Books

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Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Texts and Contexts from al-Banna to Bin Laden written by Roxanne Euben and Muhammad Qasim Zaman is an anthology of texts giving an introduction to Islamic political thought the twentieth century to contemporary times. The texts presents numerous Islamic scholars and their texts in order to discuss arguments on democracy, gender, and jihad.

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Legal Integration of Islam A Transatlantic Comparison

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Legal Integration of Islam: A Transatlantic Comparison by Christian Joppke and John Torpey sets out to provide comparison between countries in Europe and North America in regard to their legal integration, or lack thereof, of Islamic Law. Joppke and Torpey hypothesize that the conflicts Muslims are currently experiencing are tied to issues of balancing the existing majority’s legal practices with those of the emerging ethno-religious minority that is Muslims. They posit the research question: What are the root causes of the struggle of Muslims to establish themselves in Western countries, and how are different countries reacting and adapting legally to their increase in Muslim residents? They theorize that the existing legal system of the state, higher courts in particular, that determine individual freedoms and liberties and strive for equality among citizens.

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The book, simply yet appropriately titled “Sufism,” written by William Stoddart, serves as a concise introduction to the world of Sufism. The book contains a foreward, introduction, and is then divided into chapters that can best be described as being separated by theme or dimension of Sufism. The foreward and introduction are where the author explicitly explains his motive behind the work. Stoddart all but states his frustration and explains that in today’s age, advancing liberal thoughts are abandoning the more formal aspects of the major religious traditions. This “Philosophies for our times” is, in essence, the attempt to acquire the transcendent level of blessing associated with much of mysticism, but involves skipping the more traditional doctrines that benefit the individual with the training, both spiritual and psychological, that is required. Stoddart isn’t alone in at least parts of this argument, as Martin Lings said “Today Sufism is a name without a reality. It was once a reality without a name.” The author explains that this movement is not new and does not solely pertain to Islam, but now that Islam has become the object of re-adaptation, there are those that are trying to experience Sufism without Islam – something Stoddart says cannot be done.

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In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the view of many Americans towards Islam has been hostile. They have taken the word “jihad” and twisted it to mean holy war because that it was extremist Muslims say they are doing. However, jihad actually means “struggle,” but a lot of people do not know this. John Kelsay attempts to explain the historical context of jihad in Islam using sources of authority such as the Quran and Sharia law. The first chapter answer basic questions about Islam. The next two chapters are about how Muslims decided which sources were reliable and appropriate for Sharia reasoning, as well as what the most important political and social rulings regarding armed struggle were. In the second half of the book, Kelsay discusses the questions about the justifications and conduct of armed resistance. He also writes about the lack of consensus amongst Muslims regarding who has authority in affairs of state. It can also be taken to mean that the practice of Sharia reasoning is in question.

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Ahmed’s book focuses on how the wearing of the hijab has changed between the 1950’s to as recently as the early 2000’s. Ahmed uses memories from her childhood to discuss that when she was growing up it was less common to see women wearing a hijab. Ahmed  said that the women that did wear the hijab were part of the Muslim Brotherhood. The book goes on to explain that the increase of women wearing the hijab centers around the Islamic Resurgence.

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In his book, Engaging the Muslim World, Juan Ricardo Cole believes that the western world, specifically America has Islam Anxiety. This anxiety keeps the USA from having relations with the Muslim World. He used the Middle Eastern petroleum crisis, military involvement in the Middle East, and of course the topic of terror to provide evidence and reasoning for Islam Anxiety and how it has stressed relations with the Muslim World. This means that because of America’s Islamic Anxiety or Islamophobia, the engagement between the Muslim world and America is stressed and has always been seen in a bad light. Cole considers with interfaith dialogue and the elimination of Islam Anxiety through knowledge and respect of Islam, the United States might be able to finally engage the Muslim World peacefully.

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The Idea of Women in Fundamentalist Islam

This book, “The Idea of Women in Fundamentalist Islam,” by Lamia Rustum Shehadeh, focuses on women’s role in society under fundamentalist Islam. The author looks at how Islamic fundamentalists shape/ determine the role of women in Islamic society. Using a historic perspective fundamentalists have deemed women to play a traditional role in society one made up of mainly child raising and being a homemaker. What role should women have in society is a greatly debated topic historically and in present day Islam. In class we have looked at the difference between Islam feminists, who empower women/ want to change the patriarchal interpretation of the Quran which disadvantages women, and the feminizing view which places women in a subservient role. We also discussed how individuals determined what God’s intention was based on the main Islamic doctrines (e.g. the Quran/ hadith) and what was human invention (culture/ socialization) on the role of women. Fundamentalists in this context use the Quran/ their life experiences and the experiences of other fundamentalists to assign a feminizing role to women in Islamic society. Thus, the author explains their reasoning/ how they invented these roles for women, and then debunks/ points out the contradictions in the fundamentalists’ reasoning behind their determined role for women.

