Friday, November 17, 2017

New Book by Faiz Ahmed: Afghanistan Rising Islamic Law and Statecraft between the Ottoman and British Empires

Debunking conventional narratives of Afghanistan as a perennial war zone and the rule of law as a secular-liberal monopoly, Faiz Ahmed presents a vibrant account of the first Muslim-majority country to gain independence, codify its own laws, and ratify a constitution after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. 
 Afghanistan Rising illustrates how turn-of-the-twentieth-century Kabul—far from being a landlocked wilderness or remote frontier—became a magnet for itinerant scholars and statesmen shuttling between Ottoman and British imperial domains. Tracing the country’s longstanding but often ignored scholarly and educational ties to Baghdad, Damascus, and Istanbul as well as greater Delhi and Lahore, Ahmed explains how the court of Kabul attracted thinkers eager to craft a modern state within the interpretive traditions of Islamic law and ethics, or shariʿa, and international norms of legality. From Turkish lawyers and Arab officers to Pashtun clerics and Indian bureaucrats, this rich narrative focuses on encounters between divergent streams of modern Muslim thought and politics, beginning with the Sublime Porte’s first mission to Afghanistan in 1877 and concluding with the collapse of Ottoman rule after World War I.  
By unearthing a lost history behind Afghanistan’s founding national charter, Ahmed shows how debates today on Islam, governance, and the rule of law have deep roots in a beleaguered land. Based on archival research in six countries and as many languages, Afghanistan Rising rediscovers a time when Kabul stood proudly as a center of constitutional politics, Muslim cosmopolitanism, and contested visions of reform in the greater Islamicate world.
Faiz Ahmed is Assistant Professor of History at Brown University.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Islam and Islamism in Turkey: A Conversation with İsmail Kara
Ismail Kara is arguably the foremost academic expert on Turkish Islamism. Although he is a prolific writer and a public intellectual, his work is little known among non-Turkish speaking audiences.The following interview with Kara aims to close this gap. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017



existence originating from and having no source other than itself.

Tim Winter's translation for al-wujūb al-dhātī 

 Winter, Tim, "Ibn Kemāl (d.940/1535) on Ibn 'Arabī's Hagiology" in Sufism and Theology. ed. Ayman Shihadeh, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), pg. 147.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"God has been so good to us!

We were idolaters, and if the Messenger of God had come with this entire religion all at once, and with the Quran all at once, the responsibilities would have weighed heavily upon us, and we would not have entered Islam. Rather, he called us to a single word, and when we accepted it and tasted the sweetness of faith, we accepted what came after it, word upon word, in a gentle way, until the religion was completed and the law was perfected.
-Imām 'Alī, quoted in The Study Qur'an, p. 174, commentary on Q3:159.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"What they strove to achieve

was a continuous state of recollection (dawām al-dhikr) or, in another formulation, the transformation of the dhikr into a natural disposition (malaka) that even the reciter's heart would cease to sense, so as to become oblivious of anything that was not God, including the very act of remembrance.
-Dina Le Gall, A Culture of Sufism: Naqshbandīs in the Ottoman World, 1450-1700. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), p. 114.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Every trade's motive is the hope for gain

Every trade's motive is the hope for gain
Even if toil should make you suffer pain.

Going down to the store to sell each morning
Is always with the hope to make a living:

If there's no prospect, then why step outside?
Who can feel strong with fear they'll be denied?

How can fear you'll forever be without
Not make you hesitant to seek it out?

You say, 'Although I fear I'll be denied,
That fear gets worse if I've not even tried:

When I strive hard, my hope feels stronger, while
In idleness I face a harsher trial.'

Why then in spiritual works, you doubting twit,
Does fear of loss prevent you seeking it?

Have you not seen how in our marketplace
Prophets and saints gain profit and much grace?

Huge gold-mines opened when they reached this store,
And in this marketplace they've gained much more.

To Abraham the flames became obedient
And waves bore Noah safely like a servant.

Iron obeyed, melting in David's hand;
Wing turned to Solomon's slave at his command.

