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Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism [Paperback]

Omid Safi
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 April 2003

Developed in response to the events of September 11 2001, these 14 articles from prominent Muslim thinkers offer a provocative reassessment of Islam's relationship with the modern world. Confronting issues such as racism, justice, sexuality and gender, this book reveals the real challenges faced by Muslims of both sexes in contemporary Western society.

A probing, frank, and intellectually refreshing testament to the capacity of Islam for renewal, change, and growth, these articles from fifteen Muslim scholars and activists address the challenging and complex issues that confront Muslims today. Avoiding fundamentalist and apologetic approaches, the book concentrates on the key areas of debate in progressive Islamic thought: "Contemporary Islam," "Gender Justice," and "Pluralism."

Articles featured include:

>Khaled Abou El Fadl on reclaiming the beautiful in Islam
>Farid Esack on how to define "Progressive Islam" in the wake of September 11
>Ebrahim Moosa on the debts and burdens of critical Islamic thought
>Amina Wadud on issues of race and class in North American Muslim identity

With further contributions on subjects as diverse and controversial as the alienation of Muslim youth; Islamic law, marriage, and feminism; and the role of democracy in Islam, this volume will prove thought-provoking for all those interested in the challenges of justice and pluralism facing the Muslim world as it confronts the twenty-first century.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications; First Edition, Reprinted edition (21 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185168316X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851683161
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 14.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 940,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


"A significant and welcome efforet providing an analytic overview by some contemporary progressive Muslim scholars. The book offers a very incisive critique and highlights the compelling need for a wholesome and rational approach to the issues."

(Islamic Studies Journal)

About the Author

Omid Safi is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina. He specialises in the study of the Islamic mystical tradition, the pre-modern history of the Islamic world, and contemporary Musliim thought, and has written books and articles on these subjects.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A big disappointment 23 Oct 2007
By calmly
1. The essays seem like they were written by those from American college who were primarily trained in approaches like deconstructionism and multiculturalism rather than schooled in Islam. Quasi-postmodern tools like deconstructionism and multiculturalism tend to be anti-rational and lead to fruitless discourse, which has been a problem in U.S. collegees in recent years, as good intentions about social injustices get lost when addressed thru half-baked intellectual tools. In fact, the information from this book on contributors shows that most are at U.S. colleges, so given the suspect "postmodern" flavor, the danger here is that Islam is being subjected to such postmodernization.

2. Little of the Quran is referenced.

3. A great deal seems not to have been thought thru. Capitalism, for example, is criticized but apart for appeals for justice, almost nothing is said about what a practical economic system informed by Islam might be.

4. Islam seems too malleable to these essayists. Although there is some appeal to early Islamic history, often in these essays you might think you were reading U.s. Green Party literature and not even realize that Islam played a part.

5. One gets no feeling for why these essayist's are Muslims: why not Jewish, Christian or Buddhist, all of which also concerns about social justice. Even humanists seem to share the significant concerns covered in this book. Pluralism may be fine, but if one has a commitment to Islam, can't one make it clear why and what Islam offers that other ways don't?