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In today’s society there are basic assumptions about women and Islam. Are Islamic cultures fundamentally oppressive to women? Is the trend among Islamic women to appear once again in veils and other traditional clothing a symbol of regression, or an effort to return to a “pure” Islam that was just and fair to both sexes? In this book, Leila Ahmed adds a fresh perspective to the existing debate about women and Islam by exploring its historical roots, tracing the developments in Islamic discourses on women and gender from the ancient world to the present.
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This book discusses identity in America and how it has been influenced throughout history. The author Akbar Ahmed, gives the reader a definitions of an American identity, and then delves into the lives of Muslims in America, searching, finding and experiencing the American identity. Examining history, from times before Columbus and post 9/11, Ahmed provides a complete illustration of Islam’s path into America.

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Islam: An Introduction

This novel by Annemarie Schimmel is a brief explanation of the key principles of Islamic culture. It is very relevant to the topic of Islam by highlighting topic such as Sharia law and Sufism. Schimmel gives very good commentary in that she shares her personal feelings toward the subjects in the history. She states powerful evidence about the culture of Islam by citing other scholars of Islam. In all Schimmel constructs her novel to shed light on what the Islamic faith is and how it fits in with the other Abrahamic religions.

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Major Themes of the Qur’an

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In his book Major Themes of the Qur’an Fazlur Rahman discusses each theme of the Qur’an in great detail while connecting the themes to the everyday duties and actions in the life of a Muslim. The eight themes analyzed are God, Man as Individual, Man in Society, Nature, Propethood and Revelation, Eschatology, Satan and Evil, and the Emergence of The Muslim Community. Rahman uses direct quotations from the Qur’an both as evidence and points of conversation, as well as scholarly analysis to give the reader better insight into the complexities of the Qur’an. Along with the explanation of the global appeal of the holy book.

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Islamophobia in America: The Anatomy of Intolerance 

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Islamophobia in America, edited by Carl W. Ernst, includes the works of six authors along with an introduction written by Ernst. The articles written by the authors have an overall focus on the topic of Islamophobia in America. Each author looks specifically into an area of Islamophobia in America, and similarly throughout the authors ask the question, “What is Islamophobia and in what ways have American’s scapegoated and demonized Muslims?” Collectively, they attempt to answer this question by providing their perspectives on the issue of Islamophobia in America. This is done in each of the authors’ sections in their critical evaluations on historical and current events to see how different forms of religious stereotyping has led to this concept of Islamophobia.

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Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

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When studying Islam it is nearly impossible to ignore the other 2 Abrahamic religions. This book takes on an interesting approach and acknowledges that while there are conflicting interpretations of Abraham, the 3 Abrahamic religions bring upon this conflict through their sacred books, especially on the topic of Abraham himself. This book asks us the question of who Abraham really is through examining historical contexts and religious scriptures. This book is a great source because it digs deep to the root of the division between the 3 Abrahamic religions.

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How to Read the Qur’an

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The book How to Read the Qur’an, by Mona Siddiqui, explores the topic of reading the Qur’an: what it is, where it comes from, and what it’s about.  This is done by examining the question of what are the most important aspects to know about the Qur’an?  The author makes it clear that the Qur’an, or the direct word of God through Muhammad, holds authority over Muslims as it guides them on the road straight.  This is key because the Qur’an is the central belief system in Islam, and much can be understood about the religion by analyzing its teachings.  The Qur’an is critical to the study of Islam because, as Abraham once said, “We need divine revelation to understand the mystery of life.”

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Understanding Islam: Origins, Beliefs, Practices, Holy texts, Sacred places

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This book relates Islamic beliefs and history since the beginning of the religion to the modern times and how Islam managed to become one of the greatest religious traditions. It helps to have clear insights on the Origins of Islam which it does share with Judaism and Christianity. The author explains us how the Muslims managed their relationship with the people of book (Peoples to whom God had revealed his prophetic message) when the Muslims made the Hijra (Emigration) to Medina after being persecuted in Mecca and also gives brief clarification on how the Muslim interacted with the people of the book when they took control of Byzantine Empire and southern Syria. Moreover it talks about the Quran (the sacred book which contains the revelations from God to the Prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel), the sacred people of Islam, death and afterlife (which is a common notion between the Abrahamic religions) and finally society and religion.