-Rumi, The Masnavi, Book Three, trans. by Jawid Mojaddedi, (Oxford: Oxford University Press/Oxford World's Classics, 2013), pgs. 188-9.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

513 titles available online from Islamic Studies Library from McGill

The Islamic Studies library was founded in 1952, along with the Institute of Islamic Studies by Prof. Wilfred Cantwell Smith. The library has grown from a modest departmental collection to a very well regarded library of over 150,000 volumes covering the whole of Islamic civilization in a number of languages including Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Urdu. This sizable and rich collection is unique in Canada with only the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library comparable in size and breadth. The physical collection is spread between the Islamic Studies Library in Morrice Hall and Rare Books and Special Collections in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. More information at: 

Article by Akbar Ahmed on Abdal Hakim Murad

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"Social and cultural institutions

were also subjected to state control. Two important cases included the Islamic institutions of al-Azhar in Egypt and Zaytuna in Tunisia. The first was used by the Egyptian regime to bolster the regime's legitimacy and power vis-a-vis Islamist movements. Nasser ensured that al-Azhar became part of the state by placing it under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Endowments. The president nominated the grand shaykh of al-Azhar, who subsequently became beholden to the Egyptian president for his appointment.
fn 63. Malika Zeghal, "Al Azhar and Radical Islam." International Journal of Middle East Studies, 31, 1 (2000), pp. 3-22.
Al Zaytouna were also marginalized due to the secularizing thrust of the presidencies of Bourguiba and Ben Ali. Under both rulers, Zaytuna morphed into a small institution of higher education, completely separated from the Zaytuna mosque and placed under the tight grip of the authoritarian state. Moreover, similarly to al-Azhar in Egypt, it was barred from playing any political role, even in the service of the authoritarian leader.
fn. 64. Malika Zeghal, "Teaching Again at the Zaytuna Mosque in Tunisia," On Islam and Politics:

-Nadine Sika, "The Arab State and Social Contestation," in Beyond the Arab Spring: The Evolving Ruling Bargain in the Middle East, ed. Mehran Kamrava, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 89-90.

NYT Editorial Board: President Trump Picks Sides, Not Diplomacy, in the Gulf June 7, 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"Even if the Mufti of Constantinople

were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service." 
-Benjamin Franklin
-Cited by Juan Cole, Engaging the Muslim World, (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009), p. 238. His footnote (#3) is Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 2nd ed. (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 176. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"When does the disease of the lower self become its own remedy?"

Al-Junayd said, "I got up one night to keep my period of private night prayer, but I did not experience my usual consolation. I decided to go back to sleep but I could not. So I sat up, but I could not do that either. So I opened the door and went outside, and there was a man wrapped in a woolen cloak lying on the path. 
When he noticed me, he raised his head and said, "O Abū 'l-Qāsim come quickly!' 
'Right away, good sir,' I replied. 
The he said, 'I asked the Inciter of Hearts to arouse your heart.' 
'He has done just that,' I responded. 'What is that you need?'  
He asked me then, 'When does the disease of the lower self become its own remedy?
I replied, 'When the lower self acts against its passions its disease becomes its cure.' 
The man was pensive for a moment and then said, 'Had I given you that answer seven times you would have rejected it. But now you have heard it from al-Junayd, so you have listened to it.' 
Then he turned away from me but I did not know him. [12]
-Ibn 'Abbād of Ronda: Letters on the Sūfī Path. Translation and Introduction by John Renard, S.J. Preface by Annemarie B. Schimmel. (New York: Paulist Press, 1986), pgs. 120-1.

"While I was there

I also met with a young black man who worked at McDonald's. He and I chatted for a while. He informed me that, to him and his friends, politics was totally irrelevant to their lives. It was not something they cared about or even talked about.
Frankly, this lack of political consciousness is exactly what the ruling class of this country wants. The Koch brothers spend hundreds of millions to elect candidates who represent the rich and the powerful. They understand the importance of politics. Meanwhile, people who work for low wages, have no health insurance, and live in inadequate housing don't see a connection between the reality of their lives and what government does or does not do. Showing people that connection is a very big part of what a progressive political movement has to do. How can we bring about real social change in this country if people in need are not involved in the political process? We need a political revolution. We need to get people involved. We need to get people voting.
-Bernie Sanders, Our Revolution (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2016), p. 66.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Washington Post: Why Jordan and Morocco are Doubling Down on Royal Rule

"And what prompts you to make your Pilgrimage?"

