Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World
Carl W. Ernst
Narrated by Bill Wallace
Approximately 8 hours
Book published by University of North Carolina Press
One out of five people in the world is Muslim; only 18 percent of those, however, are Arab. Ernst moves away from a Middle Eastern bias, addressing the pluralistic nature of Muslim societies and thought. Framing his argument in terms of religious studies, Ernst describes how Protestant definitions of religion and anti-Muslim prejudice have affected views of Islam in Europe and America. Ernst also covers the contemporary importance of Islam in both its traditional settings and its new locations and provides a context for understanding extremist movements like fundamentalism.
With translations of selections from Islamic texts, some appearing in English for the first time, Ernst offers access to Muslim voices and key themes, particularly the central role of the Prophet Muhammad. He concludes with an overview of critical debates on important contemporary issues such as gender and veiling, state politics, and science and religion. A concise selected reading list provides a helpful guide for future study. This engaging introduction to Islam should be every non-Muslim's first resource for learning about a religion that is a major presence in the world.
Carl W. Ernst is W. R. Kenan Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He maintains the website www.unc.edu/~cernst/islam.htm, which provides up-to-date links to resources for learning about Islam. Ernst is author of Sufi Martyrs of Love: Chishti Sufism in South Asia and Beyond, among other books. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
“[A] thoughtful and finely balanced primer on contemporary Islam. ”
—New York Review of Books
“An impressive scholarly work. ”
“Well-written and lucid.... The book's narrative flow is generally masterful. Ernst successfully moves from present to past and back again in a manner that is both logical and clear to follow.... An elegant and masterful presentation of a religious tradition in an accessible manner, as well as a heartfelt plea for non-Muslims to understand it. ”
—American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences
“A pleasure to read. Ernst has a multilayered and self-assured understanding of Islam, and his writing exemplifies a fluency in explaining it that is unique to him.... Delicate and complex points about Islam as a religion and culture, about Sufism, and even about Osama bin Laden, flow off the page effortlessly.... The book's greatest strength is Ernst's unrelenting but well-reasoned critique of how the West has consistently marginalized Islam and Muslims from the first encounters onward. Ernst is fair, however—while he admonishes the West for indulging in negative and inaccurate stereotypes of Islam and Muslims, he calls upon Muslims to participate fully in the pluralistic society the world has become. ”
“In seeking to restore a sense of proportion and balance to the image of Islam for his Western readers, Ernst gives proper weight to the layers of mystical humanism, philosophical speculation and hermeneutical flexibility that are no less a part of the Islamic tradition than the legacies of conquest and militancy. He also points out that intolerance and bigotry are far from being the exclusive prerogative of the Western media industries. ”
—Times Literary Supplement
“A helpful resource for university religion departments. It is not a straight 'Islam 101' resource, and because of that, it is very refreshing.... A very helpful tool as an introduction to a course on Islam and contemporary religion. ”
—Journal of the American Academy of Religion
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. Islam in the Eyes of the West
2. Approaching Islam in Terms of Religion
3. The Sacred Sources of Islam
4. Ethics and Life in the World
5. Spirituality in Practice