Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Rationale and Booklist

So, I have an upcoming Gallatin colloquium -- a two hour discussion with three professors on my area of 'concentration' [instead of a major] at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU. It's at 1 PM next Wednesday. Please keep me in your prayers. Also let me know if you have any feedback and suggestions.


Ebadur Rahman                              
October 28, 2012       
Rationale Proposal: “Islam in Modern America.”

Traditional Islam is not the replication of the positions of the ancients; it is to seek what they sought.
-Abdal Hakim Murad

Muslims, therefore, whether they are among the youth or of the older generation, have no possibility of surviving as Muslims, individually or as members of a great civilization and the ummah of the Prophet, without being able to respond to the challenges which the modern world poses for them. They must understand the modern world in depth and intelligently and respond to its challenges not simply emotionally but on the basis of authentic knowledge of that world by relying upon knowledge of the Islamic tradition in its fullness.
- Seyyed Hossein Nasr

My concentration has been an investigation into how one can draw from the richness of the Islamic tradition to speak to the realities and context of today, especially in the “West” – America in particular – which Muslims have increasingly made their home.
How do Western Muslim scholars take from the teachings, values, and ethics they inherit from the past and make it meaningful for the present? How do Muslim religious thinkers engage with the issues of the day and articulate a vision and understanding of the message of their faith traditions that speak to those realities? How is the role of the Muslim scholar changing? My research examines how Western Muslim scholars translate the Islamic tradition and present it to their Western Muslim readership and students in order to make the tradition relevant to them in a new context.
I examine contemporary Muslim intellectual history and identify how specific contemporary Muslim thinkers such as Timothy Winter (Abdal Hakim Murad), Sherman Jackson, Tariq Ramadan, Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir, Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Ebrahim Moosa engage with these questions of tradition and modernity. Many of these authors have translated books from the traditional Arabic and seek to contextualize and introduce those works to a contemporary – and largely Muslim – Western readership. How do modern Muslim American scholars draw from those works to especially address what they see as a spiritual vacuum and other challenges of modernity? How do they draw from the teachings of the Qur’an to speak to this reality?
Muhammad Qasim Zaman in his The Ulama in Contemporary Islam has written about Muslim religious scholars, as “custodians of change” in Muslim societies from Egypt, Saudi Arabia to Pakistan and India. Within the colloquium, I would especially like to address the changing role of a “Muslim scholar” as a religious leader and as a sort of public intellectual. How, for instance, has this role changed historically from earlier models of what was expected of the 'alim (pl. 'ulama), or religious scholar? I would like to explore how Western or American Muslim scholars/intellectuals engage with the concrete realities of their American or Western context, including questions concerning the environment, lifestyles of consumption, eating organically, racism, poverty in the inner city, social justice, the military industrial complex, and foreign policy. How do they make the teachings of the Islamic tradition speak to those realities?
In regards to tracing the history of Muslim Americans and Muslim religious leaders Malcolm X has had an extremely important legacy. What Malcolm’s legacy has for American Muslims is something I would like to explore as well. I am interested in what can be drawn from Malcolm's legacy as well as that of the Blackamerican experience to produce a relevant theology in the American context as Sherman Jackson attempts in Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering. I would like to also draw from the works and life of Imam Zaid Shakir, someone who many Muslim Americans view as continuing the legacy of Malcolm X, having gone to the Muslim world to study the tradition and engaged in the process of appropriating that tradition here and now in America is. I would like to draw from Imam Zaid’s writings in his books Scattered Pictures and Where I’m Coming From, his translation of and commentary on al-Muhasibi’s Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali’s Heirs of the Prophets as well as the book he co-authored with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Agenda to Change our Condition. These texts reveal this legacy and appropriation of the Islamic tradition to make it relevant in the modern American context. Similarly, I would like to highlight how Tariq Ramadan in Western Muslims and the Future of Islam and Radical Reform engages with contemporary issues Muslims face from consumerism and “economic resistance” or environmental issues, engagement with the arts and culture, to the liberation of women, education and political participation.
