by MATT LONG for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on MARCH 23, 2015:

Raymond Farrin
Raymond Farrin

Interest in the structure of the Qur’an has its beginnings in the ninth century CE with Muslim scholars. Since that time, Muslim and Western scholars have debated the coherence of the Qur’an’s structure. Raymond Farrin, professor of Arabic at the American University of Kuwait, opens his newest book, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation: A Study of Symmetry and Coherence in Islam’s Holy Text (White Cloud Press, 2014) with a historical synopsis of the views adopted by the two primary camps regarding the structure of the Qur’an and the development of the study of the Qur’an’s constitution.

51nSYTU5e4L._SL160_Following in the footsteps of Muslim scholars and Western scholars of Islam who acknowledged and demonstrated patterns of connectivity between verses and chapters, Farrin argues that the entirety of Qur’an is organized according to three common patterns of symmetry: parallelism, chiasm, and, the most ubiquitous of three, concentrism.

As the reader moves form chapter to chapter, Professor Farrin explores how these patterns of symmetry are found in the individual chapters, chapter pairs, groupings of chapters, systems of chapters, and then the entire corpus. This structural analysis provides Farrin the opportunity to explore the overall connectivity of messages throughout the Qur’an. Continue reading

Juliane Hammer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Islamic Studies professor, interviews scholar and writer Michael Muhammad Knight about his research on the Five Percenters, Malcolm X’s special significance in the fashioning of the “American Muslims” construct, and the under-examined aspects of his legacy.  

compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on APRIL 6, 2015: 

February 21, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century, Malcolm X El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. His life — as a black figure, as a Muslim figure, and as an international figure — and legacy have gotten widespread media and scholarly attention.

On 2/20/15 and 2/21/15,  a national conference on “The Legacy of Malcolm X: Afro-American Visionary, Muslim Activist” was held at Duke and UNC — co-organized by Omid Safi, UNC-Chapel Hill Islamic Studies professor Juliane Hammer, and African & African American Studies professor and host of Left of Black Mark Anthony Neal.

This semester ISLAMiCommentary has been featuring scholarly insight into Malcolm X and his legacy, which includes video coverage of the conference itself, separately produced video-taped conversations, photos and written features. (For links to these features, see the bottom of this page.)

Michael Muhammad Knight (photo courtesy Layla Quran and Aisha Anwar)
Michael Muhammad Knight
(photo courtesy Layla Quran and Aisha Anwar)

Here is a written interview by Hammer with UNC-Chapel Hill PhD candidate in Religious Studies Michael Muhammad Knight, who presented at the conference (2/21/14) on “Representations of Malcolm X in the Ansaaru Allah Community.” Knight’s research focuses on representations of Muhammad’s body in the hadith and sira corpus.  He is also the author of 9 books, including The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-Hop, and the Gods of New York.

JH: How did Malcom X become relevant for your research?

MMK: I have been interested in how communities such as the Five Percenters and Ansaaru Allah Community/Nubian Islaamic Hebrews (AAC/NIH) engage Malcolm. I think that examining the diverse ways in which communities employ Malcolm as an authority figure challenges much of what we assume about American Muslims, “orthodoxy,” and Muslim internationalisms. Continue reading

This video was produced by Julie Poucher Harbin of ISLAMiCommentary and Catherine Angst of the John Hope Franklin Center as part of the ISLAMiCommentary Field Reports series.

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on MARCH 20, 2015: 

I interviewed Maytha Alhassen, a University of Southern California (USC) Provost Ph.D. Fellow in American Studies and Ethnicity last month, just ahead of a national conference held at Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill (2/20-2/21/15) on “The Legacy of Malcolm X: Afro-American Visionary, Muslim Activist.”

In this video she talks about her previous work on the Malcolm X Project, and how Malcolm’s pro-Palestinian activism inspired her in her own activism in the Middle East and in social movements here in the United States. Continue reading

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on MARCH 20, 2015: 

MalcolmXPosterFebruary 21, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century, Malcolm X El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. His life — as a black figure, as a Muslim figure, and as an international figure — and legacy have gotten widespread media and scholarly attention.

There are many academic Malcolm X representations, readings, and interpretations, and with many great figures in human history, their legacy is more and something other than that great person’s biography.

Said Duke Islamic Studies Center Director Omid Safi: “We are living through the 50th anniversary of many of the monumental events in the history of the civil rights movement. The protests in Ferguson, New York and elsewhere tell us that issues of racism, brutality, poverty and militarism are still with us.”

A national conference on “The Legacy of Malcolm X: Afro-American Visionary, Muslim Activist” was held on 2/20/15 and 2/21/15 at Duke and UNC — co-organized by Safi, UNC-Chapel Hill Islamic Studies professor Juliane Hammer, and African & African American Studies professor and host of Left of Black Mark Anthony Neal.

“Our aim is to commemorate his life, his thought and his unique contributions to struggles for justice, recognition and change in a world he experienced as both a challenge and a promise,” said Hammer.

The conference was sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center. Cosponsors included the Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (Duke University), Department of Religious Studies (Duke University), African and African American Studies (Duke University), and the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations (UNC-Chapel Hill).

Conference participants included Safi; Hammer; Neal; William Chafe (Emeritus, Duke); William “Sandy” Darity (Duke); Michael Muhammad Knight (UNC Chapel Hill); Hisham Aidi (Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs), Maytha Alhassen (University of Southern California), Zaheer Ali (CUNY, Columbia University, Malcolm X Project), Abbas Barzegar (Georgia State University), Sohail Daulatzai (University of California-Irvine), William “Bill” Hart (University of North Carolina-Greensboro), and Jamillah Karim (author). Continue reading