Each of these conceptions can lead the spiritual aspirant to the ultimate goal....

Muslim Non-violence and the Future of Islam

He stressed teachings of nonviolence and forgiveness in the Quran and the traditions from the Prophet and the Imams. Al-Shirazi argued that the “just as the soul is stronger than the body, so too is nonviolence, since it is the weapon of the soul, and so it is more powerful than the weapon of the body, which is made of matter.” He highlighted cases of early Muslims who personified nonviolent resistance to oppression....

Erdogan 'The Chief'
Mustafa Akyol

Erdogan 'The Chief'
Mustafa Akyol

Many of the other emotion-laden scenes — such as Erdogan’s brief imprisonment in 1998 by another secularist, military regime — emphasize the same basic message: The good, religious, modest people of Anatolia defeated a brutal, vicious, secular establishment in Turkey thanks to Erdogan — the bold, brave, unyielding “Chief.” Erdogan’s exceptional personality is of course highlighted: He is afraid of no threat, including death, which he sees as “coming together with God.” ....

 

Ecological Wisdom from Various Religious and Spiritual Traditions

The devastation that Earth faces today is, at root, a product of a spiritually-bankrupt worldview that is premised on a deeply problematic concept of ‘development’ and the related notion of the purpose of life being the maximization of sensual pleasure, including consumption and material acquisition. This being the case, overcoming it necessitates an inner transformation of us as individuals and communities, a complete change in how we perceive the purpose of our lives. In this regard, ‘environmental spirituality’ has a key role to play....

 

How Did Rumi Become One of Our Best-Selling Poets?
Azadeh Moaveni

Few religious figures in the history of civilization have as successfully crossed borders of faith, language and geography as nimbly as Jalal al-Din Mohammad Rumi, the great 13th-century theologian and mystic poet. The son of an eccentric and ambitious Muslim preacher, Rumi, who is known in the Persianate world as Maulana, “our master,” circumnavigated the Middle East of the day, then overrun by invading Mongols and Seljuks, before eventually settling in Konya, in Anatolia....

 

While the modern method is more theoretical and merely intellectual, Sri Ramakrishna adopted the method of complete identification with the spiritual content of each religion he chose to understand and lived like a Muslim or a Christian and adored the Divine in their fashion with the fullest devotional identification. It is after this practical experiment that he declared that all these great religious traditions led to the same God. The same was his experience when he practised the Sadhanas of the different sects and cults of Hinduism....

 

The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition and Memory in the North West Frontier

He renounced all privilege, dressed and ate simply, slept on cots or on the floor, wore torn clothes, cleaned latrines and swept floors, and otherwise shared the lot of the poor. As one of the Red Shirts recalled: “He was a big Khan but he lived like a Faqir. He did not even have a cap to cover his head” (Banerjee: 126). The Bacha Khan never claimed spiritual powers for himself – he was, he said, a servant, not a Prophet. ...

 

The Subjugation of France: Salafism on the Streets
Leslie Shaw

It propagates a victim mentality that facilitates psychological manipulation, instilling fear and loathing of the host society that makes integration impossible. The notion of Islamophobia encapsulates this strategy....

 

What Do the ISIS Supporters Want?

Suddenly, the Islamic State in Iraq, led by an ambitious former graduate student who called himself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saw its fortunes brighten anew. Baghdadi dispatched a handful of fighters to Syria and within a few months they were running operations across much of the country. Iraq promptly returned to chaos, and in April 2013, Baghdadi, presiding over a vast fief that stretched from the Iraqi desert to the outskirts of Damascus, rechristened his group yet again — as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — and appointed himself caliph.....

 
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