Book Discussion Series 1

Al Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life

Ismail R. Al-Faruqi

If the concept of tawhid is central to Islam and Islamic society and culture, it is because of its significance to existence and to all the relevant systems in life including political, economic, social, and world orders. The work of Dr. Ismail Raji al-Faruqi on the subject of tawhid entitled “Al-Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life,” thus presents the reader with a comprehensive reading on this concept that goes beyond the classical theological presentation and into an epistemological approach that ties all aspects of life to this central theme. Contrary to the materialist approach where the dialectic is between man and nature, in the Tawhid paradigm, there is a constant dynamic between God, Man, and Nature, where God is communicating through the text (the Qur’an) and His creation (Nature). The essence of the purpose of existence and creation might thus be discerned from reflecting on the deeper meanings of the text and understanding the unified laws of nature. The essence of Islamic civilization and life would then be realized when man, the subject of creation and the text, combines both readings within the Tawhid paradigm. In the endeavor to explain the doctrine of unity, Dr. al-Faruqi explores a broad spectrum of subjects, drawing into his discussions various elements from history, comparative religion, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, ethics, epistemology, and other disciplines. As such, his concept of tawhid is deep, comprehensive, and universal. Along with his book, the Cultural Atlas of Islam, this book represents the deep commitment of Dr. al-Faruqi to an original and harmonious approach for human civilization and progress.

By Prof. Dr. Sami A. Al-Arian

The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History

Cemil Aydın

The Idea of the Muslim World (2017) argues that while arriving recently on the discursive scene, the concept of the ‘Muslim World’ has had an impactful career in global intellectual history. By historicizing the concept Prof. Cemil Aydin (University of North Carolina) deconstructs the assumptions behind it. His most provocative arguments are that the idea of the Muslim World, itself a product of the 19th century, is a racist and geopolitical concept with no precedence in the Islamic tradition. It is racist because the concept constructs Muslim identity in terms borrowed from European essentialist discourse on race from the same period. Complex pre-colonial constructions of cultural/ethnic difference, theological sectarian difference, or legal difference faded into a singular essentialized category called “Muslim” or “Islamic”. Much like colonial constructions of blackness or whiteness, Muslim identity came to mimic racial identities. The word ‘Muslim’ flattened out pre-colonial nuances natural to Islamic discourse. In its place we begin to find a dominant essentialist identity, which promised to create sympathies among coreligionists. Alongside its colonial legacy, the ‘Muslim World’ also became a geopolitical concept, i.e. it became a space, grafted on a map, with borders, tied to territory. The territorialization of the ‘Muslim World’ circumscribed Muslim self-imagination to a strikingly modern form. Muslims became geographically fixed often in terms of majoritarian logics and always within the frame of the modern state. The arguments of this book are a formidable challenge to those who have believed in the existence of an ahistorical and natural Muslim World.

By M. Üveys Han