Monday, August 27

Book: Islam in Transition - Muslim Perspectives, John J. Donohue, John L. Esposito Click for more info

This book presents a series of short essays discussing various "Islamic" issues, both modern and classical. Specifically it deals with topics of identity, a modern state, social change and contemporary issues.

The articles have been taken from all over the place, both spatially and temporally - we have the mission statement of HAMAS, fatwas from Osama Bin Laden and then their reformist counterparts in the form of Tariq Ramadan and the like. Articles have been taken from the 1800s untill post-9/11 and from the USA all the way to Indonesia. Sometimes it's difficult to switch between all the different styles used by their respective authors.

The main conclusions can mostly be reduced to one of two fundamental ideas: that of reform and traditionalism. Interestingly, the articles can also be cut along another line lying somewhere between tolerance and intolerance; however the correlation between these divisions may not be what you might expect. We see both radical and mainstream ideas coming from both camps.

It's this sense of even-handedness and balance which makes the book a good read over all. It was refreshing to see a range of various (and sometimes contradictory) Muslim perspectives, all equally claiming to be rooted in true Islam.

Still, Islam in Transition is a hard and long slog of a read. Like many other of the Islamic books I've read recently, this seems to be more of a companion reference than something to read cover to cover. In spite of that, it remains interesting throughout whether you agree with the views being offered or not. This is as unbiased as a book can get and manages to treat all the opinions held in its pages with respect, making it both a rare and, more importantly, authentic volume to read and take in.