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Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: Essays by Western Muslim Scholars (Perennial Philosophy) Paperback – May 14, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
This book capably argues for a return to the true spirit of classical Islamic intellectualism, disregarding the distractions and obstacles created by the West. Its strongest chapter, "Recollecting the Spirit of Jihad" by Reza Shah-Kazemi, marshals the history and traditions of the noble Muslim warrior, who never killed out of revenge, protected Jews from slaughter and embodied the true spirit of jihad, which means an inner spiritual struggle. The writer contrasts heroes of Muslim history, like Saladin, with the manipulative terrorists of Al-Qaeda, who politicize and deliberately misconstrue jihad. In the following essay, "Roots of Misconception," Ibrahim Kalin contends that propaganda against Islam, from the Crusades through contemporary movies and news media, is responsible for the inaccurate Western view that Islam needs to be modernized. T.J. Winter's "The Poverty of Fanaticism" contains probably the first academic recognition of the phenomenon of "salafi burnout,'" which takes place when a college-age male follower of the literalist Wahhabi/Salafi philosophy trades his conservative views, beard and religious dress for a Western girlfriend and capitalistic outlook. Although all the authors are Western Muslims—a quality rightly admired by Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his foreword—the absence of an essay by a Muslim woman is glaring. This book is a good resource for progressive Muslims, graduate students and readers already well versed on the politics of Islamic theology.
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About the Author
Joseph Lumbard is the founder of The Islamic Research Institute and is currently Professor of Islamic Studies in the Arabic Studies Department of The American University in Cairo. He is a specialist in Sufism and Islamic Philosophy, and has had numerous articles published in journals of traditionalism, comparative religion, and philosophy. In the wake of September 11, 2001, Dr. Lumbard founded the Islamic Research Institute (IRI) to provide a forum in which Muslim scholars are able to contextualize issues pertaining to Islam and apply the traditional teachings of Islam to the exigencies of modern life.
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I reccommend this book for two reasons. First, it starts from a point of view of pragmatism that is refreshing in such an emotional time. A prime example is Ansary's article analyzing Bin Laden's strategy using game theory, which is original and extremely persuasive. Second, it takes into account the vast ocean of Islamic civilization and the intellectual and spiritual history to which it gave rise. Both sides of the issue of Islamic fundamentalism have almost completely insulated themselves from the great tradition of scholarship and traditional spirituality. For example, both Jerry Falwell and Osama bin Laden seem to agree that the Koran allows cart blanche to carry out war as one sees fit (if one is a Muslim). Dakake's article makes it clear that only a total ignoramus or a delusional maniac could accept such an interpretation in light of the history of just war theory in Islam.
In general, one finds insights about Islam and the present situation that it is difficult to find elsewhere. You will not find rehashing of the same tired analysis we are pelted with on a daily basis in our media. Agree or not, the points of view presented here are important and are, to my mind, very persuasive.
One aspect of Islam that is often misunderstood (and is explained very well in this work ) is the concept of Jihad. Jihad means literally "struggle" or "exertion". It can be used to denote struggle against others as well as struggle against the ego, ignorance , and temptation . Jihad against others can include both military struggle AND verbal struggle (debating, proclaiming the truth in the face of opposition, etc..). Inner Jihad is also known as "Greater Jihad" and outer Jihad is called "lesser Jihad" based on a hadith of the Prophet (pbuh)*.
The first Quranic verse** to mention the military aspect of Jihad discusses the defense not only of mosques but also churches, monasteries, and synagogues! That this is the first statement on military JIhad is agreed on by the great early Quranic commentator Al Tabari as well as Ibn Kathir, Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Ibn-al Zubayr, Zayd ibn Aslam, Qatudati, among others (all respected early Islamic scholars ). In other words military (or lesser Jihad) was often intended to defend both Muslims and the people of the book from persecution. In fact people of the book were often called to join in WITH Muslims in various military Jihads (and did so ) against those persecuting them.
* "You have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad". Hadith revealed after a battle.
39. "To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid;-
40. (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right,- (for no cause) except that they say, "our Lord is Allah.. Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will). "
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Certainly I would like to believe the book's central thesis, that Osama bin Laden and other jihad terrorists violate the tenets of traditional Islam, but the book...Read more