This was the condition of the man who, as he considered making Pilgrimage, made a request of Bishr al-Ḥāfi. Abū Naṣr al-Tamār relates that a man came to bid farewell to Bishr ibn al-Ḥāruth, saying, "I am eager to make the Pilgrimage, so give me some instructions."
Bishr said to him, "How much money do you have for your sustenance?" 
The man replied, "A thousand dirhams." 
"And what prompts you to make your Pilgrimage?" Bishr asked. "Is it entertainment, or a yearning for the House, or a desire to please God?" 
"A desire to please God," said the man. 
Bishr asked further, "And if you could please God Most High by staying home and spending the thousand dirhams, and you were sure this would please God, would you do it?" 
"Yes," said the man. 
"Then give it to ten people," Bishr said. "Then the person of faith can fulfill his religious practice, and the poor person can get back on his feet, and the father of a family can make his family prosper, and the one who is raising an orphan can give him joy. So if the One God gives you heart the strength to give the gift, do it. For surely your bringing happiness into the heart of a Muslim, and your sending rain to the sighing, and your alleviating the pain of the destitute, and your affirming a man who is weak in certitude are all more excellent than hundreds upon hundreds of proofs of Islam. go and disperse the money as I have advised you. Otherwise tell me what is truly in your heart." 
The man said, "O Abū Naṣr, my journey [e: the desire to make the journey] is uppermost in my heart." 
So Bishr smiled and approached him and said, "When money is gotten through unfair and suspicious business practices, that goads the lower self into conceiving a desire to hasten toward outwardly pious works. But God Most High has sworn that He will accept only the actions of the God-fearing." [Q5:27] 
When Bishr had said this, the man wept.
-from Letter 6 of Ibn 'Abbād of Ronda: Letters on the Sūfī Path. Translation and Introduction by John Renard, S.J. Preface by Annemarie B. Schimmel. (New York: Paulist Press, 1986), pg. 117.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MacIntyre on Teaching and Enquiry & Respect for Truth

Aquinas's refutation of the Averroist view was important not only for the future history of philosophy, but also for the future history of universities. The schools that were the predecessors of universities had been primarily places of teaching and only secondarily, and, on occasion, places of enquiry. But even in them it had been becoming clear that teaching, which is to succeed in making the resources of past learning available in the present, is inseparable from ongoing enquiry, from reformulating old questions, testing established beliefs, asking new questions, and so providing new resources for teaching. With the establishment of universities this relationship between teaching and enquiry becomes institutionalized. [...]
Every one of us, in our everyday lives, needs in a variety of ways to learn and to understand. The ability of those outside universities to learn and to understand what they need to learn can be helped or hindered by the good or bad effects on their intellectual formation and their thinking of those who have been educated in universities, by the good or bad influence, that is, not only of parents, but also of school teachers, pastors, and others. One condition for that influence being good rather than bad is that what is communicated to and shared by the whole community of teachers and learners is a respect for truth and a grasp of truths that presupposes, even if it is never or rarely explicitly spelled out, an adequate conception of truth. One of our debts to Aquinas is that he, both in his own account of truth and in his disputes with the Averroists, taught us to appreciate this.
-Alasdair MacIntyre, God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), pgs. 68-9.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

NYT: U.S. budget’s winners and losers

President Trump plans to unveil a $4.1 trillion budget today that would increase spending on the military and border security but cut deeply into programs for the poor.
The proposal includes huge tax cuts but does not change Social Security and Medicare. Here’s who would get what.
Our reporters say the plan is based on wishful thinking; it assumes an economic growth rate of 3 percent, when the post-recession average is 2 percent. 

Friedrich Engels mentioned Hafez in an 1853 letter to Karl Marx

It is, by the way, rather pleasing to read dissolute old Hafiz in the original language, which sounds quite passable and, in his grammar, old Sir William Jones likes to cite as examples dubious Persian jokes, subsequently translated into Greek verse in his Commentariis poeseos asiaticae, because even in Latin they seem to him too obscene. These commentaries, Jones’ Works, Vol. II, De Poesi erotica, will amuse you. Persian prose, on the other hand, is deadly dull. E.g. the Rauzât-us-safâ by the noble Mirkhond, who recounts the Persian epic in very flowery but vacuous language. Of Alexander the Great, he says that the name Iskander, in the Ionian language, is Akshid Rus (like Iskander, a corrupt version of Alexandros); it means much the same as filusuf, which derives from fila, love, and sufa, wisdom, ‘Iskander’ thus being synonymous with ‘friend of wisdom’.[16]
16: "Letters: Marx-Engels correspondence". Retrieved 15 January 2012. 

"The leaven of the ancients : Suhrawardī and the heritage of the Greeks" by John Walbridge (2000)

"The twelfth-century Persian philosopher Suhrawardi was the key figure in the transition of Islamic philosophy from the neo-Aristotelianism of Avicenna to the mystically oriented Islamic philosophy of later centuries. Suhrawardi's "Illuminationist" philosophy was a vigorous reassertion of Neoplatonism at a time when Sufism was becoming a major presence in Islamic thought and society."--BOOK JACKET. 

The transformation of Muslim mystical thought in the Ottoman Empire: the rise of the Halveti order, 1350-1650

"One of more poorly understood aspects of the Ottoman Empire has been the flourishing of Sufi mysticism under its auspices. This study tracks the evolution of the Halvetî order from its modest origins in medieval Azerbaijan to the emergence of the influential Sabaniyye, whose range once extended throughout the Empire. By carefully reconstructing the lives of formerly obscure figures in the history of the order, a complex picture emerges of the connections among Halvetî groups, the state, and society. Even more important, since the Sa'baniyye grew out of the towns and villages of the northern Anatolian mountains rather than the major urban centres, this work brings a unique perspective to the lives, work, and worship of Ottoman subjects outside of the major urban centres of the Empire. Along the way, the study sheds light on less-visible actors, such as women and artisans, and challenges generalizations about the activities and strategies of Ottoman mystics." -- Book jacket. 

