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Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks

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The Call of Bilal

Islam in the African Diaspora

Edward E. Curtis IV

How do people in the African diaspora practice Islam? While the term "Black Muslim" may conjure images of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, millions of African-descended Muslims around the globe have no connection to the American-based Nation of Islam. The Call of Bilal is a penetrating account of the rich diversity of Islamic religious practice among Africana Muslims worldwide. Covering North Africa and the Middle East, India and Pakistan, Europe, and the Americas, Edward E. Curtis IV reveals a fascinating range of religious activities--from the observance of the five pillars of Islam and the creation of transnational Sufi networks to the veneration of African saints and political struggles for racial justice.

Weaving together ethnographic fieldwork and historical perspectives, Curtis shows how Africana Muslims interpret not only their religious identities but also their attachments to the African diaspora. For some, the dispersal of African people across time and space has been understood as a mere physical scattering or perhaps an economic opportunity. For others, it has been a metaphysical and spiritual exile of the soul from its sacred land and eternal home.

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Gender, Sainthood, and Everyday Practice in South Asian Shi’ism

Karen G. Ruffle

In this work, Ruffle examines traditional hagiographical texts and ritual performances of the Shi’i Muslims of Hyderabad, India, and demonstrates how understandings of sainthood, everyday religious rituals, and gender interact to shape the lives of Shi’i women & men. Taking as her focus the annual ceremonies commemorating the lamentable story of Fatimah Kubra and Qasem (whose unconsummated battlefield marriage was followed 3 days later by Qasem's death in battle), which comprises a literary tradition of central importance in the Islamic world, Ruffle shows how these practices of idealization and veneration (of Qasem and of Fatimah and other saintly women in the story) produce social and religious role models whom Shi’i Muslims aim to imitate in their daily lives. People undertake this practice of saintly imitation, Ruffle argues, to improve their personal religious practice and, on a broader social level, to help generate and reinforce group identity and shared ethics and sensibilities. The study is especially notable for its emphasis on women’s religious practice in everyday life and for its contribution to the understanding of gender and hagiography.

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iMuslims

Rewiring the House of Islam

Gary R. Bunt

Exploring the increasing impact of the Internet on Muslims around the world, this book sheds new light on the nature of contemporary Islamic discourse, identity, and community.

The Internet has profoundly shaped how both Muslims and non-Muslims perceive Islam and how Islamic societies and networks are evolving and shifting in the twenty-first century, says Gary Bunt. While Islamic society has deep historical patterns of global exchange, the Internet has transformed how many Muslims practice the duties and rituals of Islam. A place of religious instruction may exist solely in the virtual world, for example, or a community may gather only online. Drawing on more than a decade of online research, Bunt shows how social-networking sites, blogs, and other "cyber-Islamic environments" have exposed Muslims to new influences outside the traditional spheres of Islamic knowledge and authority. Furthermore, the Internet has dramatically influenced forms of Islamic activism and radicalization, including jihad-oriented campaigns by networks such as al-Qaeda.

By surveying the broad spectrum of approaches used to present dimensions of Islamic social, spiritual, and political life on the Internet, iMuslims encourages diverse understandings of online Islam and of Islam generally.

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Isma'ili Modern

Globalization and Identity in a Muslim Community

Jonah Steinberg

Led by a charismatic European-based hereditary Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, global Isma'ili organizations make available an astonishing array of services--social, economic, political, and religious--to some three to five million subjects stretching from Afghanistan to England, from Pakistan to Tanzania. Steinberg argues that this intricate and highly integrated network enables a new kind of shared identity and citizenship, one that goes well beyond the sense of community maintained by other diasporic populations. Of note in this process is the rapid assimilation in the postcolonial period of once-isolated societies into the intensively centralized Isma'ili structure. Also remarkable is the Isma'ilis' self-presentation, contrary to common characterizations of Islam in the mass media, as a Muslim society that is broadly sympathetic to capitalist systems, opposed to fundamentalism, and distinctly modern in orientation. Steinberg's unique journey into remote mountain regions highlights today's rapidly shifting meanings of citizenship, faith, and identity and reveals their global scale.

