Using the Autobiography of Malcolm X, this chapter examines the concept of Muslim American indigeneity and the emerging Muslim American literature canon as responses to a history of contested belonging. I explore Malcolm X’s narrative as a critical commentary on American race relations and what it means to be a Muslim from America, paying particular attention to Malcolm X’s engagement with and ultimate upending of popular tropes of American inception and Muslim representation, namely the Plymouth Rock landing and the image of the Black Muslim. Despite his embrace of “American type thinking”—a focus on public relations in controlling image—Malcolm X’s text reinforces a binary between the diasporic and the national that helps shape our understanding of Islam in America today. Reading Malcolm X’s work as a narrative of contested belonging and as a cultural investment in American “literary Muslimness” offers new insight on current claims to indigeneity.
Abdolkarim Soroush founded one of the most important intellectual movements in Iran. This article traces the development of his thought through three distinct periods: (1) a critique of Marxism and its influence on Islamist political ideology, (2) an epistemological critique of Islamist truth claims, and (3) a hermeneutical approach to the Divine text and Prophetic tradition.
The Abrahamic religions recognize Abraham as the first to arrive at the truth of monotheism and live out the ideal relationship with God. He is the archetype of the stalwart religious individual willing to abandon everything in the journey to realize the truth of God. Yet while the Abrahamic religions all recognize his vital role, each understands his nature differently. In Judaism Abraham represents unfailing obedience to the divine command, while in Christianity he is the epitome of Christian faith. And in Islam Abraham was the first to submit fully and without reservation to the divine will. Because the religions that revere Abraham differ, so do their Abrahams. Thus, not only does Abraham serve as a symbol of common aspirations, he is also a source of disagreement and interreligious polemic, and a fulcrum for leveraging spiritual difference and claims to religious superiority.
The modern concept of the Abrahamic religions has roots in Christian theology, the academic study of the Near East, and the study of Islam. In the nineteenth century, Protestant theologians built on the idea of the ‘Abrahamic covenant’ in developing the idea of a spiritual connection among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time, students of the Near East understood the three religious traditions as sharing a common genealogical bond. Such recognition was enhanced by Islam’s own sense of the religion of Abraham, which was communicated to a broader public by western Islamicists. Although the concept of the Abrahamic religions does not preclude the privileging of one religion over the others, it has provided both scholars and laypeople with a useful way of exploring the common ground of the three faiths.
Abū Hāshim al-Jubbāʾī’s (d. 321/933) Theory of ‘States’ (aḥwāl) and its Adaption by Ashʿarite Theologians
This chapter discusses the notion of ‘states’ (aḥwāl) in Muʿtazilite and Ashʿarite theology. The concept was borrowed from linguistics by the Muʿtazilite theologian Abū Hāshim al-Jubbāʾī (d. 321/933). It helped him to explain the nature of God’s attributes without asserting the existence of co-eternal beings in God. The conception of attributes as ‘states’ became a central doctrine among Abū Hāshim’s followers, the so-called Bahshamiyya school. The theory of aḥwāl was first rejected by Ashʿarite theologians. With Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī (d. 403/1013), however, an important representative of the school eventually came to use the term within the framework of his theory of attributes. Later, Abu l-Maʿālī al-Juwaynī (d. 478/1085–6) also followed al-Bāqillānī in adopting the notion of ḥāl.
Charting key turning points in the history of the academic study of the Qur’an, this chapter offers a survey of the debates and arguments which dominate discussions. Exploring what is meant by academic scholarship, the chapter assesses the profound influence of the work of figures such as Theodore Nöldeke, Abraham Geiger, Gustav Weil, and indeed Ignaz Goldziher; and it reviews developments in more recent approaches to the Qur’an, including the work of Rudi Paret, Montgomery Watt, John Wansbrough, Fazlur Rahman, Toshihiko Izutsu, Michel Cuypers, and Angelika Neuwirth. Also examined are key preliminary questions such as ‘the technical parameters of academic scholarship of the Qur’an’; ‘insider-outsider’ perspectives; ‘non-confessional’ and ‘confessional’ approaches; claims about ‘truth value’ statements; and the ‘intrusion of polemical discourses’.
