Monday, March 19, 2007

A must-read for 21st century Muslims

The Christian Science Monitor called it one of the "Best Non-fiction Books of 2004". For those of you who know me, you've probably noticed my obsession with Tariq Ramadan's Western Muslims and The Future of Islam.

What do I like most about the book? Its comprehensiveness. The topics Ramadan discusses in this book include everything from spirituality to social commitment. He truly portrays Islam as a way of life; one that is not only compatible with but is necessary for the 21st century.

Ramadan does not just summarize texts or reword old ideas; he brings forth a new way of thinking. More importantly, it is one that is deeply rooted within Islamic scripture.

What makes this book more powerful is the language used. I will not attempt to rephrase Ramadan's words because I know I will fail miserably. I will however quote a few of my favourite statements from the book, in hope that this encourages people to read the book and think about the ideas and solutions proposed.


"While our fellow citizens speak of this 'integration' of Muslims 'among us', the question for Muslims presents itself differently: their universal principles teach them that wherever the law respects their integrity and their freedom of conscience and worship, they are at home and must consider the attainments of these societies as their own and must involve themselves, with their fellow-citizens, in making it good and better. No withdrawal, no obsession with identity, on the contrary, it is a question of entering into authentic dialogue..." (pg 5)

Encounter with the Universal:

"The second teaching of the revelation is to invite individuals to a deep study of their own inner lives. The search for God and the sense of "the need of Him" may also arise from the indefinable work of looking inward that is required of each of us. The knowledge of God leads us to our self, and the knowledge of our self leads to God." (pg 13)

The Way (Al-Sharia)

"...the shahada translates the idea of "being Muslim", and the Sharia shows us "how to be and remain Muslim". This means that,..., that the Sharia is not only the expression of the universal principles of Islam but the framework and the thinking that makes for their actualization in human history." (pg 32)

Spirituality and Emotions

"Muslim spirituality, as we have said, is demanding and, through the Islamic teaching, touches all the dimensions of life. ... This humility [before God] should spread wide and deep through all areas of life: at every stage of working on one's self there will be a struggle against complacency, pride, and the pretentious human desire to succeed alone, using one's own resources (on the social, professional, political, or intellectual level)." (pg 122)

Toward a Reform of Islamic Education

"Public schools already teach the basic subjects, it is for Muslims to find complimentary, alternative, and original ways of providing the knowledge they judge to be essential to comply with the requirements of the message whose followers they are." (pg 137)

Social Commitment and Political Participation

"The liberating dimension of Islam insistently demands, on the basis of the universal principles, that reality be challenged in order that it be reformed, not that its deficiencies be added up in hope that we may at best adapt to them or at worst successfully protect ourselves from them. ... It is about getting out of the logic of exception and necessity and thinking of our presence in terms of faithfulness to principles in the strict sense." (pg 160)

"The globalization with which we are presented and that is imposed upon us today sanctions above all the absolute primacy of the logic of economics over every other consideration... The picture would be very dark were it not for a widespread movement of resistance: when faced with neoliberal economics, the message of Islam offers no way out but resistance." (pg 173)

Economic Resistance

"The rich countries, like the wealthy merchants of Mecca in times past, cannot fail to see a danger in local and national movements whose aim is to remove themselves from the "classical" economic system. ... The prohibition of riba, which is the moral axis around which the economic thought of Islam revolves, calls believers to reject categorically an order that respects only profit and scoffs at the values of justice and humanity." (pg 188)

"But zakah is anything but that: the levying of this purifying social tax,..., must be considered within the purpose of establishing a real system of collective solidarity and social security, women into the very fabric of society, that aims at freeing the poor from their dependence so that eventually they themselves will pay zakat." (pg 189)

Interreligious Dialogue

"Interreligious dialogue should be a meeting of "witnesses" who are seeking to live their faiths, to share their convictions, and to engage with one another for a more humane, more just world, closer to what God expects of humanity." (pg 208)

The Cultural Alternative

"To be Western Muslims is to confront reality with all its challenges and, sustained every day by the "need of Him", to take on all our responsibilities." (pg 223)


Zahid said...

Jazaakum for the review it was really good. Ive been meaning to read this book for a while now. His lectures he gave at RIS in Toronto in 2006 are equally as thought provoking and emotionally moving. I would highly suggest that everyone listen to the audio...theyre on his website. A total of 3 lectures. excellent stuff

Huda Shaka` said...

Wa iyyakum Br. Zahid although this is not really a review. And, thanks for the tip about the lectures.

Affad Shaikh said...

Salaam, i actually just purchased this book thanks for the review, it took me a while to get to reading it, but better read at one point then never right :)

Aicha said...

Barek Allahu fiki :)