"Sufism and society : arrangements of the mystical in the Muslim world, 1200-1800" (2012)

In recent years, many historians of Islamic mysticism have been grappling in sophisticated ways with the difficulties of essentialism. Reconceptualising the study of Islamic mysticism during an under-researched period of its history, this book examines the relationship between Sufism and society in the Muslim world, from the fall of the Abbasid caliphate to the heyday of the great Ottoman, Mughal and Safavid empires.
Treating a heretofore under-researched period in the history of Sufism, this work establishes previously unimagined trajectories for the study of mystical movements as social actors of real historical consequence. Thematically organized, the book includes case studies drawn from the Middle Eastern, Turkic, Persian and South Asian regions by a group of scholars whose collective expertise ranges widely across different historical, geographical, and linguistic landscapes. Chapters theorise why, how, and to what ends we might reconceptualise some of the basic methodologies, assumptions, categories of thought, and interpretative paradigms which have heretofore shaped treatments of Islamic mysticism and its role in the social, cultural and political history of pre-modern Muslim societies.
Proposing novel and revisionist treatments of the subject based on the examination of many under-utilized sources, the book draws on a number of disciplinary perspectives and methodological approaches, from art history to religious studies. As such, it will appeal to students and scholars of Middle East studies, religious history, Islamic studies and Sufism. 

"Guardians of Faith in Modern Times: ʿUlamaʾ in the Middle East" (2009): Table of Contents

The "heirs of the prophets" in Islamic history. 'Ulama' between the state and the society in pre-modern Sunni Islam / Michael Winter ; 
Al-Jabarti's attitude towards the 'ulama' of his time / Shmuel Moreh
Confronting a changing world : modernization, reform and national discourse. 'Ulama' and political activism in the late Ottoman empire : the political career of Şeyhülislâm Mustafa Sabri Efendi (1869-1954) / Amit Bein ; 
Italian colonial rule and the Muslim elites in Libya : a relationship of antagonism and collaboration / Anna Baldinetti ; 
Education, politics, and the struggle for intellectual leadership : al-Azhar between 1927 and 1945 / Rainer Brunner ; 
The Iraqi Afghanis and 'Abduhs : debate over reform among Shiʻite and Sunni 'ulama' in interwar Iraq / Orit Bashkin ; 
Western scholars on the role of the 'ulama' in adapting the Shariʻa to modernity : a critical review / Ron Shaham
Guardians of the faith in semi-tribal societies. 'Ulama, ' tribalism and the national struggle in Morocco, 1944-1956 / Daniel Zisenwine ; 
Reconciling tribalism and Islam in the writings of contemporary 'ulama' in Saudi Arabia / Muhammad al-Atawneh
Ideological rivals. Wahhabis, Sufis and Salafis in early twentieth century Damascus / David Commins ; 
The clerics' betrayal? : Islamists, 'ulama' and the polity / Meir Hatina ; 
Liberal critics, 'ulama' and the debate on Islam in the contemporary Arab world / Muhammad Abu Samra ; 
In defense of Muhammad : 'ulama', Daʻiya and the new Islamic internationalism / Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen 

"Scholars and Sultans in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire" (2016) by Abdurrahman Atçıl

During the early Ottoman period (1300–1453), scholars in the empire carefully kept their distance from the ruling class. This changed with the capture of Constantinople. From 1453 onwards, the Ottoman government co-opted large groups of scholars, usually over a thousand at a time, and employed them in a hierarchical bureaucracy to fulfill educational, legal and administrative tasks. Abdurrahman Atçıl explores the factors that brought about this gradual transformation of scholars into scholar-bureaucrats, including the deliberate legal, bureaucratic and architectural actions of the Ottoman sultans and their representatives, scholars' own participation in shaping the rules governing their status and careers, and domestic and international events beyond the control of either group. 

