Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why America Needs to Know This Man: Abdallah bin Bayyah, Sectarianism and Global Muslim Respect

"Symptomatic of the disease

is the fact that among all the explanations offered for the crisis of the Islamic movement, the only authentically Muslim interpretation, namely, that God should not be lending it His support, is conspicuously absent. It is true that we frequently hear the Quranic verse which states that "God does not change the condition of a people until they change the condition of their own selves."[1] But never, it seems, is this principle intelligently grasped. It is assumed that the sacred text is here doing no more than to enjoin individual moral reform as a precondition for collective societal success. Nothing could be more hazardous, however, than to measure such moral reform against the yardstick of the fiqh without giving concern to whether the virtues gained have been acquired through conformity (a relatively simple task), or proceed spontaneously from a genuine realignment of the soul. The verse is speaking of a spiritual change, specifically, a transformation of the nafs of the believers - not a moral one. And as the Blessed Prophet never tired of reminding us, there is little value in outward conformity to the rules unless this conformity is mirrored and engendered by an authentically righteous disposition of the heart. 'No-one shall enter the Garden by his works,' as he expressed it. Meanwhile, the profoundly judgemental and works - oriented tenor of modern revivalist Islam (we must shun the problematic buzz-word 'fundamentalism'), fixated on visible manifestations of morality, has failed to address the underlying question of what revelation is for. For it is theological nonsense to suggest that God's final concern is with our ability to conform to a complex set of rules. His concern is rather that we should be restored, through our labours and His grace, to that state of purity and equilibrium with which we were born. The rules are a vital means to that end, and are facilitated by it. But they do not take its place. 

2007 book: The Birth of The Prophet Muhammad: Devotional Piety in Sunni Islam by Marion Holmes Katz (NYU)

In the medieval period, the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (the mawlid) was celebrated in popular narratives and ceremonies that expressed the religious agendas and aspirations of ordinary Muslims, including women. 
This book examines the Mawlid from its origins to the present day and provides a new insight into how an aspect of everyday Islamic piety has been transformed by modernity. The book gives a window into the religious lives of medieval Muslim women, rather than focusing on the limitations that were placed on them and shows how medieval popular Islam was coherent and meaningful, not just a set of deviations from scholarly norms. Concise in both historical and textual analysis, this book is an important contribution to our understanding of contemporary Muslim devotional practices and will be of great interest to postgraduate students and researchers of Islam, religious studies and medieval studies. 
Editorial Reviews
The Muslim World Book Review: Wadham College, Oxford, Ahmed Weir 
In this work on devotional Sunni piety, Marion Jolmes Katz immerses herself, as a participant and observer, into the world of the mawlid, displaying an empathetic understanding of how the mawlid can touch the believer's heart. It is a work of historical theology tracing the mawlid from its birth at some point in the eleventh century to its dead-hearted critics of the twentieth century.] [ Within her chapters on the historical development of the mawlid, Katz devotes considerable energy to the discussion of qiyam, or 'standing'. In this she uncovers some gems. She traces the first recorded instance of standing to the Egyptian scholar Taj al-Din al-Subki. This happened in the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus in the fourteenth century during a public recitation of Al-Sarsari's ode, 'Writing in gold is but little for the praise of Mustafa'. 
About the Author
Marion Holmes Katz is Associate Professor and the Department of Middle Eastern Studies, New York University, USA. Her research interests are Islamic law, ritual and gender.

"Formerly a frequent visitor to Madina, he went less often, troubled by Wahhabi polemic against paying too much attention to God’s messengers."

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Theological Origins of Modernity by Michael Allen Gillespie

Exposing the religious roots of our ostensibly godless age, Michael Allen Gillespie reveals in this landmark study that modernity is much less secular than conventional wisdom suggests. Taking as his starting point the collapse of the medieval world, Gillespie argues that from the very beginning moderns sought not to eliminate religion but to support a new view of religion and its place in human life. He goes on to explore the ideas of such figures as William of Ockham, Petrarch, Erasmus, Luther, Descartes, and Hobbes, showing that modernity is best understood as a series of attempts to formulate a new and coherent metaphysics or theology.

"Bringing the history of political thought up to date and situating it against the backdrop of contemporary events, Gillespie’s analyses provide us a way to begin to have conversations with the Islamic world about what is perhaps the central question within each of the three monotheistic religions: if God is omnipotent, then what is the place of human freedom? ”—Joshua Mitchell, Georgetown University

 "This book is an excellent complement to Charles Taylor's A Secular Age and a powerful counterpoint to Mark Lilla's The Stillborn God. All three hold that the story of modern philosophy is both superficial and hollow if its theological/metaphysical components are denied. Highly recommended." (Choice)

"The Theological Origins of Modernity is not just informative; it is insightfully recuperative as well—helping us to understand ourselves better in the present. Though Gillespie only reaches our contemporary situation in his last chapter, we might hope that, incomplete as it unavoidably is, that chapter might form the nucleus of a successor work. At the end of his current book we are more than assured that Gillespie is up to the task." (Stephen A. Erickson Review of Politics)

"In this rich and dense book, [Gillespie] is self-consciously trying to correct the 'standard' understanding of the origin of modernity. Rather than being the 'victory of secularism,' modernity, he says, is a series of attempts to grapple with fundamental theological issues." (Brad Green Chronicles)

About the Author

Michael Allen Gillespie is the Jerry G. and Patricia Crawford Hubbard Professor of Political Science in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and professor of philosophy at Duke University. He is the author of Hegel, Heidegger, and the Ground of History, and Nihilism before Nietzsche, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

Book Description Publication Date: August 15, 200
ISBN-10: 0226293467 |
ISBN-13: 978-0226293462 

NYT profile on one of my favorite authors: Leila Aboulela: "One Foot in Each of Two Worlds, and a Pen at Home in Both"

Prof. Marcia K. Hermansen Loyola University Chicago

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Law and Piety in Medieval Islam (Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization)

The Ayyubid and Mamluk periods were some of the most intellectually fecund in Islamic history. Megan H. Reid's book, which traverses three centuries from 1170 to 1500, recovers the stories of medieval men and women who were renowned not only for their intellectual prowess but also for their devotional piety. Through these stories, the book examines trends in voluntary religious practice that have been largely overlooked in modern scholarship. This type of piety was distinguished by the pursuit of God's favor through additional rituals, which emphasized the body as an instrument of worship and the rejection of the temptation of worldly pleasures and even society itself. Using an array of sources including manuals of law, fatwa collections, chronicles and obituaries, the book shows what it meant to be a good Muslim in the medieval period and how Islamic law defined holy behavior. In its concentration on personal piety, ritual and religious practice the book offers an intimate perspective on early Islamic society.
Megan Reid is Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California.


Yusuf Mullick