An overview of the various currents in terms of the thought/ideologies/motivations in the Muslim community in America is also something I would like to discuss especially, in relation to how different groups engage with the question of tradition and modernity. This includes highlighting the Salafi, “traditional,” and Sufi trends in the Muslim American community, as well as Deobandi as manifest in madrasas in the U.S., Brelvi, and Tablighi. I am also concerned with the history of important Muslim American national organizations that trace their founding to political Islam movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaate Islam. A particular expression of this movement can be found in the work of the prolific and late American Jewish convert to Islam, Maryam Jameelah. I explored her writings and life in a final paper I wrote for a seminar with Professor Ali Mirsepassi on "Islam and the Modern World." I also benefited immensely from Dr. Mirsepassi's insights in his Gallatin seminar on "Re-Imagining the Middle East."
My research has also allowed me to explore the development of the Muslim community especially in the last ten years, especially their political engagement (or lack of) in this country. Of great worth to note is the intersection of race, class and gender. What’s more I have been deeply invested in understanding what has been going on domestically to Muslims in America, including increased surveillance and profiling, the rise of Islamophobia, and those things relationship with the global "war on terror.” To understand the political and global backdrop of 9/11, I would like to draw on Mahmood Mamdani’s critical book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, The Cold War and the Roots of Terror as well as Anny Baklaian and Mehdi Bozorgmehr’s Backlash 9/11: Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans Respond. The guiding hope here is to frame the context and realities that Muslims must make their tradition speak to.
The phenomenon of young Muslim Americans going abroad to places such as Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and Mauritania to study the Islamic tradition and the question of whether they are able to come back and translate their learning in a meaningful way is what Zareena Grewal considers in her dissertation called “Imagined Cartographies: Crisis, Displacement, and Islam in America.” To address the type of issues that Muslim scholars must engage in their new context, a broader knowledge is required beyond that found in traditional madrasa curricula. This change and the establishment of Muslim educational institutions where the understanding of “beneficial knowledge” (ilm nafi’) is not reduced to “Islamic sciences” but rather brings together the humanities and the social sciences with a study of the Islamic tradition. Here I can examine the development of new institutions that attempt to bridge this gap such as Zaytuna College and the Cambridge Muslim College.
How can the experience and stories of other ethnic and religious minorities illuminate the situation Muslim Americans find themselves in today? I have taken classes in Black Urban Studies with Nikhil Singh and Black Intellectual Thought with Millery Polyne and would like to draw from those classes as well as the history of Islam in the Blackamerican community and movements such as Dar al-Islam and the Imam Warith Deen Mohammed community. I want to look at those Blackamerican narratives and the way they intersect (or don’t) with the stories of Muslims coming from other parts of the world, especially after 1965. The experiences of Asian Americans are also something that is also quite insightful for a comparative lens, including the internment of Japanese Americans following WWII.
I took a Jewish-American Fiction class in the Spring of 2012 with Professor Wendy Zierler which brought to mind many parallels between the hurdles Muslims are currently facing and those the Jewish community had to overcome. Taking classes in the history of the formation of Jewish law with Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Professor Elana Stein has further contributed to my understanding of different approaches to the accumulated religious traditions, as have the writings of Karen Armstrong. The initiative at NYU through the newly formed Academic and Spiritual Life Center, the Of Many Multi Faith Institute under the leadership of Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Imam Khalid Latif, Eboo Patel’s Acts of Faith and his work at the Interfaith Youth Core highlight the potentials and future for Muslim American involvement with interfaith activism.
Last spring, I was blessed to take a seminar with John Sexton, a theologian and president of New York University. I was intrigued by Dr. Sexton’s approach to meaning and an appreciation for the sacred through a most creative approach - “Baseball as a Road to God” - the title of his seminar and upcoming book. There, Dr. Sexton prioritized experience - the idea that there are “elements of our lives that lie beyond what can be captured in words alone—ineffable truths that we know by experience rather than by logic or analysis.”
One of the realizations that I took away from the class was the idea that while memorizing and studying creedal formulations of Islam, such as The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi, may provide a framework for thinking about the Divine, studying such creedal formulations does not necessarily let one experience the sacred personally. During the upcoming spring semester, I have the honor of serving as a teaching assistant for the same seminar which I hope will further the journey into appreciating and  and exploring a sense of wonder and mystery in the experience of our daily lives. This is I believe is essential to finding God, especially in the modern age.
In summary, my concentration tries to trace how Western Muslims draw and build from the traditions of Islam in order to stretch that tradition to be relevant in its new context in America in the 21st century.