"Dreams and Lives in Ottoman Istanbul: A Seventeenth-Century Biographer's Perspective" (2017) by Asli Niyazioglu

Dreams and Lives in Ottoman Istanbul explores biography writing and dream narratives in seventeenth-century Istanbul. It focuses on the prominent biographer ‘Aṭā’ī (d. 1637) and with his help shows how learned circles narrated dreams to assess their position in the Ottoman enterprise. This book demonstrates that dreams provided biographers not only with a means to form learned communities in a politically fragile landscape but also with a medium to debate the correct career paths and social networks in late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Istanbul.
By adopting a comparative approach, this book engages with current scholarly dialogues about life-writing, dreams, and practices of remembrance in Habsburg Spain, Safavid Iran, Mughal India and Ming China. Recent studies have shown the shared rhythms between these contemporaneous dynasties and the Ottomans, and there is now a strong interest in comparative approaches to examining cultural life. This first English-language monograph on Ottoman dreamscapes addresses this interest and introduces a world where dreams changed lives, the dead appeared in broad daylight, and biographers invited their readers to the gardens of remembrance. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

"This book

takes a very different view of a universal crisis, shifting the preposterously heavy burden of explanation from Islam and religious extremism. It argues that the unprecedented political, economic and social disorder that accompanied the rise of the industrial capitalist economy in nineteenth-century Europe, and led to world wars, totalitarian regimes and genocide in the first half of the twentieth century, is now infecting much vaster regions and bigger populations: that, first exposed to modernity through European imperialism, large parts of Asia and Africa are now plunging deeper into the West's own fateful experience of that modernity.
-Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger: A History of the Present (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017), p. 10.


people are awaiting a messiah, and the air is laden with the promises of large and small prophets...we all share the same fate: we carry within us more love, and above all more longing that today's society is able to satisfy. We have all ripened for something, and there is no one to harvest the fruit...
Karl Mannheim (1922)

-Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger: A History of the Present (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017), p. 1.

Just completed reading the book cover to cover today, alhamdullilah!

John Gray: From Rationalism to Ressentiment: Review of Age of Anger: A History of the Present By Pankaj Mishra

Michael A. Newton, Vanderbilt University Law School Professor: An Assessment of the Legality of Arms Sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Context of the Conflict in Yemen
Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 17-26
24 Pages Posted: 19 May 2017  
Date Written: May 19, 2017
This White Paper analyzes U.S. statutory obligations regarding arms sales and military assistance to Saudi Arabia in the context of the ongoing conflict in Yemen. The United States has provided significant support for Saudi Arabia, including over $115 billion in arms sales over the last eight years. During the course of hostilities conducted by a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen over the last two years, the United States has provided billions of dollars of equipment for use in Yemen and provided in-flight re-fueling to support bombing operations. In light of credible allegations of widespread violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict resulting in significant civilian casualties over the last two years, concerns have been raised about the legality of further arms sales under U.S. law. In the face of persistent reports of wrongdoing, Saudi Arabia has failed to rebut allegations or provide detailed evidence of compliance with binding obligations arising from international humanitarian law. In the context of multiple credible reports of recurring and highly questionable strikes, even after Saudi units received training and equipment to reduce civilian casualties, the United States cannot continue to rely on Saudi assurances that it will comply with international law and agreements concerning the use of U.S.-origin equipment. Under these circumstances, further sales under both the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act are prohibited until the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes effective measures to ensure compliance with international law and the President submits relevant certifications to the Congress. Congress should utilize the expedited review procedures of both Acts to ensure compliance with the law.
Keywords: assessment, legality, arms sales, Saudi Arabia. Yemen
Suggested Citation:
Newton, Michael A., An Assessment of the Legality of Arms Sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Context of the Conflict in Yemen (May 19, 2017). Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 17-26. Available at SSRN:

Sahar Ullah is the 2016 Literature Humanities Core Preceptor Teaching Award Recipient

May 2016
After reviewing course evaluations and visiting several excellent classes, the Core Curriculum Deans office has selected MESAAS PhD candidate Sahar Ullah for the Graduate Student Core Preceptor Award for excellency in teaching Literature Humanities.
The announcement noted that "Professor Ullah prepares extensively before her classes, and she combined brilliance with professionalism. We appreciated her use of elements such as schematic drawings and close readings with discussions that were intertextual and related to current events. Her students consistently described her in their evaluations as 'incredible' and 'phenomenal'. If there were an archetypal Literature Humanities course, it would be Sahar’s course."
Sahar Ullah is currently working on her dissertation entitled "The Role of the Amatory Prelude in Post-Classical Arabic-Islamic Poetics." 

حديث الذكريات مع الشيخ محمد عوامة

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Our Hearts Are Calling" by Imam Zaid Shakir (2010)

Our hearts are calling out to us,
into the dark and maddening night.
Our hearts are calling out to us,
to seize our hands and lead us right.

Too blinded are we by the glare,
of power, money, war and fame?
Yet with perverse and blinded eyes,
we ignore poverty and pain.

We put a price on everything,
the land, the trees, the wind, the seas,
And if our wretched claws could grasp,
we’d even steal the summer breeze.

The oil comes forth and soils the ground,
and stains our hearts with equal share,
The stench of what our hands have wrought
reveals a soul that’s dark and bare.