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Sufi Narratives of Intimacy

Ibn 'Arabī, Gender, and Sexuality

Sa'diyya Shaikh

Current gender debates in Muslim societies, including questions of women’s rights in marriage and divorce, the politics of hijab, and women’s leadership of ritual prayer, are underpinned by specific, paradigmatic assumptions regarding human nature, gender, and the mandates of Islam. In this feminist analysis, Sa’diyya Shaikh undercuts these paradigms by arguing that Sufi discourses offer contemporary Muslims rich, multi-textured, and largely untapped resources with which to engage ongoing challenges of gender equality. As Shaikh demonstrates, in particular through the illustrative example of the writings of thirteenth-century Muslim poet, mystic, and legal scholar, Muhy? al-D?n Ibn al-‘Arab?, Sufi thought ultimately asserts that men and women are equally capable of attaining divinely ordained spiritual completeness. Indeed, in Ibn al-‘Arab?’s writings, though in many ways reflective of the normative gender assumptions of his era, this basic assumption appears as a foundational tenet of the Islamic understanding of human nature. By focusing on gender in Ibn’ al-‘Arab?’s works, Shaikh interrogates the ways in which love, sexuality, marriage, and related gender dynamics are conceived, imagined, and created in the Islamic tradition. In doing so, she constructs from within the Islamic religious tradition an alternate frame through which to view and understand Islam’s core ethical values.

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Sufis and Saints' Bodies

Mysticism, Corporeality, and Sacred Power in Islam

Scott A. Kugle

Islam is often described as abstract, ascetic, and uniquely disengaged from the human body. Scott Kugle refutes this assertion in the first full study of Islamic mysticism as it relates to the human body. Examining Sufi conceptions of the body in religious writings from the late fifteenth through the nineteenth century, Kugle demonstrates that literature from this era often treated saints' physical bodies as sites of sacred power. ###Sufis and Saints' Bodies# focuses on six important saints from Sufi communities in North Africa and South Asia. Kugle singles out a specific part of the body to which each saint is frequently associated in religious literature. The saints' bodies, Kugle argues, are treated as symbolic resources for generating religious meaning, communal solidarity, and the experience of sacred power. In each chapter, Kugle also features a particular theoretical problem, drawing methodologically from religious studies, anthropology, studies of gender and sexuality, theology, feminism, and philosophy. Bringing a new perspective to Islamic studies, Kugle shows how an important Islamic tradition integrated myriad understandings of the body in its nurturing role in the material, social, and spiritual realms. Kugle examines Islamic--particularly Sufi--conceptions of the human body in religious writings from the late medieval to early modern period of Islamic history. He explores the network of Muslim mystics who played a significant role in shaping Islamic culture during this formative period, as these Sufi saint-teachers served as moral exemplars and, often, political leaders. Religious literature from this period often treated the saints' physical bodies as sites of sacred power, Kugle argues. He illustrates by pairing each of six prominent saints with a part of the body to which they are frequently associated in the literature (breath, lips, heart, etc.). With each chapter, he also addresses a theoretical problem. Islam is often described as particularly abstract, ascetic, and uniquely disengaged from the human body. Scott Kugle refutes this assertion in the first full study of Islamic mysticism as it relates to the human body. Examining Sufi conceptions of the body in religious writings from the late fifteenth through the nineteenth century, Kugle demonstrates that literature from this era often treated saints' physical bodies as sites of sacred power. Islam is often described as abstract, ascetic, and uniquely disengaged from the human body. Scott Kugle refutes this assertion in the first full study of Islamic mysticism as it relates to the human body. Examining Sufi conceptions of the body in religious writings from the late fifteenth through the nineteenth century, Kugle demonstrates that literature from this era often treated saints' physical bodies as sites of sacred power. ###Sufis and Saints' Bodies# focuses on six important saints from Sufi communities in North Africa and South Asia. Kugle singles out a specific part of the body to which each saint is frequently associated in religious literature. The saints' bodies, Kugle argues, are treated as symbolic resources for generating religious meaning, communal solidarity, and the experience of sacred power. In each chapter, Kugle also features a particular theoretical problem, drawing methodologically from religious studies, anthropology, studies of gender and sexuality, theology, feminism, and philosophy. Bringing a new perspective to Islamic studies, Kugle shows how an important Islamic tradition integrated myriad understandings of the body in its nurturing role in the material, social, and spiritual realms.

