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This 2005 book surveys the religious history of the peoples of the Near East from 600-1800.
Modern political movements proclaiming missions and legitimacy based on religious tradition are a feature of many late 20th-century societies. Although such movements are not exclusive to the Middle East, political Islam has achieved high visibility because of the serious challenge to established power it has posed in a region central to the West's strategic interests.
This collection of original essays examines the relationship between Islam, the nature of state projects, and the position of women in the modern nation states of the Middle East and South Asia. Arguing that Islam is not uniform across Muslim societies and that women's roles in these societies cannot be understood simply by looking at texts and laws. the contributors focus, instead, on the effects of the political projects of states on the lives of women.--provided by publisher.
At a time when more nuanced understandings of Muslim countries and their legal and social practices are urgently needed in the West, the appearance of this collection is especially welcome. In these illuminating and accessible essays, the contributors explain how Islam sees itself in terms of social policy, how it treats women, and how it encourages charity, education, and general social welfare. The essays encompass many regional cultures and draw on court records and legal debates, field work on government ministries, and an extensive reading of Islamic law. In his overview of waqf (similar to the Western idea of a foundation, in which an endowment is set aside in perpetuity for specified purposes), Ahmad Dallal explains how charity, a central organizing principle in Islam, is itself organized and how waqf, traditionally a source of revenue for charitable purposes, can also become a source of tension and conflict. Donna Lee Bowen, in her essay on the position of women in Islamic law, points out the crucial differences between the Islamic principles of family equity and the Western notion of individual equality. In a subsequent essay, Bowen addresses the problems surrounding family planning and the dilemmas that have arisen within the Muslim world over differing ideas about birth control. The two final essays look at specific instances of how the modern state has treated Islamic social policy. Gail Richardson examines zakat, an Islamic tax used to assist the poor, and its administration in Pakistan. Carol Underwood, meanwhile, explores public health policy in Iran, both before and after the Islamic revolution that deposed the Shah. Addressing some of the most profound misunderstandings between Islamic and Western societies, Islam and Social Policy will be of vital interest not only to scholars and policymakers but to anyone concerned with Islam's critical place in the modern world.
Many Westerners view Islam as a religion that restricts and subordinates women in both private and public life. Yet a surprising number of women in Western Europe and America are converting to Islam. What attracts these women to a belief system that is markedly different from both Western Christianity and Western secularism? What benefits do they gain by converting, and what are the costs? How do Western women converts live their new Islamic faith, and how does their conversion affect their families and communities? How do women converts transmit Islamic values to their children? These are some of the questions that Women Embracing Islam seeks to answer. In this vanguard study of gender and conversion to Islam, leading historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and theologians investigate why non-Muslim women in the United States, several European countries, and South Africa are converting to Islam. Drawing on extensive interviews with female converts, the authors explore the life experiences that lead Western women to adopt Islam, as well as the appeal that various forms of Islam, as well as the Nation of Islam, have for women. The authors find that while no single set of factors can explain why Western women are embracing Islamic faith traditions, some common motivations emerge. These include an attraction to Islam's high regard for family and community, its strict moral and ethical standards, and the rationality and spirituality of its theology, as well as a disillusionment with Christianity and with the unrestrained sexuality of so much of Western culture.
This compact introduction to Islam describes the essential aspects of Islam as a living religion and social force. The book is organized around seven topics: the life of Muhammad; Islamic political development and territorial expansion; the important groupings of Islamic believers (Sunni, Shi'ite, and Sufi); the Qur'an (the Holy Book of Islam); Sunnah, Hadith (the record of the Prophet's actions and sayings), and Shari'ah (the compilation of Islamic law); the five Articles of Faith and the so-called Five Pillars of Islam that govern faith and action; and other binding religious observances and festivals. The presentation of these seven aspects of Islam strikes a balance between fact, tradition, current interpretation, and commentary. S. A. Nigosian underscores two fundamental points: that to understand Islam properly, it is necessary to see it as a major faith tradition, with Muhammad as the last of a series of messengers sent by God; and that to grasp the spirit of Islam, one must recognize its emphasis on an uncompromising monotheism, with strict adherence to certain social, political, and religious practices, as taught by the Prophet and elaborated by tradition.