The tradition of Qurʾānic interpretation is one of the richest aspects of cultural production in Arabic. Its richness goes beyond the question of explaining the content of Qurʾānic verses from a doctrinal point of view to present some brilliant acts of exploration of purely artistic constituents of the text of the Qurʾān as a whole, interconnected, interlaced body of discourse in which the sublime nature of the divine message is embodied in equally powerful, artistically sublime linguistic formulations. A prime example of this holistic nature of the text is seen by many mufassirīn to reside in the various types of majāzī and/or metaphorical language and, in the case of some Sufi mufassirīn, of symbolic language. The chapter explores the three arguably finest tafāsir in which this aesthetically oriented current of thought reaches its zenith: al-Zamakhsharī’s al-Kashshāf, Ibn ʿArabī’s al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya, and Abū Ḥayyān’s al-Baḥr al-Muḥīṭ. While bringing out some of their finest achievements, this study also recognizes their limitations as well as the limitations of contemporary interpretations of the Qur’an and points to urgently needed fresh ways of writing about the Qurʾān from a predominantly aesthetic angle. It offers examples of aspects of this great text which can be understood in anew fashion if such fresh approaches are employed; in this light, the chapter looks at orality as a possible new source of knowledge that may help us understand some complex aspects of the Qur’an that have remained so far little understood or indeed explored.
The narrative of Islam in America took a significant turn with the influx of a critical mass of Muslims migrating from the Middle East and South Asia in the twentieth century. The interaction between these immigrant Muslims and African American Muslims has shaped the current landscape for American Islam through the development of new institutions and modes of engagement. At the same time, however, the history of this interaction reveals the complexities that exist between multiethnic, multiracial and multi-ideological groups on an intrafaith level. This chapter explores the relationship between African American and immigrant Muslims over the past century. It will chart the engagement of individual immigrant Muslims, like Inayat Khan and Mohammad Sadiq, as well as groups and organizations, including the Ahmadiyya, Federation of Islamic Association, the Hanafi Madhab Center and the Muslim Students Association, with the African American Muslim community.
Edward E. Curtis IV
For nearly a century, African American Muslims have gathered for religious purposes in local voluntary religious associations that, like other American religious congregations, are a basic building block of U.S. society. Charting their long history, this article surveys the growth of Sunni, Ahmadi, Moorish, and other congregations from World War I until the present. The article argues that black-majority, black-dominant Muslim American congregations are affected by and respond to the same racial divide that shapes American religion as a whole.
Caroline Moxley Rouse
This chapter sees the embrace of Islam within the African American community as a response to white supremacy and struggles for citizenship. It is important to recognize that while the community is diverse in its beliefs and practices, African American Islam is marked by an approach to faith that speaks to the continuing struggle for equality and social justice in the United States. The violence and institutionalized racism that have marked African American history were justified by theories of black inferiority. Many African American Muslims consider their faith protective in the sense that it uses a different set of authoritative discourses and ethical standards for measuring value and meaning. In particular, Islam authorizes new understandings of gender, race, and citizenship that African American Muslims find empowering and protective against racial self-hate.
This article discusses the emergence of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi; the AK Party) as a center-right political movement with Islamic and national roots. It examines the AK Party’s political ideology of “conservative democracy” within the context of the new dynamics of twenty-first-century Turkish politics. It evaluates the AK Party’s performance in government since taking office in 2002. Finally, the AK Party’s foreign policy and its struggle to overcome oppositional identities are considered.
This article examines the development and ideology of Egypt’s largest militant groups, al-Jama`a al-Islamiya (al-Jama`a) and the Islamic Jihad Group (al-Jihad). It argues that modern Islamic movements in Egypt exhibit the recurrent pattern of extremism and offense followed by moderation and revision of both ideology and tactics. The experience of al-Jama`a and al-Jihad groups demonstrate that counterterrorism strategies may be carried out in the form of dialogue and communication that encourage terrorists to stop the use of violence and join in party politics.
Modern studies of the miḥna have focused on al-Ma’mun’s claim to spiritual authority. Basing itself on Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s interrogations and al-Ma’mun’s miḥna letters, this study focuses on a different aspect, the clash between the muḥaddithūn and the mutakallimūn. Decades before the miḥna erupted these trends debated several religious issues, primarily, whether theological speculations could attain the authoritative status of tenets of faith. Due to this controversy the muḥaddithūn denied the mutakallimūn the status of reliable scholars of hadith and law. The miḥna was a reaction to the muḥaddithūn’s hounding of the mutakallimūn. It was initiated by al-Ma’mun, who decided to interrogate all jurists and scholars of hadith about the createdness of the Qur’ān. The purpose of this policy was to degrade the muḥaddithūn and to raise the mutakallimūn to the position of intellectual and religious leadership.
This article examines the history, nature, and meaning of the “al-Qaida.” Debates have raged within the law enforcement and intelligence communities between those who favor a conception of al-Qaida as an organized, hierarchical group with the capacity to plan and execute terrorist strikes, and those who see “al-Qaida” as a phenomenon rather than a group. The article shows that there are several “al-Qaidas” that exist simultaneously and that over time they have interacted and evolved in response to exogenous and endogenous factors.