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The Transnational Mosque

Architecture and Historical Memory in the Contemporary Middle East

Kishwar Rizvi

Kishwar Rizvi, drawing on the multifaceted history of the Middle East, offers a richly illustrated analysis of the role of transnational mosques in the construction of contemporary Muslim identity. As Rizvi explains, transnational mosques are structures built through the support of both government sponsorship, whether in the home country or abroad, and diverse transnational networks. By concentrating on mosques--especially those built at the turn of the twenty-first century--as the epitome of Islamic architecture, Rizvi elucidates their significance as sites for both the validation of religious praxis and the construction of national and religious ideologies.

Rizvi delineates the transnational religious, political, economic, and architectural networks supporting mosques in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as in countries within their spheres of influence, such as Pakistan, Syria, and Turkmenistan. She discerns how the buildings feature architectural designs that traverse geographic and temporal distances, gesturing to far-flung places and times for inspiration. Digging deeper, however, Rizvi reveals significant diversity among the mosques--whether in a Wahabi-Sunni kingdom, a Shi&
8219;i theocratic government, or a republic balancing secularism and moderate Islam--that repudiates representations of Islam as a monolith. Mosques reveal alliances and contests for influence among multinational corporations, nations, and communities of belief, Rizvi shows, and her work demonstrates how the built environment is a critical resource for understanding culture and politics in the contemporary Middle East and the Islamic world.

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The Walking Qur'an

Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa

Rudolph T. Ware III

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What Is a Madrasa?

Ebrahim Moosa

Taking us inside the world of the madrasa--the most common type of school for religious instruction in the Islamic world--Ebrahim Moosa provides an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to understand orthodox Islam in global affairs. Focusing on postsecondary-level religious institutions in the Indo-Pakistan heartlands, Moosa explains how a madrasa can simultaneously be a place of learning revered by many and an institution feared by many others, especially in a post-9/11 world.

Drawing on his own years as a madrasa student in India, Moosa describes in fascinating detail the daily routine for teachers and students today. He shows how classical theological, legal, and Qur'anic texts are taught, and he illuminates the history of ideas and politics behind the madrasa system. Addressing the contemporary political scene in a clear-eyed manner, Moosa introduces us to madrasa leaders who hold diverse and conflicting perspectives on the place of religion in society. Some admit that they face intractable problems and challenges, including militancy; others, Moosa says, hide their heads in the sand and fail to address the crucial issues of the day. Offering practical suggestions to both madrasa leaders and U.S. policymakers for reform and understanding, Moosa demonstrates how madrasas today still embody the highest aspirations and deeply felt needs of traditional Muslims.

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What Is Veiling?

Sahar Amer

Ranging from simple head scarf to full-body burqa, the veil is worn by vast numbers of Muslim women around the world. This book explains one of the most visible, controversial, and least understood emblems of Islam. Amer's evenhanded approach is anchored in sharp cultural insight and rich historical context. Addressing the significance of veiling in the religious, cultural, political, and social lives of Muslims, past and present, she examines the complex roles the practice has played in history, religion, conservative and progressive perspectives, politics and regionalism, society and economics, feminism, fashion, and art.

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