6. If you aren't familiar with Islam, you're probably better off reading an introduction to Islam first. Reading the Quran first would be a good step.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fanatically Liberalist 27 Aug 2010
By Adam X
This is mostly the ramblings of people attempting to apply a Western Liberalist view to Islam.
Tim Winter was upset by Farid Esack's book! Imagine if he saw this abstract rubbish!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, Provocative and Timely! 2 Jan 2009
Many issues in the Islamic world are brushed under the carpet without any thought or reflection. This book of essays presents us with those difficult questions and reflective answers that are much needed in the 21st century. As with any book on Islam, you may agree or disagree but surely you owe yourself the necessity to read as widely and openly on Islam to make an informed judgment? For that very reason I recommend this book highly!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The coming Islamic Reformation!! 6 May 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Living in this age dominated, seemingly, by Islamophobes in the West (B. Lewis, Huntington, Pipes, etc.) and Muslim extremists (Wahhabis, Jama'at Islami, etc.), it is a breath of fresh air to see Muslims take on the task of reforming Islam along the lines of social justice and gender equality. I was tired of hearing about Muslims, and wanted to see them speak for themselves. This book does that.
The essays in this book are clear without being superficial, strong without being dogmatic. I have already recommended it to many friends and family members who want to see a more humane side of Muslims.
Great read...Wonderful to see so many female authors in this collection, and also the range of geographical and philosophical backgrounds: there are sunni, shi'a, and Sufi authors. Some are American, others from South Africa, Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, Lebanon, etc.
Great, great work on pluralistic and humane interpretation of Islam. It goes well beyond the old cliches of "Islam vs. West", "Us and Them". Inspiring to see Muslim views that are inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, feminists, etc.
You'll enjoy it...
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy read 8 Nov 2006
By Fred Fenster - Published on
It seems that the book has polarised opinion. I would say that those who criticise the nature of the articles should practice what they preach; they should prioritise Seera and try and understand how things happened during the Prophet's times - certain facts bear repeating, such as the Shariah as we know it emanated from Shafi, a couple of centuries after the Prophet, that scholars were not given authority in the way they have now (how many scholars existed in the Prophet's times?) and Islam actually was a very liberal, people-sensitive religion - the Prophet always wished to avoid hud punishments wherever possible (and concubinage, slavery, polygamy were accepted norms of society albeit with restrictions). Even if you don't agree with the articles, it opens up a methodology of thinking about Islam which relies on re-analysis of scripture, hadith, historical reappraisal in order to contextualise hadith/scripture and sidestepping the supposed authoritativeness of scholarly rulings which have absolutely no deserved claim to be the 'right' interpretation, in fact the book highlights the fact that most Islamic scholars are nothing more tham memorisers of hadith/scripture and orthodox tafseer, without being versed in history, theology, philosophy, science, sociology, psychology and so on, knowledge one would expect to bear some influence in making scholarly rulings. The other facet of general human nature it brings out, is the tendency to render authentic and powerful religious norms simply because they are the more restrictive; it is a human urge to see rules requiring more sacrifice as being more worthy, and hence the absolute refusal to even enter into a debate as to whether homosexuality was really prohibited, for example. I would urge sincere Muslims to first open your mind, read scripture, allow yourself to raise ANY question, do you own historical analysis without relying on scholars, and continue and develop an independent line of thought without fear of going astray. Be brave.
25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars must read for contemporary Muslims 3 Jun 2004
By A Customer - Published on
There is so much trash being published about Islam that it is liberating to see a book about how Muslims engage their own tradition with such honesty and openness. I was delighted to see the conversations that engage human rights, gender equality, and democracy so openly and honestly. I would recommend this volume to everyone, especially Muslims who are looking for resources within their own tradition. I would also suggest it to people who want to get a sense of how Muslims are constructively going about dealing with their own challenges. Great book!
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Introduction to Progressive Islam 16 Dec 2003
By David Kirchner II - Published on
This brilliantly edited collection of essays is a must read for anyone interested in learning a bit about some of the more socially progressive avenues being explored by Islamic scholars. Contrary to the media's portrayal of this vibrant religious practice, Islam is not a religion of bigotry and hate. The essays in thie book demonstrate a number of hermeneutic moves being made in order to use Islam to reform various repressive and oppressive social practices such as misogyny. This book is no paeon to the West, however; the essays are equally aware of the dangers presented by globalization and wreckless capitalism as they are of patriarchal social structures. In my opinion, the fact that this book contains elements of third world criticism is what makes it so extraordinary. In summary, for anyone looking for a book elucidating a few of the ways in which people are using Islam to advance a progressive, compassionate social agenda this is the book for you!
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reality that unsettles fundamentalists and islamophobes alike. 11 May 2006
By J. Hasan - Published on
Don't expect any conservatives to welcome any kind of a progressive.

I find it interesting that the only two groups panning Mr. Safi's text are dogmatic 'Muslim' conservatives unnerved at the thought of any kind of Islamic Renaissance and right-wing Orientalist neocon and/or neocon sympathizers squirming and jerking for any way they might rationalize their Islamophobia. Both right-wing groups have and will continue to fail and cast darkness on the Islamic world.

It seems to me that Mr. Safi certainly hit the mark he was aiming for. Here's to a future of hope! Insha-Allah. =)
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