Isa Blumi and Gezim Krasniqi
Albanians in the Balkans present a unique socio-political case of how an ‘ethnic’ group’s collective identity is not formed by religion alone. Constituting the majority population in the independent and sovereign states of Albania and Kosovo, and large minorities in Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia, scholars choose to identify Albanians firstly as Muslims. However, this association with faith often obscures other factors that contributed to Albanians’ long history of state persecution and the periodic inter-communal conflicts that animate much of the scholarship on Islam in the Balkans today. Albanian Muslims constitute a diffuse and complex set of stories that make any understanding of the larger issues under study dependent on differentiating distinctive Muslim (and ethno-national) communities using various tools. This chapter will help scholars and policy-makers to differentiate between Albanian Muslims and situate their political, socio-economic, and spiritual diversity in the larger context of state and regional life over the last century of European and Balkan life.
This article analyzes the five main themes emerging from the thought of Iranian political activist and intellectual `Ali Shari`ati (1933–1977). These are (1) history as a dialectical process, (2) the individual as a responsible actor who has the obligation to seek truth on his own and act to uphold it, (3) Shi`ism’s true mission as the liberation of the human being, (4) the ` ulama’ ’s claimed monopoly in regard to the interpretation and enunciation of the law as a certain recipe for injustice, and (5) contemporary international relations as a system that secures the domination of interventionist great powers pursuing their interests.
This article explores how American journalists cover religion in Europe, where issues of faith and church-state relations lead to differing interpretations of religio-ethnic news events, by analyzing U.S. newspaper coverage of the anti-Islamic Dutch MP Geert Wilders. A focus on Geert Wilders incorporates both the Netherlands and Britain into the analysis but also Europe more generally given that the case prompted a wider discussion of immigration and the place of Islam in European societies. After discussing the differing roles and perceptions of religion in the United States and Europe, the article considers the differing models of integration for immigrants on the two continents and demonstrates how this has played out in news coverage of Islam. An examination of the reporting of the Geert Wilders case shows how Islam in Europe is represented through a conflict frame that incorporates a discourse of immigration, cultural incompatibility, identity, liberalism, and freedom.
Jane I. Smith
Muslims who live in regions such as Europe and the United States that are outside the sphere of dominant Islamic culture face a steady array of choices. Underlying the lifestyle decisions of many American Muslims is what is often posed as a fundamental choice between being first an American or first a Muslim. Muslims who currently make their home in the United States represent a great number of movements and identities—immigrant and indigenous, Sunni and Shi'i, conservative and liberal, orthodox and heterodox. Over the last three decades, the number of Muslims in the United States has grown from fewer than half a million to an estimated six million. American Muslims can be clustered into three general groups, although this is not to suggest that they necessarily live or operate discretely: Muslims who are recent immigrants or children of immigrant families, including students; African Americans; and other Americans who have converted to Islam. This article describes Islamic communities, converts to Islam, mosques, and Islamic organizations in the United States.
Akel Ismail Kahera
This chapter discusses a host of aesthetic leitmotifs that characterize Muslim religious architecture in the United States. It examines the taxonomy of images that define the American mosque, including modern-day themes, nostalgic features, and diaspora aesthetics. All of these sentiments deploy powerful visual and interpretive meanings. Stylistically the problems attendant upon interpretive meanings stand between three different ideologies of style: first, hybridity: a strict adherence to an aesthetic tradition containing disparate and mixed elements; second, simulacrum: an attempt to copy or replicate a popular cultural idea from an aesthetic tradition without experimentation but with a predominance of anachronism; and finally, contextualism: a faithful attempt to understand genius loci, modernity, tradition, and urbanism. Four case studies—The Islamic Center in Washington, DC (1957); Dar al-Islam Mosque in Abiquiu, New Mexico (1981); The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, Ohio (1983); and The Islamic Cultural Center of New York, City (1991)—all present a thought-provoking overview of how hybridity, simulacra, and contextualism can be further understood. Finally the chapter raises issues related to American mosque worship, including the question of gender and women’s space in communal worship.
Organizations catering to Muslim youth in the United States have proliferated in the last several decades, offering a wide range of services and activities to an increasingly diverse number of Muslim Americans. While Muslim “youth movements” in the United States continue to grow in range and size, this chapter specifically focuses on major established Muslim organizations, such as the Muslim Students Association, that serve youth in America. . It also briefly discusses the kinds of changes and developments that have occurred within these organizations as a result of 9/11.