Yet, will we sit and fester here,
or shall we rise and fight the beast.
To storm the tyrant’s barricades,
to crash his filthy bloodlust feast.

Defending those who’ve lost all hope,
who live in darkness and despair.
To let them know another way,
a life defined by love and care.

A life defined by servitude,
to God, to neighbor, kith and kin.
A life defined by gratitude,
with dignity the prize to win.

Can we all make it to that place
and sacrifice so very much
of what the world has made us all;
and cast away the crippling crutch?

The crutch of there’s no other way
than what before our eyes we see.
The crutch of there’s no other choice
Devil’s checkmate, fait accompli !

Have we attained to history’s end,
Oppressor trampling on oppressed?
Have we become so sinister
that there’s no wrong we can redress?

So will we listen to our hearts,
and will we heed their desperate call,
to lead our brothers to the light,
or deeper into darkness crawl?

Imam Zaid Shakir

The 'uniformization' of modernization

Much of the postcolonial world then became a laboratory for Western-style social engineering, a fresh testing site for the Enlightenment ideals of secular progress. The philosophes had aimed at rationalization, or 'uniformization', of a range of institutions inherited from an intensely religious era. Likewise, postcolonial leaders planned to turn illiterate peasants into educated citizens, to industrialize the economy, move the rural population to cities, alchemize local communities into a singular national identity, replace the social hierarchies of the past with an egalitarian order, and promote the cults of science and technology among a pious and often superstitious population.
-Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger: A History of the Present (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017), p. 133.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Rousseau's epistolary novel, Julie, ou La Nouvelle Héloïse (1761)

Saint-Preux's lover, Julie, reminds him that Paris also contains poor and voiceless people, remote from the exalted realms where opinions are made and spread, and that it is his responsibility to speak for them. In many ways Rousseau embraced this obligation, setting himself against the conventionally enlightened wisdom of his age, and inventing the category of disadvantaged and trampled-upon 'people', who have a claim on our compassionate understanding.
-Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger: A History of the Present (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017), p. 91. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

'The Leveling of Modernity'

As The Futurist Manifesto, produced in 1909 by D'Annunzio's admirer the poet Filippo Marinetti, proclaimed:
We want to glorify war--the world's only hygiene--militarism, patriotism, the destructive act of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas for which one dies,  and contempt for women. We want to destroy museums, libraries and academies of all kinds.
-Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger: A History of the Present (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017), p. 4. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

"The Forum for Promoting Peace: Abu Dhabi Hosts the Conception of a Modern Age Alliance of Virtue among Religions: An International Framework against Hatred and Religious Persecution"

The Forum for Promoting Peace: Abu Dhabi Hosts the Conception of a Modern Age Alliance of Virtue among Religions
An International Framework against Hatred and Religious Persecution

The Forum for Promoting Peace
06 May, 2017, 12:00 ET
ABU DHABI, UAE, May 6, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --

Abu Dhabi, the universal capital of peace and tolerance, is witnessing the birth of a modern age Hilf al-Fudul (Alliance of Virtue) among religions of the Abrahamic family. This Alliance of Virtue brought together representatives of the three Abrahamic religions, who, despite differences in doctrine and practice, are joined by a universal will, and shared values to build peace and foster virtue and co-existence.

In a press conference organized by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, based in Abu Dhabi, following the three-day visit of the caravan to the city, caravan members highlighted their views and plans to apply the outcome of the visit via initiatives in their own states. The press conference was attended by Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies; Dr. Mohammed Matar Al Kaabi, Secretary General of the Forum for Peace and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Vice President of the Forum, and President of Zaytuna College, USA.

Attendees commended the efforts of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, chaired by His Excellency Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, as a role model for instilling peace, tolerance, and the values of co-existence.

Dr. Mohammed Matar Al Kaabi, Secretary General of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, reaffirmed the warm welcome extended by the UAE leadership to the American peace caravan, commending its efforts in activating the historical Marrakesh Declaration.

Al Kaabi highlighted the strong emphasis on tolerance and co-existence the UAE has presented since its establishment, making it a true example of co-existence amongst diverse cultures and ethnicities, who live in peace and harmony on its land.

Concluding the event, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah thanked God in his Greatness for this valuable opportunity to build peace and dialogue among brave peace makers, dedicated to love, fraternity, and tolerance.

H.E stated that the blessed steps for an Alliance of Virtue first started in Abu Dhabi, but it is an imperative that it reaches the corners of our Earth. Bin Bayyah reflected on the establishment of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in Abu Dhabi, indicating the great support it is receiving from this country, it's leadership and people.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tim Winter: Ibn Kemāl (d. 940/1534) on Ibn ̔Arabi's Hagiology

This chapter seeks to examine the reception of Ibn 'Arabī' hagiology by the Ottoman Shaykh al-Islām (seyhülislām), Ibn Kemāl, also known as Kemālpasāzāde, was regarded by admirers as the ‘Avicenna of Anatolia’. Discussions in this chapter include: the early Ottoman reception under the rule of Qaysarī and Fenāri; and Ghazali's Amr Bi-L-Ma'ūf.

Friday, April 28, 2017

"The continued vitality of Sufism as a living embodied postcolonial reality

The continued vitality of Sufism as a living embodied postcolonial reality challenges the argument that Sufism has 'died' in recent times. Throughout India and Bangladesh, Sufi shrines exist in both the rural and urban areas, from the remotest wilderness to the modern Asian city, lying opposite banks and skyscrapers.
This book illuminates the remarkable resilience of South Asian Sufi saints and their cults in the face of radical economic and political dislocations and breaks new ground in current research. It addresses the most recent debates on the encounter between Islam and modernity and presents important new comparative ethnographic material.
Embodying Charisma re-examines some basic concepts in the sociology and anthropology of religion and the organization of religious movements.
Basu, Helene  and Pnina Werbner, eds., Embodying Charisma: Modernity, Locality and the Performance of Emotion in Sufi Cults. (New York and London: Routledge, 1998).

[Going to try to link to worldcat instead of amazon from now on, God willing! #money matters #use a library :)]

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Medieval Muslims treated Greek philosophy

Medieval Muslims treated Greek philosophy rather as modern theologians treat modern secular philosophy. They recoiled at some of its conclusions, and enriched their thought-worlds by constructing imaginative refutations, but they displayed an abiding fascination with its mindset and its methods.
-Tim Winter, Cambridge Companion, p. 14 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Celebrating Goodness: Shaykh Abdallah Adhami on Imam Siraj Wahhaj

 Over twenty five years ago, a dynamic generation of African-American Azhar graduates came back home all ready to inspire the Muslims in North America with the richness of knowledge that they had gained. They were the first Americans to go overseas in pursuit of sacred knowledge, and the last echelon to have had the unique privilege to study with the late, eminent scholar of our era, Dr. Suleiman Dunya (1407/1987). When they returned home, and as direly as the community needed them, the masses did not have the lexicon to understand their noble message—nearly two decades before any American pontiff started talking about a “sacred tradition.” However, none could have had any success without fifteen years of Imam Siraj Wahhaj going around the MYNA camps, igniting the imagination of young people, creating a yearning in their hearts for something more, preparing the soil for the seeds of blessed scholarship that would change their lives. 
  Long before “traditional” sacred sciences captured the imagination of a generation, imam Siraj was inspiring people to know themselves through the profound simplicity of Islam. 
Few—(if any)—servants of sacred knowledge have the right to be called 'imam' in our day. Siraj Wahhaj is an imam in charity; an imam of bridge building between people; an imam in the way that he is a visionary; in the way that he is a man. 
        Siraj Wahhaj paved the road for all of us to build on. He has always encouraged people to strive for a higher level of competence. All of that will, we pray, sprout into eternal fruits of radiance for him wherever he is. Siraj Wahhaj is the voice of the spirit of Islam in America and its pride.

Monday, April 10, 2017


was the most consistent element in the personal relationships of the shaikhs. It figured prominently in a description of the ideal behavior of the Sufis written by Rashid Ahmad as a young man: "They were to be humble, warm, and forebearing toward others, and completely free of anger, sympathetic and self-abnegating, generous, forgiving, open, happy, informal; trusting in God, satisfied with very little, abstemious, free of anger or envy, unconcerned with status, devoted to keeping their word, farsighted, full of love for their fellows, generous to Muslims." [98]
Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India Deoband, 1860-1900. (Princeton University Press, 1982), p. 167.  

"When Muhammad Qasim

heard the Prophet's name he would tremble. [92] When Rashid Ahmad read the Qur'an alone at night, he would be overcome with joy at the sections on God's mercy; and he would weep and shake and appear terrified at the sections on God's wrath. [93] During Ramazan, Shaikh 'Abdu'r-Rahim would be so absorbed in devotion that he would meet no one, but spend day and night reciting the Qur'an.
-Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India Deoband, 1860-1900. (Princeton University Press, 1982), p. 166. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Resource for Teaching & Learning about anti-Muslim Racism in the United States