Book List

The book list should consist of 20-25 texts, arranged according to the following four sections:

Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Classics

At least seven works produced before the mid-1600s;

The Qur’an.
al-Hanbanli, Ibn Rajab. Heirs of the Prophets: Warathatu'l-anbiyāʼ. Trans. Zaid Shakir. Chicago: Starlatch, 2001. Print.
al-Muḥāsibī, Al-Ḥārith. Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance. Trans. Zaid S. Shakir. Hayward, CA: NID, 2008. Print. (Al-Muhasibi died in 857 CE).
al-Mawlud, Muhammad. Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms, and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart : Translation and Commentary of Imam Mawlud's Matharat Al-Qulub. Trans. Hamza Yusuf. [S.l.]: Starlatch, 2004. Print. (al-Mawlud died in 1323 CE).
al-Ghazālī. Al-Ghazālī's Path to Sufism and His Deliverance from Error: An Annotated Translation of Al-Munqidh Min Al-dalal. Trans. Richard Joseph. McCarthy. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2000. Print. (Al-Ghazali died in 1111 CE).
al-Ghazālī. Al-Ghazali on Disciplining the Soul: Kitab Riyadat Al-nafs and on Breaking the Two Desires: Kitab Kasr Al-shahwatayn: Books XXII and XXIII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences: Ihya Ulum Al-din. Trans. T. J. Winter. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1997. Print.
al-Sakandari, Ibn `Ata' Allah. Sufism for Non-Sufis? Taj Al-'Arus. Trans. Sherman A. Jackson. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. Print. (Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah died in 1309 CE.)

Modernity-The Humanities

At least four works, produced after the mid-1600s, in Humanities disciplines such as Literature, Philosophy, History, the Arts, Critical Theory, and Religion;

Abou, El Fadl, Khaled. Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam. Lanham, MD: University of America, 2001. Print.
Armstrong, Karen. A History of God: The 4000-year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993. Print.
---- Islam: A Short History. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print.
Majid, Anouar. Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World. Durham: Duke UP, 2000. Print.
Lumbard, Joseph, ed. Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: Essays by Western Muslim Scholars. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2004. Print.
Zaman, Muhammad Qasim. The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2002. Print.

Modernity-The Social and Natural Sciences

At least four non-fiction works, produced after the mid-1600s, in the Natural Sciences and Social Science disciplines such as Political Science, Economics, Psychology, Anthropology, and Sociology.

Ahmed, Akbar S. Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam. Washington, D.C.: Brookings
Institution, 2010. Print.
Bakalian, Anny P., and Mehdi Bozorgmehr. Backlash 9/11: The Impact on Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans Respond. Berkeley: Univ. of California, 2009. Print.
Grewal, Zareena. Imagined Cartographies: Crisis, Displacement, and Islam in America. Dissertation, Ann Arbor: ProQuest/UMI, 2007. (UMI Number: 3237966).
Mamdani, Mahmood. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. New York: Pantheon, 2004. Print.
Rahman, Fazlur. Islam & Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Area of Concentration

At least five additional works representing the student's area or areas of concentration; students whose area of concentration already appears among the above categories may simply choose five additional works from these categories.

