What Is Islam? review Ä 0

What Is Islam?

review What Is Islam?

What is Islam How do we grasp a human and historical phenomenon characterized by such variety and contradiction What is Islamic about Islamic philosophy or Islamic art Should we speak of Islam or of islams Should we distinguish the Islamic the religious from the Islamicate the cultural Or should we abandon Islamic altogether as an analytical termIn What Is Islam Shahab Ahmed presents a bold new conceptualization of Islam that challenges dominant understandings grounded in the categories of r OK I started this behemoth and uickly realized that the auth0r is something of a self indulgent windbag who writes very unclearly I'm sure he is very erudite and that there is tons to learn in this book but I am not wading through 600 pages of this with all the attendant fury I would experience The Killing Of Katie Steelstock phenomenon characterized by such variety and contradiction What is Islamic about Islamic Birthday philosophy or Islamic art Should we speak of Islam or of islams Should we distinguish the Islamic the religious from the Islamicate the cultural Or should we abandon Islamic altogether as an analytical termIn What Is Islam Shahab Ahmed Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything presents a bold new conceptualization of Islam that challenges dominant understandings grounded in the categories of r OK I started this behemoth and uickly realized that the auth0r is something of a self indulgent windbag who writes very unclearly I'm sure he is very erudite and that there is tons to learn in this book but I am not wading through 600 Discordia pages of this with all the attendant fury I would experience

characters ´ PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook ´ Shahab Ahmed

Eligion and culture or those that privilege law and scripture He argues that these modes of thinking obstruct us from understanding Islam distorting it diminishing it and rendering it incoherent What Is Islam formulates a new conceptual language for analyzing Islam It presents a new paradigm of how Muslims have historically understood divine revelation one that enables us to understand how and why Muslims through history have embraced values such as exploration ambiguity aestheticization pol Shahab Ahmed led by a seemingly simple uestion produces a brilliant exposition of Islam in its richest possible contexts In thoroughly beautiful but sometimes also rather dense and difficult academic prose Ahmed lays bare the faults in common conceptions of Islam and guides the reader to a much satisfying and historically culturally and philosophically conscious definition of Islam Truly a must read for anyone who wishes to understand and engage with Islam

Shahab Ahmed ´ 0 read & download

Yvalence and relativism as well as practices such as figural art music and even wine drinking as Islamic It also puts forward a new understanding of the historical constitution of Islamic law and its relationship to philosophical ethics and political theoryA book that is certain to provoke debate and significantly alter our understanding of Islam What Is Islam reveals how Muslims have historically conceived of and lived with Islam as norms and truths that are at once contradictory yet cohere This is a book to be read multiple times but you know a piece of good scholarship when u encounter one and this is a ONE


10 thoughts on “What Is Islam?

  1. says:

    This book starts with a series of observations about the historical practice of Islam that seem incongruous or irreconcilable to modern Muslims and non Muslims alike Among these are the positive valorization of wine drinking figural representation the single minded pursuit of love and even pantheism all of which had been variously practiced and endorsed by seminal thinkers as well common Muslims throughout Islamic history Exemplary among these are an image on the book's cover of the Mughal emperor Jahangir depicted in figural form holding a wine goblet in one hand a copy of the uran in the other The coin also designates him as the preeminent Muslim leader of his time an image that he proudly held of himself and which was widely shared the seeming contradiction embodied by his coinage asideBecause of our own conceptual deficiencies we've been unable to reconcile such things Looking back at history we have tended to just ignore the practices of the Muslims of the past or classify such people as not really Muslims even though they have generally been the predominant type of Muslim throughout history and in many ways defined Islam's cosmology as it exists today for a prominent example see Ibn Sina the man who literally defined God for MuslimsIn this book Shahab Ahmed attempts nothing less than to reconcile history on a grand scale In doing so he effectively decolonizes the failed conceptualization by both modern Muslims and non Muslims alike of what Islam as a human and historical phenomenon actually is His approach in doing so is multifaceted and ambitious spanning across hundreds of years of history and a massive trove of primary sources of Muslim societies from the Balkans to the BengalIn our contemporary outlook framed by law giving nation states most of us have developed a legal supremacist and textual absolutist idea of Islam an approach that is in fact ahistorical to Islamic practice and belief throughout history Further by categorizing Islam as a religion we have posited its mutual interchangeability and intelligibility with Christianity Islam as are Hinduism and other religions is an expansive enough phenomenon however to warrant under its own circumstances The entire binary of religious secular is itself a European phenomenon that has been transposed onto Islam ineffectively and has been accepted as logical even by Muslims themselvesAs Ahmed argues however and with voluminous reference to primary source texts across an impressive range of languages this is a failed idea of Islam that does not account for its diversity historical uniueness as well as the outright contradictions of its practice contradictions that nonetheless still manage to form a coherent whole The nature of the Islamic revelation logic necessitates the existence as he writes of a Pre Textual reality a Text and an accumulated Con text of cultural forms pertaining to a phenomenon of Islam Throughout history Muslims have sought to create meaning through all these realities in ways that outwardly contradict In such a way it was seen as unproblematic and not necessarily contradictory for Islamic philosophers or Sufis to transgress the laws promulgated by the text including by the preeminent among those who described themselves as people of the texts documented evocatively in one uote by the 16th century Ottomah Sheik ul Islam Ebus Su'ud contrasting the understanding between the people of the shore and those of the ocean The search for truth and meaning leads to hierarchies of truths and meanings for different people according to their understanding This is not just a human observation though but is a logical outcome of the structural nature of the Islam revelation and in its delineation into different spheres of Pre Text and Text Again this idea is not one that is based on mere conjecture but on a wide ranging look at primary sources and history Further the difference between private practice and public has never been one of hypocrisy as we commonly see it today but another expression of the differentiation within the same truth or the same truth expressed in different forms as appropriate This is how people lived and reconciled their beliefs and made Islam meaningful for themselves and their societies throughout history Wine drinking and figural representation as such were in fact positively valorized even when they fell outside textual law because it was widely accepted that Pre Textual forms of truth which the Text itself mentions were also valid means of exploration Wine drinking painting music forms of dress can and have historically all been made Islamically meaningful by Muslims Unlike in modern conceptualizations predominated by modes of thought based on Western historical experience in the Islamic world there have been no clear differentiations between secular activities and religious ones the categories themselves are moot Instead the entire world is intended to be suffused with meaning and with a search for truth as expressed in the forms of what Muslims called IslamIn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions receiving a preponderance of information outside of the agreed consensus should trigger a revolution in conceptualizing a given topic In the study of Islam that information outside the consensus of what Islam is a religion a set of laws has long existed But instead of accounting for it the response has been largely to simply ignore it or brush it aside As such neither Muslims or non Muslims the latter looking from the outside and the former deeply alienated from their past by the violent intrusion of modernity knows how to make sense of Muslim history nor of the phenomenon of Islam This book a truly masterful piece of scholarship is the revolution in understanding of Islam that manages to reconcile the diverse past with the seemingly monolithic present Through examining history art ethics and political philosophy cosmology music fiction and the various means in which Muslims made meaning for themselves throughout their history Islam Ahmed has managed to evoke the past of Islam and make it coherent for us in modernity In doing so we are better able to understand who we are where we came from why we think the way we do and what habits of thought have led to our constructions of ourselves and others As he points out Islam makes Muslims and Muslims make Islam As such Islam is what people make of it today a discursive tradition with a huge and diverse cultural accumulation to draw upon the great old city of Islam of which most of us today are only familiar with a few neighborhoods and whose future depends on what we choose to do with it now Ahmed illustrates this point meticulously evocatively and in language that is academic but appropriate and suited to its task and does modern people both Muslim and non Muslim a service can't be overstated Having said that and despite what the title may suggest this is by no means an introductory or beginners book on the subject of IslamAhmed died shortly before the publishing of this book As such reading it today there is an inescapable feeling of tragedy that accompanies its brilliance Its undoubtedly the work of a great genius and though the book needed no further ennoblement Ahmed's death at the young age of 48 has provided that nonetheless But although its deeply sad that he's not around to engage further with the concepts in this book or to write works I'm very grateful that he got to publish his magnum opus before he passed The intellectual discourse on this subject is immeasurably richer for his contribution I can say without hesitation its one of the bravest and most important books I've ever read