Junaid Rana: Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora

Terrifying Muslims highlights how transnational working classes from Pakistan are produced, constructed, and represented in the context of American empire and the recent global War on Terror. Drawing on ethnographic research that compares Pakistan, the Middle East, and the United States before and after 9/11, Junaid Rana combines cultural and material analyses to chronicle the worldviews of Pakistani labor migrants as they become part of a larger global racial system. At the same time, he explains how these migrants’ mobility and opportunities are limited by colonial, postcolonial, and new imperial structures of control and domination. He argues that the contemporary South Asian labor diaspora builds on and replicates the global racial system consolidated during the period of colonial indenture. Rana maintains that a negative moral judgment attaches to migrants who enter the global labor pool through the informal economy. This taint of the illicit intensifies the post-9/11 Islamophobia that collapses varied religions, nationalities, and ethnicities into the threatening racial figure of “the Muslim.” It is in this context that the racialized Muslim is controlled by a process that beckons workers to enter the global economy, and stipulates when, where, and how laborers can migrate. The demonization of Muslim migrants in times of crisis, such as the War on Terror, is then used to justify arbitrary policing, deportation, and criminalization.
About The Author(s)

Junaid Rana is Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"While the young Beys and princes enjoyed the high life of the capital,

the more humble-born students applied themselves diligently to their work, and 'Ali Mubarak and his two friends Hammad 'Abd al-'Ati and 'Ali Ibrahim, in particular, consistently ranked highest in their class. It was also during Mubarak's Paris studies that he, like al-Tahtawi, displayed a particular interest in history.
An Imam in Paris: Account of a Stay in France by an Egyptian Cleric (Rifa'a Rafi' al-Tahtawi) (1826-1831), Translated and Introduced by Daniel K. Newman, (London: Saqi Books, 2011 [2004]), p. 59.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Intellectual History of the Islamicate World By Sabine Schmidtke · Published 2016

Reading the Qur'an in Latin Christendom, 1140-1560 (Material Texts) Paperback – May 8, 2009

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title
Most of what we know about attitudes toward Islam in the medieval and early modern West has been based on polemical treatises against Islam written by Christian scholars preoccupied with defending their own faith and attacking the doctrines of others. Christian readings of the Qur'ān have in consequence typically been depicted as tedious and one-dimensional exercises in anti-Islamic hostility.
In Reading the Qur'ān in Latin Christendom, 1140-1560, Thomas E. Burman looks instead to a different set of sources: the Latin translations of the Qur'ān made by European scholars and the manuscripts and early printed books in which these translations circulated. Using these largely unexplored materials, Burman argues that the reading of the Qur'ān in Western Europe was much more complex. While their reading efforts were certainly often focused on attacking Islam, scholars of the period turned out to be equally interested in a whole range of grammatical, lexical, and interpretive problems presented by the text. Indeed, these two approaches were interconnected: attacking the Qur'ān often required sophisticated explorations of difficult Arabic grammatical problems.
Furthermore, while most readers explicitly denounced the Qur'ān as a fraud, translations of the book are sometimes inserted into the standard manuscript format of Christian Bibles and other prestigious Latin texts (small, centered blocks of text surrounded by commentary) or in manuscripts embellished with beautiful decorated initials and elegant calligraphy for the pleasure of wealthy collectors.
Addressing Christian-Muslim relations generally, as well as the histories of reading and the book, Burman offers a much fuller picture of how Europeans read the sacred text of Islam than we have previously had.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Albert Gallatin Lecture with Reverend James M. Lawson Jr.


"At Brooklyn Prep, Charlie Winans simultaneously taught us history, literature, art and music--and he was master of all of them. For three years, for one hour each day, five days a week, he led us from the cave paintings of Altimira and the sounds of simple percussion to Jackson Pollock and Aaron Copland. To him, the word 'boundary' had no meaning...Thank you, Charlie, for being in my life."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Imam Talib; African American Papal Engagment

Kleine Schriften by Josef van Ess (3 vols)

Josef van Ess, University of Tübingen, Hinrich Biesterfeldt, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Kleine Schriften, written by the eminent German scholar of Islamic Studies Josef van Ess, is a unique collection of Van Ess' widely scattered short writings, journal articles, encyclopaedia entries, (autobiographical) essays, reviews and lectures, in (mainly) German, English and French, some of which are published here for the first time. It includes a full bibliography of the author’s work, in addition to two indexes of classical authors and works, which aim to make accessible the remarkable riches that these Kleine Schriften have to offer. The three-volume collection, carefully selected by the author himself, offers over 150 texts organized primarily along Van Ess’ own biography and the history of the discipline. It is divided into twelve parts, beginning with Tübingen where his career began in 1968, and ending with Retrospects and Postscripts for the future, with the thematic complexes Islam and its first options and Muʿtazila as centre pieces. All parts are introduced by brief accounts of the historical context in which each of the assembled texts was written and which course subsequent scholarship may have taken.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Egypt Picks Sides in the Syrian War How Sisi Learned to Love Assad