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Qur’an and Women: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Women’s Perspective

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On March 18, 2005 Amina Wadud shocked the world when she led an Islamic prayer service in front of both a male and female audience in a New York City cathedral. The original venue, an art gallery owned by a supporter of Wadud, received bomb threats and after the venue shifted to the cathedral; a police guard was posted to ensure the safety of participants. Wadud argues that nowhere does it state in the Qur’an that women cannot lead a prayer service and in her sermon that day, Wadud was so bold as to have asked the mixed-sex audience if Allah was even a male. Even prior to this awe-inspiring moment in history, Wadud had already garnered the reputation as an Islamic feminist. She has devoted her life to Islamic Studies and has attempted to better understand the Qur’an through a female perspective; a point of view that has had little voice until recently. In her book Qur’an and Women: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Women’s Perspective, author Amina Wadud examines the role of human creation and the Hereafter, the influence of key female figures in the Qur’an, and the rights of women by providing a feminine voice to a source that has been typically analyzed by males: the Qur’an. Wadud’s masterful work has deeply contributed to the feminist movement within Islam and her perspective debunks many of the misconceptions individuals have about gender roles within the Muslim community.

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Jihad: In Classical and Modern Islam

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Jihad’s meaning has become familiarized in the Western world as “Holy War.” In this book, Rudolph Peters begins by providing a brief introduction about jihad by emphasizing its historical aspect. He highlights the misconceptions such as jihad being synonymous with violence, and offers depth and alternative meanings. For one, jihad is broken down into the greater and lesser jihad, where the lesser is characterized as an external struggle or fighting, while the greater is characterized as an internal struggle or spiritual journey. This comprehensive perspective is also useful to the study of Islam because it explains the root to some preconceived ideas and why they happen. Learning the true meaning of Jihad is important because it’s generally viewed negatively in how people identify Muslims.

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ISLAM

Islam

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Denny introduces his book on Islam by portraying to the reader an example of an encounter he had with a group of Japanese practicing Muslims. His encounter conveys to the reader his overarching topic of the book, which is the distinct features of the religion Islam and the many variations of Islam which happen to be practiced all over the world. Denny goes into depth to introduce his book by explaining about a few of the differences Muslims have around the world. For example, the heavily Muslim populated country of Indonesia has three individual recognized Muslim populations which have their own respected interpretations on how to practice Islam. Denny explains the culture surrounding Muslim populations is what creates the varying differences within the Umma but all of different groups stem back to the basic guidelines of Islam which interlinks them all together. This statement proposed by Denny leads him to his question of “What makes the Islamic faith so powerful that there can be so many variations to the religion but all of them worship cohesively?” Understanding Denny’s thought provoking question is what leads him to his thesis. The religion of Islam has had a long and enduring history which has shaped what modern day Islam has become today.

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American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion

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Paul Barett writes in his book, American Islam, about seven individual stories of American Muslims.  His stories discuss the “stereotype-defying complexity” of what it is like to be a Muslim in modern America.  In his book, he shows a wide variety of Muslim lifestyles going from the scholar to the publisher, the activist to the Mystics.  Unlike biographies that give a specific detail of one person’s life, Barett shows the lives of seven very different people.  His goal is to show not only the ways of being a Muslim in study but how Muslims live their everyday lives and the road ahead.

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Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

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In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on Islam. With the light shining on the religion, and typically brutal instances within the religion, it has come to the attention of many that Muslim women are oppressed. Lila Abu-Lughod, an anthropologist who has been involved with this culture for thirty years, challenges this assumption. She does this by analyzing and answering the questions that someone from a Western culture might have, especially on topics such as the veil women wear, honor killings, and general abuse of women. Abu-Lughod explores whether or not Muslim women need saving, what they need saving from, and how we can help. This is a great source for anyone who is feeling confused or uncomfortable about women’s rights in Islam, and gives an in-depth perception about the misconceptions that people may have about the issue of gender in the religion.

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Islam in the Digital Age: E-Jihad, Online Fatwas, 
and Cyber Islamic Environments

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This book seeks to address the topic of Islam in the Digital Age by answering the question: What does Islam’s online presence look like? The author, Gary Bunt, answers this question by examining two facets of online Islam: so-called “e-jihad” in its various forms and online religious authority. His conclusion is therefore that online Islam can take the form of both activism and decision-making, the two regions which dominate “Cyber Islamic Environments.”

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Islamic Fundamentalism: An Introduction 

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This source, written by Lawrence Davidson is highly valuable on the academic level, educating a wide audience on what Islamic fundamentalism is, how it was shaped throughout the years, and where it stands in today’s modern society. The book first outlines major events in Islamic history, providing a detailed timeline from the 1700s until the early 2000s. The book also provides case studies into fundamentalism in two different countries, Iran and Saudi Arabia. There are many sources listed in the book for further reading as well as biographies of major Islamic fundamentalist figures.

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Muslims in America

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The book, Muslims in America, dives into the main topic of people in America of the Islamic faith. Verbrugge writes about the history of Islamic life in America and the life of a Muslim in American society. Realizing the misconceptions of Muslims in America involving women of Islam and Muslims after the September 11 attacks, Verbrugge addresses the question: what Muslims in an American society look like. Verbrugge asserts that Muslim Americans are a part of American history, creating a community of Americans with a legacy of misconceptions and tragic atrocities.

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