by ELLIOTT BAZZANO for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on MAY 4, 2016:

Asma Afsaruddin
Asma Afsaruddin

Unknown-1As the title of the monograph suggests, Contemporary Issues in Islam (Edinburgh University Press, 2015) by Asma Afsaruddin, guides the reader through an organized and compelling narrative of reflections on hot-button topics in the modern world. The monograph offers a provocative balance of historical contextualization, close reading of texts, review of key scholars, and political analysis. Given its treatment of topics such as Islamic law, gender, international relations, and interfaith dialogue, the book should prove useful in a graduate or undergraduate context–either as a whole or as individual chapters–particularly as a conversation starter, given the depths to which each chapter points. Although the scope of the book may appear ambitious, Professor Afsaruddin is well-equipped to manage the breadth of her study into a concise, lucid, and well written text. Given her research background in jihad and violence as well as Quranic hermeneutics, moreover, Contemporary Issues in Islam is a mature work that reflects decades of careful research and intellectual synthesis with ample attention to both primary and secondary literature. The monograph will likely appeal not only to scholars and students in religious studies and Islamic studies, but also political science and history as well as journalists.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH AFSARUDDIN

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on APRIL 8, 2016:

Seth Kimmel

In his path clearing new book, Parables of Coercion: Conversion and Knowledge at the End of Islamic Spain (University of Chicago Press, 2015), Seth Kimmel, Assistant Professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University, presents a fascinating account of how conversion from Islam to Christianity was imagined, debated, and contested in early modern Spain. Shifting focus from the experiences of converts to intellectual discussions and disputes on matters such as coercion and assimilation, Kimmel demonstrates that such discussions were intimately tied to not only questions of religious reform but also to the demarcation of varied scholarly disciplines within Christianity. It is this nexus of knowledge, religious reform, and conversion that this book brilliantly explores and uncovers.

Questioning binaries such as tolerance/intolerance and religious/secular, Kimmel highlights the complex material, intellectual, and political conditions and considerations that informed scholarly engagements with the questions and puzzles of religious conversion in early Modern Spain. In our conversation, we talked about the major themes and arguments of the book and its striking relevance to discourses on religious tolerance in the present. Parables of Coercion is at once beautifully written and unusually multilayered for a first book. It will also make an excellent choice for courses on Muslim-Christian relations, early modern religion, religious conversion, secularism, and Islamic Spain.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH KIMMEL

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.

via JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN CENTER on APRIL 12, 2016: 

Professor Abdul Sattar Jawad recently presented, “The Arabian Nights in America” during his Wednesdays at the Center lecture at the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University.

The Thousand and One Nights [alf Layla wa Layla] is the most popular world literature in the West. These Oriental Frame Tales captured the imagination of generations of Western readers and prominent writers in presenting fairy tales, romances, fables, legends, parables, anecdotes, erotica, debates, and exotic adventures. Ali Baba, Sindbad, and Aladdin and his Magic Lamp, hooked the attention of young and adults readers all over the world. The Nights, in their rich and exotic imagination, inspired poets, writers, and artists from medieval European Literature to Postmodernism. Professor Abdul Sattar Jawad explored how the Arabian Nights inspired leading American writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, and Herman Melville as well as folklore artists.

Shrine of Cheikh Moussa Kamara. (photo by Mbaye Lo)

a Scholar’s Notebook feature 

by MBAYE LO for ISLAMiCommentary on APRIL 19, 2016:

Professor Mbaye Lo (far right) with some acquaintances in Fuuta Toro (photo courtesy of Mbaye Lo)

After 15 hours of traveling by buses, taxis and horse-drawn carriages, I finally arrived at a border village on the bank of the river that divides Senegal and Mauritania. The village of Ganguel Soulé is located in Fuuta Toro, a West African region of cultural influence, learning and resilience. This is the land that produced the family of *Cheikh Usman dan Fodio, the 18th century leader of Nigeria’s Islamic revival movement and the founder the Sokoto Caliphate in Northern Nigeria. (henceforth the French spelling of Sheikh – Cheikh – will be used)

From this land also came Abdoul Kader Kane (d.1807), founder of the Almamate dynasty that sought to put an end to the Atlantic slave trade by imposing martial control of European ships passing through their territories. Cheikh el-Hadji Omar Tall, the last leader of the jihad movements against the French West Africa Federation project in 1850s also hailed from here. Fuuta Toro is also likely to be the birthplace of Omar Ibn Said, the Muslim American slave whose Arabic autobiography serves as a valuable sourcebook for antebellum black writing and history.

My visit here had both an academic and personal purpose. My mother’s side of the family is from Fuuta, and it was never clear to us growing-up why my ancestral great-great-grandfather left this region of Fuuta Toro in the early nineteenth century to move to the most western region known as Kajoor. Most aspects of family oral history talk about the devastation caused by Kane’s resistance against the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. However, these issues are considered long-gone memories that people are neither interested nor comfortable remembering. Only a few Senegalese academics, for example Ibrahima Seck, are spending their lives looking at the local and cross-continental intricacies of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

My host, Cernoo Kamara, wasn’t interested in yesterday’s questions either. He is a marabou (a sufi religious leader) who has become accustomed to silence, and people around him are also used to him speaking only in time of extreme need.

“Welcome home,” he murmured when his personal driver picked me up at the bank of the river. (“Birds also go home when is dark-out there,” were his last few words as we parted later that night.)

“This is a house of service: reading and writing,” he told me early the next day as he walked me through the compound of his esteemed grandfather Cheikh Moussa Kamara. There were books, clusters of old papers, and manuscripts everywhere. Kids from the neighborhood were up at dawn rehearsing the sacred text at the compound’s Quranic school before breakfast and regular schooling. Continue reading

by GALYM ZHUSSIPBEK for ISLAMiCommentary on SEPTEMBER 18, 2015:

Galym Zhussipbek

It can be argued that all radical Muslims who claim to act in the name of Islam, in reality, quite ironically, do not properly understand the very basic pillar of the Islamic creed — Oneness of God (Tawheed) — which they pretend to defend or restore. But the proper belief in Tawheed signifies the utmost humility and an acceptance of diversity and respect for human-kind.

This is currently one of the most-contested principles in Islam, though an Islamic world-view centered around Oneness of God (Tawheed) necessitates the genuine acceptance of pluralism.

There are some powerful calls for a reformation of Islam — propelled by gross human rights violations of human rights perpetrated by some Muslims or by people acting in the name of Islam who have zero tolerance for pluralism and the diversity of human-kind.

Many people, including Muslims themselves may wonder what connects Islamic creed (aqeedah) and this preference for peace and acceptance of pluralism. Continue reading