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What Is Islam?

The Importance of Being Islamic

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


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 term?

In What Is Islam?, Shahab Ahmed presents a bold new conceptualization of Islam that challenges dominant understandings grounded in the categories of "religion" 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, polyvalence, 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 theory.

A 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 coherent.

From Publishers Weekly

Oct 12, 2015 – The recently deceased scholar Ahmed (Ibn Tamiyya and His Times) offers a bold notion of what Islam is, one that stands in stark contrast to popular, traditionalist, and radical notions. Taking a cosmopolitan, far-reaching approach to millennia of Muslim history, poetry, music, science, philosophy, theology, and practice Ahmed reconceptualizes Islam as a hermeneutical engagement comfortable with the contradiction of its own diversity and immense variety. The book is as imposing as it is inspiring. It dives deep into heady discussions of philology, religious studies, aesthetics, poetry, epistemology, and fiqh Islamic jurisprudence. A book that aims to present such an audacious hypothesis is likely to be long, but one senses Ahmed could have been less repetitive and protracted. However, his deft organization and outline are helpful for the fatigued reader. The big danger is that Ahmed's reconceptualization marginalizes voices from other geographies, perspectives, and theologies. Nonetheless, this is an enduring and timely work well worth the effort for those interested in discerning the essence of Islam beyond the seeming paradoxes of its own representations.
What Is Islam?
View in iTunes
  • $19.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Islam
  • Published: Nov 17, 2015
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Seller: Princeton University Press
  • Print Length: 624 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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