  2. says:

    Shahab Ahmed tells us up front that he is not going to answer the uestion what is Islam? And of course he does not really do so but the title misleadingly suggests that he will and in the course of the book he comes perilously close to trying and failing to do so without outright saying he is going to do it In short Shahab himself seems confused about what he is trying to achieve here The book is a description of some but certainly not all aspects of Islamic culture as it developed and expanded especially AFTER the initial Arab phase of empire building And it is a long argument with various seen and unseen opponents who want to define Islam as some ONE thing In the course of this argument Shahab wants to show that Islam was very varied but he also wants to show that it is not infinitely varied In the course of his overly long book he manages to show that Islamicate societies a term he does not really approve of had a very wide variety of beliefs and practices though they also remained anchored within a certain tradition and in continuous argument with particular foundational texts All of this may be a surprise to extreme puritanical Islamists AND to or less ignorant anti Islamists but should be no surprise at all to anyone else Why wouldn't there be a lot of variety? Anyway if you happen to spend your life arguing with people who have a very monochromatic view of Islam then you can keep this book handy in order to prove otherwise It is good for that Beyond that it is a rich compendium of anecdotes he has read VERY widely and uotes extensively from hundreds of sources and you will learn a lot about the Balkans to Bengal complex a cultural zone that Shahab Ahmed is particularly fond of and regards as archetypically Islamic Incidentally you will also be able to prove to your friends that Islamic history is characterized by an officialtheocratic prohibition of alcohol AND a simultaneous cultural fascination and widespread use and even praise of alcohol complete with social practices that incorporate regular use of alcohol eg in poetry recitals and courtesan dance performances though this also being a work of apologetics the courtesan part is not highlighted What you will NOT find is any mention of how the Islamic empire was created in the first place Military force and politics are almost completely absent from this cultural history of Islamdom Make of that what you will But it is worth keeping in mind that the geographic region extending from the Balkans to Bengal did not just magically happen to switch religions it was conueredStill the the book is worth reading if you want to know about the cultural history of the core Islamicate region It is or less useless as a book of history And it is somewhere in between when it comes to theology and philosophy Overall this is high class and erudite apologetics and the anecdotes collected herein will stand the test of time; but I suspect that the postmodern arguments and apologetics will not age well When the current phase of history has passed readers will wonder why Shahab Ahmed is wasting their time with convoluted and wordy arguments about how legitimate or illegitimate this or that simple minded view of Islam actually is Then again maybe postmodernism will not fade away as completely as I imagine or wish for and future generations will continue to be fascinated by arguments that just seem like waste of time to me Time will tell Post Script A friend commented that you cannot expect him to say than that and I am adding my answer to this review I certainly expect a good historian even a cultural historian to say much than that or rather much less than that; with a better ratio of facts to verbiage and a better ratio of evidence based historical theorizing to windbaggery I happen to be reading Tomb's The English and their history at the same time and the difference is night and day With Tomb's book you actually get an attempt at describing the English and their history and culture and so on with systematic rational and evidence based theorizing and refutation of theories Whether you agree with his particular view or not you get what he is saying and you get what he is arguing against Much of the time you get something close to a full picture With Shahab Ahmed you get nothing of the sort Now granted Tombs is a serious historian working within a great tradition and Shahab was or less an amateur working from within the postmodern end of modern academia but stillthere should be standards


  3. says:

    OK I started this behemoth and uickly realized that the auth0r is something of a self indulgent windbag who writes very unclearly I'm sure he is very erudite and that there is tons to learn in this book but I am not wading through 600 pages of this with all the attendant fury I would experience


  4. says:

     How Has Islamic Orthodoxy Changed Over Time? A new book by the late scholar Shahab Ahmed reveals the capaciousness complexity and contradictions of Islamreviewed by Elias Muhanna in The Nation ;;' When discussing the modern discipline of Islamic studies Ahmed liked to complain that it was possible to earn a doctorate in this field from an Ivy League university without ever reading the Divan of Hafiz the great 14th century Persian poet He describes that work in What Is Islam? as “the most widely copied widely circulated widely ­read widely memorized widely ­recited widely invoked and widely ­proverbialized book of poetry in Islamic history” This was not merely a work of belles lettres but a book that exemplified “ideals of self conceptionin the largest part of the Islamic world for half a millennium” How could a modern student of Islamic civilization formulate an understanding of this subject without taking stock of such a work and especially its treatment of wine drinking erotic love and the hypocrisies of self righteous moralists? If Hafiz’s work is not Islamic then what is? '


  5. says:

    Shahab Ahmed led by a seemingly simple uestion produces a brilliant exposition of Islam in its richest possible contexts In thoroughly beautiful but sometimes also rather dense and difficult academic prose Ahmed lays bare the faults in common conceptions of Islam and guides the reader to a much satisfying and historically culturally and philosophically conscious definition of Islam Truly a must read for anyone who wishes to understand and engage with Islam


  6. says:

    Extremely interesting content demonstrating the actual living Islam with all its diversity and paradoxes But the writing style is terrible If ten line sentences in abstruse academese is your thing you'll love it though


  7. says:

    A brilliant presentation and critiue of conceptions of Islam in both premodern and modern times The alternative offered feels comprehensive inclusive and open enough to allow the ambiguity and contradictions we find in Islam


  8. says:

    It has been just over 40 years since Marshall GS Hodgson's The Venture of Islam but these have been the most eventful 40 years in Islamic history for a very long time Islam is now world historical Islamic theology is now bound up in the order of world affairs and infects the grand narratives of Marxists Fukuyamaists Spenglerians Toynbeeites and even doomsayers on the streets Yet nearly all of these visionaries of the future seem sorely misinformed about Islam; something in the work of brilliant religious scholars and historians failed to live up to the mark when Islam went political Where is our new account of the role of Islam in world history? What did it mean when the world became partly Muslim?In an eerie coincidence like Hodgson Shahab Ahmed passed away mere months before his magnum opus was published But like Hodgson Ahmed must have recognized that a good work like this takes time and must have died happy in the knowledge that the final draft of a very important book was at the printer's This is a work with all the intellectual honesty of an academic paper but that avoids the familiar uselessness of so many academic monographs about language games and unity in diversity Here you can have a definition of Islam buttressed by the realities of history and human existence It is definitely a very dense book and is not for the faint hearted but for those who can read and enjoy it it's a call to arms Can this message be brought to the general public in the West? Not only is that a possibility but it must happen world history is demanding itThe first half of the book masterfully pries into the flaws of sympathetic academic sources like Hodgson and even of some MuslimsFor Hodgson literature and art are 'Islamic' only when they clearly treat 'religious' themes ' in the same sense as we refer to Christian art or literature' otherwise they are Islamicate But does it in fact make sense to assume that 'Islam' and 'Christianity' are mutually intelligible phenomena that are explicable or meaningful in parallel terms of that is in the same sense asby analogy with each other? 166It is not merely Western analysts who by their adoption of the secular religious binary have rendered themselves unable to conceptualize Islam in a coherent and meaningful manner many modern Muslim actors and subjects have done the same any successful concepturalization of Islam must account for all these contrary claims as Islam in spite of the degree to which modern Muslims are unable to do so 243 245By the second half I already had a feeling of what needs to be included in any possible definition of Islam and why it is so elusive to predefined Western categories But it was only when Ahmed began his argument in the second half that I finally started to realized why he was including the complete original text of every Islamic poetry uotation in his footnotes


  9. says:

    This is a book to be read multiple times but you know a piece of good scholarship when u encounter one and this is a ONE


  10. says:

    If you can get through the obtuse academic language of this book in a couple chapters anyway this work is a fascinating tour of what it means and has meant to be islamic at least in one of the worlds great cultural spheres The area influenced by Persian in the classical and early modern period Hint all that talk about wine by the Sufi poets wasn't just allegorical According to Dr Ahmed's thesis I'm acting in terms of Islam just by writing this review; may people read this book and open their eyes


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *