Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary by Carl W. Ernst

By Carl W. Ernst

Warding off the traps of sensational political reveal and really good scholarly Orientalism, Carl Ernst introduces readers to the profound religious assets of Islam whereas clarifying variety and debate in the culture. Framing his argument when it comes to spiritual stories, Ernst describes how Protestant definitions of faith and anti-Muslim prejudice have affected perspectives of Islam in Europe and the United States. He additionally covers the modern value of Islam in either its conventional settings and its new destinations and gives a context for figuring out extremist hobbies like fundamentalism. He concludes with an outline of severe debates on vital modern matters equivalent to gender and veiling, nation politics, and technology and faith.

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Over centuries of colonial rule, many Far Eastern countries enthusiastically converted to European doctrines, whether Catholicism in the Philippines under Spanish rule, Protestant Christianity in Korea, Marxism in China, or the doctrine of progress and modernization in Japan. The Hindu tradition of India was in a defensive { 9 } I S L A M I N TH E E Y E S O F TH E W E S T posture in the nineteenth century, under critique from British colonial administrators and Christian missionaries. Mohandas Gandhi’s nonviolent nationalism, although it drew on Hindu teachings, embraced religious pluralism and a secular Indian government.

Similarly, Orientalist scholars tended to accept nineteenthcentury racial theories unquestioningly, so that much of Near Eastern and Asian history was explained in terms of primordial conflicts between the Semitic and Indo-Aryan races (for example, Arabs against Persians). In addition, it was widely believed that the properties of language had a deep and essential impact on religion and culture, so that from a study of the Arabic language one would be able to predict and perfectly comprehend the nature of the Islamic religion or Arab culture today.

15 Another telling example was William Muir’s Life of Mahomet (1858), written by a British colonial official in India at the suggestion of a Christian missionary who specialized in debating with Muslims. 17 During the same period that saw the rise of European colonialism, the academic study of Africa and Asia became established in European universities. The study of anything in the East was called Orientalism, and this term to some extent lumped together everything non-European. Much of this scholarly enterprise was based on detailed study of difficult languages and texts, so that it was not easily accessible outside specialized { 22 } I S L A M I N TH E E Y E S O F TH E W E S T academic publications and caused little controversy.

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