- Book Notes
Islamic Images and Ideas: Essays on Sacred Symbolism ed. John Andrew Morrow, 2014. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, x + 276 pp., $45.00. isbn: 978-0-78645-848-6.
Themed around the Prophetic narration that ‘Allah is beautiful and loves beauty’, this collection of essays explores the inner dimensions of Islam through a study on Islamic images and ideas, ‘demonstrating the diversity which exists at the heart of Islamic unity’ (2). The editor, John Andrew Morrow, highlights the importance of ‘bring[ing] the beauty of Islam back into the light’ (vii) in the context of today’s increased focus on Islamism – rather than Islam itself – in the West. As he puts it, ‘Since Islamism is the product of modernity, and a recent innovation in Islam, it cannot, and must not, take precedence over Islam as a world religion and a 1,400-year-old faith that sustains nearly two billion human beings’ (1); therefore, this collection is a new approach to redressing that imbalance. Penned by both Muslim and non-Muslim authors from a variety of countries, each essay is centred on a significant symbol in the Qur’an and Sunnah which is analysed literally, metaphorically, interdisciplinarily, exoterically, esoterically, theologically, philosophically, and – in short – comprehensively from a variety of viewpoints. In his Introduction, Morrow emphasizes the use of primary sources in the essays, not only for the sake of greater authenticity, but also due to biases as well as misrepresentations that have crept into a number of secondary sources on Islam written in the West. Sunni, Shi‘a, and Sufi sources are included, thereby embracing a wide spectrum of the Islamic heritage. The collection itself is divided into four sections. The first, titled ‘The Divine’, offers explorations of ‘Divine Unity’ (John Andrew Morrow), ‘Creation’ (Anna Maria Martelli), ‘Wrath’ (Amar Sellam), and ‘Justice’ (Hisham M. Ramadan). This is followed by ‘The Spiritual’; the essays in this section examine topics such as ‘The Path’ (John Andrew Morrow) and ‘Servitude’ (Mustapha Naoui Kheir) as well as more evocative subjects such as ‘The Jinn’ (Anna Maria Martelli), ‘Fatimah’ (Bridget Blomfield), and ‘Intoxication’ (Matthew Long). Next comes ‘The Physical’, including but not limited to essays on ‘Water’ (Cyrus Ali Zargar), ‘The Tree’ [End Page 251] (Said Mentak), ‘Food’ (Naglaa Saad M. Hassan), ‘The Phallus’ (Mahdi Tourage), and ‘Eyebrows’ (Aida Shahlar Gasimova). It concludes with essays on ‘The Societal’, among which are ‘Ijtihad’ (Sayyed Hassan Vahdati Shobeiri), ‘Governance’ (Zahur Ahmed Choudhri & Zahid Shahab Ahmed), ‘Otherness’ (Mohamed Elkouche), and ‘Ashura’ (Muhammed-Reza Fakhr-Rohani); this latter section undoubtedly aims to fulfil the editor’s vision (discussed in the Introduction) of producing a collection which fits the genre of mysticism (‘irfan and tasawwuf ) but nonetheless touches on social issues. While the essays are not focused specifically on Shi‘ism, the immediate relevance of some of the above topics to Shi‘ism is apparent. An extensive index rounds out the collection.
The Islamic College, London, UK
The Dynamics of Sunni-Shia Relationships: Doctrine, Transnationalism, Intellectuals and the Media ed. Brigitte Maréchal and Sami Zemni, 2013. London: C. Hurst & Co., vi + 355 pp., £39.99. isbn: 978-1-84904-217-8 (hbk).
The Dynamics of Sunni-Shia Relationships is a compilation of short essays from different authors, each author focusing on a different aspect that is shaping contemporary Sunni-Shi‘a relationships in the Middle East and Central Asia. Part One begins by tracing the Sunni-Shi‘a split from the death of the Prophet to the twenty-first century, where doctrinal differences and political events have translated into distrust between the two groups. Part Two focuses on the Middle East and the Gulf, providing an individualized look at a handful of countries within this region and their own unique experience within the overarching Sunni-Shi‘a debate. This section deals with issues such as the spread of anti-Shi‘a propaganda by Salafis in Palestine and the Shi‘as fight for citizenship in the Wahhabi state of Saudi Arabia. The Sunni-Shi‘a relations of Syria are also looked at against the backdrop of Syria becoming a product of Iranian ‘Shiitization’. Part Three deals with Sunni-Shi‘a...