Baker, Deborah. The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism. Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf, 2011. Print.
GhaneaBassiri, Kambiz. A History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World
Order. New York: Cambridge UP, 2010. Print.
Jackson, Sherman A. Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.
----. Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
Marable, Manning. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. New York: Viking, 2011. Print.
Moosa, Ebrahim. Ghazālī and the Poetics of Imagination. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2005. Print.
Murad, Abdal Hakim. Commentary on the Eleventh Contentions. London: Qulliam, 2012. Print.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. A Young Muslim's Guide to the Modern World. South Elgin, IL: Library of Islam, 1994. Print.
Patel, Eboo. Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation. Boston: Beacon, 2007. Print.
Ramadan, Tariq. Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
---- Western Muslims and the Future of Islam. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.
Shākir, Zaid. Scattered Pictures: Reflections of an American Muslim. Hayward, CA: Zaytuna Institute, 2005. Print.
X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X . New York: Ballantine, 1992. Print.
Yusuf, Hamza, and Zaid Shakir. Agenda to Change Our Condition. Berkeley, CA: Zaytuna Institute, 2008. Print.

Increasing our Iman through Reading the Qur'an: Halaqas with Dr. Ali Mermer

I wanted to highlight the halaqas of a teacher in New York City which I have been attending for some time now alhamdullilah. In general, I have found it immensely beneficial and intensely meaningfully bi ithni Allah. Just wanted to share :)

You can find recordings of previous halaqas with Dr. Ali Mermer (each is about an hour to hour and half long) here. Dr. Ali is the chaplain at Queens College. He holds halaqas at the Islamic Center at NYU on Wednesday nights, at Queens College on Monday nights I believe, as well as in his apartment on Saturday mornings, which people can also join via skype (as of the moment, we're looking into other options like using Adobe for a webcast). [Please let me know if you have suggestions or know how to set up an Adobe classroom. Thank you. Ebad.]

NYU Halaqa 1 : Understanding Muhkamat and Mutashabihat

Saturday Halaqa 1:

Halaqa 2: Understanding Mulk and Malakut

Halaqa 3: Responding with Wonder

Halaqa 4 : "How can we thank you as is your due?"

And most recently,

NYU Halaqa 2 : Who to follow?

The halaqa with Dr. Ali Mermer are open to join on skype through the username: islamfromwithin. (Saturday, 10:30 AM EST.  Sundays, 3 PM EST.)

Sundays, the reading is currently at from the 19th Word of Said Nursi. pg. 245. Saturdays I believe it's from the 11th Word.

The Words is available to read online at this link

Friday, January 18, 2013

Free Livestream of the ALIM Winter Program

Free Livestream of the ALIM Winter Program

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We are happy to announce that ALIM will be livestreaming the entire ALIM Winter Program for free.  
Click here to watch Imam Suhaib's khutba live in 1 hour.
Come back tomorrow to watch the beginning of Session 1 by Imam Suhaib - "The Legitimacy of 'American Islam' – A Look at Scripture, History and Scholarly Opinion"

registration page


Join ALIM as we start the Winter Program weekend with
Imam Suhaib Webb's khutba at ISOC.

isw 2

Starts at 1:15PM.



Followed by a free Friday night talk & introduction to the Winter Program weekend at 8pm by
Imam Suhaib Webb, Dr. Fareed and Dr. Jackson.

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Spiritual and Cultural Authenticity:
American Muslim Realities and Our Way Forward

Friday, January 18th – Sunday, January 20th, 2013.
MLK Holiday Weekend

Confirmed Scholars:
Dr. Muneer Fareed
Dr. Sherman Jackson
Suhaib Webb

Confirmed Artist Panelists:
Preacher Moss (Comedian)
Mustafa Davis (Filmmaker)
Lena Khan (Filmmaker)

Please donate for Winter Program scholarships and financial assistance here.

Professional childcare provided by Play Action Parties.

Limited seating.  As we near capacity, purchase your seat now!
[Click Here to Register]


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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Quote from Scott Korb's upcoming book on Zaytuna

Finding ways to explain himself is what sent a Muslim student of mine to Zaytuna Institute in the first place. Explaining themselves as traditional Muslim scholars is also what founders Sheik Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Dr. Hatem Bazian have in mind with Zaytuna College, which, after years of planning, finally opened its doors in 2010. Because as much as nearly everyone involved in the story that follows would like to deny it, or like it not to be the case, there’s no getting around the fact that the 9/11 terrorist attacks occupy a central place in how we—all of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike—think about Islam in contemporary America. We’d seen it once again at Fort Hood. What we’d been hearing for nearly a decade is that where Muslims gather—in the public square, a local mosque, or a military base loaded with guns—Allah is in their midst, raising Cain.

When Zaytuna College opened its doors, I was there. And I was there again and again all throughout that first year—in the classroom with Rasheeda and Faatimah and Leenah, with Mahassin and Sumaya and Reem; in the mosque with Dustin listening to sermons from Imam Zaid; in Islamic centers tucked away in low-rent industrial parks with Omar and his kids; and in the dormitories and Zaytuna library with Haroon and Chris and Ahmad and Hadeel the deejay. We ate together at halal restaurants and celebrated the birth of the Prophet almost every visit. Where Muslims gather, Allah is in their midst. This much I now know is true.

Imam Zaid Shakir's translation and commentary on al-Muhasibi's Treatise For The Seekers Of Guidance

The translation, notes, and commentary of Imam al-Harith al-Muhasibi’s Risala al-Mustarshidin (Treatise For The Seekers Of Guidance) by Zaid Shakir is intended to serve as a layman’s guide to Islamic spirituality. al-Muhasibi presents most of the major ideas that would both serve as the basis for a full program of spiritual development and comprise an insightful overview of a system of Islamic moral psychology. He examines in great depth and penetrating insight the psychological motivations and justifications for moral thought and action and correspondingly the associated bases of immorality. In so doing, he has provided a road map that any person can follow to overcome the guiles of his fundamental enemies: the world, the ego, the whims of the soul, and Satan. 
This book can be found at:



Zaytuna College

Imam Zaid's very own New Islamic Directions (NID

Also see this review by Dr. Abdalhadi Honerkamp:

“Treatise for The Seekers of Guidance is a classic of early Islamic literature. It provides us with a document that testifies to the fundamental principles, attitudes, and incumbent conduct of Islamic moral psychology from the formative period. This work, from the pen of Imam Harith al-Muhasibi (d. 243/857), the mentor of Junayd, is one of earliest examples we have of the role these principles played in constituting the moral thought and action that constitutes the fabric of Muslim society. This translation in Imam Zaid’s own words is, “a layman’s guide to Islamic spirituality” and as such is a key text to our understanding today of the multiple faceted framework behind the principle themes of the teacher/disciple relationship and testifies to the manner in which these principles have became integrated within the process of Islamic spiritual orientation. Among the salient characteristics of Treatise for The Seekers of Guidance is the care Imam al-Muhasibi has taken to structure the discourse of the treatise on the foundations of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace be upon him, in such a manner that he provides us with a clear and coherent criteria for both the theoretical and practical aspects that comprise the Islamic view of human development in general and salvation in particular.

Imam Zaid Shakir has accompanied this text with an in-depth commentary based upon the Qur’an and Hadith that enriches and contextualizes the concise prose of Imam al-Muhasibi within the social milieu of our times. His employs language that is accessible and free of technical terminology. His translation thus provides sound guidance to anyone who is seeking in the midst of the uncertainties of social turmoil and personal struggle, a whole and integral path, a unity of form and substance, self-effacing comportment, and intimate knowledge of God. In short this is a work that no ones library should be without.”

-Dr. Kenneth Honerkamp, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies The University of Georgia in Athens

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chapter from Dr. J's book: Blackamerican Islam Between Religion, Nationalism, and Spirituality

This chapter describes the nationalism and spirituality of African American Islam. It explores the religious incentives for African American protest and resistance, with specific reference to the challenge this poses to religion in general and to African American Islam in particular. It discusses the spirituality of African American Muslims and explores the influence of Sufism on the development of personal piety, spirituality, and God-consciousness among African American Muslims.

Video of Habib Umar's talk at the maqam of the Prophet Hud: The Rank of the Messenger in Allah's Sight

New Video: Building Zaytuna College, Brick by Brick