Monday, March 19, 2018

"Redefining the Muslim Community: Ethnicity, Religion, and Politics in the Thought of Alfarabi" (ALEXANDER ORWIN, PENN PRESS 2017)

"Writing in the cosmopolitan metropolis of Baghdad, Alfarabi (870-950) is unique in the history of premodern political philosophy for his extensive discussion of the nation, or Umma in Arabic. The term Umma may be traced back to the Qur'ān and signifies, then and now, both the Islamic religious community as a whole and the various ethnic nations of which that community is composed, such as the Turks, Persians, and Arabs. Examining Alfarabi's political writings as well as parts of his logical commentaries, his book on music, and other treatises, Alexander Orwin contends that the connections and tensions between ethnic and religious Ummas explored by Alfarabi in his time persist today in the ongoing political and cultural disputes among the various nationalities within Islam. According to Orwin, Alfarabi strove to recast the Islamic Umma as a community in both a religious and cultural sense, encompassing art and poetry as well as law and piety. By proposing to acknowledge and accommodate diverse Ummas rather than ignoring or suppressing them, Alfarabi anticipated the contemporary concept of "Islamic civilization," which emphasizes culture at least as much as religion. Enlisting language experts, jurists, theologians, artists, and rulers in his philosophic enterprise, Alfarabi argued for a new Umma that would be less rigid and more creative than the Muslim community as it has often been understood, and therefore less inclined to force disparate ethnic and religious communities into a single mold. Redefining the Muslim Community demonstrates how Alfarabi's judicious combination of cultural pluralism, religious flexibility, and political prudence could provide a blueprint for reducing communal strife in a region that continues to be plagued by it today."

Alexander Orwin is an assistant professor of Political Science at Louisiana State University.

"Debating Slavery in the Arab Middle East: Abolition between Muslim Reformers and Conservatives" by Prof. Amal Ghazal

“Debating Slavery in the Arab Middle East: Abolition between Muslim Reformers and Conservatives,” In Behnaz Mirzai Asl, Ismael M. Montana and Paul E. Lovejoy (eds.), 
Islam, Slavery and Diaspora (Trenton NJ: Africa World Press, 2009): 139-153.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Refractions of Islam in India by Carl W. Ernst

"The essays explore Sufism as it developed in the Indian subcontinent, including translations of previously unavailable texts, and revealing unexpected insights into the lives, practices, and teachings  of Indian Muslims over nearly a thousand years. They also trace remarkable moments in the history of Muslim engagement with Indian religious and cultural practices. This includes not only Muslim participation in Indian art and literature, but also the extraordinary role that Sufis have played in the practice of yoga. Employing new approaches to religious studies that avoid essentialism and ideological concepts of religion, and shorn of unnecessary jargon, these compelling essays will be easily accessible to a larger audience."