Newly revised edition of a well-considered academic study of the modern challenges to traditional Islam.
To reflect some of the staggering world developments since he published this work more than 20 years ago, Iranian-American scholar Nasr (Islamic Studies/George Washington Univ.; The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition, 2007, etc.) provides significant revisions and added material. As a deeply believing Muslim as well as a scholar, Nasr imparts a tremendous sense of the Muslim’s responsibility and worldview, organically linked to Islam’s origins as a religion of divine revelation, and only recently having endured intrusions by secularism. The author takes great pains to define the many types of Muslims, though he believes that for most, their religion defines their ethical and social code and shapes their relationships to family, friends, nation, business, etc. For the first 1,000-plus years of its existence, “Islam lived with full awareness of the truth and the realization of God’s promise to Muslims that they would be victorious if they followed His religion”—yet then succumbed to Western domination and manipulation, the latter in the form of Arab nationalism and the Taliban in Afghanistan. In response to the mutual mistrust of the West, strains of fundamentalisms have emerged, such as the Wahhabi movement, the Society of Islam in Pakistan, the Islamic Revolution in Iran and Mahdiism, whose adherents anticipate a messiah “who will destroy inequity and reestablish the rule of God on earth.” In discrete, carefully honed essays, Nasr looks at some of Islam’s thorny issues, such as jihad, which is really the “continuous exertion” of a believer to maintain equilibrium in all things; work ethics; the roles of male and female and the central divinity of erotic love; considerations of Shi’ism; and a holistic approach to education, encompassing philosophy, art and science (traditional Islamic vs. Western).
Scholarly appendices (e.g., traditional texts used in the Persian madrasas) give an idea of the erudite, wide-ranging purview of this rigorous study.